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

Éamonn Ó Tuama [GBIF] eotuama at gbif.org
Wed Jan 21 16:49:30 CET 2015

Seems like RDF expression in combination with a privileged XSLT to human readable doc might do. I still like the idea of the RDF doc as the normative one. At least it is concise. The W3C specification pages are a rather messy mix of different sections some headed by "This section is non-normative.", and see, e.g., the page for the DCAT vocab [1] "As well as sections marked as non-normative, all authoring guidelines, diagrams, examples, and notes in this specification are non-normative. Everything else in this specification is normative." 

While RDF might excel as a graph definition langauge, I think there is still value is using it without domain and range statements (if these don't exist) to simply define labels, definitions and comments (examples) in a machine readable way. 

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/vocab-dcat/

-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Bob Morris
Sent: 21 January 2015 15:13
To: John Wieczorek
Cc: TDWG Content Mailing List
Subject: Re: [tdwg-content] Darwin Core Standard - proposed change in governance

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
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