Re: Future of GNOME: Semantics


Thanks for your reply.

man, 16 06 2008 kl. 00:52 +0200, skrev Mikkel Kamstrup Erlandsen: 
> To actually understand and use RDF and ontologies "correctly" you need
> a lot of experience. There's a whole world of new terminology to
> surmount before you can even begin to grasp what people talk about. I
> know because I've tried to scale that wall myself (note _tried_ I
> often feel that I've somehow failed). Triples and relations are just
> scratching the surface of an iceberg.

I would opt to use a metaphor that does not make people think of the
sinking of Titanic and say that triples are the 'tip of the pyramid':
elegantly simple structures with a solid, mathematical foundation.

If the lower portion of the pyramid is made available as platform
components, application developers would only need to worry about the
tip of the pyramid.

> Then just starting to include RDF here and there does not come for
> free even though there are competent libs out there. It will take a
> massive amount of work because most of the Gnome stack is not written
> in a way as to take such things into account.

I am not as experienced a GNOME developer as you are, but I beg to
differ. Data structures equivalent to the triple are used throughout
GNOME. Take the GConf database for instance: key (predicate) value
(object) pairs organized in directories (subject).

Namespace the subject and predicate properly and you have RDF.

> Also we do have lots of integration in our stack (we could use more,
> granted) and I actually think that it has worked relatively well so
> far. And we can certainly get very very far without ever looking at
> RDF and I sometimes find myself questioning what it really gives to
> put the RDF rubber stamp on our tools. I mean the data models can
> always be modelled by RDF no matter how we try to escape it, so in
> some way it will always be a ghost in the machine. Is there are real
> need to make this explicit? I have not seen any proof of this in the
> wild.

There's RDF and there's the Semantic Web. It will be an advantage to
rely on ontologies already in use on the Semantic Web where possible, so
we don't have to map back and forth too much at a later point.

It will also be an advantage if developers rely on native RDF storage
where applicable so we don't have to implement backends later on.

> On a more humanistic note; there is some level of "technology scare"
> of RDF amongst some developers. It might not be entirely justified,
> and I don't think that it does anyone any good, but that is how it is.
> Suddenly high-profiling it in a project where would very much like to
> attract new devs might be dangerous. That doesn't mean we can't use it
> though.

I'n not sure how high-profile it would have to be. Maybe something
similar to the Human Interface Guidelines with a few support libraries
and services.

> In conclusion I would like to make it clear that I don't have anything
> against RDF or semantic technologies, I just have this great feeling
> that once people get hooked on them every problem starts to look like
> a semantic nail :-)

That is perhaps not entirely untrue, but on the other hand, I don't
think non-semantic nails are inherently better at all. It would have to
be determined on a case-by-case basis. But such an evalution can only be
made if the semantic alternative does in fact exist - hence these posts.

Anders Feder <lists anders feder dk>

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