Fun with proof by analogy, was Re: Mojibake on my Web pages

Date: Thu Sep 25 2003 - 05:58:30 EDT

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    > Suppose you made a document and sent it to me via conventional post.
    > The last agent handling the document would be the mail carrier.
    > Does the mail carrier have the right to open the mailing and
    > replace your document with garbage?

    No, however if I receive a letter in the post written in German I'm going to ask someone to translate it rather than try to cope with a language (c.f. encoding) I don't understand.

    Besides what is happening here isn't the server replacing the document with garbage, it's the server mis-identifying what the document is - analogous either to our hypothetical translater having a break-down, insisting that all of our mail was german and handing us non-sequitors as "translations", or with the postal service getting the delivery wrong (which is something that has certainly happened to my mail).

    > An analogy:
    > Author = Host
    > Document = Wine
    > Reader = Guest
    > Server = Cup
    > If the host pours a cup of wine for the guest, would we allow a
    > mere cup to adulterate our wine?

    The argument only holds as much as the analogies hold (both the analogy with snail mail and the one you actually refer to as an analogy). These analogies do hold in certain cases, and the case that started the thread is an example, but it does not hold in the general case. In other scenarios better analogies would be:

    Author = Scribe
    Document = Draft
    Reader = em, Reader
    Server = Editor.

    Or Author = scattered data sources of varying degrees of reliability - Server = researcher.

    In general, from the browser's perspective the server is the author (which may or may not be an accurate view of what goes on "behind the scenes"). Re-encoding, if done right, can be very useful in making web documents more widely accessible.

    Of course we'll soon be able to just rely on assuming that every step in the process can understand UTF-8 and UTF-16 :)

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