Friday, 29 August 2008

Moving on... new job, new challenges

A very quick update to let you know I am going on holiday and won't be posting for a week.

And perhaps more importantly, I've had an offer that was too good to refuse so after five busy years I'm leaving the Museum of London to take up a post as Lead Web Developer at the Science Museum.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

User-generated mashups in natural language?

In case you missed it elsewhere, check out Mozilla Lab's video and blog post on Introducing Ubiquity - 'An experiment into connecting the Web with language'.

It's a framework that brings together lots of the bits of functionality that are available with browser extensions and bookmarklets and lets the user run them with natural language commands. One of the goals is to "enable on-demand, user-generated mashups with existing open Web APIs. (In other words, allowing everyone–not just Web developers–to remix the Web so it fits their needs, no matter what page they are on, or what they are doing.)".

It's a long way from being ubiquitous, but it does show that it's increasingly worth publishing your data in re-usable formats. They show an example of address being picked up from microformats in apartment listings and mapped for the user - that kind of mashup was possible before and they're a huge step forward in themselves, but how many users have the skills and time to do it? Being able to use natural language to pull together and use data could bring mash-ups to the general public in a massive way.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Mashed museum and UK MW 2008 write-up

A report I wrote on 'The 2008 Mashed Museum Day and UK Museums on the Web Conference' is now live on the Ariadne site. I've already reported on most of the sessions and the mashed museum day here, but the opportunity to reflect on the day and write for a different audience was useful. The review really made me appreciate that time and space away from all the noise of every day life in which to learn, try and think is incredibly important, whether you call it a workshop or an away day or something else entirely:

One lesson from the Mashed Museum day was that in a sector where innovation is often hampered by a lack of financial resources, time is a valuable commodity. A day away from the normal concerns of the office in 'an environment free from political or monetary constraints' is valuable and achievable without the framework of an organised event. An experimental day could also be run with ICT and curatorial or audience-facing staff experimenting with collections data together.


The Ariadne issue is packed full of articles I've marked 'to read', so you might also find them interesting.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

BBC experimenting with inline links in articles

I noticed the following link when reading a BBC article today:

BBC: We are trialling a new way to allow you to explore background material without leaving the page.
If you turn on inline links, they appear as subtly blue text against the usual grey. Some have icons indicating which site the link relates to (YouTube, Wikipedia), others don't. Links with an icon open the content directly over the article; links without icons open the link in the same window, taking you from the BBC story. Screenshot below:


The 'Read more' links to a page, Story links trial, that says:
For a limited period the BBC News Website is experimenting with clickable links within the body of news stories.

If you click on one of these links, a window will appear containing background material relevant to that word that is highlighted. The links have been carefully chosen by our journalists.

We are doing this trial because we want to see if you enjoy exploring background material presented in this way. It's part of our continuing efforts to provide the best possible experience.

In addition to background material from the BBC News website, we are also displaying content from other sites, including Wikipedia, You Tube and Flickr.
I'd be really interested to know what the results of the trial are, and I hope the BBC share them. I've been thinking about inline links and faceted browsing for collections sites recently, and while the response would presumably vary if the links were only to related content on the same site, it would be useful to know how the two types of links are received.

The story I noticed the link on is also interesting because it shows how content created in a 'social software' way can be (probably wilfully, in this case) misinterpreted:

"Downing Street has been accused of wasting taxpayers' money after making a jokey video in response to a petition for Jeremy Clarkson to be made PM.
...
A Conservative Party spokesman said: "While the British public is having to tighten its belts, the government is spending taxpayers' money on a completely frivolous project.""

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Software with free licenses still has copyright

I'm highlighting this story because it might help to answer institutional issues with the use of open source and Creative Commons licenses. The emphasis below is mine, and it's an American case so local relevance will vary, but the understanding of the importance of recognition or attribution is a milestone.

BBC, Legal milestone for open source:

Advocates of open source software have hailed a court ruling protecting its use even though it is given away free.
...
The court has now said conditions of an agreement called the Artistic Licence were enforceable under copyright law.

"For non-lawgeeks, this won't seem important but this is huge," said Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig.

"In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licences set conditions on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the licence disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer.
...
"Open source licensing has become a widely used method of creative collaboration that serves to advance the arts and sciences in a manner and at a pace few could have imagined just a few decades ago," Judge White said.
...
The ruling has implications for the Creative Commons licence which offers ways for work to go into the public domain and still be protected.
...
"This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principle of the internet; that even though money doesn't change hands, attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy."


The Age also has an article that might help you make sense of it, Even free software has copyrights: judge

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Freebase meetup, London, August 20

As she explains on the Freebase blog, Kirrily from Freebase will be in London for a little while this month and she'd having an informal meet up with Freebase users and those who might be interested to learn more about it:
We'll be meeting at the Yorkshire Grey Pub in Holborn from 6:30pm, having a few drinks, and talking about open data, building communities around free information, mashups, and more. If you're interested, please stop by. There'll be free wifi available, so bring your laptops if you've got them.
You can RSVP on upcoming.org. I'm going because I think Freebase could be really useful for a personal project but also because it's another way of helping people make the most of their digital heritage.

If you don't know much about Freebase, or haven't seen it lately, this video on Parallax, their new browsing interface should give you a pretty good idea of how useful it can be for cultural heritage and natural history data. It's 8 minutes long, and it's really worth taking the time to watch particularly for the maps and timelines, but if you're pressed for time then skip the first two minutes.

You can also get more background at The Future of the Web or Freebase: Dispelling The Skepticism. There are lots of possibilities for museums, archaeology and other cultural content so come along for a chat and a pint.

[Update: if you're not in London but have some questions about Freebase and digital heritage that you think might be useful for discussion or need some context to explain, drop me a line via the form on miaridge.com and I'll take them along.]