SWIG-UK Special Event: Leigh Dodds, Facet Building Web Pages with SPARQL

You can view the slides from Leigh’s presentation here.

Leigh is CTO at Ingenta. They have built a web framework, called Facet,  for building web applications on top of RDF. In their opinion there was no good system for integrating RDF repositories with an existing web framework  in Java . Although the framework does have some limitations it seems to me that it is quite simple and perhaps even elegant.

It appears that by embracing some limitations in RDF Modelling Leigh has succeeded in building a framework that, on the face of it, provided a fairly flexible means of building web pages from an RDF Repository, and because of way it’s designed and built it lends itself to being integrated very easily into existing templating environments ( JSP, Velocity etc. ).

Leigh was asked several questions by the audience and his answers provided further insight

Question: how do you use this for searching when you get a list of results back?

Answer: Not using this for searching.

Which to me makes perfect sense each of the queries that are configured returns a sub graph, or lens that is effectively a view of data that you can pass to a templating engine for rendering.

Question: Is the schema annotation mechanism for a known data set rather than in general?

Answer: yes its application specific and configurable at application level.

Again I thought Leigh had made this clear during the presentation and therefore should have been obvious. Whilst some might consider this to a limitation, I wouldn’t necessarily view it as such.

Question: have you considered how your framework might work with Rich Clients, Ajax etc?

Answer: That’s why they support JSON output. Only currently doing basic AJAX lookups at the moment.

This is one of the features of the framework that does pique my interest, as we move more and more towards building richer client interfaces on the web there is an expectation that web frameworks and web services should support outputting data in JSON. At the moment our Platform doesn’t formally support this, but it is something we are definitely intending to do.

It makes sense to provide data back to the client in the format they need it rather than a fixed format that the application then has to process and convert. I’ve seen the problem when building desktop widgets, whilst XML is great and portable, most widget frameworks are based on ecmascript and understand JSON natively so wouldn’t it be nicer if web services would return JSON.

Anyway ldodds++ 🙂

Question: Will you open source it?

Answer: Hopefully, it will be, need to be dis-entangled but wanted to share the ideas here today so people can get a sense of the value.

I’m hoping that they do, I’d like to have a play around with the framework and possibly even extend it.

All in all I was actually pretty impressed with Leigh’s talk, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Facet.