As (one version of) its name implies (“Really Simple Syndication”), RSS is an excellent way to get your content out to the feed consuming public (people or systems). However, since it is so generic, it has its limitations. When you see an RSS feed, how do you know what it is? Did it come from a blog, a bulletin board, a news site, your aunt’s recipe site, a bookmarks list or a set of recently updated photos? Apart from an analysis of the “generator” string, the proposed RSS 3.0 doesn’t easily solve this existing problem. How is content related to other content? Have there been any replies or comments on this content? Is item 1 a reply to item 2?
For my part, I’m interested in content that comes from online community discussions: blogs, mailing lists, bulletin boards, newsgroups – something where one person makes a post on a ‘forum’ and someone replies to that post.
Researchers in our Semantic Web cluster at DERI, NUI Galway have been working on an open specification for describing communities using online discussion forums, leading to what Ryan King and others term “distributed conversations”.
The result is SIOC, standing for Semantically-Interconnected Online Communities.
The initial version of our SIOC specification has been drafted. It can be used in on its own (having a complete set of terms) or in conjunction with other RDF formats such as RSS 1.0 (and 1.1).
At the moment, online communities are islands that are not interlinked, and the SIOC ontology has been proposed to not only link these communities but to leverage data in ways that were previously unknown.
While there are many (useful) classes and properties in SIOC, it can essentially be boiled down to: Users create Posts that are contained in Forums that are hosted on Sites, e.g.
Site -> host_of -> Forum -> container_of -> Post -> has_creator -> User
Posts have reply Posts, and Forums can be parents of other Forums.
In terms of producing metadata, we’ve started with SIOC exporters for open-source discussion systems such as WordPress and Drupal / CivicSpace, and more are on the way. We’d also love to get input from creators of other community discussion systems. Thanks.