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Semantics 2006

I gave a keynote yesterday at Semantics 2006 in Vienna, Austria, together with Jim Hendler, and participated in a panel discussion. I also gave an interview for the Austrian Radio.

I really enjoyed Prof. Frank Leymann's talk on Web services. I wish more people could present complex topics with such clarity.

Afterwards, I saw some nice demos, including GoPubMed (from Transinsight and TU-Dresden), IkeWiki and Semantic MediaWiki.

Posted by ora at 01:26


I don't mean to get off on a rant here...

but I am really really fed up with the discussion about the Web's version numbers. All this energy is spent on a completely useless, stupid debate about something that first of all does not matter, and second, we are not talking about a single piece of software or a specification, so what's with the version numbers anyway. Is there going to be Web 2.1, followed by Web 2.2 (or perhaps 2.2 alpha)? Don't you people have better things to do?

I am assuming that all this really started when the term "Web 2.0" was coined. It is a marketing term for something that does not exist and has not even been defined all that clearly. It is hype. It has little, if anything to do with technology. It represents misguided thinking. The Web evolves, yet using some numbering would suggest that we are talking about a major new version. Good for marketing, I guess. Makes people who don't have a clue go "oh, I have to get me some of that new Web 2.0".

Perhaps that's why this is so frustrating to me: I am more interested in technology. I would like to think that the technologies I am working on will make - some day - people's lives easier and - forgive me if this sounds melodramatic - will make the World a Better Place (I heard Raj Reddy say something like this in his opening talk to the AAAI-1988 conference and it had quite an influence on me and my choice of a career). Given a goal such as that, let's just all try to work towards it, without letting others distract us with version numbers and other silly hype.

Don't even get me going on "3.0" anymore...

Of course, all this is just my opinion.

Posted by ora at 08:11 | Comments (3)


Microformats, Web 3.0, etc.

I came across this blog entry and as much as I don't want to take part in the "Web 3.0" debate I want to clarify the following:

  1. The so-called "lowercase semantic web" represents a misunderstanding of what's important about the Semantic Web, namely the requirements for a uniform metamodel for data that allows schemata to be extended, and accessible, declarative semantics. Microformats fail in both respects. In some sense, I would compare microformats to the old biblical tale of the "Tower of Babble" (Genesis 11:1-9): each microformat is its own little vocabulary, and the more we have those, the more code we have to write (the same comparison, btw, also applies to Web Services... 1). In fact, we have to write more "interpretive" code for every new microformat introduced, and given that there is no extensibility we have to introduce a new microformat every time we want new features. Hence I would not call the lowercase variant a "Semantic Web" at all.

  2. Reading the aforementioned blog entry, I feel it misunderstands the Semantic Web wrt. the term "Strong AI" (or perhaps misunderstands what Strong AI actually is). This misunderstanding may come from the first sentence of the definition of the term "Strong AI" in Wikipedia which claims that Strong AI is the belief that "some forms of AI can truly reason and solve problems". This is wrong: almost all AI is about reasoning and solving problems; what Strong AI is is the philosophical belief that ultimately AI can match and surpass human intelligence ("Weak AI", on the other hand, treats AI as a field of computer science, with AI techniques as useful additions to the computer scientists arsenal of techniques that can be used when building software). If the Semantic Web is about AI (and some of it definitely is), it is about Weak AI - even the original SciAm article does not make claims about Strong AI.

1 Ora Lassila: Serendipitous Interoperability. In Eero Hyvönen, editor, The Semantic Web Kick-off in Finland – Vision, Technologies, Research, and Applications, HIIT Publications 2002-001. University of Helsinki, 2002.

Posted by ora at 00:13 | Comments (3)


More on RDF++

Some months ago I blogged about RDF++, an extension of RDF(S). I presented the concept (RDF enhanced with owl:sameAs and owl:InverseFunctionalProperty) at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting back in May, and have talked about it in some recent keynotes as well. Generally, people tend to agree that it is a good idea. Many have already used a similar language. I guess it just makes sense (and there are many applications that don't need a more expressive representation language).

Jim Hendler and I decided to write some kind of a specification of the language, but haven't gotten around to doing it yet. Jim's recent blog entry about OWL 1.1 etc. says the following:

Ora Lassila made a proposal similar to this to the W3C AC meeting in Edinburgh, and was encouraged to pursue it, he and I are working on producing some sort of description and semantics (axiomatic - because this should fit nicely on a business rules base) — I should admit it is probably my foot-dragging that is causing the problem now [...]

That's nice, but I am sure it is more my foot dragging that's delayed it. I did manage to write the axiomatic semantics, though, so maybe we'll make some progress soon.

Many people have proposed other features to be added as well, such as inverse properties and transitivity. Sure, why not. WilburQL gives those at the level of the query language so I don't really care that much. What I do care about is that the language not have features that introduce restrictions (such as disjointness).

In the aforementioned blog entry, Jim also comments on the new OWL 1.1 syntax:

And I should mention now, early, and in public, that if the "charter" being circulated for OWL 1.1 were to come to a W3C I would oppose it on the grounds that moving away from the RDF syntax is a non-starter with me [...]

I agree. A lot has been invested in the RDF syntax (regardless of how you personally feel about it). And besides, any new syntax I would ever support would have to be based on S-expressions.

Posted by ora at 21:56