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Re: SPARQL 1.1 Protocol: Format of fault messages

From: Lee Feigenbaum <lee@thefigtrees.net>
Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2012 10:48:36 -0400
Message-ID: <504614C4.90100@thefigtrees.net>
To: Richard Cyganiak <richard@cyganiak.de>
CC: public-rdf-dawg-comments@w3.org

My apologies once more for the very delayed response.

The SPARQL Working Group has considered your comment regarding 
specifying the format of the response body for fault conditions when 
using the SPARQL 1.1 Protocol. We've also considered the subsequent 
discussion within the thread, as well as implementation experience and 
the shift of the protocol to be entirely HTTP-based in the time since 
you originally sent your comment.

The current Last Call specification requires the use of 4XX and 5XX HTTP 
response codes for failed query and update requests. It leaves the 
content of the response body implementation-defined, but recommends that 
implementations might use content negotiation to provide human-readable 
and/or machine-processable information about the failed requests.

Based on an overall lack of implementation experience and lack of 
consensus, the Working Group declined to constrain the format of failure 
responses any more than this.

Please let us know if this response addresses your comment.

On behalf of the SPARQL WG

On 9/29/2010 9:42 AM, Richard Cyganiak wrote:
> This is a comment on the latest SPARQL 1.1 Protocol draft [1]. It 
> concerns an issue that was already present in the SPARQL 1.0 version 
> of the Protocol.
> I write this as the maintainer of two popular open source SPARQL 
> protocol clients: Snorql (in use at DBpedia [2], DBLP-in-RDF [3], 
> data.semanticweb.org [4], and elsewhere) and Pubby [5] (in use at 
> GeoLinkedData [6], for the TCM dataset [7] and elsewhere). I would 
> like to highlight a limitation of the SPARQL protocol that causes 
> quite a bit of pain for users of my tools and increased support costs. 
> I seek the help of the WG in addressing these issues.
> Background: The SPARQL ecosystem has matured significantly in the last 
> few years, and the work of this WG will bring SPARQL another major 
> step forward. In the early days, a lot of SPARQL requests were sent 
> simply by a human entering a SPARQL query into a query form, and the 
> results were inspected manually. Software clients were built ad-hoc 
> and for a specific endpoint. Now we increasingly have software clients 
> that are generic and should work with any conformant SPARQL service. 
> This generally works, except in one area: error messages.
> Services often have to reject SPARQL queries. That is a fact of life. 
> It can be because of query authoring errors, because of resource 
> limitations on the service side, because of dialects and unsupported 
> extensions, and for many other reasons.
> In such cases, most services deliver more or less helpful error 
> messages as part of the response. Thus, if a user or software 
> developer interacts directly with the endpoint, then they typically 
> see the error messages and can use them to resolve the issue.
> But users and developers increasingly interact with SPARQL services 
> indirectly, through generic software libraries or generic SPARQL query 
> clients that have been built without a specific vendor's service 
> implementation in mind. These generic clients should pass error 
> messages from the server onwards to the user. But doing that in a 
> reliable way is not possible with the current state of the SPARQL 
> protocol.
> The consequence is that my tools often can only tell the user that 
> “The SPARQL service reported an error”. That makes it very hard for 
> users to resolve the issue, or for me the developer to help them when 
> I get support requests.
> According to the spec, there appear to be at least three different 
> formats for indicating an error:
> 1. XML. I don't know anything about WSDL, but my reading of is 
> that I could indicate an error like so (but can I really, and should I 
> use some XML namespace, and what would the media type be?):
>    <malformed-query>
>      <fault-details>Parse error at [5:17], unexpected ' '</fault-details>
>    </malformed-query>
> 2. Plain text. According to the example in, I could just 
> send plain text:
>    Parse error at [5:17], unexpected ' '
> 3. HTML. According to the example in, I could just send an 
> HTML page containing the message:
> "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd">
>    <html>
>    <head><title>SPARQL Processing Service: Query Request 
> Refused</title></head>
>    <body>
>    <h1>D'oh!</h1>
>    <p>Parse error at [5:17], unexpected ' '</p>
>    </body>
>    </html>
> There is no guidance for service implementers to choose one of these 
> options.
> There is no guidance for client implementers on how to express a 
> preference.
> There is no guidance for client implementers on how to recognize the 
> format of a response.
> In summary, the specification makes no effort towards establishing an 
> interoperable means of delivering error messages to the client. In 
> fact, in Section 2.2.1 “HTTP Bindings for SPARQL Query”, I find:
>> The fault serialization of queryHttpGet and queryHttpPost is also 
>> intentionally under constrained.
> This intentional failure should be re-thought.
> My proposal would be:
> 1. To state in the HTTP binding that clients SHOULD use the XML fault 
> message format when reporting faults.
> 2. To provide a human-readable account of the XML format for fault 
> messages (It is currently only specified as snippets of XML Schema and 
> WSDL. What's the XML namespace, if any? What's the root element? 
> What's the media type?). This could be done in the Protocol spec, or 
> possibly in the SPARQL Query Results XML Format spec.
> 2. To provide a full example of the XML fault message format among the 
> HTTP binding examples.
> 3. To remove the HTML example in An error message embedded 
> in an HTML page is not machine-readable, therefore the use of HTML as 
> a way of reporting errors in a machine-oriented protocol is likely to 
> be bad practice in most cases and should not be encouraged in the 
> specification.
> Best,
> Richard
> [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/2010/WD-sparql11-protocol-20100126/
> [2] http://dbpedia.org/snorql/
> [3] http://data.semanticweb.org/snorql/
> [4] http://dblp.l3s.de/d2r/snorql/
> [5] http://www4.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/pubby/
> [6] http://geo.linkeddata.es/
> [7] http://www.open-biomed.org.uk/rdf-tcm/
Received on Tuesday, 4 September 2012 14:49:11 UTC

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