Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flickr machine tags

Much of the Web 2.0 world is flooded with tags to describe all sorts of objects. While tags are great, they are limited in that they are just keywords. In library catalogs and databases, we're used to searching by different fields (title, author, etc.). Tags aren't really equipped to fit this model, unless the search field is always 'keyword'.

Enter Flickr machine tags, which Flickr unveiled in January of 2007. A machine tag has the following syntax:

(example: ceramics:artist="Ted Vogel")

Not only does this allow 'field/value' relationships, but it also lets projects (like ours) group relationships together by using a namespace. In a nutshell, developers can use Flickr machine tags to create interfaces which allow users to search or browse by metadata fields.

When an artist catalogs an image for accessCeramics, machine tags are automatically generated for the image on Flickr, based upon the field values he/she enters. The creation of all these machine tags for each image lays the groundwork for the development of interfaces to search and browse by field.

As of this post, we're still developing our full searching/browsing user interfaces, though we have some elements in place. For example, a user looking at Lisa Conway's Peachy might notice that she used the Electric Oxidation glazing technique. A simple click on Electric Oxidation will reveal other pieces in the collection that used the same glazing technique.

We're hoping that the interfaces we create around images described by machine tags will help to elevate the use of Flickr within the academic and library communities.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

accessCeramics mentioned at VRA conference in San Diego

I just returned from the Visual Resources Association conference in San Diego. I had the opportunity to mention our database accessCeramics in two conference sessions. Librarians and visual resources professionals are becoming more interested in how people partner their image projects with Flickr. I had requests for the accessCeramics URL ( so people could pass it on to their instructors and requests for how Lewis and Clark College put the project together.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Showcasing accessCeramics

I'll be showcasing the accessCeramics Flickr site while at the Visual Resources Association Conference in San Diego, March 11th - 16th, 2008. When I return, I'll discuss the feedback I receive from conference attendees. It should also give good exposure to the artists already in the collection.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Welcome to accessCeramics

I'm Jeremy McWilliams, a team member of the Lewis & Clark College-based accessCeramics project. Our goal is to develop a contemporary ceramics image collection for educational use. The project is somewhat unique in that we're developing the collection using the image sharing site Flickr. It's a bit risky, since Flickr hasn't really gained mass acceptance within the academic community, though we think it will work. Flickr offers a great API for the development of the site, already has an infrastructure for distributed contribution to groups, handles copyright quite nicely with creative commons licenses, and is free for users.

This blog will discuss various aspects of the project and model during its development. Each of the current Lewis & Clark College team members (myself, Margo Ballantyne, Mark Dahl, and Ted Vogel) will offer different perspectives on the project. Mark and I are systems/technology librarians, Margo is the Visual Resources Curator, and Ted is the Assistant Professor/Program Head in Ceramics (that's his work above).

For now the site is here, at