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Re: Some TAG review of "Cool URIs for the Semantic Web"

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2007 10:37:59 -0500
Message-Id: <p0623090ec3183eaf2c6c@[]>
To: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Cc: Technical Architecture Group WG <www-tag@w3.org>, Susie Stephens <susie.stephens@gmail.com>

>7. "On the Semantic Web, URIs identify not just Web documents, but 
>also real-world objects like people and cars, and even abstract 
>ideas and non-existing things like a mythical unicorn. We call all 
>these things resources."
>Of course many people would consider the Traditional Web to include 
>mailto: links. Suggest:
>"On the Semantic Web, http: URIs identify not just Web documents, 
>but also real-world objects like people and cars, and even abstract 
>ideas and non-existing things like a mythical unicorn. We call all 
>these things resources."

This seems to me to embody the central error which is causing so much 
trouble. In what sense can a URI (or indeed any name: the fact that 
is a URI is irrelevant in this case) be said to "identify" a 
real-world or nonexistent entity? The direct answer is, it CANT. To 
even use this word "identify" in this sense and in this kind of a 
case, is clearly and provably WRONG.

But in any case, even if you disagree with me on this point, what is 
certainly beyond dispute is that the WAY that a URI 'identifies' a 
person, car or non-existent unicorn is utterly different from the way 
that it identifies an information resource. And that the 
architecture, or even the existence, of the Web is completely 
irrelevant to this non-informational-resource kind of 
'identification'. It does not depend on any kind of transfer 
protocol; it does not require any kind of physical connection between 
computer systems; it "works" (if reference can be said to 'work') in 
exactly the same way for 'identifiers' on the Web as it does for 
names in all human-language texts from ancient Mesapotamian clay 
tablets to the New York Times. It is NOTHING NEW. So, I would 
suggest, it is inappropriate to invent a new, alien, terminology for 
referring to it. The words that are already in widespread use for 
this relationship of 'identifying' a person, car or unicorn are 
'name', 'naming', 'reference' and (slightly more technically) 
'denotes'. These also have the great advantage, compared to your 
non-standard and confusing usage, of not having any connotation that 
the relationship allows one to some 'get' from the name to the thing 
named, or that architecture or computation plays any significant role 
in this relationship.

In addition, that final sentence really is ridiculous. "We call all 
these things resources."  All WHAT things? It sounds rather as though 
you are saying 'We call everything resources.' If that really is what 
you mean, I suggest it would be extremely helpful if you would 
actually say this, directly. (If it sounds ridiculous; well, I rest 
my case.) I would note that there are already many humble words that 
can be used for this purpose, such as 'thing' and 'entity'. I also 
note that this is not the sense of "resource" given in any English 
dictionary or that used by the Internet pioneers such as Engelbart 
(who may have been the first to use this word when talking about 
hyperlinked networks.)

On the other hand, if this interpretation is wrong; if there is 
anything - even anything imaginary, even anything *logically 
impossible* - which you would NOT call a 'resource', then please, 
please give an example right here, to help the poor confused plebs 
such as myself, who are struggling to make sense of your oracular 
pronouncements, some idea what you are talking about.


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Received on Thursday, 20 September 2007 15:38:16 UTC

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