Problems with Uber-Databases

Interesting posting on potential problems with the “uber-database” approaches embodied by Ning and Google Base from Nova Spivak:

Systems such as Google Base and Ning present an N-squared integration challenge to developers. Every app has to be potentially continually re-integrated with up to every other app in the worst case. But even in the best case, they present unworkable challenges to developers because every app may have to be continually re-integrated with at least a few other apps.

This is the very problem that the Semantic Web was created to solve…

Read more at The Problem with Google Base and Ning.
Makes me wonder if one way to address Danny’s frustration at lack of apps is to produce/promote a simple playground in the style of Ning: a simple web service that allows one to store and retrieve arbitrary RDF, complete with SPARQL querying. Schema awareness/inferencing is a must to address the issues that
Nova raises and, more importantly, practically demonstrate their utility (or not!)
All the pieces to build such a beast already exist. I’m not that far from it myself.
(And here’s a another link to his blog that’ll help feed his curiosity about his readership)

Trackbacks Off

I’ve disabled trackbacks in this blog, and kicked the MT cgi script into a corner to make it harder to find. I finally got sick of deleting trackback spam. So if you want to comment, please just shout. Or drop me an email. Or just link to me, as I’ve got a “links to me” search set up on which seems to me a lot less hassle to maintain and monitor.
Now to delete the 2500 bits of filth that has accumulated since my last trackback purge.

LazyWeb Request: Choon Button

A request to the all-powerful LazyWeb:
I want a button, either on a web page or floating around on my desktop. When I click it, it should discover what I’m currently listening to via the Audioscrobbler web services, then automatically add it to a playlist which I can later download, bookmark, etc.
Is there such a beast already?
Include an option to associate a tag, and I think this would be a much better way to organize a music collection that the current last.FM model. I’m pretty daunted by the prospect of going through manually tagging tracks as to do it properly I’d have to listen to everything in my collection. A knee-jerk quick categorisation whilst the player is in random would hit the sweet spot for me.

IngentaConnect RSS Feed Tweaks

I released a couple of tweaks to the IngentaConnect RSS feeds recently. The most notable addition being the inclusion of foaf:maker properties to associate authors with articles, and inclusion of authors as foaf:Person resources. I’ve added these alongside the existing dc:creator properties to ensure that Dublin Core aware aggregators can still do something useful with the extra metadata.
Unfortunately no IFPs yet, but they will be on the way once I’ve dredged up some more data from the backend systems. The tweaks also bring the RSS feeds more closely aligned with the data model for the new RDF repository.
I’m not yet aware of any feed readers that process FOAF, or PRISM for that matter. The updates were made at request of Bruce D’Arcus whose been using the data as a source for various experiments with next-gen citation managers.
If anyone else has any suggestions I’m happy to entertain them. Bug reports too!

Microformats and REST

Just noticed Danny’s posting about the new microformat-rest mailing list. I was going to start analysing this but see that Joe Gregorio has already done a good job.
I don’t think that microformats have much to add to REST as an architectural pattern. It certainly doesn’t merit subsetting its use with HTTP; that definitely is overreaching. Championing microformats, and vocabulary re-use in general, is a good thing though, as I’ve talked about before. I think there’s more mileage to be had in pursuing that angle, as well as hypermedia (the other neglected aspect of REST), than there is in subsetting the pattern.
If that doesn’t seem to be a useful approach, then one plea I’d make to the microformats communicate is that they come up with a name for this new architectural style, and actually relate it to REST in a more formal way. Just like Rohit Kare did with ARRESTED.
But I don’t think thats the actual goal. It feels more about trying to define some best practices for deploying RESTful web services. And that’s something I do agree with.

RDF and Syntax, Part 2

And now a quote from Bruce D’Arcus:

Last week at the Access 2005 conference, I told a room full of mostly library people that their XML standards (I was talking about MODS and MADS in particular) are needlessly complex, inflexible, and awkward; that they were not hacker-friendly. I showed them an alternative schema I’ve been working on that is better, cleaner and much more hacker-friendly XML. Modeled on DOAP, this schema also happens to be RDF, and I exploit the basic plumbing of RDF like its linking support (which I explained was much more consistent than the use of xlink in MODS) to yield a data representation that I think may well be close to a perfect balance of simplicity and expressiveness for citation-related metadata.

From XML and RDF.

RDF and Syntax

Two quotes from Dan Brickley:

Sometimes there are emergent properties of a set of sensible, well motivated decisions grounded in a whole load of subtle constraints.

From Why Is RDF The Way It Is?

…we should also stop looking over our shoulder at XML. RDF/XML is painful for XML developers because they find themselves lacking familiar tools when working with RDF.

This is not because of the particular charm of those tools, but because they exist. If the RDF programming environment were anywhere near as rich with tools as XML’s, this would not be such an issue. Developers are pragmatic, and will use what is available. If RDF tools feel less mature than XML tools, developers will naturally complain if their data formats force them to use only RDF tools.

…I’d much rather see folk work on RDF tools and APIs (how about a SPARQL engine in .js or PHP?) than this endless navelgazing on RDF’s XML syntax.

From Eve’n’more.
What he said.
Developers need a reason to learn new syntax (or languages). Build useful, cool stuff, and they’ll have a reason.