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Re: A rant about the terminology debate

From: Antoine Zimmermann <antoine.zimmermann@emse.fr>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2012 22:00:55 +0200
Message-ID: <5037DD77.20402@emse.fr>
To: public-rdf-wg@w3.org


Le 24/08/2012 18:09, Sandro Hawke a écrit :
> On 08/24/2012 07:32 AM, Kingsley Idehen wrote:
>> Sandro,
>>
>> How would you map g-box, g-snap, and g-text in formal relational DBMS
>> terminology? Such a mapping would help many. Basically, mapping to
>> relations, sets of tuples, and notation.
>>
>
> I'm not really fluent in RDBMS theory terminology. I do know the
> terminology database app developers use, though, I think -- the kind of
> stuff you find in the Oracle or MySQL manuals (talking about "tables"
> instead of "relations"). In that terminology, I'd say:
>
> g-box: table (or view)
> g-snap: dump of a table (or view)
> g-snap: not something one normally deals with; either:
> - a state of a table; or
> - a value which is the set of all the rows in a table.
>
> This is more of an analogy than a real correspondence, since a table row
> is not the same thing as an RDF triple, in general. (You could make a
> Subject/Property/Value table, but the data typing of the value wouldn't
> work right, in general.)

RDF Graphs (aka g-snaps) represent the abstract structure on which RDF 
systems work. For relational databases, the abstract structure is more 
complex as you can't separate the data from the schema.

A possible correspondence would be:

RDF Graph <-> Relation
Set of triples <-> Multiset of tuples
RDF Dataset <-> Collection of relation (a database?)

What's funny is that in the world of relational databases, they've been 
using über-overloaded words like "relation", "view", "table", "schema" 
for decades without problem. Especially, we at least use the word 
"graph" paired with "RDF" to define unambiguously "RDF graph", while in 
relational algebra, the concept called "relation" is not even 
disambiguised with a qualifier. But it works and nobody complains.

 From the point of view of experts in relational DBs, we probably look 
ridiculous with our battle on terminology. People using RDBs don't even 
care about the names of the abstract concepts, they use "table" and 
"row" because tuples and relations look like rows and tables when 
displayed. In the RDF world, people don't care about the names of the 
abstract structure and use the word "graph" alone because RDF graphs 
look like graphs when displayed. And it is perfectly fine!

I'm 100% with Richard on this issue and I propose that we make the 
following resolution:
  1. if a term is normatively defined by RDF 1.0, we adopt it for RDF 
1.1 without any change;
  2. if a term is normatively defined by SPARQL and we want to put the 
concept in RDF 1.1, we adopt it without any change;
  3. for all terms that do not have a normative definition yet in either 
RDF or SPARQL, we leave the discussion open to settle on a term.


By the way, g-snaps are called RDF graphs in the normative specs. 
Refusing to use the official terms is what brings confusion, 
ambiguities, etc. It brings the impression that we are talking about 
distinct concepts, when in fact, it's all about sets of triples. In 
fact, I'm less sure what g-snap means in people's mouth than I know what 
RDF graph means.

In any case, if there is a proposal to rename "RDF Graph" with another 
term, I'll vote against it and do whatever it takes to have the proposal 
rejected. Remember that we have formally resolved that g-snap shall be 
called "RDF Graph". A formal resolution is not something that should be 
taken lightly, IMO. If the chosen terms for g-* are not ok, there should 
be another formal resolution.


--AZ.
>
> -- Sandro
>
>> Kingsley
>>>
>>>> Best,
>>>> Richard
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> On 24 Aug 2012, at 03:53, Sandro Hawke wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> On 08/23/2012 11:22 AM, Richard Cyganiak wrote:
>>>>>> On 23 Aug 2012, at 16:00, Sandro Hawke wrote:
>>>>>>>> You proposed to redefine "graph" by splitting it into two
>>>>>>>> separate concepts, a mutable and an immutable one.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> I propose to instead redefine "named graph" in the same way, by
>>>>>>>> splitting it into two separate concepts, a mutable and immutable
>>>>>>>> one.
>>>>>>> You lost me here, sorry. What's the use case for an immutable
>>>>>>> named graph?
>>>>>> I guess I should have said "abstract named graph", sorry if that
>>>>>> caused confusion. Abstract IRI-graph-pairs. The thing that SPARQL
>>>>>> queries operate over.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>> And it sounds like you're suggesting "mutable named graph" as the
>>>>>>> official term for g-box. Is that right?
>>>>>> Almost. My definition of "mutable named graph" would be:
>>>>>>
>>>>>> "A *mutable named graph* is a resource, denoted by an IRI, that
>>>>>> has a mutable association with an (abstract, immutable) RDF graph.
>>>>>> The RDF graph is also known as the *state* of the mutable named
>>>>>> graph."
>>>>>>
>>>>>> The key points are:
>>>>>>
>>>>>> 1) we insist that it is a resource, so the kind of thing denoted
>>>>>> by IRIs
>>>>>> 2) we insist that it is actually denoted by some IRI
>>>>>> 3) it essentially has a mutable slot that contains an RDF graph
>>>>>>
>>>>>> This means it can cover both the terms "RDF space/g-box" and the
>>>>>> term "(name, slot) pair" from the diagram in [1].
>>>>>>
>>>>>> I repeat my assertion that there is no need to ever talk about
>>>>>> unnamed g-boxes.
>>>>> Yeah, this makes sense, but it's not my first or second choice in
>>>>> naming proposals. Probably wouldn't help to go into why/why not at
>>>>> this point.
>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> I think the key elements are : (1) we stop using "RDF Graph" as
>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>> canonical, precise term for a g-snap;
>>>>>>>> I disagree; "RDF graph" is a perfectly fine term.
>>>>>>> I wish. I can live with it, but I think it's hardly "fine".
>>>>>>> People use it wrong all the time; they say "RDF graph" and mean a
>>>>>>> mutable and/or distinct set of RDF triples.
>>>>>> I think by actually defining proper terms for these other things,
>>>>>> and by clarifying that "graph" can mean "any of the above", we
>>>>>> make a solid step towards improving the situation.
>>>>> I think you're saying "RDF graph"==g-snap; "graph"=g-snap/or/g-box.
>>>>>
>>>>> I have a problem with this. I think people will need some way
>>>>> linguistically to distinguish "graph" in the RDF world from "graph"
>>>>> in the wider world, and the natural way to do that is to add the
>>>>> modifier, "RDF". So people will instinctively say "RDF graph" to
>>>>> clarify they mean "graph" in the RDF sense (not a bar chart or
>>>>> something). But with your proposal, they've now accidentally
>>>>> changed to talking about g-snaps.
>>>>>
>>>>> I think people rarely mean to only be talking about g-snaps, and
>>>>> when they do, they can/should put the word "abstract" in there. I
>>>>> also think the presence or absence of the modifier "RDF" shouldn't
>>>>> affect the semantics of the term -- people should be able to use it
>>>>> when they want to clarify they're talking about RDF, without it
>>>>> otherwise affecting the meaning.
>>>>>
>>>>> -- Sandro
>>>>>
>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>> Richard
>>>>>>
>>>>>> [1] http://www.w3.org/2012/08/RDFNG.html#fig1
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>> I'm not saying we have to solve this problem, or that we can, but
>>>>>>> I think it would be helpful if we could and I think this proposal
>>>>>>> is our best bet.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> -- Sandro
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> But we can stress that "RDF graph" is an abstract, unnamed,
>>>>>>>> immutable graph, and that when we talk about "graphs" in general
>>>>>>>> then we may sometimes mean named ones that may or may not be
>>>>>>>> mutable.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> (2) we pick terms for g-box and g-snap that convey the idea
>>>>>>>>> that they are two different kinds of "graphs";
>>>>>>>> I disagree; I believe that there is never any need to talk about
>>>>>>>> *unnamed* g-boxes; all the g-boxes we want to talk about are
>>>>>>>> named. Therefore, a term like "mutable named graph" is
>>>>>>>> sufficient to say all that needs to be said about g-boxes.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> (3) we use "graph" if/when we don't mind being ambiguous about
>>>>>>>>> g-box/g-snap.
>>>>>>>> I'd rephrase that: We can use "graph" if/when we don't mind
>>>>>>>> being ambiguous about
>>>>>>>> g-snap/abstract-named-graph/mutable-named-graph. For example
>>>>>>>> when we say, "SPARQL Update can be used to copy data from one
>>>>>>>> graph to another". In that case we mean mutable-named-graph.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> On your details.... let me start with: to you, can you have a
>>>>>>>>> named
>>>>>>>>> graph that's not in a dataset (or graph store)?
>>>>>>>> As defined in SPARQL (named graph == IRI-graph-pair), no.
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> But if we allow a term such as "mutable named graph", then yes.
>>>>>>>> A Turtle document on the Web is a "mutable named graph", in that
>>>>>>>> sense. It doesn't have to be in any particular dataset. Well,
>>>>>>>> it's in the Web, and for me it makes sense to speak of the
>>>>>>>> entire web as a "mutable RDF dataset".
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>>>> Richard
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> I don't usually hear the term used outside SPARQL, so I don't
>>>>>>>>> have much of an ear for that usage.
>>>>>>>> -- Sandro
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>>>>> Richard
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> On 22 Aug 2012, at 18:07, Sandro Hawke wrote:
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> On 08/21/2012 03:33 AM, Andy Seaborne wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> On 20/08/12 16:30, Sandro Hawke wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> If it wouldn't cause SPARQL too many problems, I'd suggest
>>>>>>>>>>>> we should do
>>>>>>>>>>>> the same with dataset, and even allow a dataset to be a kind
>>>>>>>>>>>> of graph, I
>>>>>>>>>>>> think, so that the world at large can use the word term "RDF
>>>>>>>>>>>> dataset"
>>>>>>>>>>>> for any collection of RDF data (whether or not it's
>>>>>>>>>>>> segmented into named
>>>>>>>>>>>> graphs).
>>>>>>>>>>> That would be problematic. "RDF Dataset" is a specifically
>>>>>>>>>>> defined term. "Dataset" we can be loose about (c.f. VoiD) ;
>>>>>>>>>>> "RDF Dataset" is stressing the tie to a particular
>>>>>>>>>>> definition. You might as well mix properties and triples if
>>>>>>>>>>> you're going to mix things of different "shape".
>>>>>>>>>> In the telecon, I mentioned on irc the term "bacronym" but
>>>>>>>>>> what I meant was "retronym". These are terms like "cow milk"
>>>>>>>>>> that arise once some term ("milk") becomes ambiguous (eg
>>>>>>>>>> because of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc). See
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> I take the "radical proposal" to be the recognition that some
>>>>>>>>>> terms are ambiguous and we need to make retronyms to
>>>>>>>>>> disambiguate them.
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> Here's a revised proposal:
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> - We pick terms like "Abstract RDF Graph" (gsnap) and
>>>>>>>>>> "Maintained RDF Graph" (gbox) that fit the retronym model. It
>>>>>>>>>> makes it easy, when someone says "graph" or "RDF Graph", to
>>>>>>>>>> think/ask, "do you mean abstract or maintained?" (I don't find
>>>>>>>>>> these terms quite as ontologically comfortable as g-snap and
>>>>>>>>>> g-box/space/data-source, because it makes them both be
>>>>>>>>>> subclasses of "graph", but I think this approach works better
>>>>>>>>>> for the community.)
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> - We clarify that in all W3C specs to date, "RDF Graph" means
>>>>>>>>>> "Abstract RDF Graph"
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> - Going forward, we avoid using the term "RDF Graph", using
>>>>>>>>>> either Abstract Graph or Maintained Graph (with or without
>>>>>>>>>> "RDF" in there). Or just "graph" when we don't care which kind.
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> I think that much of the confusion around the term "named
>>>>>>>>>> graph" comes from a lack of clarity around whether what is
>>>>>>>>>> meant is a "named abstract graph" or a "named maintained
>>>>>>>>>> graph". I think the latter is much more common; the difference
>>>>>>>>>> doesn't manifest in SPARQL 1.0 because it doesn't consider the
>>>>>>>>>> idea of data changing. In my mind, this proposal is our best
>>>>>>>>>> chance for being able to coherently keep using the term "named
>>>>>>>>>> graph", which seems to be very popular.
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> BTW, I think we might also want to define "Frozen" graph,
>>>>>>>>>> which is a maintained graph in the sense that it exists in a
>>>>>>>>>> computer's storage, but which is required to never change.
>>>>>>>>>> This is, I think, mostly what PROV wants to use.
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> -- Sandro
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>
>
>

-- 
Antoine Zimmermann
ISCOD / LSTI - Institut Henri Fayol
École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint-Étienne
158 cours Fauriel
42023 Saint-Étienne Cedex 2
France
Tél:+33(0)4 77 42 66 03
Fax:+33(0)4 77 42 66 66
http://zimmer.aprilfoolsreview.com/
Received on Friday, 24 August 2012 20:01:20 UTC

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