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Quick thoughts on semantic microblogging

Motivation and wish list for a personal semantic microblogging system
This week, the first "Microblogging Conference Europe" will take place in Hamburg. I was lucky to get a late ticket (thanks to Dirk Olbertz, who won't be able to make it). The conference will have barcamp-style tracks, and (narrow-minded as I am) I started thinking about adding SemWeb power to microblogging.

The more I use Twitter and advanced clients like TweetDeck, the more I think that (slightly enhanced) microblogs could become great interfaces to the (personalized) Semantic Web. I'm already noticing that I don't use a feed reader or delicious to discover relevant content any more. I'm effectively saving time. But simultaneously it becomes obvious that Twitter can be a distracting productivity killer. So, here is the idea: Take all the good things from microblogging and add enough semantics to increase productivity again. And while at it, utilize this semantic microblog as a work/life/idea log.

A semantic microblog would simplify the creation of structured, machine-readable information, in part for personal use, and generally to let the computer take care of certain tasks or do things that I didn't think of yet.

I have only two days left to prepare a demo and a talk, so I better start developing. I'll keep the rest of this post short and log my progress on Twitter instead. The app will be called "smesher". I'm starting now (or rather tomorrow morning, have to leave in 15 mins).

Use cases

  • How much time did I spend doing support this month?
  • Who are my real contacts (evidence-driven, please, why do I have to manually add followees)?
  • Show me a complete history of activities related to project A
  • How much can I bill client B? (or even better: Generate an invoice for client B)
  • What was that great Tapas Bar we went to last summer again?
  • Where did I first meet C?
  • Bookmarks ranked by number of occurrences in other tweets
  • Show me all my blog posts about topic D
  • ...

Microblogs: Strengths

  • Microblogs are web-based
  • Microblogs are very easy to use ("less is more")
  • Microblogs offer a great communication channel (asynchronous, but almost instant)
  • Microblog clients are getting ubiquitous
  • Microblogs can be used as life logs
  • Microblogs can be used for note taking
  • Microblogs can be used for bookmarking
  • Microblogs can be used for announcements
  • Microblogs can accelerate software development (near-real-time feedback loop)
  • Microblog search (and the associated feeds) can be used to track interests
  • hashtags are a simple way to annotate posts
  • A Microblog can be used as an interface to bots

Some Requirements and Nice-to-haves for semantic microblogging

  • access to a post's default information (author, title, date, source)
  • support for evolving patterns (@-recipients, people mentioned, URLs mentioned, hashtags, Re-Tweets)
  • groups, or at least private notes (some posts just don't need to be on the public timeline ;)
  • complete archives
  • perhaps semantic auto-tagging
  • post-publication tags (I'll surely forget a necessary tag every now and then)
  • private tags?
  • keep the simple UI (no checkbox overload etc.)
  • support for machine tags or a similar grassroots extensibility mechanism to increase granularity without losing usability/simplicity
  • an API that supports user-defined and evolving structures
  • custom streams/tabs à la TweetDeck, but with semantic filtering (e.g. "This month's working hours")
  • URL expander for bit.ly etc.
  • rules to create/infer/extract information from (machine) tags and existing data, maybe recursively
  • Twitter/Identi.ca tracking/relaying

Approach

  • Getting Real (UI first etc., worked great last time)
  • RDF 'n' SPARQL FTW: I don't know what the final data model is going to be, and I want an API but don't have time to code it.

Related Work

Comments and Trackbacks

Note that identi.ca has complete source for its laconi.ca platform. It's in PHP, so likely would fit with your other work...
Comment by anon on 2009-01-20 22:22:03 UTC
Laconica also outputs a bunch of microformats, foaf, rdf, etc. Give it a try!
Comment by Robin Millette on 2009-01-24 23:00:43 UTC
Yep, I know identica and laconica. It was the RDF community who got them into outputting FOAF and SIOC. A bit of FOAF doesn't make a blog semantic, though. Semantic microblogging is about going a step further, beyond title, message, data, and author. The idea is to better capture the information encoded in the message body. The obvious metadata is important, but it's just a start.
Comment by Benjamin Nowack on 2009-01-25 15:01:51 UTC
Ben, I agree entirely with your comment. A central idea of sublog is to provide an easy way to encode arbitrary semantics in the message using familiar 'SMS-style' markup.
Comment by James Tizard on 2009-01-26 01:47:11 UTC
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