Re: A bit of bomb throwing....

From: Zack Rosen <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 11:51:11 -0800

On Jan 17, 2006, at 3:31 AM, Danny Ayers wrote:

> On 1/17/06, Zack Rosen <> wrote:
>>> [Danny]
>>> 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.
>> Got urls?
> You can find some at:
> and
> sw-weekly/

I am trying to find clear cut examples of RDF technology implemented
in 'real-world' use cases. Is there anywhere you can point me to
that has links to such projects?

>>> 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.
>> The WWW in it's conception offered unique critical functionality.
> An arguable point. There were other approaches to the basic
> functionality offered by the WWW - Gopher, WAIS etc. Clearly TimBL got
> some significant details right, but that's more related to
> implementation than functionality.

I'll concede this is debatable. I would argue though that TimBL's
www had demonstrable and easily understood 'real-world' benefits at
it's conception and the semantic web currently does not.

>> Semantic web research projects so far have not come close to doing
>> this.
> I would suggest that the Semantic Web stack of specifications provides
> critical functionality by allowing the web to generalise from
> documents to data in a globally interoperable fashion.

I understand this, I believe it, I just don't see any clear cut
examples of it being proven.

> Again, I don't see this happening until the gap between early
>> adopters and the 'research community' is closed. The cheapest and
>> most straightforward way to do this is to have research applications
>> be developed on adopted open-source web application platforms in
>> real-
>> world use cases.
> On that point I pretty much agree. I'd love to see more SemWeb
> research connection with tools like Drupal, WordPress etc etc.

What will it take to make this happen? I can vouch for the Drupal
community in saying we would love to find a way to collaborate.

>>> 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.
>> Got url's?
> For which part? A lot of tools etc can be found via the links above
> (and Google). Regarding adoption issues parallels, TimBL mentions them
> in most of his interviews.

I would like URL's to open-source projects employing semantic web-
technology towards 'real-world' use cases.

>> The semantic web certainly is evolutionary but I can't see how it
>> could be construed as anything but a huge leap from the assumptions
>> and models of the web as-is. When created the semantic web will at
>> the very least destroy and recreate business models, turn just about
>> every web application into a scrap-heap, and significantly alter the
>> ecology of web platform technologies.
> I agree about there being significant changes to web ecology and (of
> necessity) business models, but would suggest that current web
> applications won't go to the scrap heap but evolve into Semantic Web
> applications. For example, in the current setup the RDBMS-backed web
> site is a common scenario. The front end of such systems are already
> tied to the URI naming scheme of the Semantic Web. Because RDF can be
> seen as a highly normalised relational model, connection from the back
> end to the Semantic Web is possible without throwing anything away.

MySql, PostGres, PHP, Python, JSP etc. and all the web applications
built on top of these platform technologies will look a lot different
in the semantic web world. These technologies represent literally
hundreds of billions of dollars of current investment. Mountains
will have to be moved.

>>> 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 :
>>> xmlns:data-view=""
>>> data-view:interpreter="
>>> interpreter.xsl"
>>> Like most of the SB initiative this is experimental, but here a
>>> mapping is provided from the SB information to the Semantic Web.
>> I am sure collaboration is happing at an individual level but it
>> certainly isn't happening at an institutional level. Why not?
> There are different agendas. The point is well made elsewhere in this
> thread re. researchers being motivated by getting their PhDs rather
> than nifty implementations. Open source is its own reward (to quote
> Tim Bray). There is a fair amount of institutional collaboration but I
> suppose it tends to happen around less ad hoc initiatives than the
> individual stuff (i.e. it's institutional ;-)
> But is institutional level collaboration actually necessary? To what
> extent has it occurred in the current web toolkit, e.g. Linux, Apache,
> MySQL and P*?

I don't see any good reason why institutions sinking millions into
semantic web research can't at-least attempt working partnerships
with active development communities approaching overlapping problem
sets. Drupal, Wordpress, Microformats et all - these communities are
ripe with tinkerers chipping away at problems squarely in the domain
of the semantic web. The only reasoning i've heard so far is 'We're
academics, we just don't do such things'. Well, why not?

>>> 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.
> RDF offers a very useful graph-shaped data model with a formal base,
> and is worth considering for any application that uses
> "semi-structured" data, whether they're standalone or networked. OWL
> offers a systematic approach to knowledge representation, so if you
> wanted e.g. to build a standalone expert system it would make a good
> choice (Google "wine ontology" for an example). There are a bunch of
> open source tool implementations for each (and of course they can be
> used together).

But this is still just theory until you can prove these techniques
show practical utility. The Drupal system handles an incredible
amount of 'semi-structured' data. It would seem a theoretical
perfect match for employing RDF. But if you ask Drupal hackers
where on their list of priorities employing OWL and RDF lands they
probably wouldn't even be able to muster a response because they
simply aren't even considering it yet.

Received on Tue Jan 17 2006 - 19:50:51 EST

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