Re: The Standards Manifesto

Dear Aaron,

----- Original Message -----
From: "Aaron Swartz" <>
To: <>; <>
Cc: "Tim Berners-Lee" <>; "Simon St.Laurent"
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2002 12:07 PM
Subject: The Standards Manifesto

> I'm fed up.
> The W3C has been taken over by corporations with only selfish interests
> at heart.

1. Corporations are designed by law to be selfish.  Those which are not
 (except non-profits) betray their shareholders unless they maximize
 and they can  be sued for it.

2.  The W3C is only there because there is a selfish motivation for a
to join others in making a market bigger and more stable.  W3C only
works in the win-win areas.

That doesn't mean tha the corporation's general good exactly coincides
with your personal general good.  But in the long run there are lots of
arguments as to why they should.

> The Web services people swallow resources for an goal
> antithetical to Web Architecture.

What is that to you?  Why do you need those resources?

>The XML people shoehorn data into a
> format meant for documents and reinvent several wheels doing so.

What is that to you?  Other people wasting their time, if it be so,
doesn't hurt you.   If you would prefer them all to be helping you, then
the onus is on your to persuade them.

There are a lot of sceptics, and rightfully so, as there are a lot fo people
out there touting the next great thing.  So one can't expect everyone
to follow a loead unless it comes with running code and a busienss model.

And remember in fact life isn't as simples as just implementing things.
Problems turn up and have to be solved.  It takes time.

> The RDF
> people are afraid to do anything worthwhile with the power of their
> technology and instead worry for no good reason about
> backwards-compatibility.

Now there, counting myself as an RDF person, I take objection.
While having to (agonizingly) chose which of the low hanging fruit to
go for, I feel that I have hacked a path through a lot of it.

> And the W3T sits quietly, afraid to do anything
> to remedy the situation.
> I'm not going to take it anymore.
> W3C-style standards bodies clearly aren't working anymore. Perhaps they
> made sense in the old days of the browser wars, but we're no longer
> getting innovation from Working Groups who have so many members that
> they have to form subgroups to decide what they're going to do about
> deciding what they're going to do.

Working groups are not designed to inovate.  They are designed to solve the
problem that, while several people know that it is straightforward to do
something, and have proved it, one eneds a common standard fro

The fact that people have different designs won't go away.  Somehow you have
to get to consensus.  This can be very frustrating.  It canbe very gard
work.  It is very worthwhile.

Innovation, on the other hand, is best done in much smaller groups.
A thriving supportive comunity of interested people helps innovation, to my

So you have to decide what it is that you want to do.

> I humbly suggest a solution, based on comments from TimBL, SimonStl and
> many others:
>   * Desiging the specs are a small independent core team of people who
> really know their stuff and are concerned about simplicity and the Right
> Thing.

If this is innovation, then yo can design it yourself.

If it is consensus building, then what do you do when 6 people differ as to
the  Right Thing?

>   * Assisting them is an open group who contributes to the spec-writing
> and application-testing, letting the core team focus on the design.

This is the model we have used for quite a few working groups.

>   * Overseeing things and making "arbitrary" decisions is a
> widely-respected member of the community.
> This is, perhaps, the way W3C originally worked, but most of the time it
> doesn't work like this anymore. I've left out the details of the process
> to keep this message short. If there is interest I will make them
> clearer.
> Things I'd like to see developed in this model:
>   * RDF-Model (a clean version of N-Triples)

Yes, I'd likethis too.   Adobe's XML has "RDF-7" -- remember  the tlk
at www2002?  That sounds like a good move.

You refer above to people being too careful about backward companability.
Ignoring back-compatability is fine when you are talking about research.
However, when you are talking about a declared consesnus then it
can very very unfair.  Adobe, to take an arbitrary example,  have put a
lot of investment into RDF.  You can't pull out the basis for a lot of
software unless you check that everyone is happy about the idea.

I have suggested that the RDF specs be factored so there is a name
for the basic model without bags and reification.  After all, most things
like RDFS and DAML+OIL are built on that without the bags.

>   * RDF-Logic (a FOL system with URIs)

Contentious.  RDF can hardly be first order,as it allows making statements
about documents and hence about statements.  Classical logic doesn't work on
the web.  Logicians can't seem to figure out what they would call what you
want.  in other words, here isa case you can call research or spend a *very*
long time in a working group.

>   * RDF-Query (a standardized API and syntax for managing RDF)

This looks more like a case for your crack team of 6.
After all, there are around 7-8 SQL-like RDF query languages out there.
Just a question of designing one.  How many people would you expect would
want to have a say in the result? How would you  -- fairly -- chose 6 people
to carry on the task of doing the design, in your model?

>   * RDF-Sites (an outline for how RDF fits with HTTP).

Not sure what you are getting at here.
el of HTTP?
HTTP 1.1 is not simple. Making a formla model of it would be a very good

> Each of these should be relatively simple specifications, and easy to
> make if this plan works out how as I imagine.

Keep that simplicity.

> While such groups may use W3C (or any other group's) resources, like
> web-space and telecon-bridges, it must be clear that they are not bound
> by W3C process and are not responsible to the membership.

Earth to Aaron... ;-)

Aaron, you're not diplomatic or practical here.
W3C and and so on certianly exist to promote things like
this, and the www-* mailing lists and archives and so on are there to help
people get on and do good things.  But to blithely announce that you are
going to take the resources and run, and explictly not care about the
or desires of those who forked out either cash or their own time or both,
would make people think you felt you had the one truth when it came to
development ideas and so on.  Others might also want to develop these
and they may think they know best too. for example
is run coutesy of sponsors.  You contribute a lot of things, and so do

Anyone has have a choice - to be a small group and not claim consensus, or
to make a larger group. There is a sliding scale.  The process
is made for people on working groups by people on working groups.
You can make your own group, develop your own process, but you
will find you need one.

> I am willing to invest a my time into making this happen and am
> interested in collaborators. Please your feedback to me or <www-
>> and thanks for your time.

You are doing a great job with lots of semantic web stuff --developing
connecting ideas and people, and helping form the community around #RDFIG
amd .  You can chose how you spend your time.
If you want to start a new initiative you have to be clear whether it will
open to all and building consensus, or moving fast in a smaller group.
You can't claim to do both.

In the mean time, if there is some way in which the support from W3C
for the semantic web development could be improved, then let us know,
but explian how it is fair, and fast, and high quality -- and funded.
Or which of those goals it drops.


> --
> Aaron Swartz []

Received on Wednesday, 22 May 2002 16:32:30 UTC