Category Archives: social objects

social objects

Embedding Videos from Facebook
My Snapshot
Open Plaques Open Day
Facebook adds Social Objects
Categories and Tags on edocr
Flashmobs Going Mainstream
The Homemaker Plate – for Object Wiki

Embedding Videos from Facebook

If your video camera operator (thanks to Linda) has turned their apparatus sideways, the resulting portrait styled video works better uploaded to facebook and embedded than it does on youTube.

As discovered over on


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Posted in Andy Roberts, Facebook, Havering Folk Club, social objects, video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Embedding Videos from Facebook

My Snapshot


Here’s a snapshot of my Instagram stats.


You’re on your iPhone right now?
– Save the image in your library
– Open your Instagram app and share your snapshot with your community
(You can even give it your favorite filtering option! 😉 )

See you soon on





via posterous

Posted in Flickr, social objects, Tools, web2.0 | Comments Off on My Snapshot

Open Plaques Open Day

No breakfast before going out on a Saturday!?  The reason why I was in a hurry to leave the house early yesterday was to get to the Open Plaques Open Day at the Centre for Creative Collaboration near Kings Cross Station.

Centre for Creative Collaboration - Venue for Open Plaques day

I know the venue from the Tuttle club, which I have attended once or twice there. The Open Day was due to kick off at 09.50 with a presentation by Frankie Roberto about “How We Got To Where We Are” which I didn’t want to miss. Well, I did manage to get there in time, despite the fact there were no trains at all on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, and District Lines in that direction. (Weekends are a bad time to get about in London, midweek breaks are better).

So Frankie talked a bit about how he sent out a tweet once wondering if there was a database somewhere of Blue Plaques, and how the answers came in suggesting things, none of which were at all adequate. The best resource available was a single page on one of the plaque erecting organisation  sites. So he scraped the list into a database and started trying to parse it into meaningful data, using his linguistics abilities.


Lenin by Simon Harriyott - Plaque #2210

Another useful source of information would be the pictures on Flickr, and these could be geotagged which then provided a link into the new Open Plaques database. Once the people at Flickr had made a blog post about the Open Plaques group and integrated the special tag

ging into Flickr itself, then there was no turning back. Open Plaques could not be switched off, it was now more than just an experiment. The provision of an api to send the data out again meant that satellite applications could be built by creative people

and these would find new and unthought of uses for the growing system. There was also a graph which showed the steady growth in numbers of plaques added during the lifetime of the project. This graph could be expected to turn dramatically upwards once there is an easy way to add new plaques, which at present requires somebody from the “core team” to do it!

Morning Agenda

09:50 – 10:05 – Frankie Roberto, ‘The Story So Far’
10:05 – 10:20 – Ian Ozsvald, ‘The OCR Challenge
10:20 – 10:35 – Richard Vahrman, ‘Games based on Open Plaques data’
10:35 – 10:50 – Emily Toop, ‘Open Plaques the iPhone app

Next up we had Ian Ozsvald using a subset of the pictures of plaques as an AI research project to see how well they could get OCR software to recognise the writing in the plaques. This makes a nice real world example dataset which can help to advance the science of artificial intelligence and character recognition in the real world. The vision is that one day soon you will be able to simply wave your phone camera about in a room and it will automatically detect any faces present, take a picture of each of them and store it with their names and the geolocation of the place on a map, as well as read any text that is being displayed in the room, on the walls or from a projector for example, and store that as well with the date, time, place and list of attendees etc. It can’t be done yet, but this will be mainstream in just a few years, he said. Is that scary? Then an iPhone app which is being built to show all the plaques nearby as pins on a map which you can get information about. The future is mobile, and anybody who isn’t intending to get a smart phone within the next twelve months might as well just go and live in a cave somewhere, cut off from all of technical society. And a mobile app that turns it into a game, which has gone through some transitions. Based on a treasure trail type model, the app ended up giving out directions for how to get to the next plaque, so that was just too easy and not fun. The clever idea was to take a picture with your back to the plaque, of the view from the plaque as it were, which can then be used in a “Guess where Plaque” game, with the numbers on the plaques adding up to link references which tells you where the pub is. Some of the people just wanted to take a short cut to the pub though, which is fair enough.

So then we broke up into groups to try and further the project from different angles. One team discussed the future direction from from the developers point of view, one looked at design I think, and the group I joined discussed content. We brainstormed about “who are the different types of users” who may have an interest in Open Plaques, both current and potential, came out with some wistful ideas for addons and expansion, hammered out the concept of what a plaque is, looked at the different page types, the additional information that could be included within the database or on a specific page, and suggested new functions and concepts. If it came down to just one new facility that would make the biggest difference that would be the ability to Nominate a New Plaque which would then sit alongside the existing plaques as a ‘virtual plaque’. I chose this as the most important because it’s a disruptive move which takes the initiative out of the hands of the few organisations who very slowly make the decisions as to which locations or historical figures are worthy of a plaque, and puts it into the hands of the ordinary person, or the ordinary Open Plaques user. It was interesting to note that most of the small group of people present, some of whom admitted to being mildly obsessed with plaques, one who described herself as being a “plaques widow” and half of whom seemed to come from Brighton, all had a clear idea that somewhere out there would be the “ordinary Open plaques user” for whom the grand service is being refined and must be orientated. What the ordinary user, should such a group of people come into being at some point, will make out of of all this, of course has yet to be seen.

I found the whole topic a lot more interesting than I had originally anticipated to be honest, and far from feeling that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, did my best to add in and highlight what I felt to be the most pertinent ideas. Using the theory of Social Objects it seems fairly clear that the principal page type and the url at which the casual visitor arrives should be the plaque itself rather than the person or place. The verbs then need to encourage contributions in order to help build out the community around plaques in general, and perhaps temporarily around individual plaques, probably asynchronously. “Add a Plaque”   “Edit this Page” or even “check in here” are contenders for prominent verbs on the page, but you have to remember that this is a small and in some ways unlikely project, that just happens to have gained enough momentum to become sustainable, but is unlikely to attract enormous resources for development and maintenance. Definitely something to keep an eye on though.

Open Plaques Open Day on other blogs:

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Posted in Flickr, London, Object Centred Sociality, social objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Facebook adds Social Objects

This month sees Facebook rolling out major changes on their social networking structure, appearing to embrace the concept of social objects and placing them on a par with the people in the network, which is where they should be. The changes are modest in terms of technical functionality but potentially could be very big in effect, depending on how people come to use them.  

Facebook Pages are Social Objects

facebook pages are social objects

cider page on facebook as a social object

Facebook’s “pages” with “fans” have been around for a year or so, but were implemented as poor relations to personal profiles, not having the ability to push updates out into the newstream. Anybody can create a page for any purpose, so pages can become anchors for topic based conversations, a bit like friendfeed rooms or Flickr groups. On the micro social objects scale, pictures, videos, discussions and status updates added to the Facebook pages will be broadcast out into fans news streams, with the potential for remarkable topics at the pages level to gain traction a lot more quickly than before.   

Social Objects theory and Facebook

Social Objects theory says that successful social networking sites work best when they enable easy relationships between people and social objects, not just between people and other people. Facebook pages have unique permanent URLs which are expose to search engines, so they are very different from the original college student private profile pages Facebook was founded upon. It’s likely though that much of Facebook’s huge existing userbase is going to be a little confused by this big departure from the longstanding culture of limited exposure to vetted human nodes in the network (friends). 

By the way, I’m using the term Social Objects here in it’s strictly European scientific sense, unlike the diluted idealist form that has muddied the theoretical waters somewhat in the past year or so.

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Posted in Cider, Facebook, Object Centred Sociality, social objects | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Categories and Tags on edocr

Categories and Tags on Document Sharing Websites

This post emerges from a conversation on twitter arising from a comment I made about categories after uploading a document to

To get straight to the point, I usually hate being forced to choose a category from a drop down menu. It smacks of technocracy where the system designer is unnecessarily imposing, subtly or not, a narrow view of how data should be described. This clumsily reasserts the unequal relationship between the developer and user. Instead of being empowered to input your own stuff and personalise your profile, a poor uploading experience can leave you feeling like a patronised data entry clerk. I’m also convinced that it’s not the cleverest way to organise content

I happened to mention that I was writing about railways and ManojRanaweera tweeted me “we now have a whole category for railways”

I took this as encouragement to submit an upload in document format ( .pdf) to the excellent service, of which I am an occasional but enthusiastic user. But why would the existence of a new category code make any difference? As if there were a whole load of content waiting around which cannot be submitted for want of more categories? Categories are only descriptions, they are not empty containers compelling somebody to fill them. If there isn’t a perfect category available, which is nearly all of the time, you just have to choose the nearest. It’s annoying, but common experience. Yes, but since we now live in the new twitter enabled webosphere, I don’t have to keep these thoughts to myself. The CEO, owner, promoter and whatnot of is an active participant in the conversation and a long term twitter contact of mine so I can ask directly to Manoj:

@ManojRanaweera I’ll upload my post with far too much detail about Yorkshire railways, but do categories mean more than tags?

M replies:

@aroberts #edocr tags totally rely on publisher – that means no discipline. Categories force you 2 choose 1 category that is most relevant. helps structure the library of docs and make it easy to find within


@ManojRanaweera successful social object sites have used used folksonomy tagging only, eg flickr whereas fixed categories always problematic. On the other hand youTube insists on a broad category, but at least it’s not multi-level #edocr

Actually, that’s not even strictly true about flickr. They do have a top level categorisation but it is subtle and defaults sensibly so you might not even notice that all flickr pictures have to be designated either as

flickrcategories Safe, Moderate or Restricted AND as either a Photo, Screenshot or Art/Illus

so immediately I can think of an exceptional case. How should scanned documents fit within these three? I’d probably choose photo but only after hesitating.

YouTube categories are silly, mixing subject matter and genre indiscriminately:


But back to document sharing:

@aroberts – depends on who your audience is. I do not think we are too far off other players providing similar product

The only similar product I know of is scribd so I went through the uploading process there as well and soon discovered:

“Scribd forces you to choose from some odd categorisations too”

Twitter must be really catching on now because Jason at Scribd clearly had an alert set and replied

jasonatscribd @aroberts Categories are a work in progress, and welcome suggestions, but they’re largely to help people browsing Scribd. The real power is in tags. The more rich and descriptive your tags, the better your chances of being found on Google, etc.

which is probably closer to my own view than Manoj on this topic, but there’s more to come on this from him:

@aroberts #edocr – The importance of this level of categorisation will become clearer as we continue to build edocr functionality. Will blog my thinking.

Manoj correctly suggests taking the discussion further on the blogs so this is my contribution.

Web2.0 may be old hat by now, but that doesn’t mean we have to bring back the old printed matter, library and directory based metaphors of web 1.

However brilliantly you have concieved your system of categories, parts of it will simply look stupid to somebody else because taxonomy is subjective and different people’s world views are inevitably at odds with each other

Search and tags are the contemporary means by which content is discovered and browsed. Explore has some value, but is secondary and library classification, indexing and directories are hangovers from last century because they always come up against the top down design problem, ignoring the more powerful emergent patterns that come from bottom up self organisation and collaborative meta data.

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Posted in Folksonomy, social objects | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashmobs Going Mainstream

Flashmobs and unexpected performances in the mainstream

Simulated Flashmobs and unexpected performances are springing up all over the place. You can hardly venture out on a journey through any of London’s main transport hubs without being hijacked by a troupe of dancers, pillowfighters or Musical Theatre performers. The aim of most of these stunts is to generate buzz, particularly through youTube, which if done subtly and with a bit of luck can reach millions of consumers for a fraction the price of mainstream advertising. At least that was the theory, but T-mobile are currently running an expensive campaign on TV which shows full length video from the Liverpool Street Station event last Thursday. With clips of bystanders reactions mixed in with professional dancers emerging from the crowd, it’s very difficult to judge just much of it was precisely staged and how much is genuine spontaneity. I’m not going to embed the actual advertisement itself here, you can find it easily on youtube but here are some genuine punters interviewed after the event:

So now I’ve just been alerted by Hermione on Twitter to a smaller musical video made in Stansted Airport:

This one is for and asks “When did you last go to the Theatre?” which is a question close to my heart as you may know already. I’m off to see Phantom of The Opera next week.

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Posted in London, social objects, video | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Homemaker Plate – for Object Wiki

I photographed a mass produced ceramic dinner plate in my possession which is from the the design classic series “The Homemaker” for the Object Wiki, a project from the Science Museum, which aims to collate information from the public on some of the objects from their collections.

Homemaker Plate

I like the quirky design for being bold enough to champion household objects on a dish, for the seemingly impossible shape of one or two of the designs depicted, and above all for the cheerful optimism of 1960’s modernism. I didn’t even know it was designed by Enid Seeney before reading the Object Wiki entry, but this led me to explore the background to the plate on the C 20 th site which is also home to theatre memorabilia.

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Posted in social objects, Wiki | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about social objects on the DARnet Blog