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RE: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of mobile heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation Proxies]

From: Rotan Hanrahan <rotan.hanrahan@mobileaware.com>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 17:20:56 -0000
Message-ID: <D5306DC72D165F488F56A9E43F2045D301E9FD9D@FTO.mobileaware.com>
To: "Jo Rabin" <jrabin@mtld.mobi>, "MWI BPWG Public" <public-bpwg@w3.org>
> Perhaps you've not been following
> the ins and outs of correspondence on the list closely, and you could
be
> forgiven for that. However, since it was said in response to this over
> stated claim, I think it's quite reasonable by way of a refutation of
an
> unreasonably put point.

I have been following the correspondence as much as I can manage. One
claim (from Luca) was that the group was attempting to "present
transcoders as some kind of standard", which was countered (by Tom) with
a reference to the HTTP specification section 14.9.5, which deals with
the No-Transform Directive, the motivation for its existence and no less
than 5 use cases (memory space, network traffic, medical images,
scientific data and e2e authentication) all in just three paragraphs.
What was not said by the correspondents, and perhaps should have been,
is that this suggests that those who drafted the specification were
giving serious consideration to the pros and cons of proxy
transformation, and making some provision to control it. At least from
the perspective of what was considered to be proxy technology at the
time. Luca responded to the reference by suggesting it was only about
bandwidth optimisation. In fact, there is ample evidence in the
specification that the authors had more than just a passing knowledge of
the issues. For example, elsewhere in 14.11 they say "a non-transparent
proxy MAY modify the content-coding if the new coding is known to be
acceptable to the recipient," showing an awareness of delivery context
sensitivity; and there is the description of the "Warning" mechanism,
showing acceptance of the need to convey some information about
intermediate activities to the users.

Like you, I don't claim to know what the specification authors had in
mind. I only have what they wrote. And like you, I don't try to draw
conclusions from a single example within the cited specification. I'm
trying to grasp the bigger picture. Careful inspection shows that the
authors may have been considering a broader scope for transforming
proxies, but this was not made concrete in the specification. The
situation today is certainly much more complex than it was when the
specification was drafted.

The reference (to refute the "hack" moniker) required a little more
depth/exploration, and the refutation of the reference was dismissive
(and a little impolite).

But the problem, from my perspective, is that too much energy is being
put into the technical/historical minutia, when the bigger picture
remains, as I explained in my original comments.

---Rotan.


-----Original Message-----
From: Jo Rabin [mailto:jrabin@mtld.mobi] 
Sent: 11 March 2009 16:10
To: Rotan Hanrahan; MWI BPWG Public
Subject: RE: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the
Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of mobile
heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation Proxies]

Nice piece, Rotan, thanks.

A couple of specific points.

> delivered to specific contexts in specific ways. My concern would be
> that this list would be considered definitive, and that there would be
> some providers of transcoding solutions who would think their duty to
> authors was complete so long as the list was adhered to. The real
point

Yes my concern too.

> unwelcome. If we did not allow some flexibility in representations,
> society would still be reading the ancient texts on goatskin, we'd
> still be listening to the Beatles on vinyl, and the only place to see
> the works of the great artists would be in the museums. 

Yes, that's why I think that making such a list normative has the
potential of having regressive effects - in that we expect the Web to
move on and develop in the way it has to date. We should make it clear,
if it is not already, that we expect reasonable efforts to be applied
and not just lip service to the letter of the law. I am not sure how
that translates into a conformance statement, though.

> I am also dismayed to see throw-away references, such as the one-liner
> from Tom, which could be so much better if their relevance to the
> debate were elaborated when introduced.

I took that as being a response to the notion that Transformation is an
un-Web activity, a hack or whatever. Perhaps you've not been following
the ins and outs of correspondence on the list closely, and you could be
forgiven for that. However, since it was said in response to this over
stated claim, I think it's quite reasonable by way of a refutation of an
unreasonably put point.

I don't claim to know what was in the authors' minds when they wrote
that section of HTTP. I don't think it's reasonable to infer from the
single example that they state that that was all they had in mind. The
reference cited is open ended.

> debate were elaborated when introduced. And my dismay is compounded by
> unnecessary "name calling" that peppers the environment, a temptation
> that regrettably takes hold of Luca from time to time. I understand

Generally I think the list is actually very polite and respectful, which
is quite unusual. 

> Personally, I
> like the idea of reading Shakespeare on my e-book while listening to
> the MP3 version of "All You Need Is Love"...

Takes all sorts. :-)

Jo



> -----Original Message-----
> From: public-bpwg-request@w3.org [mailto:public-bpwg-request@w3.org]
On
> Behalf Of Rotan Hanrahan
> Sent: 11 March 2009 00:25
> To: MWI BPWG Public
> Subject: RE: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the
> Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of
> mobile heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation
Proxies]
> 
> The Web seems to be the one place in the world of publishing where
> there is an overwhelming (and incorrect) believe by all except the
> content originators that copyright doesn't exist.
> 
> The problems of unsolicited derivative works, rampant plagiarism,
> phishing and the growing dependence on network security as the
backbone
> of our digital society, were not envisaged at the time when the
> simplistic transcoding proxy examples were devised.
> 
> Tom may have just pointed to the genesis of the problem, emphasising
> the chasm between then and now. Back then it all seemed so simple and
> innocent. Today is different, and unless we find a way to establish
> boundaries and police our activities, we could descend into chaos.
> Eventually, most of our intellectual output will be Web based,
> supplanting the dominance of paper that has held sway for countless
> generations. It would be a sad time for humanity if this transition to
> the Web was accompanied by a loss of recognition for those who create
> the content in the first place.
> 
> I have long said that it is necessary to find the right balance.
> Respect for what the author intended (where known, or knowable), what
> the reader prefers (including more/less capabilities) and for those
> whose role is to convey the content from author to reader. In the
> absence of any evidence from the author with respect to publication
> intentions, one can reasonably assume that the content is made Web-
> accessible merely for the purpose of consumption, without regard to
how
> it is consumed. As the author increases the effort, such as taking
> steps to ensure it is effective in certain delivery contexts, there
> should be corresponding respect for fidelity to this effort. Of
course,
> a consumer of such carefully crafted content may still be incapable of
> benefitting from the author's efforts due to certain limitations
(human
> incapacity being just one example), so the fair thing to do in this
> case is make use of mankind's technological advances, and adapt the
> delivery where possible. Most authors would have no problem with this.
> Indeed they would applaud the expanded audience.
> 
> Luca, I believe, has been railing against the possibility that we, the
> Internet/Web industry, would countenance an absence of fairness and
> respect for the wishes of authors and the balancing needs of
consumers.
> The presence, and actions, of an intermediate actor in the interaction
> between author and consumer is one of great power. Potentially power
> for considerable good, but equally power that can be abused. The W3C,
> and others, have recognised the significance of this problem and it is
> good to see that some progress is being made (though much more needs
to
> be done).
> 
> However, I am dismayed that the argument spends so much of its time
> mired in technical nuance. The real issue is in the greater sphere of
> society, the role of creativity, the respect for that which is
created,
> and the recognition of the need to share creations with everyone
> irrespective of their contextual circumstances (device capabilities
> being just one tiny facet of this).
> 
> I am also dismayed to see throw-away references, such as the one-liner
> from Tom, which could be so much better if their relevance to the
> debate were elaborated when introduced. And my dismay is compounded by
> unnecessary "name calling" that peppers the environment, a temptation
> that regrettably takes hold of Luca from time to time. I understand
> your passion, and share many of your concerns, though I would never
> express them in such florid ways.
> 
> So, to the point in question. A non-normative list of mobile
heuristics
> might be a practical way of showing a would-be intermediate transcoder
> how to determine if content visible on the Web was intended to be
> delivered to specific contexts in specific ways. My concern would be
> that this list would be considered definitive, and that there would be
> some providers of transcoding solutions who would think their duty to
> authors was complete so long as the list was adhered to. The real
point
> is that transcoders should respect all parties, and continue to
improve
> upon their means of analysis. Only when they have exhausted such
> analysis should they take the position that the content they are
> observing is open to transformation, and even then, they should only
> execute such transformations where the actual delivery context demands
> it.
> 
> Transformation has a role, and this includes intermediates, and is to
> be welcomed when it serves the greater good. Absolutist positions are
> unwelcome. If we did not allow some flexibility in representations,
> society would still be reading the ancient texts on goatskin, we'd
> still be listening to the Beatles on vinyl, and the only place to see
> the works of the great artists would be in the museums. Personally, I
> like the idea of reading Shakespeare on my e-book while listening to
> the MP3 version of "All You Need Is Love"...
> 
> ---Rotan.
> 
> Disclosure: We are providers of a server-side transformation solution,
> which can also act as a proxy but only under the direct control of the
> content author. We do not provide indiscriminate transformation proxy
> solutions, and those that are already deployed by other vendors have a
> tendency to disrupt the legitimate business of our customers who are
> making huge efforts to delivery excellent mobile experiences via our
> products. We accept that intermediate content transformation solutions
> will likely be here to stay, and we respect the legitimate role they
> can play, so long as there is fairness and respect for all parties.
> 
> 
> 
> ____________________________
> Dr Rotan Hanrahan
> Chief Innovations Architect
> Mobileaware Ltd
> 
> 4 St Catherines Lane West
> The Digital Hub
> Dublin 8, Ireland
> E: rotan.hanrahan@mobileaware.com
> W: www.MobileAware.com
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> 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: public-bpwg-request@w3.org [mailto:public-bpwg-request@w3.org]
On
> Behalf Of Luca Passani
> Sent: 10 March 2009 22:59
> To: MWI BPWG Public
> Subject: Re: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the
> Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of
> mobile heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation
Proxies]
> 
> 
> toxic nonsense, Tom. The  same kind which got you ejected from
> WMLProgramming in the end.
> 
> The fact that a specification mentions (as part of an example!) that
> some proxies may save some bandwidth (in 1999's Internet) by reducing
> the size of pictures is *so* distant from what we are seeing today
> with
> transcoders (producing derivative work of content they have no rights
> to, removing essential headers, adding banners and toolbars, breaking
> HTTPS) that I wonder if you are simply trying to make fun of everyone
> here.
> 
> Either that or you deserve to go work for Novarra!
> 
> Luca
> 
> Tom Hume wrote:
> > The concept of transforming proxies (transcoders) is presented in
> > RFC2616, section 14.9.5
> >
> > On 10 Mar 2009, at 20:25, Luca Passani wrote:
> >
> >> I don't disagree. The problem is that this is a consequence of how
> >> transcoders work. They are intrinsically a hack. The group has been
> >> desperately trying to present transcoders as some kind of standard,
> >> but this is like putting lipstick on a pig. A hack they were and a
> >> hack they remain.
> 
> 
Received on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 17:21:44 UTC

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