FOAF – Friend Of a Friend data and the library contacts page

The DMU library web site has a number of features which could be described as being part of the ‘Semantic Web’, though we have not done much to make these features known (until now, that is). Some of these are there for the benefit of non-humans (like Google’s page collecting robots), while others could be used by people with souped-up browsers.

  1. Address details: The Kimberlin Library address page is marked up behind the scenes with hcard tags, in part so that search engines can identify which bits of the page are address details. Someone with an enabled browser (e.g. Firefox with an Operator add-on) could use the tagged address information on the page to add the details to another service, like Google Maps or Yahoo Contacts.
  2. New Recordings page: This page is created by collecting an XML file produced by the Library Management System and converting it into a web page. It uses an XSLT stylesheet to do this.
  3. FOAF. Friend Of A Friend data is available for people listed on the library contacts pages of the web site.

I did not manage to demonstrate this at the DMU Mashed Library session: here is what you would have seen:

I used a java application FOAFscape to view the FOAF data. The FOAF viewer can trace the relationships betwen individuals who work in the library, because each lists links to the FOAF files of people they are responsible for. The data includes information like job title and the web page for contact details.

What can we do with this information?

Well, I am sure that there is lots that could be done. The most interesting uses for infomation are likely to come from other people. Perhaps someone might wish to write an XSLT stylesheet to render the data in a way that they like. Much like the TV recordings page is produced as I mentioned. The FOAF data includes latitude and longitude, so people’s workplaces could be visualised as a map. Other people with FOAF files might link to people here as their friends or contacts.

I use it myself as a way of viewing the data the library is already making available elsewhere on teh web site. Are there people missing, or who have left or moved to another team?

With a little coding know-how and imagination you might be able to come up with something yourself.

About Philip Adams

Senior Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University. I have recently introduced a Single Sign On service for the library's databases and electronic journals. I am interested in digital preservation and the use of data to measure a library's impact. All comments own.
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