Calendars and the Semantic Web

Libby Miller, 2003-01-14

written for re:search; I don't know if it will be published there.

"The bane of my existence is doing things that I know the computer could do for me." -- Dan Connolly, 'XML Revolution'.

Preparation for meetings and conferences involves answering multiple questions about the event (when does the meeting start? when's lunch? what time's my flight?) but also about people (who's going to be at the meeting? what do they look like? what have they written? have I met them before?), places (where is the conference? where's the nearest tube, airport, station? where's the nearest good Japanese restaurant? where's my hotel?), related documents, webpages and so on.

In October 2002 ILRT hosted a workshop on the 'Semantic Web and Calendaring' as part of the EU-funded 'Semantic Web Advanced Development in Europe' project. The aim was to show how the Semantic Web will be useful for answering these sorts of questions.

RDF (Resource Description Framework) is a W3C Semantic Web specification that enables anyone to create a vocabulary that describes anything. Vocabularies created by different communities can be combined in a text-based file format to provide rich descriptions of things like events, people and documents.

Much of this information is already made available on the web for humans to process; RDF versions of documents make the information machine-processible, by structuring it as uniquely identified types of things (meetings, conferences, people, webpages), their relations and properties (times and dates, names, creators), and specific instances of them (me, Bob, that particular staff meeting). The more information is available as RDF, the more that software can help with admininstrative legwork (where do I go for this meeting?), and also be used for more interesting applications (who do I want to meet at this conference?).

The workshop produced many usage scenarios and ongoing collaboration on a vocabulary for RDF based on the IETF iCalendar standard.

More information: http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/