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Simple and Viral Additions to the Web

From: Adrian Walker <adrianw@snet.net>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 19:38:47 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: <public-rule-workshop-discuss@w3.org>, <www-rdf-rules@w3.org>, "Dieter Fensel" <dieter.fensel@deri.org>, <edbark@nist.gov>, "Michael Kifer" <kifer@cs.sunysb.edu>, "Jim Hendler" <hendler@cs.umd.edu>, Sandro Hawke<sandro@w3.org>, <james.lynn@hp.com>

Hi All --

The Rules Interoperation discussion is getting really good, and 
congratulations to Sandro for staying in the saddle of this particular mustang.

In the discussion, a recent aside from Dieter Fensel brings to mind a 
thought about why the Original Web was "simple and viral"**, causing it to 
spread rapidly worldwide, and why Rules and the SW are different.

In the discussion on rules and logical models, Dieter wrote 'PS: I do not 
think you need a PhD in logics in order to understand this stuff. At least 
I "only" hold an PhD in applied economics.'

In the Original Web, one really did not need any degree at all to write and 
publish html pages.  So, the design was simple and viral, and the rest is 

For Rules and the SW however, the model theoretic concepts and their 
consequences are such that talented software engineers, at say the master's 
degree level, often appear on discussion lists saying things like "I wrote 
these rules and they did not do what I expected.   Is this a bug or a 
feature?".   The situation is neither simple nor viral.

So, here's the thought.  To get a viral effect, we are going to have to 
make the writing of rules look simple to end-authors without much formal 
education.  There are after all many more them than there are folks with 
relevant MSs and PHDs.

One way of doing this is to add an end-author/end-user layer at the top of 
the SW layer cake.  One can fix on a declarative semantics for rules, then 
add an automatic translation from English to the underlying technical rules 
notation, and a similar automatic translation out again.  Once this is 
done, fairly standard techniques allow proof traces (and failing proofs) to 
be translated automatically into English explanations that non-technical 
folks can understand.

In this scenario, declarative rules are simple (at the end-author level), 
the results are self-explaining (at the end-user level), and the rules 
therefore have a good viral potential on the SW.  Because they are in 
English, such rules are also indexed by Google, a viral plus.

With apologies to those who have heard this many times before -- there's a 
system online at the site below that does this kind of thing.

If one goes in this direction, it would seem best to design the whole beast 
vertically integrated -- from end-author layer, to model theory, to 

At the moment the rules discussion seems to be focused on the model theory 
middle third of that only.  If we are lucky, whatever comes out of a WG for 
that middle third may support the upper third.  But it might be better to 
take the upper third into account earlier rather than later.

Just some thoughts.

                         Cheers,   -- Adrian

** To quote Tim B-L, I believe

Online at www.reengineeringllc.com

Adrian Walker
Reengineering LLC
PO Box 1412
CT 06011-1412 USA

Phone: USA 860 583 9677
Cell:    USA  860 830 2085
Fax:    USA  860 314 1029
Received on Friday, 26 August 2005 23:39:03 UTC

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