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Re: [semanticweb] Something that fundamentally confuses/bothers me about the Semantic Web

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  • john hardin
    Adam, So you want someone to prove you wrong.... I can t do that quite yet, but there is a group that I have been working with that is driving steadily
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 4, 2004
      Adam,

      So you want someone to prove you wrong.... I can't do that quite yet, but
      there is a group that I have been working with that is driving steadily
      towards a good solution. It's come out of the aerospace industry, but is
      gathering steam in internet architecture groups, government and ebusiness
      groups.

      The Universal Data Element Framework http://www.udef.org is being designed
      as a bridge solution, and we believe that we will create a framework that
      will be easy to maintain by domain subject matter experts and easy to
      include into the huge variety of dictionaries that represent the semantic
      meaning, context and structure (RDF/OWL, schema, DTD, and other formats).
      This looks like a centralized authority at first glance, but will end up
      being an open standard based registry that can be replicated, like the DNS
      and IP routing tables, across the net. There will also be a repository
      where domain formats for eBusiness, Semantic Web or other apps can make
      their UDEF tagged ontologies or taxonomies available to users via several
      access settings (public, subscriber only and private).

      There is a recent article at Network World:
      http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0329udef.html

      You're right on the exact point that will dramatically lengthen the time it
      takes to stand up the Semantic Web (and automated eBusiness for that
      matter): Each ontology or dictionary is fairly specific to the subject area
      that it deals with. So either everyone has to use the same ontology or
      build compatibility into all their ontologies, taxonomies, vocabularies,
      etc. The problem is huge, and the solution in the corporate world so far
      has been to create millions of point-to-point mappings between, for
      example, the warehouse management system, the parts ordering system and the
      supply chain company systems that feed the warehouses and factories.
      Currently I'm standing up the General Motors partner integration framework,
      where we will use ebXML based web services to communicate with all the
      different systems across the entire automotive supply chain. Most of the
      auto industry is trying to standardize on OAGIS for XML business document
      format, but we buy from electronics (RosettaNet), petroleum (PIDX),
      chemical (CIDX) and others.

      The UDEF is a tree / branch structure with 18 top level object words (such
      as entity, document, assett, etc) and 16 top level property words (such as
      Date, Amount, Identifier, Quantity, etc.) with qualifiers that are
      assembled into a semi-intelligent ID. For example,
      purchase.order.document_identifier is expressed as d.t.2_6. Placing this as
      an attribute in a schema or RDF enables the semantic equivalency between
      formats. You can view the entire trees in graphical form (HTML version of a
      powerpoint) at http://www.udef.org/specdoc/UDEFv1pt03-July-2003.htm. There
      are XML versions of these trees that will be used in the registry system
      (link to the use cases is below) and as a communications format to other
      systems.

      We have made some good progress but the hard work is ahead, as the registry
      stands up, and we begin to solicit input from domain area experts to add
      the qualifiers that reflect their industries... most of the qualifiers have
      been added by people in aerospace, defense, government and automotive. We
      will need input via a collaborative web environment (planned for in the use
      cases) of many experts. Please volunteer by sending me email or sending
      mail to the udef.builders mailing list.

      Dave Hollander, one of the inventors of XML, and CTO at Contivo, on the UDEF:

      "Contivo actively supports the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF).
      Semantic interoperability is a long term goal. Reaching that goal will
      require the ability to understand vocabularies quickly and easily.
      The ability to deploy UDEF concepts within vocabularies represented in a
      variety of languages makes UDEF unique, interesting, and potentially a
      corner-stone of semantic interoperability. Contivo is evaluating how to
      implement the UDEF to reach this potential."

      There is a proof of concept you can use two modified XML docs (OAGIS 7.1
      and xCBL purchase orders) to produce a semantic equivalency report with, at
      my web site: http://www.sanghainteractive.com/whitepapers.html at bottom,
      labeled "UDEF Compare Report".

      There are a couple of OASIS groups that are interested in working with the
      UDEF, and we will most likely begin a UDEF Technical Committee within OASIS
      this year.

      You can view the use cases that we will be building the registry on this
      year, at http://www.udef.org/specdoc/master_list.html

      I would encourage anyone interested to join the udef.builders mail list, by
      sending email to udef.builders-subscribe@...

      John Hardin



      At 05:38 PM 7/4/2004, adamatlas wrote:

      >I hope someone can explain this. I was just as excited about the Semantic
      >Web as everyone
      >else for a while, but then I realized something which discouraged me.
      >
      >The Semantic Web, it seems, is being billed as a system that allows the
      >representation of
      >machine-readable data in interoperable, extensible, decentralized formats.
      >But this seems
      >to create a paradox, or at least a technical contradiction. It simply
      >can't be all three. It's a
      >classic "choose two" problem. If we want RDF-based formats to be
      >interoperable, they
      >can't be extensible, because inevitably some mutually incompatible
      >extensions or
      >vocabularies will arise, or they can't be decentralized since some
      >authority will have to
      >maintain this interoperability. If we want RDF-based formats to be
      >extensible, then they
      >can't be interoperable for the same reason.
      >
      >I witness lots of semantic wheels being reinvented constantly. eBiquity
      >has their Person
      >ontology
      >[<http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/v2.1/ontology/]>http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/v2.1/ontology/]
      >which duplicates much of the
      >functionality of FOAF. There are several other FOAF-alikes that I've seen,
      >and some
      >vocabularies, ones which are not specifically about people but involve
      >them, include their
      >own "person" classes. How's that for interoperability? After all, the
      >parser doesn't know
      >that they're the same. In fact, if it's a good, well-formed RDF/XML
      >parser, it explicitly
      >thinks that they're different. That's why we have namespaces, isn't it? To
      >indicate that
      >similarly-named elements from different namespaces have different
      >functions! But I think
      >we can agree that an eBiquity person:Person is very similar in function to
      >a foaf:Person,
      >and that they should ideally be able to be used interchangeably the same
      >contexts.
      >
      >It seems that the only ways to solve these overlaps for practical use are:
      > 1) Hardcode these similarities in function into parsers. (BAD!
      > Hardcoding is a last resort,
      >and it'll be outdated in a heartbeat.) Or...
      > 2) Create new ontologies for the express purpose of bridging these
      > similar but
      >incompatible formats, by describing the relations between the similar
      >classes/properties
      >via relevant RDFS/OWL statements. (BAD! Who's in charge of doing this?
      >Individuals who
      >want these formats to interact? Bad idea, too tedious and it negates the
      >purpose of a
      >standardized structure like RDF. The W3C? Bad idea, the last thing they
      >need is to have the
      >responsibility of constantly bridging new vocabularies. The authors of the
      >vocabularies
      >themselves? Nonsense: if they wanted their vocabularies to be compatible,
      >they would
      >have made them like that in the first place.) Or...
      > 3) Politely ask the vocabulary authors to add compatibility. (Better,
      > sadly, but still BAD. If
      >we're trying to create a web of pure, machine-readable data, it's simply a
      >bad idea to rely
      >on everyone voluntarily making their stuff interoperate with other
      >people's stuff. Besides,
      >as the number of vocabularies continues to grow, this will be a very
      >tedious and inefficient
      >task.)
      >
      >Sadly, the current RDF-based system seems destined to become not a web of
      >machine-
      >readable data, but a mishmosh of lots of mutually incompatible formats all
      >of which
      >happen to be based on RDF. Imagine our current World Wide Web but based on
      >lots of
      >different XHTML-like formats that people can create and add to on whims.
      >Do you expect
      >it to work? We can't count on a "natural selection"-type process to weed
      >out the ones that
      >aren't as effective. Looking at
      >[<http://www.schemaweb.info],>http://www.schemaweb.info], we see lots of
      >functionally
      >identical vocabularies with trivial compatibility-destroying differences.
      >Natural selection
      >doesn't occur in technology when the competing standards don't have any
      >merits or
      >disadvantages over one another.
      >
      >... Or at least that's what it seems like to me. Believe me, I'd like
      >nothing more than for
      >someone to prove me wrong, considering how exciting the fundamental idea
      >of the
      >Semantic Web seems. So I'm open-minded about this, don't get me wrong, I'd
      >just like to
      >see if these concerns can be explained.
      >
      >
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      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      john c hardin
      director / founder - sangha interactive
      877.572.5691 - 313.737.1197 cell
      john@...
      http://www.sanghainteractive.com
      http://www.udef.org


      "It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just
      the picture within the frame."

      - Marshall
      McLuhan, 1955
    • Jean-Luc Delatre
      In http://groups.yahoo.com/group/semanticweb/message/1664 ... Hmmm... Cannot this be told the other way around? To prove Adam is wrong you would just have to
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 6, 2004
        In http://groups.yahoo.com/group/semanticweb/message/1664
        john hardin a écrit :
        >
        > Adam,
        >
        > So you want someone to prove you wrong.... I can't do that quite yet,

        Hmmm...
        Cannot this be told the other way around?
        To prove Adam is wrong you would just have to prove
        that *you* and other semantic web afficionados are right.
        So, you cannot prove yet that you are right, can you?

        > but there is a group that I have been working with that is driving steadily
        > towards a good solution.

        Eh!
        Then, how do you know you are "driving steadily towards a good solution" ?
        Is it faith?
        Or do you have some clues?

        [skipping irrelevant technical mumbo jumbo]

        .../...

        > You're right on the exact point that will dramatically lengthen the time it
        > takes to stand up the Semantic Web (and automated eBusiness for that
        > matter): Each ontology or dictionary is fairly specific to the subject area
        > that it deals with. So either everyone has to use the same ontology or
        > build compatibility into all their ontologies, taxonomies, vocabularies,
        > etc.

        Is it not that "Each ontology or dictionary is fairly specific",
        not only to subject area but *also* to specific usages within the subject area?
        For the worse, it is even likely that each ontology would better be specific for each and every task or question within any subject area.
        Clearly not achievable, where do you draw the boundary?

        Or would you go drastic:
        A single "world-wide" ontology encompassing *everything*, Orwell's nightmare!

        OTOH, how to "build compatibility" between irreconciliable views from the *same* subject area like the alternative 3d 4d representation of space-time:

        http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/programs/philo/faculty/documents/Analysis.pdf
        (from within http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/PROGRAMS/philo/faculty/mccall.htm)

        See also:
        http://www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&safe=off&edition=us&q=3d+4d+representation+of+space-time+site%3Aieee.org&btnG=Search

        And *don't* say that "this is only philosophy, we will never have nasty cases like that where business and industry stuff matters".
        You *already* have such nastynesses and *lots* of them, you are just not aware!

        >The problem is huge, and the solution in the corporate world so far
        > has been to create millions of point-to-point mappings between, for
        > example, the warehouse management system, the parts ordering system and the
        > supply chain company systems that feed the warehouses and factories.

        Yes, it works, based on trade-offs and expensive hand tuning.
        How do you expect to dispense with the "hand tuning" given that the trade-offs *themselves* depend on each and every specific case at hand?

        > Currently I'm standing up the General Motors partner integration framework,

        .../...

        [more technical mumbo jumbo]

        > We have made some good progress but the hard work is ahead,

        Yes, indeed! :o))
        You will find out how painfull it is.
        And this is just some kind of parts inventory with some lucky restrictions in the variety,
        i.e. you may have a large number of different nuts and bolts but their total number
        is (relatively) stable, new and old models *and* their properties don't pop up and disappear like mad at any unexpected moment.
        You get some relief between the updates even if only a few days (or may be hours?).

        > as the registry stands up, and we begin to solicit input from domain area experts to add
        > the qualifiers that reflect their industries... most of the qualifiers have
        > been added by people in aerospace, defense, government and automotive. We
        > will need input via a collaborative web environment (planned for in the use
        > cases) of many experts.
        > Please volunteer by sending me email or sending
        > mail to the udef.builders mailing list.

        Heading toward hand-crafting a monolithic "all encompassing" ontology.
        Will crash and burn, sometime...

        > Dave Hollander, one of the inventors of XML, and CTO at Contivo, on the UDEF:
        >
        > "Contivo actively supports the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF).
        > Semantic interoperability is a long term goal.

        Long term sure, could you give a figure?

        > Reaching that goal will
        > require the ability to understand vocabularies quickly and easily.

        Before that, it will require what "to understand vocabularies" *means* inside a computer!

        .../...

        [still technical mumbo jumbo,
        underlying problems not solved,
        not even STATED!!!]

        > "It is the framework which changes with each new technology and
        > not just the picture within the frame."
        > -
        > Marshall McLuhan, 1955

        Excellent quote!
        Except today, the framework changes every hour.

        Good luck.
        Enjoy the ride.
        Beware of the wall at the end of the road!

        Cheers,

        -- Jean-Luc Delatre
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