Exploiting the Value of Metadata

OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey talked about exploiting the value of structured metadata with examples from the mother of all structured metadata, the holdings in (no surprise here) WorldCat and tied the presentation to Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 characteristics:

Flat applications
Rich interaction
Data is the new functionality

He showed examples of lightweight service composition, by which he means using data implicit in WorldCat to suggest a probably audience level for individual book titles. Based upon numeric scores assigned to the type of library holding a book, an audience level is assigned. Using a Greasemonkey script, these levels can be embedded in an Amazon page to suggest the audience level. The higher the score, the more likely the book is to be held in an academic, research library. Low numbers correspond to school libraries.

His next example was LiveSearch, a prototype that uses AJAX. The whole idea here is give searches quick results that change instantaneously as each letter is typed into the search box. You can narrow by Dewey attributes. It’s a satisficing engine that gives more interesting results. The Phoenix Public Library is using this. Results are FRBR-inspired. Class numbers are automatically extracted and show on the left side of the screen, labeled “top categories.” Suggested book titles display under the label “items from social groups.” It’s a way of doing interesting things with underlying data. It uses existing structure to create a better user experience. It’s rich interaction in the browser.

Now it’s on to FictionFinder, an interface to be released in April that supports searching and browsing of fiction materials cataloged WorldCat, using a faceted browser. There’s an alphabetical browse display in the redesined interface. You get a list of works ordered by holdings. This is a popularity ranking, very similar to Google’s Page Rank. You can narrow your list by format and languages. You can sort by libraries, date, and there’s a link to Find in a Library service. Like the other things Dempsey has shown, FictionFinder makes existing data work harder and gets users to hidden data.

The idea is to build higher level services on top of existing data. Does the pattern of holdings say something about the book?

To my mind, this is some interesting use of existing data. It shows how much OCLC is paying attention to next generation technologies and repurposing data they already have.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

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