Thursday, 3 September 2015

Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist: Chapter 16

In this, the last chapter of Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist, the authors riff briefly on the history and context of data modeling for the web: how the processes and practices build on the "heritage of of knowledge modeling languages", but do so in an environment that "is so revolutionary that it is often compared in cultural significance to the invention of the printing press".
"The Semantic Web is the application of advanced technologies that have been used in the context of artificial intelligence, expert systems and business rules execution in the context of a World Wide Web of information. The Semantic Web… isn't on the web; it is the Web"
Where it's different from anything that precedes it is the way it brings "information from many sources … to one's fingertips". But then a library does that. Or, arguably, an encyclopaedia. What really differentiates the Web is that it brings the information a) sorted and b) on demand.

The reason that OWL seems – and is – pretty "primitive" compared "to the knowledge representation systems that were developed in the context of expert systems" is not entirely because it's at a much earlier stage of development, but because of what people want from the web: "typically people don't want machines to behave like experts, they want to have access to information so they can exhibit expert performance at just the right time." Hmmm… True for search engines: don't know about you, but I definitely want a satnav, for instance, to behave like an expert…

Where the Semantic Web goes "one step further" than the Web, is that while the "Web is effective at bringing any single resource" to our attention, "if the information the user needs is not represented in a single place, the job of integration rests with the user." However, the Semantic Web "uses expert system technology to gather information so an individual can have integrated access to the web of information." The Semantic Web, in other words, makes the connections for the user. Unlike a satnav app, it doesn't tell the user what to do with them.

So, the fact that OWL is comparatively primitive "is appropriate for a Web language", because "a primitive knowledge modeling language can yield impressive results when it uses information sources from around the world." Its power is in how it accesses and assimilates the huge amounts of content available across the web – and in how it enables newly available content to be added to the mix as and when it's added to the Web. Data models "on the Semantic Web play the role of the intermediaries that describe the relationships among information from various sources". And the web ontology language tools covered in this book "provide the framework for the pieces an engineer can use to build a model with dynamic behaviour … and … provide mechanisms for specifying how information flows through the model" and how different bits of information relate to each other.

Or as one, much more technically adept friend put it: it's conceptually difficult because you're modeling information about information. And that, in itself, is tough to get your head round.

So what have I learned from this book?

It's difficult to say at this stage, because, aside from using it for the design of my new MOO Cards

This makes more sense when you know the job title on the reverse is "Person"
 … I've yet to put anything I've read into practice.

  1. over the next few weeks, I'm going to try and model the relationships between as many as possible of the people who appear in the zoeography
  2. there's a helpful "Frequently asked questions" section at the end of the book that directs readers to specific pages with instructions on specific issues
I'll report back later. Not sure exactly when: next week I'm planning to write about Blast Theory's Karen. And after that, I'm hoping to have more progress to report on the technical and design development of the zoeography.

In the meantime, if you've been reading this – thank you very much for doing so.
If this is your first visit, my journey through Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist started here.

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