The sister organisation of W3C, the Web Science Trust (www.webscience.org) proposes to create a global "Web Observatory". The Open Data movement and the Transparency Agenda are successfully advocating the release of very large institutional and commercial data sets describing social phenomena, economic indicators and geographic trends. This proliferation of data represents great opportunity for researchers and industry but this data abundance also threatens to make it ever more difficult to locate, analyse, compare and interpret useful information in a consistent and reliable way; a situation which can only get worse unless we can help stakeholders perform useful analysis rather than drowning in a sea of data. The Web Observatory will offer an institutional framework to promote the use of W3C and other standards in the development of; Semantic Catalogues to globally locate existing data sets, Collection Systems to gather new global data sets, and Analytics Tools and methodologies to analyse these data sets. This community group seeks to articulate the business and technical requirements for the Web Observatory.
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In addition to the introductory talks I’m pleased to talks by colleagues from Singapore, Koblenz and Indiana:
Prof Tat-Seng Chua from the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be speaking about the work of the NExT Center, a joint Center between NUS and Tsinghua University of China which focuses on gathering and analysing user generated contents. See IEEE MultiMedia 19(3): 81-87 (2012)
Steffen Staab from University of Koblenz-Landau! Will be presenting WOW, a registry based on a semantic mediawiki.
Karissa McKelvey from the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at Indiana University will be presenting from the Truthy team (http://truthy.indiana.edu/)
Also, Craig Gallen from the Web Science Trust will present a strawman “Web Observatory Product Specification”
Hi – a reminder that our our Web Observatory face to face meeting is on Friday 16 in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel (4th floor, Charles River Room) and starts with coffee at 9am (that’s 14:00 GMT). This is an open meeting and remote access is available – more details on http://www.w3.org/community/webobservatory/ Please circulate this message to colleagues and we look forward to seeing you there!
Hello Web Observatory members. As you may have seen from Dave’s previous posts, my name is Megan Meredith-Lobay and I will be handling logistics for the Web Observatory F2F meeting on the 16th of November.
The meeting will be at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, 4th floor, Charles River Room and will be billed as “Oxford Digital Social Research, Web Observatory”. If you are planning on attending in person, please do email me as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to meeting many of you in Boston and do have a lovely weekend.
Here is the provisional schedule for the Web Observatory meeting on November 16. Please note that this is an open meeting and we encourage you to circulate this information  to colleagues. As we have some participants calling in from Europe we have scheduled the presentations in the morning and breakout discussion sessions in the afternoon.
coffee and remote access setup (please call in)
Welcome, introductions, objectives and plan for the day – David De Roure and Wendy Hall
Background and report on related meetings – David De Roure
Case Studies of existing observatories (inc. WSTNet labs)
Social Machines – Nigel Shadbolt
Discussion on use of observatories and prep for afternoon
Web Observatory Product Specification strawman – Craig Gallen
Breakouts leading to description of W3C community group activity
Report back and discussion
Planning and next steps
Please contact me or our meeting organiser Megan Meredith-Lobay if you wish to present a case study or any other aspects of Web Observatories.
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The Web Observatory Face to Face meeting on Friday November 16 will be held at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, i.e. the same location as ISWC 2012 .
This will be an all day meeting and is important as it is the first public meeting of the community group – the objective is information sharing and discussion to provide coherent scope and focus, and establishing concrete next steps.
The meeting will start with an overview of various discussions that have occurred in various meetings in recent months and will include presentations from stakeholders – so we’re very keen to hear from you if you’d like to speak at the meeting. The draft meeting agenda and materials will be published on Tuesday.
Save the date! We’re planning a Web Observatory Community Group face-to-face meetup on Friday November 16th, immediately after the ISWC conference  which finishes on Thursday Nov 15th. The meeting will be in Boston (we’re booking a room at the moment) – watch this space.
What is an observatory and what is being observed? Whether you’re a Web Scientist studying the evolving sociotechnical web or a Social Scientist studying people through their digital interactions, the observatory is about facilitating the use and re-use of data about people’s interactions with the Web. There are useful analogies with other forms of observatory. An astronomical observatory is a shared facility which produces flows of data that are distributed and used by many astronomers, with established practices about data sharing and standards to facilitate this. Some observatories (like CERN) are also spaces where researchers are collocated.
We need to consider all observatory stakeholders. Researchers want to be able to discover observed datasets and to be able to reuse them, and then to be able to correlate with other data (i.e. discovery, reuse, linking). Data providers stand to benefit from the analysis of data. An observatory can be seen as a new “intermediary”, a kind of data commons, where providers can place data and others find data for analysis. But commons is perhaps the wrong word: business models and incentive structures are evolving e.g. we are already seeing some monetization of observed data.
To achieve this there are multiple levels of description required, and hence potential standards: how do we describe an observatory, a dataset and a data flow? This will include description of use policies. Since our ambition is to facilitate discovery and reuse, to this end analyses could also be shared; i.e. the community would benefit from the sharing of the methods of analysis as well as sharing the observed data and the results, because that way we exchange know-how and build new capacity as observers.
The Community Group will start by identifying existing observatories and hence current practice, and will then establish use cases in order to focus discussions. Hence we would like existing observatories to be represented, as well as the various stakeholders suggested above. At this stage it would be very useful if everyone could encourage participation in the group so that we can embark on this exercise in a well informed way, so please do mention the Community Group in your talks and interactions. We will shortly invite members to introduce themselves on the group web page and, as appropriate, summarise their observatories and observatory needs.
The Web Observatory Panel at WWW2012 today (part of the Web Science day) will doubtless bring further insights!