I fully admit that there is not uncommon craze for trichotomies. I do not know but the psychiatrists have provided a name for it. If not, they should … it might be called triadomany. I am not so afflicted; but I find myself obliged, for truth’s sake, to make such a large number of trichotomies that I could not [but] wonder if my readers, especially those of them who are in the way of knowing how common the malady is, should suspect, or even opine, that I am a victim of it … I have no marked predilection for trichotomies in general.

Charles S. Peirce quoted in The Sign of Three, edited by Umberto Eco and Thomas A. Sebeok.

It’s hard not to read a bit of humor and irony into this quote from Peirce. My friend Dan Chudnov observed once that all this business with RDF and Linked Data often seems like fetishism. RDF colored glasses are kind of hard to take off when you are a web developer and have invested a bit of time in understanding the Semantic Web Linked Data vision. I seem to go through phases of interest with the triples: ebbs and flows. Somehow it’s comforting to read of Peirce’s predilections for triples at the remove of a couple hundred years.

Seeing the Linked Open Data Cloud for the first time was a revelation of sorts. It helped me understand concretely how the Web could be used to assemble a distributed, collaborative database. That same diagram is currently being updated to include new datasets. But a lot of Linked Data has been deployed since then … and a lot of it has been collected as part of the annual Billion Triple Challenge.

It has always been a bit mysterious to me how nodes get into the LOD Cloud, so I wondered how easy it would be create a cloud from the 2010 Billion Triple Challenge dataset. It turns out that with a bit of unix pipelining and the nice ProtoVis library it’s not too hard to get something “working”. It sure is nice to work in an environment with helpful folk who can set aside a bit of storage and compute time for experimenting like this, without having to bog down my laptop for a long time.

If you click on the image you should be taken to the visualization. It’s kind of heavy on JavaScript processing, so a browser like Chrome will probably render it best.

But as Paul Downey pointed out to me in Twitter:

Paul is so right. I find myself drawn to these graph visualizations for magical reasons. I can console myself that I did manage to find a new linked data supernode that I didn’t know about before: bibsonomy–which doesn’t appear to be in the latest curated view of the Linked Open Data Cloud. And I did have a bit of fun making the underlying data available as rdf/xml and Turtle using the Vocabulary of Interlinked Datasets (VoID). And I generated a similar visualization for the 2009 data. But it does feel a bit navel-gazy, so a sense of humor about the enterprise is often a good tonic. I guess this is the whole point of the Challenge, to get something generally useful (and not navel-gazy) out of the sea of triples.

Oh and Sign of Three is an excellent read so far :-)