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blakelyc

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Hi folks!

For the last couple of years, I have spent most of my time working in the massively nerdy world of information science and knowledge representation. Sadly, when I search around for a proper beer ontology I can't find much of anything interesting to home brewers (just a couple of references to some older work), so I have started working on my own.

It is a rare field, but I can't be the only one in the world interested in this. Or maybe I am? Thoughts? Feelings?

-b
 

maverick9862

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My interest is piqued despite the fact that I needed to look up "ontology" in a dictionary before responding. Honestly I'm still a bit confused with the point at which you're trying to arrive.

Mind clarifying?
 
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blakelyc

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Hi! Sure thing.... Ontologies are a way of describing not only things but the relationships between things. The bjcp guidelines give us a great start on exactly what a particular beer style is, but what about things that are kind-of this and kind-of that? What are all the styles that share a particular characteristic?

The bjcp guidelines, again as an example, give a closed-world description of beer, and while that is great (and perhaps necessary) for competition judging, I think it would be more fun to incorporate that into a more open exploration of characteristics and the ingredients and processes that make them.

Ontologies are used all over the place (Facebook graph search, NYC big apps, all over publishing, to name a few), and it seems like a natural fit to help figure out what's next in beer technology.

I ramble about this topic, but hopefully that makes sense.
 

verbhertz

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I've been looking for a project to work on to hone my extremely rudimentary web design / database skills. This sounds pretty interesting. I'm thinking of an insane venn diagram with styles all over the place.
 

jrubins

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That's an awesome idea. You could check out SUMO (something-or-other Upper Merged Ontology) as a starting point . It's open source. I've met the originator of the project and I'll see if he's got any insight into beer ontology
 

TopherM

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Information science and knowledge representation
Are those real jobs, or did you just make them up?

In my day, we called them "Librarians" or maybe "Teachers." :confused:

J/K....I still don't have any idea what you're talking about either (you think a knowledge representation professional would be better at describing their job), but sound like a nice acedemic venture. Best of luck! :mug:
 

PhelanKA7

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I believe in Beer-Fu to a certain degree...

To quote Bruce Lee:
(It) is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back.
I think that is why I prefer brewing Belgian Ales, not because I can get away with more. On the contrary I have so many more tools at my disposal than in any other brewing traditions that it is easier to get carried away and end up with something completely unpalatable. I prefer to paint with every color and if it tastes good to someone all the better. I've tasted a lot of beers that were considered the pinnacle of their particular style or tradition and could only think of so many ways to improve it.
 
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blakelyc

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Well, after talking to some other KR folks at dinner tonight, it would seem that creating a reference beer ontology isn't a completely silly idea. As for my ability to explain it, well, there just isn't a lot of room in these little boxes :)
 
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blakelyc

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Ontology describes the categories of being, which in comp sci is described as a "formal specification of a conceptualization". Does that clear it up? ;)
 

duboman

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blakelyc said:
Ontology describes the categories of being, which in comp sci is described as a "formal specification of a conceptualization". Does that clear it up? ;)
Um... Sure
 
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blakelyc

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Okay, so a quick update on this project.... I've created a website and I've begun building the ontology, and I've even enlisted the help of some fellow information scientists and we're hoping to do a couple of presentations and papers at conferences about this work (it's already been done for wine). Anyways, there's a lot that's been done but I can't yet publish it.

The problem is the BJCP. I have reached out to the BJCP communication director twice (as per the procedure outlined on the website) to get permission to create this derivative work based on their guidelines. I've even gone so far as to email Jamil and Gordon in their capacities as the IT directors and Gordon's capacity as my mid-Atlantic representative.

I have not heard back from any of these contacts, not even to acknowledge receipt or ask for clarifications. Does anyone know the best way to get my request handled? I've tried to make these contacts via email over the last two months or so in an attempt to be sensitive to pestering.

I'm trying not to get frustrated, but I am trying to do the right thing, so I'll admit that the radio silence is irritating :)
 

AmandaK

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The problem is the BJCP. I have reached out to the BJCP communication director twice (as per the procedure outlined on the website) to get permission to create this derivative work based on their guidelines. I've even gone so far as to email Jamil and Gordon in their capacities as the IT directors and Gordon's capacity as my mid-Atlantic representative.
What are you trying to get out of the BJCP and why are they the "problem"? Based on this thread, I get the impression that no one understands what you're trying to do. Dumb it down for us normal folk.

Also, if you emailed Gordon Strong about anything relating to changes to the BJCP, you can bet that will go unanswered. Changes to the BJCP are brought about by the members, the Governing Committee and the elected officials - not outside viewers. But again, I'm not even sure what you're doing here.
 
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If you don't have an AHA membership, get one, then post your intent on the AHA forum. That will get the attention of those guys, and potentially others in the organized beer world.

If you can't state your purpose clearly and concisely, they'll ignore you. For example, the following statement is a problem if you're looking to get a busy person's attention:

As for my ability to explain it, well, there just isn't a lot of room in these little boxes :)
 
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blakelyc

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I've never mentioned changes to the BJCP, and I am an AHA member. I'm simply asking to use the style guides as source material for a project. Here's the exact text of the last email that I sent:

<snip>
My name is {redacted}, and I am an information scientist currently employed at {redacted}. I've started the study process for the BJCP exam. To assist my studying, as well as the studying of others, I'd like to start an open-source project to model the world of beer styles and style guides in a formal ontology. Ontologies are foundational to information science--they are a means of unambiguously describing concepts and the relationships between them. You can think of it almost like the XML version, just in a different format. I know this is probably a strange request, but here are the parameters that I'd be creating this ontology under:

1.) I won't reprint the BJCP style guide in any form.
2.) I will (or would like) to use the data and/or phrases from the style guide to express it in a formal ontology.
3.) Every reference to a piece of data obtained from the BJCP style guide will be attributed as such.
4.) I am not profiting from this work in any way--it is purely academic, open source, and to the benefit of beer.

The end work will be a series of ontologies in a format called "Turtle" (http://www.w3.org/TR/turtle/), and will probably be surfaced in human readable form online at my own website.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
</snip>

As for my ability to explain it, I can't give anyone an education in information science. What I can do is what I did, which was outline clear parameters for using their material that are in complete agreement with what their stated policy seems to be.

Aside from that, we're all very busy people. It's just unprofessional to flat ignore a communication sent to you in good faith.
 

Mark_

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Not to split hairs, but I don't actually read a request/question anywhere in your text. For what are you asking?

You might think about putting something in the end such as: "Simply put I am asking you for "X".
 

AmandaK

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Not to split hairs, but I don't actually read a request/question anywhere in your text. For what are you asking?

You might think about putting something in the end such as: "Simply put I am asking you for "X".
Exactly. You just stated what you wanted to do, then said "thank you for your consideration in this request". What was the request? Permission to reprint the guidelines? That's not really stated.
 

Piratwolf

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I'm curious about this project. Are you suggesting that a) the BJCP guidelines are ambiguous, and b) your ontological statements will make them less ambiguous?
 

Wynne-R

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When You post to the AHA, you could post a few webpages as attachments.

My guess is that they’re not sure what you’re trying to do. They don’t want to say yes and they don’t want to say no, so they’re sitting tight.

I’m no lawyer, but if you’re worried about copyright, you have a strong fair use claim.
 
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blakelyc

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I'm curious about this project. Are you suggesting that a) the BJCP guidelines are ambiguous, and b) your ontological statements will make them less ambiguous?
Yes. Ambiguity is unavoidable when using natural language to describe something's characteristics. The quantitative, measured items are clear (of course), but the quantitive guidelines alone can't describe what a beer's style actually is. So, using semantic techniques to model the language makes the concepts that we use to describe a style machine understandable and subject to the rules of description logic.

Combine this with things like linked open data, and you've opened up a whole new way to explore beer styles and relations as if each fact about a style was a node on a graph rather than text on a page.

Nerdy, yes, but also a common approach to modeling an information domain.
 
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Not to split hairs, but I don't actually read a request/question anywhere in your text. For what are you asking?

You might think about putting something in the end such as: "Simply put I am asking you for "X".
Right, except you put it at the beginning. If they are already involved / vested, anywhere is fine, but I wouldn't expect them to hack through it without the executive summary up front.
 

biochemedic

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I've read this thread twice, and I'm still not sure what your goals are...perhaps I'm being naive, but as best as I can tell, you want to do this:



Is there something more?
 

orangehero

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So what would be an example of when a brewer would need this ontological system?
 

MalFet

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Okay, I'll bite.

I spend most of my day thinking about information ontology, so I am unbothered by the jargon when I say this: I have absolutely no idea what on god's green earth you are talking about.

For example, I notice you've used the word ontology about two dozen times, and yet you have said literally nothing about which properties of beer you would like to ontologize. There are a handful of quantifications available, but the bulk of a beer's characteristics are highly subjective. This isn't a formal system.

The BJCP style guide provides a shared vocabulary for description, but beyond that your enthusiasm for classification seems to lack a clear understanding of why classification might be justified. Sometimes, when all you've got is a hammer...
 

libeerty

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I almost get what you're saying, but if this audience is confused, then this project is going to run into problems down the road when no one gets it. Might as well write up something clear and concise now. Can't be that complicated. Not very useful if the only people who get it are people in this niche science who also are really into beer.
 

Piratwolf

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Okay, I'll bite.

I spend most of my day thinking about information ontology, so I am unbothered by the jargon when I say this: I have absolutely no idea what on god's green earth you are talking about.

For example, I notice you've used the word ontology about two dozen times, and yet you have said literally nothing about which properties of beer you would like to ontologize. There are a handful of quantifications available, but the bulk of a beer's characteristics are highly subjective. This isn't a formal system.

The BJCP style guide provides a shared vocabulary for description, but beyond that your enthusiasm for classification seems to lack a clear understanding of why classification might be justified. Sometimes, when all you've got is a hammer...
Thank you--this is exactly what I thought, but didn't care enough to spell out. There's nothing here that confounds me when it comes to ontology. What confounds me is the OP's apparent inability to clarify his purpose and/or to recognize the inherent subjectivity of sensory perceptions.
 

duboman

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All I can say is I have been following this thread for 3 months now and each time I read it I smile and chuckle and still have no freakin' idea what is trying to be gained by the OP other than improving my vocabulary from all the large words being used that still really explain nothing...

Kind of like reading the fine print legal jargon that goes around in circles and makes my head spin, thanks I think I'll have another beer.....
 
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For someone supposedly schooled in the art (or perhaps even science) of information, the OP is having an awfully hard time conveying the same. I would like to see an update, as an academic venture attempting to somehow quantify vague and/or subjective concepts (like sensory perception of beer) is interesting...if that is indeed the intent of the OP.
 
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blakelyc

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Well, this thread had gotten interesting :) A few items related to earlier posts:

Is there something more?
Yes... quantitative characteristics are necessary, but not sufficient to fully define a beer style. They get you in the neighborhood, though.

yet you have said literally nothing about which properties of beer you would like to ontologize. There are a handful of quantifications available, but the bulk of a beer's characteristics are highly subjective. This isn't a formal system.
This is the problem space, more or less. We have a set of measured criteria, but the natural language descriptions contain most of the real interesting information. If it was all measurement, then the problem of defining a beer style is closed-world, easy, and boring. But, as you point out, that isn't the case. The question of what properties of beer I want to ontologize is an interesting one, because I don't know. The point is to develop an ontology that attempts to model all the characteristics of a style. Parsing the language and defining the characteristics is very much part of the work.

The BJCP style guide provides a shared vocabulary for description, but beyond that your enthusiasm for classification seems to lack a clear understanding of why classification might be justified. Sometimes, when all you've got is a hammer...
Except they don't... nor does any other beer style guide. Style guides contain the descriptions themselves, not a shared vocabulary for making such descriptions. Aside from that, I have no great love for classification. That's a taxonomist's job, and I very much appreciate the work those folks do... but it ain't me. Ontological modeling is not about classification. It is about defining exactly what is means to be a member of a class, and what your relationships are to things of other classes.

For someone supposedly schooled in the art (or perhaps even science) of information, the OP is having an awfully hard time conveying the same. I would like to see an update, as an academic venture attempting to somehow quantify vague and/or subjective concepts (like sensory perception of beer) is interesting...if that is indeed the intent of the OP.
While I didn't intend for this thread to devolve into an alpha-dog discussion of one's resume and what one is supposedly schooled in (see the hammer comment, above), I am more than happy to follow up on this request. I have actually come into contact with an ontologist(home brewer) and another information scientist (beer geek). We've put together a plan to create an abstract pitch for a presentation at a the semantic technology conference in NYC in October (assuming the conference happens... the last one was relatively sparse).

So, I'm more than happy to start posting on this thread links to the ontologies themselves (or questions about how they should be), links to the website, and various versions of the paper. It's much more productive if we steer this thread back in that direction.

At the end of the day, I suppose I'm creating something that may be of use to everyone or no one. Or, it may fail altogether. But that's the nature of inquiry. If we took everything at face value, there wouldn't be much discovery in the world :)
 

orangehero

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The BJCP descriptions don't use a consistent and shared beer-cabulary? Like shared descriptors (malty, sweet, fruity, spicy, etc) that are variously qualified for each style?

As I understand it, it's not an attempt to quantify vague and/or subjective concepts, but only to establish relationships between them in the context of beer styles.

Sorry if I missed it, but what is the use again?
 

MalFet

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Except they don't... nor does any other beer style guide. Style guides contain the descriptions themselves, not a shared vocabulary for making such descriptions. Aside from that, I have no great love for classification. That's a taxonomist's job, and I very much appreciate the work those folks do... but it ain't me. Ontological modeling is not about classification. It is about defining exactly what is means to be a member of a class, and what your relationships are to things of other classes.
I understand what ontological modeling is for, but I suspect you might not appreciate the nature of the senses. Just to be clear, your goal is to create a formalization of perceptual phenomena?

Have you read any of the literature on perception? There are some very basic and intractable facts about how perception works that make what you are proposing here impossible from the outset. Stan Hieronymus's new book on hops actually has a whole chapter on the issue. I'd recommend checking it out if you can. It's an interesting read.
 

StMarcos

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I'm not an information scientist but I think I have a grasp of the concept in relation to beer, and what the op is attempting to accomplish.

With the BJCP thing.... they have trademarked descriptors so the op is simply asking if they can use them as they complete their own studies.

I do see that the op has not used any obvious examples to help elucidate their project. I understand the academic nature of the project, and that it could be a fun/interesting/thought-provoking. I'm all for it. It would help the op's stance if they could state some hypothetical examples of how the project could progress if continued for some months/years. I think that some readers will want to jump too quickly to 'useful' outputs of such a project, but I see no such need for those. Maybe we could learn something about the concept of 'maltiness.' In what respects is it attributed to fuller base malts (M.O.), larger % of melanoiding rich malts (munich), higher o.g. (barleywines), lovibond of crystal/caramel use, or viscosity increasing adjuncts (rye)?
 
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So, I'm more than happy to start posting on this thread links to the ontologies themselves (or questions about how they should be), links to the website, and various versions of the paper. It's much more productive if we steer this thread back in that direction.
Do this. You just admitted that you're not even sure exactly what you're trying to quantify. Some examples of your work thus far would help us all to understand your venture.
 

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Protege is open source and pretty much the de-facto tool for modeling ontologies. It's written in java, so it runs on any machine. You can export your ontologies for import into semantic reasoners such as Apache Stanbol.

I would roughly start with something like this:


thing -> liquid -> beverage -> grain -> fermented -> (branch) top | bottom -> blah
 

beaksnbeer

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Sounds like taking a simple word like "malty" and using 10+ words to describe what malty is. Like we don't over think enough now we feel the need to complicate and add jargon. Why not just get the lawyers involved and write this up in "legalize" (rant over)
 

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Ah, so that's what we're talking about? Looks just like the usual hierarchical classification used in biology. I'd like to see that applied to beer.
It's not strictly hierarchical; there can be relations between branches.

For example, Alt would be in the ale branch but related to lager because of how it's made. With an ontology loaded into a semantic reasoner, there would thus be a way to mathematically compute that Alt is closer to Weissbier than IPA is. I mean, as a person with a brain we know this via our innate cognitive abilities but computers have no cognitive abilities - they need ontologies and semantic reasoning algorithms in order to derive relationships and form conclusions.
 

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