Monday, December 20, 2021

GraphQL for WikiData (WikiCite)

I've released a very crude GraphQL endpoint for WikiData. More precisely, the endpoint is for a subset of the entities that are of interest to WikiCite, such as scholarly articles, people, and journals. There is a crude demo at The endpoint itself is at There are various ways to interact with the endpoint, personally I like the Altair GraphQL Client by Samuel Imolorhe.

As I've mentioned earlier it's taken me a while to see the point of GraphQL. But it is clear it is gaining traction in the biodiversity world (see for example the GBIF Hosted Portals) so it's worth exploring. My take on GraphQL is that it is a way to create a self-describing API that someone developing a web site can use without them having to bury themselves in the gory details of how data is internally modelled. For example, WikiData's query interface uses SPARQL, a powerful language that has a steep learning curve (in part because of the administrative overhead brought by RDF namespaces, etc.). In my previous SPARQL-based projects such as Ozymandias and ALEC I have either returned SPARQL results directly (Ozymandias) or formatted SPARQL results as DataFeeds (equivalent to RSS feeds) (ALEC). Both approaches work, but they are project-specific and if anyone else tried to build based on these projects they might struggle for figure out what was going on. I certainly struggle, and I wrote them!

So it seems worthwhile to explore this approach a little further and see if I can develop a GraphQL interface that can be used to build the sort of rich apps that I want to see. The demo I've created uses SPARQL under the hood to provide responses to the GraphQL queries. So in this sense it's not replacing SPARQL, it's simply providing a (hopefully) simpler overlay on top of SPARQL so that we can retrieve the data we want without having to learn the intricacies of SPARQL, nor how Wikidata models publications and people.