About Me

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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cross-post: thougts from SWTT at V&A

I thought I would get down a few notes from our meeting at the V&A (and I promise to do something for the earlier ones too, to add to the reports and transcripts already there). The subject of that session – collections – both drew me and made me a little wary. Collections are the most obvious case for doing SW in museums since they are so central to our activities and purpose, but I suspect that a lot of the time we are tempted to broadly equate SW in our context with multi-institution collections search, because we’ve dreamed of this for so long. This is rather lazy, albeit unsurprising, and I am hoping that we’ll develop a much bigger vision that this in these think-tank meetings. Happily I can say that we are doing so, and of course collections are vitally important to all of us, so a meeting like this is absolutely core to the whole series.
We had some new faces at the V&A session and some stimulating debate, but I thought when things drew to a close that only a couple of ideas had really captured my imagination. Actually, looking back on it, there was plenty, but I think this hadn’t sunk in partly because my brain went into hibernation in the air-con (until Dan figured out how to definitively kill it) and it took me a long time to emerge from my torpor. I’ve done a little digesting and here are the things that made most impact on me personally (not really in an order but it wouldn’t show the unordered list properly). Most if not all of these are points that were raised in the meeting, though I’ve not always identified an individual for fear of mischaracterising their ideas. Some of them might be my own responses to the discussion and demonstrations – my notes are a bit confusing :-}
  1. Semantic Web approaches could be helpful in designing internal systems architecture: the learning potential of systems like JEROME and the ability effectively to represent/understand business processes via RDF etc. may make this aspect a good way of building a service-based system (obviously not the only way, but an intelligent way
  2. Making the business case for SW as a solution for internal problems that also has benefits beyond the institution may be more productive than trying to convince directorate and funders of the need to go SW just for the sake of the Web
  3. Despite my reservations about over-emphasising collections, outlined above, they are the obvious place to start for both external SW and for re-jigging the internal architecture – the key, as Suzanne Keene and Nick Poole pointed out, to knowledge management.
  4. Suzanne suggested a future role for museums as “information broker” instead of information source/authority. A weighty idea.
  5. Frances Lloyd Baynes pointed to the scale of the problem and possibilities arising from SW as a threat to curatorial control/authority because of the need to make certain choices about the creation and management of information. There’s no sector-wide view, either, and we often see each other as competitors.
  6. Our measurements are wrong. Big problem if a lot of our activities and the value that arises from them then go un-measured. Not that many measures we currently use are great proxies for value anyway… and not that we know what we value online either.
  7. There are complications in getting funding – if collections-related activities are seen as core then they won’t get project funding; but if they’re project funded then they won’t get ongoing support. Often museums are unaware that they need to provide this support themselves and expect project funding to continue indefinitely. Consequently we need a model for moving towards SW that recognises this reality – or else we need some external force to change the rules, for example by changing the standards expected of documentation or of web presence.
  8. Documentation and search are not the same as presentation (Areti Galani, Nick Poole and others). However SW is in large part about search/discovery of resources* (although this function may be used for user experiences that don’t feel much like search) so this may not matter.* SW is also about building a framework of knowledge, a source of information to analyse, and we shouldn’t forget this aspect and think only of resource discovery.
  9. Aside from RDF and (if you want to include them) microformats, a few useful data structures are already in play that may serve, e.g. FOAF, SIOC (for online communities) and stuff like DOAP that I’ve even less idea about.
  10. JEROME! Wow, fantastic, and also very encouraging in that it offers an example of the merging of what we’ve started to refer to as “SW” and “sw”. By mapping microformats, UGC, profile information, FOAF etc onto RDF via graphs (I think?!?), great semantic power is extracted from diverse material. I’ve banged on about finding a path to SW that allows museums to take lots of small steps in that direction with a pay-off at each one, and JEROME lets me see a little more how this might work. Thank you, Sebastian Kruk and his gang.

[cross-posted from the UK Museums and the Semantic Web blog]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Data curation education

Lorcan Dempsey talked about this programme. The definition of data curation is of interest for its overlap with our problem, since it's focussed more broadly than preservation as I have characterised it:

Data curation is the active and on-going management of data through its lifecycle of interest and usefulness to scholarship, science, and education.
Data curation activities enable data discovery and retrieval, maintain its quality, add value, and provide for re-use over time, and this new field
includes authentication, archiving, management, preservation, retrieval, and representation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Here comes the monetisation...

Google Launches Apps Premier
So here is their web application suite money-shot shot at the money. One to watch.

Second Life featuring...Ancient Rome!

OK, not that "real" but showing one direction things are going in:
Real World Places in Second Life: Ancient Rome

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The overlap grows

Everyone knows how the distinctions between online and offline, virtual and real are becoming, if not useless, then messy and one extends further into the other - and it does indeed go both ways. It's in part about what and where things happen but also about our attitudes. Quantitative changes and qualitative shifts. Taking photos on your mobile (not me, as a luddite) and getting them onto your blog or Flickr immediately shrinks the gap between apprehension and publishing. Even more, using your portable to get info when you need it integrates it ever more tightly into the processes of doing stuff in the physical world, without us worrying too much about the distinction. In museum applications, My Art Space illustrates this nicely.

William Gibson on the crumbling of the term "cyberspace" here

More and more annouce support for OpenID

First, LiveJournal and SixApart (I think)
29/1/2007: Yahoo! via IDProxy
6/2/2007: Microsoft not yet accepting, but working to integrate with Vista's CardSpace, together with Verisign
16/2/2007: AOL to become provider of identities (but not yet an acceptor)
20/2/2007: Digg accepting it
Firefox 3.0, some time
8/5/2007: Sun (sort of)
2/7/2007 Dan Z says that 37signals have recently added OpenID to Basecamp and Highrise
Discussion on pros and cons here

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

RFID, identity, random splats. Pollock's Venn diagram

tiny tiny tiny tiny RFID tags: http://www.3pointd.com/20070216/rfid-powder-developed-by-hitachi/

Tim O'R on identity: "A lot of people think that there's a single big identity play out there, and focus on technology solutions, but it seems to me that in true bottom-up internet style, we may eventually build our online identities out of a mashup of all the tracks we already leave in cyberspace. (Seth Goldstein has been exploring this idea with Attention Trust.)" http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/02/worldcat_identi.html

Why does the net evolve so fast? Because every time a company gains a competitive edge that they can charge for, technology enables others to rapidly make the same thing available for free. The lifespan of the paid-for facility is short, so companies need to constantly advance to a significantly improved offering that they can still charge for, or find a revenue stream for (which still involves attracting people to use it). As has been pointed out e.g. by Lorcan Dempsey, some companies can feed their revenue stream quite invisibly via the (developer) services they provide, whilst others, such as Google, can't make them pay without intruding on the experience the user gets (perhaps via an intermediary developer). Yahoo!'s Pipes may have the same issues regarding encouraging flow around their sources of revenue, although at present there's no obvious mechanism for showing them the money.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The lifecycle of value

This project is about value: how to identify it as related to strategic aims; how to sustain it; how to build it in; how to predict.
It will deal with digital resources in museums, a key aspect of them being that they are public-facing. But much of what I may look at with regard to locating value will probably be just as relevant to knowledge management, non-digital tangible and intangibles and more; and the venue and orientation may not be museums or the public. All the same, this is the framework within which I will be working, and many problems will be specific to that framework. But it might help to start to cast it more as an exploration of value, its lifecycle, and the problem of its sustenance.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Handy references

About time we had a link to this: http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/
"A Dublin Core Application Profile for Scholarly Works" in Ariadne: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue50/allinson-et-al/. Application profiles may prove relevant to research, although not so much in the context of scholarly publications
Amazon's new collaborative tagging thing: http://amapedia.amazon.com/
Lorcan Dempsey talking about the embedded nature of networked data, and its combination with local data, in iTunes: http://orweblog.oclc.org/archives/001253.html
Research on tagging, with references to SW-related issues: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/402/tagging-play
Oh, and Jeremy gives TechCrunch the smack-down treatment "the site is devoted to pointing out all that is flashy and pointless on the web"

PDF goes public

Adobe releases PD spec to ISO