The future is open (thanks to metadata)
Rufus Pollock from Open Knowledge Foundation tells us how metadata can and will be more open in the future, and why we should care.
Libraries and publishing used to be mainly about reproduction of the printed word. Access and storage also but reproduction mainly which once upon a time reproduction was very costly; people needed to club together and form societies in order to afford reproduction.
Now we're matching, filtering and finding, but there's too much info and every password you have to enter slows you down, and slows down innovation and innovators. Matching is king in a world of too much info - Google's aim is to match people with information and it all relies on humans making the links and building sites. Imagine if they'd had to ask permission of every single person - we would have missed out on something big.
Of course people have to be paid, machines have to run etc. BUT much of this production is already paid for i.e. via academia itself: instead of using the same few favourite books, why not ask friends? Or create our own journals?
Data and content are not commodities to sell but platforms to build on... there are plenty of ways to make money without going closed (although it might be different people making the money of course!)
And why does metadata matter so much? It's the easy way in; everything attaches to it: purchasing services; wikipedia; analytics such as who wrote it, how many people bought it etc.
Data is like code and so the level of re-use, and the number of applications we can create is huge.
One such project is JISC OpenBib which has three million open records provided by the British Library. It integrates with wikipedia, and includes a distributed social bibliography platform so that users can contribute and correct and enhance. We need to harness the users to help us make much better catalogues, to enrich catalog data.
So metatada is the skeleton and right now we have the chance to make a significant change for the better. Metadata and content WILL all be free one day... it may take some time but it will happen. The day is coming when there won't be a choice. There will be enough people with open data to make it happen.