Why you need a persistence strategy

Sigfrid Lundberg's Stuff 2010-02-25

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Alma Mater (the university that saw me mature from a teenager to a Ph D) has a web site. It used to implement a graphical profile which stated that all links should be listed at the end of a document. The documentation actually also claimed that hypertext links inside text bodies was poor usability. This is just plain bullshit. The hypertext link is the the single thing that makes the Worldwide web to a web. If some usability expert dislikes Wikipedia I bet it isn't because of all the hypertext links.

Libraries have over the centuries provided experiences and information. Scholars have read and quoted the material we offer. This has changed. Today the most important challenge for libraries today is to provide anchors for hypertext links.

Libraries who think that mission is accomplished when they've solved the problem of efficient document delivery belong to the past. You have to provide means for patrons to link to the arbitrary anchors in hypertexts, to polygons in images or time segments in video recordings.

Document delivery is important. You cannot use documents unless they are delivered. Neither can you create arbitrary hypertext links into it. However, it is the fact that you are not done when your patron has the document in his or her browser which is the single most important reason why URN:NBN, DOI or HANDLEs are obsolete.

It isn't you who should link to your documents. It is the library patrons who should do that. If they want to link to page five, they should be able to do so, and the link created should be as persistent as any German URN:NBN.

And then. If you're not convinced:

1. I need PID to connect documents to archived copies

The problem is that people don't use PIDs in their texts, since they never see them. They follow links, are redirected by the resolver and link to what they get. When you remove your original hypertext anchor, many of your digital patrons links will rot.

The truth is that you don't need to use PIDs for this. If you use HTTP as intended you redirect your users when moving documents to the archive. Users will never suffer. If you use PIDs they'll experience the 404.

2. The DOI system is very good. It works

Yes, it works but it is not good. It is as bad as any other redirect based PID system. It works though, but that is because the consortium forces its members to care about links. That is very good, but the DOI system isn't.

The truth is that you don't need DOIs for that. You need a link management policy.

3. PID's work when people change their domains. Cool URIs don't

Not really. Since people don't use PIDs in their documents, this doesn't help here either -- see point 1 above.

The truth is that you should not change your domain. It is not regarded good practice among people who care about content. However, if you have to, use redirects (Moved permanently, status 301).

If you have to change, keep the old one for a very long time. Someone may buy using your brand for selling porn or something else you don't approve.


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My name is Sigfrid Lundberg. The stuff I publish here may, or may not, be of interest for anyone else.

On this site there is material on photography, music, literature and other stuff I enjoy in life. However, most of it is related to my profession as an Internet programmer and software developer within the area of digital libraries. I have been that at the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen (Denmark) and, before that, Lund university library (Sweden).

The content here does not reflect the views of my employers. They are now all past employers, since I retired 1 May 2023.

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