Semantics and Design: reflections on beautiful metadata

2015-08-18T14:52:35Z (GMT) by Richard Whaling Andre Marques
We describe UChicago Faculty Profiles, a semantic platform for exploring faculty research interests and output, based on VIVO-ISF. In the talk, we will describe how this project faced different constraints and requirements than most VIVO implementations; in particular, our directive was to work closely with our university's Office of Communications to provide carefully curated editorial content, and to maintain consistent design and branding with the University's other flagship public-facing sites. These aesthetic concerns, as well as other factors, led us to first explore existing software options, principally VIVO and Profiles RNS, before ultimately deciding to build a system ourselves. 

We will discuss our experiments in building the features and workflows we needed with a variety of web application technologies, including Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Expression Engine, and Meteor. In particular, we will focus on the obstacles we faced in building proper handling of Linked Data with these tools, rather than a pure RDF approach, and in which cases we were capable of overcoming them. Finally, we will reflect on the fundamental limitations of our approach compared to VIVO and related technologies, and contemplate what future work could allow us to combine a design-first sensibility with the power and rigor of a more purely semantic system.