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RE: "Authority" of HTTP-based Resource Descriptor

From: Booth, David (HP Software - Boston) <dbooth@hp.com>
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2009 20:45:18 +0000
To: Jonathan Rees <jar@creativecommons.org>, Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
CC: "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <CD2B872281385A439B98164F5351E6DD414325FE77@GVW1144EXB.americas.hpqcorp.net>

> From: Jonathan Rees
> [ . . . ]
> I think "authoritative metadata" is potentially a dangerous and
> confusing term.  You can't take a file full of metadata and say it is
> "authoritative" (is said by someone who has authority over it) unless
> you have reason to think that every statement in the file is indeed
> something that X has authority over.

Yes, it has caused quite a bit of confusion.  As a case in point, if a URI declaration provides a 'file full of metadata' which is a series of assertions, then that URI declaration is authoritative *only* in the sense that it defines an association between a URI and a resource, the "authority" to define that association having been granted from the AWWW to the URI owner:
However, as you and Larry suggest this does *not* necessarily mean that the individual assertions contained in that 'file full of metadata' are true.  "URI Declaration in Semantic Web Architecture" has a section discussing this confusion:
What does "authoritative" mean?
The word "authoritative" has sometimes caused confusion in discussions of URI declarations.  If a URI 303-redirects to a URI declaration page, or if it has a fragment identifier and dereferencing the part before the hash "#" leads to a URI declaration page, in what sense is a URI declaration made by that page "authoritative"?   Does it mean that:

    * the assertions in the URI declaration are necessarily true?  No.
    * the author of that page believes that the assertions are true?  Not necessarily.
    * the author of that page is a recognized expert on the subject of that page?  No.
    * the URI owner gets to control what others may say about the URI's associated resource?  No.
    * the URI is the most popular or dominant URI for denoting the associated resource?  No.
    * [Are there other examples I should have included here?]

A URI declaration is authoritative only in defining the *association* between the declared URI and a particular resource.  (More precisely, it defines the first part of this association, as explained above.)  The declaration creates a social expectation that other parties making use of that URI will use it to denote that same resource.  (More precisely, it creates the social expectation that a party using the URI to denote its resource agrees with the core assertions in the URI declaration.)  This is analogous to the social expectation that is created when a standards organization publishes a specification named XYZ and a product manufacturer then advertises an XYZ product.  If that product does not conform to the XYZ specification, the manufacturer will be viewed as having violated a social expectation.

David Booth, Ph.D.
HP Software
+1 617 629 8881 office  |  dbooth@hp.com

Statements made herein represent the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HP unless explicitly so stated.
Received on Monday, 26 January 2009 20:49:47 UTC

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