What is an *application*? Was Re: [sc34wg3] The Nowegian National Body Positon on ISO 13250

Patrick Durusau sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 16 Apr 2003 10:29:36 -0400

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Lars Marius Garshol wrote:

>* Patrick Durusau
>| [referring to the SAM]
>| At first blush that appears to leave merging rules up to the
>| individual application, which will surely lead to differing results
>| when processing the same topic map. 
>The SAM provides the minimal merging rules, but explicitly says that
>applications are allowed to do *additional* merging as they see fit.
>This has been the principle in the standard since ISO 13250:2000 days,
>and was known as the principle that human beings were the ultimate
>arbiters of subject identity. This text merely carries that a bit
>further so that applications which decide that social security numbers
>are useful for merging can use them to do so without being in
>violation of the text.
>So, yes, in one *application* the results of merging can be different
>from the results obtained by another *application*, if they add
>different rule sets for additional merging. Just like two different
>XSLT transformations can give different outputs given the same input
I think part of my quandry is over the use of the term *application.* 
The SAM says:

> A topic map processor is any module or system that can process topic 
> maps in conformance with this standard. It is assumed that the topic 
> map processor does its work on behalf of another module known as the 
> topic map application. It is assumed that a topic map processor will 
> do deserialization on behalf of the application, and that the 
> processor will manage the topic maps on behalf of the application.

I searched the SAM for some definition of how one declares a *topic map 
application* but did not find one.

The problem I see is one of interoperability between *applications* in 
the sense of topic map software.

If there is no definition of *topic map application* (SAM sense), how 
can I find an *application* (software sense) that allows me to obtain 
the same result from a topic map prepared by another *application* 
(software sense)?

Where I am concerned is with the following senario (admittedly 
optimistic but I don't think unrealistic):

The SBL prepares a topic map using brand X topic map software which uses 
a *topic map application* (SAM sense) that is somehow loaded into the 
software (or is it inherent in the software?) that has only the SAM 
merging rules. That topic map is distributed to SBL members, who use a 
variety of topic map software from both current vendors and future 
vendors. Those topic maps are returned to the SBL for merger into the 
SBL topic map. Our members will expect that merger will follow the rules 
they have experienced with their topic map software and will be quite 
surprised to find that the results of merger do not. (At least if you 
assume that they can't send the *topic map application* (SAM sense) 
along with their topic map so that human intervention could create rules 
to honor the terms of their topic map.)

Part of the goal of the N0393 was to provide a way to disclose the rules 
governing a topic map by what is called a TM Application (N0393 sense). 
If I don't know what the rules of a *topic map application* (SAM sense) 
are, I can't very well prepare merging rules for my *application* 
(software sense) that allow me to make sense of the topic map or get the 
same results.

>The point is that the minimal requirements are laid down, and users
>are then given freedom to add additional behaviour as they see fit.
>That should be OK, shouldn't it?
Not sure that users, not most SBL users at any rate ;-) , are going to 
be able to add merging requirements if they are inherent in the 
*application* (software sense). If the *topic map application* (SAM 
sense) is not defined outside of the *application* (software sense), I 
am not sure how that information would accompany the topic map instance. 
If I don't have access to the *topic map application* (SAM sense), how 
am I to ever move from one application (software sense) to another, or 
for that matter, add my merging rules to the *topic map application* 
(SAM sense)? I can imagine low-end topic map software having only the 
SAM merging rules and vendors offering more powerful versions that allow 
the loading of an interchangeable (as in between applications, software 
sense) *topic map applications* (SAM sense). That latter case presumes 
we have some standard (ISO sense) of how to declare a *topic map 
application* (SAM sense). Seems to me that would provide a more unified 
market, not to mention benefits to users and information providers.

Apologies for all the parens, just trying to make sure my post is not 
any more confusing than necessary. ;-)


Patrick Durusau
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Co-Editor, ISO Reference Model for Topic Maps