Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Yahoo Pipes - a new challenge? opportunity? for museums

I'm cheating and posting something I sent to the Museums Computer Group list.

Bill Thompson has written about Yahoo Pipes in 'The mash-up future of the web'.

If you haven't heard of Yahoo Pipes before, this is a reasonable summary from the article:

"Their new offering, Pipes, lets you take a data feed such as the result of a web search, or an RSS feed from a blog or news site, or a set of tagged photos on Flickr, and transform it to produce the outcome you want. You can then make it available for other people to see.

It's web-based, no more complicated than creating programs for Lego MindStorms, and already stirring up a lot of interest.

Yahoo!'s Pipes do the same with a simple graphical tool that lets you define and connect data feeds, filters and user prompts, so that you can quickly build the service you want. You still need some technical ability, but you don't need to be a programmer."

My first thought was 'cool, let's make sure our feeds are in a compatible format so people can use our data' and my second thought was 'how on earth will we measure usage?'.

It would be cool to know who's using our data and how, but overall, do we need to measure how it's used and how often it's accessed? Given that we probably can't anyway, are there other potentially useful indicators of use? Would use of our data in a mash-up affect our museums' Key Performance Indicators by driving traffic away from our sites? I'd like to say that's the wrong question, but website visitors count under some funding models.

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