Sunday, October 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Wikidata!

Wikidata celebrates their 5th birthday with a great WikidataCon in Berlin. Sadly, I could not join in person, so I assuming it is a great meeting, following the #WikidataCon hash tag and occasionally the live stream.

Happy Birthday, Wikidata!

My first encounter was soon after they started, and was particularly impressed by the presentation by Lydia Pintscher at the Dutch Wikimedia Conferentie 2012. I had played with DBPedia occasionally but always disappointed by the number of issues with extracting chemistry from the ChemBox infobox, but that's of course the general problem with data that has been mangled into something that looks nice. We know that problem from text mining from PDFs too. Of course, if you start with something machine readable in the first place, your odds for success are much higher.

Yesterday, Lydia shows the State of Wikidata and I think they delivered on their promise.

I did not create my Wikidata account until a year later but did not use the account much in the first two years. But the Wikidata team did a lot of great work in their first three years, and somewhere in 2015 I wrote my first blog post about Wikidata. That year Daniel Mietchen also asked me to join the writing of a project proposal (later published in RIO Journal). The reason for more active adoption of Wikidata and joining Daniel's writing team, was the CCZero license and that chemical identifiers had really picked up. Indeed, free CAS numbers was an important boon. Since then, I have been using Wikidata as data source for our BridgeDb project and for WikiPathways (together with Denise Slenter). I also have to mention the work by Andra Waagmeester and the rest of the Andrew Su team gave me extra support to push Wikidata in our local research agenda around FAIR data.

The Wikidata RDF export and SPARQL end point was an important tipping point. This makes reuse of Wikidata so much easier. Integrating slices of data with curl is trivial and easy to integrate into other projects, as I do for BridgeDb. Someone in the education breakout session mentioned that you can use the interactive SPARQL end point even with people with zero programming experience. I wholeheartedly agree. That is exactly what I did last Thursday at the Surf Verder bouwen aan Open Science seminar. The learning curve with all the example queries is so shallow, it is generally applicable.

And then there is Scholia. What do I need to say? Impressive project by Finn Nielsen to which I am happy to contribute. Check out his WikidataCon talk. Here I am contributing to the biology corner and working on RSS feeds. It makes a marvelous tool to systematically analyze literature, e.g. for the Rett Syndrome as disease or as topic.

Wikidata has evolved to a tremendously useful resource in my biology research and I cannot imagine where we will be next year, at the sixth Wikidata birthday. But it will be huge!