UKOLN Institutional Web Management Workshop 2004:
Use of FOAF

Use of FOAF

Participants at the Institutional Web Management Workshop are invited to create their own FOAF file and to link to fellow participants. You are also invited to provide information about your attendance at the workshop (and at previous workshops).

Tell Me More

A paper on Using FOAF To Support Community Building describes the potential for use of FOAF to support community building at events.

The FOAF-a-matic FOAF authoring tool is a simple Web-based authoring tool. Simply enter your details into the form and press the FOAF Me button. This will then create a FOAF file which you can add to your Web site.

At this point your FOAF file only contains your personal detail, with no links to your friends and colleagues. You can add a link to Brian Kelly's FOAF file which is available at

You can also use the FOAF Explorer application to not only view FOAF relationships but also to update a copy of your FOAF file. For example you can view Brian Kelly's friends and click on the red icon next to anyone you know to provide the data which should be added to your FOAF file.

Alternatively you may wish to create your FOAF file by hand.

The basic elements are listed below.

    <!-- FOAF data goes here --> 

This defines the XML namespaces to be used in your FOAF document (if you don't understand what this means, this doesn't matter. Simply add the stuff at the start of your FOAF file.

You can then add details of people you know. For example if you know Brian Kelly add:

  <foaf:name>Brian Kelly</foaf:name> 
  <foaf:mbox rdf:resource=""/> 

Note this example is taken from the FOAF tutorial.

Once you have created your FOAF file, email me with the URL. I will then add you to my FOAF file.

It should be noted that you may need to ensure that your Web server sends the FOAF file with an appropiate MIME type (e.g. application/rdf+xml). If you are a Web systems administrator you will probably know what this means. If you are not, try to view your FOAF file using a FOAF viewer using as FOAF Explorer first - or email B.Kelly AT with the address of your FOAF file.

Note that a Wiki has been created which can also be used to enter details of your attendance at the event. However this should only be used by those who are experienced in using Wikis.

Viewing FOAF

You can see a list of FOAF viewers.

What Will I Get?

Image of FOAFNaut Once you have create your simple FOAF data file your information will be part of the Semantic Web and can be displayed by various FOAF viewers, such as the one illustrated.

Note that if you have an SVG plugin installed you can interact with the FOAFNaut application. Why not try it here or here.

If you do not have an SVG plugin installed you can interact with the FOAFExplorer or Plink applications directly.

The potential for the Semantic Web and FOAF will be discussed at the workshop.

Possible Concerns

Possible concerns you may have:

Data Protection
The data you create will be stored and managed by yourself. There is therefore no data protection implications for anyone else.
Potential Misuse Of Personal Information
The data you store in a structure RDF format is data which you should be willing to make available on public Web pages. The data is potentially less likely to be misused as you can store an encrypted form of your email address.
Lies and Errors
People may make mistakes in the information they provide or even tell lies. This is no different to conventional Web pages.
I Wish To be Removed
If you wish you data to be deleted you can simply delete your file. It is your data and you are in control of it.
I'm Too Busy
Created your initial FOAF file and storing it on your Web site should only take 10-15 minutes. Isn't it worth spending this small amount of time to be a FOAF pioneer!
What If I Make A Mistake
Good question. FOAF, as an XML application, requires that the XML complies with standards. FOAF Explorer contains a link to an RDF validator when you are viewing a FOAF file: Try it (see Validate RDF link at top right of page).

Last modified: 13th August 2004