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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Repatriating" some of our collection

An organisation would like to use our data and images relating to objects we have on long-term loan from them. This is an opportunity to develop an (overdue) API or some other means for distributing content dynamically.

Why we should help:

·         it's their collection

·         we should anyway open our cleaned collection data to anyone for reuse (expansion of museum domain and role)

·         a model of good behaviour for the hub

·         a model of techniques for the hub – building distributed use with centralised authorship

·         opportunity to try new techniques – web services (broadly speaking), AJAX, Semantic Web or just RSS, perhaps m-objects.

How we could do it:

·         Assume minimal technical know-how and no facility for server-side scripting

·         Assume we want to keep the source data under our control so that we can amend as we please (although perhaps supplemented with input from the organisation in question?) This will mean less work for them on the basis of the first assumption

·         Offer AJAX interface onto a service or onto a static XML file. This will take a string of IDs. Alternatively, it could look to an RSS feed from my m-objects application)

·         We would supply

o       JS snippet and files to insert into each HTML file (including an onload() for the body tag)

o       Spreadsheet of objects and IDs

o       The XSL and possibly CSS

·         Methods for passing IDs could be via a hidden form element, JS include or querystring

·         If accessing (loading) static XML, XSL will need to deal with a string of IDs. If accessing a dynamic service need only transform whatever is returned

·         Other functions of service could include filtering by keyword, date, collector. Keyword needs to look at related people and themes

·         What format of data? OAI with unqualified DC? CDWA Lite? Talk to Mia.

·         Alternatively could develop the API to my app so that they can pick what they want

Gunter Waibel on DAMS and digital preservation

GW making the point that DAMS is NOT digital preservation, although many museums see them as equivalent. A quote from his chapter in a forthcoming book:
"Since commercial DAMS systems are created with the intent to manage present-day digital files for use rather than for posterity, a conservative view of their capability to preserve digital files according to established standards seems prudent. Rather than a silver bullet solution, the DAMS could be seen as a museum’s first major point of engagement with the thorny issues of digital preservation. Beyond all other obvious benefits to museum operations, implementing a DAMS is a first step towards better stewardship of digital assets, which may develop into a full-blown institutional digital preservation strategy down the line."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My postings and comments elsewhere


A trend to keep an eye on, as web-based applications push ever more into the area once occupied solely by desktop applications, is the ability to work both on- and offline. As this starts to mature we will see ever fewer reasons for traditional desktop apps and ever more for web-based software, which is going to affect what we as museums are offering (and using). Presumably worth keeping an eye on for this project. Here are some examples of the sort of app that's making the shift I'm talking about:
  • http://www.zimbra.com/desktop
  • Adobe's Apollo will enable this
  • Apparently Firefox 3 "will allow sites to work offline by accessing local datastores", although I'm not sure how different this will be to the usual caching and "work offline" mode

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Holy cow, someone's doing it! (sort of)

This is aimed at artworks, and it takes rather a different approach to mine (in which, crucially, I include a pointer to a source of authoritative data) but I had been thinking about using CDWA Lite to both model the m-objects MF and to hold the record in native XML at that source location, and stumbled across this. Very interesting and it's probably worth confirming their progress before going any further with my own version

Friday, March 16, 2007

Shame on the complainers: Jam splats

BBC Jam is offline, at least for now and probably for good (unless the Ofcom draft paper that I was given, proposing a "public service publisher" role comes to anything). This is apparently down to commercial interests whingeing to the EC about unfair competition, even though a review of impact of the service in this area was already scheduled for this year. Whingeing morons! I don't give a damn if the BBC is treading on the ground that others also want to tread on; their remit was restricted from the very start, and they offer to students what the commercial providers don't, and fully within the educational remit of the Beeb. They commissioned most content from independent producers anyway, and for the users they provided great value.
The relevance for this project comes in the threat that commercial enterprises seemingly pose if they can strike at any public-service activities with claims of un-competitive behaviour. Will museums become targets, too, if they undertake, say, educational activities that overlap with those that for-profit businesses are involved with? Might we invest in services only to find that they're illegal according to the EU? Where does public service go?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Nicholas Carr on "Customer value and the network effect"

Talking about the value to the "company" of users who (to use Lorcan Dempsey's favourite term) provide the flow around their business even if they don't buy anything themselves. He identifies two-sided markets - essentially, I take it, those where the locus of activity is an agent between other two parties - that must attract both buyers and sellers. Without understanding the value of the non-paying "customers" (i.e. buyers, who don't pay eBay) it's hard to know how much effort to put into attracting them versus sellers (who pay). But the elements of that side of the network effect equation are hard to weigh up since they're not paying, but feed into the whole buzz, UGC etc.
For us, we are not really serving a "paying" party, but nevertheless we are interested in generating some sort of value. It may be that we should include various intangible network effects that sustain that value even if the activities themselves are not valuable. Here's a quote that Carr cites from Sunil Gupta (interviewed here http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5595.html) who is currently
"working on understanding and modeling complex network structures such as those of MySpace. Here the issue that we are grappling with is the tangible and intangible value of customers. In other words, customers provide tangible value to a firm through direct purchases but they also provide intangible value through network effects or word of mouth. It is quite possible that some customers have low tangible but high intangible value. Traditional models would label such customers as low value and would miss a huge opportunity for a firm."

Physical as metaphor for virtual!

Karen Schneider on the ALATechSource blog (http://www.techsource.ala.org/blog/2007/03/dear-library-of-congress.html):

"The paper-based book is already a metaphor; books are now born in digital form"