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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

AdaptiveBlue offers AB Meta. Did the earth move for you?

AdaptiveBlue is an interesting company. Although I've not found myself using their Blue Organiser tool all that much myself, I can see which way they're pointing and I like it. Now they have announced how they wish to refresh of the old familiar META tags in the heads of web pages with their take on object-centric metadata. AB Meta (apparently developed with other web companies) is all about surfacing semantic data into the layer that we typically interact with, and that even non-tech people can hopefully author without too much trouble. From their page:

AB Meta is a simple and open format for annotating pages that are about things.

A book publisher can use AB Meta to provide information about a book such as the author and ISBN, a restaurant owner can provide information such as the cuisine, phone number and address and a movie reviewer can annotate reviews with movie titles and directors.

The format allows site owners to describe the main thing on the HTML page in a very simple way - using standard META headers. AB Meta is purposefully simple and understandable by anyone. AB Meta is based on eRDF Standard.

I'm especially interested in this "surface" expression/implementation of SW. It's clear to me that much of the running in recent times has been made by companies looking to SW-style concepts and aspirations to deliver real benefits to their business, and only in a few cases has this led to them taking a classic-ish SW path (c.f. Reuters with OpenCalais). AdaptiveBlue and many others have instead set out along the light-weight, near-the-surface route, and as an eternal optimist (for some reason), I am hopeful that this will ultimately deliver the meat that the heavy-weight, deep SW needs to do something exciting. Thus killing the chicken/egg situation, with pay-offs along the way. This was the real take-home for me of last year's SW think tank.

Whether AB Meta has a part in this for museums I can't say. It's certainly lightweight but whether it will be different enough from existing alternatives to persuade our sector to adopt it, I don't know. Perhaps the earth will yet move.

As a PS, I should add that I dropped them a line to ask about a detail (whether it would be possible to include more than one object in the head of a page) and the reply came from CEO Alex Iskold. I think that's pretty impressive: presumably he's a busy guy (and he writes a good blog post, too) and yet he took the time to reply to a pretty pedestrian inquiry.

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