I am always keeping my eyes and ears open for new and better ways to do things. Innovation in technology is moving at such a fast pace it is hard (if not impossible) to keep up. This is even true for the most technically sophisticated people within the DAM industry. There is just so much experimentation going on, in so many related fields, the most you can hope to do, is to simply be aware of as many areas of innovation as you can and try to separate the trends from the fads. It is not an easy task.
One example of this for me has been with the EIDR. I first learned about the EIDR standard at the 2011 Createasphere Digital Asset Management Conference in Los Angeles. I spoke to Kipp Welch, President of EIDR, about the initiative after the EIDR panel discussion. For those who are not familiar with EIDR, it is a universal identifier system for all types of movie and television assets. A standard to uniquely identify movie and television digital assets has obvious benefits to those in the field of DAM. However, it was not the identification scheme itself that really got my attention, it was the architecture they used to implement it. EIDR selected the Digital Object Identification System (DOI) and the Handle System as the foundation of their implementation.
I was reasonably familiar with both DOI and the Handle System prior to this conversation. I had been working on a digital repository project for the National Association for Recording Merchandisers (NARM) which required me to do a significant amount of research to devise a system architecture which would best meet their needs. The architecture I ended up selecting for that project is called Flexible and Extensible Digital Object Repository (FEDORA). As the name suggests, FEDORA’s content model is also based on digital objects so there are many conceptual similarities between the system architectures. I had spent time researching DOI and the Handle System and was impressed with what I had read and I was really interested to hear how DOI/Handle system was working for them. Based on our conversation, EIDR was very happy with their choice. The system architecture was very straightforward and low cost to operate which was ideal for a non-profit organization such as theirs.
This is the sort of additional information I needed to help me separate the trends from the fads. I had done my research on DOI/Handle System many months earlier but even though it seemed like an elegant and well thought out technical architecture, I needed more data points to help me determine if this architecture was what it claimed it could be. Just because it made sense on paper did not guarantee that it would perform well in real-world environments. In addition, I was also concerned about the community surrounding the platform. In today’s hyper connected world, community is a big consideration when selecting a software platform. Innovation, support and bug fixes can be rapidly addressed through a large and active community.
After the conference, I decided to revisit the EIDR, DOI and the Handle System documentation. I liked what I saw and I started to wonder how I might be able to use it or apply some of the ideas into my work?
It did not take long for me to find an application for some of these ideas. A few months after the Createasphere conference, I was presented with a challenging workflow problem for “early stage” digital assets. One of the challenges with early stage digital assets is that sometimes they have so little metadata associated with them that they are difficult to uniquely identify. This can be due to a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the digital asset is so new it lacks even a proper title. Sometimes the contributors to this asset may not have been properly recorded or confirmed. Sometimes, the secrecy of the digital asset is so sensitive, the party who owns it does not want to attach any metadata to it for fear that its existence might leak to the public.
Yet, the speed at which media companies must process their digital assets seems to continue to increase. So, these assets can’t just sit on a shelf waiting for metadata to be attached to them. They need to start the multi-stage workflow processing immediately, which means the content needs to be communicated out to other groups both internally and externally to the company. But the recipients of these digital assets struggle to make sense of them due to this lack of associated metadata. To make matters more complicated, during the early stages of a digital asset’s lifecycle, workflow processing is being done in parallel by both internal and external teams. As time goes by and various processing stages are completed, the digital asset slowly accumulates more and more metadata. This newly created metadata might be useful to the other parties concurrently processing these early stage digital asset but they need a way to send and receive the latest metadata updates for this digital asset.
An internal metadata workflow system based on DOI/Handle System might be a great solution for these types of challenges. When your early stage digital assets have minimal metadata associated with them, one can at least assign a DOI to them and register them in the Handle System. After these digital assets start their workflow processing, each processing stage can be designed to send and receive metadata updates using simple RESTful webservice calls using its DOI. External parties which are also part of the overall workflow process would use a non-descript DOI and secure internet communications with the digital asset owner’s systems to minimize concerns of information leaking to the public or competitors. Access permissions can be set within the Handle System to limit access to certain subsets of information about the asset as well.
Throughout the digital asset’s lifecycle, a fuller and more robust metadata composite will evolve which could then be made available to all authorized parties. A variety of workflow processes could be run concurrently and at the same time collectively benefit from each other’s metadata updates as they become available. Clearly, DOI/Handle System is a powerful system architecture that can be applied to a variety of situations. I think it is safe to assume that I will be filing this under “trends”.