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RDFa and Web Directions North 2009

From: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Date: Sun, 08 Feb 2009 23:10:59 -0500
Message-ID: <498FACD3.4050901@digitalbazaar.com>
To: RDFa mailing list <public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf@w3.org>, RDFa Community <public-rdfa@w3.org>

Hi all,

I had the pleasure of teaching a 4 hour workshop on RDFa and giving a
high-level talk on RDFa and the semantic web at this year's Web
Directions North[1] conference. I'll post the presentation material
later in the month.

If none of you have been to a Web Directions conference before, you
should try going if there is one near you - it was absolutely fantastic
- very non-corporate, great topics, fantastically organized. Lots of
webheads from W3C, Opera, IE, Google, Yahoo, and others that are heavily
involved in using standards to build the next generation web.

What follows is some feedback that I got from the workshop and talk on
RDFa. Conference attendees were primarily a mix of web designers and
developers. I take no position on any of the feedback, just relaying it
so that others on the list can comment.

The Workshop
------------

Most everyone that attended the workshop was familiar with Microformats,
were using them in their website, and wanted to learn more about RDFa.
All of them seemed to understand RDFa, CURIEs, namespaces, chaining,
bnodes, hanging @rels, etc. by the end of the workshop. Having not known
anything about RDF and RDF/XML when starting the workshop, they seemed
to leave with a fairly solid understanding of RDFa.

XHTML and HTML5
---------------

While many people were using XHTML1 in their demos to perform markup,
there were many more designers and web developers that thought that
HTML5 was the next version of (X)HTML. There was a great deal of buzz
around HTML5 and nobody that I spoke to mentioned that they were in the
least bit excited about XHTML2, even when asked directly. HTML5 was
mentioned in presentations and conversations throughout the week. The
general feeling was that HTML5 was far more exciting than XHTML2.

Most seemed to hate the term "RDFa"
-----------------------------------

Many confused RDFa with RDF/XML and even more confused RDF/XML with RDF.
Web developer understanding surrounding the differences between RDF,
RDF/XML and RDFa are a mess. People got it after the talk, but several
made the suggestion that we re-brand RDFa because "it's different from
RDF and there are really bad connotations associated with RDF". "It
sounds way too technical." were some of the other comments - it really
scared web designers. They also didn't like the W3C semantic web icon
and seemed to feel the same about the W3C site in general, several
mentioned that they "felt like I was looking at a website from the late
1990s" (note that most of the negative comments came from web designers).

RDFa Website and Blog
---------------------

There were many comments about how the Microformats website looked far
more professional and was far more useful at presenting information than
the RDFa blog and wiki. There were several complaints about it being
nearly useless and universally scary for web designers that are just
starting out with web semantics.

RDFa Wizards and Templates
--------------------------

"It would be really nice if I could just go to a site and start filling
out a form to generate RDFa for people/places/events/etc.". This was
repeated on every day of the conference - we've been talking about it
for some time, but have not gotten it done yet. Seems to be a great need
for this.

Namespaces weren't an issue
---------------------------

I made it a point to ask people directly if the xmlns:foaf=XYZ prefixing
mechanism scared or confused them and not a single person said that it
did. Most seemed to feel as if it were a fairly normal mechanism to
define a prefix. Granted, they didn't know the alternatives, but not
once did I have an argument about why we have namespaces in RDFa. That
being said, most said that they understood why we have namespaces...
BUT, having no namespaces was easier to understand. Most seemed to
understand the vocabulary scaling problem inherent with Microformats.

SVG + RDFa
----------

Doug Schepers worked RDFa into his SVG presentation, using it to
describe people in an image such as "pretty", "tubby", "skinny", "bald".
He wanted the ability to tag areas of an image and attach semantic
attributes or descriptions to the image. This has some fairly powerful
implications for people with disabilities, such as the ability to mark
up areas on a graphical map as "water", or "land", or "forest", or "bus
stop", etc. using RDFa. A thermal printer would take this data and then
add physical semantics to the map that is printed out based on the
semantics (braille, water texture, etc.)

Overall the feedback on RDFa was very positive and many stated that they
were going to go back and try messing around with it a bit more.

-- manu

[1] http://north.webdirections.org/

-- 
Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
Received on Monday, 9 February 2009 04:11:17 GMT

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