[foaf-protocols] WebID - mandated syntax or market solution? was WebID Incubator Charter draft

Jiří Procházka ojirio at gmail.com
Fri Dec 17 09:46:38 CET 2010

On 12/17/2010 04:12 AM, Kingsley Idehen wrote:
> On 12/16/10 8:23 PM, Jiří Procházka wrote:
>>> I've tried. It can be done without mandating a lingua franca -- overtly
>>>>  or covertly.
>> This is what I leave to be convinced about. IMHO unless some direct
>> mind-sharing is going on, information has to be transfered using data,
>> which is encoding of information using a set of symbols and some rules,
>> known as language.
>> Some people want to have non-self-modifying apps which can talk with all
>> WebID agents, and in your scenario if such app encounters a WebID agent
>> which talks only using a syntaxes unknown to the app, it somehow has to
>> learn one of them (delegating this to web services is unacceptable in
>> eyes of these people).
>> We could make it a rule all syntaxes have to be
>> defined using particular BNF syntax which the apps would know how to
>> parse and "learn" the syntaxes, but that is just pushing the syntax
>> abstraction one level further (re the PS of my previous mail). So as I
>> understand it, you know of a different way, please explain.
>> Jiri
> I think implementers can live with a 3-tuple data structure in 
> Entity-Attribute-Value or Subject-Predictate-Object form with regards to 
> construction of structured profiles that are associated with public 
> keys. I also think user agents can negotiate their preferred 
> representations of the aforementioned data structure - overtly or 
> covertly. There is an ecosystem for middleware at many layers. HTTP is 
> middleware, for instance :-)
> If you parse the paragraph above, it doesn't break anything on the 
> Semantic Web side and it doesn't inject RDF into the conversation en 
> route to repelling potential participants.
> Remember, HTML wasn't forced upon anyone, it grew into an force based on 
> adoption, critical mass, and opportunity cost crystallization i.e., 
> laying down the critical proposition: spend time you don't have 
> reinventing it or get on the bus before you get left behind.
> I outline a repeating pattern above re. our industry. RDF's futile 
> attempt to break this time tested pattern that has led to its negative 
> (typically) and enigmatic status (at best) over the years. Claiming to 
> be everything (markup - RDF, model - RDF, and logic - RDF) only makes 
> matters worse.

To be a bit blunt, it means you disregarded my original concern and
failed to understand the people this part of WebID should cater for.
What you suggest, is that WebID should be a heterogenous system of
sometimes interoperable, sometimes not applications for years to come,
like RDF app land is now (I disagree that RDF tried to enforce one
mandatory syntax, that it failed and it failed because of it) and web
was pre-HTTP. Why and how HTTP came out as a "winner"? I would argue it
is because it seemed for most people the syntax which could by
understood by most clients, not because of its superiority, which is
exactly what I've been saying we should create and call WebID, like now
Web is understood as using HTTP.

You think implementors can live in such syntax-reality-show system, well
yes, some can, but I say a lot of them refuse to. They want to trust to
rely on WebID like they rely on TCP/IP stack, which is impossible
without at least one mandatory syntax. You say choosing such mandatory
syntax would deter many people, I say a lot more will be deterred by
lack of it and the assurances it provides.

If you knew me a lot more, you would learn that I would let almost
anything for market to sort out, but for machine languages is simply not
practical nor efficient. There is a large crowd of people who would
stick out the flag "Hey we don't want to participate in this popularity
contest, lets choose something basic, simple which just works and can be
relied on, and call it WebID".
From a general perspective all the people who would reinvent WebID (with
different mandated syntax, or no at all like you wish) would create the
market of competing syntaxes you like. In other words, by choosing a
mandated syntax you loose nothing.

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