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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Re: OWL and lack of identifiers

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
From: "Cory Casanave" <cory-c@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 21:30:08 -0400
Message-id: <001301c77e34$70898b90$0c00a8c0@CoryCT42>
Also the URI mechanism has all that is needed to distinguish resources from identities.  For some reason we tend to use the web protocol "HTTP" where as this makes no sense for a pure identity.  We could substitute any protocol name in a URI to distinguish logical resources, such as:
"identity://cim3.net/MyCat" (A pure identity)
While there is no standard for "identity" it can be used without a problem since we are not expecting to utilize it as an internet protocol.

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ken Laskey
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 7:27 PM
To: edbark@xxxxxxxx
Cc: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Re: OWL and lack of identifiers

Just to be clear, from RFC 2396:

A Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) is a compact string of characters
for identifying an abstract or physical resource.

A resource can be anything that has identity. Familiar
examples include an electronic document, an image, a service
(e.g., "today's weather report for Los Angeles"), and a
collection of other resources. Not all resources are network
"retrievable"; e.g., human beings, corporations, and bound
books in a library can also be considered resources.

Thus, anything that can be identified is a resource (i.e., you can use everything for something) and URIs are one means (and one that has been found very useful) for providing that identity.


On Apr 13, 2007, at 3:10 PM, Ed Barkmeyer wrote:

Ken Laskey wrote:

When the URI is a reference to a Web page (full stop), the resource is the web page, and by extension, the information content of the web page.
I think of the page and its information content as being separate.

From an ontological point of view, I may also want to distinguish the content from its external representation, if that was your point. But the Web does not make that distinction. Put another way, the Web consciously manages external representations of information, and leaves the abstraction of content to the reader. The whole idea of the Semantic Web is to provide standard external representations for some orderly abstraction of content, in order to facilitate search.

I find it important to distinguish the location of the information from its content, which was my point. So perhaps we are talking past each other.

But the definition of URI (IETF RFC 2396) says it identifies a "resource".

For example, I can make statements about the style of the page display, the server where the <html> tags reside, the provenance information for the page. These are all separate from the information content of the page.

We have now identified several distinguishable concepts:
1) the place
2) the presentation structure (web page)
3) the information content
4) a formal description of the content
5) the "provenance metadata" for the content
6) the provenance metadata for the presentation
7) the provenance metadata for the presentation in that place

And we could easily make a model (ontology) for these things and their relationships:
place(1) conveys presentation(2)
presentation(2) conveys content(3)
content(3) has formal description(4)
content(3) has provenance of content(5)
presentation(2) has provenance of presentation(6)
place(1) has provenance of site content(7)

Further we note that there are other possibilities. In particular,
place(1) provides service(8)
service(8) permits access to presentation(2)

RFC 2396 is pretty clear that a URL identifies a place(1) full stop, and indicates a means of access to whatever is at that place. From our would-be ontology above, what is thus addressed is either a presentation/document or a service.

By comparison, RFC 2396 says that a URI identifies a "resource". And all of (2),(4),(5),(6),(7) and the service (8) are distinct resources that may be found at the *same site*. (I think the Web view is that content(3) is only accessible through its presentation(2).) It follows that each of them should have a distinct URI. Those URIs may be distinct URLs in their own right, or they may all incorporate a common URL and each have a distinct fragment identifier.

Since a URL always identifies a place, if the distinct resources have distinct URLs, our model above needs some additions:
place(1) conveys formal description(4)
place(1) conveys provenance of content(5)
place(1) conveys provenance of presentation(6)
place(1) conveys provenance of site content(7)

One place can convey some or all of (2),(4),(5),(6),(7),(8), but when one place conveys more than one of them, each has a distinct URI whose "fragment identifier" distinguishes the "component". And by convention, in those cases, the URI with no fragment identifier (the simple URL) conveys either (2) or (8). It is also possible that we have a (9), which is a web page that is a container for (2),(4),(5),(6),(7), delivered as a single resource.

Note that our model is starting to get rather messy.
This is why Tim Burners-Lee says you need to impose some discipline on your site. The problem is that several different conventions have emerged (including not imposing any discipline), and there are no reference standards.

In a somewhat different vein, I wrote:

I have argued with TBL before that URIs that are URLs confuse WHAT something is with WHERE it is. And it is only an acceptable idea when that relationship is required to be 1-to-1. The idea of identifiers is that you can test for equal. When the same thing can be in multiple places, unequal doesn't tell me anything, which is annoying, especially when tools think unequal to the expected value means unusable. And when the same place can hold different things, equal doesn't tell me anything, which defeats the purpose.

Ken says:
What you are saying is it doesn't serve the purpose you have in mind, not that it doesn't serve other purposes quite well. One could say the success of the Web shows a real value.

Whoa! I fully agree that URLs locate lots of useful and functionally different things, just as postal addresses do. But if today it's a bank and tomorrow it's a laundry or a residence or a casino, what "resource" is being "identified"?

What I said was that if the content to which a URI refers changes radically from day to day, the URI doesn't identify "an information resource" in any useful sense. And thus the idea that the URI identifies something different from a location is false. If the purpose of a URI is to denote content, function, behavior, as distinct from location, some one of those has to be consistent over time. A bulletin board and a pulpit are just locations.

(I wonder how many XML tools would break if the namespace URL for XML Schema pointed to a local copy of the specification... Is the W3C URI THE name or A name for the XML Schema specification?)
This is where provenance comes in. It is THE URI if you believe W3C to be the authoritative source.

This confuses two ideas:
1. The location of the document
2. The identity of the document as the one issued by the authoritative source.

Example: The authoritative source for the Oxford Dictionary of English is presumably in Oxford, England, but I can find the document at my public library.

All of the copies of the ODE have the same designation, but you can find copies in lots of places. So if I point you to a place where you can find it, that has nothing to do with the authoritative source.

But my example was wrong. The xmlns reference is to the "namespace URI", which is the required *identifier* for the specification. The tool is free to get a copy from anywhere it likes. So if I put another URL there, it may be a location of a copy of the specification, but it is NOT the *identifier*, and the tool should fail. It is exactly as if I referred to the "Peoria Public Library's dictionary" instead of the ODE.

The webhead idea is that you will always go to the URL, fetch the resource, and use it. The idea that a tool has been pre-programmed to support that *content*, and, in conducting a web-based transaction, this might require the tool to fetch and compare two 10MB files to determine whether they are *versions of* the same specification, is beyond their hobbyist view of the Internet.
So what metadata do you need in place to support your use? How do you want to create and maintain that metadata? Will you make it available for others to use?

Ah, now we are talking about what "responsible management" of referenceable resources might be. This is the kind of discipline that the WebDAV folks have worked on, and there is a "widely accepted" scheme for life cycle management of documents. The trouble is that it is widely accepted among the various organizations involved in making document and metadata standards, but those folks operate and influence less than 1% of websites. It does mean that publishers, and standards organizations, and library websites will probably use it.

Everything is a resource to someone, as it should be. What we want to be able to do is differentiate resources so we use the one(s) most suitable for our needs.

Exactly. But unless there are common conventions for that differentiation, all we have is a bunch of disorganized resources labeled according to hundreds or thousands of incompatible schemes, most of which are not very good or very useful. Google has built a successful enterprise on the failure of the Web, and its principal resources, to address that problem. And there are many who believe that that also is as it should be.

IMO, the problem is that Internet is still the big city of the Middle Ages. We know how to build all kinds of buildings and we have a lot of demand for them and a lot of construction of various kinds and qualities going on. But no one is responsible for much of it, we have no civil engineering discipline, we have no land use planning, we have random patchworks of streets, we are carrying the water on foot in buckets from the most convenient well, we have no police force and no fire brigade, we have sewage problems, crime problems and frequent plagues. Some communities thrive and some die out, and we don't really understand why. And yet people keep coming here, because there is education, and jobs, and entertainment, and money to be made. Ultimately, technology enabled us to get control of it, and fires and plagues forced us to. But it took 7 centuries. I hope the Internet experience is shorter.


Edward J. Barkmeyer Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263 Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263 FAX: +1 301-975-4694

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."

Ken Laskey
MITRE Corporation, M/S H305 phone: 703-983-7934
7515 Colshire Drive fax: 703-983-1379
McLean VA 22102-7508

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