Archives: August 2007

SemanticReport to Pioneer Rich Web Publishing

In an initiative to help drive such services, SemanticReport has launched a development effort to leverage traditional content publication using semantic technology. The result of this effort is an ongoing experiment in the business application of semantic technologies in which the community is invited to participate.

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An Evolution With Teeth

Jennifer Zaino Contributor

Radar Networks, the stealth-mode semantic web start-up, is working on what CEO and founder Nova Spivack calls a consumer-facing service that will help people manage and share their knowledge on the web in some new ways.

Aimed at making the strength of the semantic web really useful to regular mortals, as Spivack puts it, the company will be talking more about its technology, which will include capabilities such as semantic search, this fall, and rolling it out in stages.

The semantic web is rolling out in stages, as well.

“I think that the semantic web is an evolution more than a revolution,” says Spivack, who co-founded EarthWeb in the ’90s. It is, he thinks, an upgrade of the capabilities of the existing web rather than a replacement. “At first it won’t be as radical a change as some people have hyped it. It will be an iterative, incremental, gradual improvement of all the information tools we use, and that will over time reach a tipping point. But that’s more than ten years away.”

But some people’s evolution might be others’ revolution, he acknowledges.

“Maybe making things 20% more productive is kind of revolutionary, but to me revolutionary is someone discovers how to do teleporting,” he says. “I don’t think it’s like that.”

Providing Structure to Data

That’s not to say Spivack doesn’t have enormous belief in its significance. The semantic data web is based on open standards run by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) that include RDF (the Resource Description Framework for providing metadata about Internet resources), the SPARQL query language, and the web ontology language OWL, a semantic markup language for publishing and sharing ontologies on the World Wide Web.

Beyond plain old semantics, the semantic data web lets you provide structure to data, turn unstructured data into structured data, and turn structured data into more interoperable structured data. And that is the foundation for turning the web into something more like a database understandable by any machine that understands RDF and OWL and is compliant with those standards.

“The one thing I think will happen is you will start to see structured data made accessible through APIs. It is today, but you must know the schema in advance,” he says. Not so with the semantic web. SPARQL lets you send a query in RDF format into any service that has a SPARQL API access point on it, and get an answer back in RDF. Imagine people taking a database – even if that doesn’t exist in RDF, you can put a SPARQL access point to it – and create a query that makes it easier to mix and reuse data, he says, making database mash-ups easier to accomplish.

Next Page: Who Will Miss the Boat? …

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What the Semantic Web Means For Your Business

Jennifer Zaino Contributor

What implications does the semantic web have for enterprises?

Kingsley Idehen, founder and CEO of OpenLink Software, has some interesting thoughts on this question. His company makes Virtuoso, technology that allows enterprises or individuals to take their existing data — whether in XML, SWL, Web Services, HTML or other formats — and convert it on-the-fly to structured data. With the software in place, organizations can expose the data from all these sources as structured data using RDF (the Resource Description Framework), the general framework for describing a site’s metadata. Virtuoso is also a database that supports SPARQL, the query language of the semantic data web, for getting access to billions of interlocked items of data.

Jupitermedia recently talked with Idehen about how the semantic web changes everything.

Q: Why should enterprises care about the semantic web?


Bill Gates touted the idea many years ago of having information at your fingertips, being a mouse click away from relevant information. But in reality you were kind of able to get to relevant information if you were ready to be locked into a report writing or business intelligence tool. Often that would lock you into an operating system or a database, which meant there was never really any chance in hell of being able to truly do this – that, say, if I receive an email, or have a conversation, that I could find all relevant information about that customer or a competitor just one click away. Then the web came and you were kind of one click away from a document that was to some degree related [to the information you were looking for].

But for corporate information being at your fingertips, that has been mercurial or mirage-like in nature at best. What the semantic data web allows is to genuinely create a so-called 360-degree view of the enterprise so all relevant data in the enterprise is one click away. You will have a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) that identifies every customer, a URI that identifies every product in your product portfolio, a URI for every employee, a URI for every piece of doc they produce. All that means is that the systems in the enterprise — whether CRM, accounting, marketing, distributed collaborative applications, blog systems — all the data produced during these activities will have URIs so that individual pieces of data begin the drill-down process between that item of data and all related data.

A Typical scenario — a new employee gets email from an established customer who they are unaware of, maybe AT&T. It would it be nice if they simply clicked on AT&T and could learn that this was an important customer, the last transaction was this amount, and so on. That is an example of AT&T as the customer of the company having one URI, and because they are exploiting semantic web technologies all the data about AT&T is already in linked form. So that by clicking on the URI of AT&T you can see how many support cases there were, what the last kind of communications with AT&T were about, what are its latest financials.

Q: But isn’t that what you can expect from, say, a CRM system?

[What's different is] that it should be a combination of your internal data sources and external data sources. There is the conception superficially that you’d think you should do that with a CRM system. But here’s the point – you shouldn’t have to do it inside the CRM system. You should be able to do it anywhere. It is to take this issue of data access outside the confines of any application… Because if the CRM vendor doesn’t integrate all the data you need integrated, the integration can’t take place. The Idea [of the semantic web] is to empower everyone to mesh data as required by specific needs.

Just as you have the real-time enterprise, you are going to have the real-time individual. The common characteristic is this ability to discover and integrate relevant data in relevant domains.

Next Page: Building Enterprise 0.0…

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The Semantic Web: Are You Scared Yet?

Jennifer Zaino Contributor

The idea of the semantic Web is an exciting one. Imagine the possibilities when the World Wide Web is truly open-open to integrating and combining data no matter where it comes from.

And now, imagine the security risks. If the semantic Web is ultimately all about the dynamic interoperability of data across applications, how can you be assured that data security is maintained? How can you be assured data sources will be reliable and the facts they send back can be trusted? How can you be sure that new security risks won’t be a boon to criminals and hackers?

The answer, says Anton Chuvakin the chief logging evangelist at log data management and intelligence vendor LogLogic, is that you can’t.

“You can’t and you won’t be assured,” says Chuvakin, an expert in computer forensics, intrusion detection, security information management, and security standards, among other specialties, in an email exchange. He regularly blogs on security issues and is the co-author of Security Warrior.

“That is why security in the ‘age of Web 3.0′ will be loads of fun. It will also be very different from today’s security. To make the challenge even more … well, challenging … privacy concerns (e.g. can you use this data in such a way?) will be much more prominent and will overlap the security concerns (e.g. who stole the data?).”

In other words, security issues will revolve around things like:

  • What is this data, and is it confidential?
  • How is it used? Is there an authorization?
  • Who has this data now? Is that person supposed to have it?
  • How can this data be used? Is there a privacy violation in using this data?
  • Where/how was the data used for whatever e-crime may be committed?
  • “To top it off, many of the Internet protocols do not allow for any kind of a source validation,” he says. “IPv6 might, but Web 3.0 will likely happen before IPv6 becomes popular.”

    Semantic Web discussion is impossible without a discussion of ‘semantic attacks,’ as they are defined by Bruce Schneier in his Oct 2000 CryptoGram newsletter , says Chuvakin. The definition is as follows: “The third wave of network attacks is semantic attacks:
    attacks that target the way we, as humans, assign meaning to content.” He further states that, “In the near future, I predict that semantic attacks will be more serious than physical or even syntactic attacks.”

    Scared yet? Seems Chuvakin thinks you should be.

    “Indeed,” he writes in his email, “this horrible time is coming soon: Why DDoS, why overflow, why XSS if you can simply change one part number with another in an airline parts database to a wrong but compatible one,” with the result that the wrong part is installed (since installers just look at what computer is saying), and then possibly have an airplane failure.

    “Semantic attacks exploit a ‘business logic’ weakness, just as a buffer overflow exploit abuses an incorrectly coded buffer in a software application.”

    About Us

    The mission of Semantic Universe is to raise awareness and explain the usage of semantic technologies in business and consumer settings. Projects by Semantic Universe include the annual Semantic Technology Conference and the Semantic Universe Network.

    Semantic Universe Network is a joint venture of Wilshire Conferences and Semantic Arts and Cerebra

    BSM and the Semantic Web: Parallel Courses

    Jennifer Zaino Contributor

    Business service management (BSM) and the semantic Web-they may just be two industry trends on parallel paths.

    The semantic Web, as defined by the collaborative effort that leads it, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.

    BSM is all about dynamically linking business-focused IT services to the IT infrastructure. According to business service platform vendor ASG, BSM relies on developing a cohesive, integrated model for monitoring performance, operations, and applications management. ASG draws on its purpose-built metadata management solution as part of a CMDB (configuration management database) that centralizes the management of metadata from sources throughout the enterprise.

    At the heart BSM is being able to understand a lot of the complex relationships that together constitute a service and having a single point from which to analyze a service’s dependencies.

    So, in what way are these two roads tracking each other? ASG senior VP Scott McCurdy sees it this way. “We do believe that the CMDB is very important, that it really brings together the right context for decisions to be made. That’s where it bleeds-over in terms conceptually of what the semantic Web is doing. It’s basically trying to formalize a description of IT assets that relate to business services, terms and relationships, so there is enough context about something that decisions can be made in a more automated manner.”

    Without that descriptive context and structure, it’s impossible to find those IT assets, he says. “You can find generalized associations, but it’s difficult to do something in a more automated manner.”

    According to McCurdy, the role of a metadata repository is to turn the Web’s sea of data into something closer to valuable information-to take something that is just data and put the appropriate context around it so that it is valuable to an entity for making decisions.

    “Today, sets of information on the Web are created with just enough information to do the purpose for that single deliverable, for a page. If more thought goes into the description, context, terms and relationships around that in a more formalized manner, the data can become more useful because of the added context.” he says.

    Think of it this way, as the equivalent of the FDA requiring food labels that put nutritional information in a standardized context. “When standardized nutrition information became available, it was no longer necessary for people to follow a simply prescriptive diet. With this context, people could evaluate food based on fat, calories etc/ on their own,” McCurdy says, “negating the need to find and interpret this information from some outside means.”

    In the same way, BSM enabled by metadata repositories basically provides a way in which businesses can take all their information and synthesize it in such a way so that it is meaningful from the onset. This is the same with the semantic Web, because it is designed to create webs of meaning, not simply streams of data.

    “I can see not many years from now where the requirement for BSM vendors will be to understand the semantic Web and Web ontology languages that are important to identify where assets are that are important to enabling their business services,” he says.

    That will become particularly critical as services move to truly becoming more Web-based, and more companies take advantage of service providers to house those services offsite. In those situations, companies should have a good idea of how to find, share and integrate IT assets and business services whether they are virtual or real.

    “In the world of virtual business platforms and Web-based businesses, business service management will be a requirement to locate, secure and manage IT resources that are both virtual and real.”

    Managing the complete, real-time status of all IT elements of all business services comes down to managing a lot of information and having the appropriate context and metadata about that information, McCurdy says.

    “As far as the Web and Web-based businesses go, proper IT management (using new paradigms like BSM) will be key to the next steps towards virtual business on a truly global scale.”

    Technology Review – OwlSight

    Most of us are familiar with the Protege-OWL editor as a widely-used visualization tool for ontologies.  Recently, a new tool called OwlSight was released from the consulting firm of Clark & Parsia , a small cadre of engineers and researchers with ties to the Universities of Maryland and Manchester.

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    The Future of the Web Is

    The future of the Web is: identifiers, relationships and services. Ever since the Web changed the way people deal with data there has been competition to take the information age to the next step.

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    Blogging the Semantic Technology Conference

    I noticed a big difference in the coverage in the blogosphere of this year’s conference versus last year’s. That leads of course to the question: is it the conference or growth in bloggingI don’t have any stats, but my sense was that blogging was very much in full swing last year, and its rapid growth may be behind it.
    That said, I thought I’d sum up what I did see.

    Meaningful Data

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    Blogging the Semantic Technology Conference

    I noticed a big difference in the coverage in the blogosphere of this years conference versus last years.  That leads of course to the question: is it the conference or growth in blogging?  I don’t have any stats, but my sense was that blogging was very much in full swing last year, and it’s rapid growth may be behind it. 

    Read more

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