Category Archives: Science and Technology

The Mechanical Turkish Librarian?

There’s a bitter-sweet sensation that I’ve encountered periodically throughout my life when I discover that an idea I’ve had in the past for a product or service has become reality — but that someone else has made it a reality. I’m sure many other people have experienced this same feeling.

It happened again this week when I discovered the existence of a New York-based start-up called

These folks have created a service that leverages Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service (a “micro outsourcing” service which matches businesses that need “Human Intelligence Tasks” completed with a network of digital “piece workers”) to address a challenge that I’ve been involved with for many years — adding metadata to digital images to make them more discoverable.

It will be interesting to see what the quality of the tagging is like, since Tagasauris is using non-professional cataloguers, whereas I’ve always worked with qualified librarians that have a deep understanding of cataloguing rules, classification schemes and controlled vocabularies. Tagasauris claims to have a sophisticated quality assurance engine to maintain a high quality of tagging.

It will also be interesting to see if they can make the service financially sustainable once the start-up funding runs out, of course!

I will be keeping an eye on them to see if “my” idea turns out to be a good one.

New WordPress Website Goes Live Today

After a few months’ of messing around with WordPress in my (increasingly limited) spare time, I finally decided to pull the trigger today and go live with what has, until now, been the development website. What do you think?

This new site replaces my previous hand-coded personal website that I was surprised to discover has been online pretty much continuously on various web hosts for the last sixteen years!

Introduction to Metadata, 3rd edition

Introduction to Metadata, Online Edition, version 3 is finally available on the Getty’s website.

It contains essays by Tony Gill, Anne J. Gilliland, Maureen Whalen, and Mary S. Woodley, and was expertly edited by Murtha Baca.

I’m glad this has finally come out, because I completely rewrote my essay, Metadata and the Web, back in 2006, with another update in 2007 — but this field moves so fast, I was worried that the whole essay would become out of date before it was even published!

The paperback version (somewhat confusingly referred to as the Second Edition, as there was an online-only update in between print updates) has been available for a few months now, and can be ordered from the Getty’s website for $30.

Introduction to Metadata - Cover

Introduction to Metadata: Pathways to Digital Information, Cover illustration from 2nd print edition.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible…

I just noticed that some javascript in my Blog template wasn’t working properly, and was causing the debugger to launch every time a mouseover event happened; I kept fixing it, but it kept getting broken again (incompatibility between Dreamweaver’s javascript & Blogger?), so I’ve removed all the mouseover Javascript, and hopefully it’s now fixed…

Tempus Fugits

I’ve aged since my last post; I’m now 35 years old. Friends who witnessed my panic at turning 30 (can that really be 5 years ago!?) will confirm that I’m not aging very gracefully. And as my little brother pointed out, it will only be a few blinks of the eye before I’m staring down the barrel of 40…

On the positive side, I got a nice tax refund from Uncle Sam, and have finally treated myself to the digital camera I always wanted (Canon Powershot S230 Digital Elph), so hopefully I’ll be able to get images up on this cobweb site in a slightly more timely fashion in future…

Day 8: Mt. Pocono, PA to New York City, NY

Day 8 (Mt. Pocono, PA to New York City, NY): Another late start on the last day of my journey, followed by an even later breakfast, and then it was just a short 110 mile hop from Pennsylvania on I-80 across New Jersey, into New York state and through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan!

Stephen (who I’m subleasing an apartment in SoHo from) met me on the corner of MacDougal & Houston, and guided me to a suitable parking space for unloading the car and checking out my new home for the next 6 months or so — so far it seems pretty much perfect (thanks again to Lucy Norris for putting us in touch with one another)!

Shortly afterwards I was off again, swinging by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to say “Hi” and pick up my homework for tomorrow’s ArtSTOR retreat, then off to find the parking garage on Roosevelt Island that will be the Deathmobile’s new home for the immediate future. At the end of her trip, the odometer read 90,904 miles — which (assuming the odometer is accurate) means that we covered some 4,134 miles together since leaving San Francisco a week ago!

So… I’m finally here!

Day 7: Niagara Falls, ON to Mt. Pocono, PA

Day 7:(Niagara Falls, ON to Mt. Pocono, PA). Today started badly, when I dragged myself out of bed and down to the dining room of the Imperial Hotel in Niagara Falls at 9:55am for my free breakfast, only to find that the kitchen had closed early, and there was only one young and completely disinterested receptionist to vent my spleen on. She was not very placatory. However, my mood improved dramatically after going to see the falls themselves, which were both spectacular and uplifting.
I crossed over the bridge to the U.S. around 2pm, and was given a scare for a few minutes when the customs guy went off to consult a colleague, taking my passport and parole documents with him. They eventually came back and waved me through though.

Once in the U.S. I headed for Buffalo to pick up my old friend I-90 again, but since I had time to kill (my apartment in NYC won’t be ready to move in to until wednesday evening) and rapidly got bored of the interstate, I came off on Hwy 63 at Batavia (where I found $10 on a gas station forecourt) and took a slower but more scenic route via I-390, I-86, Fwy 15, Fwy 6 (having dinner at the Towanda Motel), Hwy 107, I-81, I-380, and I-80, eventually winding up in motel in Mt. Pocono after driving a fairly paltry 349 miles.

The car is still doing fine, with the exception of the dodgy wheel bearing… It doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, though, so hopefully it will make it the last few hundred miles to Manhattan tomorrow!

Day 6: Ann Arbor, MI to Niagara Falls, Ontario

Day 6:(Ann Arbor, MI to Niagara Falls, Ontario). Yesterday I discovered that the meticulous weblog I have been updating on a daily basis at has not been updating on my web site, because mangled my template (hence this new design, since I don’t have time to recreate my original template). Grrr!
I only drove about 300 miles today; after a very enjoyable breakfast with Jim & Leslie Milroy at their place in Ann Arbor, I set off for a lunch appointment with my friend Jennifer Moldwin Gustafson, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. In addition to buying me lunch, she was also kind enough to give me a quick tour of Belle Isle, where we saw albino deer! Afterwards, I drove to Niagara Falls in Canada, which is awe-inspiring in spite of the cheesy Vegas-style tourist development surroounding it.
I stopped worrying about the Deathmobile today, too — if the bearing goes, it goes.

Day 5: Albert Lea, MN to Ann Arbor, MI

Day 5:(Albert Lea, MN to Ann Arbor, MI). Another “4 State Day” today… After another late start and a pretty awful breakfast in Albert Lea, I covered the rest of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois & a chunk of Michigan, before ending up in Ann Arbor at about half past midnight — a total of 710 miles and about 13 hours, including a few refuelling stops and a skanky cheeseburger just outside Chicago.

Tonight I am staying with some friends, Jim & Leslie Milroy, who I have known since I was 14 years old — their son Andrew is one of my closest friends from my school days in Sheffield. It’s good to see friendly faces after 4 nights of anonymous motels!
Today consisted pretty much entirely of driving; I didn’t do any sightseeing at all, although I did shoot some “drive-by” video footage of farms in Minnesota & Wisconsin, and the Chicago skyline as I blasted around I-94.

The Deathmobile is still running pretty well, although I had to fight with it more than I would expect in the gusty Illinois cross-winds — I’m starting to think that it’s a front wheel bearing that’s going, and that the steering has been adversely affected. Still, I’m at least a day ahead of schedule, and it looks like I’ll be going through Detroit tomorrow — what better place to get the wheel bearing looked at than Motown, where my car was born?