Category Archives: competition

Interview: Katie Pekacar, policy advisor at the MLA

Museums need to stop building websites and start taking a stealth approach to getting their content out to new audiences, says Katie Pekacar of the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).  At Dev8D she issued a challenge to developers to come up with ideas to take the rich collections offered by the cultural heritage sector and find ingenious new ways to open them up. Here she explains the thinking behind the challenge.

What is the MLA?

The Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) provides strategic guidance on a regional and local level to around 1800 accredited museums that range from national museums, such as the Tate, to tiny little organisations with really specialist collections such postal, weaponry, shoe and button collections…

Why are you at Dev8D?

The issue we keep coming across is that there is a lot of amazing content out there but much of it is hidden. The answer is not to build more websites but to find ways to bring content together so that it makes sense to people, and to put it in unexpected places, places they more commonly go to where it is not necessarily signposted as museum content. We want to be able to get this stuff into people’s lives – infiltrate it, you could say!

To do this, we need to make links between those who can do this stuff and those in the sector who are less digitally inclined. We’re thinking about some kind of ‘buddying’ scheme for the sector where people can work together to see what can be done, and we will end up with better quality data at the end.

Image from Durham Oriental MuseumWhat kind of datasets are on offer?

There’s a wide range. For example, Culture 24, which is a bit like a cultural Time Out, covers 3400 venues with mapping geo data, images and editorial for them. Also included in the dataset on offer at Dev8D are images from the Women’s Library and Durham Oriental Museum (right).

What kinds of ideas have developers here been talking to you about?

The response has been fantastic! One idea has been to use facial recognition techniques against some of the old paintings in the collections so you can find out which figures from history you most look like, and then maybe put it on your Facebook page as your profile picture. Or using Google Maps and uploading collection images relating to areas so that when look at the map, interesting images from the collection appear rather than a picture of the building. It’s a very simple way of piquing interest.

It’s these kinds of ideas and creativity we’re looking for. It’s about finding a hook, different ways of engaging.

How have you found Dev8D?

I expected it to be lots of geeks with computers and didn’t expect it to be so easy to engage with people. I thought that they would be peering at computer screens full of lines and lines of code but I’m seeing stuff I recognise. I also wasn’t expecting there to be so much networking. I thought I would hover around feeling confused for most of the day so it’s been great not to feel like that.

I can imagine bringing curators to this kind of thing, and though they might not necessarily understand everything that’s going on, they would be able to talk to people here about the collections and find stuff out and people would be interested.

I’ve also been really pleased by how many people want to work on projects that you can sum up in a sentence, that can be explained so that anyone can understand, and that’s what we need in terms of outputs. People find it hard to understand what you mean by ‘code’ but if you say here’s a widget that helps you find images by keyword in your area then they get it. This idea of opening up data is tricky topic in the sector but the way to go about it is to show the benefits of doing it and then people will be queuing up to do it.

We have a winner of the developer decathlon (nearly)…

As you all know, the finale event at dev8D was the Developer Decathlon which required project teams to rapidly build prototype apps based on real user cases (we even imported some real users into the event where they had to experience developers in the wild!). Full entry submissions and explanations by the team of the prototype are posted here:

The list of prototypes entered for the competition (listed in order of submission time):

no.1 – “STagMonger 3000” prototype by Team Flaming Hensoft
no.2 – “EntityBus” prototype by Team AZ
no.3 – “List8D” prototype by Team Bsmmmm
no.4 – “Lazy Lecturer” prototype by Team Three Lazy Geeks
no.5 – “Visual Transparency” prototype by Team OUseful
no.6 – “SpACE tool” prototype by team SpACEmen
no.7 – “AdAway” protoype by team AdAway
no.8 – “splashurl” prototype by team halfHourHacks
no.9 – “sh!” prototype by team Rangtangdingdong

The five judges who selected the winner for the Developer Decathlon were carefully picked to represent a broad spectrum of users and developers across UK. The judges had no easy task given the quality of submissions. Not only was there value in each prototype there was some very tough decisions the judges had to make in ranking the submissions, some comments from the judges on each prototype below:

“STagMonger 3000” prototype by Team Flaming Hensoft:
“Great app and would like to see this exist for real.”

“EntityBus” prototype by Team AZ:
“Neat demonstration of what a REST list service can look like…neat infrastructure app.”

“List8D” prototype by Team Bsmmmm:
“Good idea, convincing screencast, well thought out further development. I can see this being taken forward in a number of directions…I believe, this clearly demonstrates the applicability of the solution both immediately and in the forseeable future.”

“Lazy Lecturer” prototype by Team Three Lazy Geeks:
“Really comprehensive treatment of the problem and associated issues. Worth pursuing I think… As a solution this is a good idea and was produced by genuine collaboration at the Dev8D event.”

“Visual Transparency” prototype by Team OUseful:
“I like this, simple idea but well presented and very useful…The output from would be highly relevant to some users and immediately useful.

“SpACE tool” prototype by team SpACEmen (second video here):
“This is an excellent tool…I’d like to see this project getting its code out there, it looks like just the kind of thing that people would work with and contribute to… Nice idea – slick and well developed.”

“AdAway” protoype by team AdAway:
“Neat idea. I love the simplicity of the concept. Great presentation… I can’t help but to say that I love the concept behind this. Simple, anarchic, directly useful and best of all, implementable.”

“splashurl” prototype by team halfHourHacks:
“Nice, simple, does what it says on the tin…made on the day, works well and has since been updated to optionally give QR codes which might be even more useful, now that more and more people have internet enabled micro devices like the iPhone.”

“sh!” prototype by team Rangtangdingdong:
“Social networks without the need to say who is in your network are important. This is one excellent way of doing it….Supercool, Inventive and ambitious…. good prototype.”

Despite all this great works the judges had to make some decisions and so we bring the first decision to you now!

Below is a shortlist of prototypes that are eligible for winning, we will announce the winner and runner-up of the competition later this week so stay tuned!

Shortlist of potential winners for the Developer Decathlon at dev8D (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER):

“List8D” prototype by Team Bsmmmm

“Lazy Lecturer” prototype by Team Three Lazy Geeks

“sh!” prototype by team Rangtangdingdong

“splashurl” prototype by team halfHourHacks

“SpACE tool” prototype by team SpACEmen (second video here):