Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Do we really want repositories to be more Web2.0-like?

I’m spending some time thinking through what a negative click, positive value repository system should be like. Thanks to everyone for their comments on this idea. Various people suggested we should be more Web 2.0-like. Good idea, that’s following success. Or is it?

Just the other day I read on First Author this post about an Oxford startup, and it started me thinking.
“Founded by two Oxford students arose from frustration at the multitude of different websites which clubs and societies at Oxford University were using to organise themselves online. GroupSpaces CEO David Langer said: ‘As a former president of two University societies I became increasingly annoyed with the mash-up of disconnected tools groups were using to manage themselves online – mailing lists on Yahoo! Groups, spreadsheets in Excel, events on Facebook, ancient websites – people were spending a disproportionate amount of time organising their groups across multiple platforms. There was a clear need to connect everything up and that’s what inspired us to create GroupSpaces.’”
Hang on, the answer to difficulties partly with Web 2.0 companies is to make another Web 2.0 company?

Now, I too get increasingly annoyed with my ventures into the Web 2.0 space. Far from seamless mashups (they used to be a good thing), I find myself managing identities… or more to the point, failing to manage identities to let me use Blogger, Flickr, Slideshare, Connotea, CiteULike, etc. One of them wants my email address, another wants a user ID (maybe better make it a new one in case they expose it), this one is happy with any old password, that one insists on a digit in (OK, that makes some sense), but blow me down, this one wants at least one alpha and two digits. And the blogosphere has been rocking with the data portability grumbles in recent months. So a lot of these sites, supposedly “at the network level” to quote Lorcan, are actually quite closed, proprietary, winner take all, naked capitalist commercial ventures!

Maybe my problems will all be solved by OpenID or something like it, and I shall emerge into the Web 2.0 sunshine, but somehow I doubt it.

OK, I’m sure these aren’t the aspects of Web 2.0 that people had in mind. But folks, when you talk about repositories being more compatible with the web architecture, more like Web 2.0, more oriented to the semantic web, can you be more specific please? What would you like to see happen? What do you mean, exactly?

Answers by comment, blog post linked to this one, email to me, or even by postcard, please!


  1. Chris, I understand what you are saying and have heard the same thing before re passwords and web 2.0. I think some of the aspects of web 2.0 that repositories should aim at are more like openness, ease-of-use (apart from passwords!), intuitive to understand, RSS, visible to Google, persistence on the web (hoefully), a shared community of use, ease of access, etc. Maybe it goes back to an address that Andy Powell gave in Melbourne Australia earlier this year at VALA 2008 where he said something like if he were asked what a repository would look like he'd say Slide Share. I blogged about it at the time here:
    One day soon I really must get around to an OpenID!

  2. I think it comes down to this: in technology choices prioritise the size of the potential user base over fitness for purpose.

    IMO the web 2.0 label in this context probably means making your content usable by everyone in the web, rather than the small subset in the libraries / archives / repositories community who have read the OAIS spec.

    And yes, OpenID would be a really good start in solving your password frustrations.

  3. I've been thinking about this subject again and while Andy was on the right path suggesting slideshare, but having been involved in a team implementing a commercial DAMS solution for our cultural institution and its vast digital archive, and designing the preservation requirements to go with it, my views have changed somewhat along the following lines. I now believe that if digital repositories are going to be used widely (i.e. successfully) then they must come to terms with at least an interface that is something like or as easy to use as iTunes or Flickr. On top of that is a layer of automated preservation and curation processes, but perhaps the interface likeness is much of what the references to Web2.0 are about. I would add that the other valuable aspect of the Web2.0 argument is the inherent relationship between access and preservation if the digital objects are to be used. In early 2009 there seems to be a decent amount of discussion emerging from people who might be worth listening to along the "use-it-or-lose-it" line of thinking. This is what I have been saying for a very long time: digital preservation and access go hand-in-hand.


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