[whatwg] Vocabulary ambiguity with non-namespaced semantic languages (was: Ghosts from the past and the semantic Web)

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Thu Aug 28 21:10:13 PDT 2008

> Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
>> I am still struggling with the need for using URIs to address
>> resource properties rather than resources.
> How do you differentiate "Job Title" from "Book Title" in a way that
> scales to the web? You need unique identification, and a way to
> explore more information about the data field.
> Kristof Zelechovski wrote:
> What is wrong with "job-title" for "Job Title" and "title" for "Book Title"?
> (The reason is that "Job Title" really is not a person's title at all).
> The correct relations are:
> A book has exactly one title.
> A person has several jobs 
> (especially when she is a scientist or a doctor in Poland :-)).
> Each job has exactly one title.
> So "job title" is a shortcut property while "book title" is a real property.

There are several things that have bad consequences with regard to your
solution to the namespace problem.

Take this scenario, for example - an author disagrees with your
vocabulary because it conflicts directly with their vocabulary:

That's fine and you have defined "title" for your own use... but what
about my use! I want to use "title" as a means to identify the title of
a job position in my resume vocabulary. There is no need to use
"job-title" as it is redundant in my vocabulary.

Your definition of title "A book has exactly one title" has nothing to
do with my definition of "title" "The title of the position that was
held for a period of time." Title most certainly is not a shortcut
property in my vocabulary.

If you didn't have namespacing of some kind, such as "title", this sort
of problem - as found in the Microformats community, becomes more and
more prevalent as more vocabularies are created (like the example given

If you choose namespaces that contain arbitrary separators, such as
"resume.title" you still have the issue of potential conflicts and
you're inventing a new namespacing mechanism for the web - which is bad

If you use URIs, such as "http://purl.org/resume/title" you are using a
familiar concept to all users of the Web, re-using a design that the Web
uses for uniquely identifying resources and removing all potential
conflicts regarding vocabulary term collision.

-- manu

Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Bitmunk 3.0 Website Launches

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