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Re: RDFa, FUD and ethics

From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@webbackplane.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 22:10:09 +0100
Message-ID: <AANLkTik34X=6nA6o+nKvDmF3rbvR+7-dun8N3O4xbt1w@mail.gmail.com>
To: Stéphane Corlosquet <scorlosquet@gmail.com>
Cc: Public RDFa <public-rdfa@w3.org>, "Clark, Lin" <lin.w.clark@gmail.com>
Hi Steph,

Interesting question indeed!

First, as you and others have said on the list, Drupal is not exposing
any data via RDFa that isn't exposed in any other way -- so in that
sense it's a non-issue.

However, I'm not completely convinced that this is merely FUD. If
people think something is happening under the hood that worries them,
why not just go that extra mile to reassure them? I don't think it
would cost the Drupal community much to do that.

At one extreme you could of course allay everyone's fears by turning
off RDFa by default, and I really don't think it would make that much
difference to either the RDFa juggernaut or the Drupal one if you did.
My guess is that we'll soon be seeing the Drupal Rich Snippets module,
the SearchMonkey module, the Facebook Like module, the Good Relations
module, and so on, all of which could make use of the RDFa module --
so site builders will be almost immediately turning RDFa on anyway.

(Apologies to the developers concerned if any of those modules already exist!)

Also, we're increasingly seeing people create sites from packaged
installs, and it wouldn't surprise me if those that are geared towards
news and the semantic web (like those from Phase 2 and Development
Seed), will have RDFa on by default. (Not to mention the ecommerce
extensions that will probably soon support Good Relations.)

So even if you turn RDFa off by default in D7, my guess is that for
most people it would soon be back on again anyway.

However, rather than going to that extreme, why not just ask people
during the set-up?

Is it not possible to make one of the configuration questions a clear
question about whether the user would like to enable certain features?
I don't mean "Would you like RDFa support?", but more like "Would you
like to allow sites to crawl your xyz data so that they can foobar?"
There could be some links and explanatory text so that people knew
what is going on, and how they would benefit from exposing their data.

I don't believe it will affect Drupal's meteoric growth to not have
RDFa enabled by default, but asking the question in the right way
during installation might just reassure anyone that need's reassuring,
and result in just about everyone turning it on anyway.

Of course, the third scenario is to simply leave RDFa enabled by
default, but I'm not sure what that gains you. As I've said, in my
view not enabling RDFa by default is unlikely to hurt either Drupal or
RDFa but turning it on will probably end up requiring discussions,
blog-posts, conference presentations, and so on that make the
rationale clear; my suspicion is that you may have to constantly
explain your thinking, which might turn out to be a distraction for



Mark Birbeck, webBackplane



webBackplane is a trading name of Backplane Ltd. (company number
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London, EC2A 4RR)

On Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 8:08 PM, Stéphane Corlosquet
<scorlosquet@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi,
> There's been an interesting conversation going on about the use of RDFa in
> Drupal 7 and whether it's ethical or not,
> see http://groups.drupal.org/node/83914
> What is being questioned is not the implementation of RDFa in Drupal 7 in
> itself, but the fact that it is enabled by default when people install the
> software on their server. It's very easy to opt out and turn off RDFa, but
> the claim is that newbies will not know what RDFa is or won't even realize
> it is on. In this case, we might be forcing them to get into the semantic
> web and find their data being reused in ways they might not have thought
> of. I think it's great they raised this concern, I'd rather have this
> discussed sooner rather than later. Lin and I have been trying to address
> the various concerns expressed in that thread, but I wonder what people in
> this list think of the overall RDFa switch on by default. I understand this
> list might have a biased opinion, but I'm hoping some of you can play the
> devil's advocates...
> I was trying to find similar examples to compare with this situation, but I
> can't think of any widely used software shipping with RDFa by default. The
> closest I can think of are services like identi.ca which publish FOAF data
> and as far as I know there is no way for people to opt out. Should such
> services or website start advertising that they will release data about
> their user as RDF(a)? Some time ago I remember some fuss about services
> which started publishing RDF data (was it livejournal?) and they had to turn
> it off.
> Here is hoping to learn from the older/wiser folks from this list and avoid
> some FUD down the road... Shall we simply turn off RDFa and let people turn
> it on when they see fit?
> cheers,
> Steph.
Received on Monday, 9 August 2010 21:11:00 UTC

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