Archive for 5th April 2016

Ring Fencing JSON-LD and Making JSON-LD Parseable Strictly as JSON

My debate with my colleagues[1, 2] about the perils of unconstrained JSON-LD as an API specification is coming to a positive conclusion. We have agreed to the following principles:

  • Our API standard is a JSON standard and we will constrain our JSON-LD usage so as to make it so that the API can be deterministically produced and consumed using *only* JSON parsing libraries. During de-serialization, it must be possible to parse the JSON deterministically using a JSON library without looking at the @context at all. It must be possible to produce the correct JSON deterministically and add a hard-coded and well understood @context section that does not need to change.
  • There should never be a requirement in the API specification or in our certification suite that forces the use of JSON-LD serialization or de-serialization on either end of the API.
  • If some software in the ecosystem covered by the standard decides to use JSON-LD serializers or de-serializers and and they cannot produce the canonical JSON form for our API – that software will be forced to change and generate the precise constrained JSON (i.e. we will ignore any attempts to coerce the rest of the ecosystem using our API to accept unconstrained JSON-LD).
  • Going forward we will make sure that our sample JSON that we publish in our specifications will always be in JSON-LD Compacted form with either a single @context or a multiple contexts with the default @context included as “@vocab” and all fields in the default context having no prefixes and all fields outside the default @context having simple and predictable prefixes.
  • We are hopeful and expect that Compacted JSON-LD is so well defined in the JSON-LD W3C specification that all implementations in all languages that produce compact JSON-LD with the same context will produce identical JSON. If for some strange reason, a particular JSON-LD compacting algorithm starts producing JSON that is incompatible with our canonical JSON – we will expect that the JSON-LD serializer will need changing – not our specification.
  • In the case of extending the data model, the prefixes used in the JSON will be agreed upon to maintain predictable JSON parsing. If we cannot pre-agree on the precise prefixes themselves then at least we can agree on a convention for prefix naming. I will recommend they start with “x_” to pay homage to the use of “X-” in RFC-822 and friends.
  • As we build API certification mechanisms we will check and validate incoming JSON to insure that it is valid JSON-LD and issue a warning for any flawed JSON-LD but consider that non-fatal and parse the content using only the deterministic JSON parsing to judge whether or not an implementation passes certification.

It is the hope that or the next 3-5 years we can rely on JSON-only infrastructure but at the same time lay the groundwork for a future set of more elegant and expandable APIs using JSON-LD once performance and ubiquity concerns around JSON-LD are addressed.

Some Sample JSON To Demonstrate the Point

Our typical serialization starts with the short form for a single default @context as in this example from the JSON-LD playground:

{
  "@context": "http://schema.org/",
  "@type": "Person",
  "name": "Jane Doe",
  "jobTitle": "Professor",
  "telephone": "(425) 123-4567",
  "url": "http://www.janedoe.com"
}

But lets say we want to extend this with a http://dr-chuck.com/ field – the @context would need to switch from a single string to an object that maps prefixes to IRIs as shown below:

{
  "@context": {
    "@vocab": "http://schema.org/",
    "csev": "http://dr-chuck.com/"
  },
  "@type": "Person",
  "url": "http://www.janedoe.com",
  "jobTitle": "Professor",
  "name": "Jane Doe",
  "telephone": "(425) 123-4567",
  "csev:debug" : "42"
}

If you compact this with a single schema for http://schema.org – all extensions get expanded:

 
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org/",
  "type": "Person",
  "http://dr-chuck.com/debug": "42",
  "jobTitle": "Professor",
  "name": "Jane Doe",
  "telephone": "(425) 123-4567",
  "schema:url": "http://www.janedoe.com"
}

The resulting JSON is tacky and inelegant. If on the other hand you compact with this context:

{
  "@context": {
    "@vocab" : "http://schema.org/",
    "csev" : "http://dr-chuck.com/"
  }
}

You get JSON that is succinct and deterministic with predictable prefixes and minus the context looks like clean looking JSON that one might design even without the influence of JSON-LD.

 
{
  "@context": {
    "@vocab": "http://schema.org/",
    "csev": "http://dr-chuck.com/"
  },
  "@type": "Person",
  "csev:debug": "42",
  "jobTitle": "Professor",
  "name": "Jane Doe",
  "telephone": "(425) 123-4567",
  "url": "http://www.janedoe.com"
}

What is beautiful here is that when you use the @vocab + extension prefixes as the @context, it means that our “canonical JSON serialization” can be read by JSON-LD parsers and produced deterministically by a JSON LD compact process.

In a sense, what we want for our canonical serialization is the output of a jsonld_compact operation and if you were to run the resulting JSON through jsonld_compact again – you would the the exact same JSON.

Taking this approach and pre-agreeing on all the official context and all prefixes for official contexts as well as a prefix naming convention for any and all extensions – means we should be able to use pure-JSON libraries to parse the JSON whilst ignoring the @context completely.

Conclusion

Comments welcome. I expect this document will be revised and clarified over time to insure that it truly represents a consensus position.

Abstract: Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – Past, Present, and Future

This presentation will explore what it was like when MOOCs were first emerging in 2012 and talk about what we have learned from the experience so far. Today, MOOC providers are increasingly focusing on becoming profitable and this trend is changing both the nature of MOOCS and university relationships with MOOC platform providers. Also, we will look at how a university can scale the development of MOOCs and use knowledge gained in MOOCs to improve on-campus teaching. We will also look forward at how the MOOC market may change and how MOOC approaches and technologies may ultimately impact campus courses and programs.