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webont-01 'rename schema' proposal

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 24 May 2003 08:08:17 -0400
To: w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org
Message-ID: <20030524120817.GF13924@tux.w3.org>
Discussing with Brian and others the proposal from WebOnt via Jim Hendler,
http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/RDFCore/20030123-issues/#webont-01
raised: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-comments/2003JanMar/0335.html
...I would like to get some discussion going on the costs/benefits of 
finally moving away from the use of the name 'RDF Schema' for our 
vocabulary description language.

The WebOnt comment is:
[[
i. Although this document is called RDF Schema we think that the 
title "RDF Vocabulary Description Language" would be clearer, and 
make the difference from XML Schema (used for validation) more 
evident.
]]

After talking this through with Brian, and prior discussions with 
Ivan Herman and others regarding the difficulty of presenting a coherent 
picture of the SemWeb technology stack, I am 
increasingly inclined (albeit warily) 
towards accepting the proposal from WebOnt.

This would be a costly exercise, both for the WG and editors, but also 
in terms of those in the wider world who have invested time, energy and 
braincells on 'rdf schema' technology. Whatever we do will have costs. My 
change of mind is based on the view that making the move to drop 'schema' 
terminology now puts an immediate burden on the WG and editors (in our 
group and in OWL), but leaves us in a state where the future might be 
increasingly coherent as tutorials, tools, demos etc migrate away from 
the 'schema' terminology. If we stick with calling this thing 'schema', 
and we get to REC, we're stuck with it.

But but but... what about other wgs? other w3c specs? other communities 
who are talking about their rdf vocabularies as 'rdf schemas'? If the 
terminology of 'rdf schema' were to simply vanish from the W3C RDF / 
SemWeb specs, we risk creating a whole lot more confusion, at least in the 
next year or two. 

So, put bluntly, I don't know what best to do.

The current RDFS/DVL spec sits on the fence. We say that it is the 
RDF Vocabulary Description Language 1.0: RDF Schema.

I wonder if the balancing act we are currently performing could be tweaked 
slightly, to encourage folk to think more in terms of vocabularies 
(and eventually ontologies) rather than schemas. Strategies we might consider 
include:

 * never using 'rdf schema' in noun form, ie avoiding talk of their being 
  things that are 'rdf schemas' (while leaving it in as a _name_ for the 
  basic rdf vocabulary description language defined by w3c, just as OWL is 
  the name for W3C's 2nd RDF-based VDL).
 * Encourage OWL spec editors to use the terminology of 'vocabulary description'  as a way of providing a conceptual bridge between the work of our specs and 
  in  the OWL specs
 * Accompany this with outreach efforts to help RDF early adopters (esp 
  vocab creators) explain this transition. We could do this through RDF IG
  and other outreach efforts, ie needn't be a work item for RDF Core.

Having typed this I'm feeling happier that there is a middle path, where
'schema' doesn't entirely dissapear from the spec, but we accelerate its
phase-out by more explicitly moving to 'vocab' based terminology.

Dan

Received on Saturday, 24 May 2003 08:08:18 EDT

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