Find me (or create me) a crash course in Semantic Web...
October 7, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Can you find me an online (?) course giving me the essentials of the following alphabet soup of Semantic Web related... things? XML, XHTML, CSS, RDF, OWL, JSON, SPARQL, one of JAVA, Perl, Python etc...

I'm trying to find some sort of curriculum I can follow, preferably online, with some worked examples / projects / interactive tutorials, that will give me a grasp of the essential nuts and bolt of XML, XHTML, CSS, RDF, OWL, JSON, SPARQL, one of JAVA, Perl, Python etc...

Yes, I'm aware that these are all different kinds of things (apart from having impressive-sounding acronyms/odd names).

I'm trying to get a solid grounding in the important technologies in my (fairly obscure) field without actually taking a full-time masters course. OPen to the idea of doing *some* sort of formal course though, ideally free but could be a few hundred GBP if it leads to formal accreditation.

Timescale is about a year, with a couple of hours per week to invest, maybe 1 or 2 online, 1 or 2 offline per week.

Other salient facts: I learn quickly and get frustrated if I don't get beyond the basics fast, but learn much better through guided practice; very task-oriented.

Also: passed a basic practical course in mathematical applications of C++, and programmed e.g. binary-to-hex converters in some obscure development environment or other without any major difficulties about 10 years ago and guessing it hasn't got any harder.

Not wedded to the exact list either - if there are other cool things I should (could quickly) learn happy to hear them!
posted by KMH to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
W3 Schools.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:22 AM on October 7, 2011

Best answer: Re: w3schools, see as a counterpoint.

Check out Dive Into HTML5 for some of your acronyms.
posted by thatone at 9:30 AM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Basically, you're wanting to know every step in the creation of a web server. This is going to take longer than a year, and PHP may be the best programming language for you as it was designed for people that don't know anything about programming languages.

XML and JSON are documents. JSON is easier on the eyes when interpreting and it really only has two types of structures. Hashtables and lists. If you don't know what a Hashtable or a List is, you need to know a programming language.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but a binary to Hex converter is a trivial tool. Binary is just a representation of numbers. Hex is also just a representation of numbers. A binary to decimal converter would be 0B = 0, 1B = 1, 10B = 2, 11B = 3.

What exactly is your obscure field that you're working on? Because it sounds as if the obscure field is a website developer position, which isn't an obscure field. And a web developer position is usually obtained by having a passion with computers growing up or by obtaining a degree in computer science. Preferably both.

You can't pick this up in year.
posted by DetriusXii at 10:03 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're being rather optimistic in terms of timescale. And as far as willingness to pay, an actual course on any single one of these topics is likely going to be more than a few hundred [currency]. On the other hand, the X/HTML, CSS and probably even Javascript(at least to general proficiency) you can probably pick up by just reading on-line and doing, plus picking apart other people's existing code.

There's the O'Reilly School of Technology for paid courses; I probably don't need to talk O'Reilly up.

The Khan Academy(everything free) has a bunch of stuff in a Comp Sci section, I think centered on Python. But it seems a bit scattered. Or you can Learn Python the Hard Way for free on-line though print and e-book versions are very reasonably priced for being a programming book.
posted by Su at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2011

I think the first thing you should do is go to wikipedia and study what each of those things is and what it's for.

You can build a web page with one of them; an interactive site with two. Based on your wiki studies, select one that fits a task you want to perform, and learn it. In the process of working with it the paths into other technologies will reveal themselves.
posted by klanawa at 2:21 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you have some programming experience and like hands-on work, maybe combine your tutorials with a dive at the deep end by installing some successful apps that use semantic web technology and dissecting them to see what you're getting into.

Interesting examples that leap to mind are VIVO (which is trivial to install if you use the VirtualBox VM) and OntoWiki (which was considerably less easy to get going when I tried it).

Bear in mind as you tear into their code that semantic web technologies (RDF/OWL/SPARQL) typically focus on conceptual elegance and architectural flexibility very much at the cost of directness and ease of implementation. Your head is going to spin, spin, spin, and you're not going to see how people usually do things instead.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2011

Yeah, avoid W3Schools. Not only for the documented inaccuracies but for the big picture that it misses completely. Its approach is "this is a Blah it makes BlahBlah". Far too little discussion of why these technologies exist, what needs they fill well and when they're used (in)appropriately, etc. You'd be better off using a "WGYSIWYG" editor (shudder). It'd teach you equally distorted education and superficial undertsanding, but at least you get something live faster. <<- don't do this either

...XML, XHTML, CSS, RDF, OWL, JSON, SPARQL, one of JAVA, Perl, Python...solid grounding...[in] about a year, with a couple of hours per week to invest, maybe 1 or 2 online, 1 or 2 offline per week...

You haven't mentioned any background in HTML and HTTP at all. "Solid grounding" in the others makes solid grounding in those two mandatory.

Master HTML and HTTP first. Then come back for followup.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:43 PM on October 7, 2011

Response by poster: >>> What exactly is your obscure field that you're working on?

No, I don't aim to become a web developer. It's just an obscure field where there's a lot of web dev going on and it helps to know some of the essential bits to ensure I don't go totally off the rails.
posted by KMH at 3:24 AM on October 10, 2011

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