Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Got Useful Data...and Caught You Unaware

A recent reply to a post in Taxacom got me thinking more deeply about capturing workflows (see thread):

The 'becomes part of daily routines on the workdesks of experts' is a
crucial part of this 'revolution' - the few experts left need an
incentive to abandon their word processors/spreadsheets/databases and
the incentive would be a workdesk with all the comfort factors that
these software applications give them and a whole heap of bonus
attributes which make it a no-brainer to adopt ... If (big if) the
majority of experts used this workdesk the
adSense-like/referral/ebay-feedback stuff going on in the background
would automatically improve the GBIF (and others - EoL??) content. The
good stuff rises the bad stuff falls - its always been this way, based
on a traditionally published monograph/fauna/flora/mycota/biota
typically on a 10-25 year cycle; in the 21st century digital age it
should be a tad quicker.


I'm happy to hear people are beginning to think of a "workdesk" as I envision the EOL WorkBench, which coincidentally I am internally calling "LifeDesk". This is how I described it some time ago on Taxacom (here). My thinking has shifted somewhat since then, but the give & take concept still holds.

A few concrete examples:

I modified my twirly, AJAXy reference look-up tool (also present on some exemplar EOL species pages like this one) to actually store the reprint metadata from CrossRef before it gets passed through to the user. The user gets the benefit of knowing there's a reprint available to download - they just click the little icon a second time - and I get the benefit of all the metadata for later use.

In doing some reading and fumbling with Adobe AIR, I stumbled across PhotoSpread (PDF). This app is a clever hybrid between Excel and Flickr. Dragging/dropping images coordinates regroupings or filters. As a consequence, metadata tags are automatically created.

So, while I think a "WorkBench", "WorkDesk", or "LifeDesk" focus for development is in the right direction, we should be looking for shortcuts like these that capture user activity, use third party APIs in the background, and later repurpose the data in other interesting ways. If we are going to parasitize systematists workflows, we best get every ounce of potential data out of the time they consume.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Where's David?

It has been an exceptionally long time since the last post. But, there were a few life-changing events that took precedence.

For starters, I'm now the WorkBench project leader for the Encyclopedia of Life and am living on Cape Cod with my family.

The Canadian Arachnologist and Spider WebWatch sites are stilled served from a desktop server. But, I have passed the editorial torch for the newsletter to Dr. Robin Leech.

I am also in the midst of buying my first home, which is no end of fun. Banks are quick to take your money, but aren't so quick to give it away, especially if your credit rating is invisible from the other side of an international border.

Just to prove that I have been toying with new things, here's a list containing a taste of things to come with the EOL WorkBench, which by the way I'm pushing for a rename. I'll let you fill in the blanks... ;)~

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