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Challenge: URI patterns for identifiers

Short description: 

The Open Standards Board approved a recommendation to adopt HTTP v1.1 and URL as open standards in relation to the persistent resolvable identifiers challenge. This will be to use resolvable URIs to identify things and codes within data published by government. While in principle these identifiers can take a wide variety of forms, there is an advantage to both the producers and users of the data if these URIs can follow a standard predictable structure.  

The challenge now is to recommend a set of patterns for URIs that balances predictability with the flexibility needed to serve a wide range of needs.

User need: 

There are two main sets of users that we need to consider.  One is data owners who want to publish data using resolvable URIs as identifiers.  The other group is consumers of the data. 

Data owners: in most cases, the published form of data will be created by some automated process, where a predictable pattern for URIs is required to allow it to be automated and to ensure that the automation process is repeatable.  Furthermore, if there are clear guidelines on URI design, it saves time for data owners as they do not then have to reinvent URI design patterns for themselves.

Data users: while the detailed meaning of an identifier can only be determined by looking up the information about it, it is useful if URIs are 'guessable', both in the sense that you can get a rough idea of what it refers to just by looking at it, and in the sense that you can easily write some software to generate the series of URIs for some group of related resources. Some level of predictability reduces costs and reduces the lead in time (burden) with looking to use each new dataset.

Expected benefits: 

- reduced effort and reduced uncertainty for data owners who are publishing their data using URIs
- making the data easier to understand and access for data users, so increasing the use and hence increasing the benefits of the open data process

Functional needs: 

- the design of URI patterns must be clearly understandable for both new users and experts
- it needs to be flexible enough to meet the needs of different public sector organisations, some of which will have many different sets of data
- it should as far as possible be compatible with existing significant government linked data publishing efforts, so that current best practices do not become 'wrong'
- it should balance clarity of structure with flexibility and length of URIs
- it should cover the majority of cases but leave room for extensibility to deal with unusual cases

Status: 

Archived

Previous advice on this topic (Designing URI Sets for the UK Public Sector https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designing-uri-sets-for-the-uk-public-sector) has proved useful but overly constraining. Work sponsored by the UKGovLD working group has built on the prior advice and suggests a more flexible set of patterns which includes the notion of collections. The UKGovLD paper should be an input to this challenge.

[*] Disclosure: I am a member of this working group, though not directly engaged in this specific activity.

[Incorporated in a proposal]

If this standard is really needed, is should not be not overly prescriptive or used as an excuse for delaying compliance with the persistent resolvable identifiers standard which, now it is completed, needs to be implemented within reasonable timescales.

The CTO Council Designing URI Sets for the UK Public Sector document offers good guidance.  It includes reference to Cool URIs for the Semantic Web, which should be followed.

Most importantly, the URI pattern should not attempt to embody meaning.  Meaning is provided by the properties of a URI.

[Incorporated in a proposal]

This is not an approach. Only comments (in the next box). There doesn't seem to be a way to make comments otherwise.

[Incorporated in a proposal]

The Open Standards Board approved a recommendation in relation to the persistent resolvable identifiers challenge. This will be to use resolvable URIs to identify things and codes within data published by government.  

The proposal recommends an approach to structuring URIs through a set of patterns that balance predictability with the flexibility needed to serve a wide range of needs.  The proposal aims to create an approach that provides resolvability into data without reliance on any particular technology while allowing for the data publisher to automate the expression of their data through URIs.

 

[Incorporated in a standards profile]

The Open Standards Board approved a recommendation in relation to the persistent resolvable identifiers challenge. This will be to use resolvable URIs to identify things and codes within data published by government.  

The draft Standards Profile recommends an approach to structuring URIs through a set of patterns that balance predictability with the flexibility needed to serve a wide range of needs.  The draft Profile aims to create an approach that provides resolvability into data without reliance on any particular technology while allowing for the data publisher to automate the expression of their data through URIs.