Monday, 14 January 2008

Myth: Repositories should have one way in and one way out.

Repository managers can no longer rely on items - and the metadata about those items - getting into the repository through their own carefully worked ingest web service.

We need to make sure that this doesn't become problematic further down the line and that we, in turn, do not create problems or obstacles for other services using the disseminated data.

I think that, from the point of view of an institutional repository, we really need to start working with the user as soon as possible, and while this can be mostly a political problem, we [code monkeys] have to make sure that the technical barrier is as low as possible.

We have to be less arrogant about our services and more pragmatic about what is already out there. I mean, it should be obvious that it is not possible to design a single workflow or web service that everyone will happily and accurately use. Also, it should be obvious that the time it would take to customise the ingest and edit mechanism for each group of users is infeasible.

So, what's the alternative? We need to look longer and harder at the existing and emergent content repositories out there, especially those that people already use without much provocation. Flickr is a prime example of what I am talking about, and services such as google docs, blogging platforms and even Amazon may be very good sources for information that the user cares about and has already put into a 'machine-understandable' form.

My question then: Why shouldn't we take the following requests very seriously indeed?

"I have a collection of images on Flickr that I want to archive in your repository. It is at X url, that's all the info you need, right? I have a profile held at Y location."

or the more common:

"I need to put a couple of papers online for RAE - I'll email you the files. I'm a busy guy, I've told research services all the details, get it from them."

And finally, I found this, and I think it speaks for itself.

(From Language Log blog, talking about this workshop:)

With the objective of providing a more creative environment for scholarship, assume the following goal:

By 2015, all publicly-funded research products and primary resources will be readily available, accessible, and usable via common infrastructure and tools through space, time, and across disciplines, stages of research, and modes of human expression.

* Identify the intermediate tasks, resources, and enabling conditions
* Sketch a roadmap with major tracks and milestones to achieve the goal

I do like that. I like that assumption a lot. While we probably can never achieve the aims, at least having it in mind will help in the long run when designing or thinking about new services.

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