RESTful Service Descriptions

Continuing his web services experiments, Norm Walsh has apparently been defeated by the complexity of WSDL. Can’t say that I blame him not giving up; the fewer moving parts is one of the reasons I like REST so much, there’s less chance for APIs to get in the way.
I agree with Norm that some kind of web services description language is required and also that it can be less complicated that WSDL. I’ve been hoping that this is something that the REST community could bootstrap.
There’s been work in this area already, e.g. Paul Prescod’s Web Resource Description
and Mark Baker’s RDF Forms. There was also this related thread on rest-discuss recently.
It’d be nice to see some of these proposals picked up and be refined and implemented. There seems to be agreement that there’s an need for further work and specification in this area. Would be another nail in the coffin for the WS-* stack too.

Speaking at XTech: Social Content Web Services

While the final schedule isn’t up yet, I’ve received an email to note that one of my XTech proposals has been accepted.
The paper is titled “Connecting Social Content Services using FOAF, RDF and REST”, and here’s the abstract I submitted:

A growing number of “social content” applications such as flickr,, audioscrobbler, and AllConsuming are making open web services part of their core offering to end users. These interfaces allow users to query, share, and manipulate the data managed on their behalf by these social content applications.
Web service interfaces make such sites more attractive to end users by removing the danger of data lock-in, while simultaneously providing the users with tools that allow them to gain the most value from their data. This translates into direct benefits for the service itself as the end users extend the reach and visibility of the application by publishing the content on their own websites and ‘blogs.
Based on a brief review of the common features of a selection of these sites, this paper suggests some best practice guidelines that developers can follow when creating new service interfaces for similar applications.
Recognising that it is the end user that is the pivotal component in the success of such applications, these best practices will be used to propose a simple mechanism for connecting together social content based sites with the aim of provide richer, autonomous data exchange.
This architecture will focus on the use of FOAF descriptions of users as a service intermediary, and RESTful web services, exchanging RDF and RSS data, as the means of data exchange.

The other proposal as about my recent work to add RSS1.0/DC/PRISM based RSS feeds to the IngentaConnect website. Rather than a paper, I’ll probably write up the main points in a separate blog posting.
Anyway, looking forward to the conference already, see you all there!

WITW Feedback

Starting here Norm Walsh is blogging the development of his “Where in the World?” (WITW) web service. The laudable goal being to explore web services architecture and design issues by actually building something, and seeking feedback along the way. Excellent stuff!
Elsewhere David Megginson is prompting similar discussion by posing a number of REST design questions.
I love this kind of public design discussion, so I can’t help pitching to add my comments. Rather than leave them in Norm’s comment form I thought I’d write them up here, and use this new fangled trackback thing, like this: .

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Where Should XML Go?

Liam Quin has been thinking about XML 2.0 and has posted an article to Advogato titled “Where Should XML Go?“.
Quin is obviously trying to reach a wider community than just the hardcode XML users, noting in his diary that: Where would you go (or post) to ask people why they’re not using XML? There are lots of good reasons not to use XML, and lots of good reasons to use it, so I’m particularly interested in people who would like to go with XML but who feel they can’t.
Advogato seems like a good starting place to me. Of course there’s an XML-DEV thread starting on the topic already, so the usual suspects will be weighing in very shortly.
I’m not sure what my most requested improvement to the core specification(s) would be. When asked about this before I’ve often responded that I’d be happy to see the work on packaging resume. Especially as there’s work continuing in the area that could be standardised, such as the Open Office format and Rick Jelliffe’s DZIP2.
I loved Jelliffe’s From Wiki to XML via SGML article demonstrating how to use SGML SHORTREFs to parse Wiki markup as SGML interesting, and thats made me wonder whether that might be an SGML feature worth unearthing. Not likely to be a popular suggestion though! And of course one can simply use an SGML parser when one needs the extra power.
But the syntax could certainly be friendlier, and I wonder whether that might address some users dislike of XML, the format; the can still use XML tools to process their config files, Wiki markup, CSV documents, etc.

Sample Sparql Queries

At some point I’m intending to write a little series of tutorials for Sparql which, coupled with Twinkle, will hopefully prove useful to people getting to grips with the language.
For the moment though I thought I’d post a few sample queries to get people started. The examples include some that refer to my own FOAF description, and a few from All of these can be simply cut-and-pasted into the Twinkle query box to run them.
Caveat: the specification isn’t finished, so syntax may change in the future. I’ll try and keep these current though.

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Twinkle 0.2

I’ve just uploaded another iteration of my Java Sparql query tool, Twinkle.
Read the original announcement for background; read the list of changes; or just download Twinkle 0.2.
The release basically adds some usability niceties such as accelerator keys, tool tips, status bar, etc. Errors processing queries should now also now be visible in the GUI status bar. I also fixed up several bugs that meant that DESCRIBE, ASK, and CONSTRUCT query results weren’t displaying correctly, or weren’t appearing in the correct output format.
I’ve also added a new results format option that will dump SELECT style Sparql queries into a JTable, making the tool look much more like a conventional database query application.
As ever please feel free to send in bug reports or feature suggestions. Especially the bug reports!

Bootstrapping a Corporate Wiki

Lauren Wood recently has recently been seeking input from people successfully using a Wiki in a corporate environment. I’ve been meaning to write up my own experiences in this area for a while, as I’ve spent the last few years nurturing a burgeoning Wiki culture at Ingenta. Lauren’s request was the spur I needed to start to set down my thoughts.
Read on for some personal notes on the viral introduction of a Wiki into a corporate environment.

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