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Re: Can RDF say anything about anything?

From: Frank Manola <fmanola@mitre.org>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 19:42:31 -0500
Message-ID: <3E499877.3030500@mitre.org>
To: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
CC: pfps@research.bell-labs.com, bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com, www-rdf-comments@w3.org

pat hayes wrote:

>> I know this thread has died down, but I'd like to get some clarification
>> on exactly what needs fixing in the Primer.  The Primer doesn't say (I
>> don't know how to interpret "indicate") "that RDF can be used to let
>> anyone 'say anything they want about existing resources' ".  What the
>> Primer says, following some examples, is "These examples also illustrate
>> one of the basic architectural principles of the Web, which is that
>> anyone should be able say anything they want about existing resources
>> [BERNERS-LEE98]."  That seems like a reasonable statement under the
>> circumstances (part of the circumstances being that the Primer is
>> clearly not describing a rule that is to be applied by an RDF/XML
>> parser).  Are there problems with the actual statement in the Primer?
>> --Frank
> I think the problem might be with any form of words like "able say 
> anything they want". In one way of understanding these words, they mean 
> something like, "not prohibited from saying anything they feel like 
> saying using the formalism, on any topic they choose", which of course 
> is so harmless as an observation that it hardly seems worth saying. But 
> in another way of understanding those words is "enabled by the formalism 
> to have the ability to express any proposition" which is an absurd 
> claim. I think the words were meant in something close to the first 
> sense, but are being read in something close to the second sense.
> Pat

I think the main problem is that a comment in the Primer about an 
*example* is being used to derive a comment *not* in the Primer about 
the power of *the formalism used in the example* (RDF/XML), and then 
issues are being raised about the *derived* comment.  I suppose such a 
derivation can be made, but I can't see very many readers of the Primer 
actually making it, and they would be wrong if they did.  I certainly 
can't imagine very many readers of the Primer reading that statement, 
and then complaining that they were unable to use rdf:ID as a predicate 
(for example).

Issues directed at the actual text in the Primer would be things like:

1. Anyone being able to say anything they want about existing resources 
isn't a basic architectural principle of the Web.  If that's an issue, I 
refer you to [BERNERS-LEE98], which says "The Web works though anyone 
being (technically) allowed to say anything about anything."  I suppose 
it could be argued that the Primer doesn't characterize that properly, 
or use the exact quotation, but the quotation seems to go even further 
than the Primer does, if you interpret it as applying to what RDF 
allows, rather than what the Web is trying to do, since it doesn't 
restrict itself to saying things about "resources".

2.  The examples provided don't illustrate that principle of the Web.  I 
think that they do, even though they don't do so exhaustively.


>> "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" wrote:
>>>  From: Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
>>>  Subject: Re: Can RDF say anything about anything?
>>>  Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 06:51:29 +0000
>>>  > At 09:48 30/01/2003 -0500, Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote:
>>>  >
>>>  > >Can RDF say anything about anything?
>>>  > >
>>>  > >The RDF documents are contradictory on this point.  The Primer 
>>> indicates
>>>  > >that RDF can be used to let anyone ``say anything they want about 
>>> existing
>>>  > >resources'' with no exception for the resources used by RDF.  
>>> [Section
>>>  > > 3.2] Concepts says
>>>  > >that ``RDF is an open-world framework that allows anyone to make 
>>> simple
>>>  > >assertions about anything''.  [Section 2.2.6, and elsewhere]
>>>  > > However, Concepts also says that ``Certain
>>>  > >URIs are reserved for use by RDF, and may not be used for any 
>>> purpose not
>>>  > >sanctioned the RDF specifications.'' [Section 3.7]
>>>  > >
>>>  > >What is the situation here?
>>>  >
>>>  > Peter,
>>>  >
>>>  > As this comment affects several documents, I'll respond.
>>>  >
>>>  > As a general point, it is helpful if you can provide links to the 
>>> sections
>>>  > of documents where you have a problem with the text, or at the least
>>>  > section numbers.
>>>  Isn't that what the Search/Find capabilities of browsers are for?  I 
>>> would
>>>  expect that an interested reader would want to know where else Concepts
>>>  talks about being able to say anything about anything.  I've added 
>>> section
>>>  numbers to my comment above.
>> snip

Frank Manola                   The MITRE Corporation
202 Burlington Road, MS A345   Bedford, MA 01730-1420
mailto:fmanola@mitre.org       voice: 781-271-8147   FAX: 781-271-875
Received on Tuesday, 11 February 2003 19:27:05 UTC

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