The new membership of the W3C’s Technical Architecture Group (TAG), and some of the recent discussions on the TAG list about polyglot markup, have made me think about what the TAG should stand for and the role the TAG should play.
Fundamentally, the web is for everyone, whatever gender, whatever race, whatever sexual orientation, whatever visual or mental ability and so on. The web community should fight to keep the web open to all. And it should try to be a community that is open to all.
The purpose of the group is to act as an “intelligent customer” to the government on the release of open data. This is a bit of a misnomer, as the word “customer” implies that the group will in some way buy data that should be made open, which it’s unlikely to do. Perhaps “intelligent consumer” would be more appropriate: our task is to advise the government about which data should be opened up, and (if the commitment has already been made to open it) which should be opened first or how access to it could be improved.
One of the tasks that we face, particularly for datasets that are currently being sold by government (mostly from the Public Data Group: Met Office, Ordnance Survey, Land Registry and Companies House), is making a strong economic argument for opening up data. To do that, it’s useful to understand two things:
During my keynote at XML Prague (the video might make more sense than the slides on their own; there are notes on the slides but Slideshare doesn’t do well with Keynote), I talked about how the advantages of using chimeras created from two formats with different underlying models are seldom outweighed by the disadvantages. RDF/XML gets knocked so frequently it’s not even much fun to do it any more, but I’ve applied the same arguments to JSON-LD in the past. My argument was that RDF, XML, JSON and HTML should each be used individually for their strengths rather than trying to find a middle ground that rarely satisfies anyone.
Leigh Dodds’ post on principled use of RDF/XML makes the point that RDF/XML can be useful when it is used in a regular, principled way. And in fact, I am using RDF/XML extensively in my work on Expert Participation for legislation.gov.uk, though slightly differently from how Leigh describes. What I want to explore in this post is when and how it makes sense to use RDF/XML and how that might translate into usage of JSON versions of RDF. The key point I want to make is that RDF chimera are roads, not destinations, and when you’re choosing a road you have to think about the destination you’re aiming for.
As part of the TAG’s work on httpRange-14, Jonathan Rees has assessed how a variety of use cases could be met by various proposals put before the TAG. The results of the assessment are a matrix which shows that “punning” is the most promising method, unique in not failing on either ease of use (use case J) or HTTP consistency (use case M).
In normal use, “punning” is about making jokes based around a word that has two meanings. In this context, “punning” is about using the same URI to mean two (or more) different things. It’s most commonly used as a term of art in OWL but normal people don’t need to worry particularly about that use. Here I’ll explore what that might actually mean as an approach to the httpRange-14 issue.
Over the last few months, the UK Government has been running a consultation on its Open Standards policy. The outcome of this consultation is incredibly important not only for organisations and individuals who want to work with government but also because of its potential knock-on effects on the publication of Open Data and the use of Open Source software within public sector organisations.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft, Qualcomm and other organisations who have a vested interest in keeping the UK Government locked in to their products are responding vociferously to the consultation. They risk not only losing business to smaller enterprises within the UK but also, if the policy is successfully adopted here, in other countries in Europe and internationally that follow suit.
If we want our Government to be Open — to use Open Standards, to publish Open Data, to adopt Open Source — then we must respond to this consultation in numbers.
There are three things that you can do: