Why do we not have human understable URIs for TIME?!? (IDEA 1 of 3 from from Barcamp London 7)

This weekend I was at BarCampLondon7 (took place at the IBM offices over 48 hours) where an extended crowd of neurodiverse brilliance showed up.  Dozens of the conversations I would like to follow up, but alas am only able to publish the top three IMHO.  I hope publishing these ideas will give me an opportunity to encourage them further.  The three ideas came about via three very smart developers:

IDEA 1 (with Mr. Tweed): Providing URLs for Periods of Time

This is such a simple idea it is easy to miss the brilliance it is suggesting. Quite simply it comes down to when anyone talks about periods of time, be that an academic, a journalist or a school child.  For example, the Victorian Era, the Vietnam War or the Jurassic period.  All of these humans understand more or less (or at least we pretend to know) when these things actually were, when in fact knowing periods of time is often more art than science.  And yet scholarls, journalists and people define their existence, age, identity and understanding of history on given periods of time.

Solution: Go to a BBC web page and type in the time you are looking for, e.g. “the renaissance period”, BBC will return you a link eg http://www.bbc.uk/RenaissancePeriod which you can now take and embed into the body of your essay: as a footnote in your dissertation, as a link in your news report or at the top of your school paper as a keyword.  By placing this one simple link in your paper the world over can now search and discover content written on historical periods.  Better yet the BBC can start to crawl these artefacts to help better define what the time period means, i.e. at http://www.bbc.uk/ReanssancePeriod/rdf there will be lists and lists of categorised key word terms along with mathematical equations that suggest exactly when the period was considered to begin and end.  You combine these keywords and dates and suddenly you can begin doing general searches across all legacy research to suggest what time period they were talking about.

Note on Idea 1: In a way what is amazing about the above idea is that it has not been done yet, [see below] Wikipedia does not provide an authoritative source for exact time periods, but rather allows a debate on time which is good for humans but is extremely inefficient for exactness that time requires.

Post Script: Apparently it has been done (to a certain degree) by none other than Mr. Gutteridge, my notable and esteemed colleague down at Southampton: http://commoneras.ecs.soton.ac.uk/ <- Now we just need to have the URI be rdfa in xhtml or json with some logic behind the time based numbers. That and a little push by someone big enough to get end users to start using it!


~ by dfflanders on October 27, 2009.

3 Responses to “Why do we not have human understable URIs for TIME?!? (IDEA 1 of 3 from from Barcamp London 7)”

  1. Dave, this looks like a great idea but when I tried it, it didn’t seem to work the way you said. The BBC gave me back a search page, headed by a radio 3 programme about a composer. Nowhere could I see the link you mentioned!

    Wikipedia by contrast looked a bit better. Yes, it was a bit disputatious, but at least it said 14th-16th century!

    Since Wikipedia (or perhaps DBpedia) is often suggested as a target for RDF concept URIs, wouldn’t it make more sense to continue this tradition in this case as well?

    BTW CIDOC CRM may have some of these time periods better defined.

    Nevertheless, a great idea.

  2. Hi David – nice to meet you on Saturday.

    Thanks for this, I’m very chuffed to have made your top three and that you took the time to write a post. I guess I should write it up myself at some point too 🙂

    Chris – this is just an experimental prototype at this stage, there’s nothing live yet nor any firm plans to do so. The prototype does use IDs and content from DBpedia where appropriate and that’s something I’d like to explore further, especially given how important DBpedia is becoming as a controlled vocabulary here at the BBC.


  3. A play around project to create a resource of time-ranges:


    It’s a work-not-in-progress but could have some ideas (and code, ask nicely!) worth nicking.

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