[tdwg-content] promulgating conspiracy theories is counterproductive

Bob Morris morris.bob at gmail.com
Thu May 5 07:44:49 CEST 2011

A bit of clarification-

- The KOS report was a GBIF effort, not a TDWG effort. It was
commissioned to advise and (its authors hope) influence GBIF, not
- The authorship contains several people who have little or nothing to
do with TDWG. One of them, Natasha Noy, is one of the principal
architects of Protege and of NCBO BioPortal, and to the best of my
knowledge never even heard of TDWG (and barely of GBIF) before I asked
her to serve on the GBIF KOS working group. A few others have drifted
in and out of TDWG when they have been on projects that find TDWG
-  The final KOS report in fact references your work as I believe does
an earlier draft. The final document at
http://www2.gbif.org/gbif_kos_whitepaper_v1.pdf  carries exactly the
text you cite.  Regrettably, it is possible to parse that clause as
suggesting that the entirety of GeoSpecies is based on that small
ontology, whereas the intent in that clause was to refer to the
example, not the project per se.  Since I was the principal drafter,
the fault is mine and I apologize.
- At a glance it appears to me that five of the eight GBIF KOS authors
subscribe to tdwg-content, but among them, I have never seen remarks
on Linked Data postings and the related threads except by Hilmar and
me. Again, the KOS document is not a TDWG document (unless TDWG
chooses to endorse it), so I am not surprised.
-  The TDWG standards process is not secret.  It is laid out in
Cumbersome, maybe; mysterious, not in my opinion.

Bob Morris

On Thu, May 5, 2011 at 12:39 AM, Peter DeVries <pete.devries at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Steve,
> I am not annoyed at you. I don't have a problem with you creating your
> ontology or our lively debates.
> What is annoying is the pattern of the same idea being dismissed and
> reappearing under a different name and being accepted.
> It is clear that decisions are made, but it is not clear how or by whom.
> I jokingly refer to this as the TDWG Illuminati because the decision process
> seems so mysterious.
> Why don't you look through what you wrote in the thread this week and then
> look over the GBIF KOS report.
> Initially my work was characterized as
>  "in the GeoSpecies project104 based on a small purpose-built ontology105 of
> mosquito-borne human pathogens."
> Now it is not mentioned at all.
> Do the authors of that report read the same TDWG emails that you do?
> Are the directions of this group based on the merits of each individual's
> arguments and open debate or is something else going on?
> Respectfully,
> - Pete
> On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 10:13 PM, Steve Baskauf
> <steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Steve
>> --
>> Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
>> Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences
>> postal mail address:
>> VU Station B 351634
>> Nashville, TN  37235-1634,  U.S.A.
>> delivery address:
>> 2125 Stevenson Center
>> 1161 21st Ave., S.
>> Nashville, TN 37235
>> office: 2128 Stevenson Center
>> phone: (615) 343-4582,  fax: (615) 343-6707
>> http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu
> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Pete DeVries
> Department of Entomology
> University of Wisconsin - Madison
> 445 Russell Laboratories
> 1630 Linden Drive
> Madison, WI 53706
> Email: pdevries at wisc.edu
> TaxonConcept  &  GeoSpecies Knowledge Bases
> A Semantic Web, Linked Open Data  Project
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Robert A. Morris

Emeritus Professor  of Computer Science
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125-3390
IT Staff
Filtered Push Project
Department of Organismal and Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University

email: morris.bob at gmail.com
web: http://efg.cs.umb.edu/
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