Using FOAF to Support Community Building

Along with my co-author, Brian Kelly, I’ve had a paper accepted for the IADIS 2004 – Web Based Communities conference. The paper discusses the role of FOAF and the Semantic Web in supporting community building, particularly at conferences. The HTML version of the paper is now online.
We’re intending to generate as much data as possible that describes conferences, their speakers and particularly their attendees. Coupled with applications to visualise and explore the data, we’re hoping that it will further showcase the role of FOAF in supporting community building and social networking.

Along with the paper, I’ve also announced the Conference Metadata Wiki. This is itself an experiment, this time exploring metadata generation from a Wiki as well as distributed authoring. As John Bosak has noted, there’s no free metadata, but amortizing the costs across a community can make it very cheap indeed. So if you’ve chaired, spoken at, or attended a conference, why not stop by the Wiki and add some data?
I’m interested in feedback on both the paper and the Wiki. I’ve documented how the Wiki works and there is a lengthy example and some real data which should also provide useful references.
I’m also hoping that application authors will explore how they can add conference attendance data to their applications. For example it’d be interested to see this in Plink; pivoting the data on the conference could expose other people who have attended. I’m sure there are some interesting extensions to Dashboard that could work in a similar vein. I’ve already had some brief discussions with Jim Ley about getting foafnaut to support this data, and I’m going to be putting together some demonstrations in that vein as my next iteration of this project.
I should also acknowledge that there’s been some other interesting work in using FOAF at conferences, including FOAF finger and, more recently, BlueFOAF. The latter allows you to spot your friends who may be in the neighbourhood based on their Bluetooth devices. It might be interesting to be able to record “I want to talk to this person” based on your knowledge that they’ll be attending a conference. You could then be alerted to their presence when you’re actually
there on the day; see also my previous comments on ice breaking
To sum up, I’m hoping this is going to be an interesting experiment and that people will help by adding data to the Wiki. Tell your friends…and friends-of-friends, of course!
p.s. should have known Danny would have blogged this before I got chance to write it up!

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