Vesica Blog - Taking museum and art collections to the cloud

October 8, 2012

The Vesica Google Maps Timeline

Vesica’s Google Maps Timeline was set to be launched next Monday – October 15, 2012. We just setup some final tests today and have been very excited about the launch – it would basically give a museum dedicated HistoryPin type functionality (coupled with Vesica’s extensive search and filter tools) – but Google seems to have changed its licensing for Google Maps in the last few months that we have been developing.

Under the new licensing terms, we simply cannot offer Google Maps inside Vesica to our clients without a substantial investment on behalf of each museum that uses Vesica – but this substantial investment will drastically increase our standard pricing of £0.05 per object in a collection, which does not make it feasible. This is a rather major difference in Google’s pricing policy for the Google Maps API – which was free just a few months ago for a specific amount of usage.

We’re now working on integrating Vesica with either MapQuest or BingMaps to bring make the enhanced timeline a part of Vesica along with the two other major updates for this year (the report building tool and the Drupal API).

In the mean time, we will make publicly available a basic version of Vesica’s Google Maps timeline to give you a brief preview of what the functionality does next week. Customers who when prefer to use the Google Maps timeline can have that activated in their accounts for a fixed annual fee in addition to the standard £0.05 per object fee.

If, however, you wouldn’t like to spend extra and can wait a few weeks for a free interactive, map-driven timeline – subscribe to this blog to stay up-to-date.

In the meantime, if you are interested in deploying Google Maps in your organisation or museum with your collections management software fully integrated, please get in touch with us by commenting on this article, calling +44 2081338050 or emailing our sales team at [email protected]

August 27, 2012

Why we went with the .WS TLD

Last week I had a conversation with a friend and a colleague who really could not understand the reason we run Vesica on the .ws TLD. As a global museum based business, he was adamant that we can and only should use .COM. This has, of course, come up in the past – but no one has expressed such strong feelings. In fact, publications that have written about Vesica have actually attempted to explain why we use .ws, but I figured it’s time for an official version.

Let’s start with a bit of information of TLDs, which is the last part of the domain name as we know it. So, this could be .com, .co.uk, .fr, .uk.com, .net, etc. etc. TLD stands for Top Level Domain. TLDs come in different types, but the common types are:

gTLD – this is a generic TLD and does not tie you down to a specific country or a sponsor. Common ones you are most familiar with are .com, .net and .org.

ccTLD – this is a country specific TLD and also comes in an internationalized variety (this distinction is not necessary here). Examples of such domains include .co.uk, .fr, .es, .br, .us and so on so forth.

sTLD – These are sponsored TLDs. An example of this is .museum. Try http://icom.musuem, for instance.

So what really is the difference? A TLD helps identify the domain name. So you know that a .co.uk means the website belongs to the UK. You know a .museum means the website is a museum or is something related to one.

From a practical standpoint, this can have marketing and SEO level ramifications (and any other level if you are used to blowing things out of proportion). You can argue that from a marketing standpoint, the TLD can be very important. .COM or .NET almost always imply a larger, more dominating internet presence – it’s just how most people have been programmed to react to TLDs. If you are in marketing, this is a big issue. My personal view – it’s really quite important – but its importance depends on what the website in question really does. Most marketing people actually forget to address that more important issue.

Technically, the wrong extension can make or break your efforts. To market any application, it is probably good to have ccTLDs to market in a specific market. This is because Google will always consider a .co.uk extension as a more relevant result on google.co.uk than it will a .com or .fr extension. So it’s not just about the marketing anymore, but the wrong extension might mean the difference between you getting found or not via search engines online.

But what if you run a website or application online that is really not country specific – like Vesica. Sure, we might want to market to different countries and for that we could setup either subdomains like fr.vesica.ws or get domains like vesica.fr, but at the end of the day, the primary language is English and the application itself is always delivered on the vesica.ws domain.

The key to not getting lost on the internet is to get a generic TLD. gTLDs are considered somewhat internationalized, meaning that unless you specifically tell Google to prioritize their searches to one specific country, they are considered equal for all (unless your content really focuses on a geographic location). This is by no means a detailed and comprehensive answer (and there is a lot to this discussion that I am happy to go into should it tickle someone’s fancy) – but it is this particular issue that restricts you to the following TLDS:

  • .COM – this is undoubtedly the globally recognized and popular TLD
  • .NET – The second best, whatever it technically means (that’s irrelevant)
  • .ORG
  • .BIZ
  • .MOBI
  • There are a few more that qualify, and .WS is one of these

Now for answering the real question – why did we choose .WS? Because it is considered a gTLD and was available.

How is .WS a generic name when it is supposed to be a ccTLD for Western Samoa? Well, because an American company bought the rights to rebrand it as .WebSite and for all technical purposes, google considers .WS to be a gTLD. Unlike other gTLDs like .mobi or .tel .asia, .WS (WebSite) does not limit us to a specific medium (like a mobile device or phone) or a specific location (like Europe or Asia).

It simply means WebSite. Whilst it’s not as catchy as .com or .net, it technically can and does serve the same purpose. It’s clear from the Vesica website that we are a website and company based in London – and it’s really quite short and easy to remember.

Are there any other technical issues that can occur if you use such domains? Perhaps – especially if the infrastructure that resolves NS records for your TLD is sitting in a small island nation that doesn’t have the technical knowledge or infrastructure to support global traffic. Luckily, .WS nameservers resolve from all over the world, including the United States and the UK – see http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/ws.html. This is primarily due to the rebranding initiative of Global Domains International. In a worst case scenario where such a spread of infrastructure is not available for your TLD, switching domain names if one does go down isn’t all that difficult as long as you own a few – and a company like Vesica that serves its customers primarily via the internet always has a plan in place to deploy such a backup within hours, if not minutes.

August 10, 2012

Summer @ Vesica

It’s been a busy summer at Vesica – we’re hard at work making some major architectural changes to the application to sustain the ongoing growth – many of our customers (and we’ve surpassed 200 this month!) will start to see the benefits of these changes in the ongoing months in the form of increased speed and faster reponse times when uploading data, images, audio and video files along with rapid development of additional features and functionality.

We have an updated list of new features and functionality that will be posted to the coming soon page (https://vesica.ws/features/coming-soon/) next week, so if you’ve been waiting for bibliography and research features along with some advanced file sharing and management, stay put, because it’s all in the mix.

In the mean time, if you’ve been following the news in the museum industry of budget cuts across the board, now is as good a time as any to tell your local museum about Vesica. It well help them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few years. What more, using a cloud based solution like Vesica can mean that museums can protect the jobs that matter and spend money where it is necessary (i.e., on conservation) as opposed to maintaining IT.

See http://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/01072012-ma-2012-cuts-survey for more details – we’ll have more on these discussions in the coming weeks.

June 19, 2012

Vesica now available in Spanish

Good news –  Vesica is today available in Spanish (along with English). Following on from the previous post by Asif N about Vesica as a multi-lingual platform, the interface of the application is now available in Spanish. This is the first step in the journey to internationalization and rolling out Vesica as a multi-lingual application.

As a user, you can set your own preferred language at the account level. This means that whilst you can use Vesica in Spanish, other users who access the account can still choose to see the application in English.

Switching to Spanish is a simple, 3-step process.

1. Once your signed-in to your Vesica account, go to Settings (see screenshot below).

Settings

2. In settings click on the Edit User Section.

User Settings

3. On the left hand panel titled user settings, the last option allows you to choose your language. Make the appropriate choice and press submit – and you’re done.

Choose Language

The system will now keep track of your preferred language each time you sign-in to the same account.

Have more questions? Please comment or raise a support ticket from within your Vesica account.

April 18, 2012

Google Maps and Interactive Cultural Experiences

CS Fine Arts Center Interactive Google Map

The next version of the Vesica Interactive Timeline will feature a fully searchable, interactive timeline built on Google Maps. Whilst work has been ongoing to integrate the Google Maps API with Vesica along with other features, we recently had the opportunity to build a simple integration for the Introducing America exhibition at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

For users looking forward to enhancements to the newer timeline feature in Vesica – this is what it will be based on. You’ll be able to select a period and visualize your images in a map, then zoom in to interact with them. You will eventually also be able to further filter the data on this map like you can when you’re searching for pieces / objects in your account. So, in theory, you could ask the map to visualize for you all the objects in your collection between 1820 and 1880, then choose to look at just textiles, and then zoom in to the Far East region and see what you may have in your collections from China on the map.

Once complete, museums will also be able to port the map out to an external website using the API – which can add a new dimension of interactivity to museum websites.

The map for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center can be viewed here.

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