Metadata I find useful

Alan wants to know why anyone would want to use metadata. Well, speaking as someone who thinks the LOM is a solution to a problem nobody really has, I'm not the best person to reply. However, I do find some metadata to be very useful. I think for many applications you can get away with knowing 5 things about a resource:

  1. Title. Because everything has a name, right? That's what we do, we label things.
  2. Description. Because I want to know a little bit about your resource, especially if your resource is one of many in a list of search results.
  3. URL. I need to be able to find your resource. Perhaps this should be 'location' rather than just URL because some of us still use stuff that's not on the web (really, some still do).
  4. Controlled vocabulary keyword(s). I need to know that when I say potato, you say potato, and when you say tomato, I say tomato.
  5. Copyright statement. Because very often you don't own the thing you created, your institution does, and I'll need to know who I have to ask to use your resource. And when you do own your resource, I need to know that, too.

I think you can do a lot with these data. "Like what?" Alan might ask. Well, for me, there's really no point using any metadata unless you intend to share your resources. If you've got 3 resources to share, just give them to me and be done with it. If you've got more, these basic pieces of data that describe your resource will probably help me find them when I search a database. A controlled vocabulary keyword would help me find you resource more effectively (especially if you give your resources non-descriptive titles and don't use the same words that I'd use to describe the resource). The copyright statement is just good manners as it makes it easier for me to work out who I need to ask to use your resource.

The first 3 fields in my list or 5 fit nicely with RSS and are the kinds of metadata that are so common we'd hardly even think of them as metadata. The copyright statement is something that's also pretty straightforward, or at least it's something that we understand to be important. Although many people don't understand who owns the resource. The only difficult think is keyword(s). These can be optional of course though searches are much more accurate when they're used. And using a controlled vocabulary to assign your keywords saves so much confusion. Pity there are so few agreed controlled vocabularies.

As for Alan's other question about why use OAI, I can't think of a convincing answer. Although I do know that one of the goals of using OAI is the ability to exchange metadata records rather than the object itself, which makes sense from a bandwidth point of view. I think an RSS aggregator approach would be just as effective, not least because RSS aggregators are easy to use and readily available. If you used RSS 1.0 then you could even use Dublin Core module to include the copyright and keyword fields in your feed.

NASA to announce significant findings from Opportunity Rover

At 2pm EST today NASA will issue a press briefing during which it intends to announce significant findings about Mars. These findings come as a result of the ongoing success of its two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The word on the street is that the significant finding will be about evidence of past water on Mars. What would be really exciting would be some evidence of current water, realistically not as the freely flowing sort we know and love here on Earth, but perhaps as very salty brines intermingled with the Martian soil. However, where there’s water there’s a chance for life. Perhaps ‘significant’ could even mean… no, it couldn’t… could it?

 Update: Just watching NASA TV now. Well, it’s exciting but not the big news that some were speculating. The Opportunity team have found conclusive proof that layered rocks seen on the day Opportunity landed were indeed laid down in a very wet environment. So there was water on Mars millions of years ago. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next press release to hear about Martians.