In thefirst part of this series we argued for the importance ofreference structures to provide the structures and vocabularies to guide interoperability on thesemantic Web. The argument was made that these reference structures are akin to human languages, requiring a sufficient richness and terminology to enable nuanced and meaningful communications of data across the Web and within the context of their applicable domains.
While the idea of such reference structures is great — and perhaps even intuitive when likened to human languages — the question is begged as to what is the basis for such structures? Just as in human languages we have dictionaries, thesauri, grammar and style books or encyclopedia, what are the analogous reference sources for the semantic Web?
In this piece, we tackle these questions from the perspective of theWeb. Similar challenges and approaches occur, of course, for virtually every domain and specific community. But, by focusing on the entirety of the Web, perhaps we can discern the grain of sand at the center of the pearl.
Bootstrapping the Semantic Web
The idea ofbootstrapping is common in computers, compilers or programming. Every computer action needs to start from a basic set of instructions from which further instructions or actions are derived. Even starting up a computer (“booting up”) reflects this bootstrapping basis. Bootstrapping is the answer to the classicchicken-or-egg dilemma by embedding a starting set of instructions that provides the premise at start up. The embedded operand for simple addition, for example, is the basis for building up more complete mathematical operations.
So, what is the grain of sand at the core of the semantic Web that enables it to bootstrap meaning? We start with the basic semantics and “instructions” in the coreRDF,RDFS andOWL languages. These are very much akin to the basicBIOS instructions for computer boot up or the instruction sets leveraged by compilers. But, where do we go from there? What is the analog to the compiler or the operating system that gives us more than these simple start up instructions? In a semantics sense, what are the vocabularies or languages that enable us to understand more things, connect more things, relate more things?