4 weeks ago, there was a thread on the OpenURL listserv with the wonderful title "OpenURL listserv still not accepting my mail". I was mentioned by Herbert van de Sompel, so I thought I should reply. The problem was, I had been unsubscribed by virtue of having left my email address when I left OCLC. I figured, no problem, I should be able to get resubscribed. With a bit of help from Phil Norman, I eventually got resubscribed, only to find out that the OpenURL listserv was not accepting my mail either!
I've never had much urge to start blogging, but I've known for a while what the name of my blog would be!
The following is a horrible way to start a blog, but I fully intend for this to be a horrible blog. It will be incomprehensible, arcane, obscure, indirect and never poetic. Here's what I had to say that the OpenURL listserv won't publish:
It's a bit unkind to talk about dynamical OpenURL formats as "false fantasy". Having said that, I think most of the committee that worked on OpenURL standard would plead guilty to being optimistic about the future. The present situation, however, is that if you use a metadata format that a resolver is unfamiliar with, there are no resolvers, either in production or in the lab, that will understand enough about the ContextObject to do anything other than validate it.
If you're a glass-half-full guy like me, you'll say- "Wow, you mean an OpenURL link resolver can actually validate a metadata format that it's never seen before???" and you'll admire the practicality of the group that worked on the standard.
If you're a glass half-empty person, you'll say- "That's completely useless, the resolver has no hope of doing anything useful for a user unless somebody goes and does some work on the format" and you'll be muttering about the false fantasies and delusions of the group that worked on the standard.
As Herbert pointed out, the standard is written so that metadata formats that are not in the registry (and thus validated as being important in some way by real live human beings) must be either described by an xml schema or a matrix file. At the time we worked on the standard, the most that could be accomplished with this rule is that a resolver machine would be able to validate a context object. We thought that was a realistic and sensible goal. There was always the hope that semantic web technology would advance to the point that self-describing metadata formats would also be possible. And in fact, there have since been developed some very interesting annotation technologies that would make that possible- if you really needed to do it.
The bottom line for the question that began the discussion four weeks ago is that registering the metadata formats that are thought to be important is a Good Thing. Those formats will not be self-describing in common use (because they are successful without self-description!)
(Thanks to Paul Moss who alerted me to the discussion while my listserv subscription had lapsed since leaving OCLC, and to Phil Norman, who helped resubscribe me.)