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Save shelfspace with RDF/A [was RE: The RDF/A Marketing Site]

From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2006 17:10:12 +0100
To: "'public-rdf-in-xhtml task force'" <public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf@w3.org>
Message-ID: <036c01c65b26$eaa58a00$0e01a8c0@Jan>

Hello all,

In response to Ben's excellent 'kick-start' of a marketing plan, I'd like to
say a few things on the naming issue. My comments are in response to general
points that that have been made in meetings and on the list, but I won't try
to find all the references since the things I'm saying are pretty general.


> 1) A New Name
> I support the idea of picking a new name that is more 
> marketable than 'RDF/A'. This is our last opportunity to 
> think of a better name before we have to stick with it. The 
> name should attempt to convey some of the following concepts: 
> HTML, web, extensible, embedded.
> 
> Some Ideas to get us started (yes, some of these are 
> strawmen, but strawman-status is in the eye of the beholder):
> HERMES - Html Embedded Rdf Metadata with ExtenSibility XIM - 
> Xtensible Interoperable Metadata WebMIM - Web Meta 
> Information Module WebFormats
> 
> (please submit more ideas!)


SHOULD WE CHANGE THE NAME?

I have to say I disagree with renaming. Don't get me wrong, I don't think
RDF/A is a great name. But naming is such a subjective thing that I will
happily take bets that a discussion about names on this list will be a total
waste of time.

So, my view is that although I have no problems with a name change, I think
it will take up too much of our time to discuss, especially when we are
unlikely to come up with anything.


DO WE *NEED* TO CHANGE THE NAME, ANYWAY?

The thing about names is that it really does not matter: people happily buy
and rent 'DVDs'; they discuss whether they need more 'RAM'; some years ago
my mum told me that she had decided to upgrade her computer to 'a 486';
people lean across the table in the pub, pick up a friend's phone, and say
"Oh, you've got the new 3250".

None of this is to say that if someone came up with a fantastic, descriptive
name it wouldn't get my vote--I'm not saying it *must* be called "xcmm3" or
something obtuse, just for the sake of it. But unless the name is
light-years ahead of "RDF/A" I don't see the point--picking on the strawmen
"HERMES" and "XIM" for example, they don't actually convey anything about
what we're doing.


SO I DON'T CARE ABOUT MARKETING?

Far from it. But the reason I want to sound an air of caution is because
what often happens is people start to believe that something will *only* be
successful if it has a funky name, and I don't want us to fall into this
trap. If the technology of 'RDF/A' is successful it will be because the
examples are clear, the use cases are broad, the requirement is widely
present, early adopters are vocal, and so on. That's 'real' marketing and
gives us the best chance of success. If we achieve success it won't be down
to the name.


THE 'ELEVATOR PITCH'

Whilst the name of our technology will make close to zero difference to its
adoption, the one-liner--so-called elevator pitch--could. Putting on an old
Disney video for my son to watch the other day, I was surprised to see that
one of the opening adverts was from Disney itself telling you how you could
now get all of its films on DVD, and they took up far less space on your
shelves than videos!

I don't recall if that was the standard way of extolling the virtues of DVDs
when they were new, and of course it sounds laughably dated now that DVDs
are so commonplace. But it's a good illustration of how the name is less
significant than the benefits that something offers.

So for me the thing to 'capture' is finding that sentence--in other words,
how much shelf-space does RDF/A take up?

One strong candidate is something Ben said ages ago which is the idea of:

  "bridging the clickable and semantic webs"

The key thing about the 'elevator pitch' is not that it conveys *all* of our
ideas, but that it gives us a constant base, a foundation, onto which
everything else is layered. So we know that RDF/A is 'more' than just making
clickable links semantic, but we can explain all of that on the new site.
What we're looking for here is something that (a) keeps us focused when we
plan to write about it, do presentations on it, write tutorials or give
examples on it, and (b) is the thing that we always ensure people take away
about RDF/A, even if they take away nothing else.

I would say that of all the things that RDF/A can do, at this moment in time
[*] it is the ability to derive semantic information from links that have
been placed in a 'normal' document, that is probably key. I think this
'base' idea contains within it everything about 'embedding', using current
mark-up, ease of authoring, unlimited formats (not the four microformats),
decentralisation (rather than the centralised nature of microformats), and
so on.

So even if we were to continue with a renaming exercise, I'd strongly
recommend that the process would have to begin with finding this one-liner
first--we need to know what we're selling before we can name it.

[*] I say "this moment in time" only because there is no reason why the
'pitch' might not change in the future and some other feature get brought to
the fore.


SUMMARY

Success is not going be based on the name, but on having a clear message
about what the *purpose* of RDF/A is and what it lets you do that you
couldn't do before. Getting bogged down in naming is not a great use of
time.

We do however, need to agree on our 'elevator pitch'. If a name flows from
that then great, but the one-liner is crucial. My vote goes for something
like:

  "RDF/A bridges the clickable and semantic webs."

  "RDF/A: bridging the clickable and semantic webs."

(I really like the second one, and I think "Bridging the clickable and
semantic webs" would be a good strapline for the forthcoming web site--it
conveys a nice active sense, since we know that these two webs *need* to be
bridged, and we also know that up until now they haven't been, and we know
that we have more work to do.)

Hopefully Ben hasn't trademarked these, since my backup suggestion is not so
good:

  "RDF/A takes up less room on your shelves."

Regards,

Mark


Mark Birbeck
CEO
x-port.net Ltd.

e: Mark.Birbeck@x-port.net
t: +44 (0) 20 7689 9232
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Received on Saturday, 8 April 2006 16:10:58 GMT

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