Image from The Freddy Portfolio, under Creative Commons Licensing.*
The Metadata Forum had a great first meeting on Wednesday. Despite being towards the end of a busy conference day, we had a good turn out of people from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the USA all bringing valuable and interesting contributions to the Forum. I’d like to thank everyone who attended, and also the people who emailed in contributions both before and after the meeting.
Although we only had a one-hour slot to talk, we covered a lot of topics, so in this post I’ll summarise the main themes of the discussion. I’ll cover the main issues raised individually in subsequent posts.
We started with everyone sharing with the group their own particular metadata interests and experiences. As the group ranged from national projects to smaller, institutional initiatives, taking in regional collaborations, support services and even a museum along the way, it was an interesting way to get started! Despite the wide range of applications, some overall themes emerged fairly quickly.
Complexity versus simplicity was the first discussion point. Overall, simple was seen as a good approach, but comprehensive, more complex usage could be critical depending on the objects being described and their expected use. This was a rich seam for discussion and the group highlighted this area as on for further exploration.
This led on to a discussion about standards and how even the most pared-down, simplistic versions of a standard can be implemented in very different ways and lead to a lack of consistency that can create problems for aggregation further down the line. The subject of aggregation was of great interest. Several attendees shared hands-on experience of aggregation. This was a topic seen as important for everyone in the group, and one that could be considered for a show-and-tell session followed by discussion at one of the face-to-face meetings planned later in the year.
Having identified aggregation as topic of interest, we discussed the kind of future face-to-face meetings people would find useful. Specific topics, sent out in advance so that attendees could prepare for participation in a focussed discussion was seen as a good idea. In addition, everyone was keen on sharing their knowledge and their current projects, so a show-and-tell session that could act as a place to exchange experiences and learn from each others would be a good addition. Ways of communicating between face-to-face meetings were also covered, and I’ll be devoting a post to this later. I’d like to open up the discussion via this blog on both ways of communicating in a virtual environment.
The idea of case studies, where people would write up specific aspects of their metadata-related work to share with others was greeted enthusiastically. The less formal approach of making these available as a post here on the blog rather than as a formal report seemed to fit in realistically with the inevitable heavy workloads of project and repository managers, so watch this space. Advanced notice that there are promised case study posts from three participants at this first meeting, a very encouraging sign!
The discussion naturally moved on to standards, schemas and other useful resources. The group were keen to share useful resources they had found and make these available online for others to use. Providing a place to look for metadata resources was also identified as something that everyone could participate in, taking little time to pass on and not requiring attendance at any face-to-face meetings. More news on this will follow early next week.
Finally, the level of knowledge and experience that the Forum aimed to support was discussed. This is, I think, another ongoing conversation and one that those attending the first meeting would be keen to open up and continue. Although there was a strong feeling to support those new to (and possibly terrified of) working with metadata, people with more experience also felt that being able to discuss issues with similarly experienced peer practitioners was also very important. Again, this come back to one of the foundations of the Forum, to support the needs of those who become involved.
*Photo shows the other main event happening in Madrid on 7th July – crowds watching Spain going through to the finals of the World Cup on screens at the Bernabeu stadium across the road from the OR10 Confernce venue.