[permaculture] Permaculture wikis & making a major impact

Chris Watkins chriswaterguy at appropedia.org
Fri Jan 8 01:03:54 EST 2010

Brief comments about semantic wiki stuff:

   - Yes, it's awesome. I've used it, for example, on the Creative Commons
   wiki, to create Books (detailed
   an actively updated table of books that can be sorted by publisher, license
   - It's not a magic bullet. Within the next 2 to 5 years, I'm guessing
   that it will enhance inter-site collaboration, and reduce (not eliminate)
   the relative benefits of merging sites that are covering the same or
   strongly overlapping scopes. However for now, I think it just enhances the
   particular site that it's installed on.
   - The Wikipedia community has been aware of it for years. I'm guessing
   that it hasn't been added yet due to concerns about 1. Server load and 2.
   Risk of confusing newbies, depending on how it's used.
   - I hope we'll have it on Appropedia very soon - we've been discussing
   the implementation, to ensure we make things easier for new users, rather
   than harder. (E.g. I find some aspects of Creative Commons implementation to
   be confusing - I don't like pages which are purely cards for semantic data).

   - There are a bunch of applications I have in mind for semantic wiki
   functions on Appropedia, some of which have been touched on in this thread.
   - Semantic MediaWiki is the most well known set of extensions, but there
   are alternatives, some of which may be better for us. But we want to have
   maximum compatibility and openness - this is part of the reason we're taking
   our time.

Lawrence asked:

Are you owner and/or administrator of Appropedia, Chris?

I'm a wiki administrator, co-founder and one of the directors of the Appropedia
Foundation <http://www.appropedia.org/Appropedia_Foundation>, an independent
non-profit organization which exists to support knowledge sharing, primarily
through this wiki project.

However I'm not the tech person and I don't work on the server - Lonny
Grafman (who first set up the wiki) does most of that, which is a very big
job. One advantage of collaboration is being able to share the load, so for
that reason I'm looking forward to a couple of potential mergers in the next
couple of months, which will also be a big boost to our prominence in search
engine results.

> I hope you will contribute to our work at permaculture.info.

I'll certainly look at it from time to time - although as I think I said
above, I'm much more able to keep track of a project when it's all within
the one site. After I've spent 12 hours working on Appropedia.org, my
interest in then working on another permaculture wiki may tend to wilt a
little :-).


On Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 18:57, Lawrence F. London, Jr. <
venaurafarm at bellsouth.net> wrote:

> One more to complete an introductory picture of Semantic MediaWiki for
> those interested. The database-like query possibilities of SMW are very
> interesting. This sentence sort of sums it up: "But though wikis are
> very good for storing and retrieving individual facts, they are less
> useful for getting queried or aggregated information." Amazing that this
> app development happened and is available to us. See bottom of post:
> Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
> > Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
> >> Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
> >>> Chris Watkins wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> There's a misconception that wikis will magically create a useful
> resource,
> >>> Well, here's a little magic that could be made to happen:
> >>> http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Semantic_MediaWiki
> >>> "Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) is a free extension of MediaWiki – the
> >>> wiki-system powering Wikipedia – that helps to search, organise, tag,
> >>> browse, evaluate, and share the wiki's content. While traditional wikis
> >>> contain only text which computers can neither understand nor evaluate,
> >>> SMW adds semantic annotations that let you easily publish Semantic Web
> >>> content, and allow the wiki to function as a collaborative database."
> >>>
> >>> Note: " allow the wiki to function as a collaborative database".
> >>> This is what we have been wanting for half a decade.
> >> An enlightening testimonial about SMW:
> >>
> >> http://semantic-mediawiki.org/wiki/Testimonials
> >>
> >> "SMW is best of breed: open source with a very active community,
> >> bringing together Web 2.0 (wikis) with the Semantic Web, thus
> >> contributing to the emerging Social Semantic Web. An ideal mix to
> >> combine the textual power of wikis with features of online databases and
> >> semantics.
> >>
> >> Bernhard Krabina, KDZ - Centre for Public Administration Research "
> >>
> >>
> >> So, it appears that there are user communities dedicated to a particular
> >> subject that are becoming cyber communities united around the Semantic
> >> Web architecture. We could be the first to originate the Permaculture
> >> Semantic Web. Talk about a unifying global permaculture resource. This
> >> could be what we are all wanting and needing.
> >
> > Another interesting testimonial:
> >
> > "I built a dynamic character sheet for the players of my game, in
> > MediaWiki. It's been a breeze to maintain and update, I've got almost
> > 200 pages or so feeding data into a single page through semantic data.
> > It's a very powerful extension and I only wish all wikis had this kind
> > of functionality.
> > Brendan Crosser-McGay"
> >
> > Interesting that markup is so concentrated that 200 pages of data can be
> > thoroughly acces by one SMW page.
> > All my posting and replying with snippets here could and should be done
> > in a Wiki page. Problem is those interested knowing it is there. Could
> > create the wiki page then post a link here and ask for feedback. This
> > thread could also exist in the pcdb list, for wiki developers rather
> > than end users.
>    Why Semantic Mediawiki?
> Wikis have become a great tool for collecting and sharing knowledge in
> communities. This knowledge is mostly contained within texts and
> multimedia files, and is thus easily accessible for human readers. But
> though wikis are very good for storing and retrieving individual facts,
> they are less useful for getting queried or aggregated information.. As
> a simple example, consider the following question:
>     «What are the hundred world-largest cities with a female mayor?»
> Wikipedia should be able to provide the answer: it contains all large
> cities, their mayors, and articles about the mayor that tell us about
> their gender. Yet the question is almost impossible to answer for a
> human, since one would have to read all articles about all large cities
> first! Even if the answer is found, it might not remain valid for very
> long. Computers can deal with large datasets much easier, yet they are
> not able to support us very much when seeking answers from a wiki: Even
> sophisticated programs cannot yet read and «understand» human-language
> texts unless the topic and language of the text is very restricted. The
> wiki's keyword search does not help either.
> Semantic MediaWiki enables wikis to make their knowledge
> computer-processable, e.g. to answer the above question.
> Where SMW can help
> Semantic MediaWiki introduces some additional markup into the wiki-text
> which allows users to add "semantic annotations" to the wiki. While this
> first appears to make things more complex, it can also greatly simplify
> the structure of the wiki, help users to find more information in less
> time, and improve the overall quality and consistency of the wiki. Here
> are some of the benefits of using SMW:
>     * Automatically-generated lists. Wikis tend to contain many
> aggregated lists; Wikipedia itself has thousands, like "List of
> metropolitan areas in Spain by population". Those lists are prone to
> errors, since they have to be updated manually. Furthermore, the number
> of potentially interesting lists is huge, and it is impossible to
> provide all of them in acceptable quality. In SMW, lists are generated
> automatically like this. They are always up-to-date and can easily be
> customised to obtain further information.
>     * Visual display of information. The various display formats
> defined by additional extensions, such as Semantic Result Formats and
> Semantic Maps, allow for displaying of information in calendars,
> timelines, graphs and maps, among others, providing a much richer view
> of the data than simple lists would.
>     * Improved data structure. MediaWiki wikis tend to make heavy use
> of categories for structuring data. While these are generally helpful,
> consider the categories on Wikipedia called "Rivers in Buckinghamshire"
> and "1620s deaths"; if the information in these pages were stored using
> SMW, these categories could be replaced by simple queries, reducing the
> need for a complex classification system. In addition, if semantic
> markup within the wiki is stored within templates, otherwise known as
> semantic templates, a wiki can easily gain a solid data structure. And
> the Semantic Forms extension lets administators create forms for adding
> and editing the data within semantic templates, thus making the addition
> of semantic information possibly even easier and more straightforward
> than regular wiki text.
>     * Searching information. Individual users can search for specific
> information by creating their own queries, supported via extensions like
> Halo and Semantic Drilldown.
>     * Inter-language consistency. In wikis that span multiple
> languages, like Wikipedia, there is often a great deal of data
> redundancy, which can lead to inconsistencies. For example, the
> population of Edinburgh at the time of this writing is different in the
> English, German, and French Wikipedias. If data is stored semantically,
> you could, for instance, ask for the population of Bejing that is given
> in the Chinese Wikipedia without knowing a single word of that language.
> This can be exploited to have different languages query one another's
> data, either for reuse or at least to detect inconsistencies.
>     * External reuse. Data, once it is created in an SMW wiki, does not
> have to remain within the wiki; it can easily be exported via formats
> like CSV, JSON and RDF. This enables an SMW wiki to serve as a data
> source for other applications, or, in the case of enterprise usages, to
> take over the role that a relational database would normally play.
> Through the use of the External Data extension and the result format
> Exhibit, one SMW-based wiki can even use the data from another,
> eliminating the need for redundancy between wikis. You can also query
> the semantic data in SMW from remote and feed the query results into
> other applications. This can e.g. be realized via the Triple Store
> Connector.
>     * Integrate and mash-up data. Data contained in an SMW installation
> does not have to be an isolated store of information. Extensions such as
> the Data Import, Data Transfer and External Data extensions empower you
> to integrate external data (coming e.g. from legacy systems, web
> services or linked data sources) and interrelate it with existing
> semantic data in the wiki. Thus, an SMW-powered wiki can serve as a
> central information hub in an IT landscape.
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Chris Watkins

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