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Comments on "Survey of RDF/Topic Maps"

From: Steven R. Newcomb <srn@coolheads.com>
Date: 29 Mar 2005 17:17:16 -0500
To: public-swbp-wg@w3.org
Cc: mb@infoloom.com, Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org, srn@coolheads.com
Message-ID: <85br92xfkj.fsf@coolheads.com>

We applaud and support this work.  These comments are intended to be
constructive and helpful.

We're troubled by an inconsistency in the draft "Survey of RDF/Topic
Maps Interoperability Proposals"
(http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/BestPractices/RDFTM/survey).  This document
describes the scope of the project as translation between Topic Maps
and RDF in the general case, saying:

  "The goal of this work is to provide guidelines for users who want
  to combine usage of the W3C's RDF/OWL family of specifications and
  the ISO's family of Topic Maps standards."

The inconsistency is that the Survey document later says,

  "To fully understand this survey, the reader must ... be familiar
  with the models described in [TMDM] and [RDF-Concepts], and the
  syntaxes described in [LTM] and [N3]."

The trouble we're having with this may only be a matter of our own
perceptions, but the latter statement seems to us to imply that the
TMDM is the only thing about Topic Maps that is relevant to the
question of translation between RDF and Topic Maps.  It even seems to
imply that the TMDM reflects all there is to know about Topic Maps
that might be relevant to the relationship between RDF and Topic Maps.
Neither of those implications is correct.

It is valid, useful, and important to recommend guidelines, to
whatever extent may be possible, for translation between RDF and the
TMDM, and we gather from the content of the draft Survey document that
this narrower goal -- translation between RDF and TMDM -- is the
actual agendum of this Working Group.  We draw this conclusion from
the facts that:

* there is nothing in the draft Survey document (except its much
  broader statement of the scope of the work) that is inconsistent
  with that more limited goal;

* it's hard to understand how guidelines for translation can even be
  expressed except as mappings between data models; and

* the draft Survey document emphasizes its focus on translation at the
  data level.

If our conclusion is correct, we hereby suggest that it would be more
accurate, and less confusing, to describe the scope of the work
in terms of the TMDM, rather than in terms of "ISO's [whole] family of
Topic Maps Standards".

On the other hand, we may be drawing an incorrect conclusion from this
early draft.  If the scope of the work is actually *intended* to
include the Topic Maps paradigm in general, and therefore ISO's
*whole* family of Topic Maps standards, we would urge the Working
Group to consider the idea of comparing explicitly the basic
differences between RDF and TMs, and of examining each data
translation proposal in light of such an explicit comparison.  Such a
comparison might be as valuable to people who have to perform such
translations as would any set of guidelines presented in the absence
of an explanation of the grounds on which those guidelines stand.

The most fundamental existing expression of the Topic Maps is found in
the draft Topic Maps Reference Model (TMRM), Part 5 of ISO 13250.
While an obsolete draft of the TMRM is cited in the bibliography (the
current draft is at http://www.isotopicmaps.org/TMRM/TMRM-latest.html)
the TMRM is not mentioned anywhere else in the Survey document, and we
suspect that it has not had much influence on the thinking that
underlies the various proposals that are listed in it.  It's worth
noting that the TMRM is the only expression of the Topic Maps paradigm
at a level which is more fundamental than that of any ontological
commitments, techniques for subject addressing, etc.

So, in summary, we suggest that the WG consider either narrowing the
stated scope so that it is explicitly limited to translations between
RDF and the TMDM, or broadening the actual scope so that it matches
the existing stated scope.  (Within either of the two scopes, this
work will have significant value.)


Steve Newcomb, Patrick Durusau, and Michel Biezunski


Michel Biezunski
Consultant, Infoloom
Co-editor, Topic Maps International Standard (ISO 13250) 
mb@infoloom.com

Patrick Durusau
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org

Steven R. Newcomb
Consultant, Coolheads Consulting 
Co-editor, Topic Maps International Standard (ISO 13250) 
srn@coolheads.com
Received on Tuesday, 29 March 2005 22:17:52 UTC

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