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[ontolog-forum] possible clarification

To: paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 14:52:09 -0600
Message-id: <p0623090dc1e7e0db70c9@[]>
Paola, I have been trolling the internet to see if I can discover 
what recent work you were referring to in our recent email exchange. 
Your use of the phrase 'collaborative and modular ontologies' was 
very helpful. I hadn't realized from the wording used in your Wiki 
document that this was the subfield you were meaning to refer to.    (01)

Did you meant to refer to the kind of work illustrated for example by    (02)

[1] http://wonderweb.semanticweb.org/deliverables/documents/D21.pdf
[2] http://www.cs.iastate.edu/~honavar/Papers/BaoISWC2006.pdf    (03)

which presume that ontologies are packaged into 'remote' and 'local' 
parts, with an implicit scoping of concept names to the 'local' 
ontology? As the references above note, this whole approach is 
inspired by the success of such 'modular' thinking in the design of 
distributed software systems. If so, I have some comments.    (04)

I think this work is interesting, but I am not (yet) persuaded by the 
arguments given that it is either desirable or necessary, or that the 
analogy with software development is really accurate. I feel that the 
'open publication' of ontological content on the Web, and the use of 
a single global name space of IRIs to indicate concepts, is far more 
likely to lead to useful interoperation between ontologies and 
distributed composing of useful content, by concept re-use. This is 
the really important aspect of the semantic Web, IMO: it removes the 
need to think of 'modules' in this way. One simply re-uses concepts 
from other ontologies in ones ontology, importing if necessary, but 
not being obliged to (contrary to what Stuckenschmidt presumes in 
[1], by the way). I think that the whole idea of a 'local semantics' 
is in fact a strategic mistake, and misses an important sense in 
which the Semantic Web global-name-space and open-publication 
paradigms represent a quantum jump in potential ontological utility. 
The workshop description for the 2006 Athens meeting 
(http://www.cild.iastate.edu/events/womo.html ) says the central 
presumption clearly (my emphasis):    (05)

"... Because no single ontology can meet the needs of all users under 
every conceivable scenario, the ontology that meets the needs of a 
user or a group of users needs to be assembled from several 
independently developed ontology modules. Thus, in realistic 
applications, it is often desirable to logically integrate different 
ontologies, wholly or in part, into a single, reconciled ontology. 
Ideally, one would expect the individual ontologies to be developed 
as independently as possible from the rest, ..."    (06)

Notice the presumption, almost indeed stated as a requirement, that 
the ontologies be developed independently from one another. Why?? 
This is exactly how they should not be developed, IMO: and the 
Semantic Web paradigm, for the first time, gives us an opportunity to 
overcome this 'independence' assumption. The whole point of 
publishing ontologies is that other ontologies do not have to be 
developed in isolation, independently, but that one ontology can 
re-use concepts from other ontologies. Elsewhere we have referred to 
this as a 'distributed syndication' model of content development. (In 
some ways it is similar to the open source model of software 
development rather than the commercial managed models: by publishing 
"code" openly, you obviate the need to constantly define and 
re-define APIs.)    (07)

Anyway, If I at least have got your intended reference point right, 
we can disagree about something substantive rather than who is or is 
not in or out of a loop :-)    (08)

(I do however agree with a point often made in this literature, that 
simply importing an entire ontology is too coarse a tool, and we need 
better ways to refer to 'pieces' of a large ontology.)    (09)

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