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Re: URI lifecycle (Was: Owning URIs)

From: Hugh Glaser <hg@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 23:21:21 +0100
To: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
CC: semantic-web <semantic-web@w3.org>, Linked Data community <public-lod@w3.org>
Message-ID: <EMEW3|fed6b8a0dec9eceae37a1cadc5e853e2l4JNLY02hg|ecs.soton.ac.uk|B388%hg@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Hi David,
On 20/05/2009 06:01, "David Booth" <david@dbooth.org> wrote:
>> A last comment, which I know we have discussed, and you possibly disagree:
>> "Community expropriation of a URI"
>> Might have meant something else.
>> One of the problems is that many authors will not discharge their Statement
>> Author Responsibilities, but will assume that the URI is the one they want.
>> Over time, this may mean that the general SW uses a URI in a way other than
>> the URI owner intends, to the extent that it becomes irrelevant what was the
>> original meaning (there are many parallels for this in natural language, and
>> indeed it is the social process that causes language to change).
>> [ . . . ]
> Yes, that's a great topic for discussion.  It is clear that semantic
> drift is a natural part of natural language: a word that meant one thing
> years ago may mean something quite different now.  As humans we can
> usually deal with this semantic drift by knowing the context in which a
> word is used, though it can cause real life misunderstandings sometimes.
> However, I think our use of URIs in RDF is different from our use of
> words in natural language, in two important ways:
>  - RDF is designed for machine processing -- not just human
> communication -- and machines are not so good at understanding context
> and resolving ambiguity; and
>  - with URI declarations there is a simple, feasible, low-cost mechanism
> available that can be used to anchor the semantics of a URI.
> In short, although semantic web architecture could be designed to permit
> unrestricted semantic drift, I think it is a better design -- better
> serving the semantic web community as a whole -- to adopt an
> architecture that permits the semantics of each URI to be anchored, by
> use of a URI declaration.
But your paper is not about architecture.
The architecture, as you say, permits the semantics of each URI to be
The (one of the?) good thing about your paper is that it is about the stuff
that is not enforced by the architecture, but rather addresses what might be
called the social processes and what responsibilities might be.
And works hard to avoid confusion between them.
So if one was to envisage ways in which the consequences of failure to
adhere to the responsibilities might have a significant impact, and how that
impact might be accommodated or challenged, then I think it can be useful to
study it.
I happen to think that people and hence agents will simply assume they know
what URIs mean without checking the anchor, in the same way they use words
without checking the dictionary. If I was marking this email up in RDFa, I
would be much more likely to guess, or simply go and use the URIs you had
used to mark up your email, rather than check each one back at base - I
would never be able to do anything if I checked every word in the
In fact, how much of all the RDFa that is now being generated gets checked?
I do take your point that a lot of this is happening with machines, but even
they will make the same mistake when choosing a URI.
> For more explanation see: "Why URI Declarations? A comparison of
> architectural approaches"
> http://dbooth.org/2008/irsw/
> --
> 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 Wednesday, 20 May 2009 22:22:15 UTC

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