Thursday, 24 May 2007

More on the Smithsonian image copyright issue in a Boston paper.

In real world news, I'm going to Data Sans Frontières: web portals and the historic environment at the British Museum tomorrow so come and say hello if you see me there.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Who decides?

I'm really not sure what I think about this Dear Internet letter from

They've screen scraped the Smithsonian picture library and uploaded the images to Flickr. They've had legal advice that the Smithsonian's prohibitions on reuse were not valid, and state that:

This is not to say that the Smithsonian cannot obtain funds through creative means, only that the Institution should be cognizant of a special and unique status under our laws. One has only to look at the thriving Smithsonian Associates program or the wildly popular Smithsonian Folkways music site to see that there are many options for government entities to creatively raise funds. Privatizing the public domain is not one of those options.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Making geekdom accessible (and creating baby geeks)

An interesting point from this BBC article on a free programming tool called Scratch from the MIT Media Lab that's designed to be (intellectually) accessible and "allows anyone to create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks" by 'snapping blocks together':

"A program doesn't congratulate you for the 90% that you got right. It fails for the 10% you got wrong. So an environment where you are essentially assembling components that can only be configured in set ways takes some of that hardship away."

Learning to interpret obscure compilation errors that don't even necessarily relate to the line that contains the actual error really isn't the easiest way to get started (I'm looking at the C-like languages here, yes, even you, PHP). It makes the early stages of programming more about attention to detail than intelligence or elegance, and that puts off lots of people who could probably be great programmers.

The article also lead me to, a site which "teaches children to code in a language called Ruby. There are seven free lessons, including one that allows them to develop a blog with just six lines of code."

News just in -no more funding for AHDS from April 2008

The AHRC has announced important changes in its policy for grant applicants,advising them that it has decided to cease funding the AHDS from
April 2008. The AHRC has elected to retain a data service in the area of
Archaeology and is in negotiation with the ADS in York. Details of the
impact on grantapplicants is outlined on the AHRC website at:

Perhaps I'm a cynic but I wonder if the reason begins with 'O' and ends with 'lympics'.
I came across this really nice definition of ontologies while browsing the Digital Curation Centre site:

Ontologies provide rich semantics as well as the structured relationships needed to interpret data. As interoperability between information, metadata and standards becomes more important, it will become increasingly relevant that digital curators have a means of understanding the wide range of information associated with digital objects. Ontologies are created by a community of people who want to provide tools for describing and querying resources within a particular domain. This might include metadata schemas and classification systems, and are useful to specify concepts of information within a domain of interest. Interoperability between various ontologies will also become increasingly important in enabling members of disparate communities to re-use and understand digital information over time.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

I came across a mention of 'Digital Object Identifiers' in a paper on digital humanities, and discovered
A DOI name - a digital identifier for any object of intellectual property. A DOI name provides a means of persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related current data in a structured extensible way.

A DOI name can apply to any form of intellectual property expressed in any digital environment. DOI names have been called "the bar code for intellectual property": like the physical bar code, they are enabling tools for use all through the supply chain to add value and save cost.

A DOI name differs from commonly used internet pointers to material such as the URL because it identifies an object as a first-class entity, not simply the place where the object is located. The DOI name identifies an entity directly, not some attribute of an object (an address is an attribute of a thing, whereas the thing itself is a first class object).
At some stage I have a big post to write about stable, permanent URIs for museum objects, and I'll be re-visiting this site when I start that.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

I'm blogging this post on Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog so I can find it again and because it's a useful summary. We're in the process of finding a LAMP host, which we'll be able to use for our OAI-PMH repositories as well as blogs and forums.

While on a Web 2.0-buzzword ish kick, check out the LAARC's photos on Flickr and the Museum of London photo pool. The first LAARC sets are community excavations at Bruce Castle and Shoreditch Park.