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Re: [ontolog-forum] Constructs, primitives, terms

To: <edbark@xxxxxxxx>, "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2012 13:44:12 -0700
Message-id: <16AD26627F6641E9AA5E74DEA0DBA43E@Gateway>
Dear Ed,    (01)

Nicely stated also.  Your point seems to be that
the presentation of the results were seen by
suppliers (of electronics parts) as part of their
business interests.  That is, they each wanted to
emphasize the selling points of their product line
by comparing their product offerings against other
niche companies which specialize in slightly
different ways.  For businesses, understanding the
customer and her needs and typical choices is
absolutely the rationale for being in business in
the first place.  The business owner's offerings
are deeply conscious of the business's place in
the value chain as you mentioned.  Nobody sells
products objectively, except perhaps the
commodities suppliers you alluded to.      (02)

If an ontology for electronics parts can't be
partitioned into (1) the parts themselves, (2) the
supply chain characteristics of the part
suppliers, and (3) the factory consumption
characteristics of the work flow, then that
industry is clearly more complex than the ontology
allows.  So again, this is an example where a B2B
ontology doesn't work well.      (03)

John's example of Amazon illustrates a consumer
level offering of products.  The consumer is so
much more diverse yet than the typical B2B
purchaser/seller, it makes sense that there is
only a shallow ontology that makes sense for the
Amazon level trades.      (04)

-Rich    (05)

Rich Cooper
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2    (06)

-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of Ed Barkmeyer
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 11:04 AM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Constructs,
primitives, terms    (07)

John F. Sowa wrote:
> Now, let's consider a successful example of
interoperability among
> thousands of businesses that use a shared
vocabulary with enough
> shared structure to support applications:  the
Amazon.com database.
> Amazon sells a huge number of products, and they
could never define
> all of them precisely.  So they don't even try.
They do have some
> loosely defined product categories (books,
electronics, etc.) but they
> let each supplier choose the category labels for
their own products.
> The suppliers can define their products in any
way they please.  But
> the only product description that Amazon
requires is a character string
> that the Amazon DB stores for each product.  But
the Amazon system just
> moves that string it around, formats it, and
indexes the words in it.
> The reason why this method works is that Amazon
forces any supplier
> that wants to sell their products to conform to
the Amazon conventions
> and database schema.  The sellers have to map
their data to the Amazon
> categories and abide by Amazon conventions.  But
the suppliers have
> total control over how they design or describe
their own products.
>       (08)

Now let us look at an example of exactly the same
process that largely 
fails.  Brokers for contract manufacturing have a
weak reference 
ontology, aka database schema, in which their
manufacturing service 
suppliers create their entries.  Beyond that the
service suppliers are 
free to describe their capabilities in any way
they choose.  When a 
customer creates a query requesting services, the
query is interpreted 
against the database schema, and all of the
entries that satisfy it are 
returned.  In addition, extra keywords that the
customer provides are 
matched if possible in the text supplied by the
suppliers, and the 
ordering of the possible suppliers for a customer
query is dependent in 
part on those matches.     (09)

The problem is that customers looking for contract
services need very specific capabilities.  A
thousand firms can turn 
parts, but what is needed is the ability to turn
parts of a certain 
metal alloy and of a specific set of lengths and
widths, and often 
within a certain tolerance.  Trying to find that
needle in haystack of 
'can turn metal parts' and 'have XYZ machines with
a 2-meter bed' (which 
the supplier might have mentioned) is not easy.
On average, the 
customer gets 50+ 'highly ranked' supplier
entries, with the first 27 
being useless, mostly after determination by phone
call.     (010)

That is why making a strong ontology for the
domain is important.     (011)

Two similar efforts in trying to standardize
electronics parts catalogs 
in the late 20th century failed for two reasons:
(1) new parts were 
being rapidly introduced, which made maintaining
the catalog terms 
difficult, and (2) suppliers did not want a
standard schema even for 
common electronic parts, because the standard
presentation would deliver 
all of the characteristics with equal font sizes
and apparent weight.  
Each supplier's website described parts using big
fonts for the features 
they did well, and appealed to their target
markets, and little fonts or 
no data for the features they did not value and
did not necessarily do 
well in.    (012)

All of these business-oriented models have the
problems of dealing with 
the level and kinds of detail that influence
decisions in the business, 
and the business motivation and emphasis in
presenting those details.  
And businesses find value in creating noisy
contextual vocabularies, 
whose explicit purpose is to conceal their
commonalities with competing 
products and services.  You need only to read
Porter and the 
"value-chain" stuff to see the wide variety of
things businesses take to 
be their "value".    (013)

That is why making a strong ontology for the
domain will please no one, 
and probably solve few problems.  Business want to
advertise their 
advantages to customers, and they make their
market by trading off one 
domain of emphasis for another.  People only agree
to a common ontology 
for commodity products, because everyone's
advantages there are in terms 
of volume, cost and time, and both suppliers and
customers want that 
market to be open.    (014)

-Ed    (015)

P.S.  My job is to rain on various parades...    (016)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email:
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                Cel: +1
240-672-5800    (017)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect
consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government
authority."    (018)

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