Microsoft Tools for Repositories Workshop

During the Open Repositories 2009 conference I attended the Microsoft’s “Tools for Repositories” workshop. At the workshop Microsoft was able to get down into the details of their new products and how they are intended to work together. I was impressed by the breadth of work that Microsoft is engaging in to support scholarly publishing use-cases within their tool set. The workshop lasted about 4 hours, longer than most of the other workshops at OR09. The bulk of time was given to the two developers Savas Paratatidas and Pablo Fernicola, along with the team leader Alex Wade.

Microsoft announced their intention to engage with the repository community at last year’s OR08 conference in Southhampton. The OR09 workshop featured the tools that Microsoft has developed in the intervening year starting with new authoring tools in Word, publishing via SWORD, a new peer-reviewed journaling service, and the new .NET based repository. It’s clear to see that Microsoft will have a huge impact on scholarly publishing in the future. We, as the repository community, will need to adjust our services to ensure they work smoothly within the Microsoft ecosystem. After the jump read about the three big features that were presented.

Authoring Addin:

Let’s start with Microsoft’s Word suite. There are several “addins” Microsoft is in the process of creating for Word. “Addins” are plugins that can be downloaded from Microsoft providing extra functionality. The most interesting of these new addins is “Authoring Addin” for Word 2007 (windows only) still in Beta. This pushes metadata creation down into the very first steps the author takes when creating their document.

The tool is based upon Word templates, so you as a journal publisher would create a Word-based template for your journal that gives the visual style of your journal, the required sections, and what metadata fields are required or optional. The creator downloads this template and begins their work. When they put the title into the document’s body it is automatically extracted because they are using the template. Next, after the creator is finished and ready to submit their article to a journal, they will be stopped until they fill in the required metadata fields. Within Word, a pane slides out querying the user for additional metadata. Once the required metadata fields are present, the user can continue their submission via SWORD. The user doesn’t need to know URLs or metadata schemas, all that technology is hidden behind the template. From the creator’s point of view, if they start with the correct template then they just use Word as normal and click the publish button at the end - Very simple. However, all this hinges on starting with the correct template.

Electronic Journal Service:

Next let’s continue with Microsoft’s new journaling service. The first thing to note is that this will be a service and not software. It will be hosted by Microsoft. The service handles the entire peer review process for an on-line academic journal up to, but not including, publication. The service, in alpha testing at the moment, appears to be geared for both non-profit and commercial publishers. The service does not place any constraints on the publishing of the journal. Material is to be exported to whatever system the publisher wants to use. This integrates nicely with the author tools and SWORD compatibility described earlier.

The best method to submit content into the journaling service is via SWORD from within Word, although a standard web-based form submission is also available. The service offers a similar work flow to Open Journal System’s model. However, it doesn’t bewilder the user with a massive array of options. One of the interesting points is that if articles are submitted as Word documents then all the workflow can be accomplished within Word’s native GUI. As an editor you review articles by downloading them, marking them up, filling in or correcting metadata all within Word before uploading your updated version. Once an article has passed through the peer review process and is ready to be published then the article will be pushed to the publisher via SWORD, or if that is not available, then FTP.

This is interesting to see this use of ‘double SWORD.’ It is something we have been thinking about for a workflow system we’re at the very beginning stages of here in Texas: accept SWORD as input and then when finished with the review workflow, automatically push the content into the repository via SWORD.

Zentity, .NET repository platform

Finally let’s cover Microsoft’s new repository platform: Zentity. This has received lots of hype within the repository community. Zentity is a typical web-based application built upon the Microsoft stack. Its data model underneath is a classic triple store with some basic scholarly object relationships defined. Zentity implements a wide array of interoperability protocols: RSS, OAI-PMH, OAI-ORE, SWORD (and Atom Pub) just to start. Microsoft obviously is not using Zentity to trap customers into a Microsoft platform.

After looking at the software it’s only feature that distinguishes it from other repository platforms is just that its on the Microsoft stack. In fact, it feels like not much development has gone into what is currently implemented; it feels like the current features were just the low lying fruit that are easy to implement because it is on the Microsoft stack. I’m hard pressed to see any reason why someone would switch to Zentity or, if they don’t have a repository, choose Zentity over another platform.

Commentary, Where is the IR use-case?

The big thing that I noticed to be absent from Microsoft’s plan is the use-case for the Institutional Repository in their ecosystem. Microsoft Word integrates into journal publishing via SWORD and the electronic journaling service but where does Zentity, or any other repository fit into that? If a faculty member downloads a journal’s Word template and then submits it into the journal’s submission system then published on the journal’s website how does it get captured into the institutional repository?

The template-based design lacks a critical feature in my opinion, ‘A me too’ feature. Something that streamlines a faculty member’s submission to both the journal and the institutional repository with just one click. Without something that fills this need, faculty members will be forced to create one document and submit it to the journal of their choice via SWORD, then using another template from the IR create a second document to submit to the institutional repository. This is anything but one-click submission!

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