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Tim Berners-Lee and the Semantic Web

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the same-old-refrain dept.

250

An anonymous reader writes "As we all know, Tim Berners-Lee is the hero of the Web's creation story--he conjured up this system and chose not to capitalize on it commercially. It turns out that Sir Tim (he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July) had a much grander plan in mind all along--a little something he calls the Semantic Web that would enable computers to extract meaning from far-flung information as easily as today's Internet links individual documents. In an interview with Technology Review, the Web-maestro explains his vision of 'a single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone.'"

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250 comments

What Does 42 Mean for Privacy? (3, Interesting)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364362)

'a single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone.'

So, once this is off the ground, who wants to bet that the answer really is, 42?

Seriously though, this could be really cool, but I imagine that this could have some very adverse effects on privacy given the amount of information that finds itself on the web. Items that are linked by obscurity in disperate places would be easily linked into a single profile (If the stuff he's talking about isn't primarily smoke and mirrors). Either way, like any powerful technology, it will have both good and bad consequences. Here's hoping for the good...

So scarry, man... I love different meanings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364615)

Indeed, anything that offers a "single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone" is truly a scarry concept to me, philisophically, of course.

I really do love all the very different meanings that the human mind can create from all the very same things.

Re:What Does 42 Mean for Privacy? (2, Insightful)

cynic10508 (785816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365017)

Seriously though, this could be really cool, but I imagine that this could have some very adverse effects on privacy given the amount of information that finds itself on the web. Items that are linked by obscurity in disperate places would be easily linked into a single profile (If the stuff he's talking about isn't primarily smoke and mirrors). Either way, like any powerful technology, it will have both good and bad consequences. Here's hoping for the good...

People would do well to note the principle: Security by obscurity isn't.

The Semantic Web is the next big thing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364374)

and has been for over a decade (or more).

Re:The Semantic Web is the next big thing (0, Redundant)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364431)

Quick! patent it before Microsoft does.....

ooops, too late

SCO says they own that too....

What is the semantic web? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364380)

Well, beyond the "knowledge management"-type mumbo jumbo, anyway. Some basic definitions are here [w3.org] , here [wikipedia.org] , and [google.com] .

Re:What is the semantic web? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364811)

Oops, that last link should be this [google.com] . I didn't add any text between the anchor tags, but if you have "Display Link Domains" on, you will see the above as:

"here [w3.org], here [wikipedia.org], and [google.com]."

Which is accidentally interesting to me because it could be argued that google.com is rather like the semantic web.

PFFT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364383)

LOL@BUSH LOL@JEWS

gnaa owns you!!!11

WWW.GNAA.US

This will happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364385)

...as soon as web services are up and running.

You don't want a "single" web... (3, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364389)

You don't want a "single" web... You want a multitude of them, and carefully isolate them (beyond normal information reading and referencing).

This is to insure against a monoculture that is so disastrous in computer circles as demonstrated by the numerous security failings of Windows...

Re:You don't want a "single" web... (3, Insightful)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364526)

This is to insure against a monoculture that is so disastrous in computer circles as demonstrated by the numerous security failings of Windows...

Windows executes stuff. The semantic web is just data. Your warnings about a monoculture apply to the semantic web about as much as they apply to text files.

Re:You don't want a "single" web... (0, Offtopic)

escher (3402) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364646)

The semantic web is just data. Your warnings about a monoculture apply to the semantic web about as much as they apply to text files.

Remember when you couldn't get a virus just by reading an e-mail? That's Microsoft for you... making the impossible possible!

Re:You don't want a "single" web... (3, Insightful)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364684)

Remember when you couldn't get a virus just by reading an e-mail?

Yes, and again, the problem is when the stuff that executes has a monoculture. It's not like you see Pine users or KMail users infected by emails with Outlook viruses in.

No, there's something there (1)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365065)

While this stuff doesn't "execute", the assertions made by symantic logic could be far reaching. Consider the following (monoculture) type example:

  • Jim is 24601
  • Jim is 15931
  • Account 24601 is online gaming
  • 24601 cheats and scams
  • Account 15931 is online banking
  • 15931 has made 450 transactions this month
  • 15931 has a positive balance
Thus, when Jim is passing me a check...
  • Jim has enough to cover this check, has made 450 transactions, but is known to cheat and scam
Incomplete, but technically correct picture of Jim. The bad part has no relavence to me, unless I'm selling him an item in an online game. The symantic web has no way of telling what's relavent to me in a given situation.

DANGER! (1)

tunabomber (259585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364985)

You don't want a "single" web... You want a multitude of them, and carefully isolate them (beyond normal information reading and referencing).

This horrible monoculture is what's happening to the web right now! A new web browser called FireFox [spreadfirefox.com] is conspiring with the evil W3C to propagate its agenda of paving over the current safely incompatible WWW with the data duopoly of XHTML and CSS. If they succeed in their nefarious motives, all the markup on the web will adhere to ONE draconian standard!

Seriously, man. Monocultures are a GOOD thing for standards, but a bad thing for implementations of those standards. I expect that once the standards that make up the Semantic Web become solidified, we'll see multiple implementations popping up.

Duplicate Posting (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364392)

See the original here [slashdot.org] .

Actually Slashdot posts this article over and over again every few months, with basically the same headline (sometimes "and" sometimes "on" sometimes "Tim" sometimes not). Kinda bizarre really. :-) I've never read any of them, I only know this Berners-Lee fellow from the headlines.

Dang CERNopeans! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364396)

As we all know, Al Gore is the hero of the Web's creation story.

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Redundant)

the MaD HuNGaRIaN (311517) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364412)

In Soviet Russia, the web browses YOU!!!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364449)

This was never funny. Shut up.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364474)

In Soviet Russia you were never funny!

"Where's some semantic web software?" (4, Informative)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364413)

This always gets asked - and a partial answer is right here [semwebcentral.org] .

Eclipse plugins [semwebcentral.org] , visualization tools... there's some good stuff there.

The rest of us call this... (1, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364417)

The rest of us call this... GOOGLE.

works for me.

Re:The rest of us call this... (1)

aLe-ph-1(sh) (813349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364477)

seems to me that GMail would do a really good job of doing this. When you want all the info on someone, and you have all of their emails, sent to a whole bunch of their friends, and so on and so forth, well, it's been talked about before here on /.

Re:The rest of us call this... (2, Insightful)

BigGerman (541312) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364502)

Exactly.
And here is the problem: what "the rest of us" are going to do when Google goes south? Either collapses under its own weight or finally broken by its corporate overlords?
Can't put all the eggs in one basket. The only sane future is the one with unified, object-driven search and retrieval methods distributed amongst information consumers and producers.

Re:The rest of us call this... (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364781)

Google will go down the same way every ubersearch engine did before, someone will create something better and everyone will begin to use that instead, and google will go the way of webcrawler and altavista and everyone else into a obscure corner of the web. It just might take a little longer since they seem to have hit a chord with gmail.

Re:The rest of us call this... (1)

the chao goes mu (700713) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364912)

" unified, object-driven search and retrieval methods distributed amongst information consumers and producers"

Nice marketing-speak! Will it be object-oriented, three-tiered, scalable, interactive and java-based too?

Re:The rest of us call this... (3, Informative)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364521)

The rest of us call this... GOOGLE.

Google identifies relationships between data using only on the links between pages containing the data.

The Semantic web represents relationships between data based on metadata [w3.org] (i.e. data about data). This is a far more powerful way to describe the meaning of data.

works for me.

Maybe, but that doesn't mean its the best way to accomplish what you are trying to do.

Re:The rest of us call this... (4, Insightful)

bongoras (632709) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364746)

The Semantic web represents relationships between data based on metadata (i.e. data about data). This is a far more powerful way to describe the meaning of data.

And this is what makes me wonder if this will amount to much more then an interested research project for grad students. In order for the SemWeb to amount to anything useful, everyone is going to have to include the metadata necessary to integrate their data into the Semantic Web. How's that going to work? Who's going to make it work?

Re:The rest of us call this... (1)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364824)

everyone is going to have to include the metadata necessary to integrate their data into the Semantic Web. How's that going to work? Who's going to make it work?

It's already happening...check out sites like flickr [flickr.com] (photo blogging) and del.icio.us [del.icio.us] (collaborative bookmarks).

MOD PARENT UP!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364963)

it's both informative and insightful.

Re:The rest of us call this... (3, Interesting)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364871)

Google identifies relationships between data using only on the links between pages containing the data.

The Semantic web represents relationships between data based on metadata (i.e. data about data). This is a far more powerful way to describe the meaning of data.

This is an important point. Google computes the pagerank [wikipedia.org] of a page based on the eigenvector of the web link matrix, which is a clever and usually effective approach. Unfortunately, each link only conveys a little bit of information. A link from page A to page B is assumed to be an endorsement of page B's relevance by page A. But what if you could add extra metadata to the links? Not just a URL and a human readable text label, but a machine readable label as well, like this?

<a href=http://slashdot.org relevance=0.3 novelty=0.8 accuracy=-0.2 funny=0.2> slashdot </a>

If you could apply arbitrary attributes to web pages, google would have much better information to go on, and a user could specify the importance of certain attributes depending on what he/she is looking for.

-jim

Re:The rest of us call this... (3, Interesting)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364914)

Google's a hack. No, really, it tries to extract meaning from web pages that really aren't engineered to store that kind of information.

Google is also an application. The Semantic Web is all about building the infrastructure so applications like Google don't have to chase the holy grail of AI to become more than a hack. Think of the Semantic Web as the layer underneath Google.

Re:The rest of us call this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364991)

google brings you rss feeds? yes? oh well.

seriously, the semantic web brings VERY different application, built on INTERACTION.

i personally don't think it will improve searching much, but there's at least one project which is nicely aimed at that... foafspace.com which looks up people - indexes a lot of lifejournal data so knows pretty much i guess :)

Actually, Google is a search engine (4, Informative)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365042)

The rest of us call this... GOOGLE.

Google searches undifferentiated text. In contrast, the semantic web is all about differentiating text by adding meta tags.

For example, the word "Hilton" on a web page is ambiguous. It could be a hotel, or a celebrity. Which is it? With the semantic web we'd know:

<motel>
Hilton
</motel>

<celebrity>
Hilton
</celebrity>

Of course, this is a fairly trivial example. A more meaningful example:

<partnumber>
LHMJ67523119900012
</partnumber>

about everything and for everyone... (4, Funny)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364419)

Except for China, they get their own semantic web with special semantic filters in place that semantically keep their citizens under semantic control.

Re:about everything and for everyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364707)

And Slashdot will turn into a "pedantic web" to stay ahead of the trend curve ;-)

Re:about everything and for everyone... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364773)

I hope you're not anti-semantic?

Opposing view (5, Informative)

Psychic Burrito (611532) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364428)

If you'd like an opposing view, make sure to read Clay Shirky's take on the semantic web [shirky.com] .

Re:Opposing view (1)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364569)

Web pundits like Clay Shirky live in the present. Their entire relevance is based on the way the web looks today. They have no interest in anything being any different than exactly the way it is now.

For a more forward-looking view of this issue, see this essay [ftrain.com] on the real potential of the Semantic web.

Re:Opposing view (2, Insightful)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364893)

Having read both of your articles, I do not see either of them as opposite, but rather complimentary.

All information that is subjective is a poor candidate for the symantec web. All information that is quickly subject to change is a poor candidate for the symantec web. When mixing subjective (verb) pointers to a given truth on a large scale, modified by objective pointers, where even one of many thousands is false (or mis-keyed), the overall meaning can become quickly subverted.

In other words, if I get enough people to post somewhere that Allen Zadr lives in New Mexico, the multiple verbs that would otherwise point to the actual fact -- there is no Allen Zadr -- would be subverted. That is, unless you could syntactically link Allen Zadr to an actual human being.

Even more simply, the symantic web is only as good as the data. It's not very difficult to get a well trusted source to make an assertion of a truth while avoiding the linking details - thus presenting the users with a subverted view of reality. It has many flaws, and many promises. It won't fail, but it will never be better or worse than the existing systems, just different.

Re:Opposing view (2, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364780)

If you'd like an opposing view, make sure to read Clay Shirky's take on the semantic web.

Having just read quite a lot of his article before becoming far too annoyed to go any further, I really wouldn't take him very seriously. The bulk of his complaint is that although the Semantic Web is about drawing conclusions from widely disparate pieces of data, people don't think like that. I have no complaint with this.

However, he attempts to illustrates his point with lots of syllogisms. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to understand them. For example, he uses this one:

  1. Count Dracula is a Vampire
  2. Count Dracula lives in Transylvania
  3. Transylvania is a region of Romania
  4. Vampires are not real

...to illustrate that despite the fact that all the above statements are correct, the only conclusion you can draw is that Romania is not real.

Huh?

The only way you can come to that conclusion is if you assume that statement 2 implies that, if X lives in Y and X is not real, then Y is not real. Which is an invalid assumption. Therefore his conclusion is not valid.

The entire essay is full of things like this. When he's talking in generalities, he makes a small amount of sense, but as soon as he starts using specifics, he stops making sense. There may be something to his basic point, but I'm not inclined to trust someone's opinions on a fundamentally logic-based concept who seems to be so inept at using logic. Treat with caution.

Re:Opposing view (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364808)

I was going to criticize his lack of formal training, then found out he had taught at my alma mater. So if I criticize his lack of education I inadvertently denigrate the quality of my education.

Re:Opposing view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364986)

The only way you can come to that conclusion is if you assume that statement 2 implies that, if X lives in Y and X is not real, then Y is not real. Which is an invalid assumption. Therefore his conclusion is not valid.

The conclusion is invalid because YOU happen to know that it's invalid. It certainly could be valid given only the rules presented. As an example, if you used Superman and Metroplis in the above example, it would work fine. Now given rule 3A that states "Transylvania is real", then it would be interesting to see what types of conclusions the software would derive (if Transylvania is real, Romania must be real, and the whole Dracula thing is a red herring).

The whole point of course being that it's most important to have enough "correct" data points to allow more correct meaning to be derived. Which theoretically would happen as the nodes became more prevelant.

Re:Opposing view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364802)

People who oppose the idea of a "semantic web" are assholes. I can come up with a thousand reasons why the concept won't work perfectly, and why some people won't want to use it, and a billion things that work today without it.

But instead, I'm looking at the things that currently run like shit because people won't even use basic semantic tags because they only care about presentation, and the people with disabilities that can't even read a freaking webpage because of abominable use of and lack of ALT attributes.

This is not paper we are dealing with, it's computers. Computers need meaning to handle data, not globs of raw ascii text. Any other method of trying to sort, parse or classify data is stupid, when every single step between creation and receipt is handled by computers.

Re:Opposing view (3, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365064)

No, computers don't need meaning to handle data. Computers need syntax and rules how to act at syntactic structures. The semantic web is founded on the hope that enough syntax thrown at huge amounts of data turns magically into semantics.

It's based on the assumption that all semantics can be explained by syntax. So far this has not been proven yet, and all attempts to get there went stuck somewhere and turned out something different, sometimes useful (Chomsky's grammars), sometimes not so useful.

The semantic web would have to deal with the laziness of people who can't be bothered to write meaningful ALT attributes to tags. It can try to guess on some of the semantics, but it can also easily be fooled. Everyone who ever tried to use content filters for an internet connection knows what I am talking about. There are lots of false positives rejected and hundreds of questionable sites run through, because the syntax of a site alone doesn't help with evaluation the semantics (the meaning) of this site.

Re:Opposing view (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364823)

That article has interesting points, but it fails in its critic that semantic web will never take off because it requires that everybody agrees on the same ontology. The semantic web allows people to publish their own ontologies, and the best tools should be those that learn to extract interesting info from various sources. This is what S.W. is all about, not yet-another-universal-standard.

Re:Opposing view (2, Insightful)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364854)

semantic web allows people to publish their own ontologies, and the best tools should be those that learn to extract interesting info from various sources.

That's right. More to the point, the system supports many ontologies, and allows the best ontologies to rise to the top.

Re:Opposing view (1)

inKubus (199753) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365070)

Yeah, I can understand these arguements. But what if you applied "fuzzy" techniques.

"ALL X are Y" will only get you so far. Then you could add additional (numeric) fuzzy logic based on samples of other data. For instance, in the "People who live in France speak French" solliquism, the computer could attempt to validate it by pulling a language census of France. After pulling this data, it would know that approximately 95% of people living there speak French. Thus a "fuzzy" "all" could be made. Like "MOST people in France speak French" and even give it a decent probability.

What this does is make relevance easier to find and actually creates new knowledge and facts out of thin air. Yes, some of them will not be true, but it's entirely possible that the computer could attempt to establish a probability that it is true.

Then you could have a "root" server of "truths" that everyone knows and then based on the data in the system more truths are formed as well as close matches.

I think this is a facinating idea. Although the current work is merely creating the structure and standards things like what I've just described are possible. Imagine going to your google toolbar and asking a question and having it be answered.

Now, yeah yeah, ASK.com etc. had something going for a while. The problem is, as TBL mentioned, there's no descriptive information about the individual ELEMENTS in a regular HTML page. What if your search pulls up a 120MB html page with 2000 pictures and only one particular photo is of interest or whatever. And the page is dynamically generated so it's difficult to create a good list of keywords and stuff to search it with.

I mean, can you imagine, you're a graphic designer. You want a great picture of a sailboat on the front of a brochure. You could just insert a picture box, type a short description of the image you're thinking of, and then boom, one fills the box. Then you can just use your arrow key or something to move thru the pictures until you find the one you want, right within your page setup app, not in web browser, not in a book, etc.

Just one possible example. I have to end this post otherwise I might think of something else.

Semantic Web (3, Informative)

null etc. (524767) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364447)

A topic I posted a few years ago is perfectly relevant to this submission: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=92504&cid=7953 441 [slashdot.org]

Re:Semantic Web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364560)

You know you're a hard core /. 'er when you say "We talked about this a few years ago, here's the exactl /. link"

Re:Semantic Web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364799)

Except that the link was to 01:03 PM January 12th, 2004, not a few years ago.

Tim who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364455)

Bah! What does this bozo know about the web and where it should go??? It's not like he's devoted any of his time or effort into creating something as important as the WWW...

/sarcasm

interesting technology... (2, Interesting)

LiquidMind (150126) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364486)

"...enabling computers to extract meaning from far-flung information as easily as today's Internet simply links individual documents."

i wonder if this could be used for a computer's local file system as well. I know microsoft is working on this (WinFS or OFS or whatever it's supposed to be called), but it would be damn awesome to apply this not just to the internet.

Two major problems to a semantic web (5, Insightful)

levram2 (701042) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364489)

The extra work required to put data into a standard data format won't be done. People can't bother making their pages w3c complaint (even slashdot). The second problem is that data formats can rarely be agreed upon by a large community. Look at how many calendar event and news feed formats there are.

Re:Two major problems to a semantic web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364601)

Look at how many calendar event and news feed formats there are.
No problem. I'll just invent a new one, to rule them all!

Two major problems to a semantic web-binaries. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364607)

iCal and RSS. The present problem is that people hate everything XML. Kind of hard to do semantic anything if people don't like the way your doing it.

Re:Two major problems to a semantic web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364661)

I disagree. If there's a payoff, the effort is made. Case in point: RSS feeds. They need some programming on your server, but people love them, so site owners bow to the requests.

If some really cool app comes along that uses the sematic web, people will update their pages.

Already adressed (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364937)

the Semantic Web is a publishing medium; the creation of content is left to the will of the publishers (ideally the creation of metadata should be computer-assisted, but there are other possibilities [del.icio.us] ). Your "second problem" is precisely what the S.W. is intended to solve; it doesn't require people to agree in the data format, everybody can define their own.

This burns me up!!! (5, Funny)

octaene (171858) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364551)

I'm so tired of Semantic trying to take over all the security tools. Are they now trying to take over the Internet? I mean really, Semantic Antivirus totally sucks ass big-time!!! And don't get me started on Semantic's SystemWorks tool and how bad it blows!

Oh, wait a minute...

Meanwhile... (2, Funny)

genixia (220387) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364579)

...a team in Redmond is tasked to make sure that Microsoft own the "single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone."

Obvious candidate for massive abuse (2, Insightful)

gammelby (457638) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364583)

How is the semantic web going to handle abuse like <some_interesting_annotation>pr0n</some_interestin g_annotation>...? I mean, anybody can put up bogus annotations to promote their filthy business, like we saw it in the days before google and pagerank.

Ulrik

Why is a hero? (3, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364587)

Because he chose not to capitalize commercially on the Web? How is the measure of your altriusm the measure of your heroism? I understand that many people DO feel that way, but nobody has ever really explained WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm. Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil? The man who invented a corrugated-cardboard coffee-cup holder holds a patent on it; every Starbucks coffee sold puts a penny in his pocket. Why is that wrong?

Re:Why is a hero? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364724)

I understand that many people DO feel that way, but nobody has ever really explained WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm.

If someone does something for me, I say thank you in some way. It's that simple.


Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil?

They are not. Altruism is not a prerequisite for heroism. No one said it was.

Your Score: -2, Objectivist Troll

Re:Why is a hero? (1)

Red Alastor (742410) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364953)

They are not. Altruism is not a prerequisite for heroism. No one said it was. In hollywood movies it is. ;)

Why is a hero?-Whitney Houston. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364739)

Maybe because we've sunk so low as a society (for various reasons. some obvious, most not). We need heros to admire and aspire. Unfortunately a lot of "heros" get left on the cutting-room floor.

Re:Why is a hero? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364751)

Not wrong at all, but how well do you think the web would work if every time you used a URL you put even a nano-penny in Tim's pocket?

If sir Tim is a hero, it's because he (accidentally or otherwise) designed a system that was much better , and more universal than it needed to be. It takes a fair bit of courage, and luck to do that.

Re:Why is a hero? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364817)

nobody has ever really explained WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm. Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil?

Just because people respect those that give freely to others, it doesn't mean that they think that any profit is evil. Just because !a -> b, it doesn't follow that a -> !b. Your logic is broken... usually this exact type of logical brokenness is used to discredit "dirty GNU hippies" when FUDding, so please don't promote it.

Re:Why is a hero? (1)

Jhan (542783) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364876)

... [I never understood] WHY heroism is a necessary consequence of altriusm.

It isn't. There are plenty of ways to be altruistic without being a hero, and several ways of being heroic without being altruistic. On the whole there's a confluence, though.

Why is someone who makes a profit necessarily evil?

No, he isn't, and no-one believes so. He's just normal

If, however, you have just come up with a billion-dollar idea (like "The Web"), and decided to give it to humanity rather than extract personal gain from it. This is tantamount to donating $1.000.000.000 to the world.

In my mind, any many others this makes you a good man.

See, the difference? It's not about Good Vs Evil, it's about Normal Vs Good.

Please re-read the submission - (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365035)

The AC submitter chose to smuggle the little "altruism=good" gem into the article, and michael let him get away with it. Clearly not many people noticed, but undeniably the seed was planted, if you are equating "donating $1.000.000.000 to the world" with "a good man".

See, the difference?

Re:Why is a hero? (1)

C. Mattix (32747) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364961)

If Altriusm is a measure of heroism then everyone here should worshipping Bill and Melinda Gates.

They are consistently the top philanthropists [shwing.com] in the US. In 1999-2003 they pledged or gave away $23 Billion, or 54% of their wealth.

But since he is Gatus of Borg, everyone on here will call me a MS Apologist and say that he is evil.

Statistical text analysis killed semweb (5, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364628)

As has been stated many times, content producers will spoof semantic data just like they used to with the META tag...which is why no one uses the META tag anymore. Relevance algorithms take into account link analysis and statistical text analysis to provide a much more truthful representation of what data is there. Sorry Tim.

Re:Statistical text analysis killed semweb (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364868)

And who's to say that the Semantic Web metadata will not be populated with statistical text analysis and hyper-text analysis?

Ontology (5, Interesting)

dodongo (412749) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364677)

I want to offer an alternative, as proposed by Victor Raskin [purdue.edu] at Purdue [purdue.edu] . I speak for neither Sergei Nirenburg nor Victor (who does enough talking for himself).

While this idea for more thorough, concise, and accurate searches is a good one, I would question whether embedding semantic tags into web pages is the way to go.

As outlined in Ontological Smenatics [nmsu.edu] , there is an automated system of semantic processing already underway. Basically, it takes a text, then runs it through a parser, which looks up meanings in a lexicon, then reduces whatever translation it comes up with to a text-meaning representation (TMR), by pushing the concepts from the lexicon through an ontology / onomasticon / world-knowledge library. The TMR is basically the "pulp" of the semantics of the article, web page, book, or whatever it's been fed. It just contains the ideas, the things involved, and other relevant concepts, stripped of all other linguistic information.

TMR is great, becuase the TMR can be used then, by reversing the process and using the lexicon of another language, to translate a text from one language to another.

However, it seems to me that with the bits and pieces of the TMR stored in a search engine's index, this could be a huge boon for the search engine.

Instead of just trying to match keywords, by parsing the TMR of web pages and by parsing TMR of search strings, you no longer search for keywords, but keyconcepts.

The advantage to semantic searches / indexes by this implementation is manifold:

-Searches (and the web as a whole) will gain the richness Mr. Berners-Lee is advocating.

-Web authors will not be able to lie in their semantic tags, or otherwise misinform spiders what the page is about (remember tags?)

-No extra work is required in the actual construct of the web or *ML standards. The TMR is only generated and stored by the sites / processes that need it.

-Others?

Just an alternative solution, for fun :)

Re:Ontology (1)

dodongo (412749) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364700)

It's supposed to say "Remember META tags" but I wrote it as HTML and the comment parser screwed me :)

d'oh!

Re:Ontology (1)

mr_majestyk (671595) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364907)

Basically, it takes a text, then runs it through a parser, which looks up meanings in a lexicon, then reduces whatever translation it comes up with to a text-meaning representation (TMR), by pushing the concepts from the lexicon through an ontology / onomasticon / world-knowledge library.

OK. How does it do with this sentence: "Time flies like an arrow?"

Re:Ontology (2, Funny)

Feynman (170746) | more than 9 years ago | (#10365079)

OK. How does it do with this sentence: "Time flies like an arrow?"

It returns: "Fruit flies like a banana."

Think of it as The Web: 1.O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364678)

I remember reading about this obscure thing called the interback in 199O. I was a kid back then, and I equated A0L to the interback. Berners-Lee was mentioned in that article, and I thought, "so what? Who needs such a system?" It wasn't until much later, around 1995, that I connected to the Internet in earnest. Even then, World Wide Web browsers at the time were mostly centered around NCSA mosaic. Netscape has just started being disseminated, and Microsoft didn't even have the Internet on its radar.

Re:Think of it as The Web: 1.O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364842)

Interesting anecdote... with ZERO point. Are you trying to say that even back in 1990, you believed that Berner's Lee was a nutcase, with no ability to make his plan happen? That's what it sounds like you're implying, but who am I to judge. I just work at the most prestigiuos university in the world, MIT. Go back to grade school, kiddy.

Not doing it right (4, Insightful)

vigyanik (781631) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364694)

The fact that Tim has been trying for 15 years to sell this idea with little success indicates that he approach is insufficient. He is pitching the idea just like a startup would, giving cool examples and everything. But in practice, all he is doing is proposing and overseeing standards. Developing standards for an idea is not what is required to prove that an idea works. Standards should follow successful technology, not vice versa. You need to have companies that make products professionally and offer complete solutions (i.e. make it work real-life situations). Doing it for a very simple example that he quotes ("find pictures taken on sunny days") itself is a big, big deal. Perhaps Tim should get involved with companies in this field as an advisor/consultant. You know, there are enough smart people out there who could develop the standards. But very few people with his name and recognition to truly ignite commercial interest in his ideas.

Re:Not doing it right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364819)

See the comment directly above yours ("The Web: 1.O"). Basically true, and right on the money in regards to Tim. I knew him personally from grad school days... He's one of those guys with lots of ideas, but no real insight into how to make them happen. So he spends a lot of time expanding on the ideas, but not getting anything accomplished. It's always amazed me how he managed to get this much press.

Google can leverage its search (4, Informative)

PineHall (206441) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364705)

Here [ftrain.com] is an account that predicts that Google will leverage its search results to create a Semantic Web. I see this as a distinct possibility. Especially Google leveraging its search results to help people buy and sell stuff.

Let's hope it fails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364740)

Let's hope this fails.

History tells us that anything that has a
"single Web of meaning, about everything and for everyone" is really bad, no matter how tempting it is.

Freedom of different meanings is so much more sexy.

Will the "spash screen"... (2, Funny)

jbarr (2233) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364758)

...have the words "Don't Panic" prominently displayed?

Tim didn't "invent" anything new with the web. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364785)

It's just unrooted gopherspace, with a near-total lack of control over the download process (in most gopher clients, you had to choose to get an image - making banner ads impossible, and low-speed connections more useable).

Yawn yawn.

Incidentally, if you weren't on the net before NCSA mosaic, or have never used GOPHER, you don't need to bother replying to this post. Trust me, "surfing" gopherspace was trivially different from "surfing" the web, until the web went commercial.

This is like how Darwin constantly gets credited with "inventing" the theory of evolution (when actually Matthews published it in 1831, 30 years previously, as acknowleged by Darwin himself) or the way Uda's name always gets left off his invention (Uda was the principal inventor of the Yagi-Uda antenna).

Give Tim credit for helping develop the first web browser, he deserves that recognition. But calling him the "inventor" of the web is like calling Sir Isaac Newton the "inventor" of gravity!

Tagging vs. Understanding Conext (2, Interesting)

saddino (183491) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364807)

The common thread to the Semantic Web is that there's lots of information out there--financial information, weather information, corporate information--on databases, spreadsheets, and websites that you can read but you can't manipulate. The key thing is that this data exists, but the computers don't know what it is and how it interrelates. You can't write programs to use it.

IMHO, the problem with the Semantic Web is the same problem that evolved the Web from a linked knowledge store to a commercial-driven directory.

Yes, it would be nice if all data were tagged and understandable, but let's be honest: the commercialization (and its result: exploitation by marketers) of the web would certainly spill into the Semantic Web, and so Berners-Lee's vision would be once again ruined by 1) incorrect/misleading tagging, 2) competing standards and 3) out and out fraud.

I assume what Berners-Lee really wants is for a machine to truly understand that, using his example: something is a calendar, and that you are interetsed in it, and that you should add the event to your schedule and then book a flight for it.

But the chances are -- one day -- machines will be able to understand how data is typed by understanding the context around it (just as a human would go through the aforementioned process manually).

Obviously, this type of reading "comprehension" is a long ways off, but the "search engine wars" are resulting in a lot of mind power thrown at the problem of understand context. And I'm guessing it'll be a reality before anything as pure as the vision for the Semantic Web is realized.

(and to throw in a plug for my own copmaniy's attempt at understanding web context: theConcept [mesadynamics.com] ).

Bush Invented the internet! (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364831)

It said so in the brief history...
1945
In the Atlantic Monthly, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development Vannevar Bush describes the Memex, a hypothetical device for linking microfiche documents.
It's just like Al Gore to try to take credit for the rightful president's inventions. Thank God Bush swept Florida.

XML (1)

ptlis (772434) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364847)

Am I missing something here but isn't what he's envisioning basically the same as the internet now but using XML to markup documents in a way so that programs can do clever tricks with it? And yes, it does sound like an awesome concept, let's hope it works in practice and he can get the momentum behind it to make it work.

Second System Effect (4, Insightful)

xleeko (551231) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364851)

I've been hearing noise about the semantic web, RDF, and what not for years now, and every time I do, the first thing that pops into my head is "Second System Effect".

He got lucky once, because he put together some tools that were simple and straightforward enough for people to pick it up quickly, thereby avoiding the fate of the dozens of other hypertext systems going back to the late 1980's.

Now, like all second systems, he wants to "do it right", over-engineering away all of the things that made the first one take off ...

Just my opinionated rant ...

Re:Second System Effect (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10364949)

I've been hearing noise about the semantic web, RDF, and what not for years now, and every time I do, the first thing that pops into my head is "Second System Effect".

He got lucky once, because he put together some tools that were simple and straightforward enough for people to pick it up quickly, thereby avoiding the fate of the dozens of other hypertext systems going back to the late 1980's.

Now, like all second systems, he wants to "do it right", over-engineering away all of the things that made the first one take off ...


No, you are correct. Tim is a physicist who has no background in CS and it shows. The entire AI community thinks the Semantic Web is a joke which is why nobody with any real credibility in the field is studying it. Other semantic approaches are being researched, but they aren't anything like the Semantic Web because you can't trust/expect content authors to tag their pages correctly. Also, there is no one single correct ontology, what is needed is a generic framework for reasoning about and merging information from different ontologies/viewpoints.

Semantic Web Tags for Clearplastic.com (1)

mrs clear plastic (229108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364938)

So, after reading the main article for this story as well as the one for a previous slashdot story on this subject, I guess that I can add the following meta tags for some of the items in my website, www.clearplastic.com. I don't yet know the syntax for these memantic meta tags; I am but taking a guess:

semantic "Clear Plastic" = "waterproof, transparent, see-through, air-tight, shows-beauty,
protective">

. . . . .

And so forth. Can this lead to 'semantic spamming?' I have only just begun for one of my
two sites. I can see where this can get way out of control. Someone goes to clearplastic.com who lives in a rainy climate area. One of the semantics could say that a clear plastic raincoat is a required item. If someone's computer is set up so that it automaticaly purchases something that is required; I consider this scamming.

Being Done Already (1)

cynic10508 (785816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10364974)

The "Semantic Web" is already being done [mit.edu] in a quite sophisticated manner by computational linguists. The major stumbling block: money. It takes a lot of time (and hence, money) to build these systems and no one seems to appreciate the possible impact.

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