[whatwg] Creative Commons Rights Expression Language

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Fri Aug 29 07:04:19 PDT 2008

On Aug 28, 2008, at 15:31, Paul Prescod wrote:

> I don't really understand why there is any debate about the utility of
> metadata in general. Are you also against microformats? Title
> elements? The meta element?
> It seems obvious to me that a) metadata has been a huge success on the
> web (the success of other techniques like NLP and PageRank
> notwithstanding) and b) we haven't yet invented every metadata tag we
> need. I think it is worthwhile to debate whether RDFa is the right
> solution but do we really want to go back to a debate over whether
> metadata is valuable or not?
> This is useful stuff, right?

Some metadata may be useful. A lot of it isn't. Strugeon's Revelation  

I don't know what the right way to find the useful bits is, but just  
telling people out there to publish metadata and expecting use cases  
to emerge later isn't a good way, since that approach wastes a lot of  
people's effort. (I'm not suggesting that you are telling people to  
just go publish a lot of stuff. However, the upwards-scalable RDF  
naming approach and the approach of ignoring triples the consumer  
doesn't know about seem to be designed for erring on the side of  
publishing too much whereas the Microformats Process and the WHATWG  
approach ask for use cases first.)

One example of useless metadata evangelism that I myself fell for 8  
years ago was embedding Dublin Core metadata in HTML. It wasn't nice  
to realize that I had been tricked into something totally pointless.  
(The data was redundant with HTML and HTTP native data.)

Also, having more metadata leads to UI clutter and data entry fatigue  
that alienates users. In the past, I worked on a content repository  
project that failed because (among other things) the content upload UI  
asked for an insane amount (a couple of screenfuls back then; probably  
a screenful today) of metadata when it didn't occur to system  
specifiers to invest in full text search. More metadata isn't better.  
Instead, systems should ask for the least amount of metadata that can  
possibly work (when the metadata must be entered by humans as opposed  
to being captured by machines like EXIF data). See also

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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