Friday, September 17, 2004

Orthogonality == Flexible ?

As a core developer of Kowari I am regularly faced with both the good and the unfortunate aspects of RDF. One thing I continually run up against is the seemingly arbitary distinctions between subject, predicate, and object nodes. In this particular case, I still can't find out why RDF won't permit blank nodes as predicates. The same goes for Literals as subjects and predicates. Having a string literal as a predicate or subject is a little strange, and almost certainly bad style, but a typed literal most certainly makes sense. If I want to make statements about the number 5 (LT 6, GT 4, isPrime, isOdd, etc) currently we either have to use bnodes, or fake URIs, so we get:

_:bnA <owl:sameAs> '5'^^<xmls:decimal>
_:bnB <owl:sameAs> '4'^^<xmls:decimal>
_:bnC <owl:sameAs> '6'^^<xmls:decimal>
_:bnA <lessThan> _:bnC
_:bnA <greaterThan> _:bnB
'5'^^<xmls:decimal> <lessThan> '6'^^<xmls:decimal>
'5'^^<xmls:decimal> <greaterThan> '4'^^<xmls:decimal>
This is particularly important when you consider what's involved in merging two such documents. Consider trying to insert a document containing primes, with a document containing prime-factors. As we are currently forced to use bnodes, and bnode-refid's are only valid within a single document we are going to have to stuff around doing bnode unification.

Finally the fact that a URI is itself perfectly fine as a typed literal, suggests that all we really need is bnodes and typed literals (and a fair bit of syntactic sugar, but that's a serialisation issue, so we can ignore that for semantics). At the end of the day, RDF is very cool, but I suspect a fully orthogonal triple-store is even cooler. I suppose it's just fortunate that Kowari is an RDF-store built on top of a generic triple-store ;)

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