The Semantic Web: 1-2-3

This resource is also known as Stupid Berry Pickers Make Idiot Jam and that fact should add suitable weight to the following declaration: I'm new to the Semantic Web. I cobbled this fair piece together in an attempt to collect my thoughts, answered questions, path-of-learning, and requisite bookmarks so that other XML hackers may follow in my footsteps. All inaccuracies are purely my fault, so be sure to correct me.

This document is not intended to teach you RDF via my own words, but rather to hand-hold you through the "good" parts of the same journey I took. If it looks like a big link-list with menial comments from the peanut gallery, then you're not far off the mark of my intent. This is by no means definitive, nor was that the goal.

Table Of Contents

  1. An Introduction
  2. Recommended Reading
  3. Tips, Snippets, and Answers
  4. Where To Go From Here
  5. Sites I Almost Didn't Link To
  6. Credits
  7. Version History

An Introduction

I'm an XML hacker - with a few lines of Perl, I could get any piece of information I wanted from any XML file I had. It got to a point where I started writing my own XML documents willy-nilly, often for things that didn't really deserve XML in the first place. XML was nifty, new, and whoodoggery, "easy" to parse and read - I was suitably blinded by the light of evolutionary tech.

Bah! RDF Sucks! I turn my back on ye! My first encounter with RDF, the life force behind the Semantic Web, was a year or so ago. I was immediately disgusted. This was the greatness of "WWW, Version 2.0"? It was ugly, verbose, and "hard" to read and write. I waved my hands around like a crotchety old man and moved on to greener pastures - this was one upgrade I was willing to skip, regardless of the immense powers it'd give me.

Realize that the above is the first of a "before and after" opinion on something called "RDF/XML" (see below). Whilst I'm still not a fan of RDF/XML, I now realize why it needs to be how it is, and it no longer bothers me. The above was caused by Uncertainty and Denial:

Recently, I've begun investigating RDF once again, fueled by a lust for FOAF, or "friend of a friend" (see below). As the initial repulsion once again surfaced, I pushed ever onward, intent on figuring out the "back end" to my beloved FOAF. With more reading came more comprehension, and these crucial concepts appeared, necessary for my XML mind set to become undone:

It was only after repetitive beatings of the above concepts into my angry little brain did doors start opening to what RDF could really do. I still think RDF/XML is ugly as sin - but the powerful benefits of its scars outweigh the pain. Think "beautiful ducking, ugly swan".

Note: Anything that has been emphasized is quoted from the source in question.

Recommended Reading

When I'm interested in something, I try to read everything I can find on the subject. Thus, I started with a scant few bookmarks suggested by others, started adding more (oh lord, many more), and as I write this paragraph, have merely a few more sites of interest to go. Below, I've collected and annotated some sites I find absolutely requisite to "getting" all this. They're in order of reading / comprehension level.

Tips, Snippets, and Answers

A literal is an object, of course, of course... These are in addition to those presented in Semantic Web and RDF Hints and Tips. Most of these were yanked from my questions on mailing lists, chat logs, and private correspondence. If you've got any more suggestions to add below, email the author of this document:

Where To Go From Here

Cheesy metaphors reign! Fall deeper into the world of RDF! So you've understood the material above, and you want to do more, know more, build a better Web, blabberty blah blah. Below are some resources that should get you started, be they current RDF implementations of data and projects, launching off points for more junk to read, or places to ask questions, discuss coding, etc.

Sites I Almost Didn't Link To

Where'd my baby go!? Junior?! JuNoOiioor!! The below are resources that may not be relevant to your learning of the Semantic Web and RDF. I've included them here mainly for my own reference, as well as to serve as a curiosity factor for those who want to dig a bit deeper. If you're bored with the above, the sites below will even be less interesting.


Thanks to Dave Beckett, Daniel Biddle, Ian Glendinning, Sean B. Palmer, and Aaron Swartz, for looking this document over and giving scathing reviews of disgust and distemper, along with helpful thoughts and clarifications. Visual Credits: 1. Line drawing of Pljushkin, from a story by Russian writer N. Gogol, 2. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Raphael in particular, 3. A photograph of Mister Ed, from the classic sitcom "Mister Ed", 4. "Still Falling" by Antony Gormley 1983, at Portland, 5. Unknown.

Version History

Morbus Iff (aka Kevin Hemenway), 2002-08