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Re: [ontolog-forum] Wish list for the sematic web

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "sean barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 19:55:27 -0000
Message-id: <E724FA0CE9934747AF73513631EA6081@SMB>
    The fact that we can have this conversation, although we have never corresponded before, is a testament to the effectiveness of semantic standards, starting with the definition of the Volt, the way you wire up the plug on our computers, and all the other thousand standards that contribute to the mechanics of communication. When you buy something on line, you rely on having common semantics for the transaction, starting with the meaning of "$" though to the supplier telling the postal service your zip code (and them understanding it in terms of the geography of the USA).
The answer to your objection comes in two parts:
Firstly, there are already some established ways of checking conformance to semantic standards. The CAx-IF regularly tests conformance of mechanical CAD systems for their conformance to STEP (ISO 10303), both to make sure that new versions of software can interoperate using the standard, and to test that the vendors have the same interpretation of extensions to the standard. I would imagine that similar testing goes on in the commercial sector, for example, for EDIFACT messages. The objective is not to prove conformance to the standard ab initio, but to confirm conformance to the standard, probably after several rounds of bug-fixing.
Secondly, whether or not you require proof of conformance to a semantic standard is a measure of how much risk you are prepared to take. You may not require proof that the Hawaiian Pizza you are ordering actually has ham and pineapple, but if it doesn't it will have only cost you $10 and some space in your garbage can. A bolt on an aircraft might also cost only $10, but it might also cost the lives of hundreds of people. The aerospace industry is rightly very choosy about who it trusts to make bolts, and the manufacturers have to go through a relatively expensive certification process.
Just to put this in context, as a major world supplier of defence systems, we supply hundreds of products with millions of components to tens of customers, each of whom also has hundreds of suppliers, as indeed do we. The PLCS standard is being put in place to simplify the support by using a common set of semantics. The problem is not to implement thousands of slightly different PLCS sysstems, but have common systems with common semantics. (BTW the standard is written as a conventional Entity-Relation schema plus a taxonomy to specialise generic elements and rules to tie down particular transactions - almost RDF).
The problem is not that as human beings, we cannot negotiate the meaning of our communications, but rather, whether we can trust our computers to do some of the work for us, without manually checking each step that they have taken. There was a report a year or so ago that someone had developed autonomous agents that had then gone on to develop their own language for communicating with each other. The problem was, nobody knew what they were saying. I do not believe this is the aim of the semantic web.

Sean Barker
BAE SYSTEMS - Advanced Technology Centre Bristol, UK
+44(0) 117 302 8184

BAE Systems (Operations) Limited
Registered Office: Warwick House, PO Box 87, Farnborough Aerospace Centre, Farnborough, Hants, GU14 6YU, UK Registered in England & Wales No: 1996687


From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Burkett, William [USA]
Sent: 26 October 2009 12:59
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Wish list for the sematic web

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In my personal opinion, based on my personal experience, your list starts off with a major misstep:


>1) An examination of methods for certifying that the user semantics for terms matches the definition of the term.


I don?t believe there is any possible way to do this.  The semantics of data and the schemas that govern them are created by people (or their software surrogates) using their native linguistic skills, - complete with all the language foibles and inconsistencies that plague human-to-human communication.  Consider how much time and money is spent creating legal documents and arguing court cases over what the language in a legal document means ? I think the same interpretative imprecision and vagueness will be present in most data.  Note that dictionaries do not assert what a word means (nor do they enforce that meaning), but rather dictionaries document the conventional usage of the term. 


I think the main objective of semantic technologies needs to be semantic adaptability: the ability to respond quickly to and correct semantic errors ? much the same way we learn the idiosyncrasies of the way each of us speak and adapt to them. 





From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of sean barker
Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 3:04 AM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [ontolog-forum] Wish list for the sematic web


Since I was asked what we need to move forward with the Semantic Enterpise, I cam up with a wish list to fill in the other 90% which is not ontology. Since it is mostly about the semantics of doing business, rather than ontology languages, feel free to ignore the post.



What do we need to get SemWeb working for Industry.


1) An examination of methods for certifying that the user semantics for terms matches the definition of the term. Data exchange experience shows that the user view of what terms means is always local to a particular business culture, which may be confined to a single department. Standard example - how many man-hours in a man year? When I talk to the pay department, there should be about 2,200; when I talk to my line manager, there should be 1,650, and to my project manager, 1,500. And, btw, there are 10 months in an EU year.


2) In particular domains, an agreed set of certification methods (following from 1) - something like an ISO 9000 audit. The rigour of any particular method will be a trade-off between audit cost and risk. In pizza sales, there is unlikely to be any audit, whereas if we were to trade aircraft parts openly, a very high level of conformance checking is needed. (I looked at certification requirements in a paper for the SIMDAT project on cloud computing and SOAs - and this topic appears to be one in which investments are being made.)


3) A standard for communicating certification conformance. There is not much point in a business investing in the Semweb to do business electronically if, before you can do business, the commercial department have to do a manual check whether the business is ISO 9000 certified. (Also considered in a SIMDAT paper).


4) A trust infrastructure to support assertions about certification. This can probably draw on work on security trust infrastructures (e.g. the TRUSTCOM project).


5) The development of methods, methodologies and criteria for constructing ontologies, and, in particular for identifying the terms in an ontology (cf Chris Partridge's work - is it the last word on the subject?). It is my view that the terms needed for a business ontology are precisely those that apply at decision points in business processes, and which parametrise the process or select between alternative processes. User domain ontologies are only relevant to the extent that businesses interoperate, and upper ontologies are therefore relevant only as guides to constructing user domain ontologies where the scope of interoperation is not known in advance. Most of what passes for a taxonomy is a set of heuristics to guide the user to find the right terms, and is not relevant to the user domain ontology (but see 6)


6) The development of heuristics to guide the users to the right terms - this is primarily a human factors study. I would expect most user domain ontologies to be supported by multiple heuristic taxonomies to match the cultural habits of particular groups of users.


7) The development of domain standards against which business can be certified. It seems likely that a user domain ontology developed without considering 1 to 5 above is likely to fail or be replaced relatively rapidly. I conventional technologies, the Oil and Gas area (ISO 15926 I think) and some areas of industrial products (ISO 10303 series) provide examples, with the CAx-IF providing a certification like function for design geometry software.


8) The development of persistence criteria for assertions, and a way of communicating them. It takes a finite time to assemble and process a set of assertions. We know that the assertions business make changes over time and therefore we need assurance that the assertions we rely on for a business transaction remain valid, at least for the length of the transaction. This could be analogous to record locking in conventional database systems, where, for example, the person buying the last ticket on an aeroplane takes a lock on the record until they pay or decline, preventing anyone else buying the ticket, and ensuring only one person can buy it. There are many more cases than simple transaction locking.


9) Methods for detecting and dealing with viral assertions - i.e. false assertions inserted into a trusted source. The problem is not simply to correct the assertions, but to propagate a warning to anyone who may have used the assertion (and may have cached the result).

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