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Re: Editor's Draft of ISSUE-57 URI Usage Primer

From: Henry S. Thompson <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2012 10:55:01 +0100
To: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Cc: Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com>, www-tag <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <f5bmwzwj7gq.fsf@calexico.inf.ed.ac.uk>
David Booth writes:

> . . .
> 3. Although this document has *begun* to recognize and address the issue
> of ambiguity, it only does so for one particular axis of disambiguation,
> which it singles out: the distinction between a landing page and its
> subject.  There are two problems with doing this.  One is that the
> document does not yet recognize or embrace the full nature of the
> ambiguity problem that lies at the heart of the use of URIs as names.
> Thus the attempted solution is premature, much like attempting to design
> an elephant enclosure after feeling only its tail.  The second issue is
> that, although there is nothing innately wrong with giving advice about
> how one might make distinctions along this particular axis of
> disambiguation, by focusing on this axis alone -- at the exclusion of
> all others -- there is an implication that this axis is somehow critical
> to Web architecture, which is misleading.  This axis is no more
> important to Web architecture than any other axis of disambiguation that
> some other application might require.  Web architecture *does* need to
> provide mechanisms to allow disambiguation along any desired axis, in
> order to support the needs of any desired application.  It does not need
> to single out any particular axis or application for special treatment.

I think this misses a key point.  The landing-page/thing-described
ambiguity is a problem of web architecture and for web architecture.
The other problems (which are not problems which I recognise as what I
believe linguistics or philosophy of language call *ambiguity*, but
rather are problems of *vagueness*.  'Everest' is not ambiguous, it's
vague.  But that requires another post) are problems which appear to
me to be shared by virtually _all_ human-engaged naming systems
(i.e. not purely computational ones, such as programming-language

So the first (landing-page/thing-described) _must_ be addressed by web
architecture -- it's _our_ problem.  But the second (vagueness of the
thing identified) is just a fact of life, which by-and-large works to
our advantage.  It may give rise to difficulties in some, particularly
formal deductive, circumstances, but as such it _isn't_ just our
problem, and doesn't make sense to me to expect or seek a
web-architecture-specific solution.

       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: ht@inf.ed.ac.uk
                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
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Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2012 09:55:32 UTC

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