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

Bandholtz, Thomas wrote:

> 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?


You have plenty of criticism of XTM, though given that XTM contains
the ability to establish a fairly rich graph using a simple syntax,
there's absolutely no reason why XTM syntax cannot be used to
describe a rich taxonomy/ontology. It's a matter of developing the
topic and association types used in that graph, and this TC is trying
to describe how these should be published.

I'm in a sense waiting for something to settle before I publish a
preliminary set of logical primitives as an XTM topic map, which is
then usable in creating taxonomies and ontologies. Currently, XTM
1.0 includes association types for superclass and subclass (as PSIs),
so taxonomies are already representable. Just as you mention XSLT,
it's certainly possible to transform from any other XML-based
taxonomy syntax into XTM and vice versa. I was in the process of
working on Cyc when the OpenCyc project began, so I'm now waiting
on that one too. *sigh*

Last year, Peter Becker and I began working on an XML syntax for
Conceptual Graphs but were unable to figure out the abstract model
behind it. Sowa et al are now working on Common Logic (which will
include an XML serialization syntax), which I believe could be
transformable bidirectionally into XTM syntax. If nobody else does
it, I'll do it. But we'll have to wait awhile for that one, as I
don't that train is moving that quickly right now.

I really don't see all the weaknesses you describe as being barriers
to implementation. No syntax is ever perfect but I believe XTM is
sufficient, that we hit the 80/20 point pretty dead on. Those in
the "20 league" will always want those missing features, but adding
them or abandoning XTM at this point would simply cause people to
abandon topic maps. We need some stability more than we need
perfection right now, both in terms of syntax and specification.
This TC's goal is to provide a simple means of publishing Published
Subjects. If the TC fails, it will fail due to making the methodo-
logy either too difficult or too removed from XTM, in my opinion.


Murray Altheim                  <http://kmi.open.ac.uk/people/murray/>
Knowledge Media Institute
The Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK7 6AA, UK

      In the evening
      The rice leaves in the garden
      Rustle in the autumn wind
      That blows through my reed hut.  -- Minamoto no Tsunenobu

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