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What's a Knowledge Graph?

concept by Nithinan Tatah from the Noun Project

DRAFT: Work in progress

This material is a work in progress, at "rough draft" stage.

First, read: [hogan2020knowledge]

Some good elements for KG definition: https://towardsdatascience.com/how-to-create-representations-of-entities-in-a-knowledge-graph-using-pyrdf2vec-82e44dad1a0#1f07

Graphs are data structures that are useful to represent ubiquitous phenomena, such as social networks, chemical molecules and recommendation systems. One of their strengths lies in the fact that they explicitly model relations (i.e. edges) between individual units (i.e. nodes), which adds an extra dimension to the data.

compare: [nathan2019fifty]

going back to: [peirce1882]

Just Enough Graph Theory

In a pure mathematical form, where a node (or vertex) can connect through an edge (or arc or link) to another node.

\[ G=\{V, E\} \]

In that case an adjacency matrix can represent the entire graph. Each node has a row and a column in the matrix.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjacency_matrix
  • https://mathworld.wolfram.com/AdjacencyMatrix.html

In the simplest form, a 1 value in the matrix element represents an edge between nodes or a 0 otherwise.

  • symmetric for undirected graphs
  • asymmetric for directed graphs

If a directed graph has weights on its edges (i.e., to represent the probability of an event between two nodes) then replace the 1 value with the weight or probability. This is called a stochastic matrix

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stochastic_matrix
  • transitions of Markov chain (state)

There's an entire field of algebraic graph theory that translates between graph theory and linear algebra.

eigenvalues, eigenvectors, spectrum

non-negative, symmetric properties allow for factorization (or decomposition):

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_decomposition
  • https://sparse.tamu.edu/about
  • https://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/dgleich/

RDF Graph

  • RDF graph, semantic technologies
  • KG compare/contrast with property graph
  • the ubiquity of graph-based work in data science
  • graph algorithms vs. visualization vs. graph AI vs. probabilistic graphs vs. graph queries
  • separation of concerns between graph-based data science and data engineering
  • lessons of 2010 all over again: MPPs, BI, EDW, etc.

narrative arc: [linden2006early] => [kreps2014] => [anderson2020dt] with [breiman2001] [brewer2012cap] in-between

In 2018, Gartner began to acknowledge the term knowledge graph and in mid-2020 described the importance of KGs for developing AI applications1.


KGs allow for multiple teams to be working concurrently, i.e., with less centralized control.

This is in contrast to legacy notion about one size fits all (OSFA) for data management.

To wit, the best way to make data consistent and available2 is not to import all of the data sources into a single data management framework, where a limited of set of individuals proscribe the schema and access rules. Those days are long gone.


  1. "How to Build Knowledge Graphs That Enable AI-Driven Enterprise Applications", Afraz Jaffri, Gartner Research (2020-05-27) 

  2. see [brewer2012cap] for discussion of the CAP Theorem 


Last update: 2021-04-17