[permaculture] Permaculture wikis & making a major impact

christophe mckeon gonzalez de leon chromatophore at gmail.com
Wed Dec 23 19:02:31 EST 2009


> Could you share any insights on how that can and may well be
> implemented?

yes.

a first step for any site is to just publish rdf alongside their html
content or even embedded directly into it as rdfa:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_Description_Framework
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RDFa

there are even tools to automate or at least ease the conversion of
sql stored data to an rdf representation:

http://esw.w3.org/topic/RdfAndSql

whenever possible the site should stick to any standard vocabularies
or ontologies already in use. so if they are publishing social network
data they should use FOAF, if media of any kind Dublin Core, if
thesauri, classification schemes, taxonomies (species etc), i.e.
highly structured data, then they might consider SKOS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOAF_%28software%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_core
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SKOS

as an example, instead of publishing a flat file containing a
permaculture bibliography, of which i've seen a few, publish it as
Dublin Core. now any web application interested in that data can
import it, redisplay it, make new connections with it, display the
relevent books automatically say on wiki articles, etc.. because now
the bibliography is laden with meaning which a computer can
understand, not just strings of characters.

there are semantic search engines to find ontologies for more obscure
knowledge domains.

http://swoogle.umbc.edu/

if they are starting a new site from scratch then this lessens the
burden of reinventing the data modelling wheel. if not they should
still publish in standard forms regardless of their underlying
representation in the datastore. this makes consumption of data by
sites using the same ontologies trivial. in fact it effectively hides
any distinction between local and remote data sources as far as
application code is concerned.

the next step is for the site to publish an ontology in owl or rdfs
which makes explicit the semantics of the published rdf, in cases
where they are not already conforming to some ontology. so if
Appropedia publishes rdf data in some novel form, like to describe
building materials lists, it could also publish an ontology specifying
the semantics of that data.

but, even if only the relatively simple first step of just publishing
rdf is taken a great deal of value is added to the their data.
learning plain vanilla rdf is no great hurdle for anybody already
working with web technologies.

the next steps after that are for a bunch of us to get together and
start ontologically modelling the permaculture/sustainability
knowledge space more deeply in order to publish ontologies that
disparate websites can then use internally. this is the hard part.

i'm thinking more and more that producing these models and creating
the conditions for their adoption will be just as valuable as putting
together any concrete website implementations because then anybody can
use them to publish but also do do data analysis and mashups of
existing datasets.

i do think that to a degree the semantic models we make will be
emergent and be based on preexisting datasets and new datasets as they
become available. this is why it is important for everybody to publish
rdf, because it will make higher level modeling much easier for people
wanting to tie all these datasets together after the fact. i.e. you
will not see value returns immediately, but in the long run there will
be huge returns for everybody. permaculture is all about the long
view, i think we can do it.

> Is there anything out there we can all use now; > maybe something to enhance our respective wikis > or is whole new wiki software required, i.e. some future version of > MediaWiki or a completely new and different software web application?

there is an extension to mediawiki called semantic mediawiki which
should be good for anybody familiar with that platform. i'm a
mediawiki ignoramus so can't say much about it but it looks
interesting:

http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Semantic_MediaWiki

this is an interesting video of tim berners lee talking about linked
data (i.e. publishing rdf), and why it's important. he believes that
scientists are going to solve all our problems once they have access
to masses of semantic data. i don't think scientists are going to
solve anything, or if they do they are just as likely to create even
greater new problems, but maybe the data they provide might allow the
rest of us to solve a few.

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_on_the_next_web.html

cheers,
_c



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