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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Davy Graham, goodbye

Davy Graham, goodbye. What a wonderful and inspiring musician, and what a legacy he leaves in his own music but, perhaps even more, in the music of others.

From his website:

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Davy died yesterday [15th December 2008] amongst friends and family from a massive seizure at home after a short battle with lung cancer. There will be a private family funeral held in the next few days and a public memorial in January; details of which will be available at http://www.lescousins.co.uk/ shortly. Davy will be missed by those of us who loved him. The many fans who came to see his last concerts gave him much joy and satisfaction and was something he drew great strength from.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Zemanta: another channel for Europeana content?

OK there are several ways I could frame this post, but obviously one is that here is another opportunity for Europeana to channel its content.

So what is Zemanta? Well TechCrunch just wrote about the launch of its public API, and from what they say Zemanta is looks to be amongst a burgeoning sector of semantic enhancement tools - another with an API announcement this week was uClassify, and you can also look to OpenCalais, Hakia, AdaptiveBlue's BlueOrganizer and others including Yahoo!. These are tools that take in (text) content, analyise it, and identify entities within or characteristics of that text. These might be embedded into the text, or returned as recommendations, classifications, or links to related material. Sometimes we're talking about a machine-facing service, sometimes an end-user one e.g. the BlueOrganizer plugin. With Hakia and Yahoo!, these are services built on the power of their search engines. Zemanta sounds like it's squarely in this area, digesting content and returning links, images, keywords etc. from a database including (of course) Wikipedia, Amazon and Flickr. Looks like it's a plugin too.
uClassify is a little different - it learns to classify your text as you train it. I'm characterising it as a semantic enhancement technology but that may not be right in a strict sense. In any case, it will "enrich" the content you submit by putting it into categories you've assigned. That said, when I used oFaust, one of the apps built on top of its API, it took my snippet of Moby Dick and told me it was like Edgar Allen Poe, but needed work! Hmm. Whether that was down to the classifier or the training, though, I don't know.
So to go back to how Zemanta might fit in with Europeana, it's basically that we could work with them to digest our content and create relevant links to Europeana's vast (hopefully) and authoritative collection of cultural heritage content: artefacts, media, documents, people, events, and places. This is where I expect it helps to be big and standardised, as it should be easier for companies like Zemanta to work with one provider of cultural heritage content than with thousands of museums, libraries and archives.
To read more about Europeana (formerly EDL) check out my earlier posts: Europeana and EDL

Friday, December 05, 2008

Building communities pt.2

In my previous post about "Building Communities in the Digital Arts and Humanities", the workshop I recently attended, I mentioned that one concrete suggestion had caught my imagination, and that of others, in the final discussion, but I forgot to actually write about it. Rather than heavily editing that post, I'll outline it here.

John Byron, Executive Director of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, proposed a sort of helpdesk for the digital humanities. The situation at present for anyone with a problem can be tricky: non-specialists may have no clue where to turn to find advice on, say, digital preservation, whilst techies might wonder who to ask about, for example, reconciling two metadata schemas; and yet, if you knew who to ask, there's almost certainly someone out there who could answer that query, in a centre of expertise, a grass-roots network, a software house etc. But what if there was one website (or just an e-mail address!) you could go to with your problem, which would direct the query to the right place to get it answered? The model might be one of triage - a crack squad of dedicated elves with a deep knowledge of the sources of expertise decide who to send the question to - or of an expertise marketplace, akin to Experts Exchange and the like, where a problem would be posted to a suitable forum (perhaps by elves again) and the community there would propose answers. The beneficiary might be able to assign points for the help they're given.
The proposal is not at heart about how to build communities, of course, but it would face that problem in two areas - building the community of experts, and that of users. Perhaps it would also build on what we learned from the meeting, too, because the idea would be to build on existing communities, creating a community of communities in fact, although quite how would I guess depend upon each community. It would also, hopefully, adapt itself to the needs of the target (user) community too, providing services that it needs rather than what someone else thinks it needs.
I really liked the idea, which would need some funds to get off the ground and to keep going, but which I think is quite easy to explain and show the benefits of. The problem may be one of gaining resources for a project that benefits people worldwide. But there are examples of this working (OCLC, for one). I hope it goes somewhere.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New hope for Swanee Kazoo?

Those of us who adored I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue with the late Humphrey Lyttleton*, and wondering if it will ever return or could be the same without him do at least now have an opportunity to participate in a very exciting project you can address with either a swannee whistle or a kazoo, as is your wont. I'm not sure if there are any parts written specifically for either intrument, but feel free to co-opt any part that takes your fancy. Go on, make it happen, bring back Swanee Kazoo! (apologies to those of you unfamilar with the game, you probably live in the wrong country)

* Apparently Humph was once president of the Society for Italic Handwriting.