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Re: Social meaning discussion 6th March

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 06:29:06 -0500
To: Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Cc: Jeremy Carroll <jjc@hplb.hpl.hp.com>, pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>, Bijan Parsia <bparsia@isis.unc.edu>, Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>, tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, RDF Core <w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20030227112906.GR5790@tux.w3.org>

* Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com> [2003-02-27 10:34+0000]
> Sans chapeau:
> My bath time this morning was spent thinking about social meaning.  I came 
> to the conclusion that 'meaning' is a difficult and slippery a concept that 
> we should try to stay away from, sticking to things that are more 
> concrete.  We should leave talk about 'meaning' to the 
> philosophers.  Perhaps we can get all we need by describing intended use.
> And then I see this is exactly what Jeremy has done in his draft 
> alternative text.
>   http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/meetings/tech-200303/social-meaning
> This is a significant shift in approach that may have considerable merit, 
> and I wanted to draw attention to it.
> The mininalist approach looks good too, though we might go a bit further:
>   1 An RDF triple is intended to be used to represent an assertion
>   2 A set of RDF triples is intended to be used to represent the 
> conjunction of the assertions represented by each individual triple
>   3 The assertion represented by an RDF triple is determined by the 
> specifications of its subject, predicate and object.

Happy up to here, though I'm not sure what 'specification' of a bNode or 
literal is, and hence have growing sympathy for TimBL's predicate-centric

>   4 RDF triples representing false assertions SHOULD NOT be used to mislead.
> The above being non-normative.
> I'm not happy with 4.  RDF triples representing true assertions SHOULD NOT 
> be used to mislead either, yet "RDF triples SHOULD NOT be used to mislead" 
> is vacuous.  So maybe strike 4, though I'm inclined to leave it in.

4. is so out of scope it's dissapeared over the horizon! This would be like
telling the world that text/html SHOULD NOT be used to mislead, or that
image/svg SHOULD NOT be used with nudie pictures. Modern capitalism, the 
entire advertising industry and the business models of various companies not 
a million miles from W3C... are all based on misleading people. That's just 
the way the world works. If we want RDF to be part of that world, we'll have 
to save the noble stuff for a follow-on working group. False, or False-ish RDF 
statements _will_ be used to mislead people. That will be a metric for 
measuring our success and the success of the Semantic Web. We can solve that 
problem once we've finished creating it, but the solution won't look like (4).

In more practical terms, I think you'll have trouble defining 'mislead'
without some model of intent; or 'used' without a story about deployment 
models. If I republish some out of date RDF via my FOAF aggregator and 
it confuses someone, did I break your 4th law? How about if all I did was 
provide the HTTP cache they used to access it? What about if my cache 
also embedded an RDF parser? ...and also computes RDFS closures? etc.

Backing off from 4., I'm v happy with the focus on 'assertions' rather than
on the woolier notion of meaning. We should concentrate on the notion of 
RDF documents being the sort of thing that can be true (or false) descriptions
of the world, and from that naturally focus on the characteristics of those
documents which determine the arrangements of the world that would satisfy 

Received on Thursday, 27 February 2003 06:31:14 UTC

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