Re: The Standards Manifesto


w.r.t. what we do in Working Groups, and what we do elsewhere, in Interest
Groups and other activities, is something I'm currently thinking about a
lot, hence this long and hopefully not _too_ rambly note. Maybe I
shouldn't have got drawn into this thread.

W3C's Semantic Web Activity has Working Group, Interest Group and
'advanced development' components. W3C is largely about specs, but also
about the wider context needed for those specs to be deployed and
integrated succesfully.

see under 'Advanced Development'
and also the RDF IG charter, for our
commitments in this area. There's more to deploying standards than Working
Groups, and we don't have all the answers yet. The IG and the advanced
development work are part of our attempt to address these needs.

It might also be worth mentioning that this current group,
considered as a discussion list, in effect, began outside of W3C.
Back in 1998 I set up RDF-DEV as a sister-list to the existing and
admirable XML-DEV forum. I announced the formation of RDF-DEV in June
1998, and its closure in favour of the new W3C RDF Interest Group in
November 1999.

From the archives at
	Subject: ANNOUNCE: RDF-DEV discussion list
	From: Dan Brickley (
	Date: 21 Jun 1998 - 12:11 BST
Now seems as good a time as any to announce the rdf-dev
discussion list. Named in tribute to xml-dev, I set this up a while ago
but haven't yet announced it properly, or completed the FAQ and list-scope
pages. But since the list itself is up and running, here goes. Note that,
as with xml-dev,  the rdf-dev list has no formal links with the W3C or the
RDF working groups. The list is intended for RDF developers and has a
stated (mild) bias towards resource discovery issues.
	Subject: Please read: RDF Interest Group announce / status of RDF-DEV
	From: Dan Brickley (
	Date: 1 Nov 1999 - 19:40 GMT
This is note to announce more widely the creation of the W3C's RDF
Interest Group, and to propose that we make the RDF Interest
Group a common focal point for RDF-related discussion, ie. phase out RDF-DEV
from active usage until such time as it proves necessary to have multiple
RDF mailing lists.

Subsequently all RDF-DEV traffic moved to www-rdf-interest, and things
started to get interesting.

As Karl noted, those of us weren't born here, and hopefully won't
die here. Organisations change and grow, and I've seen W3C grow in very
encouraging ways since I started to take an interest in it's doings ~96/7.

I certainly have never regretted transforming RDF-DEV into the W3C RDF
Interest Group. The archives ([rdfigarch]) of this (and other www-rdf-*)
lists suggest that I'm not alone in this.

When I got interested in RDF, it was a secret thing that 'some
membership-based industry consortium' (which I now work for) was doing. I
heard rumours over summer of 1997 about "PICS Next Generation" as it was
called then. I'd seen (and had a student project implement) Guha's MCF
stuff, but couldn't see the secret deliberations of the W3C Model and
Syntax RDF Working Group. In October 1997 they published a working draft
[RDF97] and I decided I wanted to get involved. Back then, the only way
to participate in the RDF work at all was as a representative of a W3C
Member organisation, or as an invited expert. Not feeling an expert on
anything, I took the easy route and persuaded the University of Bristol
that it wanted to be a Member of W3C. And so I entered the world of W3C,
this big mysterious industry consortium. I became Bristol's Advisory
Committee representative, and a member of the old RDF Schema WG. And in
1998, joined the W3C team as a visiting fellow from Bristol Uni / ILRT.

I'm not much given to autobiographising, but that's the context within
which RDF-DEV became www-rdf-interest, www-rdf-logic, www-rdf-calendar,
www-rdf-rules, irc:#rdfig, www-rdf-....  This RDF developer list is at W3C
because I thought that was a sensible decision. When folk advocate
'leaving W3C' and somehow starting afresh, I feel it might be worthwhile
explaining why we're here, and why I believe it has worked well and has
potential for working better.

The RDF scene really started to get interesting once there was a *public*
forum for discussing, arguing, sharing ideas etc. The publically-visible
process you see the newer SemWeb groups following is an acknowledgement of
the value of public technical discussions, and of providing some structure
to ensure that conclusions are reached and documented. It wasn't always
quite like this.  Organisations change and grow. I'm convinced that public
forums have been good for RDF and for W3C, and that re-casting the
(originally non-W3C)  RDF-DEV list as W3C's RDF Interest Group was good
for both the developer community and the RDF/SemWeb initiative. If for no
other reason than it provides a great way of ensnaring folk like Brian
McBride (see [bwm]) who later become leaders of new groups. Brian's msg
cites Peter Hannappel's excellent "Summary of Recent Discussions about an
Application Programming Interface for RDF" document ([peterh]).

	"This paper introduces a proposal for an RDF
	API standard made by the RDF interest community which discussed
	the topic in a newsgroup hosted by the W3C."

As Brian notes, papers such as this are a great help in making sense of
the (often long, complex, sometimes rambling) discussions we see on the
www-rdf-* lists.

I want to see more of this sort of thing, not less. Formal Working Groups
are something W3C has a lot of infrastructure, machinery and process built
up to support. But Interest Groups can also provide a context for developers to
collectively document techniques, experiments and experiences from
deploying W3C specs. I personally don't feel the time is right, or the
industry ready, for a RECommendation track WG working on an RDF query (and
inference rule?) specification. But we have clearly reached the point
where there is a lot of undocumented experience in the community, and
there are a lot of query engines that haven't been fully tested
against a common test suite or each other. We have a (possibly unannounced
here, <blush/>) mailing list, www-rdf-rules, that can provide a home for such
efforts. And some other machinery (IRC tools, possibly teleconference
bridge slots) that could assist such pre-WG efforts.

We're all still learning how to do this. W3C's RDF/SemWeb work in 2002 is
conducted somewhat differently to the original RDF WG's of 1997/8. In
another 5 years things could be somewhat different again. Maybe I'm just
an evolution-not-revolution guy, but I'm quite enthusiastic about the way
things have gone, and optimistic for what might be achieved hearabouts
over the next few years...

OK, rambling now. Short version and back to my original point:

Please take a look at under 'Advanced Development'
and also the RDF IG charter, Have a think
about what needs doing and how we might set about doing it here or nearby...





Received on Wednesday, 22 May 2002 20:25:02 UTC