30 June 2005

Cosmik Debris » Ontology

Cosmik Debris » Ontology

Nice to see the philosophy guys out talking about Ontology, too.

Forthcoming: prime tags or iffy overlapping tags

Forthcoming: prime tags or iffy overlapping tags

I like this idea. I posted a comment, and I think its important to remember, that it is important to realize that an item within a data (or linguistic) taxonomy can have several different sets of parents, and hence have several different sets of children.

For instance, the entity "dandelion", within a taxonomy, could have the parents "weed", "wine", "scent", "salad", etc.

It is important that when we come up with interesting tagging methods, especially for the automated searching and consumption of data by systems (interoperability), that we refer to the tag lineage of information, not just it's particular tag.

on Ontology, Tagging, Seach, & Commerce

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to 650 :: on Ontology, Tagging, Seach, & Commerce :: July :: 2005

Interesting arugument about the strengths and weaknesses of unstructured data vs. structured data.

I could be wrong, but I see things like google as having structured data, but the structure is dynamic - i.e. a dynamic and agile taxonomy exists, and is modified every time a googlebot comes back with more information about the data elements found on a page (i.e. - words on the page, and the words of pages that link to that page).

Off Topic - Alternative Energy

Is it just me, or does it become increasingly more and more apparent with each day that we need to be pushing on forward in the pursuit of alternative energy exploitation.

Wind, solar, nuclear - all good. Hydrogen - if realized, could be perhaps perfect.

We need to think about exceeding the arms race, the space race, and the information race of the past 20,40,60 years and concentrate a similar set of national treasure and resources on development and adoption of such energy.

This will help so many aspects of our world, I can't wait for the day when it's here. I just hope that it comes within my lifetime.

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exegesis on formal ontology - or where I learn to sleep quietly at night again

Formal Ontologies are necessary.

I've said it, and I'm glad I said it!

The past several weeks, ever since becoming acquainted with Clay Shirky's diatribe against ontologies and digital marking (tagging) techniques (which are, at least according to Tim Berners-Lee, required for the semantic web), I have felt a deep blight covering part of my weltanschauung. I believe that within the area of data interoperability, and system composability, there is definitely a need for a formal specification of conceptualization (ontology). Where I believe that I and Mr. Shirky (whom I usually agree with, and enjoy reading) must part ways is this. When a group of individual people are attempting to all communicate, from different backgrounds, understandings and capabilities then ontology is not possible to concieve of on the part of the "speaker" (or in the case of posted information, the "producer"). This is because what is said is percieved of by someone with a different understnading. Because of this, when people talk, they are constantly refining, and re-refining their shared ontology. This is done through not only restatement of ideas in different terms, but also in inference and context. These things the human mind is capable of, where computers (not currently, if ever) are not.

This is where the idea of a "folkonomy" comes from. A folkonomy is a populist taxonomy derived from the bottom up, where people constantly contribute (the refining and re-refining), in the sense of a wiki. Perhaps with this, there will be a taxonomy (if not an ontolgy) that there can be general consensus on.

However, in the world of system interoperability, the situation is much different. Even though two computer systems have an ontology defining their data being interchanged, the two systems do not "understand" the data being exchanged. What they are capable of doing is understanding where in the ontology (which is a formalized structure defining the classes and instances of data being exchanged, and the allowable relationships between that data) the data resides. That is the level of "understanding" that a formal ontology brings to system interoperability. Does the ontology have to be semantically perfect? It has to be perfect enough to accomodate all the ways in which the participating systems can make use of the data (hence, all the possible properties and concepts making up the entities and relations being described). Does it have to be complete? That depends on what you mean by complete. It has to be complete enough to accomodate all of the aspects of data being interchanged, but it does not necessarily have to be a complete view of the whole universe of discourse (as would be required if the ontology were for a free communication mode, such as speech).

Note that this does get more and more complex when we speak of an ontology that will accomodate agile system to system connectivity and interoperability - such as when we have a large number of systems, which may or may not be known of when the ontology is derived. Any of these systems can be arranged to interoperate with each other on demand, and have to do so through the worldview afforded by the ontology - then it must be more "perfect", and more "complete" (as I've defined them above).

This where sufficiency comes into play.

So, Mr. Shirky, wherever you are tonight, I am now at peace with your writing. I believe that there is a home for metadata, tagging, and formal ontologies. But perhaps (and this coincides with my philosophical leanings) it is not achievable for general communications using the paradigms that we currently employ and are aware of. However, for the purposes of system interoperability, I believe that a "perfect" enough, and "complete" enough ontology is achievable with the defining and tagging technologies of today.

My weltanschauung is now complete again.


Components of Ontology: More thoughts on Concepts

The different aspects of concepts (or perhaps, contributing concepts that combine to form higher order concepts) are known as the "properties" of the concepts.

Properties are very important, in that they are the aspect of the concept that allow different concepts to be grouped together. This ability to group together concepts is CRUCIAL for the formulation of rules (which provides for inference, and also the framework for relationships to exist within).

The existence of properties within concepts is also a key feature for the associated concepts, which are entities and relationships. Both of them are comprised of one or more concept, and those concepts have properties that allow them to be grouped together, and hence operated on by rules. Likewise, if our domain allows it (and the battlespace, which I am concerned with does), there can be categorical or "group" entities that are supersets of lower entities. Depending on the domain and it's own rules (and the nature of the relationships between entities and entity-sets) the properties of the entities might be inherited by the entity-sets.

An example seems like it will make this much clearer. For instance, in the battlespace domain, there is the entity of a Tank. This is (of course) an armoured vehicle that moves over land, has some defensive capability, a collection of engineering parameters, some offensive capability, and perhaps the capacity for crew members, supplies, and maybe the ability to tow or carry something. It is a fighting vehicle. In the ontology of the battlespace, it is an entity that falls somewhere under the entity "vehicle". Now there are also the entities within the battlespace of "armoured units", which are comprised of (among other things) "tanks". Some of the capabilities of tanks (derived from the concepts of the "tank") are going to be inherited by the entity "armoured unit". For instance, the maximum range with which an "armoured unit" can engage an enemy is based on the maximum range of the "tanks" that the "armoured unit" is a set of.

Likewise, not only entities but also relationships have concepts. These are a little more abstract than the concepts of entities, but only because we are not accustomed to thinking of them consciously. When we communicate, the rules of our language and semantics are definitely bounded by the concepts that comprise relationships. For an example, let us consider the binary relationship "tank has crew". There are two entities, tank (a subject entity) and crew (an object entity). These each have a number of concepts, some of which should be apparent.

But also consider the relationship "has". In this case, it is being used to define that an entity has as part of itself a number of other entities. To put it simply, think of it in terms of the set-entities that comprise both "tank" and "crew". This then becomes "vehicle has component", for a tank is a vehicle, and crew is a component of a vehicle.

At this point, "has" now has a few interesting concepts. First, it has a time subjectivity concept, by which I mean this - if we say a tank has crew, we mean two things. (1) A tank has the CAPACITY to contain 4 crew members (and needs 4 to function fully). (2) A tank has the POTENTIALITY of carrying 0,1,2,3 or 4 crew members subject to it's current state (is it in storage, is it in the field, has it been damaged, etc etc etc).

Second, the relationship "has" can imply the concept of specificity, semi-specificity (or class specificity), or non-specificity. By this I men that the tank can either (1) have SPECIFIC crew (Carol, Bob, Ted, and Alice), (2) have CLASS-SPECIFIC crew (gunner, loader, driver, commander), or (3) have NON_SPECIFIC crew (4 bodies). These are all concepts of the relationship, which allow it to be redefined, or to have its properties defined.

When looked at that way, the relationship "has" can be divided up into two more specific relationships of "has capacity of" and "has currently". Another aspect of the idea of "fractal ontology", where ideas can be re-represented at higher or lower orders of resolution. It can, of cource, be further divided up based on the specificity property.

Earlier concepts posting


29 June 2005

Taxonomies and Tags

Taxonomies and Tags

Good article from David Weinberger. It was written as a into article for Esther Dyson's online blogazine

I like what David has to say about taxonomies, especially his comparison with real world understanding viz what can be done with data (metadata, tags, etc). Plus he quotes that annoying git, Foucault, in a good way.

Nova Spivack: The Future of the Web

Preoccupations: Nova Spivack: The Future of the Web

This is an article from the blog Preoccupations, which details some of Nova Spivack's writings concerning the future of the web. Of great interest is the graph that Nova has created, showing the convergence of the current web, social software, the semantic web concepts, all into a new "metaweb".

Tracing the Evolution of Social Software

Tracing the Evolution of Social Software

From the blog "Life with Alacrity" - a very good history of social software.

See my thoughts below about the need for semantic web contents to support such systems as they become more agile and dynamic.

28 June 2005



Interesting blog on social software.

Overall, I see social software being a good thing. I believe that as the online community grows, things such as agents and search-avatars that will automatically go out and seek others for you to connect with will have the same needs as any other system which desires to make agile connections based on conceptual interoperability. And those needs start with common reference models for their modes of communication, and those common reference models need to be grounded in a domain ontology. (is that me standing on the soapbox?)

I do have to say that I find the aspects and issues of social software very, very interesting.

Tags and the Growth of Knowledge/Understanding

Tags and the Growth of Knowledge/Understanding

Very interesting article from a writer who believes that tagging is a good thing. I can't disagree.

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Unfolding Ontology: the topology of tagging

digital digs: Unfolding Ontology: the topology of tagging

Very interesting. Yet another take on the Shirky proposal that tagging and ontology is going to be ineffective. Digital Digs proposes that a more bottom up (where a world-view is derived from folkonomy type concepts) approach might work.

The problem I see with the bottom up approach, is that it is based on perception (or worse, prevaricative perception, such as the failed metatag experiment with our current version of the internet), rather than transmitter's intent.

The plot continues to thicken . . .

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apophenia: random ontology thoughts

apophenia: random ontology thoughts

Very interesting - the author posits that before we can really evaluate ontology and the effects that a system which can exploit an ontollogy might make, we have to consider several of the big key ideas of ontology representation (cardinality, indirectness, multiple knowledge parents, etc)


Marcus Aurelius on Ontology

Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to
investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy
observation in life.
-Marcus Aurelius

Uncovering the epistemological and ontological assumptions of software designers

Uncovering the epistemological and ontological assumptions of software designers

Attempts to exploit the fact that while software designers and developers are attempting to work together with weak epistemologies and ontologies, they must achieve this by concentrating on weak similarities between systems. Unfortunately, this only serves to marginalize the interesting features of each individual system. Interesting work, and of particular interest to me as it is strongly grounded in philosophical consideration.

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Gardner Writes » Ontology, Ethics, Meaning

Gardner Writes » Ontology, Ethics, Meaning

Gardner Campbell has written a concise and very interesting riposte to Clay Shirky's "Ontology Overrated" article. Very nice, and I agree with what he is saying.

Gardner's piece has encouraged me to see the effort of forming a formal ontology for a means of communication as a practice in Ethics. By undertaking the attempt to formulate such an ontology, rather than leave the interpretation of the universe of discourse to "popular" view, you are attempting to present the meaning of that discourse in a "correct" view.

Of course this then begs the question of who decides what is correct, but I think that I am getting at "correct" not in a sence of morality, but rather in the sense of being unambiguous in conveying exactly what you want to convey. Your meaning is taken correctly as you intended it when you undertook to communicate.

Thanks, Gardner.


27 June 2005

Wired News: Folksonomies Tap People Power

Wired News: Folksonomies Tap People Power

An interesting Wired article from earlier this year spoke about the concept of Folksonomies - the bottom up creation of a taxonomy. This appears to mostly be driven through things like tagging (whether through technorati, flickr, or metadata)

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W3C on MetaData

W3C on Metadata

This is a group that is a few years old, yet what they've produced is right up my alley, and indeed is related to many of the technologies and methods that interest in my studies on Ontology.

Some of the more interesting work is with RDF (largely supplanted by OWL), and also some links to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

One of the interesting areas that I worked in while working at the NASA Atmospheric Sciences data archive a few years ago was HDF. HDF stands for the Heirarchical Data Format. It allowed for the very interesting view of data at increasing levels of magnification. Part of how it worked, at least for us, was through copious metadata that solved a numver of different purposes. Here is a good presentation on HDF and it's method for modeling data.

26 June 2005

Information Intelligence

Information Intelligence: Intelligent Classification and the Enterprise Taxonomy Practice

This is a white paper put out in 2004 concerning the enterprise practice of organizing and describing their information within a taxonomy. Very nice.

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Shirky: The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview

Shirky: The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview

This is another article of Clay Shirky's. This one is a bit older, dating from 2003, but there are still interesting things to be found here.

My basic disagreement with Shirky in this article are twofold - first, I don't believe that Syllogisms are the only method that will make use of ontological information and tagging of data or services. Second, metadata does work, I've witnessed its valuable effects. I will admit, however, that for metadata to be useful it has to be accurate and honest.


Clay Shirky takes apart Ontology

Shirky: Ontology is Overrated -- Categories, Links,
and Tags

This is a very interesting article, from an author that has what I USUALLY find to be a very good opinion. This time, however, I think I must disagree with him. More on this later, as I examine the points in this article deeper.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm just a little defensive, as this is my thing these days...


24 June 2005

Dooku + Music = dooku.net


Start it up and start pressing the white button. Groovy.

23 June 2005

Conference Schedule

Just came back from the 10th International Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium last week. It was in Tyson's Corner, and hosted by the Command and Control Research Program, under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (OASD/NII). That was a good conference. Made some good contacts, stayed at the Ritz-Carlton(!), had some good food, attended some good talks. Already working on a paper for next year's conference. Brought back some french chocolates from the Ritz-Carlton - Heidi likes the milk chocolate, which leaves the dark chocolate for me. I don't need that...

In July I am attending Summer Computer Simulation Conference, put on by the Society for Modeling and Simulation International. I have written an submitted (and had it accepted) a paper for this conference on "Extending the Levels of Conceptual Interoperability Model". I have entered this paper as a student author - I hope it is well received.

The week before the Summer Sim conference, I will be attending Historicon in Lancaster Pennsylvania. This is an annual event for me, and I've been doing it with the lads from Old Dominion Military Society for as long as that organization has existed (back to about 1989), and before that with the same lads, we just hadn't given ourself a fancy name yet. I will be hosting two wargames at this conference, with Chris Borucki. This year is a first for me, rather than attend with the guys, I will be going with Anita, instead. Should be fun; definitely will be expensive.

In september, I should(?) be attending SISO's Fall SIW (Simulation Interoperability Workshop). Cool. I have a paper already accepted for this one. Now I just have to write it. Damn skippy.

Today in History - Independence for Scotland and Venezuela

Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 assured Scottish
Independence from the English. Battle won by Robert the Bruce, leading
the blue men.

Battle of Carabobo in 1821 assured Venezuela Independence from the Spanish Royalists. Battle won by Simon Bolivar, leading the Republican army. An awesome website, not in english, has great video of the battle.

SISO Forum Member

I'm a member of the C4ISR forum for Fall SIW. That means I will be reviewing papers - which is a good thing for me. But it's a bad thing for a summer that I thought I wasn't going to have too many things to do over . . .

Components of Ontology: Concepts

In paper 05E-SIW-045, the idea of a formal ontology was defined to comprise four different components. These are concepts, entities, relations, and rules. Here are a couple of ideas I'm having about concepts, based on the original paper and also based on a conversation held today with my thesis advisor - Andreas.

Concepts, in 05E-SIW-045, are defined as anything within the universe of discourse with addressable properties. This definition was chosen deliberately, for several reasons.

The first reason for defining concept as anything with addressable properties is based on the concept of a fractal ontology. In a fractal ontology, each layered view of the contents of the ontology can be redefined at a higher resolution view (where more details) or a lower resolution view (with fewer details). When you consider the lowest resolution that you can consider an ontology in - which is perhaps just the idea of "concepts" as a class, and then move through all the various layers of redefinition (starting with the first layer, where concepts are divided up into objects, events, actions, and phenomenology), each layer has more concepts, but each of these concepts is defineable by higher-resolution, comprising concepts. From the perspective of a data model based on our ontology, the highest resolution concepts would be property-values. These are enumerated details defining (and indeed, are instances of) properties. Properties, in turn, are then collected together into propertied-concepts. Propertied-concepts are higher-order ideas, things or entities, that are an abstracted way of thinking of the sum of the comprising propertied-concepts. These are then collected, at a level even further removed from the highest resolution property-vales, into associated-concepts. Associated-concepts are again collections of various propertied-concepts into higher order ideas (which, when considered apart from their comprising propertied-concepts, are necessarily at a lower resolution). And so on up the spiral away from resolution, but more towards higher and higher ordered ideas.

The second reason for defining concept as anything with addressable properties, is because they must needs be considered seperately, and individually at the more higher-resolution levels, due to the fact that they have to be re-assemblable into more than one higher order idea. Much as atoms are able to be combined with other atoms to make a whole bewildering set of different molecules, so the concepts of our ontology must be combined with other concepts to create a large number of other higher order constructions. Consider the battlesphere domain. Here we have a concept known as fuel (a gross simplification). It, itself, is a combination of other higher resolution concepts (the component elements, perhaps, the type of fuel, it's grade, etc). Now fuel is a concept that is combined with other concepts to create a number of higher order concepts. It is a commodity to be considered from a logistics and shipping point of view. It is a component for a vehicle to enable it to enjoy mobility. It is a material that is combustible and may exacerbate weapon effects on buildings that contain fuel. It is also a key component in a number of makeshift weapons employed by irregular troops (the molotov cocktail).

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Agent Directed Simulation

Interesting talk about agents and simulation given by Dr. Levent Yilmaz of Auburn University.

Reminds me of an idea I had a while back where a network of nodes, representing a map through a jungle, would be traversed by a bunch of agents simulating monkeys. Different nodes would have different benefits - such as places to sleep, places to eat, places to breed, or places to avoid like tiger clearings. The monkeys would move and while they were in a clearing (node) with each other, they would be able to share some limited information with each other. As the simulation operated over time, there would different goals that motivated the agents for different periods of time. A sleep time would drive the monkeys towards the good sleeping place; periodically there would be a "to breed" sleep time which would drive the monkeys to the boinky-place; etc. As the monkeys traversed and learned the map of nodes (the jungle) they would build up a simple (also incomplete and unreliable) knowledge and memory of paths.

The goal of all this monkey business would be to see if the agents would exhibit some behavior over time, such as learning optimum paths between various locations.

Hmmm. A project for the future.

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22 June 2005

Douglas Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter

An inspiration ever since I read metamagical themas way back in the mid 80s.


Rebirth of the Land of Chuck

It's been about a year since I first started playing around with blogs. Great idea, I just sort of lost track as I got back into the swing of graduate school and a new job. Now I've been at both for sometime, and I feel as if I need to journal some things. Here it is, begun afresh...I've blown up the old postings, and I begin here with the "official" start to my thesis project.

This will include mostly thoughts on ontology and the semantic web, along with some other wandering thoughts and interesting headbubbles.