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Semantic Technologies


According to a 2009 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, “Semantic Web technologies could revolutionize enterprise decision making and information sharing”. By connecting more flexible, standardized ways to model and share data with best practices for identifying the meaning (or, at the very least, the source) of descriptive terms, Semantic Web technologies open up new possibilities for developing applications that work across the web or behind your firewall.

In this course, we’ll learn about the building blocks of the Semantic Web such as the RDF data model, the RDFa version that lets you embed machine-readable facts (or “triples”) into web pages, the SPARQL query language, and the Web Ontology Language (OWL) for defining vocabularies and term relationships. We’ll also learn about some of the open source and commercial software that lets you assemble these building blocks into applications that help you get more out of both your own data and the increasing amount of publicly available linked data.

Classes for 2010

The Semantic Web: an Overview

Taught by Bob DuCharme.

The Semantic Web is a set of standards and best practices for sharing data and the semantics of that data over the web for use by applications. What are the standards? What are the best practices? What does it mean to share semantics along with data, and how can that make the data more useful? How do applications use data from across the web?

In this class, we’ll look at the high-level answers to these questions, take a tour of the technology and the acronyms, and see how they all fit together before the day’s remaining speakers dig deeper into the practical use of these technologies.

Introduction to Linked Data

Taught by Leigh Dodds.

Linked Data is a set of principles for publishing data across the public web to maximise its potential for reuse. An increasingly large amount of data is being published using these guidelines, across a number of disciplines and industries, ranging from crowd-sourced data (e.g. dbpedia) and media outlets (e.g. the BBC) to the US and UK governments. As momentum builds across the Linked Data approach to data publishing, more publishers and developers are exploring how to share their data in this way, and wondering how to make use of the existing resources to create new applications or enrich existing resources. In this class we’ll learn how to publish Linked Data taking a best practices approach, as well as looking at how to consume linked data that has already been published. The lessons will be illustrated using the Talis Platform and some open source Linked Data browsers.

Lunch break, day one



Taught by Dr. Andy Seaborne.

SPARQL is the standard W3C query language for semantic web applications. It brings together the features of a number of RDF query languages into one method for extracting information from data represented in RDF, whether small datasets or large.

The next wave of SPARQL standardization is currently underway to add features that are useful for publishing data and also to add mechanisms to update and manage RDF data over the web.

This session will provide a solid grounding in SPARQL. After demonstrating how powerful some very simple SPARQL queries can be, we will take a practical approach to looking at the key features of SPARQL 1.0 and 1.1, and then explore the principles underpinning the SPARQL query language.

RDF Modeling: Getting started with RDFS, OWL, and SKOS

Taught by Leigh Dodds.

You’re starting to publish Linked Data or assemble another RDF-based application, and you’ve initially taken a pick and mix approach to selecting from existing vocabularies, but what happens when you need to go beyond popular vocabularies like FOAF, Dublin Core, or GoodRelations? How do you actually go about modelling data using RDF technologies? And how do semantic web schema languages differ from, say, XML schema?

This class will provide an overview of RDF modelling, including the use of RDFS and OWL to create custom vocabularies. The class will review how to make use of both technologies and provide guidance for going deeper. It will also look at how vocabularies like SKOS fit into the picture, and how it can used to help model a particular domain.

End of day one


Putting Semantics on the Web with RDFa

Taught by Dr. Jeni Tennison.

This class will focus on the use of RDF that is embedded in XML, and especially in HTML web pages, with the W3C’s RDFa standard. We’ll look at how to create RDFa, how to add it to documents manually, and some strategies for automating the process. We’ll also see how to extract RDF triples from these documents, and we’ll tour some of the large-scale web sites that are currently making RDF data available on the public linked data web using RDFa. Along the way, we’ll address these common questions about RDFa: how is it similar to microformats, and how is it different? What kind of data is suitable for exposing to to other applications as RDFa? Is it only good for public web pages, or can it be useful behind a firewall? Can RDFS and OWL ontologies play a role in the use of RDFa?


Taught by Dr. Andy Seaborne.

In this follow-on class about SPARQL, we will introduce the new standard features of SPARQL for update and management of data using web protocols. SPARQL Update is a language for modifying RDF data and SPARQL HTTP Update provides for RESTful update of a collection of RDF graphs.

Lunch break, day two


Application Development Workshop

The Application Development Workshop will start off with a few slides to give delegates some ideas about the typical structure of semantic web applications, but after that, it will be a discussion between the faculty for this entire course and the delegates. Bring your ideas for applications and how you were thinking of assembling them, and get the faculty’s opinions. How much coding do you need to do? Do you need a specialized triplestore? Should you use RDF/XML, n3, or RDFa? What are the open source options for tools, and what are the commercial ones? Which ones have been used where, and how did it go? The faculty wants to hear your ideas, and they’ll be full of opinions about how to approach them.