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

To: "Peter F Brown" <peter@xxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 18:23:41 -0500
Message-id: <p06230911c249b4dbd047@[]>
>"The problem with this approach is that you don't get a mnemonic URN
>identifier; you get a digit string.  People won't be able to remember or guess
>these things, and IANA hasn't yet thought about check digits for the 9-digit
>numbers that they will need if every business in the world registered one.  So
>we have yet another number that functions like a telephone number, without the
>very valuable advantage of cascading directories.  As designed, URNs are one
>giant telephone book with an unbounded list of numbers that might well hit
>This is not, or should not be a problem: we 
>shouldn't confuse identity and identifier: a URN 
>provides the latter, presumably unique, in such 
>a way that you can make an assertion about the 
>identity of the "thing" identified, or - in more 
>formal FOL terms - assert the identity (in the 
>formal "equals" sense) of "thing a" and "thing 
>b" [1], because they have the same identifier.
>On its own an identifier is no more than a 
>"handle". As a "best practice" you should *not* 
>put any semantics in a unique identifier if you 
>want to stay out of trouble,    (01)

The W3C says this as well. And yet, you know, 
people do this all the time on the Web, and it 
seems to work very well. Google wouldn't work 
without it, in fact. And the Web without Google 
would be pretty damn near useless.    (02)

It seems that there must be something wrong with 
'best practice' advice which, if actually 
followed, would prevent the most useful aspects 
of the Web from working. This idea seems to be 
motivated by some ideal of semantics being 
inherent to grammatical structure rather than 
lexical structure (?) which may have its 
intellectual roots in 1940s logic or Chomskian 
linguistics, I'm not sure. But whatever, its 
wrong for human language and for the Web. When 
theory meets fact and they disagree, its the 
theory that is supposed to be refuted.    (03)

Pat    (04)

>even if some people do, and can, make certain 
>inferences from parsing the string that "is" the 
>identifier.... BTW, in respect to an earlier 
>posting, an ISBN does not identify a book, but 
>the edition of a book - hardback and softcover, 
>different editions, translations, etc all carry 
>different ISBN's: it is not the identifier of 
>the "work" (as in "opus").
>[1] With due apologies to Dr Seuss's Thing One and Thing Two... ;-)
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