RDF123: Generate Flexible RDF From Spreadsheets

A new application called RDF123 has recently been made available, and has gotten a lot of well-deserved positive buzz from the semantics and RDF community.  Basically, RDF123 allows you to take spreadsheets as an input, and produce RDF data as an output.  Lushan Han, a Ph.D. candidate at UMBC, deserves the credit.

This capability is a big deal because of the amount of useful data in the world that’s locked up in spreadsheets.  This data is usually accessible only to applications that know how to read its proprietary binary format.  Converting the data into RDF may be a win in many cases because it provides access to the data in an open format (RDF) and allows marking the data up with a structured schema or with linkages to an ontology to permit new uses of the data.  Maybe you don’t buy that people are going to convert spreadsheets into RDF and then do reasoning with the data, and that’s fine.  You don’t have to do anything fancy – just having the data in RDF makes it much more flexible for any kind of machine processing.  This is of course in contrast to regular spreadsheets, which are typically designed primarily for human visual consumption.

Here’s how the project summarizes itself, for a few basic details:

RDF123 is an application and web service for converting data in simple spreadsheets to an RDF graph. Users control how the spreadsheet’s data is converted to RDF by constructing a graphical RDF123 template that specifies how each row in the spreadsheet is converted as well as metadata for the spreadsheet and its RDF translation. The template can map spreadsheet cells to a new RDF node or to a literal value. Labels on the nodes in the map can be used to create blank nodes or labeled nodes, attach a XSD datatype, and invoke simple functions (e.g., string concatenation). The graph produced for the spreadsheet is the union of the sub-graphs created for each row. The template itself is stored as a valid RDF document encouraging reuse and extensibility.

If you’re interested in more information on RDF123, eBiquity posted about it, and so did AI3 as well as Aman.  RDF123 was funded out of an NSF Grant (details on their grant) that includes a number of usual suspects (Timothy Finin, Jim Hendler).

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