SWAD-Europe Deliverable 3.16: Final Workshop Report

Project name:
Semantic Web Advanced Development for Europe (SWAD-Europe)
Project Number:
Workpackage name:
3 Dissemination and Implementation
Workpackage description:
Deliverable title:
3.16 Final Workshop Report
Libby Miller, Dan Brickley
This report summarises the SWAD-Europe Final Workshop "Friend of a Friend, Social Networking and the Semantic Web", held 1-2 September 2004 in Galway, Ireland.
Completed - 29 September 2004.



  1. Introduction and Background
  2. Workshop
  3. Outcomes
  4. Conclusions

Appendix A: Evaluation



1 Introduction and Background

This report is part of the SWAD-Europe project Work package 3: Dissemination and Implementation.

The final workshop of the SWAD-Europe project was on the topic of FOAF, Social Networking and the Semantic Web. It was on a larger scale than previous SWAD-Europe workshops (103 attendees), and was co-organised with DERI in Galway, Ireland. This document provides an overview of the workshop themes and programme, summarises the post-workshop evaluation and possible future work at W3C in this area. See the workshop website for full details of the programme and other supporting materials.

The FOAF (Friend of a Friend) project explores a unique combination of themes from social networking, search engines, knowledge representation and software development. FOAF was designed as a practical experiment that would highlight the technical, social and business challenges raised by the next generation of "Semantic" Web technology. Over the past few years, the FOAF developer community has been working on standards-based techniques for publishing and harvesting machine-readable descriptions of people, the links between them, and the things they create and do. The working assumption of the project is that such techniques will underpin the deployment of the next generation of Web technology, W3C's "Semantic Web". The FOAF project was created in the expectation that these machine-readable descriptions will grow, as the Semantic Web platform matures, to cover companies, organisations, documents, groups, products, file sharing and many other aspects of life, both online and off. The time has come to evaluate these assumptions in the context of the opportunities and challenges presented by the rise of FOAF and the Semantic Web.

Social networking is a recent topic gaining much interest and publicity. Social networking sites are community sites where users can maintain an online network of friends or associates for social or business purposes: whether looking for a job, reconnecting with old friends, moving to a new area, or dating. Most of these sites are based on a centralised architecture: all users' descriptions are stored in one big database. There is, however, growing user and business interest in portability between such sites, and for sophisticated "single sign-on" mechanisms that reduce the need for data re-entry, while allowing users to manifest different aspects of themselves in different contexts. FOAF-based import/export allows such sites to address user demand for control of "their" data; however, many deployment, privacy, authentication and engineering issues have not yet been fully explored. To what extent do mechanisms such as FOAF change the environment they attempt to describe? How can the visibility of personal data be restricted to certain audiences? How can businesses make money when their customers can migrate to new services with increased ease?

2. Workshop

This workshop on FOAF, social networking and the Semantic Web provided a first chance to discuss the unusual combination of perspectives - academic and scientific, engineering, social, legal and business - drawn together by these trends. The workshop brought together for the first time researchers interested in the effects, analysis and application of social networks on the (Semantic) Web as well as practitioners building applications and infrastructure. The workshop also created, in effect, a snapshot of current developments, and was helpful in exploring a roadmap for the future of both FOAF and social networking - especially in the context of the Semantic Web and standardisation.

Topics solicited in the call for participation (and covered in the papers) included:

3. Outcomes

The workshop was held over two days in Galway, and (see evaluation in Appendix A) was generally considered to be very successful. It brought together researchers, business people, opensource developers, and allowed for both formal academic-style presentations as well as more informal, self-determined collaborative breakout sessions.

16 Full Papers and 27 Position Papers were accepted for the workshop, and are available from the workshop web site.

Full Papers

Position Papers

The workshop programme included 11 of these papers, in 30 and 15 minute time slots, as well as three breakout sessions and a panel on the theme of "I want my data back", which drew together some of the business and technical concerns associated with FOAF-like technology.

4. Conclusions

The workshop exceeded our expectations in many ways. It was generally considered by attendees to have been enjoyable, educational and productive. Within the SWAD-Europe project, discussions at the workshop have helped us tie together some themes from different workpackages. In a W3C context, practical discussions at the workshop have fed into the Semantic Web Best Practices WG, in particular the new Task Force on RDF/SW Vocabulary Management. The success of the workshop has also prompted some discussions within W3C about the possibility for beginning standards-track work in the areas covered by the workshop. At the time of writing, this is under active investigation. Themes from the workshop have also been followed up in the context of the W3C Semantic Web Interest Group (SWIG), and in the FOAF project itself. In this way, the SWAD-Europe final workshop measures up well against the original goals of the project, which sought to establish and support grassroots communities whose efforts could feed into more formal standardisation efforts.

Appendix A: Evaluation

We used the ILRT's BOS [BOS] system to gather information from the workshop participants. The participants were asked eight questions:

44 people responded out of a possible total of 103. The majority of the attendees who responded self-described as 'education' (60.5%) with the largest other group being "Industry" (27.9%), and 9.3% as "Open Source Developers". There were no "Content providers" and one person described themselves as being in "standardisation"

Of the respondents, attendees were based in 14 countries: Ireland (14), UK (10), USA (6), Japan (2), Austria (2), Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Russia, Spain (all 1)

Overall the workshop was rated very highly with 46.5% rating it reasonably useful and 48.8% very useful, 41 people in total.

There were some practical suggestions for improvement, in particular the usefulness of the breakout sessions seemed quite varied. Most people found them useful, but comments also included:

However the opportunity to meet and talk fairly informally and in small groups was appreciated:

There were varied responses to the papers; comments included

A selection of 'other' comments:


SWAD-Europe Final Workshop Call for Papers
SWAD-Europe Final Workshop list of accepted papers
SWAD-Europe Final Workshop Programme
Bristol Online Surveys (BOS)