<foaf:community>? (Groups are subtle and tricky, keep the format simple!)

Tim Mansfield timbomb at d...
Thu Dec 19 02:49:28 UTC 2002

Sayeth Bill Kearney <wkearney99 at h...>:
> There are some really subtle issues about how people handle
> expression of being part or not part of any number of different
> grouping concepts. Think social circles or cliques, not department
> employee rosters.

Hi folks, this is my first post to the list. I can't pretend to be any
kind of authority on "community" or RDF or even FOAF, but this topic
is really interesting. My research group is interested in the
mechanics of how collections of communicating individuals "become a
group" and we're starting play with FOAF as a way to represent
distributed networks of people.

I'm kind of seconding what I perceive as Bill's concern here about the
trickiness of "modeling" groups.

Us geeks are kind of poor at guessing good models for how to represent
groups/communities etc - we keep making appeals to set theory or OO
inheritance models when actual groups are much more tricky.

I don't want to stand on anyones toes, but based on the ways we've
studied the problem and what we've read from anthropology and social
psychology about what's understood (and not understood) about groups -
almost any "intuitive", set-based, hierarchical model just doesn't
work for a whole bunch of real-world cases.

Sure some groups can be related using specialisation/generalisation
links, but lots of other groups have relationships that just don't fit
that model - "split over this issue", "on a similar topic", "just like
that group, but about this topic, not that one".

Similarly, to use Bill's example of cliques, many groups never have a
definitive "roster" or a coherent topic or even a name (what do you
call that crowd of people you meet in the bar on a Friday every so
often? Who's in it? How do you think the rest of the group would
answer those questions?).

I'm definitely not saying ignore community or groups, but I am saying
that, based on what we've observed, it's good to keep it simple and
under-specify. I believe if we keep it to simple things that can be
used in lots of places and then only extend it by using it and
observing the use (rather than by exercising our creativity on
thinking up what might work), we'll get more useful results.

Just my $0.02. I'm not sure I've expressed myself clearly enough, so
if this seems silly or just wrong to anyone, please just bellow at me

Tim Mansfield
Information Ecology Project

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