The World Wide Web changes the way information is stored, processed and exchanged. Formally speaking, it is a distributed system that allows to access documents (or web-pages) written in special language (hypertext) and which are connected by references of specific type (hyperlinks).
For a long time WWW as a huge set of documents successfully fulfilled its functions: allow people to access, publish and share information. But initial document-oriented approach cannot satisfy the growing needs of information society. Data in all of its diversity (music, images, videos) is in the limelight now and problems that emerge are harder to solve than in the case of hypertext documents. And the main questions are: how to link data against each other? How to connect different types of data? And how to link it in the way that is comprehensible not only for people, but for machines as well? The concept of Linked Data might help to solve these problems.
Linked Data provides methods to make data structured. They rely on well-known concepts like HTTP, URI, RDF which allow to refer to data and to describe its metadata including relationships with other resources. Linked Data is also one of the main concepts of Semantic Web, the evolutionary stage of World Wide Web, where computers can find and process information as good as people, thus significantly simplifying routine tasks.
One of experiments with Linked Data is presented in the paper “Linked Open Data & the OpenEmblem Portal”. Linked Data approaches were used to annotate, classify and link thousand of digitized pictures and emblems from Renaissance books. Emblem may contain picture, description, motto, all of which contribute to the meaning of the emblem. Iconclass hierarchical classification directory was used for preparing emblem metadata records, thus providing links to the whole hierarchy of described objects. Therefore, a user can browse related subjects after finding a specific emblem. Anything can be linked: places, people, periods of time. As a result, using Linked Data services helped to increase both discoverability and usability of the collection.
OpenEmblem: from an emblem metadata to other emblems through IconClass hierarchy
Another project that attempts to implement the Linked Data concept is Bibliopedia which is described in the paper “Bibliopedia, Linked Open Data, and the Web of Scholarly Citations”. The project aims at providing the platform for searching, sharing and interconnecting scholarly works, making simpler to discover new papers and establishing relationships between existing ones. Bibliopedia aggregates works from various sources, extracts citation data and link different works, which allows to browse connected articles and papers. One important feature that distinguishes Bibliopedia from other digital scholarly tools like Google Scholar is the presence of human feedback in the form of correcting errors and improving metadata. At the moment it’s infeasible to create a fully automated system of this kind that will construct absolutely precise metadata, so the crowdsourcing will positively influence the quality of the service.
The idea of using crowdsourcing to fix errors and ensure accuracy of linked data is proved to be viable by researches. In the work “Linked Data for Music Collections: A User-Centred Approach” the users were asked about their attitudes concerning the linking of music metadata to some external data. It turned out that not all the users fully accepted the idea of references to non-music related sources, but most of them agreed that the user community must take part in maintaining the accuracy and integrity of metadata and links. The results of this user-based research also helped to find out potential technology problems and to guide the further development of the Contemporary Music Centre database.
All of the discussed articles show the high potential of Linked Data: it improves user experience and allows automated systems to process, browse and infer the new data at the same time. It gives the ability of faster discovery of the new information but keeps the relationships with the old one. Using ideas of crowdsourcing and folksonomy can substantially increase a user satisfaction as discovered errors and inconsistencies will be fixed quickly. All of this make the concept of Linked Data a big step forward towards a better Web.