A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web: rejected!

One night, many days ago, Bru and I had a night divertissement (as I liked to call it). During a funny Skype session, we created a paper for SWAP2005 (Semantic Web Applications and Perspectives, 2nd Italian Semantic Web Workshop, Trento, Faculty of Economics,14-15-16 December, 2005). The title of the paper is “A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web” (pdf). Since the conference is in Trento, I’ll probably go anyway so the idea was to get one more publication (is there another reason for sending a paper to a conference? ;-)). As I already said, it was a night divertissement, it took us few hours creating it, well, most of the time was spent in chatting about the possible title. We skyped really improbable titles I think I remember. And it was a lot of fun.
Anyway I received few days ago an email saying that the paper was rejected (in the following there are the reviews in case you are curious). I think reviewers did the right thing in rejecting it. It was not a serious contribution to science but more a provocation (and a funny-for-us night divertissement).
So how we created the paper? We took verbatim a blog post by Ryan King titled “An Evolutionary Revolution – On the shoulders of giants” and we inserted it in the paper. Since the blog post was resealed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence, we could import it legally, in fact we of course gave credit to Ryan King in the paper, we re-released the paper under the same licence and the paper was not a commercial work.
Then we added a short quibbling about how with the Semantic Web envisioned in the conference, a paper like this one would be easily creatable by some software tool, expecially when i a short future the number of creative commons released text works will be huge. The last lines of the abstract hinted a matrix-like scenario in which (human) researchers will be no more needed. The title was entirely Bru’s fault. Don’t tell him but I think we got rejected because of the title ;-)
So, well, enjoy it, it is released under a creative commons licence, respect the licence and do whatever you want with it, yes you might even want to cite it in a “real”paper, that would be a larger point about “what are conferences for in an era of free, decentralized publishing?” but I guess you will have to wait another post for it. Anyway, don’t worry, it is not a unexpected or clever post, nothing more that our rejected submission for SWAP ;-)

In the following you find the reviews we got and at the really bottom the text version of the paper.
I wonder if Danny Ayers was one of the reviewer since he writes “I nearly had a dilemma over whether to give something a positive rating simply because it was really cool, rather than bringing significant academic value to the field. Again fortunately for me the material in question did have value in the latter sense as well, so I could call it a Clear Accept without any ethical worries.” But it can’t be because our paper has no value in the latter sense ;-)


Dear Author,

On behalf of the Programme Committee opf SWAP2005, we are sorry to inform you that your paper, titled

A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web

has not been accepted. We received many excellent papers this year, and were limited in the number we could accept. We hope you’ll still be able to join us in Trento for the workshop.

At the end of this email you will find a set of comments from the anonymous paper reviewers. We hope that they will be of help for future papers. If you have questions about the comments, please contact the Program Chair.

Program Committee Chairs,


There is an interesting project at MIT (http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/), whose aim is to develop a a program that generates random Computer Science research papers (one of those papers was accepted to SCI 2005 conference) – I encourage you to cite this project in your paper and to critically compare it with your work.

Detailed comments:

– “PaoloMassa”: missing blank;
– “…the all idea sound…” should be “…the whole idea sound…”;
– “What is missing at the moment is just an automated tool that could automatically create…”: eliminate the repetition ‘automated’ ‘automatically’;
– what do you mean by “derative work”?


Independently of any legal aspects (such as license issues), the authors have obviously not understood the basic ideas of research, namely creating things that have NOT existed before and publishing ORIGINAL work.

Plagiarism has been existing probably as long as humans have acquired the ability to write. So neither the work presented in this paper, nor the authors’ idea of copying other peoples’ publications (manually or automatically), are inherently new or original.

Due to this fact, this paper is not even controversial, it’s merely a try to shift an ethical issue (plagiarism) to a legal one (the “Creative Commons License”).

At any rate, if the authors are seriously attempting to invest further work into their ideas, I propose to move to another audience, e.g. from the area of Philosophy of Science.



I appreciate the provocative aim of the paper, but I cannot really understand from the introductory part what you are aiming at demostrating. You should have focused more on that part and write it more clearly.



A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web

Riccardo Cambiassi
University of Eastern Piedmont
Alessandria – Italy
Blog: http://www.codewitch.org
Email: bru@codewitch.org

Trento – Italy
Blog: http://moloko.itc.it/paoloblog/
Email: massa@itc.it

The future envisioned by the Semantic Web will
allow anyone (shall we better say anything?) to combine services
and data in order to automatically build new services and new
data. In the very spirit of this revolution, we created this paper by
relying on someone else published knowledge. The fact that the
content we reused is released under a Creative Commons licence
makes the all idea sound from every phylosophical perspective
(you might want to read legal, i.e. adherent to current but already
outdated laws). What is missing at the moment is just an automated
tool that could automatically create an interesting paper
for a conference given the great amount of data already published
and freely available out there, some of it also in Semantic Web
formats such as RSS or CreativeCommons metadata. For the sake
of this paper, we, human authors, decided to invest some effort
into looking for the information and assembling in a coherent
way. This abstract is in fact nothing more than a republishing of a
blog post “On the shoulders of giants…” by Ryan King (currently
sitting at http://theryanking.com/blog/archives/2005/04/07/anevolutionary-
revolution/) about the revolution and the Semantic
Web. The original blog post is released under Attribution-
NotCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons licence and this
gives us the complete right to republish that work, as long as we
give credit as we are doing now and we don’t do it commercially.
The licence also demands we re-release this derative work under
the same licence and we happily do it (see at the end). Thus it is
easy to imagine a not-so distant future when simple automated
intelligent tools will be able to do what we have done for creating
this paper. Hereafter, we researchers will be needed no more and
this, hopefully thought-provoking paper, aims to make the case
for what really Semantic Web is about.
On the shoulders of giants…
A revolution, slowly, is happening to the Web.
Many call the changes that are occuring Web 2.0 and I think
the analogy is quite useful. It seems that the Web has reached a
degree of stability- browsers are relatively compliant and usefulstuff
generally works, which opens up the opportunity for people
to innovate.
One vision for the next iteration of the Web is called the
Semantic Web. The idea is that we’ll build a web that is
structured and meaningful (to computers, not humans). The
vision for this comes from Tim Berners-Lee and is essentially
distributed knowledge system based on a markup format called
RDF, a way to encode logical statements in XML about anything.
It is, of course, also extensible on the edges (meaning anyone can
add content and meaning to it). That is, if they understand the
The Semantic Web would be a discontinuity from the current
Web that we all know, mainly because its primarily for machines
and only secondarily for humans. I think we can do better.
The ideas I’m putting across are by no means new to many
people, but I’ve been thinking about them this evening in response
to a paper [1] we read for class and would like to distill and
summarize my viewpoint here.
The above paper presents some interesting technology built on
a prototype Semantic Web. The problem is that their rationale
for building the Semantic Web is wrong:
“…because HTML marries content and presentation into a
single representation…”
Certainly, HTML can be an intermixing of content and
presentation, but it doesn’t have to be – it actually shouldn’t
With the advent of CSS and XHTML, markup can now be
semantic (notice lowercase ‘s’)- it can have meaningful structure
which is independent of how the content is presented in a browser.
So, we already have a web – a web which can be used to create
semantic content, yet is, at the same time, presentable to users in
its native form. As Tantek C¸ elik has said, “users first, computers
Going the route of the Semantic Web would be like throwing
out the source code for a mature product and rewriting it from
scratch. Ask Netscape how well that works!
The Revolution Has Begun
Led by Tantek C¸ elik, Matt Mullenweg, Eric Meyer, Kevin
Marks and others who I’m sure I insult by omitting, a new
set of standards, deemed microformats are appearing [2]. These
standards specify ways to markup XHTML in ways that give
the content some meaning. Some examples include: Votelinks,
NoFollow, hCard, hCalendar, podcasting, blogchalking, xfn, Rel-
License, RelTag xFolk, and online news.
The promise of microformats is that they offer machine-usable
data while at the same time providing human-usable, presentable
I think what we’re seeing is a stage of evolution which will have
revolutionary impact. This movement toward having semantic,
well structured markup which is separated from the presentation
will have other fruit as well. In many ways, AJAX, the new
buzzword that encompasses all sorts of cool client-side Javascript
magic, has been enabled by the maturing of CSS.
Please, let’s forget about trying to build a new Semantic Web,
let’s make the one we already have (and love) semantic.
The revolution will be evolutionary.
Viva la revolution!
This paper is released under an Attribution-NotCommercial-
ShareAlike Creative Commons licence. The complete licence
text can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bync-sa/2.0/
[1] D. Quan and D. R. Karger, How to Make a Semantic Web Browser
[2] Microformats homepage http://microformats.org

6 thoughts on “A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web: rejected!

  1. paolo

    Don’t worry, it is plenty of conferences out there.
    And, just in case, you want to write some paper for some conference, feel free to throw an email in this direction.

    And I promise we will choose a better title ;-)

  2. Pingback: All things Bru

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