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Re: [ontolog-forum] (retitled) What is a 'resource'

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2007 12:59:25 -0400
Message-id: <4624FCED.6090109@xxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

Thanks again for the further clarification.  I will retract my pejorative 
comment.    (02)

If I may summarize, there are two concepts at work here:
  - the Internet transfer protocol endpoint
  - the "sensible thing" at that endpoint    (03)

The TAG is not able to define any clear characteristics of the latter, but the 
TAG does appreciate that it is somehow different from the former.  The TAG is 
not comfortable using the term "resource" to refer to the latter, because it 
is not clear that it actually exists, or that two different observers will 
agree as to what the "sensible thing" at some endpoint is.  So the TAG uses 
the term "resource" to mean the/your/some interpretation of the stream of bits 
you get from the former when you GET it.    (04)

The endpoint is (I think) what I meant by "location".
The "sensible thing" is (I think) what I meant by "resource",
and I agree with all the associated caveats.    (05)

For my purposes, the interpretation of the stream of bits, as a collection of 
information elements, is a distinct but related concept.  And that too needs a 
term.  I thought that was what the term "web page" referred to, but perhaps 
the "web page" has a narrower meaning that is too closely coupled to the 
implementation at the server end to be used for the contents "on the wire". 
So if that is a "resource", then that problem is solved, but we still need a 
term for the "sensible thing".  Yes, the "sensible thing" will have a really 
vacuous definition -- it is someone's conceptualization of the thing at the 
endpoint.    (06)

But there are common kinds of "sensible things" that are important, and we 
need a general term that includes all of those, so long as it also contains a 
bucket for "other".  For example, we understand "static documents" and 
"services" as principal subcategories.  And we also understand that the 
"resource" -- the bitstream returned -- for a "static document" may well 
include a representation of the document, a document metadata set, a 
collection of provider labels, a site menu, a collection of ads, and possibly 
other things.  And while the document is static, some of the other stuff might 
not be.  But that is the difference between the conceptualized "sensible 
thing" and the "resource on the wire".    (07)

It is very important for the provider to think of the "content" of that web 
page as all of that stuff, because some of the other elements relate to 
presenting image, providing services beyond the document, and generating 
revenue.  And since I only care about some of that and ignore the rest, my 
model of "content" for that page will be different from the provider's.  So we 
may disagree substantially on what the "sensible thing" is.    (08)

So, yes.  There are lots of associated ideas here, and they are all a bit 
messy.  But it is to some extent "browser-based access" that muddies the 
picture.  I suspect that things will become a lot less messy when/where the 
"service" model begins to dominate.    (09)

-Ed    (010)

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    (011)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (012)

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