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Now THAT’s More Like it!

By Rachel Frick

Last week I participated in the second Linked Open Data for Libraries Archives and Museums Summit (LODLAM), held at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Information about the summit and the LODLAM community can be found with the #LODLAM tag. It’s a big conversation that spans the world, and it is only getting more interesting and exciting.

Jon Voss, Historypin strategic partnerships director at We are What we Do, spearheaded the first summit meeting two years ago and coordinated the second. He is largely responsible for keeping the faith and encouraging the momentum, openness, and fluid borders that surround this community. He makes community building look easy and effortless.

The second summit came to fruition as a result of interest from Leon Robichaud (University of Sherbrooke-Canada) and Jean-Francois Gauvin (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec), who contacted Jon and asked if they could help organize a follow-on meeting with some startup funding. Jason Kusma offered support from Metro. The Digital Library Federation, OCLC, ADLIb, and Europeana rounded out the patronage with additional support from Internet Archive, DPLA, DigitalNZ, Medeley, and Semantic Web. It was great to plan a meeting with such an international group of passionate folks.

So what made this meeting so special? Why is it important? There are many reasons.

It is based on passion and action—Jon puts it best: “The meeting is based on the two primary principles of passion and responsibility: passion to jump in and play an active role; and responsibility to lead, and follow through with action.No papers will be submitted or read, no plenaries given, and everyone will participate.”

It is international—This was one of the most global meetings I have been to in North America. Check out the participants list for yourself.

It uses an unconference format—Using Open Space technology to organize the summit, participants come knowing they are responsible for making it a great meeting. They provide the ideas, the conversation, and the action. This is not your mother’s passive “sage on the stage” conference. The Law of Mobility was also in full effect; if you didn’t like the conversation, you moved to another room.

It was fun—Yes it was serious, but in the Challenge and the Dork Shorts (two-minute briefs in which participants talk about their work), and even in the sessions, it was demonstrated that passion, tempered with humor, was an inspired combination. Creativity is an essential ingredient for innovation. A creative approach is what’s required for GLAMs (Galleries, Archives and Museums) today.

There were prizes—Yes, I am biased, as this is what I helped most with, but the Challenge was my favorite part of the summit. The Challenge was a call to the community to present ideas, mash-ups, models, and tools that used—or showed the promise of—Linked Open Data. We asked for submissions from teams, demonstrating their ideas using a short video clip. More than 19 entries were submitted via 2 heats. (Entries for Heat 1 and Heat 2 can be viewed here.)

Five finalists were chosen. These finalists received some travel support and competed head to head at the summit, giving five-minute pitches to a distinguished panel of judges. In the end, the Team from Pundit won bragging rights as the first LODLAM challenge winner, and walked away with a little spending money.

All said and done, the biggest winner is the community, getting 19 use cases, creatively pitched with video that is open for anyone to view. It was a big win all around.

It’s open—Yes, we are talking about linked data (isn’t everyone?), but key to this meeting and its community is the concept of open. It is becoming the flag we wave and a badge of honor; it is the tattoo on our hearts. Open is what GLAMS stand for in a civil society. Yet, open is at great risk today as our world becomes more digital.

Open data, whether it is our collections metadata or the objects themselves, is fundamental to how a linked data world works and scales. But open applies not only to the topic at hand; it also applies to the community that is rallying around the flag.

LODLAM was created to be an inclusive community. Anyone can use the tag, and anyone can host a LODLAM event. It allows for efficient self-organization around a topic and a “can-do” ethos. Three years in, and after a second successful summit, I believe we have a robust, committed, and passionate community that crosses continents and oceans. We couldn’t have done it if we had tried to assert ownership of the idea, or if we had tried to lock down the LODLAM identity or brand. The fact that we even had a second summit, based on interest from individuals who did not attend the first, speaks to the success of this self-organizing principle.

These principles of a common cause, shared passion, inspired action, and an open community will be critical as LODLAM moves forward. Should there be another summit? Who should attend? Where should it be? Will it be in 2014 or 2015? International or regional? Let us know what you think in the comment space below, on, or on this open Google Doc .

It really is up to you how and where this goes. Hope to see you there.

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