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Re: New issue - Meaning of URIs in RDF documents

From: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 07:50:41 -0400
Cc: Public W3C <www-archive@w3.org>
To: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
Message-Id: <E45BD7C6-B84C-11D7-94B5-000393914268@w3.org>

On Wednesday, Jul 16, 2003, at 21:24 US/Eastern, Simon St.Laurent wrote:

> [Despite my best efforts, I'm posting.]
> Tim Berners-Lee writes:
>> And I am describing, if you like, a
>> perfect platonic design, to which we can aspire, though social and
>> engineering factors limit our ability to implement it perfectly.  Like
>> with all technical specs, the fact of imperfect adherence in some 
>> cases
>> does not detract from the importance of having made the perfect
>> idealistic design which has provable properties. One deals with
>> deviations from the perfect in a form of perturbation theory.
> This seems like an enormous and dangerous deviation from the "let it
> break" approach that catapulted the Web past the wreckage of so many
> beautifully Platonic but sadly unworkable hypertext systems.

On the contrary, his aspect of the semantic web has exactly that
"let it break: flavor, in that in fact if there is no document or
in fact there are local misunderstandings about what things mean,
the web in general goes on.

Those old hypertext systems required complete consistency across the

But still both web and semantic web are based on a design where when
you point to a document you can retrieve a document.
The web design didn't allow a link to be deemed to point to whatever
the reader wanted to philosophically argue it might be considered
to point to.

> Perhaps that approach qualifies as "perturbation theory", but I'd 
> always
> thought that the genius of the Web was that it simply didn't bother 
> with
> perfection, even especially at the URL/URI level.

Your idea of why the web worked is just right, I think, and am
in fact proposing the same thing for the semantic web.

(That was what I meant by perturbation theory - a theory which allows 
to start off by considering what happens when it doesn't break,
and then work out what happens when it does break by considering the
local effect of deviations.  It works eg in phsics when considering
what happens to the energy levels of an electron when the  atom is
placed in a magnetic field. It does *not* work on logic, when someone
writes just one small assertion that 1=2 - the whole thing falls  apart
and you can prove anything.  On the semantic web  you deal with
a subset of documents which don't say 1=2, and if you find they do
you fix it.  You require a certain amount of consistency locally,
and it is the combined efforts to produce local consistency which
tend to help but not completely generate global consistency. )


> -- 
> Simon St.Laurent
> Ring around the content, a pocket full of brackets
> Errors, errors, all fall down!
> http://simonstl.com -- http://monasticxml.org
Received on Thursday, 17 July 2003 07:50:47 UTC

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