Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dublin Core is Dead, Long Live MODS

Jeff Beall wrote an article called Dublin Core: An Obituary. In it Beall asserts that the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is a failed experiment. Instead, MODS is the way to go. And this was back in 2004! What is MODS? The Library of Congress' Network Development and MARC Standards Office, with interested experts, is developing a schema for a bibliographic element set that may be used for a variety of purposes, and particularly for library applications. As an XML schema it is intended to be able to carry selected data from existing MARC 21 records as well as to enable the creation of original resource description records.

It includes a subset of MARC fields and uses language-based tags rather than numeric ones, in some cases regrouping elements from the MARC 21 bibliographic format. This schema is currently in draft status and is being referred to as the "Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS)". MODS is expressed using the XML schema language of the World Wide Web Consortium. The standard is maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress with input from users.

Here's what MODS can do that the Dublin Core can't:
1. The element set is richer than Dublin Core
2. The element set is more compatible with library data than ONIX
3. The schema is more end user oriented than the full MARCXML schema
4. The element set is simpler than the full MARC format

In my article at the Semantic Report, I argue that the DCMI is potentially relevant to the SemWeb because implementations of Dublin Core use not only XML, but are based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) standard. The Dublin Core is an all-encompassing project maintained by an international, cross-disciplinary group of professionals from librarianship, computer science, text encoding, the museum community, and other related fields of scholarship and practice. As part of its Metadata Element Set, the Dublin Core implements metadata tags such as title, creator, subject, access rights, and bibliographic citation, using the resource description framework and RDF Schema.

So will the Dublin Core’s role in knowledge management activity representation be significant in the emergence of the SemWeb? So far, MODS hasn't done the job. Even though it has claimed that it can do so. Is this the problem similar to the situation during ancient Chinese period of the Hundred Schools of Thought? Who will win in the end? Or which ones? Perhaps opportunities and possibilities are much higher than narrowly looking for one path for absolute knowledge. So we march on . . .

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