One item in his wish list being:
- Semantic web strategy: OCLC needs to follow the Talis into the semantic web space. They need to be designing systems that share data in an open fashion
Implicit in Marks thoughts is the vision that data from wherever will be available for all to share. Today this is not happening for several reasons. One is the legal minefield of ownership, copyright, and copyrightability, in which myth, mistrust, self-interest, inappropriate business models, fear and inertia are holding us back. Movements in the field of Open Data are slowly changing this and we are looking forward to an announcement fairly soon which will give this a major boost.
An enabler for the library world, and the the data we curate on behalf of humanity, to take its rightful place in the heart of the global web of data will be the use of semantic web technologies. These will enable the interaction, as against just connection, between data sets on the World Wide Grid [as well described by Roy Tennant at the Access 2007 conference – video].
Mark suggests that OCLC, and by implication others, should follow Talis in to the semantic web space, start to use and gain the benefits from semantic web technologies such as RDF, etc. Also by implication he means that OCLC’s Grid should be a freely open to all to consume and it should easily interact and integrate with other grids/platforms on the wider Internet to deliver combined benefit greater than the sum of the parts. One way to do this is to provide APIs to what you are doing and hope that you will be able to communicate with systems produced by other folks out there. Of course there is another way – work together. Those that attended the Access 2007 conference will have also seen my presentation in which I made it clear that the Talis Semantic Library Platform is there for not only us to build applications and services on, but for everyone to do so including those who today may believe themselves our rivals or competitors. [slides,video]
Why should there be a massive duplication of effort in our world to get us to the point of being able to realise the potential of libraries participating in the beginnings of the emerging semantic web. After all we stopped developing our own relational databases years ago.
I will never tire of repeating the message that we [Talis] are more than happy to work with our community, and the not-for-profits & other vendors that operate within it, to move things forward for the benefit of all. Some would have you believe that slapping APIs on a set of services maketh a platform/grid that will enable the data held within those services to fully play their part in a global web of data, but it is only a step on the road. Putting APIs on a service or system is a major step forward to be heartily encouraged and praised when it happens. There are issues around the shape of these APIs, which I have covered previously, but let us leave them aside for today – suffice to say any API is better than no API!. To realise the massive potential benefits of a global Web of Data, has more to do with the intention behind, and architecture of, the platform behind and therefore powering those APIs.
Let me draw an, appropriate for the thanksgiving holiday in the US, analogy….
The DNA for all birds is extremely similar – producing a couple of legs, wings, a beak, feathers, egg laying, etc. in all cases [waits for comments from bird experts shooting my uneducated assumptions down]. From this DNA mother nature, or Darwinian selection dependant on your point of view, has produced a bird with no real ambition to fly, specialised in staying in a fairly restricted location on or near the ground, making gobbling noises, and satisfying the human need for something more substantial than a chicken to be consumed on the occasion of large family gatherings – the turkey.
That same DNA encoded collection of bird-like attributes also produced a bird which soars majestically and effortlessly high above our mountains and forests with tuned vision to focus in on relevant movements in a wide and varied landscape that are relevant to its life and existence, whilst inspiring all who catch a glimpse of in it the wild – the eagle. Like most analogies it starts to fall apart when you dig in too it to deeply – when for instance the movement comes from a wild turkey which then provides eaglet-lunch.
What I’m trying to get at with this analogy is that there are many things out there, or proposed, which have very similar attributes [RESTful APIs, XML data structures, etc] which we need to look behind to discover the value they can offer beyond just simple connection.
In other words, is the platform/grid, you are looking to use, an eagle which will help the value of your/their data to freely soar, or is it a turkey which just satisfies a fairly local need without inspiring anybody?