Ownership of Names (was Re: Public identifiers and topic maps)

John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Tue Sep 29 16:51:50 BST 1998

W. Eliot Kimber scripsit:

> >"-//John Cowan//TOPIC Spencertown, N.Y." [...] suggests
> >that *my* Spencertown is meant, and I do not mean *my* Spencertown,
> >but *the* Spencertown, the one that appears on the maps.
> No no no. If by "-//John Cowan//TOPIC Spencertown, N.Y." you mean a small
> town in the state of New York (United States of America) commonly known as
> "Spencertown", then that is fine . There is nothing in
> that FPI that suggests that you are claiming ownership of Spencertown, any
> more than the Library of Congress issuing a catalog numbers suggests
> ownership of the books cataloged.

I was too elliptical.  By "*my* Spencertown" I meant, not the Spencertown
I own, but rather the thing that I (idiosyncratically) call
"Spencertown".  In other words, "-//John Cowan/DOCUMENT RDF Made Easy//EN"
refers to the thing that *I* call "RDF Made Easy", but when I use
the name "Spencertown" I do not merely mean "whatever *I* call
'Spencertown'" but rather the town that is *commonly*, *customarily*,
so called.

> (except that a town is not a topic, so the
> public text class is incorrect--it should be NONSGML)

Ah, then I don't know what a TOPIC is.  By "topic" I mean "subject
of discussion", as in "our current topic is the proper use of FPIs."
If we were talking of Spencertown --- for example, if I told you
that the country store there was owned by Tom Reamer --- then
Spencertown would be our current topic.  In the non-hypothetical world,
"Spencertown" is one of our topics (i.e. the name of the town), but
Spencertown is not.

> Now, if by "-//John Cowan//TOPIC Spencertown, N.Y." you mean "the idea of
> place called 'Spencertown' as expressed by John Cowan", then the FPI refers
> to the topic that you happen to own (by having expressed your ideas about
> this town (and the public text class is correct).

This looks like a use/mention distinction, but I do not grasp its
applicability here.  Also, I do not know what an "idea" is in formal

> If what is wanted is a way to refer to places by FPI in a way that is
> authoritative, then I suggest asking the U.S. Geological Survey or the CIA
> or some UN agency to register a public owner identifier and define an
> algorithm for getting from their published (on paper) identifiers for
> places to syntactically valid FPIs (or URNs of any sort).

But that's the trouble.  Spencertown, I repeat, has no official existence:
it is not defined by any registry, but by common acceptation.

> For example, I might expect something like this:
> +//IDN us.gov::Geological Survey::places//NONSGML
> municipality::Spencertown::New York::USA//EN

Spencertown is not a "municipality": it is neither a Town, a Village,
a City, or an Indian Reservation, which classes exhaustively specify
New York State local entities.  It is simply a region, part of the
(official) Town of Austerlitz, that people have agreed to desginate
by that name.

> But lacking a cataloging agency and either assigned names or a
> deterministic algorithm for generating names from some other classification
> scheme, there's not much you can do.

That does not mean that there *should* not be anything you can do.
In such contexts as this, we need a way to reify the concept of
a "public domain name".

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan at ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev at ic.ac.uk
Archived as: http://www.lists.ic.ac.uk/hypermail/xml-dev/
To (un)subscribe, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
(un)subscribe xml-dev
To subscribe to the digests, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
subscribe xml-dev-digest
List coordinator, Henry Rzepa (mailto:rzepa at ic.ac.uk)

More information about the Xml-dev mailing list