[sc34wg3] RE: Thoughts on the RM

Patrick Durusau sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Thu, 24 Apr 2003 18:01:49 -0400


>I have earlier promised to provide feedback on the latest
>version of the Reference Model (N393). Here it is.
All comments are welcome. The comments by the UK were particularly 
helpful in regard to Section 4 that you indicated gave you some 
difficulty. Was there any particular part of it that seemed unclear? Or 
incorrect? It is easiest to respond if comments are specific to and cite 
specific passages in the text.


>To be frank, I find most of it totally impenetrable. I am able
>to understand the basic model of assertions, but that's
>probably only because I have followed previous incarnations of
>the RM: I don't think I would have stood a chance otherwise.
>Understanding the usefulness of assertions when we already
>have binary associations is another matter.
It would be helpful if you could be more specific about which parts you 
found "impenetrable." I am sure that was a common reaction to ISO 8879 
or even ISO 13250 upon a first read for many readers.

>The one thing I do like is the emphasis on what to me is the
>primary objective of Topic Maps: To provide a single point of
>access to everything that is known about a given subject.
>(However, I would much prefer to call this the "colocation
>objective", the term traditionally used in knowledge
>organization for this goal. Why invent an ugly term like
I don't necessarily have a brief to carry for SLUO but "collocation 
objective" is from another domain and has a meaning that is different 
from what I think we are in agreement on as being the primary objective 
of topic maps. Since, hopefully, topic maps will be used in library 
contexts, as well as others, it seems like a poor strategy to use a term 
with an established and different meaning from the one we wish to 
convey. Suggestions for a better name, but different from terms from 
other domains that have an established meaning I am sure would be welcome.

>Everything else is a dense fog: SIDPs, OPs, and SDDs; topic
>demanders, situation features, and castings; built-in and
>conferred. I ask myself: What does any of this have to do with
>topic maps as defined in ISO 13250? It's all new and goes far
>beyond today's standard.
All of the things you mention here are in the assertion structure that 
you mention earlier as recognizing from prior work on the RM. It is 
different terminology than used in ISO 13250 but it is hardly something 
"beyond today's standard."

>I gave up completely on Clause 4 after several hours of
>effort, thinking: Why should I submit to this?
Well, you are submitting to it now, only in the guise of less specific syntax. 

>If only I understood what benefits the RM could bring, I might
>be motivated to try and penetrate the fog, but even that
>understanding eludes me. I really don't see why we should be
>talking about "multiple Topic Map Applications" at all. It
>makes about as much sense to me as talking about multiple
>Extensible Markup Languages.
But there are multiple Extensible Markup Languages. Well, at least only 
one metalanguage known as Extensible Markup Language but there are many 
XML based languages. XML, like SGML, is a metalanguage that allows the 
definition of multiple languages that share a common syntax. Don't 
understand the benefit of having only one TMA. Particularly if there is 
no interoperability that I can see, no topic maps can be exchanged 
between applications, if I follow Lars' latest reasoning.


>I have always had great respect for Steve Newcomb's vision and
>for that reason alone I am prepared to support further work on
>the RM in the hope that it might one day lead to something
>useful. But I do not believe that it has anything to do with
>topic maps; I do not believe the ideas are anywhere close to
>mature; and I no longer believe the RM should be part of ISO
Well, we all have opinions about various possible parts of a future ISO 
13250 but simply stating them without more, does not give anyone a 
chance for a meaningful response. I am tempted to offer my opinions 
about various possible parts of a future ISO 13250 but I don't think 
those would advance the discussion for that very reason. Suffice it to 
say that the RM is in the roadmap for the restatement of ISO 13250.

You have responded, despite limitations of time, to various comments on 
the SAM and on HyTM. I think we could move towards a consensus in SC34 
on the RM and various other matters if you have the time to assist with 
technical comments on the latest RM draft. I think all the sources of 
that draft are more than willing to answer any questions that you or any 
member of the list may have. I say that knowing that everyone is 
desparately short of time and the issues may be difficult ones. All we 
can all do is try to understand the various proposals and attempt to 
reach a common understanding that will lead to a consensus in SC34/WG3.


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