One of the things Jon and I still talk about (despite our putative retirement), is how to pass on to the newer generation what we’ve learned over our years working in the vocabulary, data maintenance and data aggregation spaces. Of course, we’ve written or co–written quite a few papers and articles, and most continue to be read and cited (or so ResearchGate tells me), and as well we have significant numbers of presentations and slides available freely.

Jon sometimes tries to convince me that in the age of AI and waning interest in metadata and vocabularies, particularly in non-library research venues, our time of relevance has passed. He may be right in some respects, but I’m not convinced that’s true in libraries. And the Open Metadata Registry, still alive and quietly kicking, is still being used by an interesting variety of vocabulary nerds. I checked today and noted that there’s a NASA Name Authority vocabulary still in active development as of last week (I haven’t checked to see whether the developers have been active during the partial government shutdown or not).

Recently, I worked on the NISO effort to describe the state of the vocabulary world and one of our main discoveries was how few of the tools developed over the past few years are still functioning. Most were developed using research funding, notoriously time limited (one or two years is common). What’s left is an array of commercial products (difficult to determine how effective they are, though they’re certainly costly), and the OMR, which we’ve been supporting since our NSF funding dried up in 2008. We had funding from ALA Publishing for some of that time, and we’re still working on a beta version of the OMR.

We’d like to find out whether there’s any interest out there in figuring out what can be done, in the non-commercial realm, to determine what the needs are–in libraries particularly, but also in other institutions–for continuing a service like the OMR, and what might be strategies to continue it (or something similar) into the next decade or so.

Ultimately an important question is whether formal RDF vocabulary management matters in a data world dominated by Machine Learning, fragmented by the low bar set for publishing ‘Linked Data’ and the ongoing ‘format wars’ in the library community. Vocabularies matter when definitions are clearly expressed and mechanisms are provided to align heterogeneous metadata across divergent datasets. Definitions and alignments have to be maintained over time — all data has a lifespan of utility. Too often data is released into the wild of the internet without any thought to how it will be consumed and how it will be maintained. Ongoing vocabulary maintenance is crucial to future-proofing public datasets. Or is it all just too hard, given the pressures of funding and the more immediate worry of whether you’ll still have a job next week?

Given the burgeoning of podcasts on anything and everything, we’ve considered whether that might be a way to get some interesting conversations going (maybe even interviews, which are my favorite kind to listen to). Or we might just up the effort to continue blogging (thus cementing our reputation for persistence!) Do mention some topics that interest you, whether for the blog or (possibly) a podcast. Comments welcome in the comment section of this blog, or on Twitter, at @Metadata_Maven or @jonphipps.


By Diane Hillmann, February 14, 2019, 4:19 pm (UTC-5)

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