BarcampBrighton – Portable Information

A group panel about portable data and information

  • Jeremy Keith
  • Microformats – semantic web
  • hCard is probably the most popular. there is an existing format called vCard. hCard is a 1:2:1 mapping of vCard. Use of vCard info on a web page. same details as in your address book/phone.
  • the idea behind microformats is not that you publish new data, but you have existing stuff in a format that adds semantic fidelity.
  • there are converters out there, eg that take hCard and change to VCard for desktop stuff
  • xfn is another one – a proto-microformat. Tantek Celik/Matt Mullenweg etc. they looked at what was existing and made aformat around it. It was about links and blog rolls. to add more data to that list. It used the ‘rel’ attribute. There are about 14 different values defined. It’s always current relationship.
  • It’s simple to publish. A chicken/egg cycle – to get tools to use/parse you need to get people publishing it, to publish it you need tools to use. So making it really simple gets over the problem as there’s no hardship in publishing.
  • The most important Rel value may be rel="me" to link to all your own bits across the web and back to your bits.
  • Chris Heilman
  • Google Social Graph API allows you to track the relationships. Yahoo is also starting to analyse the hCards etc
  • With companies starting to index microformats, other companies, enterprise systems etc, will start to add things.
  • On the publishing side, if you have a database, contacts etc, put this stuff in and get ready. This is what we have done in Yahoo for the last 2 years.
  • one challenge is if you write lots of things with microformats, is that the data is ‘proprietary’ and publishing in microformats inpacts the commercial viability as the data can easily be scraped. It reduces buy in from the management, so you have to think aobut how you do it.
  • Anything that helps search engines mans people will try and game it to get better results. So use of microformats by mainstream search engines have to consider this, the problems of spammer etc. It’s nice to publish but there are a lot of problems in consuming that need to be fixed.
  • JK challenged that it is a problem of microformats that you can’t establish trust – that it is a problem of the web as a whole, not the format. It’s the problem for any publishing format. There are secure protocols…saying the format is a problem is wrong. If you want to establish truth and trust..then the techs you need to look at are OpenID and SSL etc.
  • Aral xfn – expresses relations in present tense but we publish it. so it may go out of date. There is a temporal dimension to relations. how do we takle dynamic relationships?
  • JK: it is publishing in general – what you wrote a year ago you may not believe it anymore.
  • Aral – xfn and microformats are one aspect of the social network. other things are OpenID, OAuth etc
  • Tom Morris – FOAF
  • FOAF is an RDF vocabulary. built back in 2000.
  • Allows you to describe relationships between people, sites, documents, orgs etc
  • Available on lots of networks, such as LiveJournal
  • There is one relationship property -‘knows’. it used to be knows, knows well and friend, but it caused problems. got rid of the other 2
  • It can be parsed as XML and reuse. You can parse it as RDF as well.
  • But most people don’t write in that sysntax, they can do html. But GRDDL allows you to describe in RDF things that you are already doing on a web page. It automates the process of reading what you have published.
  • Quite widely implemented, and getting easier to parse. Most programming languages have a way to to this and there are tools being built on top of it.
  • Trying to make it easy…a mesh up..getting data and putting it together in one place and ask questions of it.
  • ARal so whe do I use XFN and when use FOAF?
  • TM: use XFN as much as you can. Why use FOAF, if you were representing some data was unique, which no one else uses it. Use html as well.
  • Aral – so why are people here? Why are you interested in portable social network?
  • OpenID: a way of identifying people. Passwords that have to change every week are a weak link. OpenID means that you are an URL.
  • One of the issues – usability is a problem. We’re probably OK entering an URL but it is not very intuitive for the general user. You enter the ID, it redirects to the OpenID server, you add usename and password (which you have to remember). And that is the problem.
  • ClickPass is something from Peter Nixey that hopes to make it simple. You create an account and you can log into the web.
  • It creates a page to let you login into all your places – eg a homeplace to go to first. It uses Open ID to manage it. It happens in the background – you don’t get a change of context, which as a user is important. There is no jarring change of context if logged in clickpass.
  • JK: all of these things are solving small problems, they add to each other and don’t ness tread on each others toes.
  • But what about situations where you want to import a SN, or want to see which of your friends are on a SN. A lot of people do this, others freak. If you do this, part of the reason is you are teaching people to be fished….the other reason is you give something to your accounts as you. That is far more dangerous – allow themselves to be logged in by someone else is bad. It is better to reduce access. So OAuth is a technology that aims to reduce this.
  • There are a lot of SN that do not expose your information on a public site but you need to be logged in, eg email contacts. There are a few solutions to the problem..every big web company came up with their own solution. Google has their option, as does Yahoo etc etc.
  • OAuth is the way to try and standardise the way this is done. Any new website should be doing this standard API that can talk to most of the SN without asking for your password. (showed FireEagle example)
  • Aral – so how nimble is it, how does it impact user?
  • At the moment it is ridiculously complicated to implement APIS for every network, I have to do the main ones. So if we can agree on the standard it makes it a lot easier for developers
  • Alex – my interest is from a social networking POV. people connecting is pretty important for every one. the context and others brings people to a space and keeps them there. So why is portability important? I have a theory that online games, those are forms of networks.
  • In some of the situated social networks, like WOW, then there is a move to look at these things, looking at OpenID, etc, where there is no straightforward way of stating relationships, people want to take skills and bling and relationships to the next space etc.

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