Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RE: Linked data

Posting to RDA-L

Karen Coyle wrote:
> Then how do you explain the fact that the specification for URIs includes a possibility for a query, http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3986#section-5.1 and the link to  http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3986#section-3?
We must be talking about different things, because I'm not seeing the relevance of the question. Yes, you can (and many do) send queries in URLs -- but something has to resolve the queries -- they aren't links, they are a way to carry a query from one system to another. I thought  you were saying that an OpenURL is a link to a document, and I was  saying: no, it's a query carried in a URL to some software that then does something with the query.
Earlier, I was writing about the possibility of using OpenURL-type queries to make a *URI* (not URL), which would be very quick, efficient and easy, but it depends on: 1) being able to define a URI through a standard query (which you can according to the specification, you just need to specify the base URI), and 2) of course, much more rigorously-controlled, shared metadata, certainly much better than the records I see in the Amazon MARC records I've been looking at (from the other thread. While the records are pretty lousy, the tool is great though!). This way, we could have ready-made URIs.
We are demonstrating the first steps in places like http://id.loc.gov and http://metadataregistry.org/rdabrowse.htm. The first steps are defining our data elements and controlled lists in these standard formats that everyone working on linked data can understand. After that, it won't really matter greatly what we use internally as a data carrier for our defined data as long as we express it using linked data standards when we want to communicate to the larger world. I don't know how else to put this, but our problem is not just that MARC is an out of date record format -- a bigger problem is that we have no way to tell others what our data MEANS in a known, mainstream way. Linked data isn't a magic bullet, and something will undoubtedly replace it in the future (perhaps before we even get there), but it has the advantage of using standards to make ones' data *elements* usable in a mixed data environment.
I realize this. But if we have to wait even longer before our RDF is verified, agreed to and fixed, PLUS in general operation, it will be forever.
But the changes that some of us think matter are changes to our data model and data definitions, not to the carrier.
Changing our current data model and the definitions, and most importantly, getting some kind of general agreement on such matters, probably will not happen in our careers. We must realize that in Internet time, this is the equivalent of centuries. It has already taken so long with FRBR and RDA that they are effectively obsolete (in my opinion of course! Apologies for saying this on the RDA-L list). If they had been implemented much earlier, we would be in quite a different situation today. I am not finding fault on this--it's just a very complicated and difficult task to undertake.

The most that I see could possibly happen with a new data model is that each community could define its own model, perhaps on national/cultural grounds, but perhaps by field of endeavor, and then these groups may reach some kind of agreement someday in the far future. Or not.

Our current carrier is totally shot in the greater world and has to change sooner or later. This is about the most painless thing we could do. Of course it will change in the future from an XML view of the ISO2709 record (at least I hope so! For example, the "roundtripability" must be eliminated) but the general populace could use our records right now and in a very public way that could help them. This would be giving developers at least a chance. People could write additional transformations to put the records into whatever formats they want, which--let's face it--they will anyway no matter what kind of RDF the library world may eventually devise.

I still see no reason to wait even longer. It is imperative that we move forward in practical ways that the public can see.

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