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Re: [ontolog-forum] Automatized databased generated Ontologies (and Tast

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2007 09:45:56 -0500
Message-id: <45F17324.60605@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Paola, Peter, Sergei, and Debbie,    (01)

To avoid multiple notes, I'll comment on this and the tasteful
tags thread in the same note.  First, let me make two comments
about earlier points that I agree are important:    (02)

In Paola's earlier note, I should have stated right up front
that I agree very strongly with the opening section, which is
a good statement of the goal of the conceptual schema work in
the database community since the 1970s, and I still think that
the approach is important, valuable, and better focused than
the current work on the Semantic Web:    (03)

PDM> I also think that building an ontology 'bottom up', from
 > the logical and relational schema abstracting the representation
 > of conceptual schema, is an interesting methodological option.
 > In a way, it's a kind of reverse engineering approach, that would
 > produce an exact ontological representation of an existing 'system'.
 > We often use this technique implicitly, and we call it 'mapping'
 > (knowledge, data, metadata, schema mapping).
 > However, in order to build a relational schema we need a conceptual
 > schema first, and some form of ontology needs to support the
 > conceptual schema development    (04)

Yes.  In an earlier note I said, partly seriously, that if I had
known in 1983 what I know now, I would not have used the word
"ontology".  The work on the conceptual schema was better focused
toward a valuable methodology for important applications.    (05)

I won't deny that there are many good research publications that use
the word "ontology", but there is no coherent focus.  I think that
the main reason why the conceptual schema work was, on average, of
higher quality is that it was better focused on actual problems.    (06)

In my response to Peter's note, I can't disagree with the idea that
it's important to be clear about one's own goals and intentions.
But I wanted to emphasize that for the process of coining new words
or tags, there is no way to delimit the ultimate use of those tags.    (07)

For example, the <p> tag of HTML is based on the SGML <p> tag,
which was one of the first GML tags to be defined back in 1969.
That was the same year in which Arpanet was launched, and nobody
imagined that the early beginnings of GML and Arpanet would become
merged as HTML and the Internet to form the basis of the WWW.    (08)

Some further comments:    (09)

PDM> The way I see it, people have different problems, okay - but
 > all the problems, or at least many of them derive from the
 > inability to define meaningfully ( exhaustively, sufficiently,
 > comprehensively) the reality that they need to confront. Thus
 > the reality appears impenetrable and elusive, leaving us with
 > more questions than answers each time (this is when I go for
 > a walk and you dont see me for a while)    (010)

I agree.  That is why I think that the conceptual schema effort,
although less grand in terminology and scale than the ontology
work, was better focused and more likely to do something useful.    (011)

PFB> The problem comes obviously when you attribute or imply
 > different meaning for the same term in different contexts.
 > So, the distinction IS useful....
 > Hence my surprise and confusion of your summary dismissal that
 > the distinctions are neither possible or useful.    (012)

I'm sorry for sounding too dismissive, but I wanted to dismiss
one point while emphasizing another:  for the immediate act of
coining a word or tag to fill an immediate need, as in ordinary
language or in folksonomies, that distinction is not useful.
But for the task of writing definitions for the OED or for
an ontology or conceptual schema, it's very important.    (013)

SN> The original meanings of words are anything but sacred.
 > Semantic shift is an ongoing diachronic linguistic phenomenon
 > that is not about to stop.    (014)

I strongly agree.  Sergei's example of "bureau" illustrates
the point very nicely.  Nobody who used that term for furniture
could have imagined what the extensions to "travel bureau" or
"bureaucratic" could possibly mean.    (015)

PDM> I do believe that original meanings of words are actually
 > rather sacred, and should be preserved.    (016)

I also agree that knowing the etymology is important, and I
find the etymologies in dictionaries more enlightening than
many of the definitions (as in the example of "bureau").    (017)

PD>M The burden of creating semantic 'order' when using tags
 > is not placed upon the creator of such association, who
 > is not bound to follow any logical rule, but upon the user
 > of the tag.    (018)

I wouldn't put any "burden" on either the creator or the user.
That is the task is for a lexicographer or the ontologist who
is trying discover some order in the apparent chaos (or as I
said in an earlier paper -- "to crystallize theories out of
the knowledge soup").    (019)

Or to go further, I would not even burden the lexicographer
-- the "harmless drudge", as Samuel Johnson said.  Instead,
I believe that we need much better automated or semi-automated
tools for extracting or crystallizing those definitions.    (020)

DM> Do you see authorized editors as terminology curators then -
 > selecting and establishing purer, less controversial language
 > able to run smoothly in overviews? If so, this is not the same
 > work or documentation problem as battling out definitions on
 > the front lines.    (021)

In the front lines, there is no time for definitions.  People
coin new words and tags on the spot.  If other people like
them, they become widely used.  For example, Johnson's phrase
"harmless drudge" has 12,200 hits on Google.    (022)

That is the way language grows.  To avoid clutter, terminology
is pruned by every new generation.  Children pick up the words
they find useful and forget (or never learn) the words they
don't need.  The same is true of the tags in a folksonomy.    (023)

PDM> Other than controlled vocabularies and taxonomies, people
 > should be free to use and express all the tags that they
 > like imho, to enrich communication at all levels.    (024)

I agree.    (025)

John    (026)

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