[sc34wg3] new working draft of 13250-5 (Reference Model)

Murray Altheim sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Mon, 08 Nov 2004 19:15:26 +0000

Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
> All -
> A new working draft of 13250-5, "Topic Maps - Reference Model",
> is now available at http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0554.htm
> It's significantly shorter, and we hope and believe it's easier to
> understand, too.


It's very good to see the new draft, and I agree that it is a lot
easier to read than previous versions. Some short comments follow.

I'm curious as to the choice of words in the draft. It uses the
word "framework" where I would (myself) have used "context." In
any design I understand there are decisions and tradeoffs made,
and the factors that went into this decision is opaque to outside
observers. But to me, a framework even metaphorically implies
some kind of multi-level construction, usually including various
kinds of construction materials. In the 13250-5 document, the
word "context" seems much closer to the actual meaning implied by
the rest of the text, i.e., if I were to simply replace "framework"
with "context" it would make better sense (though perhaps raise
other issues).

Could you provide some background on this choice of terminology,
and why "framework" was used over "context"? In any case, in
the informative Introduction, it would help if this term were more
clearly defined. What, in the ISO 13250-5 sense does "framework"

Also, the document jumps right in with use of "proxy" without
defining either what that means, or the relationship between the
proxy and its subject (other than also calling it a "surrogate",
which is just a synonym for "proxy"). While I realize that the
specification is stated in technical language, it seems to leave
this rather important relationship undefined. Though perhaps
clear to its authors, I'm also still a bit fuzzy as to the
nature of "identity" in the TMRM, in the sense that there are
many ways of establishing identity, but any mention of the
mechanism seems absent from the draft -- that grand chasm you
described a few years ago still seems present. Does the TMRM
attempt to jump across it, or just point? What is the nature
of the pointing?

Note 3 seems to leave off this issue to the TMA, such that
suddenly each TMA can have its own definitions for the relation
between subject and proxy, its own definition of identity. If
this is the case, its seems that the core definition of what
constitutes a Topic Map will vary TMA-to-TMA. I would hope that
the TMRM would define the same abstract criteria across all
Topic Map Applications. Certainly, concrete implementations
will use different concrete mechanisms, but hopefully not
different definitions (semantically; okay, sorry, I used the
hateful 'S' word).

I'm hoping we can improve upon the W3C's complete lack of
epistemological underpinning by actually documenting these
relationships, at least insofar as the Topic Map standard is
concerned. I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on the W3C here,
as it seems the vast majority of the AI/KR/OntEng community
also leaves these matters to the philosophers. The subject-
proxy relationship and the mechanism of identity both seem
to be at the very core of Topic Maps, but remain rather
spectral to this reader.

If I've somehow missed the boat and this has been defined, my
apologies. If so, I'd appreciate being pointed to where in the
draft it occurs. Or if you think these issues are out of scope
for the ISO standard, please let me know and I'll shut up about

Thanks very much,


PS. Hope all is well with you. Very dark and wet here.
Murray Altheim                    http://kmi.open.ac.uk/people/murray/
Knowledge Media Institute
The Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK7 6AA, UK               .

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