Re: A bit of bomb throwing....

From: Danny Ayers <>
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 14:59:15 +0100

[Zack, earlier]
I'd consider these projects very interesting client side hacks, not
full semantic web implementations. While they are probably the most
relevant technologies to come out semantic web research they do
little more than "give you a taste of what the Semantic Web has to

As Bruce, I'll concede that there is some merit in the arguments in
your blog post, but I think your title/conclusion ("Semantic web
research isn't working") is wide of the mark. Sure, some research is
relatively 'pure', away from practical implementation and commercial
applications. But not only is there plenty of down-to-earth research
going on in academia, there is a lot of research happening outside of
academia, with both corporate initiatives and individual hackers.

I'm amused by the way you apply both the "pie in the sky" and
"widgets" criticism of the SIMILE projects, it's like "these people
will never make anything that will fly and the food they serve on
transatlantic flights is awful...".

I'm not sure how you arrived at the view of these tools as "side
hacks". What the Semantic Web has to offer depends in large part on
the "Web" part, network effect. Were the hundred or so HTTP clients
and servers that were around say 14 (?) years ago really a "full web

Ok, there are qualitative differences in this point of view with SW
compared to WWW - a whole range of SW-compatible individual
implementations are possible from simple static text RDF/XML files
through to OWL inferencing models. In isolation they will only give a
taste. But any individual web page or service only gives a taste of
what the web has to offer.

> I care deeply about the problem space. The issue is that it is simply too
> costly to 'jump on board' at the moment and I don't see that changing any
> time soon. Consider me an overly eager early adopter. I represent a number
> of organizations with reasonable development budgets that would be
> incredibly well served by semantic technologies but the tools are simply out
> of reach. Why is this?

Costly in what sense? There is a large range of tools available open
source, most of them backed by active community support. The biggest
cost I'm aware of is in getting developers familiar with the
technologies (and managers to understand the benefits!). But that cost
is to be expected, virtually identical adoption issues were there in
the early days of the web.

There is one specific point you make your blog post I have to take issue with:
4. Researchers are not moving at the pace the web is currently
developing, instead they are attempting to leap-frog it. A good
example of this is the Structured Blogging and Microformats
initiatives. Why are semantic web researchers not collaborating with
the teams pursuing these projects?

This isn't so much leap-frog as much as having an approximate roadmap
for enhancing the web. On the map are places in the distance as well
as immediately in front.

Your generalisation of "researchers" is pointing in a different
direction to the reality. A large proportion of Semantic Web R&D is
happening with an eye on developments elsewhere on the web. Because
the SW is designed to build on the current web. What TimBL said wasn't
 "lets do it over", more "let's add these missing bits".

In fact there's clear evidence of this in the examples you quote,
because Semantic Web researchers *are* collaborating with the teams
pursuing these projects. If you look at the microformats list archives
you will see there has been significant input from people active in
the Semantic Web community.

I personally have been working with the Structured Blogging folks on
Semantic Web compatibility - check the source of an SB entry, e.g.
 - you will find the following :


Like most of the SB initiative this is experimental, but here a
mapping is provided from the SB information to the Semantic Web.

Oh, go on, one last point - you say:
The technologies are generally not useful unless they are adopted and
implemented on a large scale and people are not willing to invest in
implementing them unless they are useful.
Even without the Semantic Web, the technologies can be very useful for
a wide range of tasks, even on a very small scale.


Received on Mon Jan 16 2006 - 13:58:56 EST

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