[Haskell-cafe] Re: [Haskell] page renaming on the Haskell Wiki

Graham Klyne GK at ninebynine.org
Wed Feb 22 04:57:39 EST 2006


[Switching to haskell-cafe]

[1] http://www.mail-archive.com/haskell@haskell.org/msg18352.html
[2] http://www.mail-archive.com/haskell@haskell.org/msg18356.html
[3] http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI

Wolfgang Jeltsch wrote (in [2]):
> On the other hand, I think that the above W3C article is far too extreme.  It
> tells you that stability is the most important thing concerning URIs.

I will pursue this a little further, because I think that getting the web
presence right is very important to maintaining an online community.  It may be
that we must agree to disagree, but based on my experience of using the web,
stability of URIs *is* the most important thing (after content, of course).

I have been using the W3C web site now for many years, and the inconsistencies
you mention have never been a problem for me -- indeed, I hadn't even noticed
them until you mentioned them.

Why is this?  I hypothesize that it is because, when the Web is used
effectively, it is really quite rare to enter a URI manually.  Instead, one uses
various index pages, RSS feeds, search tools and so on to find a URI, and then
simply click on it.  Many URIs are never seen by human eye, but placed behind
descriptive links.  W3C themselves use URIs very intensively in transient
communications, and their mailing system is set up to facilitate this (see their
x-archived-at mail headers).  A result of this is that the email archives,
together with the web site pages, form a tightly interlinked collection of
documents and comments that can be, and are, frequently cross-referenced rather
than reinvented.

But, for this to work, once a link has been placed in a document, feed, archive
or whatever, it is crucially important that it continues to work for as long as
the information it references is of interest to people.  Without this, all the
devices we use to find our way around the web simply fail -- not all at once,
but over time.  Even with every intent to maintain stability, this happens, but
if you allow that URI stability is somehow less important than other
conveniences, then I think all hope is lost for information continuing to be

As for the difficulty of designing a consistent URI naming scheme for all time,
the W3C position explicitly recognizes this, and this is why they recommend
incorporating dates near the the root of the URI path.  That way, fashions can
change without requiring that pages published using older conventions be removed.

How to do this in a wiki, I'm not sure, though I don't take that to mean we
shouldn't try.  I think the mediawiki mechanism you mention is reasonable if not
ideal, though this would clearly be overwhelmed if page-renaming were to become
the norm.  There are, as you indicate, other technical concerns.  But I still
think they are more easily solved that the problems that arise by failing to
maintain URI stability.

Best regards,


Graham Klyne
For email:

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