Thursday, September 05, 2013

10 Questions about #VIAF, #Wikidata and the #World

Max Klein is the Wikipedian in residence at the OCLC, which is a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Max runs VIAFbot, this is the bot that has added VIAF identification to people who have a record in Wikidata. Who would be better placed to ask what this is all about? So enjoy

Please describe what VIAF is and why it is relevant
We've all joked about what it would be like if people had numbers instead of names. The funny thing is though it would be much more convenient to organize our information about people if we did have numbers as well as names. National Libraries have already done this behind the scenes to make the reader's life easier. It's just that each National Library did it independently, so VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File) matches the National Libraries to each other.
In Wikidata links to VIAF and other repositories are mentioned why is this done.
Wikidata, however great and revolutionary it will be, is not the first big online database. What's cooler than any one big online database, is connecting their records up with "same-as" and other relation, so we can use the databases together. Putting VIAF IDs in Wikidata allows operations between the two databases.
What kind of information do people get when they click on a VIAF number in Wikipedia or Wikidata
When you open a VIAF link you see all the information that National Libraries have about that person. Usually this includes details of their life, like dates, and the titles they wrote.
Wikidata, Wikipedia, VIAF etc all have their own data, how do differences get reconciled
One constant annoyance I have is that in algorithmically matching records there is always a small error rate. That means I'm constantly getting messages of records to correct. Luckily with Wikidata or Wikipedia, the user can just edit the record to make it right. It's my challenge to watch those changes and see if I need to correct another source like VIAF.
How relevant is Wikidata as a data repository
Wikidata is going to be vastly, hugely, unimaginably important. We gave up on trying to give a structured representation of the world some years ago because it was just too big a task. That was before Wikipedia proved a method of doing big tasks. A fantasy could be realized with Wikidata.
What does it take to gain relevance for Wikidata
Wikidata will become not just relevant but crucial in subtle way when researchers and programmers start using it as an knowledge base for Artificial Intelligence.
How important is it that Wikidata serves so many languages
That's always difficult for me to think of as a Native English speaker. But when I recognize the danger of assuming an English-only world, I realize I'm the most important person to be multilingual-sensitive, since I have the least interest in being so.
How extended is information about the "third world" in VIAF
I don't know precisely. My research shows that VIAF is only slightly less sexist than Wikipedia, but basically just as sexist. It's a hypothesis then that it's just at biased about not including "third world" information.

When Wikidata has information missing in VIAF, is it interested?
I would hope so, and I am working on it. In some cases Wikidata has more information that VIAF is missing, than VIAF has information that Wikidata is missing.
Can we trust VIAF to keep its information
If It's good enough for the Library of Congress, Deutsche National Bibliothek, Bibliotecheque nationale de France, and about 20 more, I'd hope it would be trust worthy enough for the Wikimedia community.

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