W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > May 2001

Re: What do the ontologists want

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 13:21:04 -0500
Message-Id: <v04210101b729c16b1e29@[]>
To: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
Cc: Ziv Hellman <ziv@unicorn.com>, www-rdf-logic@w3.org, Bill Andersen <andersen@ontologyworks.com>
>pat hayes wrote:
> >      PS My apologies if this is leading too far from the original thread
> >
> > Not at all: I think you have put your finger right on the button. 
>There is a mismatch between the reality and the rhetoric of RDF. As 
>a general-purpose graph-structure-encoding formalism, it is just 
>fine. (It has a truly awful surface syntax, but everyone agrees that 
>is a crock and needs replacing.) But it hasnt been sold as that: it 
>has been sold as a universal knowledge/information representation 
>language, with a clear semantics which is both utterly simple 
>(relational triples) and simultaneously universal, post-Goedelian, 
>trans-Tarskian and magically universal, due to the Power of 
>Reification. That is why it is going to be the, I don't know, the 
>magical essence of the Semantic Web, and why W3C seems to be so 
>committed to it.
>Oh for cryin out loud, Pat, just cut it out. Exactly
>who is taking that position? Cite sources or retract it.

It is an admittedly colorful rendering of sentiments that I have 
heard from Tim Berners-Lee, Stefan Decker and others who contribute 
to this and other RDF threads. Maybe the leaders didnt mean to 
generate such unbridled enthusiasm among their followers, but they 
have to bear the responsibility for explaining their views clearly 
when they are misunderstood. Given the amount of RDF enthusiasm I 
constantly read, it seemed appropriate to try throwing a little cold 
water on the fire.

>Yes, there has been some confusion, and yes, some folks
>are saying things about RDF that can't possibly be
>true, but I think folks are here to learn and
>build something useful. And insulting
>them/us by taking some things that they/we may have said
>exaggerating them to the ends of the earth isn't
>getting us anywhere, is it?

Well, it gets it off MY chest. Maybe you don't appreciate how frustrating
my life is, having to smile politely while my colleagues announce 
wild fantasies to journalists. (I don't mean to refer to you 
personally here.) AI did that kind of thing in the seventies, and we 
learned to be more careful.

> > And this is just plain bullshit, as anyone who knows almost 
>anything about Krep will immediately tell you.
>Of course what you wrote is bullshit. So let's
>leave it out of the conversation, OK?

OK. Maybe it would be best if we returned to the point that Ziv was 
making. Is RDF properly understood as simply a graphical 
datastructuring notation/convention? (If not, what more does it 
provide? Can anyone point to any actual usage of RDF which seems to 
go beyond this?) If we could all get clear on that it would be a 
great step forward in mutual clarity. If RDF-reification means simply 
an arc (pointer) in a graph, then I will sleep a lot better, for one 


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Received on Thursday, 17 May 2001 14:21:14 UTC

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