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Re: [ontolog-forum] Next steps in using ontologies as standards

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ron Wheeler <rwheeler@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 08 Jan 2009 21:26:50 -0500
Message-id: <4966B5EA.10800@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Len Yabloko wrote:
> Ron and all, 
>> You mean that you actually want to do something practical? Have we run 
>> out of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" discussions?
> I know of at least one commercial efforts that is attempting to collect many 
>ontologies under the same umbrella and make it useful and practical. I am 
>talking about http://www.freebase.com/explore 
> I the past there were similar efforts undertaken by MIT medial lab, but I 
>don't remember exact name and url. It was allowing anyone to make basic 
>statements in English. 
> The reason I am mentioning this is because there is no lack of practical 
>efforts in unifying common knowledge. However, this problem requires different 
>approach then simply "let's do it", as should be obvious to anyone following 
>this field.
I have been following the discussion and perhaps am being a bit harsh. 
There are some very good and important points being raised and some of 
them are no doubt important to advancing the field.    (01)

I am a bit more oriented toward the practical side (perhaps I just don't 
have anything to contribute to angel choreography).    (02)

I am beginning to get the strong sense that there is no possibility of 
one all-encompassing FO and that the best service to mankind, that I can 
contribute to, is the provision of a place where ontologies can be 
recorded and discussed.    (03)

I hope that this will lead to multiple sets of ontologies that have been 
reviewed and informally "certified" to be internally consistent at least 
to the point where one can make assertions like:    (04)

"If you take these 3 ontologies and use them together, there will not be 
any internal inconsistencies that will make your project do stupid or 
surprising things."  or
"If you use Ontology A with Ontology B, you will have to adjust these 7 
terms to make the ontologies consistent before you start to add your 
ontological entries."
"If you try to use Ontology X in North America, you will want to adjust 
these 27 terms to align them with SOX terminology."    (05)

I may be wrong but I think that this is one of the biggest problems 
facing application developers. There are tons of ontologies but no place 
that can tell you which ones will suit your needs or which ones are 
designed to work together.    (06)

I would suggest the wiki rather than some centrally controlled database 
since I think that there are so many areas covered by ontologies, it 
will be hard to put together a expert group that can decide what is true 
and what is not true. A wiki allows the community to contribute and 
evaluate the content. I think that it would be hard to get a consensus 
about what group of people are responsible for all human knowledge.
It has worked fairly well for Wikipedia and in the end the error rate in 
Wikipedia is pretty close to most major encyclopedias but the content 
grow much faster.    (07)

I would like the effort to be open source and have as wide a base of 
contributors as possible.
Is there some other approach besides the wiki that is better?
Are the additional sections that the wiki should include?
Are any of the sections that I proposed silly or not required?    (08)

Perhaps we can devote 2009 and 2010 to describing the repository 
structure. Shall we switch the angels or change the pin dimensions?    (09)

> This is why I recommend you to try to understand the question rather than 
>describe it as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?". This is not 
>what people here are trying to do.
I think that there are many different things that people are trying to 
do. Some of them are worthwhile as basic research but not as practical 
advice for someone who needs a solution to an immediate problem.
There is no doubt that a cancer patient benefits from a lot of research 
that was done in ivory towers but the effort spent in the training of 
the attending medical team is also important.
I do not object to angel choreography in principle, but I do see that 
there is a lot of very useful knowledge being discussed here that would 
be helpful to people with real problems if we had a place to construct 
it into actionable information.    (010)

There is no shortage of ontologies at the moment. They are just too hard 
to find and evaluate.    (011)

>> Perhaps a good start might be to make a wiki with:
>> - 1 page for each ontology
>> - a sensible and easily extensible set of categories to group them together
>> - a section of pages for comparisons and analysis with link to the 
>> ontology pages
>> - sections for candidate sets of ontologies that might make up 
>> reasonable FOs (in case  hell does not freeze over or $10 million fails 
>> to fall out of the sky) for someone
>> - pages to discussions of the comparison of the FO candidate sets.
>> I think that a wiki would do the job and let everyone participate. It 
>> would be easy to add new ontologies (or links to ontologies) and make 
>> "peer" review very easy.
>> I have used MediaWiki (Wikipedia's wiki tool) for a couple of sites and 
>> it is easy to set up and fairly intuitive to use.
>> If it would help, I would be happy to host it.
>> We could also just do this on the Wikipedia site if they do not object 
>> to the amount of pages that this would add.
>> Ron
>       (012)

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