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Re: [Fwd: Re: identifier to use]

From: Mark Wilkinson <markw@illuminae.com>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2007 18:11:02 -0700
To: "Eric Neumann" <eneumann@teranode.com>, "Hilmar Lapp" <hlapp@duke.edu>, wangxiao@musc.edu
Cc: "Miller, Michael D (Rosetta)" <Michael_Miller@rosettabio.com>, "Eric Jain" <Eric.Jain@isb-sib.ch>, "Ricardo Pereira" <ricardo@tdwg.org>, public-semweb-lifesci <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>, "Sean Martin" <sjmm@us.ibm.com>
Message-ID: <op.txqv8ondnbznux@personalpc>

Well-said Eric :-)

I think you have hit several key points in your message below that I would  
like to specifically highlight, since they are the "root of my  

1) What makes things "catch on"?
2) What is the world going to look like in 2-5 years?

These are things that we simply cannot answer at the moment.  We're  
lacking the "killer app" that will take the Semantic Web by storm!  In  
fact, I suspect that we have not yet even *conceived* of it...  It may be  
(or maybe not?) that the Web browser was slightly more "obvious" for the  
case of HTML... though it's easy to say these things in hindsight.   
Certainly the >300,000% increase in Web traffic [1] that accompanied the  
release of Mosaic is testament to it being "killer", and we have nothing  
even close to that for the SW!  I suspect, though (in fact, I'd be willing  
to bet my career!) that the Browser is *not* going to be the Killer App  
for the Semantic Web.  As such, any arguments for semantic web  
technologies that rely on being able to type a URL into a browser and see  
something useful are simply blah blah to me.  Frankly, if I have to use a  
browser to navigate the semantic web, then I have already lost interest.

Now, having said that, we can look at the *amazing* work that Eric Jain  
has done to support both the browsing-community as well as the agent  
community.  I have to tip my hat to him!!  Yet when I read messages like  
the one he wrote this morning, I truly pray that the kinds of problems he  
describes ("prevents people from ending up with extension-less files after  
doing a save-as, a big source of confusion, based on my observations",  
"when I show such pages to our biologists, they still think it's some kind  
of error page, with all the gobbledygook about 'commitment',  
'representation' and 'URI'") simply don't happen in the 2-5 year  
time-frame.  If we're still interacting with the Semantic Web through a  
browser rather than an agent in 2-5 years, if we're still displaying 303,  
404, or ANY kind of error-page to our end-users, then we should all be  
pretty red-faced... an agent shouldn't have the problem of File/Save_As  
without an extension, since the content should have been explicitly  
defined either in the HTTP headers, or preferably in the entity's RDF  
metadata, and it should be handling errors with finesse and "browsing"  
onwards without human intervention.

Frankly, I think at least a part of the problem is that "GET" is holding  
us back.  Having to be compliant with the Browser/LWP/wget or your  
favorite HTTP retrieval tool is, I believe, preventing us from imagining  
what the Killer App of the semantic web will look like, and then making  
the brave step away from pure HTTP URIs in order to achieve that goal.  I  
wonder, sometimes, if TBL's statement "the Semantic Web is an extension of  
the existing Web" is perhaps one of the more questionable statements he  
has made in his career... I simply don't see it that way!  The Semantic  
Web is (or at least could be) a very different animal than the Web, and I  
have the feeling that this different animal is going to need a new set of  
protocols and paradigms that are not encumbered by a specification (HTTP),  
and a world full of billions of legacy documents, that were never designed  
to do what the Semantic Web should be capable of doing.  It might just be  
easier/cleaner to "start from scratch" when it come to building something  
that is likely to have behaviours that we have barely begun to imagine...

I agree 100000% that the LSID spec needs to be altered, tweaked, polished,  
and if nothing else, better documented :-)  However, it does represent a  
very different way of thinking about identification/resolution than HTTP  
(no matter how much we twist the HTTP spec to suit our current  
requirements) and was designed with the Semantic Web in mind; moreover, I  
think that in the next 2-5 years the perceived "requirements" that are  
tying us to the HTTP spec are going to become less significant and easier  
to discard as we develop SW agents that can do cleverer things.  LSID  
isn't utopia... but I worry that HTTP is even less so!  LSIDs also are't  
domain-specific, but rather (as Phil Lord pointed-out) *problem* specific,  
so we shouldn't be afraid of using them based on domain-specific arguments  
(though, frankly, even TBL himself seems to agree that the life sciences  
are the main community using the SW, so the phrase "domain specific" in  
terms of a protocol that *we* designed is a bit of a red-herring... we are  
*the* domain, and I assume that's why the HCLS group has been asked for  
their recommendations...)

Anyway, just some thoughts...  Thanks, Eric, for stepping in (again) as a  
moderating voice :-)


[1] http://www.hixie.ch/commentary/web/history

On Sun, 26 Aug 2007 12:51:22 -0700, Eric Neumann <eneumann@teranode.com>  

> In an attempt to modulate the tone a bit, it's clear that with such a  
> large and complex group of people and communities, many who had not been  
> part of earlier OMG/I3C discussions are not aware of all the details of  
> what had been discussed, proposed, and recommended. Having been a  
> LSR-OMG chair many years ago, I know what it takes to put RFPs through  
> DTC, PTC, and AB mechanisms at OMG. A lot of careful technical  
> forethought and agreeing has to go in to it...
> At the same time, many groups in biological data and identifier  
> discussions are still getting up to speed what is meant by web  
> uniqueness and resolution within the W3C world. It's always easier to  
> respond to messages than to review the massive amount of technical  
> papers on the subject (I think simple tech/usage summaries are often  
> lacking). But this seems to lead to a lot of earlier email discussions  
> coming up again and again, i.e., info equilibration. As well as the side  
> effect of evoking emotions when not intended...
> My guess is all sides here can provide an 80-90% technical solution to  
> the main set of data issues raised. That is not the main point of our  
> discussions though. In going forwards we need to also think about  
> learning from past attempts (successes and partial successes), what  
> factors help things "catch on" more quickly and are easy to  
> implement/adopt, and where do data providers and consumers (including  
> the non-informatics people) want to be in 2-5 years? I think we will be  
> capturing most of these shortly, and I look forwards to lots of useable  
> contributions.
> I am not weighing in on any specific side here, but do hope to see an  
> outcome that is acceptable by most people AND offers the largest  
> potential for success, i.e., improves the quality of science and  
> medicine at a global scale.
> Remember, before the web took off in the mid-90's, many pointed to the  
> limitations of other hyptext systems to why a global network of  
> documents would never succeed... past does not imply the future!
> Eric
> -----Original Message-----
> From: public-semweb-lifesci-request@w3.org on behalf of Mark Wilkinson
> Sent: Sun 8/26/2007 2:46 PM
> To: Hilmar Lapp; wangxiao@musc.edu
> Cc: Miller, Michael D (Rosetta); Eric Jain; Ricardo Pereira;  
> public-semweb-lifesci; Sean Martin
> Subject: Re: [Fwd: Re: identifier to use]
> On Sun, 26 Aug 2007 08:40:26 -0700, Hilmar Lapp <hlapp@duke.edu> wrote:
>>> If cannot do it through OMG, maybe LSID should be moved out of OMG.  No
>>> matter what, there is one consensus that is LSID won't be supported as
>>> is.
>> Consensus by whom? There are organizations that support it already, such
>> as TDWG, IPNI, uBio, to name a few.
> I think "consensus" here means "me and the people who agree with me"
> Mark

Mark Wilkinson
Assistant Professor, Dept. Medical Genetics
University of British Columbia
PI Bioinformatics
iCAPTURE Centre, St. Paul's Hospital
Tel:  604 682 2344 x62129
Fax:  604 806 9274

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Received on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 01:12:32 UTC

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