introduction to poetry ontology

The web is written for human consumption, but we expect machines to help us use it. To really help us, they have to understand what’s online, which means they have to understand the content. Unfortunately, the necessary quality of artificial intelligence for that has yet to be developed. There are significant developments in AI, and it looks like there will be intelligent machines in future decades that will understand what’s what, but that’s the future and we want them to do their thing now.

image: escher bloemen

A solution, whilst we’re waiting for the creation of our new robotic overloads, is to add semantic information to web pages to help contemporary computers grasp what’s there, and have them read it. This mark up is added to the HTML code to say what the content is all about. It’s in a computer language, rather obviously, which means it has to follow the rules of computer orientated information. That means formal definitions and rules on how to apply them.

Those rules and definitions have to be defined, and that’s where comes in. This is a bit of a sprawling site that defines an ontology — data structures that can be added to web sites to allow computers to gain a much better ‘understanding’ of what’s what. It’s work to mark up a site, but it’s in the interest of site owners to do so, so search engines and other automated tools can gain better traction of what they’re processing. defines its role to be “a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.

The site describes many types of information, including many types of creative output. Unfortunately, although that includes the visual arts, articles, music, and so on, it does not cover poetry. This is not a policy decision, so far as I can see, just a consequence of no one submitting a proposal. Poetry may be exquisite, it might be the acme of the arts, but it is undoubtedly a minority itch.

So I’ve decided to try and put something together. I will create a draft submission, fleshing it out here on arts & ego. Because I don’t know what I’m doing, when the draft is submitted it will either be ignored or heavily modified. I would like to reduce the chance of it being ignored by getting quite a lot of the thinking and refinement out of the way first. I’m going to do that here. Indeed, I will mark up some poems, just to see how my design fleshes out.

You can look at the current of play by selecting ontology above. Right now, as I write, I have started to define some basic types: dialect, period, poem, poetic form & stanza. I emphasise these will change over time, as I better understand the problem and how to resolve it.


PS aficionados may notice the formal language I use for my definitions (of dialect, period, poem, poetic form & stanza) does not follow their convention. This is simply because I’ve not yet found a definition of that convention. Rather than copying what I see and hoping that I might get things right, I decided to intentionally get things wrong by using the syntax of a different, although strictly and robustly defined, language.