Semantic Mediawiki and the Semantic Web

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Following Web development for 15 years, the Semantic Web has always been in the background. Today XML is commonly used as an interchange language between applications, Web Services are used by systems requiring rich data exchange, and REST is used as a lighter weight exchange system. All these elements contribute to a web of reusable information. Yet providing a practical way to create semantic documents is difficult for the typical end user. Most approaches use very explicit terminology, requiring linked codes that are painful to enter, so clunky forms based interfaces are often used to develop documents.

Contrast this with the fluidity of wikis, a giant force in the development of the participatory Web. A classic wiki allows anyone to edit pages, with a full 'audit trail.' In creating those pages, hypertext page sets can be easily created, with conventions allowing easy organization of documents, and functions like "what links here" enable discovery navigation.

To best use a wiki today (rather than using it as a Web based version of MS Word), one often should use the low level wiki markup. Many people are afraid of working in text, but it adds a lot of fluidity. Over time, better 'rich' interfaces will evolve, as well as the common pattern of an inexperienced user adding some information, and an expert adding semantic markup. But it's always going to be a benefit — digital literacy — to have an idea of how the underlying markup works.

As an example, Wikipedia allows easily adding categories; documents can then be organized from any perspective. A random article is not just about an actress, it is also about 1907 births, 1976 deaths, and deaths from myocardial infarction.

Using properties and relationships, Semantic Mediawiki takes this one giant step farther.

 Next: SMW properties


Blikied on Oct 1, 2009