Monday, 1 June 2009

Unravelling strings

I just got back from a beach holiday where my son's kite string got tangled up. So instead of a relaxing afternoon peering into rockpools, I spent hours unravelling knotted string, trying to get a simple straight line from his hand to the kite. Before that I was in Atlanta, where much the same was going on at the Open Repositories conference. Database guys and other assorted geeks trying to unravel a nightmare of databases and repositories to make a simple connection between the user and the data he needs.

But the good news seems to be that they're winning. Some of the work done facilitating cross-repository search makes it look (whisper it...) easy.

This is in no small part due to the emergent standards that I've talked about before, OAI-ORE and SWORD, which make real data migration possible.

Also interesting was the merger of DSpace and Fedora into one organisation; DuraSpace. The message was that they can benefit from working together as well as not chasing the same funding opportunities.

Instead of competing with each other they now have another company to worry about - Microsoft. The engaging Tony Hey was on hand to launch Zentity, a repository built on the Microsoft stack. The pitch was that the institutions already owned and had paid for Windows Server, IIS, SQL Server etc, so Zentity was leveraging that investment. For free.

The Scholarly Communications team have been making big efforts in the last couple of years to convince people that there is a "new Microsoft", which I've found to be true. There is also an "old Microsoft" however and this dissonance will make life hard for the team.

Whatever the case the entry of Microsoft into this space means the pace is about to pick up.