Draft Spec mark 2

Eric Zurcher ericz at ENTO.CSIRO.AU
Mon Sep 4 11:29:54 CEST 2000

At 08:13 2/09/2000 +1000, Kevin Thiele wrote:
>These are four (very early) examples, not four models. My intention is to
>develop a
>specification that can allow data represented with varying levels of
>complexity, from very simple statements to fully worked up integral data
>files such as Lucid and DELTA use. I'm not sure why, but I like the idea
>that the most basic document would simply say "Eric Zurcher has two feet".
>Perhaps current programs wouldn't be able to make much use of such a
>document, but maybe in the future we may have a way of collecting and
>organising clouds of such basic scraps (atoms) of description into something
>quite powerful.

Well, perhaps. But I think that our successors will appreciate it if we
apply a bit of rigour and take care to describe our data with as much
clarity and lack of ambiguity as possible. I don't think they'd find the
statement "Eric Zurcher has two feet" to be particularly interesting or
even unambiguous. Is "two feet" an anatomical statement, or a measurement
(e.g., has two feet of figurative rope, by which he can easily hang himself
in a forum such as this), or both <G>?


>| I might also note that I strongly question the way the above is organized.
>| I think a rearrangement better expressing the relationships (but still not
>| really addressing the problem of a lack of meaningful validation) would be
>| more along the lines of:
>|         <ITEM>
>|            <ITEM_NAME> Gouania exilis </ITEM NAME>
>|            <ELEMENT>
>|               <ELEMENT_NAME> Flower colour </ELEMENT_NAME>
>|               <VALUE> green
>|                 <QUALIFIER> rarely </QUALIFIER>
>|               </VALUE>
>|            </ELEMENT>
>|         </ITEM>
>This is perhaps a subtle point, perhaps a trivial one, and I'm glad you
>raised it. Why is this better that the above? What exactly is the advantage?
>I know yours is more DELTA-like and I agree it seems more intuitively
>correct, but is there more to your strong belief than that? In truth, I
>played with different ways of structuring unitary statements and presented
>the one I did to draw comment rather than just follow down the path of what
>we do already.

I think there is a real difference in terms of a reduction in ambiguity. We
should generally make an effort to clearly associate modifiers with the
object that they are intended to modify. Suppose we have something like the

     lobed margins
     with spines

How should such a construct be interpretted? Do spines cover the leaf as a
whole, or are they confined to the lobed margins? Is it the spines which
are rarely present, or the lobed margins?

Eric Zurcher
CSIRO Division of Entomology
Canberra, Australia
E-mail: ericz at ento.csiro.au

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