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Administration overheads for repository maintainers: remapping old names


Taking on a repository requires responsible maintainers prepared to look after it for a long time. It's not just for Christmas.

Lets consider the case where an organization decides to migrate their content to a new bit of repository software, such as Fez.

Lets take three universities: call then a, b, and c. Actually they're USQ, Swinburne and Monash. As far as I know none of these institutions are thinking about migrating their repositories to Fez it's just an example, OK?

University a has a repository: at the moment it's based on the GNU EPrints software. A URI for a paper looks like this: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/archive/00000697/ . In a Fez repository the a URI looks like this: http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view.php?pid=UQ:542 so, to migrate USQ staff will have to set up some web server configuration to map incoming requests for EPrints-style URIs to the correct form for Fez; a fairly straightforward bit of web server admin.

University b uses handles, and currently has a repository running on version 2 of the VTLS Vital software. A record in that repository will tell you to use a link to the handle.net resolver:

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/2394

Click on the link and you find yourself looking at this resource: http://researchbank.swinburne.edu.au:8000/access/detail.php?pid=swin:2394&datastream= That's a VITAL URI. Now, while the page clearly states to use the handle-style URI, I bet that plenty of people will have cited things in the repository using whatever they can copy out of the address bar on their browser, so the Swinburne people may choose to do (1) the same kind of web server configuration as USQ to remap vital links to Fez links, and (2) additionally update their handle server so that the local name 2394 is mapped to the correct service.

Now, consider university c. Their links look like this: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/2658 They've got their own handle resolver at arrow.monash.edu.au. To move to Fez they'd have exactly the same amount of work to do as Swinburne. But if they decide to change their handle infrastructure then they will have to do something about requests coming to that domain. And its not unreasonable to expect that handle infrastructure might change, there is talk on the PILIN project (read a presentation in PDF or text) about considering national infrastructure in Australia for handles.

(National infrastructure would be a big plus for government, where departments appear and disappear regularly. One day we might even do away with state governments here in Australia. And like it or not, some universities may be subsumed into others or even dismembered and shared out. In these cases it would be difficult to keep up a culture of rewriting URLs for long-forgotten systems on obsolete domains.)

Of course, the managers of the handle-enabled repositories could just decide to not support the application-specific linking – but I think that would be a bad idea – lots of citations will go missing unless URIs are remapped.

Here's a thought. Could the VITAL team and the Fez team settle on a common way of displaying an item record with nice clean paths, EPrints style? Anything wrong with /archive/ ? At least lose the .php!

That would make migration easier, particularly in the case of the university of Queensland where old URLS to the GNU ePrints software would just work when migrated. We could take out the step where you have to reconfigure your web server to migrate between repositories. (Note to self: must check with VTLS what they plan to do about this for Version 3 of VITAL which has a new architecture).

I'm sure VTLS would like to make it easier for Fez users to upgrade to VITAL and the Fez team are always looking for new community members.