DISH Confusion

Tue, 12/27/2011 - 11:34 -- Gerald de Jong

There was a little chaos associated with Delving particpation in the DISH conference.  We intended to give a workshop about Storytelling but in the end it never happened, due to some unusual and surprising misunderstandings.  The short version is that we were originally going to appear with Juliane Stiller and myself, and since in the end Juliane couldn't make it over from Berkeley to attend, we had proposed Sjoerd Siebinga (also from Humbolt University) instead.  A series of misunderstood emails and others that were apparently sent but not received, and in the end they turned me away at the reception desk.  After trying to explain it all, Sjoerd and I were given free admission to the conference for the day.  In the end, however, it was too late for us to do our workshop, so I strategically hung around outside the door of where it would have been in order to catch those who were interested but hadn't heard that it was canceled.  That was wortwhile, although kind of strange.

Our colleague Thomas Wikman attended the whole conference, and we found that there was lots to see and talk about with people there.  We were able to meet up with the team from Finland who had put in a Herculean effort to transform many different sources of metadata by hand-written XSLT to the LIDO format, and I was able to give them a demonstration on the spot of our new SIP-Creator tool which should be able to streamline and accelerate the process of mapping to LIDO by an outrageous factor by making it fully interactive.  That got them interested for sure, and now we are building up momentum for a big meeting in Stockholm of all the Scandanavian countries plus The Netherlands in order to initiate a grand collaboration to solve a problem in the cultural heritage institutions that everybody has.  More on that in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Ultimately our impression of DISH was that it was buzzing with all sorts of ambitions and efforts towards involving citizens more in the business of cultural heritage, by crowdsourcing and things like it.  Many interesting strategies were represented, and surely a number of them will really get results.  One problem seems to always rear its ugly head, however, and DISH was no different in this.  Almost every cultural institution which has gone through the process of publishing their accumulated metadata online by indexing it in a search engine (this is something Delving does a lot for people), becomes acutely aware, sometimes for the first time, of the actual quality of their data.  Very often they have large numbers of metadata records which suddenly appear to have limited usefulness, and everybody knows that something has to be done about that problem.

Funny thing is that much of DISH was looking in a very different direction, since one of the main issues in solving this problem is how to get "improved" data to flow back into the registration systems from whence they came.  There are a group of very interesting and daunting challenges that go hand in hand with this effort, and it appears that few organizations were giving the issues the attention they deserve.  I suppose that these somewhat taboo problems are not glamorous enough to dwell on.  Fortunately, these are exactly the issues that Delving is set to attack head-on, together with our clients/partners.  We have to initiate a long-term continuous process of data improvement that will take us from where we are today to a place where our data is alive and improving all the time, and all of this within tightening bugetary constraints.  Let's get busy!