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June 22, 2013

What I learned at LODLAM

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to the second LODLAM (linked open data for libraries, archives, and museums) unconference, in Montreal. I’d attended the first one in San Francisco two years ago, and this one was almost as exciting — “almost” because the first one had more of a new car smell to it. This is a sign of progress and by no means is a complaint. It’s a great conference.

But, because it was an unconference with up to eight simultaneous sessions, there was no possibility of any single human being getting a full overview. Instead, here are some overall impressions based upon my particular path through the event.

  • Serious progress is being made. E.g., Cornell announced it will be switching to a full LOD library implementation in the Fall. There are lots of great projects and initiatives already underway.

  • Some very competent tools have been developed for converting to LOD and for managing LOD implementations. The development of tools is obviously crucial.

  • There isn’t obvious agreement about the standard ways of doing most things. There’s innovation, re-invention, and lots of lively discussion.

  • Some of the most interesting and controversial discussions were about whether libraries are being too library-centric and not web-centric enough. I find this hugely complex and don’t pretend to understand all the issues. (Also, I find myself — perhaps unreasonably — flashing back to the Standards Wars in the late 1980s.) Anyway, the argument crystallized to some degree around BIBFRAME, the Library of Congress’ initiative to replace and surpass MARC. The criticism raised in a couple of sessions was that Bibframe (I find the all caps to be too shouty) represents how libraries think about data, and not how the Web thinks, so that if Bibframe gets the bib data right for libraries, Web apps may have trouble making sense of it. For example, Bibframe is creating its own vocabulary for talking about properties that other Web standards already have names for. The argument is that if you want Bibframe to make bib data widely available, it should use those other vocabularies (or, more precisely, namespaces). Kevin Ford, who leads the Bibframe initiative, responds that you can always map other vocabs onto Bibframe’s, and while Richard Wallis of OCLC is enthusiastic about the very webby Schema.org vocabulary for bib data, he believes that Bibframe definitely has a place in the ecosystem. Corey Harper and Debra Riley-Huff, on the other hand, gave strong voice to the cultural differences. (If you want to delve into the mapping question, explore the argument about whether Bibframe’s annotation framework maps to Open Annotation.)

  • I should add that although there were some strong disagreements about this at LODLAM, the participants seem to be genuinely respectful.

  • LOD remains really really hard. It is not a natural way of thinking about things. Of course, neither are old-fashioned database schemas, but schemas map better to a familiar forms-based view of the world: you fill in a form and you get a record. Linked data doesn’t even think in terms of records. Even with the new generation of tools, linked data is hard.

  • LOD is the future for library, archive, and museum data.


Here’s a list of brief video interviews I did at LODLAM:

June 21, 2013

[lodlam] Kevin Ford on the state of BIBFRAME

Kevin Ford who is a principle member of the team behind the Library of Congress’ BIBFRAME effort — a modern replacement for the aging MARC standard — gives an update on its status, and addresses a controversy about whether it’s “webby” enough. (I liveblogged a session about this at LODLAM.)

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[lodlam] Kitio Fofack on why Linked Data

Kitio Fofack turned to Linked Data when creating a prototype app that aggregated researcher events. He explains why.

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[lodlam] Sean Thomas and Sands Fish on getting Open Access into the right hands

Sands Fish [twitter: sandsfish and Sean Thomas [twitter: sean_m_thomas] at MIT are interested in pursuing a project to see if the new wealth of Open Access research is getting into the hands of people who can use it to solve problems. What is the distribution of access to OA?

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June 20, 2013

[lodlam] Richard Wallis on Schema.org

Richard Wallis [twitter: rjw] of OCLC explains the appeal of Schema.org for libraries, and its place in the ecosystem.

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[lodlam] Richard Urban on LOD patterns

At the LODLAM conference, Richard Urban suggests that we build a pattern library so that people can identify common problems and common linked data solutions.

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[lodlam] Corey Harper on designing LOD with users in mind

I videoed the opening of a session (liveblogged here) at LODLAM about trying to get past thinking about Linked Data as a way of stitching together resources, and instead trying to address user needs. Corey Harper led the session. Here are his opening remarks, recorded with his permission but in very low lighting that makes it look furtive.

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[lodlam] Topics for Day 2

Here are the sessions people are proposing for the second day of the LODLAM conference in Montreal:


  • Getty Vocabulary goes open


  • Linked data on mobiles, wearable devices


  • Do cool things with the data sets that you have on your laptop – let’s build stuff!


  • Your tools and solutions


  • NLP for linked open data for libraries, archives, and museums. Data extraction, taxonomy alignment, context extraction, etc.


  • World War I in LOD


  • LOD and accessibility & assistive devices


  • The Pundit software package


  • the KARMA mapping tool


  • Tools and techniques for generating concordances between people


  • Why Schema.org?


  • Copying and synching linked data


  • FRBR and other standards [couldn't hear]


  • How to create a new generation of LOD professionals. Getting students involved in projects.


  • The future of LODLAM


  • Normalizing ata models and licensing models


The official list is here.

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June 19, 2013

[lodlam] Dean Krafft on VIVO

Dean Krafft of Cornell talks about the status of VIVO, an interdisciplinary tool to help researchers discover one another.

This is from the LODLAM conference in Montreal.

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[lodlam] Bibframe update

Kevin Ford from the Library of Congress is talking about BIBFRAME, which he describes as a replacement for MARC and a rethinking of the entire ecosystem.

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.

(If a response isn’t labeled “Kevin,” then it wasn’t Kevin. Also, this is much compressed, incomplete, and choppy. Also, I haven’t re-read it.)


Q: From the Bibframe mailing list it seems like there isn’t agreement about what Bibframe is trying to achieve.


Kevin: Sometimes people see it narrowly.


Q: It’s not clear how Bibframes gets to where it replaces MARC.


Kevin: We’re not holding back some plan or roadmap that we’ve mapped out perfectly with milestones and target dates. We’re taking it as it comes.


Q: There’s a perception on the part of vendors and customers of vendors that this is a new data specification that vendors will have to support, and that that’s its main function, and possibly that’s pushing the knowledge representation in a direction that’s favorable to the vendors — a direction that’s too simple.


Q: Is there an agreement about the end point?


Kevin: There’s agreement that it needs to do what MARC does but better. We’re doing data representation, not predicting the systems built on top of it.


Q: What are the functional requirements that Bibframe’s trying to meet with this new model? What are your metrics? And who are you trying to satisfy?


Kevin: It’s not vendor focused. We hope systems will be built that expose the data as linked data.


Q: Bibframe let’ you associate a record with a particular work, which is a huge advance.


Q: Bibframe used to talk about roundtripping from MARC to Bibframe to MARC. But Bibframe is now adding info, so I don’t see how roundtripping is possible.


Kevin: Not losslessly.


Q: Bibframe is intended for libraries, but from what I’ve seen it doesn’t seem that Bibframe is intended for use outside of libraries. There doesn’t seem to be any thought about how other ontologies might be overlaid. And that was a problem with MARC: it was too library-centric. Why not investigate mapping it into other vocabularies?


Kevin: Nothing stops you from including other namespaces. As for mapping to other vocabularies, we’re working on a 40 year time scale and can’t know that other vocabularies will be around.


Q: We need some community-building to make that happen. We need to be careful not to build an ontological silo.


Q: The naming of this data set is unfortunate: Why” bib”, which has a connotation of books, when really it should be about any kind of information-bearing object. Why not call it “InfoFrame”? Who uses “bibliographic” other than libraries? Why limit yourself?


Kevin: I cannot begin to tell you how much time was spent on what this thing should be called. It went through a couple of different names. It’s not an ideal name, but I hope that the “bib” association falls by the wayside.


Q: The library ecosystem includes articles, licenses, and many other things that weren’t part of MARC. Is Bibframe aiming at representing all of that?


Kevin: Yes, it’s in scope. Certainly data about journal articles.


Kevin: Yes, Bibframe lets you define your own fields, as in MARC.


Q: We’re going from cataloging to catalinking: from records about resources to links related to topics, etc.


A: We need services that will link resources to other resources. Bibframe doesn’t do that, but it’s more amenable to it than MARC.


Kevin: [Sorry, but I missed the beginning of this.] When it comes to subject headings, we expect you to resolve that URI. If people are doing that every single time, then it’s a candidate for being included. That lookup could be a query into your local system. I’ve assumed you’ll have to have a local copy of it.


Q: Versioning? Why did you ignore the work of the British Library?


Kevin: We didn’t ignore it at all. We need to attend to what’s achievable by the smallest institutions as well as the largest.


Q: For a small institution, is it practical to move away from MARC?


Kevin: Not for some. Some still use card catalogs. I expect some of the first systems will be an outward layer around legacy systems.


Q: We need a larger discussion about provenance and about trust on the semantic web. Libraries should be better participants in that discussion; it’s a deeply important space for us.


Q: This conversation makes me cynical about our profession’s involvement. We need be talking with users. We need community involvement. We’re worried about the longevity of FOAF? It’ll outlast Bibframe because people actually use it. Let’s keep turning inward until we’re completely irrelevant.


Q: Yeah, the idea that there has to be one namespace seems so counter to the principles of linked data.


Q: Do we have anyone outside of the library community here?


A: I’m mainly a web developer. There’s a really big gulf. The Web will win when it comes to how libraries operate. Whether Bibframe will be a part of it remains to be seen. In the web community, everything seems exciting, but I feel so much angst in the library community.

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