[tdwg-content] Darwin Core Standard - proposed change in governance

Bob Morris morris.bob at gmail.com
Wed Jan 21 15:13:17 CET 2015

John et al. Thanks for all the work you've put into this

I favored this at first, but thought a lot since it was proposed and
now oppose item 1).

Short argument: RDF is meant for machines to read, not humans to read.
If an RDF document is normative, mainly RDF experts will be able to
argue about it and about  conformance to it.

More(?) important, RDF is a graph definition language, not a
specification definition language. Not even RDF  has an RDF file as
its normative definition.  In fact, it seems both W3C and IETF regard
most (all?) of their normative artifacts for specification
(respectively "Recommendation" and "Request For Comment") as nothing
other than human readable documents.

This is not to say there should not be one or more normative RDFS
serializations of a human readable specification.  It may even be that
there should be a privileged RDFS document, together with a privileged
transformation (e.g. in xslt) and a privileged platform for
synthesizing a human readable form of DwC. But it's that web document
that should be normative (and human readable.)  This is what Audubon
Core does, except that the base "generation data" comprises,
annoyingly, but robustly, calls to the MediaWiki template language.
(The annoyance of designing MediaWiki templates may ease in the future
due to [1])

Certainly there are exceptions to the principle of "make only human
readable as the base normative artifact". The XML schemaSchema [2] is
an in example.  But DwC doesn't seem to fit that model. DwC is not a
DwC object.

My position is a little influenced by [3], a lot of with which I
disagree. But it reminds me of something my Daddy taught me:
"multi-purpose tools are often poor at all their purposes, except in
simple cases." But really, my reluctance here is that I see no reason
we should imagine that DwC data is always a graph and that is why we
should model it with a graph description language.  Worse, my
experience is that the most common potholes in the RDF world arise
when using it without understanding the underlying graph theory.

Bob Morris

[1] http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Lua_scripting
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/xmlschema11-1/#normative-schemaSchema
[3] http://manu.sporny.org/2014/json-ld-origins-2/

On Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 10:18 AM, John Wieczorek <tuco at berkeley.edu> wrote:
> Dear all,
> Peter Desmet, Markus Döring, and I have been working on the transition of
> Darwin Core maintenance from the Google Code Site to Github. We've taken the
> opportunity to streamline the process of making updates to the standard when
> they are ratified, such as scripts to produce the human-readable content and
> auxiliary files from the RDF document of current terms. As a result of this
> work, we see further opportunities to simplify the maintenance of the
> standard. They center on the following proposal.
> We would like to propose that the RDF document of current terms be made to
> represent the normative standard for Darwin Core rather than Complete
> History normative document we use now. We would also like to make that new
> normative document the only document in the standard.
> Under this proposal:
> 1) the normative standard for Darwin Core would consist of a single document
> at http://rs.tdwg.org/terms/dwc_normative.rdf (not currently active).
> 2) information currently held in
> http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/rdf/dwctermshistory.rdf (the current normative
> document) and the corresponding Complete History web page
> (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/history/index.htm) would be retained only in a
> history document http://rs.tdwg.org/terms/history.html (not currently
> active).
> 3) all documents other than the proposed normative document would not be
> part of the standard.
> The proposed changes require community consensus under the existing rules of
> governance of the Darwin Core. This means that the proposal must be under
> public review for at least 30 days after an apparent consensus on the
> proposal and any amendments to it is reached, where consensus consists of no
> publicly-shared opposition.
> The implications of this proposal are many. One of the most important is
> that the rules governing changes to the standard
> (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/namespace/index.htm) would no longer be a part
> of the standard. Instead, we would promote the adoption of these rules
> across TDWG standards rather than just within Darwin Core. It may be that
> TDWG is not ready to accommodate this at the moment. If so, the Namespace
> Policy could remain within the Darwin Core standard until the broader
> governance process for TDWG can cover it, at which point we would propose to
> remove the Namespace Policy from the Darwin Core.
> Other comments about the proposed changes:
> Having one RDF document for the terms in the dwc namespace will avoid
> confusion. Only those with status 'recommended' would be in the normative
> document.
> Having the term history (all versions, including deprecated, superseded, and
> recommended ones) in a web page only is what Dublin Core does. It means no
> one would be able to reason over old versions of the Darwin Core. Would
> anyone do that?
> Having no document other than the normative one as part of the standard
> would free the whole rest of the body of Darwin Core documentation from the
> requirements of public review and Executive Committee approval. This would
> make that documentation much more open to broader contributions and easier
> to adapt to evolving demands.
> We do not propose to lose any of the documentation we have.
> Please share your comments!
> Cheers,
> John
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Robert A. Morris

Emeritus Professor  of Computer Science
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125-3390

Filtered Push Project
Harvard University Herbaria
Harvard University

email: morris.bob at gmail.com
web: http://efg.cs.umb.edu/
web: http://wiki.filteredpush.org

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