16 Feb Mashing it up at Middlemash
This post has been sitting in my drafts for a long time now but I still haven’t had chance to finish my mashing project (read on for details). However, I recently finished reading Nicole Engard’s Library Mashups book (which by the way, is excellent – thoroughly recommended) and it spurred me on to finally publish this post.
Those who follow me on Twitter will know that back in December I was official Tweeter at Middlemash, the latest Mashed Libraries event. Mashed Libraries is about “bringing together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology“. I also attended the first event held in London in 2008, and followed the second event (Mash Oop North) virtually in summer 2009.
The events are unconferences – there are a number of short presentations in the morning, usually sharing existing mashups or introducing possible mashups or tools to extract/manipulate data. The afternoon is more practical in nature, where participants can work on their own projects, find others to work with, or attend a workshop.
Middlemash featured a great variety of topics – there were presentations from Ex Libris, the event sponsor, about their open platform programme; Mark van Harmelen about paper prototyping; Chris Keene about University of Sussex’s work with Aquabrowser; Edith Speller’s review of her group’s mashup from Mash Oop North to help lecturers create search terms from their reading lists; and Paul Stainthorp about University of Lincoln’s mashup of new books using Refworks and Yahoo Pipes.
I found Edith and Paul’s talks particularly interesting as I could see applications within my own work. After lunch (which involved meeting lots of tweeters face to face for the first time!), I attended Owen Stephen’s session on mapping the library. I thought it would be interesting to see how this project develops as I can see great potential. Unfortunately I couldn’t be much help to Owen as I don’t have the technical skills needed, so I took the opportunity to chat to others about an idea of my own which had developed from listening to Edith and Paul.
To take data from electronic reading lists, turn each list into an RSS feed, and subscribe to get alerts when new editions of any of the books on a list are published.
This could be of great assistance to me as a subject librarian; usually I manually check all the books on my reading lists to see if new editions had been published but it would be far more beneficial to be alerted and purchase them as soon as they’re published.
I discussed my idea first with Dave Pattern, and then with Paul Stainthorp, who thankfully really liked the idea. Dave explained xISBN to me, which lists all editions of related books, and Paul used this to add a feed link for each book in his new books list (see more on his blog post).
This is a really great start, but would require subscribing to a large number of feeds if you were to keep track of all the books within your subject area as a subject librarian. Unfortunately, our data for reading lists (Talis List) doesn’t make it easy to extract the ISBNs we need to create RSS feeds for each module, but thankfully a systems co-worker, Ben (who was also at Middlemash), has kindly looked into how we could do this by taking the data direct from the database.
He then quickly put together a pipe, but soon found that we hit the limit of the xISBN request limit of 500 per day, so this isn’t really feasible for our purposes. We did come up with a few alternative ideas, none of which I can now remember. 🙁
So it’s still at the idea stage and I’d love to take it further just don’t know how to do so (can you hear my desperate plea for help?!). Please let me know (in the comments or be e-mailing me) if you think there’s a way to achieve this.
I really enjoyed Middlemash, and even as a non-techie there was a heck of a lot I took from the event. For anyone interested in mashing data in libraries, the previously mentioned Library Mashups book is excellent, and provides some great practical examples of current mashups and ideas for creating or adapting your own. I got quite a few ideas from the book, and have already started playing with one (Google Custom Search Engine), which I’ll be blogging about soon.
If you’re interested in mashing library data and get the opportunity to go along to a Mashed Libraries event (keep an eye on the Mashed Library Ning for announcements of further events), I’d urge you to do so, I really can’t recommend them enough.
And if anyone has any ideas about how to further my idea, please let me know in the comments. I evidently need people with much more knowledge and experience than myself to progress it!