Hello all,

You may remember the help email I sent about two weeks ago, and some of you may remember me from Wikimania as well. Well, I'm excited to say that my friend Nick Grandy and I are now almost ready to release the Semantic-MediaWiki-based site we've been working on for the past few months. It is tentatively called "Discourse DB" (the name and URL are both liable to change), and for now you can find it here:


The basic idea behind the site is that it's meant to be a database of worldwide political opinions, as expressed by commentators, journalists and notable political bloggers. Opinion items are grouped by topic and stance, to give readers a sense of the current spectrum of thinking around any political issue. Personally, I don't think such a site could ever have come into existence without semantic wiki technology: it had to be a wiki because there's no way a closed group of people could maintain such a large set of information over a long period of time, and it had to be semantic because there's a lot of database-like querying that has to occur. So we are extremely grateful to the developers of Semantic MediaWiki for creating such a useful piece of technology.

We did make some technical changes to Semantic MediaWiki in order to get the site working the way we wanted:

- we added an option to the <ask> tag, "count", to display only the number of results returned for a query.

- we added the ability to create custom formats for the <ask> tag; if a tag that looks like <ask format="FormatName"> appears, the parser looks for a page called "Template:FormatName", and attempts to use that page to display the results. You can see such a custom format being used in any of the "position" pages.

- we added (as per the subject of the last email I sent) the ability to create a custom query for the <ask> tag; if you write <ask query="QueryName">, the parser looks in the code for special handling; this lets you programatically specify any subquerying and formatting for a given set of results. You can see such a custom query being used in any of the "topic" pages.

Also, we made one non-technical change: the "refresh" tab shows up for all readers, not just administrators or logged-in users. We feel that this is the right way to go, given that otherwise there will be too much potential for confusion when people enter or change data and then don't see their edits reflected immediately in other inline queries.

We look forward to working with you to add any or all of these changes/additions to the main code base.

...also, this isn't a change per se, but we configured SMW to not display the list of all relations and attributes at the bottom of each page; if you were wondering where they went. Also, we changed the skin around a little bit to give the site its own look.

Please check out the site, and feel free to make any edits or changes to the content. We want to make sure this implementation of SMW meets with the approval of those working on the project, and we are very interested to hear your feedback. You can respond either to the mailing list or to us personally.

Thank you,
Yaron Koren