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Tim Berners-Lee and the Semantic Web 250

Posted by michael
from the same-old-refrain dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As we all know, Tim Berners-Lee is the hero of the Web's creation story--he conjured up this system and chose not to capitalize on it commercially. It turns out that Sir Tim (he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July) had a much grander plan in mind all along--a little something he calls the Semantic Web that would enable computers to extract meaning from far-flung information as easily as today's Internet links individual documents. In an interview with Technology Review, the Web-maestro explains his vision of 'a single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone.'"
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Tim Berners-Lee and the Semantic Web

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  • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <.Allen.Zadr. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:51PM (#10364362) Journal
    'a single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone.'

    So, once this is off the ground, who wants to bet that the answer really is, 42?

    Seriously though, this could be really cool, but I imagine that this could have some very adverse effects on privacy given the amount of information that finds itself on the web. Items that are linked by obscurity in disperate places would be easily linked into a single profile (If the stuff he's talking about isn't primarily smoke and mirrors). Either way, like any powerful technology, it will have both good and bad consequences. Here's hoping for the good...

    • Seriously though, this could be really cool, but I imagine that this could have some very adverse effects on privacy given the amount of information that finds itself on the web. Items that are linked by obscurity in disperate places would be easily linked into a single profile (If the stuff he's talking about isn't primarily smoke and mirrors). Either way, like any powerful technology, it will have both good and bad consequences. Here's hoping for the good...

      People would do well to note the principle:

      • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <.Allen.Zadr. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:57PM (#10365158) Journal
        Ah, but what constitutes privacy but an obscurity of your own behaviors in certain circles.

        That is to say, I may be an item scammer in online gaming realms, or in Diablo, but not in EverQuest. However, I may be one of the most honest people I know in the real world. Perhaps I have a second account that I use to Troll on Slashdot, but otherwise have this account where I try to post insightful information. You have the right to link these things, you may even have the right to link these to real world data like where I work and where I park my car. However, if I jilted someone in Diablo, do I want them to so easily find me and take it out on my car (as some people would)?

        Do I want my employer having instant access to all of my online transactions, regardless if I'm on shift or off shift at the time? Individually, these are not things that have been considered something you would even want to 'secure', yet they may be valuable to someone.

        • Ah, but what constitutes privacy but an obscurity of your own behaviors in certain circles.

          I would disagree. I would say privay is more like cryptography in that privacy is the ability to control who knows certain information. So privacy is confidentiality.

          That is to say, I may be an item scammer in online gaming realms, or in Diablo, but not in EverQuest. However, I may be one of the most honest people I know in the real world. Perhaps I have a second account that I use to Troll on Slashdot, but

          • The Semantic Web is for chasing tangents. Sorry if this seems marginal to you.

            My point in the virtual vs. real persona is that you cannot expect the same behavior patterns from the same people given totally different situations. My killing your character in an online death-match does not mean I would be unethical enough to kill you. Likewise, if I pick up trinkets from the monsters you have slain (clearly, they are not my spoils to take), this does not mean that I will take tips off of tables at a resta

      • Right...because you certainly wouldn't want to do anything like obscure your data through encryption. That wouldn't be secure. That's why I insist my bank lets me send my password in the clear.
        • Right...because you certainly wouldn't want to do anything like obscure your data through encryption. That wouldn't be secure. That's why I insist my bank lets me send my password in the clear.

          No. Obscurity [reference.com] is putting something like your source code in a pantry and merely hoping that no one ever looks in that pantry. Encryption [reference.com], on the other hand, intentionally alters the data in such a way that the number of entities who can read it are controlled. You're not obscuring that bank data because you're

    • As much as I want there to be a semantic web at some point, hopefully sooner than later, I can't see it being developed to the point of mass usefullness anytime soon.

      There are many, many problems which stopped me from trying to develop my own things for the semantic web.

      First of all, sorry for my ignorance if many of these problems have a solution, I haven't followed the development of the semantic web for a while now..
      Let's think about this.. let's say there's some user, Ben Smith, who enters his perfect
      • Many of the issues of 'cleverness' are dealt with by the definition itself. First off, the Symantic Web relies on XML and/or RDF. Both are ways of describing disperate data-sets syntactically. This way the 'searching' programs do not have to be clever to glean usefull information from the data.

        The important part is assigning levels of trust to each data-set ( a score perhaps ), and in some cases, even a negative score to some sources ( an RDF feed from HoaxBusters for example, where most of the subject

  • by Anonymous Coward
    and has been for over a decade (or more).

  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:52PM (#10364378) Homepage
    ...when the man himself [semwebcentral.org] signed up for a user account. w00t!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:52PM (#10364380)
    Well, beyond the "knowledge management"-type mumbo jumbo, anyway. Some basic definitions are here [w3.org], here [wikipedia.org], and [google.com].
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:53PM (#10364389) Journal
    You don't want a "single" web... You want a multitude of them, and carefully isolate them (beyond normal information reading and referencing).

    This is to insure against a monoculture that is so disastrous in computer circles as demonstrated by the numerous security failings of Windows...

    • by JimDabell (42870) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:03PM (#10364526) Homepage

      This is to insure against a monoculture that is so disastrous in computer circles as demonstrated by the numerous security failings of Windows...

      Windows executes stuff. The semantic web is just data. Your warnings about a monoculture apply to the semantic web about as much as they apply to text files.

      • While this stuff doesn't "execute", the assertions made by symantic logic could be far reaching. Consider the following (monoculture) type example:
        • Jim is 24601
        • Jim is 15931
        • Account 24601 is online gaming
        • 24601 cheats and scams
        • Account 15931 is online banking
        • 15931 has made 450 transactions this month
        • 15931 has a positive balance

        Thus, when Jim is passing me a check...

        • Jim has enough to cover this check, has made 450 transactions, but is known to cheat and scam

        Incomplete, but technically correct pictu

        • The symantic web has no way of telling what's relavent to me in a given situation.

          Yes, it does. To take your example, the jump in logic you are making that the Semantic Web doesn't is assuming that the property "cheats and scams" attached to the relationship between "account 24601" and "online gaming" is identical to the property "cheats and scams" that might be attached to the relationship between "account 15931" and "online banking". That's an unjustified leap of logic that only software that is b

          • Your faith in computational logic is astounding. Not to say that you may not be right, but to dismiss the possibility that 'shady' logic relationships such as this one would simply not occur. Especially when there are billions of similar relationships.

            By your declaring such functionality to be an error of logic does not (in my view) make it less likely.

            Back to my very example... the 'scams and cheats' property assertion of an online gamer against my account number is, by definition, a symantic inferrenc

    • You don't want a "single" web... You want a multitude of them, and carefully isolate them (beyond normal information reading and referencing).

      This horrible monoculture is what's happening to the web right now! A new web browser called FireFox [spreadfirefox.com] is conspiring with the evil W3C to propagate its agenda of paving over the current safely incompatible WWW with the data duopoly of XHTML and CSS. If they succeed in their nefarious motives, all the markup on the web will adhere to ONE draconian standard!

      Seriousl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:53PM (#10364392)
    See the original here [slashdot.org].

    Actually Slashdot posts this article over and over again every few months, with basically the same headline (sometimes "and" sometimes "on" sometimes "Tim" sometimes not). Kinda bizarre really. :-) I've never read any of them, I only know this Berners-Lee fellow from the headlines.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:53PM (#10364396)
    As we all know, Al Gore is the hero of the Web's creation story.
  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:55PM (#10364413) Homepage
    This always gets asked - and a partial answer is right here [semwebcentral.org].

    Eclipse plugins [semwebcentral.org], visualization tools... there's some good stuff there.
  • by over_exposed (623791) on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:56PM (#10364419) Homepage
    Except for China, they get their own semantic web with special semantic filters in place that semantically keep their citizens under semantic control.
  • Opposing view (Score:5, Informative)

    by Psychic Burrito (611532) on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:56PM (#10364428)
    If you'd like an opposing view, make sure to read Clay Shirky's take on the semantic web [shirky.com].
    • Re:Opposing view (Score:3, Interesting)

      by david.given (6740)
      If you'd like an opposing view, make sure to read Clay Shirky's take on the semantic web.

      Having just read quite a lot of his article before becoming far too annoyed to go any further, I really wouldn't take him very seriously. The bulk of his complaint is that although the Semantic Web is about drawing conclusions from widely disparate pieces of data, people don't think like that. I have no complaint with this.

      However, he attempts to illustrates his point with lots of syllogisms. Unfortunately, he doesn

    • That article has interesting points, but it fails in its critic that semantic web will never take off because it requires that everybody agrees on the same ontology. The semantic web allows people to publish their own ontologies, and the best tools should be those that learn to extract interesting info from various sources. This is what S.W. is all about, not yet-another-universal-standard.
      • Re:Opposing view (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mr_majestyk (671595)
        semantic web allows people to publish their own ontologies, and the best tools should be those that learn to extract interesting info from various sources.

        That's right. More to the point, the system supports many ontologies, and allows the best ontologies to rise to the top.
        • That's right. More to the point, the system supports many ontologies, and allows the best ontologies to rise to the top.

          The problem I see with this is it can still allow improper associations within the ontology to exist. Ideally, one should have an expert or team of experts describe concepts within their own area of specialization. Herpetologists describe snakes, astrophyscists describe quasars, etc.

          • That's how it's done, and that's why it's called "semantic web" instead of "semantic centralized project". You can use an ontology defined by others, the same way that you hiper-link to web pages published by others.
            • That's how it's done, and that's why it's called "semantic web" instead of "semantic centralized project". You can use an ontology defined by others, the same way that you hiper-link to web pages published by others.

              I guess what I'm having trouble with is the implications of trust. In distributed public key cryptography systems the idea of trust is very binary because you can directly trust or not trust someone. You can extend that to say, "I trust people that people I trust trust." However, with ont

              • Do you trust the information results provided by Google?

                Agreed, the problem of trust is not directly solved by the semantic web, the same way that TCP/UP doesn't solve trust - Semantic web. is a communication tool. Trust managing should be programmed on top of this tool, as an application.
    • Yeah, I can understand these arguements. But what if you applied "fuzzy" techniques.

      "ALL X are Y" will only get you so far. Then you could add additional (numeric) fuzzy logic based on samples of other data. For instance, in the "People who live in France speak French" solliquism, the computer could attempt to validate it by pulling a language census of France. After pulling this data, it would know that approximately 95% of people living there speak French. Thus a "fuzzy" "all" could be made. Like "MOS
    • Re:Opposing view (Score:2, Interesting)

      by null etc. (524767)
      I don't really find value in Clay Shirky's arguments against syllogisms, which serve as the basis of value within a semantic web.

      In order to prove that syllogisms are flawed, Clay presents examples of common English statements, and attempts to arrive at flawed deductions. Such flaws only work for Shirky due to the ambiguity of the English language.

      In reality, a semantic web would neither store nor organize data according to the loose ambiguities of English. Rather, such information would need to be high

      • Re:Opposing view (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fnkmaster (89084)
        While I understand where you are coming from, let me present the parts of his arguments that do seem to hold water to me.

        1. The Semantic Web (or rather, ontology construction and construction of relationships between your local ontology and other ontologies) is complicated and time consuming, and require you deciphering lots of other people's stuff to connect your stuff to it. Ultimately the success of any new technology, especially one that requires widespread adoption to be useful, must be easy enough

    • Re:Opposing view (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thuktun (221615) on Monday September 27, 2004 @05:12PM (#10367212) Homepage Journal
      If you'd like an opposing view, make sure to read Clay Shirky's take on the semantic web.

      His writings appear to have some uncorrected logical fallacies.
      Consider the following assertions:
      • Count Dracula is a Vampire
      • Count Dracula lives in Transylvania
      • Transylvania is a region of Romania
      • Vampires are not real
      You can draw only one non-clashing conclusion from such a set of assertions -- Romania isn't real.
      You can conclude the following from those statements:
      • Count Dracula is not real
      • Count Dracula lives in a region of Romania
      I'd like to see the mystery step that combines these to conclude that Romania isn't real; at most, you could say that Romania houses something that isn't real. The conclusion he makes isn't supported by any logic.

      More importantly, these are dumbed-down semantics. The assertion that a fictional character lives somewhere real needs to be qualified that this occurs in a certain set of fictional stories, not real life. The fact that these unqualified statements are represented in this example ontology means that the ontology is insufficient, not that this method isn't useful.

      Another example in that article:
      • US citizens are people
      • The First Amendment covers the rights of US citizens
      • Nike is protected by the First Amendment
      You could conclude from this that Nike is a person, and of course you would be right.
      This is even factually incorrect. The First Amendment doesn't actually say anything about US citizens; it restricts the US Congress from certain actions, period, not for certain people.

      Ignoring this, you can make one conclusion and reduce this to the following:
      • the First Amendment covers the rights of people
      • Nike is protected by the First Amendment
      Concluding that Nike is a person from this is a logical fallacy [datanation.com]. (Nothing in these logical statements says the First Amendment might not also cover the disposition of small peanut butter sandwiches with blueberry jam, which set Nike might then be an element of.)

      I find it hard to treat this article with much weight, given its fast-and-loose treatment of logic and ontological assertions.
  • Semantic Web (Score:3, Informative)

    by null etc. (524767) on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:58PM (#10364447)
    A topic I posted a few years ago is perfectly relevant to this submission: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=92504&cid=7953 441 [slashdot.org]
  • "...enabling computers to extract meaning from far-flung information as easily as today's Internet simply links individual documents."

    i wonder if this could be used for a computer's local file system as well. I know microsoft is working on this (WinFS or OFS or whatever it's supposed to be called), but it would be damn awesome to apply this not just to the internet.
  • by levram2 (701042) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:00PM (#10364489)
    The extra work required to put data into a standard data format won't be done. People can't bother making their pages w3c complaint (even slashdot). The second problem is that data formats can rarely be agreed upon by a large community. Look at how many calendar event and news feed formats there are.
    • the Semantic Web is a publishing medium; the creation of content is left to the will of the publishers (ideally the creation of metadata should be computer-assisted, but there are other possibilities [del.icio.us]). Your "second problem" is precisely what the S.W. is intended to solve; it doesn't require people to agree in the data format, everybody can define their own.
    • People can't bother making their pages w3c complaint (even slashdot)

      You can complain all you like to W3C, they won't make Slashdot compliant. For Slashdot to become compliant, first of all it has to want to become compliant. Well, before that, there has to be standards to comply to, and W3C has given us those.

      But did you know that Slashdot isn't the only web site? Tens of millions of web sites are W3C compliant or close enough that the web functions.

      That is a great achievement by W3C.

      For s

    • ARP/ETHERNET
      TCP/IP
      DNS
      HTTP
      HTML
      JavaScript
      CSS
      XML/XSL
      even, ugh, RTF

      Just examples of standards based technology that people said the same thing about. If the semantic-web stuff becomes sufficiently powerful and popular it will become widespread. It certainly has the potential to become a killer app.

      There have been many instances of formats becoming ubiqutious, it's just that there have been many more instances of them not.

      Baby steps, one page at a time and semantic web will grow. Even better, it
    • The reason people don't bother with w3c compliant webpages is that there is no obvious advantage. Slashdot works fine in all modern browsers and aside from some bandwidth that could be saved by going fully XHTML/CSS there is little to be gained (well there are a number of advantages but they're obviously lost on the editors).
      With data it is different, just look at how quickly RSS & ATOM are being adopted. There's an obvious advantage because having a feed on your site makes it easier for readers to lear
    • Standards for metadata have been implemented, people can't be bothered to mark their pages, that's true, but the bigger problem is trust: How do you know that the metadata is true? It is the same as in the web right now, you can't know with no other references if the data is right, alghough, being a human being, you can judge on the quality of the data (i.e. a properly-written study that states that X is better than Y will garner more trust/respect than a document written in "OMFG X is tEh r0x Y is the Zux0
  • by octaene (171858) <bswilson@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:05PM (#10364551) Homepage

    I'm so tired of Semantic trying to take over all the security tools. Are they now trying to take over the Internet? I mean really, Semantic Antivirus totally sucks ass big-time!!! And don't get me started on Semantic's SystemWorks tool and how bad it blows!

    Oh, wait a minute...

  • by genixia (220387) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:08PM (#10364579)
    ...a team in Redmond is tasked to make sure that Microsoft own the "single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone."
  • How is the semantic web going to handle abuse like <some_interesting_annotation>pr0n</some_interestin g_annotation>...? I mean, anybody can put up bogus annotations to promote their filthy business, like we saw it in the days before google and pagerank.

    Ulrik

    • I suspect the answer to that one are immense social networks, user participation and webs of trust.

      The WWW also has Annotea [w3.org], to allow for people to submit annotations. Now, you can imagine lots of people having a simple way to rate pages, a rating option could for example be "Supplied metadata are bad/fraudulent", or something like that.

      You would first and foremost make decisions based on ratings from people you trust. That is, people who are close to you in your FOAF [foaf-project.org]-based social network.

      When every

  • Why is a hero? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:09PM (#10364587)
    Because he chose not to capitalize commercially on the Web? How is the measure of your altriusm the measure of your heroism? I understand that many people DO feel that way, but nobody has ever really explained WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm. Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil? The man who invented a corrugated-cardboard coffee-cup holder holds a patent on it; every Starbucks coffee sold puts a penny in his pocket. Why is that wrong?
    • ... [I never understood] WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm.

      It isn't. There are plenty of ways to be altruistic without being a hero, and several ways of being heroic without being altruistic. On the whole there's a confluence, though.

      Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil?

      No, he isn't, and no-one believes so. He's just normal

      If, however, you have just come up with a billion-dollar idea (like "The Web"), and decided to give it to humanity rather than extract persona

      • The AC submitter chose to smuggle the little "altruism=good" gem into the article, and michael let him get away with it. Clearly not many people noticed, but undeniably the seed was planted, if you are equating "donating $1.000.000.000 to the world" with "a good man".

        See, the difference?
    • If Altriusm is a measure of heroism then everyone here should worshipping Bill and Melinda Gates.

      They are consistently the top philanthropists [shwing.com] in the US. In 1999-2003 they pledged or gave away $23 Billion, or 54% of their wealth.

      But since he is Gatus of Borg, everyone on here will call me a MS Apologist and say that he is evil.
    • He's a hero because he created something great, that benefits almost everybody.

      Had he tried to captialize it, he would have failed to create something as great as the web. He would have created "Online Magazines for GEnie" (or AOL) or some other useless thing. The freeness and openness are precisely what make it great.

  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:12PM (#10364628)
    As has been stated many times, content producers will spoof semantic data just like they used to with the META tag...which is why no one uses the META tag anymore. Relevance algorithms take into account link analysis and statistical text analysis to provide a much more truthful representation of what data is there. Sorry Tim.
    • And who's to say that the Semantic Web metadata will not be populated with statistical text analysis and hyper-text analysis?
      • And who's to say that the Semantic Web metadata will not be populated with statistical text analysis and hyper-text analysis?

        Statistical methods excel at query relevance, not ontological interpretation. If the latter were the case, Google would be auto-constructing DMOZ instead of seeding page rank with it.

    • There's a difference between describing stuff and finding relevant information. The semantic web (as I understand) can co-exist with statistical relevance information. If you lie about what you are describing, we can still use trust-relationship and google-like revance stuff to find what we want to find.

      Once we *do* find something worthwhile, the semantic web will enable our machine to do much more with the information than just display it.

      In conclusion the semantic web isn't a replacement for META
  • The next "web"? (Score:3, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:15PM (#10364668)
    Croquet [croquetproject.org]

    ...from the minds of Alan Kay, David Smith, David Reed, and others...

  • Ontology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dodongo (412749) <chucksmithNO@SPAMalumni.purdue.edu> on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:16PM (#10364677) Homepage
    I want to offer an alternative, as proposed by Victor Raskin [purdue.edu] at Purdue [purdue.edu]. I speak for neither Sergei Nirenburg nor Victor (who does enough talking for himself).

    While this idea for more thorough, concise, and accurate searches is a good one, I would question whether embedding semantic tags into web pages is the way to go.

    As outlined in Ontological Smenatics [nmsu.edu], there is an automated system of semantic processing already underway. Basically, it takes a text, then runs it through a parser, which looks up meanings in a lexicon, then reduces whatever translation it comes up with to a text-meaning representation (TMR), by pushing the concepts from the lexicon through an ontology / onomasticon / world-knowledge library. The TMR is basically the "pulp" of the semantics of the article, web page, book, or whatever it's been fed. It just contains the ideas, the things involved, and other relevant concepts, stripped of all other linguistic information.

    TMR is great, becuase the TMR can be used then, by reversing the process and using the lexicon of another language, to translate a text from one language to another.

    However, it seems to me that with the bits and pieces of the TMR stored in a search engine's index, this could be a huge boon for the search engine.

    Instead of just trying to match keywords, by parsing the TMR of web pages and by parsing TMR of search strings, you no longer search for keywords, but keyconcepts.

    The advantage to semantic searches / indexes by this implementation is manifold:

    -Searches (and the web as a whole) will gain the richness Mr. Berners-Lee is advocating.

    -Web authors will not be able to lie in their semantic tags, or otherwise misinform spiders what the page is about (remember tags?)

    -No extra work is required in the actual construct of the web or *ML standards. The TMR is only generated and stored by the sites / processes that need it.

    -Others?

    Just an alternative solution, for fun :)
  • Not doing it right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vigyanik (781631) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:17PM (#10364694)
    The fact that Tim has been trying for 15 years to sell this idea with little success indicates that he approach is insufficient. He is pitching the idea just like a startup would, giving cool examples and everything. But in practice, all he is doing is proposing and overseeing standards. Developing standards for an idea is not what is required to prove that an idea works. Standards should follow successful technology, not vice versa. You need to have companies that make products professionally and offer complete solutions (i.e. make it work real-life situations). Doing it for a very simple example that he quotes ("find pictures taken on sunny days") itself is a big, big deal. Perhaps Tim should get involved with companies in this field as an advisor/consultant. You know, there are enough smart people out there who could develop the standards. But very few people with his name and recognition to truly ignite commercial interest in his ideas.
    • by dubious9 (580994) on Monday September 27, 2004 @03:04PM (#10365942) Journal
      Perhaps Tim should get involved with companies in this field as an advisor/consultant.

      Um... he invented www and started the W3C. I'd say he's had some experience with companies as a advisor. Take a look at some of the W3C recommendations and look for corporate involvment.

      But in practice, all he is doing is proposing and overseeing standards.

      That's kinda what the W3C *does*.

      Standards should follow successful technology, not vice versa.

      XHTML,XML,XSLT and a lot of other recommendations started as standards that *later* had robust implementations. Technology that starts without standards if often not fully thought out and awkward, and at worst, proprietary. Waiting for technology before standards will only inhibit interoperability and adoption of the standard.

      The fact that Tim has been trying for 15 years to sell this idea with little success indicates that he approach is insufficient.

      I suppose that it has nothing to with the fact that it's a tremendouly difficult and abitious project. You're right. Anything that take 15 years to develop should be scrapped.
  • by PineHall (206441) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:18PM (#10364705)
    Here [ftrain.com] is an account that predicts that Google will leverage its search results to create a Semantic Web. I see this as a distinct possibility. Especially Google leveraging its search results to help people buy and sell stuff.
    • The people at Google are probably too smart to buy into yet another failure-to-be from GOFAI (Good Old Fashioned Artificial Intelligence). Next to automatic translation (60s) and expert systems (80s), the semantic web (00s) will soon be found on the garbage heap of technology. Whenever the real world kicks in, crisp logic and deductive reasoning fail simply because they cannot account for uncertainty in the basis of their reasoning: their assumptions. There is no formal way to assert the truthfullness of as
  • by jbarr (2233) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:22PM (#10364758) Homepage
    ...have the words "Don't Panic" prominently displayed?
  • by saddino (183491) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:27PM (#10364807)
    The common thread to the Semantic Web is that there's lots of information out there--financial information, weather information, corporate information--on databases, spreadsheets, and websites that you can read but you can't manipulate. The key thing is that this data exists, but the computers don't know what it is and how it interrelates. You can't write programs to use it.

    IMHO, the problem with the Semantic Web is the same problem that evolved the Web from a linked knowledge store to a commercial-driven directory.

    Yes, it would be nice if all data were tagged and understandable, but let's be honest: the commercialization (and its result: exploitation by marketers) of the web would certainly spill into the Semantic Web, and so Berners-Lee's vision would be once again ruined by 1) incorrect/misleading tagging, 2) competing standards and 3) out and out fraud.

    I assume what Berners-Lee really wants is for a machine to truly understand that, using his example: something is a calendar, and that you are interetsed in it, and that you should add the event to your schedule and then book a flight for it.

    But the chances are -- one day -- machines will be able to understand how data is typed by understanding the context around it (just as a human would go through the aforementioned process manually).

    Obviously, this type of reading "comprehension" is a long ways off, but the "search engine wars" are resulting in a lot of mind power thrown at the problem of understand context. And I'm guessing it'll be a reality before anything as pure as the vision for the Semantic Web is realized.

    (and to throw in a plug for my own copmaniy's attempt at understanding web context: theConcept [mesadynamics.com]).
  • It said so in the brief history...
    1945
    In the Atlantic Monthly, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development Vannevar Bush describes the Memex, a hypothetical device for linking microfiche documents.
    It's just like Al Gore to try to take credit for the rightful president's inventions. Thank God Bush swept Florida.
  • by xleeko (551231) on Monday September 27, 2004 @01:31PM (#10364851)

    I've been hearing noise about the semantic web, RDF, and what not for years now, and every time I do, the first thing that pops into my head is "Second System Effect".

    He got lucky once, because he put together some tools that were simple and straightforward enough for people to pick it up quickly, thereby avoiding the fate of the dozens of other hypertext systems going back to the late 1980's.

    Now, like all second systems, he wants to "do it right", over-engineering away all of the things that made the first one take off ...

    Just my opinionated rant ...

  • So, after reading the main article for this story as well as the one for a previous slashdot story on this subject, I guess that I can add the following meta tags for some of the items in my website, www.clearplastic.com. I don't yet know the syntax for these memantic meta tags; I am but taking a guess:

    semantic "Clear Plastic" = "waterproof, transparent, see-through, air-tight, shows-beauty,
    protective">

    . . . . .

    And so forth. Can this lead to 'semantic spamming?' I have only just begun for one of my
    two
    • And so forth. Can this lead to 'semantic spamming?' I have only just begun for one of my two sites. I can see where this can get way out of control. Someone goes to clearplastic.com who lives in a rainy climate area. One of the semantics could say that a clear plastic raincoat is a required item. If someone's computer is set up so that it automaticaly purchases something that is required; I consider this scamming.

      Well, this approach:

      <semantic "Clear Plastic" = "waterproof, transparent, see-through

  • The "Semantic Web" is already being done [mit.edu] in a quite sophisticated manner by computational linguists. The major stumbling block: money. It takes a lot of time (and hence, money) to build these systems and no one seems to appreciate the possible impact.

  • ...The Semantic Web, where everyone speaks esperanto and the Java is free!
  • Check out DataLibre [datalibre.com]: "Own Your Data, Write Once - Read Everywhere"
  • Vanevar Bush, check, Douglas Englebart, check, Ted Nelson... oops, they missed Ted Nelson. That's a suprise. You either need to (a) get rich or (b) be an establishment-approved "visionary" like Vanevar Bush to get your name in the history books.

    Next problem: Marc Andreesen releases "his" Mosaic web browser? He was hardly the sole author of that code.

  • Why we're going to reinvent Prolog and take 20 years doing it.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday September 27, 2004 @02:42PM (#10365667) Homepage
    The big problem with the so-called "semantic web" is that trying to taxonomize ideas doesn't work very well. Full-text search works much better.

    In the beginning, we had library card catalogs, with their painful attempts to index and cross-reference books. That works well in some areas, typically ones where names of people are significant. Attempts to apply the same approaches to technical papers worked less well.

    There's a very elaborate classification system for patents. When you had to look through patents on paper or microfilm, it was essential. Now that we have full text search, it's used less and less.

    A modern example of this approach is the ACM Taxonomy [computer.org], a structure into which all computer science can be fitted. (As an exercise, try to put the current Slashdot stories into that taxonomy.) Nobody actually uses that taxonomy to find anything.

    As to data interchangability, that's a separate issue, and more of a standards one. The big problem for publicly available data is that the cost of encoding the data is borne by different people than those who benefit from the encoding. Many companies don't like having all their product and pricing information easily searchable by price. (Froogle may change this, because Google has so much clout.)

    I've spent some time dealing with public financial reporting [downside.com]. There's opposition to detailed disclosure in a standardized format [xbrl.org]. Many companies don't want their detailed information to be too easily analyzed. Embarassing results show up.

    The future is better search engines, not user-created indexing data. As we've painfully learned, a search engine must look at the same data a human reader would, or it will be lied to. Lied to to the point of uselessness.

  • by master_p (608214) on Monday September 27, 2004 @03:15PM (#10366083)
    If you have followed this little crazy guy that is me, you may have seen that most of today's computer problems are because modern operating systems offer nothing in the information management department.

    Remember the CVS story a couple of days before? it's information management: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=123076&cid=103 47565

    WinFS is also about information management: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=121101&cid=101 99083

    The story that the Evolution e-mail client offers the e-mail data as a data model separate from the application? another information management issue.

    The web? information management issue.

    Distributed databases? information management issue.

    Web search engines? information management issue.

    Windows search tool? information management issue.

    The Windows registry? information management issue.

    The unix etc directory? information management issue.

    Enterprise workflows? again, an information management issue. That's why there is no general workflow solution accepted and used worldwide.

    Dynamic web site contents? information management issue.

    The semantic web? another information management issue!

    As you can see, from the numerous examples given above, all that an operating system should do, but no one does, is that it must manage information instead of files. If that is coupled with a distributed networked environment, 90% of the world's software would be considered obsolete overnight and the productivity and fun from using computers will increase 10fold.

    If any open source developer is reading this, you may contact me for a private discussion on the idea. THIS IS OPEN SOURCE'S BIGGEST CHANCE TO LEAD THE TECHNOLOGICAL RACE!
  • Nice Try, Tim (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday September 27, 2004 @03:16PM (#10366098) Homepage
    As you do note in your comments, however, it's not really doable without a good simulation of conceptual processing.

    Still, every little bit helps. Certainly a "Semantic Web" would be more useful than the current one.

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