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   Un-ask the question (was Re: [xml-dev] URIs and Names on the Web)

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10/28/2002 8:10:20 PM, "Jonathan Borden" <jborden@attbi.com> wrote:

> and if you published this URI
>somewhere, you might find that within a few months Google had indexed your
>URI and that people all over the planet could obtain your description of
>this rock. 

>If you did _that_, then people might actually find out about your discovery
>_quickly_ ... alternatively you could publish your discovery in some old
>fashioned print only journal, and 2 years after the 3 rock experts in the
>world had reviewed your description, it would be published in "Rocks" the
>journal ... in the meantime someone else, had published an HTTP URI and
>_their_ description has become the definative description of this new rock

... and in the meantime your ISP has gone bust and the megacorp that bought
their assets uncaringly invalidated your old URL ... or some other megacorp
sued you for "squatting" on their "rocks-r-us.com" domain so you no
longer own the root of your URI space ... :~)
or one of the other things that make URLs less permanent than they 
could/should be happen .

I fully agree that abstract "resources" and "namespaces" should have an
authoritative description on the web.  It just seems a conceptual muddle
(as the 2+ years of this unresolved discussion prove, IMHO) to equate
the permanent name of the abstract resource with something as 
ephemeral in practice as an HTTP URL.   I'm still not seeing why
the URL of the description can't be a property of the resource in some
ontology.  It doesn't solve the bootstrapping problem, but reliably
resolving URNs seems like a solveable technical problem whereas the
"HTTP URL == identity" equation inevitably leads to the circularity
we've been wrestling with: how does one know whether the URI identifies
the abstraction or just the location of a representation of it?  
Your original post clearly outlines the dilemma this leaves us with.

(I'm familiar with how this is supposed to work in theory via the
HTTP content type negotiation, I just never see it used in practice
for anything as complex as what we are discussing here).

I thought more about the option of retreating to a mountaintop or
bunker to await Enlightenment rather than choosing either horn
of this dilemma.  Forget the Trinity, this really reminds me of
the famous koan "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not."  The 
canonical answer is "mu". From my primitive grasp of Zen 
acquired from reading  GOEDEL, ESCHER BACH and ZEN AND THE ART
OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, I think that means "un-ask the question."
Less mystically, I mean this smells like a conceptual rathole
that needs to be stopped up, not an interesting grotto to explore.

Even less mystically, this is something for people to figure out for
themselves, build systems that embody their understanding, and sell
(literally or figuratively) to the world if those systems work.
It's not an area that's ready for agreement via compromise or 
consensus, and not a fruitful subject
for a standards organization to pursue.  (Of course, the W3C is also
a think tank, and I'm glad to see W3C explore it wearing its 
thinking cap rather than its standards hat ... but TimBL et al.
need to keep the distinction between these roles more clearly in mind, IMHO).



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