Thursday, 9 October 2008


I've been using topic maps in my day job, so I decided to try out, a social bookmark engine that uses an underlying topic map engine.
I tried to approach fuzzzy with an open mind, but the increasingly stumbling on really annoying (mis-)features.
  1. This is the first bookmark engine I've ever used hat doesn't let users migrate their bookmarks with them. This is perhaps the biggest single feature fuzzzy could add to attract new users, since it seems that most people who're likely to use a bookmark engine have already played with another one long enough to have dozens or hundreds of bookmarks they'd like to bring with them. I know this is non-ideal from the point of view of the social bookmark engine they're migrating too, since it makes it hard to do things completely differently, but users have baggage.
  2. While it'd possible to vote up or vote down just about everything (bookmarks, tags, bookmark-tags, users, etc), very little is actually done with these votes. If I've viewed a bookmark once and voted it down, why is it added to my "most used Bookmarks"? Surely if I've indicated I don't like it the bookmark should be hidden from me, not advertised to me.
  3. For all the topic map goodness on the site, there is no obvious way to link from the fuzzzy topic map to other topic maps.
  4. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of interfacing with other semantic web standards (i.e. RDF).
  5. The help isn't. Admittedly this may be partly because many of the key participants have English as a second language.
  6. There's a spam problem. But then everywhere has a spam problem.
  7. It's not obvious that I can export my bookmarks out of fuzzzy in a form that any other bookmark engine understands.
These (mis-)features are a pity, because at NZETC we use topic maps for authority (in the librarianship sense), and it would be great to have a compatible third party that could be used for non-authoritative stuff and which would just work seamlessly.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Place name inconsistencies

I've been looking at the "Dataset of New Zealand Geographic Place Names" from LINZ. This appears to be as close as New Zealand comes to an Official list of place names. I've been looking because it would be great to use as an authority in the NZETC.

Coming to the data I was aware of a number of issues:
  1. Unlike most geographical data users, I'm primarily interested in the names rather than the relative positions
  2. New Zealand is currently going through an extended period of renaming of geographic features to their original Māori names
  3. The names in the dataset are primarily map labels and are subject to cartographic licence
What I didn't expect was the insanity in the names. I know that there are some good historical reasons for this insanity, but that doesn't make it any less insane.
  1. Names can differ only by punctuation. There is a "No. 1 Creek" and a "No 1 Creek".
  2. Names can differ only by presentation. There is a "Crook Burn or 8 Mile Creek", an "Eight Mile Creek or Boundary Creek" and an "Eight Mile Creek" (each in a different province).
  3. There is no consistent presentation of alternative names. There is "Saddle (Mangaawai) Bivouac", "Te Towaka Bay (Burnside Bay)", "Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui)", "Manawatawhi/Three Kings Islands", "Mount Hauruia/Bald Rock", "Crook Burn or 8 Mile Creek" and "Omere, Janus or Toby Rock"
  4. There is no machine-readable source of the Māori place names with macrons, and the human readable version has contains subtle difference to the machine-readable database (which contains no non-ASCII characters). For example "Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Glacier)" and "Franz Josef Glacier/Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere" differ by more than the macrons. There appears to be no information on which are authoritative.
Right now I'm find finding this rather frustrating.

(grammar edit)