Museums and the Web – day two

Posted on April 14, 2007


So. Day 2. Still on UK time, but the coffee seemed to help..

This morning we did a Birds of a Feather breakfast. I’ll admit I’ve never actually managed to get to one of these before but, hey, I’d been up since about 5 so what the hell..

We set up a table on museums and the semantic web (or Semantic Web…) kind of half expecting everyone to run really fast in the opposite direction. In fact, we actually ended up with a pretty interesting discussion. I’ve been a part of the UK Museums and Semantic Webgroup for a while. Broadly we discussed the divide between “backend” SW and “frontend” sw [note the capitals – we made the distinction a while between “formal” semantic web (SW) and lightweight (sw)]. It makes sense to me (I think). Basically I think we’re all gagging to actually see something which is semantic. I know I am. I understand things like microformats because I can see them in action, and understand the potential applications. But SW seems to be a huge, scary, formal, impossible beast. The guys at Eduserv have a interesting things to say on this.

Either way, Ross managed to draw a groovy diagram which I’ll try to get hold of and post here. I do like a diagram…

Next up, crit room. Three great sites – Informal Science, Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and the African Free School. Briefly, my comments:

Informal Science: a bit too, er, formal; could do with some more cheering up, maybe some images, more of the interview section; better explained navigation; make more use of the changing content; opportunity (if wanted by the audience!) for more UGC stuff.

Te Ara: lovely, lovely site – just a few bits to suggest – the most obvious one being that they need to find ways of lifting their content (which is fabulous) up out of the hierarchy to make it really obvious that this stuff is there. They also have a big problem (as agreed by team leader Shirley Williams, who bought me a coffee afterwards) with the sheer quantity of stuff they’ve got and how best to move around it. Great site – go spend some time.

African Free School: a little bit grey, which is a shame because the content is very fine. Also a whole bunch of gratuitous Flash – the main content is hidden behind a view which could (and should) be done in HTML. Possibly with a smattering of dynamicness/ajaxiness to spruce it up a bit. Once you’re in, it’s great, though. Ditto the timeline and map – both in Flash and both a little bit too cryptic. Dana (my crit partner) suggested something I’d thought of too – would have been lovely to have an overlay of current day New York to give the map a real sense of scale.

Made a run for it in the afternoon and had a lovely museum-free time wandering down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Back up again for an evening reception at the Exploratorium. Food, beer, gadgets. Does it get any better?

Posted in: museum, mw2007