Ontopia: The Topic Maps Company

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This page contains pointers to papers that explore various aspects of Topic Maps. Other pages provide links to introductory material, specifications and news from the Topic Maps community.


A collection of papers that explore some of the more esoteric aspects of Topic Maps, including areas for further research and development.


Draft requirements, etc. for Topic Maps Constraint Language (TMCL), Steve Pepper, June 2001
A draft user requirements document for the proposed new ISO standard, Topic Map Constraint Language, including examples and a low bar proposal. Feedback on this document is solicited by SC34/WG3. Please send your comments to your national standards body and to the acting editor.

Creating semantically valid topic maps, Geir Ove Grønmo, May 2000
A paper about schemas for topic maps from XML Europe 2000. It discusses the need for a schema system, gives examples of possible constraints that a schema could describe, and examines existing constraint mechanisms and their applicability to topic maps. The slides from the presentation are also available.

Topic maps: Introduction and Allegro, Steve Pepper and Hans Holger Rath, November 1999
A paper from XML 1999 that contains an introduction to topic maps followed by a discussion of extended concepts such as topic map templates, type hierarchies, association types and constraints.

Query language

TMQL requirements (1.0.0), Hans Holger Rath & Lars Marius Garshol, August 2001
A draft user requirements document for the new ISO standard, Topic Map Query Language (TMQL). Feedback on this document is solicited by SC34/WG3. Please send your comments to your national standards body and to the editors. See also the TMQL home page.

tolog – a tutorial, Lars Marius Garshol, December 2003
A tutorial introduction to the tolog topic map query language, which is implemented in the OKS, and which is also included in the Omnigator.

tolog predicate reference, Lars Marius Garshol, October 2004
Reference documentation for all tolog predicates.

tolog – a topic map query language, Lars Marius Garshol, May 2001
A paper from XML Europe 2001 that describes a query language for topic maps called tolog. This query language is inspired by Prolog and fully supports the TMQL requirements. It has a clear and simple syntax, and its basic features are easy to implement.

The answer is just a question [of topic maps matching], Rafal Ksiezyk, May 2000
A paper from XML Europe 2000 relating topic maps with semantic networks and conceptual graphs, and proposing a topic map query language (TMQL).


Towards a General Theory of Scope, Steve Pepper & Geir Ove Grønmo, June 2001
A paper from Extreme Markup 2001 that provides the first ever in-depth examination of the topic map concept of "scope": What scope is, how to use it, how it relates to "context", and not least how applications might take advantage of it when processing a topic map.

A Proposal for Extending Scope in XTM, Kal Ahmed, July 2002
Outlines a proposal for an more prescriptive treatment of the concepts of scope and what it means for a characteristic assignment to be valid. The document goes on to propose the means by which this approach to scope might be encoded in an XML document.

Structuring Scope, Marc de Graauw, November 2002
Discusses the interpretation of scope (or the semantics of scope) and the effect of scope on the merging of topic characteristics when two topics are merged.


Living with topic maps and RDF, Lars Marius Garshol, March 2003
About how to deal with both topic maps and RDF. The paper shows how to do data conversion in both directions, how to convert RDF schemas to topic map schemas, how to use OWL with topic maps, shows how to do queries across both representations, and also shows how it is possible to have vocabularies that can be used with both topic maps and RDF.

Q: A unifying model for RDF and Topic Maps, Lars Marius Garshol, August 2005
This paper defines a formal model, called Q, in which Topic Maps and RDF have the same representation, which means that it's possible to hide most differences between the two by using this model. The paper is very technical, and assumes familiarity with both Topic Maps and RDF, so it may be best to read the "Living..." paper first. The slides from the presentation are also available.

Topic maps, RDF, DAML, OIL: A comparison, Lars Marius Garshol, December 2001
An in-depth paper about the similarities and differences between these semantic web technologies. It introduces all of the technologies, comparing them to a simple conceptual model that highlights how they compare. A demonstration of how to map data between the technologies is also given.

Ten Theses on Topic Maps and RDF, Steve Pepper, August 2002
Ten theses on the relationship between topic maps and RDF. This is a second cut at understanding the similarities and differences between these two approaches to making information findable.

Curing the Web's Identity Crisis: Subject Indicators for RDF, Steve Pepper & Sylvia Schwab, March 2003
A contribution to the debate on the "Identity Crisis" of the Web, showing how concepts developed as part of XML Topic Maps - in particular, the notion of subject indicators - provide an elegant solution.


Automagic Topic Maps, Geir Ove Grønmo, May 2002
This paper explains a new approach for creating topic maps from existing data sources. The approach consists of a three-step procedure, and includes going via RDF to produce the final topic map.

Methods for the Automatic Construction of Topic Maps, Steve Pepper, March 2002
Slides from a presentation covering the principles of automated topic map generation from structured knowledge, document metadata, information systems, structured document content, and unstructured document content. PDF version

The Ontopia MapMaker: Leveraging RDF to autogenerate Topic Maps, Steve Pepper, March 2002
Slides from a slightly naughty presentation describing a toolkit that uses RDF to generate topic maps from really dirty data. PDF version

Content management

Topic maps in content management: The rise of the ITMS, Lars Marius Garshol, October 2002
This paper shows how topic maps can address the limitations of traditional content management systems while building on their strengths. The term ITMS (Integrated Topic Management System) is coined for a content management system based on topic maps, and the paper shows what is necessary to build such systems, as well as what benefits they bring.

Topic Maps for repositories, Kal Ahmed, June 2000
Kal Ahmed's XML Europe 2000 paper discussing the potential application of topic maps as an interface to a multi-user document repository.

Knowledge management

Topic maps and knowledge representation, Ann Wrightson, February 2001
Examination of the intersection of topic maps and knowledge representation.


Web 2.0 and Topic Maps, Lars Marius Garshol, February 2007
A presentation on what Web 2.0 is, exactly, and how it compares with Topic Maps. Looks at wikis, tagging, and folksonomies, and gives some examples of Topic Maps-based Web 2.0 applications.

Seriously capable topic maps, Ann Wrightson, February 2001
This paper outlines what is required of topic maps in order to gain the most benefit from them. A topic map architecture is described which covers a variety of information repositories.

Semantic Web Services

TMRAP, Ontopia home page
A home page collecting all the information there is about TMRAP, Ontopia's web service interface to Topic Maps servers.

TM/XML, Ontopia home page
A home page collecting all the information there is about TM/XML, Ontopia's Topic Maps syntax in XML which is designed to be easy to process with XML tools like XSLT.

Semantic Web Servers, Graham Moore, December 2003
A presentation about the missing piece in the Semantic Web standardization efforts: the wire protocol for exchanging semantic web data, and making it possible to build Semantic Web Servers.