Repository Fringe 2009

A few brief notes from the first day of the Repository Fringe (#rf09) event in Edinburgh. A lot of the presentations were somewhat orthogonal (can’t use that word without thinking of the late great Claude Ostyn!) to my main areas of interest. There were one or two mentions of using repositories to manage teaching and learning materials (two to be precise) but the main focus of the majority of the presentations was squarely on institutional repositories of scholarly works and the research publication workflow and lifecycle.

Having said that, Sally Rumsey and Ben O’Steen’s opening keynote raised some interesting general points which I’ve noted randomly below:

“Sir Thomas Bodely built an “ark to save learning from deluge” and instigated a “republic of lettered men”. Are we building the digital equivalent of the Bodleian?”

“Repository staff act as catalysts for community building.”

“The most successful repository is the internet. How can we make institutional repositories more like the internet? Adding urls to resources for example.”

“People search for “things” not documents. Things have names in real life, however not everything on the web has a name. We can give things names? We can certainly give them urls. It is key to know how a document relates to the thing. The real power comes from the relating of things.”

“We’ve reinvented too many wheels. We need to use the defacto standards of the web, they work, don’t fight them.”

“Almost anything can be regarded as a repository (e.g. flickr, youtube, eprints, etc) but these things don’t have much in common.”

“We need to cut the complexity and aim for one click deposit. We need a solution to the multiple repository deposit regime (MuRDeR) problem.”

“Preservation is useless without access. We should rename preservation – assured secure storage and permanent access.”

“Disproportionate feedback loop – the perception that a small effort brings enormous benefit. The ultimate feedback for the academic is peer review.” (I though that this particular disproportionate feedback loop sounded rather like harnessing the power of professional vanity to fill repositories.)

“Print on demand is going to be huge.” (Oh really??)

A few other notable, and in some cases questionable, quotes from the day:

“…..of course if we’re talking about people a strings….”

“Linked data is going to take over the world.”

“The Semantic Web isn’t just about better search, it’s about aggregation.”

“Institutional repositories are ultimately marketing tools really.”

One of the mentions of learning resources came from Richard Jones of Simplectic who said they were involved in a project that was developing a learning object repository based DSpace augmented with Mahara to facilitate communities of practice.

One last thing, one of the “novel” aspects of the Repository Fringe was the Pecha Kucha sessions. Some of these were notably more successful than others. Les Carr was excellent of course, as were William Nixon and his colleague from Glasgow University’s Enrich and Enlighten projects. However I couldn’t help being reminded of Alt-C panel sessions with three or four short rushed powerpoint presentations with very little time or inclination for comments at the end. More opportunity for discussion would have been greatly appreciated! As one of my colleagues diplomatically put it:

“….the message was somewhat hampered by the medium.”

I decided against attending the second day of the conference but was very sorry to miss Cliff Lynch’s closing keynote. Hopefully It’ll appear online sooner rather than later.