[foaf-protocols] First WebID Teleconference minutes (July 27th 2010)

Henry Story henry.story at gmail.com
Tue Aug 3 11:23:17 CEST 2010

On 3 Aug 2010, at 11:03, Kingsley Idehen wrote:

>> back to it then, what does WebID require to operate on the representation side? to function it has to be 'MUST xxxxxxx' what's the xxxxxxx and is it tightly defined enough to ensure the protocol can function globally? - do we have any agreement?
> Yes, but a real technical spec wouldn't and shouldn't negate HTTP's essence.
> If you note, content negotiation is seen as a problem hence this protracted discussion about data serialization formats.
> Content negotiation is the key to taking away the preoccupation with specific data serialization formats via MUST statements.
> Today, Web Browsers default to HTML, and this won't change re. WebID protocol -- even without a MUST for HTML+RDFa.

Hi, I think we are very much more in agreement really than we think. Content Negotiation is absolutely key, and means that on the web things are a lot more flexible that most people understand. I am completely with Kingsley on this. 

The trick will be to find the right wording in the document to express this in a light way, so that people who don't understand this, don't even realise that there was a problem.

Here is how David Lewis opens up his book on Convention.

"It is the profession of philosophers to question platitudes that others accept without thinking twice. A dangerous profession, since philosophers are more easily discredited than platitudes, but a useful one. For when a good philosopher challenges a platitude, it usually turns out that the platitude was essentially right; but the philosopher has noticed trouble that one who did not think twice could not have met. In the end the challenge is answered and the platitude survives more often than not. But the philosopher has done the adherents of the platitude a service: he has made them think twice."

So we have something very similar going on with respect to the web and semantics. Most people don't quite get how the web is really working. They all use it without trouble. From time to time, in architectural situations like this one, when protocols are developed we reveal the underlying complexities - or one could even say the even more beautiful, but slightly unsettling underlying simplicity! In the end though things will continue to work the way unreflecting people assumed it did most of the time. 

In fact it is because people have a tendency to see only syntax, that the conversion to a few syntaxes is nearly given in advance. But we don't need to be obsessive about that. We can just describe how things ARE. And currently all our implementations use RDFa and rdf/xml. It is therefore not a lie to say, that you wont' interoperate very well with us if you don't support those.

But are those formats necessary to the protocol? Not really...


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