Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quality vs Quantity

AAM has very kindly published one of my rants on the state of collections databasing in natural history which you can read in the on-line edition of Museum here. The view that we need to think about quality of data access as much, if not more, than we think about the quanity of data accessible seems to be gaining some traction, which is a good thing. I'm struck by the way that the web projects I've completed in the last year or two are already looking dated - there's very limited interactivity and we don't encourage people to take our information and mash it up in new ways. Fortunately this is changing. I attended a meeting at Yale's Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure last week to discuss a new project that will ultimately let people pull together resources on Yale paleontologist O.C. Marsh - which include scanned correspondence, specimen records, and images - from multiple institutions and provide them with tools to tag, annotate, and combine the records in novel ways. Giving power to users is a key element of improving accessibility; it's not enough just to throw static records onto the web. What we also need to do is to promote and capture the interactions of the users with the virtual collection.

If I'm sounding all messianic about this, it's because I'm waiting to hear whether NSF is going to fund another project of ours that is based on these principals. Suffice to say, I'm getting a little tense....

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