Friday, July 25, 2003

The Cult of Tim

Social Meaning and the Cult of Tim "Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the entire social meaning debate is the degree to which people uncritically defer to Berners-Lee's "intuition" and "vision", that is, to his admittedly incompletely expressed idea about the Semantic Web. Few people think that Berners-Lee's ideas about the Semantic Web are perfectly or completely formed. Everyone, including Berners-Lee himself, agrees that they are intuitions, which implies the idea that he can see further than he can say, that he can reach further than he can grasp, at least for now.

One obvious point to make is that there are a lot of people trying to help Berners-Lee realize his intuited vision and that he wields more influence and authority over this complex process than any other single person. Perhaps that is perfectly appropriate. However, the problem arises when other people, who have less moral authority, disagree with Berners-Lee. I have heard it said several times, although few people seem willing to commit to this view publicly, that Berners-Lee should be exempt from public criticism because the realizability of the Semantic Web rests upon Berners-Lee's reputation more than upon any other single factor. "

As Berners-Lee says:
" ...we are not analyzing a world, we are building it. We are not experimental philosophers, we are philosophical engineers. We declare "this is the protocol". When people break the protocol, we lament, sue, and so on. But they tend to stick to it because we show that the system has very interesting and useful properties (emphasis added).

The architecture...defines an "authoritative" or "definitive" meaning, to which "meaning" in wittgensteinian sense and "intended menaing" in [an] ethical or legal sense generally approach as closely as they can, and close enough for the system to work and be unbelievably useful to millions of people. "

I'm of the, obviously ignorant, opinion that this is a engineering problem that will be fixed or continue to evolve to a better overall solution. Instead of arguing about this I'm thinking "killer app".

Tim Bray: "Whereas I’m repeatedly on the record as being more than a bit baffled by what the argument is about, and have hinted unsubtly that maybe it’s at the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin level, a lot of people who are demonstrably smart care a whole lot about it. Anyhow, I can’t ignore it as long as I’m on the TAG, which is at least until we get that damn Architecture document shipped or it’s clear we’re not going to."

The ESW Wiki's entry on the Social Meaning Group has some background too.
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