W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-lod@w3.org > June 2011

Re: Schema.org considered helpful

From: Phil Archer <phil@philarcher.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Jun 2011 15:53:16 +0100
Message-ID: <4DFB6A5C.7030402@philarcher.org>
To: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
CC: Linked Data community <public-lod@w3.org>, Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>
An interesting and thought provoking post, Harry, and close to my own in 
many respects.

Strangely it reminded me of one of my previous lives. In 1983 I was 
working for a radio station in Stoke on Trent (north English midlands). 
It was a traditional local radio station with a duty to serve a diverse 
community with classical, country and speech programmes in amongst the 
usual pop stuff.

And what did we, the staff, listen to? Laser 558 [1]. We set up 
extra-large a.m. antennae just so we could hear this crazy station 
broadcasting in true pirate style from a ship in the North Sea.


Laser 558 was brash, loud, broke all the rules, stuck to its mantra of 
"never more than a minute away from music" and technically, well, let's 
say it didn't meet Broadcasting Authority rules (or anyone else's).

And we loved it.

And /every/ British music station bent over backwards to copy it.

Sadly they all ballsed it up so music radio here is worse than it's ever 
been, but the point was that Laser 558 was a game changer that shook up 
an industry, for the most part, for the better.

Dunno if the analogy is a perfect fit, but it feels to me as if 
schema.org is a game changer that, in one way or another, we're going to 
get used to having around.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_558

On 16/06/2011 22:09, Harry Halpin wrote:
> I've been watching the community response to schema.org for the last
> bit of time. Overall, I think we should clarify why people are upset.
> First, there should be no reason to be upset that the major search
> engines went off and created their own vocabularies. According to the
> argument of decentralized extensibility, schema.org *exactly* what
> Google/Yahoo!/Microsoft are supposed to be doing. It's a
> straightfoward site that clearly for how the average Web developer can
> use structured data in markup to solve real-world use-cases and
> provides examples.  That's the entire vision of the Semantic Web, let
> a thousand ontologies bloom with no central control.
> The reason people are upset are that they didn't use RDFa, but instead
> used microdata. One *cannot* argue that Google is ignoring open
> standards. RDFa and microdata are *both* Last Call W3C Working Drafts
> now. RDFa 1.0 is a spec but only for XHTML 1.0, which is not what most
> of the Web uses. Microdata does have RDF parsing bugs, but again, most
> developers outside the Semantic Web probably don't care - they want
> JSON anyways.
> Form what I understand from tevents  where Rich Snippets team has
> presented is that RDFa is simply too complicated for ordinary web
> developers to use. Google has been deploying Rich Snippets for two
> years, claim to have user-studies  and have experience with a large
> user-base. This user-driven feedback should be taken on board by both
> relevant WGs obviously, HTML and RDFa. Designing technology without
> user-feedback leads to odd results (for proof, see many of the fun and
> exiciting "httpRange-14" discussions). Which is also why many
> practical developers do not use the technology.
> But realistically, it's not the RDFa WG's job to do user-studies and
> build compelling user-experiences in products. They are only a few
> people. Why has the *hundreds* of people in the Semantic Web community
> not done such work?
> The fact of the matter is that the Semantic Web academic community has
> had their priorities skewed to the wrong direction. Had folks been
> spending time doing usability testing and focussing on user-feedback
> on common problems (such as the rather obvious "vocabulary hosting"
> problem) rather than focussing on things with little to no support
> with the world outside academia, then we probably would not be in the
> situation we are in today. Today, major companies such as Microsoft
> (oData) and Google (microdata) are jumping on the "open data"
> bandwagon but finding the RDF stack unacceptable. Some of it may be a
> "not invented here" syndrome, but as anyone who has actually looked at
> RDF/XML can tell you, some of it is hard-to-deny technical reasoning
> by companies that have decided that "open data" is a great market but
> do not agree with the technical choices made by the  Semantic Web
> stack.
> This is not to say good things can't come out of the academic
> community - the *internet* came out of the academic community. But
> seriously, at some point (think of the role of Netscape in getting the
> Web going with the magic of images) commercial companies enter the
> game. We should be happy now search engines are seeing value in
> structured data on the Web.
> I would suggest the Semantic Web community take on-board the
> "microdata" challenge in two different ways. First of all, start
> focussing on user-studies and user experience (not just visual
> interfaces, the Semantic Web has more than its share of user-hostile
> visual interfaces). It's harder to publish academic papers on these
> topics but possible (see SIGCHI), and would help a lot with actual
> deployment. Second, we should start focussing more on actual empirical
> data-driven feedback, both on what parts of RDF are being used and
> common mistakes. With indexes such as the Billion Triple Challenge and
> Sindice's index, we can actually do that with the Semantic Web. Third,
> why not actually try to get RDF - or "open data more broadly" into the
> browser in usable manner? Tabulator may be a step in the right
> direction, but the user experience needs work. Fourth, why not start a
> company and try to deliver products to actual end-users and give that
> feedback to the wider community and W3C WGs (and if you already work
> for an actual SemWeb company, please send your feedback from user
> studies to the WG before Last Call)? I believe the Semantic Web
> research community - which still has tons of funding and lots of
> passion - can make the Web better.
> Schema.org is not a threat. It's an opportunity to step up. Good luck everyone!
>             cheers,
>                harry
> P.S.: Note this opinions are purely personal and held as an individual.


Phil Archer                     | UK Project Manager
http://philarcher.org/          | i-sieve technologies
@philarcher1                    | http://i-sieve.com
Received on Friday, 17 June 2011 14:54:49 UTC

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