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Re: [ontolog-forum] UDEF?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 16:05:15 -0500
Message-id: <45DB628B.4010804@xxxxxxxx>
Rex Brooks wrote:
> To the extent that [UDEF] can be cited and used in a limited framework, 
> i.e. it is not necessary to accept it as the be-all definition of 
> things, we have already accepted it for use in emergency management 
> as one of many possible data element specifications. Where it fits 
> well, I suspect it will be used, where it doesn't, it won't.    (01)

I suspect that it was necessary to accept it for political reasons, and I 
would be interested to see the use cases in which UDEF "fits well".    (02)

Technically, UDEF is an ad hoc framework of concepts that doesn't seem to have 
any guiding principles.  It seems to be taken from the Family Feud approach -- 
things found in EDI standards.  We have been unable to find any useable axiom 
set for characterizing or discriminating UDEF categories and relationships. 
Its definitions do not, in general, identify the characterizing properties. 
Two trained UDEF cataloguers will typically make different decisions about the 
"semantic path" through the UDEF framework that identifies a given concept, 
unless they both see the concept in the same message context.  In UDEF, a 
concept is named by where you found it, not by its innate properties.  The 
UDEF approach guarantees that if I get to Podunk by bicycle and you get there 
by train, we will give the town two different unique names.    (03)

There is nothing wrong with a given community using any nomenclature scheme it 
likes, as long as the community lives on a remote island.  The problem arises 
when the community has to communicate with, or be integrated into, a larger 
community.  Then nomenclature schemes that use the ISO standard approach to 
definition -- reference to a more general concept and the set of 
distinguishing properties -- tend to be more readily integrated than others. 
And UDEF does not do that, while many other frameworks do.    (04)

The UDEF approach has been tried several times on various scales in the last 
20 years, at least twice with the same authors.  Anyone remember MilStd 2549? 
or the failed 1994 Committee Draft of ISO 11179 (that was completely replaced 
by the model now used)?  The approach has never been successful outside a 
small fiefdom.  It is a recipe for silo construction, because it depends on 
consistency of viewpoint and single-point control of nomenclature.    (05)

-Ed    (06)

P.S. Not-quite-disclaimer:
The opinions expressed above reflected at one time the consensus of NIST
(published to this forum, I believe), but they have not recently been reviewed.    (07)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (08)

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