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The Yin and Yang of Actions and Events

Today, in our telcon we invented something. It is not often that we can claim that; but today we did.

There are, it sometimes seems, people who think that everything is an event. There are others (including a lot of philosophers) who think everything is an action. (Well, everything that people are involved with anyway.)

Well, they are wrong.

In human communication, the only way of getting someone to understand something you want them to is by saying something to them: by performing one or more speech actions. In the SOA we interpret this by committing to a view that participants in a service interaction denote the actions to be performed by exchanging messages. I.e., an appropriately formatted message that is effectively communicated between participants counts as an effort to perform an action.

But, not all messages encode actions. Some encode events. For us, an event can be defined as something that happened that someone has an interest in. We can encode a description of an event as a message, in exactly the same way that an action can be so encoded.

So, what is the relationship between events and actions?

If you look at the message that denotes the action, you can call it an event (the event is the performing of the action). On the other hand, traditional speech act theory would encode an event as a speech action: an inform of the change.

Personally, I do not like the smushing together of events and actions in this way: each is a first class idea, not to be subordinated by the other. But they do seem to be very closely connected; almost two sides of a coin -- a yin to a yang.

So, we now have two fundamental 'things' being communicated: actions and events. Incidentally, an event can be used to communicate a real world effect - one of the cornerstones of the SOA Reference Model. And that is our invention for today.

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