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Re: [ontolog-forum] Solving the information federation problem

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 22:43:55 -0400
Message-id: <4EAA16EB.6030404@xxxxxxxxxxx>
David, Ed, and Cory,    (01)

> Over time more and more data is clearly on the Web/Internet, so looking
> forward the W3C makes more sense to me than anywhere else.    (02)

First point:  The amount of legacy software is about half a trillion
lines of code.  The cost of deployed software is $18 to $45 per line
of code.  That software isn't going away for a long, long time.  Any
system that does semantic integration will have to support it.    (03)

Second point:  When it comes to semantics, the structure and meaning
of the data and the kinds of operations on the data are far more
important than the amount of data.  For those issues, there is nothing
new in the Web.    (04)

As for the Internet, it uses the same foundation as Arpanet in 1969.
And XML is a variant of SGML, which is a variant of GML, which was
also born in 1969.  As for hypertext, that was proposed in 1965 by
Ted Nelson, who was inspired by an article by Vannevar Bush in 1945.    (05)

If you're thinking of ontology, the overwhelming number of published
OWL ontologies don't use any feature that goes beyond Aristotle's
syllogisms -- which, by the way, are far more readable than OWL.    (06)

> ... there is enormous value to be realized, IF you can figure out how
> to create it.  We at NIST justify our work in this area as 'research',
> because we have not yet seen a tool set that is even effective, without
> getting into useable or cost-effective.  And OMG has been given to
> understand that the IBM evaluation of the situation is similar.    (07)

I agree.    (08)

> I don't see that W3C is a better choice.  The W3C RIF project, for
> example, had the problem of having to work with OWL and having to work
> with SPARQL, because those were the W3C invested technologies, even
> though none of the non-academic rules engines, and at most half the
> academic ones, had anything to do with either one.  (David's employer
> falls into non-academic category; TopQuadrant support for OWL was an
> afterthought.)  In short, going to W3C just begets a different set of
> politics and prejudices.    (09)

I had high hopes for the SemWeb back in 1998.  But every commercial
web site was built around a relational DB.  Even companies with
object-oriented DBs offered SQL as an option because their customers
demanded it.  And in fact, most programmers chose SQL instead of the
native path-based languages.    (010)

Ted Codd and Chris Date had been trying to get a serious type system
on top of SQL since the late 1970s, but they faced two obstacles:
Oracle and IBM.  The VLDB conferences had proposed many reasonable
extensions to RDBs.  If the SemWebbers had chosen one of them and
integrated it with XML and UML, they could have had a real winner.    (011)

> I don't think we want semantic integration standards to be strongly
> influenced by RDB2RDF or Linked Open Data, any more than we want
> them to be influenced by MOF and SBVR and UML.    (012)

I agree.  I'd also point out that RDF has no semantics in itself.
The SQL WHERE-clause has the full expressive power of FOL for use
in queries and constraints.  But the mapping to RDF loses that
semantics.  You cannot do semantic integration with tools that
throw away the semantics of the systems they're trying to mediate.    (013)

Furthermore, integrating two systems A and B cannot be done just
by writing some A2B tool.  You would also need a B2A tool plus
an architecture that allows both A and B to work together as
easily as two A systems or two B systems.  Please remember
that half trillion lines of legacy code.    (014)

> I believe the suggestion for a workshop topic for the Ontolog
> Summit is a much more valuable step, on the way to the whitepaper
> that would form the basis for any kind of standardization plan,
> and by-the-by serve as a reference terminology for the emerging
> papers on the subject    (015)

I agree.  Before we can standardize anything we need a clear idea
of what exactly we are trying to standardize, why we need it, how
it would be used, and what kinds of problems it would solve.    (016)

> I think semantic integration is happening, Ed thinks it is research.    (017)

I agree with Ed on this point.    (018)

> It happens in forms of structured English as we see from
> Sjir Nijssen and Adrian Walker.    (019)

I am strongly in favor of using structured or controlled English.
I designed a tool to support it back in 1971.  But its primary use
is to promote ease of reading and learning.  By itself, it's a
syntactic tool that doesn't do anything to integrate semantics.    (020)

> If in the next 5 years there need to be standards in support of
> information federation, where should they be placed? and nothing in
> [ED's] reply does anything but strengthen the view that the W3C is the
> most sensible answer.    (021)

The W3C has a very poor track record on integrating anything.  Please
note their failure to integrate the SemWeb with RDBs -- despite the
fact that anybody who looked at any commercial web site would have
seen RDBs supporting every one of them.    (022)

For another example, look at HTML and JavaScript.  Netscape,
Microsoft, and other developers ignored the W3C recommendations.
JavaScript never became usable for major applications until ECMA
took charge and produced ECMAScript.    (023)

John    (024)

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