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Re: Ontology Wars? Concerned

From: Martin Hepp (UniBW) <martin.hepp@ebusiness-unibw.org>
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 22:06:46 +0100
Message-ID: <4B0AF966.3040705@ebusiness-unibw.org>
To: Paul Houle <ontology2@gmail.com>
CC: nathan@webr3.org, pedantic-web@googlegroups.com, Linked Data community <public-lod@w3.org>
There are lots of trade-offs when designing an ontology, e.g. 
specificity vs. size of the target user community - this has e.g. been 
discussed in

Hepp, Martin: Possible Ontologies: How Reality Constrains the 
Development of Relevant Ontologies, in: IEEE Internet Computing, Vol. 
11, No. 1, pp. 90-96, Jan-Feb 2007.

A PDF is at



Paul Houle wrote:
> On Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 2:23 PM, Nathan <nathan@webr3.org> wrote:
>> I'm finding the path to entry in to the linked open data world rather
>> difficult and confusing, and only for one specific reason - ontologies;
>> it /feels/ like there are some kind of ontology wars going on and I can
>> never get a definitive clear answer.
> An ontology war is preferable to the alternative:  the "one ring" that rules
> them all.
> If you're trying to develop an ontology for topic X,  it's usually easy to
> make one that's good but obviously not perfect:  let's say, 95% correct.
> You need to cross an "uncanny valley" in the attempt to go from 95% to 100%,
>  and often things get worse rather than better.  This is one of the reasons
> why Cyc is perceived as a failure:  although it was trying to model the
> "common sense" knowledge that we all share,  the actual structures in Cyc
> that try to represent everything in a consistent way are bizzare,
>  counterintuitive and certainly not representative of how people think,  no
> matter how correct they may be.
> People don't have a completely consistent taxonomy of the world either;
>  they have models of different parts of reality that they'll mesh when they
> need to mesh them.  My 94% correct version of topic X might be great for
> what I'm doing w/ topic X and your 96% version is great for what you're
> doing.  Trying to build one system that's perfect might result in something
> that's not as good for what we're doing...  But in the long term we do need
> tools that let us mesh these easily.
> SPARQL + OWL can take us part of the way in that direction,  but really,  we
> need something better in that direction,  largely because of the many
> "almost the same as" relationships that are out there...

martin hepp
e-business & web science research group
universitaet der bundeswehr muenchen

e-mail:  hepp@ebusiness-unibw.org
phone:   +49-(0)89-6004-4217
fax:     +49-(0)89-6004-4620
www:     http://www.unibw.de/ebusiness/ (group)
         http://www.heppnetz.de/ (personal)
skype:   mfhepp 
twitter: mfhepp

Check out GoodRelations for E-Commerce on the Web of Linked Data!

Project page:

Resources for developers:

Overview - http://www.heppnetz.de/projects/goodrelations/webcast/
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Recipe for Yahoo SearchMonkey:

Talk at the Semantic Technology Conference 2009: 
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Overview article on Semantic Universe:

Tutorial materials:
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Received on Monday, 23 November 2009 21:07:29 UTC

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