Live from ESTC 2008 – Ontology engineering


The 2nd European semantic technology conference in Vienna is a industry outreach conference, and the most business-near conference in this field in Europe. On the first day I entered the ontology engineering tutorial.

The first part tried to capture the business case for ontology engineering in enterprises through Enterprise Information Management. Unfortunately I was left with a Catch-22 feeling that we need large projects to get the real benefit from ontologies, and that no-one will take the risk of using fairly unproven technologies for larger projects. It is hard to see this talking off in the short term in the enterprise. One should IMO focus more on what you gain from adding some semantic web stuff into the enterprise fabrics, and where it is complementary.

Second part was a good walk through the various methodologies of ontology engineering also touching on ontologies build from wikis, games and tagging-approaches. Very interesting was also a framework for estimating the effort related to the building of an ontology. Basically it is a formula to evaluate the development cost given the size of the ontology, the domain complexity, development complexity, quality and personnel competencies.  The Ontocom framework is proven to be within 30% accuracy in 80% of the cases. As an example ontology of 1000 concepts and properties it will take between 5 and 12 months depending on the other factors. The framework is based on lessons learned from 40 ontology projects and ongoing.

A fairly The opening keynote by DFKI however was all too scientific for this conference… really not what is needed at this kind of conference.

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2 thoughts on “Live from ESTC 2008 – Ontology engineering

  1. Christoph Tempich

    “One should IMO focus more on what you gain from adding some semantic web stuff into the enterprise fabrics, and where it is complementary.”

    Sorry, for not providing more examples or cases for ontologies/semantic web in the tutorial. As a long term follower of the field you s.th. forget that not everybody already nows about the benefits. We will include a section next time. At last years ESTC Susie Stephens from W3C Semantic Web Education and Outreach Interest Group gave a very nice introduction to the benefits of the technology for a company.

    “that we need large projects to get the real benefit from ontologies”
    I guess here was a missunderstanding. What I wanted to convey was, that in order to convince a CIO to start an ontology engineering/Semantic Web project, you should use the right words and position Ontologies in the right context, which is in my opinion EIM.
    Nevertheless, ontologies can be very beneficial in small projects indeed, and it is not required that everybody from the beginning agrees with the model.

    By the way:
    More information on Ontocom can be found at
    http://ontocom.sti-innsbruck.at/

  2. norheimd Post author

    Hi Christoph. I very much agree with you that we tend to forget about the benefits being (too?) long in the field – me too. IMO the pitch is always useful as we need to revisit benefits, and there will always be newcomers to this field. 🙂

    From my experience, it is harder to convince the CIO level to use a technology with few case studies and products – relatively to existing technologies – when positioned in a strategic setting in the organization as Enterprise Information Management would be. IT-organizations these days tend to I go for the safer path. I agree that EIM is (clearly one) right context for ontologies in the enterprise, I think that smaller proof-of-concept projects should show the CIO level of the possibilities here, and convince them that way. However, if you ARE able to get the CIO’s attention to use strategically in EIM, excellent!

    The point I tried to make with my Catch-22 statement was, not that you said you needed to attach the full EIM of the enterprise, but that the larger the network the larger the benefit from using the ontology. Basically you need to explain that this is an investment in handling complexity, in the meantime smaller projects may have benefits in themselves.

    I enjoyed the tutorial, one of the better I’ve participated in. Keep up the good work. And thanks for the information on Ontocom!

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