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RE: [ontoweb-list] Re: A discussion: Is semantic web an old fashioned idea? Is it bubble, unworthy or an interesting research area - Post your comments

From: Michael Brian Orr <mike@michael-brian-orr.net>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 01:14:02 -0700
To: peter.smolle@netdynamics-tech.com
Cc: www-rdf-interest@w3.org, ontoweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, semanticweb@yahoogroups.com
Message-Id: <20040622081404.D86C0A2435@frink.w3.org>

> From: www-rdf-interest-request@w3.org 
> [mailto:www-rdf-interest-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of 
> peter.smolle@netdynamics-tech.com
> Nick, Miltiadis,
> I like this kind of discussion which probably was the same when the
> railroad invention passed the horses !
> To be more serious let me add some personal thoughts:


If it's worth having a discussion about "the" "promise" 
of the Semantic Web (I didn't think it was until I read 
this post), then we need a representation that captures 
a core of what has been proposed; neither trivially 
satisfiable baby steps nor a grab-bag of every 
hypothesis that has ever been described. 

(1) Super-TIBCO plus (2) super-Google, as you lay them 
out below, make an excellent concise rendition: at the 
heart of the canon, valuable enough to justify the 
program, and concrete enough to support reasonable 
debate not just about can we/can't we but also about 
how and when. 

There are, also, of course, (3) the unknown innovations 
that may come on top of the generic but powerful 
abilities to make and manipulate assertions and 
represent general graphs, not to mention whatever types 
of reasoning over these ultimately prove their worth. I 
presume these, and their importance, can be taken as 
given, at least for purposes of the present carnival, 
since even Jean-Luc Delatre says in an early post, "Of 
course there will be usefull byproducts, some of them 
may be *really* usefull but they will show as usual at 
the most unexpected places." 

Also there are, or more precisely _aren't_, (4) those 
advances that can be made when and if we solve really-
hard-to-intractable problems such as automatically 
resolving logical models that are inconsistent in 
socially important ways. I presume we can also take 
these off the table, because, while many smart people 
are investigating these topics, approximately no one 
is basing a case for deploying the Semantic Web on a 
belief in short-term production solutions to them. 
(Trust me on this, Jean-Luc. I haven't ever given you 
a reason not to trust me, have I? Or is that not a 
valid argument? :) 

So what about (1) super-TIBCO and (2) super-Google? 

I personally can't get very interested in discussing 
super-Google. For all the genuine issues in metadata 
engineering, it's just patently obvious (IMHO) that 
RDF-style assertions, or some equivalent in different 
clothing, and mundane types of reasoning over them, 
can advance the state of the art here in diverse 
intellectually and commercially important ways. (I 
don't claim that was an argument. :) 

But as to super-TIBCO: as an experienced practitioner 
but relative SW newbie, I would be intensely interested 
in being exposed to an expert discussion (including 
skeptics :) on the fundamental value add of ontologies 
and reasoning in the on demand integration sphere. I 
suspect that I'm not alone in this position. 

What exactly can ontologies and reasoning do that 
negotiated schemas cannot, and how - if it can be seen 
today - do stakeholders in industry best exploit such 
capabilities via incremental steps from the status quo? 

I should say, my instinct is that clear and sound 
answers to this question can be formulated, but I 
can't formulate them today. The fundamental difficulty 
for me is that I can't characterize a sweet spot 
between the independent initiatives of individual 
actors (companies) on the one hand, and the coordinated 
actions of vertical associations, on the other, that 
would be the domain of ontology-driven reasoning. Of 
course, when I say that _I_ can't find such a sweet 
spot, I'm speaking as the aforementioned semantic 

There's much material out there, and I am studying it 
avidly. I've found much that has been extremely 
valuable to someone in my position. Still, I may have 
missed the key exposition(s) on this question - if so, 
I apologize for wasting your time. If not, though, I 
think this is a crucial discussion. 

Thanks for your patience,

Michael Brian Orr


> 1. There is an enourmous business need for solutions which 
> are based on
> semantic web technologies
>      In essence the business need is for:
>      -  semantic based integration / interoperation of 
> systems which shall
> enable an "on demand integration" capability,
>         (you can call this a "super TIBCO and similar" solution).
>        A solution for this problem would tackle in minimum 
> 20% of the IT
> budget spending of today
>     -  semantic based search for information on the web , you 
> can call this
> the "ONE QUESTION  > ONE ANSWER" capability
>         (name it a "Super Google and similar" solution)
>        A solution for this problem would influence the search and
> e-business behaviour of most of the WEB users of today significantely
> 2. Giving this the discussion if semantic web ist "it" or not is a
> discussion which is valid, but to my judgement cannot be 
> discussed on the
>      HYPERTEXT etc. level only because this would be a 
> discussion on the
> parts of the iceberg which is under the water only.
> 3. The direction I would appreciate the discussion to go, or 
> at least I
> would see value add in,is on
>      HOW and WHAT are we doing in research to approach the 
> needed solutions
> for the two items named in point 1
>      WHEN could we tell potential SW vendors, customers , 
> companies that
> the base for a solution will be there
> I see lots of efforts going in this direction,and I think 
> this problem and
> the solution for ,is at least one magnitude
> more complex than the build up of the Web (which IS a prerequesit, of
> course) .
> Giving the enormous economical impact and benfit of those 
> named "Semantic
> Web Based Solutions " I would encourage "us"
> to focus our brightness more toward this for sure rewarding goal.
> regards
> Peter
> Peter F. Smolle
> Net Dynamics Internet Technologies
> www.netdynamics-tech.com
>                     Nick Gibbins                              
>                     <nmg@ecs.soton.ac.uk>                   
> To:     Miltiadis Lytras <mdl@eltrun.gr>                      
>                     Sent by:                                
> cc:     kaw@swi.psy.uva.nl, acl@opus.cs.columbia.edu,         
>                     ontoweb-list-bounces@informatik.        
> www-rdf-interest@w3.org, www-annotation@w3.org, 
> ontology@fipa.org,        
>                     uibk.ac.at                              
> seweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, irlist-editor@acm.org,       
> ontoweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, daml-all@daml.org,         
> ontology@cs.umbc.edu                                          
>                     16.06.2004 18:42                        
> Subject:     [ontoweb-list] Re: A discussion: Is semantic web 
> an old      
> fashioned idea? Is it bubble, unworthy or an interesting 
> research area -  
> Post your comments                                            
> Miltiadis Lytras wrote:
> >   1. In 6 years time with ZERO hype and an insignificant
> >      amount of funding, the WWW evolved from a couple
> >      of lonely programmers to Netscape and the essential
> >      features of what we see on the web today.
> >   2. In 6 years (1998 to 2004) with ENORMOUS hype and
> >      funding, the semantic web has evolved from Tim BL's
> >      book to a few prototype applications, which are less
> >      advanced than technologies of the 1970s such as SQL,
> >      Prolog, and expert systems -- and they're doing it
> >      with XML, which is far less advanced than LISP,
> >      which was developed in the 1950s.
> While I have some sympathy with his cautious attitude towards 
> the Semantic
> Web, Sowa misses the rich history of hypertext systems that 
> the WWW draws
> on. A different characterisation of the growth of the Web might be:
>     1. In 6 years (1989 to 1995) with some hype and not
>        insignificant EU and US funding, the WWW evolved from
>        Tim BL's original proposal to a widespread but simple
>        system which is less advanced in certain ways than
>        previous hypermedia systems, such as the Hypertext
>        Editing System, Xanadu, NLS, OWL-Guide and Hypercard
> --
> Nick Gibbins                                            
> nmg@ecs.soton.ac.uk
> IAM (Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia)             tel: +44 
> (0) 23 80598347
> Electronics and Computer Science                   fax: +44 
> (0) 23 80592865
> University of Southampton
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Received on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 04:14:05 UTC

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