libraries of the future – "just do it"

I have the phrase “just do it” associated with TimBL – certainly he was saying it at WWW in Banff during the semantic web workshops. (see, e.g. What I take this to mean is that if you spend too much time working out all the ways to do things the world moves on – and very rapidly.

The point for JISC/Bodleian tomorrow is that libraries have to be at the front of the web. Some are and particularly JISC. I’ve been very impressed with the things that JISC have been supporting – rapid innovation for part of a person for part of a year. Lightweight protcols. Developer Heaven – a solid week of geeks bashing information – Jim and Nico went and I’m envious.

Software is a new form of creativity. If we want to get our ideas across it’s often better to write a program than a document. That usen’t to be true – code development, distribution, compilers, licences were all killers for rapid development. But now the technology has risen to meet the expectations. I watch people craft ideas into web pages and services within hours (I’m only partially literate and it’s not the best use of my time). The technology has arrived to liberate the expression of much of scientific semantics.

“Just do it” means building something that may or may not work and may or may not take off. Like SAX, which we developed (through David Megginson) on the xml-dev list in a month. Like chemical/MIME which took me and Henry Rzepa an afternoon at the pub. Sure these are the exceptions – good code takes lots of work – JUMBO has taken 20 years. But Nick Day wrote CrystalEye in less than a year; Joe Townsend and Chris Waudby wrote the first OSCAR over two summers. Dan and Lee put together the C3DeR crystal repository over 2.5 months last summer and I’ll be showing it tomorrow.

Next time you are tempted to read another report or write another one why not “Just go out and do it”. It can be painful, but it can be great fun.

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