Vesica Blog - Taking museum and art collections to the cloud

March 23, 2013

Simplifying JQuery Dialogs

Filed under: Tech Talk — Tags: , , , , , , — Asif N @ 12:08 am

Working on a web application that uses multiple JQuery dialogs?

You’re probably sick of rendering dialog boxes with JQuery’s .dialog() function and all of its parameters.

So here’s a tiny little function that you can include in your AJAX application at the top level via a tag, and then simply call each time you need to render a dialog. So you can effectively accomplish what you need to do in one line instead of 10.

The function below requires multiple parameters:

  1. target_class – This is the name of the class you want the dialog rendered in. It doesn’t have to exist in the DOM, the function will create it.
  2. title – The title of your dialog
  3. width – The width of the dialog
  4. height – the height of the dialog
  5. load_file – An external file or view that you want to load inside your dialog
  6. buttons – A JavaScript array containing all the buttons your dialog needs. This array should contain a button id and button text, and can be formatted as:
    buttons[0]['id'] = ‘save’ ;
    buttons[0]['id'] = ‘Save this Content’ ;
    buttons[1]['id'] = ‘default_cancel’ ;
    buttons[2]['id'] = ‘button3′ ;
    buttons[2]['text'] = ‘A 3rd Button’ ; 

As shown above, you can add as many buttons as you want using an array.  The function also created a default cancel button that will close and destroy the dialog if you pass the id ‘default_cancel’ to it.

Note that once you have the dialog rendered, you can use more JavaScript driven by the ID of each button to decide what happens when that ID gets clicked. This should ideally go in a JS file tied to the view or page you load into the load_file parameter of the function.

There are several ways to to tweak and improve the function depending on what you are rendering your dialogs for,  so please feel free to make any changes and / or share your thoughts. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

 

February 16, 2013

Using Vesica’s Interactive Timeline

Released in December 2012, the Vesica Timeline allows all Vesica users to see the pieces in their account on an interactive map. Getting your existing collections to appear on the map will require you to define the location of your object in the History / Provenance section in the About tab when editing a piece. Once you’ve defined the location, you can get the map co-ordinates of that location to map the object. The video below gives you a basic demonstration of how to do this:

Once you’ve added the co-ordinates, you can simply browse to your timeline by going to Charts > Timeline. In History / Provenance section, you can also add the date created, which will make sure the object only appears on the map on the selected date. The below video gives you a short glimpse of what the timeline looks like.

January 18, 2013

Introducing Vesica Tech Talk

After a quiet holiday blogging season, we have a bit of a twist and some regular updates planned for the Vesica blog, including a new section called Tech Talk.

Tech Talk will be discussing some web based technical implementations that we at Vesica have used in the application and in exteral projects (our team gets to work on several external projects that are modeled after or integrate with Vesica in a variety of industries) – small snippets of code or technical advice that could save you (or your technical team) hours or days if you’re building something similar.

In addition, we’ll be rolling out some videos (not in the Tech Talk but the Using Vesica and Upcoming Features Sections) to demo some of the existing functionality, new functionality (that was released over Christmas and has just recently made it to the features page – https://vesica.ws/features/timeline/), and upcoming functionality like the Research and Bibliography tab.

The first Tech Talk article (coming this Monday) will discuss some JQuery implementations adapted from Vesica for use by one of the applications for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, the interface for which was inspired by Vesica (and we helped design and build it).

November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving from Vesica – Report Printing

On Thanksgiving day last week we released several improvements across the Vesica platform, along with an initial version of the report printer which allows you the ability to sort and filter your collections by any of the parameters stored in Vesica, then decide what you want to print about each one of them. Whilst a more comprehensive version down the road will allow you to build queries on your Vesica database (so, for instance, you might want to generate a view of your collection that shows you everything you have loaned out to museum X and that is insured by company Y with beneficiary Z and has a payout value of $250,000 – well, you’ll be able to build such a report, save it and re-run it at the click of  a button), the current report printing functionality allows you to build reports on top of the existing advanced search functionality.

The ability to dissect and print various parts of information about multiple pieces has been a long requested feature from many different clients – so I’m happy to say that we’re there. This year will also see us release 2 more major features – including the research / bibliography tab and the redeveloped interactive maps timeline on mapquest.

See the video demoing the new report printing functionality below or on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_hBWCgcwWM.

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.

July 10, 2012

Secure Galleries and More Coming this Week

The update scheduled for later this week adds the of first of what will be many phases towards making Vesica galleries for individual accounts secure.

Users will be able to enable their galleries with a pass code. This means that anyone visiting your gallery will need to enter this pass code before they can gain access to the gallery. Future gallery updates will see this feature allowing you to add an additional level of security at the object / piece level. You can then choose to add individual pass codes for each piece in your account when and if you wish to include it in your gallery.

You will also be able to add the weight of an object in the system (where applicable). This option will be available in the Document tab under the Dimensions and Weight section (previously known as Dimensions).

Additional updates will follow soon, along with the release of Vesica in several other languages (see the post about Vesica being released in Spanish last month). To stay up to date with the latest developments and the innovative new functions we are developing to better manage and document museum collections, please see our features one on https://vesica.ws/features/coming-soon/.

June 21, 2012

The Evolution of Technology & the Structured Human Mind

This article deals with technology, the human mind and business in and around a museum environment. Of course, the discussion is probably true in virtually all other sectors and industries, but Vesica doesn’t deal with those. Nonetheless, the attempt is to make the article structured whilst trying to deal with issues of users (or human beings) adapting back to the organic nature of the human mind.

When computers became mainstream, we had to get used to thinking in terms of using a mouse and a keyboard to interface with them. It’s not how we interface with things or other human beings in general – we touch them, talk to them, feel them and more. In addition to that, as the technology evolved, the human mind had to adapt to concepts like directories and folders in a digital environment. Of course, the very concept of organizing data in files and folders is a structured one, but there wasn’t always a structured approach to physically interface with these files and folders, until the advent of computers. Yes, you could reference them to find them, but that helps you locate and then perhaps interface however you want (as in open the folders and read, or tear them, or fold them, you get my drift). To make the concept clear, it is useful to have structured data, but the evolution of technology should, and generally does, allow us to interface with structured data in an organic, unstructured fashion.

I think, those are, to a great extent, the two levels of evolution at which the technologies we interact with, operate:-

1. Evolution of data structure for better indexing, searching and finding.
2. Evolution of technology to develop organic and unstructured interfaces to access structured data, which, in it’s structured format, can be rigid and unrealistic.

The Lotico London Semantic Web Group (http://www.meetup.com/LondonSWGroup/) had what I imagine was a great meetup on a related subject in March – which I was unable to attend – but the idea of organized vs organic meta data is actually quite similar to this discussion.

Let me provide some more evidence to suggest that this is how technology evolves, and then make the argument, that in an effort to understand and grasp structure, we, as users, fail to utilize the benefits of better, more organic interfaces, and that’s not because we are opposed to them, but because we have had to work so hard to grasp the structured concept, that we have a hard time letting go of it, in many cases, for sentimental reasons.

Let’s look at the example of mobile phones. For several years now, we’ve been able to get email on our phones. If you’ve owned a Blackberry, a Palm One / Treo, or any other QWERTY enabled email phone without a touch screen, you’ve most certainly sat there in frustration waiting for the email to open and then having to continuously click (or scroll, depending on the phone) down until you get to the part of the email you are really interested in? That’s structured data (the email content) that you have to access in a structured manner (top-down by scrolling down 1 click / roll at a time). In the non digital world, if you were reading a letter on a piece of paper, you could simply look at and read directly the part you are interested in – that’s the organic way. It may be unstructured, but it’s the organic way – that’s how we do things as human beings (even though, for arguments sake, you might have to read the whole thing top-down to make sense of it).

That’s why technology evolves, and mobile phones evolved into touchscreen becoming the dominating force. Why? It’s still a structured approach (after all you still have to scroll top-down), but it’s far more organic because you can control how much you scroll and how quickly you scroll (going slightly off topic here, but QWERTY keyboards are far from dead – touchscreen only solves our interfacing to access problem, not interfacing to enter data more efficiently). In a manner of speaking, you can decide how to get to your data, and if this part is done right, how it’s structured becomes completely irrelevant, because if you could always interface with access what you want the way you want it, you wouldn’t care about it. There are many more similar examples of technology evolution, but that’s why you have software architects. That’s also why you have architects for buildings and houses. You just know what you want, how to get it to it is the architect’s problem.

Let’s bring this same set of concepts around to museum collections, software and relational databases. Until very recently, most museum software hasn’t exactly evolved to become more user friendly. The focus has been primarily on structure (and interestingly enough, there’s no agreement on what this should be like, because there really is no right or wrong),  to the extent that a lot of museum collection software even looks like the boring, gray interface of a typical relational database. Users are expected to define their own database structure on one screen, and then use another screen to access this data. So, the typical museum software will allow you to create various record types for object genre, loans, conservation priorities, etc. Once you have these defined, you can then create an object and call this record to associate it with that object. So, effectively, museum collection software technology hasn’t particularly evolved in terms of organic, unstructured or ‘user-friendly’ access or interfaces – it’s only evolved to the point of structured data.

This is a problem, because when museums now come across evolved interfaces built on top of structured data, they tend to think the structured data is missing. Our minds have become programmed to think and access the data in a structured manner, which takes long, requires more organisation and can become quite tedious. On the other hand, think of an unstructured approach, where as you are documenting an object in your collection, you can simply enter the genre, loan information, or conservation priority as you need to, without having to open another window or keep track of any reference numbers. You’ll be able to complete the task at hand, and then later go on to manage the structured data, reuse it against another object, or do with it as you please. In essence, the data itself is still structured, you still create a separate genre or loan record and that gets associated with your object, but you don’t have to create the 2 separately. You can, but you don’t have to, because you shouldn’t have to. Just like you should be able to scroll down to the bottom of an email without clicking on the down button 20 times, you should be able to enter data associated to an object and it should automatically create the other records as part of the process, rather than you having to create those records separately.

The reason why many have a hard time grasping this approach is because it is simply not common in traditional museum software. Interfaces have never evolved, and only recently, with the push of the web and the cloud have software companies been forced to push the limits of user interfaces to access and manage data. So, when you’re using a collections management system, objects in your collection are the primary point of reference, not your loan records, not your conservation priorities, and not your insurance policies. Everything else relates to the collections and objects, and should tie in organically.

The reason for writing this article is because in a recent training session with a museum for Vesica, some trainees actually thought that type or loan records could not be re-used or associated with multiple objects simply because we were not creating them separately. The point is, that you shouldn’t have to, but an interface that forces you to do so has not evolved to become very useful or user friendly.

Think of this in terms of a blog – when you build a tag cloud or tag your posts, do you actually go ahead and define tags separately each time before you start writing a post? No, you actually just type in the tags on the same screen on which you write your blog article – the system and the interface both know what you have already used and allow you to reuse these tags as and where needed. You can go ahead and edit these separately, but creating and managing a list of tags independently of blog articles is, at best, unnecessary.

I am sure there are some interface developers who would like to further stress the importance a good interface, and yet we’ll have others who think that the interface should be just as structured as the data. But the thing to keep in mind is that a good interface deals with the way one would naturally want to access, view and manage data. If you have been programmed to only see things structurally over many years, it is very difficult to imagine a world in which an unstructured interface will work for structured data. Why would you even need such an interface?

Why don’t you use google and find out how useful the ability to access data in this fashion is? For the average user, you just enter text, which google runs against structured, indexed data to retrieve results. It works, and it works better than you having to define 10 parameters in your search query to get the same result.

As human beings and users, we must learn to think and use things freely, without the restriction of structure – that’s how we can maximize knowledge and its impact. As software architects, we must help bridge the gap between the 2. Easy to use does not mean easy to build or unstructured, it generally means well-designed.

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.

June 7, 2012

Multi Lingual Collections Management for Museums

With a user-base that spans over 30 countries, we’re often asked if Vesica supports foreign languages.

The answer is yes.

Vesica uses the UTF-8 character set, so all foreign languages – including Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, etc. are supported. This means you can enter information in virtually any language.

The Vesica interface, however, is currently restricted to English. The application is being internationalized, with our Spanish version due for launch in the next few weeks. In due course, the Vesica interface will also be available in several languages.

If you are museum considering Vesica but the English interface stands in your way, get in touch with us and we can get you an ETA on a localised interface.

May 17, 2012

Museums and the Cloud: Common Questions

Here’s a list of common questions (and brief answers) that museums and private collectors with sizable collections tend to ask when considering Vesica. If you have more questions you would like added to the list or require more in-depth answers, please comment or get in touch.

Is the cloud reliable / how often would the application go down?

The cloud is reliable – very reliable. In fact, it is probably almost always going to be more reliable than any software application you deploy in-house. Sure, there are outages, but they are rare. Cloud providers like Vesica backup your data several times in the day too – so even if there are unanticipated circumstances, the application and data can almost always be brought back. Let’s put it into perspective, the cloud is as reliable as Amazon, Google, Microsoft Hotmail / Azure / Office 365 are. If you use any of their services, you are already using the cloud.

Will we really save any money?

Yes, a lot of money. Simply put, if you adopt a cloud solution, especially one like Vesica for Collections management, you don’t have to pay to purchase, maintain and upgrade servers. You don’t have to pay IT staff to setup and maintain these machines or networks. You don’t need to get into or get involved with complicated licensing or long term contracts for desktop software. This applies to virtually ALL cloud applications. Vesica can help museums save 30-60% of their existing cost for collections management systems deployed in-house. It also offers you a lot of added functionality out-of-the-box, like portability via an API, with zero additional costs or modules.

Do we need to backup our data? If so, what are our options?

Do you backup your hotmail or gmail email? If you don’t, you don’t need to back up your cloud applications either.

However, if you’re still getting comfortable with the idea of moving into the cloud, most applications will allow you some kind of an XML formatted backup which can be exported into other databases or software applications in the same industry.  You can get a CDWA Lite compliant XML backup in Vesica. You can even download all your media separately – we’re considering wrapping it all up together to let you get a compressed backup file, but for clients in excess of 100GB, many don’t have any way to open those files, so it’s best to import the XML backup into another application.

To put things into perspective, most people using Windows 7 cannot open a file larger than 4GB – compressed or not.

How do cloud providers like Vesica backup their data?

Different providers have different policies, but everyone backs up regularly – it’s part of being a service provider. Incremental backups are and can be deployed across multiple sites along with full data backups at several locations. It’s really quite safe and cost effective and feasible due to the economies of scale involved.

Will the price ever go up?

For most cloud providers, this is unlikely (at least in the near future), unless the way the tech industry works changes drastically or the US Dollar, sterling or dare I say, Euro, collapses.

Can we enter information in foreign languages?

Yes. MOST cloud applications support UTF-8 encoding which has built-in support for foreign languages. That should include everything from Arabic to Hebrew to Mandarin.

Do we need to involve IT?

Typically, no. Because for most cloud applications, all you need is a computer / phone / tablet pc with an internet connection.

How does cloud or web-based software work with our website?

Most cloud applications, by their nature of being delivered as a service, come with Application Programming Interfaces, which effectively allow you to integrate them with other applications, similar to how you would a desktop based database that you had access to (although many of these might require you to purchase additional add-ons to web enable them). Using this Application Programming Interface, you can extract information that sits in your cloud based application and display it any which way you want on your website. It’s not complicated, but it does require the ability to develop websites. Many cloud software providers also have modules available for third party CMS’ which your website may use – that effectively means you’ll be up and running with a few clicks. Vesica, for instance, will have a Drupal module that can seamlessly integrate your collections with your website later this year.

How can we get data in and out of cloud based collections software?

You can generally extract all the data as XML. Depending on the nature of the application and what you store, it may be feasible for you to get CSV files or download all your media as 1 compressed file.

As a museum, what opportunities does switching to the cloud present us with?

Many. The cloud allows you to save money and focus your efforts on what you do, whether that’s conserving, preserving, educating or engaging your community without having to worry about technical staff, technical problems, upgrades, downtime or any technology driven financial inconsistencies.  It takes a slightly different mindset to adopt the cloud, but for museums that do, it is a liberating experience.

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.

February 20, 2012

What makes Vesica a unique Collections Management Database?

Amidst all the buzz and feedback about Vesica this year, one question has come up a couple of times. This question is primarily posed by those who’ve been through the features list but have not yet created a trial account to see how Vesica works. Others, who have used it, have been kind enough to answer this question for us. You guessed it – the question is the title of this post – “What makes Vesica a unique collections management database?”

Rather than give you a breakdown of how Vesica is different (or better – and you’ll find a comparison chart link at the bottom of the article to this effect), I’ll briefly discuss one simple thing that sets Vesica apart from the competition. Aside from the obvious benefits of a SaaS application – which I discussed in a previous article here – and unlike all other databases or collection management applications in the market, Vesica is unique because it was built with a unique approach. Unlike other applications, Vesica is not just an interface added on top of a database – it is engineered to deliver a user experience. We didn’t really want to create just another Collections Management Database – that’s boring (and a white and depressing dull gray colour) – we wanted to make managing collections a fun, beautiful and enjoyable experience. Of course, on the back-end, we deliver this with a robust database in a world-class data centre (solar powered, mind you), but our interface is built from scratch – a beautiful, synchronised medley of user interface gadgets that will make using collections management software a good experience.

Not only is our interface unique and bespoke, we’ve developed a system that allows us to push the boundaries in terms of innovation. Others rely on, in many cases, open source software and applications, which means that they are restricted with features and functionality allowed within the frameworks they work with, or they would lose the support of such frameworks or open source software.

As one of our clients puts it – “Vesica is really pretty, intuitive and easy to use – unlike other collections management databases.” This is true in fact as much as it is in spirit – Vesica is not just a collections management database – it is so much more and it is always evolving to help museums, collectors and heritage organisations better document and manage their collections.

For more information on what makes Vesica unique, see our feature comparison chart.

 

December 22, 2011

Export Object Data to Microsoft Word

Documenting your collection just became more flexible – with Vesica, you can now print different parts or all of the information about an object to a Word document. It’s a fully-formatted export, and once all the information is in Microsoft Word, you can edit to your heart’s content. From the ability to do further research work, print and file hard copies, collaborate on objects at meetings, or simply export information about a piece into Word to customize and print out labels for exhibitions – in terms of formatting, editing and presenting your data, this new feature lets you do what you need in a tool so many of us have become accustomed to using.

Printing an object to MS Word is easy – you will do exactly what you’ve been doing to print your object information – except now on the window that allows you to choose which sections to print, in addition to a “Print” button you will also see a “Print to Word” button. Just click on this and you’ll be prompted to download the details of your object as a Word document – simple!

Here is a sample link to an object’s data extracted from Vesica as a Microsoft Word document.

» Download Sample

November 25, 2011

Vesica charts get drill down functionality

Filed under: News,Using Vesica — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 3:29 pm

Vesica users today will be able to drill down from Vesica charts into detailed data about their collections. This functionality makes interacting with your collections easier, faster and more intuitive. Where as before you could just visualize your collection via the pie charts and would have to search independently to get the list of objects that made up the chart, you can now simply click on the appropriate slice of the pie in the chart, once to slide it out, and a second time to click through to get a list of objects that make up the statistic.

Let’s show you how it works. Below is a pie chart of all the artists who have work listed in the account we’re looking at. You’ll also note in the chart that we’ve clicked on Vincent Van Gogh once, so his piece of the pie has slid out.

Pie Charts - Drill Down Functionality

 If you clicked on the Van Gogh piece of the pie again, you’ll go to a page that will list all 61 objects in your account which have Van Gogh tagged as the artist.

Van Gogh in Vesica

The drill down functionality has been applied to all 7 charts in Vesica.

November 8, 2011

The Vesica Partner Program

The Vesica Partner Program was launched earlier this week and is now accepting applications.

Ideal for professionals and companies who work with the museum, heritage, art or cultural sector, the Vesica Partner Program offers a host of benefits to Partners, including:

  • Additional, on-going revenue

  • PR Opportunities

  • Participation in our Webinars and at Customer Events

  • And much, much more…

Vesica is a pay as you go, cloud-based collection management software application for museums, collectors and heritage organisations. With unlimited storage, CDWA Compliant data feeds, streaming audio and video, charts and other interactive educational and marketing tools, Vesica offers museums and heritage organisations a SaaS option, enabling  them to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in IT and licensing fees in addition to gaining operational efficiency and increasing revenue streams.

To become a partner, apply today at https://vesica.ws/partners/.

October 31, 2011

Are Mobile Apps for Museums Overrated?

[poll id="2"]

The last year or so has seen a dramatic increase in all the talk about mobile apps, not just across the museum and heritage industry, but for all major sectors. From banking apps to games to photo management, from useful apps like the TFL Live London Underground Updates to the completely worthless ones like SimStapler, mobile apps are in. But are they really adding any value to someone’s experience on a mobile device, or do many companies invest in building an app simply because someone else (who is possibly competition) is doing it?

As with all things technology, building, buying or investing in something just because another company is doing it is probably the worst way to justify expending your resources. But marketing gurus, who drive much of the social media, interactive and website / mobile website policies in business and non-profit industries, will probably have you believe otherwise. For many of them, having a FaceBook app is vital to ‘staying competitive ‘- a mobile app is not different. But who can blame them – spending and job titles have to be justified if they are to stay in work year after year – but this article is not about the marketing aspect.

So museums can invest in a variety of different mobile apps – and most of the talk that you’ll see on LinkedIn groups, for instance, is all about trying to engage the visitor (without actually defining the visitor interestingly enough). But if we were to work back and look at mobile applications as tools and investments, the following questions need to be answered:

  • Will a mobile app increase visitor footfall, enhance visitor experience or keep visitors engaged with the museum longer (let’s stick measurable results here, not prophesized effects)?
  • Will the mobile app add to museum revenues in any way?
  • Will the mobile app save the museum any money in the long run?
  • Will the mobile app increase the museum’s operational efficiency or boost employee morale?
  • Will the mobile app add anything along adding to the knowledge and education of the public in line with the museum’s aims and goals?

Of course, it’s probably important to decide WHAT the mobile app will do before you go by evaluating these factors – but at the very least, a decision to develop a mobile application must, in my view, be subject to a YES for at least 2 of the above questions.

So, can mobile applications actually accomplish any of the above?

Whilst it may seem very promising from a visitor engagement standpoint, my personal view is that a mobile app will have little or no effect for most museums. For science and technology museums that target and engage a younger audience, by all means, yes – for others, I don’t think so. Most likely (and please quote statistics if they are available otherwise), the typical museum goer is actually irritated with smart phones, and at best, only uses it for email or the GPS (if they can).

That’s not to say that a well built museum app cannot serve an educational purpose – but even then, it really depends on potential visitors to show enough dedication to view the museum’s collection on a small screen – that requires quite a high level of tolerance, even with today’s technology.

I believe the real use of mobile applications lies in helping museums becoming more efficient and helping make the life of museum employees easier. Mobile apps, whether they are for phones and tablets, can assist curatorial staff or art historians in constantly managing and updating collection related data, without having to log into a PC or particular piece of software. This can be especially useful, if combined with the photography and scanning / inventory management related functionality available in today’s smartphones.

At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong here – it’s all just a matter of how each person approaches the subject of  mobile apps for museums. My general view is that customer / visitor facing apps for museums are overrated, and will, in all likelihood, not produce a good return on investment.

But we’d love to hear other views, so please share yours.

September 28, 2011

Annotate and Crop Images in Vesica

With the update this week, you can now annotate and crop images inside Vesica. This has been a popular feature request and after much consideration (and testing), we’re glad to announce that you can do this in the browser whilst using Vesica, so you don’t have to use your image editing software to crop or annotate images.

Cropping and annotating with Vesica is easy – next to each image in the “Images” tab when editing a piece, you’ll now see 5 buttons. The third button allows you to crop, the 4th to annotate, as shown below.

Crop and Annotate

When Cropping an image, Vesica automatically saves the cropped version as an additional image, in case you need to retain both the original and the cropped versions. Cropping is really quite simple and intuitive – you select the part of the image you want to crop and press the “Crop” button – Vesica does the rest.


Cropping with Vesica

Annotations in Vesica are stored as additional layers on top of the image, which means your original image remains unchanged. When you view the image in your account, annotations appear as you hover over the image (as shown below). Annotations are not shown in the online galleries within Vesica or on external sites if the image is displayed via an API.

Annotate
Annotating with Vesica

It’s really all quite simple and as always, the best way to get a hang of it is to start using it! Please feel free to post any feedback or questions, or contact support if you need assistance with the above features.

July 28, 2011

Vesica now available on Google’s Chrome Web Store

Filed under: News,Technology — Tags: , , , , , — vesica-press-releases @ 11:00 am

Vesica is today available on Google’s Chrome Web Store, which allows you to install apps within the Chrome browser for easy access. Install the app today by visiting https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/acdplfpagmdnkcaekeeklfdiphcpnnep. The Vesica app is available free to all users.

July 23, 2011

Stream your Audio Guides in Vesica

We’re very excited today about launching the audio management and streaming feature in Vesica. It’s an additional step towards making Vesica an all inclusive collection management application for museums and heritage organisations. In the next few weeks, video support will also be added.

After some planning, we decided to implement audio support in Vesica using HTML5. Whilst this has some limitations, in the long run, we believe it will be of great benefit to our customers. Using HTML5 to playback audio means that  you may face some compatibility issues with certain file types in certain browsers but it will allow you to stream audio on Apple iPad and other Google Android and Windows 7 powered PCs. For instance, Mozilla FireFox does not support streaming MP3s, but Chrome, Safari and IE9 do (even mobile versions of Chrome and Safari do). For more details on compatibility with streaming, please see this FAQ. Of course, you can always download your audio files to play them back on your Mac or PC.

Audio files in Vesica can be associated with a particular object or a collection. Just like all other tabs on your piece or collection management screens, you’ll also see an ‘Audio’ tab. Here’s what it will look like:

Audio in Vesica

Audio file formats currently supported are MP3, WAV, WMA and OGG.

Audio files will tie in with the Vesica ecosystem, allowing you to re-use the guides in online exhibitions as needed.

July 5, 2011

Vesica is now available on AppDirect

Filed under: News,Technology — Tags: , , , , — vesica-press-releases @ 5:28 pm

July 1, 2011 – Vesica is now available via the AppDirect marketplace.

AppDirect is a free web-based application which allows you to use and manage web-based applications from anywhere in one simple and secure site. It’s also a marketplace that provides the latest web-based applications. It really is based on the concept of simplifying the use of software on the internet, so we’re glad to be a part of it.

“The integration with AppDirect is another step towards increasing the global awareness of Vesica,” says Asif Nawaz, Founder and Chief Software Architect at Vesica. “With AppDirect’s single sign-on functionality, museums and other art, heritage and cultural organisations can now fully benefit from the use and pricing structure of SaaS applications without the hassle of  managing cross application usernames, passwords and security controls.”

Vesica is the first art collection related application on AppDirect.

Already use AppDirect? Sign-up for Vesica on https://www.appdirect.com/apps/552.

For further information, please contact the Vesica office on +44 (0) 20 8133 8050 or .

May 1, 2011

iPad and Tablet PCs now supported

Filed under: News,Upcoming Features,Using Vesica — Tags: , , , , , — vesica-press-releases @ 6:20 pm

Vesica - now available for tablet PCs

With today’s update, Vesica now supports Apple iPad and other Google Android and Windows 7 powered tablet PCs.

This mobile compatibility is one of many upcoming add-ons and we believe it to be of great benefit to museums and collectors, who can now start archiving and documenting collections on the go. All major devices that work with the above operating systems and have the latest mobile browser related updates will support Vesica. No third party software or app installation is needed. Simply visit https://vesica.ws on your mobile device, sign in and start using Vesica.

We’re also offering financing on iPads and other tablets with Vesica. If you are a museum, you may also be eligible for free tablet PCs with Vesica. More information on this will be coming soon.

In the mean time,  please contact our sales department for more details.

April 13, 2011

The new Vesica – Coming Soon

Filed under: News,Upcoming Features — Tags: , , — Asif N @ 11:58 am

The New Vesica

We’ve been waiting for this as much as you have – it is with great pleasure that I am announcing the release date of the new version of Vesica – April 25, 2011.

The team has been hard at work for the last few months – we’ve been working day and night to put together something that I am truly proud of. This isn’t just a major upgrade, it’s a complete overhaul of the Vesica platform, and it is impressive (if I may say so myself).

Among other things, the new version boasts :

  • A completely new interface to search and edit pieces / objects and collections. This interface is fast and extensive, and feedback has been extremely positive during testing.
  • A comprehensive new section for object management – the software now allows you to extensively document, manage and market your art collection.
  • Speed – yes, it works almost as fast as a desktop application. There’s no page loading when you switch tabs, upload files or submit new information about a collection or piece.
  • Grace – this was important for me – we had to make sure that whatever we built was good to look at and graceful to interact with.
  • Advanced Search – now you just check some criteria boxes to filter your collection and all the relevant pieces show up. Type and further narrow the search criteria. It all happens lightning fast!
  • Charts – yes, now you can see beautifully animated charts that illustrate your collection by type, technique, region, dynasty or any of the other Vesica parameters.
  • Much, much more!

There’s a lot of good stuff in the new release in addition to the features mentioned above. We’ve looked at the art collection standard and gone the extra mile. We will also be publishing a regularly updated list of upcoming features with the new release.

Best of all, given the boost of new users we have had, we’ve been able to revise the pricing structure. A new price list will be published on April 25. I can, however, tell you that the free account now allows for up to 10 pieces, and each increment of 50 pieces from thereon is priced at £5. It’s nice and simple – and we like simple! In short, your existing account will only see a positive effect – piece allowance will go up and your monthly statement will automatically be adjusted to reflect the new price.

Watch this space for more updates over the next few days!

March 25, 2011

Change of Payment Gateway

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:26 pm

For various reasons, we at Vesica have decided to make the switch from our current payment provider to a new one.  This period of transition will take a few weeks and will go live with the new version of Vesica.

Until the change goes into effect, all payments on galleries, upgrades and new accounts will be taken over the telephone.

All existing customers’ payments will be processed as they have been before – unless you want to upgrade or downgrade your plan. If you are a new customer or would like to upgrade the plan you are currently on, please give the office a call on 020 8133 8050 and we’ll process the upgrade over the phone – it will only take a couple of minutes.

We will be advising all customers once the change-over has been processed. Rest assured, we expect the transition to be smooth.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you for your continued support!

Older Posts »

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow Vesica on Twitter Join us on Facebook Join he Vesica LinkedIn Group

Home    •    Blog    •    Contact Us    •    Developers    •    Education    •    Partners    •    About    •    Help & Support    •    News    •    Privacy Policy    •    Terms of Use

Follow us on Twitterk Join Vesica on Facebook