W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webpayments@w3.org > October 2011

Re: First Draft of Payment Links spec published

From: Steven Rowat <steven_rowat@sunshine.net>
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2011 11:08:40 -0700
Message-ID: <4E95D7A8.6000103@sunshine.net>
To: public-webpayments@w3.org
On 10/12/11 9:00 AM, Pelle Braendgaard wrote:

> Money is also an asset together with property is the most commonly
> thought definition of assets.

Yes, money is also an asset, but it's a fundamentally different one in 
one way: it's a representation of something else (a promise, a 
confidence). It's a meta-asset. Yes you can buy and sell it also.  Are 
we going to cover trading different abstract levels of assets with 
each other? Can the existing spec do that? Can it jump a level and 
decide to start buying the thing it was using to buy with? What 
happens when we do that? Apparently our naming has to take this 
possibility into account.

>An ebook while an asset is not the first
> thing people would think of as an asset.

Perhaps not now; but that can change. It was an eye-opener for me when 
I looked up the Oxford English Dictionary definitions of 'objective' 
and 'subjective' and learned that they had exactly traded places -- 
reversed their definitions -- twice over a course of several hundred 

>I don't mind the term asset
> as describing these, but in a business transaction there are 2 assets
> trading places, so just using asset causes confusion and I would be
> very strongly against that.

Interesting point...but tricky in relation to whether and how either 
or both of the assets are representational (or not). I think the key 
point is that what the buyer is contracting for is the good fixed in a 
particular form; the 'refined' form, as Manu has called it elsewhere. 
That is integral to the transaction. And also integral to it is the 
fact that the other side of the transaction is fixed as a 'medium of 
exchange'. It must also be fixed at some level of representation in 
order to function. And it is fixed into a form in which it is not an 
asset (as traditionally defined) in this specific transaction.

Yet I see your point that the fact that it *could be* is a minefield 
for using the word 'asset'. And it is certainly possible for me to use 
a digital e-book that I own to *buy money*. And what's the difference 
between that and the person using money to buy my e-book -- at the 
same time as I'm buying their money?

In other words, certainly we can say they are both 'assets' (the two 
sides of the exchange: both things exchanged); but that doesn't help 
us be simple and clear in a particular interaction. In a particular 
interaction we need to:

    1: fix the levels of representation of each side (how to count 
each side as an item or amount; where the boundaries are)

    2: know which side is which (which is going in which direction)

I see #1 as being a problem of: what measurement units do we use? In 
each side there will be an society-defined scale unit that the amount 
is measured in. We are only providing a way to encode those scales. A 
scale on either side will be fixed at a given level of abstraction or 
representation; but society as a whole (ie, the users) will decide 
what they are.

I see #2 as a different problem; our very own representation problem: 
we need words that have direction vectors that are unmistakable to the 

Camel-case might solve this; maybe it should be used.
For the 'thing for sale', instead of 'asset', use:
OfferedItem or
Offered_Asset or
ResourceForSale or
Resource_Offered, etc.

For the amount paid, use:
Resource_Paid, etc.

If that's too cumbersome, it might be possible to simply use two 
different words and avoid asset altogether, but there will be 
tradeoffs for different sections of society and some may become 
confused. I think we're more likely to be able to fully define what we 
mean if we use a word that has a minimum of two representational units 
in it, in  each direction, because we have two things to define: we 
have to define that it's a 'bounded unit' of some sort, and we have to 
define its direction of travel.

Perhaps we could get by with less, and just use direction and assume 
that people know it's a 'thing'; but we're needing as many hints as 
possible so humans of different types will have enough information to 
accurately understand what we mean.

In sum: what I come to is that maybe we can use the word 'asset' if we 
make its direction of travel clear -- 'AssetForSale' -- but not if we 
don't. But if we have camel case and can use other words, maybe we can 
just as easily avoid it altogether.

Steven Rowat
Received on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 18:09:05 UTC

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