The Semantic Puzzle

Andreas Blumauer

Seevl: Explore the cultural universe based on semantic web technologies

Just recently Alexandre Passant from DERI Galway went public with a new web service called seevl. First impressions after test driving the system reveal that the seevl team is keeping the promises they have made: “Seevl reinvents music discovery. We provide new ways to explore the cultural and musical universe of your favorite artists and to discover new ones by understanding how they are connected. In addition, we let you comment every piece of data about them.”

I was talking with Alexandre and asked a couple of questions:

Q: aims to offer a new way of music recommendations. What exactly can the user expect from it?
The main idea is to offer context around the recommendations, while existing systems are opaque, or rely on collaborative filtering techniques. So that a user know why he could / should like X if he’s browsing page about Y. We hope (and we’ve seen it from our user feedback so far) that it can help to discover new bands and hidden connections.

Q: Yes, indeed this is something new. Maybe for the typical users this could be too complicated. This brilliant feature should somehow be hidden – working just like a magic button?
So far, we include this in the “why is related” button, but we’re constantly working on the UI / UX. Also, we only provide text for now, but are working on dataviz interfaces.

Q: seevl offers for developers a Web APIAn application programming interface (API) is an interface implemented by a software program to enable interaction with other software, similar to the way a user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. APIs are implemented by applications, libraries and operating systems .... It seems like you don´t use semantic web standards for that?
We use content-negotiation to provide machine-readable data for every page (search results, entity description, related artists, etc.). If by non-SW standards you mean non-RDF, indeed, we provide JSON instead of RDF/XMLRDF/XML is a syntax, defined by the W3C, to express an RDF graph as an XML document. See Resource Description Framework. or N3Notation3 language, of internet Media Type text/n3. Compact and readable alternative to RDF's XML syntax. (, or N3 as it is more commonly known, is a shorthand non-XML serialization of Resource Description Framework models, designed with ..., etc. But our JSON integrates URIIn computing, a uniform resource identifier (URI) is a string of characters used to identify a name of a resource. Such identification enables interaction with representations of the resource over a network, typically the World Wide Web, using specific protocols. Schemes specifying a concrete ... that you can dereference and follows a similar approach than other existing RDF-JSON serialisation. So, why JSON you may ask. Because our developer target is music hackers, and all APIs from this community (, echonest, etc.) offer JSON, not RDF. Learning a new JSON schema takes 5 min, learning RDF takes much more.
But we believe that a JSON-RDF serialisation combines the best of both worlds. Actually, we could say we provide our data using standards (we’re giving back a graphIn mathematics, a graph is an abstract representation of a set of objects where some pairs of the objects are connected by links. The interconnected objects are represented by mathematical abstractions called vertices, and the links that connect some pairs of vertices are called edges. ... that follows the RDF abstract model, with links to dereferencable URIS) but not in a (so far) standardised serialisation.

Q: I agree. But mid-term oriented I would go additionally for SPARQL. A lot of people learn how to SPARQL at the moment.
Yes, we have to measure the cost / ROI. Complete SPARQL can lead to complex queries, that’s why they are somehow hidden behind our search interface (that basically constructThe open semantic framework (OSF) uses the Drupal CMS via the conStruct plug-in modules. conStruct is a distro of the Drupal framework specifically developed to provide management, access and visualization of structured content. ( a controlled SPARQL query). But that could be something provided to advanced customers.

Q: is based on linked data sets like DBpediaDBpedia is a project aiming to extract structured information from the information created as part of the Wikipedia project. This structured information is then made available on the World Wide Web. DBpedia allows users to query relationships and properties associated with Wikipedia resources, ..., MusicBrainzMusicBrainz is a project that aims to create an open content music database. Similar to the freedb project, it was founded in response to the restrictions placed on the CDDB. However, MusicBrainz has expanded its goals to reach beyond a compact disc metadata storehouse to become a structured ... or FreebaseFreebase is a large collaborative knowledge base. It is an online collection of structured data harvested from many sources, including individual 'wiki' contribution. Freebase aims to create a global resource which allows people (and machines) to access common information more effectively. It is .... Is seevl itself offering Linked (Open) Data? I can also see heavy use of the open graph protocolThe Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph. For instance, this is used on Facebook to enable any web page to have the same functionality as a Facebook Page. While many different technologies and schemas exist and could be combined together, there .... How could a facebook application of seevl could look like?
Yes, we provide our data back at We’re using the Music OntologyProvides main concepts and properties fo describing music (i.e. artists, albums, tracks, but also performances, arrangements, etc.). ( and a bit of other models (FOAF, etc.). So far, the OGPThe Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph. For instance, this is used on Facebook to enable any web page to have the same functionality as a Facebook Page. While many different technologies and schemas exist and could be combined together, there ... markup is used for Facebook likes – but we are looking at other things that could be built on top of this.

Q: Which business model are you following? Can one integrate your service into his shop? would you offer this a cloud service? for how much?
We’ll have B2C (new features on the website are coming soon) and a B2B freemium model. We’re currently identifying how much calls we can support as part of the free-calls per day (so that will indeed be cloud-based, our architecture is on EC2). So, integration of our service / data in shop websites, etc. is definitely what we’d like to see and to feature in our upcoming app-gallery ! The only requirement for data-reuse is attributionLet others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request. and linking-back to the service.

Thanks Alex, and I wish you and your team all the best with!