An Argument for Semantics – Why Developers Should Give a Hoot about OWL

Brian Panulla
Director, Extreme Events Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University

October 6


or local copy An Argument For Semantics

The quest for a smarter web

What is semantic web and why would I want one.

The “O” word – ontology

Using SW technology today

New w3c

RDF, RDF Schema, OWL

Each build on one another, but all are fundamentally RDF

Implied Meaning

What we have now needs a human to process it.

We want to markup for machines

meaning of symbols

  • words usage, connotation

  • images symbolism

become real useful when shared

  • between individuals

  • within a community or culture

Is this more catherderal thinking?

  • Top-down ivory tower approach has led to out current network of walled gardens of data

  • Could some of out data be more open?

Why can’t we pull non-sensitive data from an open, central source?

How many Web applications have local copies of:

States, countries, campuses, majors, courses?

Why are we maintaining them?

Separation of concerns

  • smarter data is driving new levels of separation of concerns

  • content, presentation, behavior, and rules

Is HTML dead? No

The SW infrastructure

a parallel information architecture design pattern for smarter applications

web content, pages and sites do not

roadmap to smart data

  • entities as resources

  • specifying relationships

  • drawing inferences

Entities as Resources

Locally “IST” refers to at least 6 entities (for Penn State)

how do we identify entities

differentiating between conceptual entities creates the need for an identifier

indefinite article A college of IST

Convention allows us to simplify integration of data across systems

Convention is implicit symantics

In the absence of a good candidate key, each organization usually make an ad hoc identifiers.

We have a handy tool to globally identify – it’s URI

Normally they are unique, but that can be overwritten


RDF is the language that gives us resources, specifies properties

RDF can be used to specify is-a, is-a-member-of,

It stores as triples: subject, predicate, object

RDF schemas

dont give meaning

Ontology gives meaning

a formal ontology is a representation of a true ontology in some sor of communicable format

“its the next level up from schema”

OWL features

classes, properties, individuals

Data can be inferred or derived with owl/rdf with symantics.

Ex: if a is near b and c is near b then a is near c.

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