Tag Archives: Semantic Web

“If an item does not appear in our records then it does not exist!”

The abovementioned words are spoken by Jocasta Nu, Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives when Obi-Wan Kenobi is searching for the location of the Kamino planetary system…

However, this is a very 20th century view of a library or archive; ongoing development of the Semantic Web is pointing to a future where certain information may only exist as as an entity when created by a user.

The Semantic Web: a web of data

I first came across the term “Semantic Web” when I was researching the changes to cataloguing standards 12 months ago for a previous module.  It is something that that has been of interest to me since then.  Working in a library and studying on this course has highlighted how the library community appears to be struggling to adapt to changes in the information environment.  The Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloguing standard has been developed to encompass digital resources but will not be fully embraced by the British Library until 2013 (CILIP, 2012).  In my opinion, RDA can only be a stepping stone to the adoption of a new standard which will embrace Linked Open data in the Semantic Web, as discussed by Dunsire (2011).  Given that the related issue of ontologies is now being openly discussed on programmes such as “Woman’s Hour” (BBC, 2012) I can only hope that the slow adoption of newer standards does not lead to libraries erasing themselves from the information map!

Some of the principles which underlie this third iteration of the Web are visible in my everyday interaction with websites.  For example, the John Lewis website offers suggestions aimed specifically at me based on the “saucepans” and “table linen” which I have previously viewed:

These suggestions consist of linked metadata from within the John Lewis website and similar examples can be seen on other websites.  However, it was not until this week’s lecture where we discussed how tailored content can be fed into a fully live web page that I was suddenly struck by the fact that static web pages will no longer need to exist in the future.  By linking all forms of an item across all resouces, what will be the implications of this to website design?

This is a complex and evolving field in which I have no technical expertise.  However, I can see that some issues will affect design.  For example, given that searching will become more refined and personalised, the field of information retrieval will probably focus more on “filtering out” irrelevant information.  Designers will therefore need to find more creative ways of ensuring that their site content is accessed by the target market.  The second implication that comes to mind is that users will be able to access content more flexibly.  The traditional hierarchical structure of websites is already being reconsidered by designers so that all pages on a sitemap could have equal importance; reducing the amount of navigation on a site is discussed by Bradley (2012) who examines the development of single page websites.  It is clear that these sites reflect a desire to draw information together into one location, enhancing usability of the website and making it more dynamic.  (Site does not function as well on iPad.) However, I think that this style of website is in preparation for a time when the retrieval of individual web pages will become inefficient and uncompetitive.  Thus, a single page website would help to ensure that the entirety of the organisation’s information would remain unfiltered in a Semantic Web search.

The Synaptic Web: A web of “live” connections

The lecturer discussed a second model for the Web – the Synaptic Web.  My limited reading on this subject seems to suggest that this approach focusses on a folksonomical approach to the future development of the Web.  Thus, proponents for this model discuss the Synaptic Web as being descriptive rather than prescriptive.   However, having examined the transfer of information between different fields, for example, between film archives and academic libraries, it is evident that common standards or a high level of interoperability is necessary to achieve the initial fast, accurate connections prior to developing “plasticity” that is, the connections between the connections, as described by Loux and Blantz ( 2011). Thus, whereas HTML was the common standard for the first incarnation of the Web, Resource Description Framework (RDF) could provide the platform for a more descriptive Web.  My current thinking is that there will probably be a convergence between the two models to create the the Web of the future.


BBC. 2012. Woman’s Hour: Power list expert witness: science and engineering [online].London: BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p010v47s [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Bradley, S. 2012. Exploration of single page websites [online]. Freiburg: Smashing Magazine. Available at: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/11/05/navigation-patterns-in-single-page-websites/#more-142481 [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

CILIP 2012. Implementing RDA in the UK: strategies and lessons learned [online]. CILIP: London. Available at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/rda2012/Documents/3.%20Alan%20Danskin.pdf [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Dunsire, G. 2011. Web resource management and semantic web [Online]. Ahmedabad: INFLIBNET. Available at:htt p://ir.inflibnet.ac.in/dxml/bitstream/handle/1944/1605/15.pdf?sequence=1 [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

Loux, K. et al. 2011. The synaptic web [online]. San Mateo: PBWorks. Available at: http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/w/page/8983891/FrontPage [Accessed: 14 November 2012].

One brick at a time

2006. The year I made my first online purchase.  I was not an an early adopter of Web-based services.  It’s not that I’m a technophobe; it was simply the case that until then, the World Wide Web had not offered me a significant reason to invest the time and effort in learning how to use a computer. Purchasing that V-Wing Fighter Lego set was the beginning of my realisation that future innovations (as discussed in my favourite 1980s TV science programme “Tomorrow’s World”), were in fact a current reality.  I had taken my first step into joining the digital world and by 2010 I was occasionally leaving the fug of child-rearing to undertake some basic IT training.

My previous roles as a primary school teacher and as a volunteer working with stroke survivors have been influential in my desire to support people in finding, accessing and using information.  Thus, my personal aim for this module is to develop a foundation of theoretical understanding and some technical skills to support the delivery of a user-centred information service.

To date, this course has given me a good grounding in the organisation of information within a library context.   However, I am also aware of the work being undertaken by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in exploring the potential of Linked Open Data in the Web of the future – the Semantic Web, whereby all formats of an object on the Web will become linked and more easily identified.  I am not sure what the implications of this will be for websites and their users.  I will try and consider this issue over the course of the project.

The group project: Initial Ideas

We explored websites that were familiar to us and which have caused us frustration as users.  Interestingly, this included websites for well known organisations, such as the Science Museum, British Library and CILIP .  However, it became clear that setting a scope for the redesign of these sites would be problematic for the purpose of this project.  For example there was too much content in the British Library site and our attempts to focus on one section of the CILIP jobs section proved to be limited in content and potential for a redesign.  We therefore took the lecturer’s advice about criteria for selecting a website (at least 10 pages, opportunities to search  content and find locations) and decided to consider using an event-based website.  This should provide some focussed content and avoid “scope creep” which was a potential issue for some of the other organisation-based sites we had initially looked at.  A search on Google revealed that folk events are not always best represented on the Web.  We quickly found a suitable site for the project.

Our initial observations were quickly translated into features which we thought could improve the site.  However, Wodtke and Govella (2009) suggest that this approach can contribute rather than solve problems, as features are frequently bolted-on and do not serve the overall needs of the business or its users.  So we are going to focus our efforts on defining the key objectives for the website via a systematic analysis of the organisation, the site, its users and competitors prior to making any changes to the existing site.

The reality is that I have no idea how to actually build a website but I am heartened by the fact that Krug (2006), Wodtke (2009) and Garrett (2002) agree that user experience is the ultimate measure of success.  And I have certainly done a lot of online shopping since 2006 so that must make me an expert in user experience…

I’m approaching this project in the same way that I build Lego. One brick at a time.


Garrett, J. J. 2003. The elements of user experience : user-centered design for the web. 2nd ed.Berkeley, CA: New Riders

Krug, S. 2006. Don’t make me think! : a common sense approach to web usability. 2nd ed.Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Wodtke, C. & Govella, A. 2009. Information architecture : blueprints for the Web. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.