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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology-building vs Data Modelling (was Two ontolog

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 13:55:01 -0400
Message-id: <467969F5.1000507@xxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

you wrote:    (02)

> Ed,
> I certainly agree with that point:
>  > The highest price, and the one most often paid in languages
>  > like KIF, is that your model will fail to communicate your
>  > understanding to your target audience, because no one can
>  > easily "grok" the model as formalized.
> But the SemWebbers succeeded in making KIF look readable by
> inventing the most unreadable formats ever inflicted upon
> a significant number of users.    (03)

Amen!  For XML folk, the concept "human-readable" seems to mean "expressed in 
characters, most of which may be interpretable as words in some natural 
language", regardless of whether the words have any relationship to the 
conventional meanings or the structure represents any speech pattern that any 
human understands.    (04)

RDF is only "human-readable" with that definition.
And making OWL RDF-compatible makes OWL-as-written very hard for humans to 
grok, even though the concepts are quite comprehensible.    (05)

It is my personal view that RDF and its children were really intended only to 
be read by specialized software tools, and some of those tools might 
reasonably be 'ontology editors' that present the ontology in a form that is 
easier to work with.  And in the spirit of free enterprise, the toolsmiths are 
free to choose forms, styles and interfaces that are ergonomic and create 
market.  (That is what happened with HTML and XML Schema and ASN.1, for 
example.)  Further, in the environment in which OWL was developed, there were 
already many tools that supported most of the OWL concepts and already had 
their own established notations.  It would have been much harder to get a 
standard notation that sent every existing DL implementation back to the 
drawing board for ontology editing -- they had enough trouble 
incorporating/fixing the missing/broken reasoning features.    (06)

But creating a plethora of proprietary human-readable representations has a 
major drawback on the "education and training" front:  No standard 
ergonomically human-readable representation means *no standard basis for books 
and courses*.  You don't want to teach children to model in RDF/OWL with 
pointy brackets and absurd designators; you want to teach them to model in 
something like CGIF or ORM, which they can understand, and for which everyone 
agrees on the notation and its meaning.  But we need a (de facto) standard 
ergonomic notation in which there is a well-defined standard 1-to-1 mapping to 
the standard language concepts and their XML exchange representation.    (07)

The Protege representation is fine as far as it goes, but it is not (quite) 
1-to-1 with OWL/DL and it is at best the leading candidate for de facto 
standard.  Conversely, the OMG representation of OWL as a specialization of 
UML modeling is accidentally widely implemented by UML tools that have no 
concept of its meaning and therefore no implementation of the mapping to the 
OWL exchange representation.  And the traditional users of UML are a different 
audience.  So it is not clear that the OMG representation, international 
standard though it may be, will ever be the de facto standard on which 
training materials are based.    (08)

Success in modeling languages obeys the "Anna Karenina Principle"*:  Happy 
families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.    (09)

-Ed    (010)

* The original is a translation from the Tolstoy novel, but Jared Diamond, in 
"Guns, Germs and Steel", refers to it as the "Anna Karenina Principle" -- the 
explanation for the success of one system and the failure of similar systems: 
many different factors must come together to create success; any one missing 
factor can cause failure.    (011)

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    (012)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (013)

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