W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-interest@w3.org > October 2004

RE: web proper names

From: Uche Ogbuji <uche.ogbuji@fourthought.com>
Date: Fri, 01 Oct 2004 14:22:59 -0600
To: Phil Dawes <pdawes@users.sf.net>
Cc: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>, Jon Hanna <jon@hackcraft.net>, www-rdf-interest@w3.org
Message-Id: <1096662179.3417.3553.camel@borgia>

>  > > Actually I've been finding it very practical (at least working in an
>  > > intranet environment). Of course you're right - people do need to sort
>  > > out context, but they also need to be able to do this on a large scale.
>  > 
>  > "intranet environment" is a closed system.  For some reason you snipped
>  > the part where I said that it *is* perfectly practical in closed systems
>  > where the symbols can be controlled by management and policy.
>  > 
> Umm.. Apologies if you think I mis-quoted you, but I can't find any
> reference to you saying that in the email I replied to.

Ooooh, apologies are mine to be made.  I'm sorry, but I was confusing my
various recent writings on the topic.  You couldn't possibly have seen
my recent suggestion that Semantic Web technologies should initially
target closed systems (such as Intranets) because this suggestion was in
an article draft I submitted Wednesday for my next Thinking XML column
[1].  The article probably won't be out for a week or so, but for the
record, here is the paragraph I was thinking of when I wrongly accused

"As I opined in the Q&A for the [Web Proper Names] talk, the Semantic
Web, based on some proponents' claims, may not be reasonably-sized
ambition for the next generation Web.  Information technology is
predicated on the idea that the material being processed is but an
analogue of real-world things.  We process computer records of people,
organizations, places, ideas and the like, rather than the actuality of
these things.  The philosophy of names, words and meanings is a very old
and contentious one, and the merest contemplation of such issues as
precisely what a computer identifier should "mean" in the real world is
fraught with endless complications and pitfalls.  The Semantic Web
should focus on giving Web authors cheap and simple tools (specifically:
with open source options and easy enough to be learned in a half day) to
annotate pages with their ideas of context.  Convention will emerge in
each community of topical interest through rough consensus, as it always
does when people stumble into any information sharing exercise.  Within
closed systems (such as in an organization), conventions can be imposed
through management (in effect what an identifier means is what corporate
policy says it means.  Full stop.)  Trying to impose universal
identifiers or even conventions for identifiers is an impossible task
for the Semantic Web whether you're an RDF or Topic Maps proponent."

> Never mind. The point I was trying to make was that, yes, people are
> required to sort out context, but that once they've decided that they
> are able to use a set of symbols to mean something (within an
> acceptable margin of error in the outcome), OWL gimmicks like IFP
> etc.. are very useful in smushing/processing the data.

No argument from me there.  Once people have done the uniquely human
parts, we should indeed look for machines to help automate the tedious

>  > "intranet environment" is not "the real, muddy world", which is where I
>  > said machine merging magic is impractical (because there is no centrally
>  > controlled grounding of symbols).
> But machine merging magic is driven by people based on context. I'd be
> surprised if anybody thought otherwise.

The claims being made is that people can dump the context into a box,
and in a separate step, agents can pick up the boxes and merge their
contents.  My argument is that this is not possible, and that people
will be needed for interactive input *during* the merging exercise, or
the results will be useless, unless policy has been invoked to
universalize the meanings of symbol context throughout the system (which
is only practical in a closed system).

> Also note that even in a closed system with policy etc.. symbols still
> squew. Even the owner of a symbol may use it to mean different things
> in different contexts.

Yes, just as even where there is corporate policy not to use computer
resources for personal uses, some employees will still do their eBay-ing
at work.  That's where management comes in, in theory.  In practice, I
certainly agree that even in closed systems, automated semantic merging
will be very hard.  But at least it's feasible.  In an open system such
as the Web, I do not believe it is at all feasible.

Uche Ogbuji                                    Fourthought, Inc.
http://uche.ogbuji.net    http://4Suite.org    http://fourthought.com

A hands-on introduction to ISO Schematron - http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/edu/x-dw-xschematron-i.html
Wrestling HTML (using Python) - http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2004/09/08/pyxml.html
XML circles the globe - http://www.javareport.com/article.asp?id=9797
Principles of XML design: Considering container elements - http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-contain.html
Hacking XML Hacks - http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-think26.html
A survey of XML standards - http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-stand4/
Received on Friday, 1 October 2004 20:23:31 UTC

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