Re: NI contact re: XQuery & DAWG

Jeff Pollock (DAWG) wrote: I’d like to gauge your interest, motivation, and
timing for the XQuery to RDF/OWL initiatives


I’m pleased to discuss, but, unfortunately, can only offer my personal

You will be aware that I have some limited contact with the DAWG and am
always interested in the ongoing debate in this working group, having a
long history with traditional relational database technologies. As such I
consider semantic web query language standardisation to be an important

I think that there are really two separate issues here:-
·     What should be recommended as a best practice approach for Semantic
Web data interrogation – I see this more as a standards issue and something
that should not, necessarily, be of direct concern to vendors
·     What implementation methods should be advocated for real-world early
adopters – This, obviously, need not be of great relevance to appropriate
standards bodies,  but should be of great importance to vendors in order to
establish market growth

On the first point you may be aware that there has been some recent
discussion in the Best Practices Working Group which advocated approaches
based around the embodiment of the data sources being interrogated – The
Semantic Web has, to date, been formed on data structures derived from a
triple based representation. As you know, there is good reasoning behind
this and hence so, to follow the argument forward, it makes absolute sense
to me to use a querying mechanism formed from the same structural roots.
XQuery , unfortunately, does not naturally meet this criteria and I hence
align with the triple-based query school of thought. Sorry, this simple
boils down to the old adage, ‘the right tools for the right job’.
Nevertheless, you would never hand a surgeon a 3 inch scalpel on his first
day at medical school! So, I also believe that there is also some room here
for a practitioners view.

Having worked for a year and a half on a significant real-world project
with a desperate need for a large underlying formal ontology, I have
experienced the Semantic Web’s growing pains first hand and fully
appreciate that your average ‘technician’ finds a purist view of the
Semantic Web too abstract at present. Personally I think this is a problem
with the educational system lagging too far behind leading edge concepts -
Most of the fresh Computer Science graduates I encounter are still steeped
in traditional relational data implementation, with very few even being
close to understanding the theory behind good relational design. Ask them
what a tuple is and they immediately talk about flowers from Holland!!
Trying to discuss the value of minimised data representation via triples is

For no other reason than Semantic Web technology take-up, I hence feel that
there is also a need for vendors to align and decide on ‘interim’ query
solutions that have a much closer syntax to good old SQL. Again I do not
consider this to be an issue for the standards bodies.

Will this ‘quick and dirty’ approach to semantic querying have a
detrimental impact on the Semantic Web? – I think not. There will always be
other, purer solutions based around triples and I think it would be wrong
for vendors to fight against these. Overtime I am sure that they will be
incorporated into vendor specific implementations and toolsets, much the
same way that object-oriented database technologies sneaked into mainstream
database products. But at least at that point the consumer will be given
the option to choose. Addressing product specifics via standards lobbying
appears, to me, to be the wrong tack. Forming industrial alliances to
promote market growth is another matter and I am more than happy to act as
a conduit within IBM for you to open up discussions with the most
appropriate in our Software Group for this process to be discussed. I
would, however, appreciate your cooperation to ensure that appropriate
levels of commercial decorum are maintained.

The Semantic Web is an important contribution to global technology
progress. Nevertheless it is still a child that we all passionately want to
care for, and unfortunately, children have a propensity to learn bad habits
from their guardians – a failure of which I am acutely aware. I’m not so
bothered about guardians being misled as they should be worldly-wise enough
to make up their own minds.

Kind regards

Phil Tetlow
Senior Consultant
IBM Business Consulting Services
Mobile. (+44) 7740 923328

Received on Wednesday, 13 October 2004 09:35:44 UTC