5 Questions on the AGROVOC Community of Practice

Who is involved in the AGROVOC community and who is invited to participate?

AGROVOC is a resource used in many different applications and contexts, therefore users of AGROVOC are people with a variety of profiles, who look at AGROVOC from many different perspectives and for a variety of purposes. Think for example of librarians using AGROVOC for indexing documents, information managers using AGROVOC within information management software, computer scientists using AGROVOC as a resource for research (e.g., AGROVOC is often used for works in information retrieval and natural language processing), translators using AGROVOC as a specialized resource of words in the agricultural domain, just to name the main groups of users which we are aware of. And of course, AGROVOC editors for the various language versions (and domains) of the thesaurus are very important to us.

This is a quite large community of users, or rather a large number of (sub-)communities of users, that we try to support by adopting a variety of strategies. First of all, we are concerned about making AGROVOC accessible in various formats, i.e., searchable from the website, as downloadable file, as web services, as linked data. Then we also dedicate effort to producing documentation, guidelines and help material in various formats such as text and video. Communications with users is especially important, and large part of it takes place through email, both in "personal” communication and mailing list-type of communication. As for the former, we, the AGROVOC team in FAO, receive some 20+ questions on a monthly basis; as for the latter, we facilitate a mailing list accessible from the website, called "AGROVOC community". This “AGROVOC community” is oriented to informing members about news concerning AGROVOC and related topics. Anybody interested in receiving news about AGROVOC may register through the website, but we also make sure that all users using AGROVOC in one way or the other (e.g., downloading it, accessing it through web services, etc.) are also invited to register.

What are the main developments within the community?
We welcome feedback on all aspects of AGROVOC and our website, and we often receive questions that trigger improvements. For example, based on some requests we received, we developed a training package on editing AGROVOC using VocBench, and we continuously receive emails asking for clarifications, support, and very specific questions about the data. We have started collecting those questions that are of general interest and frequently asked, to provide users with general information about AGROVOC.

What are the main advantages of being member of the AGROVOC community?
AGROVOC users registered in the “AGROVOC community” mailing list get informed about the latest developments of both AGROVOC and VocBench, and also receive highlights on related topics. Users may also go to our website, read the news from there and post comments.

What are the challenges of the AGROVOC community?
The move from a centrally managed AGROVOC database to a totally distributed environment (managed by means of VocBench), is going to have an impact on the way AGROVOC editors may interact with one another, and with the AGROVOC team in FAO. In the past, only one institution, for example an AGRIS centre, was responsible for one language version. Now AGROVOC editors can work independently on AGROVOC, by accessing VocBench from different parts of the world. For example, editors in Spain, Argentina or Peru can work simultaneously on the Spanish version, according to their expertise. Our next challenge is then to understand exactly what changes this new setting implies on the communication among the AGROVOC editors, and support them as much as we can.

What is planned for the future?
On the one hand, we will continue analyzing the needs and requirements for the use of AGROVOC in various applications. On the other hand, we pay special attention to AGROVOC editors, by further developing and improving VocBench. We are also planning on developing a new AGROVOC interface for browsing and search on the website.