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Norwegian Topic Maps Users' Group Meeting

Posted in Technology on 2006-08-16 21:43

The Norwegian Topic Maps Users' Group had one of its irregular meetings tonight, with talks on various subjects, plus updates on the administrivia of the users' group itself. It was of course followed by beer and socializing at a local bar.

Åsmund Mæhle started the meeting with various announcements and so on. The Users' Group has officially been a section under the Knowledge Management Forum of the Norwegian Computer Society for quite a while now, and one piece of news is that the RDF people now have a section of their own under KM Forum. For the time being the two sub-groups will remain separate.

Topic Maps for National Curriculum

Are Mjølsnes spoke about the project to create a Topic Maps version of the Norwegian national curriculum. Are explained that this covers not just the contents of the curricula themselves, but also common identifiers for the courses, which did not exist before. The basic idea is that the curricula center around concepts which the students are supposed to learn. These concepts of course map to topics, which will then have PSIs to identify them.

The ministry is thinking that these PSIs will be used by various departmental web sites to classify content as relevant to concepts in the curriculum. However, the PSIs are also meant to be available for use by third parties, such as the publishers, producers of LMSs, local schools, etc. BrainBank is of course one obvious application that could make use of this.

Per-Frode Pedersen of Bouvet then expanded Are's remarks with more technical detail. The actual system is built as a central server based on NetworkedPlanet's TMCore05 product. It offers two REST APIs for updating the topic map, one that is TM-aware, and another that is not. It seems like the departmental web sites will use the TM-aware services, while there is an expectation that third parties will not. (I'm not sure if this is the case, but the way the slide was drawn seemed to imply it.) The TM-aware service was developed for this project, using an XML format defined by NetworkedPlanet.

According to Per Frode, the topic map is reasonably sized, about 100,000 topics and associations. There were some challenges with search performance, so the project wrote its own search service using TMRQL to avoid performance problems with TMCore. (Not sure how writing your own TMRQL fails to qualify as using TMCore; he didn't expand on this.) The project also uses the TMObjects functionality of TMCore, which Graham Moore will present at TMRA'06. The TMObjects solution uses annotations on methods to say what they map to (that is, names, occurrences, or associations), and what the PSIs of the typing topics are.

According to Per Frode, one challenge in the project was that one wound up using many translations between different representations of the same data. This meant that there were many different representations to relate to. (I have no more detail on this, unfortunately.) Another challenge was the lack of typing information in the topic map. (This was apparently not that much of a problem in practice, but a risk they had to manage.)

The solution uses the .NET frameworks WinForms and DataBinding, apparently for the editing. This is done using a Windows desktop application, which is used to build the curricula, and which allows users to put in formatted text in various places. Åsmund showed the resulting topic map using Omnigator, which was an interesting illustration of how interoperability via XTM actually works between TMCore05 and the OKS.

Are then showed how this was used on an existing web site, but I was too busy writing the above to really capture any of it, except that they expect to go live (with some part of this) by September 1.

I asked when the underlying ontology and topic map would become available, and Are said that he regularly publishes this to the site. So this is truly an example of open data.

There was lots of discussion of the actual form of the topic map itself, but this posting is already too long. I'll get back to this in a later posting.

What's New in Topic Maps

The next speaker was Steve Pepper, under the rather general subject heading of "what's new". He started with the status of the standard (ISO 13250), which has now been turned into a multipart standard in (so far) 7 parts. The status of these, is briefly summarized as:

  1. Overview: first draft coming this autumn.
  2. Data Model: finished and approved, sent for publication.
  3. XML Syntax (XTM): finished and sent for ballot.
  4. Canonicalization: almost finished.
  5. Reference Model: soon ready for its first vote.
  6. Compact Syntax (CTM): first draft published and under discussion.
  7. Graphical Notation (GTM): first draft coming soon.

There is also other work going on, again briefly summarized as follows:

Steve referred those interested in more information to

There are also goings-on in the W3C, notably the RDFTM Task Force referred to above, plus a new PRI Incubator Group. PRIs are basically a W3Cization of the well-known PSI concept from Topic Maps. (That is, what's been W3Cized is the name, not the contents of the concept.) This is currently being started.

There was also a section on recent conferences, which covered AToMS (apparently the next is planned for June 2007), Extreme Markup (which had a large number of Topic Maps-related talks), and TMRA '06. In addition, Steve said it's possible that there will be a Topic Maps conference in the US in January 2007. (More information on this will follow if/when I get it.) The next Norwegian Topic Maps conference is going to be internationalized, and will be held in Oslo March 20-21 2007.


The meeting closed with more administrivia around the Users' Group, but I decided not to cover that. Let's just say that the Users' Group is planning an extensive program for the autumn and spring.

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Arnar Lundesgaard - 2006-08-17 07:26:09

<blockquote>Per Frode (unfortunately, I didn't catch his name) </blockquote>

Per-Frode Pedersen

Lars Marius - 2006-08-17 09:49:30

Thank you, Arnar. Corrected now.

Are D. Gulbrandsen - 2006-08-21 17:17:34

The presentations held at the meeting are now published. All the presentations were in norwegian (maybe not suprising as it was a meeting in the norwegian user group.);action=Article.publicShow;ID=3442

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