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 Towards the semantic web III

Knowledge Master, concept maps (semantic networks) and the XTM format: "topic maps" or [associative] "contents maps"

Logical and cognitive contents maps in XML: XTM

XTM is a specialization of the XML language, one of its derivates specifically designed to format information with an associative structure: XTM is the XML format variant specific for concept maps, semantic networks, knowledge bases, and in general, for logical and cognitive structures.

What is XTM?

"Topic maps", as stated in its definition in the ISO/IEC 13250 standard, are used to organize information in a way that can be optimized for navigation. "Topic maps" present a model and a grammar to represent information resources used for the definition of "
topics" (concepts and their categories) and associations (relations) between topics. Too close to the concept maps (semantic networks) model to ignore it.

XTM seems to be contemplated specifically for concept maps or semantic networks, frames and other models; its adequacy to graphic associative formats (such as maps) requires some additional effort, that introduces a requirement for graphical values in the standard. Nonetheless, the standard leaves space so resolve these subtle but important differences, resolved in Knowledge Master.

Names, resources and relations, are considered characteristics of abstract subjects, which are called "topics", that, forcing a periphrasis could result in "the necessary elements for the logical and cognitive description of contents".

The goals of XTM

XTM should be straightforwardly usable over the Internet;

XTM shall support a wide variety of applications;

XTM shall be compatible with XML, XLIink and with ISO 13250;

it shall be easy to write programs that process  XTM documents;

the number of optional features in XTM is to be kept to the absolute minimum, ideally zero;

XTM documents should be legible and reasonably clear;

the design of XTM shall be formal and concise;

XTM documents shall be easy to create;

terseness in XTM markup is of minimal importance.

XML is an extensible language, in which everyone can freely create his/her own tags. An interesting test is exporting a concept map o semantic network and import it in a database management system. Importing an XML export in another program requires analysis.

Instead, XTM is a standard that comprises a grammar and a syntax of its own, which means that two systems that manage associative information (e.g. concept maps or semantic networks, databases thesaurus, etc.) should be able to exchange their structures with a minimum effort or additional work, practically transparent; those applications should reciprocally "understand" their contents and import them into its own system. Extensibility in XTM, though plausible, is limited.

This standard is oriented to the direct use beside the exchange of prevalently cognitive structures. It should be possible to exchange contents between applications that manage associative contents.

In its generality, XTM responds to the basic principles of XML but, being a standard, it uses a specific syntax that must be shared, with slight adjustments, by any application.

The associative nature and organic components (concepts, categories, relations and paths) of concept maps (semantic networks), coincidental with the objectives and structural characteristics of the XTM format, make of this format its natural exchange device.

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