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

I have to agree completely with Mr. Adcock on this.  There has been way too 
much confusion about "code" vs. "identifier", and getting back to the 
entomological roots seems a long time overdue.  When we carry this down to 
syntax, it gets more complicated since there is a natural tendency to want 
to enumerate for validation purposes small sets of things that we have been 
considering "codes", which Mike points out are actually 
"identifiers".  Let's leave enumeration and validation out of the picture 
and just focus on the semantics.

At 10:02 AM 4/30/02 +0100, Michael Adcock wrote:
>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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Michael C. Rawlins, Rawlins EC Consulting

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