Linked Open Vocabularies, please meet Google+

The Google+ Linked Open Vocabularies community was created more than one year ago. The G+ community feature was new and trendy at the time, and the LOV community gathered quickly over one hundred members, then the hype moved to someting else, and the community went more or less dormant. Which is too bad, because Google+ communities could be very effective tools, if really used by their members, and LOV creators, publishers and users definitely need a dedicated community tool. We made lately another step towards better interfacing this Google+ community and the LOV data base. Whenever available, we now use in the data base the G+ URIs to identify the vocabulary creators and contributors. As of today,  we have managed to identify a little more than 60% of LOV creators and contributors this way. 
Among those, only a small minority (about 20%) is member of the above said community, which means about 80% of this community members are either lurkers of users of vocabularies. It means also that a good deal of people identified by a G+ profile in LOV still rarely or never use it. One could think that we should then look at other community tools. But there are at least two good reasons to stick to this choice.
Google+ aims at being a reliable identity provider. This was clearly expressed by Google at the very beginning of the service. The recent launch of "custom URIs" such as http://google.com/+BernardVatant through which a G+ account owner can claim her "real name" in the google.com namespace is just a confirmation of this intention. "Vanity URLs" as some call them, are not only good at showing off or being cool. My guess is that they have some function in the big picture of the Google indexing scheme, and certainly something to do with the consolidation of the Knowledge Graph.
We need dynamic, social URIs. I already made this point at the end of the previous post. And the more so for URIs of living and active people. Using URIs of social networks will hopefully make obsolete the too long debate over "URI of Document" vs "URI of Entity". Such URIs are ambiguous, indeed, because we are ambiguous. 
The only strong argument against G+ URIs is that using URIs held by a private company namespace to identify people in an open knowledge project is a bad choice. Indeed, but alternatives might turn to be worse. 


Content negotiation, and beyond

I had in the past, and for many years, looked at content negotiation with no particular attention, as just one among those hundreds of technical goodies developed to make the Web more user-friendly, along with javascript, ajax, cookies etc. When the httpRange-14 solution proposed by the TAG in 2006 was based on content negotiation, I was among those quite unhappy to see this deep and quasi-metaphysical issue solved by such a technical twist, but three months later I eventually came to some better view of it. Not only content negotiation was indeed the way to go, but this decision can be seen now as a small piece in a much bigger picture.
Content negociation has become so pervasive we don't even notice it any more. Even if a URI is supposed to have a permanent referent, what I GET when I submit that URI through a protocol is dependent on a growing number of parameters of the client-server conversation : traditional parameters pushed by the client are language preference, required mime type (the latter being used for the httpRange-14 solution), localisation, various cookies, and user login. Look at how http://google.com/+BernardVatant works. This URI is a reference for me on the Web (at least it's the one I give those days to people wanting a reference), but the representation it yields will depend on the user asking it : anonymous request, someone being logged on G+ but not in my circles, someone in my circles (and depending on which), someone having me in her circles etc, and of course of the interface (mobile, computer). This will look also differently if I call this URI indirectly from another page, like in a snippet etc.  
This kind of behavior will be tomorrow the rule. Every call to any entity through its URI will result in a chain of operations leading to a different conversation. And not only for profiles in social networks, not only for people, alive or dead, but for every entity on the web : places, products, events, concepts ... 
Imagine the following scenario applied to a VIAF URI for example. VIAF stores various representations of the same authority, names in various languages, preferred and alternative labels for the matching authority in a given library. I can easily imagine a customized acces to VIAF, where I could set my preferences such as my favourite library or vendor, with default values based on my geolocation (as already today in WorldCat) and/or user experience, parameters for selection of works (such as a period in time, only new stuff, only novels ...). The search on a name in VIAF would lead to a disambiguation interface if needed, and once the entity selected, to a customized representation of the resource identified under the hood.
This kind of customized content negotiation will not necessarily be provided by the original owner of the URI. In fact there certainly are a lot of sustainable business models around such services which would run on top of existing linked data. A temporal service would extract for any entity a time line of events involving this entity, e.g., events in the life of a person or enterprise, or various translations and adaptations of a book, life cycle of a product ... A geographical service would show the locations attached to an entity, like distribution of offices of a company or its organisational structure. And certainly the most popular way to interact with the entity will be to engage in the conversation with it, as we engage in conversation with people. In both pull and push mode. I would not say like Dominiek ter Heide that the Semantic Web has failed. But I agree it could. Things on the Web of Data have to go dynamic, join the global conversation, or die of obsolescence.