OLAC Success

The position of OLAC within the language information ecology is crucial for its social relevance and continued success as a purveyor of language resource data. Economic theories have proposed that platforms or, two-sided markets, need to appeal to the needs of both sets of audiences which are connected via the platform. While traditional web-based metrics like clickthroughs, time-on-page, and “hits” can be a good start to assessing the use of a web service, these metrics are not sufficient indicators of the value of the service or to the position of the service within the ecology in which it participates. In order to assess propositional value, market wide metrics are needed. This would include metrics for how people who don’t use OLAC access language based resources. The success and impact of OLAC’s services can be measured by observable statistics or by statistics of non-participation. Interpretation of statistics relating to non-participation can be seen either as an indication that it doesn’t work, or as an opportunity. It is suggested here that they are seen as an opportunity, and as an indicator of OLAC’s position in a two sided market - connecting language artifact holders with language artifact users, and language artifact creators with language artifact holders/maintainers.

An ongoing criticism of OLAC’s engagement architecture is that it has specifically targeted Institutions, to aggregate their knowledge of their holdings, rather than directly engaging individuals to share what they know.1 In terms of the total number of people who know about resources which pertain to language (or language artifacts), there are a lot more people who know about language artifacts than institutions who know about the location of language artifacts. This is evident by the results of the LangDoc Project.2 In this project several contributors pooled their collective knowledge and produced a bibliography of 252,923 resources, which is available to other researchers, and sortable by language.

There are three classes of important entities to target for participation in OLAC, the institutional repository (and their administration policies, not just collection curators), the individual, and the publishing house. With the third wave of publishing now well underway, the distinctions between these three classes are sometimes confused. Individuals are important because it is through individuals that opinion and usefulness is determined. Individuals are the movers and shakers, not institutions - even if they are part of an institution, but it is the institutions which bring stability. Publishers are important because many new items are first released by them (defining publishers broadly as conferences, institutionally hosted CVs, as well as more traditional publishers). Archives, and digital repositories, play an important role, but transactionally, their frequency of use is lower than that of publishers. Archives are rapidly becoming the publishers of academic multi-media artifacts. Yet Archive collections are generally large and very lucrative for the effort to make their indexes available.

  1. A second criticism is perhaps a lack of tangible stories of impact. That is, how has participating in OLAC actually brought benefit to an archive… not just in theory but with real testimonies. There is no indication that the stats that OLAC provides via its own site is not from bots. Where are the real User Experience Pathways and testimonies for meeting the discoverability need? ↩︎

  2. The LangDoc Project evolved into the Glottolog. ↩︎

Hugh Paterson III
Hugh Paterson III
Collaborative Scholar

I specialize in bespoke research at the intersection of Linguistics, Law, Languages, and Technology; specifically utility and life-cycle management for information products in these spaces.