Near Real-time Data


Museum Mashups

termitemound.jpgToday I’m conducting two half-day workshops at the Museums and the Web Conference in San Francisco. This blog post contains the workshop description and the course materials for Museum Mashups, there’s another post for Real Science 2.0: Interacting with Scientific Imagery and Live Data.

The image on left is a termite “catherdral” mound, an example of the theory of emergence in nature. I decided to use this image after rading Alex Iskold’s article on Yahoo! Pipes, where he talks about emergence (part of complexity theory) and its relation to Web 2.0.

Workshop Description
Perhaps more than any other approach or Web technology, mashups exemplify “Web 2.0.” These unique web applications draw on content from more that one source to create something new. With hundreds of open APIs (Application Programming Interface) to choose from, over 1000 mashups have been created in just the past two years. Google maps, Flickr photos, and many other data sources and services are now available to designers and developers.

Unfortunately, few museums have explored the promise that mashups present. While some of the APIs are commercial in nature, many are relevant to the museum world and could be used to create compelling interactive experiences for museum visitors. Mashups have the potential to allow visitors to access archives, collections, and scientific data in innovative and exciting ways.

As museums slowly begin to explore other Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging and social networking applications, the potential for tapping into these communities with mashups increases. Our visitors are already using mashups and many of the core technologies that open APIs are making accessible.

This half-day workshop will explore the technical and design aspects of mashups. We’ll look at some of the examples that are out there and discuss the technology behind them. We’ll explore some of the more popular open APIs and talk about the possibilities they present.

Finally, we’ll explore the design issues surrounding these unique web applications. Due to the complex nature of mashups and the fact that many are produced solely by programmers, usability and visitor experience is often compromised. We’ll look at what is emerging as “best practices” in the development on mashups with a focus on design. Through a rapid design exercise we’ll take a look at the conceptual, information, and visual design aspects of mashups.

Bookmarks (for this workshop and RealScience 2.0):

The Presentation (The activity is not included):
museummashups-2007.pdf (800K)


Earth Observatory and NEO

I just returned from Washington D.C. where I was involved in a series of meetings at the Association of Science-Technology Centers. In one of the meetings, I had an opportunity to meet David Herring from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He helps coordinate NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

Launched in 1998, the Earth Observatory has been one of the best spots on the Internet for learning about our planet’s dynamic systems. The site is nominated (again) for a Webby Award as Best Education Site and deservedly so. (You can vote here.)

The Earth of Observatory has been a source of inspiration, and a model that we’ve looked at in developing sites that utilize actual scientific data. In the past, Ideum has developed sites that present scientific data such as: Solar Max (2001), The Global Climate Change Research Explorer (2003), the Sun-Earth Media Viewer (2004), among others. So, it was great to meet someone else who has worked on sites with a similar focus.

neo.jpgIn the meeting, David previewed NEO, which stand for NASA Earth Observations. The site provides a Flash 8 pan and zoom interface and will eventually provide access to a wealth of full-resolution earth imagery. At the moment, the Ocean section has the most in the way of data-sets. In NEO, the images are available in multiple formats and at the same resolution that NASA scientists use for research. This great for those of us who depend on high-quality, high-resolution images for exhibit development.

The site is beta, a bit rough around the edges, and not publicly linked, but David was nice enough to give us permission to write about it. Along with its beta status, NEO is gathering information through a survey. So if you do check it out, give them a bit of feedback. Ok?


Solar Viewer mini

Yahoo! has just posted our new Widget, the Solar Viewer Mini. O.K., We know it is still a big widget, but compared to first Solar Viewer it is slimmer and who wants to see tiny images of the sun anyway. This version has “drawers” and scrollers to make it more compact. We’ve had nearly 2,000 downloads just today! Our previous solar viewer has over 38,000 downloads in a little over a month. We developed this widget for NASA’s Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum. Both widgets are based on the Flash-based Sun-Earth Viewer which Ideum also developed for NASA.

You’ll need the Yahoo! Widget Engine for Mac and PC to run this. We’re currently working on the Mac OS X Dashboard version of this same widget. We will let you know when that is available.


Solar Viewer 10,000

The Solar Viewer is closing in on 10,000 downloads. Not a bad showing in less four days. While the Sun-Earth Viewer remains a popular Web site, the widget in four days has reached more people than the original Flash-based viewer does in a month.

We had a similiar experience when we made a video podcast of clips found in the Traditions of the Sun site. We had over 4,000 downloads in the first week. While much has been made of the Web 2.0, in the simplest terms these new technologies provide new opportunities for us and our clients to reach new audiences. By simply, repurposing some of our existing content we’ve reached whole new audiences and in larger numbers. (The quality of the user experience is another topic for another time.)

What is unclear is whether we will continue to find these large audiences through podcasting and widgets. Being an “early adopter” provides with an audience hungry for content. For example, it took only 19 days from the release of the video iPod for the iTunes Store to rack up one million downloads. Maximizing the keyword “video” in our video podcasts helped push our numbers along as well. After all, what would you search for if you just bought a video iPod?