WWW2006 in Edinburgh: Identity, Reference, and Meaning

Submitted by connolly on Fri, 2006-06-02 14:40. :: | | | | |

I went to Edinburgh last week for WWW2006.

I spent Tuesday in the workshop on Identity, Reference, and the Web (IRW2006). I didn't really finish my presentation slides in time, but I think my paper, A Pragmatic Theory of Reference for the Web is mostly coherent. Each section of the workshop got an entry in a semantic wiki; mine is the one that started at 12:00.

The IRE formalism presented by Valentina and Aldo was though-provoking. I think their proxy-for is like foaf:topic (modulo the way they mix in time). And exact-proxy-for is like foaf:primaryTopic. Very handy. I wonder if foaf:primaryTopic should be promoted to its own thing, separate from all the social networking stuff in foaf.

Ginsberg's talk hit on one of the most important questions: "Do I commit to a document just because I use one of its terms?" His answer was basically to reify everything; I think we can do better than that. Peter Patel-Schneider's talk basically gave a 'no' answer to the question. I don't think we should go that far either, though from a standardization point of view, that's sorta where we're at.

Steve Pepper's talked about published subjects and public resource identifiers; I can sympathize with his point that we have too many URL/URI/URN/IRI/XRI/etc. terms, but when he suggests that the answer is to make a new one, I'm not sure I agree. He argues to deprecate all the others, but as URI Activity lead at W3C, I'm not in a position where I can overrule people and deprecate things that they say they want. I agree with him that the 303 redirection is too much trouble, but he doesn't seem to be willing to use the HashURI pattern either, and as I said in the advice section of my paper, that's asking for trouble.

On Thursday, I was on a panel about tagging versus the Semantic Web: Meaning on the Web: Evolution or Intelligent Design?. Frank started by debunking 4 myths about the Semantic Web. I gotta find Frank's slides. "I'll hold up one finger whever anybody says myth #1, and so on." As the the other Frank was talking about tagging, Frank held up 2 and 3 fingers, and the audience pointed out that he should have held up 1 finger.

I talked without slides. I think I got away with it. I said that I don't expect symbolic reasoning to beat statistical methods when it comes to the wisdom of crowds, but who wants to delegate their bank balance or the targets of their mail messages to the wisdom of crowds? Sometimes we mean exactly what we say, not just something close.

I suggested that GRDDL+microformats is a practical way to get lots of Semantic Web data. And I brought up the problem with iCalendar timezones and noted that while timezones data should be published by the government entities that govern them, Semantic Web data from wikipedia might be a more straightforward mechanism and might be just as democratic.

So much for philosophical discussions; stay tuned for another item about SPARQL and databases and running code.