Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Editorial Introduction to Issue 47: Keeping What We Know

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne 47.

Perhaps I am not quite so cynical as I suppose when, despite being more than a little aware of the problem confonting us in respect of safeguarding electronic resources, I can nonetheless be shocked by the statistic Eileen Fenton provides us in her article on Preserving Electronic Scholarly Journals: Portico where she reveals the percentage of resources, from impeccable sources, that were no longer retrievable from the original hyperlink a mere 27 months after their appearance. While not all cases of preservation are as dramatic and 'white-knuckle' as some Ariadne has covered, where for example, we were within a gnat's whisker of losing the accumulated efforts of thousands of teachers, students and communities across the UK [1], the fact remains that there are already enormous challenges for preservation arising from the pre-digital decades of the last century. By no means least is the danger of losing one of the last jewels in the crown in the shape of much of our broadcast cultural heritage from a period, to my mind, of exceptional innovation, experimentation and originality, particularly where the UK in general and the BBC in particular, are concerned [2]. It is therefore pleasing to be able to include a contribution from one of the partners in the FP6 PrestoSpace Project: Duncan Burbidge describes a new approach to digitising an archive both as a future-proof substitute and for Web delivery in Digitising an Archive: The Factory Approach. Of course the preservation agenda is not confined to the rescue and migration of content on obsolete formats; it goes much wider. Great concern exists over the safety of materials far more recently produced as Eileen's article indicates. The tragi-comical image comes to mind of some cartoon character forging across a rope bridge over a chasm only partially aware of the bridge falling apart behind him and reluctant to look over his shoulder at the impending disaster. Only time will tell whether this is a fanciful representation of the state of scholarly communication and the management of digital resources. However, I have read somewhere that we could all be so much more clever if we just used what in fact is already known, and perhaps by next issue I will recall where I saw it.

It is in the nature of humans and scientists in particular to wish to forge ahead and be excited by the latest innovation. There is also an understandable tendency to support financially that which most pushes the boundaries furthest. The mundane truth is that few innovations appear in a vacuum and that many radical developments are built on the work of those who have gone before. Emma Tonkin in her article Folksonomies: The Fall and Rise of Plain-text Tagging addresses this theme and suggests that new ideas are often on their second circuit and are none the worse for that.

With the wider deployment of repositories, the Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is becoming a common method of supporting interoperability between repositories and services. In Stargate: Exploring Static Repositories for Small Publishers, R. John Robertson introduces a project examining the potential benefits of OAI-PMH static repositories as a means of enabling small publishers to participate more fully in the information environment and indicates that they may have potential in the context of other, more dynamic, content.

I was very saddened by the circumstances under which it was impossible for Phil Bradley to join the band of invited authors last issue and offer us the benefit of his long experience in matters search engines. We had asked him to perform the same sort of operation as the other contributors and give a 360-degree view of search engines during the lifetinme of this publication. I am delighted that Phil has now written on Search Engines: Where We Were, Are Now, and Will Ever Be in which, among other things, he reminds us that the history is not such a long one. Google is regarded as part of the furniture but as you will see from his section on emerging trends, the nature of search engines is beginning to alter right under our noses.

I am indebted to Debra Hiom who, as another long-time contributor to Ariadne, has not only gathered up the history of the Resource Discovery Network in Retrospective on the RDN but has also organised a two-part series for us whereby in a future issue Caroline Williams will attend to the future, in the shape of Intute, which will be launched in July 2006.

Impressed as I was by the programme of the inaugural code4lib conference, which appears to have been a great success, I was consequently delighted to receive an article from a contributor Aaron Krowne and his colleague Urvashi Gadi, entitled QMSearch: A Quality Metrics-aware Search Framework. They describe for us a framework which improves searching in the context of scholarly digital libraries by taking a 'quality metrics-aware' approach whereby the digital library deployer or end-user can customise how results are presented, including aspects of both ranking and organisation in general, based upon standard metadata attributes and quality indicators derived from the general library information environment.

"I want my browser to recognise information in Web pages and offer me functionality to remix it with relevant information from other services. I want to control which services are offered to me and how they are offered." Theo van Veen writing on Serving Services in Web 2.0 provides this example of the requirements that modern service users express to illustrate the necessary ingredients in a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) that will benefit them by combining services according to their preferences. Such an approach represents a concept which he summarises as a 'user-accessible machine-readable knowledge base of service descriptions in combination with a user agent' and which he hopes will lower the barriers for users wishing to build their own knowledge base, promote the integration of services and contribute to the standardisation of existing non-standard services.

In Metasearch: Building a Shared, Metadata-driven Knowledge Base System, Terry Reese remarks upon the scarcity of non-commercial implementations available within the range of metasearch tools currently on offer. He muses on why this is the case when one reflects that, overall, libraries have been responsible for a thriving open source community over the past decade or so. He writes about OSU's Metasearch, a metasearch tool which has been developed outside the vendor-based model and he addresses the questions relating to the knowledge base and knowledge base management that are part and parcel of the development of such a tool.

As usual, we offer our At the Event section, and reviews on institutional repositories, social informatics, digital reference and winning strategies from library leaders. In addition of course we provide our usual news and events.

I hope you will enjoy Issue 47.


  1. Editorial: This Time the Cavalry Showed Up, July 2003, Ariadne Issue 36
  2. Wright, R. Preserving Europe's Memory, Cultivate Interactive, issue 7, July 2002
    Daniel Teruggi, Can We Save Our Audio-visual Heritage?, Ariadne Issue 39
    Paul Gerhardt, Creative Archive, July 2005, Ariadne Issue 44

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

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