Monday, July 26, 2004

Star Wars Topic Map

I've been working on a Star Wars topic map for over a year, practicing with the technology and using the free Ontopia Omnigator to view them. I've also used the open source TM4J tools, which are also very cool. I've been trying to auto-populate the topic map using the data from the Official Star Wars databank, but a lot of the work is still manual, and the map isn't complete enough to publish (this is a spare, spare time project...)

For all I know, someone may have already done this work...

I've actually met the Topic Map spec creators, Michel Biezunski and Steven R. Newcomb several times at the IDEAlliance XML and Extreme Markup conferences. I've also met Ontopian Lars Marius Garshol and TM4J's Kal Ahmed at the same.

Topic maps are powerful, easy to learn, and very cool. I've tried to drive their adoption in my organization for several years, but I guess I'm not high enough on the food chain.

Topic Maps are an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 13250 []).

Here's a summary of the technology pulled from various sources, including Ontopia's whitepapers on the subject (No plagarism is intended.):

RDF and OWL are similar technologies, but Topic Maps can describe relationships between topics and ideas that are not tied specifically to a URI (a limitation of RDF). RDF contexts are also application specific. There is no standard way to specify contexts of assertions. Topic maps are more flexible and powerful than simple taxonomies, thesauri or controlled vocabularies. Topic map semantics, however, can be expressed in RDF triples, allowing RDF engines to query and navigate topic maps.

With topic maps you create an index of information which resides outside of specific documents or databases. The topic map takes the key concepts described in the databases and documents and relates them together independently in a neutral envelope, hospitable to any existing or future schema for knowledge representation.

Topic maps thus provide a common layer for managing interconnected sets of information objects. The result is an information structure that is uniquely different from a traditional information hierarchy. A topic map usually contains several overlapping hierarchies which are rich with semantic cross-links. This solution is perfect for all sorts of portals, catalogs, site indexes, and so on. Since a topic map can represent knowledge about the things it describes, topic maps are also ideal as knowledge management tools.

See also: