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Re: Information Resources? (naming things on the Web)

From: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 09:13:16 -0400 (EDT)
To: www-tag@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.44.0409120912420.30438-100000@tribal.metalab.unc.edu>

I'm a lurker on this list, and find these problems of determining
how a URI can be used under various circumstances to be of deep
importance - though for the time being, I agree with the compromise
reached earlier, that a resource is - well, anything. However, then the 
problem becomes to clarify what resource is at issue in sentences
containing URIs.

Henry Thompson and I have a proposal called Web Proper Names (WPN) that
attempts to hack through some of these issues to produce a useful
result - a way of telling which URIs are about things that are not web 
pages (things qua things minus the web), and which are about web 
pages qua web pages. The entire proposal is online here:

 http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~ht/webpropernames/

We introduce the concept of a WPN to as a URI scheme for identifying
web-pages in their role as being about things.  While at first this
seems similar to a proposal by Larry Masinter for a 'tdb' URI schema
[1] web proper names provide much greater context, allow extension
into the use of search engines. Expanded Web Proper Names allow the
entire format to be given in some form as a http: URI as as well. 

The proposal is in part based on the work of Kripke and Frege as regards 
sense and reference (since philosophers have been trying to work on this 
problem of naming a thing versus a representation of a thing for a 
century, we should at least glance at them!). Both myself and Henry would 
be very interested in comments. We also approach the problem in a 
TAG-neutral way :)

To reparse the problem:

1) a URI is a name for resource.
2) A URI may or may not enable retrieval of a representations (c.f. XML 
   namespaces)
3) A URI can potentially be used as a name of a thing (which for this
   discussion is something not "on the web") in an ontology, whether
   or not any actual statements are made about such a thing.
4) Alternatively a URI could be used as a name for a representation
   about a thing, whether or not a representation is actually
   retrieved from it.

If we are making statements (RDF or otherwise), we want to be able to
make a statement about either a thing denoted by a URI or the
representation denoted by a URI. Depending on the context, that may or
may not be obvious. So, we need a mechanism to tell whether a URI is
about a thing or a representation of a thing. One solution (explored
by WPN and Larry) is a new scheme (such as wpn: or tbl:). Another, albeit
more limited solution, is another format for "things" that uses the 
current http URI scheme (Expanded Web Proper Names). 

The fact of the matter, and the problem, is that URIs are "universal", 
they can be used for *lots* of things, from naming namespaces and
ontologies to retrieving webpages. Thus keeping the definition vague
is actually rather useful.  We think there are many cases where
allowing the intent of a URI in this regard to be determined by
inspection is at least useful, at best necessary, hence the utility of
Web Proper Names, i.e. a URI scheme for URIs which unequivocally
denote things in the real world, not web-retrievable representations.
If we are determined to stick to a http URI scheme, we should at least
have canonical representations for "things" to resolve ambiguity.

		Hope this helps,
				Harry

[1] http://larry.masinter.net/duri.html

P.S: I'm still working on the XSL and Schemas for WPN, but should be
done with in a week or so at www.webpropernames.org.
Received on Sunday, 12 September 2004 13:18:12 GMT

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