W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-webont-wg@w3.org > April 2002

Re: SEM: Face-to-Face version of approaches document

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 10:49:44 -0500
Message-Id: <p05101520b8e498852bc5@[]>
To: Dieter Fensel <dieter@cs.vu.nl>
Cc: www-webont-wg@w3.org
>At 11:52 AM 4/5/2002 -0500, Jeff Heflin wrote:
>>4) I am not in favor of formal sub-languages. If the Semantic Web
>>follows the "layer cake" design, there will already be plenty of layers;
>>if we starting adding sublayers to each layer, then things just get too
>>confusing (I've already heard people complain that they have to read too
>>many specs to understand this Semantic Web stuff: XML, RDF, RDF-Schema,
>>DAML+OIL, that's a lot of reading!). However, I would be in favor in
>>using the layers informally to present the language. This allows people
>>to learn the basics quickly, and to gain proficiency in the language at
>>their own pace.
>Hi Jeff,
>I am not quite sure how deeply you thought about your argument.
>Layering the language does not introduce any new documents.
>Instead it helps to break a long and thick document into a number
>of significant smaller ones. Therefore, most readers have to read
>less and not more material.

I think that Jeff's worry can be summarized by the problem of someone 
who is faced with the contents page of this thick document, and 
doesn't yet even know what the chapter titles mean. How is (s)he 
going to know which chapter is the one to read?

>They (tool and application builders)
>can refer to a smaller piece of technology they want to support and
>they need. By giving this strata a name you have a defined way
>in which people can realize the level of complexity they need.

I agree, but the point that Jeff is worried about does need to be 
addressed. We need to be able to quickly give people an overview of 
the whole structure which is detailed enough to enable them to make a 
rational choice of which 'part' to use for their purposes.

There is also the purely political matter that many potential 
adoptees of any standard will be worried by what looks like a 
proliferation of alternatives, perhaps so worried that they will 
refuse to adopt the standard. For many commercial software vendors 
the decision to adopt a standard can be a very large decision indeed, 
one that can make or break a company. They want some reassurance that 
they are not buying into a confused tangle which is unusable in 
practice. They also want some confidence that the standard is stable, 
and again, a large number of alternatives does not look as stable as 
a coherent, preferably simple, overall picture.

>Without such strata you have one bad alternative:
>-       people are forced to subscribe to an over-complex approach
>         for their goals, or
>-       people introduce ad-hoc subsets without any clear linkage
>         to other ad-hoc subsets.

True, but look at the major case of this, which is HTML versions and 
the browser market. The fact is that all the major browsers fail to 
conform exactly with one another and with the HTML 4 standard, but 
also that this is not, in practice, a major problem for them. The 
forgiving nature of HTML is one reason for this happy state of 
affairs. I worry that XML's more rigid syntax might be in fact a 
barrier to useability rather than a guarantee of global coherence: 
just compare the global usage of HTML to XHTML.


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Received on Thursday, 18 April 2002 11:49:50 UTC

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