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Re: URI lifecycle (Was: Owning URIs)

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 17:58:08 +0200
Message-ID: <4A1AC010.1030300@danbri.org>
To: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
CC: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, Hugh Glaser <hg@ecs.soton.ac.uk>, semantic-web <semantic-web@w3.org>, Linked Data community <public-lod@w3.org>
On 25/5/09 17:45, David Booth wrote:
> On Fri, 2009-05-22 at 20:49 +0200, Dan Brickley wrote:
>> On 22/5/09 19:47, Pat Hayes wrote:
>>>> David Booth wrote:
>>>> 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.
>>> And the same is happening with URIs.
> [ . . . ]
>> foaf:schoolHomepage. This is a property originally created by brits for
>> whom School is where you go until you're at most 18. After which it's
>> off to University, College, Tescos, or whatever YTS schemes are called
>> these days. *However* ... shortly after deploying foaf:schoolHomepage,
>> it became clear that it meant something quite different to USAmericans
>> and presumably others. We started seeing instance data where people were
>> asserting foaf:schoolHomepage between themselves and the homepage of
>> their University. This was unexpected, but not really suprising.
>> Being a pragmatist, I updated
>> http://xmlns.com/foaf/spec/#term_schoolHomepage  ...
>> It now mentions this drift explicitly: "The original application area
>> for foaf:schoolHomepage was for 'schools' in the British-English sense;
>> however American-English usage has dominated, and it is now perfectly
>> reasonable to describe Universities, Colleges and post-graduate study
>> using foaf:schoolHomepage."
> That's an interesting example.  As described, it sounds like the
> American interpretation was actually *consistent* with the original
> definition, but the original definition meant different things to
> different readers, and the original authors had not anticipated this.


Well, if the original text was EN-uk, "school" meant school. However it 
turns out that in the RDFS I never set an xml:lang language on the text 
literals defining the properties. And in the HTML variant of the spec it 
only says 'xml:lang="en"'. Future versions should probably pick which 
flavour of the language to use, ... but also it should avoid using words 
whose interpretations vary :)

> That example does not sound at all like an argument against semantic
> anchoring.  Rather, it sounds like an example in which a URI declaration
> turned out to be less constraining than originally thought.  The point
> of a URI declaration is not to forbid semantic variability, it is to
> permit the bounds of that variability to be easily prescribed and
> determined.
> [ . . . ]
>>>> 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.
>>> And I disagree.
>> Seconded. But perhaps for different reasons. We need to leave some
>> flexibility in the system so that the most useful uses of classes and
>> properties can emerge from experimentation and deployment.
> Again, the point is not to *forbid* semantic flexibility, but to permit
> that semantic flexibility to be clearly constrained.  There *are*
> important use cases in which it is advantageous to evolve a URI
> declaration over time, or to have an intentionally broad URI
> declaration.

OK, we're not disagreeing heavily then.


Received on Monday, 25 May 2009 16:04:57 UTC

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