in RDF, Semantic Web

Feature requests for a vocabulary editor

I have been searching for quite a while now and apparently there is a missing piece of software waiting to be made. If you are working with RDF data in any way you have probably created a vocabulary using OWL and/or RDF schema sometime. This works well for all technologists out there but in my world vocabularies should be created by domain experts rather than developers. Domain experts do not know OWL or RDF schema.

Hence, there is a need for a simple vocabulary editor that allows domain experts to create a vocabulary without knowing the innards of semantic web technologies. I had a discussion with an IT-strategist from a large government authority today and we agreed that a tool like this would greatly benefit the use of controlled vocabularies in the public sector.

I am thinking of a web based wiki-like tool with the following features/use cases:

  1. A domain expert can create a new vocabulary and enter some data about it in a form.
  2. A domain export can create a term in a vocabulary by completing a simple web-based form.
  3. Users can browse the vocabulary.
  4. One or more domain experts can discuss a term on the same page where the information about it is displayed (this makes it easier to find previous decisions about term definitions etc).
  5. The tool uses proper URL:s in view mode that corresponds to the actual URI:s for the terms.
  6. The tool responds to accept headers and do proper redirects in order to behave like a normal published vocabulary.
  7. A user can export the entire vocabulary as RDF/XML, n3 and PDF (for reading in text form and sending the vocabulary to someone else).
  8. The tool provides a page where relations between terms and concepts are visualized in a graph.
  9. The tool should be simple to install on a cheap web host (maybe only requiring PHP and mysql).

What features are missing in your opinion? Depending on how hot the south of France is this summer I may give it a shot sometime in august. Ideas are welcome…

  1. I want it too! I’ll come back to check on this entry later, in the hope that someone enters a comment that points to an answer.

  2. i like the way the question is phrased. it talks explicitly about “controlled vocabularies”, so there really is no need to refer to RDF (you can if you want to, but that’s a much bigger and more complicated gun than you will ever need). in the world of vocabularies, there are controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, thesauri, and ontologies. most people don’t really need anything more complicated than taxonomies, anything beyond that not only is very hard to build, it is even even harder to maintain and to understand.

    we just looked a bit at the state of affairs when it comes to defining vocabularies (here is my blog post advertising our article), and it’s true that there is a lack of tools, so people often fallback to the few tools available, which are complex and complicated.

    i do agree that there is a lack of good support for the humble vocabularies most users want to create. have you looked at the available tools for topic maps? i don’t know a lot about these, but maybe they offer some of these features. but then again, they’re probably not free…

    building something according to you wish list really should not be too hard, i guess the hard part in a way would be to just stick to these and not to say “and while we’re at it, let’s add all these semantic web things as well.” that being said, such a tool of course could and should easily export everything as RDF/XML, N3, DTD, XML Schema, CSV, PDF, HTML, and many other formats – there are only few data formats that can not somehow represent controlled vocabularies, i guess.

  3. Peter, have a look at Neologism. It’s designed to do exactly what you asked for. It’s still very much in alpha, but already supports all your requirements except #4 and PDF export. We currently aim mostly at users who already have some RDF background, but if that free time in August comes along for you, please get in touch and tell us how we can improve the learning curve!

  4. A key part of maintaining a vocabulary is some sort of version control. I want to know what has changed in the vocabulary since last time I looked at it. For me, that’s a key component of the tool you describe.

  5. The Neologism Drupal module makes some of the things that you describe already possible: you can create vocabularies, classes and properties in the same way as creating pages, blog posts etc, and the vocabulary will be instantly online. It is implemented for Drupal and using CCK, which gives you a lot of freedom in extending this, and in creating a nice workflow for the vocabulary author/editor.

  6. Hey, did you get any where with this idea?… I think its exactly what I’m looking for. As a “domain” expert having to try and cram on semantic web technologies this would really speed things along…

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