W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-lod@w3.org > March 2009

Re: Analyzing the success of LOD

From: Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@openlinksw.com>
Date: Mon, 02 Mar 2009 08:55:55 -0500
Message-ID: <49ABE56B.7070105@openlinksw.com>
To: Matthias Samwald <samwald@gmx.at>
CC: public-lod@w3.org, Giovanni Tummarello <giovanni.tummarello@deri.org>, Andraz Tori <andraz@zemanta.com>
Matthias Samwald wrote:
> Andraz:
>>> That the bubbles continue to grown is however a sociological
>>> interesting phenomen :-)
>>> And a good sign that something has gone right :)
> Giovanni:
>> Maybe :-) but people do things for many other reason that "they're 
>> right".
> I think the LOD project is a great success. It is a very lively 
> community, there has been significant progress over the last year 
> (amount of data, quality of underlying technologies such as Virtuoso). 
> However, the community should take some time to analyze WHY it is 
> successful, and why it is more successful than attempts of using 
> RDF/OWL before 2007. Some thoughts on this:
> * The main ingredient to the success of LOD is that it is relatively 
> centralized. It would not work without DBpedia serving as the 
> 'nucleus' of the cloud. It would not work without someone dedicated to 
> drawing the clould diagram that everyone is happy to show on 
> Powerpoint slides. It would not work without this mailing list that 
> serves an open platform for the community. However, I have the 
> impression that some key persons in the LOD community might not be 
> happy about this reason for success at all. For them, the LOD project 
> is a mere testing ground for the next generation of the entire web, 
> and showing that linked data works in a decentralized way is a crucial 
> aspect of this vision. The fact that the current LOD cloud was 
> actually produced in a rather centralized process, and that most of 
> the valuable data sources in the LOD cloud are actually under the 
> control of a very small number of stakeholders, is seen as a transient 
> blemish, at best.
> However, I think that this is a problematic situation, and we should 
> embrace the semi-centralized nature of the LOD project, rather than 
> hiding it away. Having a close-knit group of stakeholders that 
> contribute to a partly distributed, partly centralized knowledge base 
> might actually be a very interesting endeavor -- and it might be a way 
> to provide a clear incentive to participate. LOD could be a novel type 
> of open-source project, one that is not only concerned with code, but 
> also with the underlying data. The products of this open source 
> project could then be used in various kinds of projects, some of them 
> with commercial focus. In such a scenario, being the main stakeholder 
> for a certain subset of LOD might become profitable, and give 
> incentive to improve the data provided and controlled by each 
> stakeholder. This business model could be similar to that of 
> successful open source content management systems such as Typo3 or 
> Drupal, where the code is free, but providing consulting and 
> customization for certain commercial users is based on financial support.
> I know that this idea of a 'LOD brand' counters the main motivation of 
> most people in the community, but it might be the key to creating an 
> incentive structure for providing linked data, improving data quality 
> and actually getting people to use the data. With the current 
> philosophy, I see the danger of LOD staying a permanent 'proof of 
> concept'. The concept has been proved by now.

I don't think your point of view is contrarian, it is certainly quite in 
line with my world view and aspirations re. the LOD effort :-)
> * A good point by Giovanni is that mere interlinking of datasets was 
> possible since 1999 by re-using URIs, and that post-hoc mapping 
> between datasets was possible since 2004, when owl:sameAs was 
> invented. The linked data movement 'only' added the consensus that 
> HTTP URIs should be used, and that a HTTP GET request should yield a 
> small RDF subgraph, listing the RDF triples about the resource. 
> Surely, this is a very practical thing for many reasons, but was it 
> instrumental for the success of LOD? 
> At the moment, it seems that most *useful* applications of LOD data 
> are based on a central triple store created by the aggregation of some 
> or all LOD data sources. In that case, one might ask whether the 
> dereferenceable URIs are really an essential ingredient to the success 
> or LOD, or just a 'good to have', but not essential, feature.
Like most things in the Linked Data realm, there isn't a single factor. 
The success is inherently connected to recombination and meshing.

DBpedia produced a corpus of "Names" endowed with de-referencable URIs. 
Thus, in a single project you ended up with a "Linked Data" meme proof 
of concept based on a familiar knowledgebae (Wikipedia).

Naturally, from DBpedia emerged the LOD cloud, and from the LOD cloud we 
now have a much wider corpus of "Names" and a substrate for some serious 
innovation and value delivery.

De-referencable URIs, Negotable Representation of Resource Descriptions, 
and other elements of the Linked Data Web's FORCE as are simply there to 
be tapped by current/next generation of innovators on  the Web and/or 
across the Enterprise en route to solving real problems. Examples ares 
would include:

1. Identity (decentralized and non-repudiatable variety via foaf+ssl 
which is ultimately going to be sparql+ssl) -- then we can fix mail, 
commenting and other critical aspects of the Web and Internet
2. Data Integration (across the Web, Intranets, and Extranets) -- 
disparate schemas and dirty data are facts of life when dealing with any 
DBMS system
3. Open Data Access decoupled from Data Representation - for eons many 
had to deal with XDR hell and application specific representations of 
DBMS query results.

LOD makes lookups and joins smarter and more powerful. When all is said 
an done, beyond storage, DBMS exploitation is about Lookups, Views, and 
Joins. LOD now enables value delivery based on the aforementioned 
without exposing the intricacies of the LOD mesh. Basically, our 
conversation don't have to start from the technical end anymore, we 
start with demonstrable value etc.

LOD is successful because it is full of pragmatists equipped with 
technical skills and broad industry experience :-)

> Giovanni:
>> An alternative explanation i like is
>> http://inamidst.com/whits/2008/technobunkum
> This is the second time I see this link on this mailing list. He makes 
> some very good points about the importance of focusing on providing 
> solutions to problems, instead of becoming too tangled up in 
> technicalities. I also read his other text on 
> http://inamidst.com/whits/2008/ambient which gives a lot of insight 
> into why he has abandoned Semantic Web technologies. I guess the 
> problems he likes to see solved are too trivial to require a 
> paradigmatic change (such as a  global trend towards RDF/OWL and 
> linked data). However, I would not generalize this experience to yield 
> the conclusion that the Semantic Web is a huge case of 'Technobunkum' 
> (what a silly term, by the way). The fact that not every tiny little 
> problem on the web might be in need of Semantic Web technologies does 
> not mean that these technologies are worthless. There are plenty of 
> real use cases in important business segments and companies where 
> there is dire need for such new technologies -- life science and 
> health care come to mind. I have the feeling that the whole web 2.0 
> hype of the recent years has distorted the perception of web 
> developers about what is actually of societal and economic importance. 
> Creating yet another, slightly improved mashup between your Flickr 
> photos, Google maps and Wikipedia might actually not be the most 
> important problem of the world today. And it probably doesn't earn you 
> money either. End of rant.
> Cheers,
> Matthias Samwald
> DERI Galway, Ireland
> http://deri.ie/
> Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution & Cognition Research, Austria
> http://kli.ac.at/



Kingsley Idehen	      Weblog: http://www.openlinksw.com/blog/~kidehen
President & CEO 
OpenLink Software     Web: http://www.openlinksw.com
Received on Monday, 2 March 2009 13:56:35 UTC

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