It’s all about the questions

Foaf, great isn’t it? The reactions for those who know what Foaf is (let’s face the fact that it isn’t mainstream technology) are mixed, a common reaction is I haven’t found a practical use for it yet. There are some intresting memes floating around regarding interconnecting people using FOAF, RSS and other assorted metadata schemes. Application of these schemes is at a rudimentary stage at the moment (hence FOAF’s 0.1 version number), whether FOAF wins out over later formats is not really of concern, to me at least, what is interesting is thinking of the information we want to get from the data that is provided.

Two aspects of the same question. This introduction of large amounts of both personal and content based data leads to the question, who is the consumer? Two types of consumer are interested, potentially, in this data:

  • Data Miners
  • Geeks

One example of potential data mining applications is the sending of spam, luckily FOAF provides a means of hiding the email address of people who have FOAF data. However think of the potential in tying together email address with detailed information on a persons interests. This is certainly possible with FOAF, although the likelihood (aka potential payoff) is probably too low for it to be contemplated at the moment, the potential is there.

An example for the second consumer is more easy to come across, they are the creators of stuff like FOAF. There have been plenty of potential applications aired by those in the FOAF community, Using it with your blogroll and just generally finding “friends”. I’ve been examining some ways of using FOAF data myself, I am currently running a FOAF Harvesting robot for research purposes into potential applications. One possible application is the integration of FOAF based data into the browsing environment.

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Bring on the Vapourware. First I will state that I have no intention of building this system myself, I am far too busy concentrating on the programming I’m having to do to get myself a degree! Anyway here is my idea, a foaf viewing sidebar. A simple implementation exists already that can be used to find out more information on the author of the page. The way the author information is found though is not in widespread use however (it uses meta information rather than link information to get data). The potential for a more polished implementation that supports the current trend for <link> based referencing of FOAF files would be quite interesting.

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