[sc34wg3] to advance Topic Maps

Sam Hunting sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Mon, 14 Apr 2003 08:55:04 -0400 (EDT)

> > This competitor stuff is nonsense. empolis is a major competitor 
> > of ontopia, as is mondeca. While I cant speak for mondeca's 
> > position - I can represent my personal position, probably Holgers 
> > and  the position of empolis when I say that in no way do we 'the 
> > competition' see that any one vendor is 'owning' or 'preventing 
> > competitors from gaining access to the standard'. 

For a long time this issue has been the "third rail" on the SC34 list
(American cliche -- touch a third rail on a railway track and you get
electrocuted) so I'm not sure I want to go near it...

That said, I have to point out a logical fallacy in Graham's remarks. Let
me note at the outset that there is nothing remarkable or particularly
blameworthy in the example I am going to give; it is completely typical
behavior of cartels and not a personal matter; see "Information Rules" by
Hal Varian for detail.

Suppose (this is entirely hypothetical) a cartel had five members,
{a,b,c,d,x}. Cartel member x controls the standard, and its dominance
creates a barrier to entry to potential competitors {e,f,g,h,y}.

Meanwhile, cartel members {a,b,c,d} just slipstream along in the
competitive space maintained for them by cartel member x by x's dominance
of the standard. 

In that case, it is quite likely that cartel member a (for example) would
indeed "see" no one as owning the standard. For one thing, there are in
fact competitors (a,b,c,d,z, though not e,f,g,h,y). For another, by the
hypothesis, vendor x is doing the work of dominance, not vendor a, so in
fact there would be nothing for vendor a to see.

Of course, the ISO process has procedural safeguards in place to prevent
or a least ameliorate the effects of this sort of behavior for the sake of
the public good. 

That's the strength of the ISO brand (and why it's important to try to
respect the ISO process, in all its complexity and glory ....)

> > empolis and I'm sure mondeca desire a solid cs based standard 
> > that means when I de-serialise an XTM document or interact with 
> > topicmap software that whats there is consistent.

The problem here is in the words "a solid cs based standard that means".

We have to judge the solidity of the standard and what it means based on
its text. (That, BTW, is why it's important to compose ISO texts according
to ISO rules; so that consensus can be built on a common understanding of
a text constructed according to agreed-upon editorial standards and
practices.) It has to stand alone on its own merits.

So it isn't sufficient to say that a standard is "cs based" because
implementors get the same deserialization results from it. It's like
Searle's Chinese box thought experiment -- suppose two implementors got
the same outputs from an elevator control program they claimed was written
in MIX in the very same copy of a book titled "The Art of Computer
Programming." You then open the book and discover the MIX program is in
fact complete gobblegook, a hash, a string of nonsense characters. Would
you then claim that this copy of The Art of Computer Programming was
cs-based? Of course not.

So, how can a reader tell from reading the text of a standard that it is
cs-based? Was 8879 cs-based? If the SAM is cs-based, how can the reader
tell? If the TMM is not cs-based, how does the reader tell?

(For the record, I don't believe that IT == CS. If information has
meaning, its scope is greater than the scope afforded by CS. CS is
necessary for IT but not sufficient.)

Sam Hunting
eTopicality, Inc.

Co-editor:  ISO Reference Model for Topic Maps 
  Topic map consulting and training: www.etopicality.com
Free open source topic map tools:  www.gooseworks.org
  XML Topic Maps: Creating and Using Topic Maps for the Web.
Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-74960-2.