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Re: Lessons from the RSS and HLink wars

From: Simon St.Laurent <simonstl@simonstl.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2002 19:37:08 -0400
To: www-tag@w3.org
Message-ID: <r01050300-1015-891298FCD4CD11D6857F0003937A08C2@[192.168.124.21]>

Paul Prescod writes:
> By now most of us are familiar with the years of fighting over RSS.
> My understanding is that the core syntactic (not philisophical)
> differences between the two parties are:
> 
> 1. the use of XML namespaces
> 
> 2. the requirement to use the RDF namespace and encoding in
> particular
> 
> Now we have the XLink/HLink war. The issues are similar, though with
> a much heavier weighting on 2. And in fact, recent developments in
> the RSS war also indicate that 1. is becoming increasingly acceptable
> and 2. is still a major killer sticking point. (I haven't followed
> closely so if I'm wrong, somebody please tell me)

I'm not sure that (1) is precisely beloved, but (2) is definitely where
I find the most flames.  (1) modifies the labels you give your
structures (and has its own set of issues), but (2) is where people tend
to feel trapped, stepped on, intruded upon, etc.

> The heat of this debate should give us all pause. Clearly people care
> deeply about the syntax of the XML namespaces they use and develop
> are not willing to tolerate much dictation from outside what the
> syntax should be. Perhaps it is not entirely coincidence that RDF and
> XLink are two really interesting technologies that have languished in
> obscurity and have left a very sour taste in many people's mouths.

We could create yet another front by requiring RDF to use XLink syntax
or vice-versa, thereby genericizing connections between resources yet
further ;->, but I think you've done an excellent job of isolating some
of the key reasons that much of the world has no interest in XLink and
RDF or is actively hostile.

> We, the markup intelligensia can keep shoving these invasive
> "extensible", "generic" standards down people's throats but I don't
> think they're swallowing. Why the reluctance to give them want they
> want?

I keep asking myself that, but the answers I'm finding are mostly rather
rude.  Let's just say I don't understand the reluctance.

> I've found the RDF people to be rather pragmatic:
> 
> "a lot of people are interested in exploring the use of XML
> Schema annotations to map from more colloquial XML into RDF graphs. 
> IMHO there's a major role for this approach too, so long as we have at 
> least one syntax for RDF that takes the self-standing view..."
> 
>   *
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-interest/2002Sep/0114.html

There have also been some interesting discussions on xml-dev about
similar XML->RDF mapping even without the use of schemas.

> If this thing had existed years ago then arguably the RSS war would
> never have had to happen. The UserLand XML syntax could be mapped to
> RDF using a generic mechanism and the RSS world could have its cake
> and eat it too.

Yep.

> Why not be similarly pragmatic about XLink? In fact, why not take the
> opportunity to devise a common mechanism for declaring mappings from
> domain-specific vocabularies to semantic vocabularies?
> 
> (of course using XML Schema is just one approach...one could imagine
> also using XPaths:
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-interest/2002Sep/0111.
> html or perhaps CSS, or architectural forms, or something else
> entirely)

Precisely.  I think HLink demonstrates that there are some very good
technical questions out there which are still looking for answers.  

That may not be what the W3C wants to hear after XLink has crossed all
the political requirements for becoming a Recommendation, and it may not
square with a particular notion of how to use namespaces for
disambiguating identifiers, but it might well let us all get a lot more
work done, technical and otherwise.


-------------
Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
http://simonstl.com may be my URI
http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI
urn:oid:1.3.6.1.4.1.6320 is another possibility altogether
Received on Monday, 30 September 2002 19:37:10 GMT

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