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Subject: [tm-pubsubj-comment] formal syntax (was: Tuesday Conference)

Title: [tm-pubsubj-comment] formal syntax (was: Tuesday Conference)

To be short:
As far as I can see, every successful standard owns one (1) formal syntax. See DTD, Schema, SOAP, XSL, whatsoever. I think we should concentrate on developing *one final* syntax for topic maps, and we should also use it for PSI, as PS are topics. Currently we only have two recommended interchange formats, and we are going to develop a third something about PSD.

More about it:
> (from Lars-Marius)
> From what you say there it sounds as though you want to ditch both
> HyTM and XTM and use some other format. Why would you want to do that?
> The paper gives no hint of what your reasons for rejecting XTM are.

Generally I think XTM is far too abstract. It is a worthy contribution, but - as I heard some W3C fellow say Wednesday, in Luxembourg - you cannot standardize too fast. It takes some time to experiment, and you have to watch your first attempts fail before anything can become mature.

> (from Lars-Marius)
> The recommendations needs to recommend a finite set of topic map
> syntaxes, otherwise this will be too difficult for implementors to
> support.

I know there are more approaches than only two. Did anybody read http://www.diffuse.org/TopicMaps/20001221/schema.html, for example? This is Martin Bryan's approach (yes, Martin who has been one of the authors of SGML, and of ISO13250 :-)

I do not believe that Martin has given us the final solution. But some of his ideas provide us with something that XTM is missing, i.e. seperating typology from topics. My (our) problem is: there is no discussion about things like this. Looks like we prefer to open new road works before we have closed those already in progress. I.e. why do we need a definition of "psi assertions" if we have a very good definition of Topic Characteristics. Did we really read ISO 13250 ? http://www.y12.doe.gov/sgml/sc34/document/0129.pdf (currently this results in a 404 error, not so nice, but I have a local copy that I would send to anybody really interested).

Why do we hezitate to advice the interested folks to use one (1) formal syntax?

Imagine you just learned about a new standard, and you say: Well, sounds great, I will try to use it. And then they say: yor can do it this way, or you can do it that way, .....

We hezitate because we do not have a formal syntax that we believe to be persuasive enough for the possibly interested community. So we say: use any syntax you like. *Nothing* will work this way.

Finally I start to think this is a waste of time. ISO 13250 clearly defines "public subject descriptor". Where have we gone trying to elaborate the little difference to "published subject identifier"? There are lots of folks outside what Bernard calls our "realm". All of them would love to find a solution about unique semantic identifiers. Some have found a feasible way to go (like ISBN, IATA, ...). I think they won't care about us.

This is not anybody's realm. We are a global community.

I have written a TM Schema myself as well. But I don't think it is even worth to be discussed as a standardization proposal, it is just good enough to be the working data model of my engine. No problem to use any interchange format for interchange purposes (thanks to XSLT, owning a clear formal syntax to specify syntax transformations).

I have visited the "Knowledge technologies and digital content" workshop of the European Commission (http://www.cordis.lu/ist/fp6/workshops.htm) last Wednesday. Lots of Ontology people there. What can we tell them? "Add some assertions to your subjects"? Those people are not stupid. How do we refer to their discussion? How do we refer to RDF? What is it we have and they have not? What is it they have and we have not?

I think Topic Map is a worthy contribution as they (onto... & RDF) underestimate the importance of formal taxonomies. But they want us to propose a formal syntax, only one, and a good one. RDF has a formal syntax for metadata assertions, after years of struggle. But they don't know how to handle taxonomies. This could be our part. Do we know it?

I am not so sure about the worthy contribution of the ontologists. Can somebody tell me?

Thomas Bandholtz
CM / KM Division Manager; XML Network Moderator
Competence Center Content Management

Kaltenbornweg 3
D50679 Köln / Cologne
+49 221 8299 264

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