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Way back when, when people were all hot about XML and ontologies (c. 2000) there was the fantasy that one could define some sort of repository where all the "things" of the world were categorized, organized, and named based on some sort of standardized set of attributes and categories. The fantasy died a slow death throughout the 00's because it turns out that names, categories and attributes are quite political and context specific. Standards like these are VERY dependent on the community that uses them. The community is important because the right attributes and categories depend on what is salient for that community.

If you want to get a sense of how complicated this gets take a look at WordNet. If you use the search page to look up "lamp", you will get two sense listings. Click on any of the sense listings and you will get a listing of all of the superclasses (hypernyms) and subclasses (hyponyms). There are quite a lot for "source of artificial illumination". The "piece of furniture" sense has fewer, but I suspect the list is incomplete. If a lamp marketing guru were to take the time to enter in all of their favorite product categories for lamps the list of hyponyms would be a lot longer.

Although the lists of hyponyms and hypernyms doesn't directly give you your list of attributes, it should illustrate the scale of the problem: each of those hypernyms and hyponyms potentially has its own list of important attributes. If you pick any two hyponyms, sometimes the attribute lists will overlap and sometimes they will conflict. Any "standard" would have to pick a mutually consistent set of standard hypernyms and hyponyms and then plumb them for attributes.

If you really do want to come up with some standard, you have to first define your community of concern: whose notion of lamp are you trying to define? Even ISO standards for electrical equipment don't pretend to define every aspect of electrical equipment. Rather they define whatever is important for the particular kind of engineering problem its user community needs to address. Same thing with genetic information data, wellbore data, electronic automated design data, financial data, etc. etc. IF you have a clear idea of a community, you MIGHT be able to find a business association that has created a standard. But without a community to name its important categories of lamp (hyponyms, hypernyms) you can't even begin to guess at what the standard attributes should be.


In reply to Re: (OT) Does anyone know of a common object repository? by ELISHEVA
in thread (OT) Does anyone know of a common object repository? by bcarroll

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