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Re: Preferable alternative to 'resource'

From: <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>
Date: Sat, 6 Oct 2007 00:43:40 -0400
To: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Cc: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, Susie Stephens <susie.stephens@gmail.com>, Technical Architecture Group WG <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OF9E02E227.C102EBEA-ON8525736C.00083B1F-8525736C.0019F1FC@lotus.com>

Tim Berners-Lee wrote:

> I agree that that is a terrible word. It is an abuse of the english 
> word. (Its use is is historical: when Universal Resource Idemtofiers 
> and Resource Description Format were dreamed up, the communities were 
> very  much thinking of Information resources, such as educational 
> resources available on the WWW).
> 
> So, Pat, what would be a better word which we should use instead? 
> The class of all  ____ s?  The class of which all classes are 
> subclasses is the class of ____ s?

Tim: I'm a little unclear in how far you would propose to go in changing 
the terminology?  Would you have it in mind to go over all the 
Recommendations, Notes, supporting documentation and Web sites that the 
W3C has created and rewrite them to use whatever word is selected as the 
best alternative to "resource"?  Would we promote use of some new 
initialism such as "UI" (which I think you suggested at one point) as an 
alternative to "URI"? 

I'm not necessarily saying that doing all this is a bad idea, but the cost 
of doing it now will be very high in my opinion.  The alternative seems to 
be having normative materials that use both terms. 

Out there in the world are books and other educational materials, APIs and 
their supporting documentation, etc. all of which, if they've followed the 
path we've suggested in recent RFCs and AWWW carefully refer to "resource" 
in this somewhat odd sense, and encourage its use as for the referents of 
URIs.  Earlier this month I taught a course to 150 IBMers, carefully 
explaining how the word resource is used in the context of the Web.  There 
will be some cost and some significant confusion in going back to such 
communities and explaining that we've changed our minds.

So, in addition to the important and amusing game of picking the best 
alternative word, I think when we then have to think very hard about 
whether promoting use of that new word in place of "resource" will on 
balance be a service to the community.  FWIW, just at the moment, I'm not 
convinced that a change is the right thing to do, though I would easily be 
convinced that words like "thing" would have been preferable if chosen 
from the start.  For now, my leaning would be to explain that for 
historical reasons we're stuck with the word "resource", and apologize for 
the fact that it is now applied for some purposes that are quite a stretch 
of its conventional meaning.  It's far from the first time this has 
happened in the computer business.  Indeed, the word "computer" itself is 
a bit of a stretch of its initial use, which was to refer to people who 
did computation (actually, I think there was a phase in which one referred 
specifically to "electronic computers", which I suppose would be analagous 
to referring to "Web resources").

Noah

--------------------------------------
Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
1-617-693-4036
--------------------------------------
Received on Saturday, 6 October 2007 04:42:30 UTC

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