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SKOS Use Case: The Semantic Web Environmental Directory

From: Alistair Miles <a.j.miles@rl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2006 16:43:01 +0000
Message-ID: <45535A95.3030802@rl.ac.uk>
To: public-swd-wg@w3.org, public-esw-thes@w3.org

Hi all,

Here's a first draft of a use case describing SWED <http://www.swed.org.uk> ...

SKOS Use Case: The Semantic Web Environmental Directory (SWED)

  - Introduction

The Semantic Web Environmental Directory (SWED) [1] is a web-based directory of organisations and projects in the United 
Kingdom, whose business has something to do with the natural environment - an online "Who's who in the environment" [2].

SWED is a proof of concept demonstration, aiming to create a sustainable and scalable web-based system for building and 
maintaining Community Information Resources (portals) [3]. The system is intended to overcome many of the limitations 
and problems with more traditional and current approaches - see project requirements specification [4].

Key goals of the SWED project include:

     * improved sustainability
     * ease of maintenance
     * enabling easy reuse of information

These goals are made possible by using a Semantic Web based approach. This approach means that the directory member 
organisations publish, own and control their own information. This information is then harvested and collated by SWED to 
produce a directory Web site.

Essentially the SWED directory provides a view of the data, that is brought together from across the Web. This 'self 
publishing' or data harvesting approach means that others can also harvest and collate the information and provide 
different views (e.g. a specialist directory containing only a small subset of the organisations) and enrich the 
information by adding their own additional information (e.g. what specialist services or resources organisations 
provide) [3].

  - Functionality

The main purpose of SWED is to enable visitors to the site to find organisations and projects matching particular 
characteristics. For example, a visitor might be looking for projects whose topic of interest is the welfare of captive 
animals; or organisations that are not-for-profit; or organisations whose activities include forestry and whose 
operational area includes the south west of England.

The SWED interface provides search and browse functionality. When browsing the directory, the user is initially 
presented with six groups of options, entitled, "Topic of interest", "Organisation type", "Activity", "Project type", 
"Operational area" and "Name". Each of these groups corresponds to a particular characteristic of an environmental 
organisation or project. By selecting an option from within one of these groups (e.g. by selecting "Archaelogy" from 
within the "Topic of interest" group) the user creates a "filter", which is used to present a list of results 
corresponding to only those organisations or projects that match for the given characteristic [A].

Once presented with a set of results, the user may "refine" or "narrow down" their search in one of two ways:

(1) If there are more specific options for the current filter then one of these may be chosen, which updates the filter 
and causes a new, smaller, set of results to be displayed. E.g. if the user begins browsing by selecting "Animal 
Welfare" from the "Topic of interest" group, the user may then choose one of the more specific options "Captive animals 
(Welfare of)" or "Wild Animals (Welfare of)" from within the same group.

(2) Another option from within any of the groups may be added to the current filter. E.g. A user might begin browsing by 
selecting "Not for Profit" from within the "Organisation type" group, and then select "Campaigning and Lobbying" from 
within the "Activity" group. Or E.g. A user might begin browsing by selecting "Built Environment" from the "Topic of 
interest" group and then select "Biodiversity" also from the "Topic of interest" group.

Note that options may be iteratively refined, added or removed from the current filter within a browsing session, 
provided that the action will yield at least one result.

Note also that results are displayed if they match the current filter, or if they match any of the possible 
specialisations of the current filter. For example, an organisation that describes its topic of interest as "Fossil 
Fuels" will appear in the results for a filter on the option "Energy" in the "Topic of interest" group. Whether a result 
matches directly or indirectly does not affect the ranking of results.

Note also that browsing may be combined with free text searching. I.e. at any time a user may enter a free text query, 
and search for textual matches in the entire directory or only within the currently selected results.

  - Vocabularies

There are 5 distinct controlled vocabularies used within the SWED system, one vocabulary for describing each of the 
"Topic of interest", "Organisation type", "Activity", "Project type" and "Operational area" characteristics. (The "Name" 
characteristic is uncontrolled).

The controlled vocabularies for the first four of these characteristics all conform to the following structural 

Each of the meaningful units (i.e. concepts) of a vocabulary is identified by a URI reference (e.g. 
<http://www.swed.org.uk/2004/06/swed_toi#developing_world>), has a single human-readable label in English (E.g. 
"Developing World") and may have a scope note or general comment which is a string of text written in English.

Hierarchical relationships may be asserted between meaningful units, and any one unit may have more than one hierarchy 
parent (i.e. the structure may be poly-hierarchical). Hierarchical relationships do not uniformly correspond to a single 
logical relationship, such as class/instance or class subsumption. Some examples of the hierarchical structure in the 
"Topic of interest" vocabulary are given below, with indentations indicating a hierarchical relationship.

   Biodiversity surveys
   Trade Unions
   Fossil Fuels
   Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering
     Genetically Modified Food

The RDF representation of the vocabularies, as currently used by the SWED portal, may be obtained from the SWED 
Technical Resources page [5].

  - Notes

[A] This type of functionality is sometimes known as "faceted browsing". However, note that the terms "facet" and 
"faceted" can have significantly different connotations, especially in the context of the structure and application of 
controlled vocabularies, and should be used with great care. See also 

  - References

[1] http://www.swed.org.uk
[2] http://www.swed.org.uk/swed/servlet/Entry?action=v
[3] http://www.swed.org.uk/swed/about/index.htm
[4] http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/reports/requirements_demo_2/
[5] http://www.swed.org.uk/swed/swed_technical_resources.htm

Alistair Miles
Research Associate
CCLRC - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Building R1 Room 1.60
Fermi Avenue
Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
United Kingdom
Web: http://purl.org/net/aliman
Email: a.j.miles@rl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445440
Received on Thursday, 9 November 2006 16:43:46 UTC

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