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Community & Business Groups

Web Observatory Community Group

The sister organisation of W3C, the Web Science Trust ( 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.

Group's public email, repo and wiki activity over time

Note: Community Groups are proposed and run by the community. Although W3C hosts these conversations, the groups do not necessarily represent the views of the W3C Membership or staff.

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A slide for November 16th f2f Meeting, Boston

Hi – this is a key scoping slide from the presentations I’ve given at Web Observatory Workshops this year which I thought I’d circulate now ahead of tomorrow’s discussions about the scope and ambition of the group – it distinguishes between the Web as a lens, the Web as the observed artefact itself, and the Web as an infrastructure for data publishing and an analytic community.

My presentation from the Microsoft Faculty Summit workshop is also available

Latest talks at November 16th f2f Meeting, Boston

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 (

Also, Craig Gallen from the Web Science Trust will present a strawman “Web Observatory Product Specification”

— Dave

Reminder: November 16th f2f Meeting, Boston

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 Please circulate this message to colleagues and we look forward to seeing you there!

— Dave

November 16th f2f Meeting, Boston

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

I look forward to meeting many of you in Boston and do have a lovely weekend.


F2F meeting Nov 16 draft agenda

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 [1] 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.

9am    coffee and remote access setup (please call in)
9.30 Welcome, introductions, objectives and plan for the day – David De Roure and Wendy Hall
10.00 Background and report on related meetings – David De Roure
10.15 Case Studies of existing observatories (inc. WSTNet labs)
11.00 coffee
11.30 Social Machines – Nigel Shadbolt
12.00 Discussion on use of observatories and prep for afternoon
12.30 lunch
1.30 Web Observatory Product Specification strawman – Craig Gallen
2pm Breakouts leading to description of W3C community group activity
3pm Report back and discussion
3.30 Planning and next steps
4pm meeting close

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.

— Dave


F2F meeting Nov 16 remote access

Dear Remote Web Observers,

We’ve booked a webex meeting for Nov 16 so that people can join remotely by phone (or online) and additionally we will be using Skype.

The webex details are below – follow the links to get the toll-free number for your country. My skype id is davidderoure

NB We asked about using the W3C conferencing facility (which some of you will be familiar with) but unfortunately it isn’t available to community groups.

— Dave

To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
1. Go to
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: observatory
4. Click “Join”.

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:

To join the audio conference only
To receive a call back, provide your phone number when you join the meeting, or call the number below and enter the access code.
Call-in toll-free number (UK): 0800-051-3810
Call-in toll-free number (US): 1-855-299-5224
Call-in toll number (UK): +44-20-310-64804
Call-in toll number (US): +1 631 267 4890
Global call-in numbers:
Toll-free dialing restrictions:

Access code:956 289 717

F2F meeting Nov 16 location confirmed

Dear Web Observers

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 [1].

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.

We look forward to seeing you in Boston!

— Dave


Initial Discussions at WWW2012

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!