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Some Semantic Treats For A Happy Halloween

By   /  October 31, 2011  /  No Comments

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/ Sarah_Ackerman

It’s that spooky time of year again – in your neighborhood and on the Semantic Web, too. Put on your goblin getups, and see how some semantic webbers and related sites are getting Halloween treats into their mix:


  • We’ll start with a response we got to a query we posed about how you might have some fun with Halloween-oriented SPARQL queries. From Bob DuCharme, solutions architect at TopQuadrant, comes a query to extract a SKOS taxonomy of horror movies from DBpedia.

It looks like this:

PREFIX skos: <http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/core#>
  <http://dbpedia.org/resource/Category:Horror_films> a skos:Concept ; skos:prefLabel "Horror films" .
   ?c1 a skos:Concept ;
      skos:prefLabel ?c1Label ;
      skos:broader <http://dbpedia.org/resource/Category:Horror_films> .
   ?c2 a skos:Concept ;
      skos:prefLabel ?c2Label ;
      skos:broader ?c1 .
  ?c1 skos:broader <http://dbpedia.org/resource/Category:Horror_films>  .
  ?c1 skos:prefLabel ?c1Label .
  FILTER ( lang(?c1Label) = "en" )
    ?c2 skos:broader ?c1; skos:prefLabel ?c2Label .
    FILTER ( lang(?c2Label) = "en" )

Some takeaways, says DuCharme, are “now we not only know that that ‘Pakistani horror films’ is a subcategory of ‘Asian horror,’ which is a subcategory of ‘Horror films’; we can get it in a format that can be used by any taxonomy management tool that uses the W3C SKOS standard,” such as TopQuadrant’s EVN. See it in action here.


  • Next up: Online dictionary site Wordnik – whose APIs are used by hundreds of developers to add word information to their applications and which this summer released the Word Graph API for helping partners understand more of what their content says and is – has spent October diving into the lexicon around the fright fest. It’s explored words defining and related to werewolves, zombies, vampires, and of course, the Devil himself. Not only did we get a refresher course that the Devil is also known today by names such as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan and Clootie, but that the words bogus, ragamuffin, scapegoat, and flibbertigibbet (yes, flibbertigibbet) began their lives with some relationship to the Prince of Darkness himself. Back in the 1600s, the site’s blog reports, flibbertigibbet referred to “the name of a devil” and in fact is described in King Lear as a “foul fiend.”
  • Moving right along, you’ve probably stocked up on chocolate and candies for the trick-or-treaters, but what’s for dinner and dessert? Head on over to Dishtip, which uses semantic analysis to find top dishes and corresponding restaurants, and find out what might be cooking. The site, which we covered here, provides some Halloween-y fare options. If you’re in the Huntington Beach area in California, or near Chicago, try the Halloween roll at Sushi on Fire or Sai Café, respectively. For dessert, the West Coast’s Mill Valley sports pumpkin gelato at Pasta Pomonodo, or a bit further east, try Lily’s Cookies in San Antonio for a bite of a black cat or Frankenstein. 
  • Over at FeelTipTop.com, a social search and discovery engine that uses semantic technology to extract meaning from data streams such as Twitter to deliver tops (as in topics) and tips about them, you can get some perspective on leading Halloween costumes. It ranks them for kids, adults, by creature or fictional character (and yes, Harry Potter does score at the top of that list), and you can explore contexts around what’s being said about the most-discussed outfits, by sentiment, relevance, media type, and more. President and CEO Shyam Kapur says the overall system has more treats in store, perhaps by the winter holidays, including greater personalization in the discovery panel – to refine results to focus on an individual’s own sources (email, for example); or by more granular geographies, time or sentiment – and more semantic and syntactic navigation to deliver links based on individual objectives and perspectives.
  • Not trick-or-treating this year? That’s okay. You can still find something to do to celebrate the holiday at LiveMatrix, the Nova Spivack-backed startup that’s a programming guide to live and scheduled events on the real-time web (we most recently covered it here). An outfit called Robot Noise promises “pretty weird and creepy off set vibes” tonight, or you can tune into more nostalgic entertainment by way of  a live broadcast from the Cicada Club of a Swingin’ Sixties Halloween Party with Dean Mora And His Orchestra.

Have a frightfully fun Halloween!

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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