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Re: [ontolog-forum] Quick take on where we stand in our discussions

To: "Steve Ray" <ray@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 12:46:04 -0600
Message-id: <p06230908c1e68e541b0c@[]>
>I would like to take this opportunity to share my perception of where things
>stand, and where we are headed, with respect to 
>the Ontology Summit 2007. We are
>clearly having a vigorous discussion - several in fact - so I feel it is
>important to clarify our objectives.    (01)

Thanks for this, very useful. A couple of questions:    (02)

>As originally stated, our principal objective is "to define and agree to a
>systematic means of categorizing the many kinds of things that are referred to
>as "an ontology."    (03)

Hmm. In my world, there aren't that many KINDS of 
thing called "an ontology". That is, there are 
many variations of detail, technical 
distinctions, etc., - those described by Leo - 
but clearly a single overarching family 
resemblance, pretty well captured by Tom Gruber's 
original definition; and Tom surely deserves to 
be given some authority over the meaning of the 
terminology, since he first used it in this sense 
and defined it; and it has been used in pretty 
much this sense ever since, and now defines a 
broad research field which is starting to mature 
(after perhaps 30 years, since the technical work 
actually predates Gruber's valiant effort at 
giving it a name and a soul)    (04)

So, I wonder quite what the point is of setting 
out to (re?)define a term which already has a 
fairly clear technical meaning?  Does this 
represent an effort to wrest control of the 
terminology from the current practitioners of the 
art? Or does it reflect a basic ignorance of the 
state of the field? Or is it an implicit claim 
that the field has, or should, change or broaden 
itself to accommodate new goals? If the latter, I 
think focusing on those goals  (as Paola did in 
her recent posting) is the first order of 
business.    (05)

But aside from this wondering: surely a good 
start, if someone feels that the current 
definition is inadequate by virtue of being too 
restricted, would be to cite some examples of 
actual things, or projects, or dreams, which they 
feel should be deserving of the name "ontology" 
but which are not covered by the accepted 
definitions. (I am late to this discussion, so if 
this has been done then please someone point me 
at the results, thanks.)    (06)

>This specific goal has been addressed in a number of mailings.
>As the conversation develops, you will be able to see how it is shaping up by
>visiting the wiki page at:
>At the same time, we have been having an intense discussion surrounding the
>definition of "ontology".    (07)

I have trouble distinguishing this goal from the first one, I have to confess.    (08)

>While this is not the main goal of the summit, one can
>see how having a solid definition, or set of definitions, could be useful for
>the primary goal. The definition discussion is being summarized at:
>This is all just getting started. Each of these 
>branches of the conversation are
>linked to, at the bottom of the main Ontology Summit 2007 page at:
>The idea is that each of these summaries will be 
>administered by a volunteer, so
>that the rest of us can visit that page without necessarily wading through
>dozens of emails per day, especially if we are mainly interested in just one
>aspect or another. We fully expect the number of branches to increase.
>I say all this in the hope that none of you feels alienated by any of the
>threads of email.    (09)

Unfortunately I feel alienated by the Wiki forum, 
perhaps from a lifetime spent in a culture in 
which an author's words are sacrosanct, and to 
modify them (even to the extent of misquoting 
them) would be counted as a kind of sin. I find 
it VERY hard to actually ALTER a Wiki entry, 
rather than comment on it. It feels like a 
violation, or like painting graffiti on a public 
building. I am sure there is a cultural divide 
here that may correspond to a generational gap, 
but may be more pervasive than enthusiastic 
Wikifiers (what is the the term for one who 
writes into a Wiki?) realize.    (010)

>Please keep checking in with the wiki pages at the above links
>if you would like less of a deluge of 
>information and opinions. Ultimately, once
>our collective thoughts coalesce, attention will be directed toward the joint
>statemtnt (the communique), which will be taking shape at:
>My personal hope is that we end up with some sort of structure that is very
>simple and accessible at first encounter, such that a lay person can easily
>grasp the idea. The curious observer might then look "under the hood" to
>discover a richer structure that better captures the multiple dimensions that
>differentiate the many things claiming to be an 
>ontology of sorts. Part of that
>richer structure might well invoke some of the definitions of ontology, or of
>formality that are under debate right now.
>Finally, if you feel that your expectations are 
>not being met, please do let the
>community know, and we will continue to try to enable a productive experience
>for us all.    (011)

One problem I have is that the Wiki seems to no 
longer recognize my password, but refuses to let 
me alter it; so I cannot log in. I have no idea 
how to fix this.    (012)

Pat Hayes    (013)

>- Steve Ray
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