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RE: Proposed AWWW erratum on "information resources" [was Re: Fwd: Splitting vs. Interpreting]

From: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 13:37:15 -0400
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Cc: "Sean B. Palmer" <sean@miscoranda.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-Id: <1247506635.8210.1061.camel@dbooth-laptop>
Hi Larry,

I think we're talking about two different things here: the proposed tdb:
scheme, and the definition of "information resource".  I don't think I
can offer the TAG specific input on what should be considered a higher
priority than what else, but in general I would say:

 - URIs are the foundation of the Web, and the network effect is
important, hence the proliferation of URI schemes is important to

 - Consternation over the definition of "information resource" (and the
related httpRange-14 issue) has been a persistent thorn for a long time,
consuming much aggregate brain power.  It would be nice to lay it to
rest (if possible).

David Booth

On Mon, 2009-07-13 at 09:04 -0700, Larry Masinter wrote:
> I've updated the "tdb" document (removing duri)
> as a contribution to the puzzle of
> "URI for abstract concept":
> http://www.ietf.org/internet-drafts/draft-masinter-dated-uri-06.txt
> It provides a way of creating a URI that can identify
> anything that you can describe.
> I don't want to start the meta-discussion on the www-tag 
> mailing list, but I would appreciate (private, or cc'd to
> www-archive only if you prefer), reasons why you think
> resolving this is of higher priority than the other 
> topics the TAG is now considering.
> For my part (and I think I'm an outlier on the TAG alas)
> I am not at all convinced that this topic meets all of the
> criteria I have for what I think should be high priority 
> for the tag: something we can resolve, will likely have an 
> effect on the participants in Web architecture, in which
> the TAG has expertise, is relevant to the ongoing
> important work of W3C groups, is not better addressed
> by specific working groups chartered for the purpose,
> ... 
> I'm not particularly happy (personally) with what the 
> AWWW document says about "information resources", but
> why is it important for the TAG to spend a lot of time
> fixing?
> Thanks,
> Larry
> -- 
> http://larry.masinter.net
> -----Original Message-----
> From: www-tag-request@w3.org [mailto:www-tag-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of David Booth
> Sent: Sunday, July 12, 2009 7:25 PM
> To: Sean B. Palmer
> Cc: www-tag@w3.org
> Subject: Proposed AWWW erratum on "information resources" [was Re: Fwd: Splitting vs. Interpreting]
> On Thu, 2009-06-18 at 17:34 +0100, Sean B. Palmer wrote: 
> > On Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 7:45 AM, David Booth wrote:
> > 
> > > The flaw that I think should be fixed is the definition of "information
> > > resource" (IR) in the AWWW:
> > > http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/#id-resources
> > > "all of their essential characteristics can be conveyed in a message".
> > 
> > What would you propose for an erratum?
> Okay, since you asked . . .  ;)  I'd suggest the following changes.
> 1. The first three paragraphs of section 2.2 currently read:
> http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/#id-resources
> [[
> By design a URI identifies one resource. We do not limit the scope of
> what might be a resource. The term "resource" is used in a general sense
> for whatever might be identified by a URI. It is conventional on the
> hypertext Web to describe Web pages, images, product catalogs, etc. as
> “resources”. The distinguishing characteristic of these resources is
> that all of their essential characteristics can be conveyed in a
> message. We identify this set as “information resources.”
> This document is an example of an information resource. It consists of
> words and punctuation symbols and graphics and other artifacts that can
> be encoded, with varying degrees of fidelity, into a sequence of bits.
> There is nothing about the essential information content of this
> document that cannot in principle be transfered in a message. In the
> case of this document, the message payload is the representation of this
> document.
> However, our use of the term resource is intentionally more broad. Other
> things, such as cars and dogs (and, if you've printed this document on
> physical sheets of paper, the artifact that you are holding in your
> hand), are resources too. They are not information resources, however,
> because their essence is not information. Although it is possible to
> describe a great many things about a car or a dog in a sequence of bits,
> the sum of those things will invariably be an approximation of the
> essential character of the resource.
> ]]
> I suggest changing the above paragraphs to:
> [[
> By design a URI identifies one resource.  The term "resource" is used in
> a general sense for whatever might be identified by a URI.  We do not
> limit the scope of what might be a resource.  A resource could be
> anything that one may wish to identify --  physical, conceptual, real or
> imaginary.  
> An "information resource" is any resource that plays a role in the
> hypertext Web by producing "representations"[link to definition in sec
> 3.2] in response to Web requests.  Web pages, images, product catalogs
> and other things that are made available on the Web are all information
> resources.  Some information resources, such as static web pages, may
> change very little or not at all over time.  Others, such as one that
> displays the current weather report for Oaxaca, may vary frequently.
> Similarly, some information resources, such as an interactive travel
> booking site, may vary their representations depending on their
> requests.  Others, such as simple Web pages, may not.  Conceptually one
> can think of an information resource as a function from time and request
> to representation. 
> Ambiguity of Resource Identity
> Although a URI is intended to identify one resource, and ambiguity about
> the identity of that resource should be avoided to the extent possible,
> ultimately ambiguity is in the eye -- or the application -- of the
> beholder.  Because anything can be a resource, what one party considers
> a single resource (perhaps having multiple aspects) another party making
> finer distinctions might consider multiple resources that should have
> distinct URIs.  
> For example, the content of a book may be placed on the web and
> identified by a particular URI.  Many parties will have no need to
> distinguish between the web page that provides the content of the book
> and the content of the book as an artistic work that is subject to
> copyright law.  Depending on one's perspective (or application) this may
> be viewed as a case in which the URI unambiguously identifies a resource
> that has multiple aspects or as a case of ambiguity, in which the
> artistic work and the web page are each deserving of their own distinct
> URIs.
> Resources whose essential characteristics can be conveyed in message are
> good candidates for being considered information resources.  Other
> things, such as cars and people are less good, because some applications
> are likely to find them ambiguous.  For example, if the same URI is used
> to directly identify both a person and a Web page -- an information
> resource -- an application that records the creation dates of people and
> Web pages may find this resource ambiguous, because it cannot
> distinguish between the creation date of the person and the creation
> date of the web page.  This ambiguity would be avoided by giving the
> person and the web page separate URIs.  On the other hand, the use of
> two separate URIs may impart a cost to other applications that have no
> need to distinguish between the person and the Web page, because it
> requires these applications to recognize two URIs that those
> applications consider equivalent.
> ]]
> 2. The current definition of "representation" reads:
> http://www.w3.org/TR/webarch/#internet-media-type
> [[
> A representation is data that encodes information about resource state.
> Representations do not necessarily describe the resource, or portray a
> likeness of the resource, or represent the resource in other senses of
> the word "represent".
> ]]
> I suggest changing this to:
> [[
> A representation is a response, from an information resource, that
> encodes information reflecting that information resource's state.
> Representations do not necessarily describe the information resource, or
> portray a likeness of the resource, or represent the resource in other
> senses of the word "represent".  Only an information resource can have
> representations in the sense used herein.
> ]]
> 3. In addition to the above changes, there are many instances of the
> word "resource" that should be changed to "information resource",
> because the context only applies to information resources -- not
> resources in general.  
David Booth, Ph.D.
Cleveland Clinic (contractor)

Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect those of Cleveland Clinic.
Received on Monday, 13 July 2009 17:37:52 UTC

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