Comment from an Alternate Universe

In a world where library management systems are sophisticated and modern…

I was doing some Google searches about SKOS, trying to figure out the exact distinction between skos:ConceptScheme and skos:Collection (it’s much more clear to me now) and I came across this article in

Introducing SKOS

The article is fine, but it’s not what compelled me to write a blog post.  I was struck by a comment on that page titled What about Topic Maps?:

This new W3C standard obviously has a huge overlap with the very mature ISO standard Topic Maps.Topic Maps were originally conceived for (almost) exactly the same problem space as SKOS, and they are widely used. (For example, all major library cataloging software either supports Topic Maps or soon will.)

However, Topic Maps proved to be more generally useful, so they are often compared and contrasted with RDF itself. The surprising difficulty of making Topic Maps and RDF work together is exactly the “extra level of indirection” mentioned by the author of this article about SKOS.

It is very strange that neither this article, nor the referenced XTech paper, mentions Topic Maps.

What is the relationship between SKOS and Topic Maps? How does this fit in with the work (as reported In Edd Dumbill’s blog)
on interoperability between Topic Maps and RDF/OWL?

Now, I have no idea if “yitzgale” is some sort of alias of Alexander Johannesen, let’s assume “no” (for one thing, that comment is far too optimistic about library technology).  The sentence [f]or example, all major library cataloging software either supports Topic Maps or soon will is sort of stunning in both the claim it makes and its total lack of accuracy.  I feel pretty confident in my familiarity with library cataloging software and I can say with some degree of certainty that there is no support for topic maps today  (hell, MARC21, MFHD and Unicode support are pushing it – and those are just incremental changes).  This comment was written four years ago.
And yet, there’s part of me that feels robbed.  Where is the topic map support in my library system?  I don’t even really know anything about TM, but I still feel it would be a damn sight better than what we’ve got now.  What reality is this that yitzgale is living in, with its fancy library systems and librarians and vendors willing to embrace a radical change in how things are done?  I want in.
I might even be able to jump off my RDF bandwagon for it.

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