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Interview with a Delicious Monster

With Delicious Monster 2 due for release some time soon, the brain behind it, Wil Shipley, is interviewed by Infinite Loop.

IL: Tell us about what new features we can expect in Delicious Library 2.

WS: Well, without making any explicit promises, what we’ve got so far is allowing MUCH, MUCH larger collections (thanks to using a real SQL database as our file format, instead of XML), much snazzier and snappier graphics, smart shelves, a couple other features we haven’t announced yet, and a ton of little bug fixes and tiny features that just make the app feel sweeter. Plus, a new interface, to match what Apple’s doing with its latest iApps.

Pidgin Languages for Interoperability

One of the goals of the Silkworm project is to enable interoperability between disparate content and services. Our vision is a unified system of discovering and accessing content wherever it might be. One track of our research in this area is in content descriptions which inevitably involves the most widespread metadata format: Dublin Core. It’s interesting to examine how the Dublin Core has achieved its popularity and today at the Dublin Core conference, Thomas Baker of the DCMI described his view of this success using the metaphor of a pidgin language. Wikipedia defines pidgin as a name given to any language created, usually spontaneously, out of a mixture of other languages as a means of communication between speakers of different tongues.

In Dublin Core the crucial part is the “core” itself which is small and general enough to allow many different related concepts to be covered by the terms specified. These form the words in the pidgin language, the basis of the shared semantics. They are supplemented by a basic grammar of subject, verb and object which allows sentences to be constucted from those words. The sentences can be encoded in many ways such as HTML meta tags, RDF or XML profiles, each providing a mapping back to the basic grammar.

Once these basic parts are in place all kinds of jargons and styles belonging to different communities can evolve on top of the pidgin language. Provided each jargon uses the basic grammar and relates its terms back to the core pidgin words it becomes possible to interoperate between the communities. Each jargon might have several diferent types of title but because these can be related back to the core concept of “title” each community can at least read one anothers descriptions and make reference to them from their own systems.

This model of interoperability is inherently scalable because it devolves the specialisations to the communities that are best placed to define them. This is exactly the model we are seeking to create for Silkworm. We don’t believe that it is possible to have a single format or schema to describe all the content or services in the world, but we think it is possible to enable interoperability through agreeing simple terms and processes in a decentralised manner.

Welcome to the Silkworm blog

For me, the best thing about the first Talis research day was talking with and sharing ideas with other interesting and interested people. I hope everyone who came gained as much as I did.

Collaboration, participation and sharing is the essence of Silkworm. Sounds nice and fluffy doesn’t it. Not a bit of it, from hugely successful
Amazon to the fast growing sites of flickr and del.icio.us, participation is proving to be an incredible force for innovation. Innovation is what the Talis research group is all about, and it is my great fortune to be leading the research group at such an exciting time.

In the Silkworm white paper I set out the principles driving the development of Silkworm at Talis, and give an overview of the technology and architecture of the platform. The silkworm.talis.com site is designed to allow as many people to get involved with Silkworm as possible. Here you will find discussion forums, news, examples and presentations.

On the Silkworm blog you will hear the thoughts, views and ideas of those in the Silkworm team. Let us hear what you think by signing up on the forums and getting involved.