Tag Archives: Topic Maps

Apple’s Spotlight, what do we search for and … topic maps

I recently enjoyed watching “Tiger” presentation and specifically presentation of a new Apple’s search technology – “Spotlight”

As many other people I would like to have this kind of search now on OS X, Windows and Linux computers. I also would like to have this kind of search for enterprise document repositories.

What I cannot find in this demonstration is an explicit concept of “subjects” or “topics”. If I select a name of a person in email, for example, I can find all emails, presentations, calendar entries, documents, images etc. which have reference to this name in a file name, metatags or in document content. But can I find all projects which I manage? Can I find all applications which I am responsible for? Can I find all servers which I have to check from time to time or all technologies which I am interested in? Projects, applications, servers, technologies are subjects in my area of interests.

When I do search, I would like to search not only for resources which reference my favorite subjects, but also for other subjects which are connected with subject in focus.

So I will probably add topic map engine to Spotlight on my OS X computer as soon as Tiger will be available. How will I use Topic Map engine? I will use it to define subjects which are not covered by standard OS X applications. I will use it to manage relationships between subjects in my area of interests. I will also create a script which creates pseudo-documents (in html format?) for each subject. Each pseudo-document will have all names, inline occurrences and associations. I can also create document proxies for external resources which are not located on my hard drive (if Spotlight/Safari do not allow to attach custom metatags for bookmarked URIs).

It seems that Spotlight allows to define custom document categories/types. So I can define pseudo-document types for my subject classes, such as “projects”, “applications”, “people”, “servers”, “companies”, “technologies” etc. Now I can use standard system-wide Spotlight engine to search subjects and resources. And I can use Safari to navigate between different subjects.

It is time for “save as xtm” initiative

More and more applications can produce XML representation of internal information and save it to shared storage. It helps users to synchronize information on several computers. XML representation also helps to create user communities based on sharing of information. Think about shared calendars, music and picture mixes, blogs, recipes. It’s nice, but it can be much better… with topic maps.

Topic Maps provide “out of the box” support for information sharing and merging. This support is based on ability to explicitly represent subjects and ability to connect any piece of information with subjects.

If we have a blog entry, for example, we have a standard mechanism to express that this entry is related to specific subjects. And we have a standard way to merge information from several blogs. As a result we can easily find all blog entries related to the same subject.

“Pure” XML solutions can encode relationships between information pieces and subjects. But these solutions are based on custom schemas. Each time we need to define custom merging rules which also can include transformations between various XML schemas.

It is time… it is time to promote XTM format as “save as” option for various applications. Applications can use optimized internal data models to implement specific set of functions. But applications can also publish Topic Map – based representations of internal information to shared storage. Other applications can “subscribe” to external topic maps and merge external and internal information. Of course, applications remember source of information so users can keep track of “who said what”.

With “save as XTM” support it will be possible to use “universal topic map browsers” to explore information from different applications. Users also will be able to rely on specific applications with optimized views.