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Re: [ontolog-forum] [ontology-summit] Proposed RDF FHIR syntax feedback

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2015 11:28:09 -0400
Message-id: <55005F09.9010106@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On 3/11/15 10:40 AM, John Bottoms wrote:
JohnS, et al,

I got interested in the origin of the ABox/TBox and went to wikipedia. In the process I discovered how much CS has surrendered to industry.

On Wikipedia there is a brief nod to DL on the origins of the terms. The earliest reference does not mention ABox/TBOx and the bulk of the references are 5 to 10 years after the earliest reference. Most of the references immediately jump to a particular language or implementation. The theory is little discussed. The page is commented by a community editor as lacking in true references.

It may be that the notion of "TheBoxes" has diminished in the face of Design Patterns, and more specifically of containers and ontological notation. I don't understand why these particular data structures are not included with well known data structures. In my recent work I have segregated this discussions into layers and the layer for containers is referred to as syntactic while the labels of containers, the slot names, are identified as semantics. This is more in line with Dijkstra's layered architecture of "T.H.E. Machine".

Given that the Wikipedia page discusses ABox and TBox, I'm not convinced that that the definition is sufficient. It says, "TBox statements describe a conceptualization, a set of concepts and properties for these concepts" and "Together ABox and TBox statements make up a knowledge base". Is this sufficient? Further, there is no discussion of the data types within these Boxes.

I still lean toward the community development of a lexicon and a basic slot structure and related jargon.


This is one of those showcases for Linked Open Data, Identity, and ACLs i.e., a document that has many curators based verifiable identity and read-write interactions over HTTP. Basically, we should be able to collectively curate a glossary of terms, without being impeded by the futile pursuit of global consensus.

I built such a glossary [1][2] out of frustration. It has since morphed into something published officially by OpenLink [3].

For a personal standpoint, I see the terms TBox, ABox as colloquialisms that are just as problematic a the term Graph. All of the aforementioned terms are confusion vectors. You can speak sensibly about Data, Relations, Semantics, and Entity Relationships without ever using any of those colloquialisms.

Our industry is surrendering the discipline of terminology, description, and knowledge to those that learn from the bottom-up (which is how colloquialisms of this kind emerge). For instance, I suspect that someone might have once sketched out some relations that represent the nature of entities in some realm, using a box labelled "Terms or Terminology" and then repeated the activity pattern  where the relations represent actual assertions about said entities that was labelled  "Assertions" -- leading to the TBox and ABox colloquialism.

Presently, there are several definitions of "ontology" and some are insufficient.

There will always be multiple definitions for a variety of reasons (good, bad, and outright ugly). That said, none of these definitions will successfully skirt around the fact that in any realm of comprehension you must have: entity types, relationship types, entities.

I still don't know who coined the terms ABox and TBox.


[1] http://kingsley.idehen.net/DAV/home/kidehen/Public/Linked%20Data%20Documents/GlossaryOfTerms.ttl -- My Glossary of Terms
[2] https://github.com/kidehen/GlossaryOfTerms -- Github project
[3] http://www.openlinksw.com/data/turtle/general/GlossaryOfTerms.ttl -- OpenLink Official Edition.

Kingsley Idehen	      
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