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Re: [ontolog-forum] Next steps in using ontologies as standards

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 14:10:06 -0500
Message-id: <4976218E.3060908@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

I'm sorry for going overboard in the metaphors, but I get
frustrated by people who ignore good technology that proved
its worth in favor of half-vast schemes that nobody would
have adopted without the hype that was dumped on them.    (02)

PH> Nobody, even the people who wrote their specs, claim that
 > RDF and OWL are the ultimate solution or to all problems.    (03)

That is certainly true.  The two people who gave us RDF were
Guha and Tim Bray.  Guha was the former associate director of
Cyc, and he became disillusioned with its complexity.  I don't
blame him for that.    (04)

But I do blame Guha for being far too shortsighted.  He felt that
most programmers were too stupid to learn logic, and he wanted
to give them a baby language that they could deal with.  What he
ignored was the fact that the WHERE-clause of SQL supports full
FOL, and every major commercial web site was built around RDBs.    (05)

I don't have to blame Tim Bray, because he apologized for his
mistakes in designing RDF.  His major criticism of RDF was
"It's the syntax, stupid!":    (06)

    http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/05/21/RDFNet    (07)

PH> RDF syntax is in fact (that is, definitively according to the
 > specs) defined abstractly, as a graph.    (08)

I certainly like graphs.  But see the mistakes by Guha and Bray.    (09)

PH> [RDF and OWL] represent a viable approach to the problem they
 > were designed for, which was to be machine2machine communication
 > notations for the semantic web...    (010)

They're viable in the same sense that a duckbilled platypus is viable.
But the world had developed far better technologies many years ago,
implemented them in relational databases, integrated them with the WWW,
and taught them to programmers around the world.    (011)

There was no excuse to go back to triples when everybody was happy
with N-tuples.  There was no excuse to ignore FOL when all the
databases of the world supported WHERE clauses that could express
full FOL.    (012)

I certainly admit that SQL is not the world's best notation for FOL,
but typed Datalog is an excellent notation that can be mapped to
both an SQL-like notation for RDBs and an English-like notation
for people who are familiar with those forms.    (013)

I'm not recommending that we throw away the work that was done in
RDF and OWL.  But it's time to recognize that they are not the best
foundation for the future, they should be treated as legacy systems,
and we should promote a better foundation that is integrated with RDBs.    (014)

As I said in my previous note, we can do that by moving from N3 and
RDF to N-N, moving from OWL, SPARQL, and RuleML to typed Datalog,
and introducing controlled NLs for readability by human beings who
are not programmers.    (015)

John    (016)

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