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Use Case/Story and Suggestions on standardizedFieldValues-51

From: Sean B. Palmer <sean@miscoranda.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 12:07:33 +0000
Message-ID: <b6bb4d890611290407g1d34bb5er847c100547e38375@mail.gmail.com>
To: www-tag@w3.org

The standardizedFieldValues-51 crisp summary:

> Since short strings are scarce resources shared by the global
> community, fair and open processes should be used to manage
> them. A pattern that I'd like to see more of is
>
>  1. start with a URI for a new term,
>  2. if it picks up steam, introduce a synonym that is a short string
>      thru a fair/open process.
>
> Lately I'm seeing quite the opposite.

I recently came across this problem again from a different angle. My
use case is a Semantic Web UI, which is trying to display property
values in as compact a form as possible to the user. If you have a
screenful of this:

   <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#type>
       <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/Person>
   <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/homepage>
        <http://inamidst.com/sbp/>

It's hard to see what's going on. In XML and Turtle/Notation3, you can
shorten property values using QNames...

   rdf:type foaf:Person;
   foaf:homepage <http://inamidst.com/sbp/>

It's a lot easier to see what the properties are, especially if they
were to then be colour coded too ("foaf" seems yellow to me, and
"rdfs" red...), but here come the problems:

* The QNames aren't a part of the model, they're part of the syntax.
The information is lost after parsing, so unless you have a
specialised parser looking at xmlns and @prefix, you lose it.
* Even if you do collect the data, you're relying on conventions. This
is the standardizedFieldValues-51 issue in a nutshell. The interface
becomes confusing as soon as another language called "FOAF" is
invented independently somewhere.

My first suggestion is that the process for resolving
standardFieldValues-51 be decentralised. I've already spoken about
using reverse domain names as a human readable but universal identifer
space for RDF profile hinting:

   http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/semantic-web/2006Nov/0134
   RDF Profiles in Link Values; by Sean B. Palmer
   Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 13:20:42 +0000

The semi-solution comes from thinking around ways of squeezing them
into URI space somehow (an exercise left to the reader). Consider:

   http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/homepage
   com.xmlns.foaf.homepage
   net.rdf.foaf.homepage
   ont.foaf.homepage
   foaf:homepage

Or secondly, from my point of view as a Semantic Web UI
gendankenexperimental designer, I'd be happy with some kind of
algorithm that lets one compress an HTTP URI in some well-understood
way to make it more human readable yet still globally unique. On the
other hand I can't think of a particularly good one.

Thirdly, we could just come up with yet another global identifier
space. What have we learned from DNS? That charging for names
commoditises them, that charging for the mere rental of names leads to
people worrying about persistence, and that people don't manage their
own spaces very well. We have domain name speculators cleaning up by
registering all possible names for the next pope, and things like
that. We have people losing their domains to Network Solutions. But
establishing such a space as truly global is such a bother that we're
probably stuck with what we've got.

If you could, however, redesign DNS from scratch, how would you do it?
For five billion people to have even one human readable identifier
each in their own language... there are 354 million people with
English as a first language according to Wikipedia, but I'm not sure
how big the space of orthographically/phonologically valid
combinations would have to be to accomodate that amount of people; and
moreover this doesn't solve the social problem of trademarks and the
such; who deserves the really decent names? First come, first served
is kinda harsh to the people just being born now; and adding new top
level domains isn't really proving chic enough.

If the Semantic Web is to have a well managed process for coming up
with really short identifiers from extremely well used URIs like
foaf:homepage, it might be up to an implementation to power it, just
as Google gives great credence to people who come first in the results
for various terms.

Yours handwavingly,

-- 
Sean B. Palmer, http://inamidst.com/sbp/
Received on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 12:07:51 GMT

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