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Tuesday 20 November 2012

Keynote 2 by @thisisaaronland - #ndf2012

Aaron Straup Cope @thisisaaronland
Aaron brings big data and a big world to NDF along with a current preoccupation with time pixels / units of measure in the land of fan-fiction, rent-seeking and lifestyle porn. He’s Canadian by birth, American by descent, North American by experience et Montréalais au fon, and usually tells people he is from the internet. He’s currently Senior Engineer (Internets and the Computers) at the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and has previously worked at Flickr as Senior Engineer on all things geo, machinetag and galleries related. His work at Stamen Design as Design Technologist and Director of Inappropriate Project Names created some of the world’s most beautiful maps.
Aaron spends a lot of time thinking about archiving social software and looking glass archives, in the form the Parallel Flickr and Privatesquare projects ( He’s a member of the Near Future Laboratory, a frequent speaker at the Museums and the Web conference, sits on the advisory board to the Built Works Registry and has served as Co-Director of Revolutionary Technologies for the Spinny Bar History Society since 2010.
Aaron's projects and curiosities include blogging at and Stamen’s (very pretty), which have been exhibited and featured at the Museum of Modern Art, NACIS Atlas of Design, and 20x20.

One of the nicest things someone said to him about the Pretty Maps project was that it was "indecipherable gibberish" until they saw their own city and then it "snapped into place".

The Cooper-Hewitt is closed until 2014 and his job is to work out what will make the museum part of the internet.

What might have plausible manufacturability in the next five years?

A good time to be a design museum - design is becoming increasingly intangible. What does it mean for a museum to collect service design? If we had acquired the War on Terror how would we show that?

Why are we keeping all of this stuff? Why do we have archives or museums where we don't show people stuff? We must believe this stuff has meaning. If not, what's up with the buildings? Is it just an expensive perk?

How many buildings are actually in OpenStreetMap? 67 million as of last month. Simple conceptual model: points (nodes) bound to lat/long. A set of points (way) can get a tag building=yes. Each has a unique id. He built a website as a registry and created id so wouldn't collide with whereonearth ids.

Photo of a monkey holding a tiger. "We don't really know much about this but it's a monkey holding a tiger!" "Parallel flickr" to take a living look at user+friends' Flickr activity; and to look at backup issues. Log into it with your Flickr account. Meant to run alongside Flickr and be an alternative in case tomorrow Flickr stopped working. Mirrors Flickr url structure. Does it make more sense to run one copy of Parallel Flickr for 1 user and friends or for all of them to run a copy? It doesn't matter. If multiple users and run into the same photo ID twice just means both have seen photo - a way to rebuild network.

Habit of users of Flickr Commons of covering images in notes. How do we backup Flickr? You buy it. It's the only way to preserve the permissions. But what if you used the Commons as a seed? These are all in the public domain. Then you could go one degree out and contact people who interacted with it to archive photos and preserve permissions. If/when Flickr dies, non-public photos could go dark and only reemerge after 70 years.

Privatesquare - similar to Parallel Flickr but for 4square. Not going to tell 4square when you're at the drugstore. So a site you could tell everything and then optionally tell it to tell 4square. But there's no shared ids so there's an inability to reconstruct the network. Thought of creating a map on checkin and uploading that to Flickr and that'd provide a photoid. Or just a 1x1px image. (Flickr friends were Unhappy with this idea...)

If creating "shadow services" not in opposition but to rebuild them then need to sort this out. So someone suggested wanted to build integers as a service -> "mission integers". Text-based ids aren't as portable as numbers.

Brooklyn Integers running building ids with odd numbers while OSM gets the even numbers. Cooper-Hewitt is using Brooklyn integers. Aaron added them as a joke and they kept them. London Integers - where does this fit in? It's not that they've cornered the market, just honouring each other's offsets. So London Integers decided to fit a few million ahead of them and claim all the numbers divisible by 9 - they now no longer use numbers divisible by 9. But scaling up? Create a Ministry of Numbers and issue numbers on a per-country basis. A way for all these projects to get unique IDs...

Or create Canal St Integers - reusing twitter ids from famous people.

Spacetimeids - fancy name for a Hilbert Curve. Just 3 dimensions - latitude, longitude, timestamp. A unique id for everything (starting at 1970) (on earth).

What about lat, long, objectid - we're a design museum. We collect fire hydrants. They're meant to be mass produced and distributed globally. Suddenly you have ids for all fire hydrants of a particular model.

Museums have an obsession with experience, and obsession with demanding people time. "It's a little bit rude." Why not give people confidence that this stuff will still be here? (No rush.)

It's not that we have to do everything. It's that we can.

Amazon bought Zappos not for its shoes but because they had the world's best space-fitting software. And Kivos (sp?) for its robots which sit under shelves, lift them up, bring them to a human; ceiling-mounted lasers point from shelf to shelf and the human's job is to move the things from shelf to shelf.

If we can do this for cat litter, why not for the important stuff: our stuff? Well, Amazon has billions of dollars [me: and an overworked underpaid disposable workforce]

SelfAwareROOMBA twitter account. Our collections are becoming alive (or at least getting the illusion of being alive).

Registries - lists of things with pointers that let you find them again.

What harm does it do to give people the ability to hang "Purple and Brown" to our artifacts - to make connections, add their stories?

Museum obsession with talking about everything as a little event, an opportunity to publish a book. Instead can share it, be confident about it, be confident other people are using it to build their own stories.

Baselines: During Sandy watched Twitter messages coming in saying "We've lost the internet". Everything just said is predicated on the internet being there; internet is predicated on electricity.