The Lay of Analytics

A few minutes ago I posted a link on Facebook to a recent technical report to which I'd contributed. Many of my Facebook friends are non-techies, and one of them asked: "could you say that again, poetically?" Which is a genius request, really! The technical report concerns data analytics, so here's a brief lyric to get the gist to my non-technical friends.

I wandered lonely as a cloud and tried to figure out
Where all my customers had gone, to bring them back about;
But from a million visitors how could I see the trend?
What made them walk out of my store, and what did make them spend?
And so I bought some software which could crunch the number stew
And tell me as a business just exactly what to do.
The best such tools let me explore without insisting on specifics;
I asked a geek "so what's that called?" He said: "Smart Analytics."

BTW the report in question is PwC's latest "Technology Forecast" report (PDF download), focusing on data analytics. There's also a sidebar on Zepheira's Freemix product on page 39.

My Thoughts after 7 Years of Being a Web-based Patient Registry Architect

Monday January 17th, 2011 is my last day at the Cleveland Clinic where I was Lead Systems Analyst for 7 years working on a very exciting project with a goal to replace a relational Cardiovascular Information Registry that supported research in cardiovascular medicine and surgery and consolidate data management for research purposes in the surgery department.  Eventually, our Clinical Investigation unit became part of the Heart and Vascular Institute.  

The long-term goal was to create a framework for context-free data management systems in which expert-provided, domain-specific knowledge is used to control all aspects of data entry, storage, display, retrieval, communication, and formatting for external systems.  By ‘context-free’, I mean that the framework can be used for any domain (even outside of medicine) and nothing about the domain is assumed or hardcoded.  The use of metadata was envisioned as key to facilitating this capability and to this end the use of RDF was effective as a web and logic-based knowledge representation.

At the time, I was unemployed soon after the post 9-11 economic and innovation bubble wherein there was great risk aversion to using the emerging technologies of the time: XML, RDF, XSLT, Python, REST, etc.  I was lucky that in the city whereI was born, a couple of miles (literally) from where I was born and my mother worked there was a great job opportunity under a mandate from our director for a de novo, innovative architecture.  I went for the interview and was fortunate to get the job.

Four years later (in the fall of 2007), It was deployed for production use by nurses, coders, and researchers and built on top of the predecessor of Akara, an XML & RDF content repository:  

The diagram above documents the application server and services stack that is used by the various components that interface with the repository.  The web services paradigm was never used and most of the service-oriented architecture was pure HTTP with XML (i.e., POX/HTTP)

Mozilla’s Firefox with XForms extension was used for about 5 years for the complete collection of longitudinal patient record content for a little over 200,000 patients who had operations with cardiac(-thoracic) surgical component(s) in a registry.  The architectural methodology was such that the use and deployment of infrastructure (entire data collection screens, XML and RDF schemas, data transformations, etc.) was significantly automated.  W3C document management and semantic web representation standards (HTTP, RDF, XML, N3, OWL, and SPARQL) were used to ensure interoperability, extensibility, and automation, in particular as infrastructure for both (certified) quality measure reporting and a clinical research repository.

I wanted to take the time to coalesce my experience in working on this project and share some of the key desiderata, architectural constraints (that perhaps comprise an architectural style), and opportunities in using these emerging technologies to address the primary engineering challenges of clinical research repositories and patient registries.  The following functionalities stood out as very implementable for such an approach: 

  • patient record abstraction (data entry via knowledge-generated input screens)
  • workflow management
  • data quality management
  • identification of patients cohorts for study
  • data export for statistical analysis

Patient Record Abstraction

XForms brings a rich history of browser-based data entry to bear as comprehensive, declarative syntax that is part of a new architectural paradigm and works well with the architectural style of the World Wide Web: REST.  It abstracts widgets, controls, data bindings, logic, remote data management, integration into a host language, and other related rich internet application requirements.  

I had to check the way back machine but found the abstract of the 2006 presentation: “The Essence of Declarative, XML-based Web Applications: XForms and XSLT”.  There I discussed best practices, common patterns, and pitfalls in using XSLT as a host language for generating web-based user interfaces expressed in XForms.  The XForms-generating infrastructure was quite robust and everything from screen placement, behavior, range checking, drop-down lists, and data field dependencies were described in an XML document written using a microformat designed for templating user interfaces for patient registry data collection.

All in all (and I hope John writes about this at some point since he was the primary architect of the most advanced manifestation of this approach), the use of a microformat for documenting and generating an XForms framework for controlled, validated, form-based data collection was very adequate and sufficed to allow the (often unpredictable) requirements of national registries reporting and our clinical studies to dictate automatically deployed changes to a secure (access controlled) patient record web portal and repository.

Regarding quality management, on December 2007, John and I were supposed to present at XML 2007 about how

XForms provides a direct interface to the power of XML validation tools for immediate and meaningful feedback to the user about any problems in the data. Further, the use of validation components enables and encourages the reuse of these components at other points of entry into the system, or at other system boundaries.

I also found the details of the session (from the online conference schedule) on the wayback machine from the XML 2007 conference site.  The presentation was titled: “Analysis of an architecture for data validation in end-to-end XML processing systems.

Client-side XForms constraint mechanisms as well as server-side schematron validation was the basis for quality management at the point of data entry (which is historically the most robust way to address errors in medical record content).  All together, the Mozilla browser platform presents quite an opportunity to offload sophisticated content management capabilities from the server to the client and XML processing and pipelining played a major role in this regard.  

Workflow Management

See: A Role for Semantic Web Technologies in Patient Record Data Collection where I described my chapter in the LInked Enterprise Data book regarding the use of semantic web technologies to facilitate patient record data collection workflow.  In the Implementation section, I also describe how declarative AJAX frameworks such as Simile Exhibit were integrated for use in faceted browsing and vizualization of patient record content.  RDF worked well as the state machine of a workflow engine.  The digital artifacts involved in the workflow application and the messages sent back and forth from browser to server are XML and JSON documents.  The content in the documents are mirrored into an RDF dataset describing the state of the workflow task which can be queried when listing the workflow tasks associated with the currently logged in user (for instance).  

This is an archetype of an emerging pattern where XML is used as the document and messaging syntax and a semantics-preserving RDF rendering of the XML content (mirrored persistently in an RDF dataset) is used as the knowledge representation for inference and querying.  More on this archetype later.  

Identification of Patient Cohorts for Study

Eric Prud’hommeaux has been doing alot of excellent infrastructure work (see: SWObjects) in the Semantic Web for Healthcare and Life Sciences Interest Group around the federated use of SPARQL for querying structured, discrete EHR data in a meaningful way and in a variety of contexts: translational research, clinical observations interoperability, etc.  His positive experience has mirrored ours in the use of SPARQL as the protocol for querying a patient outcome registry and clinical research database.

However, we had the advantage of already having the data natively available as a collection of RDF graphs (each of which describes a longitudinal patient record) from the registry.  A weekly ETL-like process recreates an RDF dataset from the XML collection and serves as the snapshot data warehouse for the operational registry, which relies primarily on XML payload for the documentation, data collection, and inter-system messaging needs.  Other efforts have been more focused on making extant relational EHR data available as SPARQL.  

This was the backdrop to the research we did with Case Western Reserve University P.h.D students in the summer and fall of 2008 on the efficient use of relational algebra to evaluate the SPARQL language in its entirety.  

GRDDL Mechanisms and Dual Representation

Probably the most substantive desiderata or opportunity in patient record systems (and registries) of the future is as hard to articulate as it is to (frankly) appreciate and understand.  However, I recently rediscovered the GRDDL usecase that does a decent job of describing how GRDDL mechanisms can be used to address the dual syntactic and semantic interoperability challenges in patient registry and record systems.

XML is the ultimate structured document and messaging format so it is no surprise it is the preferred serialization syntax of the de facto messaging and clinical documentation standard in healthcare systems.  There are other light-weight alternatives (JSON), but it is still the case that XML is the most pervasive standard in this regard.  However, XML is challenged in its ability to specify the meaning of its content in a context-free way (i.e., semantic interoperability).  Viewing RDF content as a rendering of this meaning ( a function of the structured content ) and viewing an XML vocabulary as a special purpose syntax for RDF content is a very useful way to support (all in the same framework): 

  • structured data collection
  • standardized system-to-system messaging
  • automated deductive analysis and transformation
  • structural constraint validation.

In short, XML facilitates the separation of presentation from content and semantic-preserving RDF renderings of XML facilitate the separation of syntax from semantics.  

The diagram above demonstrates how this separation acts as the modern version of the tranditional boundary between transactional systems and their datawarehouse in relational database systems.  In this updated paradigm, however, XML processing is the framework for the former, RDF processing is the framework for the latter, and XSLT (or any similar transform algorithm) is the ETL framework.

In the end, I think it is safe to say that RDF and XSLT are very useful for facilitating semantic and syntactic automation in information systems.  I wish I had presented or written more on this aspect, but I did find some older documents on the topic along with the abstract of the presentation I gave with William Stelhorn during the first Semantic Technologies Conference in 2005:

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica} span.s1 {letter-spacing: 0.0px}

The diagram above illustrates how a domain model (described in an RDF vocabulary) can be used by an automated component to generate semantic and syntactic schemas (OWL and RELAX-NG respectively) as well as GRDDL transforms (as XSLT) that faithfully render the structured content in a machine-understandable knowledge representation (RDF).  In this way, many of the data management tooling and infrastructure can be managed by tweaking declarative documentation (not programming code) and automatically generating the infrastructure compiled specifically for a particular domain.

The Challenges

I have mostly mentioned where things worked well.  There were certainly significant challenges to our project, but most of them were not technical in nature.  This seems to be a recurring theme in medical informaticis.  

The main technical challenge has to do with support in RDF databases or triplestores for an appreciable amount of write as well as read operations.  This shortcoming will be particularly emphasized given the emerging SPARQL 1.1 specifications having to do with write operations becoming W3C recommendations and their inevitable adoption.  Most contemporary relational schemas for RDF storage are highly-normalized star schemas where the there isn't a single fact table but rather (in the most advanced cases) this space is partitioned into separate tables and divided along the general, distinct kinds of statements you can have in an RDF graph: RDF statements where the predicate is rdf:type, statements where the object is an RDF literal, and statements where the object is an RDF URI.  So, it is more like a conjoined star schema, for a lack of a better term.  

This minimizes self-joins since the data space is partitioned amongst multiple tables and a query such as this:

SELECT ?MRN { ?PATIENT hasMedicalRecordNumber ?MRN }  

Would ony require (assuming we knew a priori that the range of the hasMedicalRecordNumber property is RDF literals) using the single table for RDF statements where the object is an RDF literal.  If an additional triple pattern is added that matches RDF statements where the object is a URI (or Blank Node), then this results in a join between the two tables rather than a self-join on a single massive table for all the RDF statements.

In such an architecture, there are separate lookup tables that map internal identifiers (integers perhaps) to their full lexical form as URIs or RDF literals for instance.  This enforces the re-use of terms so that space is not wasted if two RDF statemens refer to the same URI.  Internally, they will refer to the same row in the RDF term lookup table.  This is often called string interning.  

However, the downside to this kind of normalization, which is significantly optimized for usecases that primarily involve read access (i.e., datawarehouse or OLAP scenarios), does not bode well when updates are needed to be made to part of an RDF graph in a RDF dataset or the entire graph.  If an RDF statement is removed and it is the only one that references a particular RDF URI, that URI will need to be garbage collected or removed from the RDF term lookup table.  It is such optimizations for OLAP behavior that almost require that high volume updates to RDF content happen as massive ETL jobs where the entire RDF collection of patient record content is replaced rather than doing so one patient record graph at a time.  

This fundamental challenge is the same reason why (some time back) the content repository underlying SemanticDB switched from using RDF to manage the state of the repository (file modification dates, internet media types associated with artifacts, etc.) to using cached, in-memory, pre-parsed XML.  It is also the same reason why we didn't use this capability to allow modifications to patient record documents (via XForms data collection screens) to be immediately reflected into the underlying RDF dataset.  In both cases, writing to the RDF dataset became the prominent bottleneck as the RDF database was not able to support Online Transactional Processing (OLTP).

There was an additional semi-technical challenge that had (and still has) to do with a lack of a small, broad, uniform, upper ontology of clinical medicine.  It needs to be certainly much smaller than SNOMED-CT but certainly able to cover the same material, hence my description of it as an upper ontology.  There are at least 2 projects I know of regarding this:

The latter is my project and was motivated (from the beginning) by this exact problem.  The other problems are massive but not technical.  The two primary ones (in my opinion) are the lack of understanding of - on the one hand - how to concieve and develop a business strategy around open source, open communities, open standards, and open data that relies more on services, the competitive advantage of using emerging technologies where appropriate, and leverages the catalyzing power of web 2.0 / 3.0 technology and social media and - on the other hand - better communication of the merits of semantic web technologies in addressing the engineering and infrastructure challenges of healthcare information systems.  Most of the people who can benefit from better communication in this regard are significantly risk-averse to begin with (another problem in its own right).  

An example of this is that, in my opinion, the only new innovation that semantic web technologies brings to the table is the symbiotic combination of the architecture of the world wide web with knowledge representation.  The use of logic and ontologies to address semantic interoperability challenges predates the semantic web (and even predates Description Logic).  By being precise in describing this difference you can also be precise about decribing the value with very little risk of over stating it.  

Any problem domain where the meaning of data plays a major role will benefit from tranditional deductive database and expert systems (such as prolog or business rule systems respectively) as easily as it would from semantic web technologies.  However, a problem domain where linking data, identifying concepts and digital artifacts in a universal and re-usable way, and leveraging web-based infrastructure is a major factor will benefit from semantic web technologies in a way that it wouldn't from the tradtional alternatives.  This simplification of the value proposition message (for consumption by risk-averse laypeople) also helps to sharpen the distinctions between the markets that a business strategy can target as well as target the engineering problems these emergning technologies should (and should not) attempt to address.  A sharper, straightforward message is needed to break the political and generational barriers that retard the use of potentionally transformational technologies in this field that is a major contribution to the economic instability of this country.

Many of these technological opportunities transfer directly over for use in Patient Controlled Health Records (PCHR) systems.  I also think much of the risk aversion associated with the atmosphere I found myself in after leaving Fourthought (for instance) and generally in large institutions contributes to why the very evident opportunities in leveraging rich web application (“web 2.0”) and semantic web infrastructure (“web 3.0”) have not had as much penetration in healthcare information technology as one would expect.

My new job is as a Senior Research Associate with the Center for Clinical Investigation in the Case Western School of Medicine.  I will be managing Clinical and Translational Science Collaboration (CTSC) clinical, biomedical, and administrative informatics projects as well as designing and developing the informatics infrastructure that supports this.  Coupled with being a part-time P.h.D. student, I will still essentially be doing clinical research informatics (i.e., the use of informatics to facilitate biomedical and health research), however the focus will be on translational research: translating the findings in basic research more quickly and efficiently into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes: physical, mental, or social.  So, I imagine the domain will be closer to the biology end of the spectrum and there will be more of an explicit emphasis on collaboration.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working on such a challenging project, in such a world-renown intitution, and working under such a visionary mandate.  I was priviledged to be able to represent the Cleveland Clnic in the W3C through the various working groups developing standards relevant to the way in which we were leveraging semantic web technologies:

  • Semantic Web for Healthcare and Life Sciences Interest Group
  • Data Access Working Group
  • GRDDL Working Group 

If not for the exposure at CCF to the great challenges in medical informatics and equally great opportunities to address them, I would probably have never considered going back to seek a P.h.D in this field.  Although I will be working with a different instutition, it will still essentially be in the Univiersity Circle area and only about a 20 minute walk from where I was at the Cleveland Clinic.  I'm very proud of what we were able to do and I'm looking forward to the future.

Health Care Technology @ O'Reilly's Open Source Convention

Andy Oram has recently written about O'Reilly's Open Source convention which contains a track on health care IT. As he discusses in that article, the potential value proposition of open source software and open data initiatives (and royalty-free standards) in making a difference in how electronic medical records are stored and shared is significant. I have seen it first hand, having worked on a patient registry that is mostly composed of open source components. 

As a result of the ARRA act (the stimulus bill), there is a significant incentive for healthcare professionals to demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs. This criteria is comprised of 3 requirements:

  1. Use of certified EHR technology in a meaningful manner 
  2. Utilize certified EHR technology connected for health information exchange 
  3. Use of certified EHR technology to submit information on clinical 
    quality measures

These are very broad requirements, but the way they can be achieved
and the role of open data / source and royalty-free standards and
helping achieve these requirements can be seen by looking at some of
the challenges [1] that currently limit the meaningful use of Health
Information Technology (HIT):

  1. Clinical information systems from disparate hospitals do not communicate with each other automatically because implementation of existing standards is lacking 
  2. Data standards for medical specialities need further development to 
    accurately communicate intricacies of care 
  3. Database architectures are often designed to support single 
    clinical applications and are not easily modified 
  4. HIT increases the cost of doing business: cost of technology, 
    training, maintenance, system optimization, and skilled personnel
  5. Healthcare organizations have little recourse if a vendor fails to 
    deliver once the vendor's system becomes embedded into the 
    organization (vendor lock-in) 
  6. Decisions on technology acquisitions and implementations are often 
    made by people that lack clinical informatics expertise 

Promulgation of royalty-free standards address the lack of standards and cost of using such standards. Involvement of multiple member organizations in developing such standards build some amount of serendipity into the systems that use them, given the rigor that typically goes into creating these standards.

Open source software similarly addresses the cost of technology as well, and in addition tend to expand the pool of skilled personnel available to use them by virtue of the communities that are built around them. From these communities often come a significant resource to tap in maintaining and optimizing such systems. For example, the informatics team I work with at the Cleveland Clinic's Heart and Vascular Institute (on SemanticDB) currently use MySQL as the backend for our RDF triple store and none of the developers who maintain and optimize this aspect of our software ever needed to travel to a site to learn MySQL as most of what we needed to know was widely available on various internet sites.

Much of these benefits are turned on their head when healthcare organizations find themselves in the proverbial position of "vendor lock in". Vendors of HIT, like most other capitalist entities, seek to perpetuate their grip on a market via steady incline to a platform built entirely on their goods. An information technology market based on royalty-free standards and open source is a counter weight to this insofar as vendor lock in is much harder to achieve if the platforms are built to standards that were developed in concert with various industry players and thus diffusing the competition.

This potential bodes well for a future HIT landscape that looks quite different from the one we have today and the impetus of the new incentives put in place by this administration might accelerate this change. For those interested in this topic, you might want to also take a look at Andy's most recent summary of the health care OSCon technology track.

[1] Kadry, B. and Sanderson, I.C. and Macario, A., Challenges that limit meaningful use of health information technology, Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology, volume 23, 2010.

SemanticDB: A CMS Methodology for the Enterprise Semantic Web

This is a heads up that this weekend I will be writing a full length article giving an architectural overview of SemanticDB, a Content Management System methodology (and implementation) we have been developing at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation over the last 4 years (since I've been there). I hope this may trigger more public dialog (which unfortunately has not been happening) about how we've been leveraging Semantic Web and document management (XML-related technologies) W3C standards to build a robust platform to facilitate all aspects of clinical research.

I believe most of our success with SemanticDB can be attributed to the strenghts of the standards being leveraged, the opensource tools (specifically: Python, 4Suite, RDFLib, FuXi, Paste, and FormsPlayer) which serve as primary infrastructure, and the enthusiasm of the relevant communities behind these open standards and opensource software tools. As such, it is only fair that these communities become aware of examples which demonstrate how this arena is slowly transitioning from the realm of pure research to practical problem solving. In addition, I hope it may contribute to the growing body of literature demonstrating concrete problems being solved with these technologies in a way that simply would not have been possible via legacy means.

Below is the abstract from a technological whitepaper that has been in clandestine distribution as we have sought to ramp up our efforts:

SemanticDB represents a methodology for building and maintaining a highly flexible content management system built around a centralized vocabulary.
This vocabulary incorporates a formal semantics (via a combination of an OWL ontology and a N3 ruleset) for heirarchical document composition and an abstract framework for modelling terms in a domain in a way that facilitates semi-automated use of native XML and RDF representations.

It relies on a very recent set of technologies (Semantic Web technologies) to automate certain aspects of data entry, structure, storage, display, and retrieval with minimal intervention by traditional database administrators and computer programmers. A SemanticDB instance is built around a domain model expressed using a Data Node Model. From the domain model various XML/RDF management components are generated. The Data Mason takes a domain model and generates XML schemas, formal ontologies, XSLT transforms, stored queries, XML templates, document definitions, etc.

The ScreenCompiler takes an abstract representation of a data entry form (with references to terms in a domain model) and generates a user interface in a particular host language (currently XForms)

Below is a core diagram of the methodology which facilitates semi-automated data management of XML & RDF content:

The Data Mason and automated XML/RDF Data Management

Watch this space..

Chimezie Ogbuji

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“The professional architect, Part 1: How developers become architects”

Just published:

“The professional architect, Part 1: How developers become architects”

Synopsis: Many architects come from the ranks of good developers, but not every good developer wants to be an architect, nor are all of them suited for the role. Whether you're a developer contemplating a career shift or a manager looking for suitable candidates for an architectural responsibility, it's important to have a well-informed perspective on this transition. This article discusses the journey from implementation specialization to architecture.

The article is just a collection of my observations of developers and architects, as well as my own experiences in both roles. Here's the introductory section:

When you look for a good musical conductor, you start by looking for a good musician. But not every good musician makes a good conductor. The situation is similar in the professional development of architects. More and more IT organizations are understanding the importance of sound software architecture, and the architect profession is rapidly emerging as a separate discipline within IT. This presents some fresh challenges to management as they look to recruit architects from a fairly small labor pool.[...] The fastest way over these hurdles is to understand that most good architects are also good developers, so probably the first place to look for architect talent is among the ranks of regular developers.[...]

This article outlines what it takes for a developer to become an architect. I'll present the perspective of a developer who might be considering such a move, as well as that of a manager assessing developers for such a transition. I'll also provide a series of factors to consider when making these decisions.

I'll be writing a few more articles on the architect's profession for IBM developerWorks. A few years ago I wrote “A custom-fit career in app development”, an article discussing how developers can build a career without being enslaved to the mainstream of technology trends.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Buzzword bullying

I've lately noticed a tendency of technical folks to use "buzzword" as somewhat of a reflex epithet. We all love nudge-nudge jokes at business folks' expense, playing buzzword bingo at a particularly stultifying presentation, and the like, but I sometimes think that the practice drifts unnecessarily into serious discourse as a cheap way to shut down an opposing point.

A term is a buzzword when its use does not convey any meaning, but is meant to lend a false weight to some claim. People usually think of words and phrases such as "synergy" and "push the envelope" as buzzwords. I have almost never seen these two examples used other than as buzzwords, but certainly any regular word can become a buzzword in particular context. Words such as "value", "quality", "enterprise", "success", "architecture", "metrics" and "middleware" have their important uses, and are also sometimes used as buzzwords. I'd always thought this was simple common sense, but I've come across recent instances where I've seen anyone using these words, even in obviously meaningful ways, dismissed with the "b" word.

Certainly some suspect words are more suspicious than others, and some words have the misfortune of being popular components of buzzword phrases. "value", "success" and "business" are definitely in this category, becoming "value added", "success factors" and "business benefit", with "business value" coming off as a beacon of buzz. This does not condemn even such suspicious words to the dustbin. It's all about context. Here are a couple of words I've seen that are perfectly legitimate, but that some people seem bent on eliminating from the language (not that there is any chance in hell that they'll succeed).

  • Middleware. Used properly it stems from several computing disciplines such as model/value/controller and client/server that sought to articulate a separation of software into the part that stores and manages data, and the part that presents information to the user. Middleware is just a general term for software that is not really suited to either partition, but tends to sit in between these. It is a pretty neutral term, and you certainly don't end up notching up points for a piece of software just by calling it "middleware", so it would seem a rather poor buzzword. Then again, I have seen it used as a mumbo-jumbo term for software for which the speaker has trouble articulating a role. I think that's rare, but it would count in the buzz column.

  • Enterprise. The word simply describes a particular subset of organizations, in general ones that are closely bound by some fiduciary pressure, such as a corporation's responsibility to shareholders. The special needs of such environments does provide unique challenges to software, and thus I think "enterprise" is as often a useful distinguishing term as a mindless buzzword. A good example of a compound here is "enterprise architecture". This is a useful term that describes systems that are put together such that they work well across the departmental divisions of an enterprise, which is difficult because such divisions usually involve severe changes in focus, from research to operations to marketing to legal affairs, for example. Of course I've also seen "enterprise architecture" used by vendors as a way of saying "this is isn't your hippie open-source, Web jockey, script-and-glue technology, buddies". That definitely warrants a good scoring of the bingo card.

It's far more refreshing when debaters create and play on words rather than trying to stifle them. While I think it's silly to yell "bingo" every time someone says "enterprise", I quite approve of the snarky term "enterprisey". And anyway, I think that such tactics work a lot better than automatic buzzword bashing. I'm reading Nunberg's Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show and it strikes me that the right wing's success with setting the terms of linguistic discourse suggests that buzzword bashing is a losing tactic, anyway.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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The Buzzword Firing Squad

If buzzword proliferation was a punishable crime, the penitentiaries would be full of software developers and blog authors.

Below is my list of buzzwords, catch-phrases, and technologies that need to be summarily executed without a lengthy trial:

  • Web 2.0 (do I even need a reason?)
  • AJAX (ahem.. The idea of asynchronous HTTP requests for XML content is core to XForms and better architected in that context)
  • SOA / Web Services (90% of the time people use this term they refer to SOAP-based remote procedure invokation specifically)
  • RDF/XML Syntax (This one has done more damage to RDF advocacy than any other)
  • Semantic (This term is so thoroughly abused that it would be par for the course to read of cron job referred to as a 'semantic' process.)
  • "Yes, that's very nice and all, but does it scale?" !*&%#@@$!!!
  • Ontology: I've found it easiest to think of an Ontology as a Taxonomy (or polyhierarchy) with a minimal number of logical constraints. Without logical constraints, there is nothing 'ontological' about a model that could easily be represented in an E-R diagram.

I'm certain this is only about 2% of the full list, I'll be sure to add to it as more come to mind.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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