The Semantic Puzzle

Helmut Nagy

How PoolParty and ISO 25964 fit together

The release of the ISO standard for thesauri “ISO 25964 Part 1: Thesauri for information retrieval” in 2011 was a huge step, as it replaced standards that dated back to 1986 (ISO 2788) and 1985 (ISO 5964). By that, methodologies from a pre-Web era, when thesauri where rather developed to be published on paper have been further developed. The new standard also brought a shift from a term-based model to a concept-based model stating: “Each term included in a thesaurusA thesaurus is a book that lists words grouped together according to similarity of meaning, in contrast to a dictionary, which contains definitions and pronunciations. The largest thesaurus in the world is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, which contains more than ... should represent a single concept (or unit of thought)” – from: ISO 25964 Part 1, page 15. That brings it close to Semantic Web based data models like SKOS and also shows that formerly disconnected communities are now working together.

Term vs. Concept based

term vs. concept basedWe are frequently asked whether PoolParty is compatible with ISO 25964. Our basic answer always is “Yes, of course” as the data model defined in the standard can be mapped to SKOSSimple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) is a family of formal languages designed for representation of thesauri, classification schemes, taxonomies, subject-heading systems, or any other type of structured controlled vocabulary. SKOS is built upon RDF and RDFS, and its main objective is to ... + SKOS-XL (see: http://www.niso.org/schemas/iso25964/#skos). On the other hand we also have to point out that the ISO standard defines a very comprehensive model for managing all sorts of thesauri. In contrast, SKOS focuses rather on a simple data model that allows to manage all kinds of KOS (incl. classification schemes) that can be extended if more complexity is needed. In my view, this difference also reflects the two principal ways of approaching thesaurus projects:  “top down” approach (ISO 25964) vs. “bottom up” approach (SKOS). Since we at SWCThe Semantic Web Company (SWC), based in Vienna, provides companies, institutions and organizations with professional services related to the Semantic Web, semantic technologies and Social Software have always been following the principle “start simple and add compexity as you go/need it”, it’s quite clear where we reside: With PoolPartyWeb based ontology manager which can serve as a central hub for your knowledge organization. With PoolParty you can organize and maintain knowledge models based on widely accepted specifications like RDF, SPARQL and SKOS.’s ontology, an ontology is a formal representation of knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain, and the relationships between those concepts. It is used to reason about the entities within that domain, and may be used to describe the domain. In theory, an ontology is a "formal, explicit ... management and custom schema management, taxonomists can go far beyond SKOS’s expressivity.

ISO 25964 also includes a chapter about “Guidelines for thesaurus management software” – so I tried to figure out to which degree this is covered by PoolParty. The results can now be found in PoolParty documentation.

So if you’re asked the next time “Is PoolParty compatible with ISO 25964?”, you will answer hopefully “Yes, of course – just take a look at the documentation”: