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Re: How to fund a website for getting started with RDF applications?

From: Mike Carifio <mike@carif.io>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2019 14:21:43 -0400
To: semantic-web@w3.org
Cc: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Message-ID: <3c59a07c-0bbe-0111-9cdc-dc4c60b3820c@carif.io>
On 3/15/19 6:21 PM, David Booth wrote:
> How should a central website for getting started with RDF-related 
> applications be funded and administered?

tl;dr: 1) Learning RDF is a challenge. 2) A website is only part of the 
solution. 3) Paying for it will be tricky.

As a longtime lurker on this list, I can finally speak with some 
knowledge about my ignorance of RDF. Rant even.

Quick background: On my optimistic days, I count myself in Dave's 
"programmer middle third" referenced on slide 10 of the "EasyDuke" 
presentation.
I have degrees in Math and Computer Science, but they're also now in the 
distant past. I've been writing software over four decades and have managed
to teach myself "the next thing" by experimentation, reading and elbow 
grease. Since most of you don't know me, you'll have to take my 
"representative"
claim as an unproven assumption. But I think most of the Middle Third 
"learns by doing" for example downloading some open source tool and 
kicking the tires.
I think the top and bottom third do that as well. Takeaway: I'm the 
target demographic, a Middle Thirder.

Backdrop: I've long believed RDF and the semantic web (which I'll just 
term RDF for now) are a great set of ideas almost completely 
unintelligible in their presentation.
I tracked the RDF standard when the highly capable Pat Swift (whom I 
know personally, but he's still highly capable) ushered it through its 
standardization.
Felt like I had crashed an adult party where brilliant people were 
talking Big Ideas. That's really never changed. I understand 
https://www.w3.org/TR/rdf11-concepts/
to be tutorial and I've tried to read it a few times. I don't think I've 
ever made it to the end and perhaps its not meant to be tutorial. I also 
don't want to
bash all the hard work that went into that document. But it can't have 
been intended for Middle Thirders.
JSON-LD https://json-ld.org/spec/latest/json-ld/ seems to have made 
itself more approachable. Cambridge Semantic's "Semantic University"
https://www.cambridgesemantics.com/blog/semantic-university seems to 
have better targeted MThirders. You may have different opinions.
Takeaway: I'm a _motivated_ MThirder and it ain't my first rodeo.

Context: In my opinion, MThirders doesn't care about RDF today. They're 
already groaning under the onslaught of new technology introduced in 
fragmented ways at an
accelerated rate. Think about javascript, oops sorry ECMAscript, and 
tell me there isn't a problem. If the Middle Third is still trying to 
figure out the myriad
ways to import a javascript module in both a web browser and node 
server, they're not going to pay attention to the semantic web unless 
it's 1) obviously important
and 2) immediately accessible. RDF is important but it's not immediately 
obvious. RDF isn't clear. Yes, the semantic web contains some difficult 
(unobvious) ideas.
But that's also an excuse to avoid some heavy explanational lifting. A 
website or a wiki, even with sustained effort and investment, isn't 
going to change that very much.
Sadly. Takeaway: RDF's issues aren't _just_ education and marketing.

Yeah, yeah. This is a classic curmudgeon email, GTFO my lawn. So the 
questions posed were:

* Who funds and how much? Perhaps you "price out" various solutions. Ask 
Mozilla how much MDN https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/ costs.
   The Mozilla Foundation brought in $500M USD in 2017
(https://static.mozilla.com/moco/en-US/pdf/2015_Mozilla_Audited_Financial_Statement.pdf 
by way of Wikipedia), so
   they had some funds to work with. Do they have people on the payroll 
dedicated just to MDN and how much? That's one end of the solution 
spectrum. I think
   you'll be surprised by the costs. Perhaps you think MDN is overkill 
and don't need its "production values." Fine with me, you can view MDN 
as an aspirational example.

* A different approach might be a "curated list" e.g. 
https://github.com/pshah123/awesome-lists or 
https://github.com/vinta/awesome-python. Seems to be a much lower
   cost and almost no barrier to entry. The repo owner has "final say" 
over what's in the list by accepting or rejecting pull requests and/or 
other suggestions.
   Perhaps https://github.com/dbooth-boston/awesome-rdf is a place to 
start (sorry Dave). Yes, these lists are themselves jumbled, but at 
least they're jumbled in one place.
   I personally have found some of them useful. Also let's you gauge 
interest through pull requests.

As can sometimes be the case on technical mailing lists, there's a 
little bit of handwaving about costs and effort as evidenced by "ads as 
a revenue model" or "sponsorships".
I'm surprised no one's suggested micropayments yet. I realize this is 
brainstorming and the "who pays" and "why" questions are themselves 
challenging. But perhaps it's best
to start with the user experience and work backwards to who's interested 
in that and why. For example, I pay for Youtube because I don't want to 
watch ads
and I do watch Youtube content (tech talks, Superbowl highlights, cat 
vids). I pay for the (failing) New York Times because journalism that 
includes fact checking saves me time.
I probably wouldn't pay for http://www.rdf-r.us/, but I would subscribe 
for new content notifications via email. I would suffer through ads too.
Perhaps there's also a "content marketing" 
https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2014/09/19/what-is-content-marketing/#4fe17f7110b9 
angle on this,
which isn't quite sponsorship. Fixate.io writes about this stuff 
http://fixate.io/what-is-practitioner-marketing/ and I find it 
intriguing. I'm just not sure
how to predict its revenue.

-- 
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Received on Saturday, 16 March 2019 18:31:01 UTC

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