Ben Campbell, the MST’s web development guru, on how Journalisted could become the linked data resource for UK journalists – and why it matters.
Identity is important these days. With the global internet, it’s important to be able to identify the people and things that you are talking about. Is your blog post about Fred Bloggs the renowned Rocket Surgeon, Fred Bloggs the late 19th century purveyor of fine medicinal cures or Fred Bloggs the punk rock band from Scunthorpe?
Linking to an authoritative page about your subject is always a good way to be precise about what you’re talking about.
When you start getting into Linked Data, these unique URLs become even more important. They are the strands by which you can weave together data from many disparate sources. For a great example of this, try the BBC’s Wildlife Finder, which draws in data from Wikipedia, the WWF, the BBC video archive, the IUCN and the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, among others.
So, to identify people, where should you link to?
- Wikipedia has become a really good de-facto URL authority for anyone (or anything) notable.
- For musicians, MusicBrainz provides a similar, but more music-focused role.
- If you are an actor, director or fictional character, then you are probably in IMDB.
But for journalists? If they are employed by a newspaper, they might be lucky enough to have a good profile page. Or if they are notable or infamous enough they may have earned a place in Wikipedia. But in general, there has not been a good single place to link to for journalists.
Our website, Journalisted, being a database of journalists, fits this role nicely. Each journalist is given set of URLs (and for Fred Bloggs, substitute a journalist of your choice):
- http://journalisted.com/fred-bloggs This is a nice, pretty, human-readable HTML page that displays the information we hold about Fred Bloggs, the journalist.
- http://journalisted.com/data/journo/fred-bloggs This page provides the same data about Fred Bloggs, but in a format that machines can make sense of (in RDF/XML by default). Linked Data applications can easily slurp in this data, possibly pulling in other sources of data about Fred Bloggs.
- http://journalisted.com/id/journo/fred-bloggs This isn’t a real web page – it’s just an identifier by which we can indicate that we’re talking about Fred Bloggs the person, rather than a page with information about fred bloggs. You can download a page about a person, but you can’t (yet) download an actual person. When you try read this URL, a process called content negotiation will redirect humans to the nice, pretty HTML page and machines to the machine-readable version.
So, if you’re blogging about a journalist, say, the http://journalisted.com/fred-bloggs page is a good one to link to. It identifies who you mean, and your readers can follow the link to find out more about them. If your blogging software supports pingbacks, journalisted will even automatically add a link back to your blog post.
If you’re collecting or using data about a journalist, the http://journalisted.com/data/journo/fred-bloggs URL is the one you want.
The data there is still a work in progress – the basics are there, but we’ll be continuing to make it more and more useful to users of Linked Data. It’s a complex and exciting area, and there’s still a lot more we can do.
And if you’re a journalist?
Then, yes. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake. And you’ve got your own URL to prove it.
If you are a beautiful and unique snowflake, you can claim or create your profile at http://journalisted.com/profile.