Sunday, October 15, 2006

Paper Review: Creating a Science of the Web

Science Magazine, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 769 - 771
Creating a Science of the Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wendy Hall, James Hendler, Nigel Shadbolt, Daniel J. Weitzner

Understanding and fostering the growth of the World Wide Web, both in engineering and societal terms, will require the development of a new interdisciplinary field.
This is a remarkable observation. Web research is starting to be beyond the traditional scope of Computer Science, which, by Berners-Lee and his colleagues, "is concerned with the construction of new languages and algorithms in order to produce novel desired computer behaviors." Behaviors on the Web are not only about computer behaviors, but also about human behaviors. On the Web, we are not using computers to simulate human behaviors. Instead, we are expecting computer behaving to cooperate with humans. This is a portion of Web Science that is beyond Computer Science.

Comparing to physics and biology, Web Science is to analyze Web behaviors and try to "find microscopic laws that, extrapolated to the macroscopic realm, would generate the behavior observed." This perspective is again different from traditional Computer Science. There are no natural laws in Computer Science research. We may adopt (or adapt) natural rules for Computer Science research to follow or simulate in contrast to discover natural laws in Computer Science research. There is, however, a semi-natural existence in Web Science research, which is the World Wide Web itself. Although the Web is an artificial creature, it has grown to be a nearly natural existence because no single human (or even entire human beings) may shut it down. Therefore, Web Science is indeed unique and it is a hybrid branch of nature science and social science.

Reference resources:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kelly's Theory of Personality

George Kelly's theory of personality could be an alternate view for constructing the Semantic Web.

Out of these insights, Kelly developed his theory and philosophy. The theory we'll get to in a while. The philosophy he called constructive alternativism. Constructive alternativism is the idea that, while there is only one true reality, reality is always experienced from one or another perspective, or alternative construction. I have a construction, you have one, a person on the other side of the planet has one, someone living long ago had one, a primitive person has one, a modern scientist has one, every child has one, even someone who is seriously mentally ill has one.
This is exactly what Semantic Web should be. We may view the semantics in Semantic Web from two varied aspects: the community view aspect and the individual view aspect. For any specific domain, the community view is the description of the domain agreed by all people in the community. By contrast, an individual view is a special description of the domain by a person in the community. Essentially, when people publish knowledge, they yield to the community view to anticipate broader public recognition. When people search some particular information, however, they yield to their own individual views to anticipate higher precision of search results.

The relation between community view and individual view is not the same as the relation between a superclass concept and a subclass concept. Ideally, the community view is the collective set of all the individual views in the community. However, a collective set does not equal to a simple collection of all small pieces of components. In every individual view, people have their special interests that may not be interested by the other people in the same community. Therefore, the community view is rather a compromised agreement than a representative view of everybody in the community.

On the other hand, an individual view is always related to certain community view. But any individual view at the same time may have its own specifications that are not belong to, or even contradict to, the adopted community view.

With this model, we may not construct a community view. Community view is not directly constructable by anybody or any group. We may only approach a community view by gathering enough individual views. Thus, there must be individual views before the community view. This is actually a basic assumption of Web 2.0. Now we must extend it to Semantic Web.

Reference resources:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Role of URI for Machine Understanding (Brainstorming with Tim Berners-Lee, issue 1)

(revised August 1st, 2008)

Well, where should I start? Beginning with a brainstorming by Tim's blog might be a good idea. Without his invention of World Wide Web, this blog communication could not have happened.

In his blog, Tim first mentioned his opinions about URI. Based on my understanding, a fundamental issue about machine-understanding is associating every Web data to an URI. Two identical URIs would simply mean two identical real-world objects. This philosophy is the cornerstone of the current machine-understanding.

Human-understanding begins also from a similar fundamental agreement. When a foreigner tries to communicate to a native, they talk by using fingers pointing to the same items. By speaking in different terms, gradually they understand each other. These fingers to humans are the URIs to machines.

Unless explicitly specified otherwhere, varied URIs by default mean differently (like two fingers pointing to different places). This rule is probably the most fundamental one in "machine-understanding." Otherwise the generic Web object identification problem could be very complicated.

Everyone deserves a URI! This is a brilliant point. One valuable but full of challenge request in the current Web development is human identification. When we type in a friend's name into current search engines, such as Google, we often get many search results of people who have the same name. If every Web user has a unique URI, which becomes his unique Web ID, it would be much easier for search engines to filter the results.

A question is, however, where a personal ID URI should point. The URI might point to a homepage, or a picture, or a short personal description, or a string of numbers such as social security number, or there are many other options. Any of these options could work; but every one of them has its limitation. For example, a string of numbers is easy to store and convenient for machine processing; but at the same time they are easy to be stolen and forged. On the other hand, a biography is semantically rich, harder to be forged, and easier to check its integrity. But it is much more time consuming to author biographies for every person and who is authorized to charge these biographies.

Tim suggested the use of FOAF RDF documents to be unique person indentifications. FOAF defines well-designed and easy-to-process attributes about individual persons. A problem is, however, that its RDF content is customized for sharing friends rather than identifying individuals. Is it really suitable for individual identification? This is an interesting problem that is worth of exploring in the future.

Referenced resources:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This is my first blog post!

Finally, today is October 1st, 2006, I have my first blog post. I hope this is a place my friends and I are going to discuss some fun research topics. It is always interesting exploring new ideas, chatting with new friends, and brainstorming exciting stuffs. Let's start our dreams, and let's have fun!