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

On Jun 28, 2009, at 6:20 PM, Tom Heath wrote:

> Hi Pat,
> 2009/6/25 Pat Hayes <>:
>> With the sincerest respect, Tom, your attitude here is part of the  
>> problem.
>> Maybe, along with many other people, I am indeed still stuck in the
>> mid-1990s. You have permission to be as condescending as you like.  
>> But
>> still, here I am, stuck. Thoroughly stuck. So no amount of  
>> condescending
>> "sooo-20th-century, my dear" chatter is going to actually enable me  
>> to get
>> to a place where I can do what you think I should be doing.
> Condescension was never my intention here. My goal was to draw a
> comparison that might enable us to learn a lesson from the history of
> the Web and use that to help us move forward. As Mark described, over
> the course of time more and more tools became available that made it
> easier to publish HTML. Presumably these only arose because publishing
> HTML was to some degree hard. The Web community has gone through this
> process once already; let's learn the lessons from last time and apply
> them to publishing RDF so people don't have to be stuck any more.

Um.. I thought that was MY point :-)

> Dan
> outlined some technical approaches to doing this sort of thing. Some
> domain-specific apps already exist that (hopefully) reduce the pain;
> it was one of the goals of for example.
>> I cannot use a
>> rewrite rule to catch incoming requests, or do whatever you are  
>> talking
>> about here. I live in an environment where I simply do not have  
>> access at
>> all to the workings of my server at a level that close to the  
>> metal, because
>> it is already woven into a clever maze of PHP machinery which is  
>> too fragile
>> to allow erks like me to mess with it. Some of the best W3C techies  
>> have
>> taken a look, and they can't find a way through it, either. Maybe  
>> Im in a
>> special position, but I bet a whole lot of people, especially in the
>> corporate world, are in a similar bind.
> You're talking about two very different groups here. If the right
> tools are created then individuals will presumably adopt some
> specialised SaaS analogous to say Corporations are a
> different kettle of fish

I work for a small research company which happens to have an ambitious  
Webmaster and a Director who is sensitive to visual graphics and Web  
image issues. The result is a maze of complex PHP giving users a very  
nice experience, but not conducive to transparent use by its  
inhabitants. Just from casual Web browsing, I cannot believe that I am  
in a very small minority. There are a lot of 'sexy' sites out there  
that must be in a similar state. I know that several 'web authoring'  
systems produce similar PHP mazes, because Ive tried using them and  
then editing the output they produce, an experience rather like  
debugging BCPL.

> , but just as many built their own Web-serving
> infrastructure in the 90s, so they will invest in publishing data to
> the Semantic Web if they perceive adequate value (demonstrating that
> value is where we need to be working even harder!).
>> System level access to a server is
>> quite a different beast than being allowed to publish HTML on a  
>> website
>> somewhere. I can, and do, publish HTML, or indeed just about any  
>> file I
>> like, but I don't get to insert code. So 6 lines or 600, it makes no
>> difference.
>> But in any case, this is ridiculous. RDF is just XML text, for  
>> goodness
>> sake.  I need to insert lines of code into a server file,  and  
>> write PHP
>> scripts, in order to publish some RDF or HTML?  That is insane. It  
>> would
>> have been insane in the mid-1990s and its even more insane now.
> No. This is incorrect. This discussion only applies to the
> 303-redirect/slash URI pattern. You can avoid this completely by using
> the hash URI pattern as someone mentioned (sorry for not crediting
> directly, getting hard to navigate this thread).

Yes, of course, and I apologize for overstating the case. Still, the  
slash-URI seems to be much more acceptable to many unsemantic Webbies,  
who are used to thinking of URIs as being stripped of their post-hash  
content at the slightest internet shiver, so don't regard a name  
including a hash as something 'real'; and it is the case about which  
all the fuss is being made. If the published advice was: always use  
hash URI patterns, I would be happy. But the published advice *starts*  
with 303 redirects and .htaccess file modifications.

>> IMO, it is
>> you (and Tim and the rest of the W3C) who are stuck in the past  
>> here.  Most
>> Web users do not, and will not, write code. They will be publishing  
>> content
>> in a cloud somewhere, even further away from the gritty world of  
>> scripts and
>> lines of code than people - most people - are now. Most actual  
>> content
>> providers are never going to want to even know that PHP scripts  
>> exist, let
>> alone be obliged to write or copy one.
> You've over-interpreted my words here. See above.

If so, I apologise. But think of what Im saying as a cry for help.  
There are a lot of people like me, I suspect, who would really like to  
help with SW deployment and are willing to write RDFa content, but are  
paralyzed by the apparent need to become Web-server hackers in order  
to do so. It just feels *wrong*. Your own metaphor is apt:

>> Martin is exactly right: this is a
>> MAJOR bottleneck to SWeb adoption. Its up to the people in the TAG  
>> to listen
>> to this fact and do something about it, not to keep issuing  
>> useless  'best
>> practice' advice that cannot be followed by 99% of the world.
> I think that's overplaying things. It's like saying "stop issuing best
> practices for cardiac surgeons because Average Joe can't use those to
> help improve his cardiac health".

Well, yes, exactly. Im not a cardiac surgeon, and here I am reading  
this stuff that I naively took to be good advice for improving my  
cardiac health. It didn't say: For Surgeons Only on the cover. If the  
SWeb is going to rely on cardiac surgeons rather then average Joes to  
get all that RDFa written, then its never going to happen.

>> RDF should be text, in documents. One should be able to use it  
>> without
>> knowing about anything more than the RDF spec and the XML spec. If it
>> requires people to tinker with files with names starting with a  
>> dot, or
>> write code, or deploy scripts, then the entire SWeb architecture is
>> fundamentally broken.
> The architecture of the Semantic Web is the architecture of Web. And
> just as in the Web we have varied publishing patterns/workflows
> (ranging from simple to hard), so we will in the Semantic Web.

But, and this is where this thread started, right now we don't seem to  
have any easy ones at all. All my yelling has been to try to get you  
guys to take this issue as seriously as I think it deserves to be taken.

Best wishes


> Cheers,
> Tom.

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Received on Monday, 29 June 2009 16:21:57 UTC