RE: Linked data

Posting to RDA-L

Karen Coyle wrote

Actually, an OpenURL requires a program and a database to resolve it. It doesn’t link directly to the resource. In fact, that’s the point of the OpenURL: it goes through a resolver database in order to provide the “best” source for the resource to the user.

Then how do you explain the fact that the specification for URIs includes a possibility for a query, and the link to

No, MARCXML does not move us toward dbpedia. At least, not the MARCXML that is the LC standard. That is, as Jonathan has pointed out, just a different format of the same old MARC record with all of the same constraints. Also, linked data and XML are VERY different approaches to data modeling, and many feel that XML actually gets in the way. The direction that I am trying out (and not sure yet how it will all work out) is to break MARC up into its logical component parts — it’s actual data elements. You can follow this as I develop it at:

I have major differences with this. When compared with today’s ISO2709 records, the ability to add a little suffix to a link that says “&format=MARCXML” would present developers with a wealth of possibilities, for a single record, and even more for multiple hits. Even I, with my limited knowledge, could do quite a bit with that. And if those MARCXML records had links to the authority records in the headings, instead of just text, wow! It’s not the end, but a start.

I think we agree in a lot of ways, but I suspect the actual disagreement involves something more expansive: what are these things called linked data and the Semantic Web? And even more important: what constitutes a real step toward them? Linked data and the Semantic Web are both rather vague ideas that people still disagree over, but they sound like something that would be great. This reminds me of stories that circulated in the West about Peking: how beautiful and rich it was, the amazing things to see, and so on. So, people wanted to go there, but they weren’t sure how to get there, except “Go east.”

Of course, “east” is a very indistinct direction, so if you don’t know where something is, it’s hard to find it. Maybe it’s NE and you go ESE and you will never run into it. At the same time, you honestly don’t know if Peking is a beautiful place, if it’s really a dump, if it has been sacked and destroyed, or if it is even a real place at all, like the seven cities of gold, the fountain of youth, or the empire of Prester John. Still, in order to begin to find out the answers to any of these questions, you must begin your journey, otherwise you will never know.

This is where I think we are now: we want to get to the Semantic Web or linked data, but we aren’t quite sure where they are, or at this point, if they are something we really want, or if they can even exist at all. Some may have more confidence than others, but yet, there is only one way to find out and that is to set out on the journey. That means you have to start moving in the general direction, reevaluate where you are, set out from there, reevaluate, etc. Maybe you’ll reach your goal someday.

But different people react to this kind of situation in different ways. Some say that we aren’t really making progress to get to Peking until we are past the Urals, so we shouldn’t really start the journey until we have everything mapped out to get the Urals. This is what I think explains the statement that changing to MARCXML is not a step toward linked data, since it’s not a big enough step.

Others sit around, and say how important it is to get to Peking, how there is no choice except to do so. Yet, when they get up from the couch, all they do is walk over to the refrigerator to grab a beer, and go back to sit on the couch. This is how I see FRBR/RDA, which bustles around but changes nothing.

There is the saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one, single step.” To start on the journey, we must take that first step out of the house. That is how a journey really begins: by taking one single step out the door, understanding there’s still a long way to go. This is how I see doing things such as switching to MARCXML. If we can’t take that step until we have RDA with RDF, that is years and years away. If then.

We absolutely have to take that first step out the door.