UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Posts Tagged ‘Dipity’

Dipity Breaks – And Is Then Fixed

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Dec 2008

Back in August 2008 I  wrote about problems with the Squirl.info service – and despite the “It works!” message I’m currently receiving it seems that the service is now no more, it’s an ex-service, it’s gone to meet its maker.

In light of the credit crunch we might expect to hear of more Web 2.0 failures (although, of course, it may be that it’s the more heavyweight traditional IT companies which fail to respond to changing market conditions). And when I went to my Dipity timeline for my involvement in Web accessibility work and discovered that no data was being displayed I wondered if the Dipity service was starting to break.

But rather than curse technology for failing to work I filled in the Feedback form on the Dipity Web site. And within a couple of hours I received the following response from Zack Steinkamp:

Hi Brian —

There seemed to be a small glitch in our rendering system.  I’ve cleared it out, and your timeline is whole again.

Regards,
Zack Steinkamp
dipity.com

Now I’ve encountered many small glitches in services provided locally. And I have to admit that they aren’t all resolved so quickly (these days the speedy response will tend to come from an automated fault reporting system).  So my thanks to Zack for responding so quickly.  And not only that – I now have more faith in Dipity as I know that they’re not only providing the service but also have an effective fault reporting and fixing service.

But this, of course, doesn’t guarantee that the service will survive the economic crunch.  So what should I do about the data hosted by the service?

It may be that I don’t need to worry about the long term sustainability of the data. The reason I created the timeline was to support a paper myself and David Sloan were writing on “Reflections on the Development of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility”. The visualisation of our work, which I described in a blog post on ” Over Ten Years Of Accessibility Work“, helped me to identify a number of distinct phases in my activities related to Web accessibility work, from a period of naivety (when I felt that the WAI model would provide universal accessibility), to a period of doubt (when I was doing littler work in this area), followed by a meeting of minds when I discovered others with timilar reservation which then led to our first paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility“. This then led to a period in which the holistic approach was further developed and extended to other areas, followed by a period of promoting this approach to various user communities, the most recent event having been described in a post on “Designing for Disability Seminar“.

So for that example the timeline was used as part of the process of reflecting on my work and the paper (and accompanying blog post) were the main outcomes of my use of the timeline. And just as I have thrown away the various scraps of paper I used when I was working on the paper and have forgotten the various discussions I had with my co-author, so I could regard the timeline as having fulfilled its main purpose.  But I’ve left it (and have recently updated it) because I feel it may have some additional worth.  And if I wish to manage the underlying data I can simply export the data as an RSS feed and host this elsewhere.

I’m pleased that the rich functionality provided by the Dipity service is based on the simplicity of this data:

<item>
<title><![CDATA[Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility]]></title>
<description><![CDATA[Brian Kelly gave a talk on
"Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility" at the "Designing for Disability"
seminar held at the British Museum, London on 5th December 2008.]]></description>
<link>http://www.dipity.com/briankelly/Web_Accessibility_Timeline_For_
Brian_Kelly?eid=a5b0837020c5cef0</link>
<guid isPermaLink="false" >a5b0837020c5cef0</guid>
<pubDate>Fri, 5 Dec 2008 12:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
</item>

But if I do wish to (or am forced to) move to another service, having the data isn’t sufficient. What alternative service can I use? And how easy would it me to import the data and have an equivalent service up and running?

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Dipity Timeline Of IWMW Events

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 Jul 2008

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.

Timeline for IWMW 2008 events

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.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »