Hi all,
I just thought I'd give you an update on some presentations I did this past week in the museum/cultural sector on SMW, and the excellent response I've been receiving there.

The first talk I gave was as the Museum Computer Network Conference, MCN2010. The title of the talk was "Semantic Mediawiki for Easy Data Integration." My general thesis was that a combination of templates, forms, auto-page-creating properties, and the ExternalData extension, can allow us to integrate data from a variety of sources, without doing any up-front database design or data mapping. The talk was short (5 minutes), so I don't have many slides. But after the talk was a table session where I answered questions from those in the audience who were interested (they had 4 topics to choose from). My table was by far the most populated, i'd say about 30 people from museums and cultural institutions around the world were very interested, and engaged me with challenging questions regarding this approach. Museums have a big job trying to communicate information with each other regarding their objects; a typical project is very task-specific (say, a particular website or research project), and involves massive data transfer, as well as data standards negotiation, target database design, data mapping, and vendor relationships. Lots of museums don't have the resources to do it at all. They really liked the idea that a SMW installation could be a low barrier-to-entry "sandbox" where they could put all this data together and see how well it integrates.
I didn't try to say "this is your data integration app," but rather "this is a tool that let's you SEE the data AS you're doing the planning."
The reason I played down the enterprise-level quality of SMW is that frankly I don't have good data on scalability. Museums have a LOT of data, and I don't have the resources here to really scale out my wiki that large. Plus I haven't resolved some bugs, usability, and UI issues; that may be my fault (not keeping up with all the upgrades), or rough edges in SMW.

Just letting you all know that the interest is there in this industry, for this problem space. If someone can demonstrate scalability and a streamlines user experience, they could really do good work with museums.

I'll be putting together a more detailed document on how I set all this up.


Also, I went to a smaller meeting in Washington DC, to discuss the development of a documentation management system for Museum Conservators. Another international group, with funding for development. In my own museum, I've been using SMW for rapid prototyping and data staging. I'll be using it in this project for data staging; but I don't feel that the SMW is flexible enough in the UI to use it for app prototyping for this project. Also there are a few conflicts between this software's projected workflow, and what SMW supports. Again, maybe this will turn out not to be true. But in any case, I'll be putting the SMW software in front of these heavy-duty knowledge workers (conservators are actually scientists with heavy data analysis needs). I'll let you know what kind of feedback I get from them.

Again, I'll be putting together a doc (a different one, focused on prototyping)  that describes this software setup in more detail.

anyways, just thought I'd let you know that there's now this new group of people out there who are using the term "Semantic Wiki" with a gleam in their eyes. :) . And hopefully my institution will be allocating more of my time to work with SMW.

Let me know if you've got any questions.

cheers all, and thanks for making me look good!

Don Undeen
Metropolitan Museum of Art