Tuesday, 23 of September of 2014

Four “itineraries” for putting linked data into practice for the archivist

If you to go to Rome for a day, then walk to the Colosseum and Vatican City. Everything you see along the way will be extra. If you to go to Rome for a few days, do everything you would do in a single day, eat and drink in a few cafes, see a few fountains, and go to a museum of your choice. For a week, do everything you would do in a few days, and make one or two day-trips outside Rome in order to get a flavor of the wider community. If you can afford two weeks, then do everything you would do in a week, and in addition befriend somebody in the hopes of establishing a life-long relationship.

map of vatican cithyWhen you read a guidebook on Rome — or any travel guidebook — there are simply too many listed things to see & do. Nobody can see all the sites, visit all the museums, walk all the tours, nor eat at all the restaurants. It is literally impossible to experience everything a place like Rome has to offer. So it is with linked data. Despite this fact, if you were to do everything linked data had to offer, then you would do all of things on the following list starting at the first item, going all the way down to evaluation, and repeating the process over and over:

  • design the structure your URIs
  • select/design your ontology & vocabularies — model your data
  • map and/or migrate your existing data to RDF
  • publish your RDF as linked data
  • create a linked data application
  • harvest other people’s data and create another application
  • evaluate
  • repeat

Given that it is quite possible you do not plan to immediately dive head-first into linked data, you might begin by getting your feet wet or dabbling in a bit of experimentation. That being the case, here are a number of different “itineraries” for linked data implementation. Think of them as strategies. They are ordered from least costly and most modest to greatest expense and completest execution:

  1. Rome in a day – Maybe you can’t afford to do anything right now, but if you have gotten this far in the guidebook, then you know something about linked data. Discuss (evaluate) linked data with with your colleagues, and consider revisiting the topic a year.
  2. Rome in three days – If you want something relatively quick and easy, but with the understanding that your implementation will not be complete, begin migrating your existing data to RDF. Use XSLT to transform your MARC or EAD files into RDF serializations, and publish them on the Web. Use something like OAI2RDF to make your OAI repositories (if you have them) available as linked data. Use something like D2RQ to make your archival description stored in databases accessible as linked data. Create a triple store and implement a SPARQL endpoint. As before, discuss linked data with your colleagues.
  3. Rome in week – Begin publishing RDF, but at the same time think hard about and document the structure of your future RDF’s URIs as well as the ontologies & vocabularies you are going to use. Discuss it with your colleagues. Migrate and re-publish your existing data as RDF using the documentation as a guide. Re-implement your SPARQL endpoint. Discuss linked data not only with your colleagues but with people outside archival practice.
  4. Rome in two weeks – First, do everything you would do in one week. Second, supplement your triple store with the RDF of others’. Third, write an application against the triple store that goes beyond search. In short, tell stories and you will be discussing linked data with the world, literally.

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