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January 30, 2009

Surveying with voiD

Michael Hausenblas yesterday announced the availability of version 1.0 of the voiD specification. void specifies an RDF-based approach to the description of RDF datasets that have been constructed following the principles of linked data.

Although the emphasis is very much on those characteristics specific to a void:Dataset - and particularly the nature of links between datasets - this sort of approach reminded me of that taken in the area of collection-level description, an area which Andy and I both contributed to in the past, leading to work within DCMI on the development of the Dublin Core Collections Application Profile. - though of course that profile is much more generally scoped than voiD.

Michael describes the problem addressed by voiD in his article in a recent issue of Nodalities:

Now, the main challenge is: how can I, as someone who wants to build an application on top of linked data, find and select appropriate linked datasets? Note that there are two basic issues here: first, finding an appropriate dataset (discovery) then selecting one - that is, you have a bunch of possible candidates, which one is the ‘best suited’.

This reminded me of the much quoted (not least by me back when I was running round doing presentations as part of UKOLN's Collection Description Focus!) metaphor used by Michael Heaney in his An Analytical Model of Collections and their Catalogues, with reference to an academic researcher approaching the "landscape" of research collections:

The scholar surveying this landscape is looking for the high points. A high point represents an area where the potential for gleaning desired information by visiting that spot (physically or by remote means) is greater than that of other areas. To continue the analogy, the scholar is concerned at the initial survey to identify areas rather than specific features – to identify rainforest rather than to retrieve an analysis of the canopy fauna of the Amazon basin.

Judging by the response on the W3C public-lod mailing list, there's a considerable interest in voiD in the linked data community, and I look forward to seeing what sort of new services emerge using it.

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