[Crm-sig] Issue: CRM compatibility

Guenther Goerz guenther.goerz at gmail.com
Sat Apr 26 03:02:56 EEST 2008

Dear all,
there have been very interesting opinions and arguments in recent mails.
 But, as far as I understand the different contributions, I am not certain
whether all of them talk about the same matter.  I agree with Nick's long
statement in nearly every point; I don't like the levels idea.  And I
detest bureaucratic monsters distributing certificates, too.

So, first of all I try to understand Martin's original question: "...there
seem to be increasing claims of compatibility..."

1. Does Martin or anybody else have the impression that something SEEMS to
be the case or is it the case that somebody (WHO, please) claims
compatibility OF WHAT with the CRM?  And what does "increasing" mean?  There
has been one such claim, and then some more similar ones? So, how many
similar claims by whom do exist?

2. What exactly is meant by "compatibility"?  We have to be aware that
the CRM document is a body (natural language) text; it attempts to define
terms as precisely as possible by means of scope notes and examples.  And,
as with any natural language text, there will always be a range of
interpretation as opposed to  a formal, mathematical specification with
clear (and unambiguous!) definitions and a well-defined semantics (this is
related to Nick's validation scenario and I think everybody will agree with
his detailed line of reasoning).

And, as many discussions showed (for instance emerging from the attempts to
translate the CRM English to other European languages...), there is still a
lot of vague and even ambiguous expressions.  So, my impression (sic!) from
many FRBR discussion sessions is that they had the nice side effect to point
to places in the CRM document which could be improved.  And, as the ongoing
update process shows, there have been many improvements and there will be
more in the future. So, I think, the question of compatibility with the CRM
cannot be decided in a strict sense as long as we have to deal with textual
scope notes: it's still a hermeneutic business which requires mutual
understanding.  We cannot delegate it to the pope...

Therefore, "may be our standard text is not clear enough about that" (where
I resolve "that" with "compatibility") is an obvious statement.  In fact, it
can't.  So, if somebody writes a piece of text and uses terms of the CRM in
a way that there is no obvious contradiction to what the CRM document
contains (in our common understanding, i.e. as long as nobody objects): Is
such a text compatible with the CRM?   But probably, the mysterious
questioners are not concerned about plain text at all.

As I side remark, for me as a non-native speaker "compatibility" --- as
asked for by Martin --- is not completely synonymous to "compliance". So,
what did all the colleagues have in mind who exchanged the terms?

3. So, is it the question whether some piece of software is compatible with
a given specification?  First of all, I think all of us agree with Nick that
the CRM describes a conceptual framework in the first place,

It could be taken as a specification for the implementation of its
conceptual hierarchy and properties as a reference ontology. Our experience
to implement it in OWL-DL showed that there are still some issues in the to
be clarified due to vagueness and ambiguity (yes, Steve, E55!!) and
furthermore, that there are some claims which would lead to an undecidable
system.  Of course, from the viewpoint of applications we may raise some
claims as a kind of long term perspective but which cannot be made
operational.  So, is our implementation compatible with the CRM document?
 Well, it's a matter of discussion --- to a large extent, yes, but... (a
document pointing out all the difficulties and differences is in
preparation).  The question could be answered seriously only if the CRM
document contained a benchmark suite which any implementation hat to survive
without errors, i.e. the document itself had to provide a definition of its
operational semantics (taken for granted that a declarative, mathematical
semantics cannot be provided).  Everybody will agree with Nick that in this
case, of course we don't need any institution to distribute compatibility

Furthermore, there may be some application software the authors of which
claim compatibility with the CRM document.  This is a much harder case.
 Compatibility in a weak sense could mean that CRM concepts and properties
are used in a way such that no obvious contradiction is observed.  Is that
Edmund Lee's dataset compliance?? (The hint  to information system
compliance being a distinct matter is indeed very helpful, but I have no
idea what the "necessary features" w.r.t. the CRM document would
be). Whether they are used appropriately, is a different question. It is
probably easy to decide whether a certain use is inappropriate.  But there
are degrees of appropriateness.  Therefore, there is a need for many "best
practice" examples.

Basically, for me there is some similarity to the question of a "compatible
text".  Maybe Martin had such a situation in mind when he wrote: "I suggest
to regard as minimal compatibility the ability to represent at least certain
kinds of possibly multiple events associated with a Thing or an Actor. This
needs further elaboration." YES!!! First of all, it needs further
explanation: I just don't understand it, honestly ("minimal
compatibility"??? What does "ability" refer to???  "certain kinds of
possibly multiple (???) events"???). A few examples would be helpful to turn
it into an operational constraint.

Whether in this second case a benchmark suite would be as helpful, is an
intricate question.  Which of the envisioned applications would correspond
to the input-transform-output scheme at all; i.e. are we just talking about
data transformation tools and nothing else?  And, of course, as for any
testing procedure: Testing can never prove correctness, it can only exhibit
errors.  To decide on semantic compatibility needs formal definitions and
formal proofs, sorry. A "sort-of-..." label is in my eyes worse than no
label at all.

Best regards,
-- Guenther
Prof. Dr. Guenther Goerz            Fon: (+49 9131) 852-8701; -8702
Univ. Erlangen-Nuernberg            Fax: (+49 9131) 852-8986
Institut f. Informatik 8/KI         goerz  AT informatik.uni-erlangen.de
Haberstrasse 2                      ggoerz AT csli.stanford.edu

On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 12:43 PM, martin <martin at ics.forth.gr> wrote:

> Dear All,
> Recently there seem to be increasing claims of compatibility with the CIDOC
> CRM. May be our
> standard text is not clear enough about that. I suggest to regard as
> minimal compatibility the ability to
> represent at least certain kinds of possibly multiple events associated
> with a Thing or an Actor.
> This needs further elaboration.
> Best,
> Martin
> --
> --------------------------------------------------------------
>  Dr. Martin Doerr              |  Vox:+30(2810)391625        |
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