Text Analysis – say it with flowers

http://www.neoformix.com/2006/TopicFlower.html

(seen at http://infosthetics.com/archives/2006/08/topic_flowers.html)

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Opera’s Semantic Web Widgets

Lately, there have been two semantic web widgets for Opera:

Both of these seem to work much better than their webpage equivalents.

So there is a use for these widget things after all?

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Social Network of AJAX Books

Dietrich Kappe has done another of those social network studies of book consumption using Amazon’s Other Customer’s also Bought...

(The original (at least, the first one I heard about) being Valdis Krebb’s Study of polarised political book buying).

The graph isn’t so pretty as Krebb’s, but it is more interesting in that it shows a more complex picture than the rather-to-be-expected left/right political divide of American politics.

Choice of programming language is also political of course, and it’s interesting that Kappe’s study shows that related books on server-side languages break up into subnets, whilst client-side technologies like CSS and javascript form a common ground (as you’d expect really).

If you’ve written or read similar studies, I’d appreciate it if you’d link to ’em in the comments.

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Accessibility vs. Semantic Markup?

I came across a post about semantic markup and accessibility citing a remark I had made about how, for all the talk about semantic markup in the web-dev community, HTML isn’t a very semantic markup language.

The post goes so far as to say:

[…] when you mark up a page in HTML you shouldn’t get too hung up on the semantic meaning of the elements.[…] What you should be concerned about […] is describing your page elements in such a way as to make them easier to use by screen readers, keyboard-based browsers etc. For example, don’t ask ‘is this set of elements really an unordered list?’ but do ask ‘if I mark up this set of elements as an unordered list, does that make my page more accessible and easier to use?’

However, I feel this has got things backwards – accessibility should, and will be, a consequence of good semantic markup.

Ideally, accessibility is a game for two: you provide the document in as semantic a form as you can, the user agent interprets that document as intelligently as it can. And if the user agent isn’t smart enough to handle all the semantics of your document today, then it will be tomorrow. Admittedly, in practice, a lot of things have to be dumbed down for Internet Explorer – though these tend to be of the bells and whistles rather than semantic variety, but it is usually better to aim at solid principles than the moving target of particular user agents.

The post does make a valuable point about how HTML, besides having to describe a document’s structure, also has to be used as an application interface markup language – which, aside from a rather limited set of form widgets, it isn’t really equipped to do, semantically at least. So we have to make do with the semantically bland div tag spiced up with plenty of javascript.

In theory, there’s lots of ways we can markup user interfaces – XUL, XBL, XForms, ZAML
– all of these hugely inaccessible compared to HTML (even HTML and javascript), because cross-browser support just isn’t there for anything else.

But the div doesn’t have to be bland anymore.

The Role Attribute

Yes, the role attribute is going to save the day.

Not only can we use it to to add semantics to html with RDFa, but this mozilla tutorial shows how we can use that added semantic power to make javascripted widgets accessible as well.

You can read more about how wonderful the role attribute is at Mark Birbeck’s blog.

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www.openacademia.org

openacademia is an initiative to collect, share, publish and manage bibliographical information, the Semantic Web-way.

Information about scientific publications is often maintained by individual researchers. Reference management software such as EndNote and Bibtex help researchers to maintain a personal collection of bibliographic references. (These are typically references to one’s own publications and also those that have been read and cited by the researcher in his own work.)

Just had a quick look at openacademia.org. Wonderful – and a great use of the simile timeline.

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Amazon Historical Pricing

The Amazon Historical Pricing web service gives developers programmatic access to over three years of actual sales data for books, music, videos, and DVDs (as sold by third-party sellers on Amazon.com). Sellers can use Amazon Historical Pricing to make informed decisions on pricing and purchasing.

Unfortunately it seems to be limited to getting 10 items at a time:

* Returns pricing information for up to ten items per request

Which will limit the potential for this to be used by book historians as a kind of barometer for cultural or economic change.

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Timeline API

Simile at MIT have recently come up with a timeline widget api – google maps for timelines. It lets you plot events and time ranges (taken from either XML or JSON) onto timelines, and it’s all pretty darn good.

It should facilitate all kinds of interesting visualisations. There are a few really interesting examples up already – my favourite is the timeline of the shooting of JFK.

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