Teaching yourself Linked Data and the Semantic Web

If you are interested in semantic technologies and want to learn more about Linked (Open) Data, you may already have discovered that it can be a costly business to teach yourself. Not everybody has the time or resources to invest in a commercial training course or university degree, especially if you are a freelancer – and some of us just want to get up to speed on the basics. Of course independent learning still requires a time investment (and discipline) but if you are motivated, there are several options.

Books – yes, academic monographs are expensive and as a freelancer you may not have access to an academic library, so I’ve tried to restrict this section to those which are free or low cost:

A Semantic Web Primer – available as a free download – or you may find a second-hand copy on Amazon (or other online bookstore of your choice) if you want hard copy. 

Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist – no free download (unless you have institutional access to ScienceDirect), but again you may be lucky and find a second-hand copy. It is worth the investment if you want to gain in-depth knowledge of the fundamental principles of the Semantic Web.

Both of these include worked examples and are written in an accessible style which assumes no prior knowledge of the topic.

Linked Open Data graph
Linked Open Data Graph (Open Knowledge Foundation, 2011)

Online courses – there is a growing number of free and low-cost courses in Semantic Web topics (there are also, of course, several courses on commercial platforms which promise to teach you ‘Semantic Web in an hour’ but these are, as you might expect, of variable quality). The Hasso-Plattner-Institut frequently offers courses – some in German and some in English – on linked open data and related topics, including Semantic Web Technologies and Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies – even if a course is not currently running, the course materials will be available for self-study, so you can take the course at your own pace (although you will not be able to take the exams or gain the course certificate unless you take the course while it is running). FutureLearn also offered an excellent introductory course, Introduction to Linked Data and the Semantic Web, from the University of Southampton, although this course has not run since 2016. However, it is always worth keeping an eye out for new courses from this provider.

Online tutorialsIntroducing Linked Data and the Semantic Web provides a series of five short tutorials which cover the basics of Semantic Web principles and practice. 

If you prefer video, this Linked Data tutorial is a PechaKucha talk by Dave Clarke of Synaptica, on Vimeo.

Searching for ‘semantic web’, ‘linked data’ or ‘web 3.0’ on YouTube will bring up a rather mixed bag of results, as might be expected, but Manu Sporny’s Intro to the Semantic Web is still one of the best basic explanations of Semantic Web concepts. For those of you from a programming background, or with more interest in the technical aspects of semantic technology, the Semantic Web Tutorial series of lectures by Noureddin Sadawi may be useful.

Finally, the definitive reference guide – you may want to bookmark the W3C Semantic Web page – but this can be rather overwhelming and confusing for a beginner.

This is of course not an exhaustive list and will be updated as and when I discover new resources. I’d also be interested in hearing any other recommendations or indeed, your views on those resources mentioned in the post.


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