[openbiblio-dev] BibJSON vs RDF

Tom Morris tfmorris at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 19:29:44 UTC 2012

Seems like there's a variety of opinions.  It's not just an idle
question because it influences how engineering and marketing time
(money) is spent.

Considers these five possible goals for BibJSON:

1. Internal format for BibServer
2. API format for BibServer
3. New standard for personal bibliographies (ie alternative to BibTeX, RIS, etc)
4. New standard for library bibliographic data (ie alternative to
5. All of the above plus format for author data, data set
descriptions, weather forecasts, etc

Each of this requires a different level of functionality,
specification detail, stability, tool support, promotional activity,
etc and the stability that you'd want for a new library bibliographic
data format would conflict with the flexibility that one desires of an
internal-only format.

Personally, I think the right answer is #1 or #2.  #3 might be
achievable with additional investment in specification and some
combination of additional tooling plus evangelism, but it would
require a concerted and focused effort.  I think #4 is an unrealistic
goal and investment made in achieving it (e.g. convincing national
libraries to publish in BibJSON) takes away from other worthwhile
goals.  When I hear people talking about representing data sets or
other stuff in BibJSON (ie #5), I just cringe.

Of course, not doing #3 or #4 means that you will always have to
convert to and from the standards/popular formats in those spaces,

Note that none of this has anything to do with whether JSON is good or
bad or would be an appropriate carrier for library data.  I love JSON
and work with it every day, but JSON and BibJSON are two entirely
different things.  Whether MARC.next uses a raw JSON carrier or
RDF/XML carrier or JSON-LD carrier is a) not very interesting and b)
someone else's problem, in my opinion.  Plus, it's something that will
be decided on library standards timescale (ie decades), so not
something that's productive to waste time on now.

On Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 5:10 AM, Edmund Chamberlain <emc59 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> Aligning systems and cataloguing practices so closely with a single format
> (Marc21) has shackled us to bad practice and outdated technology and made it
> very difficult to share data meaningfully.
> With the Library of Congress planning to move on from Marc21,  choosing just
> one syntax and carrier format as we move forward would risk the same
> mistake.

There's no question that MARC is seriously antiquated from a
technology point of view and that it represents a certain, very
traditional, view of how cataloging should be done, which may not be a
good fit with how cataloging happens in the future.

Having said that, I strongly disagree that having a common standard
for communication is part of the problem.

> In the post Marc world, there will most likely be no single replacement
> format. To my mind, thats' a good thing.

I think the main difference will be that all of the non-book stuff in
MARC will come from somewhere else.  There's no need for librarians to
be spec'ing out how to describe people or organizations or other
common items.  However, I suspect there'll still be a single set of
standards for describing core bibliographic data.

> I've done some development work with RDF, its hard to produce and to consume
> as others have noted here.

I suspect that you're talking about RDF/XML here, but I'm willing to
bet that when MARC.next is finished, that the complexity of the
librarians' data model will dwarf any overhead due to RDF, JSON, XML
or whatever format it's based on.

All I'm proposing is that the group put a stake in the ground as to
what the tactical use of BibJSON is in supporting the strategic goals
of the Open Bibliography group.  Actually it's probably really a
question for the general list, not the dev list.


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