Internship positions in DERI: SMOB, PubSubHubbub, privacy, etc.

The Social Software Unit of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at the National University of Ireland, Galway has openings for student internships to work on privacy and policies in mobile and distributed Social Semantic Web applications, with a special focus on SMOB and PubSubHubbub. The overall goal of the project is to extend current infrastructures for mobile and distributed Social Semantic Web applications with intelligent privacy settings interpreted in the cloud.

The internship must be at least 6 months, and the students will combine theoretical research and implementation, delivered as open-source components. Ideally, the internship will lead to the students M.Sc. thesis. The following skills are expected:

  • Knowledge of the Semantic Web / Linked Data and related standards (RDF(S)/OWL, SPARQL, etc.)
  • Knowledge of lightweight vocabularies for the Social Web (FOAF, SIOC, OPO)
  • Knowledge of authorisation / authentication schemes and protocols
  • Interest for Web Engineering and for Web standards
  • Ability and interest to work in an international environment
  • Motivation, creative spirit, pragmatism and independence
  • Strong software development skills (PHP and Python)
  • Excellent communication skills, and fluent in english

To apply, please send:

  • A resume of 2 pages max, including name and e-mail address of 2 referees
  • A one page letter describing your interest in the project and your availability

To alexandre DOT passant AT deri DOT org, in a single PDF file, by Friday 21st of January, with an e-mail titled “SSW internship”. Applications that do not follow these requirements will not be considered. For any question, please e-mail the same address.

A proposal for Semantic OMB

From what I read on Twitter, it seems there’s a bit of confusion regarding SMOB. Indeed, while SMOB provides a framework for Open and Semantic Microblogging, it does not define a new protocol, but simply uses SPARQL/Update over HTTP to exchange information between hubs (posting / removing notices and following / followers). Hence, this is not something that competes against OMB, the OpenMicroBlogging specification.

Actually, OMB is something we planned to look at for a long time, as briefly discussed when / OMB was presented in the W3C Social Web XG telco. I’ve finally took the time to analyse the full spec and checked how it compares with the distributed microblogging implementation of SMOB, and more generally with the vision of Semantic Web / Linked Data (SW/LD) microblogging services.

So here is a proposal for “Semantic OMB” (on wiki) that describes how the current OMB protocol fits with the previous idea. In particular, it aligns the terminology with existing classes / properties from well-known ontologies, and discusses how some current parts of the spec should be updated. It also discuss how OMB operations can be mapped to SPARQL/Update queries, based on the ones that currently happen in SMOB for cross-hubs synchronisation.

As you can see when browsing it, besides the terminology mappings, most of the things are compliant and there are only a few things that shall be discussed, in order to:

  • enable a better “distributed-ness” by keeping profiles owned by their users and not necessarily creating remote accounts;
  • making some mandatory elements being optional, as they are contained in the data that is exchange between services thanks to the Linked Data principles.

Thanks to these small updates, it could provide a protocol enabling SW/LD systems to be designed based on the OMB protocol, while having a sufficient abstraction level to comply with OMB systems using other technologies for data modeling and exchange. I’d be more than happy to see such features in an upcoming OMB release, and hopefully see deeper links between OMB and SW/LD efforts, as both aims to achieve the same goal of openness and interoperability. Comments and feedback are welcome on the related thread on the OMB mailing-list.

SMOB v2.2 – Geolocation and other improvements

Edit 10/02/2010: There was a few bugs in that release, please consider downloading the v2.2.1

One more week, one more release, here’s SMOB v2.2. This one fixes a few bugs (apparently the #tag tabs where unavailable on the 2.2 due to a bug I introduced in the .js file) and provides the following new features:

  • geolocation of microblog messages (see example below), which shows one more benefit of the LOD cloud, as coordinates of posts are provided thanks to the GeoNames integration and OPO;
  • ability to delete messages (deletion being then propagated to other hubs using SPARQL/Update) and to automatically purge messages older than X days (mainly to keep the DB lightweight – starred messages are not removed);
  • on-demand creation of FOAF profile, in case one wants to try SMOB but does not have one (or does not want to provide it);
  • parser for hyerlinks in microblog posts; and
  • updated installer, allowing to select if SMOB should be used as a Twitter client (read / write settings).

BTW, as for the previous updates, you have to remove your config file and re-do the install procedure, and it will not remove your existing messages.


SMOB v2.1: Using SMOB as a Twitter client

Here’s a new release of SMOB, the Semantic MicrOBlogging framework. This release includes various new features, the main one being the integration of Twitter messages in SMOB so that you can use your SMOB hub as a Twitter client, where each Tweet is represented in RDFa using SIOC, FOAF, etc.

In addition, the new release provides:

  • RSS feed for hub owner’s messages;
  • Automatic @reply when replying to a Twitter message (including sioc:addressed_to annotation);
  • Updated user-interface for #tags mappings, now done using tabs to avoid too much scrolling;
  • Ability to directly check @reply messages;
  • Starring system using the Review vocabulary.

SMOB v2.1 can be downloaded here. If you used a previous version, you will also need to apply this patch after the update. It may remove some of your following / followers (as there have been some changes in the related RDF data – this should be taken into account by the patch, but who knows …), in that case you’ll add to add them again, sorry for the inconvenience !

Hopefully, a 2.2 release will be out in the next weeks, including geolocation of messages, advanced browsing features and other funky improvements. Feature requests can also be suggested on its dedicated bugtracker.

Integrating to SMOB

Gautier (aka lespetitescases) just hacked his SMOB client to make it post on as well as on twitter. He’s using the new laconica API combined with the same method that SMOB uses at the moment to post on twitter (CURL + HTTP-Auth). As this feature was on the TODO list and some people were asking for it (a thread was also started by John recently on both SIOC and mailing-lists) that was a really great news !

I just added those changes to the SMOB client (get it or update from svn) , so that it can now be used to post on ! Moreover, I added the ability to post not only on but on any based microblogging platform. You’ll see news parameter in the config_dist.php file, that let you set-up a list of servers with dedicated user / pass, as follows. Then, when publishing an update, you’ll be able to choose those servers as well as the previous ones (including twitter), and enjoy multiple-posting:


Then it’s browsable everywhere, but you still own it locally as RDF data so that you can re-use it later, etc.


Once again, merci Gautier !

ESWC2008 slides

I finally uploaded the slides of the various talks I gave at last ES(W)C in Tenerife:

As you can see, it was a busy but – once again – really valuable week. Lots of quality papers, especially, from my point of view, the ones about querying (esp. distributed approaches like DARQ – more details on Orri Erling’s blog), LOD-related (Semantic Sitemaps) and the OntoGame one. Readers of this blog should also be interested in xOperator, an approach combining LOD, social networking and instant messaging.

Interesting things were also presented during the workshops, as SWOOKI (a Semantic P2P wiki), ACEWiki (a wiki using controlled natural language to model both ontology and instances from the wiki, with reasoning capabilities using Pellet) and the use of semantic wikis for mathematics, which was particulary interesting from the use-case point of view, as for Flyspeck. Also nice (and sometimes fun) papers and demos in the SFSW workshop (congrats to Benjamin!) and in the demo session, as RDBToOnto that mine ontologies (and instances) from relational databases.

Another interesting fact for LOD-ers are the first steps of voiD, a vocabulary to describe datasets (which could efficiently combined with the previously mentioned work on distributed SPARQL: send your query on the Web, let the system find datasources, query and merge).

Finally, as in Beijing, it was a great opportunity to meet people I knew only online. Hope to see you in Karlsruhe!

Fixig SMOB

Here are the scripts to fix the recent SMOB bug:

I remember a quote from Benjamin on #semsol (but I can’t find it in the logs – is there a related SPARQL endpoint ?) where he hoped that one day, people would consider RDF programming as ‘normal programming’. I think that SPARUL (especially at the triples level) is really helpful for that, since adding / deleting statements is more than easy. Combined with SPARQL capabilities and used, for instance, with ARC2 and its 3-lines-of-code endpoint, everyone should be able to go into SemWeb programming without aditional skills than the one required by usual PHP/MySQL applications.