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Re: User Facing Documents

From: Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 13:55:19 +0100
Message-ID: <47287B37.7080309@w3.org>
To: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@cs.man.ac.uk>
Cc: public-owl-wg@w3.org
Hi Bijan,

Bijan Parsia wrote:
> 
> [I trust I can post this without getting accused of being anti-user,
> user-unknowing, narrowly technical, or whatever other dismissal de jour
> is in the air.]
> 

:-)

Maybe it is worth to look at the first OWL 'suite' and see how the
different documents scored in this sense. Unfortunately, I have only
purely anecdotal evidence based on my own personal experience when I
began to learn that stuff (and I had no description logic background at
all when I started [not that I would claim to have a solid one now
either]), as well as when I talked to people at various meetings,
tutorials, and the like. The two top scores were the OWL Guide and the
OWL Language Reference. I firmly believe that the general acceptance of
OWL was hugely helped by the publication of those two documents together
with the heavy stuff. The former gave an easy entry to the whole area,
and the latter was the document to keep under your pillow until you knew
all that stuff from the top of your head (I remember I made an SVG
representation for all the classes on OWL to help myself visualize the
whole maze). Note that the guide is far from being a full tutorial; but
it could strike the right balance.

The situation with OWL1.1 might be a little bit different, because the
possible audience is not in an unknown territory any more. But there are
still lots of people out there for whom OWL is as new as it was 3-4
years ago.

Bottomline: I think that having those two documents reproduced, so to
say, for OWL1.1 would be very important. And, in many respect, we are
not even forced to reinvent the wheel; we could start from the existing
documents and expand those to include the new features. (Well, there is
a caveat, see below.)

My 2 pence for you and 2 eurocents for me...

Ivan

P.S. The caveat: the guide was based on a wine ontology. I remember
having had feedbacks then that were not happy with the choice of topics,
namely people from muslim countries. Not necessarily for religious
reasons but because the text somehow took it as a common knowledge that,
for example, there is such thing as white and red wine and those are
different. Well, that may not be common knowledge...


> It is a truism of HCI that users vary, so if you are going to evaluate
> something it has to be with respect to specific users (or user types)
> and specific issues. So, it would be helpful if we could identify a bit
> better what users various documents are targeting. It's just not
> *feasible* to reach all the users we might want to reach, in the best
> way for them.
> 
> For example, are we going to develop tutorials? I don't think that's a
> good use of WG time and effort. *Recognizing* and marketing and
> encouraging third party tutorials is sensible. Tweaking documents in
> small ways to accommodated tutorial writers is *quite* sensible (because
> we get a lot of bang for the buck).
> 
> The two most important things we can do for users, which are most
> squarely in our mandate and solidly within our power, is to produce a
> language that maximally useful for them with specifications that support
> -- nay, encourage -- a strong, actively developed infrastructure (of
> tools, expertise, experience, community, and success).
> 
> It's also important that user facing websites (which is really what we
> are talking about) are actively maintain ad infinitum. Ephemera should
> be clearly labeled as such (best if naturally so like blog posts). Pace
> contrevening evidence e.g., from server logs, I'd imagine that a "What
> is OWL?" document on xml.com:
> 
>     <http://xml.com/>
> 
> is probably more valuable overall. It targets an influential market
> (i.e., web developers with some technical savvy) in a focused way. Plus,
> it could helps elide, a little, the perception that OWL is niche, or W3C
> top down wankery.
> 
> Similarly, at OWLED 2007, a participant called not for more "basic" user
> documentation, but for "mid level" stuff, i.e., you've kinda learned the
> language, now what? E.g., things more similar to the SWBPD patterns
> stuff. Hence, the OWLED task force on "Education":
> 
>     <http://code.google.com/p/owl1-1/wiki/Education>
> 
> Things like implementation lists:
> 
>     <http://code.google.com/p/owl1-1/wiki/Implementations>
>     <http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~sattler/reasoners.html>
> 
> are really useful, but generally only if maintained. So, for many
> classes of user facing document, we need a post-WG sustainability strategy.
> 
> OWLED and webont.org are two venues for this. I urge people not to
> forget that the WG is only one way to work toward the success of OWL,
> and that it is an instrument with limits and particular strengths.
> 
> For example, adding a workable keys proposal to the language is, in my
> estimation, far more important than adding *any* user facing document. I
> base this on the fact that the users and "customers" that Matthew,
> Robert, and Alan influence don't seem to read any of the documents. They
> just ask Matthew, Robert, and Alan. They tell me that the lack of easy
> peasy keys is a huge barrier to adoption, or even to starting
> conversations about adoption. Extending the language is something the WG
> can, almost uniquely, do.
> 
> (And note that speccing easy keys has not been trivial. Uli and I have
> spent more time that we expected trying to nail down all the details.
> And of course, no one cares about a *mere* spec...they need them
> *deployed*, which I am working on and constrained the specification.)
> 
> Cheers,
> Bijan.
> 

-- 

Ivan Herman, W3C Semantic Web Activity Lead
Home: http://www.w3.org/People/Ivan/
PGP Key: http://www.ivan-herman.net/pgpkey.html
FOAF: http://www.ivan-herman.net/foaf.rdf


Received on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 12:55:20 GMT

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