Apr 272012
 
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Today and tomorrow (and hacking right through the night) I’m in Glasgow for Culture Hack Scotland 2012. I’m along to play with data, to see what cool stuff other people create and to particularly see how our Will’s World dataa marked up version of Macbeth – is used.

This is the second CHS and last year I brought a laptop and charger but not a huge amount else. However I saw some really cool projects last year including some super hardware hacks. And this year the organisers are keen to see creative responses to data… and this makes packing quite the challenge… What to bring?

Well the laptop + charger + several extension cables was a no-brainer. What else?

An iPad, mini camcorder, pico projector, sound recorder, cables, cables, more cables, various paper and pens and pencils, and a few emergency chocolate snacks all seemed sensible too…

As did some lego, sketchpad, tripod, a mini desk lamp, and clothes pegs (for improvising a screen for the pico projector – of course). And the funghi packaging? Well that’s my mini Arduino kit just in case I can think of a neat way to programme my little heart charliplex in a creative way, preferably with Macbeth data…

As for what’s in my virtual bag well that’s more exciting: huge amounts of data from the CHS; lots of tools for non/timid developers like Yahoo! Pipes, Google Docs (there’s a lot you can do with their spreadsheets), many eyes, etc; and useful hosting tools like Dropbox. Not to mention the nuts and bolts stuff on the laptop: gimp, arduino, dashcode, voodoo pad…

Watch this space to see what we create!

Apr 272012
 
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It’s been a while since I posted an actual blog post rather than a liveblog and I thought it might be useful to summarise some interesting new social media news that has emerged over the last few weeks. It’s in no particular order but should hopefully be of interest.

Friends Reunited re-launches. One of the very first social networks has made a very unlikely comeback recently. Friends Reunited was the Facebook of it’s day (around 2001-3) encouraging old school friends to connect and post messages on each others walls. It had a real following in the UK but it didn’t develop fast enough and when it was sold from it’s private owners to ITV it really went into decline. However with the visual appeal of Tumblr, Pinterest and HistoryPin in mind and the massive appeal of family history as a new focus the site has relaunched in a new visual nostalgic style. Those used to frequenting Mum’s Comfort Food (formerly Monster Mash) in Edinburgh will instantly be used to the look and feel which is a bit like iPlayer in I Love the 1980s mode. And a fascinating footnote: Freindsreunited are manually retrieving login details for users who can no longer remember their logins, email addresses, passwords etc. It’s notable only because it’s rare a site is around so long it justifies doing that. Although from my first login there it looks like the masses have not returned to Friendsreunited (yet) despite the press coverage.

HistoryPin adds lots of new features! Chief amongst these are Channels which allow significant customisation and aggregation of contributions. A lovely idea for individuals, local history groups etc. We were lucky enough to have Rebekkah from HistoryPin along at a JISC GECO workshop on Geospatial in the Cultural Heritage Domain last month – you see the notes from her talk – which included sneak previews of the new Channels – over on the GECO LiveBlog for the event.

Facebook launches Timeline for Pages. Anyone with a Facebook page will know by now that the old style pages rolled over to the new style Timeline on 31st March 2012. The new look and feel will be very familiar to anyone looking at friends profiles over the last few months (personal profiles having rolled over around January).  Whilst the responses to personal timelines seems to have been quite mixed I think the new format work rather well for Pages and I haven’t seen much in the way of criticism – although inevitably looking around for familiar elements takes a wee bit of getting used to.

One of the most fun parts of the new format Facebook pages is the ability to add “Covers” – large images (851px by 315px – very similar to many WordPress theme banner sizes) which have presumably been labelled as “Covers” to appeal both to those who create elaborate scrapbooks and photo albums as well as those who wish they’d been in a rock band. We’ve now got Covers in place for all of our Facebook pages – why not take a look at the EDINA AddressingHistory Page and Digimap Page both of which use nice geospatial images:

Digimap's Facebook Page showing the new Timeline.

We actually try to keep a collection of images of events, services, etc. for just these sorts of times. A number of us at EDINA are pretty decent photographers and tend to take Digital SLRs to events anyway so we make a concious effort to capture our own high resolution images that are specific to us and our work so that when it comes to sharing images, illustrating blog posts or reports, etc. we have suitable images to hand. For AddressingHistory and JISC GECO, both of which were both very much about engaging the community and encouraging them to blog we’ve found Flickr accounts really useful – sharing images of materials and events lets others out on the web create more engaging posts and talk about our projects. Talking of images…

Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion. Old news now but still worth noting. The story has mainly been reported from a “is this the new dot com bubble” perspective which is hardly surprising as the purchase does value a free iPhone app at more than the value of subscription-based New York Times. However looking at this a bit more pragmatically it’s not quite such a daft purchase. Facebook has paid “cash and shares” and with the Facebook IPO coming up very soon it’s possible those shares are a big part of the payment and being valued highly. More importantly Instagram has a lot of the design and hipster chic that Facebook lacks, useful in itself, and will bring with it a user base and their photos – since images are, in my experience, some of the most productive sources of interaction on Facebook, that’s also significant. Instagram’s main function is to make fairly mediocre phone images look quirky, nostalgic, and tangible in a hard to explain sort of way. Adding that functionality to the photo sharing and storing aspects of Facebook seems like a good move as more of us move to experiencing the site almost exclusively on smartphones or tablets. On a sort of related note a very good recent(ish) Planet Money podcast talked about the longtail of the app economy with the founder of Instapaper.

Pinterest sees rapid growth and claims 97% of fans are female (see piece in Forbes and stats on TechCrunch). If Pininterest has passed you by so far you may be more than a little surprised at the number of new users it’s attracted in a very short time. The idea is very simple and rather familiar if you’re used to using Tumblr, the Flipboard iPad app, the new(ish) Delicious Stacks, Flickr Galleries, Storify, and any number of more obscure Web2.0 sites.  Pinterest is essentially a virtual pinboard for images – you can also add short comments and share those links/images. It’s a very basic idea but engaging because it is so visual, easy to use, and the interface is based on big buttons, easy browsing etc.  Like many predecessors it’s a custom magazine for the web but, unlike many of those, it also has a big user community. And for reference websites with no “pinnable” images cannot be pinned/saved/shared so it’s a great reminder to always include a good image on your webpresences – particularly if you can share something eyecatching!

Citizen Olympics Reporting. Two recent and exciting citizen reporting initiatives have been kicked off recently. The first and larger is #media2012, a reporting network for the Olympics. They held a recent kick off meeting which you can read about here. There is also an associated project to provide crowdsourced blog coverage of the Scottish arm of the torch relay which goes by the name CitizenRelay. Read more about getting involved here.

And finally… EDINA has a new LinkedIn page! If you head over there you can start following us for updates and news. And if you are a current or former staffer here do update your profile to create a connection back to the page. We’ve actually been planning to create a LinkedIn page for a while so it’s really good to see it live!

And even more finally… Our Will’s World project (#willdiscover) has launched and is contributing data for this year’s Culture Hack Scotland. The data is here in case you’re interested but there will be much more on that to follow…