Ontologies Of The Personal
An Essay Concerning Ontology, Ontologies Of The Personal & Better Software

Web Page Summary Version 0.4 July 2011

All Materials Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, Business Decision Models Inc.

FIrst Version Written 2002

For Producers & Users Of Ontologies Of The Personal
1. What is Ontology?

Ontology is a term from philosophy which has been accepted into computer science. In the domain of computer science,  an “ontology” is a rigorous formal model of a specific domain.  The specific domain under consideration in this short essay is "human activity".

Ontological models can be important if they contribute to the construction of good software.  Most software in use today is not based on rigorous ontological models, although the best software is certainly based on modelling of some kind. 

The prospect of software based on better models of human and organizational behaviour promises an improvement in the experience of software users. 

Currently, ontological models are slowly making their way from academia into the world of commercial software.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology_%28computer_science%29

2. What Is The Goal of Software-Oriented Ontological Research?

The goal of software-oriented ontological research is an enhancement in the ability of modelling practitioners to model specific domains of human activity.

The achievement of this goal in turn makes it possible to construct better software in support of human activity in specific domains.

3. What Is An Ontology Of The Personal?

The focus of this web site is "ontology of the personal" and its practical application to software for individual use.

Ontology of the personal implies rigorously modeled behaviour of individual human actors as software users.

Strictly speaking, it is more correct to say "ontologies of the personal", than "personal ontologies".

4. Why Is Ontology Of The Personal Important?

Better software would be expected from the appearance of good quality ontologies of the personal.

Most software that readers of this web site will be familiar with is not based on rigorous and comprehensive models of human behaviour.  Software with which readers may be familiar will often be based on either ad hoc or even systematic research, but a robust overall theory of human activity will be missing.

The result for many users of software has been disappointment.  While the use of software technology in daily work is indispensable, the experience is too often much worse than it needs to be.

Therefore, insofar as the developing science of ontologies of the personal will provide the basis for better software, ontologies of the personal are important.

5. What Is New Where Ontologies Of The Personal And Software Are Concerned?

The development of ontologies of the personal will be in part an extension of existing research on work, human interfaces, user modelling etc.

However, the ontological research paradigm seems to go significantly further than existing work on human behaviour modelling, on the bases of rigor, modelling capability, the incorporation of new research in linguistics and other areas, formalization and the general capability for repeatability and engineering.

6. Proposition:  Ontologies Of The Personal Are The Basis For Good Personal & Group Software

The proposition of personalontologies.com is that good ontologies of the personal will provide the basis for a general improvement in both personal and group software. 

This position could be labelled the “flock of birds” argument, or the argument “from induction”.

The “flock of birds” reference is to the well-studied behaviour of flocks of birds, each member of which flies according to its own simple rules and decision-making.  The result of many individual birds, all using the same “software”, is the beautiful, wheeling, soaring behaviour of the whole flock.  The flock itself seems to have an essence independent of individual birds.  In effect, a “higher order” group construct has been achieved from the aggregated behaviour of individual group members.

Likewise, it is the position of personalontologies.com that beautiful organizational software and productive behaviour will result when software is constructed “from the individual outwards”.  In other words, good "groupware" is dependent upon individuals first being provided with excellent “personal” software.  And, by now the reader of this essay will know that excellent personal software is probably dependent in turn upon an ontology of the personal.

Most commercial group oriented or organizational software in use today is not based on any rigorous model of individual behaviour (with a few specific exceptions).  Indeed, the autonomous individual seems to be a poorly conceived afterthought for much organizational software.  Thus we have two questions related to the acquisition of good personal software:

(1)  The first question concerns the development of knowledge about personal ontological modelling and

(2)  The second question is sociological and asks why groupware generally has not followed the "inductive development paradigm", that is to say starting from the individual first.

7. Issue: If Ontologies Of The Personal Are So Important, Why Haven't They Been Done Before?

There are likely two main reasons why ontologies of the personal have not been done until now.  These two reasons are that ontologies of the person are (a) difficult to do and (b) because the need has not been apparent, especially given competing demands on resources for software construction.

8. Why Ontology Now?

Because there is need and because precursors are in place.  In other words, it is the right time.

8. Isn't this rather ambitious?

The construction of ontologies of the personal, which in turn support the construction of much improved personal software and group software, is ambitious and exciting.  The purpose of this website is journalistic, in other words to comment on these developments.

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