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Re: [ontolog-forum] Quote for the day

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2011 11:08:33 -0500
Message-id: <4D234601.2000808@xxxxxxxx>
Two somewhat related observations from this thread:    (01)

John F. Sowa wrote:    (02)

> Before we try to sell [business persons] on the idea of using ontologies, 
> we have to show them some advantage.  They know their business far better 
> than we do, they've been running it successfully for a long time, and we
> need to show some clear value in this newfangled O-stuff.
>       (03)

Yes! We have to show them what we can do with ontologies, per se, 
because people have also been doing knowledge engineering in the 
development of software (/hardware) systems for 50 years. One version of 
the sales pitch is that ontologies are the next generation 
data/information models -- they focus on the domain concepts and their 
relationships and not the software renditions of them. But that alone 
generates shelfware. We must show what we can do with these models that 
cannot be done with data/information models (and the database schemas 
and OOPL classes generated from them). Otherwise we have achieved 
formally grounded information models, full stop -- an academic nirvana 
with no demonstrated value to the people who pay for model and software 
development.    (04)

In the QUOMOS effort, we used a different pitch for the BIPM 
(International Bureau of Weights and Measures) folk. We told them there 
should be a standard measurements ontology that they controlled, so that 
two dozen uneducated software engineering standards teams would have no 
excuse for building their own conflicting models and thus making a mess 
of 21st century international trade. But in a certain sense, we were 
just pitching the ontology to a different set of academics. Their 
primary concern is about what is to be measured, what the quality of the 
measurement is, and how the measurement and its quality are expressed. 
Those specifications are used in government specifications and contract 
rules. Industry folk rely on the references to the common standards, and 
their specialists use the details of the standards in designing their 
quality controls. The idea of the standard ontology is just to ensure 
that the BIPM knowledge is what is engineered into the standard form for 
the reasoning technologies that will supposedly be used in industry. It 
doesn't convey advantage in its own right.    (05)

This leads to observation 2:    (06)

Anders Tell wrote:    (07)

> An old and tired example, the Invoice or RequestForPayment Message. 
> Not really a good example since most Invoice ontologies are old 
> fashioned, since they are based on modeling paper/document versions of 
> Invoices instead of corresponding to requests for reciprocal payment 
> for delivery.    (08)

John is correct that business people have been keeping records and 
executing business transactions for 4000 years. One of the problems we 
have is that they developed standard paper forms for these records and 
transactions over 100 years ago, and their first efforts to automate 
records and transactions 50 years ago were to create software models of 
the paper forms, from which the paper forms could in fact be printed. I 
am sad to say that 50 years later, and 30 years after the widespread use 
of databases, the UN/CEFACT gang still thinks in modeling paper forms 
(electronic documents) for electronic transactions and record keeping. 
It is the culture of business administration people to think in terms of 
the paper form, rather than its information content. If you customarily 
put three different information groups in the same box on the form, but 
for somewhat different transactions, they are three different concepts 
that have no business content in common. But the administrator will 
insist that there is a common supertype, or a common object that 
subsumes them all by having a set of undefined text components.    (09)

So in order to provide value for business ontologies, we have to 
overcome this mentality and demonstrate substantial improvement in some 
business processes. Anders suggests that we drop the form concept and 
concentrate on the information required for each process-at-hand, with 
some general categories of message that are standardized, and some 
partner-specific refinements. In a certain sense, this is the 
ontological version of the CEFACT approach -- defining standard messages 
with mostly optional components, each of which has many optional 
information elements (with extensive definitions that use many vague and 
undefined terms).    (010)

> Anyway, maybe an request for payment could be modeled something along 
> these lines:
> A Message MOT ala UN/CITRAL: "Communication” means any statement, 
> declaration, demand, notice or request, including an offer and the 
> acceptance of an offer, that the parties are required to make or 
> choose to make in connection with the formation or performance of a 
> contract;"
> - with Communication adaptation(extension) point.
> RequestForPayment Communication: with reciprocal Delivery and Payment 
> Commitments.
> - Reference to a Product MOT with core semantics including the 
> recognition that different people view Products differently depending 
> of work perspectives, processes, life cycle, etc.
> - with a Product adaptation(extension) point.
> An industry adapts their own Product' MOT for their constituents.
> Two trading partners adapt and agrees on their own adaptations, based 
> on their industry's Product' MOT    (011)

This is the approach of the ISO/OASIS Product LifeCycle Services (PLCS) 
standards gang. They allow for successive levels of standardization, 
each of which defines common practices for a smaller industry group and 
allows for trading partner specializations and adaptations. Their 
models, however, are currently written in a combination of EXPRESS (with 
an OWL derivative) and XML Schema, so that they actually get implemented 
in commercial software. One of the key ideas in PLCS, and Anders' 
proposal, is that the reference models are the definitions of the 
transactions, and the XML schemas define the organizations of the 
corresponding data for exchange purposes.    (012)

> The above is an example of an eco-system view of ontologies.    (013)

After the abuse of this term in OMG and elsewhere, I don't know what an 
'ontology eco-system' might be. So if Anders says this is one, who am I 
to argue?    (014)

-Ed    (015)

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                Cel: +1 240-672-5800    (016)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (017)

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