Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Why you should care about .NET 3.5 SP1 Beta

It's not an exciting name I know. The sort only a mother could love. But .NET 3.5 SP1 promises to shake up quite a lot in online delivery of rich assets.

.NET 3.5 is a Windows component that installs, amongst other things, the WIndows Presentation Foundation, which Turning the Pages relies on for it's 3D version. It turns your PC into one capable of stunningly realistic 3D rendering right in the browser (Firefox and IE) without plugins.

Three things leap out at me:
- improved speed of startup and execution, so your apps, either as xbaps in a browser or executables will run quicker and things like animations will be smoother. Plus a load screen for xbaps (hooray...)
- cooler 3d effects like improved shaders and the ability to have interactive 2d elements on a 3d surface. More realism, more options.
- a lightweight and intelligent client-side installer that can be bundled with an app. This will be about the size of an Adobe Acrobat install, so now for clients with XP (ie no .NET 3+) we can just run the installer when they go to the app for the first time and they're done in a few minutes

The very wonderful and altogether English Tim Sneath over at Microsoft has a great post on it all here.

So why is all this so important?

Most clients I am speaking to have now figured out 2d digitisation, even if they haven't got too far with it. 3d digitisation is the next frontier. Photogrammetry or laser scanning of objects has been happening in a sporadic way in cultural organisations for a while, but without a compelling way of surfacing this content, why would you press on spending time and money in this area?

If you could scan and then publish with a simple production pathway, knowing that 95% of people could view the content at great quality you might think seriously about that collection of fossils or sarcophagi or sculpture.

Some people we know who are pushing forward great work in this area are 3DVisa, based at Kings College London. There's also an interesting-looking conference in the autumn which could be very timely.

2009 might just be the year of 3d in the browser.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Public Library

Spring is sprung in London and here's the view from my desk. It's my local public library and very civic it looks too.

I wonder what goes on there as the nature of the use of libraries is changing so fast?

The other week I was in the Wellcome Library having a coffee with a client. The client wasn't the Wellcome, we just wanted to meet in a sympathetic space. Whilst I was talking to quite an eminent scholar, perhaps the leading Leonardo da Vinci academic in the country came and sat at the next table with his cup of tea.

All around people were not using this space as a traditional library.

Last week the British Library made the Times:
"The historian Tristram Hunt said that it was a scandal that it was impossible to get a seat after 11am when students were there. Many people travelling from outside London complain that they cannot get to the buidling any earlier. “Students come in to revise rather than to use the books,” he said. “It’s a ‘groovy place’ to meet for a frappuccino. It’s noisy and it’s undermining both the British Library’s function, as books take longer to get, and the scholarly atmosphere.”

Whilst the BL may be suprised, and indeed pleased, to be called groovy it highlights the changing role they, and all major libraries have.

As content has to move to digital, physical spaces can be used for other things and become expressions of what our commercial friends would call "the brand".

For those who love old school libraries though, I recommend a look here.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Back in Town

I'm back from Minneapolis and the Digital Libraries Federation conference.

Two things struck me. One is the phenomenal amount of work being done by some very smart people around digitisation, metadata and interoperability standards. These people are seriously laying down the groundwork for us all to have the libraries we want in the next ten years. I hope their home institutions realise how lucky they are to have them on board when they could easily take the Mountain View dollar.

The second was how little work is being done around innovative UI design (which I suppose is why I was invited along...). To my way of thinking, how you surface all this content is critical to a users experience and that experience will directly influence traffic and funding. Speaking to some delegates it seems this is something many people just haven't got around to yet.

Oh yes, there was a third thing - if someone suggests Minneapolis as a holiday destination, think very hard before accepting. I mean, snow in May...?