OCKHAM@Emory (January, 2003)

This is the briefest of travel logs describing my experiences at Emory University discussing the ideas of OCKHAM.

What is OCKHAM

On January 8, 2003, the Digital Library Federation sponsored a second meeting at Emory University to discuss OCKHAM. Less formal than the first Emory meeting, this get together was attended by people from Emory, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, OCLC, University of Windsor, Arizona University, California Digital Library, and Case-Western. For the benefit of David Seaman, the in-coming Director of the Digital Library Federation, an overview of the previous meetings was given. Ironically, I had been a part of all of them:

  1. Open Source Software in Washington (October 2001)
  2. OCKHAM in Atlanta (May 2002)
  3. DLF in chicago (May 2002)
  4. OCKHAM at European Conference on Digital Libraries (September 2002)
giant suitcase
giant suitcase
pair of butterflies
pair of butterflies
another pair of buttterflies
another pair of buttterflies
church
church

Considering this fact, I had better have a good idea of what OCKHAM is all about. In fact, I think I do. OCKHAM is about exploring possibilities for implementing digital libraries using modular computer programs. Upon review of digital library services and collections it becomes apparent that each implementation has functionality required of other implementations; many implementations require similar functions. These functions, a list of gerunds, the people of OCKHAM have been calling the "Blue List" including as but not limited to: searching, collecting, organizing, archiving, disseminating, reviewing, annotating, rating, logging, indexing, syndicating, summarizing, authenticating, authorizing, digitizing, describing, weeding, etc. The goal of OCKHAM is to discover a means for creating computer modules implementing items on the Blue List, and allowing people who want to create digital libraries to select and combine modules instead of having to write and rewrite their software, over and over again.

Martin Halbert, OCKHAM's prime mover, articulated many of these ideas in a draft white paper to be released sometime in the near future. There he listed two over-arching themes: interoperability and affordability. He also articulated a few principles going hand-in-hand with these themes:

During the meeting a another one was added:

Somewhere around here Ed Fox , an internationally respected authority on digital libraries, summarized an idea he and his graduate students call 5S. The five S's are streams, structures, spaces, scenarios, and societies. They are intended to form the foundation of a digital library model. Upon closer examination, the five S's loosely correspond to things like content (stream), organization (structure), interfaces (space), service (scenario), and people (society).

"We can't go zero to sixty in two seconds."

Everybody in attendance was in agreement with the goals, themes, and principles of OCKHAM as it has been stated. The next step are/were to create something more concrete, real, and tangible demonstrating the OCKHAM ideals. Suggested next steps included:

Unfortunately, discussions surrounding each of these items did not get very far. Some of us thought we needed to articulate 5S better. The deadlines for workshop and/or presentation proposals at digital library conferences such as JCDL and/or ECDL were seen as too soon in the future. The creation of an XML scheme seemed too difficult. The consensus was, "We seem to be looking for the 'Uber Reference Model.'" In the end, the group advocated formally completing and distributing a white paper and exploring the possibilities of grant funding.

stone seats
stone seats
building within a building
building within a building

Personally, I plan to take a more pragmatic approach. Consider. MyLibrary is an implementation of a digital library service, and it requires many of the items on the Blue List to function. Recently, I attended a meeting at OCLC about Web Services. Ralph LeVan was in attendance at the OCLC meeting as well as this OCKHAM meeting. I learned from him the status of Z39.50 and how it can be implemented as a REST-ful Web Service. Z39.50 represents one of the items from the Blue List, specifically, searching. I had recently implemented a SWISH-E interface to MyLibrary allowing its content to be indexed and searched. Maybe I can make the SWISH-E interface a "next generation" Z39.50 service. Additionally, MyLibrary can generate usage statistics from its underlying database, but these reports are incongruous with other digital libraries. Ed Fox and one of his graduate students have proposed an XML-based logging system for digital libraries. If MyLibrary were to implement this logging system, another one of the gerunds, then MyLibrary statistics could be amalgamated with other digital library activities. Food for thought. Hmmm...

Summary

In summary, I can't say this particular OCKHAM meeting was as fruitful and productive as the previous ones, but I came away from it with positive directions for myself and my local institution. Additionally, I got some very useful input from Ross Singer of Emory who helped me design a better database scheme for classifying MyLibrary resources. This scheme, when and if it comes to fruition, will allow institutions hosting MyLibrary services to create as many controlled vocabularies as they desire and classify their resources in great detail. Also, Ross and I discussed the possibilities of sharing sets of subject-related Internet resources -- pathfinders -- between libraries in an effort to reduce the time and effort to create these lists by hand.

FLW-estque
FLW-estque
round end building
round end building
ride the train back home
ride the train back home
Team OCKHAM
Team OCKHAM

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: This text was never really published.
Date created: 2003-01-21
Date updated: 2004-12-04
Subject(s): OCKHAM (Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and Metadata); Atlanta, GA; travel log;
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/ockham-2003/