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Re: Statements about RDF

From: Phil Archer <phila@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:14:46 +0100
Message-ID: <53B53B26.20104@w3.org>
To: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>, semantic-web@w3.org
Thanks Robin,

A couple of comments inline (headline - we agree).

On 03/07/2014 11:20, Robin Berjon wrote:
> Phil wrote:
>> Leaving aside the fact that we're stretched to breaking point in terms
>> of staff availability ... I'm looking for ways in which we could
>> establish something like a Semantic Web (or Linked Data) Access Group -
>> basically a group that defines a bucket full of stuff that means even
>> arch anti-Linked Data people will find useful and attractive. Something
>> that might bring SemWeb closer to Robin Berjon's vision
>> (http://berjon.com/web-2024/). I don't agree with his statements about
>> RDF, of course, but he's far from alone in his thinking.
> I guess that's my cue to jump in :)
> I know that the content in the post above has been characterised as
> dissing RDF. I'd like to underline the fact that that is not the case.
> My comments and predictions are not technical, they are ecological. To
> put this differently, if it is 2.3 billion years ago and you are the
> meanest, badassest anaerobe on Earth, you can evolve multicellularity
> and even higher intelligence all you want, you're still going to die a
> horrible death when the cyanobacteria oxygenate everything.

By coincidence I was talking about evolution earlier this week, 
especially how a spider is never going to evolve insect eyes, or 
molluscan eyes or chordate eyes because to from its highly evolved 
spider eyes towards those would require backward steps that would be 
disadvantageous before they could move forward. Nope, not going to 
happen and nor should it.

Pretty pictures of eyes in different (sub) phyla at

> This doesn't mean that I wish for RDF to die a horrible death, but the
> extrapolations I can make from the current ecosystem don't lead me to
> see it becoming a typical part of the Web platform. I could be wrong, I
> don't know everything, and there may be a tipping point.

That's what we're trying to create. RDF, LD etc. *are* massively 
deployed but the average Web developer isn't able to benefit from that 
or access it in a way s/he wants. That's the challenge and my hope for 
some new work next year. I don't know what that work looks like yet, 
that's what your blog post and the initial post here about RDF 
Interfaces has helped me kick off a discussion about.

  I will further
> note that "becoming a typical part of the Web platform" isn't the
> criteria for success for everything.


  For example, XML or XQuery have
> found their own large, successful niches (everything looks like a niche
> compared to the whole Web) and that's great.
> The basis for my prediction stems from two observations: the vast, vast
> majority of Web publishers I meet have no idea that RDF (still) exists,

Did you have to write (still) there? Of course it F'ing well exists.

> let alone that it could do anything for them;

Right, we need to fix that.

  conversely I don't see any
> movement (but I may have missed stuff) to use RDF in a way that solves a
> sizeable tract of the problems this crowd is facing today (or that I
> suspect will be facing soon).

So we really need to look at use cases (quelle surprise :-) )

  Putting these two observations together,
> RDF could be the best thing since endorphins and it would still not make
> it big.
> Now, if I switch to a much more opinionated take I don't think that this
> is a fatality. I do not go into details in that post, but I do think
> that there are ways to make massive amounts of linked data emerge from
> the Web we have, primarily by making it vernacular through solving
> small, everyday paper-cut problems. The "Web Schema" thing I mention in
> that post is basically the semantic web freed from the shackles of the
> RDF data model :)

Shackles? Is that how you see it? Let me create a trivial example.

I take a book out of my local library which is run by a public 
administration according to a locally defined policy that conforms to 
one or more pieces of national legislation.

The book
The library
The administration
The policy
The locality
The legislation

All these are actors in the chain of events and the linkages between 
them are varied. Each one gives an access point to relevant data that 
may go off in other directions too and it looks a lot more like a graph 
than a (set of) table(s). But let's make it available in a way that 
people don't necessarily have to understand the underlying graph to make 
use of the power behind it (did someone say Knowledge Graph?)

> At any rate Phil, I'm heartily in favour of making semantics and data
> useful and attractive. If there's any way in which I can help, I'm more
> than happy to!

And there, as ever, we are in full alignment. Let's work off-list to see 
how we can make this happen.


For W3C Internal Use Only: I'm hoping for some sort of cross IA/INK 
Domain/DevRel thingy. Just got to work out how the heck to make it 
happen - might take a while.



Phil Archer
W3C Data Activity Lead

+44 (0)7887 767755
Received on Thursday, 3 July 2014 11:15:16 UTC

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