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RE: The Standards Manifesto

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 21:05:34 -0400 (EDT)
To: Joshua Allen <joshuaa@microsoft.com>
cc: <www-talk@w3.org>, <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>, Aaron Swartz <me@aaronsw.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0205222047370.7734-100000@tux.w3.org>
On Wed, 22 May 2002, Joshua Allen wrote:

> To be clear, I share Aaron's frustration with the seeming lack of
> progress/focus in some of these activities:
> When I first became enamored of the "semantic web", I figured it would
> just be a few more months until all of the issues were hammered out and
> I could start building things that people could use.  We were *so* close
> to having the standards we needed to publish, aggregate, and query basic
> assertions.

standards, or tools?

RDF, for my money, is reasonably well baked. And there are some good tools
out there. But in my experience it is the tools that now need the polish.
The specs are pretty much in hand.

> But instead we are still arguing about whether a URI actually identifies
> anything universally,

Yes, there have been some dull threads. I encourage people to go build
something instead. And then writeup what they encountered.

			and meanwhile we are told "Just wait for WebOnt,
> that will solve everything."

I don't believe you've heard anything of the sort from W3C. URL please!

			 And we are still no closer to being able
> to publish, aggregate, and query basic assertions.

Jena, Redfoot, Redland, Inkling, RDFdb, Cwm, and a whole bunch of
others... there are tools out there. And publication isn't hard. HTTP
servers are plentiful. There are a number of query languages implemented.
So 'no closer' isn't quite fair. We've seen new versions of these tools,
bugfixes, improvements...

Aggegation is imho the key problem. Most interesting, real world RDF data
is full of blank (URI-less) nodes. Most RDF tools don't provide much by
way of tools to merge these nodes together, so aggregates of RDF data can
be annoyingly fragmented. Fragmentation of data pulls against the network
effect, by lessening the value of exposing and harvesting data into larger

> I share the frustration, I just disagree that corporations have anything
> to do with it.


		I think it's an issue of where people's motivations are.
> For most RDF-heads, it's not so appealing to do the boring grunt work of
> writing the first few apps to get this bootstrapped.  I'm not talking
> about RDF-database, RDF parsers, and so on.  Nothing so elegant or sexy.
> I mean boring things such as implement a system similar to third-voice
> which is completely based on RDF+NNTP and therefore universally
> accessible to everyone.  Or a ratings system for web-pages that is
> independent of any server or browser.  Basically, stuff that my Mom or
> Dad would use on a daily basis, and easy enough to use that they *will*
> use it on a daily basis.

Yes, I'm hoping we'll see more of this sort of thing from members of this
group, and from W3C SWAD efforts. Focussing on simple, practical apps first,
standalone from any grand vision thing, seems important. I was trying to
say much the same thing in http://www.w3.org/Talks/2001/12-semweb-offices/
http://www.w3.org/Talks/2001/12-semweb-offices/slide16-0.html re 'walk
before we can run', fwiw.

Your specific scenarios aren't too far from the Annotea work, and similar
efforts over on www-annotations@w3.org. What do you think stands in the
way of that work going mom'n'dad mainstream?

> The so-called "network effect" *will* make SW inevitable.  But networks
> need to be bootstrapped, and that's just hard, tedious work (and of
> course we need someone like Aaron to resolve any standards ambiguities
> by fiat :-)

It should be fun work, sometimes, too. But yes, I think I've mentioned
here before that we've lacked a completer-finisher culture in RDF circles.
In an environment where all apps shade off into one another, getting any
of them to v1.0 without being distracted can be a challenge.

The hard work that I'd like to see from database/query folk is dealing
more comprehensively with aggregating RDF that's full of blank nodes. I
think there are some pretty simple answers (my implementation has a
graph.deFragment() method on the graph, and merges nodes based on daml
unambiguous properties). Tying these technical concerns to the practical
issues thrown up by real world apps (photo metadata, annotations, ratings)
is probably the most important thing we can do right now...


Received on Wednesday, 22 May 2002 21:05:37 UTC

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