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Re: [ontology-summit] Criteria for evaluating ontologies at different le

To: ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2012 13:51:30 -0500
Message-id: <50DB4732.6040303@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew,    (01)

>> Ultimately, the test of the Semantic Web--and the applications that we
>> build for it--will be the extent to which applications built by others
>> interoperate with ours.    (02)

> That is broadly what I understand by interoperability too. However,
> I see interoperability at two levels, which I will describe as weak
> interoperability and strong interoperability.    (03)

I agree that there are different kinds of interoperability.  But without
specific examples to illustrate the definitions, I have no idea what you
mean by 'weak' or 'strong'.    (04)

> Weak interoperability is when each system that is interoperating is
> completely independent, and interfaces are negotiated between systems that
> need to operate on a one-to-one basis, and may involve extensive mapping
> between different coding systems. The problem with weak interoperability is
> its fragility.    (05)

This is vague.  Please give one or more examples of implemented and
deployed systems that use what you call 'weak interoperability' and
show how they broke down because of the "fragility".    (06)

> In a medium to large network of systems (say 20+) this can be very
> costly. However, this is what TBL seems to be advocating.    (07)

I didn't see anything in Tim's proposal that has any resemblance
to what you said above.  Could you relate his exact words to the
implemented examples of what you call "weak interoperability"?    (08)

>> As an example, I cited the Amazon.com database schema, which is highly
>> underspecified. But it enables vendors around the world to interoperate
>> with the Amazon software in describing, selling, and shipping a wide
>> variety of products.    (09)

> I would not describe this as underspecified, just focused. I think you
> will find it is quite precisely specified in things like delivery addresses,
> credit card details, product pricing, delivery charges, product names, etc.    (010)

It's underspecified in the sense that the product categories -- such as
books, electronics, cameras, toys -- are not defined.    (011)

> Indeed, but if those limited semantics are not true always and
> everywhere there will be occasions when their systems cannot be used
> (or fudge/false data will have to be used to make them work).    (012)

Different vendors might classify similar things as toys, electronics,
or cameras.  Such discrepancies might cause a vendor to lose sales,
but they won't cause any system (Amazon's or any vendor's) to crash.
The current methods are adequate to support a multi-billion dollar
industry.  The penalty of losing sales is sufficient to cause vendors
to keep their classifications reasonably consistent with one another.    (013)

These methods actually work.  That's more than one can claim for
most ontologies and tools for building and/or using ontologies.    (014)

> Strong interoperability replaces this point-to-point approach with a
> hub-and-spoke approach. So, you still have independent applications, but now
> there is a central hub (which may be virtual) with an overarching ontology
> and a single coding system. Interfaces are now just to and from this central
> hub, and preferably, all the systems use the same coding system.    (015)

Precise standards are needed for many purposes.  That point was
recognized in 14th century, and it has become increasingly important
in science, engineering, business, and finance ever since.    (016)

But note that the question of how ontologies and standards are or
should be related is still an active topic of debate.    (017)

> It seems that one of the differences between us may be about where we
> think the utility of ontology is in the business world. For me it is not in
> developing applications that use reasoners, but in developing strong
> interoperability between systems at an enterprise or industry level. My
> estimate is that this gives/will give rise to over 95% of the potential
> benefit of using ontologies.    (018)

So far, we don't seem to disagree about any specific examples.  The
disagreements arise over the words used in vague discussions.    (019)

In fact, that is my main concern about the entire theme of evaluating
ontologies.  There are too many clouds of vague words with no specific
examples to pin them down.    (020)

I'm sure that people who contribute to these discussions base their
words on their own experiences.  But without specific examples, it's
impossible for us to share those experiences and talk coherently
about these clouds of words.    (021)

Bottom line:  We need to have a list of specific examples -- a list
of published ontologies and applications of ontology that anyone can
download and examine.  Without such a list, it's impossible to say
anything meaningful about how to evaluate ontologies.    (022)

John    (023)

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