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Building a Semantic University of Mary Washington

This is a blog about solutions to problems, problems that most people don’t yet know are problems.

What kinds of problems? There’s a lot of wonderful information out there, but it really is still hard to find what you need. Google, schmoogle. Try asking it to find pages written _by_ a person, not pages _about_ a person. Google’s indexing is fanstastic, but it doesn’t make that distinction. (Yahoo! is making much better progress here, BTW.)

We need something more. And there are a lot of people working on it. is about my efforts to solve similar problems in University of Mary Washington’s little corner of the internet.

What’s Semantic?

The semantic web is a collection of tools, techniques, and mind-sets that looks at information on the internet in a new way. Much of the web today is a web of documents. You write a blog post; that’s a document. You write a web page; that’s a document. You put up a syllabus; that’s a document.

The new way that the semantic web looks at it all is as a web of data in addition to — and through — the web of documents. Your blog post has an author, a date it was updated, a blog it is part of, associated tags, things it links to; that’s data. Your web page is about a topic, has contributors, maybe re-presents a text; that’s data. Your syllabus is for a particular course, during a particular semester, taught by a particular person, has particular members; that’s data.

When documents and data work well together, we have more powerful ways of finding, sorting, filtering, slicing and dicing everything that’s out there. That’s what’s happening here.

I’m building some things to look at the content produced by UMW as a web of data in addition to a web of documents. This blog is about what I’m producing and why. I hope to offer some new ways to find your way through all the wonderful things that Mary Washington’s staff, faculty, and especially students are producing.

The first step is to work with, our blogging environment maintained by the hippy, radical, edupunk Jim Groom. Eventually, this project will broaden, encompassing the other blogging platforms our students, staff, and faculty are using. It will also capture what’s going on in the rest of UMW’s online life, like Omeka installations, Drupal installations, pick-your-new-app-installations, and meshing it with administrative information about courses and who teaches them.

I’ll be blogging about new updates and developments here. Those of you who know me will be delighted and relieved to hear that in this space I’ll be avoiding the geeky details. For the folks who want the geeky details, they’ll be coming along at my other blog, Re-Mediation Roomy-Nation.

To start it off, here’s a few of the views on the data that are in the prototype stage. I’m hoping that the basic data presentation is there (and that my hosting server doesn’t crap out). If you know my wardrobe, you know that visual display is not my strong point, and so they’ll be prettified with help from others as we go along. Hope you enjoy, leave comments, and link!


  1. […] UMW The University of Mary Washington, in addition to hosting a blogging platform for the UMW […]

  2. […] imbedded meaning.”  Woah.  Few examples of the semantic web in higher education exist.  Patrick Murray-John, an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, is exploring what […]

  3. […] da web para buscar dados de pacientes, Semantic Mediawiki que é uma extensão do Mediawiki, Semantic UMW da University of Mary Washington, SemantiFind – um plugin de browser que funciona com a barra de […]

  4. […] to create new ways to discover and visualize the activity within UMWBlogs. (See the project blog at We will also look at the future directions I imagine, which involves combining information about […]

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