A Simple Linked Data and JavaScript Tutorial

26 Nov 2010 | By Ric Roberts | Tags linked-data tutorial

Disclaimer: This article by Ric is a short tutorial on how to consume Linked Data using JavaScript. Some of the examples use Ric’s company’s new Linked Data publishing platform, PublishMyData.


Mention Linked Data or RDF and many developers run screaming. The truth is that Linked Data is really rather simple (and in many cases you don’t even need to use RDF if you don’t want to). In this tutorial we’re going to use jQuery to request some data from a Linked Data service, and then display the results in a table and on a map. You can see the final result of the tutorial here (just view source to see all the code).

Writing the SPARQL Query

We’ll need to run some SPARQL to get the data we’re interested in (SPARQL is a query language analogous to SQL for relational databases). The following query selects the names and locations (northing and easting) of all the secondary schools in the City of Manchester (district ‘00BN’).

PREFIX rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#>

SELECT ?name ?northing ?easting WHERE {
  ?school <http://education.data.gov.uk/def/school/districtAdministrative> <http://statistics.data.gov.uk/id/local-authority-district/00BN> .
  ?school rdfs:label ?name .
  ?school <http://education.data.gov.uk/def/school/phaseOfEducation> <http://education.data.gov.uk/def/school/PhaseOfEducation_Secondary> .
  ?school <http://data.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ontology/spatialrelations/northing> ?northing .
  ?school <http://data.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ontology/spatialrelations/easting> ?easting .

Constructing the URL to call against the endpoint

The SPARQL endpoint we’re using expects requests in the following format:


We could have used the encodeURI JavaScript function to encode the SPARQL, but I just copied and pasted the url from the browser’s address bar after clicking on the “JSON” link under the results on this page, where I originally wrote the SPARQL.

  "head": {
    "vars": [ "name" , "northing" , "easting" ]
  } ,
  "results": {
    "bindings": [
        "name": { "type": "literal" , "value": "Parrs Wood High School" } ,
        "northing": { "datatype": "http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer" , "type": "typed-literal" , "value": "390094" } ,
        "easting": { "datatype": "http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer" , "type": "typed-literal" , "value": "385464" }

The array in head.vars contains the variables that we selected in the SPARQL query, and results.bindings contains one object per row of results.

Using jQuery to call the URL

We’ll just call the query against the endpoint using jQuery’s ajax function (but you could use any other framework if you prefer). Notice that we use JSONP data type to avoid CORS issues.

<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.4.2/jquery.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
  var queryUrl = "http://publishmydata.com/sparql.json?q=PREFIX+rdfs%3A+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.w3.org%2F2000%2F01%2Frdf-schema%23%3E%0D%0A%0D%0ASELECT+%3Fname+%3Fnorthing+%3Feasting+WHERE+%7B%0D%0A%0D%0A++%3Fschool+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Feducation.data.gov.uk%2Fdef%2Fschool%2FdistrictAdministrative%3E+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Fstatistics.data.gov.uk%2Fid%2Flocal-authority-district%2F00BN%3E+.+%0D%0A%0D%0A++%3Fschool+rdfs%3Alabel+%3Fname+.%0D%0A%0D%0A++%3Fschool+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Feducation.data.gov.uk%2Fdef%2Fschool%2FphaseOfEducation%3E+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Feducation.data.gov.uk%2Fdef%2Fschool%2FPhaseOfEducation_Secondary%3E+.%0D%0A%0D%0A++%3Fschool+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Fdata.ordnancesurvey.co.uk%2Fontology%2Fspatialrelations%2Fnorthing%3E+%3Fnorthing+.%0D%0A%0D%0A++%3Fschool+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Fdata.ordnancesurvey.co.uk%2Fontology%2Fspatialrelations%2Feasting%3E+%3Feasting+.%0D%0A%7D";

    dataType: "jsonp",  
    url: queryUrl

Making an HTML table from the results

Let’s create a table in the html:

<table id="results"></table>   

… and add a success callback, to populate it with the results of the SPARQL.

  dataType: "jsonp",
  url: queryUrl
  success: function(data) {    
    // get the table element
    var table = $("#results");              

    // get the sparql variables from the 'head' of the data.
    var headerVars = data.head.vars; 

    // using the vars, make some table headers and add them to the table;
    var trHeaders = getTableHeaders(headerVars);

    // grab the actual results from the data.                                          
    var bindings = data.results.bindings;

    // for each result, make a table row and add it to the table.
    for(rowIdx in bindings){
      table.append(getTableRow(headerVars, bindings[rowIdx]));

In the code above, I’ve used a few simple helper functions which just loop through the data from the JSON, and make table rows and cells from it.

function getTableHeaders(headerVars) {
  var trHeaders = $("<tr></tr>");
  for(var i in headerVars) {
    trHeaders.append( $("<th>" + headerVars[i] + "</th>") );
  return trHeaders;

function getTableRow(headerVars, rowData) {
  var tr = $("<tr></tr>");
  for(var i in headerVars) {
    tr.append(getTableCell(headerVars[i], rowData));
  return tr;

function getTableCell(fieldName, rowData) {
  var td = $("<td></td>");
  var fieldData = rowData[fieldName];
  return td;

Plotting the schools on a map

Now things start to get interesting. To draw the map, we’ll need to include a couple of external scripts:

<!-- Google maps api-->
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script>

<!-- Ordnance survey Lat-long converter (from: http://mapki.com/wiki/Tools:Snippets) -->
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.bdcc.co.uk/LatLngToOSGB.js"></script>

The LatLngToOSGB.js script is for converting northings/eastings into latitude/longitudes. Frustratingly, Google uses the World Geodetic System, for lat/long but the NEtoLL function from that library returns values using the Ordnance Survey National Grid. So we’ll need to do a 2-step process to convert them if we want accurate positions for the map points. The functions below wrap up that conversion for you:

// extra conversion functions: Google uses WGS84 whereas the National Grid uses OSGB36
// (thanks to: http://www.roxburgh.net/projects/googlemaps/)

// Returns object with attributes lat and lon
function ENtoLL84(easting, northing) {
  var vlatlng = NEtoLL(easting, northing);
  return OGBToWGS84(vlatlng.lat, vlatlng.lon, 0);

// Returns object with attributes east and north
function LL84toEN(lat, lon) {
  var vlatlon = WGS84ToOGB(lat, lon, 0);
  return LLtoNE(vlatlon.lat, vlatlon.lon);

Now we’ve got that out of the way, lets make a div for the map to live in:

<div id="map_canvas" style="width:500px; height:500px;"></div> 

… and a function to plot the schools’ locations:

function drawMap(data) {
  // make a map, centred on Manchester
  var manchesterLatLon = new google.maps.LatLng(53.480110, -2.237940);
  var myOptions = {
    zoom: 11,
    center: manchesterLatLon,
    mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.ROADMAP
  var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById("map_canvas"), myOptions);
  // add a marker for each school 
  var bindings = data.results.bindings; 
  for (var i in bindings) {
    var schoolData = data.results.bindings[i];
    var northing = schoolData["northing"]["value"];
    var easting = schoolData["easting"]["value"];
    var name = schoolData["name"]["value"];
    // call our 2-step conversion
    var latLng = ENtoLL84(easting, northing);

    // make a marker with the label as the school name
    var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
      position: new google.maps.LatLng( latLng.lat, latLng.lon ),
      map: map,
      title: name

Now all that’s left to do is to add the call to drawMap to the ajax success callback.

  url: queryUrl
  success: function(data) {
    // ... existing code here

You should now have something that looks a bit like this page.

Useful links

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