Monrai Blog

News about Cypher, Semantic Web, Natural Language Processing, and Computational Linguistics

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Semantic Web Value Proposition

Dan Grigorovici has been blogging a lot lately about nailing down the Web 3.0 value proposition. I think that we as Semantic Web evangelists must also be good salesmen, and therefore need a good pitch. I think two of the big value propositions for Web 3.0 are: Automate Tedious Tasks and Seridipity/Knowledge.

The automation value prop came to mind as I experienced this real-world use case recently:

My nephew needed a video of Julius Cesear for his class, so I thought cool, let rent it. We then did the following:
  1. Collected the numbers of video stores in the city (via hard copy of yellowpages)
  2. Called each video stores to check availibility
  3. Hold the line as the clerk manually searched on their inventory
  4. Mapquest each store and determine the closest
My grandma's personal database automates this tedious process. It allows you to summon stores near me that have movies about Julius Cesear and get a result set of all stores, and the "proof" of why that store is in the results, i.e. the properties involved in the query and their values, including location, the movie, movie's description, and any other property that caused it to appear in the results.

The serendipity value prop is also important articulate. I hear the terms data, information, and knowledge listed a lot, accompanied by someone's definition, so I will offer mine to help frame this point:
  • Data = a set of things (e.g. a list of shoes, a table of dates)
  • Information = statements about data (e.g. the price of this shoe is $60, your appointment is on this date)
  • Knowledge = statements about information (e.g. your appointment happens to be on the 3rd anniversary of the day you purchased this shoe)
Thus, the ability to have knowledge represented in the Semantic Web leads to the idea of serendipity, which (if I may borrow a term from information retrieval) helps us to increase the recall in our lives, the missed opportunities and overlooked connections that can improve the quality of life and cause of to be much more productive. Serendipity is a concept that a hear tossed around, and so I will offer a concrete example of what this means. I was running some test input through Cypher, and summoned the authors who starred in films. I was surprised to see Adolf Hitler at the top of the list (the list was alphebetized). I naturally assumed this had to be a bug in the software, so I looked at the full results page, which included the proof. And there, I found that Adolf Hitler indeed was in several German propaganda films. That notion of learning that something I once thought was unlikely was actually quite likely, that's serendipity.

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