OCKHAM in Atlanta

This is a travel log documenting by experiences at Emory University to discuss a concept coined OCKHAM (Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and Metadata), May 3, 2002. The purpose of OCKHAM is to articulate and design a set of "light weight reference models" for creating and maintaining digital library services and collections.

airplane
airplane
detail
detail
first home
first home
goofy pose
goofy pose
grand church
grand church
hospital
hospital
lamp
lamp
law school
law school

Martin Halbert, Director for Library Systems of Emery University, was in the process of redesigning the website of his library. As an extension of an effort to make sure it is easier to maintain and more useful, he brought together a number of people to discuss a concept he coined as OCKHAM -- Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and Metadata. The meeting was sponsored by the Digital Library Federation, and the people in attendance included:

There was much discussion surrounding the purpose of meeting and the things we were expected to accomplish. Words and phrases like "collaboration", "sustainable systems", "sharing components", "open standards", "engaging the whole community", "library patrons and clientele", and "content providers" were used to describe the things we wanted to create.

It was decided these things needed to be supported because best practices in software development are not being employed in libraries, the advent of the Internet is changing people's expectations of what libraries should be doing, there is always room for improvement, library processes can be more efficient, and there is a need for greater interoperability between both inter- and extra-library systems.

library sculpture
library sculpture
lilly
lilly
nephew
nephew
OCKHAM
OCKHAM
orbits
orbits
original church
original church
park bench
park bench
pet
pet

Using the vocabulary of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS), it was decided we were in the beginning stages of creating "light weight reference models" or protocols for the purposes of enabling system components to talk to one another in a library environment. OAIS defines a "reference model" as:

A framework for understanding significant relationships among the entities of some environment, and for the development of consistent standards for specifications supporting that environment. A reference model is based on a small number of unifying concepts and may be used as a basis for education and explaining standards to a non-specialist.

The qualifier "light weight" was our own addition. It was used to inspire the mathematical elegance -- simplicity -- of the reference models and protocols we were trying to create. Think of Occam's Razor. We considered the HyperText Transfer Protocol and the use of the Open Archives Initiative on top of that protocol to be a good example of "light weight".

Once an understanding of what we were trying to accomplish was articulated, we brainstormed a long list of gerunds representing possible light weight reference models/protocols to implement. Each of these things are intended to represent processes done throughout the creation and maintenance of digital library services and collections. They are listed in no apparent order: visualizing, revising, archiving, preserving, managing, translating, authenticating, authorizing, collaborating, assessing, certifying, printing, classifying, copying, sharing, mirroring, indexing, navigating, disseminating, requesting, and predicting. Many of these "-ings" had been previously enumerated in a paper written by Fox about the 5S framework (Societies, Scenarios, Spaces, Structures, and Streams).

Halbert then presented to the meeting's attendees an overview of existing digital library models:

  1. OAIS ( http://www.ccsds.org/documents/p2/CCSDS-650.0-R-1.pdf ) - A very abstract model but it does articulate existing steps in digital library services/collections. We characterized this model as a flow chart.
  2. DNER ( http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/distributed-systems/dner/arch/ ) - This model emphasizes discovery, access, and use.
  3. MODELS ( http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/dlis/models/ ) - This model seemed to enumerate various servers/services of digital libraries such as presentation, coordination, mediation, communication, and provision.
  4. OAI/ODL ( http://oai.dlib.vt.edu/odl/ ) - This was an enhancement of OAI as described by Hussein Suleman and Fox in "Framework for Building Open Digital Libraries," D-Lib Magazine 7(12):December 2001. See http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december01/suleman/12suleman.html >.
  5. Others things which were not so much models as initiatives (e.g., NSDL) or standards and protocols like IMS and XML (SOAP, UDDI, WSDL) were presented as well.

By consensus, the next step was to try and pick "low hanging fruit" as demonstration projects. One project includes the creation and sharing of pathfinders using existing data sets such as the ones in INFOMINE, CORC, or the Open Directory Project. If designed correctly, this functionality should be able to be incorporated into a portal application like MyLibrary@NCState. Another project is an e-reserves project. These things, if built correctly, should be open source, easy to install, and take advantage of existing protocols.

purple iris
purple iris
relatives
relatives
reunion
reunion
roof line, again
roof line, again
roof line
roof line
rose
rose
wedding gift
wedding gift
Mr. Woodruff
Mr. Woodruff

Finally, it was decided to try to get a spot on the upcoming ECDL (European Conference on Digital Libraries) conference by presenting position statements. Below is a draft intended to be a part of an OCKHAM panel proposal. It summarizes much of what the meeting at Emory covered:

This is a position statement describing how a portal application called MyLibrary@NCState would benefit from a number of light weight reference models such as the ones beginning to be articulated by the OCKHAM framework.

MyLibrary@NCState is a portal application designed for libraries. Given a set of information resources listed in an underlying database, MyLibrary@NCState provides a means for creating a customizable set of Web pages for the library patron allowing them to view information relevant to their particular needs.

In its present implementation, MyLibrary@NCState is an application with many built-in functions for data-entry, display, customization, statistical reporting, etc. While these functions are modular in nature, these modules do not necessarily communicate with applications outside the MyLibrary@NCState environment. The proposed OCKHAM framework articulates a number of functions required by the MyLibrary@NCState application, and effort is being made to incorporate a number of these OCKHAM functionalities into the MyLibrary@NCState system.

For example, the OCKHAM framework describes methods for harvesting data from other systems using the OAI protocol. This represents a way of collecting data that could be used in the MyLibrary@NCState system. The use of RSS/RDF is a way of syndicating information to other portal applications, and as such represents a way MyLibrary@NCState content could be shared with applications such as uPortal. RSS/RDF functionality is component of the OCKHAM framework. Recommendation, annotation, reviewing, and rating functions are necessary in a customizable interface since the amount of information in any system can be overwelming. These same functions are aspects of the OCKHAM framework and are intended to be integrated in the MyLibrary@NCState system.

The OCKHAM framework describes a number of light weight reference models common among a majority of digital library systems and applications. MyLibrary@NCState is one such system/application, and this presentation describes how the reference models are being implemented into a customizable interface of sets of library collections and services.

I considered the meeting a success. It was an academic discussion surrounding issues of which I am particularly passionate. It was a pleasure to be a part of such a conversation, and I would like to do my best to make the ideas generated at the meeting come to fruition.

yellow iris
yellow iris
yucca plant
yucca plant

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: This text was never published.
Date created: 2002-05-28
Date updated: 2004-12-02
Subject(s): OCKHAM (Open Community Knowledge Hypermedia Administration and Metadata); Atlanta, GA; travel log;
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/ockham-in-atlanta/