I’ve invented a new Batman villain. His name is “The Modeller” and his scheme is to model Gotham city entirely accurately in a way that is of no practical value to anybody. He has an OWL which sits on his shoulder which has the power to absorb huge amounts of time and energy.
In the first issue, “Batman vs the Modeller” the modeller gets away by confusing batman as to exactly which incarnation he currently is (Frank Miller, Golden age or Batman Begins) which forces Batman into an identity crisis where he registers different URIs and FOAF profiles for Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Over the 3 issues there’s a running subplot about the modelers master weapon, the FRBR, which everyone knows is very very powerful but when the citizens of Gotham talk about it none of them can quite agree on exactly what it does. All over the city citizens are becoming trapped in the modelers logical rabbit holes and rats nest traps, which The Batman does nothing but fiddle on the Bat-computer having now decided he must require a different URI for every possible version of himself that isn’t entirely identical. So far he’s at the level of one URI for every version in every media with a specific author, artist, director and/or actor. Any slight variation demands a new URI.
While unpopular with the fans, issue two, “Batman vs the Protégé“, will later be hailed as a Kafkaesque masterpiece. Batman descends further into madness as he realises that every moment he’s the Batman of that second in time, and each requires a URI, and every time he considers a plan of action, the theoretical Batmen in his imagination also require unique distinct identifiers which he must assign before continuing. Gotham Police are unable to do anything as they have not yet finished their OWL ontology of Gotham crime, which fails to map onto the normal crime ontology. Commissioner Gorden can’t work out what rdf:type the Penguin’s last caper should be modelled as. It closes with Batman realising that time is continuous, not discrete and he needs an uncountable infinity of URIs…
The final issue, “B-nodes and Broomsticks”, is a much more light hearted affair as Batman, gains enlightenment and realises that nothing can ever be perfectly modelled and any model should serve him not he serve the model. In the final showdown Batman gives a speech about how if we try to hold knowledge too tight it slips through our grasp. He then quickly and satisfyingly captures the Modeller and delivers him the the cops who charge him with Aggravated Wasting of Police Time (they are still bitter about reading all the w3c OWL documents).
In a twist which splits the fanbase, some love it, other hate it; we never actually find out what the FRBR was capable of doing and if it really would have lived up to the hype.
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OK, maybe I have a chip on my shoulder about the fact that OWL appears to be the hardest part of the whole RDF thing and for the benefit of semantic web researchers only.
I’m interested to see if I get any outraged comments. I love modelling stuff and have written OWL ontologies for fun in my own time, my issue with the whole thing is that I’m not convinced it’s a useful exercise. Everyone hates 404s but making one way links was one of the things which made the web possible. I suspect that linked data will have some similar sacrifices to make on the alter of pragmatism. The picture isn’t supposed to look like anyone in particular, my 9am drawing ability is limited.
I currently think you have to accept that URIs may be sameAs or not, depending on the task you are attempting rather than an absolute truth. Semantic relativism, baby!