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Re: Can "http://danbri.org" and "http://danbri.org/" URIs represent different things?

From: Alan Ruttenberg <alanruttenberg@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2009 17:58:16 -0400
Message-ID: <29af5e2d0907021458t68ddd2ffj736c4bc34b1d9038@mail.gmail.com>
To: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Cc: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>, "www-tag@w3.org WG" <www-tag@w3.org>
On Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 4:50 PM, Pat Hayes<phayes@ihmc.us> wrote:
> On Jul 2, 2009, at 3:42 PM, Alan Ruttenberg wrote:
>> On Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 8:54 PM, Dan Brickley<danbri@danbri.org> wrote:
>>> Hello TAG,
>>> Talking with some SW folk about OpenID, and whether my "me-the-person"
>>> URI
>>> could be practically usable as my OpenID, I came up with this
>>> corner-case:
>>> Could http://danbri.org be a URI for "me the person", and
>>> http://danbri.org/
>>> be a document about me (and also serve as my OpenID)?
>>> As I understand HTTP, any client must request something, so the former
>>> isn't
>>> directly de-referencable. The client has to decide to ask for / from
>>> danbri.org instead. But they're still different URIs, aren't they?
>>> Is...
>>> <Person  xmlns:foaf="http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1"/
>>>        rdf:about="http://danbri.org">
>>>  <openid>
>>>   <Document rdf:about="http://danbri.org/"/>
>>>  </openid>
>>> </Person>
>>> ...at all feasible? I guess it depends on how exactly we think about the
>>> "add a / to the end" step...
>>> From an RDF point of view the URI strings are different means that
>> they can denote different things.
>> I guess the question I have about this is: Why be so "clever"?
> I think I can answer that. Because people are. In fact, people use the same
> name for a person and the person's website and the person's name, etc.,
> often without even noticing that they are doing it, and certainly without
> falling into instant incoherence or having their brains catch fire. But our
> inference engines can't handle this kind of ambiguity, at present. So it
> would be handy if a notational convention could be adopted that allowed the
> dumb machinery to keep its prissy distinctions distinct, while allowing
> human readers to be sloppy without even noticing that they are being sloppy.
> This idea is an elegant step in that direction, if it can be made to work.
> This might not be danbri's motivation, but it is why the idea appeals to me
> :-)
> Pat

I can kind of see this, but: Words are ambiguous in many many cases,
not only suffering the ambiguity stated here, but more often than not
that same word has multiple senses.
So supposing you support this little bit of ambiguity. By doing this
little thing you've given folks a false confidence that maybe they can
rely on "words" for semweb communication.

Until we know a lot more about having machines disambiguate word
senses the way people do (which might take a while) I'm afraid we
really need to get across that one has to be *much* more explicit in
those communications in which we expect a machine to be a reliable
assistant. To do this one needs to cultivate a justified attitude of
suspicion about using words in semweb contexts. They are just so
seductively easy for us to understand that's it's hard to even imagine
what the problem might be for the receiver of such communications. Of
course any of us who have actually tried to do data integration as
more than a hobby are painfully aware of the problems.

So I think we need to bite the bullet and discourage being too
"clever". Instead we should convince people that there is a
predictable, if seemingly over-analytic, approach in all these cases
of ambiguity. Allways assume that if you use a word it is likely to
cause trouble. Always look at a dictionary to remind you how ambiguous
the word you are about to use is. Practice making distinctions, and
coining URIs to support different meanings.

I mean it would be really great if the masses could build the semantic
web, but is it realistic? We all depend on bridges working, but don't
expect that anyone off the street is a civil engineer. Why think that
building an effective semantic web is easier than building a bridge?

Received on Thursday, 2 July 2009 21:59:17 UTC

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