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Provenance specs: have we lost sight of the goal?

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2012 23:04:50 +0100
Message-ID: <50749F82.3070105@ninebynine.org>
To: W3C provenance WG <public-prov-wg@w3.org>
(Now that I'm on holiday, away from the day-to-day pressures of getting stuff 
done, I find a little time to put down some nagging doubts I've been having 
about how our work is going...)

Over the past few weeks, I have had informal discussions with a small number of 
people about the provenance specifications.  A common theme that has emerged is 
that the provenance specs are over-complicated, and that as a result many people 
(being non-provenance specialists) just will not use it.  I've suggested to 
these people that they submit last-call comments to the working group, but the 
general response has been along the lines of "Why should I bother?  It doesn't 
matter to me, I won't use it".

This raises for me the possibility that we are working in an "echo chamber", 
hearing only the views of people who have a particular and deep interest in 
provenance, but not hearing the views of a wider audience who he hope will 
include and consume limited amounts of provenance information in their applications.

Maybe it's only me, and the rest of you aren't hearing this kind of comment. 
But if you are I think that, as we go through the last call process, it is 
appropriate to reflect and consider if what we are producing is really relevant 
to the wider community we aim to serve.  Have we become too bound up with fine 
distinctions that don't matter, or don't apply in the same way, to the majority 
of potential provenance-generating and provenance-using applications?   Have we 
sacrificed approachability and simplicity that encourages widespread take-up on 
the altar of premature optimization to support particular usage scenarios?

While I think these are relevant questions, I'm not sure if and what we might do 
about them.  But I also fear that what we produce may turn out to be irrelevant 
in the long run.

Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2012 22:07:30 UTC

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