[Tdwg-tag] Definition of terms: Resolving, Searching Querying

Roger Hyam roger at tdwg.org
Sun Feb 12 20:06:50 CET 2006

Hi All,

I'd like to start nailing things down a little by getting some terms 
defined. Recent side discussions at the GUID-1 meeting were around the 
differences between resolving, searching and querying. These terms are 
confused so I would like to propose some definitions that we could use 
going forward. The intent here is to make up something useful rather 
than work out what people have meant in the past by these terms.

   1. *Resolving.* This means to convert a pointer into a data object. 
      Examples would be to resolve an LSID and get back either data or
      metadata or resolve a url and get back a web page in html.
   2. *Searching.* This means to select a set of objects (or their
      proxies) on the basis of the values of their properties. The
      objects are  predefined (implicitly part of the call) and we are
      simply looking for them. An example would be finding pages on Google.
   3. *Querying.* This means to ask a question of a data source that
      returns objects that are defined as part of the call. An example
      would be an SQL query where the response object (tuples) are
      defined in the query.

Using only 'resolving' it would be possible for an agent to crawl around 
and data harvest (i.e. a web crawler). Using resolving and searching 
would make the crawler more efficient at gathering data for specific 
tasks. Querying allows arbitrary data retrieval.

At a single data source resolving should be easy to implement 
technically, searching slightly harder and querying 'non-trivial'.

Resolving is 'easy' to do in a distributed environment (e.g. just use 
DNS like LSID) and searching is harder but can be federated (many 
examples including Rod's work) or cached (GBIF, Google). Distributed 
querying is 'non-trivial' in the extreme though some GRID guys will 
probably solve it for us in the future.

Is everyone OK with these definitions? If no one objects then I'll add 
them to the Wiki and we can work with them.

Thanks for your thoughts,



 Roger Hyam
 Technical Architect
 Taxonomic Databases Working Group
 roger at tdwg.org
 +44 1578 722782

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