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Copyright and classification

Build the Open Shelves Classification

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Edited: Sep 13, 2010, 5:23pm Top

It is obvious to me that classification cannot be produced under an open source format. Although, the sentiment is most noble, the consequences of standardizing something and then issuing it as open source are diametrically opposed. Classification by definition is not open source.

As I have come to understand it, classification is a standardization of how a social organization agrees to "think." Classification serves the purpose of defining the agreement of how knowledge is understood and communicated to avoid social chaos.

Sep 13, 2010, 8:25pm Top

I fail to see how your understanding of classification is diametrically opposed to open source development.

Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 4:05pm Top

We live in the margin of error of open classification - secularism - The Tower of Babel.

Classification is not about devising a system for arranging books and other information materials - that just happens to be a practical use of classification. The goal of devising a classification system is to be of popular standardization of knowledge - how people think. And then placing the books in those categories according to the system devised.

The misunderstandings and disagreements that stalled the OSC project are a result of poorly regulated classification - everybody has an understanding of how knowledge is arranged and cannot understand why others do not agree with them, or at best, why they cannot accomplish a compromise. How else do we explain why the project stalled if so many people believed it to be for the betterment of society - why have they seemingly abandoned the project?

Ultimately, some authority has to make a decision to accept a standardized version of the schedule to be used and distributed to the masses. Most people do not have time to deliberate the classification system into a better system (the goal of an open system) - Most people just want a system they can use. And the stalling of the OSC project is an example of that - why hasn't any one of the members who truly believed in the concept not picked up the responsibility?

I think I saw a posting, or two, somewhere, concerning the qualities expected of leadership of the project. What kind of qualities should we expect of the leadership - work for free, dedicated to the cause, "Out-sider," not an expert???

I nominate myself to that authority. I have lived homeless for three years just to allow myself the freedom to think it all out - I had very little, if any responsibility to anything other than devising an adequate classification system to solve the problems that the OSC project was only able to describe. The OSC project has not devised any solutions to any of the problems that the organization recognized for goals.

Sep 15, 2010, 3:25pm Top

How else do we explain why the project stalled if so many people believed it to be for the betterment of society - why have they seemingly abandoned the project? All kinds of group projects fail, not because they are "diametrically opposed" to the subject of organization, but more typically because they failed to achieve a critical mass of members.

Ultimately, some authority has to make a decision to accept a standardized version of the schedule to be used and distributed to the masses. False. This can be done by consensus or a group decision-making process.

Most people do not have time ... Most people just want ... -- This is true of all projects and systems, whether they have successful open source variants or not. "Most people" do not get involved in "most projects".

Are you just trying to figure out why the thing has stalled? In that case, I would refer you to Occam's Razor -- rather than hypothesizing unprovable (or at least difficult to prove) ideas about the incompatibility of open source-ness and classification, look to the simplest explanation: failure to achieve the critical mass of members.

Sep 15, 2010, 3:28pm Top

Any controlled vocabulary requires a control authority. A classification scheme is a specific kind of controlled vocabulary.

A controlled vocabulary can be subject to large-scale discussion and wide range of contributors. But I have difficulty seeing how to avoid the control authority.

Parallelisms to OpenSource Software are obvious. There, too, a project will become forked into several mutually more or less incompatible variants, as the persons involved have differing goals.

Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 3:44pm Top

quoteParallelisms to OpenSource Software are obvious. There, too, a project will become forked into several mutually more or less incompatible variants, as the persons involved have differing goals./quote

I think there is a difference between classification and software - software does not seek to control human thinking, it seeks to control manipulation of computer applications that are extensions of human thinking. Classification seeks to control human thinking - mind control.

We don't need no education, . . .

Sep 15, 2010, 3:52pm Top

Build the Open Shelves Classification

I hereby invite you to join the Open Shelves Classification (OSC), a free, "humble," modern, open-source, crowd-sourced replacement for the Dewey Decimal System.

Much of the work here is being done on the Open Shelves Classification Wiki, a sub-wiki of the LibraryThing Wiki.

Total members: 595 members


That's a pretty good membership, and my research indicates that the concept was well publicized in the library industry.

But it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I became aware of the project, yet, I have searched "classification" many times during the past three years and never saw the LibraryThing result.

Sep 15, 2010, 6:02pm Top

It seemed to me that it stalled because even though a lot of people had done a lot of good work, Tim installed someone to oversee the project and suddenly we had a lot of graduate students redoing a lot of that work without any sort of dialog taking place. That discouraged a lot of people and after some acrimonious exchanges the project just died.

Sep 15, 2010, 8:07pm Top

I think there were a number of problems plaguing this project. Here's my short list in no particular order:

1. Scoping problem. Tim wanted a crowd-source enhanced BISAC. Some of the others working on the project missed the implications of this at the beginning and worked on a more comprehensive system that had one place and one place only for a particular concept.

2. BISAC. BISAC presents a number of problems as a basis for a library (as opposed to bookstore) classification system, but that starting point was set in stone before the project began.

3. Leadership. The people leading the project were absent at critical points when controversies arose and were unable to reorient the project when they finally reappeared on the scene.

4. Talk forums. Good for discussion, not so good for looking at the latest version of something and making a comment.

Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 9:21pm Top

5 > Just FYI, I said "False" in response only to Lunaphile's particular claims about authority, which as I understood it from earlier comments (#1 and #3) meant a single entity "in charge" of other people's labor (see in particular the "Ultimately, some authority..." paragraph in #3).

Just to be clear, I am only contesting the idea of authority insofar as "authority" is distinguished from open source development. I by no means am contesting the need for an "authority" over the standard/system itself, i.e., a body that develops, authorizes, and distributes, for any particular standard.

But vast numbers of standards are developed in an "open source" way, meaning through open processes, open membership, and voluntary (non-remunerative) participation. I see no reason why a controlled vocabulary couldn't also be developed in such a way.

Sep 16, 2010, 8:01am Top

failure to achieve the critical mass of members

We had that at one point. Our input just wasn't used, which made a lot of people lose interest. It's as though each and every line of source code contributed for an open source project had to be vetted by a single person before being included in the final product, which made a lot of people give up. (There's no good parallel in this analogy for laena's obstinate refusal to admit that members might know more than her on some subject-matter issues, like, say, that birds are animals, but that certainly didn't help, either.)

Sep 16, 2010, 9:11am Top


It didn't seem like vetting to me. It seemed like ignoring. Did any user-generated changes get made? Did questions about things not fitting the classification, get answered? Did the leaders even debate the issues.

The problems seemed to be in understanding how successful open source projects work in addition to overconfidence by the leadership that their ideas were right, and hence inviolate.

Sep 16, 2010, 1:23pm Top

#11 & #12 -- It sounds to me, then, like the basic problems were not anything about open sourcing being diametrically opposed to classification schemes, as the original poster suggested, but rather the opposite -- that open sourcing wasn't actually open, and a hierarchical schema was getting in the way of the community's work.

Sep 16, 2010, 2:48pm Top

Tim seems to be out of the loop. Okay, so, . . . the first thing we have to do is get a web site where we can discuss and develop the OSC and the administration of the organization.

Anybody have any ideas for a name for the website?

How do we fund it?

How, who, what where do we do to get it up and running?

And the first topic of discussion will be who has a classification scheme ready to present for organizational review? I saw some around here in the Top Levels discussion - I will be bring those along to discuss - I trust you all will have detailed analysis of the schemes.

Sep 16, 2010, 2:51pm Top

Wow, Andyl - sounds like you got some ideas going - can't wait to read your classification scheme.

Sep 16, 2010, 2:56pm Top

Wilson - what work was completed, or up to a relative standard for review?

What do you think was good, and should be worked on further?

Sep 16, 2010, 6:24pm Top

If you're going to use a BISAC model and only go down three levels, Religion was pretty much done except for haggling about terminology.

Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 7:45pm Top

As far as I am concerned BISAC is way too big, but it is a good list for at least having a list to sort. I started with Dewey, probably the 100 listing, and some ideas of my own as to what would be the most efficient portal to understanding the layout of human knowledge.

Somewhere around here someone made the comment about Miller's principle of that people can only efficiently memorize about seven elements of a set. I think that is a really good idea. Try to get the top categories down to about seven so people will be inclined to memorize it.

Sep 16, 2010, 8:15pm Top

As far as I know everything that was done is in threads in this group. In my opinion, there were way too many items at the top level, so I lost interest when it became clear that the powers in charge weren't going to change it.

Sep 16, 2010, 8:30pm Top

So, you are in agreement that the introductory portal should be reduced in size, and that will incline you to contribute some renditions?

Sep 16, 2010, 11:07pm Top

18: Just let me be clear here that BISAC model, as opposed to the list of BISAC categories, includes some assumptions such as:
- it doesn't matter if categories overlap because bookstores have more than one copy of a book and they can put it in more than one place
- you don't want to divide things too narrowly (I assume because it's to complicated for the clerks and/or limits browsing)
- it can be altered easily. If one section isn't doing too well, it can be merged with another (one of my local bookstores merged psychology with self-help). If you get lots of knitters in the store, you can pull the knitting books out while leaving everything else lumped in crafts.

Most library classification systems assume that there is one best place for a book that will place it in context with other similar books and it stays there unless you redo part of the classification schedule.

These are really very different animals. You have to have a mechanism for making some of these fundamental decisions up front and making them clear to people who get involved later.

Also, you mentioned funding. I'm pretty sure that Tim lost interest in this shortly after going to ALA to talk it up. I suspect this is because he figured out that there is no market for a new classification system. If folks want to pursue this as an intellectual exercise, it could be a lot of fun, but I don't think it's reasonable to think anyone is going to fund it (or probably use it)

Sep 16, 2010, 11:21pm Top

Unfortunately, until I can get a job I cannot justify the time to work on this.

Sep 17, 2010, 5:25am Top

lunaphiles, read the entirety of http://www.librarything.com/topic/40857

laena was one of the project leaders (the other was even more quiet) so you can judge the amount of interaction for yourself.

Msg #126 is quite interesting. Firstly it exhibits a NIH (not invented here) attitude - if the free status of BSO was unclear then emailing UCL would have been an easy step to take.

I think that there there was tensions right from the start. For example a broadly BISAC like classification seemed to be decided on fairly early in the process yet at various points people were thinking about a higher level of coherence than most bookshops (and BISAC) achieve or want.

Secondly there were terminology differences. What I mean by 'technology' obviously differed from what others meant.

The discussions never got to my field of expertise - computing and computer science - but if it had these issues would have appeared in spades. It is an area which isn't adequately dealt with by either DDC (not surprising really) or by BISAC. I mentioned a bit about it in an earlier thread http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=55508 - and the entire thread is worth reading to see the early thoughts and cracks.

Sep 17, 2010, 7:59am Top

I tried to contribute to the project before it became obvious that a flexible bookstore model was the goal. I don't believe that a system such as that, even if provided at no cost, would be useful to a small library system.

It seems that since this project was abandoned the powers that be moved on to updating an out of copyright version of Dewey although I have not seen much on it lately.

Sep 17, 2010, 10:30am Top


Yes, that's what I was trying to say.

Sep 17, 2010, 4:26pm Top

My review of the Top-Level categories thread indicates to me that laena tried her best to do some organizing of all differing opinions. it is a very complicated process, and I for one believe that a lot of work has to be done on an individual bases of devising a portal of top categories.

I also believe that timspalding's work was disingenuous. A classification system for libraries - please, we are in a digital age, think of a classification system for digital libraries.


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