If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words…

February 9th, 2011 by Stephanie Taylor

… then how do you manage the metadata?

We’ve now had 3 meetings of the Metadata Forum. Although none of the meetings have focussed on images alone, sit seems that they are a constant hot topic of conversation whenever two or more repository managers are gathered over tea and cakes. What makes them so interesting? Basically, I think more and more people are finding image files landing in the inbox, repository or database as part of a deposit. If your original brief was to handle ‘scholarly communications’, then you might have the straight text-based deposits sorted, workflows in place, metadata sorted – in fact, everything running like clockwork. Just when you thought it was safe to smile a little and maybe do a brief, happy dance, the images start arriving.

I think there are several things coming together here, making images the latest, um, “challenge” for repository managers. First, repositories are becoming more embedded into the consciousness of researchers. As this happens, they start to make more deposits, and more deposits means a wider range of material – graphs, charts, photographs, illustrations start to make an appearance as part of a package of work. Second, increasingly institutions are moving to make depositing an e-version of a thesis part of the requirements for post-graduate students. As this gathers momentum, the chances of having to handle images as supplementary material or part of the thesis itself,  increases. And in general, the availability of  easy-to-use, free or cheap tools to create, manipulate and publish images of all kinds encourages researchers to illustrate their work with all kinds of images. In many cases a picture (or a graph, chart or map) really can paint a thousand words!

What I’ve learned from many Metadata Forum participants is -  if you aren’t already handling images, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to deal with them. And so, the idea for Picture This! was formed. A day-long workshop focussing on image metadata. The workshop is run in conjunction with Application Profiles Support, another UKOLN and JISC initiative, and takes place on 15/February/2011, in London. It’s part of the Dev8D+ programme of events, and offers a unique chance to not only talk to other practitioners about the practical issues involved in handling image metadata, but to talk to friendly developers who have great expertise in images and metadata. So not only can you learn from others on the ground, doing the same kind of work as yourself, you can also talk over issues with developers who will help you by offering solutions to problems and also work with you to create cool new tools and applications you can use to make your life easier.

Picture This! is a free event, with free lunch provided. Food, advice, re-assurance and networking with colleagues – come along and help dispel the stress around image metadata!

Although the event is free, booking is essential. Places are still available, but are limited, so book soon.

Image by peregrine blue via Flickr, used under CC license.

Metadata For Complex Objects Update

November 29th, 2010 by Stephanie Taylor
*Image details at end of post

Bookings for the next Forum meeting on 10th December 2010 are brisk. Clearly metadata for complex objects is a hot topic for many people right now. I’ll be publishing short overviews from the speakers later in the week, but I can confirm that we will be hearing about images, theses and teaching and learning objects, with further announcements to come. If you want to attend but haven’t yet booked, you can do so using the booking form, which also links to full details of the meeting and venue.**

I’ve also been pleased to receive questions and comments via email and Twitter from people who aren’t able to attend the meeting in person, but still have a contribution to make. If you can’t make the meeting, feel free to drop me an email, tweet @metadataforum or even give me a call and let me know  your thoughts and questions. All contributions received before the day or on the day itself will be presented during the meeting, and discussions and answers to queries will be fed back to everyone via Twitter and the blog. Speaker notes and presentations will also be freely available after the meeting, again with links and and overviews here on the blog.

The tag for the meeting will be -


You will be able to follow announcements about the event via twitter (as well as feeds from blogs and websites etc.) by searching for the above tag. If you are new to twitter, please visit, http://www.twitter.com and create an account for yourself. We will be using technologies like this frequently, before, during and after the event. If you require a twitter client (software to keep up to date with the latest tweets), several can be found at http://www.twitstat.com/twitterclientusers.html.

*Image of the University of York temporary protakbin library accommodation during the current refurbishment project.
**A final note on the location -  the meeting will be held at the University of York library portakabin. In answer to many tweets about the venue, I think you’ll agree it’s a portakabin, but not as we know it ;-)

RepoFringe2010 – Metadata, Repos & Dumplings

September 6th, 2010 by Stephanie Taylor

Last Frday, 3rd, September,  the Metadata Forum held a second face-to-face meeting at the RepoFringe 2010. With an event focussing on repositories, there was much talk of metadata in both the practical and the abstract.  Talks and sessions from the RepoFringe can be found at the event blog. The blog is being added to over the next few days, so please check back if a specific session is not yet ‘live’ on the blog.

Tony Hirst of the Open University gave an interesting and thought-provoking keynote address, looking at mashups and using informal publication methods. He raised the inevitable questions around the default use of the PDF format for documents, and it’s many limitations with regard to accessing content. This was only matched later in the evening by his insightful thoughts on popular music and how to freak out your teenage offspring shared at a nearby alternative Fringe venue.

Both days saw Pecha Kucha sessions, with speakers being given 2 minutes and 20 slides to share their projects. All the speakers were excellent, though explaining an institutional repository through the medium of cake seemed a sure winner for the first day for Robbie and Toby talking about Enlighten, the IR of the University of Glasgow! Do check out the session slides as they become available – they are an very useful way of getting a quick overview of many exciting projects happening at the moment.

Round table sessions on both days provided a good way to discuss topics of interest in more detail. The Metadata Forum chaired one of the sessions on… metadata. Specifically we looked at metadata for time-based objects and the aggregation of metadata, helped by Sheila Fraser of EDINA who is working on a JISC Scoping Study on this subject. Full details will follow in my next post.

Other particularly interesting presentations from a metadata perspective were given by Herbert Van De Sompel of Los Alamos National Library, Chris Awre of the University of Hull and Michael Fourman of the University of Edinburgh.

Herbert looked at adding a time dimension to searching, allowing people to search for earlier versions of web pages through the Memento project. The implications of this were very interesting and the idea of being able to search in time as well as space was intriguing and useful.

Chris spoke about the Hydra project, a joint project between the Universities of Hull, Stanford and Virginia working in partnership with Fedora Commons. The success of this collaborative venture, where each institution offers it’s expertise and resources to create a repository that can be tailored to individual requirements yet would be out of reach without thus collective approach was inspiring. Agreements and flexibility is the way forward – something that affects metadata decisions on a very practical level.

Michael explored a different approach to classifying documents using Topic Models. Topic Models offer an alternative, potentially more accurate way of classifying documents than keywords, as they pinpoint more accurately what an article is actually about by looking at word frequency. A little Bayesian magic is then applied to balance the model.

The closing address was delivered by Kevin Ashley of the DCC who gave a great summary of the past two days. He also spoke about the need for repositories to work with and link into many other systems – a vision that is, of course, supported by metadata in many forms! Kevin’s humorous yet thoughtful address made a perfect end two an event that had been both useful and enjoyable.

Thanks to all the organisers for a great RepoFringe 2010. The Metadata Forum would also like to thank James Toon of the ERIS project for sustaining the metadata frenzy of the Fringe with possibly the best Chinese dumplings she has ever had the pleasure of eating. ;)

We’re Going To The Fringe

August 25th, 2010 by Stephanie Taylor

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

The Metadata Forum will be holding a face-to-face meeting at the Repo Fringe 2010 in Edinburgh, 2-3 September. The meeting is free and open to anyone who has an interest in metadata. So if you’re coming along to the event, or will be in Edinburgh and have an interest in metadata,  please come and join in – everyone is welcome!

More details of a suggested agenda and guest speaker will follow. There may even be chocolate biscuits and shortbread(!).

*Photo used under CC licensing, with thanks to mrbrocks. Find out about the famous  Greyfriars Bobby of Edinburgh, a sad story of love, devotion and metadata (well, ok, maybe not metadata!).