[uf-discuss] citation microformat encodings

Ryan King ryan at technorati.com
Wed Jan 25 15:25:10 PST 2006

On Jan 25, 2006, at 9:02 AM, Ross Singer wrote:

Could you add the description below (or a short version of it, or a  
link to something similar) to http://microformats.org/wiki/citation- 
formats? (under the OpenURL section)

Also, while I'm at it, someone needs to move/merge this [http:// 
microformats.org/wiki/citation-brainstorming#OpenURL] and this  
2F_Dublin_Core] into http://microformats.org/wiki/citation-formats.


> One of the obstacles in explaining OpenURL is the discongruity  
> between "the spec" and "the implementation".  While, yes, what you  
> see in practice is a url with the metadata encoded as arguments in  
> the query string, this is merely a representation of the  
> "ContextObject" intended to be sent to a link resolver to permit  
> services based on the contextobject.
> Let's back up, shall we?
> An OpenURL consists of two independent parts:  the ContextObject  
> (or the bibliographic metadata surrounding a citation) and the  
> location of resolver to parse the metadata and present contextual  
> services based on said metadata.  The (very real) problem is that  
> the term "OpenURL" is also used as a catch-all for all of the  
> independent parts and how they work.  This is mainly because it's a  
> catchier term than "Z39.88", which is the NISO standard all this is  
> based upon.
> So, when Tantek pointed out that this is very non-human readable  
> url string, that is a *particular representation* of the OpenURL  
> ContextObject (which is referred to as "San Antonio Profile 1" --  
> more commonly SAP1 -- and is represented in Key Encoded Values --  
> KEVs).  This "representation" is independent of the ContextObject  
> (from here on known as CO) itself and is only intended to permit  
> the CO to be transmitted via an HTTP GET request (more on this in a  
> bit).
> There is also SAP2, which is an XML representation of the CO (see:   
> http://alcme.oclc.org/openurl/servlet/OAIHandler? 
> verb=GetRecord&metadataPrefix=oai_dc&identifier=info:ofi/ 
> fmt:xml:xsd:ctx and the "Implementation Guidelines" link from that  
> page for more information) and is a much more human readable  
> format.  This still (obviously) falls outside the scope of  
> microformats, but makes the point that encoding has nothing to do  
> with the CO itself.  They are just agreed upon means of conveying  
> the CO to enable machines act upon them consistently.
> The ContextObject could be conveyed just as easily in XHTML using  
> attributes, as long as the terms follow the vocabulary defined in  
> the OpenURL framework.  The important thing to focus on here is the  
> ContextObject -- the address of the link resolver /is/ institution- 
> specific and should be handled by a user's (or machine's)  
> activating agent.
> However, the link resolver is still a very important component to  
> this whole process.  Getting users "appropriate copy" is a very  
> real (and very difficult) problem that libraries are trying to  
> solve.  Link resolvers are a pretty efficient means of overcoming  
> this hurdle, so it would make sense to mark up bibiographic  
> citations in a way that link resolvers can easily parse.
> I hope this clears up a little bit of the confusion.
> -Ross.

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