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vision for controlled vocabulary use and management

From: Miles, AJ (Alistair) <A.J.Miles@rl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 2004 12:44:59 +0100
Message-ID: <350DC7048372D31197F200902773DF4C05E50C89@exchange11.rl.ac.uk>
To: "'public-esw-thes@w3.org'" <public-esw-thes@w3.org>

Hi all,

I thought I'd try to put down in words where I have assumed controlled
vocabulary development and use is (or ought to be :) going.  Because SKOS
Core is forward looking, and has been designed with a lot of future-proofing
in mind, I wanted to check that some simple elements of this vision make
sense to everyone else.

(1) Concept-Oriented Design and Construction

The design and construction of controlled vocabularies, thesauri etc. will
become *concept-oriented*.  This means that concepts are identified
explicitly, and the meaning of a concept is understood to be taken from the
combination of its labels, notes etc.

(2) Concept-Oriented Indexing

The use of controlled vocabularies, thesauri etc. for (subject-based)
indexing will become concept oriented.  This means that the index values in
record metadata will be *concept-identifiers* and not terms.  In turn,
indexing applications will hide these identifiers from the indexer ... so an
indexer will interact with a set of concepts via their labels and notes, as
part of selecting the appropriate concept, and the insertion of
concept-identifiers into metadata is performed by the application.

(3) Concept-Oriented Maintenance & Management

Once a concept identifier has been published, it is in the interest of the
publishing authority to avoid altering the meaning of the concept associated
with that identifier.  If the meaning is significantly altered over time,
the identifier will be applied inconsistently in indexing metadata, and its
utility will be reduced.  This means that, if an authority wishes to
significantly refactor/reorganise/redefine some of its concepts, this is
best done by defining and publishing some new concepts and new concept
identifiers.  Replacement relationships may be then defined between the old
concepts and the new, which would support perfect interoperability between
systems employing old and new concept sets, and would also support automated
updating of indexing metadata.

These are the kinds of assumption I've been working on ... so if these look
wrong to you, please tell me.  Also, Stella's last email [1] highlighted the
difference between this vision and current paradigm and practise within the
thesaurus user community, wrt change management.  Ideally, I would like SKOS
Core to be where the thesaurus user community will arrive in perhaps a
couple of years, so that it fits the requirements.  However, this may be at
least in part unrealistic.  Bridging the space between the current users of
controlled vocabularies and the framework of the semantic web is what I see
as the central goal of the SKOS work ... which may require a little more
meeting in the middle ... ?

Anyway, food for thought.


[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-esw-thes/2004Oct/0048.html

Alistair Miles
Research Associate
CCLRC - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Building R1 Room 1.60
Fermi Avenue
Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
United Kingdom
Email:        a.j.miles@rl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445440
Received on Friday, 8 October 2004 11:45:32 UTC

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