Web 3.0 101: Semantic Web Resources for the Beginner

by Aaron Bradley on March 11, 2011

in Semantic Web

Web 3.0 101 - Semantic Web Resources for the Beginner

Since it was released in May 2010, many posts and articles introducing the semantic web have embedded or linked to the film Web 3.0: A Doc, by Kate Ray.  For those who are seeking a baseline understanding of web 3.0 mechanics, however, I think there are videos, presentations and web pages that do a better job of explaining the core concepts and technologies of the semantic web.  Don't get me wrong:  the Ray film is an interesting, informative and compellingly-presented video, and you should definitely check it out.  But if your initial incursions into the world of the semantic web include the questions "how does it work?" or "how do I get me some?" then there's some really excellent resources out there that will go a long way to answering those questions in short order.

Intro to the Semantic Web

Manu Sporny's 2007 video, awash in stick figures, is for my money still the best video introduction to the semantic web for the layman.  This will be six minutes and seven seconds of your life well spent.

Web 3.0: The Semantic Web

Hatem Mahmoud's presentation starts with a history of web technologies, clearly defines some key terminology relevant to Web 3.0, and then provides a excellent walk-through of different semantic web structures.  Particulary strong in describing the main microformats and showing examples of their use.

From the Semantic Web to the Web of Data: Ten Years of Linking Up

Davide Palmisano's presentation is more somewhat more technical than Mahmoud's, but this is to be expected as he delves deeper into Web 3.0 technologies.  Fantastic handling of the semantic web acroynm stew, starting with a really solid explanation of RDF, followed by a brief overview of each of the core technologies related to RDF:  RDFSchema, OWL, RDFa and SPARQL.

An Intro To The Semantic Web: Why You Need To Know About It Sooner Than Later

An excellent one-pager from Samantha Wong and Richard Howlett, including some links to other beginner resources.

Taxonomy Made Easy: An Introduction to Taxonomy for the Accidental Taxonomist

If you're interested in the formal categorization of digital information (and you should be – really!), you'll do no better than this splendid introduction by Heather Hedden.  An in-depth, but very accessible, overview of core taxonomic concepts.  Controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, thesauri, controlled vocabularies, ontologies:  they're all here.

Introduction to: Linked Data

Linked Data: An Introduction

Both great linked data introductions.  The first, from New Tech Post, is a concise overview in Q&A format, and concludes with a brief, linked glossary.  The second, by Juan Sequeda, contains a brief list of four linked data principles that is priceless – you'd also do well to check out his Introduction to: RDF.

I'll stop here:  if you're new to Web 3.0 and have gone through all the resources above, you're virtually an expert by now!  You'll find more beginner resources in my list of semantic web bookmarks (though be warned I don't keep on top of curating these as much as I should).  If you have any other resources you'd like to recommend, please do so in the comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joel April 21, 2012 at 7:09 am

Hi Aaron
I have spent the past few hours reading through all of this detail and it is really interesting. The big thing for me is that there is potentially a good opportunity here for SEO’s but I have never previously heard about it; and i read a lot of the good blogs in the industry.
One question I have is that it seems like a pretty labour intensive task to add semantic markup to web pages.
Am I right in thinking that for a small business it would be difficult to justify the time taken to do this for the likely benefits gained?
Also what is the best way to define the mark up that most suits a particular site and then how should you go about practically implementing it?
You may have posts covering this already so sorry if I missed them – I kind of started at the beginning and am halfway through but these questions started to niggle.

Reply

2 Aaron Bradley April 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hi Joel,

Thanks for your comment.

Whether or not adding structured markup pages is too arduous for a small business – or whether the time required is justified – depends on the nature of the small business, and the depth of that small business site.

Inputting basic information about the business (see schema.org/LocalBusiness) isn’t hard to justify, as its critical information (location, telephone numbers, opening hours and the like) that will potentially be displayed in all sorts of search locations and, of course, is made available to any and all parsers that come along (unlike, say, a third-party directory. And for the pages it needs to appear no it need not be that hard a task (there’s rarely head-scratchers in play for local business information unlike, say, products).

In fact, in some ways it’s more imperative for a small business (well, if a “local” business) to add structured markup it would be for a bigger organization or business.

Not precisely sure what you mean by the “best way to define the mark up” – if you mean what you should be marking up, look at which rich snippets Google is now supporting, and the schema.org types (not just those related to small businesses either).

Hope this helps!

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3 Joel April 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Hi Aaron
Thanks for getting back to me on my questions. I found the Microgenerator tool through a link on another one of your posts comments and read a bit more there so now understand pretty much how it is supposed to work.
If you do not mind I have another question; should the markup for a local business go on every page of a website so that all pages are related to the location or does it just need to go on the homepage to achieve this?
Regarding the “best way to define the mark up” – yes, that is what i meant – i have also now found out more about the types of supported rich snippets. I have a client who sells about 1000 products (wholesaler of promotional products) so I thought that perhaps I could use the tool on the Microgenerator site to generate the snippet for one product and then use Excel to vary for every other product in their site. I could then work with their developer on the best way to get that into their CMS.
Do you have any posts on the practicalities of the implementation of schema.org product snippets across a large site?
This client has a large site but are a small business so do not have great resources and my skills really lie on link building rather than on page SEO – although I am keen to address that.
Do you implement this kind of thing for clients and if so what are the typical costs – pls email me seperately?

Reply

4 Aaron Bradley April 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

Hi Joel,

Regarding your question about local businesses, I’d say that the markup should go on all pages. This will help Google et al. help identify the business as the entity as closely associated with the site in general, rather than a page or two specifically. Obviously you’re not going to have all properties on all pages, but I’d be as thorough as you could.

Regarding your “best way to define markup” I think you’re absolutely on the right path here: markup a template and pass it over to developers for integration into the platform. As this is simply marked up HTML I would find using Excel an extra layer of unnecessary work – but whatever works for you.

Be aware that ecommerce platforms are starting to integrate either schema.org or GoodRelationship markups into their products now, either natively or in the form of an extension. For example there’s a GoodRelations module available for Pretashop, and a schema.org plugin available for Magento. On the CMS side there’s a schema.org module available for Drupal 7, and several people have been working on a schema.org extension for WordPress (none yet, to my mind, satisfactorily – I’ll certainly ping the world when a robust, working plugin becomes available).

There’s no posts kicking around on broad-based schema.org product implementations of which I’m aware. There’s code examples on the GoodRelations site, though, for that particular flavor of structured markup, as well as examples of implementations in the wild.

Sorry – thanks for your inquiry, but have my hands full with an in-house job these days. :)

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