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Re: [RSS-DEV] Who are we and what are we trying to accomplish anyway ?

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  • Dan Brickley
    ... The whole point of RSS 1.0 was to find a sweet spot where a simple-enough doc format could be specified that would work nicely both today *and* tommorrow.
    Message 1 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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      On Fri, 20 Sep 2002, Joseph Reagle wrote:

      > On Friday 20 September 2002 03:49 pm, Dan Brickley wrote:
      > > As such I believe it'll prove much harder to architect a 'deploy vanilla
      > > XML and leave it to consumers to turn it into RDF' design. What advice
      > > can we offer to the creators of the namespaces that would be used to help
      > > describe the kinds of things I list?
      >
      > You're confusing my two issues. My first paragraph was about the future of
      > RDF, not RSS today. It'd be nice to jack existing data into the SW. For RSS
      > today, or SYM/RNR/something <grin/> tomorrow, I'm proposing, deploy the
      > simple Shelley/Palmer (it's RDF, but doesn't scare newbiews) and when
      > people want to start doing modules and extensions, then they'll actually
      > have an incentive and reason to appreciate RDF.

      The whole point of RSS 1.0 was to find a sweet spot where a simple-enough
      doc format could be specified that would work nicely both today *and*
      tommorrow. A format where simple feeds could be made by copy'n'paste from
      a boilerplate example, and highly sophsticated feeds could be composed
      from multiple indepdently developed RDF/XML namespaces.

      I believe RSS 1.0.* with a few careful bugfixes and a *lot* more
      tools/docs/etc is an adequate basis for both, and that the cost of
      advocating (and then migrating away from) a slightly different RDF
      serialization right now should steer our energies in other directions.

      I guess what I'm hearing from you is that the RSS 1.0 project (in the
      terms I describe it above) was in essence a failure, albeit a useful and
      educational one. And that we should go back to the syntactic drawing
      board. My view is that it's a good-enough compromise, that we can explore
      alternate syntaxes etc in the future (I'm particularly interested in
      XHTML-based syndication for the simple case), but that stabilising
      tools/docs/etc around RSS 1.0 is a more productive goal than re-inventing
      the base syntax.

      Dan


      --
      mailto:danbri@...
      http://www.w3.org/People/DanBri/
    • Dan Brickley
      +1 (*1000 ;-) Well said.
      Message 2 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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        +1 (*1000 ;-)

        Well said.

        On 20 Sep 2002, Eric van der Vlist wrote:

        > On Fri, 2002-09-20 at 21:58, Joseph Reagle wrote:
        >
        > > For RSS
        > > today, or SYM/RNR/something <grin/> tomorrow, I'm proposing, deploy the
        > > simple Shelley/Palmer (it's RDF, but doesn't scare newbiews) and when
        > > people want to start doing modules and extensions, then they'll actually
        > > have an incentive and reason to appreciate RDF.
        >
        > I think that we really need to define what we want to achieve before
        > going back to the syntax.
        >
        > For instance, IMO (and at least for the way I am using RSS) it's
        > important to decouple the items from the channels since they can live
        > their own lives (a channel "includes" several items but an item can be
        > included within several channels) and this is cleaner and easier to
        > manipulate if we don't define contention relations between these notions
        > and a good enough reason for me to keep a "table of content" (with or
        > without RDF explicit containers) in the channels.
        >
        > But, of course, untill we've really defined what's a channel and what's
        > an item and what the requirements are we can discuss during hours and
        > hours without making any real progress.
        >
        > RSS 1.0 has been hard enough to specify because of this shortage of
        > definitions to make me want to avoid doing the same mistake a second
        > time :-) ...
        >
        > Also, I think that we must check, before breaking compatibility with RSS
        > 1.0, that the benefits outweight the costs and I am not sure to see this
        > in the proposals I have read so far.
        >
        > Eric
      • Joseph Reagle
        ... I wouldn t call where we are today exactly sweet. I think there was a missed opportunity for it to be more appealing to those concerned with simple
        Message 3 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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          On Friday 20 September 2002 04:11 pm, Dan Brickley wrote:
          >The whole point of RSS 1.0 was to find a sweet spot where a simple-enough
          >doc format could be specified that would work nicely both today *and*
          >tommorrow.
          > I guess what I'm hearing from you is that the RSS 1.0 project (in the
          > terms I describe it above) was in essence a failure, albeit a useful and
          > educational one.

          I wouldn't call where we are today exactly sweet. I think there was a missed
          opportunity for it to be more appealing to those concerned with simple
          syndication: the well known rdf:Sequence sand-in-the-pants (which
          ironically enough was there for backwards compatibility) and using RDF
          syntax in the spec without even explaining what it meant.

          If we went with a new name and easier syntax, on the compatibility front,
          for those that are using RDF tools, well, it's just another RDF stream. On
          the XML front, I'm not sure if it's a huge deal, one more variant, but if
          we do the job well, it should be the last one folks will ever have to
          bother with. <grin/>

          > And that we should go back to the syntactic drawing
          > board. My view is that it's a good-enough compromise, that we can explore
          > alternate syntaxes etc in the future (I'm particularly interested in
          > XHTML-based syndication for the simple case), but that stabilising
          > tools/docs/etc around RSS 1.0 is a more productive goal than re-inventing
          > the base syntax.

          I appreciate this point of view, but the assumptions you make to reach it
          are not the same as mine -- they're not that far off, but not completely
          aligned. Regardless, if your view came to represent the concensus of the
          WG, then I'd want them to be serious on that too: create a RSS 1.1 REC,
          publish a NOTE with guidelines, etc.
        • tappnel
          ... I would be curious to know what it is you re looking for then. There seems to be an abundance of examples that 1.0 is not being used in favor of other
          Message 4 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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            --- In rss-dev@y..., Eric van der Vlist <vdv@d...> wrote:
            > Also, I think that we must check, before breaking compatibility with RSS
            > 1.0, that the benefits outweight the costs and I am not sure to see this
            > in the proposals I have read so far.

            I would be curious to know what it is you're looking for then. There
            seems to be an abundance of examples that 1.0 is not being used in
            favor of other formats and the "tax" of the current RDF implementation
            is a major impediment to its mainstream acceptance. The majority of
            applications deployed use liberal parsers because so many feeds do not
            comply with any specific format. Furthermore I am not optimistic that
            more examples or documentation is going to convince developers any
            time soon to go along. Many feeds continue to not even be well-formed
            XML. Is it possible to make RDF simpler to understand then the rules
            of XML well-formedness?

            Eric & Dan: Please understand, I'm just trying to be devil's advocate
            and play the voice of practicality having worked out on the
            "battlefield" my whole career. Sounding negative is an unintentional
            side effect. I want to give this stuff a chance to see this work, but
            I have not seen any tangible data or examples that back your
            assertions that RSS 1.0 is fine and just requires some careful bugfixes.

            This reminds me of a recent thread over on the REST-DEV list where one
            anti-extremist like myself pointed out that SOAP-style web services
            are being adopted by developers because they are different, but not a
            complete paradigm shift in their thinking as REST is. Some of the REST
            advocates have chosen to compromise by lobbying to make SOAP et al
            more "RESTful" and they are having some success. I would recommend you
            consider a similar tact.

            Its not the battle, but the war you want to win.

            So, I would not go so far as to call RSS 1.0 a failure, but I would
            certainly assert it needs significant retooling to address the
            resounding feedback everyday Joe's like myself are offering.

            <tim/>
          • Bill Kearney
            ... +1 ... +1 ... +1 (sadly so) ... I m not clear what you mean here. ... Right, this I completely agree with. Better to have RSS-1.0 more accurately
            Message 5 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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              > The whole point of RSS 1.0 was to find a sweet spot where a simple-enough
              > doc format could be specified that would work nicely both today *and*
              > tommorrow. A format where simple feeds could be made by copy'n'paste from
              > a boilerplate example, and highly sophsticated feeds could be composed
              > from multiple indepdently developed RDF/XML namespaces.

              +1

              > I believe RSS 1.0.* with a few careful bugfixes and a *lot* more
              > tools/docs/etc is an adequate basis for both, and that the cost of
              > advocating (and then migrating away from) a slightly different RDF
              > serialization right now should steer our energies in other directions.

              +1

              > I guess what I'm hearing from you is that the RSS 1.0 project (in the
              > terms I describe it above) was in essence a failure, albeit a useful and
              > educational one.

              +1 (sadly so)

              > And that we should go back to the syntactic drawing
              > board.

              I'm not clear what you mean here.

              > My view is that it's a good-enough compromise, that we can explore
              > alternate syntaxes etc in the future (I'm particularly interested in
              > XHTML-based syndication for the simple case), but that stabilising
              > tools/docs/etc around RSS 1.0 is a more productive goal than re-inventing
              > the base syntax.

              Right, this I completely agree with. Better to have RSS-1.0 more accurately
              explained and keep the idea of using XHTML as an interesting, but separate,
              concept. I don't fault the idea but suggest the reality of how content is now
              produced makes that a seriously flawed concept.

              -Bill Keanrey
            • tappnel
              ... simple-enough ... useful and ... a missed ... +1 ... front, ... stream. On ... but if ... +1 ... explore ... re-inventing ... reach it ... completely ...
              Message 6 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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                --- In rss-dev@y..., Joseph Reagle <reagle@M...> wrote:
                > On Friday 20 September 2002 04:11 pm, Dan Brickley wrote:
                > >The whole point of RSS 1.0 was to find a sweet spot where a
                simple-enough
                > >doc format could be specified that would work nicely both today *and*
                > >tommorrow.
                > > I guess what I'm hearing from you is that the RSS 1.0 project (in the
                > > terms I describe it above) was in essence a failure, albeit a
                useful and
                > > educational one.
                >
                > I wouldn't call where we are today exactly sweet. I think there was
                a missed
                > opportunity for it to be more appealing to those concerned with simple
                > syndication: the well known rdf:Sequence sand-in-the-pants (which
                > ironically enough was there for backwards compatibility) and using RDF
                > syntax in the spec without even explaining what it meant.
                >

                +1

                > If we went with a new name and easier syntax, on the compatibility
                front,
                > for those that are using RDF tools, well, it's just another RDF
                stream. On
                > the XML front, I'm not sure if it's a huge deal, one more variant,
                but if
                > we do the job well, it should be the last one folks will ever have to
                > bother with. <grin/>
                >

                +1

                > > And that we should go back to the syntactic drawing
                > > board. My view is that it's a good-enough compromise, that we can
                explore
                > > alternate syntaxes etc in the future (I'm particularly interested in
                > > XHTML-based syndication for the simple case), but that stabilising
                > > tools/docs/etc around RSS 1.0 is a more productive goal than
                re-inventing
                > > the base syntax.
                >
                > I appreciate this point of view, but the assumptions you make to
                reach it
                > are not the same as mine -- they're not that far off, but not
                completely
                > aligned. Regardless, if your view came to represent the concensus of
                the
                > WG, then I'd want them to be serious on that too: create a RSS 1.1 REC,
                > publish a NOTE with guidelines, etc.

                I completely agree with Joe and would like to echo the same sentiment
                as my stance in the matter.

                <tim/>
              • Eric van der Vlist
                ... For those who don t want to use well formed XML, I have even proposed a text format equivalent to RSS 1.0 core :-) ...
                Message 7 of 20 , Sep 20, 2002
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                  On Fri, 2002-09-20 at 23:10, tappnel wrote:
                  > --- In rss-dev@y..., Eric van der Vlist <vdv@d...> wrote:
                  > > Also, I think that we must check, before breaking compatibility with RSS
                  > > 1.0, that the benefits outweight the costs and I am not sure to see this
                  > > in the proposals I have read so far.
                  >
                  > I would be curious to know what it is you're looking for then. There
                  > seems to be an abundance of examples that 1.0 is not being used in
                  > favor of other formats and the "tax" of the current RDF implementation
                  > is a major impediment to its mainstream acceptance. The majority of
                  > applications deployed use liberal parsers because so many feeds do not
                  > comply with any specific format. Furthermore I am not optimistic that
                  > more examples or documentation is going to convince developers any
                  > time soon to go along. Many feeds continue to not even be well-formed
                  > XML. Is it possible to make RDF simpler to understand then the rules
                  > of XML well-formedness?

                  For those who don't want to use well formed XML, I have even proposed a
                  text format equivalent to RSS 1.0 core :-) ...

                  http://4xt.org/downloads/rss/text-to-10.txt

                  Can it be much simpler than that?

                  > Eric & Dan: Please understand, I'm just trying to be devil's advocate
                  > and play the voice of practicality having worked out on the
                  > "battlefield" my whole career. Sounding negative is an unintentional
                  > side effect. I want to give this stuff a chance to see this work, but
                  > I have not seen any tangible data or examples that back your
                  > assertions that RSS 1.0 is fine and just requires some careful bugfixes.

                  I haven't seen either tangible data or examples that we need to
                  dramatically change the language!

                  > This reminds me of a recent thread over on the REST-DEV list where one
                  > anti-extremist like myself pointed out that SOAP-style web services
                  > are being adopted by developers because they are different, but not a
                  > complete paradigm shift in their thinking as REST is. Some of the REST
                  > advocates have chosen to compromise by lobbying to make SOAP et al
                  > more "RESTful" and they are having some success. I would recommend you
                  > consider a similar tact.
                  >
                  > Its not the battle, but the war you want to win.

                  I do not claim that RSS 1.0 should dominate the world ;-) ...

                  I would even say that RSS 2.0 might change the balance we need to
                  achieve between simplicity and extensibility since there is no need to
                  two competing formats which would have the exact same sets of
                  requirements.

                  > So, I would not go so far as to call RSS 1.0 a failure, but I would
                  > certainly assert it needs significant retooling to address the
                  > resounding feedback everyday Joe's like myself are offering.

                  I am afraid that the old guard might be getting tired and need new
                  members to carry on the tooling effort :-) ...

                  Eric

                  > <tim/>

                  --
                  Rendez-vous à Paris.
                  http://www.technoforum.fr/integ2002/index.html
                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Eric van der Vlist http://xmlfr.org http://dyomedea.com
                  (W3C) XML Schema ISBN:0-596-00252-1 http://oreilly.com/catalog/xmlschema
                  ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                • Ian Graham
                  ... Tappnel s commentary [1] reiterates this distinction, but also (IMO) makes the important but seemingly often glossed over point that the RDF formalism is
                  Message 8 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                    On Fri, 20 Sep 2002, Seth Russell wrote:

                    > Maybe there are two kinds of design stratagies here. Maybe trying to
                    > combine them in one group will mean that what we would produce would be
                    > a bad compromise. I think the groups can be characterized as follows ....
                    >
                    > (1) One group (I count myself in this group) believes in RDF and it's
                    > ability to say just about anything in a manner where the meaning of the
                    > data is carried by the syntax of the data, it's vocabulary, and it's
                    > schema definitions. This group believes that RDF data will be
                    > interoperable between diverse applications, as long as those
                    > applications process the data according to the syntax and it's schema
                    > definitions. They believe that there will be a synergy at the end of
                    > the tunnel when data will match up without being contrived to match up.
                    > They use RDF tools designed to that belief ... and are developing more
                    > as they speak. But, perhaps somebody can say that better.
                    >
                    >
                    > (2) The other group of designers are comming in from the trenches of
                    > actually syndicating information. They believe that the only way to
                    > match up data is to contrive the matches. But perhaps somebody can
                    > characterize that group better than I can.
                    >
                    > It seems to me that a combined group will not be able to come up with a
                    > *winning* new format that goes beyond what RSS .9x, RSS 1.0 , and RSS
                    > 2.0 already give us.
                    >
                    > Hey ... maybe group (1) should split off from group (2) .....

                    Tappnel's commentary [1] reiterates this distinction, but also (IMO) makes
                    the important but seemingly often glossed over point that the RDF
                    formalism is sufficiently tricky and complex that it trips up and inhibits
                    even very good programmers/developers.

                    Bill Kearney's comment [2] on how current feeds rarely use mod_content,
                    and how most that do implement this feature incorrectly, reiterates the
                    need for simplicity of meaning and implementation in the specficiation.

                    I too think that RDF has important value, but it adds complexity that can
                    also lead to problems, by increasing the risk of error in designing
                    feeds, and in reducing the pool of people who can practically work with
                    RSS.

                    IMO, the propogation of modules, namespaces, and complex rules for how
                    these can be mixed inevitably makes it harder and harder to get things
                    correct. And, once the RDF statements in a message buggered up, then the
                    benefits of using RDF are lost.

                    I think a three-pronged approach is best:

                    1) a pragmatic, simplified, limited functionality non-RDF approach
                    (or at least not heavily RDFfed) that is easy to understand by
                    competent (but not AI specilist) developers, and easy to implement
                    using non-RDF tools. In this case, a developer should NEVER
                    need to read RDF specs (or understand what 'reified' means ;-) )
                    2) a richer, more complex RDF-based syntax that can express all the
                    abstract concepts of the non-RDF approach, plus many others.
                    3) a formal transformation process for converting data conforming to
                    the first standard into RDF, and vice versa.

                    (1) provides for a consistent lowest-common-denominator playing field for
                    a large fraction of current users/developers, while (2) is an exciting
                    playing ground for new technologies and features, while (3) links the two
                    together.

                    [1] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rss-dev/message/3897
                    [2] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rss-dev/message/3959
                    --
                    Ian
                  • Seth Russell
                    ... Hmmm ... I m sure this is true, but alass why? A database of triples is almost the simplest concept in the world. These triples (subject, property,
                    Message 9 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                      Ian Graham wrote:
                         Hey ... maybe group (1) should split off from group (2) .....
                          
                      Tappnel's commentary [1] reiterates this distinction, but also (IMO) makes
                      the important but seemingly often glossed over point that the RDF
                      formalism is sufficiently tricky and complex that it trips up and inhibits
                      even very good programmers/developers.
                      Hmmm ... I'm sure this is true, but alass why?  A database of triples is almost the simplest concept in the world.  These triples (subject, property, object) are all the application sees from the parser.  
                      I think a three-pronged approach is best:
                      
                      1) a pragmatic, simplified, limited functionality non-RDF approach 
                         (or at least not heavily RDFfed) that is easy to understand by 
                         competent (but not AI specilist) developers,  and easy to implement 
                         using non-RDF tools.  In this case, a developer should NEVER 
                         need to read RDF specs (or understand what 'reified' means ;-) ) 
                      But what is the difference between that and Dave's RSS 2.0 ?   I know it's fashionable not to ack Dave on this list, but what is the use of duplicating his effort over here just because we don't like him ?  
                      2) a richer, more complex RDF-based syntax that can express all the
                         abstract concepts of the non-RDF approach, plus many others.
                      Once we stop trying to compromise, this really just becomes RDF triples.  Syndication needs two new node types:  item and channel.  Of coure each of those kinds of nodes can be described with whatever properties the author wishes to use.  Applications just select off the properties of channels and items which they want to process and ignore the rest.   How could anything be simpler ?
                      3) a formal transformation process for converting data conforming to 
                         the first standard into RDF, and vice versa. 
                      Agree.  This should be an easy piece.  

                      Seth Russell

                    • Phil Ringnalda
                      ... Going back a couple of years, Dan Libby said [1] However, to be *practical*, we must first create the tools for 1) validation, 2) processing, and 3)
                      Message 10 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                        Ian Graham wrote:
                        > I too think that RDF has important value, but it adds complexity that can
                        > also lead to problems, by increasing the risk of error in designing
                        > feeds, and in reducing the pool of people who can practically work with
                        > RSS.
                        >
                        > IMO, the propogation of modules, namespaces, and complex rules for how
                        > these can be mixed inevitably makes it harder and harder to get things
                        > correct. And, once the RDF statements in a message buggered up, then the
                        > benefits of using RDF are lost.

                        Going back a couple of years, Dan Libby said [1] "However, to be
                        *practical*, we must first create the tools for 1) validation, 2)
                        processing, and 3) generation, pretty much in that order. With proper
                        validation tools, people can begin writing processors and generators, or
                        even producing files by hand. Without them, it is like shooting in the
                        dark. [...] Validation is extremely important -- important enough to be
                        listed apart from "tools". Someone publishing a document *must* be able to
                        validate that the document is correct before sending it, particularly when
                        setting up an automated system. Validation further helps prevent the format
                        from splitting, particularly in areas where the spec may be unclear. For
                        XML, validation requires minimally a DTD, and optimally XML-Schema and/or
                        further application level processing. For RDF, validation requires an
                        RDF-Schema aware processor (I believe)."

                        I really don't know how much I'm asking for, but are we close to the point
                        where we can have a useful-to-amateurs validator, one that will not only
                        check syntax but also somehow show the RDF statements in the way they would
                        probably be interpreted, so that, for example, someone using the default
                        MovableType template would see that they are claiming that the
                        admin:generatorAgent for their feed is
                        "http://www.theirsite.com/index.rdf#MovableType/2.21"? I'm trying my
                        damndest to have my RDF say what I mean, but with only Leigh Dodds'
                        validator [2] and the W3C RDF validator [3] I'm barely sure that I'm
                        speaking in grammatically correct sentences, and I'm not at all clear on
                        whether my sentences mean "Where is the bathroom?" or "Where is your
                        mother's coccyx?"

                        Phil Ringnalda


                        [1] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/syndication/message/586
                        [2] http://www.ldodds.com/rss_validator/1.0/validator.html
                        [3] http://www.w3.org/RDF/Validator/
                      • Ian Graham
                        ... I believe the issue is that the triples add an extra abstraction layer that developers don t understand or want. They want to be doers, not thinkers, and
                        Message 11 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                          On Sat, 21 Sep 2002, Seth Russell wrote:

                          > Ian Graham wrote:
                          >
                          > >> Hey ... maybe group (1) should split off from group (2) .....
                          > >>
                          > >>
                          > >
                          > >Tappnel's commentary [1] reiterates this distinction, but also (IMO) makes
                          > >the important but seemingly often glossed over point that the RDF
                          > >formalism is sufficiently tricky and complex that it trips up and inhibits
                          > >even very good programmers/developers.
                          > >
                          > Hmmm ... I'm sure this is true, but alass why? A database of triples is
                          > almost the simplest concept in the world. These triples (subject,
                          > property, object) are all the application sees from the parser.

                          I believe the issue is that the triples add an extra abstraction layer
                          that developers don't understand or want. They want to be doers, not
                          thinkers, and the RDF approach asks them to first think through the
                          underlying subtlety of their data semantics before developing an
                          application. For the scope of most RSS applications, this is seen to be
                          unnecessary baggage.

                          It's a bit like OO -- you really don't need OO (and all the OO design
                          abstractions) for small applications, becuase the extra layer of
                          abstraction gets in the way of getting the simple tasks done.

                          > >I think a three-pronged approach is best:
                          > >
                          > >1) a pragmatic, simplified, limited functionality non-RDF approach
                          > > (or at least not heavily RDFfed) that is easy to understand by
                          > > competent (but not AI specilist) developers, and easy to implement
                          > > using non-RDF tools. In this case, a developer should NEVER
                          > > need to read RDF specs (or understand what 'reified' means ;-) )
                          > >
                          > But what is the difference between that and Dave's RSS 2.0 ? I know
                          > it's fashionable not to ack Dave on this list, but what is the use of
                          > duplicating his effort over here just because we don't like him ?

                          Well, I think some of Dave's ideas are poorly designed, but otherwise this
                          is precisely the model (and rationale) he is following. OTOH, I am not in
                          favor of specifications designed by fiat, as opposed to by some sort of WG
                          consensus. This group, however, has never come to consensus on doing
                          anything that follows model (1) -- which IMHO explains why this group
                          continues to be fractured by this issue.

                          > >2) a richer, more complex RDF-based syntax that can express all the
                          > > abstract concepts of the non-RDF approach, plus many others.

                          > Once we stop trying to compromise, this really just becomes RDF triples.
                          > Syndication needs two new node types: item and channel. Of coure each
                          > of those kinds of nodes can be described with whatever properties the
                          > author wishes to use. Applications just select off the properties of
                          > channels and items which they want to process and ignore the rest. How
                          > could anything be simpler ?

                          Well, yes -- to you and those comfortable with the technology and tooling.
                          This is a bit of a stretch for someone writing RSS code using perl and a
                          simple XML parser (if that) ;-) Better RDF tooling would help greatly...

                          > >3) a formal transformation process for converting data conforming to
                          > > the first standard into RDF, and vice versa.
                          > >
                          > Agree. This should be an easy piece.

                          One would hope so.. however, the 'muckiness' of type (1) RSS may make it
                          hard to transform this into type (2) -- much in the way it is hard to
                          write an HTML parser that handles all the messiness of HTML...

                          Ian
                        • Ian Graham
                          ... A very good point. I believe most pragmatic RSS developers (as opposed to the R&D developers who dominate this group) would be happy with a simple
                          Message 12 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                            On Sat, 21 Sep 2002, Phil Ringnalda wrote:

                            > Ian Graham wrote:
                            > > I too think that RDF has important value, but it adds complexity that can
                            > > also lead to problems, by increasing the risk of error in designing
                            > > feeds, and in reducing the pool of people who can practically work with
                            > > RSS.
                            > >
                            > > IMO, the propogation of modules, namespaces, and complex rules for how
                            > > these can be mixed inevitably makes it harder and harder to get things
                            > > correct. And, once the RDF statements in a message buggered up, then the
                            > > benefits of using RDF are lost.
                            >
                            > Going back a couple of years, Dan Libby said [1] "However, to be
                            > *practical*, we must first create the tools for 1) validation, 2)
                            > processing, and 3) generation, pretty much in that order. With proper
                            > validation tools, people can begin writing processors and generators, or
                            > even producing files by hand. Without them, it is like shooting in the
                            > dark. [...] Validation is extremely important -- important enough to be
                            > listed apart from "tools". Someone publishing a document *must* be able to
                            > validate that the document is correct before sending it, particularly when
                            > setting up an automated system. Validation further helps prevent the format
                            > from splitting, particularly in areas where the spec may be unclear. For
                            > XML, validation requires minimally a DTD, and optimally XML-Schema and/or
                            > further application level processing. For RDF, validation requires an
                            > RDF-Schema aware processor (I believe)."

                            A very good point. I believe most 'pragmatic' RSS developers (as opposed
                            to the 'R&D developers' who dominate this group) would be happy with a
                            simple toolset adn API (perl, python, php, whatever) that lets them create
                            outgoing or process incoming RSS without needing to understand any XML or
                            RDF. The toolset should guarantee validity at the syntactic level. RSS
                            feeds seem to still have lots of syntactic problems.

                            Even for the R&D group, there seem to be too few good RDF tools, including
                            validators and visualizers.

                            > I really don't know how much I'm asking for, but are we close to the point
                            > where we can have a useful-to-amateurs validator, one that will not only
                            > check syntax but also somehow show the RDF statements in the way they would
                            > probably be interpreted, so that, for example, someone using the default
                            > MovableType template would see that they are claiming that the
                            > admin:generatorAgent for their feed is
                            > "http://www.theirsite.com/index.rdf#MovableType/2.21"? I'm trying my
                            > damndest to have my RDF say what I mean, but with only Leigh Dodds'
                            > validator [2] and the W3C RDF validator [3] I'm barely sure that I'm
                            > speaking in grammatically correct sentences, and I'm not at all clear on
                            > whether my sentences mean "Where is the bathroom?" or "Where is your
                            > mother's coccyx?"

                            A nice example, although it does open up the doors to way too many bad
                            jokes ;-)

                            Ian
                          • Seth Russell
                            ... Bolder dash! Programmers never had any problem with name_value pairs ... they loved and embraced them .. right? Well RDF is just name_value pairs *about
                            Message 13 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                              Ian Graham wrote:

                              >I believe the issue is that the triples add an extra abstraction layer
                              >that developers don't understand or want.
                              >
                              Bolder dash! Programmers never had any problem with name_value pairs
                              ... they loved and embraced them .. right? Well RDF is just name_value
                              pairs *about things*. Programmers never had any problem with relational
                              databases ... they loved and embraced them .... right? Well RDF is just
                              a relational database with a fixed and simplified column structure ...
                              i.e. just three columns. If you look at RDF as data and forget about
                              all the abstract semantics, it actually is a much simpler solution to
                              the problem of saying anything about anything. It's much simpler than
                              contriving customized structures every time we want to say something new.

                              >Well, I think some of Dave's ideas are poorly designed, but otherwise this
                              >is precisely the model (and rationale) he is following. OTOH, I am not in
                              >favor of specifications designed by fiat, as opposed to by some sort of WG
                              >consensus.
                              >
                              Well sometimes a single person can design a better structure ... where a committee will end up with an aberration of compromises trying to attain everybody's conflicting goals. I believe that RSS 1.0 is just such a aberration. But the 2.0 spec preserves compatibility with thousands of .9x feeds, yet allows for just the additional properties to be added which people are screaming for. It seems to me that the RSS 2.0 spec just reflects where the market is and where it wants to go. It's simple, uncontrived, and preserves the momentum of RSS. It is truly going to be difficult for a committee to come up with a better spec.

                              >One would hope so.. however, the 'muckiness' of type (1) RSS may make it
                              >hard to transform this into type (2)
                              >
                              Not at all. In fact we can transform any kind of items streaming in
                              channel documents into RDF nodes and arrows streaming in whatever
                              media. Emails, Usenet posts, XHTML marked up web pages, arbitrary XML,
                              RSS .9x, RSS 2.0, RSS 1.0 etc .... all can be included. I bid 2000
                              lines of code (or less) and a simple RDF description for each new kind
                              of format.

                              Seth Russell
                              http://robustai.net/
                            • Ian Graham
                              ... If the triples were that simple, then everyone would be happy to use them :-/ But people don t seem to be entirely happy (otherwise this continuing
                              Message 14 of 20 , Sep 21, 2002
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                                On Sat, 21 Sep 2002, Seth Russell wrote:

                                > Ian Graham wrote:
                                >
                                > >I believe the issue is that the triples add an extra abstraction layer
                                > >that developers don't understand or want.
                                > >
                                > Bolder dash! Programmers never had any problem with name_value pairs
                                > ... they loved and embraced them .. right? Well RDF is just name_value
                                > pairs *about things*. Programmers never had any problem with relational
                                > databases ... they loved and embraced them .... right? Well RDF is just
                                > a relational database with a fixed and simplified column structure ...
                                > i.e. just three columns. If you look at RDF as data and forget about
                                > all the abstract semantics, it actually is a much simpler solution to
                                > the problem of saying anything about anything. It's much simpler than
                                > contriving customized structures every time we want to say something new.

                                If the triples were that simple, then everyone would be happy to use
                                them :-/

                                But people don't seem to be entirely happy (otherwise this continuing
                                discussion wouldn't be happening). I suspect this is because the
                                simplicity of raw triples gets lost in the complexity of the XML notation,
                                and in the complexity of the RDF semantics (the RDF specs are long for
                                good reason!).

                                I think RDF is very cool -- and I think it is an important and useful
                                technology. But I don't think you need the power of RDF for all use
                                cases of RSS.

                                It's true developers love relational databases. But then, if you're only
                                working with a few simple resources and only simple indexing requirements,
                                then I bet you dimes for dollars that most developers would just dump the
                                stuff into a filesytem, and use index files and hashtables.....

                                > >Well, I think some of Dave's ideas are poorly designed, but otherwise this
                                > >is precisely the model (and rationale) he is following. OTOH, I am not in
                                > >favor of specifications designed by fiat, as opposed to by some sort of WG
                                > >consensus.
                                > >

                                > Well sometimes a single person can design a better structure ... where
                                > a committee will end up with an aberration of compromises trying to
                                > attain everybody's conflicting goals. I believe that RSS 1.0 is just
                                > such a aberration. But the 2.0 spec preserves compatibility with
                                > thousands of .9x feeds, yet allows for just the additional properties
                                > to be added which people are screaming for. It seems to me that the
                                > RSS 2.0 spec just reflects where the market is and where it wants to
                                > go. It's simple, uncontrived, and preserves the momentum of RSS. It
                                > is truly going to be difficult for a committee to come up with a
                                > better spec.

                                This is quite true, and things like Relax and trex are good examples of
                                this. I'm not so convinced of all Dave's notions, however, although I do
                                admit that RSS 2.0 is a reasonable way forward along the 0.9x branch.

                                In these other cases, however, the contribution became an open standard,
                                with a great deal of community contribution / involvement / consensus. Why
                                that didn't happen with RSS is unclear to me. Perhaps it was because there
                                never was a true originator of RSS to lead things forward, or perhaps it's
                                because those going forward had two visions for where it should go. Or
                                perhaps it's both of these, and more.

                                > >One would hope so.. however, the 'muckiness' of type (1) RSS may make it
                                > >hard to transform this into type (2)
                                > >
                                > Not at all. In fact we can transform any kind of items streaming in
                                > channel documents into RDF nodes and arrows streaming in whatever
                                > media. Emails, Usenet posts, XHTML marked up web pages, arbitrary XML,
                                > RSS .9x, RSS 2.0, RSS 1.0 etc .... all can be included. I bid 2000
                                > lines of code (or less) and a simple RDF description for each new kind
                                > of format.

                                My muckiness referred to the need to add special handling to take care of
                                badly formed XML .... experience in other work I've done (albeit with
                                HTML) suggests to me that reliable information scraping from badly formed
                                input can get messy, and that up to 20% of the code needs to be customized
                                for each 'scraped' page/feed. If you've found that scraping into RDF is
                                relatively easy and reliable, then I think that's fantastic (and would;ve
                                made my life a whole lot easier, if I'd had such tools a few years back
                                ;-) )

                                Ian
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