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Re: metadata, resources, and angels & pins

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2009 09:11:51 -0500
Cc: Xiaoshu Wang <wangxiao@musc.edu>, www-tag <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-Id: <37D7AB51-EA6D-4D28-9FA0-A72DD99ED836@ihmc.us>
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>

On Jun 22, 2009, at 8:01 AM, Larry Masinter wrote:

> My tongue-in-cheek reference to "angels dancing on the head of a  
> pin" confused a few and likely annoyed many; I'm sorry for not  
> indicating humor or a reference, e.g.,
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_many_angels_can_stand_on_the_head_of_a_pin%3F
>>   The most  fundamental concepts of the Web are URI, Resource,  
>> Representation.
>> Hence, none of these -- meta-URI, meta-Resource, or meta- 
>> Representation
>> -- makes any sense.  
> I don't think we use those terms, so I suppose the fact that they  
> aren't defined isn't too harmful. And I'm not sure those are the  
> "most" salient concepts needed to discuss metadata meaningfully.
> I think I have a concept of "metadata" that is worth developing but  
> I need to work on the articulation of it, but here's a shot:
> I think of "metadata" as assertions about a resource; resources are,  
> of course, usually identified by a URI, although in some cases you  
> have a representation "in hand" as well as the metadata about it.
> Assertions are not "facts" but rather "opinions" (an assertion by an  
> agent of the agent's belief of facts.)
> For metadata access, one agent, with a resource identified by a URI  
> or with a representation in hand, needs to discover (an)other  
> agent(s) and to access the metadata (the other agent's opinions  
> about the resource/representation.)
> In this model, "trust" by one agent of another is the measure the  
> association of belief: my browser trusts your server to the extent  
> that the browser believes assertions made by your server.

That sounds like the consequence of trust rather than a definition. As  
a definition it is kind of circular.

> And access to metadata on the web then is a matter of finding a  
> trustworthy source

which means, by the above, one that I am inclined to believe what it  
says. Well, yes, but that doesnt seem to get us anywhere. WHY are you  
more inclined to believe this one? Because you trust it...?


> of metadata for resources, and establishing conventions where trust  
> can be delegated, e.g., a "link" header is an assertion by a HTTP  
> server that another agent is a reliable authority of metadata for  
> the resources provided by the first.
> This is still a little sloppy, but I hope it gives an indication of  
> the direction I'd like to go in metadata access discussions, and the  
> hope that it will be rewarding and not worthy of Xiaoshu's pessimism.
> Larry
> --
> http://larry.masinter.net

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Received on Monday, 22 June 2009 14:13:08 UTC

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