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Re: Comments on draft "baseline" httprange-14 replacement

From: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:38:23 -0500
To: "Henry S. Thompson" <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
Cc: Jonathan A Rees <rees@mumble.net>, www-tag <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <1329518303.4466.7758.camel@dbooth-laptop>
Hi Henry,

On Fri, 2012-02-17 at 20:54 +0000, Henry S. Thompson wrote:
> David Booth writes:
> 
> > Review of: http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/uddp/
> 
> >  - As pointed out by multiple people, the document strays
> > into the murky tar pit of talking about the "meaning" of
> > a URI.  This is a major tactical error.  It is unnecessary,
> > and IMO reflects a persistent misunderstanding of semantic web
> > architecture (which never should have been called "semantic"
> > in the first place, as that term has led to no end of confusion
> > and misconception).  Regarding "meaning" the rule should be
> > simple: DON'T GO THERE.
> 
> But the document has to use _some_ word in the place it currently uses
> 'meaning', doesn't it?  Seems to me _whatever_ word is used will raise
> hackles in some quarters, so the present approach, which uses it and
> then (in section 7) explicitly foregrounds the difficulties attendent
> on doing so, is the best that can be done.

No, I don't think it needs to.  It can simply talk about how the URI
definition is obtained, without attempting to say anything at all about
what it means or whether two uses of a URI have the same or different
meaning.  People may never agree about meaning, but we should be able to
agree on mechanisms for obtaining a definition.

> 
> >  - The document invents cumbersome terminology
> > in an effort to be precise, rather than using well-established
> > existing terms and clarifying those terms where necessary.
> > This makes the document hard to read.
> 
> I think this is a judgement call, and I think trying to start, in the
> areas closest to the difficulties we've had with the httpRange-14
> discussion, with intentionally verbose formulations that demand to be
> understood only per the explicit definitions provided, is the right
> thing to do.
> 
> The problem with the well-established terms is that virtually all of
> them are vulnerable to what we might call spurious agreement -- every
> reader believes they understand them, but their understandings are not
> consistent with one anothers'.

I agree, that is a judgement call, and as an editor who is immersed in
the details of the material, it is not an easy one to make.  But in this
case I think it is better to use established terms *and* where necessary
carefully define how those terms are used within this document. 

This issue comes up all the time in scientific literature.  The
literature would very hard to read indeed if every article made up new
terms just because their use of a term was slightly different from
someone else's.  Unless the difference is major, it is easier on the
reader if the same term is used, *but* the usage is clearly defined
within that article.  The error that many authors make is in failing to
define their terms at all, thus leading to inadvertent
misunderstandings.



-- 
David Booth, Ph.D.
http://dbooth.org/

Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect those of his employer.
Received on Friday, 17 February 2012 22:38:51 GMT

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