Semantic MediaWiki update

It’s been a while since I posted an update on Semantic MediaWiki and extensions in general, and my work specifically. This is due to a pile of work that has been done on different components, each of which I’ll address at the point it’s released.  In this blog post I’ll provide you with a short overview of what”s (been) going on in the SMW world.

Semantic MediaWiki 1.6

Semantic MediaWiki logoAlmost two years after the latest big release, SMW 1.5, 1.6 comes with many important internal changes focused on performance, stability and extensibility and several new features. Here you have an extract of the release notes as they currently are on SVN trunk:

* Full support for synchronizing RDF stores with SMW, and for answering #ask queries based on this data. The communication happens via SPARQL (1.1), and all SPARQL-capable stores should be supported.
* The Type namespace has been abolished. Builtin types now are displayed by the special page Special:Types, and there are no “custom types” any longer. By default, the Type namespace is gone and existing pages in this namespace can no longer be accessed. This can be changed by setting $smwgHistoricTypeNamespace = true in LocalSettings.php before including SMW.
* Changed the way in which units of measurement work. Type:Number now does not accept any units, and a new type “Quantity” is used for numbers with units. Units must be declared on the property page (not on the Type page as before), and only units that have a declared conversion factor are accepted.
* The declaration of Type:Record properties has changed. Instead of a list of datatypes, the declaration now requires a list of properties that are to be used for the fields of the record. The declaration is still done with the property “has fields” as before.
* Changed the way parameters in query printers are specified and handled using the Validator extension. This includes improvements to the parameter options in the Special:Ask GUI and better error reporting for ask queries.
* Added UNIX-style DSV (Delimiter-separated values) result format.
* Reworked internal data model, cleaning up and re-implementing SMWDataValue and all of its subclasses, and introducing new data item classes to handle data. The class SMWCompatibilityHelpers provides temporal help for extensions that still depend on the old format and APIs.
* Fixed PostGre SQL issues with the installation and upgrade code.
* Added API module (smwinfo) via which statistics about the semantic data can be obtained.

That’s a lot of awesomeness no? :)

As you can deduce from the above notes, this release is not fully backwards compatibility with SMW 1.5.x, so it’s possible you’ll need to do some migration work. The Validator extension is also introduced as an extra dependency, but it will come bundled with SMW, so you’ll only need to care about this when getting the code from SVN.

SMW 1.6 has been in testing phase for 2 weeks or so now, and most bugs have been taken care of. With some luck, the new version will be released in a week or two :) Do feel free to try out the new version on non-critical wikis and report any issues you might find.

I already stated that SMW 1.6 is not fully feature compatible with SMW 1.5.x, but it’s also most definitely not compatible with earlier versions code-wise for extensions. This means that quite some SMW extensions released before the development on SMW 1.6 started won’t be compatible anymore, and will require you to also update them to their latest release when upgrading SMW to 1.6 or later. The ones that are in the Semantic Bundle are all compatible already on SVN trunk, so you should be able to upgrade everything as soon as SMW 1.6 is released.

Maps and Semantic Maps 1.0

Another very significant release is the one of Maps and Semantic Maps. I’ve been working on this version for quite a while; it was branched from version 0.7.3, and it’s the most significant (and awesome) release since the creation of both extensions, hence the bump from 0.7.x to 1.0. These are the changes:

* Added full Google Maps v3 support and set it as the default mapping service.
* Added new geocoder making use of the new GeoNames API.
* Added support for the auto-documentation features for parser hooks introduced in Validator 0.4.3.
* Added resizeable parameter to all mapping services except OSM.
* Removed compatibility with pre MediaWiki 1.17.
* Removed overlays parameter for Google Maps v2.
* Usage of the Resource Loader for all scripts and stylesheets.
* Rewrote all the map JavaScript to jQuery plugins.
* Rewrote the way parameters are translated to JavaScript. Now one big PHP object is json_encoded.
* Improved KML formatter.
* Use of Google Maps geocoding service v3 instead of v2.
* Fixed geocoding service overriding based on mapping service (merged in from Maps 0.7.5).
* Fixed fatal error occurring when running maintenance/refreshLinks.php.
* Improved default width of maps (merged in from Maps 0.7.5).
* Improved map query parameter support in the Special:Ask GUI
* Rewrote the map printers to use the SMQueryHandler class.
* Added geocoding capability to the OpenLayers form input when having a GeoNames API account.
* Added ‘update map’ button to all form inputs.

This release of the mapping extensions requires MediaWiki 1.17 or later and the new SMW 1.6, or later. For people not running an MW older then 1.17 (which currently is still not released, pretty much blocking this release of Maps and SM), the 0.7.x branch still remains supported for a while. It’s currently at 0.7.6, and I plan to release 0.7.7 soonish. Do note that Semantic Maps 0.7.x is NOT compatible with SMW 1.6 or later, it needs SMW 1.5.1 – 1.5.7 alpha.

Semantic Forms 2.2

Yaron Koren has been working on the next big release of the most popular SMW extension, Semantic Forms. It brings compatibility with SMW 1.6, and adds several new features, including:

  • #autoedit parser function that allows creating a link that, when clicked, automatically sets one or more fields in another page to certain values.
  • “Save and continue” button
  • Handling of boolean properties can now also be done using radiobuttons and dropdowns, instead of only checkboxes.

Semantic Watchlist

Semantic Watchlist is a new SMW extension I’ve developed for the IEEE as WikiWorks consultant. Semantic Watchlist enables users to watch semantic properties by adding a new watchlist page that lists changes to these properties. Users can choose to follow one or more watchlist groups, which are administrator defined, and cover a set of properties and a set of pages (category, namespace, or SMW concept). Notification of changes to watched properties is also possible via email. I think it’s totally awesome.

WikiWorks logo

It’s main features are:

  • A watchlist page listing changes to properties watched by the user.
  • Per-user optional email notification per edit that changes properties.
  • Integration with user preferences to allow users to specify which watchlist groups they want to follow, and if they want to receive emails on changes.
  • Special:WatchListConditions as administration interface for watchlist groups.
  • API module to query property changes grouped by edit for a single user.
  • API modules to add, modify and delete the watchlist groups.

It requires MediaWiki 1.17 or later and SMW 1.6 or later, and still has to see an initial release. It’s pretty much ready for it, and can be seen as beta right now.


The Spring 2011 SMWCon was held on April 28-30, 2011 at the Raytheon BBN Technologies office in Arlington, Virginia, in the Washington, DC area, and it was a great success. You can read more about it in Yarons writeup.

The next SMWCon, SMWCon Fall 2011, will be held on September 21–23, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin – yay! It’s going to be awesome, and I’ll be attending, probably giving some talk about Maps and Semantic Maps, and possibly other extensions as well (Semantic Watchlist being a good candidate).


Like I already noted, I’ll be posting more comprehensive (and official) release announcements for each extension when they are released :) I’d also like to point out that this is definitely not everything that’s been going on in the SMW world. For example there are 2 Google Summer of Code students doing SMW related work, about which I might write later on, and many people are doing SMW projects that I’m simply not aware of or am not closely following.

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