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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: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 22:19:12 -0400
Message-id: <4EAB62A0.6070501@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed,    (01)

That's a good characterization of what happened, but I think there's
a simpler explanation.    (02)

> Making things 'clearly specified for humans' is a very important
> point.   The W3C "web heads" are all about making information easy for
> humans to find and relate.  The assumption is that you can link anything
> to anything and the browser will have a plug-in that allows whatever you
> linked to to be displayed to the human reader.  The "data heads", like
> me, are all about making information useable by software to make
> decisions without involving humans in the decision process unnecessarily
> (or in some cases, necessarily not involving humans in the decision
> process).  Data heads care what form the linked information is in,
> because the software has to know the nature of the information and be
> able to extract the information from that form into a form the software
> can use.  Those goals are not closely related.    (03)

The chief designer of RDF was R. V. Guha, who had been the associate
director of Cyc.  Guha's thesis advisors at Stanford were John McCarthy
and Ed Feigenbaum.  Guha wrote some of the basic LISP code that runs
Cyc, and he had studied with the father of LISP.    (04)

So Guha was an expert in LISP, he wrote a PhD dissertation that
developed some of McCarthy's ideas about using logic to express
contexts, and he was using logic to represent ontologies in Cyc.    (05)

But Guha also felt that Cyc was too complicated for most people to use.
(I doubt that anybody would disagree with that point.)  He wanted to
represent a much simpler subset that would be easier to use.  However,
Guha and Lenat were "control freaks" who were destined to break up.    (06)

Guha left Cyc and went to Apple and then Netscape.  That is where he
teamed up with Tim Bray to combine Guha's "simple" logic with Tim's XML.
Guha emphasized triples, but I believe that he was still thinking in
terms of LISP.    (07)

In LISP notation, a triple (R X Y) puts the relation R in the front.
In RDF, the relation goes in the middle.  But anybody with a LISP
background would assume that R points to a definition of the
relation, while X and Y point to documents that contain the data.    (08)

Unfortunately, neither Guha, Bray, or anybody else took the trouble
to say how a relation in RDF should be defined.  As a result, the
programmers who used RDF just treated the triples as convenient
slots to store three URLs.    (09)

RDFS and OWL added more disciplined ways of using RDF, but the
programmers who used RDF just wrote whatever they wanted.    (010)

John    (011)

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