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Re: [ontolog-forum] Time representation

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Chris Partridge" <mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 17:22:35 -0000
Message-id: <023d01c85ead$b75f7a20$0400a8c0@POID7204>
Pat,    (01)

I assume that you do not want me to explain fruitfulness as used in the
philosophy of science - there was a pointer in my original email. You will
find concrete examples galore from science there.    (02)

So I will try and give you some from computer systems. There are very simple
examples which start to they make the point but do not get to the heart of
the matter.    (03)

A colleague (many years ago) was selling a bespoke system to BT (I might be
wrong about the client). He asked them what currency they wanted the system
to use. They said GBP. He did not believe them, so he included currency as a
variable rather than GBP as a constant. Six months later, he was able to
charge them a significant amount of money to enable a few more currencies.
He did not feel obliged to mention that this took next to no work.    (04)

The inverse of this is a joke this side of the Atlantic, that US computer
systems seem to assume that there is only one currency - USD.    (05)

I think we can all come up with examples like this. What these lack though
is the important ingredient - that the functionality was completely
unexpected. I think this is where ontology (as a picture of reality comes
in).    (06)

In the preface of my book - Business Objects - I note "Furthermore, as the
users became more familiar with their systems, something remarkable begins
to happen. The systems seem to have captured the essence of the business.
We realised this when we found them being used to handle areas that had not
been envisaged when we built the business model. For instance, on one
project the users found that their re-engineered securities back-office
system could already handle new financial instruments and situations that
no-one had thought of when the system was built."    (07)

What happen here was that we were working with corporate actions, which
because of tax laws, are quite convoluted. After the system was implemented
we went down to the users to see how things were going. They explained to
use that it was handling extremely complicated situations really well - and
described the details. We then got annoyed with them because they had not
described these particular situations when we were building the ontology for
the system. We calmed down when we realised there was not a problem.     (08)

When we reflected upon this, what we realised is that we had tried (and
succeeded to an extent) in capturing the main features of corporate actions
- and that the new (unrecognised) situations were just (very) unfamiliar
combinations of familiar features.    (09)

In our work on re-engineering legacy systems, we find we can monitor this
(this is also described in the book). One re-engineers the legacy system in
chunks, if patterns/features that arise in one chunk are fruitful, they show
up in unfamiliar ways as you use them in successive chunks.     (010)

On the face of it, it seems right to say that a system needs to be fit for a
particular purpose (and only that purpose). However, this assumes that we
can define the purpose in the detail needed to implement it. The history of
most computer systems (probably most systems) would tend to show that this
assumption is false. In that case, the design needs to be, as far as it can
be, for the unforeseen situations. One way of doing this is to try and make
the design reflect what is actually happening reasonably accurately - one
way of testing this is to see how fruitful the design is.    (011)

Has this been concrete enough for you?    (012)

Chris    (013)

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx]
>Sent: 24 January 2008 16:44
>To: [ontolog-forum]
>Cc: Chris Partridge
>Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Time representation
>At 9:04 AM +0000 1/24/08, Chris Partridge wrote:
>>....It seems to me when designing computer
>>systems (and the ontologies to support them) that we need to be sensitive
>>the issue of fruitfulness.
>Chris, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Can you
>make it a little more concrete?
>Pat Hayes
>IHMC           (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973   home
>40 South Alcaniz St.   (850)202 4416   office
>Pensacola                      (850)202 4440   fax
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>    (014)

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