Yahoo Pipes – a new challenge? opportunity? for museums

I'm cheating and posting something I sent to the Museums Computer Group list.

Bill Thompson has written about Yahoo Pipes in 'The mash-up future of the web'.

If you haven't heard of Yahoo Pipes before, this is a reasonable summary from the article:

"Their new offering, Pipes, lets you take a data feed such as the result of a web search, or an RSS feed from a blog or news site, or a set of tagged photos on Flickr, and transform it to produce the outcome you want. You can then make it available for other people to see.

It's web-based, no more complicated than creating programs for Lego MindStorms, and already stirring up a lot of interest.

Yahoo!'s Pipes do the same with a simple graphical tool that lets you define and connect data feeds, filters and user prompts, so that you can quickly build the service you want. You still need some technical ability, but you don't need to be a programmer."

My first thought was 'cool, let's make sure our feeds are in a compatible format so people can use our data' and my second thought was 'how on earth will we measure usage?'.

It would be cool to know who's using our data and how, but overall, do we need to measure how it's used and how often it's accessed? Given that we probably can't anyway, are there other potentially useful indicators of use? Would use of our data in a mash-up affect our museums' Key Performance Indicators by driving traffic away from our sites? I'd like to say that's the wrong question, but website visitors count under some funding models.

From the AHDS blog:

The AHDS has done some investigation of the user statistics of the Stormont Papers resource. Two main points are uncovered

1. User searches show the 'long tail' effect. The bulk of searches are not on the most popular terms (which account for 21% of searches) , but on terms, phrases and words that are used very rarely (which account for 54% of searches)

2. Of the ten most popular search terms, all are available as pre-arranged links on the home page. A quick click on a link, rather than typing something into a keyboard, provides a more user-friendly way for a user to get to know what is within a resource.

Source: Users do not want what you expect, AHDS.

Oracle get into the Semantic Web

I just got an email from the Oracle Technology Network:

"Explore OTN Semantic Web (Beta) – and Provide Feedback!
OTN Semantic Web, now in Beta release, is a proof-of-concept application that demonstrates the use of RDF (Resource Description Framework)-based "Semantic Web" technology as the basis for a user experience that relies on dynamic relational navigation as well as Ajaxian user interfaces."

They've given links to the demo and FAQ.

As a developer, I thought this FAQ point was interesting:
"Why do different collection pages have different user interfaces?
This Beta is intended to expose users to a range of Semantic Web functionality and Ajaxian UIs. For that reason you will see several different varieties of each, and we welcome your feedback about each of them."

I wonder if they're collecting data on mouse patterns and running path analyses to see which interfaces are more effective.

Tagging goes mainstream?

"A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.

Tagging is gaining prominence as an activity some classify as a Web 2.0 hallmark in part because it advances and personalizes online searching. Traditionally, search on the web (or within websites) is done by using keywords. Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon – a way to mark, store, and then retrieve the web content that users already found valuable and of which they want to keep track. It is, of course, more tailored to individual needs and not designed to be the all-inclusive system"
Pew Internet and American Life project: Tagging

The report also goes into the definition of tagging as well as who tags and there's an interview with David Weinberger on 'Why Tagging Matters'.