Semantic Web, Structured Dynamics, OSF Web Services, Open Semantic Framework

Volkswagen UK’s Search Engine Powered by structWSF

It is now official, Volkswagen UK‘s search engine is now powered by structWSF. Their new contextual search engine has been released last Friday. I covered the underlying architecture in one of my recent blog post: Volkswagen’s RDF Data Management Workflow.

 

 

John Streit, head of technology at Tribal DDB, described the two key advantages of using the structWSF (part of the Open Semantic Framework (OSF)) for their website in an interview with Wired UK:

The first is that it gives you a single place to access data. Streit explains: “Applications often need to retrieve data from multiple sources which adds complexity and development time. By using this technology we can get everything we need from a single place which drastically lowers development time and running costs.” Furthermore the exposure of data improves search and means that it can be repurposed in new and imaginative ways.

Semantic Web, Structured Dynamics, OSF for Drupal, OSF Web Services, Open Semantic Framework

The Open Semantic Framework Installer

We are excited to introduce the first Open Semantic Framework installation script. This new installer application will install and configure the entire Open Semantic Framework stack for you. It will take about 10 minutes of your time, and will process in the background for a few hours while everything necessary to build the OSF stack is downloaded and compiled. Open Semantic Framework Installer

The only thing you have to do to run the OSF Installer is to issue the few commands outlined below, and then to answer a few questions in the process (which, since most of them use the standard default values, is pretty easy).

The OSF Installer is a major addition to the Open Semantic Framework since it now enables a greater number of people (mere mortals) to install and use the stack, and it enables much faster deployment of the system.

The full installation manual, where each of the steps performed by the installer is explained in detail, is available as a reference here.

Requirements

The current version of the Open Semantic Framework Installer is fully operational on:

  1. Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid)
  2. 32 Bits Operating System
  3. Access to internet from the server
  4. 5GIG of disk space on the partition where you are installing OSF

Eventually this installer will be upgraded for 64-bits operating systems, and for other Linux distributions. Also, the current installer should work on newer versions of Ubuntu, but it has only been tested to date on the latest LTS version.

Installing the Open Semantic Framework

The only manual steps need to do to install the Open Semantic Framework are to:

  1. Create a folder where to install OSF on your server
  2. Download the osf-install.zip installation package
  3. Make the osf-install.sh installation script executable
  4. Run the osf-install.sh installation script
  5. Answer the questions asked by the installer

Here are the commands you have to run:

[cc lang=’bash’ line_numbers=’true’ ]

cd /mnt/
sudo wget https://github.com/downloads/structureddynamics/Open-Semantic-Framework-Installer/osf-installer-v1.0a4.zip
sudo unzip osf-installer-v1.0a4.zip
cd `ls -d structureddynamics*/`
sudo chmod 755 osf-install.sh
./osf-install.sh

[/cc]

conStruct and structWSF Upgrades

In the process, both conStruct and structWSF have been enhanced to enable automatic upgrading in the future. Starting with structWSF version 1.0a92 and conStruct version 6.x-1.0-beta9, future upgrades should be done automatically using automatic upgrading procedures.

However, to enable this, existing users will have to upgrade their current versions manually to establish the new automatic upgrades baseline.

Next Steps

Once you have installed the OSF stack, you next query the structWSF Web service endpoints, and import datasets using conStruct. Here are a few things you can do to start exploring the Open Semantic Framework:

  1. Start exploring structWSF
  2. Start exploring conStruct
  3. Start exploring Ontologies usage in OSF
  4. Start importing and manipulating datasets
  5. Start exploring the Open Semantic Framework architecture
  6. Start playing with the structWSF web service endpoints

Since everything is installed on your server, so you only have to play with the stack now. If you break something, just ping us on the mailing list or re-install it without worrying about each installation steps!

Help

It may be possible that you experience some issues with this new OSF Installer. If that is the case, I would suggest your to make an outreach to the Open Semantic Web Mailing List so that we fix it on the Git repository.

Just write an email that includes the specifications of the server where you are trying to install OSF on. Then tell us where the issue happens in the installation process. Also add any logs that could be helpful in debugging the issue.

Conclusion

This is the first version of the OSF installer, but this is a real balm for installing OSF. As noted, this installer will eventually be upgraded to support 64-bit servers and other Linux distributions. Also, any help improving this installer from Bash wizards would naturally be greatly welcomed.

Semantic Web, Structured Dynamics, OSF for Drupal, irON, OSF Web Services, Citizen Dan, OSF Widgets, Open Semantic Framework

Role and Use of Ontologies in the Open Semantic Framework

Ontologies are to the Open Semantic Framework what humans were to the Mechanical Turk. The hidden human in the Mechanical Turk was orchestrating all and every chess move. However, to the observers, the automated chess machine was looking just like it: a new kind of intelligent machine. We were in 1770.

Ontologies plays exactly the same role for the Open Semantic Framework (OSF): they orchestrate all and every moves for all the pieces within OSF. They are what instructs structWSF, the Semantic Components, conStruct, and all other derivate pieces of user interfaces how to behave.

In this (lengthy) blog post, I will present the main ontologies that have an impact on different parts of OSF. We will see how different ontology classes and properties, and how the description of the records indexed in the system, can impact the behaviors of OSF.

In addition to this post, Mike has also published a blog post today that overviews the overall OSF ontology modularization and architecture.

Continue reading

Semantic Web, Structured Dynamics, OSF Web Services, Open Semantic Framework

Volkswagen’s RDF Data Management Workflow

TribalDDB UK’s team just published a new case study to the W3C: Case Study: Contextual Search for Volkswagen and the Automotive Industry. They discuss the benefits of some of the semantic web technologies, techniques and concepts that they use to help them managing their data. They describe their approach and outline their design. It covers the technical aspects of their new Semantic Web Platform that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

In this blog post, I want to further explain their data management workflow, and how their data get exposed to different kind of users.

Two Classes of Users

Let’s take a look at their data ingest/management/publishing workflow:

As you can see, all their data get collected, transformed and imported into structWSF. As I explained in my previous blog post, they are using structWSF to manage all their RDF data and access all the functionalities from the different web service endpoints.

However, how the data get exposed to the users is not that clear. In fact, it depends on the classes of users. A user can be multiple different things: it may be a person, it may be a computer software, it may be an organization, etc. However, there are two general classes of users:

  1. Public users, and
  2. Private users

Public users are users that have no direct relation with Volkswagen and that have no access to their internal network. Private users are generally internal departments or some internal software applications that have direct access to the structWSF instance.

Private Users

Private users generally have access to all structWSF web service endpoints. This means that all structWSF functionalities are accessible to them by querying the endpoints.

Two different kind of private users are specified in the use case’s schema:

  1. Volkswagen Site Search
  2. Other / External Applications

The Volkswagen site search is a software application that uses the structWSF Search endpoint to search, filter and expose their data to their users (the people who perform searches on the Volkswagen UK website).

The other/external applications are software applications that have access to the structWSF instance. These are generally internal applications that run in the same network. One of these applications is an internal software that exports all the RDF data from the structWSF SPARQL endpoint, and import it into Kasabi.

These are two examples of software applications that Volkswagen created around the structWSF web services to re-purpose, re-contextualize and re-publish their RDF data.

Public Users

There is currently two kinds of public users of this new Volkswagen Semantic Platform:

  • People, and
  • Software applications

Two interfaces have been made publicly available for each of these kinds of users:

  • A website search engine page for people, and
  • A SPARQL endpoint for software applications

When a person user reaches the website’s search page, the search query get sent to the structWSF Search web service endpoint. The result is then returned to the engine, get templated and displayed to the person user.

A SPARQL endpoint is accessible to the software applications. This endpoint is hosted by the Kasabi information marketplace. Volkswagen chooses to export everything from their structWSF into Kasabi to outsource the maintenance of their public SPARQL endpoint.

Unlock the Power

As we saw in this blog post and in the W3C use case, all Volkswagen UK data is internally managed by structWSF; however they are not locked into that system. They can easily communicate with external services to add new functionalities to their stack or to take business decision such as outsourcing the management of some publicly accessible data access endpoints.

This is an important characteristic of their design:

By choosing semantic web technologies (such as structWSF), techniques and concepts (such as their Vehicles OWL Ontology and RDF), they are not locking themselves into a specific framework. They can easily communicate with external systems and applications. This means that they can quickly adapt their system to their constantly changing needs.

Conclusion

I wrote this blog post to further explain Volkswagen’s data management workflow. I wanted to make sure that people were understanding the role that structWSF has in this use case, and the ecosystem it operates in.

Semantic Web, Open Semantic Framework

One of Semantic Web’s Core Added Value

If I ask the question: “What added value(s) does the Semantic Web brings on the table?”. So, what are the benefits that companies and organizations would get from using the Semantic Web? I am pretty sure that after asking this question, I would get answers such as:
  • You will instantly be able to traverse graphs of relationships
  • You will be able to infer facts (so create/persist new knowledge) from other existing facts
  • You will be able to check to make sure that your knowledge base is consistent and satisfiable
  • You will be able to modify your ontologies/vocabularies/schemas without impacting the description of your instance records or the usability of any software that use it (unlike relation databases)
  • And so on…

All these answers would be accurate. However, what if these answers would only be a part of the real added value that the Semantic Web brings on the table?

Note: when I refer to the “Semantic Web” on this blog post (and across all my writings), I refer to a set of technologies, techniques and concepts referred as the Semantic Web. So it is not a single thing, but a complete set of things that creates new ways of working with, and manipulating, information.

Strong of about 7 years of research and development of Semantic Web technologies that includes about 3 years of developing the Open Semantic Framework, that the biggest added value that I found from utilizing Semantic Web technologies is only partially related to these answers. In fact the biggest added value for me, as a developer can be resumed in one word:

PRODUCTIVITY

As simple as this. The biggest added value I gained from using and applying Semantic Web related technologies, techniques and concepts is an important increase in development, and data integration productivity.

Such productivity gain as to do with one of Semantic Web’s core attribute:

FLEXIBILITY

This is what I was suggesting in my latest blog post about Volkswagen’s use of the Open Semantic Framework: how Volkswagen uses the Open Semantic Framework to get flexibility that will lead to a gain in productivity to integrate, publish, and re-contextualize their data assets. The few gains that I listed above are part of the reason why the Semantic Web gives you flexibility that leads to an increase in productivity.

This same point as been re-affirmed today by Lee Feigenbaum in its latest blog post Saving Months, Not Milliseconds: Do More Faster with the Semantic Web:

Why is this? Ultimately, it’s because of the inherent flexibility of the Semantic Web data model (RDF). This flexibility has been described in many different ways. RDF relies on an adaptive, resilient schema (from Mike Bergman); it enables cooperation without coordination (from David Wood via Kendall Clark); it can be incrementally evolved; changes to one part of a system don’t require re-designs to the rest of the system. These are all dimensions of the same core flexibility of Semantic Web technologies, and it is this flexibility that lets you do things fast with the Semantic Web.

Warning: Productivity is not synonymous with simplicity

However, I would warn people that think that productivity gains are possible because semantic web technologies are simpler to use, manage and implement than other existing technologies.

It is certainly not the case, and I don’t think it will ever be. Semantic Web technologies, techniques and concepts are not easy to understand, and have a big learning curve. This is partly true because these techniques, technologies and concepts are relatively new in the field of the computer sciences, and because they are not fully understood, defined, implemented and used.