After a long and grueling development and testing process, I released Umlaut 3.0.0 today.
Umlaut is a “link resolver front-end”, but it’s really more than that: A plug-in based system for providing services for specific citations: Full text from multiple data stories (link resolver, catalog, etc), Amazon and Google links, “cited by” links from licensed vendors, “search inside” links to Amazon, Google, or HathiTrust, anything else you want to write a plugin for.
Using some clever buzzwords, Umlaut could also be called “a just-in-time aggregator of ‘last mile’ specific-citation services, taking input as OpenURL, and providing both an HTML UI and an api suite for embedding Umlaut services in other products.”
One advantage of Umlaut is to de-couple your “link resolver” (or “known item service”) user-facing UI from your underlying knowledge base products — theoretically making it possible to switch out one vendor’s knowledge base product for another with no interruption to your users (or to your local applications using Umlaut’s API rather than a specific vendor’s proprietary API). Umlaut is a buffer between your knowledge base product(s) and the world, allowing you to switch out the underlying knowledge base products.
For more attempts to explain why Umlaut rocks, see the “What is Umlaut, anyway?” page on the Umlaut wiki.
To see it in action, choose “Johns Hopkins Libraries” in your Google Scholar preferences (or click here to possibly set your prefs for you, may or may not work), do some searches, and click on “Find It @ JH” links. Or go to the Johns Hopkins Libraries catalog, and look at some item detail pages (click on titles in search results) — the google/amazon/full text and other third party service links are provided by Umlaut via it’s API.
What’s new in Umlaut 3.0.0?
There are very few new user-facing features. If you already had Umlaut 2.x installed, and upgraded to Umlaut 3.0, your users wouldn’t notice.
Instead, Umlaut 3.0 is an internal rearchitecture to be delivered as a ruby gem working with Rails 3.x and ruby 1.9. As a consequence, installing, maintaining, configuring, deploying, and upgrading Umlaut is easier than it’s ever been, taking advantage of modern ruby and Rails tools.
Give it a try, it’s relatively simple to install to take it for a test drive. However, even though you don’t have to do any local development for a basic Umlaut install (you may want to in order to integrate with local services and products) — you probably do have to be somewhat comfortable with ruby and Rails, or willing to learn it a bit and get comfortable, in order to install Umlaut.
Right now Umlaut comes with a plugin for the SFX knowledge base, plugins for other vendor’s link resolver knowledge bases are desired and anticipated (or you could probably write one yourself if ruby doens’t scare you).