Wednesday, December 23, 2009

UML Profile for OWL, Part 3: Ontology

An OWL or a WOL?Image by dullhunk via Flickr
This is Part 3 of a multi-part series describing my profile for OWL. In this part I start to descend the stereotype hierarchy. This part of the descent is about the «Ontology» stereotype.

Generally, an OWL ontology is a web accessible resource with a URL that is similar to a Web page. Sometimes a Web server builds this resource from statements in a triple store so you can retrieve it. Sometimes the ontology lives on your computer's disk and the URL will start with "file://". In any case, it behaves like a Web resource. So, for the purposes of this posting I will describe it as such.

An OWL ontology generally uses "hash URIs" (e.g., "#Person"). These hash URIs are a shortcut for prepending the URI of the ontology. This causes a problem when an ontology is stored in several different locations and someone wants to refer to something in it. My understanding of the way to resolve this problem is to declare a "default namespace" for the ontology. This causes the hash URIs to be relative to the default namespace rather than the current location of the ontology. (Please correct my understanding in a comment if I'm wrong.)

The «Ontology» stereotype has several tagged values. Because the «Ontology» stereotype is a specialization of the the «RDF Resource» stereotype, it inherits URI and namespace prefix, which were explained in Part 2. In addition to these inherited tagged values, the «Ontology» stereotype adds a default namespace.

Although I haven't constrained what you can apply the «Ontology» stereotype to, it makes sense to apply it to a UML Package. The UML elements in that package will all be in their owning package's default namespace, unless an element has a stereotype that says otherwise.

The namespace prefix is still useful in UML land. Rather than having every ontology responsible for defining a different namespace for every ontology it references, in this profile every ontology has its own namespace prefix, which helps keep things consistent across ontologies. (Although this approach will eventually give me trouble going from OWL to UML, I haven't yet run into a case where the prefix is inconsistent. I think all I would have to do it increase the maximum cardinality of the namespace prefix to deal with this. I'll deal with that later.)

In UML it is convenient to have multiple packages stereotyped as «Ontology» to take advantage of UML namespaces. Most UML tools allow you to show the owner of a class on a diagram, making it unnecessary to clutter the diagram with stereotypes and tagged values when you use a class from another ontology on a diagram. You simply create a package for the borrowed classes and apply the «Ontology» stereotype to those packages.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: