Category Archives: rdf

Generating specs from RDFS / OWL docs

I’ve been hacking away at danbri’s version of specgen so we can rev the foaf spec. The idea is that you take an RDFS / OWL schema and generate some human-readable HTML from it, by taking the classes and properties and writing out their basic constituents. Optionally you can add some introductory text in a template, plus some individual bits of text for each property and class, eventually in different languages too.

I slapped in some RDFa yesterday because we needed a replacement for the ugly addition of RDF directly into the html, which makes it invalid. I realise some people may think this is back to front, but the foaf spec’s ‘original’ format has always been RDFS/OWL so it makes sense for us. I’m not actually sure we need two RDF versions (as there is alternate pointing to RDFS/OWL version from the HTML) but heck why not, and danbri’s consulting the community so there’s probably an argument I’ve missed.

There are several specgens available and at some point it might be nice to rationalise, or maybe go for functional equivalence. These are probably better in some senses than the one I’ve been working on, especially as I’m new to Python.

The ones I’ve found:

I think the two things that unite the first three is that they are (a) self-described hacks (b) in python. The Foaf one uses RDFlib rather than Redland because danbri was having trouble with Redland installation on the Mac I believe.

Next things I’d like to look at are

  • Generating specs from sample data (maybe someone’s done this already? It wouldn’t be complete but could be a start)
  • Defining application profiles or Argots and using them to generate, say, useful Sparql queries
  • Pictures!

W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking (2)

As promised below is part two of my mini-reviews of papers submitted to the W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking, including the three late papers, an interesting related paper by google (pdf), and Danbri’s take on Foaf in 2009. The workshop starts tomorrow. Part one of my reviews (papers 1-42) is here.

Most interesting to me: 43, 45, 50, 56, 57, 60, 61, 63, 64, 67, 68, and especially 52 which raises a lot of important points about what can or cannot be done with your harvested data (if anything).

Themes: there are an awful lot, and the program committee have done a good job in turning such a bunch of disparate material into a agenda and set of discussion points.

My take on the main themes from the papers:

  • data silos problem and solutions; portability of data, policies and permissions
  • trust, authentication and permissions
  • semantic activity streams
  • ownership of data created by networks; what can be done with it; data mining; creative commons for personal data
  • identity across sites; mobile operators as brokers
  • location awareness, apis or markup;
  • context awareness, sensors and apis or markup for these
  • accessibility and web 2.0
  • business models
  • best practices documentation


foaf, oauth, openId, sioc, Dataportability, hcard, vcard, atompub, xdi, NFC, Doap, opo and similar, openDD, OMB … and many more

Reviews 43 – 72

43. FOAF & SSL: creating a global decentralised authentication protocol Henry Story, SUN

Protecting rdf resources using foaf and ssl. Idea is that the user can identify themselves using an ssl certificate in their browser which refers to their dereferencable id (the #me in their foaf file) which means that the public key in the foaf file can be checked against the one in the certificate, and then access granted or not depending on some friend-related or other algorthm. Interesting, and has several implementations (what could be the relationship with openID and oauth, if any? are they all complementary?).

44. Managing Social Communications Identities (pdf) Óscar M. Solá, Telefónica I+D

Insteresting idea about linking users’ social and communication identifies in a secure and private and configurable way by a ‘social broker’. The idea being that you don’t have to know the phone number of a person, or their email, in rer to be able to contact them (provided that they have specified that you can contact them).

45. Current issues with Social Network Representations (pdf) Peter Mika, Yahoo! Research

Describes a view of a company getting to grips with using semantic markup: and the phases of microformats, rdfa; the need for mapping between Foaf and Vcard, lack of best practices for some types of rdf vocab mixing. Argues that vocabs should be produced using existing data about what people are willing to expose. Argues also that aspects of rdf are too hard to grasp or communicate. Emphasis on agreements on how to use existing things rather than creating more formal standards. Interesting to see a commercial point of view in this area

46. Social Networking Segmentation: Celebrating Community Diversity in a Framework (pdf) Christine Perey, PEREY Research & Consulting

Characterises different kinds of communities offering different sorts of experiences or services for mobile and static devices (and things in between). There are two classification systems: why the user is there (professional reasons, entertainment) and complexity of features (which are often related to whether the network is aimed at mobile or static devices). Argues that a widely used classification system would allow networks to “comunicate with their target market segments” and differentiate themselves more quickly.

47. It’s all around the domain ontologies – Ten benefits of a Subject-centric Information Architecture for the future of Social Networking (pdf) Lutz Maicher, Benjamin Bock, Topic Maps Lab at University of Leipzig, Germany

Argues that developing social sites starting with domain ontologies with object identity in topicmaps or RDF makes development easier in multiple ways (e.g. ontological flexibility in development, easier to localise, identity awareness.

48. Social Networking: Power to the People (pdf) Stefano Bortoli, Paolo Bouquet,Themis Palpanas, University of Trento, Italy

Argues that users should own their data and be able to move it around rather than being locked in to a particular social network. Argues that foaf is not sufficient for the needs of a decentralised network because: doesn’t make enough distinction between types of relationships; is public to all; doesn’t provide a solution to identifying people and other things uniquely. They are building tools under the OKKAM EU project, e.g. and a distributed system for generating and storing unique identifiers on the web (hm, what’s wrong with URLs?)

49: A Telecom Italia view on the future of Social networking (pdf) Claudio Venezia, Telecom Italia

Clear statement of the company’s interest in areas of standardisation or endorsement that W3C could undertake, in the araes of identity, portability, privacy, user experience; e.g. endorsing openID, foaf and sioc or similar standardisation and specialised URI schemes; endorse or create something like IdM or oauth; best practices for mobile user interfaces, and several more. Plus a plea to bear in mind that these networks need to be monetized. Worth a look.

50: Beyond Eyeballs: Improving Social Networking Metrics (pdf) Christine Perey, PEREY Research & Consulting

Argues that current metrics for evaluating social networks do not make for very interesting or useful analysis (page impresssions / month and new accounts). Suggests that a common framework would allow better allocation of resources and if shared would enable better comparison of sites. They suggest types of user: joiners, collectors, critics, creators; user profile metrics (e.g. ‘gardening’, ‘policing’; ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’ actions respectively examples could be rating and viewing others’ contributions) and various others (number of friends, various frequencies). Also 17 community metrics (e.g. user funnel, total number of pieces of content added per month, percentage of different users types). Interesting because these types of stats drive allocation of resources in many companies.

51. NewBay Position Paper on Mobile Social Networking Stephen Farrell, Bill de hOra, NewBay

A list of recommendations for w3c action is at the end, as “a software and services provider to mobile network operators”. Their view is that the issues with social networks on mobiles have to do with user interface issues (e.g. web 2.0 self-updating pages etc) and ‘irritation issues’ – a constant stream of events may be irritating in a mobile context when it is not in a static context. They suggest that brokerage by mobile operator may be the way forward to transmit preferences of the user. Not sure I completely understand why this is the best option though.

52. Social Networks as a Future Geographical Data Source (pdf) Ian Holt, Jennifer Green, Ordnance Survey of Great Britain

As a data vendor, the OS has been researching data mining in social networks (in this case to extract vernacular placenames as areas on a map). They are interested in the legal and intellectual property questions raised by this, the possibilty of standardising something like for data sharing standards; and whether such data is a marketable commodity, and what the need for anonymity is in these cases. Very very interesting questions indeed.

53. Open Platform for Multichannel Media Distribution Management Roberto García, Juan Manuel Gimeno, Universitat de Lleida, Spain

Describes an EU project to create an open platform based on semantic web technologies for the distribution of content from small and medium content providers. It will have digital rights management features based on a copyright ontology and will use user tracking rather than DRM. Not immediately clear to me how this is relevant to the workshop.

54. Mobile Social Networking: Two Great Tastes John Kemp, Franklin Reynolds, Nokia

Describes various aspects of mobile phones that makes social metworks on mobile phones different to social networks on static devices on the web. Interest in radio capabilties like bluetooth, GPS; capacity to interact with the real world using 2D barcodes; and they’re always with us. Privacy implications of phone number as a unique identifier. Suggests a distributed architecture for social networking using the processing power of these devices and not dependent on an always-on connection. Argues this would need more interop between sites; doesn’t really explain why.

55. Social Networks in Life Sciences: Defining and Enabling Appropriate Roles to Create an Atmosphere of Trust and Security (pdf) Hans Constandt, Adrian Seccombe, Robert Sweet, Yijing Zhou, Susie Stephens, Eli Lilly

Interesting idea somewhat related to paper 52, about the possibility of using semantically enhanced data from social networks of individuals with a particular disease, and similar questons of anonymity and tracability of using of this sort of data.

56. Towards an OpenID-based solution to the Social Network Interoperability problem (pdf) Michele Mostarda, Davide Palmisano, Federico Zani, Simone Tripodi, Asemantics

The paper describes a piece of software: an implementation of OpenId that can have connectors that connect the user to various social networks, including via the open social API, and aggregate their data from their networks, filtered if they like to different personas, on to one or more personal pages. the ppaer also talks abot a generalisation of this approach, termed the “Global Social Platform”. Interesting; a bit unclear to me whether the current system requires youy to give away your passwords or not though.

57. Collaborative Filtering and Social Capital Peter Ferne, Jiva Technology

Interesting summary of some aspects of social captial (‘whuffie’), including recommending people. Discussion of the complexity of measuring social capital. Idea that trustworthy systems systems require openness. Good set of links to follow.

58. Applying an XML Warehouse to Social Network Analysis (pdf) Benjamin Nguyen (University of Versailles), Antoine Vion (University of Aix-Marseille II), François-Xavier Dudouet (Université Paris-Dauphine), Loïc Saint-Ghislain (Ecole des Mines de Nancy)

Describes a project to analyse data from the W3C mailing lists, using XML databases and XQuery. They have used this to create networks via co-authors as well as other types of analysis. Interesting work, but not perhaps relevant as it stands to the workshop?

59. Mobile Eco-System: The Need for a Mobile Markup Language Nicolas Belloni, Mattias Rost, Future Applications Lab/Mobile Life Centre, Stockholm, Sweden

Argues for the need for a markup language for mobile services, for “absolute location, sensors, near-field communication, proximity of other users or services” to improve access for creative to this information. They are developing prototypes. Formatting the text would have been nice 😉

60. Ten Theses on the Future of Social Networking Harry Halpin, University of Edinburgh

Paper describes the elements required for opening up data silos, arguing that the technologies are there already, and what’s needed is openID, oath and foaf; He argues that it’s in the interest of producers and consumers of data to have consistently structured data. He emphasises that apis should not preclude what is being used now, and that we should use data about what is being used as a basis for standardisation. He wants to use rdf, RIF and the W3C, cooperating with to void duplication; and to include provenance. Suggests a best practice recommendation. I’ve a lot of sympathy with his arguments – I’d like to see a sample implementation.

61. The Relationship Layer and the Secretary (pdf) Dewey Gaedcke,

Interesting and clearly argued short paper about how a secretary-like application which could prioritise and deprioritise and reroute information in a similar way to humans, by using statistics about how we interact with our peers. Argues that a minimum set of things needed are: global identity for a user and mapping to app-specific identities; open api and semantic event-type data ‘actionstory’.

62. Mobile Video Improvements to Enhance Mobile Social Networks (pdf) Tim Hyland, Dwipal Desai, YouTube

Argues that it’s important for social networking on mobiles that a consistent way of inline video playback that works on all handsets is decided on – doesn’t matter if it’s html5 video tag, flash or something else – but it is important, and users will expect it, as it’s so often used in static social networking.

63. Social Media in eGovernment John Sheridan (The [UK] National Archives), Kevin Novak (The American Institute of Architects), José M. Alonso (W3C/CTIC)

Explores some of the implications of government interaction in social networks. The ‘OS’ question again pops up – who owns the data created by these networks, can it be usedd for anything else, and how can it be anonymised if so – and what are the privacy implications? Interesting read; it’s come out of discussion at the W3C eGovernment Interest Group.

64. SIOC: Content Exchange and Semantic Interoperability Between Social Networks John G. Breslin (National University of Ireland, Galway), Uldis Bojārs (National University of Ireland, Galway), Alexandre Passant (National University of Ireland, Galway), Sergio Fernández (Fundación CTIC), Stefan Decker (National University of Ireland, Galway)

A paper describing the features of SIOC and how it interoperates with other onotologies, enhances site interoperability, and is used in multiple tools. SIOC describes idems at the level of containers and content items – blog, blogpost, items, bookmarks, comments. In the furure would like to get closer integration with OPO (online presence ontology, paper 12). Argues that for these reasons W3C efforts in this area should include SIOC.

65. Integrating Social Networks and Sensor Networks John G. Breslin, Stefan Decker, Manfred Hauswirth, Gearoid Hynes, Danh Le Phuoc, Uldis Bojārs, Alexandre Passant, Axel Polleres, Cornelius Rabsch, Vinny Reynolds, National University of Ireland, Galway

The 10(!) authors provide some usecases for sensors and social networks, and suggest that sensors can create semantic data about a user’s activities, and that they can extend and create social networks. They think that “some interaction between the Semantic Web and the Mobile community within a W3C group could be beneficial to this convergence”

66. Enabling Trust and Privacy on the Social Web Alexandre Passant (National University of Ireland, Galway), Philipp Kärger (L3S Research Center, Hannover, Germany), Michael Hausenblas (National University of Ireland, Galway), Daniel Olmedilla (Telefonica R&D, Madrid), Axel Polleres (National University of Ireland, Galway), Stefan Decker (National University of Ireland, Galway)

A discussion of trust and privacy and the relationship to the semantic web stack; they believe semantic web techniques could be used successfully for trust and privacy, for example to share photos of multiple sites to a small group. They are interested in policy-based approaches, and agreed models for defining policies and authoritativeness.

67. The Tangled Web We Weave (pdf) Greg Howard, Rajesh Kuppuswamy, Kaushik Sethuraman, Microsoft Corporation

Paper arguing that accessing social networks by mobile devices will require techiques either for agfregating multipel networks in a single UI or a way of quickly flipping between networks – and cruically matching up friends over networks for the user, on the device itself. This could be done in an automated way to suggest links, and also proivde a way to manually link them. Interesting.

68. Business Context Impacts on Social Networking Mary Ellen Zurko, Werner Geyer, IBM

Interesting again. Lotus describes two of its products that allow companies to manage their business contacts. They are interested in using openID to allow trusted partners to access this information, and perhaps open social. They want to be able to define different types of buiness relationships.

69. A Vision of an open Platform – The Enablers Perspective (pdf) Bastian Pfister, Roman Hänsler, aka-aki

A small, mobile social hetworking company wants to make a social networking tool that would enable users who meet in physical space to interact with each other on social networks. Requires social networks not to be data silos. Argues that consumers will expect this sort fo thing to work and will be surprised when it doesn’t. Additonally data costs need to fall.

70. Rethinking digital object, Rethinking information relevance (pdf) Yuk Hui, Centre for Cultural Studies/ Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London

A highly philosphical short paper. He wants to investigate how relevant data is to an individual – in order to enhance ‘ambient findability’. The work is at an apparantly early stage and is not (yet anyway) relevant to the workshop.

71. DMM: Digital Me Management Karl Dubost, Olivier Théreaux

Outlines various issues about data silos, data ownership in these silos and various access control approaches. The authors’ position is that each of these need to be addressed.

72. Different groups with share agendas (pdf) Elias Bizannes

The author (who is vice-chair of dataportability group) outlines the groups he is involved with (open social open web foundation, DiSo), and states that they are not competing but offer overlapping and complementary benefits. The data portability project has spent 2008 establishing governance and process, and various things are now in progress: a tool to assess sites and companies with respect to open standards dataportability supports; a creative commons for personal information; a healthcare taskforce.


Semantic enhancements for social networks Rigo Wenning, Ivan Herman, W3C

Argues that it is not simply enough to make data silos permeable but there’s also a need for the ability to move policies, reputation, traceability and privacy and access controls between networks.

Web 2.0 and the Visually Impaired Learners (pdf) Nantanoot Suwannawut

Describes various common problems with web 2.0 and accesssibility notably ajax updating bits of the page which screen readers are unable to track; some sites do not alow assistive devices to be connected; similarly there are no guarantees for new devices. Text alternatives are often not available for video content. Capchas are not usable. Large parts of the web are no longer accessible and so some groups risk exclusion.

Ubiquitous, social networks in the street (pdf) Marc Pous, Luigi Ceccaroni, Manel Palau, Victor Codina, TMT Factory

Describes a service that suggests personalised activities, people to do them with, and how to get there, using recommendations, sensors, social networks, time and geolocation. Needs objects, locations, people, events etc to be described in interoperable and portable ways.

and others:
(Under)mining Privacy in Social Networks (pdf) is worth a look – google on privacy issues with social networks – unexpected events in activity streams, accidental linking of personae, and datamining for merging. And using the social graph for mitigating these.

Finally, last but not least: Danbri’s: foaf in 2009 plan outlining goals such as: evaluate effects of people not making their own homepage by hand any more; best practice for sites which expose foaf; impact on regular users of aggregators; creative commons for personal data. Plus technical issues: vcard and portable contacts and foaf; foaf and openID, oauth, atompub, webdav, ssl, pgp; trust and provenance; crawler stats and rest apis to large aggregators; searchmonkey, google social graph. Aiming to have regular meetings (f2f where feasible and regular online meetings) and a decision process / calendar for the core vocab.


Hope it all goes well!

W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking

I set out to read all the 72 papers for this workshop, as I think it should be very interesting (if a little chaotic perhaps if 100s of people come), though I can’t attend. It’s possible others might find the tiny reviews of the papers below useful so I thought I might as well post them here (I’m up to number 42; it’s taking longer than I thought!). Please don’t be offended if I seem dismissive of your paper – inevitably the reviews reflect my interests and preferences, and with 72 papers to get through, I’ve not been able to spend a huge amount of time on each one. So far, I liked 8, 12, 22, 25, 28, 29, 35, 36, 38 particularly, and all the mobile phone companies papers are worth a read to see what their ideas are in this area. I’ll pull out some themes along with the remaining reviews later today.

Update: part 2 is here.

Sorry the post is so huge…

1. The mobile smoking room (pdf) HIQ, Vibeke Wara

Interesting idea (build something that enables informal communication across a company and engages people in shaping their corporate environment as much as a smoking room) but very general – no explicit proposal.

2. Climbing towards trust and privacy management in social mobile communities (pdf) Alberto Crespo, Rubén Méndez (ATOS ORIGIN) and Katja Liesebach (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)

Much of the paper seems to be from an EU project proposal; ATOS origin’s section is more interesting and a list of suggested topics for the workshop is good to have (I wonder if in future it would help if this was required of all papers?)

3. The Future of Social Networking Michael Chisari, Appleseed Project

Sole developer talking about his experiences creating distributed social networks and the implications for privacy and trust – worth a skim, and points for using html.

4. The Future of The Appleseed Platform Michael Chisari, Appleseed Project

Describes a distributed social networking project, designed to be a pltform for distributed social networking, including multiple identities, multi-lingual support. Some would question some of his technology choices (IM2000) and modelling choices (are several identities necessary?). Not clear to me how this differs from say, Ning, except in being open source.

5. Social TV: A new wave of Social Networking for Television (pdf) Soohong Daniel Park, Samsung Electronics

Brief paper about (IP)TV and social networking (chatting, presence etc). All rather familiar to me because of Joost. Would like social TV issues to be considered by any W3C XG.

6. Security issues in the future of social networking (pdf) Giles Hogben, ENISA

More weighty summary of some of the issues with social networks pertaining to online identity management, coming mostly from a workshop held by ENISA: “a Centre of Expertise for the EU Member States and EU Institutions in Network and Information Security, giving expert advice and recommendations”. Suggests techniques for maintaining social reputation using PGP keys

7. Information analysis in mobile social networks for added-value services (pdf) Christos Zigkolis, Informatics and Telematics Institute (Greece), Yiannis Kompatsiaris, Informatics and Telematics Institute (Greece), Athena Vakali, Department of Informatics, Aristotle University (Greece)

Part of an EU project; arguing that automated extraction of social network data can be beneficial in the mobile area. Some of their logic is not terribly convincing in parts, though I suppose they may well be right nevertheless.

8. Position Paper from Telefonica (pdf)David Sainz González, Maria Cristina, Fernández Grande, Jordi Rovira Simón, Telefonica

Creating contexts using data from mobile devices and their sensors; generate social graphs using data, weighted by, say, location; data mining and profiling for more presonalised applications, recommendations. Considerations of UI, semi-automation and security. Interesting.

9. Position Paper from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (DIT) (pdf) Joaquín Salvachúa, Antonio Tapiador, Antonio Fumero, Javier Cerviño, Juan Quemada, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (DIT)

Interesting idea – weakly-linked, temporary organisations for doing specific projects, and all that entails for security. OAuth and OpenID namechecked, slightly odd ‘we thought of it first’ attitude about the various social APIs that are around

10. The social network behind telecom networks (pdf) Luis Ángel Galindo (Telefónica Spain), David Moro (Telefónica R&D), David Lozano (Telefónica R&D),

Similar to paper 8, unsurprisingly, given it’s the same company. Idea to generate a social network site from phone contacts, so no joining the network costs; syncing phone contacts with the social site; automatic provision of lifestreaming. They have an initiative – Slightly sinister because of the implication that they can use the carrier infrastructure to gather private data. No discussion of security or privacy implications.

11. Open architecture for multilingual social networking (pdf) M.T. Carrasco Benitez.

A brief discussion of desired features and architecture of multilingual and localised websites, specifically UI features, backend services, mention of the possibility of translation services to connect users on social networking sites. Explicitly not the opinion of the contributor’s employer, the EC.

12. Online Presence in Social Networks (pdf) Milan Stankovic (Université Paris-Sud XI, Orsay, France), Jelena Jovanovic (University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia)

Describes the reasoning behind the the Online Presence Ontolology (OPO), that gives structure to statements about presence (using foaf, sioc, geo etc), and the possibility of using this information to govern kinds of interaction with the user, when gathered from multiple sites. Interesting idea – I wonder how they would create the structured data.

13. Africa: A mobile frontier (pdf) Gloria Ruhrmund

States that mobile social networks may be a very good fit for Africa, possibly commercial, also NGOs, governments; vague about exactly how; notes that MSN South Africa is popular, and that airtime is now an informal currency in parts of Africa.

14. Position Paper from German National Library (pdf) Panagiotis Kitmeridis, Anne Löhden, Dr. Lars Svensson, German National Library

Discussion of plans to add user generated content (selection, quality rating, characterisation of resources) to libraries, and indicating that social networks (groups with different access levels) might improve the trustworthiness and accuracy of UGC in this context.

15. Position Paper from University of Reading Shirley Williams, Pat Parslow, Karsten Oster Lundqvist, University of Reading

A new technology requires adaptation and people don’t always realise the consequences of their digital identity (how they appear online to others), particularly if they have multiple identities in different social networks. “There is also anecdotal evidence of users increasingly using disparate systems to facilitate communication with different groups of peers, either through explicit choices being made or because they have to subscribe to the services already in use by their friends and colleagues.” learning / education perspective. And in html 🙂

16. XDI Trust Information – A Trustability Protocol for Validating Distributed Information (pdf) Elizabeth Cano, Gregoire Burel, University of Sheffield, UK

Describes the use of two oasis-homed TLAs to validate information about a person by them establishing a ‘contract’ with someone who can validate the information, using as special type of link. If no contracts is present, XTI can allow you to access other documents from the site, and look at those recursively looking for validation. “XRIs (Extensible Resource Identifiers) address a longstanding problem on the Internet: how to have a persistent, portable, privacy-protected identifier for any resource, from a person to a company to an application to a concept. XDI (XRI Data Interchange) uses XRIs to securely and privately share, link, and synchronize data between any two devices, domains, or applications – and maintain this link for as long as the two parties want to keep a data sharing relationship.” (from

17. Leveraging Web 2.0 Communities in Professional Organisations (pdf) A. Scherp (University of Koblenz), F. Schwagereit (University of Koblenz), N. Ireson (University of Sheffield), V. Lanfranchi (University of Sheffield), S. Papadopoulos (Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece), A. Kritikos (Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece), Y. Kompatsiaris (Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece), P. Smrz (Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic)

A discussion of the contrasts between tradition organisational structures and web 2.0 ones and specific discussion of the potential to use user generated content in the emergency services for disasters. Suggests that process-mining of virtual organsations can be used to generate workflow models that might bridge this gap.

18. Tangibility in social networks – Easing interactions with social networks in mobility using proximity sensor technologies (pdf) Antoine Fressancourt, Colombe Hérault, Eric Ptak, Atos Worldline R&D

Describes an aplication that uses NFC (Near Field Communication, an extension of RFID for mobile devices) that allows the user to voluntarily state his location and then distributes the location information via a centralised server to various social networks, having been run through user-defined privacy rules first. Incentives include getting contextually-appropriate apps to mobile devices. Potentially interesting ideas.

19. Leveraging Social data with Semantics Guillaume Erétéo (Orange Labs), Michel Buffa (Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Kewi Team, CNRS/I3S), Fabien Gandon (INRIA), Mylène Leitzelman (Telecom ParisTech), Freddy Limpens (INRIA)

(More) semantics can be added to social networks by looking at social interactions in those networks (mostly path computations) and then adding this new data to the description of the network using ontologies. This is done using sparql extensions. Connecting the content in these networks (folksonomies) to ‘common references’ like dbpedia, or other taxonomies helps create “shared knowledge graphs”. Combined, this can make sense of the mass of data generated by social wetworks.

20. Instant Feeds for Social Networks (pdf) Gustavo García, Telefonica I+D

Makes a technical point about the efficiency of presence networks and the requirement to be instantly informed when data changes, and the high load this places on servers. Suggests using the combination of openid attributes or XRDS for discovery; oauth for authorisation; and atompub or SIP or XMPP for distribution.

21. Privacy and Social Network Sites: Follow the Money! (pdf) Martin Pekárek, Ronald Leenes, Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT)

Analysis of the types of harm caused by attacks on privacy in social networks, as well as the types of attackers, including harm from the networks themselves selling user profile data. Concludes that the benefits to users of using social networks are high albeit short term and so they are unlikely to stop; suggests best thing might be to discourage the profit motive of companies who can currently do more or less what they like with user profile data. Suggests a p2p system might work.

22. Position Paper from Vodafone Julian Pye, Wolfgang Schuster, Vodafone

Useful list of their interests in the second paragraph. The body of the paper is about differences in the ways people use social networks on mobile devices compared to stationary ones. Using different states of the user (or times of the day, family time, leisure, work time) suggest different modes of social interaction (lean-forward, lean back, on-the-go contexts) and so different modes of the device (e.g. business contacts first). Lots of interesting ideas, and html to boot.

23. Position Paper from Peperoni (pdf) Marcus Ladwig, Peperoni

Large mobile portal suggests that there’s a large potential untapped market for mobile social networking, presently untapped because of the various issues with mobile data access, including scepticism of network operators (p8); suggests the need for industry standards, policies and APIs (p10); and including sharing networks’ user profiling data with advertisers (opt-in)

24. Legal Problems of the social networks (pdf) Pablo Álvarez de Linera Granda, Nelly Sánchez Mouriz, Sofía Cuervas-Mons Ruiloba, J&A GARRIGUES

Legal / privacy issues arising from the use of social networks plus advice on what users and providers should do (respect countries’ privacy laws, allow the deletion of all data created by the user, think before you post, especially if it has to do with children; do not allow spidering of profile data). Declares that international coordination is required; refers to a couple of recent meetings in europe on the topic.

25. Tapping the Mobile Digital Tapestry: Can mobile 2.0 companies make money without being greedy for personal data (pdf) Daniele Quercia, University College London

Interesting paper about sharing data and other items of interest such as music very locally, for example on a wifi access point or using bluetooth, and suggesting that using such a model could open up a non-privacy invading way of making money – by using location-based ads.

26. Identity Management in Social Networks (pdf) Miguel-Angel Monjas, David Suárez, Ericsson España

List of interests page 2-3. Top interests include: use of SIMs as identification mechanisms; tools for handling and tracking one’s own data, knowing how it is used; inferring social networks from behaviour using machine learning; federated identity systems; brokers for authentication, geo.

27. The Social Web: Small Businesses / Big Solutions (pdf) Timothée P. Anglade, Ori Pekelman, Louis Montagne, AF83

Talks about various issues of interest to SME and social networks, specifically the problem that buisness models are currently only about growing the size of the network; suggests some alternative business models, including micropayments for goods or services; emphasising the importance of business models that rely on a common interest for the sites and their users.

28. Trends in mobile social networking for mainstream consumers and supporting technologies required (pdf) Lisa McKnight (Nokia), Lubna Dajani (Stratemerge),

The issues they would like W3C to focus on are in the first section and are mostly about interoperability between social networks; also addressbook interop. They are most interested in non-early adopters, as the market grows. The paper is based on interviews with users. Also worries about the privacy of disclosing geo location. Definitely worth a look this one, though I don’t see the sample size mentioned anywhere.

29. Privacy-Preserving Friendship Relations for Mobile Social Networking (pdf) Sören Preibusch, Alastair R. Beresford, University of Cambridge, UK

Argues that the existance of public friendship links are privacy-intruding because of socio-economic interests that can be inferred; even if the user is able to keen them private, the friends may not. The paper desribes a technique for hashing private relationships using foaf, in a P2P network. Interesting stuff, not sure how you’d make it usable.

30. HelloWorld: An Open Source, Distributed and Secure Social Network (pdf) Markus Ackermann, Krister Hymon, Benjamin Ludwig, Kai Wilhelm, University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern, Germany

Long paper describing an open, decentralised social network using pgp keys to encrypt personal information, using downloadable software, and using Freenet, with a centralised ‘phonebook’ and importating contacts using hcard. A prototype is available.

31. Accessible social networking in practice, the GDF-SUEZ experience in France (pdf) Ruddy RACON (GDF SUEZ), Pierre GUILLOU (AccessiWeb).

A large company argues that accessibility can and should be addressed in web 2.0 sites, and has made a social networking site to show that the functionality can be implemented in an accesssible way.

32. The Interoperability of Lightweight Semantics for Social Networks (pdf) Matthew Rowe, University of Sheffield, UK

Describes microformats and RDFA compared with RDF. Argues that interoprability is needed between xfn and foaf; argues that digital identity is important; describing a digital identity card per citizen, including a weighted social network. On joining a new social network, the network could request access to it. OpenID and Oauth. Reputation building over sites. Suggests lightweight semantics could be used to connect people.

33. Social networking across devices: opportunity and risk for the disabled and older community (pdf) Henny Swan, Opera

Argues for the need for accessibility in social networking sites.

34. The Future of Social Networking: Let everyone in, and remember they’re all on the move (pdf) Miquel Martin, NEC Network Laboratories, Heidelberg

Argues for standardised apis for contextual information from device sensors, e.g. geo info, cross platform. Ideas for discussion on page 4.

35. Sentient Computing meets Social Networking (pdf) Simon Hay, Joseph Newman, Andrew Rice, University of Cambridge

Using sensors to infer context “x has just left his desk” – belief that it is now mature enough to be used in social networking. Privacy and interfaces are important. Describes some interesting projects in this area.

36. Decentralization: The Future of Online Social Networking (pdf)Ching-man Au Yeung (University of Southampton), Ilaria Liccardi (University of Southampton), Kanghao Lu (CSAIL, MIT), Oshani Seneviratne (CSAIL, MIT), Tim Berners-Lee (CSAIL, MIT)

Paper describing various semantic web and linked data tools that could be used for distributed social networks: foaf, openID, webdav, SPARUL (Sparql update), tabulator, foaf+ssl; describes how it would address issues such as privacy, data silos, data ownership.

37. Using Standards to Normalize Domain Specific Metadata (pdf) Andrew Mello, Lisa Rein

Automatically enhancing and normalising data streams using semantics (e.g. using RDFA) can enhance the user experience (not clear to me how! maybe I’m just tired though). Describes a marketing application that generates short term social networks by getting users to play games and otherwise interact with a brand to check how a specific marketing campain is going.

38. OpenMicroBlogging Evan Prodromou, Founder of Wikitravel and

Push messages to different services using oAuth and open microblogging protocol (http post messages). Also service discovery using oauth discovery. federated model. Interesting analogy with email and previous data silos.

39. Capturing, Using, and Storing Users’ Locations (pdf) Dan Melinger, Socialight

List of specific questions for discussion on p2-3, mostly about privacy and usability (and understandability) aspects of capturing, sharing and using the user’s location information.

40. Industry Challenges for Social and Professional Networks (pdf) Renato Iannella, National ICT Australia (NICTA)

Describes some issues with social networks (lockin, spamming, privacy issues, confusing UIs, not suitable for mobile). Looking for a ‘social networks interop roadmap’ XG for requirements gathering for social networks interop (standards for data portability, policy expression, network migration).

41. Social Networks – Challenges of Ubiquitous Web Access (pdf) Vadym Kramar, Markku Korhonen, Jori Karppinen, Pehr Brahe Software Laboratory (PBOL)

Describes some usecases around the application of mobile technology and the web: context awareness, device cself-configuration and browser experience. Argues that there are already W3C standards in all 3 areas, but more guidance is needed on how to implement them.

42. World Peace Using Social Networks Will Holcomb

A planned project describing a way of creating trustable digital identifiers with xml signatures, unique identifiers and trusted signers.

Qdos services

Qdos have some very nice Foaf-related apps that allow you to various things using the aggregate of foaf files they’ve collected.

As announced, you can search and view foaf files as nice html, validate your foaf file a service which catches some common mistakes in foaf files. There’s also a social verification tool, giving you the ability the ability to find if an open id is in your network to a level of two degrees, and a reverse foaf search, which gives you a foaf file output containing the people who claim to know you; and

I was chuffed too that Mischa and Steve have also added a ‘forward’ lookup so you can see an RDF view of your friends, keyed off your id within a foaffile (the #me), email, mboxsha1sum, homepage or weblog. As Mischa says:

“I guess this makes our facility similar to that of the google SocialGraph API, but with an RDF flavour.”

I’ve added a class to my tiny java library that uses the qdos forward search to find your friends.

Usage is

 sh --contacts

 sh --contacts 01e253737c46286ff7cc1183be05ab64fea15438

Foaf Slurper

Being newly back in semweb land got me thinking about what all the existing mounds of foaf data could be used for. There’s lot of it out there but not used much as far as I can tell. I tried to make a foaf importer library eons sgo, before there were decent query laguages and before google social graph and qdos and Sindice and so on. The difference now is that companies often use the nasty ‘give-me-your-password’ antipattern to fnd you friends within a social networking site. This is horrible (encouraging acceptance of phishing) and also slows down the user’s entrance into the site, maybe losing some of them. In many cases you can simply buy a library to do this for you – so why not make a library that does that with freely available foaf with no password involved?

So: usecases: let’s pretend I have a social networking site and I want to:

  • increase use of my site by inviting a ‘captured’ user’s friends onto the site
  • get the user interested and using the site – and get her to get others interested too – by matching up her friends with existing users of the site.
  • fill in some of the user’s details with data, to save them typing it all inI can think of some other usecases for a library like this one but these are pretty straightforward, and I thought it was worth looking into the possibilities.

There seem to be two technical options.

The first, tempting, one, is to use the idea of Foaf as a machine-readable homepage. We have the user specify their foaf file, we get the info from that, and, boom. Dopplr have in fact done this but with XFN.

Two issues here. The first is that the user may have more than one Foaf file. This could work for us or against us. The user may prefer to be specific about which group of friends they add in. Or, more than one may simply make the number of friends and invites we get smaller, and reduce the potential happiness of our user too (“where’s Bob?”).

The problem with the Foaf file approach is that it screams geek. This may be appropriate depending on what my site does (for a semweb geek dating site it might work excellently), or I might think it’s worth having a special geek option for the interest I might get – but it’s not suitable for my average user. I could ask the user if they are in Livejournal, FriendFeed or what have you and get it via that – but, it’s an extra step for the user, which I want to avoid.

Second option: use an aggregator. One of the big things that’s changed in the last three years is the rise of the big RDF aggregators, sunch as Swoogle, Sindice, Falcon and more specificly Foafy ones like Qdos and Google Social Graph. I chose Google Social Graph as a starting point specifially because it harvests and processes Foaf files (and XFN too), i.e. it’s specific to people-related data.

The API is pretty straightforward. There are nodes and edges. URIs representing people are nodes, edges are relationship types. The restful, json-returning API allows you to get nodes claimed by other nodes (i.e. versions of ‘me’) plus the attributes of a user: rss, atom, name, photo, foaf file, url, profile, plus your contacts and the type of your relationship with them if you care about that sort of thing. You can ask for a number of nodes at a time. You can do lookups on urls (homepage, weblog) as well as mboxsha1sum and email.

Here’s an example query:

The Social Graph basically does the trick. If I can get the user to give me some piece of information about them, such as an email that they have used elsewhere or their homepage or weblog, then I can – without them doing anything else at all:

  • suggest some friends on my site that they aleady know
  • ask if they want to invite some of their other friends to my site
  • fill in their name, photo, homepage and so on automatically

The main disadvantage I can see here is simply that people might be a bit freaked out by it. Sometimes knowing how much the web knows about you can be a little startling – and semantic web data could produce a whole new level of being startled by the specific and repurposable nature of the data. The long-dead foaf aggregation pioneer Plink closed because people kept getting angry when they found their data in it. Not everyone realises how many sites produce machine-processible versions of their data. I think I’d have to see it in action to see whether this was a genuine problem. Tom Morris pointed me at Huffduffer, which rather neatly grabbed my image for me – but which doesn’t seem to use friends.

In the end I tried both ideas. I wanted to get it to a state such that a developer could take an identifier from the user, get a list of simple objects back, and then pass them to her own API to determine if they were present in the site’s database.

For the Foaf file reader, I used a couple of SPARQL queries plus Jena, so it would be trivial to repurpose in a different language.

sh --details

( is repurposed from a Jena example, to point to the Jena files in the classpaths)

For the Social Graph I used the Jackson Json library to make the queries to the server and parse them. I do several queries to the social graph to get the names of friends, and I do this in batches.

java -classpath .:jackson-asl-0.9.3.jar SGUser --details

The code is available (Social graph, Foaf file) README under a BSD license – or you’re welcome to copy the idea and improve it. It’s a small amount of code – the hard work is done by the Jena and Social Graph APIs respectively.


I spent quite a long time working out what was going on in this area, while doing this. There’s a bunch of interest still in OAuth, a way for applications to be given permission to access certain aspects of another application (like permission to write to a Flickr account), though promised implementations don’t seem to have materialised yet (Twitter seem to have got rid of their experimental one). There was an OpenID / OAuth summit a few weeks ago.

I always get the Google Social Graph, the aggregation of Foaf and XFN data mixed up with Open Social, a kind way of making Facebook-style apps. There’s also DataPortability an organisation for promoting ways to move your data between sites, and the Portable Contacts which is a recently developed format and protocolto enable people to move data between sites, again using existing or upcoming standards. OpenSocial is being adapted to integrate Portable Contacts.

The semweb databases I ran into were Sindice, Qdos, Falcons, and Swoogle. I think that several of these can probably perform Foaf-specific queries – and Sindice has some microformats support too, but I’ve not had time to look at them properly yet.

Other related links I found in the past week include: the fuss about Twitterank and giving out your password, Matt Biddulph on Dopplr and Social network subscription, who references Drew McLellan’s Don’t Import, Subscribe. Oh and how about hosting contacts in the DNS (and making friends too) with .tel domains and Telnic.