RDFa

Educational Search and DiscoverEd

Alex Kozak, June 25th, 2010

Last week in the vuDAT building at Michigan State University, a group of developers interested in educational search and discovery got together to contribute code (in what’s commonly called a code sprint) to Creative Commons’ DiscoverEd project. Readers interested in the technical details about our work last week can find daily posts on CC LabsDay 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

DiscoverEd is a semantic enhanced search prototype. What does that mean practically? Let’s say you’re a ninth grade biology teacher interested in finding education resources about cell organelles to hand out to students. How would you go about that?

If you’re web savvy, you might open up a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing and search for “cell organelles”. You’d find a lot of resources (Google alone finds over 11 million pages!), but which do you choose to investigate further? It’s time consuming and difficult to sift through search results for resources that have certain properties you might be interested in, like being appropriate for 9th graders, being under a CC license that allows you to modify the resource and share changes, or being written in English or Spanish, for example. As you throw up your hands in dismay, you might think “Can’t someone do this for me?!”

DiscoverEd is an educational search prototype that does exactly that, by searching metadata about educational resources. It provides a way to sift through search results based on specific qualities like what license it’s under, the education level, or subject.

Compare search results for “cell organelles” in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and now in DiscoverEd. You can see that finding CC licensed educational resources is friendlier because of the available metadata accompanying each result.

While most search engines rely solely on algorithmic analyses of resources, DiscoverEd can incorporate data provided by the resource publisher or curator. As long as curators and publishers follow some basic standards, metadata can be consumed and displayed by DiscoverEd. These formats (e.g. RDFa) allow otherwise unrelated educational projects, curators, and repositories to express facts about their resources in the same format so that tools (like DiscoverEd) can use that data for useful purposes (like search and discovery).

Creative Commons believes an open web following open standards leads to better outcomes for everyone. Our vision for the web is that everyone following interoperable standards, whether they be legal standards like the CC licenses or technical standards like CC REL and RDFa, will result in a platform that enables social and technical innovation in the same way that HTTP and HTML enabled change. DiscoverEd is a project that allows us to explore ways to improve search for OER, and simultaneously demonstrate the utility of structured data.

Continued development of DiscoverEd is supported by the AgShare project, funded by a grant from The Gates Foundation. Creative Commons thanks MSU, vuDAT, MSU Global, and the participants in the DiscoverEd sprint last week for their support.

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Preparing Your Educational Resources for DiscoverEd

Jane Park, November 5th, 2009

ded-sbsIn July, CC Learn officially launched DiscoverEd, a search prototype that provides scalable search and discovery for educational resources on the web. We blogged about it again during Back to School week, emphasizing the future of search and discovery of educational resources and how we hoped DiscoverEd would catalyze efforts in that direction. Since then, we have been working with various organizations and projects who want to include their resources into DiscoverEd, and through all the back and forth about feeds and mark-up–essentially what’s required to get your stuff included for greater discovery–we realized we could streamline the process by putting some necessary information into a brief document.

Preparing Your Educational Resources for DiscoverEd is second in the CC Learn Step by Step Guides series, which is part of our larger Productions schema. It is a basic guide for those interested in preparing their resources for inclusion into search engines like DiscoverEd that utilize structured data. It is targeted at people or institutions interested in making their digitally published educational resources more discoverable. Though the document contains technical language and sample XHTML and RDFa, it’s really not all too complicated. Basically, you just need one of the right feeds to start, which you can then copy and paste the link of into ODEPO (the Open Database of Educational Projects and Organizations). ODEPO is hosted on OpenED, the community site for open education. It’s a wiki, so anyone can create an account and add their project or organization to the database.

But the guide explains all that, (as does the DiscoverEd FAQ) and the alternatives–which include contacting us directly. DiscoverEd already pulls from a number of institutions and repositories, and as it expands we hope to improve its search capabilities. Any feedback is welcome.

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The Guardian Talks With CC CEO Joi Ito

Cameron Parkins, September 25th, 2009

joi
Headshot B&W, Photo by Mizuka | CC BY

The Guardian just posted a great interview with CC CEO Joi Ito that, while focusing broadly on Joi’s work as an entrepreneur, spends substantial time discussing his role at CC.

The piece touches on a number of topics including how CC interacts with businesses, our commitment to RDFa, and how our licenses can be used:

The advantage of the range of Creative Commons licences is that it can be tweaked as the creator likes. “Typically a professional musician will choose a licence that prohibits commercial reuse to protect their income, which usually comes from copyright. But for instance a photographer, and especially an amateur photographer, may want to be well-known, so they focus on attribution. Documentary producers often say ‘no derivatives’ because they don’t want the story to change, but will allow commercial use so that movie theatres can show their work.”

Be sure to read the interview at the Guardian’s website or check out the full transcript here. You can also listen to the interview as part of the Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast.

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HOWTO Make Your CC-licensed Images Visible to Robots

Fred Benenson, July 13th, 2009

After last week’s exciting announcement that Google Image search is now capable of filtering results by usage rights, we realized there is a lot of interest in how creators can signal their work as being CC-licensed to both humans and robots.

Fortunately, CC has a solution for this that is not only a standard, but recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Its called the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language and is part of the semantic web. Without getting too technical, ccREL uses a technology called RDFa to express licensing information to machines so that they can deduce the same facts about a work (such as its title, author, and most importantly, its license) that humans can. If you’re interested in the future of the web and structured data, you’ll want to check out our wiki pages on RDFa, ccREL, and our white paper submitted to the W3C. Google has a page explaining RDFa and Yahoo has a page explaining how RDFa is used by Yahoo Search.

The easiest way to signal to both humans and robots that your content is CC licensed is to head over to our license chooser and choose a license to put on your own site.

Our license chooser automatically generates the proper ccREL code, so its easy! Don’t forget to fill out the “Additional Information” section. You’ll then get a snippet of XHTML embed that will contain ccREL. Place this near your work (preferably on its same page of the work which also happens to be unique) and you’re all set. If you’re running an entire content community, you can also dynamically generate this markup based on the particular user, title of the work and so on. Check out Thingiverse for a excellent example of this functionality.

Are you already using ccREL or RDFa on your website or platform? Let us know or add it to our Wiki page!

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The Official Unofficial Creative Commons Facebook Application

Fred Benenson, May 18th, 2009

Creative Commons License on FacebookLast weekend I spent Saturday morning writing the Creative Commons License Application for Facebook. The premise is simple: installing the application allows Facebook users choose and place a CC license badge on their profile page indicating which license they want their content to be available under. Alongside the badge is text that explains what content (Photos, Videos and Status & Profile text are currently available as options) is licensed.

This surrounding text also contains RDFa, though this is of limited utility to search engines since Facebook profiles are not yet publicly indexed.

Users also have the option to allow the application to update their status so that news of their license choice will appear in their friends’ feed. Selecting this option will help grow our application’s audience exponentially, so we would encourage you to choose it.

There are some limitations to this application and you should consider it in beta, so apologies in advance if things break or don’t work properly. Perhaps the largest limitation is that works can only be licensed on a per-profile basis. This means that you must make the decision to license all of your work of a given media type (e.g., all of your photos) under a particular CC license or none at all. Unless Facebook integrates CC license choices into their Photo application, licensing works on a per-photo basis (as users have the freedom to do on sites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons) is not possible. Thus, this implementation of a CC licenses on Facebook is a stop-gap solution to true integration into the service. If you’ve got other ideas or find other bugs for our application, please head over to our wiki and post them.

Otherwise, go now and install the Creative Commons License Application and let your friends know that you’ve chosen a CC license for your content on Facebook!

Thanks to everyone who helped me conceptualize and test this application, and especially to the “Creative Commons on Facebook” group of 5,000+ users who kept encouraging us to move forward.

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Reminder: December Technology Summit Registration – Now with Student Rates

Nathan Yergler, November 25th, 2008

Just a quick reminder that registration is still open for the December Technology Summit taking place in Cambridge, MA.  The program looks like a great set of presentations about technology that touches CC: RDFa, digital copyright registries, embedded metadata and more.

Registration is available online and we’ve added student rates at about half the normal rate: $40 or $25 for students who are also CC Network members (plus the option to buy both at the same time). Hope to see you there!

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Thingiverse Launches with Stellar Commons Implementation

Fred Benenson, November 17th, 2008

PASCSR by nickfarr under CC BY-SABre Pettis, the uber-DIY hacker of NYC’s Resistor space and self-replicator guru Zach Hoeken are launching Thingiverse today.

Thingiverse is an “object sharing” site that enables anyone to upload the schematics, designs, and images for their projects. Users can then download and reuse the work in their projects using their own laser cutters, 3D printers, and analog tools. Think of it as a Flickr for the Maker set.

Besides implementing our licenses, Bre and Zach have also gone the distance and allowed users to license works under the GNU GPL, LGPL, and BSD licenses, as well as allowing them to release works into the public domain. Thingiverse uses our license wrappers for each of these licenses thereby enabling automatic indexing by machines like search engines.

Pushing the envelope even further, Thingiverse also fully implements our RDFa specification (just take a look at the source of any page with a CC license to see RDFa in action) for expressing licensing and authorship information on the semantic web. This means that aside from telling machines that a work is licensed under CC, Thingiverse also tells machines the title of a work, its author, and other interesting semantic information.

If you’re looking for a fantastic example of how to implement the commons on a platform designed for sharing creativity, look no further than Thingiverse.

(The Polyalphabetic Substitution Cipher Slide Rule by nickfarr under CC BY-SA)

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CC Technology Summit Program and Registration available

Nathan Yergler, November 4th, 2008

Two months ago we announced the second CC Technology Summit, taking place December 12, 2008 in Cambridge, MA at MIT. The response to the call for presentations was good, and the initial program is now available. I’m excited about the mix of topics we have on the program. The day will include reports from our community, including a presentation on copyright registry interoperability by Safe Creative and Registered Commons and a report from the Queensland Treasury on their use of licensing and metadata. We’ll also have presentations from within CC — a report on open source knowledge management from Science Commons and an update on what’s next for RDFa.

Registration is also now open for the event. While the first Technology Summit was free thanks to Google’s generous support, we do have costs associated with the December Technology Summit. To offset those costs, there is a registration fee: $50 for CC Network members or $75 for non-members. If you’d like to sign up for CC Network membership at the same time as you register, we’ve enabled that as well (no discount, though; $100 total).

It’s been a busy year at CC and I’m looking forward to the Technology Summit as an opportunity to review what we’ve done and look ahead to 2009.

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SoundCloud Integrates CC-Licensing

Cameron Parkins, October 17th, 2008

SoundCloud, a new media sharing site aimed at musicians, has been receiving heaps of great press since going live last week. SoundCloud allows musicians to post their works easily, share them securely, interact with other musicians in a collaborative fashion, check stats on song listens/comments, and utilize a bevy of other useful features. Excitingly for the CC-community, SoundCloud announced today that users can now upload their works under a CC license or a public domain declaration. From SoundCloud:

The CC license support on SoundCloud is pretty straight-forward. You can pick a license when you upload a track, and you can set a default license in your settings. There are three main modes; All Rights Reserved, Some Rights Reserved, and No Rights Reserved. The default is All Rights Reserved, which means you own all rights to the works you upload.

You can also select the Some Rights Reserved-option which will give you a nice interface where you can assemble your Creative Commons license. You can select whether Commercial use is ok, whether derivative works are ok, or whether derivative works should be “shared” alike, meaning derivative works should be shared under the same conditions. Read more about CC licenses here.
[…]
Lastly, there’s the No Rights Reserved-option if you want to let anybody do anything they like with your music.

A cool thing is that we’ve also got RDFa support so that all license information will be properly encoded for machine-reading directly in the track pages.

We are super excited to see this sort of support happen as it should greatly increase the functionality of SoundCloud for CC-using musicians and open the doors for a new repository of CC-licensed music. That SoundCloud has successfully implemented RDFa (making them one of the first CC-using content directories to do so) is similarly exciting. Learn more about SoundCloud here and if you are CC-using musician, try it out for yourself.

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RDFa now a W3C recommendation; message from Hal Abelson

Mike Linksvayer, October 16th, 2008

Yesterday RDFa, a technical standard Creative Commons has championed at the World Wide Web Consortium for five years, was made a W3C Recommendation — a standard for the web to build upon.

CC founding board member and MIT computer science professor Hal Abelson sends this message:

Dear Staff and Board,

I’m writing with some great news:

Today, the technical specification RDFa in XHTML Syntax and Processing was formally accepted as a Web Consortium Technical Recommendation by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee.

Those the words might not mean much to any but the geekiest of us — but this is a big deal.

Creative Commons was a early adopter of Semantic Web standards. And yet, while the Semantic Web provided RDF as a standard for expressing metadata, it did not provide a standard for how that metadata should be integrated into ordinary Web pages.

The original concept of the Semantic Web did not encompass the notion that ordinary Web pages would be augmented with machine-readable metadata. Even today, that notion remains controversial. One considerable faction still holds that HTML should be purely a formatting language with no provision for any semantic information at all. Other factions, like microformats community, advocate metadata standards that do not integrate well into RDF and general Semantic Web applications.

CC licensing was the first use of the Web to envision Web publishers augmenting their pages with small amounts of machine-readable markup: the CC licensing attributes. It was our desire achieve this consistently with the Semantic Web that led to our involvement with the Web standards community; and the need to advocate for such a standard was why CC joined the Web Consortium in the first place.

RDFa is the standard that has emerged from this effort. RDFa is a general mechanism for expressing machine-readable attributes on Web pages in a way that is integrates with HTML. The most obvious example for us is the Creative Commons Rights Expression language (ccREL) — a machine-readable way to express CC licensing.

W3C’s adoption today of the RDFa recommendation solidifies the technical underpinning of ccREL and opens the door to the development and widespread support for CC-compliant tools on the Web.

There are many people who deserve credit for RDFa. Mike Linksvayer and Nathan Yergler certainly get kudos for their consistent support and development of the CC infrastructure to emphasize RDFa and ccREL.

But the lion’s share of the credit goes to Ben Adida, CC’s W3C representative, who led this effort creatively and tirelessly. Ben’s leadership in the technical design of RDFa and the negotiations and refinements to bring RDFa all the way through the complex Web standards process has been an effort of more than five years.

This work on RDFa not only has major benefit to CC, but it’s a significant example CC providing technical leadership in Web community and a contribution that will have implications far beyond CC’s own applications.

Ben deserves our sincerest thanks and congratulations.

== Hal

(Also check out Hal’s starring role in the new Jesse Dylan video about Creative Commons, A Shared Culture.)

Congratulations and thanks to Ben and everyone else who has worked so hard on this effort for so many years.

If you’re a web developer, check out RDFa and ccREL. A great place to start is Ben’s Introduction to ccREL talk from our first CC technology summit held in June (slides and video available at the link; also check out the CFP for our upcoming December tech summit at MIT). Ben also recommends a new post from the founder of Drupal on Drupal, the semantic web and search.

Otherwise (and even if you are a web developer), the best way to support this work is by supporting Creative Commons. Our annual fundraising campaign just kicked off yesterday, so now is an excellent time to give.

Thanks!

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