Thursday, June 21, 2007


While waiting for Eclipse on my notebook to catch up the other day, I finally decided to get around to writing a FOAF file. I didn't go to enormous effort, and just used Leigh Dodds's FOAF-a-matic generator. I'm sure there are more people I can add in, but I didn't have a lot of their details. You can find the file over on the right here.

Once I had the file, I then had to wonder what to do with it? Danny's comment has some useful links, but I was a little disappointed to see how out of date a lot of it is, as some of the services that I tracked down aren't there any more. I was also surprised to learn that there's very little aggregation anywhere.

The FoaF Explorer site requires that you enter an individual's FOAF URL, and then you can just get the details from that file. It picks up on URLs that it finds in the file, and if the file was written to include rdfs:seeAlso links for other people, then it will let you navigate to those people's FOAF pages as well. However, it's all very brittle. Some of the pages suggested on the entry page (like Libby Miller) are no longer accessible. Many people also link directly to other FOAF files that no longer exist. There is no attempt to remember data, nor merge it together. For instance, Dan Brickley knows Eric Miller, and you can then navigate to Eric's page (due to a rdfs:seeAlso link). Eric knows several people, including Dan Brickley. However, even though the system has access to the information that could take you back to Dan (for instance, his email) there has been no attempt to do so. Consequently, navigating my way around on the site kept taking me to dead ends.

FOAfnaut looked more promising, but I can't get it to respond to anything I do. I submitted my own file, and tried my email as a parameter in the URL, but to no avail. However, I've also found that the SVG on the page is very unresponsive anyway, and won't let me enter any text (though I can change tabs).

There are other sites, and other problems. It all looks very promising, and with great potential, but several of these sites were last edited in 2003, and appear abandoned. It's almost like FOAF proved a concept, and now everyone has moved onto new things. I'd suspect that the idea was dead, except that Danny is still talking about it.

In the meantime, I've gone to the trouble of putting it up, so I should add some more detail to my file. For instance, of the few people I have in there, I haven't made use of rdfs:seeAlso for any of them, so I should add that in. Then at least my link will look more interesting in FoaF Explorer.

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