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Weak semantic links [was: semantic dissonance in uniprot]

From: John F. Madden MD, PhD <john.madden@duke.edu>
Date: Sat, 28 Mar 2009 14:54:27 -0400
Cc: w3c semweb HCLS <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>
Message-Id: <F1A6FEFD-9732-45F6-888E-A99CA9BB637D@duke.edu>
To: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>

> I think its fine for the SWeb to include 'weak' semantic links that  
> don't (yet?) have tight definitions that can support machine  
> inference, but still convey useful information to users and maybe  
> even tool developers. (I know saying this runs the risk of opening  
> the old 'social meaning' can of worms, but those worms aren't going  
> to go away :-)

If you're willing to run with this a bit, I'd be curious about your  
thoughts. Turns out, this theme has been popping up in HCLS a fair  
amount recently.

Sometimes, it arises in the context of knowledge-capture, viz.,  how  
do you get experts who are not ontology-savvy to disgorge their  
knowledge in an ontologically useful way? Here, you might resort to  
loose semantics because the skill of the modelers does not support the  
precision that is desired.  In other words, the knowledge is actually  
there and could in principle could be modeled more elaborately, but  
demanding precision yields diminishing returns because amateurish  
modeling errors proliferate.

Other times it arises in the context of garden-variety uncertainty:  
there is no ripe knowledge to be harvested, just a bunch of hunches  
and intuitions. But for a particular community, these hunches and  
intuitions might have value. (Usually, they don't have value--and may  
even be toxic, in the sense of "large doses may kill you"--for the  
world-at-large, because intuitions by their nature rely heavily on  
background/contextual understanding. I guess, is one aspect of 'social  

Anyway, the former problem (seems to me) is a human-engineering  
problem. If we could figure out cleverer, more assistive modeling  
tools and better educational techniques for ontology training, we  
might be able to fix it.

The second problem, I think, could only be helped by keeping these  
assertions "inside-the-fence" of the community that had any use for  
them. But this is a problem, because the semantic web isn't supposed  
to have any fences, i.e. "anybody can say anything about anything".  
What to do?

I've been hoping that Named Graphs would solve this problem. I'm  
curious if you think NG's can support this use case of segregating  
potentially toxic 'knowledge' on the SW.

The other solution I can think of is the solution that enterprises use  
for privacy: set up private webs, intranets, yadda yadda. Which seems  

Received on Saturday, 28 March 2009 18:55:10 UTC

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