Monday, March 12, 2007

The benefit of Semantic MediaWiki

I can't comment on Tim O'Reilly's blog right now it seems, maybe my answer is too long, or it has too many links, or whatever. It only took some time, my mistake. He blogged about the Semantic MediaWiki -- yaay! I'm a fanboy, really -- but he asks "but why hasn't this approach taken off? Because there's no immediate benefit to the user." So I wanted to answer that.

"About Semantic MediaWiki, you ask, "why hasn't this approach taken off?" Well, because we're still hacking :) But besides that, there is a growing number of pages who actually use our beta software, which we are very thankful to (because of all the great feedback). Take a look at discourseDB for example. Great work there!

You give the following answer to your question: "Because there's no immediate benefit". Actually, there is benefit inside the wiki: you can ask for the knowledge that you have made explicit within the wiki. So the idea is that you can make automatic tables like this list of Kings of Judah from the Bible wiki, or this list of upcoming conferences, including a nice timeline visualization. This is immediate benefit for wiki editors: they don't have to make pages like these examples (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or any of these) by hand. Here's were we harness self-interest: wiki editors need to put in less work in order to achieve the same quality of information. Data needs to be entered only once. And as it is accessible to external scripts with standard tools, they can even write scripts to check the correctness or at some form of consistency of the data in the wiki, and they are able to aggregate the data within the wiki and display it in a nice way. We are using it very successfully for our internal knowledge management, where we can simply grab the data and redisplay it as needed. Basically, like a wiki with a bit more DB functionality.

I will refrain from comparing to Freebase, because I haven't seen it yet -- but from what I heard from Robet Cook it seems that we are partially complementary to it. I hope to see it soon :)"

Now, I am afraid since my feed's broken this message will not get picked up by PlanetRDF, and therefore no one will ever see it, darn! :( And it seems I can't use trackback. I really need to update to a real blogging software.



Anonymous Valentin said...

"And it seems I can't use trackback", well, you can use the Trackback Wizard at to do it manually :) ... It's only a simple GET request...

March 13, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger denny said...

Thanks! I had a quick read on the trackback protocol, and I didn't realize how simple it is. Cool.

March 13, 2007 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the nice words about Discourse DB. There is a truth at the heart of what O'Reilly is saying, which is: for the average user, the one who just cares about the data, and doesn't want to know a thing about the semantic structures and tagging used to contain it, SMW is still a little too complicated. I think there's no substitute for forms as inputs; that seems to me the real strength of Freebase (just from what I've read about it, including here). At Discourse DB we've tried to integrate forms, and I've spent a good amount of time recently trying to figure out how to better integrate them into SMW. I still think SMW has an advantage in that it's more wiki-like, meaning easier to do large-scale collaboration. Now if we can make the interface nicer...

-Yaron Koren

March 16, 2007 11:35 AM  
Anonymous NickJ said...

Are you using tags for marking your Semantic MediaWiki posts? If so, I'd like to add a feed of those posts to Wiki Blog Planet, but I'm just not sure how to get an RSS or ATOM feed of just the MediaWiki-related items.
-- All the best, Nick.

May 22, 2007 10:36 AM  

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