Bill de hÓra has a blog post entitled Format Debt: what you can't say where he writes

The closest thing to a deployable web technology that might improve describing these kind of data mashups without parsing at any cost or patching is RDF. Once RDF is parsed it becomes a well defined graph structure - albeit not a structure most web programmers will be used to, it is however the same structure regardless of the source syntax or the code and the graph structure is closed under all allowed operations.

If we take the example of MediaRSS, which is not consistenly used or placed in syndication and API formats, that class of problem more or less evaporates via RDF. Likewise if we take the current Zoo of contact formats and our seeming inability to commit to one, RDF/OWL can enable a declarative mapping between them. Mapping can reduce the number of man years it takes to define a "standard" format by not having to bother unifying "standards" or getting away with a few thousand less test cases. 

I've always found this particular argument by RDF proponents to be suspect. When I complained about the the lack of standards for representing rich media in Atom feeds, the thrust of the complaint is that you can't just plugin a feed from Picassa into a service that understands how to process feeds from Zooomr without making changes to the service or the input feed.

RDF proponents  often to argue that if we all used RDF based formats then instead of having to change your code to support every new photo site's Atom feed with custom extensions, you could instead create a mapping from the format you don't understand to the one you do using something like the OWL Web Ontology Language.  The problem with this argument is that there is a declarative approach to mapping between XML data formats without having to boil the ocean by convincing everyone to switch to RD; XSL Transformations (XSLT).

The key problem is that in both cases (i.e. mapping with OWL vs. mapping with XSLT) there is still the problem that Picassa feeds won't work with an app that understand's Zoomr's feeds until some developer writes code. Thus we're really debating on whether it is better cheaper to have the developer write declarative mappings like OWL or XSLT instead of writing new parsing code in their language of choice.

In my experience I've seen that creating a software system where you can drop in an XSLT, OWL or other declarative mapping document to deal with new data formats is cheaper and likely to be less error prone than having to alter parsing code written in C#, Python, Ruby or whatever. However we don't need RDF or other Semantic Web technologies to build such solution today. XSLT works just fine as a tool for solving exactly that problem.

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