JavaScript RDF

Asking permission first

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Tim Bray has an interesting take on the use of AJAX: rather than have your server do the data processing, use AJAX to grab the data and then have the clients do the work:

A server’s compute resources are usually at a premium, because it’s, you know, serving lots of different client computers out there. Lots of different computers, you say; and how busy are they? Not very; your average Personal Computer usually enjoys over 90% idle time. So you’ve got a network with a small number of heavily-loaded servers and a huge number of lightly-loaded clients. Where do you think it makes sense to send the computation?

The thing is, you know what’s happening on your server, but you don’t know what’s happening on each individual client machine. In addition, you don’t know what each client can and cannot support. You don’t even know if your client has JavaScript turned on to be able to allow you do to the processing.

I agree that we can do some interesting work with Ajax and grabbing data from the server and processing it on the clients. Perhaps we need to explore some newer uses of JavaScript and RDF in light of the new server-client interoperability.

However, a developers first priority is to do no harm to those using their application. Their second priority is to ensure their pages are accessible by their target audience. If we start making assumptions that the client’s machine is ours to do with what we will, we won’t need hackers to inject harm into our scripts–we’ll do a fine job of it, ourselves.

RDF Semantics


From Jamie Pitts an article in the Guardian Spread the Word, and Join Up. In it, Tim Berners-Lee is quoted from a recent talk about new directions in RDF and the Semantic Web. I can agree with him when he says, The nice thing about RDF data is you can merge it.

More than a ‘nice’ thing–to me, it’s the key to the concept, and what sets it apart from any other data model.

Tim B-L goes on to talk about new directions in semantic web effort, including getting data out on the web:

Berners-Lee did concede that as with the world wide web, the semantic web should “serve useful stuff”. “One of the problems we’ve actually had with the semantic web, I only recently realised, is we haven’t been doing that.”

Not enough useful RDF data has been left online, he explained: “The whole value-add of the web is serendipitous re-use: when you put it out there for one person, and it gets used by who-knows-who. We want to put data out there for one purpose, then find it gets linked into all kinds of data. And that’s been not happening, because we forgot ’serve useful stuff’, not to mention ‘make useful links’.”

It’s a direction many of us have followed, without necessarily any positive acknowledgement from the greater Semantic Web community. I can read with relief the new directions Tim B-L perceives, but then I’m puzzled when he continues with:

Berners-Lee told his audience in Oxford that the semantic web has already been adopted in drug discovery in life sciences, where solutions represent cures for diseases. “People in these fields are bright and intelligent, they are early adopters, they have quite a lot of money to throw at a problem,” he said. “We have an incubator community there.”

Genome data could be extremely helpful for the medical community, but I wouldn’t necessarily see this as a way to make RDF ubiquitous. I would wish that the W3C would stop focusing on Grand and Glorious data uses. We all can’t be research scientists.