[tdwg-content] promulgating conspiracy theories is counterproductive

Steve Baskauf steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Thu May 5 05:13:40 CEST 2011

Peter DeVries wrote:
> I also don't seem to understand why if someone can find some missing 
> utility in existing vocabularies, and mints one starting with txn, it 
> is seen by some as an act of heresy, while the minting a new 
> vocabulary starting with dsw is not.
> Heretical enough to be written out of the sacred scrolls?
Nobody else has come right out and said this, but I'm going to go ahead 
and say it because I really don't think the paranoia contributes to this 
discussion.  It isn't exactly clear to me who you think is the TDWG 
Illuminati is.  You  made the statement "TDWG Illuminati determined that 
*indeed* the current DarwinCore was not good for the semantic web and 
formed a group to create one" and I asked you what group you were 
talking about.  You did not answer that question.  Given the statement 
below I assume you think it includes me.  I have already told you that 
nobody in TDWG or anywhere else asked or suggested to Cam Webb and I 
that we develop Darwin-SW.  Cam (whom I've never actually met in person) 
suggested to me that we give it a try and we did.  Thus far I have not 
yet heard anyone, including me, suggest that it was heresy for you to 
create the txn ontology.  Likewise, I have not heard anyone officially 
associated with TDWG give any kind of "blessing" to dsw.  Actually, the 
fact that no one has come out on the list and said that some aspect of 
dsw was heresy doesn't actually mean that people aren't thinking that it 
is.  I was kind of expecting that somebody might. 

It really borders on humorous that you suggest that I'm somehow a part 
of some TDWG conspiracy.  I have been to precisely one TDWG meeting and 
with one exception, that is the only time I've ever personally met 
anybody who regularly contributes to this list.  That one exception is 
Nico Cellinese, whom I've met on one other occasion.  In fact, the 
person whom I talked to the most at the meeting (other than Alexey 
Zinovjev who came with me to the meeting and was also a TDWG newcomer) 
was actually YOU.  I'm also pretty sure that the only person other than 
Nico who regularly contributes to this list that I've ever interacted 
with in any sort of collaborative way is Bob Morris on the Live Plant 
Image Group, and he as been largely silent in this discussion.  
Actually, he did make one comment about dsw and I would characterize it 
as cautionary.  That hardly qualifies as a conspiracy to promote DSW.

If you would care to notice, DSW is not my first attempt at writing 
RDF.  My first attempt was the examples in my Biodiversity Informatics 
paper (https://journals.ku.edu/index.php/jbi/article/view/3664) and 
quite frankly, at this point I think those examples were not very good.  
There were several actual mistakes that I made and I think that the 
overall approach that I was taking in modeling Occurrences was flawed.  
If it turns out that people in the TDWG community find themselves 
agreeing with the DSW model (which I do not consider a certainty), it 
would not be because of a conspiracy.  It would be because I've probably 
spent dozens of hours (maybe even hundreds of hours) reading and trying 
to understand the points of view expressed by people in this community 
on the tdwg-content list and in papers and web posts that they've 
created.  With the exception of the IndividualOrganism class (which I'll 
take some credit for promoting) pretty much everything that I 
contributed to DSW were ideas that I've absorbed from the TDWG 
community, which were then molded by Cam's contributions to the 
collaboration.  If you will recall, last November Rich Pyle and I had 
what I suppose could be considered a somewhat bruising exchange on the 
list about the scope of the Individual class.  Although I did not agree 
with him at the time, I learned a lot from that exchange and in 
retrospect, I can see that his opinion was not wrong, it was just framed 
by the desire to meet different objectives with the class.  Cam and I 
actually attempted (in a somewhat feeble way) to incorporate Rich's 
perspective in the "alternative version" of DSW. 

So my point is that if you want to promote the taxonconcept.org ontology 
as an ontology for general use by the community (which is certainly your 
right), then you need to be willing to subject it to critical analysis 
by the people you want to use it.  When you get criticism, you need to 
see that as an opportunity to improve your work, not as a conspiracy to 
destroy it.  Cam and I have requested a critical analysis of DSW from 
the community and I don't really think we've gotten enough of it yet to 
suit me.  If DSW has flaws (as it most certainly does), we will try to 
address those flaws and learn from the experience.  All you are going to 
accomplish by promoting a conspiracy theory is to cause people to not 
take you seriously.  That would be a shame because you have a lot of 
great ideas and have some of the most experience in the TDWG community 
at actually implementing LOD "in the wild".  You should take the fact 
that I took the time to wade through the taxonconcept.org RDF to try to 
understand it and subject it to critical analysis as a compliment, not a 
threat.  I have already acknowledged that a lot of what I know about RDF 
are things that I learned from looking at your examples.  


Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences

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