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Re: [ontolog-forum] Top-down / bottom-up - taxonomy/folksonomy

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Bruce Schuman" <bruceschuman@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:17:47 -0700
Message-id: <008a01cfec89$c54f58a0$4fee09e0$@net>

Thanks for the comments, Jack, interesting to look through your history and very hopeful vision.  I too have been a fan of Doug Engelbart (and sorry, wanted to ask you if you are any relation to “Xerox Park” – maybe an older brother?)


One of the reasons this “ontolog” list is so interesting to me – is that not only does it gather a lot of sharp real-world professionals – but among them are very substantial people who have worked through something like the entire computer revolution from its very beginnings.  This gives us a powerful perspective on the classical foundations of computer science – that sometimes can be obscured (I think) by the very sophisticated things that can be done with sheer computing power today.  A very tiny thought on that subject might be – some people here no doubt remember the days of non-proportional fonts – when by default every keystroke placed a mark on an “implicit matrix” of invisible rows and columns, like an old-fashioned typewriter, where the “alphabet” of what we were doing with a keyboard seemed very crystalline.  Every space on the page either had one character from a finite alphabet, or it had no character.  If we were studying things like the matrix structure of language – or the kind of things Douglas Hofstadter brought to us through Gödel Escher and Bach, or Metamagical Themas – all of that was somehow easier to visualize when language was always recorded on a finite-state linear matrix.  Even the elements of the alphabet itself – the pixel composition of the fonts themselves – were also clearly defined by an on/off yes/no figure/ground for every point in a well-defined finite matrix.  That’s all no doubt still true today – but it’s much less apparent with highly sophisticated css and proportional fonts and what amounts to “near-continuous variability” in so many dimensions.


My father was the vice principal of Monterey High School, and he ran the “punch cards” for daily attendance.  I was utterly astonished at the power and speed of an IBM card-sorting machine.  It was just utterly awesome how fast that machine could accurately sort out a huge deck of punch cards.  And I was at Berkeley in the summer of 1969, when I first studied Fortran and Algol, and we were still working with punch cards.  For the years that followed, I continued to follow the evolving computer revolution, regularly buying computer science books at UC bookstores.  I bought things by Terry Winograd or Patrick Winston or Marvin Minsky, or visionary authors like Ted Nelson.  I subscribed to Data Communications magazine, and I remember the big deal when ODBC was created.  I remember the big issue of Byte magazine when they first introduced “Windows”.  One of the books that got a lot of attention in my world was “Conceptual Structures”, by J. S.  I beat my head hard against that book – and if I was not a “semantic networks person” – because I already had a huge investment in hierarchical/top-down/taxonomic models – that book was still the best thing I had ever seen on the fundamentals of semantics.


In the late 1980’s, I was on The WELL (“Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link”, founded by Stewart Brand and Whole Earth Catalog people) and was tuned in on Howard Rheingold.  Douglas Ruskoff was in our conversations.    And one of the books that was a big deal back then – was the book Network Nation – about the “EIES” system at the New Jersey Institute of Technology – that was seen as the precursor of electronic/internet communications.  On the WELL, we talked about “netweaving”, and had lots of visions of great things – as per Ted Nelson.  Was this online thing going to change the world – even if some of us were signing in at 300 baud – where you could see the keystrokes appearing one at a time on the screen as they came through the phone line -- ?  We all knew it would.


A few months ago, I got excited again about this concept of Network Nation.  It’s a simplification of an important force, where the foundations are still clearly visible.  So I started putting together this site: http://networknation.net


I’ve been working for years on “intercultural” things – basically all the permutations of the Rodney King mantra “Can’t we all get along?” – and in the last few, I’ve been very concerned with polarization and gridlock in politics.  Basically – our political system is failing to meet the challenges of the emerging new globally-interconnected world.  The reasons why – add up to a huge and complex list.  Tons of books on the subject, all across the map.  Does computer networking have a role to play in helping to solve this problem?  I’d say it has a huge role.


I’ve been very connected with NCDD – National Coalition on Dialog and Deliberation – http://ncdd.org – a group that just wrapped up their 2014 conference in the D.C. area yesterday.  These guys bring together hundreds of civic activists and “democracy theorists” from many of the best institutions in the USA. 


NCDD is committed to the professional lives of their members, so they are not entirely guided by blue-sky idealistic visions – but there is a lot of creative push in that group to rise to the occasion, and work to address issues in “broken governance”.  They are among the foremost experts in what this is about.


And for me – with a very ambitious algebraic ontology of natural language based on dimensionality and taxonomy, and a commitment to building bridges between cultural groups – this idea of “collaborative tagging” is suddenly starting to look like a hugely potent and “high-dimensional” way to establish common ground among 10,000 independent organizations with some commitment to nurturing our national culture.


Yes, “we fight about everything”.    Language incarnates in abstractions, and abstractions spawn bottomless fights.  All the detail supposedly inherent in an intended abstraction is implicit – so what I intended by my abstraction is very likely not what you understood.  That’s a HUGE problem.


What I am starting to do now with “collaborative tagging” is define ways that we can “independently factor” every critical dimension inherent in what a political group (or any other kind of NGO or civic activist group) believes in or wants to do – in ways that can be independently checked yes/no in a big cloud of tiny pieces like “post-it notes”.


You – or your group – can fully dimension yourself in a free-form way – everything you need or want to tell us about yourself and your motivation can be defined in tiny pieces – and if we could get 1,000 or 10,000 activist agencies to respond into a universal check-box matrix that evolved collaboratively – we could just define the common ground of the American experience through Venn diagrams…


Every political issue that anybody wants to suggest can be defined as a tag.


Any position or recommended action regarding that issue can be defined as a tag.


Any tag can be regionalized through a central address on a Google map.


This can immediately lead to an integrated network on every issue at any level of scale or region.


Issues can therefore be absolutely local and intimate – and yet still shared across a national network where relevant.


This “collaborative tag” interface is extremely simple.


Don’t got to know much, doesn’t take much skill, no technical vision or theory required.  Can you type a few words and hit submit?  Do you have any clue what you want to do or care about?  You can very easily tell  us, in a format that can be 100% linearly factored – as a kind of huge a la carte range of options for the entire pool of American political motivation.  You care about something, you can be on this map, and form an alliance with anybody else who feels as you do.


Can we agree on some basic principles of civility – as the people from NCDD and many other civic activist groups would like us to?  We’ll have a ton of check boxes on those themes too.  Go a la carte, be an individual – be a libertarian OR a communitarian – and we’ll figure out the common ground on a national level electronic matrix, and invite you to make-nice with your fellow citizens.


This approach, it seems to me – offers a very promising new kind of activism.  Yes, we gotta sell it, and we gotta make it actually work, and it’s gotta serve people and groups in ways that make them stronger and turn them on.  But do this in the right way, contact the right people, build a core that can move and build credibility, and solve the technical issues along the way – this might work.


It’s 100% “interdisciplinary” AND “intercultural”.  It’s holistic, it’s simultaneity-and-interdependence-in-action.  It’s a huge integral matrix of interconnected motivations, and seems natural and intuitive, with a very basic and simple front-end.  People can understand this.  It should work for “average bears”.  The whole thing seems simple to explain.


So ….


Thanks for this network, and the very many subjects and themes that get posted here.  Yes, I am one of those “knight errants” chasing the dream of the perfect ontology – but this tagging project looks like a design that can be driven from the bottom up.  And when we start looking for a state-of-the-art way to melt confusion and discord at high scale, the great ideas posted here will undoubtedly be extremely helpful…


Bruce Schuman

NETWORK NATION: http://networknation.net

SHARED PURPOSE: http://sharedpurpose.net

INTERSPIRIT: http://interspirit.net

(805) 966-9515, PO Box 23346, Santa Barbara CA 93101






From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Jack Park
Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 5:52 PM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Top-down / bottom-up - taxonomy/folksonomy - ontology


A few brief comments.

NetworkNation is a very interesting site, a great platform to study.

It is noteworthy that Helene Finidori is mentioned on the linked page by way of her slides.

She is running this graph:

which is about pattern languages for regenerative commons, something I suspect we seek.
She also author of these valuable slides:

A short comment below.



On Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM, Bruce Schuman <bruceschuman@xxxxxxx> wrote:

Very interesting and constructive comments, thanks to all.


I’ve been working in broadly holistic areas for a long time, mostly concerned with “integrating the sectors” of human thinking – and tending to see it all from a “community organizing” or “political/governance” point of view.  I am a web database programmer (ColdFusion, SQLServer) who has been building networks for many years, and I can make some of this happen.


Right now, I am starting to build a participant-driven ontology of tags that are a way of gathering up and categorizing just about anything anybody with a concern for political or governance issues might want to place on the map.


This project has been active for a few days, and we now have about 400 tags from 16 participants, organized in 12 major sectors – plus one meta-sector, “Pattern of the Whole”.


So, my question is – what might be a good/reasonable/simple procedure for raking these tag elements into neat piles that might take a hierarchical/cascading form – something could be addressed a la Dewey Decimal System?



I am expecting to more or less “feel my way” into this – and start expanding some of this into various kinds of “drill-down” approaches.


My instincts tend to be pretty linear.  I want to see a flat list of individual tags defined within these basic sectors, but I think we need clean cascades that extend from broadly inclusive categories into very specific particulars (“the bridge from holism to reductionism”).  Deciding what those should be can immediately become complex and controversial.  Does “the community” somehow “vote” on every decision?


I can do a lot of this myself, and I might end up having to do it – but it would be interesting to see some flow-charts or designs for ways “the community” could push these decisions – maybe as prompted through database-driven emails that present sectors of the bigger picture that some participant finds interesting (“here’s what you say you are interested in, here’s where you can add stuff, how would you categorize and sub-categorize these things?”)


Any thoughts on this most appreciated.  I just looked at these resources from Jack Park, and they all seem pertinent and illuminating.  Maybe I don’t really understand “stigmergy” very well – I just think we got to make a lot of interconnected decisions based on a sound logic, while keeping the big picture in mind.

 I hope that not "understanding stigmergy very well" doesn't mean that it's being ignored.  I say that because that passage is followed by the emergence of "interconnected decisions based on sound logic", and I ask this: what decisions? and most importantly, why?

I tend to think in terms of Theory U

where deliberations such as this begin at the upper left side of the U, navigate to the bottom -- possibly the most important place on the U, because it is the place where each participant has a better understanding of what each other, and self, holds as a world view, and, perhaps, understands well how and why those holdings exist; it is the place where many, on that journey, have learned from others and have adjusted their holdings, all before beginning the decision-laden journey up the right hand side.  In a sense, the left-hand side is akin to a Bohmian Dialogue.

My emerging tag list is here:  http://networknation.net/fp/tags.cfm

 And here’s what the input form looks like, on the theme of “governance”




And here’s a previous iteration, that does work through a 7-level taxonomy:




Thanks for any thoughts or pointers.


PS – my whole project does look a lot like this: https://okfn.org/    I’ll have to get on that mailing list, and thanks.


Bruce Schuman

NETWORK NATION: http://networknation.net

SHARED PURPOSE: http://sharedpurpose.net

INTERSPIRIT: http://interspirit.net

(805) 966-9515, PO Box 23346, Santa Barbara CA 93101



From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Jack Park
Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 8:57 AM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] How should we design a good wiki? [Hit SEND too soon]


A few comments below, but first, a short story.

Svetlana Belkin, a biology major, decided it was time to put up PlanetOpenScience. She is talking on the okfn.org list (open knowledge foundation). The conversation started in the direction of arguments over which whatever to use, all without even stating a purpose for the site and following that with use cases or something with which to identify which needs to satisfy.

I suggested that she open a conversation at debategraph; before I could point her to one of my many graphs there where she could start a PlanetOpenScience node and build on what is already there, she started one herself: http://debategraph.org/PlanetOpenScience

I think it is instructive to think about what she is doing in the context of this conversation. I say that because it's not unreasonable to think that a "wiki" is only part of the solution sought, and it is the nature of that "solution" which is not yet well understood.

This list, any social sensemaking (epistemic) community is, by most lights, a complex adaptive ecosystem. That means, at least to me, that there are well-studied notions on what to think about when seeking tools to support the community. Douglas Engelbart spoke in terms of Dynamic Knowledge Repositories (brief aside: when I spoke in Seoul about Engelbart's work, Ted Kahn suggested I use the term Dynamic Knowledge Garden, and that term, sans "dynamic" stuck, so most of my slides talk about knowledge gardens), which are specifically defined as people, their tools, and their knowledge; his primary point is that the DKR must co-evolve; needs change as people's knowledge increases.

Stigmergy turns out to be a powerful tool (think: ant pheromone trails, and the feedback and decay associated with that). We have such things as tags, lists, hyperlinks, bookmarks, and more available to us, so already, a wiki is only part of the story.

I talk about that in these slides:

Please note that those slides talk about topic maps, and I am saying that in the face of persons of the Ontology persuasion. Before you jump to conclusions, please take a look at a paper that Adam Cheyer and I co-authored:



On Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 12:23 AM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Dear Matthew, Jack, Pat, and Mike,

> One of the possibilities is that this becomes the topic for the
> Ontology Summit. I am thinking that we might develop a framework
> of topics that we might then go on to fill in pieces over time.

That's a good idea.  The option of exploring how ontology could be
used to develop a good wiki for discussing ontology is sufficiently
general that it could have much broader applications -- for example,
how to use and/or develop ontologies for

  1. Wikis, help facilities, and FAQ pages about any topic of any kind.

  2. How to be more helpful in searching for anything.  For example,
     supporting a dialog that helps a user collaborate with the
     system in navigating a network of indexed and cross-linked
     documents on any topic.

  3. Developing more helpful annotations and linking strategies
     for web pages on any web site anywhere.

> I think there are ready partial solutions to the specific, short-term
> needs of this conversation...
> it should be possible to make use of a structured conversation
> platform such as http://debategraph.org/ ...
> There are now beginning to exist open source "Watson-like" platforms

Yes to all those points.

> I would favor a format with, in addition to a FAQ-like Q&A section,
> a section where, for issues not generally agreed on, there are two
> columns... [for]  alternative views side-by-side on a single page.

Yes. We should look for software that can be adopted/adapted/extended
to support a wide range of options.

> Perhaps we should focus on improving relevant Wikipedia pages
> (and adding any that we find missing...

Wikipedia explicitly *excludes* ongoing research, and it prohibits
people from contributing novel ideas.  Any wiki we develop should
link to outside resources from anywhere, including Wikipedia.  But
we should also explore new technologies that go beyond the kinds
of links Wikipedia supports.

Our goal is to develop new ideas, not prohibit them.  If we reach
a consensus that is sufficiently stable for Wikipedia, we could
contribute the finished product to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia seeks "neutral point of view" and that works spectacularly well for matters that don't matter. For matters that do matter, the system exhibits profound difficulties, forcing them to lock down those topics to outside editing, and that's precisely the place where group thinking counts most.

My solution to that is to consider *conversation* before curation. For that purpose, I talk about structured conversations (debategraph, truthmapping, etc); a serious portal should include the ability to write "blog" posts where positions are stated and well justified, then wire those into a conversation tree, eventually to curate them as a kind of "omnipartisan" wiki page.

> I would also favor that it be a closed wiki, requiring either
> membership in the Ontolog forum or specific authorization from
> a moderator to add or change items.

Moderation at Wikipedia holds carries a long history with problems, but also interesting solutions. Allowing anyone to edit a page is profoundly problematic in my view. I consider individual world views as sacred, where they offer glimpses into minds. Kurzweil wrote a book "How To Create A Mind" in which he suggests that creativity stems from seeking metaphors around the neocortex, so the game is to bring together as many neocortexes as possible.  An Ontolog portal (PlanetOntology?) would be doing that. I call that a knowledge garden.

> One thing I am certain of is that it will only have value if it is
> organized and managed... So we will need gardeners and librarians

I agree with both.  The wiki should be available for anyone to browse,
but we will need some conventions about membership.  And there may be
different gardeners and associate gardeners for different topics.



We can also continue Ontolog Forum -- but with enhancements, such as
an automatic search engine that makes suggestions before posting any
note.  For example,

  1. Automatically search the wiki for related topics and ask how
     the current note is related to one or more previous notes.

  2. In some cases, the new note may be irrelevant.  Sometimes, the
     new note may add something new, but it may have some parts
     that overlap previous notes.

  3. As a result, the new notes would be semi-automatically cross
     linked with archived notes.  They could still be searched in
     chronological order, if desired, but they could be linked
     in many other ways as well.

  4. And for people who hit SEND too soon, the system could notice
     that the signature is not included and ask why.

There's a lot more to discuss, to explore, and to implement.


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