[tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer'sperspective [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Lee Belbin leebel at netspace.net.au
Sun May 17 06:23:45 CEST 2009

Hi Chuck

I couldn't agree more. TDWG needs to continually ensure that its work is
communicated effectively to a 'less technical' audience. At the start of the
TDWG Infrastructure Project it was apparent that TDWG was not communicating
effectively (or at all) to the bosses/supervisors of the TDWG attendees.
Newcomers to TDWG are in the same boat.   

Piers Higgs in a separate email, suggested that it isn't just a matter of
which tool in relation to the TDWG ontology. I agree. It is (as I said
above) a broader educational issue. Piers has suggested a "Getting started
with TDWG" link on the TDWG home page. An excellent idea (and I really
wonder why we haven't done this before now!). We do already have a fair bit
of introductory (1-page type) material that I'd previously sponsored that
can be pulled together into one area. I'll then undertake to see what I can
do about chasing additional material along the lines you suggested Chuck to
fill in the (many I fear!) gaps in understanding.


Lee Belbin
TDWG Secretariat

-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Miller [mailto:Chuck.Miller at mobot.org] 
Sent: Saturday, 16 May 2009 2:47 AM
To: Lee Belbin; tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: RE: [tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer'sperspective

As you know, I am a proponent of the simple and the understandable,
particularly for the folks like Lynette.  I am glad to see a couple of
appeals from the gallery to counterpoint the continuing pursuit of the
complex issues. The biodiversity informatics/data community like it or not
is primarily made up of those who do not spend their time expanding the
limits of web-based semantic inference.  It may very well be that the only
viable solutions for some of the use cases of biodiversity can only be
reached by semantic inference.  But, the barrier to entry for folks like
Lynnette (and there are many, many) is just too high and so solving those
use cases by web-based semantics is simply out of reach for them.  We must
accept that.

We positively must enable the folks who do not understand triples, RDF, OWL,
SPARQL and the rest to still be able to play in the global biodiversity data
sandbox. We must continue to offer methods and techniques that do not
require this level of knowledge. Call it a "light" version, or whatever you
will, but I strongly believe the community at large needs it.
Unfortunately, that "community at large" doesn't speak up on Taxacom or TDWG
much. I fear it's because they can't follow the technical threads and like
Lynette are baffled and discouraged.

TDWG has to continue to recognize the need to keep it simple, at least in
part. It's always an 80-20 situation I think.  That does not preclude
continuing work on the deeper, triples-based approaches for the 20%.  But,
we must additionally and in parallel provide simpler, compatible approaches
for the 80%.  We need to listen to that 80%.


-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org
[mailto:tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Lee Belbin
Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:38 PM
To: tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer'sperspective

Hi Lynette, Greg, Gregor et al.,

I've only just caught up with this thread, but feel obliged to post (I sound
like Rich).

A few months ago (and not for the first time), I came to exactly the same
conclusion as you Lynette. There is I fear, a growing gap between the more
technical members of TDWG and those who are joining TDWG from applications
areas such as biology, taxonomy etc. As time goes on, this gap seems more
evident, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the 'TDWG ontology'.

The TDWG ontology is probably the most important priority we currently have.
Your comments about the use of the ontology to help newcomers understand the
domain is spot on. I'd also say that the newcomers are in many cases, domain
experts who have a lot to contribute to the ontology, but really can't in
its present form. The ontology is also mandatory if we want to efficiently
cross link all the various TDWG activities/groups. Recent comments about
Darwin Core and the TDWG ontology is a prime example! 

The ontology is priority-1 for TDWG, BUT (it is a big but), we need
effective tools (preferably A web based tool) that would EASILY enable
anyone (not just Protégé experts) to view (in various forms that were
suitable for the purpose), manage, build, annotate, document, import and
export bits or all of the ontology/vocabularies is helpful formats.

If TDWG has these issues with developing and using an effective ontology,
plenty of others must have also! Surely? 

I discussed this with Donald and he agreed and said that Greg and Garry were
thinking about this as well (as Greg has suggested). I also discussed the
ontology issue with Gail Kampmeier as she has a graduate student looking for
a biodiversity informatics project - and this is a beauty. Markus Döring
also said at the Fremantle meeting that he was keen to lead work on the
ontology. I also discussed this same issue a month or so ago with Roger
(post TONTO :), but I fear that Roger is in the 'techie' category and didn't
fully grasp what I was trying to get across about SIMPLE etc. That's
probably my fault. Your email Lynette seems to have got the point across
better than I've done. 

There is a meeting about the ontology scheduled on the Tuesday evening at
eBiosphere where Donald, Eamonn, Karen Stocks, hopefully Roger and a few
others plan to discuss the issues. Please let me know the key issues that
COULD be addressed at that meeting. Thankfully there seems to be some
critical mass building about quickly moving forward on the ontology. I'd
like to see what I can do to ensure that it happens.

There is obviously nothing stopping work on aspects of the ontology such as
Roger and Peter have suggested. If I can do anything about setting up a Wiki
or similar easy tasks, please let me know.


Lee Belbin
TDWG Secretariat

-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org
[mailto:tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Greg Whitbread
Sent: Thursday, 14 May 2009 7:09 PM
To: Lynette.Woodburn at csiro.au
Cc: tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] TDWG ontology revisited ... a newcomer's perspective


Yes. I agree.  To this end we (Garry is the one with the Twiki skills) are
experimenting with ways of doing this using the TDWG wiki, one term per page
described using dcmi /terms/ namepaces
http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-terms/ , but alternatives do need to be
considered before we make a start. I have just had another look at the MRTG
Schema at http://www.keytonature.eu/wiki/MRTG_Schema_v0.7 for instance. A
solution supporting export to a formal representation would be ideal though
if it came to the choice, accessibility should take priority. Somewhere
between Roger's lsid vocabularies and the MRTG schema page there must be a
way to achieve this.  

Is Semantic-mediawiki an option?


On Thu, 2009-05-14 at 13:30, Lynette.Woodburn at csiro.au wrote:
> Back to basics ...
> Anyone new to biodiversity informatics (in general) and TDWG (in
> particular) might be expected, as a first step, to seek a broad 
> understanding of the scope of the knowledge domain which is of 
> interest to the community they've just joined.  Next, they're likely 
> to want to gain an understanding of each of the main concepts and to 
> discover how those concepts relate to one other.  Delving yet deeper, 
> curiosity will lead them to seek details about features used by the 
> community to characterise each of those main concepts.  So, gradually, 
> it is anticipated that newcomers will gain an understanding of the 
> meaning associated by their fellow community members with elements 
> (concepts, features, relationships) within the knowledge domain.
> (Those elements are, after all, the chief subjects of discourse 
> amongst community members.)
> This fantastic voyage of discovery, these first steps into Aladdin's 
> Cave, ought to be made easy for any newcomer.  Instead, TDWG presents 
> a dizzying array of perspectives on disparate subsets of elements 
> within the knowledge domain, often with only cryptic, tenuous links 
> binding them together.  'Horses-for-courses'-drivers clearly exist for 
> these subsets, but where is the common community understanding of 
> where each element fits into the broader, shared knowledge domain 
> which is TDWG's scope?
> I fully support any initiative which more effectively leads newcomers 
> (and not-so-newcomers) to that place: that place where I would hope to 
> find, in plain expressions devoid of techno-speak, a description of 
> each real world element (concept, feature, relationship), together 
> with a simple representation (a label?) by which the TDWG community 
> prefers each to be referred; that place which evolves, but endures, 
> independently of technological fashions and particular 
> implementations; that place I can visit to paint a picture in my 
> mind's eye of TDWG's own Aladdin's Cave.
> Lynette Woodburn
> Atlas of Living Australia
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