Collection databases Web 2.0

Our collection database gets 16th place in the top Australian Web 2.0 applications

How very exciting!

Our collection database comes in 16th place in Ross Dawson’s (Future Exploration Network) round up of the top 60 Web 2.0 applications developed in Australia over on Read/Write Web. Apparently we’re up amongst some of the real heavyweights and it is nice to be noticed outside of the cultural sector.

The sites are ranked in approximate order of how prominent they are (or should be), based on four criteria:

– Web 2.0 characteristics
– Coolness/ Innovation
– Maturity
– Commercial success/ number of users

The first comment to make is that coolness and maturity are often inversely correlated. What used to be hot is now ho-hum, while the more innovative applications just out the door haven’t had the time to become mature or gain commercial success. That means some extremely cool and promising applications such as Outback Online, Particls, Vquence, or even SmoothBudget (ranked 59) are outside the top tier on the list, not because they aren’t very interesting and exciting, but because they are in alpha or beta, and so don’t yet score well on the maturity and commercial success factors. Hopefully that will rapidly change. In other words, you can still find some very interesting early stage applications further down on this list, so please don’t just look at the top.

If you visit the collection database today you’ll find we’ve added a stack of new images – 7 gigabytes! – predominantly for the newer objects in the collection. Many objects now have multiple points of view and a lot of the black and white images have been replaced with shiny new studio shots at high resolution. The 7gb update is the first of 7 such major image uploads.

Developer tools Interactive Media Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Learning to program your own social media

Using social media is exciting but what about learning how to program your very own web applications?

How about those 10 year olds who read about using IM (instant messaging) and rejecting email as bring for ‘oldies’? Could it be possible for those same 10 year olds to be writing their very own instant messaging application?

A while ago I sent around the Try Ruby! interactive tutorial to my team to introduce them to the basics of Ruby. Most of us had grown up around Commodore 64s and had learnt the very basics (using BASIC and perhaps machine code a little later) when we were youngsters and the Ruby tutorial had a lot of that kind of playful unbreakable (but hackable) vibe to it.

Now there is a lovely little downloadable package called Hackety Hack put together by a sensible person with a little time on their hands, which takes this idea further and is a combined programming environment and web browser.

The seven part introductory tutorial nails the very things that youngsters want to learn to do, and do quickly – automating the downloading of MP3s and YouTube videos, building a blog, even your own instant messaging/chat tool – all quickly and logically.

The lovely thing about this is that whilst building these applications – which actually do work out in the ‘real’ world – you are also learning the basics of Ruby.


Now to start using this in classes in one of our media labs . . .

Developer tools Digitisation Web 2.0

Stop spam and help correct OCR errors – at the same time!

reCaptcha is a nifty project that uses the now familiar ‘Captcha’ web form spam prevention technique to help fix OCR problems in global digitisation projects.

Currently this great example of socially responsible crowdsourcing is helping fix digitisation errors and inconsistencies in books scanned for the Internet Archive – books that will be reproduced in the developing world through projects like the Million Book Project.

If you are considering (or already use) a Captcha tool on your website or blog you might consider swapping over to reCaptcha so that your users, when submitting comments, aren’t just keeping your site free of spam but they are also helping fix digitisation for others.

There are downloadable plugins for WordPress, mediaWiki, PHPbb, as well as a general PHP class, and a range of APIs to choose from for easy implementation in projects.

Here’s the project blurb –

About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can’t read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here’s how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

External Reference Sites Interactive Media Web 2.0 Web metrics

Demos report on Culture Online UK

Yesterday Demos UK released their report Logging On: Culture, participation and the web. It is available as a free download or can be purchased in a printed form.

In the brief history of the internet, the cultural sector has followed two related paths: on the one hand, the digitisation of content and provision of information and, on the other, interactivity and opportunities for expression. Some have seen these as in binary opposition. The truth is that they are inexorably merging. But the big question is where do we go next? How can policy intervention best meet with technology to achieve the aim of bringing about a more democratic culture? What will be the role, opportunities and limitations of online culture in a rapidly changing world?

A moment of reflection is provided by the coming to an end, in March 2007, of the Culture Online initiative funded by the Department for Culture,Media and Sport. Culture Online provides both an interesting case study, bringing together lessons learnt about how to organise online engagement, and a point of departure for asking questions about future directions.

The report is notable for its recommendations for future directions (smaller, agency-led entrepreneurial initiatives that interact/inter-operate with each other) and lessons about how to successfully implement online projects that effectively engage communities. As the report explains, the shift to networked initiatives and new styles of working will not be without difficulties – new organisational models within the public sector will need to be found to accommodate and nurture entrepreneurial talents.

The cultural sector is, almost by definition, at the forefront of innovation. Experimentation in models of organisation are as necessary as new expressions of cultural content. The cultural sector and the organisations that mediate and enable the sector could and should have a role to play in trying out new forms of technology, especially in highlighting non-market or emerging market fields.

Thank you to Daniel Pett at the British Museum for alerting me to this report.

Interactive Media Social networking Web metrics

Ubiquitous system ethics

Coming hot on the heels of all this talk of tracking user behaviour, Adam Greenfield proposes five ethical guidelines for ubiqitous systems in a recent keynote:

(1) all ubiquitous systems should default to harmlessness.

(2) ubiquitous systems should be self-disclosing (e.g. be clearly perceptible, “seamlesness” must be an optional mode of operation). proposal of 5 different graphical icons to disclose capabilities of an object (see first image above the post).

(3) be conservative of face, so that ubiquitous systems do not unnecessarily embarrass, humiliate or shame their users.

(4) ubiquitous systems should be conservative of time, not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations.

(5) ubiquitous systems should be deniable, offer users the ability to opt out, always & at any point

(via the rather excellent Information Aesthetics)

Copyright/OCL Interactive Media

Real world rights in Second Life

Simon Canning in the Australian writes Uluru row rocks Telstra in which the issues of real world rights and their interaction with representations of landmarks in Second Life is discussed.

Legislation has been in place to limit photography, filming and commercial painting at Uluru for 20 years, with tight restrictions on what is and is not allowed.

Capturing images of parts of the northeast face of Uluru is banned and all pictures taken of that part of Uluru must be submitted to the landowners for approval.

While visitors in the game cannot touch Uluru or fly over it, they can virtually fly in the no-fly zone to the northeast and take snapshots.

However, while the rules governing photography, filming and paintings have been in place since 1987, a spokesperson from National Parks said the issue of digital images online had never been raised before.

National Parks, which administers the area on behalf of the traditional landowners, now has lawyers looking at Uluru in Second Life and is considering sending a delegation to meet landowners to discuss the situation.

Interactive Media Web 2.0

The Real Costs carbon emission calculator Firefox plugin

There is an emerging world of browser-based technologies that are extending functionality in hitherto unforeseen and exciting ways. A good example of this is Real Costs for Firefox. Like most of these sorts of plugins on Firefox it uses Greasemonkey.

Real Costs adds a lovely visual display of carbon emissions data to your view when you visit popular travel websites and airlines (mainly American at this stage – see their development wiki) allowing you to compare emissions across other modes of transport and assess your carbon credit liability.

The objective of the Real Costs is to increase awareness of the environmental impact of certain day to day choices in the life of the Internet user. By presenting this environmental impact information in the place where decisions are being made, it will hopefully create an impact on the viewer, encourages a sense of individual agency, and provides a set of alternatives and immediate actions. In the process the user/viewer might even be transformed from passive consumer to engaged citizen.

The project is supported by Eyebeam and Rhizome amongst others.

(via Snarkmarket)

Museum blogging

Feedburner does a round up of museum RSS feeds!

A few months ago Feedburner got in touch with me about museum bloggers.

Now they’ve done a nice little write up/round up of museum blogs and podcasters who are using their service for tracking and managing RSS feeds.

We get a mention, as does our Design Hub project!

Looks like all of us will be getting a little bit more traffic in the next few days . . .

Developer tools Imaging Web 2.0

So many image gallery options – 30 scripts from Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine’s 30 Scripts For Galleries, Slideshows and Lightboxes is, like most of their ’round ups’ an impressive selection of image display scripts.

If you’ve been trawling the net yourself trying to find the right set of gallery scripts for a project then drop by Smashing.

I’d highly recommend subscribing to their RSS feed as Smashing Magazine has become a bit of a clearinghouse for everything web design and web developmment related – regularly rounding up the ‘best of’ WordPress templates, plugins, CSS tutorials, AJAX niceties and more.

Web 2.0 Web metrics

Watching users interact with your site – Robot Replay

There are so many new ‘analytics’ tools springing up. A while back I wrote about Clickdensity who also recently presented at Museums & the Web. Clickdensity’s heat mapping has been an excellent tool for us to better understand how real world users have been using elements of our navigation and screen design. Clickdensity’s visualisation of mouseclicks and navigation makes it instantly possible to see what works and what doesn’t.

Robot Replay is a new free service that uses similar Javascript technology to Clickdensity but records videos of user sessions. This can show you how users spend time moving their mouse around your pages trying to work out what to click on next, rather than just showing where they clicked (assuming they did). Used in conjunction with other tools Robot Replay could, in time, potentially supplant the expensive ‘watch the users’ focus group evaluations that most museums use when redesigning their sites.

Robot Replay certainly isn’t a magic bullet on its own and it needs to be used with many other tools. The ‘replays’ are a bit clunky and show that this is still very much in development. Visualising multiple user sessions is best done via Clickdensity or other heat mapping tools, and log file analysis still offers the best overall picture – but there are some exciting possibilities beginning to open up.

Even if you aren’t redesigning, surely you are curious as to how your current site is actually being used.

A word of caution, you may need to look at your privacy policy to ensure that your use of these tools is in keeping with, in our case, maintaining anonymity of the user and only identifying them by IP address. You need to be very careful that you are recording only only parts of the site where no personally identifying information is being entered – don’t go using it to test your ecommerce site . . . .