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Re: [ontolog-forum] Fwd: [New post] The Newest from SOA: The SOA Ontolog

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2010 13:36:24 -0600
Message-id: <A0CDB860-E194-4342-9E68-98B2F2C10499@xxxxxxxx>
On Dec 22, 2010, at 5:47 PM, Research wrote:
> Going back to the top of this thread for a moment:
> - Todd states that the SOA Ontology from the Open Group "is rubbish for many
> reasons" but that "there is some value in this work".
> - I asked for some justification to the initial statement.
> - a whole series of comments are posted regarding modelling errors and
> shortcomings...
> On the thread, we have followed a typical Ontolog Forum pattern of
> spiralling away from the initial point and exploring fine modelling points -
> all good in its own way, and a reflection of the breadth of opinion and
> ideas of the group, which is great.    (01)

Actually, *my* point wasn't really to comment on a modeling error or explore 
fine modeling points, although I probably obscured the point by being explicit 
about the details. My actual point was that large, well-publicized and (in some 
cases) well-funded ontologies are being constructed by folks who are still 
confused about the most elementary points of logic and knowledge representation 
-- notably, in this case, the difference between instance and subclass, a 
confusion the KR community straightened out almost as soon as it cropped up 
over 35 years ago.  For someone tasked with constructing an ontology to be 
confused about it in this day and age is like an engineer tasked with building 
a bridge to be confused about, say, the difference between force and torque.    (02)

I think there is still a pretty pervasive idea (despite regular rejoinders from 
the likes of John Sowa, Michael Grüninger, Pat Hayes, Leo Obrst, etc) that 
building quality ontologies doesn't require any sort of special technical 
training, just a clear head, a bit of common sense, and a copy of Protege (an 
excellent and useful tool, let me hasten to add).  To the contrary, at a 
minimum, a competent, well-educated ontological engineer must have a mastery of 
first-order logic and related systems like modal logic (of which description 
logic can be considered a variety) as well as a deep familiarity with the 
history of knowledge representation and KR systems.  Broad knowledge of the 
history of philosophy as well as contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of 
language would not only sharpen analytical skills and provide a rich source of 
ontological exploration to draw upon, but would also prevent ontological 
engineers from wasting time reinventing the wheel (typically with an inferior 
design).    (03)

Until ontological engineers, like engineers of every other other stripe, can be 
assumed to have a well-defined baseline of knowledge and a basic technical 
skills, an endless repetition of elementary modeling errors and, consequently, 
a stream of (at best) unreliable and (at worst) incoherent ontologies are to be 
expected, and skepticism about the usefulness of ontologies will (justifiably) 
persist.  We trust every new bridge that is built to hold us up (in part) 
because of the knowledge and skill of the engineers who designed it; sound 
bridges that perform their function reliably are the norm, not the exception.  
Why should it be any different for ontologies?    (04)

Chris Menzel    (05)

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