W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-csv-wg@w3.org > February 2014

Re: Scoping Question

From: Bill Roberts <bill@swirrl.com>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2014 19:32:55 +0100
Cc: public-csv-wg@w3.org
Message-Id: <F4556746-3CB6-41F3-A57A-F591656A25E2@swirrl.com>
To: Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com>
Hi Jeni

APPROACH 2 seems to me to be the only sensible option for the group to work on.

The point (if I understand correctly) is to help to make it easy for people to publish their tabular data in a better way, with some metadata about what it all means, while using formats that non-specialist data consumers can easily understand and use.

People will no doubt continue to publish all the messy and imperfect CSV variants that are currently found in the wild.  But for those who care enough to add some metadata and think about the semantics of what they are publishing, then they may as well use a new CSV+ format in order to do it.  They already have to choose to take a step beyond 'thoughtless' CSV, so make the task easy for consumers and get them to follow some standards.

The backward compatibility for consumers is important - i.e. it should be possible to use the new format with the tools that people are familiar with (Excel etc) and for people who want to ignore all the semantic metadata to be able to do so.

If the new format is not (at least mostly) usable by tools that people currently use for CSV, then not sure there is much point - there are plenty of other formats available, such as all the variants of RDF, which will do the job very nicely, except for the downside of not being well-supported by tools of non-specialists!

The challenge of post-fitting structure and semantics to the messy CSV will still be there and is an important problem, but it's a different problem I think.

Best regards


On 21 Feb 2014, at 17:31, Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> [Only just got net connection to enable me to send this.]
> A scoping question occurred to me during the call on Wednesday.
> There seem to be two approaches that we should explicitly choose between.
> APPROACH 1: Work with whatís there
> We are trying to create a description / metadata format that would enable us to layer processing semantics over the top of all the various forms of tabular data that people publish so that it can be interpreted in a standard way.
> We need to do a survey of what tabular data exists in its various formats so that we know what the description / metadata format needs to describe. When we find data that uses different separators, pads out the actual data using empty rows and columns, incorporates two or more tables inside a single CSV file, or uses Excel spreadsheets or DSPL packages or SDF packages or NetCDF or the various other formats that people have invented, we need to keep note of these so that whatever solution and processors we create will work with these files.
> APPROACH 2: Invent something new
> We are trying to create a new format that would enable publishers to publish tabular data in a more regular way while preserving the same meaning, to make it easier for consumers of that data.
> We need to do a survey of what tabular data exists so that we can see what publishers are trying to say with their data, but the format that they are currently publishing that data in is irrelevant because we are going to invent a new format. When we find data that includes metadata about tables and cells, or groups or has cross references between tables, or has columns whose values are of different types, we need to keep note of these so that we ensure the format we create can capture that meaning.
> We also need to understand existing data so that we have a good backwards compatibility story: it would be useful if the format we invent can be used with existing tools, and if existing data didnít have to be changed very much to put it into the new format. But there will certainly be files that do have to be changed, and sometimes substantially.
> My focus is definitely on the second approach as I think taking the first approach is an endless and impossible task. But some recent mails and discussion has made me think that some people are taking the first approach. Any thoughts?
> Cheers,
> Jeni
> --  
> Jeni Tennison
> http://www.jenitennison.com/

Received on Friday, 21 February 2014 18:33:27 UTC

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