Archive for the ‘Examples’ Category

The Top Five Information Management Meltdowns of 2010

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

The Top Five Information Management Meltdowns of 2010

Every year produces a number of stories like these.

Pick one and from the published reports, describe how you would incorporate topic maps to help lead to a different outcome. (3-5 pages, citations)

PS: It may be possible that topic maps play no direct role in avoiding the problem but lead to a more useful system.

M*A*S*H 4077th + Klinger = Rationale for Topic Maps

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Period of Adjustment, M*A*S*H 4077th, Season 8, is an episode where Corporal Klinger has to learn to fill the shoes of the much beloved Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly.

It is also as scene that everyone has seen repeated everywhere from boardrooms to lunchrooms.

A key person, who had accumulated skills and knowledge about a position retires, is transferred or promoted.

There follows a hellish period while their replacement learns where the supplies are stored, the key people to alert to problems, when to start prepping the boss for meetings, etc.

It seems like they will never get any of it right, until one day, without our really noticing it, they do.

They keep getting it right, until that person retires, is transferred or promoted. Then the hellish period begins again.

What if we could capture that organizational knowledge?

Organizational knowledge that wasn’t written down.

Topic maps help capture organizational knowledge because your staff can:

  • write down what they know
  • how they know it,
  • when it is important to know it,
  • in their own terms.

When your staff gets the opportunity (and tool) to express their knowledge is up to you.

PS: Can someone help me update this example?

I haven’t watched much TV since the end of M*A*S*H and more recent examples would be a good thing. Thanks!

Mashup Champaign

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

When I think about government information, I tend to think about national or state government type information.

Which overlooks the level of government that has the most impact on our day to day lives, county and city government.

I am sure we have all seen the development maps that show how urban patterns develop.

What if we had a map (with a topic map underneath) that had ownership, family/business relationships keyed to the real estate and transactions on real estate, and holders of political office as the binding points?

I have started looking at Champaign for likely resources.


  1. Examine the Enterprise Zone map. Comments/observations? (2-3 pages, no citations)
  2. What other city records would you want to see in connection with the map in #1? Are those records online? (2-3 pages, no citations)
  3. What relationships and other information would you want to record in a topic map about this map? (3-5 pages, no citations

Mashup Australia

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Mashup Australia

I ran across this site as a reference in a story at

From the website:

The Government 2.0 Taskforce invited you to MashupAustralia to help us show why open access to Australian government information is good for our economy and society.

Recommended as a source of mashup ideas.


  1. Pick one of the mashups to review. Write a summary of the mashup. (2-3 pages, pointer to the mashup)
  2. What, if anything, would use of topic map add to this mashup? (3-5 pages, no citations)
  3. Pick a related mashup. How would you integrate these two mashups using a topic map? (3-5 pages, no citations)

A Library Case For Topic Maps

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Libraries would benefit from topic maps in a number of ways but I ran across a very specific one today.

To escape the paralyzing grip of library vendors, a number of open source projects for system, even state-wide library software projects are now underway.

OK, so you have a central registry of all the books. But the local libraries, have millions of books with call numbers already assigned.

Libraries can either spend years and $millions to transition to uniform identifiers (doesn’t that sound “webby” to you?) or they can keep the call number they have.

Here is a real life example of the call numbers for Everybody’s Plutarch:

920 PLU

920.3 P

920 PLUT

R 920 P

920 P

Solution? One record (can you say proxy?) for this book with details for the various individual library holdings.

Libraries are already doing this so what is the topic map payoff?

Say I write a review of Everybody’s Plutarch and post it to the local library system with call number 920 P.

With a topic map, users of the system with 920.3 P (or any of the others), will also see my review.

The topic map payoff is that we can benefit from the contributions of others as well as contribute ourselves.

(Without having to move in mental lock step.)

Calibrated Leakage?

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Unlike leaks from a faucet, only some leaks from the Obama Whitehouse annoy the administration.

All administrations approve of their “leaks” and dislike unfavorable “leaks.” In either case, it is an information mapping issue.

First, people who have access to particular documents or facts become topics. Their known associates, from FBI background checks, Facebook pages, etc., also become topics. Form associations between them.

Second, phone traffic and visitor/day book log entries become topics and build associations with Whitehouse staff and their friends.

Third, documents with high likelihood to have “leakable” stories or facts, are topics with timed associations as they fan out across the staff.

Fourth, “leaks” in the media, particularly by time of the disclosure, are captured as topics as well as who reported it, etc.

No magic, just automating and making correlations between information and records that already exist in disparate forms.

A topic map enables estimates of how effective approved “leaks” are propagating or investigation of the sources of unapproved “leaks.”

Topic maps: calibrating leakage.

PS: There are defenses to highly correlated data gathering/analysis. Please inquire.

Transparency, *-wingers and Legislation

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Transparency for U.S. legislation seems like a big nut to crack.

First there is the legislation itself and to be complete, all the revisions, amendments, etc.

Second, there is analysis that legislation, from all sides, from the GAO to “Moles-For-President.”

Third, there is the matching of all the analysis to the legislation and doing so in a timely fashion.

Fourth, useful interfaces so everyone from novices to professional researchers can find the information they need.

Fifth, there is the hardware/software support that would be required to power such a solution.

All that adds up to a large investment in people and infrastructure. Not to mention largely duplicating what has already been done by others.

Let’s take a no-local-copy based view of topic maps That is map to representatives of subjects in place (“in situ” for my archaeology friends).

Offer an interface that allows selection of any part of legislation/regulation and entry of a pointer to commentary on that part.

Capture the enthusiasm of the *-wingers of various persuasions.

Give a preference to linked comments of less than 500 words.

Does that reduce the big nut problem down to a smaller one, one that may be doable?


A Bill With No Name

Monday, August 16th, 2010

H.R. 1586 as passed by the U.S. Senate and reported by Thomas (Library of Congress, legislative information), reads:

Short Title
section 1. This Act may be cited as the “______Act of____”.

Ask yourself: How would topic maps lead to a different result? (Ok, that probably wasn’t your first thought, work with me here.)

If bills were treated as subjects, represented by topics, using TMCL, we can specify that every topic of type “House Bill” has to have one and only one name.

We can modify the example in TMCL, 7.6 Topic Name Constraint to read

houseBill isa tmcl:topic-type;
has-name(tmdm:topic-name, 1, 1).

Which says every topic of House Bill type has one and only one name. And we should get an error warning if is it missing.

If that seems like a lot of trouble fix a work flow proofing glitch, consider this:

U.S. legislation typically runs hundreds, even thousands of pages with provisions that are relevant to particular constituencies. What if all those provisions and their constituencies were treated as subjects, represented by topics?

Everyone could read those provisions of interest to them or the ones they were interested in opposing (possibly the more popular of the two). Instead of 2,000 pages you might need to read only 3 to 5 pages.

Reading maybe 3 to 5 pages sounds more like transparency to me than dumping 2,000+ pages on my desk and calling it “transparency.”

PS: My suggestion to fix the bill title: “Last Opaque Act of 2010.” Whether lobbyists, elected officials and agencies can hear it or not, transparency is coming, to the USA.

TMQL Tutorials – Announcement

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Topic Maps Lab is releasing a five (5) [sorry, 2010-07-07, reported to be eight (8) parts. I suspect that will change too. 😉 ] part series of tutorial on TMQL!

Will update this list as other parts appear.

If you are logged into Maiana you can do all the exercises there.

The tutorials are in German so either you can improve your technical German, or translate them for yourself and the community.


On a personal note, we have long discussed how somebody ought to do something to better promote topic maps. Well, several people are doing something. A lot of somethings. The question we have to ask ourselves (not others, ourselves), is how we can contribute to those efforts or make other contributions?

Introducing George and Mary

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

George and Mary (Background).

Finally! The first installment in my introduction to topic maps for non-technical types arrives!

Suggestions for improving the dialogue, illustrations, etc., are most welcome!

It would be interesting if this could develop as a framework for explaining topic maps and their applicability in particular domains or to particular issues. By changing the problems confronted by George and Mary and adapting the dialogue.

This will not appeal to the “it can’t be funded unless 1) we don’t understand it, and 2) we suspect the applicant doesn’t either” crowd. Ask me if you are in that situation and we can translate a George and Mary story into complicated looking notation. With a light dusting of references to Peirce for good measure.

The LibraryThing

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

The LibraryThing is the home of OverCat, a collection of 32 million library records.

It is a nifty illustration of re-using identifiers, not re-inventing them.

I put in an ISBN, for example, and the system searches for that work. It does not ask me to create a “cool” URI for it.

It also demonstrates some of the characteristics of a topic map in that it does return multiple matches for all the libraries that hold a work, but only one. (You can still view the other records as well.)

I am not sure I have the time to enter, even by ISBN, all the books that line the walls of my office but maybe I will start with the new ones as they come in and the older ones as I use them. The result is a catalog of my books, but more importantly, additional information about those works entered by others.

Maybe that could be a marketing pitch for topic maps? That topic maps enable users to coordinate their information with others, without prior agreement. Sort of like asking for a ride to town and at the same time, someone in a particular area says they are going to town but need to share gas expenses. (Treating a circumference around a set of geographic coordinates as a subject. Users neither know nor care about the details, just expressing their needs.)

Topic Map: An Ontology Framework for Information Retrieval

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Topic Maps Lab reports Topic Map: An Ontology Framework for Information Retrieval, a presentation by Rajkumar Kannan, at the National Conference on Advances in Knowledge Management 2010. (National Conference on Advances in Knowledge Management(NCAKM’10), pp195-198, March 2010, India.)

Nothing novel for long time topic map advocates but a place for others to start learning about topic maps.

Which reminds me, I need to return to the non-standard/technical introduction to topic maps. Will try to post the first installment, without illustrations (still looking for an illustrator) later this week.

Subject World

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Subject World (Japanese only)

Subject World is a project to visualize heterogeneous terminology, including catalogs, for use with library catalogs. Uses BSH4 subject headings (Basic Subject Headings) and NDC9 index terms (Nippon Decimal Classification) to visualize and retrieve information from the Osaka City University OPAC.

English language resources:

Subject World: A System for Visualizing OPAC (paper)

Slides with the same title (but different publication from the paper):

Subject World: A System for Visualizing OPAC (slides)

See also: Murakami Harumi Laboratory, in particular its research and publication pages.

Topic Map Opportunity!

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The  GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) project is a high profile opportunity for topic maps.

Documents from all branches of the U.S. government are being made available at this site.

New technology is of continuing interest to the project.

Industry Information specifies how to make the project aware of your topic map software.

Wouldn’t you like to name drop the GPO’s FDsys project during a sales presentation for your software?

PS: I am reviewing the project requirements. Interested in consulting work on an application to the project.

Subject Headings and Topic Maps

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Leveraging on prior work should be part of any topic map project.

Building topic maps with subject headings? See: Making topic maps from Subject Headings, a slide pack from Motomu Naito, a regular contributor in the topic maps community.

Project is using NDLSH 2008 (National Diet Library Subject Headings, subject headings 17,953), BSH4 (Basic Subject Headings, Japanese Library Association, subject headings, 7847), LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings, subject headings, 372,399).

Slides describe organizing Wikipedia using subject headings, merging subjects with subject headings, and, using LSCH subjects as a bridges to map between subject headings in different languages.

Forward to your local library researcher.

Watching the Watchers Update – .02

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Watching the Watchers, .02 is now available.

In .02:

  • Created subject identifiers for positions and added topics for the positions to the map.
  • Reformed the subject identifiers on persons so I could use the prefix mechanism (deleted the final “/”).
  • Created a prefix for the person subject identifiers (details below)

For Janet Napolitano I had:
 - "Janet Napolitano".

I want to re-use the string “”.

Solution: Use the “%prefix” directive as follows:

%prefix headcnt

Now I can say:

 - "janet-napolitano".

I will leave it to the reader to create a prefix for the DHS position subject identifiers. (I will add it myself in the next release.)

Next version, I will add the “isa person” that Lars Marius asked about on all the person topics. And create item identifiers to make it easy to make references for the purpose of writing associations.

Still working on the subject identifiers. They resolve but aren’t stable in terms of content.

The map will get messier before it gets better. Will use versions of this map to illustrate organizational principles for smallish maps.

Programs! Get Your DHS Programs Right Here!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

A program is going to be essential for keeping the players straight in the Watching the Watchers topic map.

An organization chart (program) for the Department of Homeland Security

Political Topic Map – First Steps

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Name: Watching the Watchers

Domain: Department of Homeland Security (United States).

Identifiers: Using the Head Count project web pages as subject identifiers for the individuals.

I will create and register identifiers for the positions as necessary.

Subjects: The appointees, positions, subjects from the reported associations.

Associations: Reported ones for appointees (more to follow).

A contributedBy association to identify the person adding information to the map. A sourceOf association for the information source.

The contributedBy and sourceOf associations may distinguish the topic map from the project at the Washington-Post. An editor could see if facts in a story came from a single source. Or multiple sources. As well as how those sources played into other stories.

First rough cut with appointee topics only, (Apologies for the zip file. My ISP doesn’t recognize “.ctm” as a file extension.)

Comments? (To anticipate, yes I will be using the prefix directive but wanted to start without it.)


Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary, bills itself as “The book for when you know what it is, but not what it’s called.”

Knowing “what it is” apparently means knowing what broad category (type/class?) to browse. Organized into twenty (20) subject categories that are further sub-divided into smaller categories. For example, “Clothing” is a major category, with eight sub-categories for “Clothing of Ancient Greece” to “Clothing of the 20 Century,” with further sub-divisions under 20th Century.

A topic map would do a much better job, particularly since any subject could appear under multiple categories. And subjects could be searched for with multiple properties.

Association, occurrence, proxy, topic, topic map, etc., do not appear in a section titled “1,050 Words and Expressions You Should Know.” I will request correction of that oversight in future editions.

Not as amusing as Liam Quin’s reproduction of Nathan Bailey’s Canting Dictionary [thieving slang], but it does have entries like “crinoline [hoop skirt]:: “…The skirt itself was often hitched up to show a scarlet petticoat beneath.” Perhaps the Balisage markup conference will organize a game to guess the likely source of misinformation in various entries.