Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A Clever Quip

Jon Udell has a an interesting quote of statements supposedly made by Sergey Brin at Infoworld's 2002 CTO Forum. Brin's response is really very clever.

When asked about the Semantic Web and RDF at InfoWorld's 2002 CTO Forum, Sergey Brin said:
Look, putting angle brackets around things is not a technology, by itself. I'd rather make progress by having computers understand what humans write, than by forcing humans to write in ways computers can understand.
Now, I said Brin's response was clever, but what I didn't was that they were correct, and indeed I believe that to a substantial degree they aren't.

Brin is undoubtedly correct in stating that XML in and of itself doesn't do much to enable machines to reason more intelligently about the stuff that's on the web, and he's also correct in noting that relying on ordinary individuals to change the way their output to conform to the demanding requirements of machines is a recipe for failure. In a way, these criticisms buttress my own recent statements about why I think WinFS is unlikely to come near to meeting the hype that's been made on its behalf. All that said, I still don't agree that XML, RDF and all the other W3C Semantic Web initiatives are a waste of time.

On a slightly chauvinistic note, it's interesting that Jon Udell praises the work of Kingsley Idehen as exemplifying the combination of the Semantic Web and text-indexing approaches to best effect. I say it's interesting because Kingsley Idehen, as you might have guessed, is actually of Nigerian extraction, and what is more, he's spent a substantial portion of his life in the country, having graduated from the University of Benin in 1986. What did I tell y'all about Africans and I.T? Nigerians especially are everywhere!