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   Re: [xml-dev] Why RDF is hard

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jonathan@openhealth.org (Jonathan Borden) writes:
>but RDF gets hard fast. That's because the problems that RDF can be
>used to solve might be very tricky problems. It's not that RDF
>*itself* is so complicated, it's that its problem domain (e.g.
>unstructured databases or "knowledge representation") is complicated.

I don't think the problem is as simple as "what RDF does is hard." 

For me, the problem with RDF is the demands it places on me for keeping
track of the structures described.  Invariably, when I look at
information stored in RDF (or a Topic Map) in a graphical form, the
connections make sense, the overall structure or lack thereof is very
clear.  When I look at the same information in its raw RDF document
form, I start to mutter about people who are too damn smart creating
models which are suitable only for computers and people who can think
like computers.

I find markup very human - even annoyingly human.  I just came back from
a meeting where I showed off some SVG maps but really wowed them with
the raw XML used to store the data.  I never mentioned or explained XML,
but I didn't have to - they were looking at the marked-up data and
comparing it to the SVG and performing their own transformations.  Then
they asked if they could add X, Y, and Z or put it into Excel/SPSS/etc.
and were happy that the answer was yes.

(Given that I hadn't finished the demo, this was very gratifying, but to

Embedded markup, whatever its sins may be, is very good at making things
explicit.  I can usually look at a well-designed document and keep track
of even complicated hierarchical relationships and even the occasional
ID/IDREF connection.  I can't do that with most RDF - when I have to
think about it in terms that go beyond simple markup the overhead of
keeping track of the pieces makes the effort outweigh the benefits.

I don't think the RDF community has ever really understood that what
they do is genuinely difficult for most people.  The RDF community seems
very self-selecting to me - those who can cope with RDF like it, and the
rest of us keep our distance.  I'm not sure it's ever been clear to
people who find RDF intuitive why so many people bounce off of it
completely, and I'm not convinced that it's possible to explain that to
someone who genuinely likes RDF.

I guess we'll see if this message generates the usual "but you're wrong
about RDF it's so simple and clear" messages that previous efforts to
state the same thesis have garnered.

Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid: is another possibility altogether

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