What good is IPSV?

I’ve previously commented on this topic and think I’ve made my views fairly clear. However, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in questioning whether IPSV serves any useful purpose.

I picked up a report on a recent meeting of local authority webmasters and managers held in Birmingham (England), where most present appeared to conclude that IPSV, now the official Government Metadata Standard, served no useful purpose and should be ignored and not implemented. As a delegate at the meeting pointed out, search engines don’t use government metadata – at all. IPSV is not used. So really then, what is the point?  The report went on to say that delegates wree not sold on formal taxonomies for websites, and definitely not centralised taxonomies like this Vocabulary. The ability to produce a site map from a taxonomy is a benefit, but a fringe benefit at best. Current thinking appears to be arriving at a much less prescriptive model of metadata, in which, rather than forcing editors to select a term from a taxonomy for the area of business the content relates to, they’re provided a ‘finger buffet’ of metadata to choose from, including schemes for geographic, demographic, subject (i.e. topic) and business tags. (I think we’re heading into the realms of folksonomies here).

However, this will no doubt upset those that want to see a tidy hierarchical view made possible by a formal taxonomy, but does that matter if it provides vastly richer possibilities in terms of interrogating and presenting content?

One of the central selling points of LGCL and now IPSV was the broad view of government services relating to a given term (e.g. see everything that all government agencies and local authorities have on animal welfare), but the reality is that’s both a pipe-dream and of absolutely no use to the vast majority of users.  A broad view of government services however that relate to, say, a single mother, under 30, recently made redundant, with children under 5 living in Birmingham would be of real value. This is only possible though if one gets away from thinking like librarians and stops trying to neatly categorise every single one of a council’s services and information nodes based on universally understood terms.

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