Semiodesk is Gold Sponsor of SEMANTiCS 2018

We are proud to announce that we are Gold Sponsor for this year’s SEMANTiCS conference in Vienna. The annual conference is a meeting place for professionals who make semantic computing work. It has a strong focus on practical applications of semantic technologies in business, government and research.

Introducing modom.io

As a highlight of this year’s conference we will be publicly releasing modom.io, our collaborative ontology editing platform with focus on source code generation. It enables you to easily turn your software data model into a powerful knowledge base. The web service will save enterprises costly development time and reduce risks associated with corporate knowledge drain. It is currently under development in cooperation with our partners from industry and will be released on 10th of September, the first day of the SEMANTiCS conference.

Exclusive SEMANTiCS Interview

Prior to the conference our co-founder Sebastian Faubel gave an exclusive SEMANTiCS interview ‘Leverage your business capabilities with Open Data’. In the interview he shares insights about how our company came to developing modom.io, how the service compares to traditional data modelling tools and about other Linked Data projects we are participating.

Modom.io Presentation at SEMANTiCS

There will also be a talk by Sebastian at the conference. In the presentation titled ‘modom.io – Using Linked Data for Model-Driven Software Development’ he will talk about the modom.io service architecture, the challenges we encountered during development and our future goals. In a live demonstration we will show how modom.io can be used to model ontologies using the Linked Open Data Cloud and generate ready-to-use C# source code for .NET/Entity Framework in a matter of minutes.

Let’s get in touch!

Want to know more about modom.io? Register for SEMANTiCS and visit us at our booth at the conference venue. There you will be able to grab yourself one of the limited edition modom.io coffee mugs.

Of course you can contact us and ask questions at any time. We’re looking forward to talking to you!

Semantics At Play: Electronic Arts using Linked Data for Multi-Channel Content Management

The annual SEMANTiCS conference is the meeting place for professionals who make semantic computing work, and understand its benefits and know its limitations. This year the conference took place at the beautiful Meervaart Theater in Amsterdam. Amongst the keynotes from industry representatives of Wolters Kluver, Otto Group and Google there was one to stand out: ‘Semantics At Play: Electronic Arts’ Linked Data Journey’ jointly held by Aaron Bradley and Eamonn Glass about the new content management strategy at Electronic Arts.

Aaron Bradley and Eamonn Glass presenting at SEMANTiCS 2017

EA’s Problem: Data Silos

Electronic Arts is one of the world’s largest gaming companies with a portfolio of more than 1.100 titles and annual net sales of over 4.9 billion dollars in 2017. According to the presenters the company had an enormous problem with managing their content across the various divisions and brands: For every title published by EA there used to be multiple content management systems for marketing and support teams, often replicating the content of the other ones via copy and paste. As one can imagine this was highly inefficient, costing the company considerable amounts of time and money while making it increasingly harder to serve content for multiple channels – including web sites, social networks and in-game.

EA’s Solution: Linked Data Content Management

Heavily inspired by the content management system which the BBC had developed for the football World Cup 2012, EA is consolidating a large amount of its online content in a so called ‘Content Service’. That is a high performance MarkLogic semantic graph database storing its content aligned with the schema.org vocabulary. PoolParty was chosen as the solution for managing the enterprise taxonomy.

The huge advantage of this approach is, that now EA is capable of making the same content available to multiple channels (in-game, web, apps, feeds) in various formats just by exposing it over APIs, along with structured data for SEO. According to the presenters this has resulted in a 40% increase in personalized content served via in-game channels and in search results exposing significantly more EA authored content.

Mr. Bradley and Mr. Glass stated that the new content management strategy is successful and will be extended in future.

Playing With Semantics: Trinity RDF used in Award-Nominated Game

As it comes we have made our own game-related experiences with Linked Data: Close is a poetic and atmospheric exploration game about yourself and the other one, about being alone and being together.”

The game was co-authored by Moritz Eberl who developed its artificial intelligence engine based on Linked Data using Trinity RDF and the gaming engine Unity. It was amongst the nominated finalists for the 2017 Independent Games Festival Award at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, USA.

If you have any questions about how Linked Data and semantic technologies can be deployed to remove the boundaries of your data silos or to make your applications even smarter – just ask us, we can help you out.

Artivity alpha release available for macOS

We are proud to announce that the first pre-release version of Artivity codenamed ‘Altamira’ can be downloaded for macOS from our project website. Following an intensive six-month development sprint which started in March this year, the software is now ready for testing by artists and designers using the Creative Cloud versions of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The software allows for easily documenting and sharing of the entire creation process of your digital artwork. It can be used as a long term self archiving tool which does not interfere with your creative practice.

One user experience across all platforms

The focus of the latest developments has been on making Artivity usable with the Adobe Creative Cloud products and on providing a consistent user experience on all supported operating systems. One of the results is a completely new graphical user interface, re-written from ground up using modern web technologies. It features fluent layout, smooth animations, powerful extensibility and drag’n’drop interaction – on all operating systems. This new user interface will also be the basis for all future Artivity cloud services that we are currently developing.

The alpha release is currently only available for macOS as part of our product stabilization strategy. A version for Windows is already up and running and will be released when Artivity progresses into beta stadium. There will also be a version for Linux as soon as Inkscape 0.92 is released. Semiodesk sponsored new code to the project for loading native C++ plugins which was published at the Libre Graphics Meeting 2016 in London.

Artivity ScreenshotArtivity Windows File

Plugins for Adobe Creative Cloud products

The plugins for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop do not only provide detailed data about every influence to a picture – they also provide rendered layer data which can be used to visually reconstruct and analyse the image at every state in its creation process. Artivity presents a video-player like interface for replaying all the editing steps that have gone into a digital artwork. However, unlike a plain video capture, the reconstructed images are fully interactive and can be commented, edited and analysed retrospectively. This allows for simply moving existing shapes in an image to preview and communicate ideas for changes to other users.

Artivity Screenshot Plugins

Powerful SPARQL query editor with built-in visualization

As a research project of the London University of the Arts, it is important that the data which is produced by Artivity can be studied to gain new insights into the creative process of digital artists. For this reason Artivity has been built using W3C Semantic Web technologies which provide a standard model for data interchange on the Word Wide Web. The TinyVirtuoso  graph database allows for querying W3C PROV-O provenance data from multiple sources using the powerful SPARQL query language. The built-in query editor has support for syntax highlighting, code completion, error checking and generates charts for the data returned from a query. Of course, all results can be exported into CSV format for further processing in spreadsheet and statistics tools.

Artivity Query Editor

See Artivity in action

Artivity will be presented at this year’s SEMANTiCS conference in Leipzig and at the JISC Research Data Spring Showcase in Birmingham. The project is a cooperation of Semiodesk GmbH and the University of the Arts, London. Its development was funded by JISC as part of the Research Data Spring.

Artivity presentation at SEMANTiCS 2016

The annual SEMANTiCS conference is the meeting place for professionals who make semantic computing work, and understand its benefits and know its limitations. Our highlight this year is the Artivity Presentation at the Linked Data Exposure track, held by Sebastian Faubel.

Leipzig University campus

This year’s conference is located at Leipzig University in Germany. As every year, the Semiodesk Team will be on site and we are looking forward to meeting friends and making new contacts. The conference features a very interesting conference programme with talks about effective enterprise Linked Data adoption and capturing human context in Social Media, to name just a few highlights.

On the eve of the SEMANTiCS conference, there is also a meetup where experts on Big and Linked Data gather to discuss the future agenda on research and implementation of a joint technology development.

Presenting the Artivity project

Artivity Presentation Cover, SEMANTiCS 2016

The project is a cooperation of Semiodesk and the University of the Arts, London and allows for easily recording and sharing the entire creation process of digital artwork. He will be talking about our experiences with building a cross-platform, scalable Linked Data application which captures and integrates provenance data from a variety of web browsers and digital imaging applications, including tools from the industry leading the Adobe Creative Cloud product line.

The software was build using Semiodesk Trinity, our Enterprise Linked Data platform for .NET, and is currently available as a public alpha version. At the University of the Arts we are currently in the preparation phase for large-scale distribution at the university network. The slides of the Artivity presentation will be published at SlideShare after the conference.

Introducing the Artivity ontology

In addition to the presentation of the Artivity project, the Artivity ontology has been submitted to the SEMANTiCS Vocabulary Carnival. The event is a great opportunity for us to showcase and share the vocabulary we have been developing for Artivity. The ontology consists of extensions to the W3C PROV ontology for capturing changes to the properties of entities over time. In addition, the vocabulary provides terms which are specific for the computer graphics domain which can be used for modelling shapes, viewports, canvases and bounding geometries.

Trinity adds SPARQL parameters and automatic prefixes

Semiodesk Trinity Our enterprise grade Semantic Web platform just got better: With support for bindable SPARQL parameters and automatic prefix declarations, the new Semiodesk Trinity 0.9.122 release substantially improves the usability and performance of the query API.

Automatic Prefix Declaration

Trinity users will already know the Vocabulary Class Generator feature which allows to use ontology terms directly in source code to support all kind of code completion engines such as IntelliSense in Visual Studio. Based on the ontologies which are defined in the App.config file, the improved SparqlQuery class is now capable of declaring all registered prefixes automatically. This is a booster for developer productivity since it's no longer required to copy and paste prefix declarations from one query to another, which is time consuming and prone to errors. The following example illustrates the use of the new SparqlQuery class. The query uses the W3C PROV ontology and some terms from the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set to retrieve the time range of user activities and the files and websites which were used:
// NOTE: The prefixes used in the query will be declared by the SparqlQuery class.
ISparqlQuery query = new SparqlQuery(@"
   SELECT ?activity ?startTime ?endTime ?title ?description WHERE
   {
      ?activity prov:used ?entity ;
         prov:startedAtTime ?startTime .
         prov:endedAtTime ?endTime .

      ?entity dc:title ?title .

      OPTIONAL { ?entity dc:description ?description . }
   }
   ORDER BY ASC(?startTime)");

ISparqlQueryResult result = Model.ExecuteQuery(query);
The query is parsed once at construction time and all missing prefixes will be declared if they are found in App.config.

SPARQL Parameters

Adding runtime parameters to SPARQL query strings can be tricky: The string concatenation operator does not allow to reuse any parameterized query string with different values and string.Format() quickly leads to a pile of curly braces that is hard to maintain. To address this issue we have introduced bindable SPARQL parameters to our query API: an extension to the SPARQL syntax that allows to define special variables which may be bound to a given value at runtime. The syntax is similar to SqlParameters in Microsoft Entity Framework where a query parameter is preceded by '@'. The parameter value can later be bound to a specific value like in this example:
// NOTE: The parameter '@startTime' will later be bound to today's date.
ISparqlQuery query = new SparqlQuery(@"
   SELECT ?activity WHERE
   {
      ?activity prov:startedAtTime ?startTime .

      FILTER(?startTime > @startTime)
   }
   ORDER BY ASC(?startTime)");

query.Bind("@startTime", DateTime.Today);

ISparqlQueryResult result = Model.ExecuteQuery(query);
The new SparqlQuery class encapsulates a blazing fast StringBuilder that regenerates the query string only when a modified query is actually used. The result is a convenient API with high performance, especially when a query is subsequently executed with different parameter values.

Now Available

The new version of the API has been released by the time of this writing. Start your favourite C# IDE and add the Semiodesk Trinity Core NuGet package to try it now. Please refer to the Trinity website for more information.

Artivity to be available for Windows and Mac OS X

The Artivity Project aims to produce an open desktop logging framework for arts practice. It allows for capturing detailed data about the creation process of digital artwork and its context. This data can be used to study the techniques, workflow and sources of inspiration in the creation process of digital media. The project is executed in cooperation with the University of the Arts, London and is funded by JISC. We are currently nearing the end of the second funding phase in which we delivered all expected results and even more.

A highly successful second development period

After the initial three month prototyping phase which started in April this year, we managed to proceed into a second JISC-funded development sprint which started in mid-July and lasted four months until mid-November. The primary goals of the second funding round were:

  • Produce a plugin for a bitmap based image editing program (Krita)
  • Enable exporting the captured data for further analysis in 3rd party statistics software
  • Conduct user tests and produce test datasets

As part of a long-term sustainability strategy and to make the software available to a broad user audience, we decided to move away from the Zeitgeist event logging framework as the platform for the software. While it was a reasonable choice for developing the proof-of-concept prototype of the software in the extremely short time frame of three months, Zeitgeist effectively limited the software to run on Linux desktops only. This is why we decided to implement the data model based on the W3C PROV ontology for document provenance and the Semiodesk Trinity Linked Data platform for C#.

All of the primary goals for the current project sprint have been met. Solely the user testing phase started two weeks later as planned, due to the additional porting effort to the .NET/Mono platform. However, considering the extremely short time frame of 10 weeks from specification to release, this is a tolerable delay for a project with this complexity.

New features at a glance

The focus of development in this sprint has been on porting and extending the Artivity logging platform. As with the platform itself, the new Artivity Explorer is now cross platform and runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Besides all the platform work, we have also taken some time to add some visible new features to the user interface of our main application:

The new Artivity Explorer dashboard.

Dashboard

Artivity is all about a users artistic activities. This is why we added a new dashboard which displays a user’s recently used files along with editing statistics. The journal enables a user to quickly access the details of a file such as the editing history.

The improved Artivity Explorer document history view.

Document History

The improved document history shows all editing steps and related program activity, such as browsing events. It will highlight the area of a change in the document thumbnail. This allows for visually backtracking the whole editing process of the document.

The improved preferences dialog in Artivity Explorer.

Preferences

The new preferences dialog allows a user to edit his profile such as setting an avatar image and the contact details. Under the new ‘applications’ tab one can choose to enable or disable logging for an application and to set the preferred colour for plotting the activity charts.

The new database settings page in the preferences dialog.

Database Monitoring

The improved preferences dialog also contains a tab for monitoring the Artivity database. This is especially useful for collecting data from user tests. The facts and disk space charts give a clear indication at which speed the database will grow under normal usage scenarios.

Artivity Explorer showing the editing history of a Krita file.

Krita Plugin

We have chosen Krita to be the first bitmap-based image editor to be supported by Artivity. Unlinke Inkscape, the data logging in Krita is implemented as a true plugin which can dynamically be loaded at runtime.

The data export dialog showing the available export formats.

Export formats

In this release we have significantly improved the data export in Artivity Explorer. One can now choose between exporting the data in the Artivity native RDF format or to write portions of the data into CSV format for usage in statistics and spreadsheet applications.

Upcoming: Artivity goes Creative Suite

All major components the Artivity framework now seamlessly run on all major desktop platforms. This is extremely important for the sustainability and future development of the whole project. In the future, the core platform and user interface components will be developed and supported for all desktop platforms – including Linux. However, as a next step we will focus on providing support for the mainstream products in professional digital media production: namely the Adobe Creative Suite on Mac OS X and Windows. An initial implementation for Adobe Photoshop is already in progress.

We’re currently applying for another funding round at JISC. For the next phase, our primary goal will be to release Artivity to a broad user audience. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us – but we think we’re well prepared. Stay tuned.

What’s in the pipeline: Upcoming Releases

We are not only working hard on Artivity but we try to constantly improve upon the Trinity framework, as well as general tooling for Semantic Web technologies with C#. So here is a small overview of the things that are currently on our agenda:

Tooling

Ontologies are at the heart of every Linked Data project. Here we always have to compete with all other data modelling tools for Visual Studio and some developers raised the issue that there is no integration into the IDE. So we are doing exactly that.

We have created editors for popular ontology serialization formats like Turtle, N3 etc. They offer syntax highlighting as well as auto-completion. Additionaly they tie in with our own Trinity Framework, so you can create a bootstrapping object model from an ontology with few simple mouse clicks. Further down the road we want to add a graphical editor where you can get a better overview of the ontology terms.

TinyVirutoso

Using the feature-rich Virtuoso database server, we have created a package to deploy an embedded triple store that can be instrumented using C#. It can serve the same needs as Microsofts SQL Server Compact.

There are a number of use cases for such a store:

  • We use it to do the integration tests for our software. We can do the instrumentation of the database directly in the tests and verify that everything works as it should.
  • For desktop applications that need the features like inferencing it is often easier to deploy a store on demand instead of trying to start a service.
  • In todays development culture it is important to get a prototype out of the door as fast as possible. This often means that dealing with deployment issues like configuring the database server is something that people rather push back. With TinyVirtuoso you won’t have to deal these issues until better scalability is required.

LINQ support for Trinity

Though we already have the Resource Query API for retrieving data from the RDF database, we still feel that the Trinity is still lacking a bit in that aspect. For one we feel that there is a disparity between using the RDF properties for queries and the C# properties for the mapped classes. Additionally, LINQ is the standard way of writing queries in C# and we want to adhere to that. So we are currently working on implementing LINQ querying for mapped classes. Still, you won’t be able to get the full potential that SPARQL has to offer, but it should speed up development for your typical day to day queries.

Semiodesk GmbH sponsoring SEMANTiCS 2015

We are proud to announce that we are Bronze Sponsor for this year’s SEMANTiCS conference in Vienna. The annual conference is a meeting place for professionals who make semantic computing work and has a strong focus on practical applications of semantic technologies in business, government and research. According to the conference website:

Every year, SEMANTiCS attracts information managers, IT-architects, software engineers, and researchers, from organisations ranging from NPOs, universities, public administrations to the largest companies in the world.

We will be attending the whole conference this year including the workshops which will be held before the core conference. We are looking forward to an exciting programme and interesting new opportunities. On last year’s conference the Semiodesk Organiser was awarded with the “Best Project and Innovation Award” issued by the Institute for Applied Informatics of the University of Leipzig.

Semiodesk Trinity now available under MIT license

With Semiodesk Trinity, we offer a feature-rich development platform to create Semantic Web powered applications in C#.Net/Mono. If you are looking for an object mapping API for graph databases or just want a simple way to consume linked open data from your applications, Trinity can deliver.

Because we want to get as many people as possible interested in Semantic Web, we have made sure it is dead simple to use. Furthermore, to make it available to anyone, we have released it under the MIT license. This means you can use it for free, even for commercial projects.

For a detailed overview what Trinity can offer you, please visit our product page. If you just want to try it out, just head over to our tutorial and follow the instructions. For arising problems or bugs, please use our issue tracker. Please contact us under hello@semiodesk.com if you have any further questions.

Artivity Project: Visualizing the Creative Process

In cooperation with the University of the Arts London, Semiodesk is working on a project called Artivity. The goal of this project is to create an open platform which allows for capturing detailed data about the creation process of digital artwork and its context. This data can be used to study the techniques, workflow and sources of inspiration in the creation process of digital media. Moreover, the platform allows artists to archive not only the result of their work, but also the whole creation process along with it.

The project started in April 2015 and is approaching the end of its first phase: bootstrapping the fundamental platform and tools. In order to jump-start the development of the software, Ubuntu Linux and the Zeitgeist event logging framework were chosen as operating system platform. Although the software platform is not widespread in digital media creation, it provides most of the features required for the project out of the box. The tools and insights resulting from this project will be of great value when implementing similar systems on other platforms.

Helping to understand the life cycle of artwork

We chose the Inkscape vector illustration program as our first tool to provide detailed data about the creative editing process. A modified version of the program delivers us data about editing sessions and the steps undertaken in the creation process of a file. Along with statistics about the composition of an artwork in layers, groups and single objects we provide an initial statistic basis for more advanced study of technique, editing habits and the life cycle of digital artwork.

artivity_explorer_230615

In the above picture we can see the Artivity Explorer. This tool visualizes all the captured data of a specific file. In the prominent bar chart we display the editing sessions (purple areas), editing steps per minute (purple bars), accessed websites per minute (blue bars) and file system events per minute (orange bars). This feature is currently under development and will be improved with a legend, more data, greater accuracy and interactivity in future versions.

Enabling to capture the creative context

Artists take inspiration from their environment. In the digital world, the primary source for inspiration is the World Wide Web. Allowing users to track their online sources of inspiration does not only allow us to understand how an artwork was technically created, but also yields answers about why it was created in a certain style. For this purpose, Semiodesk has implemented browser plugins which enable tracking the websites which were visited during the editing sessions. For privacy reasons, this journaling feature may be disabled by the user at any time.

artivity_browser_plugins_230615

Future work

In the short time frame of three months, the project has successfully produced a solid platform which allows scientists and artists all over the world to analyze the creative process in great detail. In the next phase of the project, we aim to improve and extend our existing programs in terms of usability and accuracy. Moreover we plan to add support for pixel-based image manipulation tools such as Krita, Pinta or the GIMP.