I gather the likes of Bo Derek and Ken Kesey frequented
this town in earlier eras. This week, Mexico
I write this from a plenary session on metadata architectures. The topic is more often relegated to smoke-filled back rooms, and the smoke is from topical combustion rather than tropical combustibles. No topic has generated more contention over the years than data modeling.
Mikael Nilsson is the current speaker, and his session is entitled Towards an Interoperability Framework for Metadata Standards. Mikael is, for my money, one of a handful of people in the metadata arena who are indispensable (Andy Powell and Pete Johnston are also on my short list, and are also on the bill of fare for the session).
Interoperability has been a prominent goal from the first days of Dublin Core, and while the initiative has succeeded in many of its early goals, this one remains difficult and elusive. The only hope for achieving it lies in aligning the underlying information structures by which we construct our metadata instances. Given that our own (the DC) community took a decade in explicating the Dublin Core Abstract Model, we don’t even have broad interoperability across Dublin Core systems, let alone with other metadata communities.
Few communities have done any better (the code word for not having a data model is to say it is implicit… uh huh). The prospects of explicating and aligning these models across frameworks, then, are grim. The DCMI and IEEE Learning Object Metadata (LOM) communities have been trying to do this for years now. For most of that time, ‘working towards interoperability’ meant agreeing it would be nice if we could do it. In recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of Mikael, Andy, and Pete, there is earnest progress toward the goal, and that progress rests on the explication of differences in the DC Abstract Model and the model implicit in the LOM package. To understand the problems clearly and in detail is a start towards solving them. At this time, the trains are still running on different gauge tracks, and it is likely to be years before this will change.
Part of Mikael’s message in this talk can be summarized by the suggestion that we talk less about metadata standards and schemas, and more about abstract model, syntax, metadata vocabularies, and application profiles. Success is in the details, and there are lots of them to manage. It can’t be done without common underlying models.
Image: DC-2006 Hotel. Fortunately, its too hot to be outside during session hours.