I recently attended the Mashed Museum event, organised by Mike Ellis (Eduserv) which was held on the day prior to the UK Museums and the Web 2008 conference. Further information on the event is available on the MashedMuseum wiki. Frankie Roberto has already written a blog post on his use of Freebase (for providing structured access to collections data from the Science Museum) and the Simile timeline service for visualising the data. However the most comprehensive summary of the day I’ve found is available on the Findus.org.uk blog which gives an excellent overview of several of the developments, together with a more in depth summary of a development which made use of Twitter, Google Maps, Google earth.

My effort was much simpler – it involved use of the PicLens tool to produce a 3D visualisation of museum objects along similar lines to the 3D visualisation of the history of the University of Bath home page. However rather than focussing on technical development (not a strength of mine) my main interest was in ways in which development activities which take place at mashup events can be shared with a wider community and become embedded within the organisation. And so my visualisation included details of why such a service would be valuable to an organisation (a 3D visualisation may be more engaging than a static 2D Web page and could help to engage new audiences), business models to help to ensure the sustainability of such services (you could have occasional advertisements including in the 3D gallery) and concluded by summarising possible barriers (e.g. accessibility issues) and how those barriers may be addressed. In addition brief technical details were provided for those who might want to know how to implement this type of interface for their own service.

I did wonder, though, whether such supporting materials would be needed – aren’t software developers typically self-reliant and capable of working out for themselves how to make use of the lightweight development environments which were used during the event? I was therefore reassured when Michael Twidale raised the issue of the difficulties which can be encountered when using tools such as Yahoo Pipes, which aren’t well-documented and fail to provide much assistance if the software fails to work. And several other people at the event agreed with Michael’s thoughts, which I recorded as a video clip.

Shouldn’t we encourage software developers to record screencasts of their development work, I wonder, explaining why they make decisions which may not be obvious to others, and perhaps even swearing when things go wrong – after all, learning from the mistakes made by other can be a particular valuable way of avoiding making similar mistakes ourselves.

And haven written the above post, I’ve just received an email from Mike Ellis announcing a 12 minute video clip which summarises the day’s event including snippets from many of the developers at the event. Not only has he edited the various clips he took during the day, he’s also added music which he’d composed – very impressive stuff!