Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

A Brief History of the Topic Maps Paradigm

The work on topic maps began in 1991 when the Davenport Group was founded by UNIX system vendors (and others, including the publisher O'Reilly & Associates). The vendors were under customer pressure to improve consistency in their printed documentation. There was concern about the inconsistent use of terms in the documentation of systems and in published books on the same subjects. System vendors wished to include O'Reilly's independently created documentation on X-Windows, under license, seamlessly in their system manuals. One major problem was how to provide master indexes for independently maintained, constantly changing technical documentation aggregated into system manual sets by the vendors of such systems. The first attempt at a solution to the problem was humorously called SOFABED (Standard Open Formal Architecture for Browsable Electronic Documents).

The problem of providing living master indexes was so fascinating that, in 1993, a new group was created, the Conventions for the Application of HyTime (CApH) group, which would apply the sophisticated hypertext facilities of the ISO 10744 HyTime standard. HyTime had been published in 1992 to provide SGML with multimedia and hyperlinking features. The CApH activity was hosted by the Graphic Communications Association Research Institute (GCARI, now called IDEAlliance). After an extensive review of the possibilities offered by extended hyperlink navigation, the CApH group elaborated the SOFABED model as topic maps. By 1995, the model was mature enough to be accepted by the ISO/JTC1/SC18/WG8 working group as a "new work item"—a basis for a new international standard. The topic maps specification was ultimately published as ISO/IEC 13250:2000.8

During the initial phase, the ISO/IEC 13250 model consisted of two constructs: (1) topics and (2) relationships between topics (later to be called associations). As the project developed, the need for a supplementary construct, one able to handle filtering based on domain, language, security, and version, emerged; as a result, a mechanism for filtering was added, called facet. This approach was soon replaced by a more powerful and elegant vision based on the notion of scoping. The notion of scope in topic maps is one of the key distinguishing features of the topic maps paradigm; scope makes it possible for topic maps to incorporate diverse world views, diverse languages, and diversity in general, without loss of usefulness to specific users in specific contexts and with no danger of irreducible "infoglut."

As an aside,9 note that the scope and subject identity point aspects of the topic maps paradigm were first developed and articulated by Peter J. Newcomb and Victoria T. Newcomb during a 1997 breakfast conversation at the Whataburger restaurant in Plano, Texas. In our family, we still sometimes call those aspects the Whataburger model, although the Whataburger interchange syntax has not survived. The XTM conceptual model accurately reflects the Whataburger model, however; it has stood the test of time. It's interesting to note how the syntax of topic maps has evolved since Whataburger. The syntax that minimally and accurately reflected the Whataburger model turned out to be inexplicable to most people; it was a marketing fiasco. Michel Biezunski, who for many reasons is the primary hero of the story of topic maps, is not coincidentally also the origin of what I call Biezunski's Principle. Simply put, Biezunski's Principle is: There is no point in creating a standard that nobody can understand. (Another way he sometimes puts it is, "I'm not interested in convincing anyone that we are smarter than they are.") The whole idea of having a syntactic element type that corresponds to the notion of a topic is, in strictly technical terms, totally unnecessary baggage that actually obscures the deeper and beautifully simple structures that topic maps embody. Even so, the <topic> element type is the foundation of the syntax of topic maps, both in the ISO standard and in the XTM specification. This is because people intuitively and quickly grasp the notion of <topic> elements, and the whole idea that a topic can be represented syntactically as a kind of hyperlink is an inherently exciting one. For me, the popularity of the <topic> element type and the marketing success that the topic maps paradigm now represents are convincing demonstrations of the power of Biezunski's Principle. (I think Biezunski's Principle owes much to the work of Tim Berners-Lee and others, whose design for the World Wide Web succeeded in opening a whole frontier of human interaction and endeavor, where other designs, including more intellectually elegant and powerful ones, had failed to get serious global traction. But that's another story.)

The ISO 13250 standard was finalized in 1999 and published in January 2000. The syntax of ISO topic maps is at the same time very open and rigorously constrained, by virtue of the fact that the syntax is expressed as a set of architectural forms.10 (Architectural forms are structured element templates; this templating facility is the subject of ISO/IEC 10744:1997 Annex A.3.11) Applications of ISO 13250 can freely subclass the element types provided by the element type definitions in the standard syntax, and they can freely rename the element type names, attribute names, and so on. Thus, ISO 13250 meets the requirements of publishers and other high-power users for the management of their source codes for finding information assets.

However, the advent of XML and XML's acceptance as the Web's lingua franca for communication between document-driven and database-driven information systems created a need for a less flexible, less daunting syntax for Web-centric applications and users. This goal, which was achieved without losing any of the expressive or federating power that the topic maps paradigm provides to topic map authors and users, is the purpose of the XTM (XML topic maps) specification.

The XTM initiative began as soon as the ISO 13250 topic maps specification was published. An independent organization called TopicMaps.Org,12 hosted by IDEAlliance, was founded for the purpose of creating and publishing an XTM 1.0 specification as quickly as possible. In less than one year, TopicMaps.Org was chartered and the core of the XTM 1.0 specification was delivered at the XML 2000 conference in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2000, with the final version of XTM 1.0 delivered on March 2, 2001.

Michel Biezunski (of InfoLoom) and I (of Coolheads Consulting) were the founding cochairs of TopicMaps.Org and coeditors of the Core Deliverables portion of the XTM specification as well as of the remaining portions of the Authoring Group Review version of the specification. In January 2001, Graham Moore (of Empolis) and Steve Pepper (of Ontopia) became the new coeditors, and Eric Freese (of ISOGEN/DataChannel) became the chair of TopicMaps.Org. More recent events in the history of XTM and TopicMaps.Org are discussed in Chapter 4.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020