[tdwg-guid] LSID metadata persistence (or lack thereof)

Dave Vieglais vieglais at ku.edu
Fri Jul 13 20:26:42 CEST 2007

Hi Chuck,
I absolutely have to disagree.  Consider that the xml document:


can also be represented:

<a />


with identical content, yet the corresponding byte streams are quite  

What happens say, if you are generating your xml output from a  
database using some DOM library for example, and during an update to  
your software (perhaps in a library over which you have no control)  
there is a subtle change in the generation of XML that remains  
consistent for the content but uses one of the alternate  
representations above?  Not only do you violate the "unchanged byte  
stream" rule when the corresponding LSID is resolved, but downstream  
consumers that rely on that rule may be broken yet there is no change  
in the information content.

It seems more practical, manageable, and achievable to indicate that  
the canonical form remains constant.

Dave V.

On Jul 14, 2007, at 06:03, Chuck Miller wrote:

> Dave,
> What you say is true.  But, I think we already have too many  
> variations,
> subtleties, and reinterpretations which are endlessly debated.
> The LSID standard would be simple, clear and consistent if we used the
> identical-byte-stream definition.  The LSID would uniquely tag a
> persistent byte stream. A persistent byte stream is always the same
> thing without any further explanation or clarification.
> The provider of an LSID byte-stream would need to commit to keeping  
> that
> byte-stream persistent and not represent it in multiple ways, even
> though technically they could.  If they can't commit to that, then it
> can't be an LSID byte-stream.
> And in the name of simplicity and clarity, if they had to provide
> different byte-stream representations then they would have to assign a
> different LSID to each and use "SameAs" metadata.
> Chuck
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dave Vieglais [mailto:vieglais at ku.edu]
> Sent: Friday, July 13, 2007 12:42 PM
> To: Chuck Miller
> Cc: Ricardo Pereira; tdwg-guid at lists.tdwg.org
> Subject: Re: [tdwg-guid] LSID metadata persistence (or lack thereof)
> Hi Ricardo, Chuck,
> Asserting that the byte stream returned as data associated with an
> LSID should never change is perhaps a bit confusing from a
> programmatic view.  There are for example many ways to represent data
> in xml that are identical from an information content point of view,
> but the byte streams could be very different.
> Perhaps it might be better to state something like "the canonical
> representation of the data associated with an LSID must not change",
> or something to that effect?
> Dave V.
> On Jul 14, 2007, at 05:29, Chuck Miller wrote:
>> Ricardo,
>> Looking at this definition: "Persistence of LSID Data: The data
>> associated with an LSID (i.e, the byte stream returned by the LSID
>> getData call) must never change"
>> Perhaps this is a more straightforward way to conceive LSIDs.  The
>> LSID goes with a byte stream.  It's that byte stream that must stay
>> the same.  So, if there is a byte stream associated with a
>> collection that needs to stay the same, then whatever that byte
>> stream happens to be is the data that gets an LSID assigned to it.
>> That sure seems a clearer definition of what is data and what is
>> metadata, rather than the issue of primary object and all that.
>> So we can create a new definition in the context of LSIDs: Data is
>> a byte stream that is persistent, never changes and can have an
>> LSID.  Metadata is a byte stream is non-persistent, might change
>> and is only associated with an LSID.
>> The institution who assigns an LSID can make their own decision
>> about whether the byte stream being provided is persistent or non-
>> persistent.  By assigning an LSID to any byte stream, whatever it
>> is, the institution is declaring it to be data and persistent.
>> So, in the example given of an observation record with a
>> determination that needs to remain fixed and unchanged, by
>> assigning an LSID to that observation+determination it would be
>> "declared to be data" and unchangeable.  A different determination
>> would then be different data with a different LSID.  That would
>> provide a solution for those who want to employ it.  Others could
>> choose not to use it.
>> Chuck
>> From: tdwg-guid-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-guid-
>> bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Ricardo Pereira
>> Sent: Friday, July 13, 2007 9:47 AM
>> To: tdwg-guid at lists.tdwg.org
>> Subject: [tdwg-guid] LSID metadata persistence (or lack thereof)
>>     Hi there folks,
>>     As Chuck mentioned a few weeks ago, we do have a few
>> outstanding issues to address regarding LSIDs. I would like to
>> discuss those one by one, in an orderly manner, and reach consensus
>> as much as we can. Then we can sum them up in a TDWG standard,
>> possibly by or shortly after the Bratislava conference.
>>     The first issue I would like to discuss is LSID metadata
>> persistence. First, let me remind you of a corollary established by
>> the LSID specification:
>>             Corollary 1: LSIDs are not guaranteed to be resolvable
>> indefinitely.
>>     In other words, there is no guarantee that one will always be
>> able to retrieve the data associated with an LSID as the authority
>> may choose (or be forced) not  to resolve an LSID anymore.
>>     Second, let me distinguish this kind of persistence I'm talking
>> about from other two related concepts (which we'll not discuss in
>> this thread):
>>         1) Persistence of Assignment: Once assigned to an object,
>> an LSID is indefinitely associated with it. The same LSID cannot be
>> assigned to another object. Ever! The LSID may not be resolvable
>> anymore, but it cannot be assigned to another object. This is
>> established by the LSID specification.
>>         2) Persistence of LSID Data: The data associated with an
>> LSID (i.e, the byte stream returned by the LSID getData call) must
>> never change. Although the LSID may not be resolvable anymore
>> (according to corollary 1), the data associated with an LSID must
>> never ever change. That's defined by the LSID spec, too.
>>     What I want to discuss here is the persistence of LSID metadata
>> (what is returned by the getMetadata call) or the lack thereof.
>>     A use case associated with metadata persistence is when someone
>> collects observation records (and implicitly, their determinations)
>> and runs an experiment (a model or simulation) with it. This person
>> may want to record the identifiers of the points used so that
>> someone using the results of that experiment may refer back to the
>> primary data, to validate or repeat it the experiment.
>>     The bad news is that LSID identification scheme (or any other
>> GUID that I know of) was not designed to guarantee metadata
>> persistence, and thus it cannot implement the use case above by
>> itself. To implement that use case, the specification would have to
>> guarantee that the metadata (which we are using here as data) is
>> immutable. But it doesn't.
>>     Most of us wish that metadata was persistent, but it isn't.
>> Many things can change in the metadata: a new determination, a
>> mispeling that is corrected, many things. We just cannot guarantee
>> that the metadata will look like it was sometime ago.
>>     We then reach the following conclusion.
>>             Corollary 2: LSIDs metadata is not immutable nor
>> persistent.
>>     The consequence of this corollary is that, if you need to refer
>> back to a piece of information (metadata) associated with an LSID,
>> exactly as it was when you got it, you must make a copy of it, or
>> arrange that someone else make that copy for you.
>>     In other words, a client cannot assume that the metadata
>> associated with an LSID today will be the same tomorrow. If the
>> client does assume that, it may be relying on a false assumption
>> and its output may be flawed.
>>     If we are not happy with that conclusion, we may develop an
>> additional component in our architecture, an archive of some sort,
>> to handle (meta)data persistence. That is exactly what the STD-DOI
>> project (http://www.std-doi.de/) and SEEK (http://
>> seek.ecoinformatics.org) have done to some extent.
>>     While we cannot guarantee that LSID metadata is persistent nor
>> immutable, we can definitely document how the metadata have changed
>> through metadata versioning. That's the topic of the next thread.
>> We will move on to discuss metadata versioning as soon as we are
>> done with metadata persistence.
>>     Cheers,
>> Ricardo
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