I wanted to make some remarks about the “Ease of use” and “Learn curve” ratings which I gave in the ORE/POWDER comparison table that I blogged about here the other day. It may seem that I came out a little harsh on ORE and a little easy on POWDER. I just wanted to rationalize the justification for calling it that way. (By the way, the revised comparison table includes a qualification to those ratings.)
My primary interest was from the perspective of a data provider rather than a data consumer. What does it take to get a resource description document (“resource map”, “description resource” or “sitemap”) ready for publication?
To look at POWDER first, it defines two sets of semantics: an “operational semantics” which is embodied in the simple XML that is intended as the primary publication vehicle, and a “formal semantics” embodied in the RDF/OWL document that would typically be generated by a POWDER processor.
The operational semantics (XML) document requires minimal RDF understanding (and arguably none at all): it only requires that URI resources be organized into <iriset> groups by pattern matching, and that metadata be attached to those groups using <descriptorset> groups.
URI patterns are specified using any of the following XML elements for inclusive patterns:
<includeschemes>, <includehosts>, <includeexactpaths>, <includepathcontains>, <includepathstartswith>, <includepathendswith>, <includeports>, <includequerycontains>, <includeiripattern>, <includeregex>, <includeresources>
and their exclusive counterparts
These are turned into corresponding regular expressions by a POWDER processor which then emits RDF/OWL classes using those expressions as property restrictions on set membership. But a publisher is not required to understand this transformation nor the formal semantics generated from the simple XML document that was authored.
Now, as to metadata. Resource group descriptors are either free text (tags) or properties from a published namespace. For example, the property name from a namespace ex: would be added in one of two ways, depending on whether it were a simple literal string (“value”, say) or a resource URI (“http://example.org/value”, say):
- <ex:name rdf:resource=”http://example.org/value“/>
While technically this is RDF/XML it hardly qualifies, I think, as requiring any great knowledge of RDF, more a knowledge of XML namespaces alone would be sufficient.
And that’s about it – all that is required for publication of a POWDER “description resource” document. (The guidelines for discovery mechanisms of a POWDER document might also need to be consulted.)
So, on that basis I would judge POWDER to be at most “medium” on the “Learn curve”. However, as soon as the mapping to the formal semantics (POWDER-S) using RDF/OWL is considered, then that learn curve rating would automatically swing to “high”.
Now, ORE on the other hand is a straightforward RDF application. What does make ORE a bit of a challenge are the following two aspects:
- concept of named aggregation
- abstract data model – no fixed bindings
Well, the first aspect is what ORE is all about – its USP – and what it gives us beyond the simpler POWDER approach of merely describing resource bundles. Still, it’s a concept that needs to be grokked. All too easy to take it for granted.
It is the second aspect that may make ORE appear to be “difficult”. It does not prescribe a single binding or set of bindings but provides an abstract data model. That means that a prospective user must endeavour to understand something of the model before deploying.
But enough of that. Because who really reads instruction manuals anyway? So to deploy there are user guides available for one standalone document format (RDF/XML), and two carrier document formats (Atom, RDFa). That means right there that the publisher must either embrace RDF/XML or learn how to weave it into an existing document markup. (By the way, it should be remarked that there is an excellent primer available – as there is also for POWDER – and user guides for each of the formats.)
So that I think warrants the “high” rating for ORE on the learn curve, and the corresponding “low” ease of use. But that is not to say that the two initiatives are in any competition and that one should be favoured over the other. They serve different purposes. Any yet they may also have compatibilities as the previous mapping of ORE in POWDER attempts to show. I’ll leave that task for other commentators.