An introduction to Topic maps: Structure and relationships of information


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Two user experience professionals, based at LBi London, present their current understanding of topic maps. Many thanks to Kal Ahmed and Graham Moore for pointing us in the right direction

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An introduction to Topic maps: Structure and relationships of information

  1. 1. TOPIC MAPS * Structure and relationships of information
  2. 2. * DISCLAIMER We are new to topic maps, we're just finding our way
  3. 3. Where do our information-structuring metaphors come from?
  4. 4. Taxonomies A hierarchical system of classification developed by Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) for biological classification. Originally set forth in his Systema Naturae , 1735.
  5. 5. Taxonomies Each term in a taxonomy has one or more parent-child relationship often expressed in a tree structure or dendogram Advantages: Excellent for one-to-one classification and filing of items into a system. Hierarchy of information and relationship is implicit. Disadvantages: Items can only be filed in one location. Therefore, whoever does the classification decides where something 'lives'
  6. 6. Folksonomies Not a traditional data structuring method. First coined by Thomas Vander Wal (on the 24th of July 2004 to be precise). A folksonomy is a classification system based on collaborative user tagging. Advantages: Extensible and flexible. Allows multiple users to define their own relationship to things. Disadvantages: No way of being clear what someone else's definition means. Needs a critical mass of interaction to be useful.
  7. 7. An example Show me a picture of the Paris Hilton
  8. 8. A picture of Paris Hilton
  9. 9. Hmm, not what I was looking for OK, I meant: show me a picture of the Paris Hilton Hotel
  10. 10. Finally! A picture of Paris Hilton (the hotel) 8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi
  11. 11. Taxonomies and folksonomies are bad at describing the type of 'thing' Why? Because they cannot capture the relationships between 'things'
  12. 12. Faceted classification Originally conceived by Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan in the 1930s. Facets can be thought of as multiple axes along which documents or information can be classified. Advantages: Flexible, allows information to be found through multiple routes. Disadvantages: Can add extra complexity and visual noise, and still doesn't describe the relationship between 'things'.
  13. 13. Ranganthan's faceted classification model: Personality – the primary subject of the document (the key facet) Matter – the material or substance the document deals with Energy – the processes or activities the document describes Space – the locations described by the document Time – the time period described by the document
  14. 14. The classification of a book on Norwegian rural architecture in the 17th century might look like this: Personality – architecture Matter – wood Energy – design Space – Norway Time – 17th century
  15. 15. So where do Topic maps come in? Time for a slightly confusing diagram
  16. 16. Topic maps Topic maps are an ISO standard notation, created around 2000. They are used to richly describe relationships between 'things' rather then between documents or pages. html
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  19. 19. Topic maps Advantages: Improve the findability of information, since they consistently describe the relationships between things, as well as the things themselves. Disadvantages: Not widely used or understood. Large scale documentation is problematic
  20. 20. Topic maps support natural search queries e.g. "show me all articles about Paris Hilton, the celebrity, staying at Paris Hilton, the hotel"
  21. 21. Unfortunately, our document-centric structure doesn't support that query... Google news search results: Paris Hilton staying at the Paris Hilton
  22. 22. Topic maps in use The Norwegian Government website: Visit Norway: Q: Why are Topic maps so popular in Norway? A: Graham Moore's (topic map guru) wife is Norwegian
  23. 23. References and further reading: Introduction to Topic Maps – Hendrik Thomas, 2009 The TAO of Topic Maps - Finding the Way in the Age of Infoglut – Steve Pepper, 2002 Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps!: Making sense of it all – Lars Marius Garshol, 2004 Ranganathan for IAs – Mike Steckel, 2002
  24. 24. Thanks