OWL WG comments on QA Documents

From: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2004 11:08:22 -0500
To: www-qa@w3.org

[QAWG Ed note. The remainder of this document exactly matches the body of the corresponding original message in the W3C mail archives,

except that anchors have been added to allow precise referencing from the QAWG issues that are derived from the message.]

The following are Web Ontology Working Group comments resulting from
performing the OWL - QA OpsGL case study sent in a separate email. 
These comments represent an
official working group position on the QAF as decided on 18 Dec 2003 [1].
The comments consist of:
  I  Summary of comments on QAF,
  II Detailed comments on QA Operational Guidelines document.

[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-webont-wg/2003Dec/0095.html


I. Summary of comments on QAF

The Web Ontology (WebOnt) Working Group has just completed a review of
the CR version of the Quality Assurance Framework: Operational
Guidelines [QAF-OPS] assessing how well WebOnt activities performed in
developing the OWL specification conformed to those guidelines.  This
process required reading and understanding the [QAF-OPS] document and
to a lesser extent understanding other parts of the QAF.  During this
process, we have come to the opinion that these QAF documents should
not reach Recommendation status without significant change.  The goals
for the framework are laudable --to capture and institutionalize best
practices for the fair, open, and effective development and
maintenance of standards that lead to interoperability.  But to
achieve these goals the QAF materials need to be clear, concise,
consistent and compact.  We do not find the QA Framework documents
that we reviewed to have these qualities and believe that the changes
needed to meet these goals will be large enough to force another Last
Call phase.


1.1 Too big and too expensive

The QAF document family is quite large, including an Introduction,
Glossary, and three document subfamilies: the QA Framework Operational
Guidelines, the QA Specification Guidelines[QAF-SPEC], and the QA Test
Guidelines[QAF-TEST].  Each of these families has(or will have), in
addition to its core document, two accompanying checklists, an
Examples & Techniques document, and various templates.  We were
bewildered by the myriad of documents, found inconsistencies among CR
components of the Guidelines document family, and found the Glossary
to be incomplete. In short, we had a frustrating experience.

We are particularly concerned that [QAF-OPS] puts the burden of
understanding this entire document set onto those chartering a new
working group.  Requirements for chartering should be confined to
those items necessary for success of the project to be undertaken by
the new working group. Much more than that endangers the process at
bootstrapping time and may lead to premature decisions which may
haunt the group later on.

1.2 The cost of comprehensive test materials

We note the abstract of the Operational Guidelines scopes the work to
"building conformance test materials". However, the QA WG charter has the
goal of "usable and useful test suites".

WebOnt specifically decided to try to build a "usable and useful test
suite" rather than "conformance test materials". A particular way in which
we have found our test suite usable and useful is as a means by which to
explore our issues and to state our issue resolutions. We believe this has
directly contributed to the quality of our recommendations.

The QA documents, with their emphasis on thoroughness and procedures would
have significantly added to the cost of the OWL recommendations without, in
our view, a commensurate increase in quality.

As an example Guideline 10 of the Specification Guidelines mandates the use
of test assertions for each testable aspect of a specification, our
understanding is that guideline 7.1 prefers the use of MUST etc in such
assertions. As an example we apply this to one line in the central OWL
document (Semantics and Abstract Syntax) i.e. the definition of unionOf in

The clear if somewhat mathematical definition becomes the following text:

If x is in the interpretation of unionOf(c1 ... cn) then there MUST be some
i such that x is in the interpretation of ci. If x is in the interpretation
of ci then x MUST be in the interpretation of unionOf(c1 ... cn).

(Note the two MUSTs are separately testable).

Doing that a hundred times over would have made the document unreadable,
for the relatively minor advantage of being able to quantify the coverage
of the specification by the test suite, and to better link each test to the
aspect of the specification that it was trying to explore. It also seems a
abuse of RFC 2119 language to use MUST to constrain mathematical or textual
objects, rather than agents.

Moreover, we could have a test for each of these MUSTs while failing to
provide well-known challenges that come from combining the features of OWL
in an awkward way. Thus to have an adequate conformance test suite it does
not suffice to document each testable assertion and to have a test for
each, but also every combination has to have a test (an impossible task).
With our more modest goals of usefulness, experts within our group have
selected tests from the literature that provide certain known challenging
feature combinations.

1.3 Constraining other WGs

The Web Ontology WG believes that Rec track documents should define
technology and define conformance clauses for software, hardware, and also
specifications, but should not mandate that W3C working groups or specs
must be conformant.  Thus it would be inappropriate for the QA WG to
mandate conformance with procedures and guidelines in QAF documents,
yet this possibility is admitted in the Normative Guidelines section
of the QA Framework: Introduction.

1.4 WebOnt did well without the CR QA Framework

As noted in our detailed assessment of OWL QA procedures in comparison
to QAF Guidelines, WebOnt accomplished many of the stated goals of the
QAF without conforming to the [QAF-OPS]. Producing a number of QA
Materials (such as Issues and Test) which helped to discipline and
guide the language development process. As part of this, WebOnt
documented the language in multiple ways which addressed the needs of
the diverse audience for the OWL specification.  Extensive tests were
defined and test results are now available [OWL-TEST-RESULTS] for more
than a dozen different OWL tools.  We believe these successes were due
in no small part to the ability for the working group to choose the
approaches and deliverables that matched the needs of the language
specified and the skills, availability, and interests of WebOnt
members.  This flexibility would not have been available had the group
been forced to conform to [QAF-OPS] as currently written.


We believe that it would be detrimental to future W3C work projects
for all or significant portions of the QA Framework to be incorporated
into the W3C Process document.  Rather we would like to see the QAF
transformed into a flexible, user friendly set of tools, templates,
and guidelines which the Process document can reference instead of
mandate.  The following are some suggestions for moving these
documents towards this goal.  Detailed issues with the QA Framework:
Operational Guidelines family can be found in II, although some are
also highlighted in the bullets below.

* Clearly and consistently emphasize QA Framework Introduction as
a starting point into the QAF, possibly removing the QAF-OPS altogether
and using the QA Framework Primer section to serve the same role.

* The use of MUST on the conformance clauses is overly strong.  We
suggest that minimally these should be weakened to SHOULD, and in some
cases should be lowered to MAY to be more generally applicable.  The
QA documents intend to be applicable to all W3C WGs and
specifications, inevitably there will be unforeseen circumstances for
which a considered decision to not implement some part of the QA
framework is appropriate.  For example, in response to a patent
appearing impacting some part of a W3C recommendation it may be
necessary to reissue a new version of that recommendation avoiding the
patent, and it may be necessary to do this very quickly. In such a
case, QA goals could be an obstacle to timeliness.

* Put all QA specific terms such as Commitment Levels, Priority
Levels, etc into the QAF Glossary.

* Consider moving boiler plate sections to Intro.  In any case move
term definitions to a place prior to their use in base documents.

* Use consistent document abbreviations throughout the framework.

* Add conformance requirements to checklists.

* Confirm consistency of overlapping information in document families,
in particular Priority of checkpoints between QAF-OPS and OPS-EXTECH
(note problems with this in Guideline 6).

* Make the single HTML file version of QAF-OPS normative (if QAF-OPS
stays an independent document).

* Either change the Operational Examples and Techniques to contain
reusable examples or change its name to reflect its true content.
Suggest "Operational Case Studies and Techniques."

[OWL-TEST-RESULTS] http://www.w3.org/2003/08/owl-systems/test-results-out


II. Detailed comments on QA Operational Guidelines document - [QAF-OPS]

New Working groups - within Guideline 1 the following is said about
new working groups in the context of Operational Guidelines, "Working
Groups that are renewing their charters are considered the same as new
WGs."  Perhaps this is as distiguished from "extending" their charters
(i.e. looking for an extension to finish work on work items already
well underway).  Any requirements implied by these guidelines should
only apply to new work items begun after the QAF becomes a
recommendation. When WGs are extending their charter they are already
straining the availability of participating members and endangering
the schedules of dependent projects.  Adding new requirements at such
a time needlessly endangers the goals of the WG and dependent groups
and projects.

The checkpoints in the QA OPS document are actually compound
checkpoints (see conformance requirements for each checkpoint in
QAF-OPS).  The OPS-CHECKLIST and OPS-ICS tables elide this and thus
hide the complexity and resulting cost of meeting the QA requirements.
Furthermore, for those WGs who do review their QA conformance with
this checklist it will be necessary to review each requirement and
useful to capture a record of how the WG addressed the requirement.
In other words, the tables would be more useful if the conformance
requirements were included.

Commitment Levels - the following levels are enumerated but not
explained were used or in the QA Introduction or QA Glossary: A, AA,
and AAA.  This material should precede its use.  It currently appears
in section 4 of the QAF-OPS, and no forward reference is provided
where used.

Document structure -  The components of the QA Ops document are not
sufficiently large or independent of each other to justify the
compound structure of this document.  We found it quite frustrating to
navigate this version while relating the checkpoints to our WG
actions.  Recommend making the single HTML file the normative version

What constitutes a QA deliverable or milestone?: Checkpoint 1.4 asks
about enumeration of QA deliverables without providing a comprehensive
definition for such things.  The discussion section of the QA OPS doc
provides a partial(?) list but ironically the Examples & Techniques
doc provides no such list (although a few examples not in the OPS doc
list are scattered among the text of the Examples doc for this

Bootstrapping - These guidelines require that considerable planning and
assignment of resources take place prior to chartering a WG.  There
are several dangers with such an approach: 1) the weight of work and
high commitment requirements prior to chartering could doom the
chartering process to failure, 2) planning of work and assignment of
resources prior to WG formation could result in poor choices since the
membership of the group was not yet even determined much less reached
any common set of thinking, and 3) those members of the WG who had not
been involved in its chartering would feel no ownership or
commitment to plans made prior to their involvement.

QA materials - Checkpoint 2.1 and its conformance requirements concern
Test Materials, but the Rationale talks of QA deliverables and
commitment which is a wider concern.  Which is it?

Where-and-how plan - the term "where-and-how plan" is used without
being explicitly defined.

QA moderator -  This seems to be a pseudonym for a TM development
lead.  If that is what is meant, then why obfuscate by using the
broader term?

Checkpoint 5.1 Define a framework for test material development - The
Conformance Requirement for this checkpoint talks of a framework while
the Rationale talks of a plan.  We are not sure how detailed a plan is
wanted here, and how this requirement differs from previous
checkpoints that talked of creating a scenario for how test materials
were to be developed.  This part of the Checkpoint description needs to
be made consistent as well as differentiated from the requirements in
checkpoints 2.1 and 2.2.

QAF-OPS and OPS-EXTECH docs out of synch.-  The CR versions of the
QA Framework: Operational Guidelines
<http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/CR-qaframe-ops-20030922/> and the
QA Framework: Operational Examples & Techniques
documents do not agree on priorities for 6.x checkpoints.  The QAF-OPS
doc sets higher priorities than the OPS-EXTECH doc for all checkpoints
for Guideline 6 save 6.3.

Checkpoint fragmentation - Checkpoint 6.2 is essentially a detail
concerning checkpoint 5.4.  Clearer and more succinct QA documentation
would merge these.
Professor James Hendler			  http://www.cs.umd.edu/users/hendler
Director, Semantic Web and Agent Technologies	  301-405-2696
Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Lab.	  301-405-6707 (Fax)
Univ of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742	  240-277-3388 (Cell)
Received on Friday, 2 January 2004 11:07:37 EST