11 April 2008

Topic Maps 2008

I just quickly need to jot down some thoughts on the Topic Maps 2008 conference I attended last week before I move on to more personal things.

First of all, it was a very smooth operation as conferences go, and I felt comfortable and welcome thanks to very nice hosts. I met a lot of really interesting and smart people there, too, all interested in roughly the same thing (which is such a generic thing as "world peace" and "doing what's right").

I have to say, though, that my tutorial on "Topic Maps for Information Architects" was the hardest presentation or tutorial I have ever prepared. It was very hard to balance based on the audience type, as they were either heavy into Topic Maps, heavy into information architecture, or some other thing alltogether. I struggled a long time, and ended up with a 33% focus on each subject, with the remaining 33% focusing on philosophy and epistemology. Some loved it, some hated it, but that's what you get when you take a risk such as this.

My presentation on "A Topic Maps vision for the library world" on the second day went much better, with much enthusiastic response afterwards. At least here I know my audience, and have been saying these things for years. And the quest for a library world uptake of Topic Maps is of course one that I shall pursue further even if I'm now back in commercial sector.

There was a great deal of wound up dust about the latest OOXML standardization process by ISO, how Steve Pepper, one of the main people behind the conference, also has quit ISO in protest over the latest happenings. The funny part is that another Topic Maps great, Patrick Durusau, was also at the conference, together with the Microsoft-bought consultant Shahzad Rana, which made the whole thing a bit poignant at times throughout. It was actually quite fun to watch sometimes as greats clashed in a non-clashing sorta way. All smart people, serious fun.

I also talked a bit with Robert Barta and his wife (having them over for dinner was the conference highlight, hands down!) about theirs and ours experiences with moving in and out of Australia. The verdict, I think, is that Australia is great unless you're a foreigner staying for more than 3 months. :) Also we talked about Topic maps, and I was extremely happy to confirm that I at least were not alone in my madness. Thanks, Robert.

All in all, a great conference with lots of interesting presentations. Winning presentation might be Conal Tuhoys presentation on what New Zealand is doing in the area, and especially their Electronic Library is doing, and I'm very thrilled to see them push forth an persistant identification open-source project that libraries can use for their work. I hope the uptake is large, because the library world won't survive without it.

So, tThanks for having me, and thanks for putting the conference on. Good stuff.


  1. Alex, I don't agree with your verdict of Australia. I am a foreigner and I have been here for 10 years and love it. My experience has been completely positive. I think it's about expectations. Glad to see you are delving into what interests you.

  2. Not to turn this post into a thread about culture shock and adaption, but we can't all have the same experiences. I did indeed struggle with some things, especially about the concept which is Canberra, but I also learned to love it for the most part. I will move back to Australia, no doubt about that.

    But there is no denying that me and Robert had similar experiences, and we're both foreigners of similar backgrounds, and perhaps the latter is the big key here. I'll probably blog much more on this topic in the future.

    And, don't take it as a full analytical report on what all foreigners to Australia will experience. It was just a snide thing over dinner and a nice glass of port. :)