« On funding and sustainable services | Main | When technology disappears »

September 06, 2010

If I was a Batman villain I'd probably be...

The Modeller.

OK... not a real Batman villain (I didn't realise there were so many to choose from) but one made up by Chris Gutteridge in a recent blog post of the same name. It's very funny:

I’ve invented a new Batman villain. His name is “The Modeller” and his scheme is to model Gotham city entirely accurately in a way that is of no practical value to anybody. He has an OWL which sits on his shoulder which has the power to absorb huge amounts of time and energy.


Over the 3 issues there’s a running subplot about The Modeller's master weapon, the FRBR, which everyone knows is very very powerful but when the citizens of Gotham talk about it none of them can quite agree on exactly what it does.


While unpopular with the fans, issue two, “Batman vs the Protégé“, will later be hailed as a Kafkaesque masterpiece. Batman descends further into madness as he realises that every moment he’s the Batman of that second in time, and each requires a URI, and every time he considers a plan of action, the theoretical Batmen in his imagination also require unique distinct identifiers which he must assign before continuing.

I suspect there's a little bit of The Modeller in most of us - certainly those of us who have a predisposition towards Linked Data/the Semantic Web/RDF - and as I said before, I tend to be a bit of a purest, which probably makes me worse than most. I've certainly done my time with the FRBR. The trick is to keep The Modeller's influence under control as far as possible.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference If I was a Batman villain I'd probably be...:


The important thing is to always remember that the point of a model is to be useful, not to be accurate. The trick, of course, is in figuring out your 'use cases' so you know what's going to be useful, and why this gets hard is because your model is probably going to outlast your _present_ use cases, so you've got to think about the future a little bit. So, yeah, modelling is totally hard.

Sometimes there's the temptation to think that if you just make your model as _accurate_ as possible, that will result in usefulness for every possible use-case. But I suspect this isn't really true, and that a less 'accurate' model is in fact often more useful.

I honestly am not sure why FRBR gets so much bad press; it doens't strike _me_ as a model that has gone over to the 'accuracy over usefulness' side, it's pretty definitely just a model not intended to accurately portray the reality of information resources, and it still seems a fairly useful one to me -- at least for dealing with a corpus that's similar to traditional library corpuses. That might be a big 'at least'.

Hi Jonathan,
I tend to agree with you about FRBR and didn't mean to add to any bad press it gets. When we developed SWAP (the Scholarly Works Application Profile) we experimented with various models, including trying to 'flatten' FRBR into fewer key entities but we kept coming back to FRBR as the only model that would properly meet the functional requirements that we'd identified.

The comments to this entry are closed.



eFoundations is powered by TypePad