Saturday, May 26, 2012

Re: [NGC4LIB] cover image and amazon

On 26/05/2012 04:22, Karen Coyle wrote:
I think this is a bit of a misunderstanding of how linked data can be used. Yes, *someone* could merge WorldCat and Amazon (if both had open data), but that wouldn't affect either WorldCat nor Amazon. The way I try to explain this is that it's like putting a document onto the web: other people can link to it, or pull bits of it into their web sites, but your document itself isn't changed -- because it's your document. Mashups happen somewhere else, they don't modify the original data.

The reason why there is a lot of work on adding provenance information to each bit of data in linked data space is so you can 1) easily identify your or your community's data 2) select data to use based on who creates and maintains it. You do not have to use someone else's data if you don't want, any more than today you are forced to show other people's stuff on your own web page. In a Linked Data environment, libraries could continue to use only library-created data. I don't advise that (since I think we have a lot to gain by linking to quality data from other communities), but it is a possibility.
I believe I understand all of that, but it is a theoretical viewpoint. Although the original data is not changed, what is important is the final product as experienced by the individual at the end of those processes, as each mashup takes place. I personally do not see why in the future people should turn to library catalogs or even Worldcat any more than they are today, and if anything, the numbers will probably go down. There may be no antidote for this, it is merely a symptom of the library losing its traditional control over its collection, its searches, and the results of those searches. In the linked data universe, all that will matter will be the final product that a person sees. It will vary from person to person based on all kinds of variables. Library records must go to the public because the public will probably not come to the library unless they find out about our resources in the places they inhabit.

As a result, there will be multiple places where libraries will see their metadata being used, including sites that will, in traditional terms, be considered very strange, if not unethical in traditional terms. Already, there are links from the catalog record to where someone can buy that item. Those would have been banished by librarians 20 years ago. The questions are natural: if someone finds a book in Worldcat and ends up buying a book on amazon, does Worldcat get paid for it? If not, why not? I mean, should it only be a one way street--shouldn't the person hawking the product get something? Or should the seller get it all? And what of the actual library, and the cataloger(s), who created the record in the first place? They made it all possible. Shouldn't they get a piece of the action?

Such commercialization can easily devolve into not only various financial matters, but into moral, political, religious matters and so on and so on. This is the reason for some of those wonderful library ethics, and why reference librarians do not receive $10 or $20 each time they send an unwary student to search an Elsevier or Proquest database, or why a cataloger who works for university X does not do a really lousy job creating metadata for resources created by competing university Y. Could this happen in the linked data universe? Of course, it happens all the time on the web right now. Here it is with Google and who knows how else it is all being abused. This is one of the reasons I did that podcast on linked data--to show that while there is an idealistic, positive side, there is also another side that should not be ignored.

We must enter the world of APIs and mashups, and we can test the waters of the linked data universe to see if it would be worth the effort. Perhaps such a turn for our metadata as I have laid out is inevitable because they have to do with the internal workings of how the current world wide web functions--I don't know. But even if it is, we should enter into it with eyes wide open, in the knowledge of what we are gaining, as well as what we are losing.

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