Limp data

Posted by laura on March 28, 2011 under Semantic web | 2 Comments to Read

LOL. Andy Powell over at eFoundations gave me a good chuckle this a.m. by referring to structured data which could become linked data as “limp data.”  Andy, prepare yourself to be quoted more often in linked data presentations.  Speaking of linked data, the LOD-LAM summit participant list will be posted today on the web site.  I’m keen to see who I’ll be meeting and what projects they’re working on.

I have a confession to make.  I have a lot to learn about making linked data available.  It’s slightly embarrassing given my ardent desire to do a linked data project here.  I get how it works in theory (and please teach me if my take on the gist of it is wrong.)  Put your metadata into triple stores with URIs .  Expose it.  Layer  a useful interface over-top.    I get dazed and confused with the application.   I’m fuzzy  re: the difference between the semantic web writ large and linked data.  Especially when documentation uses comp sci  jargon like, “serializing data.”   What a way to scare off the normals.  (BTW,  Wikipedia has a somewhat understandable explanation).   I took a relational database design class in library school but I wasn’t exposed to the interplay between internet communication protocols and the contents of database tables.  To be fair, I took the class back in the Internet dark ages (1995, in case you’re counting).  At that time the web was a place of flat documents.  Fewer people were thinking about web protocols as a mechanism for interlinking databases.  My dated knowledge means  I get a bit flummoxed when I contemplate doing anything more complicated than putting RDFa into my static web pages.

What I struggle with is figuring out the level of technical proficiency a metadata librarian needs to attain in order to play in the semantic web sandbox.  The line between metadata librarian and coder gets blurry.  Libraries, archives, museums have “limp data.”  They may or may not have a database guru.  They may or may not have funds.  So librarians/archivists/museum curators need to DIY if they are to get their data from limp to linked.   Or at least understand how it all works under the hood so they can delegate or outsource the implementation (and write grant applications to underwrite it).     I learn best when I dive in and get my hands dirty so I applied to the LOD-LAM summit.  It’s forcing me to figure out a do-able project, bone up on my tech skills,  and put some of our data out there.   I’m hoping that I can somehow translate the experience into librarian-speak so I can help other institutions expose their unique content.  I need to be honest about my ignorance, however.  I’m sucking up the slight self-conscious discomfort and starting where I am.


  • Ivy said,

    I think you’re in the same boat with a lot of people–don’t feel so self-conscious and alone! Lots of us understand the concepts and ideas “in theory,” it’s the actual, concrete implementation that’s daunting, especially to those of us without comp sci or programming knowledge. I for one am looking forward to hearing about what you learn so maybe I can absorb some more understanding vicariously!

  • laura said,

    Thanks Ivy! And I’m looking forward to absorbing the things you’re learning in your doctoral program. I hope you start blogging again soon (hint, hint).

    I won’t let the the self-confidence thing stop me from plunging ahead. I don’t have a development server for nothing *grin*

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