Final thoughts on open hack day (and an imaginary curatr)

I think hack days are great – sure, 24 hours in one space is an artificial constraint, but the sheer brilliance of the ideas and the ingenuity of the implementations is inspiring. They're a reminder that good projects don't need to take years and involve twenty circles of sign-off, even if that's the reality you face when you get back to the office.

I went because it tied in really well with some work projects (like the museum metadata mashup competition we're running later in the year or the attempt to get a critical mass of vaguely compatible museum data available for re-use) and stuff I'm interested in personally (like modern bluestocking, my project for this summer – let me know if you want to help, or just add inspiring women to freebase).

I'm also interested in creating something like a Dopplr for museums – you tell it what you're interested in, and when you go on a trip it makes you a map and list of stuff you could see while you're in that city.

Like: I like Picasso, Islamic miniatures, city museums, free wine at contemporary art gallery openings, [etc]; am inspired by early feminist history; love hearing about lived moments in local history of the area I'll be staying in; I'm going to Barcelona.

The 'list of cultural heritage stuff I like' could be drawn from stuff you've bookmarked, exhibitions you've attended (or reviewed) or stuff favourited in a meta-museum site.

(I don't know what you'd call this – it's like a personal butlr or concierge who knows both your interests and your destinations – curatr?)

The talks on RDFa (and the earlier talk on YQL at the National Maritime Museum) have inspired me to pick a 'good enough' protocol, implement it, and see if I can bring in links to similar objects in other museum collections. I need to think about the best way to document any mapping I do between taxonomies, ontologies, vocabularies (all the museumy 'ies') and different API functions or schemas, but I figure the museum API wiki is a good place to draft that. It's not going to happen instantly, but it's a good goal for 2009.

These are the last of my notes from the weekend's Open Hack London event, my notes from various talks are tagged openhacklondon.

3 thoughts on “Final thoughts on open hack day (and an imaginary curatr)”

  1. I've been wanting to do this for ages – it even got a passing mention in my mw2008 paperMy feeling was that it should, initially at least, be focused solely on 'exhibitions' as the key social object. Which is why I started the exhibitions domain on Freebase, which now has a decent set of data that'd be a good place to start from.

    So if you wanted to actually think about how this might work, I'd be happy to help… :-D

  2. 'Exhibitions' feels like someone else is choosing my interests for me – ideally I'd be able to specify the particular periods of Picasso's ouvre that I'm interested in (or nominate key artworks and let the system suggest properly related pieces) – but we could take each of our interests as use cases and work from there. It'd be good to have test cases for related API and machine-readable outputs at work, too.

    In my own time, I can have a life from May 28 – September 28 (i.e. when I don't have taught classes for my MSc) – how's summer for you?

  3. The reason I picked 'exhibitions' is because it's a defined type of thing, and has a certain regularity with the type of facets you might pick to build the service around (dates, subject, venue, type of exhibition, and so on). Which makes it a bit less scary to think about how complicated a service you'd have to build.

    I agree though that'd it'd be cool if you could specify other areas or period of interest and build recommendations around that.

    The key stumbling block I thought of is that for all of these things, people would have to manually input all their interests/exhibitions they've been to. Whereas most of the successful social object services have had some degree of automation ( with scrobbling, iTunes Genius) or are based around an action which already happens online (buying a book from Amazon, sharing a photo on Flickr).

    Sites where you have to manually input your data/interests, in the hope that it'll be useful later, tend to be less powerful. For example, cataloguing your bookshelf on LibraryThing would take a while (unless you have a barcode scanner!), and even sites like Upcoming and Delicious can become a pain to keep up-to-date.

    This doesn't mean that this isn't doable, it's just that the act of putting in your interests/exhibitions you've been to needs to be as easy as possible.

    Dopplr allows you to forward your airline e-mail receipt to them, for instance. Perhaps the same could be done for exhibitions?

    Or design the service so that entering your data becomes a social act – inviting someone to visit an exhibition with you on a certain date, for instance.

    Or use Fire Eagle/Google Latitude/etc to track where people are, and automatically detect which museums/exhibitions they've been to.

    There are other alternatives too, but I think these are the key problems to solve. (And I'm up for it!)

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