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RE: The meaning of life and death

From: Babich, Alan <ABabich@filenet.com>
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 12:21:03 -0700
Message-ID: <72B1992276A9D111A20E00805FEAC96D01324C86@cm-expo1.filenet.com>
To: "'Jim Davis'" <jdavis@parc.xerox.com>, w3c-dist-auth@w3.org
> 1. What is life?

The spec. says (section 3.1): "A live property has its syntax
and semantics enforced by the server. Live properties include
cases where a) the value of a property is read-only, maintained
by the server, and b) the value of the property is maintained
by the client, but the server performs syntax checking on
submitted values." This seems clear to me now.

For live (a) properties, getcontentlength is a perfect
example. It is readonly, and is maintained by the server.
The client doesn't have to make any effort to maintain
the value -- the server maintains it automatically.

For live (b) properties, the notion of the domain of values 
of the property is absolutely necessary: The DOMAIN OF VALUES 
of a property is what largely captures its semantics 
(examples: zip code, street address, house number, Title, etc.).
Domains are subsets of values of some datatype. (For example,
zip codes are a finite subset of the integers.)
In order to enforce the SYNTAX of the string-ized 
representation of the value in the protocol, the server 
MUST know the DATATYPE. In order to enforce the SEMANTICS, 
in general the server MUST know the DOMAIN. Structures
are a denumerably infinite set of datatypes. Servers
are free to have structures as values of properties,
expressed as XML markup or any other way, with or without
defaults for some fields, etc. There are no surprises for live (b).

What is death?

All dead properties must be strings that are stored by the server
and returned VERBATIM. They logically can not be anything else,
because the server is guaranteed to be ignorant of what concept
the client has in mind for the datatype and domain,
and the server must return the value verbatim. Dead properties 
really weren't even worth calling special attention to, IMHO. 
It would have been better to say that string property values 
are stored and returned verbatim, but that's normally assumed

> 2. What is enforcement?
> Clearly, rejecting a PROPPATCH with 409 Conflict is one form 
> of enforcement. 
> But is this the only kind of enforcement?
The possibility of the server quietly not storing the value
is a very poor design, IMHO, and I propose that we reject that 
alternative by not implementing it.

> I don't see anyplace in the spec that says that the value 
> returned by a
> PROPFIND must be byte for byte identical with that deposited 

For dead properties, the spec. says that value MUST be returned
VERBATIM. For live properties, the spec. is quiet. IMHO it
is perfectly reasonable for the value returned for a live (b)
property to be equivalent, based upon understanding of
the datatype and domain of the property. For example, strings 
would obviously have to come back exactly. But a floating point 
number could come back in scientific notation (e.g., 1.31E+01)
or fixed point notation (e.g., 13.1), and that would be 
fine IMHO.

Alan Babich
Received on Wednesday, 22 July 1998 15:31:33 UTC

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