The BIC Metadata Futures Group has been set up to address the future demands of the industry in terms of systems design and identification. With the growth of digital distribution there has been a corresponding increase in the number of differential products, often superficially identical, which systems and other existing resources have had to cope with. Much of the resulting 'bloat' could have been avoided by a systematic approach to the design of systems and processes.
The group's first phase of activity has reached a significant staging-post in the summer of 2011. Its second phase will address the identification of chunks and fragments and the implications for metadata and other systems of trading digital content outside and beyond the present fixed-content product environment.
First phase outcomes
The BIC Metadata Futures Group's first phase of work has concentrated on the development of a set of recommendations for the management and maintenance of product data in a normalised structure, along the principle that data elements common to a group of related products or product variants would be stored once only wherever practicable. This work is intended to achieve three primary purposes:
- Provide guidance on good practice to help ensure that future information systems are storing data in an efficient, consistent and interoperable manner.
- The adoption of a standard normalised approach to the storage and maintenance of product information should drive better, more consistent metadata - even when communicated using existing protocols.
- Application of a standard method for the management of product information for related products will allow consistent and comprehensive communication of linkages between products related in a range of different ways, again using existing communication wrappers.
A discussion paper has been prepared outlining the general principles proposed and including a detailed proposal for structuring data for a group of closely related product variants.
Based on the work done so far, the group has formulated a short set of interim recommendations:
The industry must maintain/increase focus on ISTC adoption. ISTC should be used within production information systems to identify the top-level work. It is currently believed that use of ISTC and other normalised attributes within product records, such as Product Form or Publisher should enable recipients of data to group or differentiate related products in different ways as they require.
The quickest way to reduce the volume of metadata communication between partners will be for producers and recipients of ONIX to implement the mechanism for partial updates supported in ONIX 3.0 (‘block level updates'). The group encourages this.
The group's work will use ONIX data elements to underpin its database schemas and data models, and will always reference the latest version of ONIX. ONIX users should move to ONIX 3.0 as soon as possible - for the significant benefits it brings in its own right and to ensure compatibility with any outputs of the group.
Note, however, that the use of ONIX elements within a database schema is for descriptive convenience and guidance only. ONIX is an XML schema that is optimised for communication, not a database schema optimised for metadata management.