Wednesday 25 February 2009

DuraSpace: High Hopes or Crying Wolf

I promised that I would try to keep informed about DuraSpace, and so I was pleased to read the DuraSpace midterm report to Mellon. (Note to Mellon staff: please don't scan these reports without OCR'ing them. It's frustrating not being able to Google them!)

As I said previously, I'm a big fan of the DuraSpace agenda. My distillation of DuraSpace goals from the report's opening paragraph is to provide a trusted intermediary that makes content both durable and usable with a "chinese menu" of added-value services. Now this isn't really specific to the cloud - but that seems in keeping with the report because it frequently refers to "third party storage solutions" rather than "the cloud".

So the DuraSpace agenda could apply as much to the Web, or any other information environment, as it does to the cloud. Which in itself seems to be a good thing, and proves the worth of the open repositories community (go repositories!)

Except that we're still trying to consolidate and prove our worth in the web environment. Have we got a huge community of end-users who are all cheering for repositories and swear by their functionality? Exactly how long is our chinese menu of appealing and valuable services? It may be a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine (sorry about that) but let's make sure that we deliver on repository value and usefulness in the Web, on the desktop and also in the cloud.

Otherwise someone is going to accuse us of crying wolf - quick! come and look at the value proposition of repositories in the cloud! We've already alerted people about value and the web till we're blue in the face. Can we really tick that one off? Have we delivered? Do people trust us? (Have people heard of us?)

I haven't suddenly gone all anti-repository - I believe that we are genuinely seeing some really interesting repository services starting to emerge from a variety projects. But they are not mainstream yet, and they are not common experience. We still need to work harder on creating value for end users as well as repository managers and repository developers.

Let's do it in the cloud - but lets work really hard at articulating the benefits that the cloud end user will enjoy stop relying on general talk about value-added services. We need to Think. Specifically. Make a clear offering to our users - or would-be users. I think researchers/end-users will forgive us for not having finished implementing something yet, but they won't forgive us for a lack of imagination.

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