Monday, November 16, 2009

eResearch Australasia 2009

Well, it was a busy week last week as Peter Sefton and I attended eResearch Australasia 2009. This post represents my report on the main items of interest for our development work - it's not a blow by blow account.

I'm told that slides and video will be available online shortly.

Monday (Workshops)
Two workshops on Monday. The first was "Tools and Technologies for the Social Sciences and Humanities" and focussed on the ASSDA (Australian Social Science Data Archive). Main points of interest were:
  • ASSDA is working to incorporate more qualitative research artefacts
  • Work is being done to provide quantitative analysis tools via the Nesstar tool
  • The Historical Census and Colonial Data Archive discussed the difficulty of digitising older texts (in this case fiche) - a fair bit of manual work is involved, esp. for tabular data. This work was outsourced to India.
The afternoon saw me trying out R, a data mining package. It was interesting, if a little out of my normal mode of operation.

Tuesday (Conference)
The presentation on the Black Loyalist repository was an interesting look at a project that took historical documents and attempted to map the lives of little known slaves in the US. Of interest to me was the user interface which provides timeline, map and network visualisations that help you discover an individual's movements and relationships. This is backed up through links to the original source. Furthermore, the project team is working to crowd source the project by allowing others to comment and contribute to the project. Behind the scenes is the timeline from Simile widgets and I'm not sure where the network map is from.

Mitchell Whitelaw's visualisations of archival datasets was very interesting. Of note was the A1 Explorer which provides a tag cloud that would be really interesting to see within the Fascinator. See

I presented The Fascinator and that seemed to go well. I really feel that we're working on "new" stuff here and was encouraged by people's interest in the project and the various technologies we've been utilising.

Wednesday (Conference)
I attended Anne Cregan's introduction to Linked Open Data in the morning and a BOF by Peter Sefton, Anna Gerber and Peter Murray-Rust on the same topic in the afternoon. Peter describes the BOF in his blog. I'll only add that the W3C's Media Fragments work was mentioned and this looks to provide a method for linking to video segments. I haven't looked into this standard (yet) and interested as to how it relates to SMIL.

Rob Chenrich's presentation on the Atlas of Australia was a good look at Danno, an RDF-based annotation server for text and images. It's completely browser-based and I'm really interested in setting this system up on my PC and annotate my local Fascinator. Now, if we could annotate media fragments....

Thursday (Conference)
The sessions where generally informative but not specifically related to our work. I did enjoy the text mining session by Calum Robertson. With the NLA putting newspapers online it would be interesting to mine old news to find emerging patterns. Specifically for The Fascinator, text mining could bring out patterns in content such as interviews.

Friday (Workshop)
This was an eResearch Project Management session that covered a lot of stuff in a few hours. It was a generally OK session but a lot of our work is of a size that I feel a weighty PM approach would slow us down. I'm a big fan of our work in the Maven space and out on-going work to refine our development practise. I can see the need to scope our projects to a reasonably formal level but, beyond that, PM starts to dominate the actual work.

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