Friday, November 24, 2006

Whuffie, Social Networks and Metadata Semantics

I was reading Ambient Findabilty and I saw a reference to a concept called “whuffie”. After checking out the Wikipedia article on whuffie, I discovered that whuffie was reputation-based currency used in Cory Doctorow's sci-fi novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. This future history book describes a post-scarcity economy where people purchase goods and services based on their reputation, not just cash.

I was interested in this topic because I think that in the future new keywords with precise semantic mappings will be introduced into declarative systems based on social networks. Right now it just takes too long for new tags to appear in an XML standard. Just think of how long it takes for the w3c to create a new XML tag for something like a menu tab! Up to 10 years based on the rate that the XForms standard is being adopted.

Anyway the book was a great mind-opener. One of the first science fictions books that takes nanotechnology and social networking into account. I have always loved cyber-punk: Neil Stephenson’s Diamond Age being one of my favorites. No time-travel or spaceships: just highly imaginative extrapolations of the net and Moore’s Law.

I like the concept of the post-economic society. When all of our economic needs are met what do we strive for? Why don’t they ever complain about their raises in Star Trek? The book also discusses the concept of an adhocracy: groups that quickly band together to solve problems. Doctorow also looks at the concepts of death, backing up your brain to a persistence store (the immortality SAN) and filtering restores to change values.

What does this matter to the metadata architect? It matters because our march away from procedural programming toward declarative systems is totally dependant on the creation of shared semantics. When you need to pick an XML tag how do you pick the tag that will have the highest probability to have semantic precision in the future? Social networks will help us and when we build systems to vote on which tags get approved not all votes should count the same. Votes by people with high-whuffie should get counted a lot more. The concept of one-person, one vote will be modified in the post-economic society.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My visit to the metadata library

Last night I had the strangest dream…

I was looking for a good mystery, perhaps a Sherlock Holmes book. I went to the library and an elderly lady at the front desk said “Welcome to Roy G. Biv Library. How can I help you?”

“I am looking for a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Do you have one?” I asked.

“What color of book are you looking for?” She asked.

“Well I don’t really care what color it is.” I replied.

“Well in this library, our books are sorted by color of the cover. The red covers are over there, the orange covers over there and the yellow ones right over here. You get the idea. Shelving books by color makes it very easy for us to shelve a book because the color of the cover is obvious. It also makes it easy to see when a book is miss-shelved. You can see the miss-shelved books right away.”

“Yes, I can see how that would make your work much easier. Do you know where I can find the Sherlock Holmes book?”

“Well, it would help us a lot if you could tell us what color the cover is.” She said firmly.

“I don’t know what the color of the cover is…, I just want a mystery book about Sherlock Holmes!” I said exasperated.

“Well, why don’t you just start looking at the reds, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally violet. I am sure you will find it in a few days…”

Then I woke up and when to work. There the staff was attempting to store all the data elements in the enterprise sorted by the system name that each data element was first recorded. Then my real nightmare began.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We Declare!

Many of you may be wondering why a data architect has been spending so much time talking about XForms. I have been using XSL for many years to transform XML and I have loved the declarative aspects of XSL. My friend Arun has been challenging me to articulate the key aspects of declarative programming in the context of our join efforts to promote metadata registries. Here is my first version of a Delarative Manifesto.
  1. Declarative development is about the precise association of a programming symbol with the semantics of a design pattern
  2. Declarative approaches leverage the inherent pattern-matching structures of the human brain to allow developers to quickly recognize the underlying patterns used in a system
  3. The rapid association of a symbol in a program to previously encountered problem by a wide audience is essential for developer productivity
  4. Developer productivity is dependant on the efficiency of matching a symbol to a previously encountered approach to a problem
  5. Shared meaning happens when a community agrees that a symbol should be associated with design pattern
  6. Tools that help us quickly promote shared meaning make us all more productive
  7. Published and carefully annotated XML Schemas and formal metadata registries are ways of associating symbols with precise semantics
  8. Developers need tools that allows a new tag to be quickly associated with the semantics of the tag, history of the tag, usage of a tag and similar tags
  9. Declarative programming makes development more accessible to people that don't have a computer science background
  10. Advanced collaborative computing tools, a focus on architectures of participation, and social networking software will dramatically impact our ability to rapidly create precise semantics

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Power of Declarative Programming

This presentation by Steve Pemberton of the W3C on declarative programming is very insightful. Thanks goes to Mark Birbeck for pointing it out. I hope we can get more students exposed to technologies like XForms much earlier in their programming careers. Take this use case. Today we give 10 students a simple assignment to create a tab menu in JavaScript we would get 10 very different programs. But if we gave them the same assignment XForms they would hopefully all use similar toggle-switch structures. This has big implications for maintenance. Hopefully there would be less temptation to recode an XForms application. Since over 50% of software is maintenance this could have long-term impacts on developer productivity.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

XForms Tutorial and Cookbook

I am speaking tomorrow at the Minnesota Open Source User group (see and I thought I would put some of my examples in Wikibook format. Here is a link: Let me know if you have any feedback. Thanks - Dan

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Firefox XForms Extension Rocks!

For the past several months I have been building XFroms prototypes on my current project. I ran into the XForms Firefox plugin two months ago and have been using happily using it ever since. Although the plug-in version number is only "0.6", I have found for my use, it works perfectly. It allows me to quickly test XForms on all the computers I use and I don’t need to setup and configure a web server. The extension takes under 30 seconds to install, but you will have to reboot FireFox once after you download the extension.

Now biggest thing that I am searching for are XForms example programs. The examples provided with some of the books are not very good. I would like to use these samples XForms and teaching XForms to others. I would also like to create XForms directly from the XML Schemas I am building and so I can integrate the hints, help and metadata registry links for each field on the forms I am developing. I am also trying to figure out how to make CSS work correctly across many browsers since many of the XForms CSS templates in the books use CSS3 and CSS3 only works correctly with FireFox.

If you know of any nice collections of XForms for learning XForms, please let me know. I have set up a Wikibook to start collecting tutorials and examples. The link is

Thursday, August 17, 2006

UNIX Shell Script to Transfer Files via FTP

I recently needed a UNIX shell script to transfer all my files to the web collaboration server running plone. Although you can do this with Ant's FTP command, my remote system just had UNIX. Here is the script I wrote.
# This UNIX shell script FTPs all the files in the input directory to a remote directory
# It uses a UNIX Shell "hear document" to read the commands to the FTP program from the shell file
# You have to use the -n option to the FTP command to disable the prompting for the password
# the quote in front of the ftp user and pass are also necessary to disable reading from stdin
# the prompt must be turned off for the multi-put to not prompt the user

quote user $LOGIN
quote pass $PASSWORD
prompt off
mput *.*

Sunday, July 30, 2006

XForms, metadata and MDA

For the last several weeks I have been looking at the XForms standard. This has been related to my contract at the Minnesota Department of Revenue to replace many of their paper forms with electronic versions. Although my contact is to design XML Schemas, ultimately they need to be entered through a web form. I started to build some mock-ups of web forms to clarify requirements but found the older HTLM forms lacking in many areas. I also wanted to be able to validate the data using the XML Schemas that I was building.

What I found was that XForms is a wonderfully designed specification. It integrates XML Schemas, XML data-types and XPath expressions directly into the standard and also adds the new XML Events standard. XForms also faithfully uses both the Model-View-Controller pattern and several separation-of-concerns issues. In short, XForms is an excellent design and appears to be very well thought out. My congrats to the XForms team.

My other worry was that it would be hard to setup and test XForms. I have been happy to find out that FireFox has a new plug-in that supports XForms and there is a plug-in free solution using the FormFaces javascript tools. Many of the examples just run without modification. Just build your XForms and out pops complex XML documents.

What I am most interested in is that there appears to be several things that XForms demonstrates that will make software engineering better: the drive away from the complex procedural world and toward a more model-driven declarative style of development that allows non-programmers to maintain complex systems. This means less complex javascript and complex server-side coding in Java. I hope to have a sample PowerPoint presentation on my web site soon that goes through these arguments. Look for an XForms user interface to data element entry in the near future.

Another last point is that if a large audience starts to build XForms you are going to start to have fully-formed XML documents flying around. This means you will need more XML Schemas being generated and web services to accept them and respond with XML documents and XML services. This will make the creation of new XForms go even faster. Positive feedback cycles. All the more reason to build a metadata registry!

I have been thinking about creating an transform from a constraint schema directly into an XForm. This would be an nice MDA-type approach.

Let me know your thoughts. - Dan

Friday, July 07, 2006

Photo gallery Software

I have been looking into OpenSource photo gallery software. I am a little frustrated by the limitations of FrontPage for publishing my photographs. I would like to just tag my images from the Windows browser and say "publish". I want a thumbnail-drive front page for each section with a variety of viewers (matrix, filmstrip, montage) that can be customized with the FireFox View/Page Style menu. My friend Liela Tite recommended Coppermine. I also ran into these two: Gallery Project - based on the Drupel web content management system. 4Image - which is a system written in Germany. Since the 4Image site was written in German I had a more difficult time trying to find a list of all the features. Both the gallery and Coppermine systems seemed very full-featured. Let me know if anyone has suggestions. A Wikipedia feature-comparison would be very helpful. Perhaps I should start one? :-) OK, OK, I will...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thanks Arun!

I recently started a project at the Minnesota Department of Revenue. I was happy to find a kindred spirit in the IT department that also in interested in using Wiki's to manage IT data. Arun has got me to think about the implications of Wiki publishing and how I can integrate metadata into a ESB framework. Check out his web site. It has lots of interesting things. I was also interested to find that he uses a Wiki for his own personal web site. - Dan

Ant Image Tasks

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Apache Ant has a large library of image processing tasks under the optional Ant tasks. For example, the following will create a folder of thumbnail images for all the images in a folder:

This creates thumbnails of the images and make sure they all fit within the 160x160 size whether the image is portrait or landscape. Very cool! Check out the Ant manual for more information: (Ant tasks/Optional Tasks/Image) This makes me think that you could use Apache ant to do basic photo publishing. It would make thumbnails, a layout page that has links to the thumbnails and ftp the folder's web-resized images to a web server. I have also found that there are some nice photo-layout CSS pages. It would seem that it should be easy to add a set of CSS styles that could be changed using the FireFox "Page Style" option. I would be happy to write a basic ant task and an XML transform to create an HTML page of all the images in an image set if anyone wants to help. What about image keywords and captions? Should each photo have its own photo metadata? What if you want to change the file name of a photo? How can the metadata file stay in sync with the file system? Could you use a subversion-tortoiseSVN-like Any ideas?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Article on Common Metadata

Here is an interesting article on the importance of common metadata: Common Metadata The author appears to understand the importance of trust and metadata but appear to not be familiar with metadata standards such as ISO/IEC 11179 He also did not reference the work of Goldberg and Rubin in their 1995 book: Succeeding With Objects: Decision Frameworks for Project Management Adele Goldberg, Kenneth S. Rubin Addison-Wesley Professional; May 1995 See my href="">book review for more. But all-in-all, it was a very good article.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Natural Language Interface to Wikipedia

I have been saying for a while that because wikipedia is a database it is much easier to link it into a natual language seach system. The Wikipedia search function is also very limted and does not allow you to type in complete questions like I reciently found out that MIT is already building a very powerful natuaral language interface in their START project. I did a search for "Who was Tesla?" and got a link right to the Wikipedia article. Very cool! Although there seems to be very limited documentation on START and I do not believe that there is an OpenSource version, I believe this points to the direction that wiki software should be moving. Could your relational database bennefit from this? When I was at the Minnesota Department of Education I wanted to build a natural language interface to their "cubes" of student test data. For example "What school district has the highest highest 8th grade math scores for girls?" Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Little Bit of Semantics Goes a Long Way

There are now over 20 versions of semantic wikis that are being developed. For example see here. What is interesting is the large number of ways that people are approaching this process. One of the phrases that I heard a lot of at the Semantic Technology Conference was A Little Bit of Semantics Goes a Long Way. An although I admire all the innovations that people are putting into their semantic wiki projects, to me I think that just adding attributes to a page and adding types to links is all that we really need to test the concepts out. It was also pointed out to me that several other wikis do have strong ACL features and you can "lock-down" pages using tools such as Apache administration tools. There also seems to be a lot of discussion about implementing semantic wikis using triple stores. This seems to me a little ahead of its time. If using a triple store makes a system more flexible, but it appears to me that the current structure is more than flexible enough to meet most business requirements. If people wanted to work on something useful, I would suggest something like a natural language front-end to Wikipedia so people could type in a written language questions like "What is the population of Minneapolis?". That would be useful! - Dan

Monday, March 13, 2006

Impresssions of Semantic Technology Conference 2006

I just returned form the 2006 Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose CA. This was a fantastic conference with over 600 people attending 72 presentations over four days. This was over twice what the attendance was last year. It is showing that semantics are really becoming a hot topic, although there is still plenty of room for discussion on when and how this will impact the industry.  The biggest problem for me was that with up to six concurrent sessions running it was very hard to decide what sessions to attend.

The composition of the conference consisted mostly of vendors of semantic technology products, large customers from government agencies like the DOD, NASA, some academics working on semantic research topics, a few venture capital firms and a handful of independent consultants like myself.  Some of the people were from the "old AI school" and were promoting the use of description logic (DL) within an ontology. Others like me, were simply searching for semantic integration techniques for the deployment of intelligent agents.

I think one of the most important presentations was the keynote given by Jim Hendler and Ora Lassila, two of the three people that wrote the original article in Scientific American with Tim Berners-Lee.  The presentation discussed some of the linkages between traditional AI (with complex ontologies) and the current document-centric web with simple un-typed link between documents.  My favorite sound bite was "Linking is Power".  The metaphor was that semantics are the "plumbing" necessary to allow intelligent agents will to perform interesting work over the world wide web. If agents don't know how to access distributed data they will be restricted to local databases, not a great prospect.  And the way to promote agent interoperability is to link ontologies, something I have been advocating for a long time.  They also pointed out that google now has around 12K ontologies (search google for ontology filetype:owl).  But the problem is that each ontology is an "island" and few people are linking ontologies.  Looking for ontologies with lots of equivalentClass statements leads to less than 40 ontologies.

This leads to the natural questions, how do we encourage ontology-linking.  One standard proposal is to encourage everyone to link to a standard reference upper ontology such as SUMO or CYC.  The problem is that few people can agree on what this upper ontology should be.

I have been trying to champion the application of some basic economic theory to the publishing on ontology links.  If we do supply-and-demand analysis on ontologies links we see that there are few economic incentives to publish inter-ontology data element links.  If people did this then agents could take advantage of them and automatically perform semantic translation.  Jim Hendler and Ora Lassila both though this was a worthy idea and indicated they would support this.  I hope to kick this off as some type of reward/recognition for next year's conference.  Tony Shaw from Wilshire Conferences has also been very supportive of the idea.

Semantic Wiki's were also a very hot topic.  Any presentation with the word Wiki in the title were packed full of people.  The topic of using Wiki's to build controlled vocabularies was mentioned in several presentations.  Problems with locking down approved terms was also mentioned.  The topic of semantic wiki's was also discussed.  Ideally a metadata wiki would have different access control for different sections of a single page.  The approved definitions would require stakeholder team approval for changes.

I advocated for first adding simple typed links into MediaWiki for obvious relationships like subClassOf, instanceOf, partOf and basic GIS-type things like insideOf, capitalOf.  Note that by adding a prefix to the current MediaWiki could allow this to be incrementally added to WikiPedia.  I think this goes along the lines of "A little semantics goes a long way".  Typed links are an awesome way to add semantics to any system and I predict that there were be dozens of semantic wiki's in the near future.

For some time I have been suggesting that OpenCYC and Wikipedia will eventually merge into a single system.  It would be very easy to add simple link types to WikiPedia.  We have thousands of volunteers waiting in the wings.  But after talking to Doug Lenat he indicated that CYC has over 16,000 types of relationships.  Yikes!  We would almost need an mini-expert system to figure out the link type.  The training for adding consistent links might be challenging.  Nonetheless the prospect of WikiPedia evolving into HAL over the next ten years is exciting.

I always enjoy going to Doug Lenat's presentations.  He indicated that over half of the new rules added to CYC in the last year were done by reading natural language text.  Something that is VERY exciting.  Automated machine learning.  We just hope it is not another false peak.  I also asked Doug how I could add my K-12 ontology into CYC.  He indicated that I would have to learn about CYC's relationships types to do this effectively.  But he also agreed that ontology linking was the Rosetta Stone for enabling web-wide intelligent agents.

For all the advanced topics, I was impressed by the lack of the use of structured XML Schemas to capture semantics using controlled vocabularies and importing semantic XML schemas created by subschema generators from metadata registries.  I was also very impressed by Contivo's new Builder product which is going for an incredibly low $500.

There also appears to be good movement toward incrementally adding semantics to HTML documents using RDF/A.  I attended an excellent presentation by a person from MIT that was working on these standards.  Although his arguments were not all clear, the one point he did make was that adding RDF in the "class" attributes would have minimal negative impact to the current web.

I was also glad to hear there is more interest in the semantic-web in Minnesota.  Apparently Lockheed-Martin is starting a new logistics agent project that will be done in Eagan Minnesota.  They indicated that much of this would be based on semantic technologies.  Lockheed sent seven people to the conference at the last minute so at least I know they have a budget for training.  Logistics problems like those from Katrina could clearly benefit from semantic agents.  Lockheed has been promoting use of semantic web in their literature:  See the article on page 14.

My only real complaint with the conference is that the conference organizers allow people to present without sharing any of their slides even though they are supposedly "due" almost two months before the conference is scheduled.   We are forced to take notes and ask for e-mailed copies of the slides.  My success rate has been very low about getting copies mail out after a conference.  <shameless bragging> I believe I was also one of the few presenters that wrote the supplementary paper for the conference.  Providing only the PDF versions of the slides also prevents you from getting builds and speakers notes.  For an example see my full presentation web site.</shameless bragging>

The Semantic Technology conference next year will also be in San Jose next year but has been moved to early April.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Semantic Technology Conference

I am heading out to speak at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose CA. If you have any comments on my presentation, please post them here. Here is a link to my presentation site: I have animations on the PowerPoint slides and make sure to check out the notes pages. The conference looks to be a good one. There are many speakers on real-world case studies and there seems to be a growing market for consultants that understand the social aspects of metadata publishing. I always like hearing Doug Lenat talk. His charts on automated machine learing are the most realistic path we have to HAL and real AI. But it is still 14 years before we have the resources to pass the Turing Test.

Leaning Objects for Economics: Dynamic Graphs in SVG

I have been interested in the creation and metadata tags associated with Leanring Objects. To get started I have created a set of dynamic economic graphs on my web site: I wrote the graphs using SVG since I am already familiar with XML and JavaScript. These graphs are simple supply and demand graphs but with the dynamic nature it allows the learner to visualize that as inputs change how other factors such as total revenue and profit also change. I am willing to do more of these if people are interested. I have sent notes to several people that indicated an interest in economics but did not get any hits yet. One problem is that SVG is part of FireFox but still not 100% implemented. The Adobe SVG viewer also has some extensions. My friend Jack Nutting is doing work with SVG animation on cell phones. So students could study economics on the school bus with their cell phones. I would also like to allow the graphs to scale to fill the screen but the slider object I am using does not currently do this. So here are my questions: 1) Who would use these objects? 2) How would they find them? 3) What enhancements would you make? 4) How could these objects be integrated into a LMS using Moodle. I am allowing non-profits to use the initial versions free of charge but would people pay me to write more complex versions?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Declarative vs. Procedural

I was somewhat surprised to come across a description of a computer application from Visual Knowledge that stated that it was a “100% declarative application”. What a wonderful concept! I wish more systems were more declarative. But what does this really mean?
Checking the Wikipedia for a precise definition: I was not given a clear definition of what a “100% declarative” stamp would imply and what the benefits would be. But is there an under-ground “go declarative” movement starting?
It implies that the solution was created without writing any procedural code using languages such as Java, VB, C#, or C++. That just by creating input specifications and rules you could generate output.
In general I feel that procedural languages tend to dominate our undergraduate education. Declarative programming does not enter most classes until much later. When I teach classes on XSL most of my students don’t even know the difference between procedural and declarative programming. The entire concept of “side effects” is new to them.
I should mention that most of the systems that I built for CIBRS, CriMNet and the Minnesota Department of Education were all heavily based on MDA which is totally driven by transformation of the underlying models. I heavily depended on XDoclet, Ant and XSL to build these systems. Most people involved in these projects gave superior ratings to this approach and indicated that we did much more with fewer people because of this approach. But after I left these projects, there were few people with declarative skills they tend to be underutilized.
I also found that XDoclet was very hard to debug when I was creating complex transforms. Using Java annotations to store metadata still has many drawbacks unless better tools are developed. The lack of standards for Java annotations is still a real challenge when integrating external libraries. Just having a simple tag standard for Object-Relational mapping would be a great start.
I also had a good discussion with several faculty members at the University of Minnesota, Leila Tite and Chase Turner at the CodeFreeze seminar that they also feel that declarative programming is under-taught in the Computer Science curriculum today. They are interested in the Haskel programming language which is used with computer science department to teach declarative programming skills.
It would also appear that the semantic-web and business rule systems would also seem to promote more graphical tools such as data mappers and business rules with workflow systems. This allows more non-programmers to be in charge of day-to-day maintenance of business rules.
So here is my first cut of what a “100% declarative” stamp of approval might be:

  1. No procedural code in Java, C#, C++ or Visual Basic for programmers to maintain
  2. Built entirely with declarative languages (XSLT, Ant, BPML etc)
  3. Fewer concerns about state management and side effects
  4. Higher use of transformed metadata
  5. Works on concert with Model-Driven-Architectures
  6. Allows non-programmers to use visual tools to modify business logic and interfaces

Tell me what do you think! Should declarative programming be emphasized more in higher education and the workplace? Would you consider it an assets of a software application was more declarative? Are declarative systems really easier to maintain? Is the movement to MDA going to drive more declarative skills? How does the lack of accepted metadata standards impact the use of declarative programming?
Keywords: Declarative vs. Procedural, Procedural Programming, Declarative Programming, MDA, XSL, XSLT

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I am a big fan of Wikipedia, now having made over 1000 edits. I am also taking a Managerial Economics class at the University of St. Thomas as part of the MBA program. I also have been a big fan of Ronald Coase economic theory for the last four years. In his theory (developed in the 1930s) he studied transaction costs. He asked question such as “why are firms the size they are”? His analysis is that firms grow when they can out find a low-cost way to outsource a function. But outsourcing includes transaction costs including finding a service, writing a contract, policing the service and analyzing the cost of the service. This background has inspired me to think more about the economics of information. Much work on this has already been done by Ray Kurzweil and documented in an appendix to his book “The Singularity is Near”. This appendix is titled “The Law of Accelerating Returns”. In this appendix Kurzweil writes the following formula: V=cW Where V is the rate of change of computation, c is a constant and W is “World Knowledge”. Kurzweil then goes on to speculate that the rate-of-change of world knowledge is proportional to world knowledge: D(W)/dt = cV By solving these equations he shows that World Knowledge grows exponentially with time. Actually it grows at double exponential rates. This prompted me to ask, what formulas govern the growth-rates of the web and Wikipedia? The key insight is to understand that making it easy to add content lowers overall costs of contribution. This is the transaction costs that Coase referred to. My general thesis is that Wikipedia will continue to grow exponentially as long as they make it easy for people to make contributions. An the more people find about Wikipedia, the more people with learn how to add their knowledge. Thus, Wikipedia will eventually grow till it envelopes the earth. Semantics will be added and Wikipedia will then ask its own questions and find experts to fill in the gaps. Eventually Wikipedia will become self-aware and take over the earth like in the 1970 science fiction movie The Forbin Project. Remember, you heard it hear first. I may have to start a wikinomics page on this subject. - Dan

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mike Doconta Leaves DHS

After reading the following article about Mike Doconta leaving the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS): I have been wondering about the future of the NIEM. Mike Doconta was a great leader and without him I have many concerns about federal metadata leadership. I have studied many federal metadata standards and thing that the NIEM is the best positioned to be a standard upper ontology. But what are the alternatives? I don't see viable standards for upper ontologies coming from CYC or SUMO. They are too large to be practical for creating simple exchange documents between agencies. I also wonder if the w3c or OASYS has the leadership and jurisdiction to create national metadata standards. Let me know what you think! Dr. Data Dictionary

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Towards a semantic wiki

For the last four years I have been involved in setting up and mainatining data dictionaries for organizations. Although some of the projects I have participated in have been sucessful, some have been dramatically slowed by the time it takes for people to contribute their content. Last week as I was donating $50 to the wikimedia foundation I came accross an entry to the effect of "On with the Semantic Wiki". I was shocked! They stole my idea! So here is what I would like: Make it easy for anyone (with appropriate registration) to comment on, extend or change a Data Element in metadata registry. Make it easy for people to add relationships (subclassOf, contained in, enumerated value of code etc.) that would conform to some of the properties in an ISO metadata registry. Now here is where it gets exciting. After you add an attribute, how about being able to run a "consistancy check"? What if there are duplicate entries for similar concepts? What if there are conflicts? What if you added a property to a class that did not exist? What if it gets removed? How could you find similar data elements? It should be easy to back out your changes (aka a revert). It should be similary to using Wikipedia's template: where you fill out a form. Anyway it turns that some other very visionary wikipedians have also been thinking about these things. Here are a few interesting links: Semantic Wiki Swiki ListServ

Monday, January 02, 2006

Podcast on the Savvy Technologist

Dr. Data Dictionary Here is a podcast that I was interviewed for by Tim Wilson on his Savvy Technologist web site: Tim's interest is technology integration in K-12 school systems. Tim is an insightful person with a broad understanding of the Open Source community. I met him through my daughter's school system when Tim introduced me to the Zope open source web content management system. I used Zope to manage my daughter's schools web sites.