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From Kal Ahmed <>
Subject Re: Topic Maps for Forrest ? (was RE: Proposal: alternative for book.xml)
Date Thu, 21 Mar 2002 09:49:05 GMT
Hi Jeff,

There aren't currently as many extant examples of using Topic Maps for 
websites as there are for using more traditional document-oriented forms of 
XML and XSLT. However, I think that this is mostly due to the relative 
newness of the technology (and the difficulty that those responsible for 
the spec have in explaining it in developer's terms). That said, those that 
there are show some of the potential of this form of information structuring.

[1] is a web-site run on Zope using a topic map structure to store the 
whole backend. Virtually every page is dynamically constructed from the 
topic map data. Because it is run on Zope, users can actually add new data 
to the topic map via the web interface (not accessible to the general 
public unfortunately). The developers of this site created [2] using the 
same code base in about 1.5 days! Just to explain for non-Norwegian 
speakers, the main ITU website describes projects and institutions involved 
in promoting the use of IT in education. So the topics are things like 
projects, people, organisations and papers/reports. [1] takes you to the 
topic for a project called PLUTO - notice that it is linked to topics 
representing the people working on the project, related projects and so on.

[3] is the TM4J project's ongoing attempt at creating a topic-map driven 
website. As you will see from the URL, this is very much "under 
construction". This site is generated using Velocity to process a set of 
topic maps to generate a whole heap of static HTML pages (because the 
server we are running on does not have a servlet container). The HTML/CSS 
needs some tweaking (currently works best in IE) and (as always) the 
content needs a lot more work (!) but at least it shows that it is doable 
with open-source software.

For Forrest, I think that I would start with a topic map for; a topic map for each project; and then supplement the 
project topic maps with additional information extracted from the 
documentation (e.g. by processing index entry tags in the docbook sources 
or using a doclet to generate topicmapped Javadoc - this is something I am 
experimenting with for TM4J). But as I say, I'm a relative newcomer... 
Anyway, hopefully these two sites give you an idea of what kind of things 
are possible. I would be very interested to hear your comments!




At 09:12 21/03/2002 +1100, Jeff Turner wrote:

>Hi Kal,
>Topic Maps are undoubtedly cool. But how practical are they? Are there
>any examples on the web of people making real use of TMs? Is there any
>supporting infrastructure; ie, if we create an TM, is
>there something that can render that as a hyperlinked site?
>I'm happy to do some legwork constructing a TM for Jakarta or
>, if you could suggest how it can be used.
>On Mon, Mar 18, 2002 at 05:33:36PM +0000, Kal Ahmed wrote:
> > Hi,
> >
> > I am a relative newcomer to this forum - I've only lurked for a couple of
> > days. So this is just a tentative suggestion, but it seems to me that you
> > are dealing with some pretty complex issues which might be (partially if
> > not completely) addressed by the ISO Topic Maps standard [1] and its XML
> > incarnation XTM [2]. As well as being quite capable of representing 
> content
> > organisation structures such as books/chapters/sections, topic maps can be
> > used to represent the relationship between concepts and can be used to
> > relate those concepts to the data occurrences which provide more
> > information about them. A good introduction to topic maps is Steve 
> Pepper's
> > TAO of Topic Maps [3]. One important thing about topic maps is that they
> > are mergeable - so individual projects can define their own topic maps and
> > you can take those individual topic maps, merge them together and create a
> > topic map for the whole site.
> >
> > In practical terms, I am the lead developer of a project producing a topic
> > map processing engine, TM4J [4] which provides a Java API to parse, merge
> > and access topic map information. I am also separately developing an
> > integration with Velocity and there has been interest on the TM4J dev
> > mailing list in doing something similar with Cocoon. TM4J is open-source,
> > under the Apache license and makes use of a lot of Apache code, so if 
> there
> > is an opportunity to give something back, I would be happy to do so!
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Kal
> >
> > [1]
> > [2]
> > [3]
> > [4]

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