Press Release

Citizen Dan Unveiled; First Instance of the Open Semantic Framework

CORALVILLE, IA, August 3, 2010 -- Citizen Dan, an open source system for local governments and organizations to publish and visualize community data and content, was unveiled today by its developer, Structured Dynamics (SD). Along with the software, SD also released a working demo site and full documentation.

"This release is really exciting for us since it is the first instance of our comprehensive open semantic framework," said Michael Bergman, Structured Dynamics' CEO. "OSF itself is the culmination of many individual open source piece parts. In combination, we now have a generic semantic framework of tools, widgets and infrastructure applicable to any domain," he added.

Structured Dynamics indicated it developed the open semantic framework (OSF) to achieve two objectives:  1) to provide a complete and comprehensive infrastructure for enterprises and organizations to leverage their existing information assets using semantic technologies; and 2) to develop a new kind of application based on generic software, responsive to and driven solely by ontologies and the data fed to them.

"For some time SD's vision has been to shift the knowledge management paradigm from brittle and costly tailored software apps to simple systems controlled by domain experts and users," said Bergman. "We think our ontology-driven apps based on adaptive ontologies achieve just that," he said.

To demonstrate this potential, the Citizen Dan package is itself a layered architecture of SD-developed and third-party open source tools. It is designed to enable existing information to be transformed into a canonical RDF (Resource Description Framework) form, and then integrated via ontologies including administrative ones that map the characteristics of the underlying content to applicable generic component tools and data display and visualization widgets.

"By virtue of the nature of the data and content fed to the system, the internal OSF ontologies know which actions and widgets can be invoked," said Frédérick Giasson, SD's CTO. "For example, if the data is from a document, we know we can use a story tagger or concept explorer to view it. Similarly, geographical information can be mapped or numeric information can be plotted or graphed. By changing the data and ontologies, we change the nature and behavior of the app without modifying any software," he added.

The system is based on a suite of Web services called structWSF that provides platform-independent endpoints for conducting all dataset and content manipulations. Examples include query, search, browse, import and export, and dataset and record management such as create, view, update, deletes or appends. Requests made to these endpoints produce results sets, which are then read by the widgets and components hosted in a Drupal content management system for user display and visualization. As users interact with the interface, new queries and requests are issued to these endpoints, which produce new results sets, all in a dynamic and interactive feedback loop.

"The system is a completely distributed Web-oriented architecture," notes Giasson. "The design enables distributed networks of endpoints and datasets to reside across the Web, which means multiple cities can participate and share information across the Citizen Dan network," he said.

This first release of Citizen Dan includes all baseline open semantic framework capabilities, including the:

  • Concept Explorer - this Flex widget (also called the Relation Browser) is a dynamic navigator of the concept space (ontology) that is used to organize the content on the instance
  • Story Viewer - any type of text content (such as stories, blog posts, news articles, local government reports, city council minutes, etc.) can be tagged using the scones system (subject concepts or named entities), which then provides the basis for linking the content with concepts and other data
  • Map Viewer - the map viewer is a Flex widget that presents layered views of different geographic areas. The title bar of the viewer allows different layers to be turned on and off
  • Charting Widgets - the system provides a variety of charting options for numeric data, including pie, line and bar charts
  • Filter Component - the filter, or browse, component provides the ability to slice-and-dice the information space by a choice of dataset, type of data or data attribute. These slices then become filter selections which can be persisted across various visualizations or exports
  • Search Component - this component provides full-text, faceted search across all content in the system; it may be used in conjunction with the filtering above to restrict the search space to the current slice
  • Dashboard Viewer - a dashboard is a particular layout of one or more visualization widgets and a set (or not) of content filtering conditions to be displayed on a canvas. Dashboard views are created in the workbench and given a persistent name for invoking and use at any other location in the application
  • Workbench - via the workbench, records and datasets and attributes may be selected, and then particular views or widgets may then be selected for a nameable layout as a persistent dashboard view
  • Exporter - the exporter component supports a number of export formats (spreadsheets via CSV, XML, JSON, RDF), which may either be contextual for the current filter slice or based on entire datasets
  • Importer - like the exporter, there are a variety of formats supported for ingesting data or content into the system
  • Dataset Submission and Management - new datasets can be defined, updated, deleted, appended and granted various access rights and permissions, including to the granularity of individual components or tools
  • Records Manager - every dataset can have its records managed via so-called CRUD (create - read - update - delete) rights. Depending on the dataset permissions, a given user may or may not see these tools.

Since Citizen Dan is under active development by a number of innovative cities, further additional releases with growing functionality are anticipated by Structured Dynamics.

"We are committed to not only open source, but open release of the other parts that make for a total open solution, such as full documentation, best practices and methods, and ontology structures," Bergman said. "This is in keeping with SD's mantra that, 'We are successful when we're not needed'," he said.

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The Citizen Dan working demo may be accessed at http://citizen-dan.org; the site also includes download and install instructions. Bergman's blog post making the release announcment is at http://mkbergman.com/899/citizen-dan-goes-live-available-for-download. The DocWiki for Citizen Dan is at http://docwiki.citizen-dan.org. The optional MUNI ontology may be found in pre-release form at http://vocab.muni-ontology.org.

About Structured Dynamics LLC

Structured Dynamics assists enterprises and non-profit organizations to adopt Web-accessible and interoperable semantic data. The basic premise is that the data itself becomes the application. Via structured, linked data and a combination of semantic technologies and Web services, information in any form and from any source can now be integrated and made interoperable. The company Web site is at http://structureddynamics.com; it is headquartered in Coralville, IA.

Press Contact:
Steve Ardire
Structured Dynamics LLC
Tel: 360-868-4435
Email: steve@structureddynamics.com