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Thoughts on RDFa from Twitter

From: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:32:28 -0500
Message-ID: <4D38E22C.2050905@digitalbazaar.com>
To: RDFa WG <public-rdfa-wg@w3.org>
Some thoughts on RDFa from Twitter. I know that we've covered most of
this stuff before, but it's still interesting to see how folks that
opinion in mind as we put the finishing touches on RDFa 1.1 and think
about how to aid adoption in the future:

nevali: @derivadow SVG+RDFa? ;)

derivadow: @nevali yeah yeah - have added a bit of RDFa to all our pages...

nevali: @derivadow I have *massive* misgivings about RDFa, in truth. I
think it's a total bust.

nevali: @fantasticlife I'm actually starting to come to that conclusion.
RDFa exists, people keep mentioning it, but when I say it's broken
everyone seems to agree?!

derivadow: @nevali yeah i know what you mean - we've only implemented
the crumbtrail RDFa

manusporny: @nevali @derivadow @fantasticlife So, what's broken with
RDFa? Would like to know 'cause we're working on RDFa 1.1 right now.

nevali: @manusporny the basic principles of it. the people who know the
things you need to know to do RDFa aren't the people who make templates.

nevali: @manusporny a bit more detail here — http://neva.li/dIq8Kc

fantasticlife: @manusporny dunno. not heard any complaints. best to ask
@moustaki tho. he's sprinkling rdfa liberally around /programmes and
seems happy

fantasticlife: @manusporny and tend to disagree with @nevali's post.
front end people (& designers & prod managers etc) should know the models...

fantasticlife: @manusporny @nevali ...it's when they don't that things
blow up :-/

nevali: @fantasticlife @manusporny unfortunately, the reality of real
web dev work out there disagrees :\

fantasticlife: @nevali @manusporny maybe. i say employ better
developers. rdfa or no rdfa they'll pay for themselves in the long run :-)

derivadow: @manusporny mostly coz it adds chaff to the page when it can
more usefully be included in full fat RDF

derivadow: @manusporny it does really solve many problems that aren't
better solved with RDF

manusporny: @nevali @derivadow @fantasticlife What do you think about
Drupal 7 including RDFa by default? Are RDFa-aware CMSes a model that works?

nevali: @manusporny only if the RDFa is baked into the code, rather than
the templates... to be clear, I'm fond if the idea - concerns all practical

fantasticlife: @manusporny again unsure. we don't use cms in my bit of
world. but past experience makes me think they encourage u to model
pages not things


Here are the things that I took away from this chat:

1. There is still this general belief that RDFa doesn't do anything
   more than what RDF/XML did. People don't seem to understand that
   RDF/XML was not adopted over the past 10 years because people
   didn't want to serve up two different types of pages. Now that
   they can mix data and display, even though it's messy, people are
   finally publishing data in their HTML.
2. Some people seem to be against the idea of mixing data and display,
   even though when presented with the option to separate data from
   display (RDF/XML or JSON), people don't take it. It's as if
   people are arguing for a clean solution (RDF/XML, TURTLE, N3, etc.),
   but once that solution is presented to them, they're annoyed that
   it's more complicated than the dirty solution (RDFa).
3. There is an assertion that the people that make website templates
   are not the people that understand RDFa. Don't know if that's
   true in general or not, but it's worth thinking about this more
   deeply - and is a good argument for the RDFa Cookbook and live
   RDFa editors.
4. An idea that RDFa should be baked into the code rather than
   the templates. This goes counter to what the community has been
   advising - wondering why this approach is being floated as an

In general, the chat demonstrates what many of us know already - we have
a very long road ahead explaining to web designers why certain design
decisions for RDFa were made:

1. History taught us that separating data from display, while
   "pure" in design, failed to convince people to publish their data.
   We've had 10 years of RDF/XML, with very minor uptake. Mostly because
   there was no benefit for publishing RDF/XML - Google/Yahoo didn't
   index it because nobody was publishing it. Nobody would publish it
   because Google/Yahoo wasn't indexing it. Catch-22.
2. There are already plenty of options for expressing data separately
   from the page - in general, only the semantic experts use this
   technology. We didn't need another separate data format.
3. RDFa allows one to modify page templates very little to transform
   a templated website into a semantically enabled website. Got a
   <span class="name"></span> field in your template? Make it semantic
   by adding one property (and one @about statement in the surrounding
   paragraph tag):
   <span class="name" property="foaf:name"></span>

-- manu

Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny)
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Linked Data in JSON
Received on Friday, 21 January 2011 01:33:01 UTC

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