RDF is not just for dreamers

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Sometimes I stumble upon posts that leave me wonder, what actually do people think about the whole Semantic Web idea, and about standards like RDF, OWL and the like. Do you think academia people went out and purposefully made them complicated? That they don't want them to get used?

Christopher St. John wrote down some nice experience with using RDF for logging. And he was pretty astonished that "RDF can actually be a pretty nifty tool if you don't let it go to your head. And it worked great."

And then: "Using RDF doesn't actually add anything I couldn't have done before, but it does mean I get to take advantage of tons of existing tools and expertise." Well, that's pretty much the point of standards. And the point of the whole Semantic Web idea. There won't be anything you will be able to do later, that you're not able to do today! You know, assembler was pretty turing-complete already. But having your data in standard formats helps you. "You can buy a book on RDF, but you're never going to buy a book on whatever internal debug format you come up with"

Stop being surprised that some things on the Semantic Web work. And don't expect miracles either.

Originally published on Semantic Nodix

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Christopher St. John
11 October 2005 09:02:00

You wonder "what do people think of the whole Semantic Web idea?". Well...

I suffered through the 80's Knowledge Representation fad, both academically in the AI program at Edinburgh and as a practitioner at the only company ever to produce a commercial system written in Prolog (that wasn't a Prolog development system.) So I'm familiar with the problems that the Semantic Web effort is attempting to address. Having slogged through real-life efforts to encode substantial amounts of knowledge, I find some of the misty-eyed musings that surround the Semantic Web effort depressing. That "most information on the Web is designed for human consumption" is seen as an obstacle surmountable via tools like RDF is especially sad. On the other hand, I'm always happy to make use of the cool tools that these sorts of things seem to throw off. There's probably a certain Proverbs 26:11 aspect to it as well.

20 October 2005 13:45:00