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[Visionaries] Some thoughts on the semantic web, DotGNU and Forum

From: Peter Minten
Subject: [Visionaries] Some thoughts on the semantic web, DotGNU and Forum
Date: Sun, 10 Aug 2003 19:48:59 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Win 9x 4.90; en-US; rv:1.4) Gecko/20030529

Hi folks,

here is a little vision of a possible future of DotGNU.

As some of you might remember I'm working on the DotGNU Forum System project that aims to make webservices more multi-user. During development I noticed that when DotGNU is implemented right Forum is only adding a chatbox. During my planning of GNU.RDF I had a lot of problems with the Linking Problem (which is 'how to find information about something without a huge search engine?'). Finally the introspector project is raising interesting ideas about interlinking large amounts of data. I've poured all that into a mixer and put it on. The result is this email.

Contrary to most DotGNU people I'm not so keen on projected GUI's, moving everything to the server side and creating huge webservice applications. I'm more interested in well defined, good working small webservices that integrate into the semantic web (see for more info about that) well. I don't need a webservice that takes commands and executes them on my data, I need a webservice that sends me well defined, well understood data.

I'd like to see a true DotGNU Client. The current DGEE administration webservice client is certainly useful, but not what I mean. The DotGNU Client as I see it is basically the Forum Client without Forum. It's an application that kinda acts like a desktop. It's the WebServices desktop. WebServices can open windows inside the Client containing their interface. The client will also support plugins, like a chatbox (the true essence of Forum). The client will be able to run full-screen acting kinda like a WM or in a window.

The client will support a variety of windows and plugins. Basically all languages will be supported (C#, C, Java, VB, Perl, Python, Ruby, Scheme, DG-Scheme, etc) for webservice client modules and plugins. The main mechanism for the interoperability will be XML-RPC or a faster internal variant.

The windows of the Client will be accessible through a standard graphics layer, I'm voting for SDL with a DotGNU widget set (GTK, Qt or winforms). The graphics layer should be accessible even for non-OO languages.

Now to the semantic web part. Let me illustrate how useful a well working (aka no linking problem) semantic web will make an application like Forum possible. What I want is attaching chatboxes to resources (nodes of the semantic web). I visit a resource and search the sweb for chatboxes that say to be coupled to this resource. I look at the topics of the chatboxes and chose one that seems interesting. Once there I can discuss the contents of the resource with the other people there. Forum's primary target is webbased education and for this group it's handy to have a textbook and a chatbox to discuss it in or a virtual classroom chatbox coupled to a whiteboard.

The Client will also allow scripting in many languages. I chose DG-Scheme of course, it's the language I know best :-). I want to write a script that gathers data about articles on the semantic web, scans it and downloads the articles for me, it should also update my new article list. The new article list is implemented as a Client Plugin, accessible through a local webservices interface.

The semantic web is basically a giant searchable information database, the internet, but better searchable. What's the trick? RDF, a way to represent linked data. RDF uses well defined semantics. Every RDF statement is (in theory) completely clear if you know it's spec. Linking lists (resources full of links to related topics) in RDF can easily be read by computers since they will use the same meaning for tags.



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