International Games Day at The British Library

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Last Saturday was International Games Day @ Your Library and I was lucky enough to help organise the free event at The British Library. We were going for an Alice in Wonderland theme in general (although we had many games that weren’t themed around Alice), as the Alice exhibition at the library had only opened the day before – it was a good tie-in and gave us a focus.

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The event included a huge range of tabletop games provided by board game enthusiasts, and computer games from both the British Library/Game City Off The Map competition (including Gyre and Gimble’s game) , and games from Alice Jam 150. We had planned to run a couple of Pocket Code/Paint sessions to show people how to create Alice game art and a game in an hour and to tie in with this Pocket Code Alice game jam in December. In the end we only ran the Game Making with Pocket Code session (lack of attendees) with a couple of people. Even though it would have been nicer to have more people attend, I still enjoyed running it and I think those attending enjoyed it too. Everything else went down very well – we must have had 100+ people come along on the day and many stayed and played for a while. Having tabletop game enthusiasts who could show other volunteers and anyone who came along how to play the games was important. Having Gyre and Gimble there to talk about their game was great too, especially as they received such positive feedback about it. It was also fun to watch other people try out the Alice Jam 150 games – again, all of which got positive feedback. The most popular was Down the rabbit hole.

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As well as the main event we also ran gaming sessions on Friday and Saturday evening as part of the Alice late event – again, the sessions were extremely popular and I’m sure we must have had at least another 100 participants across both nights too.

As well as having fun, it was a great learning experience for me in so many ways, and I had the chance to meet and talk to an interesting group of people helping out at the event – including sharing ideas about Pocket Code. It was yet another event that I came away from buzzing with ideas.

Well done to Stella Wisdom as the main organiser who pulled it all together, and to everyone else who played a part in helping out.

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A #bl_labs Game Jam Idea

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[Edit: I managed to get the game below finished – it’s a work in progress – but I didn’t finish in time to enter the jam. The game “60 second Art Heist” can be downloaded here. ]

I was hoping to get involved in the British Library game jam that’s happening this week, but my programming skills let me down. I couldn’t get past a problem that meant I was able to download all the images from Flickr as the program was running – some of them loaded, others didn’t. Anyway, I still like the idea I was aiming for, so I thought I’d share it…

It would have been called something like “Art Thief” and the idea was that it would play along these lines.

The setting is a gallery with 3 framed images on the wall. All of the images are taken from the British Library’s photos on Flickr.

gallerycroppedpaintings statue

A speech bubble appears next to the art thief (who is disguised as one of the gallery’s statues), commenting that the buyer would pay handsomely for a particular type of artwork. The particular type (eg flora, portrait, architecture, cycling) is taken from a tag of one of the 3 Flickr images that is displayed on the wall.

gallerycroppedpaintingsbubble

The player positions the cursor over one of the paintings using a joystick and presses the button to select it. Up shoots a hand and nabs the selected painting.

gallerycroppedpaintingssnatch

If the player chooses an image that matches the tag in the speech bubble a bundle of money appears and their money goes up. At the same time if they get a correct tag/image combination like this their average percentage accuracy rate increases – they don’t see this. In fact they don’t know this is happening behind the scenes.

gallerycroppedpaintings stolenFor some time the process continues with changing tags and images until you’ve played the rounds enough times for the game to determine how accurate the player is at choosing the correct tag/image combinations asked of them. Until this stage all of the images presented have been tagged already, so we know which images have been tagged with what keyword. However, now untagged images are gradually added into the game. When presented with a comment such as “The buyer would pay handsomely for a “flora” artwork.” the game can determine how likely the player is to have chosen an image to match the tag based on their accuracy score. For example, if during the earlier rounds of the game they have an accuracy rate of 92%, we could suggest that any untagged items they selected later on were 92% likely to match the tag the game has asked for.

At the end of the game the untagged items url, suggested tag by the player and their % accuracy score could be stored in a csv file along with other players scores/suggested tags.

For added variety more images could be shown at the same time. The player might also be against the clock, or avoiding moving when the gallery security guard is watching.

More Library Mashups now published #mashlib

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Nicole Engard has published a new edition of her Library Mashups book (More Library Mashups). It includes chapters on tools people can use to create data mashups for libraries and information services, as well as examples of a wide range of actual library data mashups and details about how they were created.

The full run-down of the chapters appear below, so you can get an idea of what is covered. I’ll include a disclaimer here and say I’m fortunate to have a chapter about ifttt.com included in the book too. In fact, it’s also included as a free sample chapter.

  • IFTTT Makes Data Play Easy (Gary Green)
  • The Non-Developer’s Guide to Creating Map Mashups (Eva Dodsworth)
  • OpenRefine(ing) and Visualizing Library Data (Martin Hawksey)
  • Umlaut: Mashing Up Delivery and Access (Jonathan Rochkind)
  • Building a Better Library Calendar With Drupal and Evanced Events (Kara Reuter and Stefan Langer)
  • An API of APIs: A Content Silo Mashup for Library Websites (Sean Hannan)
  • Curating API Feeds to Display Open Library Book Covers in Subject Guides (Rowena McKernan)
  • Searching Library Databases Through Twitter (Bianca Kramer)
  • Putting Library Catalog Data on the Map (Natalie Pollecutt)
  • Mashups and Next Generation Catalog at Work (Anne-Lena Westrum and Asgeir Rekkavik)
  • Delivering Catalog Records Using Wikipedia Current Awareness (Natalie Pollecutt)
  • Mashups and Next Generation Catalog at Work (Anne-Lena Westrum and Asgeir Rekkavik)
  • Delivering Catalog Records Using Wikipedia Current Awareness (Natalie Pollecutt)
  • Telling Stories With Google Maps Mashups (Olga Buchel)
  • Visualizing a Collection Using Interactive Maps (Francine Berish and Sarah Simpkin)
  • Creating Computer Availability Maps (Scott Bacon)
  • Getting Digi With It: Using TimelineJS to Transform Digital Archival Collections (Jeanette Claire Sewell)
  • BookMeUp: Using HTML5, Web Services, and Location-Based Browsing to Build a Book Suggestion App (Jason Clark)
  • Stanford’s SearchWorks: Mashup Discovery for Library Collections (Bess Sadler)
  • Libki and Koha: Leveraging Open Source Software for Single Sign-on Integration (Kyle M. Hall)
  • Disassembling the ILS: Using MarcEdit and Koha to Leverage System APIs to Develop Custom Workflows (Terry Reese)
  • Mashing Up Information to Stay on Top of News (Celine Kelly)
  • A Mashup in One Week: The Process Behind Serendip-o-matic (Meghan Frazer)

I’m looking froward to receiving my copy and I’m sure I’ll be reporting back on some of the ideas featured in it.

Pi And Mash Library Techy Day #PiAndMash

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A couple of weeks ago I attended Pi and Mash, which was a Mashed Libraries techy event at Senate House Library in London. It’s been a while since the last Mashed Libraries event, so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I could only stay for the morning session, but during that time I did get to run a workshop, which was primarily focused on Pocket Code and how easy it is to get ideas up and running quickly with it. Pocket Code is a visual programming tool for Android devices that is primarily aimed at teaching children the basics of programming and is closely based on Scratch by MIT. Most of the coding is done by dragging blocks around the screen and changing the data in them. It’s very flexible too and you can get working results from it within a few minutes – see this video for a compass app which was created in one minute.

It’s a programming tool I really enjoy using because, as I said it is so easy to use, and if you’ve got an idea for a program you want to try out you can easily prototype something within an hour. I ran through the basics of the system, including how to:

  • Create and edit programs
  • Find programs written by others to see how they work and tweak them for yourself
  • Work with the different coloured code blocks for different type of actions within the program eg orange blocks control the flow of the program; blue ones control the movement of objects on the screen; purple ones are for audio

The Pocket Code app itself is pretty much self-contained. From it you can do all of the above and also link to help screens, tutorials and upload and share you programs directly to the Pocket Code site.

I also put together a few rough ideas for how people in a library setting could use the app, including a Dewey quiz (match the image on the screen to the correct Dewey classification); a Pong-style version of the quiz; and Quiet please (it uses an audio sensor on your Android device to trigger a “Quiet please” message if it gets too loud). The aim was just to give people an idea of what they could put together with it.

Pocket Code presentation

Following on from this we also talked about other easy to use tools that people could use to create programs or manipulate/share data in various ways and we chatted a bit about Yahoo Pipes (it wouldn’t be a Mashed Libraries event without a mention of it) and ifttt.com.

I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but as I followed the Twitter event hashtag through the day I could tell there was a buzz and that lots of attendees at the wide range of sessions were keen to try out new ideas once they got back to their workplaces.

Well done to Ka-Ming, Simon and Andrew for organising it. They get bonus points too for arranging for a 3D printer to be at the event as well.

WordPress snapshot cards created in Processing

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I’ve been getting to grips with Processing lately. Apart from creating a couple of small games and a handful of generative images I’ve also been experimenting with data feeds. One of the ideas I had was to create a visual card for WordPress blogs based on the content in them. I wanted the cards to give a snapshot of the blog at that specific time, and also reflect the content of the data feed visually.

twist2-000001The background of the card is generated by the program and contains either stripes or circles and the colour and size of the stripes/circles depends upon the size of the blog post title.

It also displays the title of the blog and the url, which it takes from whatever WordPress RSS you put in there.

Automated keyword tagging has been an interest of mine for some time (as some of my Yahoo pipe experiments have shown) and in this program I pull out all of the words in the description field of the feed and then rank the most mentioned words. I also filtered out unwanted words with a stopword list. It’s interesting to see the words that crop up the most, although as a second stage I’m considering stemming words, because for example both “library” and “libraries” appears in the top 10 words in my blog and I would reduce this problem of closely related words appearing.

When you run the program each top keyword is displayed separately for a few seconds (starting with the most popular) and then it moves onto the next one.

So, here are a couple of examples from this blog and also the Voices for the Library site.

twist-000001  voices-000001 voices3-000001The aim is really just to give a simple idea of what people might find on the blog – a simple taster of it, with a bit of creativity thrown in.

I’d like to develop the idea further – include more detail and possibly have quotes and images from the blogs, as well as using more data from the feed to generate the background. I’m also thinking that if I focused on just library and information service based blogs it might be a good idea to create a dictionary of terms to compare against, as well as having the top 10 words.

Anyway, I like the way they’ve turned out so far.

SEQuRAmA Search Project

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I stumbled across this web-search aggregation project called SEQuRAmA being put together by Will Gilreath. In his own words the project “has the goal of more efficient search–search using other search engines but at a single point–a locus or nexus. The operation is query many a search engine, accumulate and aggregate the results.”


Even though I’m not sure Will is planning on releasing this, it’s still an interesting read, finding out how he’s approaching things and what his aims are.

I particularly liked this quote on his blog: “Seek and you shall accumulate, aggregate, and then find.” 🙂

Edited 12/08/2014

A collection of my posts/articles/presentations on If This Then That (Ifttt)

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I’ve been using If This Then That (Ifttt) for a few years now. I tend to use it for pulling information together and sharing it to a variety of services and social networks easily. Without it I’d be forever logging in and out of services to collect and share information. There are similar services to Ifttt, but it works well for me.

Below are a collection of blog posts, articles and presentations I’ve written on the subject and I’ve also written a chapter on Ifttt and similar services for the forthcoming More Library Mashups book, titled “Ifttt makes data play easy?

Replacing Google Reader With Ifttt and Pocket