Frustrating

Leigh Dobb’s wrote:

RDF is essentially a relational model, although not in the classic RDBMS sense. This means its much easier, IMO, to clearly express a model in RDF.

Much of the functionality that the library community is seeking: the ability to move data between formats and identify authorities, is already present in RDF. It’s there in the ability to create local schemas and/or inferencing rules that massage data into the model required for a particular application; RDF allows late binding of your application schema to your data. The functionality is also present in the means to derive variations on existing vocabularies, and annotate existing metadata with new properties. Authorities like the Library of Congress can publish their own schemas.

But the message isn’t getting across. I think the failing is that there’s too much emphasis on the big vision of the semantic web, and the more immediate, more pragmatic, benefits of RDF (with a sprinkling of OWL) are being lost. There’s some tasty morsels at the bottom of that semantic web layer cake. The only way to demonstrate that is to come up with more convincing demonstrations, e.g. a recast of MODS as RDF, backed by some useful code.

From a post written November 8th, 2003:

Clay also mentions that the Semantic Web has two goals: to get people to use meta-data and the other is to build a global ontology that pulls all this data together. He applauds the first while stating that the second is …audacious but doomed.

Michelangelo was recorded as having said: My work is simple. I cut away layer after layer of marble until I uncover the figure encased within.

To the Semantic Web people there is no issue about building a global ontology — it already exists on the web today. Bit by bit of it is uncovered every time we implement yet another component of the model using a common, shared semantic model and language. There never was a suggestion that all metadata work cease and desist as we sit down on some mountaintop somewhere and fully derive the model before allowing the world to proceed.

FOAF, RSS, PostCon, Creative Commons — each of these is part of the global ontology. We just have many more bits yet to discover.

And later:

Tim, man, you got to get down, son. Scrabble in the hard pack with the rest of us plain folk. Yank off that tie, and put on some Bermudas and hang with the hometown gang for a bit. You been with the Big Bad Business Asses too much — you forgot your roots.

What I do agree with in Clay’s paper is that the semantic web is going to come from the bottom up. It is going to come from RSS, and from FOAF, and from all the other efforts currently on the web (I need to start putting a list of these together). It’s going to start when we take an extra one minute when we post to choose a category or add a few keywords to better identify the subject of our posts. It will flourish when more people start taking a little bit of extra time to add a little bit more information because someone has demonstrated that the time will be worth it.

It will come about when people see the benefits of smarter data. Small pieces, intelligently joined.

’ll let you in on a little secret: my semantic web is not The Semantic Web. They won’t give nobel prizes for it, and it won’t be a deafening flash or a blinding roar. It will just make my life a bit easier than what what it is now. Some folks who like the Semantic Web won’t necessarily like or agree with my simple, little small ’s’, semantic, small ‘w’ web. But I don’t care, and neither does it.

In this semantic web, people like Danny Ayers with his good humored patience persistence supporting RDF and the ’semantic web, will have just as much an impact as any Tim, Dave, or Clay.

To quote Tonto: Who is ‘we’, white man.

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