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Re: RDFa and Web Directions North 2009

From: Ben Adida <ben@adida.net>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2009 16:50:58 -0800
Message-ID: <49961572.5060900@adida.net>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>, RDFa mailing list <public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf@w3.org>, Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>, Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>, Michael Bolger <michael@michaelbolger.net>, public-rdfa@w3.org, Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>

Ian Hickson wrote:
>> So, can we look at the use cases as a whole?
> In a word, no.
> A very common architectural mistake that software engineers make is 
> looking at five problems, seeing their commonality, and attempting to 
> solve all five at once. The result is almost always a solution that is 
> sub-par for all five problems.

I think you're taking a good piece of advice -- "don't over-generalize"
-- to the other and equally dangerous extreme.

You want to refuse to look for *any* common patterns? I don't think HTML
was initially a good solution for e-commerce (minitel was just fine
thank you), or scientific papers, or online games, or... but it does a
fantastic job of lowering the cost of each of those use cases to have a
common toolset, a common browser.

Consider, for example, Creative Commons. We can't afford to get everyone
to build Creative Commons support into their tools if that involves
buying into a CC-specific language and toolset. Neither can Bitmunk with
respect to music. But if we come together, use the same markup and
parsing technology, and even share relevant pieces of our respective
vocabularies, then it becomes tractable. The work that Manu does
benefits me, and vice-versa.

If we strictly isolate the use cases as if one should never benefit the
other, then we lose those very efficiencies that have made web
technology so powerful.

Using the same principle, we also future-proof our work. At CC, we're
not sure what other fantastic media will appear next. 3D video? Full
virtual reality? Who knows. But when those come out, with their custom
attributes to describe properties we don't even know about yet, we'll
still be able to use the same RDF and RDFa to express their licensing
terms, and the same parser to pick things up.

> Solutions should and must be evaluated on a per-problem basis, to make 
> sure we don't fall into that trap.

This is akin to never stepping outside of your house just to be sure
you'll never be run over by a car. Yes, it works, you won't get run over
by a car, but you won't get much done either.

We should be aware of the danger of over-generalization, but we
shouldn't be afraid to find common patterns where they provide clear

Received on Saturday, 14 February 2009 00:51:37 UTC

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