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FOAF and the Semantic Web

Via Marc Canter comes an essay by Shelley Powers, "FOAF, Flocking, and the Semantics of Starlings". A brief excerpt:

Marc Cantor and Eric Sigler are working on this thing that Marc is calling a "PeopleAggregator". From bits and pieces I've picked up at their weblogs, in emails, and in comments elsewhere, this application will be able to create and consume and maintain FOAF files as well as networks of interlinked people who 'know' each other, as defined in these files. More, if someone within the network designates you a 'friend' in their FOAF file, the PeopleAggregator sends you an email asking for some form of confirmation...

Rather than the network of friends being maintained behind walls ala Friendster, it's out in the open with decentralized FOAF files that anyone can read. Now, what will become the social context behind the relationships denoted as resources withing these FOAF files? And what can be the social consequences of same?

Personally, I expect the first 'Technorati of FOAF popularity" before the year is out. I wonder, what crown will we give to the man and woman voted most popular? Prom king and queen? I also wonder, how soon will we get emails saying, "Please remove me from your FOAF file -- you don't really know me" How soon will we get emails saying, "Why am I not in your FOAF file"? ...

[W]ebloggers are becoming the Semantic Web lab rats -- through our curiosity and our interest, we're the first to test these Semantic Web tools outside of labs and universities. We're the ones that propagate the data and the technologies. When faced with confusion, we'll wing it. We did so with RSS 1.0, we're doing so with Pie/Echo/Atom and now we're continuing the trend with FOAF.

FOAF is becoming the bastard child that grew from the seeds that fell between the cracks of W3C debates, or were discarded with all the other messy 'touchy feely' stuff, such as social context surrounding URIs. It's the wolf child tempered in the pack, surviving on an existence of "keep what works, throw out the rest". One can't blame it, then, if it, and we, don't behave properly when invited to the Semantic Web tea.

There's much more to the essay. Recommended.


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