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RE: Ontology editor + why RDF?

From: deWaard, Anita (ELS) <A.dewaard@elsevier.com>
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2006 12:44:58 +0100
Message-ID: <D3E7986165D790478082E01DAD5DC369189E8777@elsamss31747.elsevier.com>
To: public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org

I have been thrilled to read the responses which followed my (simple and
practical) question. Thank you all for your thoughts - I am fascinated to
see how this discussion will continue, particularly the "web" vs."semantics"
debate. 
 
This debate precisely summarises the battle I am trying to fight
(incidentally, with the help of Frank van Harmelen and his group).
Intuitively, I agree with John Madden:
[JM] "RDF/RDFS/OWL make *your* assertions accessible to hundreds of millions
of people, who can add their own assertions."
and Jim Hendler, e.g.: 
[JH] "the terms in your thesaurus become URIs that other people can point
to. It means that they can use your terminologies in their applications, and
links back to your terms can be maintained (rather than "reverse engineered"
by a search engine). "
 
However, practically, I recognise internal discussions along the lines that
Vipul Kashyap has mentioned, such as: 
[VK] "When you try to sell the concept of RDF, etc. to an IT shop, they will
ask: what do we gain by moving to RDF, when what you are representing is
already represented using existing data formats/models? [...]
At an intuitive level, this is fine, but what the SW community needs to
provide the world is with a proof and demonstration that this actually
happens and what are the cost-benefit trade-offs involved."
 
It seems there is an as-yet unrealised "semantic ideal" - which arguably, we
all get (or we wouldn't be spending time on this working group). But people
in IT (who hold the pursestrings) are usually not interested in ideals, or
even the future itself. They need to build the products they are building
today, and look at how to build them tomorrow - in a way that performs, is
fast, scalable, and 100% robust. And I have a hard time convincing them to
part with not so much their money, but their tried-and-tested technologies
in favor of something that I don't have a lot of hard proof will work as
well, at an adequate scale in space and time. 
 
I am reminded of a saying on a Dutch proverb calendar: "If love is the
answer, could you please repeat the question?" If semantics are the answer -
what is the problem that is being solved, in a way no other technology lets
you? Perhaps if we can find a way to nail this down (I also believe the use
cases of this working group, and the group as a whole is certainly working
towards that aim!) we could try to not just preach the semantic gospel, but
actually sell it (forgive the mixed metaphor)... 
 
Anita de Waard
Elsevier B.V./University of Utrecht
a.dewaard@elsevier.com
anita@cs.uu.nl 
http://www.cs.uu.nl/people/anita/
Received on Monday, 3 April 2006 11:37:15 UTC

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