Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SKOS and term definitions

I had been considering the Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) for representing term definitions that I currently write on HTML Web pages, but after reading about it, trying it, and reading the discussion on the SKOS mail list, I have to reconsider. SKOS is design to publish knowledge hierarchies or thesauri, but actually is not designed to be the underlying model for them. Most of my terms are distinct and un-organized, too new and fluid to be nailed down into a fixed hierarchy. Yes, I can use SKOS to publish them, but I would be better off finding a Semantic Web scheme for actually representing them at the source.

I want to have some way to create a Semantic Web resource simply to be the semantic anchor for a concept with the possibility that there may be many terms that define that single concept and there may be many definitions for each of those terms and there may be many authors and sources for those definitions. Rather than creating a single SKOS hierarchy, I wish to work on concepts, terms, and definitions as independent entities. Yes, maybe they can be collected into an SKOS list or hierarchy eventually, but that is not my initial or even my ultimate goal.

So, these are the four concepts I am looking at:

  1. A concept "anchor" resource. May also refer to another anchored concept to refine it or to combine multiple concepts. Some "concepts" may in fact be flagged as being domains, and concepts and domains can be linked.
  2. A term text resource. Refers to an anchored concept. May also link to a domain if no anchored concept exists yet. May also be a "link" term which simply links to another term but with some changes to be applied.
  3. A term definition text resource. Refers to a term text resource, or even possibly multiple terms such as synonyms.
  4. A glossary resource. A list of term references.

Although a single term requires all of the first three (to be complete), there is no need or requirement for all three to be colocated or designed together. Terms for a minimal glossary may simply have term text and definition, without a concept resource for the term.

Term definitions can be both anchored to a specific term text resource or refer to the term by its text and some context anchor (e.g., domain.) This supports terms which have distinct definitions in distinct contexts.

-- Jack Krupansky


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