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What kind of thing is a note?
November 12, 2006 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Ontology Filter: Give me a name for a category of things that I'm using in a system.

Basically, I have a system with the following objects: Notes, Tasks, Groupings. As of yet, I'm having a hard time thinking up a category that all of these (and things like them) could fit into. I'm not sure if it's possible, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

Here are shared properties of these "things":
  • They are all "attached" to a concrete Person, Place, or Thing (for example, there might be three Notes about the Person John Smith: "He is 30" "His order for 5 eggplants was processed on July 12, 2006" "Do not get him angry")
  • They operate independently from the object they are attached to (Tasks themselves behave the same whether they are associated a Person or a Place)
  • They all contain, in some form or another, the following three facts: the concrete object they are attached to, a date/time, and some freetext that explains the relevance of the "thing" itself. For a task it would be the name of the task, for a note it would be the note contents, and for the grouping it would be the grouping's label (i.e. "Places and People that Suzy Likes").
So a legal "thing" under this category could be a task, assigned to Captain Planet on March 16, 1992, labelled "Get rid of toxic sludge." A non-legal thing would be a blank note attached to Albert Einstein dated March 14, 1879. Another non-legal thing would be a Birth Certificate which, although tied to a Person and having a date and descriptor, would only work with People (i.e. some of the fields entered into the Birth Certificate relates directly to being attached to a Person as opposed to any kind of object).

The best my boss and I have come up with is RelationalAttachment. Any better ideas?

I tried to post this anonymously so that I could keep who was developing the system (me) a secret but it hasn't been approved yet. I'm going ahead and posting it with my name attached and hope it doesn't get ripped down.
posted by Deathalicious to Writing & Language (15 answers total)
I'm having a hard time understanding

(a) why you feel they all need to belong to the same catergory;

(b) how 'groupings' is similar to 'notes' and 'tasks'

If I was developing an OOP system which featured these entities I'm not sure they would necessarily all be subclassed from the same parent (unless that parent was 'object').

To be more precise, the fact that 'task' or 'note' is attached to a 'person', 'place' or 'thing' is a feature of your system rather than an inherent feature of the 'task' or 'note' itself. If you were to use them in a different environment they might not be attached to anything.

In Obj-C you might define a category which extends arbitrary classes in the way you describe (ie fields for 'attached-to', 'date' and 'freetext') I suppose. All those qualities describe is a 'dated freetext attachment', which is not far from 'relationalAttachment'. Except how could an attachment not be relational, since it is attached to something?
posted by unSane at 8:40 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hmm... Tell us more about the system you're designing. What is it for? How will this term--Relational Attachment or whatever it ends up being--be used?
posted by JDHarper at 8:47 PM on November 12, 2006



I know these aren't perfect, but if you set up the terminology and it catches on, these terms will come to be signifiers for whatever you attach them to (if that makes any sense).

In any case, I'd suggest keeping the name short and catchy.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2006

posted by MCTDavid at 8:58 PM on November 12, 2006

The system is my screwy version of the more widely used model-viewer-control system, totally non-standard (but making sense within this system). Basically, there are objects--say, Contacts, Pages, Products, etc--that are handled by parent Systems/Controllers--Communication, Content, and Catalog, respectively.

I need a parent system/controller for the "things" mentioned.

I agree that RelationalAttachment is a bit redundant, but Attachment in isolation might be mistaken for its more common use in describing email attachments, whereas RelationalAttachment is clearly its own thing.

For all the other systems, the objects are usually "components" of the larger classification -- so, for example, in the Commerce controller, the objects would include Orders, Customers, etc.

The difference here is that the commonality between these objects is how they interact with other objects in the system, rather than being related components of a system/process.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:24 PM on November 12, 2006

Oh, and a grouping is similar to a note in the sense that it could be rethunk as one note being tied to a whole bunch of objects rather than being tied to just one. But the type of relationship with the object(s) -- totally functionally independent, but connected informationally -- remains the same.

I agree that a short and sweet name would be ideal. One problem might be the weird way in which I am conceptualizing these objects. When I tried WordNet to find the most common Hypernyms (boy, you learn something new everyday) for Note and Task, it comes up with Abstraction -- pretty high up there (just below "abstract entity"). So, in that sense, RelationalAttachment is sort of a step up (even if Abstraction is shorter).
posted by Deathalicious at 10:35 PM on November 12, 2006

Annotation (or Note) is a word that came to my mind also. How central is the (obligatory?) date/time to the thing's role? Could these things be Events, say, or (logged/received) Messages?
posted by hattifattener at 11:04 PM on November 12, 2006

Entries? Facts? Features? Details?
posted by chrismear at 1:56 AM on November 13, 2006

I would typically refer to these as values within categories. Each item (person, thing) would be assigned to a particular value within a particular category:

Sam - a person

[Cat - Value]
Age - 37
Weight - 95 kg
Goal - to get lucky
posted by megatherium at 4:55 AM on November 13, 2006

Two possibilities:

Attach. I know it is a nouned verb (which sends some people into seizures), but it encapsulates the most important features of the class (that it connects things, and is not independent), and it could not be confused with another term.

Factoid. Kind of whimsical, but I think this defines it nicely. A factoid is a specific piece of information about a specific thing. It will probably not be confused with any other term you have in use, but it is familiar enough to give even someone who does not know your system some clue as to what it is.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:40 AM on November 13, 2006

posted by exceptinsects at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2006

If you need "short and sweet", why not create a word?

For example, "RelationalAttachment" could make a "Rattach" or it may be interpreted as "linked content", with which you could make a "clink".
posted by bru at 8:36 AM on November 13, 2006

posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2006

Ontology -> Badiou -> "set"
posted by billtron at 10:03 AM on November 13, 2006

Thanks for the answers! I marked as best the ones that really helped me think about the issue.

For now I'm sticking with RelationalAttachments, primarily because it's my boss's favorite so far.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:45 AM on November 14, 2006

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