as one of the students working for MediaWiki under Google Summer of Code 2011, let me thank you for answering my odd questions, and bringing insight in areas I might have overlooked.
Through the last three months, guided by my mentor Markus Krötzsch, and the people at Semantic MediaWiki (especially Jeroen De Dauw), I've been trying to build a newer way of constructing queries.
As part of that initiative, we've built an interface called QueryCreator, which improves on it's predecessor, Special:Ask. QC's makes many tiny improvements over Special:Ask, but mainly requires you to know less about the query syntax. Some of the bigger improvements are:
1) A less cluttered interface
2) Auto-complete for properties and categories using the MW API.
We have not completely eliminated the use the SMW query syntax in the interface(that could be a good goal for the future), but we believe a new user without any prior experience of SMW should be able to query your SMW wiki, without poring over the help-files. We hope to put QueryCreator in the upcoming release of SMW.
The other (but related) work we've done is to try and look for those functionalities which need to be repeatedly implemented by a programmer while making other Query interfaces. We know that a single query interface may not always be suited to all kinds of users, nor to the many different domains where SMW is implemented. So we've done some work building two classes called QueryUI and QueryUIHelper, which encapsulate much of the core behaviour as well as some commonly used interface elements, so that it may be easier for you (developers) to build a query interface in the future.
You can have a look at my commits on the work at http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Special:Code/MediaWiki/author/devayon
If you have any comments about this work, please let me know. I have plans to improve upon my work from these last few months, and look forward to your insights.
On a related note, a big thank you to Sumana at Wikimedia Foundation for making it so easy for all the GSoC 2011 participants (there were 8 of us in the beginning) to contribute.
It's been a fun experience, and I hope to keep contributing code to SMW in the future.