James Governor's Monkchips

RDF: needs more showing less telling

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I meant to post this blog entry quite a while ago, but never did. Then Stephen went off on the old show versus tell riff, and I thought… lets not waste the words.

A representative of the Resource Description Framework (RDF) crowd asked: What’s Wrong With RDF? I often ask myself the same question.Elias Torres was responding to a post by Sam Ruby about an “RDF Tax”, that is, a technical overhead (possibly unneccesary).

My biggest issue with RDF is that nobody shows it to me. The RDF community is fairly vociferous and energetic in its claims about requirements for a Semantic Web. I (used to) subscribe to Planet RDF in the hope I might get some pointers to something cool you can do with RDF. I have downloaded RDF browsers to play with.

But points like this one, assuming i am parsing it right, from Elias tend to make me nervous:

“I just don’t think that the Atom folks intended for Atom to be able to express all of the semantics needed for the wide variety of concepts being captured by this new generation of apps in Web 2.0 and neither was the case for Atom extensions.”

Of course, the Atom folks surely didn’t intend, or attempt to establish all possible use cases and extensibilties around Web 2.0. But that is a good thing. The ATOM gang is smart but they don’t have crystal balls. They wanted to get things done.

What do I think is wrong with RDF? Mostly that I can’t see it, touch it, or feel it.

captsolo points to this IBM Philip Glass explorer , which is cool. So why not do more with it?

The RDF crowd surely needs to do less telling and more showing.


  1. I totally agree with the fact that we need to do more showing than telling. At the moment, I’m focusing on SPARQL at the W3C, because I know that it will become a critical part of the showing. For example …


  2. 1up!
    Is there somewhere a tutorial how to do start an RDF with ontology from scratch?

  3. Once again you’re on the nail. I just posted to the [email protected] list calling for pointers. The “showing” part maybe touched a nerve, there have been 6 responses in a matter of minutes…

  4. James,

    I heard you got an email, your thoughts welcome 🙂

  5. My problem with RDF is that I haven’t been able to grok it just by doing my normal exploration of technology. Other similar things–OPML and attention.xml for example–I could get just by reading blog posts about them. I didn’t need to go and find a separate reference to figure out what the heck they’re for. But RDF is opaque to me. I’m waiting for Shelley Powers’ Practical RDF to be shipped to Maui from the Oahu library branch; meanwhile I continue to wonder if RDF is just some sort of XMLish modeling language for brainiacs. What does it offer that other technologies don’t already? This is a rhetorical question; I could certainly find out if I felt motivated, but I don’t because I don’t see it being used in a way that I really need to understand it.

    I guess I could click through on some of the links here but now I am feeling a little ornery after admitting my ignorance about RDF.

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