[tdwg-guid] First step in implementing LSIDs

Dave Vieglais vieglais at ku.edu
Wed Jun 6 09:21:32 CEST 2007

This discussion has been very interesting reading, and though I agree  
with Donald's comments, I find myself coming to a different  
conclusion, leaning towards HTTP URIs as a preferable scheme.  The  
reasons are simple - HTTP has been around for a long time, it is  
widely implemented, and mechanisms for implementing robust services  
with that protocol are pretty well sorted out - and really there is  
nothing to stop implementation of the same functionality exhibited by  
LSIDs using HTTP.  As Rod has pointed out, http is widely used for  
referencing entities within a semantic web type of context, and it  
seems foolish to ignore the momentum in those technologies as they  
provide a great deal of the desired functionality for  
interoperability and interchange of our data.  As a result my  
preference is towards the use of http, primarily because my intents  
are to integrate data from a much broader community.  In the end  
though, it doesn't really matter which scheme is adopted by TDWG - we  
will build http resolvers regardless, since they will be necessary  
for reasons of convenience in order to utilize LSIDs in all but  
specific, custom built applications.

However, regardless of the scheme used to implement the GUIDs used by  
this community, it is critical that the identifiers are persistent  
and useful beyond the lives of whatever services are constructed to  
resolve them.  This implies some provenance information may need to  
be captured, and I would argue that the use of DNS alone for handling  
server changes as utilized by LSIDs may be insufficient.  The only  
benefit provided by DNS in this context is that it is acting as a  
single source of authority for directing how to locate something (in  
this case an ip address).  What I suspect is really required is a  
more robust, and richer mechanism for discovering and recording  
provenance.  The ideal would be a large, replicated, and distributed  
data store with a single service point which provided people and  
systems with a one-stop shop for discovering provenance for a GUID.   
Then if an particular GUID could not be directly resolved, the global  
provenance store could be consulted and the resulting information  
providing a pointer (or perhaps a series of pointers) indicating how  
the guid can now be resolved.

By creating such provenance records and persisting them with as much  
care as the data, it seems that a system with stability beyond the  
vagaries of the internet could reasonably be constructed.

   Dave V.

On Jun 6, 2007, at 00:46, Donald Hobern wrote:

> Yesterday was a vacation here in Denmark - otherwise I'd have  
> responded a little earlier, but I'm glad to see all the comments  
> from others.  I thoroughly agree with Kevin, Jason, Rich and Anna.   
> No one here believes that any particular solution is going to be  
> perfect.  Our biggest need is consensus and the readiness to get  
> going with a workable solution.
> I do recognise the strength of Rod's arguments.  Indeed, if I were  
> building some system for integrating data using semantic web  
> technologies, and my only concern was ensuring the efficiency of  
> synchronous connections now, I am sure I would adopt HTTP URIs for  
> the purpose.  However I remain convinced (as I've stated before)  
> that the needs of this community do subtly shift the balance in  
> another direction.  We are interested in maintaining long-term  
> connections between our objects and have a perspective which goes  
> back hundreds of years.  This at least should give us pause over  
> whether we want our specimens to be referenced using identifiers so  
> firmly tied to the Internet of today.  More importantly, one of the  
> key drivers right at the beginning of TDWG's consideration of GUIDs  
> was that the community had plenty of experience of URL rot and  
> didn't want to rely on everyone maintaining stable virtual  
> directories on their web servers to preserve the integrity of  
> object identifiers.
> Both LSIDs and HTTP URIs could be made to work for us.  Both are  
> totally reliant on good practice on the part of data owners.   
> Personally I believe our chances of getting the community to  
> consider, define and apply such practices are enhanced by the  
> identifier technology being something a little more different and  
> distinct than just a "special URL".
> Thanks,
> Donald
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Donald Hobern (dhobern at gbif.org)
> Deputy Director for Informatics
> Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat
> Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
> Tel: +45-35321483   Mobile: +45-28751483   Fax: +45-35321480
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> On Jun 6, 2007, at 12:51 AM, Kevin Richards wrote:
>> I agree with Jason.  It is not the GUID that is the cause of all  
>> the problems here - THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH LSIDS - we just  
>> need to move on and start using them in our own context  (or any  
>> other suitable GUID - LSIDs are only the recommended GUID, NOT the  
>> only premissable GUID).
>> If it all falls to pieces later on we could just do a search and  
>> replace to change all our GUIDs to some other scheme (to quote  
>> Bob, just serious).
>> I agree, it is the RDF/metadata/ontologies that are the key to  
>> getting things working well.
>> Kevin
>>>>> "Jason Best" <jbest at brit.org> 06/06/07 8:39 AM >>>
>> Rod,
>> I've only had a chance to quickly skim the documents you  
>> reference, but it seems to me that the alternatives to LSIDs don't  
>> necessarily make the issues with which we are wrestling go away.  
>> We still need to decide WHAT a URI references - is it the  
>> metadata, the physical object etc? URIs don't explicitly require  
>> persistance, while LSIDs do so I see that as a positive for  
>> adopting a standard GUID that is explicit in that regard. I think  
>> the TDWG effort to spec an HTTP proxy for LSIDs makes it clear  
>> that the technical hurdles of implementing an LSID resolver (SVR  
>> records, new protocol, client limitations etc) are a bit  
>> cumbersome, but I don't think the underlying concept is fatally  
>> flawed. In reading these discussions, I'm starting to believe/ 
>> understand that RDF may hold the key, regardless of the GUID that  
>> is implemented. Now I have to go read up more on RDF to see if my  
>> new-found belief has merit! ;)
>> Jason
>> ________________________________
>> From: Roderic Page [mailto:r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk]
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 2:10 PM
>> To: Chuck Miller
>> Cc: Bob Morris; Kevin Richards; tdwg-guid at lists.tdwg.org;  
>> WEITZMAN at si.edu; Jason Best
>> Subject: Re: [tdwg-guid] First step in implementing LSIDs?[Scanned]
>> Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and consider the elephant in  
>> the room -- LSIDs might not be what we want. Markus Döring sent  
>> some nice references to the list in April, which I've repeated  
>> below, there is also http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MIS.2006.62 .
>> I think the LSID debate is throwing up issues which have been  
>> addressed elsewhere (e.g., identifiers for physical things versus  
>> digital records), and some would argue have been solved to at  
>> least some people's satisfaction.
>> LSIDs got us thinking about RDF, which is great. But otherwise I  
>> think they are making things more complicated than they need to  
>> be. I think this community is running a grave risk of committing  
>> to a technology that nobody else takes that seriously (hell, even  
>> the http://lsid.sourceforge.net/ web site is broken).
>> The references posted by Markus Döring  were:
>> (1) http://www.dfki.uni-kl.de/dfkidok/publications/TM/07/01/ 
>> tm-07-01.pdf
>> "Cool URIs for the Semantic Web" by Leo Sauermann DFKI GmbH,  
>> Richard Cyganiak Freie Universität Berlin (D2R author), Max Völkel  
>> FZI Karlsruhe
>> The authors of this document come from the semantic web community  
>> and discuss what kind of URIs should be used for RDF resources.
>> (2) http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/URNsAndRegistries-50
>> This one here is written by the W3C and addresses the questions  
>> "When should URNs or URIs with novel URI schemes be used to name  
>> information resources for the Web?" The answers given are "Rarely  
>> if ever" and "Probably not". Common arguments in favor of such  
>> novel naming schemas are examined, and their properties compared  
>> with those of the existing http: URI scheme.
>> Regards
>> Rod
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