Landing : Athabascau University

The Semantic Web? .......Argh!

The focus this week of LAK11 this week was largely the semantic web.  I listened to Dragon Gasevic's talk with interest and then I tried to follow George, Dave and Jon's conversation as they discussed it on Friday.

And then I tried really hard to get through some of the course readings and videos on the idea.

One of the examples was Fido.  Using the semantic web, you would code "Fido" as a dog and then a dog as a type of animal, which would eventually help computers sort out the difference between references to "Fido the dog" from "Fido the phone" (if they are even still out there).

So here are the things I just don't get: 

1. Who puts all of that information in there? 

Me? If I write the sentence "Fido barked." I know I'm talking about a dog (and hopefully so will anyone reading it.)  Will I really take the time to add the info to code for the semantic web?  I'm time challenged already, and if I'm mostly writing for myself and people who know me, why would I spend my time to tag it?

My computer?  If my computer can guess for me, then it is often going to get it wrong and what's the point?

2.  What if I want to write something with multiple meanings?  If I'm complaining about my cell phone that would stop ringing and, "I wish Fido would just quit barking."  Again I know I'm comparing my phone to a dog (hopefully the people I'm writing for will to), but my computer? not so sure it'll "get" the reference without a lot of effort and work.  And again, why bother?

Whenever we start talking about "teaching computers," I start to get confused.  I love the way computers enable us to connect with one another, they are excellent tools.  In terms of analytics, Computers do some things very well: gather data, remember stuff, calculate and crunch data - Syntax-related stuff. 

People tend to do other things well:  thinking, analyzing, sorting and determining - sematics-related stuff. 

I may simply be out in left field, but it seems to me that people spending a whole lot of time and effort developing a syntax that enables people to code semantics in a simple enough way for a computer to understand really has both the people and the machines playing to their weaknesses - in my experience not usually a recipe for a successful outcome.



  • Caroline Park January 30, 2011 - 8:59am

    I have met Dragan and am actually a colleague of his in TEKRI but I also find the semantic web a mystery. So I went to the bible of all Knowledge , Wikipedia and found this definition:

    Semantics (from Greek sēmantiká, neuter plural of sēmantikós)[1][2] is the study of meaning. It typically focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata.

    Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used by humans to express themselves through language. Other forms of semantics include the semantics of programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics.

    I believe that I understand somewhat what they are trying to do but how????

    I also think it is a much bigger thing in Europe than in Canada. Maybe Dragan or someone with know how will respond.

  • Adam Snider February 1, 2011 - 9:52am

    The semantic web seems to be one of those ideas that keeps getting mentioned as "the next big thing" and "just around the corner." So far, it has yet to develop in a meaningful way (as far as I've been able to tell). I understand the concept behind and what the ultimate goal is, but it doesn't seem to me like the implementation is practical at this point.

    I do know that there is work being done in artificial intelligence that may be able to eventually help create a semantic web, but my understanding is that it's no where near the stage of being a workable solution.

    I like the idea, but I'll believe it when I see it.

    That said, it's a fascinating area of research even to someone like me who is little more than a layman in the field.