W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-csv-wg@w3.org > February 2014

Re: Scoping Question

From: Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 10:50:24 +0100
Cc: W3C CSV on the Web Working Group <public-csv-wg@w3.org>
Message-Id: <9DE48D22-407A-45FD-AC4E-6F49622826A4@w3.org>
To: Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com>
Hi Jeni,

(To be clear, this is not some sort of an 'official' standpoint of W3C, but my personal one.)

Thanks for raising this; it is indeed important that we find consensus on this at the beginning. I must admit the fact that we have to make this choice was not clear to me either...

As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that we can impose any new format on data publishers. Data has been and is being published in CSV, it is messy, and we have to live with it. The most we can do (and I think this _is_ what we should do), as Alf has said, is to define some sort of 'best practices' that is based on the available use cases. This may allow TSV and others dialects (and we may want to contribute to the efforts like CSVDDF[1]), and also some further restrictions like if, and if yes how, several logical tables can be included in one CSV file (something we already discussed a bit). Our conversions to XML/JSON/RDF, our metadata, etc, should rely on data that abide to those best practices. But I do not think defining a new format, that requires current tools to change their exports, would have any chance of being adopted at this point...

(There is of course the issue on where one finds the metadata related to a CSV file, and we may have to rely on HTTP, or some URI schemes; things that the manager of a Web site may control, which is different from the tools used to export the CSV data. But that is not the same as defining a new format.)

I guess this puts me in the "APPROACH 1" camp...


[1] http://dataprotocols.org/csv-dialect/

On 21 Feb 2014, at 17:31 , Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> [Only just got net connection to enable me to send this.]
> A scoping question occurred to me during the call on Wednesday.
> There seem to be two approaches that we should explicitly choose between.
> APPROACH 1: Work with whatís there
> We are trying to create a description / metadata format that would enable us to layer processing semantics over the top of all the various forms of tabular data that people publish so that it can be interpreted in a standard way.
> We need to do a survey of what tabular data exists in its various formats so that we know what the description / metadata format needs to describe. When we find data that uses different separators, pads out the actual data using empty rows and columns, incorporates two or more tables inside a single CSV file, or uses Excel spreadsheets or DSPL packages or SDF packages or NetCDF or the various other formats that people have invented, we need to keep note of these so that whatever solution and processors we create will work with these files.
> APPROACH 2: Invent something new
> We are trying to create a new format that would enable publishers to publish tabular data in a more regular way while preserving the same meaning, to make it easier for consumers of that data.
> We need to do a survey of what tabular data exists so that we can see what publishers are trying to say with their data, but the format that they are currently publishing that data in is irrelevant because we are going to invent a new format. When we find data that includes metadata about tables and cells, or groups or has cross references between tables, or has columns whose values are of different types, we need to keep note of these so that we ensure the format we create can capture that meaning.
> We also need to understand existing data so that we have a good backwards compatibility story: it would be useful if the format we invent can be used with existing tools, and if existing data didnít have to be changed very much to put it into the new format. But there will certainly be files that do have to be changed, and sometimes substantially.
> My focus is definitely on the second approach as I think taking the first approach is an endless and impossible task. But some recent mails and discussion has made me think that some people are taking the first approach. Any thoughts?
> Cheers,
> Jeni
> --  
> Jeni Tennison
> http://www.jenitennison.com/

Ivan Herman, W3C 
Digital Publishing Activity Lead
Home: http://www.w3.org/People/Ivan/
mobile: +31-641044153
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FOAF: http://www.ivan-herman.net/foaf

Received on Saturday, 22 February 2014 09:50:46 UTC

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