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Re: review of XML in 10 points [was: AGENDA...]

From: Bert Bos <bert@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 17:35:56 +0100
Message-ID: <15376.61420.653971.426800@jfouffa.inria.fr>
To: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>
Cc: connolly@w3.org, phayes@ai.uwf.edu, janet@w3.org, em@w3.org, liam@w3.org, www-webont-wg@w3.org
Peter F. Patel-Schneider writes:
> Here is a stab at a replacement:
> 
> 
> XML provides syntax for W3C's RDF, a language for expressing metadata
> (information about information).  RDF is the first step towards the
> Semantic Web, a web where not just uninterpreted data is passed between
> traditional applications, but instead one where self-describing
> information, and eventually true knowledge, can be transferred between
> autonomous agents---programs that reside in the web and that can cooperate
> with other such agents to achieve ad hoc tasks without preexisting
> agreements between them concerning the meaning of the data they exchange.
> To communicate such information, mechanisms for agreeing on the meanings of
> terms are needed, just as people need to have agreement on the meanings of
> the words they employ in their communication.  Collections of meanings for
> terms in a certain area (from "shopping" to "manufacturing") are called
> ontologies and are a necessary part of the Semantic Web.  RDF, ontologies,
> and the representation of meaning needed so that computers can bettter help
> people do work are all topics of W3C's Semantic Web Activity.
> 
> 
> I've tried to skirt fairly close to my hype limit, as this is, after all,
> sort of a press release.  I'm certainly not totally happy with this
> paragraph.  It is rather hype-y for my taste, and may have too little about
> XML in it for an ``XML in 10 Points'' document.  The introduction of
> ontologies also does not flow as well as I would like.

I can see that you (and Pat Hayes, too) are passionate about RDF. So
am I. And that you don't like the XML syntax. Neither do I. (But it is
nevertheless the official one.) I know full well that one paragraph
cannot do justice to RDF. But you have to take into account who I
wrote the document for.

It is a flyer written for all the people who have heard about XML but
don't know too well what it is. Or who have heard the hype and want to
know which fraction of it is true. I wrote it because I got questions
from those people, and because I felt it was my duty as a W3C team
member to explain my work not just to implementers, but even to those
99% of people who, in principle, have no need to know what XML is. It
is true that I omitted the negative points of XML, and thus it is not
an accurate statement of my opinion, but I wanted it to fit on one
sheet of paper (and originally it did) and I believe it is a useful
text nevertheless.

Also note that most of the audience is not native speaker of English.
(Although, luckily, there have been quite a few volunteers who
translated the document to their own language.)

I originally made a 7-point document and called it "XML in 10 points"
with 3 open items to convey the idea that XML wasn't so complicated.
Then some colleagues wanted me to fill in the "missing" 3 points. For
example, some thought that XML Namespaces and XML Schemas were so
important that they needed a paragraph of their own. I didn't want to,
but I couldn't refuse my colleagues either. So XHTML and Namespaces &
Schemas were added.

I then decided to use the remaining point 9 to promote RDF a bit.
Because I had noticed, as no doubt you have noticed, too, that you can
go to no matter which XML conference and ask people if they know about
RDF and 99% willl say no. Even people that talk about metadata and how
good XML would be for that have never heard of RDF. (I could have
chosen Web Services, which is much better known and gets many more
questions, but I happen to like RDF.)

At the moment, i.e., towards the end of 2001, there are three words
that you have to know to bluff your way into the RDF scene: "RDF,"
"Semantic Web" and "Ontology." So I tried to put all three into one
paragraph. Of course the text is imprecise, ambiguous, approximative,
etc. and it omits many of the "cool" aspects of RDF that make it so
interesting for people like you. Clearly, I don't agree that that
makes it "rubbish."

So, no, it doesn't explain RDF. It tries to explain XML and make
people aware that beyond XML there is more, and more interesting,
stuff.

I will mull over your text (thanks!) and see what changes it suggests.
At first sight, though, it doesn't look as different as your use of
"rubbish" had suggested. The word "self-describing" will have to go,
of course. I have refused to apply that word to XML, because of its
being hype, and it remains hype when applied to RDF.

Janet's text stresses the layered architecture (XML -> RDF ->
Ontologies) more, but seems to be less concrete.

Maybe there should be an "RDF in 10 points" (or better: 7) on the RDF
overview page. The Web being hypertext, I could then even make a link
to it. Volunteers?



Bert
-- 
  Bert Bos                                ( W 3 C ) http://www.w3.org/
  http://www.w3.org/people/bos/                              W3C/INRIA
  bert@w3.org                             2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
  +33 (0)4 92 38 76 92            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Friday, 7 December 2001 11:36:04 GMT

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