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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Web shortcomings [was Re: ANN: GoodRelation

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2008 12:22:18 -0400
Message-id: <48A30A3A.9020101@xxxxxxxx>
Ron Wheeler wrote:
> Software Engineering is required if you actually want anything functional.
> Otherwise all you get is words which is what we mostly have now.    (01)

Absolutely.  But there is a difference between "heavy applications" with 
"complex tools", that actually represent the results of design and 
careful engineering, and hacking something with a Python workbench and 
an RDB in a few hours.  If the market wants cheap knockoffs, they get 
what they pay for.    (02)

IMO, the reason for the lack of success in the noble endeavour that is 
the Semantic Web is the competing noble endeavours Google and Wikipedia.    (03)

They are all about finding the information you need.    (04)

The Semantic Web idea is that experts annotate documents to put their 
content in a perspective of the consensus knowledge in an area.  And if 
what you are looking for is reliable content in any academic discipline, 
this is the (long) established view of how to get it.  The only 
difference is that we are trying to automate the knowledge association 
and selection process.  The problem with the Semantic Web is that we 
haven't yet made it easy for the experts to do the annotation, and there 
is no existing critical mass of "consensus ontologies" that defines the 
perspectives the experts want to refer to.  The entry cost of doing it 
this way is high.    (05)

The Google idea is that software can statistically annotate documents 
according to what it actually sees in them.  The "semantics" of the 
resulting linkages is "emergent", not "designed in".  This technique 
makes a lot more information accessible, because it doesn't require the 
experts and the established views.  But it assumes that in academic 
disciplines what is actually available will be dominated by the works of 
experts and by the established views.  The actual statistical 
performance does not support this.  Many or most of the links are not 
very reliable, because the published information is dominated by 
students, marketers, bloggers, etc., only some of whom really are 
experts.  Google is very effective at indexing information of all kinds, 
and the cost for everyone but the Google organization is non-existent, 
but for that reason, there is a definite caveat emptor.    (06)

The Wikipedia idea is that a lot of basic knowledge can be gathered in a 
theoretically expert reference that is maintained by a community, and 
the community will be dominated by the consensus knowledge.  And that 
has proved to be largely true.  At the same time, Wikipedia has "thought 
police" whose duty is to eliminate articles they see as self-serving or 
lacking a broad community of interest and expertise.  Quality has a 
social and intellectual price.    (07)

Which of these is the right way?  All of them.  Which will succeed? 
Google and Wikipedia already have established themselves, but Wikipedia 
will never be as broad as some would want, and Google will never be as 
reliable.  And OBTW, _all_ of these required some serious engineering 
and some very heavy software systems design.  Google, like Rome, was not 
built in a day.    (08)

But the Semantic Web is suffering from another malady -- infighting. 
The Semantic Web is currently an "anti-social network".  Ontology 
development and document annotation is largely funded by 
government-provided research money, and too much effort is being spent 
on directing the flow of the water to the favorite mill and too little 
on grinding the grain.  If we really want the Semantic Web to succeed, 
we have to declare some winners and some losers and get on with the 
work.  (See disclaimer below. ;-))    (09)

-Ed    (010)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (011)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (012)

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