W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-interest@w3.org > February 2004

Re: "Locally-Significant" Statements

From: Hamish Harvey <david.harvey@bristol.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 12:10:00 +0000
To: "'www-rdf-interest@w3.org'" <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>
Message-Id: <200402191210.00515.david.harvey@bristol.ac.uk>

On Wednesday 18 Feb 2004 2:31 pm, Thomas B. Passin wrote:

> This is a worthy problem, but it is not unique to RDF.  It is really a
> data modeling problem, and the best solution will depend on what you
> want to achieve by your modeling.  You would have the same set of issues
> - pretty much - if you were designing a relational database.

> The answers to these questions will depend on what you want to
> accomplish or express with the data model.  Notice that RDF is not
> involved here.  Only when you have the data model under control is it
> time to translate to RDF.  In fact, if you create a relational database
> model, you can then pick apart the tables and turn them into triples -
> that gives you your schema, basically.
> Notice that this process arrives at certain specialized data structures.
>   They will be properly understood only by a processor that is prepared
> to recognize them and work with them appropriately.  A general purpose
> processor will probably not be able to do this, or at least not as
> effectively and quickly as a special-purpose one.
> Such data structures form a kind of idiom, and I think that we will see
> a great many idioms in the future, as RDF gets deployed more widely.

There seems to me to be a slight contradiction here. 

Idiom exists *within* language. RDF is a language, the relational data model 
is another. Anyone who has learned a foreign language to any depth will 
attest that idioms do not move easily between languages.

I'd be wary of convincing yourself that you are developing a data model 
independently of any language for expressing it. You may, if you're new to 
RDF, avoid allowing RDF to have any influence, but you'll never avoid the 
languages with which are more deeply ingrained to do so. Better, surely, to 
acknowledge the influence of language, and try to remain aware of it.

Someone who has spent a long time developing RDBMS schemas will naturally 
produce data models which are suited to use in RDBMSes. Someone who has not 
experience of data modelling in any language will be unable to understand the 
issues which need to be addressed at all, as the only language they have to 
work in is their native natural language, which is far from ideally suited to 
expressing data models.


Hamish Harvey, PhD
Network Coordinator, FloodRiskNet (http://www.floodrisknet.org.uk/) and
Research Assistant, Water and Environmental Management Research Centre,
University of Bristol
Home page: http://www.cen.bris.ac.uk/pgra/dph/dph.htm
Weblog: http://hamish.blogs.com/
Tel: +44 (0) 117 928 8883  Fax: +44 (0) 117 928 7783
Received on Thursday, 19 February 2004 07:14:25 UTC

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