Careful readers of my last post might have drawn a sharp breath of admiration at my meticulously correct typography in the use of the ö in Gödel. Others, including my colleague Thom Hickey (and yes, I spelled his names correctly) instead observed that I butchered Carl Kassel's name. I'm not a good speller, and generally inept with diacritics. I can't recall how to invoke them on a PC keyboard, and even on a Mac, though they are accessible, who can remember? Indeed, a colleague I know in the publishing business got a job partially on the strength of being able to enter the name A.P. Møller at the keyboard! Lazy mortals such as myself have instead discovered that if your name is really famous, it might be in the Word dictionary, as is Mr. Gödel's. Can you say "cut 'n paste"?
So, the Gödels, Solzhenitsyns, and Dostoevskys of the world enjoy a favored status, while poor Zbignew Brezinski not only failed to make the cut, but Word suggests alternatives that are silly, edging towards ironic (Zinger Brains being my favorite). And Word thinks Weasel is an appropropriate substitution for Weibel. How could they know???
Thoughtful parents might well take this into account when choosing (or avoiding) names that are Word-friendly (too late, Lorcan). But might there be a better approach to managing names than one's own faulty memory or the vagaries of the (admittedly useful) decisions of the Word dictionary editor?
Of course: Name Authority files. Readers of Web4Lib will have seen a recent post by Lars Aronsson [whose name I mispelled three times before getting it right] on a presentation on name authorities at the recent Wikimania conference. The Virtual International Authority File project (VIAF) is a collaboration of Die Deutsche Bibliothek, the Library of Congress and OCLC Research. As the name implies, the project endeavors to bring together name authority files of different national libraries in ways that can be made useful in the world of distributed networking that we live in. Don't confuse this with that other VIAF. No siree.
A paper by Jakob Voss at this conference describes an effort to identify names found in the German version of Wikipedia and identify which among them has an authority record in DDB's files. Quoting from the Web4Lib post:
volunteers of the German Wikipedia have gone through all 270,000 articles and found 38,508 biographies, and matched no fewer than
14,013 of them to the DDB authority file and inserted the PND numbers in these Wikipedia articles.
The paper describes how the wikikopfs use a basic template for data about people (Personendaten) and they and the Biblioheads got together and linked the Personendaten template with the DDB's name authority numbers and voila, the bibliosphere and the wikisphere are linked. OK, not so easy as all that... you gotta read the paper. It shows the promise, though, of extracting semantics from data in both spheres and making it all work harder together, and thats a theme that should sound familiar to all of us.
The challenge in all of this is to operationalize these sorts of links and to do so economically. One of the intriguing things about the Voss paper is his description of a two-day effort to check data about people that had been extracted algorithmically from wikipedia articles -- the "tagging party" resulted in 30,000 Personendaten records being validated in a short time using volunteer effort. Do these folks know how to have fun, or what???
Photo shamelessly lifted without permission from http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Tagging_Party