Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

What comes next?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Here at Omeka HQ, we’re in the final stretch of work on the 2.0 version of the software. We expect that the release, which will come toward the end of October, will bring a range of wonderful improvements for both end users and developers. The result will be a version of Omeka that far surpasses the original instance that we first launched in February 2008. But, even at that point, Omeka was a simple open source web publishing platform with big ambitions. During the last four and a half years, supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Library of Congress, the software has experienced extraordinary growth and refinement. Now we offer and support dozens of plugins and themes, and our work on internationalization has made it possible for users to work in over twenty languages.

While the Omeka team has concentrated on serving the basic needs of libraries, museums, archives and scholars, our users have been producing rich sites that offer access to primary materials and expert knowledge in new and interesting ways. This year alone, we’ve had over 8,000 downloads of the software from our site and that doesn’t account for the installations that are happening using the various one-click options from web hosts or are being cloned from the github repository. One look at the long list of sites in our Sites Using Omeka page will reveal both the flexibility of the platform and the creativity of our users. These sites are just a sample of the work being done with Omeka (and if you have a site that’s not on the list, by all means, add it).

The development community has built amazing extensions of the basic software, taking it beyond the use cases that we originally imagined. Cleveland State University’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities has released the MobileHistorial/Curatescape system for doing mobile public history work. And the University of Virginia’s Scholars Lab has recently released the Neatline suite of plugins for spatial and temporal work. Omeka also plays nicely with the LOC’s Viewshare visualization tool. These extensions and integrations exemplify the ways that Omeka can serve as a platform for new interpretative work in digital humanities and cultural heritage.

We always meant for Omeka to serve a segment of the cultural heritage community that would not be developing plugins or customizing themes. One of our initial goals was to make it easier for small institutions with few employees or a dedicated group of volunteers and little in the way of technical budget to bring their materials and perspectives to a wider audience through the web. In October 2010, we launched Omeka.net to begin to serve that audience. Today we have over 5,500 users working on roughly 3,800 sites, and we’re experiencing a growth rate of around 120 sites a month.

Together the rich community that has formed around Omeka and the ways that subscribers are using Omeka.net to share their materials more than fulfills our original vision for the software. Now the question is:

What Comes Next?

Moving forward after the release of 2.0, we have three main goals for Omeka:

  1. We are committed to making cultural heritage materials and scholarship more discoverable on the open web. The Omeka Commons project will allow us to do that by offering Omeka site administrators a way to share their items at a central point of discovery. The Commons visitors will be able to search for content, share and embed those items, and also follow that content back to the originating site. Soon, we will need testers (those using Omeka 1.5 and higher) to share their materials with the alpha version of the Commons. If you’re interested in participating, drop us an email (commons@omeka.org).
  2. We will work to more fully integrate Omeka with existing GLAM and scholarly communications platforms. We firmly believe that content and data silos prevent innovation, so we are developing ways for Omeka to integrate with the places that users already create and share their work, such as YouTube, Vimeo, the Internet Archive, and institutional repositories. Also, we see linked open data as central to the larger goal of integration and we are working on ways to facilitate the linking of Omeka content.
  3. Finally, we are well aware that many open source software ventures fail because they fall on the shoulders of a single developer. After nearly five years, Omeka continues to grow and thrive, due in large part to our user and developer community. We remain committed to fostering the vibrant community that has grown up around Omeka, and we will support that community through responsive forums, easy to understand documentation, and ongoing collaboration with developers, designers, and end users. At the same time, Omeka will continue to be an essential part of our own grant-funded work at RRCHNM, assuring the software’s core development and long-term sustainability.

Stay tuned in the coming months for more news on our plans!

Fun New Things for Omeka 2.0 (Part 2): Core Changes

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Following up on the previous post, here, we want to talk about the broad contours of changes coming in Omeka 2.0 that will be most important for theme and plugin developers.

First and most important, the codebase of Omeka is being extensively cleaned up. This should not only make the code faster and leave a smaller footprint, but also make it easier to find your way around the code to see how things work.

Broadly speaking, unnecessary or redundant functions and methods are being removed. This includes many of the wrapper methods in some of the core code used by plugins. The various functions used to access metadata about collections, items, and other kinds of content are also consolidated from collection(), item(), etc. into one function, metadata(), for all.

Some of these changes will require updating your existing themes and plugins. We are keeping a running list of changes to help you anticipate the updates you will need to make for your plugin and theme customization.
One example is that the directory named “archive” will be called “files” in 2.0. The “files” folder that currently resides in the “archive” directory will be renamed “original.” We will provide specific instructions for renaming those folders to ensure that the transition to 2.0 will go smoothly. .

As always, you can keep up to date with the most recent changes by watching Omeka on GitHub.

Many thanks to our users, theme developers, and plugin developers for your feedback and questions that led to these and many, many other improvements to Omeka in our upcoming release of Omeka 2.0.

The developer team of John Flatness, Jim Safley, and myself have worked very hard over the past months to implement these changes. We hope that you are as excited about these changes as we are, and eagerly anticipate your feedback in mid-October when the release candidate is ready.

Fun New Things for Omeka 2.0 (Part 1)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The Omeka dev team has been hard at work making many changes and improvements to Omeka in anticipation of our next major release, 2.0. We will make a release candidate available in mid- to late- October for testing.

We want to alert the community of the changes coming, in hopes that it will help users plan their projects and prepare for theme and plugin development work. The most significant changes in 2.0 will effect sites with customized themes and plugins, and we will outline those changes in Part II.

Administration

While much of the work for 2.0 occurred under the hood, web designer Kim Nguyen tackled the challenge of refreshing and improving the look and functionality of the administrative interface. Users will notice that the theme is completely rewritten.

The new Omeka Admin Dashboard is streamlined to improve workflow, management, and overall usability of the administrative side of Omeka. Some notable improvements include:

  • Easier access to main admin functions and site settings from the Dashboard.
  • Cleaner, more efficient item editing page — no more scrolling to the bottom to click “Submit”!
  • Ability to annotate Dublin Core element descriptions, and other element set fields to provide guidance on interpreting fields.
  • Option to re-order the admin display of Dublin Core elements, and other element sets, for item metadata entry.
  • Easier user management with bulk operations on users.
  • Easier customization of site navigation.

Here is an “exclusive” preview of the new Admin Dashboard:

Experienced Omeka content creators may need a day or two to get used to a slightly different layout, but we think that everyone will find the changes improve their experience when working with content in the Admin.

Search

The search facility in Omeka 2.0 is vastly improved. Search functions across all of your Simple Pages and Exhibit content in addition to item metadata, as was previously the case. Moreover, plugins can easily add their own content to the search mechanism. If you will be upgrading from an existing Omeka installation, the search index can be easily updated from the administration pages to make sure users can find what they are looking for.

File Handling

Depending on how your server is configured, Omeka 2.0 will generate jpeg derivatives of many more file types, including PDF files and videos. These thumbnail images will appear in browse and exhibit pages. Additional metadata about files will also be available.

These changes will be most visible to project and content managers. For changes effecting designers and developers, stay tuned for Part II.

Mon Dieu! Omeka is coming to your language!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The next release of Omeka will include internationalization, which gives our loyal Omekans one more way to contribute to the project: by helping us translate Omeka into your favorite non-English language!

We are using the Transifex.net site to manage our translations, which will then be shipped with the next version of Omeka. To work on a translation, just register for a free account there, and go to the Omeka project page. Translation work is organized into teams for each language, so click the teams tab to see what languages have already been started. If someone has already started working on your language, follow that link, and ask to join that team. If not, request to create a new team for your language. Additional information is in the Translate Omeka page in our documentation.

Have some spare time over the holidays? Want to contribute to Omeka while you exercise your language skills? Then sign up for a Transifex.net account and help us bring Omeka to an even wider audience!

Sharing themes and plugins on Omeka.org

Monday, September 12th, 2011

The Omeka Team is happy to announce some changes to how we produce our lists of themes and plugins to make it easier for third parties to have their hard work listed there. These changes are intended to support our community of designers and developers, as well as make it easier for users to find help when using third-party addons.

Designers and developers will now be able to create a page about their plugin on omeka.org and upload their addon to share it with the world.

Designers should read the Designing a Theme page, and plugin developers should read the Building a Plugin page. Both designers and developers will also want to read the details about Preparing your addon for the omeka.org addons lists.

We hope that this will help our community expand and learn from each other, while also helping designers and developers publicize their hard work.

Please keep in mind that the system is new, and surprises could happen. Please help us improve the system either by asking about it on our dev list, or by submitting an issue about it on GitHub.

Do you share your data?

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Since 2009, any Omeka website may make their data available by activating the OAI-PMH Repository plugin and may harvest OAI-PMH data sets with the OAI-PMH Harvester. Now, the OAI-PMH Harvester plugin is available with every Omeka.net site. Are you sharing and harvesting?

Some online repositories expose their metadata through the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), an “initiative to develop and promote interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content.”

We here at CHNM developed Omeka with interoperability as a key feature from its early stages. We also envisioned that Omeka would facilitate the sharing of digital collections and archives across institutions and individuals. For example, a regional cultural consortium could highlight collections in an Omeka site featuring digital objects from local museums, galleries, and libraries focused on on thematic topics or for the purpose of celebrating a local anniversary or special event.

Never tried this sharing thing? All you need to do is to install the OAI-PMH Repository to expose data, and tell someone–either through our list of harvestable Omeka sites, or with the OAI community. The plugin reads an Omeka collection as a set. If you have no collections, your entire archive may be exposed.

If you’re interested in testing out the OAI-PMH Harvester plugin, try these examples of harvestable sets. (Don’t worry, you may delete the harvest when you’re done testing.):

The page of harvestable sets is small and we would like to see it grow. Sign into the wiki, add your base URL, and let the Omeka community know if you are exposing your data. Thanks for sharing!

Help Us Make Omeka Better

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

We are well into our fourth year of the Omeka project and are very pleased that there is a strong community of users and developers working in Omeka.

Thank you to those who already help in a variety of ways:

  • helping fellow users on the forums and developers’ group;
  • tweaking existing Codex pages that you think need a little love;
  • chatting with fellow Omeka developers on the #omekaIRC channel;
  • sharing your finished Omeka projects in the Showcase wiki.

In our continued efforts to ensure that this open-source project belongs to and is cared for by the community and not solely by CHNM, we are seeking volunteers from the community to help improve the documentation by forming a new Documentation Working Group.

We convened such a group over a few phone calls in 2009, and as a result we reorganized the Codex and added many more pages and documented many more functions.

This time around, we want the group to identify areas that need attention in theming and plugin development and customization. Such work may include defining helper functions, identifying useful patterns for plugin and theme development, enhancing explanation of the theme API, adding use cases for customizing specific design elements, or contributing other pages and elements to improve the depth and coverage of the documentation. We want members of this group to be active and regular contributor/editors to the codex and to the community, even if this is your first step toward becoming an Omekan.

We plan to conduct most of the working group discussions on the forums in the Documentation Working Group category, and anyone may subscribe to the discussions. While we will appreciate suggestions, we may ask users with many suggestions to help in the process of documenting.

We all benefit from the community’s participation and the variety of ways that you help fellow Omekans. We hope that through this effort to improve the documentation, we can expand the community of participants.

Omeka’s Future: New Grants and New Features

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Occasionally, interested individuals ask the Omeka team about the future and outlook of the project. Without quoting Timbuk3, I say that we are pleased with what lies ahead.

The Omeka project completed its three-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant in December 2010 (read the final report)and continues to move forward and grow. Since its public launch in 2008, Omeka exceeded all of our expectations in its growth and adoption by institutions of all sizes, individual scholars, educators, and enthusiasts. We have fostered a strong open source community that continues to thrive. CHNM is committed to supporting this community and its software, which we ourselves use for many of our in-house digital cultural heritage projects. Development of Omeka proceeds towards a version 2.0., and work continues with Omeka.net as well, as the development team makes additional plugins available for the hosted service.

As you may have read last week, we are especially pleased to be working with the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab with funding from the Library of Congress over two years to fund a collaborative “Omeka + Neatline” initiative. The project’s goal is to enable scholars, students, and library and museum professionals to create geospatial and temporal visualizations of archival collections using a Neatline toolset within Omeka. Results from this project feed directly into Omeka to include regular point releases, improved documentation, development community support, user studies, key enhancements to the plugin API, and a set of geo-temporal visualization tools.

Omeka will also continue to grow with our newly-awarded IMLS National Leadership Grant to fund a pilot of an Omeka Commons. The Commons will offer a select group of Omeka institutional users an easy, one-click option for adding their collections to a central preservation grade repository to provide institutions with both a low-overhead preservation pathway for their materials, and greater community exposure and engagement. Second, Omeka Commons will provide researchers with immeasurably greater and centralized discovery and open access to the small collections contained in Omeka sites across the web. Meeting these aims will require significant work that will include enhancements to the core Omeka software, a new Omeka Commons server, and design and production of the Omeka Commons discovery portal. We look forward to getting the pilot launched within two years, so that we can offer the Commons option to all Omeka users.

We published a short roadmap that outlines forthcoming releases and milestones for 2011-2012.

We appreciate the support, feedback, and contributions we receive from the Omeka community each day, and we hope you will continue to follow our progress in our next two endeavors.

Calling All Omeka Users!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The Omeka team is always interested in the ways that people and institutions are using the software, so every once in a while we ask you to represent.

Take a minute and fill out our brief survey to report how you’re using Omeka.

We’ll publish the results without contact information so that the whole user community can get a sense of the great sites you’re building with Omeka.

Omeka and Its Peers

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

As an open source, not-for-profit, warm-and-fuzzy, community service oriented project, we don’t normally like to talk about market rivals or competitive products when we talk about Omeka. Nevertheless, we are often asked to compare Omeka with other products. "Who’s Omeka’s competition?" is a fairly frequent question. Like many FAQs, there is an easy answer and a more complicated one.

The easy answer is there is no competition. ;-) Omeka’s mix of ease of use, focus on presentation and narrative exhibition, adherence to standards, accommodation for library, museum, and academic users, open source license, open code flexibility, and low ($0) price tag really make it one of a kind. If you are a librarian, archivist, museum professional, or scholar who wants a free, open, relatively simple platform for building a compelling online exhibition, there really isn’t any alternative.

The more complicated answer is that there are lots of products on the market that do one or some of the things Omeka does. The emergence of the web has brought scholars and librarians, archivists, and museum professionals into increasingly closer contact and conversation as humanists are required to think differently and more deeply about the nature of information and librarians are required to play an ever more public role online. Yet these groups’ respective tool sets have remained largely separate. Library and archives professionals operate in a world of institutional repositories (Fedora, DSpace), integrated library systems (Evergreen, Ex Libris), and digital collections systems (CONTENTdm, Greenstone). Museum professionals operate in a world of collections management systems (TMS, KE Emu, PastPerfect) and online exhibition packages (Pachyderm, eMuseum). The humanist or interpretive professional’s online tool set is usually based around an off-the-rack web content management system such as WordPress (for blogs), MediaWiki (for wikis), or Drupal (for community sites). Alas, even today too much of this front facing work is still being done in Microsoft Publisher.

The collections professional’s tools are excellent for preserving digital collections, maintaining standardized metadata, and providing discovery services. They are less effective when it comes to exhibiting collections or providing the rich visual and interpretive context today’s web users expect. They are also often difficult to deploy and expensive to maintain. The blogs, wikis, and off-the-rack content management systems of the humanist (and, indeed, of the public programs staff within collecting institutions, especially museums) are the opposite: bad at handling collections and standardized metadata, good at building engaging experiences, and relatively simple and inexpensive to deploy and maintain.

Omeka aims to fill this gap by providing a collections-focused web publishing platform that offers both rigorous adherence to standards and interoperability with the collections professional’s toolkit and the design flexibility, interpretive opportunities, and ease of use of popular web authoring tools.

[Figure 1. Omeka Technology Ecosystem]

By combining these functions, Omeka helps advance collaboration of many sorts: between collections professionals and interpretive professionals, between collecting institutions and scholars, between a "back of the house" and "front of the house" staff, and so on.

[Figure 2. Omeka User Ecosystem]

In doing so, Omeka also helps advance the convergence and communication between librarians, archivists, museum professionals, and scholars that the digital age has sparked, allowing LAM professionals to participate more fully in the scholarship of the humanities and humanists to bring sophisticated information management techniques to their scholarship.

Which brings us back to the short answer. There really is no competition.

[Crossposted from Found History]