One of the queries that often comes up at our Semantic Answers site is about how to get started actually working with Linked Data. Perhaps s3space can be of some help.

The brainchild of Amit Krishna Joshi, a PhD student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Wright State University, where he does research at the Kno.e.sis Center, s3space is billed as a social lab for querying Linked Data. While the site isn’t for complete Linked Data neophytes – users do need to know something about RDF and how to write a basic SPARQL query and test it – s3space takes care of implementing and consuming data-set web services for querying SPARQL endpoints. It uses the Google App Engine at the back end to scale.

“With Linked Data, many people are trying to push more data onto the web. There is more structured data for researchers, for students, and for developers, but the basic question is how do you get at the data,” Joshi says. “To get at the data you have to write a query. And with this we are educating people to write a better query,” because they can repurpose queries that already are posted.

As an example, say someone wants to create a query for finding all Elizabeth Taylor movies made after 1970 in the dbpedia data set. “You can look at samples. Browse our website and see if someone has created a query around that – for example, a query of the data set looking for all Elizabeth Taylor movies –and you can modify the query to your needs.” Joshi points to having been able to leverage a query to deliver a list of landlocked countries with at least a 25-million person population to figure out which one of those countries is actually the largest.

Joshi built s3space as a personal side project, the first Semantic Web site he’s created. The early days of the project have garnered about a dozen users so far, including colleagues, but Joshi’s hopeful that 3space will start to get more traction so it can live up to the crowd-sourcing part of its billing. There are about some 50 queries on the site now, mostly made by Joshi himself and his colleagues who have used the service as a platform to validate and refine their own queries, which can but don’t have to be saved for others’ use.

But saved queries open the door to the social aspect of the service, as well as to making it easier to actually do something with Linked Data. “We’re looking for community support,” explains Joshi. “So one person might come in and write a query and then someone else might come in and add something to that query to make it better, and on and on. So the idea is to create better, more meaningful queries, and for users to vote then up and down so everyone can see the best queries as well as the ones that are interesting for them.”

Dbpedia has been the most popular dataset to query so far, which Joshi says is a good start given how well-structured it is. To make the process even easier Joshi is working on building widgets and exposing APIs that will let developers integrate s3space’s query building and query expansion capabilities on their own web sites.