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Friday, June 18, 2004

On « Whither the Semantic Web » 

People who are working in R&D are usually seen as being innovative by definition, as really being “thinking outside the box”. My feeling is that it’s not often the case. Innovation comes from redefining a conceptual framework, not from pushing an existing one further. Such a redefinition usually results from simple questions such as: why, for whom, when, how. I have seen a number of large-scale R&D projects where people forgot what was the purpose of their work, what was giving them some value. The outcomes of those projects were most of the time debatable.

Stephen’s discussion of current “semantic web” work reflects that problem well. Semantic web tools are useless until they are used. I do not pretend to know much about semantic web but I suggest researchers to honestly try to answer the 4 fundamental questions mentioned above. If answers are inexistent, complex or unclear, then the purpose of the semantic web has been lost. There is no way for semantic web efforts to be useful without a clear purpose. Let’s just make sure that they fulfill a “real” need for the society. Very basic I know, but necessary.

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