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Re: Are generic resources intentional?

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2009 10:39:46 -0500
Cc: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>, Alan Ruttenberg <alanruttenberg@gmail.com>, Jonathan Rees <jar@creativecommons.org>, "noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com" <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>, AWWSW TF <public-awwsw@w3.org>
Message-Id: <871DA963-2123-4493-B7E5-60C4DEE827E8@ihmc.us>
To: "Williams, Stuart (HP Labs, Bristol)" <skw@hp.com>

On Jun 10, 2009, at 9:50 AM, Williams, Stuart (HP Labs, Bristol) wrote:

> Opps... a vital missing speech mark... and an acknowledgement that  
> this is *my* rough framing of what I take Alan to be asking...  
> Rather than an assertion that this is exactly what Alan asked or  
> said. Apologies, particularly to Alan, if that was mis-understood.
>
>>> So... we're back roughly at the nub of Alan's question, roughly
>>> "...which is it, there resource of which we speak... the
>>> (passive)document/work of which the server wa-representations are
>>> representations of; or the (active) agent'y entity that provides
>>> responses to questions." I believe that the traditional view is that
>                           ^
>>> the URI names/identifies/refers-to the document/work thing rather
>>> than the (conceptual) machinery in the web (which some have dubbed
>>> http-endpoint).
>>
>> Right, sorry I missed that earlier question. Good question, but Alan
>> gives exactly the wrong answer. I'm not sure what tradition he is
>> referring to, but the REST/tag/awww answer is surely that it has to  
>> be
>> the active agent'y entity.
>
> It is *I* not Alan

Apologies for getting it wrong, but really Im arguing against the idea  
here rather than its author :-)

> making a reference to a 'traditional' view and what I'm referring to  
> really just the notion that (http) URI (are/can be used to) name  
> documents which pervades most of the writing I seen on web  
> architecture. To be fair, Roy does/has taken the position that there  
> are more things than documents on the web, ie. active, agent'y,  
> entities with which one interacts through the exchange of wa- 
> representations (which might convey wa-representations of  
> current(get) and desired(put/post) state - though I've seen no such  
> constraint spelled out).

And he is right, of course. And I think there is an intellectual  
imperative at work here, which I respect, to avoid 'limiting' the  
categories so as to exclude possible future technologies. I recall Roy  
talking about the view of a city from a webcam meaning that the city  
was in a sense 'web-accessible'.

Here's my problem/argument with the idea that its all about the  
documents. Suppose I have a computer which  isnt connected, or even  
connectable, to the internet. I create a document - say, just to be  
bloody-minded, an HTML document - on it. The document/file/whatever  
exists, no doubt about that. It has all the properties it will ever  
have **by virtue of being a document**. All its 'essential'  
properties, the ones that inhere in it by virtue of its being the kind  
of thing that it is, are present in it now. I can even give it a name,  
and - again to be bloody-minded - choose a name which has the syntax  
of a legal URI which I happen to own. And I can perform if you like a  
public ceremony, witnessed by others and with a video posted on Utube,  
naming it, a document baptism. None of this actually gets it onto the  
Web, though. Ok, finally I relent, and put this document on a server  
and make it be the payload of a GET request with that URI. Ah, **now**  
it is on the Web. But, and this is my point, nothing **in the  
document** has changed here. It is the **very same document** that is  
was before I put it on the server, and it even has the **very same  
name** that it had then. So whatever it was that 'put it' onto the Web  
cannot possibly have anything to do with (a) its nature as a document  
nor (b) the name I used to refer to it with. Because these have not  
changed, but its Web status has changed. So whatever that status  
inheres in, it must be something else, something other than the  
document/name pair itself. And it seems, just being intuitive now,  
pretty obvious that it inheres in the document being **on a server**.  
Its the presence of the server that makes it into a webbish object.

>
>> Consider: there were files and documents
>> and images all over the planet long before the Web was invented. If
>> the basic ontology of Web Architectural theory is based on those,  
>> then
>> how on earth are we to explain what changed when the actual Web came
>> along?
>
> ...we gave them 'bigger' names grounded in a uniform namespace? (or  
> at least mapped many of them to the same).

So it was just the URIs that made the Web? Imagine a SciFi scenario in  
which a huge solar flare completely destroys all electronics on the  
planet in one millisecond. Aircraft on autopilot dive into the ocean,  
power grids collapse, international trade and banking ceases,  
telephones don't work, civilization totters... but wait, help is at  
hand! The URIs are still exactly what they were, and they still are  
global *names*, and so all the **naming** is still intact, global  
namespaces and all. So, apparently, the Web still exists!  Great, we  
can all carry on ordering on Amazon and selling on eBay, right? If the  
Web is just a global system of names, then who needs electronics?

Pat

>
> Stuart
> --
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@ihmc.us]
>> Sent: 10 June 2009 15:31
>> To: Williams, Stuart (HP Labs, Bristol)
>> Cc: David Booth; Alan Ruttenberg; Jonathan Rees;
>> noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com; AWWSW TF
>> Subject: Re: Are generic resources intentional?
>>
>>
>> On Jun 10, 2009, at 9:00 AM, Williams, Stuart (HP Labs,
>> Bristol) wrote:
>>
>>> Hello Pat,
>>>
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@ihmc.us]
>>>> Sent: 10 June 2009 14:29
>>>> To: Williams, Stuart (HP Labs, Bristol)
>>>> Cc: David Booth; Alan Ruttenberg; Jonathan Rees;
>>>> noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com; AWWSW TF
>>>> Subject: Re: Are generic resources intentional?
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> On Jun 10, 2009, at 7:50 AM, Williams, Stuart (HP Labs,
>>>> Bristol) wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> David,
>>>>>
>>>>> I think the point of Alan's question is not so much about whether
>>>>> the file (and hence its representations) can be subject to change,
>>>>> but about whether its is the file itself[*] that is the responding
>>>>> entity or the thing (filing system) that acts as its container.
>>>>
>>>> Right. But hasnt it been assumed since day one, ie somewhere around
>>>> Roy's thesis, that The Resource is **the thing identified by the
>>>> URI**, and that the stuff that gets sent (by the Resource, when you
>>>> ping it suitably) is a Representation of it, ie of the Resource,
>>>> rather than the Resource itself.
>>>
>>> Indeed... it was just that David's response seemed to miss what I
>>> took to be the point of Alan's question.
>>
>> I understand, and agree. But was then (in my pit-bull way)
>> reiterating
>> what I believe is the main point.
>>
>>>
>>>> So indeed, a bare text file is *not*
>>>> a Resource in this sense, rather in the way that my cat
>> cannot answer
>>>> the telephone, even though you can hear it meowing when I
>> answer the
>>>> telephone.
>>>
>>> :-)
>>>
>>> I think I have previously taken the view that http requests are
>>> 'questions' one asks of 'the web' about things named by URI
>> and that
>>> responses are answers from 'the web'
>>
>> OK..
>>
>>> and have tried (repeatedly) to avoid having the machinery
>> of the web
>>> (servers, proxies, conceptual http endpoints etc) intrude into the
>>> domain of this discourse - so I'll acknowledge that distinguishing
>>> between the file and the machinery (file system) that serves up
>>> representations of it crosses that self imposed line.
>>
>> Well, I also don't want to get too mechanical and all involved with
>> proxies and stuff, agreed. But I don't think that making a
>> distinction
>> between what one might call Web-passive entities (files,
>> images, ...)
>> and Web-active ones requires us to dive deep into the
>> machinery. Think
>> of the distinction between agents and non-agents for the kind of
>> conceptual level I'm aiming for. And the 'active' thing doesn't have
>> to be a file system or anything that specific. But it has to be a
>> thing that can, conceptually, **do** something Webbish. If it just
>> sits there and exists, then there is no way to even make it be
>> relevant to the Web *at all*. Other, of course, than being something
>> that can be referred to, but then that encompasses everything.
>>
>>>
>>>> Resources have to be able to Do some Webbish things,
>>>> participate in the Web architectural dance in some way. They are
>>>> agents, not files.
>>>
>>> So... we're back roughly at the nub of Alan's question, roughly
>>> "...which is it, there resource of which we speak... the
>>> (passive)document/work of which the server wa-representations are
>>> representations of; or the (active) agent'y entity that provides
>>> responses to questions. I believe that the traditional view
>> is that
>>> the URI names/identifies/refers-to the document/work thing rather
>>> than the (conceptual) machinery in the web (which some have dubbed
>>> http-endpoint).
>>
>> Right, sorry I missed that earlier question. Good question, but Alan
>> gives exactly the wrong answer. I'm not sure what tradition he is
>> referring to, but the REST/tag/awww answer is surely that it
>> has to be
>> the active agent'y entity. Consider: there were files and documents
>> and images all over the planet long before the Web was invented. If
>> the basic ontology of Web Architectural theory is based on
>> those, then
>> how on earth are we to explain what changed when the actual Web came
>> along?
>>
>>>> Seems to me that several very smart people worked hard to get this
>>>> broad architecture picture worked out, and that we should use it
>>>> rather than ignore it.
>>>
>>> Certainly... Though I wasn't conscious of ignoring it...
>>
>> No, sorry, I wasnt aiming this remark at you particularly.
>>
>> Pat
>>
>>> though maybe I was. Mostly I was trying to point to what I thought
>>> was the point of Alan's question which seemed to me to have been
>>> missed.
>>>
>>>>
>>>> Pat
>>>
>>> BR
>>>
>>> Stuart
>>> --
>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> Stuart
>>>>> --
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: David Booth [mailto:david@dbooth.org]
>>>>>> Sent: 10 June 2009 11:02
>>>>>> To: Alan Ruttenberg
>>>>>> Cc: Pat Hayes; Jonathan Rees; noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com;
>>>>>> AWWSW TF; Williams, Stuart (HP Labs, Bristol)
>>>>>> Subject: Re: Are generic resources intentional?
>>>>>>
>>>>>> On Tue, 2009-06-09 at 22:45 +0100, Alan Ruttenberg wrote:
>>>>>>>> Why not, "can emit a response to some kind of access
>>>>>>>> protocol"  ? That seems
>>>>>>>> to handle all the present and all the likely future cases, be
>>>>>>>> unambiguous,
>>>>>>>> and (by philosophical standards) vividly clear and
>> unambiguous.
>>>>>>>> And it has
>>>>>>>> the great merit of talking about the **actual
>> resource** rather
>>>>>>>> than an
>>>>>>>> awww:representation of it, which (latter) is what gets
>> conveyed
>>>>>>>> in messages,
>>>>>>>> in fact.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> What does  "can emit a response to some kind of access
>>>>>>> protocol"  the answer to?
>>>>>>> Notably, it doesn't include things like text files with
>> html in
>>>>>>> them.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Sure it can.  If you think of these things as functions
>> from time
>>>>>> and
>>>>>> requests to representations then its representations still may
>>>>>> change
>>>>>> over time (as the file is modified) even if at any given
>> time it
>>>>>> always
>>>>>> emits the same representation regardless of the request.
>> Or, if
>>>>>> you
>>>>>> take Roy's "curried" view (see
>>>>>>
>>>>
>> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-awwsw/2008Apr/0047.html )
>>>>>> of these things being functions from time to representation sets,
>>>>>> then
>>>>>> even if the representation set is a singleton set at a
>>>> given time it
>>>>>> still may be a different singleton set at another time, when
>>>>>> the file is
>>>>>> modified.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> -- 
>>>>>> David Booth, Ph.D.
>>>>>> Cleveland Clinic (contractor)
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not
>>>>>> necessarily
>>>>>> reflect those of Cleveland Clinic.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> IHMC                                     (850)434 8903 or
>>>> (650)494 3973
>>>> 40 South Alcaniz St.           (850)202 4416   office
>>>> Pensacola                            (850)202 4440   fax
>>>> FL 32502                              (850)291 0667   mobile
>>>> phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> IHMC                                     (850)434 8903 or
>> (650)494 3973
>> 40 South Alcaniz St.           (850)202 4416   office
>> Pensacola                            (850)202 4440   fax
>> FL 32502                              (850)291 0667   mobile
>> phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>

------------------------------------------------------------
IHMC                                     (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973
40 South Alcaniz St.           (850)202 4416   office
Pensacola                            (850)202 4440   fax
FL 32502                              (850)291 0667   mobile
phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
Received on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:56:00 GMT

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