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Archive for the 'Ontologies' Category

Follow the Journal of Web Semantics on facebook and twitter

November 9th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Ontologies, Semantic Web, Social media, Web

Journal of Web SemanticsThe Journal of Web Semantics now has a facebook page and a Twitter account to augment its blog. All three will be used for news and announcements of call for papers, special issues, availability of new papers, etc. As you might expect, the tweets will be terse items, the facebook updates longer notes and the blog posts full of details. Those who are interested can follow @journalWebSem on Twitter, become a fan of the JWS on facebook, and subscribe to the blog’s feed.

New York Times publishes Linked Open Data

October 30th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Ontologies, RDF, Semantic Web

Like many newspapers, the New York Times links the first mention of well known entitles in its articles to a reference page. For example, a mention of Barack Obama links to a page which is a collection of basic information on President Obama and links to relevant stories and other resources that the Times has created.

Now the Times is also using RDF to publish some of information as linked open data. Yesterday the Times announced the publication of an LOD collection covering about 5,000 people at under under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License and plan to put their full collection of 30K topics online soon.

“Over the last several months we have manually mapped more than 5,000 person name subject headings onto Freebase and DBPedia. And today we are pleased to announce the launch of and the release of these 5,000 person name subject headings as Linked Open Data.

Over the next several months, we plan to expand to include each of the nearly 30,000 subject headings we use to power Times Topics pages, a collection that includes locations, organizations and descriptors in addition to person names.”

OWL 2 becomes a W3C recommendation

October 27th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, KR, Ontologies, OWL, Semantic Web

OWL 2, the new version of the Web Ontology Language, officially became a W3C standard yesterday. From the W3C press release:

“Today W3C announces a new version of a standard for representing knowledge on the Web. OWL 2, part of W3C’s Semantic Web toolkit, allows people to capture their knowledge about a particular domain (say, energy or medicine) and then use tools to manage information, search through it, and learn more from it. Furthermore, as an open standard based on Web technology, it lowers the cost of merging knowledge from multiple domains.”

WolframAlpha releases API

October 16th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, KR, NLP, Ontologies, Semantic Web

Wolfram|Alpha is an interesting query answering system developed by Wolfram Research that is a blend of a question answering system and a Semantic Web alternative. It tries to interpret and answer queries expressed as a sequence of words from a large collection of interlinked tables. Oh, and Mathematica is in thrown in for free. A free Web version was released last Spring.

The news today is that Wolfram|Alpha has released an API, as noted in their blog:

“The API allows your application to interact with Wolfram|Alpha much like you do on the web—you send a web request with the same query string you would type into Wolfram|Alpha’s query box and you get back the same computed results. It’s just that both are in a form your application can understand. There are plenty of ways to tweak and control the results, as well.”

The pricing plan runs from $60/month for 1000 (6 cents a query) queries to $220K for up to 10M queries/month (2.2 cents a query). programming language bindings are available for Java, PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby and .NET.

Their original web interface remains free, but the TOS specifies that it “may be used only by a human being using a conventional web browser to manually enter queries one at a time.”

Microsoft Word add-in annotates text with ontology terms

March 16th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Ontologies, RDF, Semantic Web

Microsoft has announced an add-in for Word 2007 that lets authors annotate a word or phrase with terms defined in external ontologies.

Addressing this critical challenge for researchers, Microsoft Corp. and Creative Commons announced today, before an industry panel at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech 2009), the release of the Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers. Ontologies are shared vocabularies created and maintained by different academic domains to model their fields of study. This Add-in will make it easier for scientists to link their documents to the Web in a meaningful way. Deployed on a wide scale, ontology-enabled scientific publishing will provide a Web boost to scientific discovery.

The add-in is available for download from codeplex, Microsoft’s open source project hosting website. Its has support for a number of features, including syntax coloring of informative words, automatic detection of identifiers, and built-in access to ontologies and controlled vocabularies maintained by NCBO as well as biological databases such as Protein Data Bank, UniProtKB, and NCBI GenBank/RefSeq.

The add-in was produced by the UCSD BioLit group, hence the initial connections to bioinformatics ontologies. It would be great if future versions would have builtin awareness of the more popular linked data vocabularies.

The annotation is done using a custom XML schema which can be extracted and mapped to RDF. This example, from the codeplex site, shows the word “disease” being tagged with Human Disease ontology.

<w:customXml w:uri=""
        <w:attr w:name="id" w:val="DOID:4" /> 
        <w:attr w:name="type" w:val="Human disease" /> 
        <w:attr w:name="status" w:val="true" /> 
        <w:attr w:name="OntName" w:val="Human disease" /> 
        <w:attr w:name="url" 
          w:val="" /> 
    <w:smartTag w:uri="BioLitTags" w:element="tag1">

It’s not pretty and more verbose than RDFa, but gets the job done. There are many interesting add-ins for Microsoft Office components but most seem to be available for Office 2007 but not the Mac version, Office 2008. :-(

(h/t Frank van Harmelen)

Ontology Summit 2009: Toward Ontology-based Standards

March 15th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in KR, Ontologies, Semantic Web

A two day event, Ontology Summit 2009: Toward Ontology-based Standards, will be held 6-7 April 2009 at NIST in Gaithersburg MD. The Summit is co-organized by NIST and a number of other organizations and is part of NIST’s Interoperability week.

“This summit will address the intersection of two active communities, namely the technical standards world, and the community of ontology and semantic technologies. This intersection is long overdue because each has much to offer the other. Ontologies represent the best efforts of the technical community to unambiguously capture the definitions and interrelationships of concepts in a variety of domains. Standards — specifically information standards — are intended to provide unambiguous specifications of information, for the purpose of error-free access and exchange. If the standards community is indeed serious about specifying such information unambiguously to the best of its ability, then the use of ontologies as the vehicle for such specifications is the logical choice. Conversely, the standards world can provide a large market for the industrial use of ontologies, since ontologies are explicitly focused on the precise representation of information. This will be a boost to worldwide recognition of the utility and power of ontological models. The goal of this Ontology Summit 2009 is to articulate the power of synergizing these two communities in the form of a communique in which a number of concrete challenges can be laid out. These challenges could serve as a roadmap that will galvanize both communities and bring this promising technical area to the attention of others.”

The meeting is free, but advanced registration by March 31 is required. You can also register to participate remotely.

Videos of Semantic Web talks and tutorials from ISWC 2008 now online

December 22nd, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, iswc, KR, Ontologies, Semantic Web

High quality videos of tutorials and talks from the Seventh International Semantic Web Conference are now available on the excellent site. It’s a great opportunity to benefit from the conference if you were not able to attend or, even if you were, to see presentations you were not able to attend.

Videolectures captured the slides for most of the presentations (which are available for downloading) and their site shows both the the speaker’s video and slides in synchronization. Videolectures used three camera crews in parallel so were able to capture almost all of the presentations. Here are some highlights from the ~90 videos to whet your appetite.

Barski on How To Tell Stuff To Your Computer

October 3rd, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, KR, Ontologies, Semantic Web

How to tell stuff to your computer Conrad Barski, M.D. will give a talk on “How To Tell Stuff To Your Computer — The Enigmatic Art of Knowledge Representation” at UMBC at 1:00pm on Friday 17 October in Lecture Hall 8 in the ITE building.

Barski maintains an interesting site, Lisperati , that has graphical introductions to a number of topics, including Lisp, Haskell, Emacs, etc. and well as serving as he home of FringeDC an informal group of people interested in “fringe” programming languages.

Here’s the abstract for his talk.

“Have you ever wondered how we take information from the “real world” and put it into our computers? When we do this, do we lose parts of the information? Are some concepts just too hard to turn into ones and zeroes? How is our ability to enter information limited by the data structures we use inside of our computers? These questions enter into a science that is rarely discussed: The science of Knowledge Representation.

My presentation on KR will include some navel gazing, but also some nitty-gritty practical examples of Description Logics, RDF, and other modern approaches to capturing complicated information within a computer. We will also discuss some likely future directions this field may head into.”

Dr. Barski is a Medical Software Developer working on cardiology procedure documentation for Wolters Kluwer Health. He is also currently working on a textbook on the Common Lisp programming language.

You can submit a question either before, during or after the talk here.

Evri helps you search less and understand more

September 27th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in NLP, Ontologies, Semantic Web

Evri is another entry into the ‘semantic search’ space and has recently opened up a beta site with the slogan Search less, understand more. Evri is an startup launched by Vulcan Inc, a company founded by Paul Allen in 1986 as a private investment and R&D firm.

Here’s part of how Evri describes itself on their (FAQ).

What is Evri doing? Evri is creating a map of connections between people, places, and things on the web. You’ll use this map to find the things you’re interested in. Instead of searching by keywords and looking for relevant results, Evri will lead you to other relevant articles, images, and video based on what you’re reading.

Where does Evri get its information? We search the World Wide Web and gather content from as many highly regarded information sources as we can find, and we’re adding more sources all the time.”

Saying that Evri does ‘semantic search’ is not quite right — their initial focus is on providing widgets for blogs and other web sites that use the text on the page to recommend links to other, related information.

Evri appears to have developed an underlying ontology that is used to organize their knowledge of “people, products and things”, capturing both a type taxonomy and relations. Some of this is revealed in the beta**2 part of their site, Evri’s Garden. There is a query system over their knowledge base complex search queries.

The current push, though, seems to be to get bloggers to add an Evri widget to their blogs that will pop up a window with links to related articles and information.

This is an interesting development that is worth watching.

Database researchers identify hot research topics

August 25th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Computing Research, Database, Ontologies, Semantic Web, Social media

Databases are a fundamental technology for most information systems and especially those based on the web. A group of senior database researchers met recently to assess the state of database research, as documented in site. So, where did the Semantic Web fit into their vision?

“In late May, 2008, a group of database researchers, architects, users and pundits met at the Claremont Resort in Berkeley, California to discuss the state of the research field and its impacts on practice. This was the seventh meeting of this sort in twenty years, and was distinguished by a broad consensus that we are at a turning point in the history of the field, due both to an explosion of data and usage scenarios, and to major shifts in computing hardware and platforms. Given these forces, we are at a time of opportunity for research impact, with an unusually large potential for influential results across computing, the sciences and society. This report details that discussion, and highlights the group’s consensus view of new focus areas, including new database engine architectures, declarative programming languages, the interplay of structured and unstructured data, cloud data services, and mobile and virtual worlds.”

On the site you can read the post-meeting report, view the participants presentations on DB research directions and talks and discuss the report on a Google group.

It’s a good report with lots of interesting things in it and definitely worth reading, but I was disappointed to find that it makes no mention of the Semantic Web, RDF, OWL, ontologies, AI, knowledge bases, or reasoning. Here’s a word cloud (generated with wordle) generated from the report, which provides a 10,000 foot view of it’s content.

word cloud generated from The Claremont Database Research Self-Assessment Meeting report

The reports says that it was “surprisingly easy for the group to reach consensus on a set of research topics to highlight for investigation in coming years”. Those topics are:

  • Revisiting Database Engines
  • Declarative Programming for Emerging Platforms
  • The Interplay of Structured and Unstructured Data
  • Cloud Data Services
  • Mobile Applications and Virtual Worlds

There is clearly overlap between the database and semantic web communities in the first three topics.

Parallax: a better interface for Freebase

August 14th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in KR, Ontologies, Semantic Web, Social media, Wikipedia

David Huynh completed his PhD at MIT CSAIL last year and joined MetaWeb a few months ago, where he has been working on new and better interfaces to explore the data encoded in their Freebase system. He recently released Parallax as a prototype browsing interface for Freebase. Here is a video that shows the interface in action.

Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.

Freebase is “an open database of the world’s information” that is constructed by a Wiki-like collaborative community. In many ways it is like the Semantic Web model, with two big differences: (1) the data is stored centrally rather than distributed across the Web and (2) the representation system is not based on RDF but rather uses a custom built object-oriented data representation language.

Freebase is a great resource. Much of the data is extracted from Wikipedia, so its content has a large overlap with DBpedia. But it is also relatively easy to upload additional information in various structured forms and many have done so, resulting in an extended coverage.

This is clearly a system in the Web of Data space along with the Linking Open Data effort and having it should offer a way for us all to explore the consequences of some of the underlying design decisions.

W3C anounces RDFa as a candidate recommendation

June 20th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in KR, Ontologies, RDF, Semantic Web, Web 2.0

The W3C has officially announced that RDFa is a candidate recommendation

“2008-06-20: The Semantic Web Deployment Working Group has published a Candidate Recommendation of RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing. Web documents contain significant amounts of structured data, which is largely unavailable to tools and applications. When publishers can express this data more completely, and when tools can read it, a new world of user functionality becomes available, letting users transfer structured data between applications and web sites, and allowing browsing applications to improve the user experience. RDFa is a specification for attributes to be used with languages such as HTML and XHTML to express structured data. See the group’s RDFa implementation report. The Working Group also updated the companion document RDFa Primer. Learn more about the Semantic Web and the HTML Activity.”

Achieving candidate recommendation status is a significant step toward becoming a W3C recommendation. Congratulation to the working group for all of their efforts in developing RDFa.

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