This Made Me Project

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I’ve been doing a bit of thinking lately about why I am who I am and what made me that way. I think too much. I thought it would be interesting to put something visual together, sort of as a portrait/route of how I got where I am today and things that have influenced me, showing how they’d influenced me.

I realise the detail of my life isn’t something most people would be interested in, but maybe the idea/concept behind what I’m attempting to do is??

The idea came from a variety of places – wanting to create an interactive timeline of my musical influences since I was born, visiting the Wellcome Centre in London for a conference and seeing an interesting take on the idea of a family tree (sorry, I can’t remember who did the artwork), the idea of the Library Routes project, my use of Trailmeme and also wanting to develop my programming skills by doing something I’d not done before and presenting information in a different sort of way.

I just want to see if I could put something informative and creative together- not just text, but an interactive ‘This made me’ biography thing, showing key points/influences that led me down a particular path, no matter how seemingly unconnected. For example, I can connect being a fan of the band “The Stranglers” to my being a librarian and not pursuing a career as a computer programmer (short version- got computer, began programming, became fan of “The Stranglers”, wanted to make music like them, used computer for music instead, concentrated on music rather than programming, failed with my music dreams, took library degree, ta-daa!!!, Librarian and failed musician. 😉 ) (Update: I was saying I was the failed musician, not the Stranglers.)

I haven’t started the project yet and I’m not sure how I’ll present the information. But as an initial thought, creating the data as XML would make sense – at least then I can concentrate on getting the information together, without needing to worry too much about how I present it at this stage. I’ve not used strict XML in any of my programming, but have created some Gary versions of XML in the past without realising that I could do the same thing using a standard format. So, this will give me a good opportunity to explore XML more fully. The skeleton of information would be to identify the influences, their type and indicate how they link together (as a starting point).

As for presenting the information, maybe I could either create (1) A single image mashup or an image map (2) A network of visual information nodes like a mind map (3) A timeline. I’m still undecided about that. I think having it in XML will give me the chance to experiment. Whatever I do, it needs to be connected in a easy-to-navigate way.

Disclaimer: As with all of my ideas there’s no guarantee that I’ll stick to plan A or that I’ll even be able to finish it. But I’ve got to give it a go.

Catalogue and Classify Those Tweets

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The recent announcement about The Library of Congress acquiring the back archive of tweets got me thinking again about meaning in Twitter hashtags. I jokingly suggested that L.O.C. might like to classify them all. Thinking about it properly, classifying them might be useful. I’m not thinking about all tweets, but hashtags mentioned in the tweets.

If you are a library holding references to resources on your catalogue, a catalogue record for and linking to a hashtag url for an event eg #jisc10 or a subject eg #rda might be useful. Twitter provides useful & concise information, links to resources, discussions, etc, so why not make use of that? I know you have to read some waffle too on Twitter, but you often have to read through more waffle in a book.

You could index the hashtag in the same way as your normal stock. ie with subject headings and classification codes. I know tweets are lost into the ether after a few days, but for more permanent links you could use a url pointing to a twitter archiving service like Twapperkeeper, if tweets about the hashtag are being stored. These services are more likely to hold onto tweets for much longer.

I wonder if this is the intention of the Library of Congress?

Animated Wordcloud with Tagxedo

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After getting the Word extractor for my Literary Twist project working, I decided that I wanted to make some creative use of the information it pulled out. I tested it on Twapperkeeper tweets from the Middlemash Library mashup event last year and had a few ideas about creating some kind of abstract multimedia montage for it, rather than presenting just facts and figures. So I needed to find some appropriate creative tools to make use of the tweets.

Phil Bradley mentioned Tagxedo – a word cloud generator – in a few tweets and it was only when he posted an interesting Mona Lisa and Wolf tag cloud that I realised you could do more than just create a basic word cloud. It allows you to upload not only your own text, but also your own images and the word cloud fits inside the image. I had a play with it and wondered if I could create an animated word cloud. I wanted the animation to be appropriate to the words, but I couldn’t think how to use the Middlemash tweets.

I still haven’t decided exactly how I’ll use it for the Middlemash tweets, but along a different track altogether, I remembered the Grand National was on last weekend. I also remembered about the old zoetrope image of a horse. So after getting a list of the runners and a commentary on the race I put them into tweaked zoetrope images one by one, added the images to Windows Moviemaker and was really pleased with the resulting animation. I have to admit that the images aren’t perfect, as I had to cut them from the orignal image via screen capture and resize them manually.

So there we have an animated Zoetrope Tagxedo word cloud of the Grand National 2010 created using information from the race itself.

As another stage, it would have been good to create a longer animation that removed horses along the way and just left the winner at the end.

It’s given me plenty of inspiration too. All sorts of animated tag cloud ideas buzzing round my head now.