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From Stefano Mazzocchi <>
Subject Re: [RT] Moving towards a new documentation system
Date Sun, 19 Oct 2003 21:26:22 GMT

On Sunday, Oct 19, 2003, at 22:32 Europe/Rome, Joerg Heinicke wrote:

> On 19.10.2003 21:07, Stefano Mazzocchi wrote:
>>>>> Remain the "everlasting semantically meaningful names". Of course  
>>>>> the URL should match the content. But if the content changes, so  
>>>>> that it no longer matches, what's the sense of having still this  
>>>>> page? Even if you use IDs and change the content later, the user  
>>>>> linked from outside to this page gets other content than he wants  
>>>>> to have. So there must be available an "outdating mechanism".  
>>>>> Let's say there is a page  
>>>>> which is linked often from outside, because it was the one and  
>>>>> only form handling in Cocoon. Now in Cocoon 2.2 or 3.0 XML Forms  
>>>>> are removed completely, but we don't want to give the user a  
>>>>> simple 404 page. We have to point out that he can "use Woody or  
>>>>> Cocoon forms which is by far better than XML Forms" with a link to  
>>>>> the correct page  
>>>>> You have to do exactly the same for the number URLs. So I think  
>>>>> there is no problem with "everlasting semantically meaningful >>>
>>>>> names".
>>>> you have a point there, that's for sure.
>>>> I'll think about this some more.... do you have any suggestion?
>>> I read today "Cool URIs don't change" [1] for preparing the  
>>> answering of your mail. And there are not many options left after  
>>> reading it: The URLs of a learning object need an ID and a  
>>> modification date, not more, not less.
>> hmmm, well, it depends.
>> The URI (we are talking about URIs here, not URLs, careful)
> Hmm, but if you want to make the linking from outside also consistent,  
> why inventing another scheme?

True. Consistency is one thing, but remember that is entirely possible  
that several URLs can point to the same object identified by even a  
different URI!

The URI can be used as a URL, but the "meaning" of this use is not so  
explicit as it seems at first sight. (read below for more)

>> of a LO will need an ID that identifies the object, then might  
>> (optionally) have another ID that identifies the version.
>> So, I would do
>>  http://host/path/ID
>> to identify the object in general
> This can also be seen as "latest version" of an LO, can't it?

Exactly, but it could also get you a list of possible versions from  
where you can choose from.

As you see, the URI->URL mapping is not so obvious: even when the  
string translation is one to one, the meaning might not be.

In Subversion, for example, the URI used as a URL references the latest  
version of the file and to get a specific version you have to do


[or equivalent, don't remember the exact syntax]

I still don't know what is the best URI->URL translation strategy, but  
for subversion it makes sense so that I can have a subversion  
repository act as a regular web server with very little effort

[I'm thinking about using subversion of the repository for our learning  

>> and
>>  http://host/path/ID/version
>> to indicate the object version
>>> The IDs would allow to change the content without a latter mismatch  
>>> between URI and content.
>> Exactly.
>>> The date assures that a later access to a linked page has the  
>>> content it should have, it can not have been changed in the >>> meantime.
>> This is a little bit more tricky. If you choose to use a timestamp  
>> for the version ID, then you have to make sure that you have enough  
>> granularity to take into account the minimum potential time in  
>> between two different changes might happen, or, again, you get a  
>> collision.
>> This is why I generally dislike the use of dates in URIs, version  
>> numbers are *abstract*, so
>> indicate revisions 342 of learning object 39484 and this does not  
>> change over time.
>>> The user would always access a page where the content is appropriate  
>>> to a certain date, similar to "cvs co -r 20030303 >>> lo/1234567890.xml".
>> That means that you get a collision if you have more than one version  
>> of the documents per a given date, and this is very likely to happen.
> Ah, ok. Our documentation changes so rarely that I didn't thought  
> about this ;-)


> Yes, a version is also ok. Though a timestamp must not end with the  
> day, there are also milliseconds.
> But of course collision is still not impossible. OTOH how strong might  
> documents change on one day?

that's the problem: how do you know? with an incremental versionID you  
don't have collision issues anyway

> In general a commit short after another one fixes almost only typos or  
> similar. Maybe the last version of a day might be sufficient?

> I only would like to have date metadata before clicking on a link.

sorry, I'm not sure I follow you here.

>> But also note that we are still talking about URIs not URLs. Using  
>> the LO URI as a URL might not be the only way to access the object.
> Maybe the date to version mapping is one thing, that can be handled  
> when mapping URLs to URIs. So as said above the last version of a day  
> is *the* version of that day. Then we have versioned URIs and dated  
> URLs.
> Could it be, that you already came to the same conclusion in other  
> parts of this thread? I appologize for that. Sometimes it takes a bit  
> longer ...

I don't remember if I made it explicit already, but I'm glad you came  
to the same conclusion. Yes, the "date -> version" can be part of the  
URL->URI translation procedure.

So, asking for


could yield the last revision for that particular date (if any), or  
could give a list of revisions that were done on that date.

but at this point, we had to differentiate between version and date...  
so, another option, following subversion's approach is to use something  




or even


or, even wilder, following Kimbro Stalken's (of Xindice fame) approach  
at Syncato (


that would yield a list of objects in the "cocoon-2.1" branch that  
include at least one element named <author> that contain the string  
'stefano' in their name attribute.

This example shows pretty evidently how URL->URI traslation is not such  
an automatic and easy thing to describe and to design.

Also shows that using URI as URLs is not transparent as well and  
requires some implicit contract.


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