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Re: XML Europe 2003 Call for Participation

From: Kal Ahmed <kal@techquila.com>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 22:09:08 +0000
To: "Danny Ayers" <danny666@virgilio.it>, "Sampo Syreeni" <decoy@iki.fi>, "Edd Dumbill" <edd@usefulinc.com>
Cc: <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>
Message-Id: <200210292209.08499.kal@techquila.com>

On Thursday 24 October 2002 21:58, Danny Ayers wrote:
> >>While topic map technology has always had an excellent showing at this
> >>conference, representation from the RDF world has always been thin.
> >>I'd love to see more proposals from the RDF world for XML Europe 2003,
> >>so here's your chance.
> >
> >Fully agreed, flavored by a little curiosity. Whereas RDF represents a
> >fairly streamlined datamodel, constituting representational elegance, and
> >a strong push toward interoperable ontologies, I would see topic maps as
> >having a complex set of concepts aimed at little more than what vanilla
> >XML can do. That is, topic maps do not incorporate strong semantics,
> >whereas the RDF community embraces a strong push towards making its
> >semantics unambiguous. To me this suggests that topic maps are little more
> >than an extra transfer syntax, while things built on RDF (another transfer
> >syntax/data model) hold a much broader promise.
> I've only recently starting having a proper look at TMs, but from what I've
> seen so far I have to disagree - most of the plusses you give RDF do also
> apply to TMs. Their area of application is a little to the side of RDF, and
> in terms of versatility I think it's reasonable to say RDF has the upper
> hand.

I think that even I as a hardened topic map addict would have to agree with 
you on this point. Of course, I'm having difficulty thinking of a concrete 
example ;-). Seriously, I think that topic maps have little to offer those 
looking at an RDF vocabulary such as DAML+OIL and so, for a certain set of 
applications, you would be forced to 
a) create a new vocabulary from scratch
b) twist the topic map model to fit a description logic view of the world

> But I really don't think 'vanilla XML' is a fair description at all -
> for example their approach to 'URI as concept' vs 'URI as page' actually
> seems a lot better defined than that of RDF. 

Yes, and rather than sneer at topic maps, I would suggest that the RDF world 
might consider looking at some of the core topic map principles and 
determining what might make a useful subset for application as a simple RDF 
application. This is a line of thought which I have been persuing for a 
while, and hope to have written up as a paper in the near future.

> I would suggest that TMs
> probably have a great deal to offer the Semantic Web, and interoperation
> with RDF isn't a difficult problem because of the commonality of URIs
> (amongst other things).

Its almost trivial IMO.

> >Against this background, it's peculiar at the very least that topic maps
> >would be the technology to prevail in XML Europe. In XML Finland, it
> >seemed that Semantic Web rather took the show. If TM really has been the
> >king of XML-E, it's high time the tide turned.
> A (somewhat cynical) explanation would be that although TMs offer less than
> RDF, they've already delivered. 

It is also a curious instance of the commercial application developers getting 
the drop on the open-source community. They have brought a variety of topic 
map solutions "to market" in a remarkably short space of time. I am not 
suggesting in any way that this is a factor in there representation in the 
conference, but companies producing topic map toolkits and applications are 
very well represented on the show floor at the GCA conferences. 

> Whatever, I don't think anyone has to make
> an exclusive choice between RDF and TMs, and diversity where there is
> interoperability can only be a good thing for the SW. So the turn of the
> tide is only really an issue for King Cnut.
Exactly. No one ever said that the SW had to be built out of one technology. 
In fact, just imagine how boring it would be if it were.

> Having said all that - I'm right with Edd, let's see some more RDF at these
> places ;-)

Yeah, both in the conference rooms and on the show floor please!



Kal Ahmed, techquila.com
XML and Topic Map Consultancy

e: kal@techquila.com
p: +44 7968 529531
w: www.techquila.com
Received on Tuesday, 29 October 2002 16:08:30 UTC

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