CommonTag – Linked Data for the masses

Today is a great day for the continued growth of linked data and the semantic web, as Zigtag and a number of other companies simultaneously announce support for the new CommonTag format.

The CommonTag format, based on RDFa, is a way for computers to understand the meaning behind the tags that people use.  We’ve discussed the importance of the meaning behind tags before, here and here.  Tags are used in many instances to classify things, but current solutions have two distinct problems:

  1. an idea can be referred to as many things, i.e. a car can also be referred to as an automobile, or API can also be referred to as “application programming interface”.
  2. a bigger problem is that a tag can represent many different ideas – i.e. “apple” can refer to a fruit, a company, or any number of different things.  “Giants” can refer to two different sports teams.

When people read tags, they can usually decipher the meaning behind them because they have context to draw from.  However, for machines, it’s much more difficult, and the CommonTag standard means to solve this problem.

Moreover, it is the support from the companies using this technology that is so important to create a lasting standard. The companies involved in the development of the standard are AdaptiveBlue, DERI (NUI Galway), Faviki, Freebase, Yahoo!, Zemanta, and of course Zigtag.  Not only is this the first time that many companies using semantic tags have come together on day one to support this format, but the variety of companies is also extremely important to its proliferation; we have three content producers (Zigtag, Faviki and Zemanta), a tagging repository (Freebase), and three content consumers (Yahoo!, DERI, and AdaptiveBlue).

CommonTag Ecosystem

This may very well lead the way to search engines that better understand what you’re looking for, or better tools that can identify things you might be interested in.  It’s indeed a very exciting day.

If you’re interested in using or contributing to the format, you can find out more information at http://commontag.org/.

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Zigtag launches!

Today is an exciting day for everyone at Zigtag.  We are happy to announce that Zigtag has now launched into open public beta.  After nine months of private beta, and over two years of development, we are very pleased to open up Zigtag to the general public. To get started, just sign up for an account and download the Zigtag plugin, available for either Firefox or Internet Explorer 7. We would like to extend a special thanks to our many beta testers who have given us great feedback over the past few months and helped us deliver what we consider the premier tagging service on the web. We’re already hard at work on new features and developments to ensure that your Zigtag experience will continue to improve.

In this release, we’ve made some changes that help to improve Zigtag’s usability. The website has a new look and feel that we think offers a marked visual improvement over our previous iteration. We have also added a semantic search feature to the website, which intelligently guesses the meaning of your search terms and finds relevant results for you, taken from your bookmarks and those of other Zigtag users. This search functionality will continue to improve, with some exciting features in the works. To try it out, just type in the search box at the top of the Zigtag website.

We’ve also introduced group recommendations, so you will be able to easily find and join groups that are relevant and interesting to you. These can be accessed from the Zigtag groups page.

Thanks again to all those who have been following us through the private beta phase; and to those who were unable to try the private beta, now is your chance to explore Zigtag. We hope you’ll agree that Zigtag offers a unique and powerful solution to your personal and social bookmarking needs and we look forward to seeing all of you around on the site.

Lastly, thanks go out to the Zigtag team for their hard work in making this possible!

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Group RSS, Friend Recommendations, and Internet Explorer Alpha

This past couple of weeks we’ve been hard at work implementing a few improvements and some major new features.

After many months of working hard (and jumping over many, many hurdles), we’ve finally got a plugin available for Internet Explorer.  It’s in Alpha stage, so it may have problems, but we’d be very grateful to have some feedback on it. You can get Zigtag for Internet Explorer Alpha here.

After receiving several requests from our users, we have also added the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed from any public or membership group.  This should enable much better collaboration between users of these groups. Unfortunately, RSS feeds on private groups are still not implemented due to RSS readers’ lack of support for authentication, but we will work on a solution for that sometime down the road.

Lastly, we’re happy to introduce a very cool new feature – friend recommendations.  Based on certain tags you’ve used, Zigtag is able to match you with other users based on interest.  Best of all, as your interests change over time, so will your friend recommendations – it’s sure to help you find and meet new people on the internet!  In the next little while, we will also be extending this to group recommendations, as well as bookmark recommendations!

Zemanta Pixie

Great Article on Zigtag / Update on Future Plans

Zigtag got a great writeup from one of our users, Paul Haley, on his blog.  Not only does the article describe the differences between Zigtag’s semantic tagging system vs. Twine‘s, but it also talks about online collaboration with groups, and data portability.

Given that Paul had some questions he raised in the article, I thought I’d respond to some of them here.

Paul mentioned that he was slightly cautious about using Zigtag or Twine because of the lack of a semantic export mechanism (it is important to note that we do export to del.icio.us and other formats, and a semantic export is not supported at this time because, well, there are no other applications that can read Zigtag’s semantic data and actually do anything with it).  The short term development plan includes releasing an API allowing users to access Zigtag’s semantic ontology and much of the data that we are gathering. This will include a similar API to delicious’, which will allow you to get information on your bookmarks, tags, groups, etc., and it will also allow access to our ontology (or our extensive database of defined tags).   Whether or not the API will use OWL as its format is to be decided, but if there is a market demand for OWL export, we will be happy to provide that.

One of our goals with the API is to allow other applications to be able to tag semantically.  There are literally thousands of applications out there that are using tags to organize their data, but nobody is using tags semantically.   For any number of applications with a large set of tags or information, categorizing semantically not only has the potential to organize that data much better, but it also allows the that data to interface with other applications using the same set of semantic tags, allowing increased interoperability and visibility.  One application we are contemplating is allowing blog writers to tag their wordpress blogs with semantic tags.  We are also open to gathering feedback from our user base – does anyone else have any cool ideas of things they’d like to see implemented?

On a related note, our users are always asking “Can I add my own defined tags?”.  In the coming weeks, we will also be providing a way for users to add, edit, and delete defined tags.  Initially, this will be limited to certain trusted users, but eventually the plan will be to expand it into a Wikipedia-like community process, where everyone can edit the definitions or add new ones.  We’re extremely excited about this as it will allow our semantic database and our users’ tagged data to be as accurate and inclusive as possible.

In short, we’re trying really hard to produce a powerful next-generation tool to enhance the semantic web.  Please feel free to comment on these ideas or other things you’d like to see.

More defined tags now available!

As of this weekend, we have updated our semantic data index. This resulted in the addition of more than 500,000 new defined tags, bringing the total number of defined tags to over 2.2 million.  With the addition of a few new data sources in the near future, this number is sure to grow even further.

In addition, we’ve now made migrating from del.icio.us and other non-semantic data even easier through an interface that allows you to manage your tags.  The tool can be used to show all your undefined tags, and will automatically analyze them to suggest possible semantic tags for them.  With one click, you can assign a defined meaning to them.  It’s also possible to rename them to something completely different, or to delete the tag completely.

For all of those that have imported their del.icio.us bookmarks, be sure to semantify them!

Introducing Group Discussion Forums

Viewing the group homepageAs part of our firm commitment to the social networking benefits of online bookmarking, we have introduced discussion forums to Zigtag groups.

Groups make it easy to network and share with other users who have similar interests. They are useful as a collaborative tool (e.g. for sharing sites with coworkers related to a particular project) or as a way to meet new people.

With the new forum features, we have improved upon the bookmark sharing aspect of groups by making it possible to discuss topics with other group members. As an example, imagine that you are taking a vacation with friends to a different country. You can create a group dedicated to this trip, and add related pages as you find them (hotel sites, city information, tourist hot spots, and so on). You can then start discussions with your friends about the different things you would like to do, where to stay, etc. Zigtag groups are your one stop shop for any sort of event planning.

More on how to share bookmarks to groups and other group features coming soon on the blog!

Replying to a group forum message

Zigtag Plugin – Introduction

Zigtag has an extensive sidebar add-on for Firefox that is always ready for you to quickly save the pages you find interesting.

The Zigtag sidebar has four different tabs – “Tag page,” “Explore,” “Share” and “Links.”

The “Tag page” tab is the default tab, and allows you to add tags to a page and quickly see the tags that have been applied to a page.

Entering a Tag

To add a tag, put the cursor in the “Enter tag here” box, and start typing. Hit enter to apply the tag to the page. The new tag will show up just below that box.

When you enter a tag, Zigtag will try to match a defined tag to what you have entered in the type-ahead. For example, typing “appl” will generate “Apple,” “Applause,” and “AppleTalk,” which both start with “appl.” Arrowing-down or mousing-over these tags will bring up a longer tag definition so you can see which defined tag you want to use, for example “Apple (the fruit).” Select a tag by clicking it with the mouse, or by hitting “Enter.” The tag will show up below the “Enter tag” box (see above image).

If you mouse-over a tag that has been applied, a definition will pop-up to the right, just like when you searched for it in the type-ahead.

Note: You can enter any tag you want and it will be applied, it just won’t have a Zigtag definition associated with it. Tags with a definition will show up in bold, whereas tags without will show up in plain text, and mousing over them will show “no definition.”

Other “Tag page” Features

Zigtag allows you to mark a page as a favourite, or as a page you’d rather not see again, by choosing the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon on the sidebar. Marking a page as “thumbs up” will alert other users that this is a good page, and it will also float to the top of your results when searching for a particular tag. Choosing “thumbs down” will indicate to other users that it is not a good page, and will push it down in your results. You do not have to tag a page to add a rating – you’d probably not want to tag a page if you think it’s a poor quality page.

Located below the “thumbs” rating system is a group of suggested tags that you can apply quickly to a page. These suggested tags are obtained from a variety of sources, and clicking on them will apply them to your current page. I’ll talk about suggested tags extensively in a future post.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a news feed panel. It will notify you when:

* Someone confirms or requests your friendship.
* One of your friends tags a page.
* One of your friends creates a group.
* A page is added to a group you belong to.

This news feed is a great way to see new pages that your friends have found interesting – so keep the sidebar open while you surf the web to see what is going on in your Zigtag community!