Against Linked Open Data

Linked Open Data may sound good and noble, but it’s the wrong way around.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an organization in possession of good Data, must want it Open (and indeed, Linked).

Well, I call bullshit. Most cultural heritage organizations (like most organizations) are terrible at data. And most of those who are good at collecting it, very rarely use it effectively or strategically. Why then, this fetishization of Linked Open Data (LOD) for collections when just getting good Data is a struggle for most cultural orgs. At the very least, it’s the wrong way around. Data (yes!), Open (if you explain how to access it and keep it up to date) and Linked (only in very rare circumstance, when there is a clear ROI*). If your institution isn’t using the Linked Data, and it’s your Data, why would outsiders be interested?

* “I can’t wait to see what people do with our data” is not a clear ROI.

It took me some time to come around to this (potentially unpopular) way of thinking. I’ve been a long time proponent of LOD, I’ve written and spoken in favour, and attended multiple LOD events and conferences. I’ve attended so many events, in fact, that I’ve started mapping participants and their affiliations to better understand who is contributing the field such as LOD LAM 2015 and LDCX 2017 (TLDR: it’s an awesome community of super smart people — primarily made up of digital library departments in wealthy US universities, big art museums, gov agencies from Europe, Australian and New Zealand, platform developers, activists and artists).

Just uploading your data to the internet is the digital equivalent of dumping folders of paper and Polaroids into the street. Sure it’s public, but most people don’t know where to find it, or how to use it.

Even Tim Berners-Lee’s 5 star data isn’t an appropriate barometer for success for cultural sector data, and Tim is a god. It has LOD as the 5 star standard, without points for applicability, sustainability, explanation and accuracy.

I propose an alternative anagram, and an alternative order of importance.

  • D. Data. Step one, collect the data that is most likely to help you and your organization make better decisions in the future. For example collection breadth, depth, accuracy, completeness, diversity, and relationships between objects and creators.

I’m against LOD, if it doesn’t follow DUCS first.

If you’re going to do it, do it right.

Writing on culture, technology, museums and the future. New book ‘The Digital Future of Museums’ out now through Routledge.

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