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Adrian Dale - Creatifica Associates
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How uncool – repository URIs

As part of his efforts to re-promote the concepts of “cool URIs”, Andy Powell has just completed a review of the URI designs for the UK’s university e-repositories.  Given that these repositories are designed to provide persistent access to the output from research programmes, persistent identifiers would seem to be essential.  The results were surprisingly disappointing, with most institutions having committed at least one of the cardinal sins:

  • Building the name of the repository software into their URIs
  • Allowing the use of the underlying technology stack (.aspx, .php, .html) to appear in the URIs
  • Using a non-standard port to access the repository
  • Building the name of an organisational unit into the URI
  • Using a “jazzy” project name as part of the URI (remember the Amazon obidos!)
  • Outsourcing to a third party – losing the institutional focus – and being reliant on 3rd party URIs

How can this have happened?  Why have these organisations not thought through their naming and addressing policy and design rules?  The answer is surprisingly simple.  Most of the people in charge of web implementations have not been sensitised to the importance of addressing – “cool URIs” as Tim Berners-Lee called them in 1998.  I lectured this week in a UK library school and from what I could see, the question of digitial identifiers and  the importance of their effective management featured no where in the curriculum..  And yet what was the ISBN if not the precursor of persistent identifiers?

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