THE WELCH COMPANY 440 Davis Court #1602 San Francisco, CA 94111-2496 415 781 5700

June 6, 2000 04 00067 61 00060604

Robert Kent Ontologos

Subject:   Ontology to Dig a Ditch

Dear Robert,

Thanks very much for your letter on June 5, 2000 responding to my letter on June 2, asking for information to evaluate application of Ontologos work to support knowledge management.

First, I am very grateful that you took the time to respond. People are so busy these days that it is difficult to get the attention of highly talented people like you. Second, I feel strongly that you are developing very useful tools for knowledge management, which is a complex task that needs a lot of ideas and methods for pilot testing to discover effective solutions. Since you did not provide examples of work product nor explain process, time required to deploy and apply, and time saved, this indicated the information is not available. Jack Park responded today that information to implement Ontologos is available on your web site.

Today, I sent a follow up letter asking Jack, for the information he found. I also wrote to an organization, GeneClinics, asking how they apply ontology, since they are listed as an example of doing so by another organization, and examination did not immediately disclose such application.

Possibly you would care to comment as well.

For orientation, so that I am not flying under false colors, I have developed a method of organizing information using an organic subject structure. It may turn out to be a subset of an ontology, or ontology may be part of organic subject structure. In any case, it is one of many different ways to identify context and retrieve related information when needed. Experience seems to show that no single method is adequate. We need many paths and ways to assemble information according to different contexts. The tools need to be simple and fast to apply. This augurs against the prospect of a universal organizing structure that works for everyone. On the other hand, there is no harm in proposing a baseline structure, and even proposing structures for particular industries. What seems most useful is a simple, easy to implement process that improves current practice of storing things in the back seat of the car, in the filing cabinet, the computer wordprocessing program, or email list, on the coffee table at home, and so on, in a manner that results in people relying on personal memory because it seems fast and easy, rather than relying on the record which is accurate, but currently too difficult to get when needed.

A simple test of organizing information to improve daily work might show how Ontologos can support knowledge management for a common task or scenario like digging a ditch. Some feel this is a silly example because ontology is meant for organizing complex undertakings, like sending a probe to Mars. While we want to improve that task, we want to start with things closer to home, recognizing that any activity can be broken down into a level of complexity that quickly overwhelms human span of attention, and so needs the aid of tools and processes, such as Ontologos might have in mind.

Digging a ditch, requires determining requirements (why is the ditch being dug, for a pipeline, a footing, to control run off??), designing the location, dimensions, disposition of spoil, compliance with environmental regulations, labor laws and construction codes, shoring requirements, dewatering, selection of equipment, determining crew composition, level of management e.g., none, a foreman, a superintendent, etc., scheduling and sequencing the work, i.e., what task must occur before the ditch is dug, what happens next, and what can be or needs to be concurrent, terms of payment, lump sum or unit price, neat lines or overcut, etc. This barely touches the surface of subjects that come up in digging a ditch.

Your comments would be very helpful on how to organize the vast array of knowledge on digging a ditch, as a proto-type application of Ontologos.




Rod Welch