W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org > March 2006

RE: Ontology editor + why RDF?

From: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 12:46:08 -0500
Message-Id: <p06230953c05318955390@[]>
To: "Kashyap, Vipul" <VKASHYAP1@PARTNERS.ORG>, "Danny Ayers" <danny.ayers@gmail.com>
Cc: <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>
Vipul - not sure this is best thread for this whole discussion, but 
here's a quick answer and if you want longer, I can point you to 
various things starting from the Scientific American article [1] and 
also an article on integrating applications on the Web that Tim, Eric 
and I did, originally published in Japanese but available in English 
at [2].  More detailed technical stuff is also available if you want, 
but you should be familiar with that literature...
  The point your missing, which I've been making for years, is that on 
the Web "a little semantics goes a long way" -- here's a simple 
example.  If you have a Database that says you live in Boston, I have 
one that says I live near BWI airport, and Danny has one that has 
tables of distances between airports and cities, but these all use 
their own terminology and live in their own boxes, then none of the 
three of us (nor any third party) would know how far apart you and I 
live.  If all three of us published to the Web, and used common URIs 
(or a third party expressed equivalences) then the system as a whole 
would have the information - so there would be Semantics available on 
the Web that would not be available before -- the "sameas" type 
information (expressed through same URI names) is very powerful, even 
before you start worrying about the next levels of semantics.
  I'm not arguing that expressive semantics is bad, it is very 
valuable in some applications, but the traditional AI community often 
ignores the importance of breadth, despite Google rubbing our noses 
in it every day.   Even more important, once the data is on the Web 
in RDF, it can be INCREMENTALLY extended, by the original provider or 
by third parties, in ways that do add the expressivity - something 
not doable when the datasources are not Web accessible.
  Here's another way to think about it - on the Web my documents can 
point to your documents.  However, my databases (or their schemas) 
cannot point at elements in your databases. my thesaurus cannot point 
to words in your thesaurus, etc.   The Web showed us that the network 
effect is unbelievably powerful, and we need to be able to use that 
power for data, terminologies, ontologies and the rest.
  -Jim H.
p.s. You might also want to check out my article "Knowledge is power: 
the view from the Semantic Web" which appeared in AI Magazine in the 
January 06 issue.  It's not available on line free to non-AAAI 
members, but I can send you a preprint version if you'd like - it's 
aimed at explaining the value of the linking stuff to the applied AI 

[2] http://www.w3.org/2002/07/swint

At 8:08 -0500 3/31/06, Kashyap, Vipul wrote:
>>  I saw a quote not long ago, not sure of the source (recognise this
>>  Jim?), approximately: "what's new about the Semantic Web isn't the
>>  semantics but the web".
>[VK] This is a great quote and expresses clearly that the value proposition
>      in representing and linking vocabularies using URIs stems from the
>      Web more than "semantics"
>>  I take VK's point that this in itself isn't going to convince many IT
>>  folks. I think the big persuader there is data integration, even on a
>>  sub-enterprise kind of scale.
>[VK] Agreed, one of the clearer value propositions is data integration.
>>  Being able to use ontologies to infer new information is a massive
>>  plus (I imagine especially in the lifesciences). Bigger still are the
>>  (anticipated) benefits of the Semantic Web when the network effect
>>  kicks in. But the ability to use RDF to simply merge data from
>>  multiple sources consistently (and query across it), without needing
>>  complete up-front schema design is a very immediate, tangible gain.
>>  The work done around SKOS (and specific tasks like expressing WordNet
>>  in RDF) does suggest RDF/OWL is a particularly good technology choice
>>  for thesauri.
>[VK] Danny, has articulated some potential benefits:
>      - Network effects
>      - Schema-less linking based data integration
>I would argue that both these benefits stem from the web 
>infrastructure and have
>nothing to do with the "semantics" of anything per-se.
>Also, one could argue that having a standardized markup language whether it
>be even HTML or XML enables the above to a significant extent.
>So the value proposition question could be:
>What is it about RDF that enables network effects and schema less data linking
>better than HTML, relational tables or XML in a more significant manner?
>Is the improvement enabled v/s the cost required to achieve it an attractive
>trade off?
>Look forward to yours and the groups responses to these questions.

Professor James Hendler			  Director
Joint Institute for Knowledge Discovery	 	  301-405-2696
UMIACS, Univ of Maryland			  301-314-9734 (Fax)
College Park, MD 20742			  http://www.cs.umd.edu/~hendler 
Web Log: http://www.mindswap.org/blog/author/hendler
Received on Friday, 31 March 2006 17:46:22 UTC

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