Collaborative Networking, P2P and metadata

The Power of Metadata: “Whether or not peer-to-peer fares any better than the Web, it certainly presents a new challenge for people concerned with describing and classifying information resources. Peer-to-peer provides a rich environment and a promising early stage for putting in place all we’ve learned about metadata over the past decade.”

Rael Dornfest and Dan Brickley are two XML/RDF/metadata gurus. This article is their contribution to a fortvoming book.

“Metadata applied at a fundamental level, early in the game, will provide rich semantics upon which innovators can build peer-to-peer applications that will amaze us with their flexibility. While the symmetry of peer-to-peer brings about a host of new and interesting ways of interacting, there’s no substitute for taking the opportunity to rethink our assumptions and learned from the mistakes made on the Web. Let’s not continue the screen-scraping modus operandi; rather, let’s replace extrapolation with forethought and rich assertions.”

Dornfest and Brickley finishes with a call to action for peer-to-peer architects, project leaders, developers, and end users:

  • Use a single, coherent metadata framework such as that provided by RDF. When it comes to metadata, the network becomes a poorer information resource whenever we create artificial boundaries between metadata applications.
  • Work on the commonalities between seemingly disparate data sources and formats. Work in your community to agree on some sort of common descriptive concepts. If such concepts already exist, borrow them.
  • Describe your resources well, in a standard way, getting involved in this standardization process itself where necessary. Be sure to make as much of this description as possible available to peer applications and end users through clear semantics and simple APIs.
  • Design ways of searching for (and finding) resources on the Net that take full advantage of any exposed metadata.
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