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RE: ALL: philosophy of SWBPD (was Re: [OPEN] and/or [PORT] : a practical question)

From: Uschold, Michael F <michael.f.uschold@boeing.com>
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 20:10:04 -0800
Message-ID: <823043AB1B52784D97754D186877B6CF04894ED1@xch-nw-12.nw.nos.boeing.com>
To: "Pat Hayes" <phayes@ihmc.us>, "Jim Hendler" <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
Cc: "SWBPD" <public-swbp-wg@w3.org>
I agree with Pat in that we need to be careful with how we present our
'advice', emphasizing the likely consequences of modeling choices. I
would guess most agree on this point.  Our challenge is to determine
useful criteria for identifying and measuring consequences.
-----Original Message-----
From: public-swbp-wg-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-swbp-wg-request@w3.org]On Behalf Of Pat Hayes
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2004 6:42 PM
To: Jim Hendler
Subject: Re: ALL: philosophy of SWBPD (was Re: [OPEN] and/or [PORT] : a
practical question)
[snipping to some points]
If you study something, e.g. representation and reasoning algorithms,
for a long time, you will become an expert in that and be able to
understand and perceive things that people without that experience
won't.  I'm not sure why there is this pervasive belief that this is not
true for ontology design.
I could offer a variety of reasons, but perhaps it would not be helpful
at this point.
 We have fairly good representation in this group from the community
that has been studying that for the last 10-20 years, and <big surprise>
we have learned some things.  And <big surprise> you're going to hear
about it.
Chris, I've been a KR&R researcher for longer than anyone else in this
group (unless Pat joins)
Pat just joined.
and have the bona fides to prove it, and yet I often disagree w/folks
like you and Ian as to what are "mistakes" and what are preferences -- I
think this has a lot to do with the fact that the best practices in
theory are often different from the best practices in applications, and
I just want to make sure we don't use the wrong guide posts in trying to
help people build working, rather than theoretically pure, systems.  You
also have experience in fielding systems, so I believe when we disagree
the hope will be we explain both rationales, rather than dueling it out.

And Pat agrees with you, Jim.
I had written a rather acerbic response to Chris' message, but rather
than just keep on quarreling, let me suggest that we try to adopt some
criterion for giving best-practice advice. If anyone wants to say that
some technique or style is 'bad', let them rather phrase the advice in
the form 'if you use this technique or style, the following consequences
may arise, which could be undesireable because the following could
happen..' The 'following' might include: failures of interoperability
with other techniques or styles; dangers of misunderstandings arising;
failure to conform to one or more existing standards (particularly ones
in widespread use); inability to make use of existing engines or
inference techniques.  But I would suggest that reasons based on
philosophical opinions, or which amount to little more than 'people that
I know and admire have tended to always do it that way' should not be
offered as pest-practice advice; and that in cases (which may well
include the classes-as-instances issue) where it seems that entire
communities disagree, then we should say that, and give the pros and
cons in both directions.
>  My big fear for this WG is that we're going to somehow "endorse"
certain kinds of
> representation and say other folks are somehow making errors
Your fear is my hope, though I'm not interested in the "who".  Just
explaining what's good and what's bad.
What is driving me crazy is this simplistic view that one can clearly
distinguish 'good' and 'bad' here. Can we try to adopt a more nuanced
form of words, and try to avoid the (ultimately simply ridiculous)
posturing about being an Authority on how to write Good SW content? The
fact is, this has not really ever been done before by anyone, including
us. We are like writers of essays on literary style setting out to give
advice on how to write hypertext before there were any web pages. A
little humility might be a useful thing to wear at this point.
under what criteria?  As long as we specify the  criteria set we're
working against when we call something "bad" then I'm okay   - I don't
think KR is completely (or, frankly speaking, even nearly) a science,
and there's a tendency on our part to try to push it too hard in that
direction -- but every "theory of representation" developed to date has
proved to be flawed, and most of us in the field admit there's a certain
"art" to getting it right -- and crticizing someone else's art is moving
in a dangerous direction, esp. on the Web.
> - yet on the web,
> different people with different opinions about representation will all
need to use
> the languages, we must be careful not to be like the "soup nazi"s in
the Seinfeld
> show [1] who get to dictate who gets their soup and who doesn't based
on some set
> of rules that no one else understands...

Certainly this idea of desribing best and worst practices could be
carried too far.  I agree we must be careful.  But you have been saying
this so much it's starting to sound like "don't do it at all".
well, for what it is worth, I am on the record in the early days of
planning this activity as advocating not having a modeling TF  -- I was
overruled, however, and thus will work hard to make sure we do the best
we can anyway
Ditto. And I would say that it would be better to do nothing rather than
set out to write a definitive manual of how to Do Things Right on the
the Semantic Web.
>  Seriously, I think the BPD will do a great service if we explain the
issues and
> the advantages and disadvantages of various representations - but if
we start to
> dictate one way or the other as "correct" then we will be doing a
disservice to the
> community and will not be helping to deploy the semantic web.
I suspect you mean to emphasize the "one" there.  And I agree with that,
absolutely.  There are often many correct ways to model the same thing,
and there are many incorrect ways.
Since I agree w/this last statement, I'm going to be happy to drop this
For myself, I do not agree with that last statement. I don't think that
there is such a thing as an incorrect way to model anything. There are
ways of modelling which violate various assumptions and might cause
various problems in certain settings, and we can and should document
these; things like this are objective. But to classify any technique as
'incorrect' is not objective: it is merely an expression of a personal
opinion. There is no science to back up such an opinion. If we as a
group find ourselves with a unanimous or near-unanimous opinion, I guess
we can offer it to the world: but even there, we ought to clearly
distinguish between opinions we all hold and matters of actual fact that
we think people ought to know.
 -- consider it simply my trying to make it clear to the group where I
see some potential pitfalls -- I'm not so much trying to convince anyone
of anything as setting the groundwork for future objections :->
Professor James Hendler
Director, Semantic Web and Agent Technologies       301-405-2696
Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Lab.      301-405-6707 (Fax)
Univ of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742          240-277-3388 (Cell)
IHMC       (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973   home
40 South Alcaniz St.       (850)202 4416   office
Pensacola                 (850)202 4440   fax
FL 32501                     (850)291 0667    cell
phayes@ihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
Received on Tuesday, 30 March 2004 23:11:59 EST

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