Now that’s Semantic Web(?)

Danny pointed out SemaView’s new calendar based product, Sherba, congratulating them on a …winning application of SemWeb technologies.

The company is using the iCal RDF Schema to create a windows-based application to manage and share event information through an interconnected calendaring system. My first reaction when I saw “window-based application” is to wince at the use of semantic web to what sounded like another Groove-like product that just happens to use RDF/XML for the data. Or does it?

According to the developer documentation, though the company’s application generates the RDF/XML data, it’s not hidden into the bowels of an application only accessible through archane, proprietary rituals or other perversions of openness. (And yes I’m including web services in this because to me, open means open — wide out there baby, just like this web page is. )

There are web services available, but more importantly to me, me being a person who believes that the semantic web is about data rather than applications, the product produces lovely RDF/XML files. Crawlable, open, plain view, accessible RDF/XML files.

Better, it gets better. Not only does the company produce the RDF/XML, it allows organizations that use the product to register their calendars in a global search directory called SherpaFind. Now you can search for events based on a set of parameters, view the calendar, download it, or best of all, directly access the RDF/XML for the calendar.

This is open. This is data within context, though Tim Berners-Lee hates that word . This is data that’s saying: excuse me little bots, sirs, kind sirs, but this data you’re slurping up isn’t just a mess of words waiting to be globally gulped and spit out in a bizarre search based on weights and links; it’s data that has some meaning to it. This data is calendaring data, and once you know that, you know that a lot.

Having said this, though, some of what I read leads me to think this isn’t as open as I thought at first glance. First, if I read this correctly, the Sherpa calendar information is centralized on the Sherpa servers. I’m assuming by this, again with just a first glance, that Semaview is providing the P2P cloud through which all of the clients interact in a manner extremely similiar to how Groove works. If this is true, I’ve said it before and will again — any hint of centralization within a distributed application is a point of weakness and vulnerability, the iron mountain hidden within the cloud.

Second, I can’t find the calendar RDF/XML out at the sites that use the product. There are no buttons at these sites that give me the RDF/XML directly. Additionally, trying variations of calendar.rdf isn’t returning anything either. Again, this is a fast preliminary read and I’ll correct my assumptions if I’m wrong — but is the only way to access the RDF/XML calendar information through SherpaFind? How do bots find this data?

Let’s compare Sherpa with that other popular use of RDF/XML: RSS. I generate an RSS 1.0 file that’s updated any time my weblog pages are updated. You can find it using multiple techniques, including searching for index.rdf files, following a link on my page or using RSS autodiscovery. You can find my site originally by me pinging a central server such as However, most of us find each other because we follow a link from another weblog. If we like what we read, we then subscribe to each other and use aggregators to keep up with updates. The golden gateway in this distributed application is through the links, rather than through an organization’s P2P cloud.

This is almost a pure P2P distributed application, enabled bya common vocabulary (RSS 1.0), serialized using a common syntax (RDF/XML), defined using a common data model, (RDF). Since it is dependent on the Internet and DNS, there’s an atom of iron in this cloud, but we can’t all be perfect. The only way to break this connection between the points is to take my site down (micro break), in which case there is no data anyway; or if we take the Internet down (macro break).

When you have a centralized cloud, like Groove’s, then you’re dependent on an organization to always and consistently provide this service. For Groove the product to work, Groove the company must continue to exist. If Groove no longer exists and the Groove cloud is no longer being maintained, hundreds, thousands, of connections to each other are lost.

The SemaView site mentions Sherpa Calendar in the context of Napster, as regards its functionality, except that calendaring information is shared rather than music. (We also have to assume the RIAA isn’t out to sue your butt if you use the application.) But Napster is based on the data being stored on the nodes — the end computers, not on the web. (Well, not directly on the wide open Web.) Is it, then, that the calendar data is stored on the individual PCs, only accessible through the Sherpa cloud? If this is so, then ingenous use of RDF/XML or not — this isn’t an application of the Sematic Web. This is just another application of web services.

(Though Tim B-L believes that the Semantic Web is based on functionality such as web services rather than data in context, I don’t agree. And many in the semantic web community wouldn’t, either. )

Without a closer look at how the product works, the documentation only tells me so much so my estimations of how this product functions overall is somewhat guesswork at this moment. When I have access to the product, I’ll do an update.

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Cue the aircraft carrier

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

CNN has an article on the efforts made by President Bush’s keepers of the image. Considering the current state of the economy, I was given pause when I read the following:

The White House efforts have been ambitious and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America’s symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.

The story mentions that during one of the many trips Bush made to St. Louis to speak at a manufacturing plant, his staff covered the “Made in China” words on the genuine boxes in the background and then brought in some fake boxes with “Made in the USA” printed on them. Hard to give a speech on the glowing economy when you’re literally surrounded by the evidence of the increasing, and alarming, offshoring that’s keeping our economy down while companies post record profits.

Of course, this isn’t anything compared to the debacle of Bush’s manufactured photo opportunity aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, including the much shown photo of him in flight suit, strutting across the stage like some form of bantam rooster.

Cockadoodle doo, and here’s my cock, too.

Some may have found Bill Clinton’s escapade with Monica to be an embarrassment to the country, but in my opinion the President playing to soldier in a flight suit beat this hands down. I’m still ashamed every time they show that photo.

Now the focus is on the sign on the ship that read ‘Mission Accomplished”, appearing behind Bush during his speech. Of course, with the increasing number of deaths in Iraq, and the continuing problems in that country, we all knew that the mission was not ‘accomplished’ when the words were first televised. To counter this faux pax, he President and his staff are trying to disavow the sign, with Bush saying I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff – they weren’t that ingenious, by the way. No, this wasn’t the White House’s doing we hear, but even that’s not the truth: supposedly the crew of the ship asked for the sign and the White House was kind enough to provide it.

I keep saying to myself and others, Bush is not America. Bush is not America. We are not like that man and his playing with the media and his deals with his corporate buddies and his My God only religion and his selling America and the World short because he didn’t get to play soldier when he was younger (too busy being AWOL). We are better than that, though it may not seem like this at times. We are more honest than that, though perhaps we’re not as honest with ourselves as we should be.

We are not that gullible I tell people. But then I become afraid that we are.

Just Shelley

Wiccan Barbie

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t normally do the link to major publication/major story thing, but Mark Morford’s Barbie The Hot Pagan Witch is too good to pass up. It would seem that Mattel has now come out with a Wiccan Barbie, though the Wicca may not survive the honor. Mark writes:

Secret Spells Barbie is, despite her potential and much like every one of the 150,000 weird sub-subniche Barbies on the market, entirely pointless and disposable and, unless the girls who end up with her somehow tap into their inner badass witchiness and suddenly get inspired by some divine funky moonscream to rip off Barbie’s arms and paint her hair bright red and tattoo her nipples with a Magic Marker and impale her on a red-hot hair pin and suspend her upside down from a dreamcatcher, well, she does nothing to further the cause of funky gorgeous goddess-thick witchness and nothing to further the cause of earthly luscious pagan interconnectedness or divine feminine power.

Not that she claims to. Not that this was ever Mattel’s point, or Barbie’s raison d’etre, really. And I suppose it’s sort of wildly unfair to hope that Barbie might actually inspire girls beyond the hair-twirling saccharine fetishism of shopping and friends and cars and boys and shopping and money and dye jobs and shopping and fake careerism and shopping.

I was given a Barbie once for Christmas because all little girls back then were given Barbies. I can’t remember the outfits I got to go with the doll, but I soon became very bored with it. All you could do with the doll is put clothes on it, take them off and put other clothes on. What was the fun of that?

True, I did have a time when clothes, and the acts of putting them on and taking them off, were an important part of my life. When I reached puberty and became interested in boys and fitting in (not necessarily in that order) clothes were a part of the process. However, this obsessive interest in wearing the right thing and spending a lot of money on clothes to become this perfect paragon of rightness faded when I hit a certain age and realized that a pair of jeans and a nice cotton shirt lasts forever and feels great. And I don’t think Mattel makes a Barbie with worn jeans and a cotton shirt.

When we were little, we were supposed to use our imaginations and put ourselves into the glamorous world of Barbie, but how could we? The image was as plastic as the doll. I had brown/red hair, not blonde. I had no boobs or hips when I was a kid, and Barbie had no nipples or hair under the arms or in the groin. My imagination could extend to pirates and make believe worlds with white rabbits and cards that talked, but it couldn’t make Barbie into anything I could understand, much less appreciate and seek to emulate.

I gave the doll to my dog to chew. He had much more fun with it than I ever did.


Speaking of spending just to spend, Sheila writes about an eBay auction of Beanie Babies that has some extremely funny comments by the person making the sale. (Jeneane wishes this guy blogged. I want to use his secrets for my own auction – don’t buy these rocks! They’re just rocks!)

But the ultimate in disposable society and spending is covered in Sheila’s story on Disposable DVDs. Want to know why corporate America has us by the (virtual) balls? Disposable DVDs is a hint.