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May 13, 2008

More Social Metadata: APML and ULML

While a lot of recent attention has focussed on the issue of social graph portability, there are a couple of other interesting developments in social metadata I've come across lately.

APML (Attention Profile Markup Language) is a means of sharing an individual attention profile. While other specs (such as the seemingly-dead AttentionXML) have focussed on the tracking of attention in terms of individual clicks, APML is concerned with the mobility of a more coarse-grained profile, consisting of a collection of weighted concepts, either self-asserted or aggregated from services.

The spec is generally simple enough to implement, despite a few odd design choices, consisting basically of a list of "concepts" (keywords or labels) and "sources" (URLs) that are of interest to the subject, all of which have a weighting from 0 to 1 and some additional metadata about where the weightings come from.

APML is currently undergoing revision to reach 1.0 status, and so we can see quite a few possible changes, but its worth having a look at if you're thinking of developing applications that make use of individual interest profiles for personalisation. It should be fairly trivial to support users exporting or importing such a profile.

ULML (User Labor Markup Language) is a specification for tracking the metrics of user participation in social web services. A ULML document provides statistics on a user's interactions with the service; as the developers put it:

"User labor is the work that people put in to create, improve, and maintain their existence in social web"

ULML provides a way of presenting the volume of user activities such as generating content, tagging, voting and commenting. It also allows for the sharing of metrics concerning reactions to their participation - incoming views, comments, bookmarks and so on. Overall the intent is to quantify in some fashion the economic value of social participation, potentially to enable greater transparency about how user's participation with a service is valued to advertisers and other services that support (typically free) social web applications and to power things like meta-markets.

Some rather simple metrics are already used on forums to rank the value of contributors and encourage more participation - typically based on the number of posts alone. Using the more comprehensive - yet still quite simple - metrics available in ULML may allow better comparisons of relative levels of commitment, engagement, and value generation with multiple social web services.

Its an interesting concept, and could possibly have some use in evaluating engagement and participation in more general terms for services without such an economic rationale such as elearning applications. For example, to quantitatively compare the relative commitment of students to VLEs versus Facebook, or to measure the value generated by staff in shared services. It may also be possible to find a way of using it to quantize the work of researchers who share their work by blogging and using social networks as well as by traditional academic publishing.

I think its fair to say neither APML or ULML is going mainstream anytime soon, but are sufficiently simple to implement that they may be worth exploring if you're developing applications that have a social angle.

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