For the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event I created a timeline of IWMW events using MIT’s SImile software. This software is being used to drive a number of timeline displays, such as the example created by Frankie Roberto at the recent Mashed Museum 08 event.
The Simile software is not, however, all that easy for a non-developer to use. So I was pleased to recently come across the Web-based Dipity service for creating and visualising timelines. I used this to create a timeline of IWMW events, which can be accessed on the Dipity Web site. It has also been embedded on the UKOLN Web site. An image of the interface is shown below.
In addition to providing a timeline of the annual event from 1997-2008 I also included photos from Flickr which had been tagged with ‘iwmw2008′. And as the service allows not only uploads from various popular Web 2.0 services (Flickr, YouTube, etc.) but also from any RSS feed I realised that I could also add the news feed for IWMW 2008 and details of the plenary talks, which is also available as an RSS file.
The timeline of the IWMW 2008 News provides a visual display of the public announcements such as when the Web site was set up, the call for speakers announced, the event opened for bookings, etc. The display of the timetable for the plenary talks can provide a similar overview – but in this case the times are not necessarily accurate, due to the complexities of time zones (I haven’t yet established whether this is a limitation of the Dipity service or the data I use).
More importantly, though, is the danger of data lock-in when using a service such as this, together with the question of the sustainability of the Dipity company -especially as a Crunchbase article on Dipity fails to provide any evidence of investment in the company.
The approach I have taken is to steer clear of making significant use of the data entry form for the service – and initially I thought that it wasn’t possible to export data added to the system, although I subsequently discovered an RSS feed for my timeline – although this does not appear to be documented. As a general principle, however, I would be concerned if my data is locked into an application,and lost if the service failed to be sustainable or if I wanted to migrate my data to an alternative service.
However as Dipity allows data to be imported from RSS feeds I am able to have my managed RSS feeds as the master source for my data, thus reducing the risks of data loss to any minor tweaks I may make to the data within the Dipity service.
So if you regard Dipity as a visualisation tool for data which is managed elsewhere, I would suggest that the service can provide a very useful way of displaying data.