Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yosemite Project and other Chimera

In Greek mythology, the chimera  was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid nightmare composed of the parts of more than one animal, a lion with the head of a goat rising out of its back, and a tail with a snake's head; a nasty piece of business, eventually dispatched by Bellerophon with some assistance from Pegasus.

Chimera was also the subject of a presentation by Jeni Tennison, OBE, of the Open Data Institute and W3C TAG, at XMLPrague 2012, entitled "Collisions, Chimera and Consonance in Web Content." In this presentation, she introduces a compelling argument that suggests that currently, in the web, we are dealing with four different formats: HTML, XML, JSON, and RDF.

In many ways, these formats complement one another. Sometimes, they clash, creating impedance and dissonance, and sometimes they merge, forming weird and wonderful hybrids. Tennison's presentation is really quite remarkable, and well worth watching as each of these formats evolves.

As I have previously mentioned, another set of presentations, from Dataversity and SemanticWeb.com, are also worth watching and paying attention to. These deal with the Yosemite Project, ongoing work which intends to position RDF as a Universal Healthcare Exchange Language. This work is important in part because it directly addresses how to go about migrating and transforming between formats, once you can establish a common representation using RDF. In many ways, this is a mythical undertaking, but also very promising.

For instance, with the work underway with Project Argonaut and HL7 FHIR, you are looking at a standard for healthcare that comes in two flavours, XML and JSON; however, like its predecessor HL7 CDA, FHIR relies on a human-readable portion, which in this case means HTML5. Add to that the work underway with Yosemite - go watch the presentations! Now you have an ecosystem that supports appropriate use of HTML, XML, JSON, and RDF - the subject of  Dr. Tennison's XMLPrague presentation - now in the context of healthcare. This is really what John Halamka has referred to as the "HTTP and HTML for healthcare".

If you broaden your horizons just a little, you will see some of the work which is also being carried out by Health & Human Services and the NIEM Health Domain, as a counterpart to the work of HL7 International. NIEM is primarily an XML-based standard, but in the last couple years, the underlying tooling there is expanding into UML-, JSON-, and HTML-based representations. With the support of some underlying ontology work, perhaps in concert with Yosemite, NIEM too could be used to create linked health data. These are all very exciting, very important things that are happening very very quickly, and it is a great time to get involved with some of these projects and initiatives.

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