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Subject: Re: [ubl-comment] UBL comments on ebXML Core Components TechnicalSpecification v1.8


A similar discussion about the distinction between 'code' and
'identfier' has been, and maybe still is, rattling around the ebTWG CCSD

As I commented to their list server, I would like to get my mind clear
on this thread of discussion, partly for personal clarity, but also so
that I can incorporate the right kind of wording in the UN/CEFACT T8
(Harmonisation) Vocabulary which I have acquired as a responsibility.  

Based on the points people have made, it seems there is a very subtle
but distinct difference between 'code' and 'identifier'. In that case, I
suggest that the Vocabulary needs the following two definitions:-

Code: a system of words, figures or symbols used to (exactly) represent

(This definition comes direct from the Oxford English Dictionary. I
have omitted the following phrase 'especially for the purposes of
secrecy' which came after the word 'others'. The word 'exactly' is an

Identifier: that which establishes the identity of (something).

(This definition is derived from the definition of 'identity' in the
Oxford English Dictionary (OED).)

While these come from the OED, we still need to build our Vocabulary
with carefully considered single unambiguous definitions. By itself, the
OED introduces possible ambiguity. For example, for 'code', it goes on
to give another definition as 'assign a code for the purposes of
identification'. This stresses how important our Vocabulary is, as the
place where we say exactly what we mean by each word, and remove any
possible ambiguity!

My interpretation of the discussion is that the word 'code' is used
strictly to mean a short form representing exactly a longer set of
words, whereas the word 'identifier' is used to identify some thing (and
is not an exact representation of that thing). 

Therefore, if we adopt this strictly, those things we have previously
known as codes, such as Country Code, Currency Code, Product Code are
identifiers, since they identify a Country, a Currency, a Product.
Otherwise, according to the outcome of discussions, the Country Code
would be a representation of a country!

[Now, I guess someone will try to argue that "the Country Code is an
exact representation of the name of a country". That idea should be shot
down in flames. What is a name? It's an identifier. So "the Country Code
is an exact representation of an identifier of a country"! Therefore
Country Identifier is the CORRECT expression according to our

This of course gives us another set of synonyms between the 'formalised
name' and terms in common business usage. Realistically we are not going
to change familiar business terms. I believe that the Library of
Business Information Entities needs to register business-familiar-terms
as synonyms of the formalised name. One would therefore deliberately
record, for example, that the business term 'account number' is a
synonym of 'account identifier'. 

And in the area of 'product identifier', where someone brought up the
topic of identifying a product by its characteristics, then I believe
the formalised naming should give us at least two names to distinguish
'product identifier' from 'product characteristic identifier'.

My main interest is to get the right, and sufficiently clear,
definition of 'code' and 'identifier'. Any input on that is welcome. So
far all I have heard is the discussion going around in never-decreasing


Mike Adcock
Standards & Security Unit
APACS - Association for Payment Clearing Services
Mercury House, Triton Court
14 Finsbury Square
London EC2A 1LQ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7711 6318
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7711 6299
e-mail: michael.adcock@apacs.org.uk

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