A Behaviouristic Semantic Approach to Blockchain-based E-Commerce

Tracking #: 3211-4425

Giampaolo Bella
Domenico Cantone
Marianna Nicolosi Asmundo
Daniele Santamaria

Responsible editor: 
Sabrina Kirrane

Submission type: 
Full Paper
Electronic commerce and finance are progressively supporting and including decentralized, shared and public ledgers such as the blockchain. This is reshaping traditional commercial activities by advancing them towards Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and Commerce 3.0, thereby supporting the latter’s potential to outpace the hurdles of central authority controllers and lawgivers. The quantity and entropy of the information that must be sought and managed to become active participants in such a relentlessly evolving scenario are increasing at a steady pace. For example, that information comprises asset or service description, general rules of the game and specific technologies involved for the decentralization. Moreover, the relevant information ought to be shared among innumerable and heterogeneous stakeholders, such as producers, buyers, digital identity providers, valuation services and shipment services, to just name a few. A clear semantic representation of such a complex and multifaceted blockchain-based e-commerce ecosystem would contribute dramatically to make it more usable, namely more automatically accessible to virtually anyone wanting to play the role of a stakeholder, thereby reducing programmers’ effort. However, we feel that reaching that goal still requires substantial effort in the tailoring of semantic web technologies, hence this article sets out on such a route and advances a stack of OWL 2 ontologies for the semantic description of decentralized e-commerce. The stack includes a number of relevant features, ranging from the applicable stakeholders through the supply chain of the offerings for an asset, up to the Ethereum blockchain, its tokens and smart contracts. Ontologies are defined by taking a behaviouristic approach to represent the various participants as agents in terms of their actions, inspired by the Theory of Agents and its mentalistic notions. The stack is validated through appropriate metrics and competency questions, then demonstrated through the representation of a real world use case, the iExec marketplace.
Full PDF Version: 

Minor Revision

Solicited Reviews:
Click to Expand/Collapse
Review #1
Anonymous submitted on 11/Nov/2022
Minor Revision
Review Comment:

The authors have diligently worked on their manuscript to address the raised remarks. Many of them are now fixed, and a few of them remain unaddressed.

First, the topic of traceability and auditability seems to have been overlooked. Queries such as CF2 (“Which actions have been performed (including the agents responsible for the execution and the type of the action performed)?” are basically about logging the operations in supply chains. To let an analyst inspect and extract useful process execution information from the stored data. The authors are required to check the comments in the previous review about traceability and auditability, and make sure to address them adequately.
The new paragraph on fungible, non-fungible and semi-fungible tokens should be carefully proofread and revised. Sentences like “non-fungible tokens have their unique values, fungible tokens have the same value as any other tokens of the same type at any given moment” do not characterise the nature of fungibility, particularly because the term “value” is highly generic. Also, the statement “cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are fungible tokens” is highly misleading. In fact, tokens are typically separate as a concept from cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are means to reward nodes that reach consensus and do other tasks to keep the infrastructure alive and running at a low protocol-stack level. Tokens are instead at a higher level of the protocol and are managed via blockchain platforms backed by the underlying cryptoeconomic mechanisms involving cryptocurrencies. In Ethereum, in particular, the lifecycle of tokens is handled by smart contracts.

By the way, on page 29 we find fungible, non-fungible and semi-fungible smart contracts being named. Sure, smart contracts could be considered a representative concept for tokens. However, such a synecdoche should be avoided here and especially to name entities, not to incur misunderstandings.

On a minor note, the authors should consider avoiding one-sentence paragraphs such as “Dapps have grown particularly as an exchange tool for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).”

Finally, the GitHub repository with the code sources is being kept up-to-date, well organised and documented. However, the files referring to their real-world case study (iExec) appear to be missing and should be added there too.

Review #2
By Luis-Daniel Ibáñez submitted on 22/Dec/2022
Review Comment:

I am happy with the updates provided by the authors in response to my previous review.

My only remaining remark is that there a few places in the newly included text that would benefit from proof-reading. In particular the conclusion. Some I spotted are:
-- The first two paragraphs of section 1.1. I think that the word "specifically" is not required and that what you have is "semantic reprentation of e-commerce with transactions backed by the Ethereum Blockchain, but generalisable to any Turing complete Blockchain".
-- Unclear what a "desired activity of tokens" is in this context, perhaps change to something related to querying (instead of probing), you may use one of the competency questions for inspiration.
-- in p4 you say that the "iExec marketplace can be easily modeled", I'd take this out as there is not a metric for that
-- "Contributed ontological stack is publicly released", state the licence.
-- There are some mentions to "the blockchain" (e.g. p7), but as you aim at generalisability, I think this needs to be replaced for "a Blockchain"
In the Conclusion:
-- You could be more straightforward and say, "this article developed a formal semantic representation capturing...."
-- Unclear what "desirable facility" means, perhaps you meant "desirable feature"?
-- "unfolded a behaviouristic approach" --> It applied the behaviouristic approach
-- "ontological stack of height tree" --> height three? perhaps better to say "3 levels"?