Friday, February 16, 2007

Six Degrees of Metadata

I don't talk about my day gig much in this space. Mostly because my day gig involves marketing, and if I'm going to write about what I do (marketing) and where I do it (OCLC), I should do it there, on the clock, get paid for it, and give the shrift to them what pays me.

This separation of blog and job should not be confused with any antipathy towards work on my part. I really like what I do and think my company does some very excellent stuff. I just don't talk about it here. Much.

But the gang in our research division just launched something uber-cool that I'd like to point out to my buddies what ain't already hip to the library land groove. WorldCat Identities.

This service pulls all kinds of library links from WorldCat into one page, based around the identity of... well... "somebody important." Could be an author, could be a character in a work. And it links out from one to the next, in a way that reminds me of a social networking service like LinkedIn, but for... well... "somebody important."

For example. Start with one of the biggest names in the cloud. William Shakespeare. Truck on down the page to the "Related Names" section and click on Julius Caesar. [Note: don't click on the wee, litle "+" sign... that does something different. Well, sure. Go back and do that, too. But not right now].

Now you're looking at works about and by Julius Caesar. Oh, right. Caesar wrote stuff himself. He wasn't just a character in other people's plays. That's good to keep in mind.

Related people to Mr. Caesar include George Bernard Shaw, who wrote a play called "Caesar and Cleopatra." Right. I'd forgotten about that, too. Another related name is Joan of Arc, about whom George also wrote.

Now if you look closely at the Identity page for Joan, you'll see a little link number next to it: 944.026. That's a link to the Dewey Browser view of WorldCat... another cool tool from our friends in Research. Click there and look at the books you'd see next to books about Joan on the shelf at the library.

Turns out that some of the books next to Joan on the shelf have to do with the history of the English longbow... and that's directly related to the current historical fiction series that I'm reading. And to a lifelong interest I've had in archery, instilled in me by my maternal grandfather, who was a bowyer and fletcher.

WorldCat Identities is, I think, an incredibly interesting way to paw through content collections and areas of interest. Stories are largely about people; much more interesting (in most cases) than stuff or places. At least to me. And so a "data cube" that rotates around the people at the heart of stories -- both them what writes 'em and them what's in 'em -- is a great way to navigate a sea of potentially interesting information.

This one was just way too cool for me to not share with my 9 regular readers. Major, major props to the guys in Research.

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