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Re: Historical - Re: Proposed IETF/W3C task force: "Resource meaning" Review of new HTTPbis text for 303 See Other

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 2009 00:06:13 -0700
To: "Ray Denenberg, Library of Congress" <rden@loc.gov>
Message-Id: <16F0AD01-ECF5-459A-B226-D4D39DB490DD@ihmc.us>
Cc: "W3C TAG" <www-tag@w3.org>
I agree that 'document' has too much baggage attached to it, and  
triggers too many existing assumptions. And 'Document Like Object' is  

Maybe a better approach would be to focus on the role these things  
play in the actual network, rather than the nature of the beast. How  
about something like 'interfaced object' or 'network interfaced thing'  
or the like, to emphasize that these are entities that can be directly  
'attached' to the network. This seems to be the actual determining  
factor for being placed into this category, rather than anything about  
its essential nature. This would allow for example such very non- 
document-like examples as the live feed from a webcam to be included.

Some possibilities along these lines:

"interfaced thing"   (blech)
"networked thing"   (also blech)
"resourced thing"   with the meaning that to 'resource' something is  
to (make it into a network-accessible resource by) interface(ing) it  
to the network. Abbreviates to "resource" , obviously :-)

Or, on a slightly different but obviously related tack:

"self-representing thing"   with the meaning that it is a thing that  
is the ultimate source of the representations of itself. Note the  
implied contrast here with things that may well have representations,  
but cannot also be the network source of those representations (eg  
galaxies as contrasted with stored JPEG images of galaxies.)

Or, given the analogy to a person whose only response to any question  
is to smile (code 200) and hand you a picture of himself; perhaps we  
should call these things "narcissistic", or "nar" for short, which  
could also be an acronym for "Network Accessible Resource" :-)

I have to confess that all of these suggestions strike me as too  
artificial; but maybe that will be an advantage, once we all get used  
to whatever phrase gets adopted. And I do like the general idea of  
focussing on the functionality rather than the metaphysics.

Pat Hayes

On Aug 25, 2009, at 7:17 AM, Ray Denenberg, Library of Congress wrote:

> I try to follow this as closely as I can, and I try to stay out of  
> the discussion as much as possible.  But I'd like to weigh-in on  
> "document". I don't like it.
> It was once explained to me that "document" applies to a resource   
> that is relatively stable - relative for example to one which is  
> updated regularly. Thus for example http://www.loc.gov/  (Library of  
> Congress home page)  is a document but http://weather.yahoo.com/forecast/USDC0001.html 
>   (DC weather) is not.  That's not to say that the LC home page  
> doesn't change, but it is *relatively* stable.   (On Noah's  stock  
> quote example, a stock quote web page would not be a document by  
> this quasi-definition. A "bag of stock quotes" would.)
> This explanation was given at the very first Dublin Core meeting  
> (Dublin Ohio, March 1995), and the framers themselves were  
> uncomfortable with "document" so they crafted the term "Document  
> Like Object", DLO,  which was popular for awhile but ultimately  
> abandoned, because nobody could really figure out what it was, just  
> like nobody really knows what a document is. Now you may say that  
> "document" in the current context isn't intended to mean this at  
> all, but to many of us it will always have that connotation.
> Is "document" being tossed around because of dissatisfaction with  
> "information resource"?  On one hand there has been a failure to  
> define "information resource" to everyone's satisfaction, but on the  
> other hand there is still a desire to definitionally represent the  
> difference between information resource and  non-information  
> resource.  Do people think there will be more success if we start  
> over and use "document" instead? Personally I'd stick with   
> "information resource".
> --Ray
> ----- Original Message ----- From: <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>
> To: "Tim Berners-Lee" <timbl@w3.org>
> Cc: "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@gbiv.com>; "Julian Reschke" <julian.reschke@gmx.de 
> >; "Larry Masinter" <masinter@adobe.com>; "Mark Nottingham" <mnot@mnot.net 
> >; "Pat Hayes" <phayes@ihmc.us>; "W3C TAG" <www-tag@w3.org>
> Sent: Monday, August 24, 2009 8:24 PM
> Subject: Re: Historical - Re: Proposed IETF/W3C task force:  
> "Resource meaning" Review of new HTTPbis text for 303 See Other
>> Tim Berners-Lee wrote:
>>> I would like to see what the documents all look like if edited to
>>> use the words Document and Thing, and eliminate Resource. That's my
>>> best bet as to two english words which mean as close as we can get
>>> to what we want.
>> Yes on "thing"; as you've heard me say from time to time, I  
>> continue to
>> have reservations about the word "document".  No doubt "document"  
>> seems
>> less intimidating than IR, and is often suggestive of what we mean.  
>> Still,
>> I think it's actually too narrow, or at least troublingly ambiguous.
>> Maybe I've hung out with the XML crowd to long, but one of the  
>> things that
>> I tend to think of as characteristic of "documents", as opposed to  
>> "data",
>> is that they tend to have ordered content.  The order of the  
>> paragraphs in
>> this email document is significant.
>> Now, let's say that I have a resource (thing) that consists of an
>> unordered set of stock quotes.  Each quote is a {company name, price}
>> pair, but there is no inherent or prefered order for the quotes.   
>> As a
>> practical matter, any particular representation sent through HTTP  
>> will
>> likely have the quotes in one order or another, but that order is an
>> artifact of the representation technology, just like the angle  
>> brackets,
>> whitespace or other delimiters for the quotes.  I representation  
>> with the
>> order changed would be equally appropriate.
>> Question: is it OK to return a 200 for this bag of quotes?  I hope  
>> so.  Do
>> we call an unordered bag of quotes a document?  Well, we can, but I  
>> think
>> it's a stretch.
>> I played some role in suggesting the term "Information Resource" to  
>> the
>> TAG in 2004.  I acknowledge and regret that few seem to be pleased  
>> with
>> it, but let me at least remind those who don't know how it came  
>> about.  I
>> wanted to find a term that more clearly covered cases like the one  
>> above
>> (and relational tables, trees, graphs, and other data-like  
>> abstractions).
>> It occurred to me that Claude Shannon, in his theory of Information,
>> seemed to deal with exactly the sorts of abstractions for which we  
>> wanted
>> to allow 200;  I.e., those that could be represented by a sequence of
>> bits, of agreed encoding.   Can you apply Shannon's theory (which is
>> really about error rates and reliablity) to attempts to transmit  
>> the text
>> of the Gettysburg address?  Yes, presuming sender and receiver can  
>> agree
>> on an encoding.  Can you apply Shannon's theory to my bag of stock  
>> quotes
>> or to the information filling the (unordered!) rows and columns of a
>> relational table?  Yes.  Can you apply it to attempts to somehow  
>> transmit
>> me, the three dimensional living TAG member with the unruly hair?   
>> No. So,
>> it's just the distinction we want.
>> If everyone decides that on balance "document" is the lesser of the  
>> evils,
>> I suppose I could go along with it, but I don't think it's quite  
>> right. If
>> we use it, we should at least try to explain what's really covered  
>> and
>> what's not.  I still think that IR, in the sense intended, is  
>> closer to
>> what we really mean.  (If I have to return a 303 for a bag of stock
>> quotes, I'm going to be annoyed.)
>> Noah
>> --------------------------------------
>> Noah Mendelsohn
>> IBM Corporation
>> One Rogers Street
>> Cambridge, MA 02142
>> 1-617-693-4036
>> --------------------------------------

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Received on Thursday, 27 August 2009 07:07:08 UTC

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