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RE: Alternatives to containers/collections (was Re: Requirements for a possible "RDF 2.0")

From: Michael Schneider <schneid@fzi.de>
Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2010 14:22:30 +0100
Message-ID: <0EF30CAA69519C4CB91D01481AEA06A001A5B5D6@judith.fzi.de>
To: "Jeremy Carroll" <jeremy@topquadrant.com>
Cc: "Semantic Web" <semantic-web@w3.org>
Jeremy Carroll wrote:

>Michael Schneider wrote:
>>
>> Ok, so I will tell you what /I/ want, and I will spell it out loud:
>>
>>     NO REMOVAL OR DEPRECATION (NOT EVEN "SILENTLY")
>>     OF ANY FEATURE CURRENTLY EXISTING IN RDF!
>>
>> Isn't that a very simple rule?
>>
>> And I believe it matches quite well the first few mails in this thread
>which
>> sounded to me as if many people "do not want to fix what isn't
>actually
>> broken".
>>
>>
>
>Michael that seems a little strong ... are you against deprecation in
>the sense of discouraging use of some constructs that experience has
>shown as not very helpful.

In /my/ experience, you will find for virtually every RDF feature some gang
of people claiming that the feature is not helpful or even broken. For
example, I am all for deprecating RDF/XML (but I would never come to the
insane idea to suggest this as a topic for a future RDF WG). So what will be
the criterion which features to deprecate and which not?

For example, RDF reification is a regular candidate for being bashed from
all sides. But the vocabulary is actually used in practice. Just a simple
search with Sindice for "rdf:subject" results in more than 100 documents
which include the term.

  <http://sindice.com/search?q=rdf%3Asubject&qt=term> 

Do you want to tell me that all these uses aren't "helpful" to at least
*someone*? Or that the authors of these RDF documents were misguided in some
way when they decided to use the reification vocabulary?

RDF reification almost made it into the OWL 2 spec to provide an RDF
translation for two different language features. The encoding was finally
changed, so RDF reification isn't in the final spec, but the reasons for
this change were of different nature than "experience that reification is
not very helpful".

There are also prominent supporters for RDF reification on the tool front,
and where real money is earned. For example, Topbraid Composer (TBC) has
dedicated support for this feature, and there has been quite some
enthusiastic discussion on the TBC blog some time ago:

    <http://composing-the-semantic-web.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html>

    In our recent modeling exercises with real-world customers 
    it became (once more) evident that reified relationships 
    are a key requirement in many domains. Reified relationships 
    are everywhere.

>If we have broad consensus that some part of RDF was basically
>ill-advised, then, sure, we don't want to break existing data, but we
>don't have to commit to making more of the same.

As you can see from my examples above, there is no such broad consensus.
There are just those same groups of people yelling aloud all the time
against the features they dislike. Those who actually use those feature will
generally do not yell, because they don't have to -- unless the features is
eventually removed or deprecated.

There are now many companies making money in some form or the other from RDF
and related technologies, there are highly budgeted long-time projects being
based on RDF, there are other standards depending on current RDF, and there
is a lot of RDF data out being already in some wide use. Dropping or
deprecating features may easily have disastrous effects, and the
distributedness and openness of the web makes it impossible to foresee what
or who will be affected. And I really see no strong pressure to do such
non-conservative changes, I just see a few ugly, maybe, but (almost)
harmless warts on RDF's face.

So not dropping/deprecating any feature from the normative standard is the
safe path that I am advocating.

Michael

--
Dipl.-Inform. Michael Schneider
Research Scientist, Information Process Engineering (IPE)
Tel  : +49-721-9654-726
Fax  : +49-721-9654-727
Email: michael.schneider@fzi.de
WWW  : http://www.fzi.de/michael.schneider
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Received on Saturday, 16 January 2010 13:23:10 UTC

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