Skip to content

Modest doubt is called the BEACON of the wise

Now that I got Shakespeare out of the way, I picked up chatter (as they say in the post-Snowden world) about the BEACON format again, which seemed to have fallen quiet for a while. In short, BEACON is a simple text format linking two items in different catalogs, usually web sites. There are many examples “in the wild”, often Wikipedia-to-X, with X being VIAF, GND, or the like.

Now, one thing has changed in the last year, and that is the emergence of Wikidata. Among other things, it allows us to have a single identifier for an item in the Wikiverse, without having to point at a Wikipedia in one language, with a title that is prone to change. When I saw the BEACON discussion starting up again, I realized that, not only do we now have such identifiers, but that I was sitting on the mother lode of external catalog linkage: Wikidata Query. So, I did what I always do: Write a tool.

I have not checked if there are any other Wikidata BEACON mappings out there, but my solution has several points going for it that would be hard to replicate otherwise:

  • An (almost) up-to-date representation of the state of Wikidata, usually no more than ~10-15 minutes behind the live site.
  • Quick on-the-fly data generation.
  • A large number of supported catalogs (76 at the moment).
  • The option to link two external catalogs via Wikidata items that have identifiers for both.

This service is pretty new (just hacked it together while waiting for other code to run…), and I may have gotten some of the BEACON header wrong. If so, please tell me!


  1. Mathias Schindler wrote:

    Wow. just wow. Ich liebe es.

    Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 09:40 | Permalink
  2. John Broughton wrote:

    It’s absurd that an organization like WMF, which can’t spend money as fast as they take it in, doesn’t fix this. All they need to do is allocate a million dollars or so for servers for a page views database, plus a person-year or so to build the database and the tools to use it. It will be fascinating to see if the new Executive Director (once hired … ) better understands – and responds to – the important needs of both readers and editors of Wikipedia and the other WMF projects.

    Monday, February 17, 2014 at 19:45 | Permalink