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Re: [ontolog-forum] Is there something I missed?

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2009 13:37:41 -0500
Message-id: <4989E075.30301@xxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

We understand each other better than I thought yesterday.
Two minor, and mostly unrelated, points.    (02)

I wrote:    (03)

>> 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.    (04)

Pat wrote:
> No, I don't think so. These are concerns, but not centrally; any more 
> than credibility is a central issue in e-commerce. And as for quality 
> management, forget it. Nobody can do QM for the Web, its obvious, so 
> nobody tries.    (05)

Actually, exactly these issues came up at the last Ontolog Summit, and 
it is pretty clear that the community is divided.  I agree that Quality 
Management for the Web is antithetical to the nature of the Web.  OTOH, 
in the area of ontology repositories and repositories like Wikipedia, 
quality management is very much an issue, and people are trying very 
hard to figure out how to do it without frustrating valuable 
contributions.  (Some proponents, whom I shall not name, do not seem to 
be overly concerned about the latter, while their opponents are.)    (06)

> [The Semantic Web is]
>  more of an ambition than anything else, so far, but the mashups and 
> demos that get SWeb folk most excited are exactly those that do use 
> multiple data sources scattered around the Web to do something new, 
> preferably involving a bit of real inference-making. That is the point 
> of the whole project: using the Internet to allow remote access to 
> formalized information, to enable new kinds of applications that 
> wouldn't be possible without such access being available. Thats all.     (07)

This is a very useful description of the concept, and it is a great deal 
clearer than most of the vague descriptions I have seen.
And, as I said earlier, I like the term "ambition" here. It is closer to 
what is meant than the usual interpretation of "vision".  It is not so 
much that there is an image of what the Web should be like (which is the 
way Sir Tim presents it), but rather what kinds of things might be 
possible and be happening.    (08)

> Maybe its a crazy idea, but the unpredictable and unpredicted success of 
> the Web (not the SWeb) suggests, if only weakly, that its an ambition 
> worth pursuing.    (09)

I strongly agree.  The power and value of machine intelligence in the 
presence of reliable information can be quite remarkable, and it is 
always worth enablement and experimentation.    (010)

I wrote:    (011)

>> Maybe I just read the wrong papers, or maybe "on the Web" is 
>> W3C-speak for "communicating".    (012)

Pat wrote:
> I take it to mean, "can be accessed by http GET protocols, starting with 
> a URI".    (013)

Interesting you should say that.    (014)

HTTP is a tremendous success because it filled a critical protocol hole 
in the ARPAnet (later Internet) protocol suite, what we now understand 
to be "arbitrary service invocation".  And it wasn't really designed to 
support arbitrary services well (it is biased toward download and 
against upload, for example), but it was the only game in town.  We have 
to give Jim Gosling credit for the contribution of Java and the JVM to 
making arbitrary services viable with HTTP.  All the prior service 
invocation protocols were either service-specific or remote subroutine 
call protocols tied to programming language concepts, notably simple 
arguments with simple results.    (015)

I never considered invocation of arbitrary services as a "Web" concept. 
I considered HTTP as primarily a means of access to distributed 
information resources, which was the original Web concept, back in the 
WAIS days, when it was a truly new idea.  The invocation of arbitrary 
services is what I have always considered to be ANOTHER Internet value, 
as distinct from the Web.    (016)

So, merging these two concepts explains much of the difference in our 
terminology.    (017)

> OK, I will take your word on this. But I also want to make sure that we 
> all understand this "just a choice of syntax" can have far-reaching 
> effects on how these standards and the systems based on them actually 
> get deployed in the real world. And when there get to be semantic issues 
> that arise, these choices rapidly get much more important to 
> interoperability than just the choice of using XML or not. 
> Interoperability between machine systems, as I know you know, is a very 
> delicate and fragile property that needs to be guarded and protected 
> with extreme care.    (018)

We agree completely on this.  As Pat observes, interoperability is not 
based on the syntax; it is based on agreement on the semantic content 
represented by the standardized syntax.    (019)

[Standardizing syntax is another valuable contribution that the Arpanet 
folk failed to make.  Its contribution is to take that element out of 
the protocol and service definition problem.  It allows the designers to 
focus on the nature of the services and the content and behavior of the 
protocols.  It also makes the implementation process more efficient, by 
producing reusable libraries and reusable programmer education.    (020)

XML, for better or worse, is the adopted solution.  The previous viable 
solution, ASN.1 (1980), came out of the wrong community for wide 
acceptance on the Internet, and was buried by the attempts of misguided 
organizations to make money on the reusable libraries and the base 
standards, thereby frustrating both reuse and education.]    (021)

> I guess I tend to attribute more importance to such matters than you do. 
> Its this boring, unscientific level at which 80% of the actual problems 
> arise. Call it sociology rather than technology, its still important.    (022)

We agree on this.  The boring unscientific concerns like document 
accessibility and common teaching and press hype are the difference 
between a useful academic publication and a de facto standard.  Getting 
implementations, getting use of the implementations, getting consistency 
of the implementations, getting tutorials written on the technology, 
getting courses created that use the tutorials, are the elements of 
"promulgation" of a standard or technology, and they are vital.    (023)

The point I was making was only that choosing XML as a syntax for your 
communications is about reducing the cost of implementation and 
expanding the community of practice, i.e., partaking of the fruits of a 
de facto standard.  It does not make the communicating software a "Web 
application".  (And Pat and I agree on that.)    (024)

-Ed    (025)

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    (026)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (027)

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