The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Chasing My Own Tail in Search of the Semantic Web

I’ve been working on building some online bookstores because I love books and I want to make money on the Internet. Being a front end for Amazon.com in some obscure niche topic sounds like fun to me, especially if I can make it pay its own way.

Since I’ve recently been thinking in about web accessibility in general, mostly for people, but also for robots (especially Google for obvious selfish reasons), it seemed to me that books are a natural subject for a standardized categorization and representation on the web. There is a common data set associated with each book . . . author, title, publisher, number of pages, publication date, ISBN numbers, etc.

I first had the bright idea to use CSS “class” tags to indicate what was what in the body of my web pages, but the mere fact that I thought it was a good way to do it was a virtual guarantee that nobody else would see it that way. So I spent a few hours researching the search term “semantic web”, see, eg:

WIkipedia entry – Semantic Web
W3C – OWL Web Ontology Language

. . . but these were WAY more abstract and theoretical then the quick and dirty answers I was looking for.

Wikipedia led me to Piggy Bank, which sounded promising. Piggy Bank is an egghead project from MIT that’s a “Firefox extension that turns your browser into a mashup platform, by allowing you to extract data from different web sites and mix them together.”

With this, I thought, I could at least test my own web pages to see how my carefully encoded data structures were seen by the apex of semantic web thinkers.

Other than being big, clunky, requiring a Java upgrade, and fussy, I got Piggy Bank to work long enough to find out that all it did was extract the meta tag data from the head section of my html.

Let me repeat this. The blokes at MIT were only interested in meta tags.

Oy vey.

Now, I go delete Piggy Bank from my system. I hope.

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Written by Tom Fox

01/02/2007 at 10:23 am

One Response

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  1. You might try microformats (www.microformats.org). From what I saw in looking around they have a discussion on setting a microformat for books – just no actual format yet.

    It is a wiki, so suggestions are welcome to it. Good post.

    bogeywebdesign

    01/04/2007 at 5:29 am


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