More on maps, collaboration & some pretty pictures

I've stumbled across a few interesting links that I'd like to share this week, but I'll keep it quick as a) it's Friday and b) many of you probably know of these already. They're not new by any stretch of the imagination, but they're starting to affect the way we think about using the web.

In no particular order:

Further to my post from what seems aeons ago about The Long(itude) and the short on maps, this caught my eye the other day from the Official Google Maps API Blog - Keir Clarke's Creating a User-Contributed Map: Look, Ma - No server side scripts! which sounds great for the novice coder like myself. It does involve using forms for Google Spreadsheets (which requires a Google login, but I guess if you're looking at Google Maps then you probably already have one of those) and allows you to create user contributed maps without any server-side scripting.

I haven't had a chance to investigate this yet, but the potential for creating user contributed maps & then being able to harvest the geographic data as KML and either repurpose it or add it to the existing metadata in our catalogues seems pretty great.

Another idea with perhaps great potential for enhancing our metadata was brought to my attention this week by a colleague (though it has been around for a while - since 2006!) is Google's Image Labeler. Taking the form of a game, users label random images from Google Image Search with the aim of improving the quality of image search results. Users will be randomly paired with a partner who is online and using the feature. Users can be registered players who accumulate a total score over all games played, or guests who just play for one game at a time.

Now, we in the library world aren't too short on decent metadata, but this idea could have merit particularly for our archival collections where often we have things described only to the folder level. Harnessing the power of the (interested) crowd to help us describe items down to the level of the piece should be very appealing. This is just another kind of Amazon Mechanical Turk though I do like the gaming aspect of it. Definitely an idea worth exploring.

And to prove that this post isn't a total Google love-in, let's hear it for a little company fighting out of Redmond, WA - Microsoft, with this week's EyeCandy Award: Photosynth. Previously noted in our 2007 in review this is worth another look late on a Friday afternoon if you haven't seen it already. You have to install something (and have a Direct3D capable graphics card, sure, but this is totally cool. Photosynth analyses digital photographs to build a three-dimensional point cloud of a photographed object. Pattern recognition components compare portions of images to create points, which are then compared to convert the image into a model. This allows you to

  • Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
  • Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it's megapixels or gigapixels in size.
  • See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
  • Find similar photos to the one you're currently viewing.
  • Send a collection - or a particular view of one - to a friend.

No user contributions yet, but their demo of Piazza San Marco should keep you busy for a while.

By Simon Bendall

Simon works for Internal Affairs doing something with computers. He owns far too many records.

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