Monday, April 25, 2011

Re: Linked files

Posting to RDA-L

On 04/25/2011 04:27 PM, Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
I agree entirely, controlled headings from authority files ARE a sort of archaic version of identifiers and should be considered as such.

The thing is, that they aren't all that succesful as identifiers in the modern environment. For instance, just as the most obvious example, you NEVER want to _change_ an identifier. Yet, our authority file headings sometimes get changed (from a rename of an LCSH heading, to adding a death date to an author). Violates pretty much the first most basic rule of modern identifiers.

It's no surprise that an identifier system our community invented nearly a hundred years ago before computers really existed do not perform very well as identifiers in the present environment. But it's still the truth. I think you're absolutely right that we should understand these legacy controlled headings as a sort of identifier -- that will help us understand better how to use them and convert them in the modern environment. But important to remember they are a sort of ancient identifier system, which is ill-suited in several ways for the contemporary environment.
So long as the URI links unambiguously to the correct concept, it should not matter. In the new environment, it only makes sense that one conceptual resource could have many URIs. With the VIAF for example, we see how each heading is unambiguously linked in a variety of ways based on their own forms, In a correct system, the label that people see will be controlled by the searcher him or herself.

To see how it could work is to look at dbpedia for Leo Tolstoy with all of the redirects. That is the dbpedia URI. So long as our superceded forms are handled in an  unambiguous way, is they are now (with very few exceptions I think, essentially for forms that take on qualifiers, but I am sure these could be handled unambiguously too), the system should still work.

I think it is important to get something to demonstrate ASAP. If we expect that everyone is supposed to add URIs in their own databases, then that will take a very, very long time and is not realistic. It will not happen, or at any rate, by the time it does happen, the public will have moved even farther away from anything we make. Doing something now that is "quick and dirty" (and not so dirty, I suspect), plus relatively inexpensively, to provide the public with something that they may actually find useful, even though it may not be perfect and need some kind of updating, would certainly be far more practical than expecting the public to just wait until everybody adds the URIs.

Because it is clear that people will move on, farther away from us, and just ignore our tools.

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