Grand idea #102

Thanks to Sean McGrath I found out about this discussion thread over at the Tag Soup discussion forum.

It starts off with Tim Berners-Lee basically asserting that a URI represents a web page, or at least a physical resource:

We know. Your “resource” is a vague thing which can be
a robot or a web page. That vagueness makes a system
which is less useful than a system in which the URI
identifies specifically the web page.

Luckily Tim Bray came along and hollered “Hold on Partner!”:


Once again, no matter how hard I try, it’s easy to believe that XML
Namespaces are resources, but really hard to believe that they’re web pages.

Concluding notes:
(a) In both of my examples, the resources identified by the URI map
fairly nicely onto the actual meaning of the English word “resource” –
one of Antarctica’s maps is a resource in human-speak (that’s why
people pay for the software), and if an XML Namespace (typically a
pre-coooked XML vocabulary with pre-cooked semantics) isn’t a resource
as the word is normally used, I don’t know what is. My point is not
only is the Fielding formalism useful to programmers and
self-consistent, the terminology is useful to ordinary people.

(b) In my vision of the semantic web, it makes all sorts of sense to
package up RDF assertions about Antarctica’s maps or XML namespaces and
these could be really useful without pretending, against the evidence,
that either kind of URI actually points at a “web page”.

In RDF/XML, URIs are used to identify a specific resource, but there is no assumption that this resource is actually accessible on the web as a hard and stable entity.

After reading a bit of this discussion thread, my head is bleeding, too, primarily because of my work with RDF, the darling daughter of the W3C. Seems to me that Tim BL’s interpretation just kicked dearest in the butt.

I really respect the W3C people, but this is frustrating. There does seem to be more and more of a disconnect between the W3C folks and us out here in the world trying to use the W3C products. I respect the W3C because without this organization, you wouldn’t reading this. But at the same, I kind of wish they would give their brains a rest every once in a while. I imagine Mark Pilgrim feels that way, too, because of XHTML 2.0 (which isn’t open source, BTW, Mark).

What’s needed at the W3C is someone to come in and keep these white-coat people in line. Someone experienced, practical, down to earth, and very easy going. I think I fit this description, ahem, and it just so happens that I’m looking for a job. Fancy that.

Yes, that’s my grand idea for today. I think the W3C should hire me as the Enforcer — the person who goes around and whacks a white coat in the head everytime they start to get a Grand Idea.

What think?

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