W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > semantic-web@w3.org > October 2018

Re: Semantic Web Interest Group now closed

From: Krzysztof Janowicz <janowicz@ucsb.edu>
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2018 19:43:52 -0700
To: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>, Dave Raggett <dsr@w3.org>
Cc: martin@weborganics.co.uk, Story Henry <henry.story@bblfish.net>, Nicolas Chauvat <nicolas.chauvat@logilab.fr>, frans.knibbe@geodan.nl, Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>
Message-ID: <a95cff10-bfe2-5b76-16bc-c08e99f096ef@ucsb.edu>
This is a very interesting and informative discussion, and aside of the 
topic also shows that this list is still active. May I thus suggest to 
return to the issue that started it and the observation that (from the 
mails I saw) most are in favor of keeping the list(s) and their names as 
is. If this is an administrative issue, there will certainly be a good 
solution for that.


On 10/18/18 2:09 PM, Dan Brickley wrote:
> So we've had sentient web, hyper data, data web, and a bunch of other 
> suggestions, on top of our historical attempts at calling "it" the 
> Semantic Web, Linked Data, LOD, PICS, PICS-NG etc., plus recently 
> "knowledge graph" gaining rapid traction.
> May I gently suggest that the name isn't the core problem here? Except 
> perhaps that we keep trying to respin things via renaming.
> There are serious frustrations that come with trying to use RDF (and 
> RDFS/OWL/SPARQL, JSON-LD, RDFa, Turtle, N-Triples et al.), and lack of 
> evocative names is rarely top of the list. Part of our cultural 
> problem here has often been a kind of defensiveness that comes from 
> our approaches often being eclipsed by more mainstream technologies. 
> And with that defensiveness sometimes a sense of "if only we could get 
> the messaging / pitch / tutorial right, the unbelievers would come to 
> see the beauty and simplicity of our approach".
> For a long time, RDF's annoyingness was somewhat conflated with it's 
> syntax. The initial RDF/XML syntax was put together in discussions 
> which focussed more on the underlying graph data model.
> We called it a "striped" syntax because XML elements alternately stood 
> for nodes vs edges of the underlying graph 
> (https://www.w3.org/2001/10/stripes/). TimBL's forgotten Notation 2 
> was an attempt at a unstriped, edge-centric syntax. We've had near 
> countless efforts. GRDDL was a well motivated attempt to make a system 
> for mapping arbitrary XML into our graph; it seems to have completely 
> failed. The much more successful JSON-LD is in some ways a similarly 
> motivated attempt to do something rather similar with JSON, via its 
> expressive @context mechanism. Recently I've come to suspect that 
> there is something in this direction which mixes in schema/validation 
> considerations, so that we can map more gracefully to (e.g. binary) 
> JSON, relational and other data models such as Protocol Buffers.  So 
> ShEx and SHACL (or vice-versa) and increasingly important, as they 
> bridge the wishy-washy "anyone can say anything about anything" 
> representational model of RDF with the perfectly human desire to have 
> things specified a bit more tightly at the application level.
> I love the way the RDF Validation book puts it, in terms of "defensive 
> programming". From http://book.validatingrdf.com -
> "Veteran users of RDF and SPARQL have confronted the problem of 
> composing or consuming data with some expectations about the structure 
> of that data. They may have described that structure in a schema or 
> ontology, or in some human-readable documentation, or maybe expected 
> users to learn the structure by example. Ultimately, users of that 
> application need to understand the graph structure that the 
> application expects."
> "While it can be trivial to synchronize data production and 
> consumption within a single application, consuming foreign data 
> frequently involves a lot of defensive programming, usually in the 
> form of SPARQL queries that search out data in different structures. 
> Given lots of potential representations of that data, it is difficult 
> to be confident that we have addressed all of the intended ways our 
> application may encounter its information."
> This characterization I think is much closer to the truth than our 
> historical tendency to blame ugly or unintuitive syntaxes. RDF graphs 
> are annoying to build things with because you never know what's in 
> them, generally speaking. Edd Wilder-James (aka Dumbill) once likened 
> coding with RDF as something like coding without any data structures 
> beyond a hashtable. There's truth in that too.
> If there is to be value in having continued SW/RDF groups around here, 
> it's much more likely to be around practical collaboration to make RDF 
> less annoying to work with, rather than high level spinning of it in 
> terms of different metaphors and slogans and exhortations for how 
> people should be doing it to be doing it "right". We have collectively 
> slipped too easily into the latter, and maybe we're doing it again 
> this week. There is enough around RDF to be tempting, evocative, to 
> draw people in, to get them interested. But people repeatedly hit a 
> wall, and often wander away, frustrated. Another reason to nudge our 
> focus towards the likes of SHACL and ShEx is that they are 
> technologies that potentially can be used to characterize specific 
> application information needs where applications are using 
> some-but-not-all RDF data. As a community (especially the scientific / 
> scholarly side), Semantic Web has tended towards prizing generality 
> above all else. But there is merit too in knowing about applications 
> whose scope is much more pedestrian. It is more than fine for an 
> application to consume just a few patterns, from the infinite gallery 
> of possible, conceivable, RDF graph patterns. And yet as a community 
> we have tended implicitly to look down upon these as missing out on 
> the ultra-general-purpose nature of our technology. If we are not 
> careful, RDF is something of a spork; a highly versatile tool 
> potentially useful for many tasks, and yet neglected in favour of the 
> less general (the spoons and forks whose capabilities it gracefully 
> generalizes and unifies...). All the renamings and rebrandings in the 
> world won't save us from the tragi-niche fate of the spork, but some 
> collaboration around the user and developer experience, and 
> explorations of how syntactic issues (JSON, Protobufs, XML) relate to 
> RDF validation mechanisms could imho make a big difference to the 
> appeal of our technologies...
> Dan

Krzysztof Janowicz

Geography Department, University of California, Santa Barbara
4830 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4060

Email: jano@geog.ucsb.edu
Webpage: http://geog.ucsb.edu/~jano/
Semantic Web Journal: http://www.semantic-web-journal.net
Received on Friday, 19 October 2018 02:45:27 UTC

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