This is in response to the recent article of Richard Veryard “Arguing with Mendeleev”. There he comments on Zachman’s comparison of his framework with the periodic table of Mendeleev. And indeed there are cells in both tables with labelled columns (called “groups” in Mendeleev’s) and rows (“periods” respectively). Another similarity is that both deal with elements and not compounds. The same way the study of properties of oxygen and hydrogen will tell you nothing about the properties of water, the study of any two artefacts from Zachman framework will tell you nothing of how the real things they stand for work together. In fact you may not even get much about the separate properties of what the artefacts represent. Anyway, if there are any similarities, this is where they end.
I’ll not spend much time on differences. They are too many. But let me just mention two. The periodic table is a classification based on the properties of the elements. The order is determined by atom numbers and electron configuration. Both groups and periods have commonalities which make them an appropriate classification scheme. Once the rules are established, the place of each element can be confirmed by independent experiments and observations. That’s not the case with Zachman’s framework.
Richard comments on the statement that Zachman’s scheme is not negotiable:
What makes chemistry a science is precisely the fact that the periodic table is open to this kind of revision in the light of experimental discovery and improved theory. If the same isn’t true for the Zachman Framework, then it can hardly claim to be a proper science.
I haven’t heard the claim that Zachman’s framework is a “proper science” before. In my opinion, Zachman’s main contribution is not his framework as such but the fact that it created a new discipline and new profession. The scheme itself is arbitrary. The columns, as we know, are based on six of the interrogatives: what, how, where, who, when, and why. Whether is missing, also how much. In the old English there is also whither, which is similar to where but has an important specifics – it is related to direction (whereto). But I’m not questioning the number of columns. I have doubts about their usefulness in general.
Let’s just take three of the of the interrogatives: what, how and why and test some questions:
1. What do you do now? Answer: B
2. Why do you do B? Answer: because of A
3. How do you do B? Answer: by means of C
And now with a simple example:
B = buy food
A = I’m hungry
C = going to the supermarket
Now let’s focus on the answers and ask questions to learn more. First on C:
I’m going to the supermarket.
Why? Answer: to buy food
Why you need to buy food? Answer: because I’m hungry
Now let’s focus on A:
I’m hungry. Well, this is a problem. So we can ask:
How can I solve A? Answer: by doing B
How can I do B? Answer: by doing C
So if the relativity of the focus is ignored then what is equal to why is equal to how. (Speaking of focus, or perspective, this is where the rows in the framework come to play. This is a nice game itself which we’ll play another time).
In this example the answer of what is related to activities and not to their object (food) which by itself questions how appropriate is to label the data column “what”.
But of course rigour is not imperative. And neither is logic. After all it shifted its function from a tool to win arguments into a tool to seek truth. And then logic is quite materialistic, while EA seems a spiritual practice. Which reminds me also of the mind over matter one-liner:
If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.