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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

RDF Fever

posted: May 23, 2003 3:47:53 PM

More interesting posts stemming from Tim Bray's comments on RDF, that I mentioned in my last post. Tim summarizes and links to the latest in today's The RDF Conversation.

I think Tim hit the matter on the head today, at the end of his post, which I will say in my own words as: what is wrong is that the RDF/XML syntax encourages markup that forces one to guess the meaning of the markup elements based on their context in the XML document. See Tim's post for a narrative explanation with useful examples.

I don't know what I will suggest here is actually an accurate analogy--this is a shot from the hip, but I think RDF/XML might encourage people to take a concept like this:

A boy is named Jay (i.e., A resource is property value)

and express it like this:

A thing is a boy is a thing that is a name that is a thing that is "Jay"

I think what Tim is getting at with RVP, and what other people are suggesting is possible with RDF/XML (if not always common) would be more like:

A boy (resource) is named (property) "Jay" (value)

A whole other interesting theme in Tim's post is the value of people being able to work directly with the markup, versus the argument that people can just work with tools that minimize or eliminate the need to work directly with the markup. Tim's suggests (at least to make a point) that the web wouldn't exist if the HTML markup generator tools had to come before people could build websites. Russell Beattie today, in response to Tim, makes this point (quoted from Russell's My thoughts on RPV):

...if you take for a moment your argument that readability and writeability is key for adoption of a new technology (which I totally agree with) then I would say that making the syntax as compatible to HTML as possible would be the quickest path to success since there are already a bajillion people who can read/write that syntax with ease. Right?

All of this has me thinking about how people will use and develop iCites, which, at this point, is imagined to be largely contained within end-user tools (like blogger and such).

I wonder if, or to what degree, tools like blogger and Radio are coming to represent a new level of end-user interface, like the browser. In other words, I just write HTML fragments here, I don't have to deal with the graphics API that displays it in your browser. Am I just a user and not a developer because I don't deal with that API directly and work through a tool (the browser, in this case)?

I think it comes down to who is a user and who is a "developer", a line which the web totally blurs on many levels. For example, Foaf-a-matic lets someone use a browser to create a certain set of elements in RDF/XML--is that person clearly a developer or an end-user?

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