4 thoughts on “Rules vs. format

  1. Jakob Voss

    While I agree in general, I’d like to contradict to your conclusion: we do not need to better separate rules and structure, but we need to better connect them. You can do so, for instance by adding formal schemas like XML Schema and OWL. Even simple checks by regular expressions would help to increase the quality and usability of our data. Surely these schemas will only cover parts of the complex rules of cataloging, but at least there would be something to build on. You wrote “We shouldn’t let the rules interfere with the definition of metadata elements, and we have to get the semantics of these elements across as unambiguously as possible” but I would say from the other direction that we need rules that define our metadata elements and provide the semantics of these elements.

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  2. Jakob Voss

    P.S: The relation betwen rules and format in data creation and data formats is very interesting, indeed. If you have some references to library and information science literature that argues about this relationship and distinction, please let me know! Maybe the difference lies where “semantic” comes into play. But both formats and rules provide some structure that is annotated with additional hints to reveal the meaning of the structure. I’d say traditionally formats have more structure and less annotations, while rules have more annotations and less structure. Maybe the “subject indicators” from Topic Maps, you wrote about, act as such annotations. I am not familiar enough with Topic Maps to judge.

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    1. Saskia Post author

      In the last sentence of your first comment I sense a disconnect between what we refer to when we say “rules”: rules to define metadata elements or rules for the content, i.e. for data entry? Subject indicators are one way of providing definitions and semantics of certain concepts, terms or data elements.
      I think the main questions are: will the format be independent from the rules? What happens when the cataloging rules are modified? If the format is dictated by the rules, it will have to be adapted, too. Will the schema be clear and understandable without the whole backdrop of rules for entering the actual data? After all, cataloging rules are instructions for making decisions about describing the item in hand, and as such should not affect the format in which this description is represented.
      I too would like to read more about the relationship between rules and formats because these are issues that have to be taken into account when devising new standards.

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