.htaccess a major bottleneck to Semantic Web adoption / Was: Re: RDFa vs RDF/XML and content negotiation

Hi all:

After about two months of helping people generate RDF/XML metadata for 
their businesses using the GoodRelations annotator [1],
I have quite some evidence that the current best practices of using 
.htaccess are a MAJOR bottleneck for the adoption of Semantic Web 

Just some data:
- We have several hundred entries in the annotator log - most people 
spend 10 or more minutes to create a reasonable description of themselves.
- Even though they all operate some sort of Web sites, less than 30 % of 
them manage to upload/publish a single *.rdf file in their root directory.
- Of those 30%, only a fraction manage to set up content negotiation 
properly, even though we provide a step-by-step recipe.

The effects are
- URIs that are not dereferencable,
- incorrect media types and
and other problems.

When investigating the causes and trying to help people, we encountered 
a variety of configurations and causes that we did not expect. It turned 
out that helping people just managing this tiny step of publishing  
Semantic Web data would turn into a full-time job for 1 - 2 administrators.

Typical causes of problems are
- Lack of privileges for .htaccess (many cheap hosting packages give 
limited or no access to .htaccess)
- Users without Unix background had trouble name a file so that it 
begins with a dot
- Microsoft IIS require completely different recipes
- Many users have access just at a CMS level

- For researchers in the field, it is a doable task to set up an Apache 
server so that it serves RDF content according to current best practices.
- For most people out there in reality, this is regularly a 
prohibitively difficult task, both because of a lack of skills and a 
variety in the technical environments that turns into an engineering 
challenge what is easy on the textbook-level.

As a consequence, we will modify our tool so that it generates "dummy" 
RDFa code with span/div that *just* represents the meta-data without 
interfering with the presentation layer.
That can then be inserted as code snippets via copy-and-paste to any 
XHTML document.

Any opinions?


[1]  http://www.ebusiness-unibw.org/tools/goodrelations-annotator/

Danny Ayers wrote:
> Thank you for the excellent questions, Bill.
> Right now IMHO the best bet is probably just to pick whichever format
> you are most comfortable with (yup "it depends") and use that as the
> single source, transforming perhaps with scripts to generate the
> alternate representations for conneg.
> As far as I'm aware we don't yet have an easy templating engine for
> RDFa, so I suspect having that as the source is probably a good choice
> for typical Web applications.
> As mentioned already GRDDL is available for transforming on the fly,
> though I'm not sure of the level of client engine support at present.
> Ditto providing a SPARQL endpoint is another way of maximising the
> surface area of the data.
> But the key step has clearly been taken, that decision to publish data
> directly without needing the human element to interpret it.
> I claim *win* for the Semantic Web, even if it'll still be a few years
> before we see applications exploiting it in a way that provides real
> benefit for the end user.
> my 2 cents.
> Cheers,
> Danny.

martin hepp
e-business & web science research group
universitaet der bundeswehr muenchen

e-mail:  mhepp@computer.org
phone:   +49-(0)89-6004-4217
fax:     +49-(0)89-6004-4620
www:     http://www.unibw.de/ebusiness/ (group)
         http://www.heppnetz.de/ (personal)
skype:   mfhepp 
twitter: mfhepp

Check out the GoodRelations vocabulary for E-Commerce on the Web of Data!


Talk at the Semantic Technology Conference 2009: 
"Semantic Web-based E-Commerce: The GoodRelations Ontology"

Tool for registering your business:

Overview article on Semantic Universe:

Project page and resources for developers:

Tutorial materials:
Tutorial at ESWC 2009: The Web of Data for E-Commerce in One Day: A Hands-on Introduction to the GoodRelations Ontology, RDFa, and Yahoo! SearchMonkey


Received on Thursday, 25 June 2009 16:45:08 UTC