Saturday, August 26, 2017

#OpenLibrary - Charles Horn and its other volunteers

There are several reasons why Open Library and Internet Archive deserve attention. They provide downloadable books in many language and their Wayback machine comes to the rescue when links in references in Wikipedia go stale. Have a look at the presentation from Wikimania 2017 (from11:46).

The Internet Archive is officially one of the partners of the Wikimedia Foundation. When you ask who in the Wikimedia Foundation is the goto person for contacts with Internet Archive, there is no answer. It is as if there is no structure in contacts with our partners even when it plays dividends to collaborate in a more structured way. When you consider the "Coleman Boat" it is just as if the macro elements are totally missing and it is left for the micro elements to make the difference.

Macro effects of collaboration with the Open Library would be:
  • references are made to downloadable eBooks from Wikipedia - People read books
  • localisation are made at translatewiki.net - People read books in "other" languages 
  • books at Open Library are in Wikidata - links to eBooks are available
  • identifiers are widely shared and widely curated -  work of volunteers has the biggest impact
At a micro level, collaboration is happening. Charles Horn, a volunteer at Open Library is a stellar example. Charles added identifiers to Wikidata and VIAF in the Open Library database. He provided us with a large file of redirects and was instrumental in removing multiple identifiers to Open Library for authors.  He recently produced a Wikidata query to find duplicates and the Wikidata community was made aware of this maintenance work. 

Many of the macro opportunities become possible when conditions at Open Library are met. One big issue is the need for disambiguation and de-duplication. This is not helped with the massive amounts of data involved and the lack of data on the individual author level. While individuals like Charles have an immense effect, it is in the collaboration on a macro level where even bigger differences can be made. Consider; many books include identifiers like an ISBN or a link to the Library of Congress. So it is possible to leverage a tool developed at the Wikimedia Foundation to retrieve associated meta data or to find associated data at the OCLC.

It takes just a bit of friendly prodding from the macro people at the associated organisations, some reassurance that there is support for these efforts and there will be a lot of talent at the micro level making a big difference. Cooperation and coordination is what the organisations are to provide and we will share more of the knowledge that is available to all who come looking.
Thanks,
       GerardM
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