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Re: webont-01 'rename schema' proposal

From: Graham Klyne <gk@ninebynine.org>
Date: Sat, 24 May 2003 22:19:18 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Cc: w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org

[I was unable to read danbri's original message... but responding to the 
quoted version here]

schema n. (pl. schemata // or schemas)
1 a synopsis, outline, or diagram.
2 a proposed arrangement.
3 Logic a syllogistic figure.
4 (in Kantian philosophy) a conception of what is common to all members of 
a class; a general type or essential form.
[Greek skhema -atos ‘form, figure’]
-- the Concise Oxford Dictionary

"schema" is, to my mind, a perfectly respectable generic term.  I don't 
think that because it's used in the phrase "XML schema" we should be 
bullied out of deploying the equally reasonable term "RDF schema".

I have observed that it often seems to occur that when a word gets used in 
a specific technical context, it becomes difficult to use the same term in 
other variations of its widely accepted meaning.  In recent RDF 
discussions, the word "model" comes to mind.

The phrase "XML schema" refers to a arrangement of and relationship between 
syntactic elements.   I think the term "RDF schema" is equally valid to 
refer to some relationships between semantic elements in RDF.

In summary, I think the use of the phrase "XML schema" is not a valid 
reason to abandon the phrase "RDF schema".  Maybe there are other reasons 
to prefer a different phrase to "RDF schema", but I don't think legitimate 
re-use of the word "schema" is one such.


At 13:32 24/05/03 -0400, Frank Manola wrote:
>Dan Brickley wrote:
>>Discussing with Brian and others the proposal from WebOnt via Jim Hendler,
>>...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.
>Graham Klyne
>PGP: 0FAA 69FF C083 000B A2E9  A131 01B9 1C7A DBCA CB5E
Received on Sunday, 25 May 2003 05:16:19 UTC

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