Re: off-topic on Beijing Re: BOF meeting on Semantic Web Search Engines at WWW 2008

Dan, Golda

good thinking and great post. I agree that this list is not the vehicle for 
such discussions, and I agree with one of key purposes of semantic 
technology is to support more qualified, meaningful and verified information 
on any issue that they care about,  so that people can act accordingly. 
Thanks for that. What can the 'humans' on this list do to help that process? 
Shall we draw up a specification for the 'usable semantic web' and insist 
that this is considered alongside the technical spec? I think the W3C should 
issue usability guidelines along the technical specs, so that the output of 
an application will not validate unless the usability spec is met as wells 
as the technical one. Thats the only way I can see this usability problem 
addressed. Although the usability compliance is much less black and white 
than a technical validation, I am sure is possible
I was recently at CHI in Florence btw, and I brushed shoulders with a few 
very cool people, all knowleagble and interested, but nothing much is 
happening  - let me think what we should be doing next
Look forward, and glad there is an appreciation for the real issues


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dan Brickley" <>
To: "Golda Velez" <>
Cc: "Semantic Web" <>
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 4:36 PM
Subject: Re: off-topic on Beijing Re: BOF meeting on Semantic Web Search 
Engines at WWW 2008

> Golda Velez wrote:
>> End of digression.  Email me if you want further info.
> It's a big planet, and many of its (our...) governments do truly hideous 
> things to people in other parts of it. I appreciate how you feel about 
> Burma but this is really the wrong vehicle for expressing it. Just as I 
> wouldn't use to urge visitors to the UK or US to help 
> stop the awfulness in Iraq, and so on. As chair of this (very 
> international) Interest Group I don't want to be in a situation of saying 
> which situations are urgent, awful or disgusting enough to use this 
> mailing list for emergency appeals.
> I'm not complaining about off-topic-ness here: we have enough rambling or 
> dull discussion here that it is fine to bring everyone's attention back to 
> the the things that really matter; matters of life and death. In the 
> context of what's happening out there, an offtopic email is *nothing*.
> Rather, I'm urging that you find other means to deliver political and 
> human-rights messages to like-minded conference attendees (eg. 
>'s APIs might help you find friends and friends who are 
> attending the conference). Every day we read stomach-churning news that 
> can make our technical interests and disagreements here seem trivial and 
> petty... but we can't turn this list into a world crisis bulletin-board. 
> We really can't.
> There are other, better ways to reach people, persuade people of evidence, 
> showing people what life elsewhere is like. And figuring out how to 
> improve those mechanisms is 100% on-topic for this list: the Semantic Web 
> is a project to improve the Web so that it better reflects what is 
> happening in the world around us, a world seen through layers competing, 
> interlinked claims and counter-claims. (Anyone who tells you otherwise has 
> got lost in the detail.)
> In that vein, the most interesting thing I read yesterday is the site at 
> ... a vaguely RDFesque system for making 
> explicit the structure of debate and disagreement. It breaks emotive, 
> complex topics down into a Web of themes, claims and other sub-structure. 
> This perhaps gives a better granularity for attaching information about 
> the credibility/support for each claim. When people ask, "what is really 
> happening out there?", and turn to the Web, wondering "what evidence is 
> there for this claim", the Web doesn't yet do a good job. It doesn't help 
> them evaluate the claims they hear on TV or in the tabloids ("Saddam has 
> nukes", "there's ethnic cleansing in Burma", "Obama eats babies", ...). We 
> do have pagerank, blogs, and so on, but nothing structured in terms of 
> evidential support for specific claims. I think we can and should do 
> better, and that the focus of the Semantic Web community would be 
> profitably spent on this area of work. I firmly believe the Web will 
> mature to give us a better claim-based, provenance-based infrastructure 
> for evaluating such claims. But it'll take time, and every year that 
> passes without it is one in which people will remain dangerously 
> misinformed about the world around them. For better or worse, this list 
> has to stay focussed on on making technical progress. Sorry if that sounds 
> somehow callous...
> > Ok, this is not RDF-related unless someone has the vocabulary to say it
> I don't think the technical issue is exactly one of vocabulary here. 
> Rather it is one of being able to make an overwhelming case "this is 
> happening" grounded in documentary evidence published in the Web. Partly a 
> matter of weighing the credibility and authority of sources, of providing 
> a representation for the claims those sources make about the world. But 
> also a matter of user interface (something often neglected in the SemWeb 
> scene): how do we get from giving people access to the raw facts, ... to 
> getting them to care, and to act?
> Dan
> --
> Semantic Web IG chair

Received on Friday, 25 April 2008 11:10:19 UTC