A conversation with Dan Chudnov about OpenURL, context-sensitive linking, and digital archiving

Today’s podcast with Dan Chudnov is a sequel to my earlier podcast with Tony Hammond about the Nature Publishing Group’s use of digital object identifiers. I invited Dan to discuss related topics including the OpenURL standard for context-sensitive linking.

I’m not the only one who’s had a hard time understanding how these technologies relate to one another and to the web. See, for example, Dorothea Salo’s rant I hate library standards, also Dan’s own recent essay Rethinking OpenURL.

I have ventured into this confusing landscape because I think that the issues that libraries and academic publishers are wrestling with — persistent long-term storage, permanent URLs, reliable citation indexing and analysis — are ones that will matter to many businesses and individuals. As we project our corporate, professional, and personal identities onto the web, we’ll start to see that the long-term stability of those projections is valuable and worth paying for.

Recently, for example, Dave Winer — who’s been exploring Amazon’s S3 — wrote:

I have an idea of making a proposal to Amazon to pay it a onetime fee for hosting the content for perpetuity, that way I can remove a concern for my heirs, and feel that my writing may survive me, something I’d like to assure.

Beyond long-term storage of bits, there’s a whole cluster of related services that we’re coming to depend on, but that flow from relationships that are transient. When I moved this blog from infoworld.com to wordpress.com, for example, InfoWorld very graciously redirected the RSS feed, but another organization might not have done so. I could have finessed that issue by using FeedBurner, but I wasn’t — and honestly, still am not — ready to make a long-term bet on that service.

For most people today, digital archiving and web publishing services are provided to you by your school, by your employer, or — increasingly — by some entity on the web. When your life circumstances change, it’s often necessary or desirable to change your provider, but it’s rarely easy to do that, and almost never possible to do it without loss of continuity.

There are no absolute guarantees, of course, but a relatively strong assurance of continuity is something that more and more folks will be ready to pay for. Amazon is on the short list of organizations in a position to make such assurances. So, obviously, is Microsoft. Will Microsoft’s existing and future online services move in that direction? I hope so. Among other things, it’s a business model that doesn’t depend on advertising, and that would be a refreshing change.


  1. Can you elaborate more on your opinion of Feedburner? Are you unconvinced of their value, or just concerned that they won’d be around and / or providing the same service in five years?

    What are your thoughts on using BlogML to export your blog archives (assuming you have rights and access) and take it with you?

  2. “just concerned that they won’t be around and / or providing the same service in five years”

    The latter.

    “What are your thoughts on using BlogML to export your blog archives (assuming you have rights and access) and take it with you?”

    Not necessary for me because I maintain my stuff in a canonical format outside of any blog publishing system. It requires special skill to be able to do that, of course, and even then I have better things to do, so I wish there were a much better portability story than there is today.

  3. Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

  4. Pingback: OpenURLed | HubLog

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