Shareable glossaries roadmap

This roadmap describes steps planned by open source collaborators to realize the potential for large-scale sharing of glossary terms between disparate organizations and projects.

It is designed to help collaborators understand how they can join and benefit from the initiative.

How can we bootstrap shareable glossaries?

How can we push through existing hurdles and bootstrap a shareable glossary framework, and achieve widespread adoption? It will involve a multiphased approach, addressing key challenges which have hindered prior attempts:

  • Establish a core shareable glossary format, with help from domain modelers from ISO and OGC standards communities.
  • Publish prominent glossaries as a web service, starting initially with committed stakeholders from within the geospatial domain.
  • Scale, by making it super-easy for projects to auto-generate a glossary file for their websites from authoritative glossaries.
  • Incrementally add tooling to realize high value glossary use cases.
  • Help projects mature by introducing glossary management processes.

Implementation phases

Phase 1 Define problem and establish a community

Define the problem and attract collaborators.


  • Within this website, we describe the business, architecture, collaboration and technical challenges that require addressing.
  • We have broken problems into modular components, engaged with domain experts to focus on their area, and coordinated contributions into a holistic solution.

Phase 2 Establish a de facto glossary standard

Defining a glossary format is elusively difficult.

  • It needs to be simple and easily understood by the masses for common use cases.
  • It needs to expand to support edge use cases, including referencing source terms.
  • It should be interoperable with existing Knowledge Organization Systems (KOS).


  • We are working with domain modeling experts, from ISO and OGC standards organizations to define a _shareable glossary _schema format.
  • This will extend to establishing a de facto web service API.
  • We need to reconcile different sentence structure guidance for writing glossary definitions.

Further information

Phase 3 Publish prominent glossaries

To bootstrap a shareable glossary network, we want to stand up large, authoritative glossaries behind a web service using the common glossary format. This will enable downstream projects to build derived, project-specific glossaries.

The authors of the open source Paneron glossary have committed to publishing glossaries via the common glossary format, once developed.

This software is used by large glossary publishers, such as:

  • The 180,000+ entries in the IEC Electropedia, the world’s authoritative electrotechnical terminology-set.
  • The glossary of spatial terms from the Open Geospatial Consortium and ISO TC211.

We will reach out to other glossary publishers and encourage their participation. If you own a glossary you’d like to publish, then please connect with us.

Further information

Phase 4 Scale: a glossary for every website

Provide a compelling reason for all technical websites to create a glossary for their website, and make it very easy to do so.

Building and maintaining a non-trivial glossary is difficult. It typically requires rallying and continued engagement from many stakeholders. However, if we have a shareable glossary framework, and access to an authoritative glossary, we can search our website for glossary terms.

Example use of a script to build a glossary:

  --source \
  --source \
  --website \
  --out my-glossary.json

For the simple use case, the created glossary need only be stored as a file in the root directory of the website and viewed as a table, or as in-line popup help.

Glossary stored in a machine-readable .json file in website.

Glossary stored in a machine readable .json file in website.


  • We aim to attract a developer to create a build-glossary tool, and introduce a means to publish the glossary within a website. Initially the tool could be a simple command-line script. Over time, it will likely gain more features and grow into a web service.
  • These will be accompanied by how-to guides, written by technical writers from The Good Docs Project.
  • Initially we will pilot this approach with ~ 50 open source geospatial projects we have a relationship with within The Open Source Geospatial Foundation. Later we will evangelize to technical writers and website builders through forums such as Write the Docs and The Good Docs Project.

Phase 5 Tooling to address high value use cases

Once a shareable glossary framework is established, and a critical mass of websites starts to build, there will a compelling business case to integrate tools with glossaries, such as:

  • Web-hosting platforms including hover-over popups for terms.
  • Spell and grammar check tools to source glossary terms.
  • More accurate translation applied to translation tools.
  • Smarter search algorithms.

Phase 6 Glossary management processes and tooling

As projects mature, glossary owners will adopt tools and processes to support the maintenance, versioning, and cross-domain management of terms.

This will typically involve moving glossary terms from a glossary file into a specialized hosting tool such as the Paneron open source glossary management tool.

This will be supported by documented best practice processes.

Process for sourcing and reviewing glossary terms.

Possible glossary governance process.

Last modified 2022-05-15 (1fd8c89)