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…  a topographic map for the workshop

scale = 1:1,500,000

I’ve liked to characterize the current moment as a circle of libraries, museums, archives, universities, journalists, publishers, broadcasters and a number of others in the culture industries standing around, eyeing other and at the space in between them while wondering how they need to reconfigure for a world of digitally networked knowledge.

Josh Greenberg, Moving a handful of blocks north … April 2010

Build systems that accept the way the world is, not what you would like it to be.

Hugh Glaser at the Stanford Workshop, June/July 2011

Manifesto for Linked Libraries

We are uncovering better ways of publishing, sharing, and using information by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

– Publishing data on the web for discovery over preserving it in dark archives.

– Continuously improving data over waiting to publish perfect data.

– Semantically structured data over flat unstructured data.

– Collaboration over working alone.

– Web standards over domain-specific standards.

– Use of open, commonly understood licenses over closed, local licenses.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more

Ed Summers, Meeting notes and a manifesto

A few years ago, Edd Dumbill turned the XML Europe conference into the XTech conference,  transforming it from a nose-too-close-to-the-screen event for markup nerds into an event that brought together browser people, XML markup experts, open data advocates (creative commons etc.), and forward-thinking creative technologists of every kind.


XTech was important as it provided a meeting place for technologists with different technical favorites, while also tapping into the larger themes that motivate much of the passion in the first place. It helped people identify themselves with a larger effort, rather than with some specific technology tool.  I think we can learn a lot from XTech.

Dan Brickley, An RDF wishlist, July 2010

If the semantic web is to be realized, our approach to classifying knowledge should be prudently moved from a relatively fixed set of notations to one that better approximates our relationship to the stars. For thousands of years we have looked up at nighttime skies and seen named groupings of light-for example, Orion, the Dipper, Pegasus-at least in the Western tradition. Peoples in other countries and societies impose very different images: their star formations can be wildly different from ours. They see the night sky within the context of other narratives, legends, and events.

But the impetus to group and name is universal. We have collectively navigated by our constellated images for millennia. In the digital environment, our objects can and will be renamed, repurposed, reconstituted, and re-formed nearly endlessly, like a night sky over great lengths of time. It is incumbent on us as professionals, working within a new and challenging setting, to articulate the general rules that will allow us to access knowledge, to sustain that knowledge over time, and to facilitate a nearly infinite relocation of meaning.

Chuck Henry, By any other name, CLIR Issues Number 74, March/April 2010.

With the knowledge web, humanity’s accumulated store of information will become more accessible, more manageable, and more useful. Anyone who wants to learn will be able to find the best and the most meaningful explanations of what they want to know. Anyone with something to teach will have a way to reach those who want to learn. Teachers will move beyond their present role as dispensers of information and become guides, mentors, facilitators, and authors. The knowledge web will make us all smarter. The knowledge web is an idea whose time has come.

W. Daniel Hillis, “Aristotle”: (The knowledge web), 2000, in The Edge, 138, 2004.

Root cause analysis for what it takes to achieve meaningful, interoperable information suggests that describing source content in terms of what it is about is the pivotal factor. Moreover, those contexts should be shared to aid interoperability. Whichever organizations do an excellent job of providing context and coherent linkages will be the go-to ones for data consumers. As we have seen to date, merely publishing linked data triples does not meet this test.

Mike Bergman, I have yet to metadata I didn’t like, 2010

The biggest problem we face right now is a way to ‘link’ information that comes from different sources that can scale to hundreds of millions of statements (and hundreds of thousands of equivalences). Equivalences and subclasses are the only things that we have ever needed of OWL and RDFS, we want to ‘connect’ dots that otherwise would be unconnected.

Stefano Mazzocchi, Darkness is relative, I guess,  January 2007

RDF enthusiasts share 99.9% of their geek DNA with the microformats community, with XML experts, with OWL people, … but time and again end up nitpicking on embarrassing details. Someone “isn’t really” publishing Linked Data because their RDF doesn’t have enough URIs in it, or they use unfashionable URI schemes. Or their Apache Web server isn’t sending 303 redirects. Or they’ve used a plain XML language or other standard instead. This kind of partisan hectoring can shrink a community passionate about sharing data in the Web, just at a time when this effort should be growing more inclusive and taking a broader view of what we’re trying to achieve.

The formats and protocols are a detail. They’ll evolve over time. If people do stuff that doesn’t work, they’ll find out and do other things instead. The thing that keeps me involved is the common passion for sharing information in the Web. If we keep that as an anchor point rather than some flavor of some version of RDF, I think a lot of the rest falls into place. I love “Let’s Share What We Know” – an ancient slogan of the early Web project. [notes]  If we take “Let’s share what we know” as a central anchor, rather than triples, we can evaluate different technical strategies in terms of whether they help by making it easier to “share what we know” using the Web.

Dan Brickley, An RDF wishlist, 2010

Don’t get me wrong, some common vocabularies (RDF, RDF Schema, and Dublin Core) go a long way in reducing the bootstrapping effort and make basic interoperability happening. At the same time, I believe people will “pick cherries” in the ontology space and when they don’t find anything satisfying they will write their own. Sometimes use and abuse will be hard to tell apart, creating a sort of Babel of small deviations that will have to be processed with a ‘Data First’ approach in mind. An immune system will have to be created, trusted silos established, peer review enforced.

Next time you spend energy writing the ontology, or the database schema, or the XML schema, or the software architecture, or the protocol, that ‘foresees’ problems that you don’t have right now, think about “you ain’t gonna need it,” “do the simplest thing that can possibly work,” “keep it simple stupid,” “release early and often,” “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” and all the various other suggestions that tell you not to trust design as the way to solve your problems.

But don’t forget to think about ways to make further structure emerge from the data, or you’ll be lost with a simple system that will fail to grow in complexity without deteriorating.

Stefano Mazzocchi, Data first vs. structure first, 2005

for every one of these questions,  I know multiple librarians who would know the answers off the top of their heads

can I have copies of those librarians?

anonymized from the IRC back channel at a Code4Lib meeting

What strikes me as odd, thinking back to that original hand-drawn diagram of the web done by Tim Berners-Lee, is that, while the web has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives to some extent, it has done relatively little to disrupt scholarly communication except in an ‘at the margins’ kind of way. Why is that the case? My contention is that there is such a significant academic inertia to overcome, coupled with a relatively small and closed “market,” that the momentum of change hasn’t yet grown sufficiently-but it will. The web was invented as a scholarly device, yet it has, in many ways, resulted in less transformation there than in most other fields. Strange?

Andy Powell, Scholarly communication, open access and disruption, 2011

… we are on the precipice of entirely new ways of thinking about our relationship to others as leveraged over digital platforms, and while Facebook may well be the oxygen or the landmass of this ecosystem, it won’t be the entire ecosystem itself.

To that end, thispiece in TNW hits on some parts of what I’m on about. In it, the author writes:

Just as Google had early dominance in lighting up a portion of the web, Facebook has early dominance in lighting up a portion of the world’s social graph. But much like the Dark Web, there exists network upon network not yet graphed by Facebook, waiting to be mapped, organized, and optimized for communication.

John Battelle, Watch This Space: The Next Generation of “Social Networks” Won’t Look Like Facebook, 2011

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