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There was an interesting conjunction of articles on the ACM "technews" page
[http://www.acm.org/technews/current/homepage.html] -- one on "AI"
approaches to spam filtering
http://www.nwfusion.com/news/tech/2003/0414techupdate.html and the other on
the Semantic Web
What struck me is that the "AI" approach (I'll guess it makes heavy use of
pattern matching and statistical techniques such as Bayesian inference) is
working with raw text that the authors are deliberately trying to obfuscate
the meaning of to get past "keyword" spam filters, and the Semantic Web
approach seems to require explicit, honest markup. Given the "metacrap"
argument about semantic metadata
(http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm) I suspect that in general the
only way we're going to see a "Semantic Web" is for statistical/pattern
matching software to create the semantic markup and metadata. That is, if
such tools can make useful inferences today about spam that pretends to be
something else, they should be very useful in making inferences tomorrow
about text written by people who try to say what they mean.
This raises a question, for me anyway: If it will take a "better Google
than Google" (or perhaps an "Autonomy meets RDF") that uses Baysian or
similar statistical techniques to create the markup that the Semantic Web
will exploit, what's the point of the semantic markup? Why won't people
just use the "intelligent" software directly? Wearing my "XML database
guy" hat, I hope that the answer is that it will be much more efficient and
programmer-friendly to query databases generated by the 'bots containing
markup and metadata to find the information one needs. But I must admit
that 5-6 years ago I thought the world would need standardized, widely
deployed XML markup before we could get the quality of searches that Google
allows today using only raw HTML and PageRank heuristic algorithm.
So, anyone care to pick holes in my assumptions, or reasoning? If one does
accept the hypothesis that it will take smart software to produce the
markup that the Semantic Web will exploit, what *is* the case for believing
that it will be ontology-based logical inference engines rather than
statistically-based heuristic search engines that people will be using in
5-10 years? Or is this a false dichotomy? Or is the "metacrap" argument
wrong, and people really can be persuaded to create honest, accurate, self-
aware, etc. metadata and semantic markup?
[please note that my employer, and many colleagues at W3C, may have a very
different take on this and please don't blame anyone but me for this