RE: A bit of bomb throwing....

From: Prokopp, Christian <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 13:35:07 +0800

Hi Zack,

I think you are on the wrong email list - seriously. You basically are telling universities to develop implementations (and consequently business models) for a new technology. AFAIK TBL developed (his part of) the WWW to exchange documents with his geeky friends not to develop the most successful, commercial, ubiquitous network ;o) As you pointed out the WWW took off because of Netscape, EBay and so on. They developed the applications for the masses and invested the money, they picked HTML and HTTP as their choice of technology. There was plenty of innovation around (e.g. connected mailbox servers etc.) - sure in hindsight it is easy to say 'Well it was supposed to happen this way'.
Also comparing WWW and semantic web is not fair as the WWW in its basic form is simple (excluding basic technology like TCP/IP, DNS, etc.) - the semantic web utterly complicated (still excluding previously named technologies).

I think SIMILE is doing a good job and I wish more projects would be so well organized and oriented towards a useful outcome. But to bring it to the market the industry has to step in - the universities do not have the expertise nor resources to do this job. Cooperative approaches are as close as it gets to your utopia but that again is initiated by the industry as the provider of funds. I for my part work for SAP Research and here you see the gap being bridged from the other side meeting projects, like SIMILE, half way. Companies do research too and pick up where universities leave if it is interesting enough.

Your frustration seems to be born out of the high hopes the semantic web sparks in many but you should realize it will take time if it ever happens. Contemplating about it is necessary but if done excessively a waste of energy. As mentioned before you should decide to either help develop the technologies (from either side of the gap), use something else or if you think neither will work for your problem then you might face a challenge which is unsolvable today.


-----Original Message-----
From: Zack Rosen []
Sent: Tuesday, 17 January 2006 2:41 PM
Subject: Re: A bit of bomb throwing....

On Jan 15, 2006, at 3:03 PM, Prokopp, Christian wrote:

> _at_Zack:
> You are making valid points but I think also contradicting
> yourself. On
> the one hand you ask the researches to come down from their ivory
> tower
> and meet the practical needs and on the other you complain that when
> they do (like SIMILE) that it is not the 101% semantic web you would
> like it to be. Some of your arguments also apply to any new technology
> (e.g. you could have made all your barrier points about the WWW too).
> I was very pleasantly surprised when I cam across SIMILE - a realistic
> approach to bring semantic web technologies to the masses and on top
> added some documentation and usability consideration. It also orients
> itself at a real world use case so I really have trouble following all
> your points. Maybe you picked the wrong project for your argument ;o)
> No hard feelings but I strongly disagree although in general I could
> agree with some points in your analysis but just not with SIMILE.

SIMILE definitely is a positive step forward, and you are right, I am
being overly harsh and picking a fight with the wrong crowd. That
said I think there is still an impossibly wide gap between semantic
web research and the earliest adopters who wish to employ the
technologies in 'real-world' applications. My goal in approaching
this community is to asses what it will take to close that gap.

My understanding is that the intent of SIMILE is to create user-
facing applications that demonstrate semantic web technology. But
'user-facing' simply does not equate to 'real-world'. It is pretty
easy to create a user-facing application that is of no real-world
practical use (and indeed it seems SIMILE has created quite a few).
This is fine in the context of academia and standard academic
research, but the goals of the semantic web are extremely ambitious,
and I am convinced this approach simply isn't going to produce
results quick enough. As long as research is pursued under the
assumptions that the semantic web will be created within a university
a whole universe of potential contributers and adopters that could be
leveraged towards their goals will be ignored. Consider me one of
the more outspoken and crankier of these potential contributors.

The WWW was born on the frontier of the internet and helped catalyzed
it's tremendous inception. But it's a different landscape today.
The semantic web has a trillion dollar legacy problem.

1990: When the WWW was created it offered critical and unique
functionality in a new and creative environment. It was ingenious,
relatively simple to implement, and the only game in town. Down the
mountain the little snowball went - JPL puts up pictures of
asteroids, Compuserve signs up some customers, Netscape IPO's, Ebay
revolutionizes junk sales, Google monetizes search and voilą the web
is born.

2006: The web works. Billions (if not trillions) have been invested
in platform technologies such as LAMP, JSP, .NET and wells of
innovation are being tapped more quickly than ever. Meanwhile up
atop the hill Universities and far sighted corporate research
vehicles have spent eight years perfecting their new snowball are
apparently stuck waiting for others to push it down the hill for
them. But it simply isn't happening yet. Structured data
interchange technologies for consumers on the web (RSS) appear to
steadily advance at speed at which Dave Winers beard grows (http:// while simple-to-implement / simple-to-
understand web-service data interchange techniques (REST, SOAP, etc.)
solve the immediate 'enterprise' needs leaving no immediate critical
functionality path for semantic web technologies to toboggan down.

The semantic web has a well articulated vision, it has a proven
leader, it has it's pick of incubating vehicle, but what it is
desperately is lacking is a workable pathway for adoption. I firmly
believe one exists.

Received on Tue Jan 17 2006 - 05:35:02 EST

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