Umlaut described, again

I keep getting a bit better at concisely explaining what Umlaut is and why it’s interesting/useful.  Here’s the proposal I just sent to do a talk at the Access conference this year.

Note Umlaut 3.0 is in a late beta, and will hopefully be tagged 3.0.0 final soon. I’m not someone to prematurely release, when I tag it as final it’ll be after we’ve gone into production here, and I’m as confident as I can be that it’ll work without too many hiccups for others. But it’s easy enough to get started playing with Umlaut now. 

Presentation (Classic-Style) Proposal: Umlaut

Umlaut is open source software that began as a ‘link resolver front-end UI’. But we’ve come to realize it plays a much more powerful role in our infrastructure than this phrase suggests.

Umlaut aggregates services for specific citations from multiple internal and external service providers and knowledge bases. (catalog, link resolver, Amazon, HathiTrust, ILL, many more). It has no knowledge base of it’s own, it provides “just in time” responses; Umlaut fills the need of what you do after “discovery”, the “last mile” — I’ve found something I’m interested in, what can I do with it through resources provided or selected by my institution?

Umlaut is a Ruby on Rails application engine. Interesting technical features include:

  • A ‘plugin’ interface to let developers easily add new sources to Umlaut’s aggregation
  • An API, including JQuery support, to let you ‘vend’ discovered services from an Umlaut installation to any application, in very few lines of code, so long as you can get a structured citation out of the app and can add Javascript.
  • A multi-threaded architecture for checking external web services concurrently, to minimize end-to-end latency for the user.

One ‘business’ advantage of Umlaut is it decouples your vendor-supplied link resolver knowledge base from your UI and internal API consumption, making it possible to swap out link resolver knowledge bases with minimal disruption.

Umlaut is currently in production at Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and Vanderbilt University.

I am the lead developer for Umlaut.


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