At my presentation on Creativity and Computers to the World Future Society I argued that part of the amazing power of current technology is the ability of the computer to begin working on abstract data structures that actually have meaning to people. XML and the Semantic Web are two of the major drivers behind this effort. Blogging and RDF syndication are another example. So here is the long route to a really cool tool.
I started on CodingtheWeb, went to the FuzzyBlog, which took me to the FOAF-a-matic, the RDF-web, semantice vaporware for the masses (I love that subtitle) and then onto an article about the technology XML Watch: Finding friends with XML and RDF
These are the connections that the web is so great about creating.
Many communities have proliferated on the Internet, from companies through professional organizations to social groupings. The FOAF vocabulary, originated by Dan Brickley and Libby Miller, gives a basic expression for community membership: describing people and their basic properties such as name, e-mail address, and so on.
FOAF is simply an RDF vocabulary. Its typical use is akin to that of RSS: You create one or more FOAF files on your Web server and share the URLs so software can use the information inside the file. Like creating your own Web pages, the creation of your FOAF data is decentralized and within your control. An example application that uses these files might be a community directory where members maintain their own records. However, as with RSS, the really interesting parts of FOAF come into play when the data is aggregated and can then be explored and cross-linked.
I haven’t managed to create any of my own FOAF files yet. I’m still trying to catch up with some basic enhancements to my own site, but the future marches on, whether we’re there to see it or not.