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Re: "meaningless terms" verbage for Primer

From: Frank Manola <fmanola@mitre.org>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2002 08:19:34 -0500
Message-ID: <3DF73B66.7000503@mitre.org>
To: Patrick Stickler <patrick.stickler@nokia.com>
CC: w3c-rdfcore-wg <w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org>

Patrick Stickler wrote:

> Either we should state explicitly that those terms have no
> real meaning, or we should not have any examples whatsoever
> in the Primer using them, which could lead to a repeat of
> history.


Here's my problem:

Your original text said:

"The RDF/S vocabulary includes several terms the meaning of which
was undefined or ambiguous in earlier specifications of RDF and
which remain undefined in the present RDF MT.



All these terms are discussed in the Primer (in some cases extensively), 
together with examples of their use.  In all the use cases, there are 
caveats expressed that describe these as "intended meanings", and which 
attempt to point out limitations on our ability to actually define them 
(you might want to review and comment on the adequacy of these caveats). 
  My concern is the clarity of saying that these terms were undefined 
and ambiguous, and *remain undefined* (saying they "remain undefined in 
the present RDF MT" doesn't help;  the assumed readers won't necessarily 
know what the significance of that is vs. what's said in the Primer), 
and then going ahead with all the discussion and examples of the same 
terms.  What is someone to make of that?  In other words, I don't see 
the consistency of providing this caveat (at least as presently worded) 
*together with* all the existing discussion.  I attempted to word the 
current set of caveats to convey what I believe is the basis of what 
you're concerned about, and to convey what I think we actually have in 
mind in continuing to include those terms.  Simply adding the wording 
you've suggested it seems to me is going to raise additional questions, 
requiring additional words to answer.

> I don't intend to debate this issue further. Rather, I put it to
> those who seem to have their undies all in a wad about making
> such an explicit statement about these "meaningless terms" to
> indicate what *harm* may come of being clear about them.

I wasn't so much asking for debate as for wording I can use in the 
Primer that actually clarifies things.  I don't see any harm in being 
clear about these terms but, as I note above, I think it will be unclear 
to include both the kind of wording you seem to be suggesting, *and* 
continuing to have all the discussion of the terms, and the examples, in 
the Primer, since the latter seem to convey the idea that the terms, in 
fact, *do* have meaning, although it's not a meaning conveyed by formal 
semantics.  I think we have to be clear what we mean here;  do we mean 
some of these terms to be used in certain ways, even when we can't 
totally define all those ways, or what?

> I would ask the chair to facilitate positive closure of this issue,
> including inviting those opposed to justify their opposition to
> such a statement in the Primer and/or to suggest alternative 
> wording which achieves the intended purpose.

I agree.  In particular, I'd like suggestions for wording that should be 
added, together with specific suggestions for things that should be 
deleted, which will make the Primer appear to be consistent in what it 
says about these terms (in particular, says what we mean about why the 
terms are still there;  ignoring this latter point is not, IMO, a 
responsible option).



Frank Manola                   The MITRE Corporation
202 Burlington Road, MS A345   Bedford, MA 01730-1420
mailto:fmanola@mitre.org       voice: 781-271-8147   FAX: 781-271-875
Received on Wednesday, 11 December 2002 08:02:05 UTC

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