A Plague o' Both Our Houses?
Chief Strategy Officer, Ontopia
Steve Pepper – "The Topic Maps guy"
- Convenor of the ISO Topic Maps committee
Ontopia – "The Topic Maps Company"
- Long term interest in the relationship between RDF and Topic Maps
- Joined W3C in October 2004 at the instigation of Eric Miller to work on RDF/Topic Maps interoperability
"Two households, both alike in dignity..."
- During the late 1990s the W3C and ISO developed two semantic technologies in parallel
- Two communities, largely unaware of each other
- Tackling the same fundamental problems
- Findability ("Where's my stuff?")
- Semantic interoperability ("How do I connect my stuff?")
- The results were RDF and Topic Maps
RDF and Topic Maps have many similarities...
- Both "extend" XML into the realm of semantics
- Both allow assertions to be made about subjects in the outside world
- Both define abstract, associative (graph-based) models
- Both are very concerned with identity
- Both allow some measure of inferencing or reasoning
- Both have XML-based interchange syntaxes
- Both have constraint languages and query languages
...and this naturally led to calls for unification
- Extreme Markup 2000:
- "Free-for-all" between The Two Erics (Miller and Freese)
- Michael Sperberg-McQueen:
- "Lock them in a room together until they agree!"
- Easier said than done, because...
There are also significant differences...
- Different roots
- Topic Maps: Traditional finding aids (indexes, thesauri, etc.)
- RDF: Document metadata and formal logic
- Different levels of semantics
- RDF is more low level
- Topic Maps has more higher-level semantics
- Different models (down in the details)
- Identity, scope, association roles, n-ary relationships, variant names, ...
- Different goals
- RDF: An artificially intelligent web for software agents
- Topic Maps: Findability and knowledge integration for humans
- So unification never happened
- Some interesting work was done...
- But the perception of rivalry is still causing damage
Time to move beyond rivalry
- Let's look for the synergies instead!
- Both families have user communities
- Neither standard will go away anytime soon
- Common interest in the success of semantic technologies
- Semantics are hard enough to explain to the market as it is
- A standards war will indeed lead to a Plague o' Both Our Houses...
- RDF and Topic Maps are different
- Different strengths, different weaknesses
- Let's recognize this
- And let's go for interoperability
- That's the goal of RDFTM...
RDFTM: "What's in a name?"
- RDF/Topic Maps Interoperability Task Force
- A task force within the SemWeb Best Practices Working Group
- Chartered to deliver two documents:
- Survey of Existing Interoperability Proposals (WG Note)
- Guidelines for RDFTM Interoperability (WG Note or Recommendation)
- Only five years late, Michael :-)
- Interested parties, please join us!
"Parting is such sweet sorrow"