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[ontolog-forum] Rule Interchange Format [Was: Is there something I misse

To: edbark@xxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Adrian Walker <adriandwalker@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2009 17:22:19 -0500
Message-id: <1e89d6a40902031422l19ca9f86n39d35963a929194b@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Hi Again Ed --

You wrote...

The RuleML community was in the process of becoming a Hydra, and
competing with two other groups with still other 'rules' concepts, when
the RIF activity started.  And trying to make RIF work with OWL and more
general RDF ontologies is an exercise in mating songbirds with ostriche

In one of the early meetings on RIF, I made a proposal [1] for a different approach from the one currently being -- er -- pursued. 

From the intro:

There are two issues that, if resolved, could speed up the adoption of the Semantic Web.

Issue 1: It is difficult for application writers, and for users, to relate the meanings of the machine oriented notations of the SW, such as in RDF and in technical rule notations, to the meanings of real world business and scientific concepts.

Issue 2: It is difficult for a user to entirely trust a real world result that has been obtained by a complex reasoning process over distributed RDF or other data. The data, the rules, or the reasoning engine could be in error, or could be used in a wrong context.

This paper suggests a way of resolving the issues, and of promoting interoperability, using rule technologies.

Deaf ears, so far.

                                 Cheers,  -- Adrian

[1]  Understandability and Semantic Interoperability of Diverse Rules Systems
Position Paper for the W3C Workshop on Rule Languages for Interoperability, 27-28 April 2005, Washington, D.C.

On Tue, Feb 3, 2009 at 4:47 PM, Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
I wrote:

>> Pat Hayes wrote:
>>> No, really, this isn't accurate. The SWeb is about creating and
>>> publishing K.models to be used by software agents on the Web,
>> as distinct from software agents that are not "on the Web"

Pat wrote:
> Yes, exactly. Which is very similar to hypertext which is on the Web (no
> scare quotes needed) and hypertext, of which there was a whole lot long
> before Sir Tim came along, not on the Web. Sorry if the Web gives you
> goosebumps, or whatever the problem is, but that's what the Semantic Web
> is all about.

My point was that if I construct an ontology to guide my data mining
activities on my corporate databases, the Web is not involved.  And
therefore, that is NOT what OWL was designed for, if I understand right.
 Whether OWL might yet be useful for the purpose is another matter.

Similarly, if I am engaged in electronic commerce with several suppliers
using different 1990s standards, and I create an ontology for the
business problem space and use it to do "semantic mediation" between
message forms and "semantic validation" of the process (which we do),
the Web is not involved.  (The fact that the EDI and OAG and EDIFACT
messages are sent over the Internet has nothing to do with the Web, and
the ontology itself is not distributed, nor does it depend on anything
but parts of SUMO.)  So SWeb technologies were not designed for that,
and may or may not be appropriate, right?

>> (which made "Semantic Web technology" a brand new technology in 1995,
>> utterly unlike the K-R and K-E work of the previous 20 years).
> Nonsense. All the OWL development is directly based on the DL work
> dating from CLASSIC, ...

I see that my sarcasm was better veiled than I intended. ;-)

>  If anything, my complaint about it is that its far
> too much old technology, in fact. There are brand new aspects and issues
> that arise, and it would be foolish to ignore them; and there is a new
> ambition that was entirely absent from any previous KR project.

[I like "ambition" here. ;-)]

I fully agree that real use of the Web for reuse and integration of
ontologies is a new and important idea.  But apart from using URIs, I
don't see much SWeb technology actually being directed at dealing with
the Web capabilities and concerns.

I realize that it took a lot of head-banging just to get RDF and OWL out
there as a basis (and RIF is a real object lesson).  So Pat and I
probably agree on that aspect.  And 7 years later, we are finally ready
to take the next steps, which are the really Web-oriented ones.

> Have I ever said any such thing? Of course not all KR is SWeb
> technology. But SWeb technology does exist, all the same.

The question is:  What characterizes it?

The analogy to hypertext doesn't do much for me.  It suggests that the
SWeb is about distributed ontologies with distributed management.
Clearly the idea of ontology repositories, versioning, and credibility
and quality management would then be the primary SWeb concerns.  But I
don't see that being the primary direction of the work that is labeled
"SWeb technology".  But maybe the problem is that we only finally have
the basis for that effort.

> Im willing to listen to anyone who is actually using any knowledge model
> in any real domain. As Im sure you know, being on a standards-writing
> working group quickly removes any trace of ivory-tower attitude, rather
> in the way that being in a rock tumbler removes bumps from a pebble.

Well, for the survivors in any case.  Those who wish to maintain their
towers usually give up quickly.

>> I agree that AI's time has come and that standardization of formal
>> languages for certain kinds of reasoning engines is appropriate.  And
>> I agree that sharing and reusing ontologies is a great idea, if we can
>> figure out how.  But that has little to do with the World Wide Web
>> (semantic or otherwise).
> I disagree. I think it has everything to do with the Web, and that to
> ignore the Web is to have ones head in the sand. Or maybe a better
> metaphor, it is to be standing in the road wondering what that light is
> that keeps getting brighter. But this is just a difference of opinion
> about the future of technology, and history will decide which of us is
> right.

I am willing to believe that future history may indeed support Pat's
position.  I only observe that the history of the Semantic Web to date
does not reveal any effort to address any of the aspects of that
oncoming lorry.  We have only painted the stripes on a road that was
laid 20 years ago.

>> My complaint is that the Web is not necessary to, and in many cases
>> not significant to, a major part of the development and application of
>> knowledge engineering.
> ITs not necessary in some absolute sense, just as the Web isn't
> necessary for retailing. Still, any retailer who ignores the fact of the
> Web is likely to be losing out on an important resource, and to
> deliberately refuse to take account of the Web would be foolish.

Business opportunities are what they are.  I am trying to identify the
class of problems for which the Semantic Web, as distinct from other KR
and KE work (whatever that distinction is), is envisaged to be the solution.

>>  Document and service search is clearly a Web idea, and the Web is
>> vital to it, and integrating the Web aspects into the languages and
>> reasoning engines that have those purposes is critical.  There are
>> other distributed applications of ontologies that are designed to use
>> the Web in important ways (software agents _integrally_  "on the Web",
>> as distinct from agents that just use Internet technologies as a means
>> of moving bits from a known remote source), but they are a very small
>> part of the applications of knowledge engineering.
> OK, so the SWeb is concerned with that part. I think its a fairly large
> part, and will likely be the dominant part, myself. But as I say, thats
> just a different prediction.

I completely agree that document and service search will be a major use
of Semantic Web technologies, along with some other very unusual ones.

I want the SWeb work to be useful for "smart agents", on the Web and on
other networks, because that is a future that I deem certain.  But the
agents are going to be most worried about reference ontologies, versions
and contractual agreements, and we are having little success pushing the
academic SWebbies in that direction.  That is going to require some
public commitments, and the destruction of several ivory towers.  And
the emerging public commitments are sponsoring organizations that, for
various reasons, are choosing other K-R and K-E technologies and more
conventional approaches.  (Their solution is standard ontologies at
best, and more commonly standard data models, and conflicting standards
at that.)

> I think you are the only person I know who identifies DL reasoning with
> document search. Seems to me that DL reasoners are used for many
> purposes, document search being only a very small proportion. The
> original motivation for (what are now called) DL systems was for
> checking subsumption relationships between data base schemas, and this
> is still what they are widely used for.

Well, that doesn't seem to be a Web application, so it isn't what OWL/DL
is for, per the above.  I'm sure OWL is quite useful for the purpose of
checking completeness and consistency in DB schemas, but that wouldn't
get in the door at W3C.

The position I take is that the "Web Ontology Language" was designed to
support DL reasoning, because the computability was a requirement for
the Semantic Web, and in particular, for making decisions in reasonable
time whilst doing a document/service search.  Most other valuable
applications of DL reasoning are not "on the Web".  Maybe I just read
the wrong papers, or maybe "on the Web" is W3C-speak for "communicating".

> I agree that planning and
> decision making often needs inferential capability outside the scope of
> DL reasoning, as indeed do many other applications. This is one reason
> why the W3C is trying to standardize a SWeb rule language, but its
> turning out to be a bear, largely because there are too many kinds of
> 'rules' already out there.

Yup.  The RuleML community was in the process of becoming a Hydra, and
competing with two other groups with still other 'rules' concepts, when
the RIF activity started.  And trying to make RIF work with OWL and more
general RDF ontologies is an exercise in mating songbirds with ostriches.

> For the record, I wish that the SWeb had never been captured by the DL
> crowd in the first place, and had instead gone in a more common-logicky
> direction.

I think there are several reasons why it is better that the SWeb did go
with DL.  Pat cites a major one below -- industry support, which KIF and
friends really didn't have.  More than that, however, (and I have had to
make this pitch, so maybe I shouldn't believe it) DL on-the-surface is a
short step from E-R modeling and data modeling.  That makes it
accessible to a lot of the people, junior and senior, who had to buy
into this to get a widely implemented standard.

In three recent projects, my colleagues and I have discovered that
capturing knowledge in axiomatic form is not a mainstream activity.
Software engineers, business analysts, librarians and manufacturing
engineers can all understand UML versions of DL models with a little
education, and junior knowledge engineers can convert them directly to
OWL with a few corrections.  But axiomatic formulation requires a
specific skill that isn't easy to acquire.

> But both the early Web ontology projects (DAML in the US and
> OIL in Europe) were packed with DL folk, and their world-view came to
> dominate. But note, this wasnt a W3C conspiracy to reject everyone else.
> I was simply a byproduct of the fact that the DL perspective was in fact
> the dominant one in the industrial sector represented by the W3C
> membership. If you feel that a different view should have predominated,
> you need to have arranged that a majority of people holding that view
> were most active in a majority of industrial-scale laboratories at the
> relevant time.

I completely agree with this.  The existence of a known DL reasoning
algorithm, and Pat's observation above, that DL was a companion to
database technologies, goes a long way to explaining the prevailing
industrial view.

On the subject of the Nokia use:
> I meant only that the phones wouldn't work as they do, and so presumably
> wouldn't be bought in such numbers, if they didn't use SWeb technology.

What I was asking was: HOW do Nokia phones use or depend on SWeb
technology?  (Or is that a trade secret?)

> If they have to use the Web to communicate with one another or to
> retrieve information vie Web transfer protocols, they do have a clear
> relationship to the Web. And it would be a serious mistake to
> misunderestimate the importance of this, IMO.

I don't consider the use of email to be use of the Web.  I agree that if
they use a browser to upload or download their business information,
they are using Web technologies.  (And the same is true of other apps
that use vanilla HTTP servers.)  But I don't consider the use of HTTP to
wrap Webservices to even be a "Web technology" -- its just the W3C
version of DCE and CORBA, created to give a particular vendor a window
into that market (and incidentally, to reach the 1997 CORBA competence
level in 2007).

>> If the "SWeb project" is now the umbrella for all knowledge
>> engineering (which I believe is the case)
> ? Isn't this exactly the opposite of what you were saying earlier in
> this message?

Pat's position is that some kind of distinction can be made.  What I was
arguing above was that I don't know what the distinction is, and I
believe that "Semantic Web" has become a buzzword for a lot of AI
research that has no clear relationship to the particular concerns of
the Web.  As Ian Bailey said, the term doesn't have an accepted definition.

>> I have watched very intelligent people run around painting their roses
>> the funding color of the year for 30 years.  They end up competing
>> with a bunch of illiterate moneygrubbers with paper roses, because
>> they won't agree to a criterion that would eliminate paper roses, if
>> it might also eliminate old wood.  And I believe "semantic Web" is now
>> in that state.
> There might well be some truth in that. Its a hot buzzword, along with
> "Web 2.0" and other journalistic burble. But don't blame the hype on the
> technologists: we aren't the ones writing the damn silly articles in
> WIred magazine.

:-)  Pat isn't.  But I have had to read NSF- and ATP-funding proposals,
and Government contractor reports, and it is surprising how little they
differ from the WIred articles in their introductions and in their value
claims.  And it is even more surprising how old, tired, varied and
Web-irrelevant much of the technical content is.

>> We are seeing, and will see more, apps that speak to other remote apps
>> in their operating environment and use the knowledge thus gained, with
>> inferencing technologies, to make decisions about working
>> cooperatively toward shared and diverse goals.  These things have
>> nothing to do with the Web per se
> Are you sure? If they use Web protocols to communicate, they do have
> something to do with it. Seems to me that to ignore this or belittle it
> is a bit like saying that because air and water are both fluids, birds
> can swim without paying attention to the difference.

I want to make very sure that we both understand that the difference
between the OPC 1999 standard for communicating with heating systems
using DCOM and the OPC 2004 standard for doing exactly the same thing
using XML and Webservices is just a choice of syntax that enables the
programmers to use the current Microsoft DLLs.  And the fact that IEC
61850 for communication with industrial controllers now has an XML annex
behind its ASN.1 annex doesn't represent a technological advance.  It is
just about the impact of widespread adoption of a representation
standard on programmer education, which reduces the cost of software
generation, just like agreeing to use Java instead of Ada.

>> , and they need standards to know what constructs mean ("semantics"),
>> but they have everything to do with knowledge sharing and decision
>> making.  And we are inventing terms like SmartCars and SmartGrid and
>> SmartBuilding to describe these technologies.  They may document their
>> XML schemas using OWL information models, but the decision
>> technologies are rules engines -- classical k-e with modern
>> communications and processing speeds.  Their apostles do not call them
>> "semantic Web" technologies; they have no need to.
> I don't give a damn what they are being called, but part of the SWeb
> ambition is certainly to provide communication standards to allow such
> things to interoperate over the Web. OWL isn't the final word: there are
> SWeb rule languages being designed right now.

My point is that these are knowledge engineering apps that are AI by
anyone's standards, and they are the brains in the agents in a dynamic
intelligent systems.  They are being built on standard dictionaries and
spellings for the data elements.  The reference ontology for the
interfaces is in the standard -- it doesn't need to be dynamically
accessed.  And the reference ontology that drives the agent behavior is
in the agent implementation in some form.  Now, it is possible that,
when the agents have access to the Internet, they will look for updates
to their ontologies and to the rest of their software and download them.

So, yes, they will use Web technologies to download their software
updates, just like IE and the Java Suite and Photoshop do right now.
And yes, they will probably communicate using XML and Webservices on
whatever the local physical networks are.  What Semantic Web technology
does that employ?

> Look, I know that defining standards isn't rocket science. Of course a
> standard will be a codification of work done elsewhere by others, in
> large part. Still, it needs to get done, and its a lot of work, much of
> it unrewarding and tedious. If you have technical issues with the W3C
> standards work that has been done, by all means shout them from the
> rooftops. But if all you are moaning about is journalistic hype and
> terminology, and the no doubt unfortunate fact that people are attracted
> to the latest intellectual fashion, please stop whining.

As I recall, my original contribution to this thread was an attempt to
defend one of the few actual Semantic Web products -- OWL -- from
complaints (1) that it was inadequate and inappropriate for whatever K-E
application the original writer had in mind, and (2) that the Semantic
Web could thus be dismissed as a misguided activity.  My point was that
the Semantic Web was not intended to cover every K-E application, and
that there were clearly envisaged applications, consistent with what I
perceived the "Semantic Web vision" to be, for which the existing
products are useful.  I think Pat and I agree on the first part of that.

I wasn't whining about journalistic hype; I was complaining about
"glittering generalities" (hype) from the supposed gurus of the Semantic
Web, which includes one Pat Hayes.  After three emails, I will admit
that I now have no idea what the Semantic Web is about.  You needn't
fear that I will mis-characterize the activity in attempting to defend
it in the future.  I will do neither.


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

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

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