Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Interoperability gets serious

The other week I was in Paris for a conference on interoperability. It was the working group of the IIIF, the brainchild of a consortium of libraries including the British Library, Bibliotheque Nationale, National Library of Norway, Los Alamos and Stanford.

The efforts being made in this area are immense, and, since I've been involved in this field, something of a holy grail. As research slowly becomes digital, the concept of information being locked in discreet digital silos becomes more and more absurd. Ingest of just metadata into a vast database (Europeana) or strict adherence to standards before ingest of metadata and image into another vast database (Biodiversity Heritage Library) do surely not, in the end, point the way forward.

And yet, what to do? Decisions over digitisation and metadata standards that were taken decades ago affect us now and prevent effective cross-collection search and collaboration.

IIIF is designed to address that problem by developing metadata and image APIs as well as a comprehensive image markup model called Shared Canvas.

It was fascinating to be involved in the emergence of something so potentially game-changing. The unsung heroes of interoperability will be those who sweat the details over the schema and the API. My job is then to build software that exploits this liberating commonality and frees the repositories up for researchers. They make me look good.

So thank you to Tom Cramer for inviting me and I look forward to seeing how this pans out.

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