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Meaning is subjective and contextual (was: Re: Review of new HTTPbis text for 303 See Other)

From: Xiaoshu Wang <xiao@renci.org>
Date: Tue, 21 Jul 2009 13:00:24 -0400
Message-ID: <4A65F428.9030002@renci.org>
To: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>
CC: Henrik Nordstrom <henrik@henriknordstrom.net>, Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, "www-tag@w3.org WG" <www-tag@w3.org>
[As Mark has adamantly requested, the HTTPbis working group list is 
removed, although I do believe it is relevant.]

What I see from this discussion is a sense of chasing the illusive 
absolute (truth) meaning.  If this is what you want to achieve, then I 
guess you can fight to death yet without reaching any concrete conclusion.

Meaning is subjective, hence it is contextual because it requires an 
owner or ontology to be clarified.   Meaning or semantics answer to such 
kind of question: "what is X?" or "what does X mean?" These are the same 
questions but the former is usually answered with an ontology while the 
latter with an individual.

To answer: "X means Y" is ambiguous and always debatable. But, it is 
undebatable if the answer is: "X means Y to o", where o is a particular 
owner of the answer.  To give it a context -- the owner -- stops the 
unnecessary debate.  It is what it is to "o", like it or not.

But to answer "X means Y to o1" or "X means Y' to o2" does not serve the 
purpose to share meaning.  This is where the role of an ontology because 
we can simply say "X means Y according to O", where O is an ontology.  
Again, you do not have to agree with O.  But to give it a context -- the 
ontology in this case -- stops the unnecessary argument.

Now, let us come back to the topic of HTTP.  HTTP protocol is concerned 
with helping the URI owner to produce representation of a given 
resource. Thus,

200 means: Here is a representation of your request resource, as far as 
I (URI owner) know.
303: Well, There is a representation of your requested, as far as I (URI 
owner) know.
xxx: blah, blah, as far as I (the URI owner) know.

For client:

GET means: please get me the representation of the resource that you 
(URI owner) think so.
DELETE: please delete me the representation of the resource that you 
(URI owner) think so.

In a nutshell, HTTP implements the question/answer of: "what do you (the 
URI owner) think of it (resource)?" And there is this context -- the URI 
owner -- stops any kind of endless argument for its absolute meaning.

HTTP does not deal with ontological kind of question of "What is it 
(resource)?"  The Web does.  The AWWW (but not the URI spec) are 
supposed to answer this kind of question. 

Take this context, URI owner, into this consideration and you will find 
you will agree more than you disagree.  Henrik's mapping is the mapping 
of an owner.  This is exactly the samething that Pat/Dan's wording of 
"proxy/wrapper" etc.  Discuss semantics with a context, really.  
Otherwise, you will be chasing the impossible -- the absolute truth.

Xiaoshu
Received on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 17:01:07 GMT

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