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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

Friday, March 07, 2008

EDL WP3 Paris meeting

So, Friday evening, perhaps a few moments to write up (some of) the Paris meeting. I did mean to attach my presentation too but the last version is on a memory stick at home. Too damn portable, never where you need it!
It was a successful meeting, I would say, and it was a pleasure to see a couple of faces I already knew, and meet others for the first time. On Monday (with me still reeling from a 4am start) we were taken through the results of the user testing. These were overwhelmingly positive, which needs to be taken with caution given the guided nature of the demo (especially with the online questionnaire, but also perhaps the expert users and the focus groups). All the same there were criticisms that provided something to get our teeth into, particularly around the home page and the pupose of the "who and what" tab. Search result ordering was an issue, a particularly thorny one in fact that we tackled on Tuesday as best we could. Clearly a lot of users don't really understand tagging, though they thought they liked it. Other plusses were for the timeline and map.
There was a good session with representatives of a French organisation for the blind and visually disabled after lunch (a bloomin' good lunch, in fact. Good wine, too. I love France!). Aside from HTML accessibility they talked extensively about Daisy, and it would be marvellous if some of the text content that may end up there could be daisified. No-one had heard of TEI (or DocBook) but it struck me that these formats are pretty close to what Daisy sounds like, and that there may be TEI material amongst the content we'll be aggregating, so translations to Daisy could be relatively straightforward. Anyone know?
Personalisation took us to the end of the day and we distinguished between activities done for private purposes (though perhaps with public benefits) like bookmarking with tagging, or tailoring search preferences, setting up alerts, or saving searches; and explicitly public activities like enriching content, suggesting and tagging (when not bookmarking). The question of downloads (what? how? assets or data?) and the related issue of licensing came up. I think we worked out that possibly four levels of privacy would be useful, extending the way Flickr and other sites work, with private, public, friends/family, and "share with institutions". The latter is really about saying, I will let me and my mates and the organisation whose objects I'm tagging/annotating look at the data, but not everyone. I think it's important and should be encouraged, as it lets those institutions do interesting stuff with the resulting UGC for everyone's benefit. We ran over into the next day to deal with communities (still plenty to think about there, I would say) and results display, a practical and useful discussion that touched on the fields that might be searched across and how they would be used in ranking.
Finally my bit came up. Although Fleur had suggested that I talk for maybe 15-20 minutes to kick off discussions on the API, I, feeling unsure of my ground, prepared pretty thoroughly with the result that I had material that kept me talking for an hour or more, I think, albeit with some digressions for debating what I was saying. On the whole it went down quite well, I think, but I learned a bit about what I should have added (proper, simple explanations of APIs, and more examples of how they're used) and what I should have left out (a section where for the sake of completeness I referred to the management of collection data, which is not part of the public API anyway and is outside the scope of our WP. This led to a digression that was I think still useful, but not to the topic of that moment). And then, seeding the discussion with a use case related to VLEs, we tried to figure out in more detail what functions and parameters would be needed in an API call, and what would be returned. And that, my friends, I will write up shortly for now I want my dinner. Home calls.

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