W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-bpwg@w3.org > March 2009

RE: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of mobile heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation Proxies]

From: Rotan Hanrahan <rotan.hanrahan@mobileaware.com>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 00:25:26 -0000
Message-ID: <D5306DC72D165F488F56A9E43F2045D301E4B2BE@FTO.mobileaware.com>
To: "MWI BPWG Public" <public-bpwg@w3.org>
The Web seems to be the one place in the world of publishing where there is an overwhelming (and incorrect) believe by all except the content originators that copyright doesn't exist.

The problems of unsolicited derivative works, rampant plagiarism, phishing and the growing dependence on network security as the backbone of our digital society, were not envisaged at the time when the simplistic transcoding proxy examples were devised.

Tom may have just pointed to the genesis of the problem, emphasising the chasm between then and now. Back then it all seemed so simple and innocent. Today is different, and unless we find a way to establish boundaries and police our activities, we could descend into chaos. Eventually, most of our intellectual output will be Web based, supplanting the dominance of paper that has held sway for countless generations. It would be a sad time for humanity if this transition to the Web was accompanied by a loss of recognition for those who create the content in the first place.

I have long said that it is necessary to find the right balance. Respect for what the author intended (where known, or knowable), what the reader prefers (including more/less capabilities) and for those whose role is to convey the content from author to reader. In the absence of any evidence from the author with respect to publication intentions, one can reasonably assume that the content is made Web-accessible merely for the purpose of consumption, without regard to how it is consumed. As the author increases the effort, such as taking steps to ensure it is effective in certain delivery contexts, there should be corresponding respect for fidelity to this effort. Of course, a consumer of such carefully crafted content may still be incapable of benefitting from the author's efforts due to certain limitations (human incapacity being just one example), so the fair thing to do in this case is make use of mankind's technological advances, and adapt the delivery where possible. Most authors would have no problem with this. Indeed they would applaud the expanded audience.

Luca, I believe, has been railing against the possibility that we, the Internet/Web industry, would countenance an absence of fairness and respect for the wishes of authors and the balancing needs of consumers. The presence, and actions, of an intermediate actor in the interaction between author and consumer is one of great power. Potentially power for considerable good, but equally power that can be abused. The W3C, and others, have recognised the significance of this problem and it is good to see that some progress is being made (though much more needs to be done).

However, I am dismayed that the argument spends so much of its time mired in technical nuance. The real issue is in the greater sphere of society, the role of creativity, the respect for that which is created, and the recognition of the need to share creations with everyone irrespective of their contextual circumstances (device capabilities being just one tiny facet of this).

I am also dismayed to see throw-away references, such as the one-liner from Tom, which could be so much better if their relevance to the debate were elaborated when introduced. And my dismay is compounded by unnecessary "name calling" that peppers the environment, a temptation that regrettably takes hold of Luca from time to time. I understand your passion, and share many of your concerns, though I would never express them in such florid ways.

So, to the point in question. A non-normative list of mobile heuristics might be a practical way of showing a would-be intermediate transcoder how to determine if content visible on the Web was intended to be delivered to specific contexts in specific ways. My concern would be that this list would be considered definitive, and that there would be some providers of transcoding solutions who would think their duty to authors was complete so long as the list was adhered to. The real point is that transcoders should respect all parties, and continue to improve upon their means of analysis. Only when they have exhausted such analysis should they take the position that the content they are observing is open to transformation, and even then, they should only execute such transformations where the actual delivery context demands it.

Transformation has a role, and this includes intermediates, and is to be welcomed when it serves the greater good. Absolutist positions are unwelcome. If we did not allow some flexibility in representations, society would still be reading the ancient texts on goatskin, we'd still be listening to the Beatles on vinyl, and the only place to see the works of the great artists would be in the museums. Personally, I like the idea of reading Shakespeare on my e-book while listening to the MP3 version of "All You Need Is Love"...


Disclosure: We are providers of a server-side transformation solution, which can also act as a proxy but only under the direct control of the content author. We do not provide indiscriminate transformation proxy solutions, and those that are already deployed by other vendors have a tendency to disrupt the legitimate business of our customers who are making huge efforts to delivery excellent mobile experiences via our products. We accept that intermediate content transformation solutions will likely be here to stay, and we respect the legitimate role they can play, so long as there is fairness and respect for all parties.

Dr Rotan Hanrahan 
Chief Innovations Architect 
Mobileaware Ltd 
4 St Catherines Lane West 
The Digital Hub 
Dublin 8, Ireland 
E: rotan.hanrahan@mobileaware.com 
W: www.MobileAware.com 
This e-mail message and all documents that accompany it are intended only for the 
use of the individual or entity to which addressed and may contain privileged or 
confidential information. Any unauthorised disclosure or distribution of this e-mail 
message is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail message in error, please 
notify us immediately so that we may correct our internal records. Thank you. 

-----Original Message-----
From: public-bpwg-request@w3.org [mailto:public-bpwg-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Luca Passani
Sent: 10 March 2009 22:59
To: MWI BPWG Public
Subject: Re: ISSUE-288 (includeNonMandatedHeuristics): Should the Content Transformation Guidelines include a non normative list of mobile heuristics ? [Guidelines for Web Content Transformation Proxies]

toxic nonsense, Tom. The  same kind which got you ejected from 
WMLProgramming in the end.

The fact that a specification mentions (as part of an example!) that 
some proxies may save some bandwidth (in 1999's Internet) by reducing 
the size of pictures is *so* distant from what we are seeing today  with 
transcoders (producing derivative work of content they have no rights 
to, removing essential headers, adding banners and toolbars, breaking 
HTTPS) that I wonder if you are simply trying to make fun of everyone here.

Either that or you deserve to go work for Novarra!


Tom Hume wrote:
> The concept of transforming proxies (transcoders) is presented in 
> RFC2616, section 14.9.5
> On 10 Mar 2009, at 20:25, Luca Passani wrote:
>> I don't disagree. The problem is that this is a consequence of how 
>> transcoders work. They are intrinsically a hack. The group has been 
>> desperately trying to present transcoders as some kind of standard, 
>> but this is like putting lipstick on a pig. A hack they were and a 
>> hack they remain.
Received on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 00:26:10 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 25 March 2022 10:09:53 UTC