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RDF(-DEV), back to the future (was Re: Semantic Web Interest Group now closed)

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@google.com>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2018 19:53:53 -0700
Message-ID: <CAK-qy=5VAyQ014nseKcbs7M2W8Nxa67TvfnVj2KS5BoNgHVX7Q@mail.gmail.com>
To: Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho@gmail.com>
Cc: Ralph Swick <swick@w3.org>, David Booth <david@dbooth.org>, "semantic-web@w3.org Web" <semantic-web@w3.org>
This is way overly long, sorry. I wrote down some pre-2001 RDF history,
since this community transition point is a good time to take stock and
remember SWIG/RDFIG and RDF-DEV things that we forgot to record, before it
is too late.

On Mon, 15 Oct 2018 at 16:06, Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho@gmail.com>
wrote:

>
>
> On Tue, 16 Oct 2018 at 00:53, Dan Brickley <danbri@google.com> wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> On Mon, 15 Oct 2018, 12:32 Ralph Swick, <swick@w3.org> wrote:
>>
>>>
>>> On 2018-10-15 11:09 AM, David Booth wrote:
>>> > On 10/15/2018 10:49 AM, xueyuan wrote:
>>> >  > This message is to inform you that the Semantic Web Interest Group
>>> >  > is now closed, [ . . . . ]
>>> >  > With the introduction of Community Groups we now encourage the
>>> >  > participants in the IG forum to
>>> >  > establish Community Groups to continue the conversations.
>>> >
>>> > Given that the semantic-web@w3.org email list has served the
>>> community
>>> > very well, I think it would be helpful for continuity if a Community
>>> > Group could take over the existing email list.  Is this possible?  And
>>> > if so, does this mean that we should now create such a community group?
>>>
>>> Ivan and I have been in conversation with DanBri for some time as the
>>> formal closing of the Interest Group was pending.  This specific
>>> question was part of that discussion; whether to continue the big
>>> semantic-web distribution list as a Community Group resource or use the
>>> opportunity to do some housekeeping.
>>>
>>> Ivan and I decided to let the community decide -- and those discussions
>>> are welcome on the list.
>>>
>>> And again, I can't overstate our appreciate to DanBri for his gentle
>>> facilitation of the discussions on this list, jumping in as the IG chair
>>> and list moderator only when it was critical to do so.
>>>
>>
>> Thanks Ralph. I had hoped to propose a new followup Community Group last
>> week but got swept up in f2f discussions during the ISWC conference.
>>
>> Both SW and Linked Data have rather prescriptive overtones (1-star,
>> 5-star, #-/ redirects etc.). My suggestion to Ralph, Ivan and team was to
>> go back to the original name we used prior to creation of 1999's RDF
>> Interest Group. It was "RDF-DEV" originally, named in tribute to XML's now
>> decades-spanning XML-DEV community.
>>
>
> Linked data already has a list.
>
> I think changing the name of something that's been going a fair requires
> some onus of the proposer to justify it.
>

We can potentially keep both semantic-web@ and public-lod@ but we cannot
take their existing membership and treat those unknown parties as W3C
Community Group members; the CG process doesn't work like that, since there
are various things to agree to when joining a CG. So the suggest is a new
lightweight rdf-dev@ Community Group, even with most discussions staying at
least for now on their current lists.


> Regarding the specific motivation, it would be good to look at.
>
> Prescriptive.  Not sure what this alludes to.  There have been debates
> over different quality of data (1 star - 5 star) but surely that is not
> only as expected, but as designed!
>

(The "1-5 star" viewpoint is one of several views on how to deploy RDF at
scale. There are other perspectives that shift burdens from publishers to
consumers, neither is wrong or right, just a landscape of tradeoffs and
compromises.)


> The semantic web gives you a protocol where one set of data can interface
> with another.  So the degree of plumbing goes from the network, to the
> data.  Instead of looking at packets you're looking at data shapes.  So
> isnt it only natural that data quality becomes an increasing topic of
> interest.
>
> On the specific case of #-/ redirects, tatooed agents not withstanding,
> this is simply a conversation about data shapes, isnt it (maybe im using
> the wrong word there)?  In some systems the data model overloads the shape
> of data so that a URI points to a document and class.  This for some is a
> neat slight of hand, and no future analysis is needed.  For others the
> overloading causes edge cases which are hard to resolve.  The example I
> once gave is, "I might like RIcky Martin's home page, but I might not lick
> RIcky Martin".  Isn't this the kind of discussion that is to be encouraged
> as we start to learn to put data together, and learn about interop?
>
> Final observation.  I came to this community as a skeptic.  For many the
> term "rdf" doesnt mean much, but the term "semantic web" is magic.
> Outsiders dont know what it does, they know it's complex, too complex for
> them, but they also know it contains a dark power, that if one day is
> unleashed, will be a game changer.  I think it's a mixed brand but a
> powerful one.  Not heard enough yet to feel like ditching it, but am open
> and interested.
>

(A few more general thoughts on SWIG/RDFIG and staying engaged with our
historical roots, now that I am typing on a computer with a keyboard)

Firstly to respond on the naming point: not using a slogan as a Community
Group name is absolutely not the same as ditching it! We will have many
slogans, for many contexts. For better or worse, "Linked Data" has come to
be associated with certain very specific notions of publication best
practice for *public* RDF data, and "Semantic Web" has acquired different
overtones (("of dark powers? :)). There is a common element to both, and
that is the idea of having a shared structured data model based around a
graph abstraction. As a shorthand for that idea in W3C circles, I think
it's fair to just say "RDF".



For me personally, "Semantic Web"  (https://www.w3.org/1999/11/SW/
https://www.w3.org/Talks/2001/12-semweb-offices/all.htm ... ) was always
and remains a project to improve the Web. You can see bits of that history
in the old public-but-obscure sw99 list,
https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/sw99/1999OctDec/ and in the
research-funded efforts that the W3C Semantic Web team ran via MIT (
https://www.w3.org/2000/01/sw/) and in Europe via INRIA/ERCIM,
https://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/

Over time (2001-5ish?) some of us who had been building things around
practical applications (RSS, Dublin Core, Annotea, FOAF, Mozilla, crawling,
sitemaps, MCF etc.) began to feel a bit marginalized by the direction of
the "Semantic Web" slogan, in that conferences etc were organizing around
the notion of "Semantic Web as a scientific research field" rather than as
a shared endeavour to improve the Web. Simple and useful applications began
to look insufficiently researchy from a scholarly perspective, and the
later "Semantic Web" community tended towards a fixation on
rules/inference/ontologies as the centerpiece technology rather than as a
means to an end. At the same time the influx of new participants certainly
helped in lots of other ways, bringing rigour (sometimes too much rigour:)
to specs, adding long-anticipated extras to RDF for ontology specification,
etc. Meanwhile, the approaches to hypertext linked RDF that some of us were
exploring around FOAF (and which borrowed from Mozilla/MCF ideas) was
crystalized with TimBL's Linked Data note and - boosted by the idea of
focussing on open data - https://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData - that
effort became something of a second hub of W3C RDF-related activity, for
those whose interests were not primarily in the logic/reasoning arena.
Several practically minded RDF implementors de-camped to the public-lod@
mailing list, the community became rather divided into two clusters, and to
some extent at least, "Semantic Web" has drifted into being more of a
topical research area than a shared project to improve the Web. W3C stopped
using the "Semantic Web" name actively for new WGs some years ago. Most
recently there have been discussions about how graph databases (property
graphs, gremlin etc.) relate to W3C's existing portfolio of specs, and some
engagement with the emerging "Knowledge Graphs" perspective. My feeling
from those conversations, and especially from last week's excellent ISWC,
is that the different strands of activity are gradually re-converging, with
a broadly RDF-ish notion of graph data as the shared core, rather than an
over-riding emphasis on inference/ontology, or on particular (e.g. LOD)
publication patterns or requirements that all structured data publishers
must meet. Re-centering on the shared graph data model absolutely doesn't
preclude initiatives to find stronger consensus, whether they are around
query, OWL2, SHACL/ShEx, WebID/Solid, or the never-ending quest for the
perfect syntax. That's where I feel we are today, but I wanted also to
share some historical notes on how we got here (as a cluster of efforts
touching W3C via SWIG, RDFIG, RDF-DEV).


The first public RDF draft is 21 years old this month. See
https://www.w3.org/TR/WD-rdf-syntax-971002/

I met Ralph Swick and Eric Miller at the Dublin Core conference in Finland
that week in October 1997, alongside Dublin Core folk like Tom Baker and
Stu Weibel, having read this first public RDF draft on the plane flight
out, and asked them whether RDF's schema language would be at least as
expressive as MCF's, i.e. https://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-MCF-XML/
https://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-MCF-XML/MCF-tutorial.html and
http://www.guha.com/mcf/wp.html ).  They said that they thought so, and
I've been involved with the RDF effort in one capacity or another ever
since. In those days, W3C was patterned loosely after the X Consortium, and
all Working Groups operated in private, members-only fora. When we started
the RDF Interest Group in 1999 it built a year or so's early adopter
discussions on the RDF-DEV list,
http://web.archive.org/web/19990508122105/www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/rdf-dev/archive.html
... that's the reason I'm proposing the otherwise quirky "RDF-DEV' name
once more.

Not everyone here will remember RDF-DEV, and the archives are currently
offline except via Archive.org (although I'm trying to fix that). It might
be a good moment to spend a little time looking back on early RDF, and on
RDF-DEV, as we take stock of where we stand today.

The RDF-DEV list was announced to XML-DEV and beyond back in June of 1998,
http://web.archive.org/web/19991022011435/http://www.mailbase.ac.uk:80/lists/rdf-dev/1998-06/0000.html
 http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/199806/msg00414.html and our special
relationship with XML continues to this day. Many of the stars of the XML
world came eventually to dabble in RDF, and many early RDF and Semantic Web
discussions occurred in XML fora, notably XML.com (e.g.
https://www.xml.com/pub/a/2001/07/25/prologrdf.html or
https://www.xml.com/pub/a/98/06/rdf.html ) and sites like XMLHack.com or
xmlfr.com, http://xmlfr.org/actualites/tech/001208-0001 . We also wrote
more in IRC chats, blogs and email than we did for the scholarly record,
and many of those old sites are bit-rotting away.

Looking at the first month's archive for RDF-DEV,
http://web.archive.org/web/19990508122105/www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/rdf-dev/archive.html
->
http://web.archive.org/web/19990420005959/http://www.mailbase.ac.uk:80/lists/rdf-dev/1998-06/index.html
I am happy to say that many of the same folk are still involved (e.g. I saw
Ron Daniel at ISWC this week, Guha is a colleague at Google and founder of
Schema.org). It is easy in 2018 to forget how things were in those times.
Not only was there no Google Chrome, there was barely a Google (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Google#Early_history) .

Industry adoption discussions tended back then to centre around what
Netscape (the big  browser of the early Web years) were doing, and
speculation or concern about whether Microsoft would engage substantively
with the RDF effort or not. I have long felt that our tendency in this
community effort towards repeatedly renaming things (PICS -> PICS-NG -> RDF
-> Semantic Web / Linked Data, ...) has disconnected us from our own origin
stories. While "RDF" might be a terrible name, it is our terrible name, and
it anchors things back in a solid chain of cause-and-effect going back to
the Web's younger years.

Technically, the RDF approach owes a lot (even most) to MCF (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_Content_Framework), and I suspect that
were it not for browser-war era politicking, we might today be talking
about W3C's 'Meta Content' rather then 'Resource Description' Framework.
That said, certain ideas were in the air more broadly, and the RDF specs
had other important ancestors alongside MCF. There was PICS-NG, an effort
to upgrade the PICS content labelling system to cover more metadata
usecases (see Ora Lassila's drafts,
https://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-pics-ng-metadata and nearby); this was paired
with efforts around W3C Digital Signature, with expectation that dsig would
be commonly used with PICS(-NG) "content labels". There were also efforts
around Dublin Core, which were often more akin to requirements gathering.
Beyond the initially quite basic DC vocabulary you can see the origin of
some of our concerns about modularity and decentralization articulated as
the "Warwick Framework", an outcome of a 1996 Dublin Core workshop
http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july96/lagoze/07lagoze.html - or see Michael
Sperberg-McQueen's note -
http://dublincore.org/documents/2001/03/19/info-factoring/ - on using good
old-fashioned logic to disentangle the different markup and extensibility
ideas that were bouncing around in Dublin Core community discussions, again
in 1996.

Also of that era, the era that gave us RDF, is this semi-published sketch
of a W3C Note on link types - https://www.w3.org/Architecture/NOTE-link.html
. It references other metadata syntaxes of those times, including SOIF
(anyone remember SOIF? see
https://www.w3.org/Search/9605-Indexing-Workshop/Papers/Hardy@Netscape.html
https://web.archive.org/web/19971221220012/http://harvest.transarc.com/
etc.). Other formats/protocols included WHOIS++, as well as "IAFA
Templates", approaches to representing and indexing the contents of FTP
sites which some of us had begun to use for Web crawling, indexing,
cataloguing and data sharing -
https://www.w3.org/Conferences/WWW4/Papers/52/
http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january98/01kirriemuir.html etc. Before even RDF
was created, there was a convergence focussed on W3C's Metadata Activity
that was beginning to bring together some of these metadata efforts,
combining digital library aspects with mainstream industry adoption - for
example see Jon Knight's article on Dublin Core and MCF -
http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue7/mcf. Annotations and metadata services were
another common theme, with Marja-Riitta Koivunen leading W3C's RDF
prototype-based explorations ("Annotea"), which eventually matured into the
W3C Annotation standards. PICS itself always included a labelling service
protocol (https://www.w3.org/PICS/labels.html), as well as a mechanism for
content-filtering (or selecting) rules expressed against those metadata
labels. SPARQL was an eventual migration of this idea to the RDF world.

There were also pretty early Web discussions on querying RDF, and those
tended to have one foot in KR, one foot in databases, and a third in
digital libraries.
https://web.archive.org/web/19990423130239/http://www.w3.org:80/TandS/QL/QL98/pp.html
might be of interest to archaeologists, but I won't dig into that topic
here.

Again in terms of ideas being "in the air", the efforts that fed into the
1997 RDF initiative ("W3C Metadata Activity", led by Ralph Swick) had
ancestry in the Web itself, both in TimBL's original pitch within CERN with
its now famous diagram https://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html and
talk of nodes and arcs for question answering. The document that gave us
the Web, presented a very RDF-like diagramming style for linked
information, and said:

"The sort of information we are discussing answers, for example, questions
like

 - Where is this module used?
- Who wrote this code? Where does he work?
- What documents exist about that concept?
- Which laboratories are included in that project?
- Which systems depend on this device?
- What documents refer to this one?"

If you dig a bit further back (~ 9 years - thanks, Sean Palmer) you can
find TimBL's 1980 manual for the ENQUIRE system, which makes similar
observations: http://infomesh.net/2001/enquire/manual/#h2

"The  ENQUIRE  system  is designed  to fill  a gap  in many  current
documentation  systems.    A person finding himself faced with a piece
"xxx" of a system should be able to ask ENQUIRE, for example
       What is xxx part of?
       What is xxx composed of?
       What must I alter if I change xxx?
       What facilities does xx use?
       Where do I find out more about xxx?
       Who or what produced xxx?

ENQUIRE does not aim to answer such questions as
       How does xxx work?
       What format is xxx in, exactly?
       Why was xxx created?
       What is the format of the interface between xxx and yyy?"

Other "in the air" aspects of that era included the SHOE work  (
https://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/plus/SHOE/ and
http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/plus/SHOE/piq.html), which explored many of
these themes and  - again - bridged KR with the specifics of 1990s Web
technology.

RDF worked as a standardization effort, despite its challenges, not because
it was super sophisticated, but because it was painfully simple. It was in
1997/8 also a kind of Rorshach Test -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test - in that different
communities looked at it and saw something rather familiar looking back at
them. Early internet technologists and hackers looked at it and saw it as
an evolution of metadata formats and protocols that had already proved
themselves, and which were suffering growing pains around extensibility and
modularity. Dublin Core folk saw a potential answer to their need for
practical answers on how to embed simple catalogue records within Web
pages, as well as a logic-oriented, mappings-friendly underpinning that
could help broker collaborative agreements with nearby metadata communities
around Education, Multimedia, or Rights (
http://www.dublincore.org/news/2000/2000-12-06_press-release-e-learning-takes-important-step-forward/
 http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january99/bearman/01bearman.html
https://web.archive.org/web/20000925085014/http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/discovery/harmony/docs/abc/abc_draft.html
...). Those more focused on policy aspects of 1990s internet also saw a
technological tool relevant to their social concerns, whether it was issues
around censorship, filtering, labelling technologies (
https://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-PICS-Statement ...), privacy-oriented efforts
such as P3P, or the Web accessibility agenda, RDF looked ... compellingly
relevant.

As 1997's RDF matured into the 1999 W3C "Model and Syntax" recommendation (
https://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-rdf-syntax-19990222/ ) it also quite
naturally attracted interest in the knowledge representation and ontology
world. Aside from RDF's MCF heritage which drew in turn upon the Cyc
project, the RDF approach looked familiar enough to everyone working with
logic-based representations. My officemate Joel Crisp said of the first
public spec "But that's just Prolog!". He still says that. My later
officemate Jan Grant explored the point further by making a Javascript
prolog engine that ran in the browser (before JS was cool),
https://www.w3.org/1999/11/11-WWWProposal/rdfqdemo.html and which we later
explored integrating into Mozilla, alongside (thanks to Geoff Chappell) the
most robust SWI-Prolog engine (
https://www-archive.mozilla.org/rdf/doc/inference.html). While I am
namedropping former Bristol colleagues I should also mention Nikki Rogers,
who wired up RDF data sources into Coral (a deductive database of that
era), and Libby Miller, who amongst many many other things, built upon a
1998 MSc project codebase implementing MCF from Larry Franklin
(now Permanent Secretary in the Government of Anguilla; sometimes people
move on from RDF). Libby implemented server-side in her Java RDF codebase
equivalents to various things that were in the Netscape and Mozilla efforts
of the time, including several RDF sitemap format experiments which were
effectively the ancestor to the "RDFWeb" hyper-linked RDF approach that
evolved (https://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/talks/xml2003/all.htm) into
FOAF.

It is also easy in 2018 to under-estimate the scale, importance and impact
of the Netscape and Mozilla efforts around RDF. The early RDF-DEV archives
linked above show discussions around the RDF/XML markup in Netscape's
Netcenter portal. Amongst other things their initiatives included sitemap
formats, the creation of RSS feeds (which gave us RSS1, Atom etc.), large
scale open data in RDF (DMOZ, the DBPedia/Wikidata of its day, ChefMoz,
...). They also gave us a vision of an RDF-capable Web browser (
https://www-archive.mozilla.org/rdf/doc/), whose stacked API of
super-imposed RDF data sources inspired many of the discussions around W3C
on APIs and RDF querying, and nudged us towards a healthy culture for W3C
RDF work of grounding standards work in technology ideas that were already
being explored and refined by implementors. For a while Netscape's RDF
sitemap (dublin core with extras) was served up with my inline comments,
http://web.archive.org/web/20000816174920/home.netscape.com/netcenter.rdf .
This format is long gone and dead today, but it was the ancestor of modern
Linked Data.
Oh, Netscape the browser also pinged Netcenter on each new page visit, and
fetched an RDF/XML description of the page, which was used to power their
"what's related" UI.

Why have I spent my evening digging up these rather long-lost experiments,
debates and proposals?  These were the kinds of things that we discussed in
the RDF-DEV list in 1998-9, and the seeds of the W3C Interest Group for RDF
(RDFIG) which was created back in August 1999
https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-interest/1999Aug/0000.html
where another horribly long email of mine -
https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-interest/1999Aug/0004.html -
introduced several themes of the era, including interop testing and the
(somewhat troubled) relationship with related efforts around XML.

I didn't intend this mail to be a huge nostalgia trip or name-dropping of
friends from the late 1990s. There are many more important contributions
I've not listed; I won't attempt to name and list them here. It is more
that I have been realizing lately that the origin myths around Semantic Web
and Linked Data have disconnected it from its actual historical roots.
Please let nothing I've said here be taken as a slight to, or undermining
of, the amazing contributions and important milestones that came after
2000/2001. For example, the Scientific American article was a major
milestone, TimBL's "Linked Data note" and later TED talk was another. We
have, through a lack of institutional memory and history-writing allowed
newer members of our community to slip into seeing those milestones as the
actual origins of the RDF/SW/Linked Data work. This is a mistake that
disconnects us from how we got here, and can distort our thinking about
where we go next. RDF is a specific project, created under the umbrella of
a particular (if sometimes peculiar) organization, and it is a pity if we
lose track of that project now that it touches three decades. It is a
project intimately tied up with the larger Web project itself, and one that
deserves some kind of ongoing bridge between W3C the organization, and W3C
the wider network of communities of interest who hang around here on
mailing lists. And it is a project that was substantially underway already
in 1997-2000, and whose discussions in those earliest years also formed the
basis for many of the earliest (and most useful) activities around W3C
RDFIG/SWIG as a group.

RDF of course is nothing terribly new as an approach to describing things
in a KR or logical manner, and many of its common themes and challenges
have been debated intensely for decades or longer. That is the point of
standards, to find and specify common ground rather than to invent new
things in a committee. Thinking of KR and picking from a longer list, ...
the "What's in a Link" paper (
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a022584.pdf) dates from 1975.
"Shakespeare's Plays Weren't Written by Him, but by Someone Else of the
Same Name" (https://philpapers.org/rec/HOFSPW) dates from 1982. These and
others demonstrate a longer, larger KR/AI heritage dating back before the
Web, the Internet, and computing into the history of Philosophy and logic.
If you prefer a different heritage, you can travel back in time through the
library world, to the origins of cataloguing, perhaps the Dewey Decimal and
its early fork, the UDC classification, or the Mundaneum (1912's idea of a
search engine;
https://www.slideshare.net/danbri/schemaorg-and-one-hundred-years-of-search
).

This has been a very backwards-looking email, and probably a bit too
self-centered. I have been thinking about what kind of RDF/SW/etc interest
or community group I might still be excited to be part of in another 10 or
20 years, and about many of our earlier contributors whose work is all but
forgotten today. And then, about lessons for RDF in 2018?

I think the first is that we are at our strongest when we build bridges
between different perspectives and work roles. RDF has roots in KR, and
strong links with academia/science, but also and equally it has roots in
hacker/opensource culture, in the user-centric values of the library
community, and in digital library, opensource and industry initiatives to
integrate information and make data available through the use of simple
standard metadata records. RDF has from the very outset been grounded in
the great technology-meets-society debates of our time, and perhaps has had
most traction when it was closest to efforts at the core of the Web:
browsers and search.

Another example that feels quite core to the RDF mission (to me). Twenty
years ago Kjetil Kjernsmo and I were debating how best to use RDF for
rating online misinformation (
https://twitter.com/i/web/status/957841302070222854); this year we're still
discussing that (e.g. via http://schema.org/ClaimReview), but we're also
discussing data portability using shared schemas, data shapes, and
Solid/Inrupt. Part of the problem with RDF's adoption as a technology is
that it sometimes comes across as a bundle of burdens, not just a simple
technology standard. Adopters have sometimes reported that they feel
pressured by our community into jumping through various hoops - whether
around namespaces (use lots! don't invent your own!), identifiers (always
use them for every entity mentioned, and re-use good ones!), reasoning
(don't break it with scruffy data), data (public, persistent, open, ...),
HTTP headers etc. But the community/society aspect can be a strength too.
We are working with a technology which is at its best when multiple
over-lapping datasets are superimposed, and for that to work well, there
has to be an element of community collaboration that goes beyond the strict
technicalities of the W3C specification.

In those earlier years - especially the difficult period through 1999
through until the Semantic Web Activity was kickstarted in 2001 - the RDF
Interest Group was the place to be for RDF stuff. We even had a few f2f
meetups (https://www.w3.org/2001/02/rdfig-f2f/). As the standards matured
and conferences, journals and other fora arose, we kind of stepped back and
the list has become a lot quieter. I don't think it needs to attempt to be
in 2018/9 what it was in the 1990s and early 2000s, but there may be
values, themes and interests than continue, and that deserve a home. Again
in earlier times, RDFIG/SWIG was an important focus for early (pre
standardization even) interop testing amongst RDF query/database
implementors. It was where we explored common schemas for things like
calendar interop. It was where Brian McBride led much of the issue-tracking
work that later fed into the RDFCore WG. It was where Alistair Miles and
others took earlier RDF Thesaurus designs (
https://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe/plan/workpackages/live/esw-wp-8.html) and
reworked them into the earliest versions of SKOS. In 2018, starting fresh,
all of these things would simply be independent W3C Community Groups. 15-20
years ago, we didn't have that mechanism available to us, and so everything
was squeezed into one big (RDF/SW) "Interest Group".

In practical terms, is there a need for a successor to RDF-DEV, RDFIG and
SWIG? Perhaps not. W3C in 1997-1999 and the early 2000s was a different
place. In many ways the efforts of this community trail-blazed W3C's
subsequent opening up into public-participation groups, through blogs,
wikis, public logged IRC chat, collaborative technology projects, and
suchlike.

That is in fact the reason for this week's SWIG shutdown. We have gone from
being ahead of our time (the rest of W3C opened up years later), to being a
kind of legacy historical anachronism, a glitch in the spreadsheets. The
W3C Community Group mechanism, in some ways a result of our early
experiments here with public participation, is just the modern way of doing
this kind of thing, and we should catch up with the new mechanisms. It
simply doesn't make sense any more to have a public participation Interest
Group on W3C's management books in 2018. In addition, the new CG
infrastructure, which many of us have already been using for related
groups, offers facilities that we don't have for SWIG, including some IP
commitments which make it easier to produce W3C documents together, as well
as useful tools like blogs.

There are already a ton of W3C Community Groups on all kinds of topics
relating to the interests of folk here. You can check out the list at
https://www.w3.org/community/groups/ if you've not looked recently. It is a
relatively self-service mechanism, if you can get a small group of
interested parties together who'd like to have a group, the bureacracy is
pretty lightweight. That's what I'd like to do here with the group that
began as RDF-DEV, and which was RDFIG and SWIG for many years.

Ok, this mail is too long. I have filled out the proposal form for a
RDF-DEV CG,

"RDF-DEV, for developments relating to W3C RDF, including collaboration
around applications, schemas, and past/present/future related standards.
Successor to SWIG/RDFIG."

The list creation bot says "CONGRATULATIONS! RDF-DEV is now in our list of
proposed groups with you as the first supporter."

See https://www.w3.org/community/groups/proposed/ for the link. I promise
not to send mails this long if the group goes ahead.

Regarding mailing lists, I would encourage the W3C team to leave this one
(semantic-web@) alive, alongside public-lod@,  and then we can use a new
rdf-dev@ list bonded to the CG for those who want to collaborate more
closely, e.g. on W3C specs. But I think it's best left to Ralph, Ivan et al
to make a judgement call on that, based on the responses in these threads.

cheers,

Dan
Received on Tuesday, 16 October 2018 02:54:31 UTC

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