Topic Maps and topic maps

<< 2006-06-29 16:04 >>

In all the Topic Maps-related documents I read these days people use "Topic Maps", "Topic Map", "topic maps", and "topic map" indiscriminately when referring to the Topic Maps technology. Sometimes people even mix it up within a single document. For a long time there was no official definition of what was appropriate, but the 2005-10-28 TMDM draft introduced a consistent terminology for this. So far it doesn't seem that many people have noticed this (admittedly subtle) change. So here goes.

In what is soon to become the standard, "Topic Maps" is defined to be the name of the technology (or paradigm, or model, or abstract concept, or whatever you please). Since it is a name it is singular, so "Topic Map" is just a typo (except when using Title Case). This means that one has to refer to Topic Maps implementations, Topic Maps syntaxes, the Topic Maps paradigm, and Topic Maps experts.

The phrase "topic map", on the other hand, means a specific topic map, such as the Italian Opera Topic Map (note the use of Title Case here). Similarly, "topic maps" is plural, meaning more than one topic map.

It can sometimes be a little tricky to decide which of the two it is one is referring to in a sentence, but after having used it for about half a year I think that it works very well. To me phrases like "the Topic Maps are then merged" now just look strange. Whether it will actually catch on remains to be seen, of course.

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Ant Scott - 2006-07-04 16:44:10

In contrast to XForms, which is not supposed to have a singular form. BTW, Ontopoly describes itself as 'Ontopia's Topic map Editor...', which is neither bird nor beast ;-)

Lars Marius - 2006-07-04 16:52:16

That Ontopoly thing is kind of embarrassing... We'll fix this in the next release is all I think I want to say about that... :)

That "XForms" is defined to not have a singular I find curious. So that means you have to say "XForms are a cool technology", even though there is just one XForms specification?

Ant Scott - 2006-07-04 17:16:32

Apparently so... according to Micah Dubinko:

'The XForms Working Group public page contains the following note from the editor: "XForms is a word with no singular form. Other such words in the English language are: ALMS, CATTLE, CLOTHES, PLIERS, SCISSORS, and SHORTS." Thus, when referring to the collective noun form, one should say "XForms simplified my web application." When using XForms as shorthand for "the XForms specification," however, it should still be properly treated as a singular noun.'

So there you go...

Lars Marius - 2006-07-04 17:26:40

That's clear enough for me. Thanks. :)

Robert Cerny - 2006-07-07 08:15:48

Thanks for this reminder. I must admit I did not pay attention to that. But I will from now.

Kind regards, Robert

Anthony - 2006-07-27 20:28:35

I'm new to Topic Maps. Who is the typical user? How many people are currently interacting directly with Topic Maps?

Lars Marius - 2006-12-19 11:49:39

That's not a simple question to answer, I'm afraid. In general, users today are mostly either governmental organizations or companies. The applications are really varied, so giving a meaningful 2-sentence summary isn't really possible. I guess the use that stands out the most at the moment is Norwegian public sector portals, of which there are so many now that people have lost count.

As for how many people interact with topic maps today I don't think I can answer that. Every user of these portals do, in one sense. Certainly every author and editor of content for these portals does. In addition, there are lots of users of internal systems doing things like product data management, business process modelling, etc. The number of people who used a topic map today (December 19th) in some way would certainly have to be counted in the thousands.

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