Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

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]

Weekly Developer Chats on #omeka IRC

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

The Omeka development team is scheduling weekly developer chats on IRC. Our first chat was this afternoon at 2:30EST, and we had a good showing of both the core dev team along with users and coders from a variety of institutions including libraries and universities. For Q&A about hacking themes and plugins, and to talk more generally about developing with Omeka, join us on IRC at #omeka

Our next scheduled chat will be at 2:30EST on Friday, January 16th. I’ll talk to you then!

Omeka’s Growing Developer Community

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The Omeka team should be encouraged. At three weeks since we released the public beta, we’re had over 500 downloads and had a flurry of interest at conferences including WebWise & code4lib. We’re in a good position to continue building an active developer community that augments Omeka’s core. Here are three exciting examples:

1) Omeka forum user Kerim recently posted on the forums about his idea to use the iPaper document viewer for displaying pdf and doc files in a slick flash-based interface. After experiencing some problems, he asked for help and Omeka crack programmer Jim Safley went to work on a soon-to-be-released iPaper plugin. I know there has been some buzz about iPaper recently, so it’s great to see this feature being added to Omeka’s growing plugin directory.

2) One of the hardest parts of getting an open source project off the ground is helping support early adopters, and despite the high level of traffic the forums have been receiving we’ve been able to keep up-to-date with most questions, thanks to the hard work of the Omeka team and the community itself! This is one of the most-promising signs of the project, that users unaffiliated with CHNM are going out of their way to help others with their installations. Special thanks to MrDys and Syma!

3) Wally Grotophorst at the GMU library has been exploring ways of harvesting data from their MARS (Dspace) repository and pulling that metadata into Omeka. According to Wally, “once an Omeka database of items was built using the DSpace metadata, non-technical staff could log into Omeka and build exhibits.” And Wally isn’t the only one interested in this; others I met at code4lib made strong cases for Omeka’s use in very similar situations. With some terrific ideas for how this could be done, this is the start of a conversation that will mature in the future.

As our community of Omekans continues to grow you can enter these ongoing conversations by posting on the forums. We’ve created categories for different topics, including plugins and a space to discuss data migration. I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in migrating data to Omeka to post their ideas and works-in-progress there. For updates on what’s going on with Omeka, I’ll continue to post on the official Omeka blog as well as my own blog. If you’re on twitter, you can follow Omeka or myself. Tom and Sharon are both tweeting away as well!

[Cross-posted on Finding America]

Forums are Buzzing

Monday, February 25th, 2008

It has been only three or four days since we released Omeka to the wild, and already we’re seeing some amazing interest. As of this posting, Omeka 0.9.0 has been downloaded more than 200 times, has been blogged by at least 50 authors, and for a brief time made the homepage “hotlist.” Most exciting to me, however, is the traffic to Omeka’s support forums, which shows that people are really using the software. Most of what we’re seeing are installation difficulties, especially where users are trying to install Omeka on third-party, commercial hosting services like Bluehost and Lunarpages.* The good news is that most of these problems can be worked out relatively easily, and I encourage anyone who is having trouble to take a look at the Getting Started and Troubleshooting forum threads and to post your questions there. Our crack team of developers will be happy to help out. Omeka is still in beta, and as an open source project, we hope everyone will feel comfortable joining the forums, becoming active in the community of users and developers, and just generally helping us make the software better.

* Note: if you don’t already have a hosting account and are thinking of signing up for one to try Omeka, we encourage you to consider Dreamhost, where Omeka has been most thoroughly tested and where we know it works seamlessly.

[Crossposted from Found History]

Beyond the Museum

Monday, November 19th, 2007

A few commentators have noted that Omeka’s potential could extend far beyond small history museums, for instance to archaeology and ePortfolios. In fact we have always intended Omeka to be used not only for history museum exhibitions, but also by enthusiast collectors, scholars, libraries, and community groups in many fields—really anyone interested in collecting and displaying digital objects in rich visual and interpretive environments. One good example of Omeka’s flexibility is the community site, which was developed in concert with CHNM by local volunteers in the Braddock district of Fairfax County, VA.

As a free and open source product, what we really want for Omeka is for the community of users and developers to take the software in directions we haven’t even thought of. To this end, we encourage you to post your ideas in the forums, and as you use Omeka in new ways, we hope you will post personal accounts, use cases, and links there as well. Ultimately, we hope you will extend the software through new plugins and themes and give those add-ons back to the community by posting them in the soon-to-be-released add-ons directory. Omeka’s modal use case is a small history museum, but shows that it can be used for other purposes, even by individual and non-institutional users, to do fantastic things.