Report from CNI session

Matt, Paul, and I went to CNI in Baltimore and held a discussion session about the platform. The three of us described the aims and purposes, the proposed schema strategy, ingestion processes, the API, and our initial thoughts about linked data. The discussion with the group was lively and helpful.

I scribbled notes as people were talking. Here’s some of what was discussed.

A bunch of comments clustered around Linked Open Data. We are proposing ingesting RDF and make all of the platform’s metadata accessible as triples. But, why aren’t we using a triple store and more fully embracing Linked Data? Why are we using schemas instead of ontologies? Are we going to publish RDF and not just consume it, and does the world need Yet Another RDF Publisher (YARDFP…nah, probably not going to catch on :)? We replied that we are very open to discussing this, of course. Going native with RDF would (it seems) allow us and others to do the sort of metadata enhancement (clustering, semantic enhancements, rich relationships among works, etc.) that we think is one of the ways the DPLA platform can have distinctive value. But a big part of the answer is that the platform is supposed to go live 12 months from now, so we didn’t feel we had time to develop (or, more exactly, adopt and adapt) an ontology. I also replied that we wanted to keep it simple for institutions that want to make their metadata available to the DPLA, but Dean Krafft of Cornell correctly pointed out that we could still let organizations do simple mappings, but could let them go hog wild with the ontology if that’s what they want to do. We take this as an open topic. Well, we take everything as an open topic. But we’d love to hear more from you about this.

Among the other questions:

Have we looked at the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations as a model? (Matt is very familiar with that project.)

How are we going to sync?

Why are we using Dublin Core instead of something that the search engines pay attention to? (We are using a mix of DC and, and will allow developers to query the API using either terms when they overlap.)

At the end one of the attendees said that he still didn’t get what we’re trying to do, and what would count as a measure of success? I said that we’re building a a platform + services aimed at developers so that they can build apps that take advantage of the cultural richness distributed across the nation’s online collections, local libraries, museums, archives, etc. Because it’s an open platform, the measure of success will be the number, diversity, and utility of the apps that are developed on it.

CNI overall was a rich event with a great set of people. Lots to learn.