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Re: OWL Documents and new WG (was Re: New draft charter (was Re: Responses to "Draft of charter for NextWebOnt (Proposed) Working Group"))

From: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 12:23:40 -0500
Message-Id: <p062408c4c1f64dbf38c0@[]>
To: ewallace@cme.nist.gov, public-owl-dev@w3.org

I have been talking to various and sundry about the OWL 1.1 issue and 
issues of usability of the current documents for those wishing to 
continue to use existing syntax or wishing to upgrade existing 
documents that do not use any of the new approaches to syntax in the 
documents to date.  I've raised these issues before, won't do so 
again (except to say the usability of the current documents for 
non-developers is worse than I thought).   There is, however, an 
issue that arose in these conversations which I think has a lot of 
impact on the chartering of the group - is the new WG working on the 
next version of OWL or simply on a set of extensions to the current 

If the first case, then the documentation requirements on this WG are 
quite high.  A user going to http://www.w3.0rg/2004/OWL would need to 
find complete documentation of OWL, not just of the OWL 1.1 
extensions.   This would require the WG taking ownership of current 
documents and either extending them as they are (i.e. add new 
sections on the new features) or changing them (for example, Bijan 
raised the issue in earlier email as to whether it made more sense to 
extend the previous model theory or to change it) - but in the latter 
case, the whole of OWL, not just the extensions must be in the new 
documents (Which would, in effect, become the only OWL documents).

In the second case, the user would come to the OWL site and find the 
original documents plus some new ones (so the current 6 documents 
would remain, with new documents added).  In this case, the WG would 
likely be called somethign like the "OWL Extensions" WG and the new 
documents would reflect that in their names.  In this case, only 
those things in previous versions which were not backwards 
compatible, or which were changed in some major way, would need to be 
indicated in the previous documents (and note, by W3C process/policy 
changing backward compatibility, esp. normative documents, is a very 
high bar).

This may seem like a minor distinction, but I think it has a major 
impact on the WG.  In the first case, the group is going beyond 
simply creating and documenting some new features, it is taking 
responsibility for the redefinition of the language.  This puts a 
higher requirement on the documentation issues, requires maintaining 
(for example) the issues list, creating new test cases and use cases, 
etc.   I would not oppose the group doing this, but I am HIGHLY 
skeptical that a WG could do this in 1 year without face to face 
meetings.   In addition, if the group made this choice, I believe the 
documents would become deliverables of the WG (they would have to be) 
so the WG would be required to deliver these - couldn't say "we 
decided not to" if time grew short.

In the second case, I think I believe the work could be done in a 
year, although I still have my doubts (expressed in previous emails). 
If the WG participants are willing to mostly be bound to what is now 
called OWL 1.1, and the deliverables are essentially just more 
readable versions of the current documents (and some of the necessary 
extensions, like the new namespace document and list of the owl 
vocabulary added) then maybe this would work.    In this case, 
however, the charter as written is much too broad - this is not the 
charter for extending an existing langauge with new features, but for 
doing significantly more work than that.

Oh yeah, meant to mention that in either case, the WG also should 
specify relationship to the Ontology Engineering notes that were 
produced by the SWBPD WG - obviously a lot of features of OWL 1.1 
change the approach to the things in those notes (for example, 
punning obviously has a major impact on the metamodeling note, etc.)

Anyway, either way I think there needs to be more care paid to the 
deliverables "vs" the timing - either less deliverables or a more 
realistic calendar (and more realistic expectations about the amount 
of work the WG will need to do) seem to me called for.

As I've learned by hard experience, paying attention to issues of 
deliverables and timing in advance has a big impact on the success of 
a WG - if the new group is to go forward, I think more care and 
effort has to go into this.
  -Jim H.

How can you be in two places at once if you're not anywhere at all?
						(Firesign Theatre, 1969)
Prof James Hendler				http://www.cs.rpi.edu/~hendler
Tetherless World Constellation Chair		301-405-2696 (work)
Computer Science Dept			301-405-6707 (Fax)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY 12180
Received on Monday, 12 February 2007 17:23:59 UTC

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