Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Progress on the Asset Action front

Recently, the issue of whether to integrate asset actions in American Social History Online has again become a hot topic for the Technology Working Group (TWG). Two events converged to provide the TWG with the impetus to move forward on the integration: the serialization of ORE in the Atom format, and the work with Zotero.

What is an asset action?

An asset action is an XML package of actionable URIs that delivers named, typed actions for a particular resource. What this means is that within the metadata for a resource there are URLs that allow the researcher to choose, (retrieve) versions or parts of a resource. For example, the researcher could:
  • get specific parts of the resource, like the table of contents or the abstract
  • get a specific version of the resource, like a thumbnail image, an archival-quality image, the pdf version,or a view of the object in context of its splash (web) page.
What do Zotero and Atom have to do with it? They're more widely used by data providers (providers of the resources) and researchers (consumers of the resources).

Although the syntax for asset actions has been available since early 2006, its use has never really taken off. The most likely contributing factor is the need for the XML syntax originally written by the group at UIUC to be incorporated into the metadata of the resources, which means extra work for the data provider. Atom provides a more ubiquitous way to provide XML feeds with asset actions in them. The hope is that since many more people are familiar with Atom feeds, the likelihood of data providers implementing asset actions will be much greater.

The other issue is the need for software to read the asset actions syntax. Although UVa Library's Collectus and ImageViewer allows users to view image files provided by asset actions, it is not yet widely used by many people. Zotero would provide a more ubiquitous way to read the feeds than Collectus.