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Re: [RDF-concepts:113-Various] Re: Social Meaning and RDF

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 11:22:10 +0000
Message-Id: <>
To: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>, Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Cc: www-rdf-comments@w3.org


Thank you for response.  I don't think the issues are yet fully clarified, 
but it's clear that revision must be considered, so I'll ask Brian to raise 
an issue (or several) for this.  I think the summary I used previously 
reflects your concerns (I recap here for Brian's convenience):

> > 1. Intended meanings are external to the RDF graph, not contained.  As
> > such, why are they covered in the normative aspects of RDF specification?
> >
> > 2. Does the material on social meaning have any impact on the behaviour of
> > an RDF application?  If not, why is the material here at all?
> >
> > 3. The idea that some party controls the meaning of a given URI is counter
> > to the goal that "anyone can say things about anything".
> >
> > 4. What are the mechanisms by means of which an RDF expression is
> > designated as being asserted, as opposed to an expression which is not
> > regarded as asserting some truth?

(It may be that (3) and (4) should be raised as distinct issues.)


I acknowledge the current presentation of this issue has some problems, and 
in the rest of this message I'd like to try and look past the presentation 
problems to try and crystallize the area of fundamental misunderstanding or 

At 01:53 PM 2/19/03 -0500, Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote:
> > (b) If so, does any such meaning affect the behaviour of an RDF 
> application?
>See above.
> > My answer here is an emphatic "no".  RDF does not require or expect that
> > RDF applications have awareness of any social meaning that may be conveyed
> > by RDF content.
>I don't understand this reasoning.  If social meaning has importance to
>RDF, then RDF applications will have to be cognizant of the entirety of
>social meaning to avoid legal problems.

I'm afraid I fail to grasp your reasoning here.

If we enter into a financial transaction, social meaning may dictate that 
some specific payment is due.  The amount of such payment is calculated 
using the normal methods for performing arithmetic operations, which are 
underpinned by mathematical theory.  Applications that perform arithmetic 
operations in conformance with this mathematical theory have no 
understanding of the social context of financial transactions, yet social 
and legal systems routinely accept the output from such applications as 
evidence of payments due.

It seems to me that the logical conclusion of an organization's not being 
able to use an application that does not understand social meaning of the 
transaction to which it contributes is that it must eschew completely the 
use of all computer-based applications in any context which may incur any 
kind of legal liability.

> > The formal aspects of RDF entailment are quite independent
> > of any issues of social meaning.  This area of the document needs 
> reworking
> > so that this is clear.
>Even if it is made clear that formal meaning is different from social
>meaning.  The elevation of social meaning to a normative part of the RDF
>specification means that all people/agents/programs/... that utilize RDF
>will have to worry about social meaning.

I'd agree that *people* that utilize RDF have to have a care for the social 
meaning, but don't see how that reasonably extends to programs.  When 
people use software for any risk-carrying operation, they must pay due 
attention to the programs' suitability for performing that purpose.  If my 
accounting package miscalculates the amount of tax I'm due to pay, it's 
still me who is responsible for any failure to make proper payment.


> > (c) How is any such meaning related to the intended
> > interpretation/denotation of URIs?  In particular, you seem to claim that
> > there being an authority for any URI who defines its intended
> > interpretation prevents the deployment of RDF applications.
>Yes, it prevents the deployment of RDF applications that cannot understand
>this social meaning, or, at least it prevents such deployment by
>organizations that need to worry about being sued.
> > I cannot understand how having a designated third party define the 
> intended
> > interpretation of some URI prevents the deployment of any RDF
> > application.  I'll note that there are already a number of RDF 
> applications
> > in use in which parties depend on vocabulary meanings defined by third
> > parties.  Please indicate a scenario in which this might be a real problem.
>Suppose I write an RDF application that only knows about the formal meaning
>of RDF.  Suppose that I make this application available.  Who is then
>liable for the social meaning of inferences that this application draws?
> > (d) What mechanisms are defined to distinguish asserted from non-asserted
> > statements?
> >
> > RDF does not define any such mechanisms, and simply notes (with examples)
> > that not every occurrence of data that conforms to RDF syntax is
> > interpreted as an RDF assertion.  Clearly, at some level, the distinction
> > must be made.  An RDF reasoner will deal with whatever is presented to it,
> > without concern for how that information is selected.  GIGO
> > applies.  Definition of these mechanisms are not within scope of the
> > current effort.
>Again, suppose that an RDF reasoner draws information from a source that
>specifies, in a way external to RDF, that it is not asserting the
>information.  How can the RDF reasoner indicate to applications that employ
>it that its conclusions should not be considered to be asserted?
> > We do, however, aim to set the expectation that for social purposes, the
> > same kinds of consideration apply to assertion of statements in RDF that
> > may apply to assertion of statements in any other form, such as English
> > text marked up with HTML.
> >
> > #g
> > --
>Peter F. Patel-Schneider
>Bell Labs Research
>Lucent Technologies
> > At 11:12 AM 2/5/03 -0500, Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote:
> >
> >
> > >This is a continuation of my comments on what I consider to be a fatal 
> flaw
> > >in the RDF specification.  I had submitted my views on this flaw to 
> the W3C
> > >RDF Core Working Group before the beginning of the Last Call period in the
> > >message archived at
> > >
> > >http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-rdf-comments/2002OctDec/0297.html
> > >but the working group chose to go into last call without addressing my
> > >comments on this issue.
> > >
> > >
> > >What is the ``social meaning'' (Section 4.2 of RDF Concepts) of RDF?  Does
> > >it have any relationship to how an RDF application should act?  If so, 
> what
> > >is this relationship and how can it be conveyed to an application?  If 
> not,
> > >what business does this have in a document about RDF?
> > >
> > >How does an RDF expression get to be asserted?  What syntax can I use to
> > >assert RDF expressions, or to prevent their assertion?  Can I use this
> > >notion in OWL?  If not, then what good is it?  Without any method 
> given for
> > >asserting an RDF expression or graph, what good is a paragraph that starts
> > >``When an RDF graph is asserted in the Web''?
> > >
> > >How is social meaning determined?  Does it have to be part of the RDF 
> model
> > >theory?  Does it have to be part of an RDF graph?  Does it have to be
> > >accessible on the Web?  Must it be common knowledge, and for what
> > >community?  Must it be written down somewhere?  Can it exist only in
> > >someone's mind?
> > >
> > >
> > >The idea that RDF graphs contain ``defining information'' that is 
> opaque to
> > >logical reasoners is ludicrous.  An RDF graph is simply a set of RDF
> > >triples.   It is certainly possible that there can be communities that 
> have
> > >intended meanings for these RDF graphs, but these intended meanings are
> > >external to the RDF graph, and, indeed, external to RDF as a whole, and
> > >thus have no place in a normative part of a document about RDF.
> > >
> > >What social conventions surround the use of RDF?  Even if there were some,
> > >why should they make their way into a normative section of an RDF 
> document?
> > >The idea that some owner of a URI reference can control the use of 
> that URI
> > >reference goes counter to the bedrock goal that RDF allows one to say
> > >anything about anything.   The RDF model theory contains no hint that any
> > >of these sorts of restrictions are possible.
> > >
> > >
> > >The example in Section 4.5 of RDF Concepts brings forward these problems.
> > >The document at http://skunk.example.org/ does not entail anything
> > >derogatory about C:JohnSmith, which is reinforced in the section just
> > >above.  This being the case, there is no reason for any notion related to
> > >RDF to bring this forward.
> > >
> > >If, however, the opposite was the case then there would be no way for any
> > >organization to deploy any RDF-based application.   Such applications 
> would
> > >not be able to understand the social meaning of the RDF they created or
> > >manipulated, and thus could easily create documents holding the
> > >organization liable for just about any imaginable consequence.  In this
> > >case I would have no choice but to tell Lucent Technologies not to deploy
> > >any RDF applications.
> > >
> > >
> > >Peter F. Patel-Schneider
> > >Bell Labs Research
> > >Lucent Technologies
> >
> > -------------------
> > Graham Klyne
> > <GK@NineByNine.org>

Graham Klyne
Received on Friday, 21 February 2003 13:07:29 UTC

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