February 24th, 2004

photogeek

Expansion of FOAF support

What data would you like to see included in the FOAF spec next? What should or could LiveJournal support, what additions could be made, what else woudl fit into our data set?

This entry is for bringing up these suggestions. With the huge number of RDF resources on the web, there's a giant map of possibilities that could be searched for and used to describe LiveJournal users - the ones included are just a start.

Leave comments here for expansions you'd like to see for LiveJournal's FOAF support. Supporting your arguments with links so I can understand what you're going to use it for is good - as the original and main coder of LiveJournal FOAF, I'm going to be the one making the changes, most likely.

Convince me. What information do we need next?
photogeek

External_foaf_url broken

Due to a lack of testing, most likely on my part, FOAF's external_foaf_url page returns a non-XML compliant page. I've opened a Zilla bug to deal with this, but you should keep in mind when possibly setting up your external FOAF URL that the page returned will not be XML compliant until this change goes in and live.

(Specifically, I forgot a / in a field, which causes the page not to parse. Damn semantics!)
photogeek

Example FOAF file

The following is an example foaf file (for me). Each of the fields is rather self explanatory, but I thought I'd post this here, since most browser don't have an easily viewable way of showing application/rdf+xml data.

This file is trimmed of unimportant stuff - you don't need my entire interests lists, for example.

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This example created to help those of you who want to write tools for this to do so.

Happy Parsing!
photogeek

Orkut message - LJ FOAF

Since I've seen a lot of demand for FOAF from orkut, I thought I'd post a message to my friends on the site, a lot of whom are semantic webbers. This is the post I made to my Friends of Friends network on orkut - a message that got sent out to 750+ people.

If you are part of any large social site, you may want to do the same thing. Pass the message along - increasing the size of the semantic web is a goal not just for geeks, but for everyone.

----------- START -------------
to: friends of friends
subject: LiveJournal FOAF
message: I know this won't be applicable to all of you, but a fair number of people will probably be interested in this.

LiveJournal now exports FOAF data, including foaf:interests, foaf:knows, and contact information. It's exported for every user at http://www.livejournal.com/users/username/data/foaf . Discussion of the LiveJournal FOAF files can take place in a community I maintain - http://www.livejournal.com/community/ljfoaf . If you're interested in FOAF, that's the place to come to discuss it.

For those of you who don't know what FOAF is, it's the "Friend of a Friend" project - http://www.foaf-project.org . This project is geared towards making your relationships with other people machine readable.

FOAF is a way to describe yourself, and your relationships with other people. Orkut is a prime example of a site that could export FOAF data - your contact information, which you choose to display, could be displayed in an exportable format.

Some people might ask "What's the point?" The point of FOAF is to allow machines to look through people, find information that you might be interested in about that person, and deliver it to you.

Perhaps I'm interested in other people that are friends of my friends who live near O'Hare airport - I'm looking for a ride. So, I put in my FOAF file, which defines my friends, and tell it to search for "basedNear" codes of O'Hare airport. By using FOAF, it could expand out, find friends of friends, and give you back contact information for them.

The tools to do this thing need larger base data to advance. We need to be able to describe ourselves in a way that computers can understand in order to make better our interactions. This is the purpose of the semantic web - and LiveJournal is working to start it off.

Orkut can help too. Tell orkut today that you want FOAF data exported. Let them know you want to see machines talking to each other. In the end, you may be helping to start something big.

-Christopher Schmidt
lj:crschmidt
photogeek

Privacy

I've seen a couple of weblog entries about how FOAF is a violation of the privacy of the users on the site, and so on and so forth.

The primary thing to remember about LiveJournal's FOAF information is that it's not presenting new or different information, only a new format. All the information available in my FOAF file is equally available in my User Information: compare http://crschmidt.livejournal.com/info to http://crschmidt.livejournal.com/data/foaf .

If you don't want your contact information shared, there's an easy solution - simply choose to not have your information shown to all users, which will block it from your FOAF file as well. If you would like to block your FOAF file from containing information like your friendships, you can do so by including a URL in the Edit Information page, at http://www.livejournal.com/editinfo.bml - simply fill in the "External FOAF URL" field.

LiveJournal allows options to block a certain subset of information, which FOAF respects. Any information that is displayed is not information that's difficult to find - simply parse the user information page.

That's why LiveJournal FOAF really isn't a big deal from a privacy standpoint: the information is already there.