Slamming the Semantic Web

Whenever I read an article, blog post or a comment that disses the Semantic Web, RDF or RDF/XML, I wonder why so many people find it necessary to try to belittle another technology or approach. It is almost always clear — at least to me — that there are no facts or knowledge to back up the claims, but it seems there are always enough readers out there that come away with the impression of facts instead of opinions.

I don’t know much about Topic Maps, Django or FreeBSD, but you don’t see me trying to argue that they are inferior, somewhat misguied or simply plain wrong. Even if that may be the case, I wouldn’t know, and I refuse to argue for or against something I don’t know anything about.

Perhaps those people out there feel out-of-the-loop for not understanding, and then pick arguments against another view instead of arguing for their own view? Perhaps they are trying to push an inferior technology and feel a need to make alternatives look inferior as well?

I don’t know.

But I do know, that the next time I see an “argument” against the Semantic Web, I will check the new GetSemantic Argument Wiki, and I hope that you will too.

In the meantime, please take 8 minutes of your day to watch Tim Berners-Lee talk about his vision for the web. That’s real.

7 thoughts on “Slamming the Semantic Web

  1. I think it may be to do with the way people perceive the Semantic Web – as an ideological vision, rather than a set of technological solutions.

    The name may be partly to blame for this: Semantic = Meaning; but whose meaning?
    If it was called the Web of Data, perhaps that would evoke a less emotional reaction from people.

    Anyway, if you add any anti-semweb arguments you come across to the GetSemantic Wiki, that’d be great.

  2. Right, “Semantic” is certainly more loaded than, say, “XML”, but still: It shouldn’t make rational arguments unnecessary.

    Web of Data is fine, but arguably we allready have that (for some value of “Data”), it really is the meaning that makes a difference.

  3. i think its a way that our primal ‘battle’ instincts have evolved. eg, people who never watch any football matches, will be happy to jump into an argument about how XHTML is evil, and tag soup is the way forward.

    most of these battles are pretty one sided, as far as the participant distribution. eg you can find tons of people who say OSX is the best, but most of them have ever used dwm.. likewise im sure most of the Rails ranboys have ever tried Django..

    as for RDF/XML, i agree it sucks. as does the W3C’s general obsession with using XML for everything

  4. Agreed, RDF/XML is not made in [insert favourite place here] — I know, I’ve been XSLT’ing it for years. But it could have been worse, and per the above, there’s no such thing as perfect.

    I don’t know about W3C’s general obsessions, but I do know that XML and its derivatives have done wonders for interoperability and i18n, and continues to do so. And since I’m old enough to have worked with alternatives, I find XML quite pleasing.

  5. My theory is when you (and your audience) know nothing about a subject, belittling it is the easiest way to look and feel smart. Anything else requires actual understanding.

  6. Sure, it may give the appearance of smarts, but quite a few of the people exhibiting this pattern really are smart in general, and based on that, a number of people come away with the perception of reality.

  7. Right, most of the blame must lie at the door of those who want to show how clever they are by debunking this semantic web thingy that those silly academics and w3c commitees have been wasting time on all these years.

    But if so many people misunderstand the semantic web, and not all of them are idiots, then perhaps the explanations aren’t as clear as they could be.

    I find Tim Berners Lee’s vision greatly inspiring and exciting, and there are many areas where the ability to link and share data would make a huge difference to our lives; but I think it might be the idea of the semantic web as a ‘vision’ that people are reacting to – they view the semantic web as a manifesto rather than a medium, and an ideology rather than a technology. They don’t see exactly how it works, and in their excitement, they latch on to the first understanding that occurs to them, find fault with it, and blog another diatribe against the Semantic Web for the eager legions of Slashdot.

    Perhaps the word that causes the trouble isn’t Semantic, but The?

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