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   RE: [xml-dev] Semantic Web permathread, iteration n+1 (was Re: [xml-dev]

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  • To: 'Michael Champion' <mc@xegesis.org>, XML Developers List <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Subject: RE: [xml-dev] Semantic Web permathread, iteration n+1 (was Re: [xml-dev] InfoWorld agrees with Elliote Rusty Harold)
  • From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <len.bullard@intergraph.com>
  • Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2004 09:09:25 -0500

If one lurks on Sowa's list, the subset is FOL. :-)

My assessment comes back to what TBL said: it's just 
databases.  Well, that's true, and we have lots of 
those already.  In other words, we already integrate 
enterprises successfully with SQL, script logic, 
tables, objects, and XML.  None in isolation do the 
job, but in combination, they do.  So the challenge 
becomes to identify how the SemWeb or more explicitly, 
RDF, OWL, etc. improve or better the situation.  
If heuristic discovery is the goal, one may discover 
that the humans simply aren't fans of machines doing 
that at deep levels.  Maybe not, but so far I don't 
see pressing needs.

If one wants to go where AI is accepted and used a lot, 
game developers take it for granted.  They use agents 
for non-living players in every modern game.  If 
semantic agents emerge onto the desktop, it could 
come from distributed simulation applications and 
multi-player games where there is a considerable 
overlap in the technology and the goals.


From: Michael Champion [mailto:mc@xegesis.org]

On Jun 2, 2004, at 5:12 PM, Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:

> The part I did pay attention to was his position on where
> the semantic web is or will be, and on that, I agree.  It
> occurs to me that the Semantic Web may be Berners-Lee's
> SGML/HyTime:


>  something that gets long in the tooth and
> awkward over time as it awaits a market, then when a
> global need for such comes along, someone strips it down to the
> basic necessary parts and succeeds wildly.  Google is
> succeeding wildly based on what humans need.  What humans
> need the machines to do with a semantic web seems to be
> the missing ingredient.

Oddly enough, ERH has written off the Semantic Web as hype at just 
about the time I'm starting to take it seriously.  Not that I disagree 
with anything in his posting from the WWW conference, just that I'm 
starting to see what I think were two missing ingredients start to 

One is a use case, such as Len alludes to:  Google on the public Web  
is good enough for most purposes that the Semantic Web was envisioned 
for a few years ago, so why bother?  The emerging answer is that 
semantic integration within organizations is becoming feasible: There 
is a need for all sorts of enterprise integration -- of data, of 
services, of applications, of information -- and XML, TCP/IP, HTTP, 
etc. have finally created the plumbing to allow this at a mechanical 
level.  But Google-like technologies only cut the search space down to 
a size that a human can manage, they can't do this well enough for a 
machine to process effectively.  Businesses with automated processes 
that need to know exactly which person, place, or thing they are 
dealing with need something more reliable than heuristic matches 
between information in different databases, they need  provably correct 
inferences about their identity.  So, there is a real use case in 
enterprise integration for ontologies that precisely define the meaning 
of data in terms of other data, and for inferencers that can use this 
information in a non-trivial way.

The other previously missing ingredient is that real organizations have 
at least something approximating an implicit ontology in their database 
schema, standard operating procedures, official vocabularies, etc.  It 
is at least arguable that the technologies that have emerged from the 
semantic web efforts allow all this diverse stuff to be pulled together 
in a useful way -- ontology editors, inferencing engines, semantic 
metadata repositories, etc.  I'm seeing real success stories in my day 
job, and a coherent story is starting to be told by a number of 
vendors, analysts, etc.  (I just came across a bunch of stuff at 
http://www.topquadrant.com/tq_white_papers.htm today that summarizes 
the situation pretty clearly).

So, I don't think that the Semantic Web will replace Google on the 
public web any more than SOAP/WSDL will replace RESTful interfaces at 
Amazon.com, but in the more organized and managed environments within 
enterprises I see these technologies having a real impact.  Maybe the 
Semantic Web vision will end up like other overly ambitions visions 
such as AI [aim for HAL, get Google] or the space program  [aim for the 
stars, get GPS ] -- the technologies quietly get work done long after 
the guiding vision is a quaint anachronism.

I do agree with the implication that it will be some stripped-down 
essential subset of the semantic web technologies rather than the 
complete corpus of academese that survives in the real world, even the 
more controlled real world behind enterprise firewalls.  Unfortunately, 
I have no idea which subset that will be :-)


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