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Re: Non SemWeb uses of RDF

From: Frank Manola <fmanola@acm.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 18:09:11 -0500
Message-ID: <41C36717.7080608@acm.org>
To: Brian Manley <manleyr@telcordia.com>
CC: www-rdf-interest@w3.org



Brian Manley wrote:
> Hi Frank,
> 
> "how do you define a 'non semantic web application'"
> 
> This is a hard question. I think I know a semweb app when I see it, but I'm not sure how to define it. I think ( perhaps naively ) of semweb applications as those that either produce or consume RDF metadata relating to web-accessible resources. RSS aggregators, browsers, etc. fall into this category. On the other hand, a non semweb application doesn't really concern itself with whether or not the resource it's describing is a web-accessible resource or not. It could be a web page about rocks, or an actual, physical rock. 
> 

The problem is that it's pretty much the intent that semantic web 
languages be able to describe things that *aren't* web-accessible 
resources, so that kind of definition rules a lot of things out. 
Something more reasonable would be if it were an application that was 
*using* the RDF (no matter what it described) in some kind of 
recognizable web context.  Agents interacting via web protocols would be 
an obvious example, but perhaps RDF data that *could* be interchanged on 
the web (not necessarily immediately) would be another.  (Note that 
internal, non-public webs would also be included in this definition; 
there are some).

> My limited googling and research seems to indicate that the semweb community itself is a bit fuzzy on the question too. True? 
> 

I wouldn't be surprised (that is, I'm sure there are people in the 
community who are quite clear on the question in their own minds, but I 
don't think there's necessarily a community consensus).  A certain 
fuzziness is, I think, reasonable under the circumstances, but I also 
think we want "truth in advertizing" so to speak.  After all, a simple, 
but not necessarily helpful, definition of a "business application" 
would be "an application that's used in business".  CIM/XML (the RDF 
language I mentioned originally) is used in power generation, power 
generation is a business, ergo RDF is used in business.  That's 
certainly reasonable in a sense, but doesn't really answer the question 
either.

--Frank

> Brian
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank Manola [mailto:fmanola@acm.org]
> Sent: Friday, December 17, 2004 4:38 PM
> To: Brian Manley
> Cc: www-rdf-interest@w3.org
> Subject: Re: Non SemWeb uses of RDF
> 
> 
> Hi Brian--
> 
> Some possibly not very helpful comments:
> 
> I think collecting the information you're after (and keeping that 
> information updated) would be a useful activity in the context of this 
> group, since it's the sort of question I've heard a lot (and I imagine 
> others on the list have too).  However, when I've tried to answer this 
> sort of question in the past, I've always had to ask a couple of 
> questions myself (just to make sure we're talking the same language), 
> namely:
> 
> (a) how do you define a "non semantic web application" (or 
> alternatively, how do you define a "semantic web application")?
> 
> (b) how do you define a "business application"?
> 
> To illustrate why I think those questions are relevant (and it would be 
> helpful to have some common understanding), Section 6.5 of the RDF 
> Primer describes an RDF-based language used by the electric power 
> industry in the US to exchange power system models (for purposes of 
> managing flow in the electricity grid).  I don't know that I'd describe 
> that as a "semantic web application", since I doubt that any of those 
> descriptions ever appear on the web (at least I've never found any), 
> even though it uses RDF, a "semantic web language" (does that make it a 
> "semantic web application"?).  On the other hand, electric power 
> generation is certainly a business (so are the places where lots of the 
> bioinformatics work is being applied), but lots of people wouldn't think 
> of those sorts of "back room" technology applications as being "business 
> applications" either.  As another example, I've also run across an 
> RDF-based spec to enable the exchange of real estate investment 
> information (see http://www.dataconsortium.org/index.html), although I 
> don't know how much these specs are being used.  Real estate is 
> certainly a business, but once again it's not clear this type of 
> information will necessarily appear on the web, and lots of people 
> wouldn't think of this kind of "technical" spec as being a "business 
> application".  So what is?  General ledger?  HR?  CRM?
> 
> At the same time, there's clearly lots of activity in practically every 
> area that anyone would accept as a "business application" in trying to 
> apply straight XML (some of these groups also define equivalent RDF 
> Schemas, e.g. some of the OASIS groups in various areas).  And I think 
> that a lot of that information (together with information in relational 
> databases) will eventually wind up being, in effect, interpreted as RDF 
> (or, if you prefer, as simple statements about various objects or 
> resources using something like URIs for disambiguation) when 
> larger-scale merging of information from those various languages becomes 
> necessary, whether that information is literally expressed in RDF or 
> not.  When this will happen is, as you'd expect, quite literally a 
> "business decision", and it depends a lot on the assessment in 
> individual application domains of when the cost/benefit analysis of 
> applying these technologies becomes (or at least appears!) favorable. 
> It isn't going to happen all at once, or at the same rate in all 
> application areas.
> 
> I look forward myself to seeing other replies.
> 
> --Frank
> 
> Brian Manley wrote:
> 
>>All,
>>
>>I'm fairly new to RDF, and I'm curious to learn the level to which RDF is being adopted in non semantic web related applications. I find references to its use in bioinformatics, library science, knowledge management and other areas. But what I'm not seeing is much use of RDF in business applications (enterprise or SMB) , consumer-focused applications ( PIMs, personal collection management, etc ) or even systems integration products.
>>
>>If it is being used, can you site some examples? If it's not being used much outside of the SW movement, why do you think that is?
>>
>>Any insight would be appreciated.
>>
>>Regards,
>>Brian
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
> 
> 
Received on Friday, 17 December 2004 23:03:22 GMT

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