What kind of Semantic Web researcher are you?

It’s hard to keep secrets in today’s increasingly interconnected, networked world. Social network megasites, mobile phones, webcams and  inter-site syndication can broadcast and amplify the slightest fragment of information. Data linking and interpretation tools can put these fragments together, to paint a detailed picture of your life, both online and off.

This online richness creates offline risk. For example, if you’re going away on holiday, there are hundreds of ways in which potential thieves could learn that your home is vacant and therefore a target for crime: shared calendars, twittered comments from friends or family, flickr’d photographs. Any of these could reveal that your home and possessions sit unwatched, unguarded, presenting an easy target for criminals.

Q: What research challenge does this present to the Semantic Web community? How can we address the concern that Semantic and Social Web technology have more to offer Burglar Bill than to his victims?

A1: We need better technology for limiting the flow of data, proving a right to legitimate access to information, cross-site protocols for deleting leaked or retracted data that flows between sites, and calculating trust metrics for parties requesting data access.

A2: We need to find ways to reconnect people with their neighbours and neighbourhoods, so that homes don’t sit unwatched when their occupants are away.

ps. Dear Bill, I have my iphone, laptop, piggy bank and camera with me…

widgetarians.org

widgetarians.org

I’ve just made Widgetarians.org, a Planet-based aggregator of Widgety stuff.

The contents are somewhat ad-hoc, and will evolve in unpredictable ways as people publish and fix feeds, and as I hear about new sites. For example, at the time of writing I couldn’t find any working public feeds for the great things the Opera folks are doing with widgets. The exact focus of the site might evolve, but the audience I have in mind are developers who are building widgets (and “gadgets”, “applications” etc.) using standard Web technologies. So I’ll gather feeds from blogs, galleries, developer discussion lists that might interest such people. The site also aggregates anything tagged with “widgets” on delicious, so that’s a quick way to share things into this site.

Since I’ve been working at Joost this year, I ought to take care to be clear that widgetarians.org is done in my own time, using my own resources, and suchlike. Of course I’d be happy if people checked out the evolving Joost widgets platform, but this particular site is not Joost-specific. The more developers building widgets (of all kinds) using standard Web technology, the better! I’m also not going to make a big fuss about what exactly counts as a “widget”; it’s a pretty intuitive, family-resemblance concept. In many ways the old Java applet dream of Web from 1995 or so, or modular computing architectures like OpenDoc were in the same space. But the focus I have here is around desktop and Web page add-ons that bundle up javascript, css, xml markup etc., and on the use of emerging standards for interop and skill-sharing around such platforms.

ps. the logo features venezuelan ants… in orbit around planet sugar :)