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May 17, 2011

[dpla] Europeana

About fifteen of us are meeting with Europeana in their headquarters in The Haag.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Harry Verwayen (business development director) gives us some background. Europeana started in 2005, in the wake of Google’s digitization of books. In 2008, the program itself began. It is a catalog that collects metadata, a small image, and a pointer. By 2011, they had 18,745,000 objects from thousands of partner institutions. It has been about getting knowledge into one place (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola). They believe all metadata should be widely and freely available for all use, and all public domain material should be freely available for all.

What are the value propositions for its constituencies? For end users, it’s a trusted source. For providers, it’s visibility; there is tension here because the providers want to measure visibility by hits on the portal, but Europeana wants to make the material available anywhere through linked open data. For policy makers, it’s inclusion. For the market, it’s growth. Four fnctions:

1. Aggregate: Council of content providers and aggregators. They want to always get more and better content. And they want to improve data quality.

2. Facilitate: Share knowledge. Strengthen advocacy of openness. Foster R&D.

3. Distribute: Making it available. Develop partnerships.

Engage Virtual exhibits, social media, e.g., collect user-generated content about WWI.

From all knowledge in one place, to all knowledge everywhere.

Q: If you were starting out now, would you go down the same path?
A: It’s important to have a clear focus. E.g., the funding politicians like to have a single portal page, but don’t focus on that. You need to have one, but 80% of our visitors come in from Google. The chances that users will go to DPLA via the portal are small. You need it, but you it shouldn’t be the focus of your efforts. .

Q: What is your differentiator?
A: Secure material from institutions, and openness.

Q: What are your use cases?
A: It’s the only place you can search across libraries, museums. We have been aggregating content. Things are now available without having to search thousands of sites.

Q: Next stage?
A: We’re flipping from supply to demand side. Make it available openly to see what other people can do with it. Right now the API is open to partners, but we plan on opening it up.

Q: How many users>
A: About 5M portal and API visitors last year.

Q: Your team?
A: Main office is 5M euros, 40 people [I think].

What’s your brand?
A: You come here if you want to do some research on Modigliani and want to find materials across museums and libraries. It’s digitized cultural heritage. But that’s widely defined. We have archives of press photography, a large collection of advertising posters, etc. But we’re not about providing access to popular works, e.g., recent novels.

Q: Any partners see a pickup in traffic since joining Europeana?
A: Yes. Not earth-shaking but noticeable.

What’s the biggest criticism?
A: Some partners feel that we’re pushing them into openness.

What level of services? Just a catalog, or create your own viewers, e.g.?
A: First, be a good catalog. Over the next five years, we’ll develop more. We do provide a search engine that you can use on your Web site.

Jan Molendijk talks on the tech/ops side. He says people see Europeana in many different ways: web portal, search engine, metadata repository, network organization, and “great fun.” The participating organizations love to work with Europeana.

The tech challenges: There are four domains (libraries, archives, museums, audiovisual), each with their own metadata standards. 26 languages. Distributed development. The metadata comes in in original languages. There’s too much to crowd-source. Also, there’s a difference between metadata search and full-text search, of course. We represent metadata as traditional docs and index them. The metadata fields allow greater precision. But full-text search engines expect docs to have thousands of words, but these metadata docs have dozen of words; the fewer words, the less well the search engines work; e.g., a short doc has fewer matches and scores lower on relevancy. Also, with a small team, much of the work gets farmed out.

15% in French, 14% in German, 11% in English. The distribution curve of most viewed objects count for less than 0.1% of views. Most get viewed 1 time per year or less. Our distribution curve starts low and flattens slowly. A highly viewed object is viewed perhaps 1,500 times in a month, and it’s usually tied to a promotion.

What type of group structures do you have? You could translate at that level and the rest would inherit.
A: We are not going to translate at the item level.

Collection models?
A: Originally, not even nesting, Now we use EDM. Now can arbitrarily connect pieces, as extensions, but we’re not doing that yet.

Europeana is designed to be scalable and robust. All layers can be executed on separate machines, and on multiple machines. They have four portal servers, two Solr services, and two image servers. Solr is good at indexing and point to an object, but not good at fetching from itself.

They don’t host it.

They use stateless protocols and very long urls.

Data providers give them the original metadata plus a mapping file. They map to EDM. They have a staff of three that handles the data ingestion. The processes have to be lightweight and automated, but 40-50% of development time still will go to metadata input: ingestion, enrichment, harvesting.

They publish through their portal, linked open data, OAI-MPH, API’s, widgets, and apps.

Annette Friberg talks about aggregation projects. Europeana is pan-European and across domains. Europeana would like to work with all the content providers, but there are only 40 people on stafff, so they instead work with about a relatively small number of aggregators. Those represent thousands and thousands of content providers. They have a Council of Content Providers and Aggregators.

Q: What should we avoid?
A: The largest challenge is the role of the content providers.

Q: Does clicking on a listing always take you out to the owner’s site?
A: Yes, almost always. And that’s a problem for providing a consistent user experience.

Valentina talks about the ingestion inflow [link] If you want to provide content, you can go to a form that asks some basic questions about copyright, topic, link to the object. It’s reviewed by the staff; they reject content that is not from a trustworthy source. Then you get a technical questionnaire: the quantity and type of materials, the format of the metadata, the frequency of updates, etc. They harvest metadata in the ESE format (Europeana Semantic Elements). They use OAI-PMH for harvesting. They enrich it with some data, do some quality checking, and upload it. They also cache the thumbnail. At the moment they are not doing incremental harvesting, so an update requires reimporting the entire collection, but they’re working on it.

They have started requiring donators to fill in a few fields of basic metadata, including the work’s title and a link to an image to be thumbnailed. But it’s still very minimal, in order to lower the hurdle.

Q: [me] In the US, it would be flooeded with bogus institutions eager to have their work displayed: porn, racist and extremist groups, etc.
A: We check to see if it’s legit. Is it a member of professional orgs? What do their peers say? We make a decision.

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