The White Shoes of Technology

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

This week, the RDF Working Group released drafts of six working documents for the RDF specification. Six. That’s a whole lot of work. However, rather than getting a pat on the back with a quiet “Well done.”, the group has seen their effort catechized mercilessly.

Joe Gregorio chronicles Tim Bray’s half-hearted attempt to model RDDL using RDF/XML — a syntax that Bray has vocally opposed in the past. This leads into a chain of RDF bashing at the W3C Tag (Technical Architecture Group) mailing list. Bob DuCharme and John Cowan write an article for, Make your XML RDF-Friendly, and this led into a great deal of RDF bashing over at the mailing list.

I responded at the W3C RDF Comments mailing list and at the mailing list.

At, I wrote:

I’ve watched with interest the discussion about RDF within this list and over at the W3C Technical Architecture Group (seeded by this item from Tim Bray — link). What puzzles and confuses me is why there is so much animosity towards RDF.

If you don’t understand it, and don’t want to take the time to understand it, or don’t feel it will buy you anything, or hate the acronym, or you’re in a general bitchy mood that’s easily triggered if someone uses “Semantic” in the same sentence that contains “Web”, the solution is simple: don’t use it. Don’t use it. Don’t study it, look at it, listen about it, work with it, sleep with it, or generally go out and dance late at night with it.

I also wrote:

Is it fashionable to be _down_ on RDF? Sort of like the techie equivalent of
not wearing white after Labor Day unless you live in Australia?

I am particularly unhappy because of Tim Bray’s involvement in all of this. There’s an implication and an assumption made that because Tim Bray ‘invented’ XML, he’s qualified to be a definitive judge of RDF and RDF/XML. However, the two efforts are not the same: XML deals with meta-language, RDF with meta-data. Tim has a right to his opinion, and I don’t fault him for it though I don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for his half-hearted and rather dubious effort to use RDF/XML to model RDDL.

What does concern me is the reaction of people to Tim’s efforts and his pronouncements on the “badness” of RDF. Should I give up on RDF and the existing RDF/XML serialization technique just because Tim Bray doesn’t care for it? Am I forced to defer to him in all things XML?

Sorry, but I don’t think so. In the past I’ve not allowed other “inventors” to tell me how to do things, I’m not about to start with Tim Bray and RDF.

Bottom line, there is a group of people who spent a lot of time and effort and energy resolving issues related to RDF, and writing the new specifications; and there is an even larger group of people who spent a lot of time and effort creating the associated tools and APIs I use, and gladly. This week, if no one else will take a moment, one moment, to thank them for their effort, I will.

Thanks, folks. You done good.

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