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Re: [ontolog-forum] Accommodating legacy software

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "David Eddy" <deddy@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2012 10:44:40 +0200
Message-id: <59F58F8A1B6C4CBFAC5D217EB4BD1969@klaptop>
David,    (01)

You're so right:    (02)

> The "data" I'm interested in is something like    WEEKLY-PAY =
> HOURS-WKD * PAY-RATE  (or weeklyPay = hoursWorked * payRate if
> you're from the camelCase generation).  Don't I wish code were
> that readable.
> I'm thinking of the semantic challenge of an insurance company
> that has 70+ different names for the core concept "policy number"
> in its schemas.  Virtually all companies depend on the wet ware
> SMEs (subject matter experts) to make sense of such chaos.  What
> happens when these SMEs are not available?
> Depending on your age... were you aware that 500 (50%) of Social
> Security Administration's COBOL programmers will be eligible to
> retire by 2015.
> How's the semantic stack going to help with that sort of brain
> drain?    (03)

But I suspect there may be an even more serious problem (than
retiring COBOL programmers) lurking in such legacy systems, namely 
contractual issues.    (04)

Some of those SMEs are lawyers, representing either the company or
the policy-holder, and each side will have its own wetware-based
interpretation of the real and maybe half-century-old contractual
semantics supposedly captured in the code even after all those
insurer M&As.    (05)

Applying even the most meticulous legal researches and code
conversion methodologies will leave some elements of "slash and
burn" with its inevitable collateral damage.  (Cf. those glib uses
of isSameAs relationships.)    (06)

I speak as a policy-holder with some personal experience here
(fortunately minor), so I don't much appreciate theoreticians with a
shrug of their shoulders writing such issues off to "semantic
dissonance", even though that does help the realist resign and move
forwards.    (07)

But, back to those COBOL programmers, I guess there'll be many of
them happy to stay on and play that market, even as consultants to
those lawyers and as expert witnesses in court...?    (08)

Christopher    (09)

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