The Future of Metadata

Back from the Workshop “Metadata 2.0″ in Leuven. Thanks to the organizers and participants for this inspiring event! You find the presented material on the Wiki.

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Yes, of course I had frites in Belgium!

What’s the outcome for me? Well, there’s definitely something going on out there. And most of the people are aware of that. Expert generated metadata - whatever quality they create, and even if it was only considering “objective” metadata - is not a solution for the future. What worked (somehow) for libraries doesn’t work in the same way for digital resources, especially on the Web. The Web is no library. We need new approaches when it’s about to provide information about resources.

The Web is not centralized. And neither should the metadata describing resources on the Web be. I think that Resource profiles as described by Stephen Downes in 2004 are the future of metadata! There is a lot of very valuable information about resources in many places. Distributed, created in different ways, in different formats. This can of course also be expert metadata, but also metadata generated by users or user interactions, usage metadata, automatically generated metadata etc. Yes, it can also be crap. But we are free to choose what we need and what we like. It’s up to us which people and which services we trust! When we look at all the different metadata this way, we have a much better chance to get valid information about what a resource is really about, about how it is used in the community, and about subjective information such as “quality” or “difficulty”.

Of course we can only use metadata about resources when we know that it exists. Maybe someday Google or someone else will provide means as the recently launched Social Graph API to harvest metadata. When we can’t harvest the information ourselves, we need hubs where such information is collected. And because we wanted to have such a hub that also allows to integrate new information, we developed ALOE. Using the Web Interface or the Service API, everybody can contribute information like “x is metadata about y”. Users can either upload the metadata and the resource, or they can just referer to an existing URL. ALOE is a repository and a referatory. Because a simple hub would be quite dead and anonymous, and because we also wanted to encourage users to participate, we developed ALOE as a “social hub”, i.e., it comes with a nice Web interface, you can tag, comment, rate, communicate, join groups…all the social media stuff.

It will be very exciting to see what will happen in the future. And I hope some of the exciting things will happen in ALOE! And this reminds me that I almost forgot that we also have an ALOE Blog, and that I should blog about what we’re currently working on…stay tuned!

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