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Re: [ontolog] UBL in the Press

To: Ontolog Forum <ontolog@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Kurt Conrad <conrad@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 12:29:11 -0800
Message-id: <>
At 2003-01-20 03:48 -0500, William E. McCarthy wrote:
>In my mind, an ontologically-oriented team
>would feel incomplete if they had to walk away knowing
>that a significant component of this knowledge was left
>unspecified in their efforts (for example, "where
>approximately are we in this deal?").  Much of it was
>certainly embedded in the paper documents of years past,
>but simply stopping there would be (again in my mind) an
>incomplete effort no matter how exhaustive their levels of
>effort were at unearthing document-bound knowledge.    (01)

In light of the top-down/bottom-up/mixed models previously discussed, 
I'm not entirely convinced that there is any one "right" or "best" 
approach.    (02)

Given that most of these ontological efforts (whether or not they are 
recognized as such) take place in a business setting, every attempt 
at specification will have to balance short-term needs, long-term 
opportunities, and cost.  The optimal balancing point for these 
potentially competing interests not only varies with business context 
but across time.    (03)

Likewise, the optimal development method can be expected to vary 
across applications.  The property of being "incomplete" is often the 
driver of business value, especially for behaviors dependent on 
event-specific knowledge.    (04)

It's really a question of sufficiency, not completeness.  Sometimes, 
we need top-down alignment around intent (and can fill in the 
low-level details).  Sometimes, we need to align around the low-level 
communication protocols and will provide our own context.  Sometimes, 
both need to be specified.    (05)

But Bill raises an important and timely issue for this group and its 
informal relationship to the UBL effort.  Namely: How the UBL effort 
could apply ontological engineering principles to improve their 
effectiveness as a committee and the quality of their work product.    (06)

Toward this end, let me pass on my understanding that the UBL effort 
was launched in response to the top-down (process modeling-based) 
approach of the ebXML initiative.  It was not intended to undermine 
or deny the value of top-down approaches for standardizing business 
documents.    (07)

At the same time, top-down approaches can be cumbersome and quite 
time-consuming.  In the case of a core set of business documents 
(purchase orders, invoices, etc.), the basic structural models for 
these documents have already been agreed to, by 
convention.  Formalizing these conventions using XML schema is 
expected to  reduce the cost, time, and effort necessary to transmit 
these documents electronically.  In this scenario, the processing 
models remain largely outside of the scope of the formalization 
process, just as the do today.    (08)

Likewise, industry-specific requirements and other customizations are 
expected to be handled through an extension mechanism.  UBL, itself, 
is expected to represent an 80% solution.    (09)

Even accepting Gruber's definition, how do we scope 
"conceptualization"?  Does it have to include some (or all) of the 
potential behavioral implications, or can it be limited to a specific 
class of knowledge artifact?    (010)

Do we believe that specifying/formalizing an artifact independent of 
process is inherently problematic?  If so, is this expected to drive 
critical problems that preempt utility or merely that their would be 
comparative advantages to specifying a more complete conceptualization?    (011)

How do you know if you need more "top-down" or "bottom-up"?  Does it 
matter whether you do the "top-down" or "bottom-up" first?    (012)

Perhaps even more fundamentally, are we all working with the same 
definitions of top-down, bottom-up, and mixed?    (013)

Speaking from my personal experience with the UBL committee, I've 
seen them struggle with the optimal balance between a focus on the 
structural relationships and the various behavioral contexts 
(analysis, design, and eventual utilization).  The need to focus more 
robustly on the utilization scenarios will become even more important 
in the future, as the team starts to deal with the customization 
model (under the rubric of "Context Methodology").    (014)

/s/ kwc 2003.01.21 12:28    (015)

Kurt Conrad
2994 Salem Dr.                     408-247-0454
Santa Clara, CA 95051-5502         408-247-0457 (data/fax)
http://www.SagebrushGroup.com      mailto:conrad@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (016)

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An archive of the [ontolog] forum can be found
at http://ontolog.cim3.org/forums/ontolog    (017)
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