Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Progress

Boy have I had a summer!
In between moving into my first apartment and a number of summer classes, things have been exciting around TWC. I've been collaborating with Bo, another undergraduate at the laboratory on presenting an interface for the BCO-DMO project, a representation of the efforts of a number of oceanographic researchers.

Our task was to present remote data, from the BCO-DMO servers, on our internal webpages here at TWC. The data was accessible through a SPARQL frontend set up by our local guru, Patrick West. The first, and by no means insignificant step, was to learn how to utilize the SPARQL query language, an interface for accessing remote semantic data. After some close study of the SPARQL Specification and some fantastic tutelage in the form of Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist, a book co-authored by our own Jim Hendler, we had a set of queries that would fetch the remote data in a form that we could begin to work for presentation.

The next step was formatting it for display. For this we had to deal with the somewhat more complicated beast of XSLT, or Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations. The first step was to use the basic capabilities to format the data into a simple table, presenting the information a row at a time such as RESEARCHER, CONTACT EMAIL, and DEPLOYMENT LOCATION. Unfortunately due to the fluid nature of semantic data, especially in comprehensive ontologies like BCO-DMO's, the information was not always presented in a consistent manner. Furthermore, in the midst of research I was dragged away (okay, maybe a little willing) to the Californian coast, where I am now writing this post, unable to return home due to the recent hurricane.

Upon my return I am eager to get back to work solving this problem, as the presentation of semantic information is key to any future projects I may want to undertake.