Since the launch of the W3C Linked Data Platform (LDP) WG in June last year, the WG has made a lot of progress.
It took a while for WG members to get to understand each other and sometimes it still feels like we don’t! But that’s what it takes to make a standard. You need to get people with very different backgrounds and expectations to come around and somehow find a happy medium that works for everyone.
One of the most difficult issues we had to deal with had to do with containers, their relationship to member resources and what to expect from the server when a container gets deleted. After investigating various possible paths the WG finally settled on a simple design that is probably not going to make everyone happy but that all WG members can live with. One reason for this is that it can possibly be grown into something more complex later on if we really want to. In some ways, we went full circle on that issue but in the process we have all gained a much greater understanding of what’s in the spec and why it is there so, this was by no means a useless exercise.
Per our charter, we’re to produce the Last Call specification this month. This is when the WG thinks it’s done – all issues are closed – and external parties are invited to comment on the spec (not to say that comments aren’t welcome all the time). I’m sorry to say that this isn’t going to happen this month. We just have too many issues still left open and the draft still has to incorporate some of the decisions that were made. This will need to be reviewed and may generate more issues. However, the WG is planning to meet face to face in June to tackle the remaining issues. If everything goes to plan this should allow us to produce our Last Call document by the end of June.
Anyone familiar with the standards development arena knows that one month behind is basically “on time”. 🙂
In the meantime, next week I will be at the WWW2013 conference where I will be presenting on LDP. It’s a good opportunity for people to come and learn about what’s in the spec if you don’t know yet! If you can’t make it to Rio, you’ll have another chance at the SemTech conf in June where I will be presenting on LDP as well. Jennifer Zaino from SemanticWeb.com wrote a nice piece based on an interview I gave her.
For those technically inclined, you can learn more about IBM’s interest in Linked Data as an application integration model and the kind of standard we’d like the W3C Linked Data Platform WG to develop by reading a paper I presented earlier this year at the WWW2012 Linked Data workshop titled: “Using read/write Linked Data for Application Integration — Towards a Linked Data Basic Profile”.
Here is the abstract:
Linked Data, as defined by Tim Berners-Lee’s 4 rules , has
enjoyed considerable well-publicized success as a technology for
publishing data in the World Wide Web . The Rational group in
IBM has for several years been employing a read/write usage of
Linked Data as an architectural style for integrating a suite of
applications, and we have shipped commercial products using this
technology. We have found that this read/write usage of Linked
Data has helped us solve several perennial problems that we had
been unable to successfully solve with other application
integration architectural styles that we have explored in the past.
The applications we have integrated in IBM are primarily in the
domains of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and
Integration System Management (ISM), but we believe that our
experiences using read/write Linked Data to solve application
integration problems could be broadly relevant and applicable
within the IT industry.
This paper explains why Linked Data, which builds on the
existing World Wide Web infrastructure, presents some unique
characteristics, such as being distributed and scalable, that may
allow the industry to succeed where other application integration
approaches have failed. It discusses lessons we have learned along
the way and some of the challenges we have been facing in using
Linked Data to integrate enterprise applications.
Finally, we discuss several areas that could benefit from
additional standard work and discuss several commonly
applicable usage patterns along with proposals on how to address
them using the existing W3C standards in the form of a Linked
Data Basic Profile. This includes techniques applicable to clients
and servers that read and write linked data, a type of container
that allows new resources to be created using HTTP POST and
existing resources to be found using HTTP GET (analogous to
things like Atom Publishing Protocol (APP) ).
The full article can be found as a PDF file: Using read/write Linked Data for Application Integration — Towards a Linked Data Basic Profile
Several months ago I edited my “About” text on this blog to add that: “After several years focusing on strategic and policy issues related to open source and standards, including in the emerging markets, I am back to more technical work.”
One of the projects that I have been working on in this context is Linked Data.
It all started over a year ago when I learned from the IBM Rational team that Linked Data was the foundation of Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration Lifecycle (OSLC) which Rational uses as their platform for application integration. The Rational team was very pleased with the direction they were on but reported challenges in using Linked Data. They were looking for help in addressing these.
Fundamentally, the crux of the challenges they faced came down to a lack of formal definition of Linked Data. There is plenty of documentation out there on Linked Data but not everyone has the same vision or definition. The W3C has a growing collection of standards related to the Semantic Web but not everyone agrees on how they should be used and combined, and which one applies to Linked Data.
The problem with how things stand isn’t so much that there isn’t a way to do something. The problem is rather that, more often than not, there are too many ways. This means users have to make choices all the time. This makes starting to use Linked Data difficult for beginners and it hinders interoperability because different users make different choices.
I organized a teleconference with the W3C Team in which we explained what IBM Rational was doing with Linked Data and the challenges they were facing. The W3C team was very receptive to what we had to say and offered to organize a workshop to discuss our issues and see who else would be interested.
The Linked Enterprise Data Patterns Workshop took place on December 6 and 7, 2011 and was well attended. After a day and a half of presentations and discussions the participants found themselves largely agreeing and unanimously concluded that: the W3C should create a Working Group to create a Recommendation that formally defines a “Linked Data Platform”.
The workshop was followed by a submission by IBM and others of the Linked Data Basic Profile and the launch by W3C of the Linked Data Platform (LDP) Working Group (WG) which I co-chair.
You can learn more about this effort and IBM’s position by reading the “IBM on the Linked Data Platform” interview the W3C posted on their website and reading the “IBM lends support for Linked Data standards through W3C group” article I published on the Rational blog.
On a personal level, I’ve known about the W3C Semantic Web activities since my days as a W3C Team Member but I had never had the opportunity to work in this space before so I’m very excited about this project. I’m also happy to be involved again with the W3C where I still count many friends. 🙂
I will try to post updates on this blog as the WG makes progress.