[rdfweb-dev] responding to a new wave of anti-RDF sentiment

Peter Mika pmika at cs.vu.nl
Sun Jul 17 09:30:06 UTC 2005

Hi Jo,

I perfectly agree with you. I would add that a big part of the resentment
against RDF and the Semantic Web comes from starting off the wrong foot and
over-hyping it. You see the results in responses such as 


People are disillusioned if they compare the uberhype of TBL's Scientific
American article (intelligent agents running around organizing our life) and
the programming reality for the average Joe.

What we can do (and you also touch upon this in your replies) is to show
that RDF is not some alien technology. Most programmers do understand fairly
quickly if you say that Literal corresponds to primitive types (string and
other datatypes) and Resource corresponds to objects, we just have these
weird names for them...

Further, the tools to make things easy to program with are propping up
everywhere. I hope that the Elmo library [1] announced a few days ago on
this list will make a difference for the Java programmer. With Elmo, it is
possible to generate a valid FOAF profile or RSS 1.0 channel in 10 lines of
Java code and the proof is at


In summary: there is a lot of damage to repair wrt to the image of RDF but
there is a growing pile of ammunition to fight back those who still claim
RDF is difficult.


[1] http://www.openrdf.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: rdfweb-dev-bounces at vapours.rdfweb.org [mailto:rdfweb-dev-
> bounces at vapours.rdfweb.org] On Behalf Of Jo Walsh
> Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2005 12:56 AM
> To: rdfweb-dev at vapours.rdfweb.org
> Subject: [rdfweb-dev] responding to a new wave of anti-RDF sentiment
> i'm forwarding the message below, as an example of a tendency i've
> seen on several domain-orthogonal mailing lists recently, with a
> common anti-RDF set of messages which run roughly like this:
> "RDF is too hard"
> "It is too complicated to parse, XML is much easier"
> "There are no application toolkits or simple frameworks accessible in
> a low-footprint install to php-type developers"
> "I don't need RDF for my application to work, why should anyone else?"
> "Microformats / OPML / $monthly_flavour is what the other cool kids
> are doing and will provide an emergent standard"
> I find it hard not to come over defensive when others sound
> dismissive, but i can't resist making at least one response to this
> row when it comes up in different domains. Meanwhile, the people
> working on ministandards for small domains, while doing some good
> thinking about modelling and vocabularies, are definitely pushing
> their work as an RDF alternative, making the above claims, and gaining
> a lot of blogosphere leverage by virtue of their position on the
> power-law curve of public notice.
> When FOAF broke over the social net apps, dan and others wrote some nice,
> positive-view stuff on "why the big picture matters". My sense is that
> we could really do with a visually appealing, simple,
> positive-refutation document (not slagging off the xml formats, just
> setting out the rdfweb-dev stall).
> have been making cartoons to use as talk slides and to explain some of
> the proof-of-concept data aggregation / syndication stuff we've been
> doing with wirelesslondon. They are knockoffs of the CC cartoons -
> saul christened them 'creative cum-ons'. They go down pretty well.
> http://map.wirelesslondon.info/docs/ http://smal.omweb.org/
> I'm very much into making a 'why-RDF' series, perhaps more in the
> style of the beautiful isometric-view figures that ephidrina did for
> the SWAD-E t-shirt, which i get asked about a lot when i wear it.
> I moot this here because i'd like help with a script, that makes clear
> network-effect data merging, that touches on now-trendy geo and
> calendaring and connects to the hard work done there in RDF, that will
> make programmers think twice and non-programmers look harder.
> ( Incidentally i am longing for a toolkit that i could use to
> dynamically generate isometric or perspective views from RL geodata
> and decorate with RDF-derived bits of cartoon imagery. Is there
> anything near that out in the world - in the mmorpg domain? )
> http://lists.advocacydev.org/lists/arc/dev/2005-07/msg00017.html are
> my current set of counter-arguments which i would tone down for a more
> public, less friendly list than the above, for sure, in response to:
> ----- Forwarded message -----
> To: "Joshua Tauberer / GovTrack.us" <tauberer at govtrack.us>
> Subject: Re: [dev] Open Databases & the Semantic Web
> Cc: Jo Walsh <jo at frot.org>, dev at lists.advocacydev.org
> I agree, the Semantic Web is quite compelling in theory. However for a
> system such as you are proposing to work, you will either need to
> build some nice, easy to use tools in order to enter data, or use a
> format other than RDF. I agree that the set of semantic web
> technologies is really nice, they are also hard to use, and simply too
> complicated. Technology can't be the stumbling block or getting open
> legislative information won't get done.
> Succesful technologies employee David Weinberger's idea of 'small
> pieces, loosely joined' HTML and RSS have been successful because they
> were easy to learn, easy to parse, and simple to understand. RDF does
> not meet that test.
> Last thursday night I attended David Winer's road show at the Berkman
> Center where he evangelized OPML (and his new OPML editor) as another
> simple XML format that is going to be everywhere soon.  OPML is a
> simple XML format for creating trees of hierarchical information. At
> its core, legislative data is hierarchical information, and could be
> stored as OPML. What makes OPML magic is that you can include pointers
> between hierarchies. So you could delegate responsibility for the
> Massachusetts state legislature, to a volunteer who knows about MA,
> and he/she in turn could delegate responsibility about a particular
> legislator. This allows small pieces of the nationwide database to be
> loosely joined without a centralized system keeping track of things.
> I don't think David understands his own technologies potential (he
> tried to show it off as a blog publishing tool) - but I think that it
> will be used for more than outlines. The podcasting community is using
> OPML to maintain their distributed show directory, and it is just
> starting to catch on else where. Someday, OPML might be another sort
> of universal glue, in the same way that RSS is today.
> RDF is the right solution from a purely technological perspective, but
> it still might not be the right real world solution. There are serious
> downsides to either approach.
> ----- End forwarded message -----
> _______________________________________________
> rdfweb-dev mailing list
> rdfweb-dev at vapours.rdfweb.org
> wiki: http://rdfweb.org/topic/FoafProject
> http://rdfweb.org/mailman/listinfo/rdfweb-dev

More information about the foaf-dev mailing list