UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Mashed Museum Event

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 Jun 2008

I recently attended the Mashed Museum event, organised by Mike Ellis (Eduserv) which was held on the day prior to the UK Museums and the Web 2008 conference. Further information on the event is available on the MashedMuseum wiki. Frankie Roberto has already written a blog post on his use of Freebase (for providing structured access to collections data from the Science Museum) and the Simile timeline service for visualising the data. However the most comprehensive summary of the day I’ve found is available on the blog which gives an excellent overview of several of the developments, together with a more in depth summary of a development which made use of Twitter, Google Maps, Google earth.

My effort was much simpler – it involved use of the PicLens tool to produce a 3D visualisation of museum objects along similar lines to the 3D visualisation of the history of the University of Bath home page. However rather than focussing on technical development (not a strength of mine) my main interest was in ways in which development activities which take place at mashup events can be shared with a wider community and become embedded within the organisation. And so my visualisation included details of why such a service would be valuable to an organisation (a 3D visualisation may be more engaging than a static 2D Web page and could help to engage new audiences), business models to help to ensure the sustainability of such services (you could have occasional advertisements including in the 3D gallery) and concluded by summarising possible barriers (e.g. accessibility issues) and how those barriers may be addressed. In addition brief technical details were provided for those who might want to know how to implement this type of interface for their own service.

I did wonder, though, whether such supporting materials would be needed – aren’t software developers typically self-reliant and capable of working out for themselves how to make use of the lightweight development environments which were used during the event? I was therefore reassured when Michael Twidale raised the issue of the difficulties which can be encountered when using tools such as Yahoo Pipes, which aren’t well-documented and fail to provide much assistance if the software fails to work. And several other people at the event agreed with Michael’s thoughts, which I recorded as a video clip.

Shouldn’t we encourage software developers to record screencasts of their development work, I wonder, explaining why they make decisions which may not be obvious to others, and perhaps even swearing when things go wrong – after all, learning from the mistakes made by other can be a particular valuable way of avoiding making similar mistakes ourselves.

And haven written the above post, I’ve just received an email from Mike Ellis announcing a 12 minute video clip which summarises the day’s event including snippets from many of the developers at the event. Not only has he edited the various clips he took during the day, he’s also added music which he’d composed – very impressive stuff!

5 Responses to “The Mashed Museum Event”

  1. I definitely get the point you make about the difficulties encountered when software development goes wrong using tools like Yahoo Pipes, Google Mash-ups etc. but am not convinced that screen recordings of the process would help solve the problem. Part of the problem is the eternal beta syndrome that dominates the world of web apps. It means nothing is ever finished or entirely taken responsibility for. I think it puts institutions like museums in a difficult position. How to provide a high quality service on platforms that question their own credibility?

  2. Mike said

    Brian, thanks for the mention!


  3. bezbozhnik said

    Hi Brian

    Shouldn’t we encourage software developers to record screencasts of their development work

    An insightful screencast by thoughtful and engaging developers will always be of interest. But we’ve been trying for decades, without consistent success, to get them to write clear and legible code; or embed comments; or just produce something resembling instructions, diagrams or documentation! Mightn’t we just be adding podcasting to the array of non-coding tasks that are traditionally resented and overlooked in the course of development projects? :)

  4. Mike said

    @Bezbozhnik – mashing days don’t have anything whatsoever to do with good coding practice…I can personally guarantee that *anything* produced in a day can be a beautiful idea, but REALLY badly executed :-)

  5. […] The Mashed Museum Event […]

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