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   syntactical clarity of datamodels, rdf?

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  • To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
  • Subject: syntactical clarity of datamodels, rdf?
  • From: bry@itnisk.com
  • Date: Sat, 5 Jun 2004 19:28:53 +0200
  • User-agent: Internet Messaging Program (IMP) 3.2.2

This is likely to strike people as weird, thus my posting it on xml-dev. ;)
One of the more popular arguments for RDF of the past few years is the digraph
argument, that it provides us a useful datamodel to add to the tabular model,
and the hierarchical model. One thing that always irritated me about that was,
if I need a language that describes graphs, why not use a language that
describes graphs in a syntactically clear manner? This argument exists of course
because I have a very difficult time visualising the graph of even a simple rdf
instance, whereas I do not have this difficulty with even quite complex
instances of Graphml. 

A couple of days ago I was thinking about this again, and it struck me that not
only is the syntax of RDF (in it's xml serialization) ugly, but it is the
syntactical lack of clarity vis a vis the data model that is its chief
detriment; it seems to me that the languages that succeed with a particular data
model represent that model succinctly enough that one could explain the meaning
of the structure relatively quickly to a neophyte in the language, note that
this is not the same as describing the overall utility of what the model, what
it is good for, best practices, but a quick idea can be imparted of how the
tables, in most languages supporting tables, 'mean' (I'm actually thinking
specifically of J here), and of course in the case of xml it is possible to
explain to neophytes some idea of the tree structure fairly quickly, such as
explanations as these two instances are generally helped by using graphical
displays of the two structures in conjunction with syntax.

 I do not think that one can easily describe the digraphical nature of RDF, even
with a graph at hand. I do believe that parts of RDF are susceptible to such
easy explanation, but the whole has not proven to be so, I believe this is why
it has basically failed, and why it will continue to fail.

Obviously this last bit sounds somewhat religious, as though I have had a
conversion, and I suppose I have. 


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