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User Facing Documents

From: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@cs.man.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 12:03:01 +0000
Message-Id: <079632DF-BAF8-409C-8F0F-D9DFD3456ED8@cs.man.ac.uk>
To: public-owl-wg@w3.org

[I trust I can post this without getting accused of being anti-user,  
user-unknowing, narrowly technical, or whatever other dismissal de  
jour is in the air.]

It is a truism of HCI that users vary, so if you are going to  
evaluate something it has to be with respect to specific users (or  
user types) and specific issues. So, it would be helpful if we could  
identify a bit better what users various documents are targeting.  
It's just not *feasible* to reach all the users we might want to  
reach, in the best way for them.

For example, are we going to develop tutorials? I don't think that's  
a good use of WG time and effort. *Recognizing* and marketing and  
encouraging third party tutorials is sensible. Tweaking documents in  
small ways to accommodated tutorial writers is *quite* sensible  
(because we get a lot of bang for the buck).

The two most important things we can do for users, which are most  
squarely in our mandate and solidly within our power, is to produce a  
language that maximally useful for them with specifications that  
support -- nay, encourage -- a strong, actively developed  
infrastructure (of tools, expertise, experience, community, and  

It's also important that user facing websites (which is really what  
we are talking about) are actively maintain ad infinitum. Ephemera  
should be clearly labeled as such (best if naturally so like blog  
posts). Pace contrevening evidence e.g., from server logs, I'd  
imagine that a "What is OWL?" document on xml.com:


is probably more valuable overall. It targets an influential market  
(i.e., web developers with some technical savvy) in a focused way.  
Plus, it could helps elide, a little, the perception that OWL is  
niche, or W3C top down wankery.

Similarly, at OWLED 2007, a participant called not for more "basic"  
user documentation, but for "mid level" stuff, i.e., you've kinda  
learned the language, now what? E.g., things more similar to the  
SWBPD patterns stuff. Hence, the OWLED task force on "Education":


Things like implementation lists:


are really useful, but generally only if maintained. So, for many  
classes of user facing document, we need a post-WG sustainability  

OWLED and webont.org are two venues for this. I urge people not to  
forget that the WG is only one way to work toward the success of OWL,  
and that it is an instrument with limits and particular strengths.

For example, adding a workable keys proposal to the language is, in  
my estimation, far more important than adding *any* user facing  
document. I base this on the fact that the users and "customers" that  
Matthew, Robert, and Alan influence don't seem to read any of the  
documents. They just ask Matthew, Robert, and Alan. They tell me that  
the lack of easy peasy keys is a huge barrier to adoption, or even to  
starting conversations about adoption. Extending the language is  
something the WG can, almost uniquely, do.

(And note that speccing easy keys has not been trivial. Uli and I  
have spent more time that we expected trying to nail down all the  
details. And of course, no one cares about a *mere* spec...they need  
them *deployed*, which I am working on and constrained the  

Received on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 12:03:30 UTC

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