Monday, December 29, 2008

Benchmarks 2009


As is my wont (don't you just love Old English?) I will be running my annual "First Quarter - No Quarter Given" benchmarks beginning in January of 2009. Right now I'm limited to existing benchmarks of Waltz-50, WaltzDB-16 (almost all Rete-engine vendors) and some of them for the WaltzDB-200, a new version of WaltzDB-16 but using 200 variations rather than 16 - that should prove interesting.

Also, the platforms will be limited to Mac OS X running on a Dual G5 with 4GB of RAM and a Core2Duo running with 3GB of RAM. I have beefed up the Windows-32bit XP (Dual Threaded single CPU) machine to 3GB of RAM just to be able to run certain software that is incompatible with either Mac (Unix) or Windows Vitria-64-bit OS on i7 CPU.

IF, and let me emphasize the IF, I can get the time I will have benchmarks for Decision Table (only?) engines with a 10K and 100K Telecom Benchmark that will do nothing more than show off processing power of single-row data validation. So far, the DT vendors have not been very helpful in coming up with a benchmark of their own this past year so I pretty much label all of the a 5 in terms of performance - meaning that it's neither good nor bad; pretty much an unknown. Mostly because my editor won't all me to give them a zero. :-)

Also, we might do some of what Peter Lin and/or Mark Proctor suggested in the way of "micro-benchmarks" that would remove any level of cheating. If we throw in Gary Riley's Sudoku and/or the 64-Queens problem, we'll have something else that is not actually business related but will give some indication of engine performance.

The benchmarks will be

1. Waltz-50
2. WaltzDB-16
3. WaltzDB-200
4. 10K Telecom
5. 100K Telecom
6. MicroBenchmarks
7. Sudoku
8. 64-Queens

The classes of vendors will be

1. Rete-based engines, internal objects (CLIPS (?), JRules, Advisor, Jess, Drools, etc.)
2. Rete-based engines, external objects (CLIPS, JRules, Advisor, Jess, Drools, etc.)
2. Compiled Java Engines (Visual Rules, OPSJ, JRules, Advisor, Drools, etc.)
3. Sequential Compiled Java Engines (Visual Rules, JRules, Advisor, Drools(?), et al)
4. Decision Table Vendors (Corticon, Visual Rules, Haley Office System, VisiRules, etc. but could include JRules, Advisor and Drools)

Folks, that's a LOT of work for one little old Texas boy unless I can find someone independent to help AND if I can get some help from the vendors writing these benchmarks to be checked by myself and any independent help that I can get. If you want to help (and thereby ensure your name be placed with the other immortals of rulebase benchmarking) send me your name and we'll get you started.

Remember, to help with the overall project, you MUST be independent and NOT working for any of the vendors that are being tested. (You can be working on any vendors project as long as you are being paid by the client and NOT by the vendor.) To help with the project from a vendor point of view, all I need is the code for all of the tests in the appropriate syntax for that vendor. I (we) still have to read it and verify that nobody cheated but that should be really helpful and will be duly noted in the tables that will be published.

Maybe, just maybe, (no agreement yet) InfoWorld or some other equally high-visibility journal will be willing to publish these benchmarks in the form of an article of some kind. Otherwise, it will be just another blog on benchmarks. :-)


Tuesday, December 16, 2008



Did you ever download a software package and start reading the Readme.txt or ReadMeFirst.html file to see how to install everything and then find out that it had not been changed recently? Or that you downloaded the Mac OS X version, installed the Mac OS X version only to find out that all of the instructions were for either Windows or Linux? OK, so Linux should be close, right? If it works, yes. If it doesn't work, wrong!

I just downloaded ILOG JRules Studio 6.7.2 Evaluation package. The instructions clearly state
To run Rule Studio do one of the following:

In Windows, use the shortcut: Start > All Programs > ILOG > ILOG JRules > ILOG Rule Studio for Java.
On Linux, start Eclipse using the executable in /studio

Nope. Not on Mac. There are some .app files there but they don't run on the Mac - maybe on Solaris or Linux, I wouldn't know since I usually do everything on a Mac or, sometimes, Windows. So, you have to find the build.xml file, read through it, and see if you can modify it so that you can make it run on the Mac properly.

And, remember all of those older files that you had to run under JRules? Forget it. You may as well rewrite all of that stuff using the "New and Improved" Eclipse interface. (Personally, I like writing my rules with a text editor but even the old BAL was kind of nice.)

Have you read through the Drools documentation recently? I really like Mark Proctor, Edson Terelli and the rest of the Drools guys - and I like the product - but they write what HAS to be the worst documentation in the industry. BUT, now that they are moving into "Big Boy" territory of BRMS tools (Advisor, jRules, etc.) Red Hat needs to hire a team of "real" Technical Writers to come in and help with writing proper documentation. I certainly hope that they do something soon or the only people using Drools will be the ones who can use the rulebase engine only and forget any of the ancillary bells and whistles that they have spent the past eight to twelve months adding to Drools.

I guess that the best documentation that I have seen is (forgive me for plugging an ex-employer) is the Fair Isaac stuff. Good docs that (usually) agree with the current version and is easy to use. Visual Rules docs are probably a close second. I've never had the privilege of using Haley Expert Rules so I can't say about them. I did look at Haley Office Rules but wasn't overly impressed with their documentation. ILOG JRules (the purchased version) documents used to be on a par with FIC but recently they have tried to go the "El Cheapo" route and skimp on that end of the product.

Anyway, before you DO happen to download the Studio, go to the chat room and see all of the problems that they are having with this "freebie" that they are putting out for six-month evaluation. THEN, if you still want it, at least you have been forewarned.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Bringing RuleBased Forecasting (RBF) to 2009


We have started an Expert Systems Consulting Group over at and, for now, the leadoff topic is that of RuleBased Forecasting. If you would like to work on this, drop by the blog and check in. If you want to blog on that link, let me know and I'll add you to the list of bloggers there. If you want to work on the project, drop me a email and I'll see how we can distribute the load so that all can be involved. Don't worry, there's lots to do but we have a few weeks to get started. :-)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Center for the Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession


I ran across this today because one the members of another blog had joined and put that organization down as something to which he belonged. I went over and read over the charter and the pledge. I would that everyone would pledge to abide by the moral and ethical conventions that are espoused there. I fear, however, that some my have joined just to be joining - much like some folks just join the church because their spouse joined - a desire to fit with their contemporaries.

Regardless, check it out. If you think that you can live with the pledge, I encourage you to agree to abide by the by laws and the pledge agreement.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Name Changes


As a follow-up to the previous blog, Rolando Hernandez has changed his blog from BRxG to an even higher level, Agility Alliance ( AA) that encompasses BRxG. He has put up a framework for lots of different groups for other to blog. I encourage you to visit there but don't forget the Expert Systems Consulting Group. One (AA) has more of a business focus and slant while the other (ExSCG) is more of a technical gathering without the pictures and Google Ads. Both have a purpose in life and, I suppose, that AA will blossom with members while ExSCG will grow more slowly but should be far more technical. It just depends on what you want out of life. :-)


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Too Many Blogs?


A friend of mine was hesitant to start up another blog on BRMS since I have two (this one, which is my "personal" blog and Expert Systems Consulting blog at which encourages other experienced consultants to blog there on common subjects.) My immediate answer is NO! But, what we could do is to promote all of the other blogs on AI, Rulebased Systems, Rulebased Forecasting, Neural Nets, Constraint Programming, Complex Event Processing, specific vendor blogs, etc. What this will do is to make everyone aware that there is more than one way to skin a cat - or any other animal.

But here's the thing - most blogs allow you to post links to other blogs and some, like BlogSpot, allow you to include a short snipped of the latest blog and when the last blog there was written. If done in this manner then the reader can determine which one to visit. After all, we don't have time to go hither, thither and yon to visit blogs that we have either seen before, that are two or three years old or that don't pique our interest.

So, WHY should anyone blog on the ExSCB above if they have their own blog? Because, unlike my private blog that accepts only comments on my own blog, this will allow that reader to respond with a blog that is "front and center" and either start another thread or comment that will catch you attention. If you read my private blog, you don't get to see some of the really astute comments that others have made.

So, while I like for readers to follow what is happening on my blog, I really encourage readers to visit (what I hope will be) a much better blog that takes in the opinions of everyone. Blogs might replace meetings, which is what Rolando is trying to do with BRxG blog at by putting in slides, video, several SIGs, and is focused more on the Business side of rulebased systems; the CxO guys and Technical Managers.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Complex Event Processing


Carole-Ann Berlioz-Matignon started another small fire storm on her blog about Complex Event Processing.  In running the rabbit trails of I did find another blog on CEP by Tim Bass of Tibco that seems to take a more academic approach to CEP that uses lots of pictures, paragraphs of polysyllabic words and phrases that take some time to read.  Charles Young, he of UK fame, even chimed in with his usual lucid and erudite thoughts.  I did read through the blogs and now I'm pretty sure that no one has a really good grasp on a definitive answer to, "What is CEP?"  

I think my FIRST comment is that neither CEP nor Rulebased Systems nor Neural Nets are "Business" only pursuits, although Fair Isaac, ILOG, Tibco, IBM, Microsoft and others are desperately trying to force everything computer-related into their own pre-defined concept of how that particular tool might be effected in the business world while relegating the rest of the world (physics, chemistry, geology, psychology, medicine, electronics, forecasting, analytics, etc, etc.) to non-essential importance.  They will deny it, of course, but, nevertheless, their actions cry much louder than their words.  If it cannot be forced into their world of business applications then it does not deserve consideration.

Back to the matter at hand:  Wikipedia defines a CEP as "... primarily an event processing concept that deal with the task of processing multiple events with the goal of identifying the meaningful events within within the event cloud.   CEP employs techniques such as detection of complex patterns of many events, event correlation and abstraction, event hierarchies, and relationships between events such as causality, membership, and timing, and event-driven processes."  By it's very name, it is an Event - not something static - and it is Complex in that there MUST be something that about the event(s) that makes it not easily solvable or analyzed.

Since the definition seems to be getting in the way, let's say what it is NOT.  It is not:
  • Simple
  • Time comparisons (only)
  • Rules (only)
  • Processes (only)
  • Neural Net (only)
  • Necessarily Distributed
So, now that we (OK, just me) have said what it is NOT maybe we can say what it might be.  (This part is what is open for discussion.)  How about this?  "A Complex Event is any event in time that is composed of multiple facts - whether static or dynamic - or events the outcome of which defy ordinary logic and the outcome is solvable according to either rules or neural networks and the same set of facts and events always have the same resultant process."  Or something like that.   What a CEP is NOT is BRMS, an inference process (only) nor any one set of things that would constrain the solution.

For example, forecasting is an extremely complex process wherein only the short term can be predicted with any degree of accuracy.  If any financial forecasting package could predict the future within 5% within the next 12 months then the owner would make a small fortune.  You just can't know everything about everything.  Personally, my goal is that between now and October Rules Fest for 2009 I will have made some kind of significant progress on a commercially viable forecasting package.  If nothing else, my goal of understanding exactly HOW to do event-driven-rule-constrained-forecasting will be better.  


Thursday, November 27, 2008

ORF 2009 Blog

ORF 2009 has it's own blog now at - please pay a visit because that's where we will be organizing everything for the next October Rules Fest.  Thanks,


Friday, November 21, 2008

Drools 5.0 M3 is Available

Drools 5.0 M3 is out and they are getting close to a general release.  But there is a TON of work to be done on the documentation that is out of synch with anything including M2 and probably M1, especially on the BRMS.  On the other hand, they are spreading out so five different fronts at one time - this is a MASSIVE undertaking to do with five full-time people and a handful of part-time contributors.  Check out to get the download, documentation (such as it is) and check out what is going to be the future of share-ware BRMS.  (Note:  BRMS by the traditional definition is NOT the same as defined by Drools.)  But, overall, they are closer and closer to what Fair Isaac and ILOG are putting out.  If you rank Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor and ILOG JRules as about a 8, 9 or 10, then Drools would be about a 5 with a bullet.  At their present rate of development, they will catch them (but only if the Big Two stand still) in a couple of years.


Modern Times


Taking time out from product evaluations just to go into idle gear and read some stuff that's been stacking up since last spring sometime.  So, here we go:

Self-Healing Carbon Fiber applications:  Did you happen to see the latest movie on Batman -  Batman Begins?  Did you wonder where Hollywood gets those wacky ideas?  Some are not so wacky.  It seems that that fiber already exists.  There's an article about it in Spectrum, (Oct 2008, p.28) the IEEE magazine that all members receive, called, "Self-Healing Hulls" and it's mostly about self-healing boat/auto/airplane bodies made from carbon fiber.  But, from the description it sounds exactly how Batman's wings operated when they "snapped" in to place.  Wow!

Multi-Core Processors:  Same magazine, page 15.  SAVE YOUR MONEY!!  A report by Sandia Labs says that a 4-core CPU will deliver almost as much speed as an 8-core CPU.  But both deliver more than a 2-, 16-, 32- or 64-CPU machine.  (They didn't say HOW they tested, but, hey!  It's the IEEE combined with Sandia Labs - yes, those labs of Jess fame - so they have to be correct.  Right?)  A 2-CPU machine is on a par with a 16-CPU machine.  The fastest was the 8-core but not by much over the 4-core.  Now, remember, they are checking the speed on only ONE application, not lots of applications nor those requiring lots of threads such as Parallel Rulebased Systems.  But for most rulebased systems, a single application should run fine on 4- or 8-core machines.  If you have 64 or 128 cores, have the other cores working on something else, like a database access or screen updates (which really should have their own processors and memory) or doing complicated math routines.  Sandia Labs, in conjunction with Oak Ridge Labs in Tennessee, are experimenting with stacking memory directly on top of the CPU.

Toshiba Quad-Core Laptop:  Yes, you read that correctly.  QUAD-core on a Laptop.  Called the Qosmio (Kos'-mi-o) it weighs in at 10.8 pounds (about 5Kg) it's a monster.  But, on the up side it comes WITH
  • 4GB RAM
  • 2x250GB HDD
  • 1066MHz Front Side Bus
  • 512MB NVidia Graphics 9600 Video
  • 18.4" WS, 1680x945 Display
  • Built-in Camera with Microphone
  • Blue Tooth and Wireless Built-in
  • $1549.99 USD
OK, it's heavy, it's more expensive than most laptops today but cheaper than my 17" MacBook Pro, Core-2 Duo Apple.  Unfortunately, it also comes with Microsoft Windows Vitri 64-bit OS.  But, guys! - it has FOUR CORES on a LAPTOP!!  See Toshiba for more info.  

Thanksgiving USA:  Finally, Thanksgiving in the USA is next Thursday.  Students and teachers in the USA take the entire week off.  Factories shut down Wednesday noon, sometimes the whole week.  Department stores get ready for "Black Friday" by shutting down on Thursday, stocking up and having sales that start as early as midnight Thursday but usually at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning.  And the lines begin forming right after midnight but are already formed by 5:00 a.m.  

The question is, who are YOU going to thank for what you have?  Even if you are unemployed, you have access to an internet connection or you wouldn't be reading this.  But, the question remains:  Who do you thank?  Yourself?  Now, that's being silly.  Mom and Dad for making you what you are?  Good start.  The government?  No, WAY, Jack!!  Go back to the original Thanksgiving day and see what they did and why on Wikipedia entry on Thanksgiving.  While you're there, look up Squanto, the Pilgrims and their reasons for forming, migration to Amsterdam, their eventual voyage to what would become New England, the Mayflower Compact, their incredibly poor planning that led them to become dependent on Squanto, etc, etc.  All very interesting...  


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Codeless Programming


InfoWorld (Tom Kandshige, author, and Doug Dineley, editor) ran an article today (20 Nov 2008) on codeless programming, mostly around Coghead and Caspio Bridge (for MS guys).  But they did mention just a bit about the BRMS world on page two.  OK, ok...   It was only one paragraph on page two that nobody else probably read but at least they mentioned KBSC.  :-)  We may do more on this later but for now I'm just inviting comments about the so-called "Codeless Programming" world.  Thanks,


Senior BRMS Consultants / Architects and Head Hunters


OK, I called them by the more socially acceptable name of "Head Hunters" rather than their normal name of "pimp" which would make us, the technical personnel, the "ladies of the evening."  But here's the problem:  These guys have absolutely NO IDEA of what is the difference between someone who went to a one-week school and spent a couple of months on a rulebased (BRMS) project and someone who has 10 - 20 years experience in the field.  None.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  To them, a body is a body is a body and if the person proclaims that they hung the moon and stars in the heaven above they they forward the resume on to the next level if that person answers a simple question correctly:  "What is your billing rate and is that all-inclusive?"

In other words, you won't make it to the evaluation round of hiring and working on a project unless you are willing to work for minimum wage.  (Minimum wage in our industry is about $40 or $50 per hour.)  Traveling expenses, usually around $25 to $35 per hour, take up most of that.  So you have to pay your bills with $15 to $25 per hour.  

And the worst offenders seem to be those working with the larger companies such as Sogeti and Accenture.  These companies assign some flunkie from off-shore to do the initial screening for $5 per hour or (usually) so much per resume processed.  This flunkie knows NOTHING about programming nor AI - the flunkie knows only that so many resumes have to be processed every day and if the flunkie happens to find a nugget in the bottom of the pan, so much the better. 

And the part that REALLY gets to me is when they ask, "Well, how well do you know this product?"  This interview had to be scripted by a complete moron!  More than likely they would ask Dr. Forgy if he knew anything about the Rete Algorithm - but that would assume that they had the intelligence to actually know about the Rete Algorithm in the first place.  Any one looking for a job who has been out of work for a few months would self-rate themselves as 9/10 on anything for which the pimp-company is searching.  And the flunkie!  All thy ask is whether you know the name of the vendor / tool and what is your billing rate.

New tactic:  I don't respond to anyone who calls and asks such a stupid question.  If they call and immediately ask my billing rate, I just tell them to go READ THE FABULOUS RESUME!  At least take the time to read it.  I have been in that position when looking for rule team members and I NEVER called or responded to anyone unless I had taken the time to actually read through the resume first.  And I always asked for references AND I always called (or emailed) their references to be sure that we we on the same page.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

ORF 2009 - Call for White Papers


We're starting early this year in our call for papers.  For ORF 2009, regardless of the location and timing, because of the demand from the final session on ORF 2008, we think that it would be best to have ALL of the papers (except for "possibly" a tutorial session prior to ORF 2009) be on the APPLICATION OF RULEBASED SYSTEMS IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY.  

Here is the difference between ORF 2008 and anything that BR Forum is doing:  This entire conference will focus on the following:
  • Real World Business or Industry Application
  1. Supply Chain Management
  2. Forecasting and Quantitative Analysis
  3. Insurance
  4. Banking and Mortages
  5. Processing Plant Operations
  6. Geology
  7. Medicine
  8. Science (Chemistry, Physics, Math, etc)
  9. Engineering (EE, ME, CE, etc.)
  • What was needed
  • What was the approach
  • What was the architecture
  • Was the problem solved completely
  • Show the architecture of the rules
  • Examples of rules (yes, screen shots are permissible)
  • Neural Network Solutions to problems are encouraged
  • Solutions should have contained at least 200 rules but there is no maximum
While the main part or most of the rules "might" be business confidential and not displayed, that's OK so long as the attendees are shown the rules that had the most effect on the outcome.   What we do NOT want are the following:
  • NO Product Demonstrations per se
  • NO Toy example systems
  • And nothing to do with a Pet Store UNLESS it was a real Pet Store!  :-)
So, any comments?  This was what most of the attendees at ORF 2008 seemed to want.  I'll probably put out an email later pointing everyone to this blog since most are not using the RSS feed to keep themselves updated.  (We don't have an ORF blog right now but maybe next month.)


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yaakov and the Sabbath


Yaakov Kohen, my West Texas Jewish Cowboy friend who, at times, serves as my alter ego, has posted the first in what might be a series of blogs on the Sabbath.  He's kind of strange but a lovable kind of guy - typical Texan who chooses to walk his own path rather than "fit in" with the rest of the group.  Anyway, check out his blog when you get a chance.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ORF 2009 - Le Deuxieme


ORF 2008

Overall, the conference was quite good - I really enjoyed it and just want to thank ALL of you for turning out. If you had to miss one this year, this was a good one and not one to have missed. The price was right and the place was right and the speakers were, for the most part, right on. :-)

ORF 2009:
 Just some random thoughts - none of which have been discussed with the other guys associated with ORF - but things that I'm just "thinking" about for now. So, anything that I say here is open for discussion, additions, or deletions.

Dates: Tentatively scheduled for October 21st, 22nd and 23rd of 2009.

Location tentatively scheduled for either Fort Worth (TX), San Antonio (TX), Corpus Christi (TX), Miami (FL), San Francisco (CA), Delmar (CA), Nice (France), Paris (France), London (UK), or Munich (Deutchland). Anywhere that is warm to avoid a 22% convention tax PLUS another 8.5% sales tax on everything that we do. Europe would probably mean an October 7th, 8th and 9th.


We'll begin to get abstracts right after the first of the year. Upon the review of the abstracts by the Peer Review Committee abstracts will be temporarily approved. This year we hope to get more technical presentations of "how to" rather than theory. Also, only one Keynote speaker and that one on the first day only.

Full White Paper in PDF format suitable for publication must be submitted by April 15th.

Slides in PDF Format must be submitted by June 15th.

Final Approval to be given to all speakers not later than August 1st.

Diamond (3 max)
Platinum (3 max)
Gold (5 max)
Silver (10 Max)
Bronze (no limit)

Returning sponsors would have first right of refusal on sponsorships at their previous level.

Possibly we could have "Lunch Sponsors" who would, in addition to their regular sponsorship of Diamond or Platinum, want to sponsor Lunch for all attendees AND the Lunch Sponsor would have that time to present a demo of their product. ONLY during that time!!

We could also have "Pub Sponsors" who would be able, in addition to their regular sponsorship of any level, use a main room for drinks, appetizers and spirited conversation.

OK - that's it for now. Let me know what you think and we'll keep everyone in the loop from this blog. Stay tuned.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

ORF 2009


Yes, we are already planning for next year - although I may not do this one. But, at least I can get it started... For next year we will have to change things a bit. Here are some ideas floating around.

Finances: First is that the attendance fee will have to be be $300 minimum but probably more like $500 for all three days. I can't see that the attendance charge will mean much since the local folks didn't come anyway (not many) and another $500 for those who did stay at the hotel will be just under what the hotel room itself costs. And we'll have to negotiate the coffee expense next year: $68 per gallon for Starbucks is outrageous since that comes out to a bit over $3 per 6-ounce cup of coffee. Starbucks is good but...

Speakers: We probably should pay them about $1,000 each honorarium to help with their time and expenses. I'm not sure that we can get Dr. Forgy, Gary Riley and some of the others back next year unless we have something like that. Without them as a drawing card I seriously doubt that there can even be an ORF 2009. Also, we need to get John Zachman to come and be one of the keynote speakers. (No more managers as speakers - not even for keynotes!!) Yes, that will run the cost of the conference up by about $30K but it should return its value in the quality of speakers.

Speakers Per Vendor: Only one per vendor-sponsored per day. Period. EOL. Even with two or three tracks.

Vendor-sponsored lunch: If the Lunch period is two hours each day then we could have three vendor presentations (which would not count as a regular presentation) and a free lunch for attendees. The vendors (only the Platinum ones) would be allowed to also present a full-blown demo during lunch for about an hour. I'm sure that we would have lots of folks who would attend a demo for a really good (free) lunch, right? :-)

Time Allowed for presentations: Maybe the presentations should be 1.5 hours each with a 15 minute break in between. That will leave about 20 minutes for Q&A time plus some time in between to allow setups. That means two in the morning if we start at 8:30 and three in the afternoon for a total of only 15 presentations. BUT, if we have two tracks then we will have 30 talks available. Just some thoughts - comments are encouraged and welcome.

Talks: ALL presentation will HAVE to be submitted en toto not later than June 1, 2009, before approval and publication. We got sandbagged this year by some abstracts that said one thing and the talk that floated in the week before the conference was quite something else. Talks will have to be in two formats; one is the traditional PPT or PDF but the other will be a "White Paper" suitable for publication. Also, we should have an approval board that is completely independent of the conference that will approve all talks - meaning that the talks will now be juried presentations and suitable for publication as a booklet or a book after the conference is over.

Location: We need some feedback on the hotel. Most seemed to think that it was OK but could be better. Also, maybe next year we could do this in San Antonio on the River Walk near the original Alamo. San Antonio is also just about 5 miles south of a VERY large German community. Or Austin which is just north of the German Community. Hawaii or The French Rivera would be nice too but we would have to raise the price to $1,500.

Logo: If we have it in France, then the ORF logo could be emblazoned on "an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow, polka-dot bikini" and we would have the ORF-Dog logo on 1-liter steins, coffee mugs and T-Shirts. :-)

Time of Conference: I still like having it the week before BR Forum BUT it has to be in late October when it finally gets cool here in Texas. Geeks at ours, Business guys at theirs. And, hopefully, they will meet up at their various companies when they get home. If we have it in France, then maybe late Summer. (Yes, I really was serious about that.)

Something that we had not considered is having memberships (stock ownership) for sale that would help to sponsor all of the events. If each share costs $1,000 and each share had one vote then that would follow good accounting principles.

Anyway, just some thoughts... let me know what you think.


Friday, October 24, 2008

ORF 2008 - First Report


Third day just starting. This supposed to be the "meat" of the conference. We had desert the first day. Veggies the second day. Raw meat today. Brief recap of the most memorable presentations:

--- Wednesday ---

Rolando Hernandez did a great explanation of Zachman's framework showing how rules fit into the the enterprise. Several Red Hat guys (not the Drools guys) commented that this was what they needed; something that was not so geeky but at a higher level.

Jason Morris: Great talk on Ontology, a subject that few rulebase people ever consider since most are not AI graduates but probably computer science and C/C++ or Java geeks who just drifted into the field.

Edson Terelli: Covered what Drools is doing with the early stages of Complex Event Processing without drifting too much into a product demonstration, something that seems really difficult for the Drools guys because they are all so hyped by their own product. Even Dr. Frogy commented that the talk was really good.

Michael Neal stayed home with his pregnant spousal unit who was due on Thursday of ORF week.

Kris Verlaenen stepped up to delive Mic's talk Guvnor. But he got interrupted by yours truly when he announced that he would now do a Drools demo, something that is totally against the spirit of ORF. I'm sure that his talk would be perfectly suited for some other forum, perhaps a Drools marketing seminar or Java User's Group somewhere but not here. So, we got some wires crossed and Mark Proctor's personality and mine crossed for a few minutes and the talk was over. Me? I blame Mic for hanging Kris out to dry like that. :-)

Pub Night One turned out to be OK since most of us just sat around the hotel lounge and swapped war stories. Some went to supper at one place and some to others.

--- Thursday ---

Dr. Dan Levine opened with a keynote of how the human brain process various thoughts, rules and emotions. I think that knowing how rules are processed in the brain would play a very important role in knowledge acquisition. After all, this whole field owes the origins to the psychology field.

Carole Ann Berlioz-Matigon: Showed us the "other world" of Business Intelligence and Business Analytics and how a rulebase fit into that environment, especially the score card part. I think that most rulebase guys rarely consider that rules play a small part of an overall enterprise IT approach such as that provided by Fair Isaac and other companies.

Carlow Seranno-Morales: Covered Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) from front to back in a gritty (fairly technical) point-of-view. What he and Carole Ann demonstrated was that a rulebase is not the complete answer for a large enterprise - rather it takes of vendors and products that are tightly integrated and rules can be only a small part (sometimes 1/10) of the total solution. The two talks were excellent.

Daniel Selman gave a presentation on sequential rules that verged on product marketing but stayed just out of reach of the "the hook". One thing that he said was that ILOG has a product that is called Rete Non-Node-Merging or something like that. Rete without node merges is not Rete and Dr. Forgy confirmed it later.

Pub Night Two proved to be another bust but lots of great conversations because of the many groups. One such group was composed of Dr. Forgy, Dr. Hicks, Mark Proctor, Gary Riley, Edson Terelli and myself with Steve Nunez joining late. I wish that we had a recorder for what we discussed but one thing came out of it: a slide for my presentation the next day. :-)

--- Friday ---

Rick Hicks: Validation and Verification - mostly verification. This guy is the guru of gurus on this subject and has created modules for CLIPS, OPSJ, Jess and others. He is a professor at Texas A&M but he has his own company, EZ-Xpert. He has published several white papers on his two-tier system; these papers explain WHAT any verification system needs to do to be called a verification system. Excellent talk. Of course he seems to believe that all of the Conflict Resolution Strategies are wrong and that inference engines are most times not needed. See the site for his paper or video presentation.

Gary Riley: (inventor of CLIPS, C Language Integrated Production System) who started at NASA and has been working on the one set of code for 23 years. Being free (or $300 from Comix, the official vendor for CLIPS) this is the "standard" by which so many other rulebased systems are judged. Gary was a very capable speaker and led us deeper into the labyrinth of CLIPS. Beginning with the early days of CLIPS and the reasons for why he did things. He stressed that we need more documentation and many, many more examples to aid the users to understand the systems. Speed is essential. He also talked about how he improved performance on the CLIPS system. A really excellent presentation.

Mark Proctor: (inventor of Drools) did a great discussion on pattern matching, collections, from, etc. Mark also discussed more on multiple entry points on rules for parallel processing.

James Owen: (Yours Truly) Gave a substitute talk (Gary stole my benchmark presentation!) on the original 1979 Rete Algorithm, a second part on the Four Forms of Chaining and, finally, a really brief, four-minute introduction to The History of Parallel Rulebased Programming.

Dr. Charles Forgy gave us a heads up on Parallel Rulebased Programming and why it will be the future of rulebased programming. From what he presented, we, as rulebased systems professionals, need to plan how to parallelize our products and services. Excellent presentation.

Yaakov Kohen showed up and listened in. Interesting fellow.

Pub Night Three turned out pretty good since about 25 of us went to Bone Daddy's, a popular Texas Bar-B-Que joint in North Dallas. Kind of like Hooters but with much younger girls. The food is so good that my wife takes me there from time to time. I'm not allowed to go by myself. :-)

--- Conference Wrap-up ---

LOOONNNGG session on what we wanted more of, less of, suggestions, questions, etc. I hope Rolando and Greg took good notes because we ran out of film before we got very far into it. Here is what little that I gathered:

What attendees want:
1. More question time
2. More time for talks.
3. Donuts and Bagels for breakfast
(David Butler brought donuts on Thursday)
4. Warmer room / Cooler Room / Dimmer Room / Brighter Room
5. MORE Technical talks and less B.S. about products UNLESS it was applicable
6. Maybe two tracks next time; one for beginners and one for Uber Geeks.
7. BOOKS on the subject - what we have is old
8. How To Books on the subject
9. Field is too hard to get into and understand
10. Three days is just about right, not five and not two.

However, we did point out that even selling the few shirts that we had we would probably lose money on the event so everyone agreed that the event should be between $300 and $500 next year (if there is a next year) to help pay for expenses. Apparently setting the cost to $150 to encourage students backfired on us since not one student from the USA attended and only one from the UK.

BTW, if you are an attendee and did not get a shirt and want one, let me know - for a mere $35 + ($10 S/H USA - $15 for outside USA) we'll send you one. Just let us know your size of S / M / L / XL / XXL / XXXL. Greg and I both wear an XXL and Edson Terelli took a Medium so judge accordingly.


My conclusions: Great presentations, good coffee, nice folks. For once, it was about 90% Geek and 10% marketing / sales rather than the other way around. If you missed, maybe next year at ORF 2009.

Last thing: Only one person had a comment about my photo. The photo is that of person (a really good friend of mine) throwing a flying side-snap kick with perfect form. What you don't see in the picture is that the person is about 6 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds at the time. If you could see the whole photo you would see that his striking foot is about 5'6" above the ground and he is not using a trampoline to get that high - just lots and lots of training and determination. It proves one thing; success is not easy but it can be done with hard work, determination, proper training and an extremely positive mind set. That's why I keep the photo around - to remind me to keep going when the going gets tough. (Yeah, it's corny but it's true.) Most failures happen because people just give up and begin to see how they can salvage the most from a failure.

Our field is not an easy one and entry to the top level will never be easy. Reading and hard study hurts the head. Planning hurts more. But remember the Seven P's: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Also, it is not practice that makes perfect but Proper Perfect Practice Makes Matchless Perfect Performance. (Say that one three times fast!)


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Full Opportunistic Backward Chaining Rulebased Systems


In this blog I will try to dispel the myth you can do Full Opportunistic Backward Chaining (FOBC) with a Forward Chaining (FC) rulebased system without making significant changes to the FC system. Actually, you can do backward chaining with a forward chaining system - BUT it would take a drastic re-write of all of the FC logic to achieve this and even then probably it would not work properly. So, what do you call it when you want to do backward chaining (BC) with a FC engine? Most of those in this field call it Goal-Driven FC - a misnomer if ever there was one. Which is another good reason to drop the explanation of a Backward Chaining system as "goal-driven" and the Forward Chaining system as "data-driven." A BC engine is or can be just as data-driven as a FC engine.

Before discussing chaining, we have to discuss Conflict Resolution - CR. All forward-chaining rulebased systems have some kind of method that will determine which rule to fire if there are more than one rule wherein all of the condition elements are true. This CR varies from vendor to vendor but, for the most part, they all seem to have recency (whether MEA or LEX or something else) as the first or second element in the CR algorithm. Usually this means for any given set of rules, they are resolved in the following order:

1. Refraction
2. Priority
3. Recency
4. Specificity
5. Arbitrary

OPSJ, a Java version of other systems developed by PST (Dr. Forgy) uses a slightly different variation on this where recency takes a higher order than

1. Refraction
2. Rule Class
3. Recency
4. Priority
5. Specificity
6. Arbitrary

At one time, most vendors posted (documented) their CR Strategy but not many do any more. In Jess and CLIPS you can (or used to be able to) set whatever CRS you wanted - usually depth was sufficient for most applications.

First, for the uninitiated, let's discuss a Forward Chaining (FC) engine. In the normal FC engine all of the data are loaded into objects (either embedded or external to the engine itself) and the rules are instantiated, initialized, started, whatever you want to call it. The rules will interact with the data in a non-monotonic manner until there are no more rules left to "fire" - meaning, to execute the "then" part of the "IF - THEN" rule. This is normal FC and what has come to be called "data-driven" rulebase, which is a misnomer because all rulebased systems use data to drive the rules one way or the other.

Now, what if we use a Goal-Driven approach with a FC? In that case (what is normally done today) the first condition element (CE) of a rule would be something like "if the == (goalName) " and, due the the recency factor or the CR discussed above and elsewhere, then rules would be "clustered" into those that have the same goal name when a new goal is asserted by any rule. The "goalName" could be a String, Integer, whatever you like. This is NOT backward chaining - this is simply clumping rules together much in the same manner that you might run a sub-routine in C/C++ program. It is the same effect as using a "focus" command in CLIPS or Jess. If this were C++ or Java it would be leaving the main chain of thought to run a sub-routine that might or might not return some value but would operate on whatever objects it needed. Nothing fancy here; Goal-Driven is nothing more than regular old rulebase logic with a first CE that would follow the goal.

Now, on to true Full Opportunistic Backward Chaining: The first thing is that the objects themselves must support this by being able to report to a calling routine whether the value of the slots (attributes) are known, unknown, not known, true / false / value. If a slot is known, then the object returns the value of that slot. But now we have two more wrinkles in the system in that of "not-known" - meaning that we do not know the value and we have not tried to find the value - and "unknown" - meaning that we have tried to find the value and we could not find the value. (Sometimes these are reversed in meaning but, regardless, you should get the idea.) I have always used the rule, "unknown and unknowable" to mean that we cannot find the value. If it were the other kind of state system, then I would use "not-known and never-knowable."

Here is where the wicket gets a bit sticky: If the value is not-known, then there must be some mechanism that will allow the rulebase to try and find the value. This is normally done via question handlers that will either ask the user to enter a value or go back to the database for an answer. If the answer can not be found, then the status of the slot (and the object) is changed to unknown. If this is an AND, NAND, XOR, NXOR gate, it forces the whole object to become unknown. If the object is an OR or NOR gate then other slots have to be checked until all return unknown and then the entire object is unknown.

The bottom line here is that the engine itself must generate the goals to find the value (and state) of the slots, not the programmer. This CAN be done with a forward chaining engine IF and ONLY IF the engine is programmed to do this. Haley (at one time) said that the Haley Expert Rules engine did this for you and OPSJ at one time did this for you. I'm not sure that either does it any longer since it does tend so slow things down if you don't need this.

Why would you need FOBC? Mostly for problems involving diagnostics (medical, instrumentation, processing plants, etc.) or configuration (manufacturing, computers, etc.) where you need to find all of the possibilities for your system. As you can see, this gets to be quite complex with many objects but if answer can be found with just a few backward chains, then the result would be much faster than using a FC rulebase or a "Goal-Oriented" FC rulebase.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ethics and Money


[Note added 07 Oct 2008] I received several questions about this rant. Most of them saying something like, "What the heck was that all about??" So, a word of explanation: Many of my friends and business contacts consistently look for the "financial bottom line" for a project. Nobody outside of academia does anything without money being attached and, even then, even they have to pay the rent and utilities. There is a passage in the Bible that says, "No one can serve two masters for he will either love the one and hate the other or hate the one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon." In the same vein of thought, you cannot serve both the client and the vendor for their goals are different. The vendor is there to maximize the profit meaning that they will provide the least expensive consultant and charge for a higher-priced consultant. This has always been so and so it will always be. The only solution is a "Guild" of programmers who can ensure that an IT professional is exactly what is expected by the client.

Part Two: What if you are organizing a "technical" conference and you have various levels of sponsors, each of whom wants to present a talk. Presenting a talk is not the problem - it's a good thing to have a vendor present a technical (not a marketing) talk for the attendees. BUT, if you give preference to a vendor and allow that vendor to present a non-technical talk just because the vendor is helping to sponsor the conference (especially if the vendor is a Diamond level) then you have violated the spirit of the conference. Now, back to the original rant an, hopefully, it will be more understandable:

Here's the problem: You need income, you need money to feed your family (who depend on you as the "bread winner" in the group) and you need to "do the right thing" at all times where "failure is not an option." What do you do? The answer is simple: Do The Right Thing!

Second problem: What is the right thing? If you have rules, then follow the rules or change the rules. If they rules cannot be changed then the rules must be applied to all concerned with the same degree of firmness. And, here's another point on that subject - you can NOT change the rules once they have been established for an event (for example, a conference) or a meeting or any other gathering of like-minded persons half-way through the setup and organization.

If you have a rule that a presentation MUST be technical, then it has to be technical, not a marketing piece on the wonderful advantages of doing business with that company. It cannot be a fluff piece on some aspect of a product that is not technical. It cannot be many things; it must be technical.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Political Deadbeats

What a shame that we start the first blog of September with a short essay on Political deadbeats. I refer you to the Snopes rebuttal of the Joe Biden deadbeat problem at that "kind sorta" clears his name. But, in so doing, it reveals the following deadbeats and the amounts:

Sen Joe Biden, D-DL, $1,200,000
Sen Christopher Dodd, D-CT, $380
Gov Bill Richardson, D-NM, $317,000
Senator Hillary Clinton, $13,000,000
Senator Carol Moseley Braun, D-IL, $262,358
Al Sharpton, $300,000
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, $459,000
Rep. Dennis Jucinich, D-OH, $1,100,000 (2nd Time)
Dist Atty Jeanine Pirro, D-NY
(fmr) Sen John Glenn, D-OH, $3,000,000
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-NY, $3,600,000
(fmr) Gov Mitt Romney, R-MA, $44,000,000

In fairness, most of what Mitt Romney owes is to himself and he had no intention of paying it back. Something to do with bookkeeping. [BTW, did you know that Bookkeeper an bookkeeping is the only word in English that has three consecutive double letters? That alone makes it a mysterious trade. :-) ]

So? Bottom line: Never "loan" money to politicians. Just GIVE it to them. Better yet, from the Bard, Plolnius speaking to his son Laertes:

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."

Most of those "skipping out" on debts are not congressmen but deceitful businessmen and businesswomen who gain your trust and then declare bankruptcy. Personally, I can remember only one debt that I never repaid; a $50 loan from a friend in New Orleans to help me get back to my base before I was declared AWOL - and that has eaten on me for going on 35 years now. But I could never find him when I HAD the money. So, if you're out there Ted, and you read this, send me an email with your address and I'll send you the $50.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

October Rules Fest (ORF)

I spoke with the other directors of the ORF and it seems that ORF is filling up more quickly than anticipated. We now have another Silver Sponsor (thanks to Dr. Forgy of Production Systems Technology) and a few of the Bronze sponsors have moved up to Silver. Visual Rules is still the # 1 sponsor (Gold) but we are anticipating a Diamond sponsor from a major vendor as soon as marketing finishes up their annual budget and allocates the funds. Such is life in the fast lane. :-) We're negotiating with a major hotel chain for decent room rates as well as a large conference room, bar, restaurant, workout gym, etc., so that you won't have to go anywhere for anything unless you just HAVE to sample a bit of the real Wild, Wild West. We'll know by Tuesday if we have it secured or not.

The conference has guests and speakers from around the world right now; several from the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Columbia and, of course, many from all over the USA. Where else would you get a chance to meet and greet (and have a few drinks with) the major thought leaders in the rulebased community. I look at the signup list and then at the speaker list and it begins to dwell on the unreal - some of the attendees alone would be honored guests at any other conference dealing with rulebased systems. And our speakers are the creme de la creme de la creme. One speaker said that this might well be the "Woodstock of Rulebased Systems". Another likened it to the 1956 (it isn't anywhere near that level) conference at Dartmouth College where the term AI was first used.

What we really need at ORF is a really good PR guy who could tell the world what is happening here in a way that would help folks understand that this is "must attend" event. And with a price tag of only $150, why not? This will be better than attending any five-day or ten-day school hosted by any one vendor. These speakers are the people who invented all this stuff !! Check out and look at their credentials: The very people who invented Rete, Rete 2, Rete III, CLIPS, Drools, Advisor, Open Rules, OPSJ, CLIPS/R2 as well as the chief engineers and scientist from all of the major vendors. I have only one comment:

Sign up now or there might not be room later.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blogs, Blogs and More Blogs

I added another blog to the list today - it's by Carole-Ann Beriotz-Matignon, VP at Fair isaac. She continues the EDM blog started by (probably) Paul Vincent that was continued by James Taylor and now Carole-Ann. I could be wrong about Paul. All in all, the blog isn't bad as far as commercial blogs go, but I think that she could add so much more.

I know her personally since she was my boss for almost six months. She seems to be quite quite political in her blogs since all of them reflect heavily on Fair Isaac as a corporate entity - but she could contribute so much more. Blogs on how to extract rules, blogs on letting business users control the rules (always a bad idea) and blogs on business intelligence; these are all good. But what about blogs on really technical problems that plague users or a blog on how to solve problems or a blog on theory of mathematical relationship of rules and objects or a blog on benchmarks?

Carole-Ann has it within her ability, more so I would think than any of her predecessors, to tackle the thorny issues of our industry and get really dirty with mathematical solutions and problems. Only a few other persons at Fair Isaac have her ability to closely analyze problems and arrive at solutions. One is her partner in crime, her former boss, Carlos Serrano-Morales, one of the originators of Blaze Advisor back when we all worked for Neuron Data. Another is Don Tallo, a brilliant AI guy from the old days.

I think that the Fair Isaac folks are treading lightly because of the layoffs and, maybe, fear of getting their heads chopped off if they stick them up too high. Well, live a little - after all, you only go round once in life. Step out and give us a reason to comment on the blog - something that is actually controversial, something with some "bite" in it.

BTW, both Carole-Ann and Carlos will be presenting at the October Rules Fest this year.

Founder and Director for the October Rules Fest

Friday, August 15, 2008

ORF - October Rules Fest

Greetings, Programs:

Probably once a month from now until October 21st I'll send out a blog on ORF. Yes, it sounds like a barking dog but that's how it worked out. Here's the deal: It's probably the greatest conference since 1954 BECAUSE (1) It's technical, (2) it deals with rulebased systems rather than the nondescript BRMS (Business Rule Management Systems that could be nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet - and sometimes is), (3) it's being held in the Republic of Texas near my hometown of Fort Worth, (4) it has the GREATEST SLATE OF SPEAKERS on the subject of rulebased systems since 1954 and (5) did I mention the great slate of speakers?

OK - check out and see what I'm talking aBOUT! Check out the sponsors. Check out the speakers. Check out the abstracts. And it's being crammed into three wonderful days and nights in Texas where it is usually fairly warm in mid-October. I won't promise great weather, but usually October is really nice in Texas. Maybe next year we can have a rules fest in March in Sweetwater so that everyone can attend the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, which is held in March of each year. Or not. :-)

Regardless, we really do have lots of buffalo, jack rabbits, ostrich, llamas and longhorns in Texas. The last night of the conference will be spent at Billy Bobs, - the world's biggest Honky Tonk. Three mechanical bulls to ride, lots and lots of pretty ladies in cowgirl outfits and slow talking cowboys. Oh, and lots of real, down-home country music. If you hang around until Saturday night Willie Nelson himself will be there for a $40 reserved ticket or maybe $20 if you're luck enough to get a general admission ticket that night.

Enough about Texas and Billy Bob's. What about the conference itself? If you know anything at all about rules then you know the names of Dr. Charles Forgy, Gary Riley, Mark Proctor, Daniel Selman, Dr. Jacob Feldman, Carlos Seranno-Morales, etc., etc. Check out for the complete list. The talks are ALL technical ALL the time and NO sales pitches allowed during the talks. But the major vendors will be there to talk about their product(s) - just not during the "official" presentations.

One last thing: If you really want to attend, you had better register NOW! The available space is filling up fast and the cost is only $150 for the conference itself.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Leveling the Playing Field for Rulebase Benchmarks

Sorry about this, but the way that the blog works, I started a blog in July on this subject and just published it today. See

for the blog. Weird...


2008 Bossie Awards


Still about as hot as Hell's Back Porch here in Texas but here's some "News You Can Use" - not the normal fluff. InfoWorld recently announced it's Best Open Source (egro, BOSsie) awards for 2008 - the whole thing is at were you can check your favorite category. Naturally, I was interested in the best rulebased system (BRMS, if you must) aware that is at for those who care to read the blurb on Drools. There is another interesting one just before that at that deals with Parallel programming. If you are developing today and you want to be among the "elite" class of programmers, then you will have to learn how to program applications for parallel programming.

InfoWorld covered this in the same eLetter with an article at that covers what and why you need to be able to program in threads in the coming world of programming. (Just when you had it all down, something else pops up - just like "Whack-A-Mole" at the fair.) True enough, you can trust the vendors to do this for you, but if you are developing your OWN software AND you hate J2EE because it took away threaded programming, now is the chance to get it back. Unfortunately, you'll have to pull out all of your old books on Java Threads and C++ threads and do your best to remember what all that did for you. But, and here is the kicker, if you do that and put in the necessary time and work, you will be among the best 1% of the best 1% of the world's best programmers, an even tighter niche that knowing rulebased systems. Hopefully, it will pay better but I'm not sure. More than likely you will have to write your own multi-threaded program (that probably won't be J2EE compliant) to make any money off this deal.

But, if you are a speed freak (like yours truly) then you probably will do it just for the fun of it. Major vendors will pooh-pooh the idea as being not practical or not really necessary ONLY because they don't want to re-architect and re-write their applications.

Congratulations to all 60 of the winners from a pool of more than 500 nominees this year. If you didn't make the list it may have been because InfoWorld was not aware of your product OR because your product is not true Open Source. (I found a couple of non-Open Source that made the list this year but not many.)


Monday, August 4, 2008

Texas Heat

OK, most of you won't care about this - but you might get a chuckle or two. At any rate, it will make you appreciate what you have. And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with rulebased systems; just Texas and heat!

Recap Part 1: [Don't bother reading if you already know about it] At about 1:30 a.m. last Friday morning we had a lightening storm (some rain) move through the DFW area, mostly in the Fort Worth area. Lightening hit a transformer, took it out as well as our 33-year-old air conditioner. The blower motor burned and took out the control circuitry with it. I called the Home Warranty service at 6:00 a.m. to be first on the list. The repairman (all air conditioner contractors are working from sun up to sun down these days) arrived at 6:00 p.m. because he had been handling all of the left overs from the past few days. On Saturday morning he tried to find parts but, since it was an old Square-D unit that went out of business years and years ago, no luck. So, with the temperature at 107F/41C for Saturday and Sunday (only 106F/40C today) we hunkered down to "sweat it out." Jimmy (our son) was fortunate enough to have friend who would let him crash on his couch during the night.

Recap Part 2: On Sunday afternoon, my next door neighbor (Jim Welch) was kind enough to find a friend who loaned us his 5K-BTU (small) window A/C unit that we put in the only west-facing window in the house, the one in the master bedroom. This cooled that room down but it's only big enough for one room - maybe two small rooms. But, it really was a blessing. On Sunday night we opened the door to the hall from the MBR (shut all of the other doors) and and put a fan on the floor blowing "some" cool air into Jimmy's BR where I slept last night. Not really as cold as I like it but it was bearable. Today we shut that bedroom door and I'm blowing the air into the office so that it's in the high 70's and low 80's in here now. The rest of the house is not cooled yet but the temperature outside was only 77F/25C so we opened up some windows to cool down the rest of the house until about 9:00 when the temperature had gotten up to 97F/36C so we're now in official shutdown.

Update Part 1: Why not buy another room air conditioner???? Went out Sunday to find one. Conn's had one but no warranty from the store. It had to be returned to the store (in original packing and condition) for store credit or another unit within 24 hours. After that, you're hosed. Went to four other places but all of them were sold out of the 8K and 10K BTU units that we needed except for one store, Target. (Never would have guessed that one, would you?) Bought that puppy and brought it home. Have not installed it yet since we're waiting to see if the central unit can be fixed on Monday.

Update Part 2: This morning (Monday) the Home Warranty people called at 8:00 a.m. and said that after talking with the technician at TKO (the contractor) and because of the catastrophic nature of the damage and the age of the equipment, that the policy covered a 16 SEER rating replacement but we would have to pay the $275 to cart everything off the premises. They said to call the contractor (who didn't know what was happening) and let them know that we had talked with the Home Warranty people. Called TKO and they didn't know anything. Called the technician himself and he said that he was authorized to replace the inside unit only and that they were authorized to put a "hard start" on the outdoor unit (which they said wouldn't last long) and replace only the inside unit. (Sounds fishy, huh?)

Update Part 3: So, until this afternoon, we're still waiting on the 2nd call from the Home warranty people to confirm that it includes the outdoor unit as well. Truly, that would be a blessing from The Almighty since our outdoor unit is probably an 8 or 9 SEER.

How did we live when we were growing up in this area without an air conditioner? Simple, we had 12' ceilings, huge windows, big front porch, steep roof lines and attic fans. From 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. we did very little except fan ourselves and drink really sweet ice tea. AND, we didn't know any better. Remember, you never wanted a color TV until you saw the one that your neighbor had. Like the depression, everyone was miserable so that was our lot in life and we lived with it. Soldiers in Nam lived in 110F/43C heat with 100% humidity and went on patrols with 80 pounds of field gear. In Iraq and Afghanistan the troops go on patrol in 120F/49C heat (no humidity though) heat and they have full field packs, steel helmet and body armor. And they bear it because everyone else has to bear it.

Anyway, that's the news from North Texas (which is about 10 degrees hotter than South Texas) where the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are all above average - just like in Lake Woebegone.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

How Large is "Large" ??

Greetings, Programs:

WARNING: This is a (long) rambling, philosophic blog - but not a "rant" as in the past. But, if you are new to rules (or even if you have a couple of years experience) you might find it interesting.

OK, so how do mean when we use the terms "large" or "complex" when talking about a rulebase? First, let's consider the term "large" as compared to "medium" or "small." In the 80's the most advanced scientists and rule engineers wrote one of the most sophisticated medical diagnosis software (MYCIN) using a rulebase and it had 587 (or so) rules. Another, written in the late 70's and used through the 80's, was used for configuring large computer systems (REX) ad it had just over 1,000 rules. Today, most rulebase geeks, or most business analysts for that matter, think of "large" in terms of "tens-of-thousands" of rules.

But what does this mean exactly? 10K rules? 20K rules? 50K rules? A couple of years ago I asked the two major vendors what was the largest rulebased system that they had ever designed and successfully implemented. Both said that it was 20K+ rules and that most "enterprise" BRMS consisted of 10K rules or less. Today, even the "little" guys are implementing 10K+ rules by using a spreadsheet approach, called a Decision Table by the vendors, wherein each line in the spreadsheet is a rule. If the spreadsheet has 10 columns that can be true or false, then there are 2^10 decisions to be made, or about 1,024 rules. If you add one more column, they there would be 2,048 rows or rules. (By now you should have guessed that you need to keep the spreadsheets small in terms of the number of decision factors or columns.) The number of action columns in one of these spreadsheets is immaterial since the action for any one rule can be any number of things - we don't really care about that part right now.

Just by comparison, the Homeland Security Department has 500K rules now (running on an IBM mainframe) and it will probably grow to about 2M rules in the next few years. Most are VERY simple rules but the problem is the thousands and thousands of objects. If one rule matches to 10K objects and another rules matches to 20K objects then we have 30K cross-matches in those two rules alone.

A few years ago I had the privilege of dealing with one of the larger insurance companies in the UK who wanted to go into the health insurance business in a big way - they were already in the health insurance business but they were only the tenth largest or so (in the UK) in that part of their business. We looked at the number of spreadsheets that they were already writing and determined that they would have about one spreadsheet for each major complaint, one dealing with just back pain, one with just knee pain, one for just shoulder pain, all of which came under structural or skeletal problems. The knee pain spreadsheet had 512 rows, 19 CE columns and the compression came about ONLY because the vendor had just introduced a N/A or "Any Answer OK" cell for the spreadsheet. Without that, it would have thousands and thousands of rows to be considered.

So, was this a "big" system? In terms of size of the underlying rulebase, I would have say yes because it still was not finished when I left after six months and had grown to more than 50 spreadsheets of this type, some larger, some smaller. The underwriters were still laboring to get their heads around the things that they were saying and put them down on paper.

So, are the rules complex? Meaning, does the CE of each rule, or most of the rules, contain multiple forward-chaining type of propositional logic constraints? What is the average number of CEs in each rule? To answer this question I would suggest that we use the Conflict Resolution technique discussed in the Cooper and Wogrin book, "Rule-Based Programming in OPS5". The book is long since out of print but can still be purchased on-line at many locations in new or almost-new condition. For example, let's look at the following rule (done in modern English, not in the OPS5 syntax - see page 53 in the book for the original source code). If we weight a rule according to the following principles that they have given for specificity

Element Class Name = 1
Predicate Operator With a Constant = 1
Predicate Operator With a Bound Variable = 1
Disjunction = 1
Each Predicate or Disjunction WITHIN a Conjun = 1

So, using that logic for the following rule

IF there is any Student called student (1)
student.placed-in == null (1)
sex-is =
smoker = student.smoke
AND there is any Room called room (1)
number =
capacity = room.max
vacancies > 0 and < room.max (2) == sex-is (1)
room.smokers == smoker (1)

CE1a Element Class Name of Student = (1)
CE1b Predicate With a Constant of place-in being null = (1)
CE2a Element Class Name of Room = (1)
CE2d Each Test in Conjunction where > 0 and < max = (2)
CE2e Predicate With Constant checking for sex (1)
CE2f Predicate With Constant checking for smoker (1)

Accordingly, we can see that the specificity, which should be closely correlated to complexity, is 7 for this rule. [I have put the weighting for each line as a number in parenthesis.] Now, if we "weigh" each rule and divide by the number of rules we should be able to arrive at the overall complexity of any rule set or rulebase. There was a time when vendors not only used MEA (means ends analysis) or LEX for Conflict Resolution but they published how they did it. You won't find it in today's manuals. It seems that they basically use refraction, priority (specificity) and the order in which the rules were entered. BTW, the Cooper and Wogrin book covers in plain detail the examples of MEA and LEX. If only the vendors would put what was right before the convenience of saving time of development and fear of run-time numbers. Remember, with CLIPS, Drools and Jess you can still write your own Conflict Resolution - but that is another subject that I think that I have covered before. Would that you could get the "Big Boys" to actually do Conflict Resolution correctly. :-)

Well, if you enjoyed this, great. If not, well, it wasn't a total waste - at least you learned about another book to read. :-)

(Corrected some typos on 29 July 08)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Leveling the Playing Field for Rulebase Benchmarks

Greetings, Programs:

I have, in the past, published lots of benchmark results. Most were "fair" in my own eyes but recently Gary Riley has called my attention to the fact that they were not, in actuality, fair. For instance, some of them were done in the interpreted mode while some were done in the compiled mode. In the days of yore, I didn't have much of a choice since some of the rulebased vendors only had the compiled or the interpreted. Some would not allow external objects and others required external objects.

So, I have decided that we will start a whole new era of rulebase benchmarks. They will be broken down into several categories;

> Interpreted Rules

> Compiled Rules (usually some kind of OPS rulebase) for those that have such configurations and will include both inference mode and sequential mode

> Decision Table benchmark for Corticon, Visual Rules and other companies that use such tools.

Some companies will be able to do all three, such as ILOG (now IBM) and Fair Isaac. Others, such as Corticon and Visual Rules, will be able to do only the decision table version. OPSJ will be compiled only. I have determined that ALL of the three methods of using rules will HAVE to be able to use external objects, not internal objects. The reason for this is that "normal" business practices use external objects that have an API for calling or using these objects that adds abstraction to the objects - meaning that the objects can change, have things added to them, whatever and it should not affect in any way what happens with the old rules. New rules then can be written to access the old objects or the modified objects.

So, considering the first two categories, these would be conventional, OPS-type, IF-THEN-ELSE rules. What we don't want to do is resurrect the Miss Manners benchmark and probably not the Waltz benchmarks since both classes of benchmarks seem to rely on one rule firing over and over and over. Way too easy to cheat - and several closed-source companies have done so long ago.

But what if we came up with an NP-Complete problem that should be solved within a certain timeframe to just whether a rule engine can or can not be used within an viable commercial, business problem rule set AS WELL AS being used within the scientific and academic communities. I don't think that decision tables can do this kind of problem so we'll have to find a completely different benchmark for them, one that deals strictly with getting and reading the data, putting the data in the spreadsheet (OK, decision table) and then firing firing up the rule engine. Something like that. I'm open to suggestions so let me know if you can think of anything.

Meanwhile, congratulations again to Drools for best 2008 Open Source Rulebase/BRMS and to Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor for the best 2008 BRMS application. Well-deserved and well-earned.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Structure and Sensibility

Today's Rant:

Is there anyone out there who still remembers doing machine language? Assembly? Algol? FORTRAN, even? If so, consider yourself blessed. You had to learn how to write tight, precise code to fit into a small amount of memory, sometimes only a few Kilobytes, and squeeze out the most speed that you could. Not only that, but if you were running on the "big" IBM-360 or something of that nature, then the code had to be reviewed by your co-workers and then by your supervisor BEFORE ever running it - sometimes you even had to have a complete model of what you wanted to do before hand.

Today? No models. No reviews. Just a bunch of web-weenies slinging code hand-over-fist just to see what will happen. No design, no thought process. And, when he / she gets through with it the only question asked is, "Will it work?" If the (usually using the 20% testing covers 80% of the situations rule) test cases (let's just "assume" that there ARE test cases) produce the right result it probably will be rushed into production.

And then it happens. Somebody crashes into the system via a "little known bug" in the software. Or, because the testing was not extensive enough, the performance is crap. That's when the "fit hits the shan" and heads begin to roll. All because the business guys believed some young punk salesman (or an old silver-haired fox) who guaranteed them that it would work and perform blazingly fast. (My friend Yaakov Kohen wrote a blog on this a while back at on why rulebased and BRMS projects fail.)

"Those who will not learn from history will be forced to repeat it." (Was that Ben Franklin or someone else? Doesn't matter. Probably Descartes or Plato or some other philosopher from the past that our children today continue to ignore.) At point here is that we, the IT guys, the supposed "brains" of the projects, do NOT force the project managers to STOP and actually do the design work first. They (the PMs) come to the geeks and tell them, "We have to have 'something' to show for the past two weeks of work." And thinking is not something that you can show. Gathering data and rules is not, usually, something that you can show. BUT, if you make it understood up front that nothing tangible will be produced for the first 50% of the time allocated for the project (which is usually not enough time to do anything of any consequence) you still be get that same, tired, worn out line from the PM. "What do you have for me to show to the VP or CEO or some other person who controls the purse strings."

Remember when the VP was a geek? And he / she could not only understand what was happening but could ask really good, discerning questions about what was happening? And could keep the CEO off of your back until the time was right? Well, those guys are gone. Now all that we have are nit-wit, MBA bean counters who haven't the foggiest notion of anything that would help the company beyond the next two or three weeks. Long-term goals and benefits always give way to the short-term rewards that are usually accompanied by long-range disasters.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Drools Day Camp

OK, they don't call it that, but the Drools team will be in Dallas, Texas, from October 15th to the October 21st of 2008 for seven days of Hard Core Drools. See for the "public invitation." They have sent out an invitation should you want to come and to my knowledge, it's totally free. The best part? It immediately precedes the Dallas Rules Group October Rules Fest ( in Addison. The two events are close but they are not at the exact same location.

So, as Autumn draws to a close and Winter begins to beat on the door, come to Texas for some great food, (usually) pleasant weather, good music and not one but TWO great conferences. Mark Proctor has even found a hotel with decent rates (where they will be having the Drools meetings.) BTB, Addison, Texas, is in the Northern part of Dallas and has more restaurants per square mile than any other place in the world.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Parallel Rulebase Systems and Homeland Security

I first wrote about this back in November 2006, in which I chatted aimlessly about Forgy and Gupta and others and what they had done. Since that time, I've been doing quite a bit of reading, all of which I will post somewhere that everyone can get the papers and read for themselves. Meanwhiile, let's take a look at what we "think" we can do before we do it.

First, most of the processing time goes into the match process - about 85% to 90% of the total time involved. Moving from there you can get about a 10 times improvement on the speed of that process alone. You can get improvements on the rest of the processes as well but they are dwarfed in significance by the match process. There is one company that has done quite a bit of work for IBM and others on parallelizing processes in C and C++, the Rapid Mind company, out of the frozen north (Canada) - but they, too, can only seem to get a 10 to 1 improvement.

Two things to consider here: (1) Unless Dr. Forgy can do something that nobody else can do, we won't get much better performance on small systems using parallel rulebased systems. (2) CLIPS has showed us how to get about 250 to 1 improvement on rulebase performance using proper indexing and proper writing of code. Gary Riley (the CLIPS guy) and Dr. Forgy will be at the October [Technical] Rules Fest in the DFW area in, well, October. See for more details on that one.

What I didn't discuss was what is the need for speed? Aren't most rulebased systems sufficiently fast enough as it is? The answer for the business applications, yes. But the answer for research, defense, homeland security, NO! The problem is that in the business world the match process is not terribly complicated BECAUSE the KE (Knowledge Engineer) who oversees the program won't allow it to happen BECAUSE the KE knows that the match process is the problem child of the rulebase world.

Unfortunately, you can't avoid the many objects, many patterns, many rules matching process in the "Big Boy" applications. For example, Homeland security (and I'm not telling things that are in any way a secret here) has between 500K and 2M rules, most of which are small LHS (Left Hand Side) with only a few CE's (Condition Elements) that have to be matched against thousands of ports of entry against millions of travelers. WOW! Even with TeraBytes of RAM you won't be able to process all of that in this century UNLESS you can parallelize most of it. Now this is where the match problem will really dominate.

Let's look at another problem: That one that you see on all of the crime shows so often, the DNA match process. Most of the time they are matching only a small number of DNA samples, usually less than a few thousand, and NOT matching on a national database sized sample. In the UK they match on their own database - one that is growing by leaps and bounds daily - but not on all of the EU. By the time they get a hit on a suspect, days or months later, the suspect has moved and left a cold trail behind or returned to his home country. (I use "his" rather than "her" because I've heard of very few female terrorist except for the poor, misguided Daughters of Islam who have been beguiled into becoming a human bomb.) In R&D or in psychology, the very large database of objects along with many, many rules (usually used in lieu of a neural net) would benefit from a parallel matching process as well.

OK - how can we get this financed? Banks, insurance companies, stock markets, none of them have that problem or they can code around the problem. R&D? No money. Government? Ah, there's the Honey Pot!! Now that we know where the Honey Pot is located, how can we get them (the government watch dogs) to open the lid for us? Simple - show them how it would work on a similar problem that they might have. So, on that thought, does anyone have a simple 2,000,000 rules that can be associated with 5,000 ports (5,000,000 if you include non-listed ports) along with 5,000,000 possible entries? Didn't think so. But Uncle Sam does. Now, if Uncle Sam would just let us play with this problem for a year or two, we could get Homeland Security down pat. But they won't. Not without so many bureaucratic layers that nothing will get done. So, I guess we'll just sit and wait for the mushroom clouds to show up on the horizon. Or next door. See you in ....


Monday, June 9, 2008

Was Jess a CLIPS Spin-Off?

Here we go again - same article in 2006 I said that Jess was a CLIPS spin-off. It wasn't and isn't and wont' be. I suppose that I "ass-u-me"ed that it was derived from CLIPS because CLIPS came first and Jess uses the same defrule, deftemplate, etc., syntax that is used by CLIPS. It even uses the same file name extension that is used by CLIPS. And, sometimes, if it isn't too complex or too tool-specific, you can import a Jess file straight into CLIPS or a CLIPS file into Jess. (Or so I've been told.)

OK, I should have checked with the authors of the tools before I said that. BUT, in my own defense, if I saw a tool that used ILOG JRules code with the same file name extensions and the same syntax, I would HAVE to "assume" that it was a JRules spinoff. The same thing goes for Drools or any other tool.

So, just to set the record straight, Jess is NOT a CLIPS spinoff and is NOT derived from CLIPS!! Got it? Got it!! Can we close this case now? Two years later? Please?


Open Source - Myths and Legends

What is "Open Source" software? Wikipedia gives this definition:

"Open source is a development methodology,[1] which offers practical accessibility to a product's source (goods and knowledge). Some consider open source as one of various possible design approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations. Before open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; the term open source gained popularity with the rise of the Internet, which provided access to diverse production models, communication paths, and interactive communities.

The open source model of operation and decision making allows concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities, and differs from the more closed, centralized models of development.[2] The principles and practices are commonly applied to the development of source code for software that is made available for public collaboration, and it is usually released as open-source software."

Lots of words but not what some have defined as Open Source. Some have defined Open Source according to the Free Software Foundation, aka, Richard Stallman. Others have used the Apache License as the defining criteria. Others, such as my editor with InfoWorld, maintains that if the software is free, the source code is free (or available for a nominal fee), and others are allowed to contribute to the core code, then the blinking stuff is, for all practical purposes, OPEN SOURCE!

Several have taken me to task for this definition: Jason Morris, Dr. Ernest Friedman-Hill (he of Jess fame), Mark Proctor (the Drools guy), and one or two others. They feel that Drools is Open Source while Jess and CLIPS are not. (Gary Riley has not weighed in on this one - not yet.) While I respect their opinion (and indeed I have to respect their opinion since they wrote this stuff) I do feel that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, has a bill like a duck and webbed feet like a duck, then a swan it ain't. Now we can have Mallard ducks, Brown ducks, Mottled ducks, Green ducks, but they are all ducks.

Quite some time ago, about November of 2006, InfoWorld ran an article on Rulebase Open Source Software in which I called Jess an Open Source product. It seems that this stirred up a hornet's nest and both Dr. Friedman-Hill and Mark Proctor let me know about it the following week at the BR 2006 Forum in D.C. Their complaint (and they both agreed) was that Jess was not true Open Source. Well, again, who is the official Open Source committee members? Richard Stallman wrote an article on this ( in which he argues that the GNU General Public License should be the controlling factor.

Bruce Peren et al have come up with the following "Open Source" definition and (I think - don't know for sure) that they also copyrighted this slogan. (How can you copyright something that is not yours?):

"Under the Open Source Definition, licenses must meet ten conditions in order to be considered open source licenses. Below is a copy of the definition, with unauthorized explanatory additions. There is a link to the original unmodified text below. It was taken under fair use.

1. Free Redistribution: the software can be freely given away or sold. (This was intended to expand sharing and use of the software on a legal basis.)
2. Source Code: the source code must either be included or freely obtainable. (Without source code, making changes or modifications can be impossible.)
3. Derived Works: redistribution of modifications must be allowed. (To allow legal sharing and to permit new features or repairs.)
4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code: licenses may require that modifications are redistributed only as patches.
5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups: no one can be locked out.
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor: commercial users cannot be excluded.
7. Distribution of License: The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product: the program cannot be licensed only as part of a larger distribution.
9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software: the license cannot insist that any other software it is distributed with must also be open source.
10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral: no click-wrap licenses or other medium-specific ways of accepting the license must be required."

Under that definition, Jess is NOT Open Source. However, CLIPS probably gets in just under the wire. As do many other free, Open Source projects.

All of that being said to say this: My deepest and most humble apologies to anyone who has been offended by my suggestion that Jess is Open Source. But I'm still right - I'm just apologizing for offending. :-) In other words, I didn't do it and I promise never to do it again.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

October Rules Fest in Las Colinas

OK - everything is GO except for two slots still open for keynote speakers but I'm thinking that the Friday slot has been filled. No matter. The cost for all three days is only $150 but you have to buy your own lunch from one of the many fine Las Colinas restaurants. Las Colinas is the only place I know that has 12" marble curbs, and overhead mono-rail that goes to all of the major building and water taxis that cruise around the town or take you on a sight-seeing tour. What IS important is that the Rules Fest will have the following, world-class speakers on Thursday and Friday:
Dr. Charles Forgy (Inventor of Rete, Rete 2 / III, OPS, OPSJ, etc.)
Dr. Daniel Levine (One of the ANN God Fathers)
Dr. Rick Hicks (Validation and Verification Guru for past few decades)
Mark Proctor (Inventor of Drools)
Gary Riley (Inventor - with Dr. Girratano - of CLIPS)
Daniel Selman (ILOG JRules Guru)
Edson Terelli (Complex Event Processing guru)
Michael Neal (Drools guru speaking on BRMS in Drools)

Remember - This is a TECHNICAL conference, not a sales pitch for any one product NOR is it a business seminar to teach about rulebased systems to non-technical persons. This is a conference for the geeks, those lads down in the dungeons of darkness where the sun never shines but they are the ones that keep the wheels of progress turning.

There WILL be a day of tutorials on Wednesday covering introduction, history, rule architecture, etc. but that's all part of the $150 fee. If you don't need it they you're just helping out some folks who do need it. :-)

Check out the web page next week to register but this week the DRAFT Agenda is posted. Enjoy,


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yaakov - you dog, you!

Well, Yaakov Kohen is at it again. Ranting and Raving and Raging against the machine. Check out for his latest blast against the BRMS Vendors, sometimes called the Commercial Bandits of California since most of them are based there.

Anyway, it seems that he feels that the BRMS Vendors are playing games with what is ordinarily a great tool, a rulebased system that has grown into what we call a Business Rule Management System. Who know? He might be right... Check it out. According to an earlier iChat he is going to go after the vendors one at a time with an "expose" kind of thing that promises to tell all about all of them. Enjoy,


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

October Rules Fest in Las Colinas


Thanks to Yaakov for keeping this running while I did my time with a major vendor.

The Dallas Rules Group ( ) will be sponsoring the first October Rules Fest in Las Colinas, a suburg of Irving, Texas located between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, on October 23rd and 24th. Some of our guest speakers will be Dr. Charles Forgy, Dr. Rick Hicks, Mark Proctor, Gary Riley and others as they accept. We will be accepting the first 100 students free (first-come, first-served) who pre-register and have a valid student ID card.

Looking forward to seeing all of you there.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

EDM / BRMS versus Rulebase

EDM - Enterprise Data Management - the Holy Grail of all businesses with more than 10 employees.  BRMS - Business Rules Management System - how to manage your business using business accessible tools.  Rulebase - the underlying engine for the BRMS previously mentioned.

First: BRMS could technically be nothing more than a sheet of paper.  More sophisticated systems could be nothing more than SQL-driven database or a spreadsheet, whether electronic or manual.  A "Rulebase", on the other hand, is something that is NOT strictly business related, but could be used by R&D, Engineering, Mathematics, Business, Doctors, Psychology, Philosophers - pretty much anyone who had a really complex problem that need solving.

Unlike SQL and BRMS that are fairly procedural in the thought process, a rulebase is characterized by two things; the rules can be incomplete AND the rules can be entered in a random process sometimes called Declarative Programming.  This is how the mind operates, not how a business operates.  A rulebase was originally developed to emulate how the mind thinks - ramdomly and adding or deleting rules as needed to solve a particular problem.  This is what is know as non-monotonic nature of a rulebase.  

Now, why write about something so mundane when there still exists the P != NP / P = NP problem?  Well, it's because WAY too many people in our world seem to think that a BRMS is the same thing as a rulebase.  They aren't!  The BRMS is a special case of the rulebase and, fortunately or unfortunately, it's the BRMS that pays the bills.  Unfortunately, the business guys (you know, the ones with all of the money) are the ones who dictate the direction of the rulebase world.  

So, it's high time for the Geeks to take control and make the rulebase once again predominate.  The business guys have had plenty of time to screw things up - and BOY! Have they ever!  Project after project after project has failed because the business guys or the IT Java geeks got control of the project and turned it into something that the originators never though would happen; a project that was driven by just dumping rule after rules after rule into the pot without any "real" thought process whatsoever.  To even suggest that the company rules are in error is usually met with scepticism and derision.  But, my experience has shown that the thought "process" of business rules is normally in error.  I have tried on project after project after project to direct the process to the "why" rather than the "how" of a solution.  

So, the next time someone mentions using a BRMS for a new project, ask them WHY they want to do this?  If it is so that the business department can control the rules, RUN!