October Rules Fest: Day 1

Some comments on the first day of the October Rules Fest:

We started the day with Dr. Leon Kappelman from the University of North Texas. Dr. Kappelman discussed the Zachman enterprise architecture framework in a high-level big-picture talk. I initially thought it was too high-level, but then decided that it was a good setup for the rest of the day and needed to be heard by a number of the attendees (especially those who haven’t been exposed to Zachman before). Dr. Kappelman made a key point that some of this stuff “can’t come from IT” – in other words, IT alone can’t force an organizational change to adopt these tools. This is an important point and several others touched on it as well. During the question and answers with Dr. Kappelman, one of the attendees (McQuary?) stated that you “can’t migrate from legacy systems – you have to start over”. Dr. Kappelman asked “How do you define a ‘legacy system’?”. Answer from the questioner: “Anything that’s executing now.”

The second talk was Rolando Hernandez on system failures. Rolando kept the tone light, but there was an important message. Rolando was asking the question of whether rules can help with business and IT alignment. Again, an important theme that several presenters would touch upon. Those of us in the room who have consulted in this space know exactly what he is talking about. Also, Rolando drew a line between himself and Dr. Kappelman. Rolando says that rules cut across the entire Zachman framework, while Dr. Kappelman says rules are the sixth column.

We finished the morning with my friend Larry Terrill. Larry’s long experience giving training in this space really showed through – he’s a great presenter. Larry made a great statement that “Agile is needed because IT needs to align to the business”. Another good quote: “In procedural programming the algorithm is king – it’s about the algorithm rather than the problem.”

We started the afternoon with a nice historical talk from Dr. Gopal Gupta on the subject of the Japanese 5th Generation project.

Next up was Jason Morris on the role of ontology. Jason hit hard on the topic of the struggle to conduct good knowledge engineering and the importance of getting organizations to define terminology. This was again an important theme that needed to be heard. It is one thing to create a rule engine – it is a very different thing to help an organization adopt the usage of these tools. There was a good question and answer session afterward. In the coffee line immediately afterward, someone was telling me of the struggle to get terminology defined in their organization – because they are the result of a corporate merger and are trying to reconcile their two sets of terminology.

We ended the day with two talks from the Drools team. The first talk (Edson Tirelli) on Complex Event Processing was certainly technical as it got into the details of what they are doing with their rete network. I would have liked to have heard Dr. Forgy’s opinion on what they are doing here. James Owen says that when he asked, Dr. Forgy stated that it resembled things they had implemented in OPS2 and OPS4. (Why is it that we don’t ever discuss those earlier OPS systems in order to learn from them?)

The second talk was on the BRMS tools that the Drools team is building. After repeated warnings that they were straying into demo territory, the presentation was finally brought to a halt with a reprimand from James Owen.

Overall, it was a fine start to the conference, but left me hungry for the following days.

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