[OAI-implementers] many records, same datestamp [was: Better resumption mechanism - more important than ever!]

John A. Kunze jak@library.ucsf.edu
Tue, 5 Mar 2002 07:56:44 -0800 (PST)

I can't comment on the suggestion (I haven't studied the problem
enough), but we are facing this awkward situation too.

We have a collection of about 4 million records (internal tobacco
industry documents made available to the tobacco control community),
all loaded at about the same time.


--- On Tue, 5 Mar 2002, 'Alan Kent' wrote:

Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 20:00:22 +1100
From: 'Alan Kent' <ajk@mds.rmit.edu.au>
To: OAI Implementors <oai-implementers@oaisrv.nsdl.cornell.edu>
Subject: [OAI-implementers] Better resumption mechanism - more important
    than ever!

I just got some mail from Jeff at OCLC talking about ETDCat (hope
you don't mind me quoting some of your mail Jeff). In particular,
he just told me

    ETDCat contains a lot of records (over 4 million), all of
    which currently have the exact same datestamp from the initial load.

He also told me that there were no sets. So basically, its all
or nothing for this site because OAI has no standard way to resume
if a transfer fails.

If this has happened already, I think its likely to occur again.
(That is, one very large database all with the same time stamp.)
So any comments about having a single large collection like this
is beside the point. The point is OAI does not handle it well.

So I would like to resurrect the discussion again if people don't
mind on how to do support restarts. My understanding of the general
feeling so far is

(1) Mandating support is not going to be acceptable

(2) Mandating format of resumption tokens is not going to be acceptable

(3) Mandating resumption tokens be long lifed (eg: can try again the
    following day) is not acceptable

(4) In fact, mandating that resumption tokens be unique (allowing
    a token to be reused twice in quick succession to get the same
    data) is not acceptable

So any proposal needs to be optionally supported.

Question time:

Does anyone else think that this is a major hole in OAI? I personally
do. After trying to crawl sites, things go wrong. The larger the site,
the greater the probability that something will go wrong. The larger
the site, the greater the pain of starting all over again. I do not
think it is practical for anyone to harvest ETDCat if is really got
4,000,000 records. Any fault, and start downloading that 4gb again!
So I feel strongly on this one. In fact, I think this is the most
major problem OAI has.

Do people think its better to reuse resumption tokens for this purpose,
or introduce a different sort of token? ETDCat for example I think
allocates a session id in resumption tokens, meaning they cannot
be reused when the session times out in the server (similar semantics
anyway). This is a reasonable implementation decision to make.
So maybe its better for servers to return an additional token,
which is a <restartToken> which means a client can instead of
specifying from= and to= again, specify restartToken= instead where
the server then automatically works out whatever other parameters
it needs, creates a new session etc internally. The new 'session'
(ListXXX verb) then can use resumptionTokens to manage that new

The idea is for a <restartToken> to be long lifed. It may be less
efficient to use than a resumptionToken, but its only purpose is
if the client fails the download. If a server does not support
restartToken, it simply never returns one. Large collections *should*
support restartTokens.

For my harvester, I can then remember (to disk) the restartToken for
every packet I get back, allowing me to recover much more easily
if anything crashes. If restartToken's are too hard for someone
to implement, then they don't. If you have a large data collection
on the other hand, to reduce network load, I think its probably worth
the extra effort of supporting restartTokens.

Any comments? Better suggesions?

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