‘More What You’d Call ‘Guidelines’ Than Actual Rules’ : Variation in the Use of Standards

The promise of XML was that it would enable seamless, automated interchange of content, using standard tools, technologies, and shared XML vocabularies. The experience of many cultural memory institutions, however, makes it clear that there are limits to the interoperability of even standards-compliant XML content. This paper explores some sources of and ameliorations to this variation in the use of standard XML vocabularies.

Why Standardization Efforts Fail

Standardization is a poorly understood discipline in practice. While there are excellent studies of standardization as an economic phenomenon, or as technical a phenomenon, or as a policy initiative, most of these are ex post facto and written from a dispassionate academic view. They are of little help to practitioners who actually are using and creating standards. The person actually creating the standards is working in an area of imperfect knowledge, high economic incentives, changing relationships, and often, short-range planning. The ostensible failure of a standard has to be examined not so much from the focus of whether the standard or specification was written or even implemented (the usual metric), but rather from the viewpoint of whether the participants achieved their goals from their participation in the standardization process. To achieve this, various examples are used to illustrate how expectations from a standardization process may vary, so that what is perceived as a market failure may very well be a signal success for some of the participants. The paper is experientially, not empirically based, and relies on my observations as an empowered, embedded, and occasionally neutral observer in the Information Technology standardization arena. Because of my background, the paper does have a focus on computing standards, rather than publishing standards. However, from what I have observed, the lessons learned apply equally to all standardization activities, from heavy machinery to quality to publishing. Standards names may vary; human nature doesn’t.

NISO Z39.96 The Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS): What Happened to the NLM DTDs?

In creating PubMed Central (PMC) , the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) needed a common format, with a single Document Type Definition (DTD), for all content in PMC. The first version of the NLM DTD was made available to the public in early 2003, and it quickly became the de facto standard for tagging journal articles in XML even outside the NLM. As usage grew, users and potential users started asking about formalizing the article models as a standard with the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). Work on the NISO standard began in late 2009, and the Journal Article Tag Suite was released as a Draft Standard for Trial Use as NISO Z39.96 in March 2011.

The Value of Standards in Electronic Content Distribution: Reflections on the Adoption of NISO Standards

The process of managing electronic content is increasingly complex, significantly more so than traditional print distribution. Over the past decade, there have been significant investments in the standardization of various parts of the supply chain of published information. Some of these standards have been successful, some less so. This article describes some NISO standards that impact electronic resource management and reasons why some have been successful and why others have faced challenges in adoption. Since there are limited resources available to standards development, questioning what makes a project successful or not, will help to improve our project selection moving forward.

Free E-Books and Print Sales

Digital technologies now enable books and other digital resources to be openly available to those with access to the Internet. This study examined the financial viability of a religious publisher that put free digital versions of eight of its print books on the Internet. The cost to put these eight books online was $940. Over a 10-week period, these books were downloaded 102,256 times and sales of these books increased 26%. Online sales increased at a much higher rate. Comparisons with historical book sales and sales of comparable titles indicate that that this increase may have been connected to the free books being available. There was a modest correlation between book downloads and print sales.
Keywords: open educational resources, e-books, open access, open culture, e-commerce.

Fighting Complexity in EPUB 3: Modularization and Delegation

The IDPF chartered the EPUB 3 revision with a wide-ranging mandate to expand the scope of the specification. On top of this, timely completion of the work was “critical.” To meet these demands, the EPUB 3 Working Group used two techniques to manage and limit the increasing complexity of the standard: modularization and delegation. While both of these carried downsides and risks, they became critical components in creating an effective, meaningful revision in a reasonable timeframe. Inside the EPUB 3 specifications themselves, an even more striking commitment to harmonization and delegation led the DAISY Consortium to defer completely to EPUB 3 as a distribution format, removing their DTBook format from the specification itself.

A Note from the Guest Editor

Standards are all around us but are often invisible. The keypad on your telephone is arranged the same way no matter who makes your phone, the valve stem on your car’s tires works with any air-pressure gauge or air pump, and credit cards and driver’s licenses are all the same size so they will fit into any wallet. Ironically, we tend to notice only the things that for some reason aren’t standardized: clothing sizes from different manufacturers, power adapters for electronics, and which side of the road you drive on in which country.

Latest Article Alert from Particle and Fibre Toxicology

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Latest Article Alert from Breast Cancer Research

The latest articles from Breast Cancer Research, published between 04-Aug-2011 and 18-Aug-2011For research articles that have only just been published you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript. Fully formatted PDF and full-text (HTML) versions will be made available soon.EditorialTargeting bone metastases starting from the preneoplastic niche: home sweet


PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up

Researchers find a possible cure for the common cold and more – in this week’s media digest.

Human Pathogen Shown to Cause Disease in the Threatened Eklhorn Coral Acropora palmata was covered by The NewsHour, The New York Times, NPR, and CNN.

CNET, Hindustan Times, and Okezone covered Automatic Prediction of Facial Trait Judgments: Appearance vs. Structural Models.

The paper, Predator Cat Odors Activate Sexual Arousal Pathways in Brains of Toxoplasma gondii Infected Rats, received coverage from The New York Times, Scientific American, TIME’s Healthland, and The Loom.

Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics received media coverage from Voice of America, LA Times, and Forbes.

Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve was covered by National Geographic (nice slideshow too), The Christian Science Monitor, Nature News, and KGTV San Diego. The image above, is taken from Figure 4 of this manuscript.

80 Beats covered the article, Artificial Skin – Culturing of Different Skin Cell Lines for Generating an Artificial Skin Substitute on Cross-Weaved Spider Silk Fibres. So did Treehugger.

The article entitled, Scientists Want More Children received media coverage from The Wall Street Journal, TIME’s Ecocentric, Science Career Blog, and Inside Higher Ed.

Elevated Non-Esterified Fatty Acid Concentrations during Bovine Oocyte Maturation Compromise Early Embryo Physiology was covered by Reuters, The Guardian, and The Press Association.