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

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2012 11:43:58 -0500
Cc: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>, Jeni Tennison <jeni@jenitennison.com>, www-tag <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-Id: <8BD7B01F-16D3-4173-96AB-81D5B272F8EC@ihmc.us>
To: Henry S. Thompson <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>

On Oct 9, 2012, at 4:55 AM, Henry S. Thompson wrote:

> 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.

I agree that is a useful distinction, but I'm not sure it covers other cases, such as rival, and incompatible, ontologies of "physical object" both being used to understand what a referent is intended to be. Linguistics has largely not concerned itself with the full range of issues that come up here. 

>  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
> identifiers).
> 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.

I agree. It becomes your problem, however, when you (not you personally, of course) make definitive pronouncements which apparently fly in the face of it and appear to deny, or to be based on a presumption which denies, this fact of life. (Such as that cool URIs identify a single, unique entity.) My point is only that it would be helpful if the TAG were to use language which allowed someone who knows this fact of life to understand what the TAG intends to say, without having to find themselves enmeshed in cognitive dissonance. 


> ht
> -- 
>       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/
> [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]

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Received on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 16:44:38 UTC

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