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   RE: [xml-dev] Generality of HTTP

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Jonathan Borden wrote,
> Miles Sabin wrote,
> > Who cares what the owner means. There's nothing to stop anyone 
> > else using that very same URI to mean something else. That's why 
> > URIs can't on their own convey meaning. To get that you need 
> > semantic agreement between the producers and the consumers of the 
> > URIs.
> Assuming that the "producers"/owners and consumers of URIs intend to 
> have a conversation, it is rather helpful for the consumers to know 
> what the producers intend the URIs (words) to mean. Hence I care.

You've missed the point.

There's no guarantee that the person with administrative control over
the URI has anything to do with the group who've adopted particular 
semantic conventions around it. Ownership is irrelevant, it's the 
semantic agreement which counts.

> > Note what's doing the work here: the agreement, not any form of
> > administrative control over any resource on the end of the URI. If
> > enough people choose to interpret,
> >
> >   http://www.markbaker.ca/2002/01/Bricks/
> >
> > as "denoting the class of people who don't have a firm grip on the
> > concept of naming", then that's what it means (for them) no matter
> > what Mark might think.
> True, but then there is likewise nothing preventing me from 
> interpreting:
> people:MilesSabin
> to 'mean' a pile of bricks.

Precisely. And if you can persuade a group to adopt that semantic
convention, then that's exactly what it means (within that group), no 
matter what I might have to say about it.

> >...That's not in and of itself a problem, but it could be, eg. if 
> > Mark wanted to start talking to one of that group about bricks.
> which is why at the end of the day URIs are rather mundane names or 
> words and this problem is not at all unique. If we don't have 
> conventions then we can't have conversations or get work done.

Spot on.

What's doing the work here? The URIs or the conventions?

> taking your argument to its extreme: 2 + 2 = 5, if I choose to 
> define it that way for me.

Why is that extreme? All you'd be doing is spelling four the way most
people five. That's highly likely to cause a failure of communication, 
but it wouldn't stop you doing arithmetic privately.

> This argument was perhaps best made by WVO Quine in the 'Two Dogmas 
> of Empiricism" and the term "Quining an argument" has been used
> to refer some people's habit of ignoring common conventions about 
> what words mean, in order to 'disprove' an argument.

Actually (and amusingly in this context), that's not what quining is,


And Quine, especially in Two Dogmas, is a bad choice for you to appeal 
to in this context: he doesn't think that words in isolation (mutatis 
mutandis URIs) mean anything at all.

> I submit, simply that as it is useful to consider 2+2 = 4 in order 
> to derive the benefits of mathematics and engineering (e.g. when I 
> am building a bridge) that it is similarly useful to know what the 
> owner or producer of a URI intends it to mean.

That works where there's a discipline and a language already up and
running. But Mark was arguing that he could introduce new meaningful
vocabulary by a combination of ownership and stipulation and nothing
else. That's just Humpty Dumpty semantics.



Miles Sabin                                     InterX
Internet Systems Architect                      27 Great West Road
+44 (0)20 8817 4030                             Middx, TW8 9AS, UK
msabin@interx.com                               http://www.interx.com/


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