Book Review: The Social Semantic Web

The Social Semantic Web by Breslin, J.G., Passant, A., Decker, S.,

ISBN: 978-3-642-01171-9

The Social Semantic Web is, as one would expect, another book on the Semantic Web. This book provides an easy-to-understand insight into Semantic Web and Social Web technologies and highlights research challenges when applying these technologies. The Social Web is defined as the Web where users can share content, discuss, collaborate and meet online. In recent years, Social Web services such as Facebook, del.ici.us, Digg, Wikipedia and other online platforms that thrive on user input have attracted millions of users as well as significant investment. Hence, the Social Web plays an important role in today’s online communities. Semantic Web technologies attempt to understand the semantics, i.e. the meaning of information. The main argument of the book is that these technologies can match diverse person- to object-oriented data which can be extracted from the Social Web, hence improving the way information is processed and utilised.

After dedicating one chapter to introducing essential techniques for the Social Web such as RSS, AJAX and others, the authors briefly introduce the idea and common technologies of the Semantic Web. Having established the terminology and existing technologies, the authors proceed to illustrate in eight chapters, the application areas, in which, semantics are enhancing the Social Web. These include applications that support online discussions (Blogs, Twitter, Semantic MicroBlogging,…), knowledge and information sharing (Wikis, Semantic Wikis, DBpedia,…), multimedia sharing (Flickr, Podcasts, Music Ontologies,…), social tagging (Falksonomies, tagging applications using Semantic Web technologies,…), social sharing of software (DOAP), social networks (FOAF, Facebook,…), interlinking online communities (SIOC) and social web applications in enterprises (“Enterprise 2.0”). In the final chapter, the authors conclude by discussing opportunities and challenges that lead the way towards a Social Semantic Web. Opportunities include the possibility to have semantically-enriched information that allow for automatic enrichment of user content. Challenges that need to be addressed are, for example, to improve methods that ease the automatic and manual generation of such semantic data, as well as privacy concerns.

As above list reveals, the book addresses the topic by introducing well-known online services that most readers should be familiar with, as well as less popular services. Some aspects are directly related to the authors’ own research, who are all affiliated with the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway. Each chapter outlines the historical development and impact of the different applications, e.g., by providing the number of active bloggers in the Blogosphere or the percentage of all internet traffic which is caused by users watching online video. They therefore also rely on non-scientific resources such as Blogs, Newspaper articles and other websites to provide up-to-date stats or refer to various statements, e.g. given by company CEOs. Furthermore, each chapter provides a literature survey which provides an introduction state-of-the-art research from the domain. The book provides a good overview of this emerging field and can be of interest for those, who consider using any of these Social Web applications in their research as well as those just want to get a solid foundation on the topic. I therefore agree with the authors that IT professionals, researchers, academics and graduate students can all benefit from reading this book.

About Frank Hopfgartner
Frank Hopfgartner

Frank Hopfgartner is lecturer at Technische Universität Berlin and director of the Competence Center Information Retrieval & Machine Learning at DAI Lab. He holds a PhD in Information Retrieval from the University of Glasgow. After his PhD, he worked as researcher in Dublin, Berkeley and London, respectively. So far, he has published over 50 papers in peer-reviewed books, international journals, conferences (e.g., VLDB, ACM MM, ECIR) and workshops with a main research focus on the evaluation of adaptive information retrieval systems, concept based retrieval and the automated evaluation of interactive information retrieval systems. Frank served as program committee member of international conferences and workshops (e.g., WWW, ACM SIGIR), as well as frequent reviewer for established journals (e.g., Multimedia Tools and Applications, Behaviour and Information Technology Journal, Human-Computer Studies) and conferences (e.g., CHI, CIKM, JCDL). He was involved in the organisation of conferences, workshops (e.g., at UMAP, IIiX) and a summer school on multimedia semantics (SSMS'07).