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   RDF and the new releases

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I've watched with interest the discussion about RDF within this list and
over at the W3C Technical Architecture Group (seeded by this item from Tim
Bray -- http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-tag/2002Nov/0034.html). What
puzzles and confuses me is why there is so much animosity towards RDF.

If you don't understand it, and don't want to take the time to understand
it, or don't feel it will buy you anything, or hate the acronym, or you're
in a general bitchy mood that's easily triggered if someone uses "Semantic"
in the same sentence that contains "Web", the solution is simple: don't use
it. Don't use it. Don't study it, look at it, listen about it, work with it,
sleep with it, or generally go out and dance late at night with it.

Yes, I am being frivolous -- about as frivolous as so much discussion about
how RDF is broken because it doesn't work for this one person or that
specific purpose. Tip: there is no such thing as a technology that works for
all people, and all purposes. If there was, the person who invented it would
be richer than Bill Gates. (Is that possible? Can another person possibly be
richer than Bill Gates? Is there enough money in the world?)

However, you may feel about RDF, the spec, or RDF/XML, the serialization, I
would hope that you all remember one thing: in the last few days, the RDF
Working Group has released not one, not two, but six new working drafts.
Six. That's a hell of a lot of work. And what's the response the group's
seen in this group and TAG?

Excuse me while I quote from TAG in addition to this group:

"In other words, the XML syntax for RDF may be the target of our
criticism but this article which shows clearly its limitations deserves
our respect."

"Sorry, I just don't see much interest in RDF."

"Second, this is just further evidence that RDF/XML is broken."

"1. The syntax of RDF/XML is sufficiently scrambled and arcane that it is
neither human-writeable nor human-readable.
2. The RDF/XML syntax grossly, egregiously, horribly abuses qnames.
3. People who care about metadata have no trouble thinking in terms of
resource/property/value triples
4. The notion that you can slip RDF into XML transparently enough that
people think of it as XML and it works as RDF has failed resoundingly in
the marketplace, cf RSS1.0."

"I ran out of patience with RDF/XML and tried to think of a simple

And I could go on if you wish, but I'm sure you've all either read this or
are indifferent to the subject of RDF (in which case, why are you reading
this note?)

The RDF Working Group's efforts have been public and accessible from the
beginning. They've always been open to comments and suggestions. There's not
just one but at least three mailing lists associated with the RDF efforts,
and others associated with peripheral efforts (such as RSS 1.0). I've never
once not had any member of the working group not respond to one of my
comments. Yet now, when they put out six documents -- six -- asking for
feedback, all people can do is beat on their effort in what looks to me to
be almost a knee jerk reaction.

Is it fashionable to be _down_ on RDF? Sort of like the techie equivalent of
not wearing white after Labor Day unless you live in Australia?

I'm not a newbie with RDF so when I say that I have no problems working with
it, and would never use straight XML in any of my applications because I
find RDF to be easier to work with, you can take this with a grain of salt.
But in the last week I've used a Python, a Java, a Perl, and a PHP API for
RDF (disclaimer --all associated with work I'm doing on a book on the
subject of RDF), and the work is trivial because of these APIs and because
of the shared proven meta-model that RDF represents, and RDF/XML helps
serialize. Best of all, when I publish the RDF documents used in my
applications (and there will be a lot of documents for at least one of
them), anyone with an RDF API can access the same data without having to
learn my own arcane way of doing things.

And the reason I can do this so easily is there's a group of people who gave
up a lot of their time and energy to work on six -- six -- documents for the
RDF specification. And they're joined by a lot of other people who gave up
enormous amounts of their time and energy to develop tools and APIs to work
with these same specifications.

I thought it might be nice for the RDF critics to be reminded of the
personal work and effort that has gone into this specification, this RDF
that generates so much passion. Perhaps you might spare a moment or to
consider that you might, just might, not be able to do better at a meta-data
strategy yourselves if given the opportunity.

Just a thought.


Shelley Powers             shelleyp@burningbird.net


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