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A model in the mind is quite experimental (but syntax is a geeks best friend).

Sean links to Mark Pilgrim''s XFML facet map. I'm all for metadata, more of it and better I say, and... wow - this is good stuff, not been on my radar before now.

And perhaps it's yet another lost opportunity for RDF to make practical inroads on the web. This is the old old problem with RDF that will not go away - people will tend to create a point or domain level solution for their informatics/metadata needs instead of going for the general model. RDF does not have a good story for specific solutions. Meta beats meta-meta. [Of course the other old old problem that wil not go away for RDF is the XML syntax. No doubt I'll be ranting about that here at some point.]

And the lesson learned from three years (including one on the RDF working group) figuring what the hell to do with with RDF, other than generate it is this: if there's a problem with data solve it with metadata, not metametadata. From the XFML spec:

XFML is a specialised format, as opposed to XTM or RDF, which are generic metadata formats. XFML will not solve all your metadata needs.

XFML, by design, is simple to write code for.

Which is why I expect it to get adopted.

My instincts tell me RDF or something like it is important, indeed I believe generalized metadata on the web is inevitable (but when?). Nonetheless, getting the trenches to look at RDF, never mind use or take half-seriously is today a hard sell. Persuading people that RDF is an investment rather than speculative generality (or worse, AI) is a constant problem for me- perhaps I should work on those sales skills.

One thing I will say in favour of the metameta view. Many communities are thinking about metadata, even if some of the results are hacks. It's only a matter of time before people start wondering how to hook up and move between these metadata formats, particulary given the limitations of web services languages.

But it might a while coming- there are lots of domains whose metadata needs are quite basic. And lets be honest, many of us are still making a living performing data transforms and systems integration (programming the plumbing has plenty of life in it). But when it does happen, we can call it information integration.

December 6, 2002 11:07 PM


Danny Ayers
(December 12, 2002 02:13 PM #)

(didn't realize you had a blog Bill - I must blogroll you)

When I first came across XFML I (predictably) thought 'this should be RDF'. I looked into it a little, and reckoned that the only term needed in addition to existing well-known RDF was 'facet'. There was a problem - according to the XFML spec, facets are mutually exclusive, something that can't be done at the RDF layer. So I suggested to the XFML list (I think) owl:disjointFrom to cover this. The response from the list I got was that this wasn't really necessary - it was expected that the constraint would be applied at the app level anyway...

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