W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > semantic-web@w3.org > April 2017

Re: Keeping the Faith

From: HansTeijgeler <hans.teijgeler@quicknet.nl>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 23:19:39 +0200
To: semantic-web@w3.org
Message-ID: <18680131-7ed4-0888-f7f3-f2e90322aa69@quicknet.nl>
Dan and Melvin,

I am not an OWL or RDF expert, but a data modeler, so please keep that 
in mind when reading my two cents of wisdom.

I use RDF and OWL, but in conjunction with a standard upper ontology 
because RDF and OWL, good as they are, simply lack such an upper ontology.
That, to me, is an impediment for true integration. Schema.org simply 
isn't good enough for us. It does serve its purpose, I guess, looking at 
its uptake, but not our purpose.

Our purpose is to integrate all lifecycle information of a process plant 
(oil refinery, chemical plant, etc), from cradle to grave. This includes 
conceptual design, engineering, procurement, logistics, construction, 
commissioning, operations,  maintenance, performance analysis, and based 
on the latter a return to design and engineering.

During the lifetime of such a plant a plethora of companies are 
providing services and use and produce data with many different systems 
(including such systems as process simulators, 2D and 3D CAD, DCS, etc) 
in different logic, naming conventions, formats, and configurations. 
Couple that to the fact that the relationships between plant 
owner/operators, contractors and suppliers are rather "promiscuous" and 
you can fathem the magnitude of the problem. (BTW, that also holds for 
healthcare, police, etc with many parties and many different systems).

The task at hand is to map those data to one common ontology and keep 
doing that on a routine basis for the next decades.

Why would one want to do that? Well, making progress is helped by 
knowing your history, so analysis of this archive is the next task. But 
a short-term advantage is that anybody who is participating in such 
lifecycle activities can get hold of the latest information by means of 
dedicated SPARQL queries (with all due security). That also helps to 
fulfil the legal obligation to provide information in cases of 
calamities within a very short time.

After 26 years of work we have our ducks in a row, but now comes the 
hard part: how do you convince the industry to use it? And where do we 
find data modelers to assist the software geeks in writing the mapping 
software? When reading fora of, for example, the Java community I am 
amazed about their sloppy modeling. That's why I think that such mapping 
needs to be assisted by domain experts and data modelers.

The Ontolog community is also dealing with such an upper ontology, with 
little progress though.

I invite you to give your opinion about this subject, which may give 
some hints for a solution in the broader sense.

Regards,
Hans
15926.org <http://15926.org/>

------------------------------------------------------------------------

On 30-4-2017 15:37, Melvin Carvalho wrote:
>
>
> On 30 April 2017 at 12:24, Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org 
> <mailto:danbri@danbri.org>> wrote:
>
>
>
>     On 29 April 2017 at 00:11, Brent Shambaugh
>     <brent.shambaugh@gmail.com <mailto:brent.shambaugh@gmail.com>> wrote:
>     > General Question:
>     >
>     > How do you keep the faith or vision with respect to semantic web and
>     > linked data? I'm also in an area where there is not a lot of venture
>     > capital (well some) nor (many) people having a lot of
>     understanding of
>     > the area. At least it does not score you a talk. Is the field of
>     > dreams mentality of "if you build it, he will come"?
>
>     First and foremost, this effort is not a religion. People do seem
>     to care about it, and the larger notion of a healthy
>     standards-based, vendor-neutral etc World Wide Web, with the
>     passion that others do reserve for religious matters. This may or
>     may not be a bug! That passion can drive creativity and
>     collaboration but it can also foster stubbornness and tribal thinking.
>
>
> Great post, danbri (as usual).  So much covered, I'd like to just 
> field one point, which I think is on topic regarding the original post.
>
> Two subjects which are close to my heart, and that I have studied in 
> quite detail over the past years are comparative religion and the 
> (semantic) web.  So this is particularly interesting to me.  
> Especially as I spent about 10 years being a semantic web skeptic, 
> then became a "believer".  At some point I must have "seen the light". 
> Note: I put the word "semantic" in brackets in line with Dan C's 
> classic comment, "The important word in Semantic Web is Web".  The 
> semantic web (small s small w) is just the machine readable layer of 
> the web, both aspects coexist together.
>
> Back to your comment, another word for the term you use "passion", 
> might be "enthusiasm".  It's a little known fact that the word 
> "enthusiasm" means, "inspired by God". Are people enthused by the 
> (semantic) web.  But you need a bit more than that to have a 
> religion.  I'm guided by the great comparative mythologist Joseph 
> Cambpell, here, who studied all the world's religions and dissected 
> what was in common.  It breaks down like this.
>
> You dont necessarily need a God for a religion, but you do need a 
> powerful entity, that directs energy, in certain ways.  You could say 
> the web does this.  The means of directing energy are through symbols 
> and rituals.  I could be stretching here but is an http request / 
> response one such example, is a web search, is a social status update 
> -- quite possibly yes.  You need a sense of mystery, something bigger 
> than all of us (the web is that) and you need an art form that will 
> explain the world we live in to us (the web does that), you also need 
> an art form that will guide you through the various stages of life 
> (the web does that), and finally you need a system of rules by which 
> to live a live (I am unsure if the web does that, or maybe it does so 
> subtly and it's hard to notice), and maybe this last part is work in 
> progress.  And finally you need it to be popular.
>
> So if the web is not a religion, it's quite close, it certainly ticks 
> a lot of boxes, in a quite unique way.
>
> It may help to explain the mindset of a skeptic.  The things the 
> semantic web community worry about, are not the things the skeptic 
> worries about.  The skeptic worries about: is this worth learning?  Is 
> this useful?  Is this going to be a good time investment?  What does 
> this thing do?  And importantly, is it easy to get started?
>
> That last part is critical, and I think is where there is quite a high 
> bar for new people.  I once saw an online poll 10+ years ago, asking 
> what will be the 'next big technology'.  The Semantic Web was there 
> and I smile to myself in typical skeptic fashion, 'oh not that again' 
> -- 'is that still going' -- 'wont it just die'.  But actually skeptics 
> might say those things but they dont believe them.  And I actually 
> voted for SW in that poll, in my head was the thought: 'its way too 
> complex, but once they work that bit out, everyone knows this will be 
> huge'. When / if the sem web takes off, no one will be surprised, they 
> will only say, 'well, that took a long time!'
>
> At some point I decided to make the dive and learn what this thing was 
> about.  To my surprise and pleasure it was much easier than I 
> thought.  I think when Kingsley explained it's just an Entity 
> attribute value (EAV) model I realized how ridiculously easy it was.  
> That's when I became a believer.  And I have never looked back.
>
> Perhaps my only frustration with SW is that there is so much amazing 
> technology there, but it is barely used, and barely explained to 
> people.  I love the experiments danbri used to do, but he's just one 
> of a handful of people that would hack on the sem web, for fun.  This 
> made the whole thing more fun.  Its inspiring to see things working.  
> But I think now we are starting to see a few more create things, and 
> it's fascinating to watch evolve.  I heard the analogy of the bobsled, 
> at the beginning you have to push it, then at some point you jump in, 
> and it starts to push you!  I think we are almost at that point, just 
> need 1-2 more people to give the final push (famous last words!) :)
>
> One big thing missing was social, but with the creation of 
> technologies like Solid, I think we are at the point were we can start 
> to be inspired again by what this technology can do.  I am now a 
> "believer" in the semantic web.  I was marveling only yesterday just 
> how useful this technology is.  And I hope to encourage others to 
> benefit from the amazing world this technology can open up!
>
>
>     W3C's RDF work embodies a lot of good ideas, and has proved
>     useful, but it is just one tool in the toolkit. When we were
>     working on the RDF specs nearly 20 years ago, it felt sometimes
>     like they were positioned in a "david vs goliath" struggle with
>     the XML family of technologies. There were competing visions for
>     what data on the Web might amount to. In later years RDF-based
>     approaches get contrasted with JSON or SQL/CSV or whatever, but
>     the debate often takes roughly the same form. Do we treat data as
>     a graph representation of factual claims, or do we focus on the
>     concrete form that such claims might take - as an HTML or XML DOM
>     or a JSON tree or a simple flat table? And the answer is generally
>     the same --- that there is value in both perspectives. When we
>     neglect the concrete notation / file format details, the usability
>     of the concrete formats suffers (c.f. RDF/XML); when we neglect
>     the abstract commonalities, information becomes needlessly
>     fragmented across different representations and publication systems.
>
>     This community has always tended a little towards blaming two
>     things for the (real or perceived) failure of its ideas to burst
>     triumphantly into the technology mainstream. We have blamed poor
>     syntaxes, leading to a range of specs and experiments endlessly
>     pursuing a more usable notation --- from RDF/XML through RDFa (and
>     its hybrid cousin, Microdata), JSON-LD, Turtle, N-Triples, as well
>     as mapping-based systems like GRDDL and CSVW. And we have also
>     blamed failures in understanding. There is a persistent tone
>     around here that eventually the wider world will "get it" and see
>     the point, value, importance etc of the approach to data embodied
>     in RDF, Semantic Web and Linked Data. I think there is some truth
>     to the claim that RDF was the right idea at the wrong time, and
>     that the success of graph databases shows that there is a more
>     mainstream technology audience waiting for it. But there is also
>     some self-deception here, and failure to face up to a fairly
>     boring truth. Dealing with RDF data is difficult, annoying,
>     frustrating and suchlike. Not because of any intrinsic failing in
>     the W3C specs, tools or practices, but because dealing with highly
>     hetrogenous, lumpy, quirky dataset with all kind of bits missing,
>     and all kinds of unanticipated extensions or novel patterns
>     arbitrarily appearing in it, is just a really hard problem space
>     to be working in. There is something of a tragedy of the commons
>     pattern here. Any individual project can generally get by without
>     needing RDF, and may make progress faster focussing on their exact
>     data format needs using any of XML, JSON, CSV or whatever. But
>     when we stand back and look at the wider Web, this creates a very
>     fragmented landscape. This kind of thinking motivated W3C's GRDDL
>     work (using XSLT to map XML files into RDF, e.g. see
>     http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2000/08/09/rdfdb/
>     <http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2000/08/09/rdfdb/>
>     https://www.w3.org/2000/08/w3c-synd/
>     <https://www.w3.org/2000/08/w3c-synd/> etc.
>
>     Some years ago, Murray Maloney (of SGML and XML fame) popped into
>     W3C Semantic Web Interest Group meeting we held as part of the
>     TPAC conference. I forget his exact words but afterwards he made
>     the point that it reminded him of the (in Brent's terms) faith and
>     vision that people in the SGML/XML community also had, and that it
>     might be that we were attaching those things overly specifically
>     to some particular technology. He was right. Round about that
>     time, Linked Data took off as a variation of the Semantic Web
>     idea, but with more of an emphasis on open data in the public Web,
>     and less emphasis on fancy rule systems. Two healthy consequences
>     of that for RDF was that it re-affirmed the link to the broader
>     Web standards community --- by focussing on putting data in that
>     actual Web and using related standards like HTTP well --- and also
>     it tapped into the underlying motivations Murray had noted. We had
>     perhaps mis-identified our common interest as being RDF, but for
>     many of us it was more about data sharing / knowledge sharing /
>     large scale collaborative infrastructure, and RDF was just a means
>     to an end. RDF is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
>
>     If you look at the history there are also plenty of things to feel
>     good about. When the Web was young, RDF was always talked about in
>     terms of its rivalry with XML. But then if you look at the actual
>     people involved over the years, those individuals (I won't
>     namecheck everyone) have had careers that touch into XML, RDF,
>     open data, JSON, CSV, whatever tool gets the job done. The
>     rivalries and "XYZ is the ABC killer" framing, aren't the story of
>     how these technologies inter-relate in practice.
>
>     The RDF community has the endearing tendency to over-criticise
>     itself for not single-handedly saving the planet from its
>     perceived data-sharing failings. I think we should instead just
>     take a bow and acknowledge that we've done good here. We built
>     some useful tools and technologies that are finding a niche, and
>     we've progressed the state of the art around annoyingly
>     heterogeneous data handling. Is it the last word in anything,
>     absolutely not. Is RDF (or Perl or XML or ...) "dead", ...
>     absolutely not. Are factual triples the answer to 'fake news'? Not
>     quite. Could our Web technologies be improved, the representations
>     made simultaneously more usable, expressive and useful ---
>     probably/maybe/dunno. People worry too much. These are good tools
>     in a growing Web standards toolkit and it is worth continuing to
>     work on them, but also worth reminding ourselves that this isn't
>     in opposition to the wider technology landscape. It is nothing but
>     healthy for "RDF people" to take a break from thinking just about
>     these technologies and to spend some time in related work, e.g.
>     Javascript, Web components, machine learning, security ... rather
>     than slipping into thinking about our efforts here as a kind of
>     religious struggle against the unbelievers...
>
>     Thinking of particular practical areas I'd suggest as worth
>     putting time into: ShACL and Shex for RDF validation may turn out
>     to be very important. Also for my part, I have worked mostly on
>     Schema.org
>     <https://research.googleblog.com/2015/12/four-years-of-schemaorg-recent-progress.html>
>     these last years. It is very widely used across the entire Web,
>     and is broadly in the "RDF family", but currently tends to be
>     published and consumed on a page-by-page basis rather than
>     site-by-site. I suspect the latter is where we'll see more scope
>     for integration with the tools and techniques of this community
>     (SPARQL etc) and hope to put some time into that in the coming
>     months.
>
>     verbosely,
>
>     Dan
>
>     (somwhat absentee SemWeb Interest Group chair)
>
>



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