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Minutes from Oct. 1-2 Design Team meeting

From: Jim Whitehead <ejw@ics.uci.edu>
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 13:11:59 -0700
To: WEBDAV WG <w3c-dist-auth@w3.org>
Message-ID: <003201bdf6e5$bbc47500$d115c380@galileo.ics.uci.edu>
Versioning and Variant Authoring Design Team
October 1-2, 1998
FileNet, Costa Mesa, California

A meeting of the WebDAV Versioning and Variant Authoring Design Team meeting
was held October 1-2, 1998 at the offices of FileNet, in Costa Mesa,
California.  In attendance were Jim Amsden, Alan Babich, Geoff Clemm, Bruce
Cragun, David Durand, Chuck Fay (1st day), Chris Kaler, Brad Sergeant, John
Stracke, Jim Whitehead.  Jim Whitehead chaired the meeting and recorded

The agenda for the meeting was:

October 1:
  * Discussion of versioning goals document, led by John Stracke (9AM - 5PM)
October 2:
  * Discussion of versioning protocol document, led by Chris Kaler (9AM -
  * Discussion of variant authoring goals and protocol (1:30PM - 4:00PM)

Many participants had early plane connections, and were not present for the
variant authoring discussion.  Alan Babich, David Durand, John Stracke, and
Jim Whitehead were the only participants in this discussion.

** Day 1 **

Discussion of RFC 2291.

Since the versioning goals document was written as a set of changes to the
versioning-specific sections of RFC 2291, "Requirements for a Distributed
Authoring and Versioning Protocol for the World Wide Web", the meeting began
with a review of RFC 2291 to verify that these goals are still relevant.

One area of RFC 2291 which caused disagreement was the sentence in section, which states, "It is also possible for a single resource to
participate in multiple version graphs."  The Design Team argeed there
should only be one version graph per versioned resource.  However, since
there are some scenarios (e.g. a subset of the graph, such as published
revisions, or only the last N revisions) where a user might only be given
visibility over part of the version graph, the capability to have multiple
views of a version graph was viewed as desirable by most, but not all

The "client proposes, server disposes" model of a client submitting a
version identifier, and the server then stating whether it used the
submitted id, as described in section of RFC 2291, met with near
universal disagreement from the Design Team. The Design Team agreed to
strike the first two sentences of

But, since RFC 2291 is already a published RFC, and hence difficult to
modify, and since it is difficult to fully grasp the versioning goals since
they are located in two different documents at present, the Design Team
agreed to merge the versioning section of RFC 2291 into the next revision of
the versioning goals document.  The versioning goals document will clearly
state which sections of RFC 2291 it is superceding.

At the end of the discussion of RFC 2291, there was some discussion on
variants, and whether the "is-variant-of" relationship should be a member of
the version graph, as is the case in draft-whitehead-versioning-00.  The
Design Team agreed that the version graph should not contain "is-variant-of"
relationships, and should concern itself only with versioning relationships.
Furthermore, the Design Team agreed to separate variant authoring from
versioning, and have a separate goals and protocol document for variant

Discussion of Versioning Goals Document:

The first item of discussion in the versioning goals document was the
definitions section. The Design Team agreed to change the term "abstract
versioned resource" to "versioned resource". Brad, Geoff, and Chris took an
action item to develop definitions of configuration set, configuration,
workspace, and change set.

After discussing terminology, the Design Team focused on the goals.  After
some discussion, the Design Team agreed to drop goal 1, "It must be possible
for the protocol defined to map reasonably well to most existing version
repositories."  While nobody on the design team disagreed with this goal, it
was felt that this was not a direct, functional goal, and that the goals
document should be concerned with functional goals only.

The design team agreed with goal 2, "Every revision of an abstract versioned
resource must itself be a resource, with its own URI."

There was agreement on goals 3 ("It should be possible for a client to
specify meaningful labels to apply to individual revisions, and to change
the revision to which a label refers."), with minor wordsmithing needed.

The Design Team agreed with goal 4 ("The labels and revision IDs within a
Vgraph are names in a common namespace, in which each name must be
unique."), except to note that the labels and revision IDs don't necessarily
need to be in the same namespace -- there can be a separate namespace for
version ids and labels.

There was significant debate over goal 5, "Given a URI to the version graph,
and an ID or label for a revision, it must be possible for a client to
construct a URI which refers to that revision."  While the participants
acknowledged that having correct operation of relative URIs for the current,
and previous revisions of a versioned resource was a desirable goal, goal 5
sounded too much like a solution, rather than a statement of a goal.
Furthermore, there was discussion that since this approach uses URL string
operations, it might encounter resistance within the working group.

*** Ed note: I have no notes from discussion of goal 6.

There was agreement on goal 7, ("The CM protocol must be an optional
extension to the base versioning protocol").

During discussion of goal 8, ("Revisions are immutable: once a revision has
been checked into the repository, the revision can never be deleted; and its
contents and dead properties can never be changed.") there was discussion
about separating the concepts of deletion and mutability.  Administrators
often decide to delete older portions of revision trees to conserve space,
and hence though the revisions are immutable once they're checked-in, they
may eventually be deleted.

Mutability of properties was also discussed.  The Design Team determined
that there are two types of properties, "mutable", can be changed after
check-in, and "immutible", cannot be modified after check-in. These
categories are not guaranteed to correspond to "live" and "dead" properties.
There was general agreement that an access control property would be
mutible. However, some live properties, like "getcontentlength", would be
expected to remain immutible, despite being live.  This implies there are
some properties which are "bound" in some sense to the body of the resource,
and others which are not.

Branching was discussed.  Some Design Team members stated that document
management systems typically do not presently support branching, and hence
would not be eager to implement branching.  As a result, the Design Team
agreed to make branching an optional feature, but one that has full support
within the protocol, since CM repositories find branching to be a vital,
non-optional feature.

After discussing the items in the initial goals document, Jim Amsden brought
up a list of goals which he felt should be in the goals document.  Jim
Amsden agreed to send John Stracke a list of these goals for inclusion in
the next rev. of the goals.

In a separate discussion, the Design Team agreed to not have predecessor
links come in from outside the versioned resource.

John Stracke agreed to work towards having a new revision of the goals
document by October 9.

Before adjourning for the day, there was discussion of the when the next
Design Team meeting should be held.  It was tentatively agreed to hold the
next meeting December 2-3, hosted by InterSolv.

** Day 2 **

Chris Kaler led a discussion of his draft which merged together
draft-whitehead-webdav-versioning and draft-kaler-webdav-versioning, the
September 28, 1998 revision of "Versioning and Variant Extensions to
WebDAV."  Chris used a small set of slides to lead the discussion.  These
slides are available on the Web at:


There was discussion of support for downlevel clients (automatic
versioning).  One view on this capability was that it definitely adds
complexity to the protocol, and this might make automatic versioning not
worthwhile.  There was agreement to continue investigating provision of
versioning capabilities for downlevel clients.  However, this capability
should be re-examined once it is fully specified to ensure that the tradeoff
between automatic versioning capability and added complexity is deemed

Next, there was discussion on having an entry point in the HTTP URL
namespace which is mapped to a particular member of a versioned resource.
Some viewpoints expressed were:
 - We should use existing referential members for this capability.
 - The semantics of referential members don't meet our needs to have a
reference which can track a label, or point to the latest member of a line
of descent.
 - This sounds like a Vportal.
 - There are scalability problems with the Vportal approach across a
configuration, if each Vportal can individually point to a different part of
each version graph (i.e., if some point to label X, others point to label Y,
others point to the latest on a line of descent, etc.)
 - A Vportal and a single element configuration sound like identical
mechanisms to me.  Do we really want both?
 - But, what about keeping the separation between the versioning layer and
the configuration management layer?
 - It was noted that direct references might work if it was possible to set
properties on them.
There was no resolution to this discussion.

Geoff Clemm agreed to write up a proposal for how the mapped version
namespace should be arranged.

There was a discussion on retrieving the version history via PROPFIND.  No
agreement was recorded.

The Design Team agreed that the CHECKINOUT method needs to be broken up into
several methods, to reflect a better separation of concerns.  At the least,
methods for CHECKIN, CHECKOUT, UNCHECKOUT all need to exist, and another
method may need to be created to request enumerations of all checkouts
active on a versioned resource.

There was discussion on the semantics of checkout.  Some issues which were
identified are:
 - locking/reservation of a line of descent
 - the ability to specify a line of descent on checkout
 - auto-creation of a line of descent when branching occurs

The Design Team agreed that CHECKOUT needs the following parameters:
 - do not branch
 - force branch
 - creation of a branch, if it occurs, is OK
There was agreement that no MKBRANCH method is needed, that creation of a
branch is implicit in CHECKOUT.

Chris Kaler took an action item to start a thread on the mailing list
concerning the semantics of checkout, and also on how the semantics of lock
and checkout/checkin interact.

Geoff Clemm will collect the ClearCase experience with checkout and mail it
to the list.

Merging capability was discussed.  One approach discussed was having PUT
pass the version it is derived from, and hence at checkin time the server
will know which resource is the predecessor to the resource being
checked-in.  Another approach was to have a MERGE method, which could merge
two (or more) resources. Another alternative was to allow PROPPATCH on a
live history property, similar to the semantics of the GRAPHOP proposal.
There was a long discussion on whether it should be possible to, after
checkin, delete merge arcs.  Some participants noted that, in practise,
people make mistakes and want to back-out their merge.  Others noted that it
is possible to recover from a merge by creating new nodes and moving
forward, but still leaving a record of the merge.  No agreement was reached
on this issue.

The Design Team agreed to create a separate, public, archived, mailing list
exclusively for the discussion of versioning issues.  Jim Whitehead took an
action item to create this list.

The Design Team agreed to have one more revision of the versioning protocol
document before submitting it as the -00 revision of
draft-ietf-webdav-versioning.  Chris Kaler agreed to create this revision by
Nov. 2.

Automatic mapping of a configuration to HTTP URL space was discussed.  There
was general agreement that this type of capability should be included in the
protocol.  There was agreement in favor of using MKCOL to create this
Geoff agreed to write up a proposal on automatic mapping of a configuration
to HTTP URL space.

The Design Team agreed that the "Base-Version" header should be removed
unless it is shown to be absolutely necessary.

The Design Team agreed to move section 3.2.5 capability ("Checkin-Token --
Clients may desire the ability to track a set of changes as a unit.") into
the section on configuration management.  A participant noted that this
capability is needed for change sets.

One participant noted that there are i18n problems with the current
specification of the Comments header, since there are no provisions for
labeling the charset or language, or for handling multi-octet character

There was a discussion of the semantics of collections and containment.

Jim Amsden will create a document on how to describe a version history using
XML.  He will consider RDF during this activity.

Jim Amsden also volunteered to edit the goals document during John Stracke's

At this point in the meeting, several participants left.  Alan Babich, David
Durand, John Stracke, and Jim Whitehead continued on, discussing variants.


The Design Team began with a discussion of goals and definitions.

There was discussion of the terms "rendition", or "internal variant", and
"external variant". An internal variant, or rendition, shares the properties
of the resource, and is typically mechanically derived.  An example is a PDF
rendition of a Word file.  In both cases, the title will be the same,
although the length and content type are not.  In contrast, an external
variant is one where a human is typically involved in the creation of the
resource, such as a translation of a Web page from German to French.  It was
noted that while some types of variants are typically thought of as being
mechanically derived, such as different formats of a word processing
document, there may be exceptions where their creation is human-directed.
No broad assumptions about which kinds of variant-creating transformations
are always mechanically performed can be made, or should be embedded into
the protocol.

Goals that emerged during the discussion are:

* It should be possible to discover what kinds of mechanically derived
variants can be provided by the server, what kinds must be provided by the
client (or else that type of variant will not be present), and what kinds
may be provided by the client (e.g., where it is possible to manually
override a server-provided mechanical transformation).

* It should be possible to stop automatic server generation of specified
classes of variants.

* It should be possible to discover which variants can be read, and which
ones can be written.

* A PUT on a "variant control resource" (i.e., a resource where, by
submitting a GET with Accept* headers, content negotiation takes place),
should "do the right redirect", and store the body under the correct variant

* A PUT of a multipart/alternatives body to a variant control point should
cause the server to burst out the multiple parts and store them at the
correct variant resource.

* It should be possible to set properties on variants independently.  As a
consequence, each variant has its own URI.

* It should be possible to delete individual variants, at a specific point
in (media-type, language, encoding, transfer) space.

* It should be possible to request the server to package up all variants
into a multipart/alternatives for transfer to the client.

There was some discussion over whether the HTTP specification implies there
is a single "variant control point" where content negotiation takes place,
or whether every variant exists in a peer-to-peer relationship with every
other variant, and content negotiation can take place at any variant.  There
was some agreement that there must be at least one control point, but there
can be many control points.  Control points don't have to be the URL where a
specific variant exists.

There was some discussion on whether it should be possible to perform
variant authoring on a collection.  There was agreement that this is
desirable, due to the "home page authoring" scenario, where a home page
exists in multiple variants (languages).

There was a long discussion on how to reduce the combinatoric explosion
which occurs when trying to enumerate all of the possible static and
mechanically derived variants of a resource during discovery.  One technique
was to use HEAD with Accept* headers to discover the URL which can be
authored for that specific point in variant space.  A Not-Authorable header
could indicate the variant is not human-authorable.

There was some sentiment that variant authoring should be an optional set of
features (i.e., support of versioning would not necessarily imply support
for variant authoring), but no agreement on this issue was recorded.

David Durand volunteered to edit the variant goals document.
John Stracke volunteered, time permitting, to edit the variant authoring
protocol document.

*** Meeting Adjourned ***
Received on Tuesday, 13 October 1998 16:28:30 UTC

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