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Research challenges from TWINE

An interesting interview(source), by John Breslin, revealed some interesting technology features behind Twine: privacy, data integration, and data storage. I got a mixed feeling on that none existing triple/quad stores are used and TWINE had developed its own. How do the current semantic web technologies fit in enterprise-level, small-group-level, and person-level applications, and which triple store solution is ready for supporting such applications? The eight-element tuple is designed for efficiency, but will that be a common model for other social semantic web sites? As for privacy, are there any new benefits or new challenges brought by the semantic web technologies, or we are still using (user, group) access control mechanisms widely used in Web 2.0. Finally, the data integration would be a very interesting challenge: do we have reasonably good automatic entity disambiguation tools; how to use “collective intelligence” to complement the automated tools; and how to present the integration results to end users without causing too much surprise. In general, the deployment of TWINE is promising; and that will produce more interesting and practical challenges to the research community.

Initially Radar had their own triple store, an LGPL one from the CALO project. They found that it didn’t scale towards web-scale applications, and it didn’t have the levels of transaction control you’d need from an enterprise application. They decided to go for a SQL database (PostgreSQL) with WebDAV. However, relational databases weren’t optimised for the “shape” of data that they were putting into it, so it needed to be tweaked. They’ve had no performance issues so far, but they may move to a federated model next year.

….Twine uses an eight-element tuple store (subject-predicate-object, provenance, time stamp, confidence value, and other statistics about the triple or item itself). They can do predicate inferencing across statements, access control, etc. …

… The key “secret sauce” is that everything in Twine is generated from an ontology. The entire site – user interface elements, sidebar, navbar, buttons, etc. – come from an application ontology…

Q: The first one was about privacy. What if you add something and then later you decide that you want to delete it – is it really deleted or does Twine keep it around?

A: Nova answered that currently, it is not really deleted, it goes into a non-visible triple. But they will be doing that (really deleting it) soon.

Q: As one imports information from various places, what exactly is there in Twine that will prevent a person having to merge any duplicate objects?

A: Nova said there is limited duplication detection at the moment, but this will be improved in a few months. Most people submit similar bookmarks and it is reasonably straightforward to identify these, e.g. when the same item is arrived at through different paths on a website and has different URLs.

Q: Why does Twine use tuple storage: why is it not using a quad?

A: Nova said it’s faster in their system, so for performance reasons they decided to avoid reification.


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  1. August 4th, 2008 at 07:51 | #1

    Good blog.

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