How does your ontologizing style compare with the style of others?

Do you run the reasoner after every axiom addition, or do you bravely go minutes or even hours before clicking on “Synchronize Reasoner”? Do you add synonyms, definitions, definition sources and other annotation avidly, or lazily (at least compared with your compatriots)?

Find this image in all its original glory at http://what-if.xkcd.com/3/

Ever wondered if you built your ontology the same way as everyone else? Not in a competitive way (OK, maybe a little bit in a competitive way), but in your stylistic choices and natural rhythms? I have wondered exactly this, and last month I got the chance to provide some data to some researchers who are studying the styles and behaviours of ontologists while they are, well, ontologizing (Robert Stevens says it’s a word, and I believe him!). Markel Vigo (work page, blog site, Twitter) and Robert Stevens (work page, blog site) at the University of Manchester are looking for more ontologists to do the same as me and load up Protege 4 in The Name of Science (well, more science than you were already doing by producing the ontology in the first place).

[If you’re already sold, download the information you need from this Dropbox folder or email Markel Vigo.]

And, for only approximately 90 non-consecutive minutes of your time, you can contribute to their research too! You can pick it up and put it down as you have time; I did a few minutes here and there in about 5 or 6 sessions. You simply download their version of Protege with their event recorder built in, load up your favorite ontology and just work exactly as you would normally work. Although, saying that, I did feel like I was working with Robert sitting beside me, which did make me sit up straighter and feel vaguely like I was in an exam – in a good way…!

As Robert originally told me:

Protege4US (the name of their version of Protege which contains the event recorder) is a standard version of Protege 4, but it logs what people are doing – button presses, menu options used, axioms written etc. They then analyse these logs for patterns of activity. You can see a blog post that describes a paper about a recent study they did with Protege4US that used a pre-determined, defined task.

This study in which you would take part if you’re interested does more or less the same thing (although with no screen capture and no eye-tracking), but this time with participants (that’s you) will be doing their own ontology task in their own time as they would usually do it.

Markel Vigo is running the study and you can ask him or Robert Stevens any questions you might have. Markel has supplied the Protege4US extensions and a readme and so on in a Dropbox folder. Markel has been very quick to answer whenever I had any questions, and even made an Ubuntu version for me as soon as I asked.

If you regularly work with ontologies, please consider donating some of your expertise to this task – I’m sure the results will be very interesting!

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