Daytum I love you but please join the web

I’ve been lucky enough to have been a beta testers for daytum.com, a service for collecting and communicating personal data, and I love it. As you might expect from Ryan Case and Nicholas Feltron it’s a lovely piece of interaction and graphic design. You can record and visualise all sorts of qualitative and quantitative data – personally I’m recording information about what I eat, drink, how much I sleep and communicate (emails, blog posts, talks, tweets etc.) but others record the music they listen to, how far they run, gigs they’ve been to, books they’ve read. All sorts of things.

OK I probably drink too much coffee
OK I probably drink too much coffee

And now you too can record and visualise whatever you want because this weekend the service came out of beta. Now here’s the thing, as much as I love the service I wish it were more, well born of the web. You see I have a few problems with daytum.

My main problem is that I can’t point to the stuff I’m recording. That graphic at the top of this post doesn’t have a URL so I can’t link to it or the underlying data; and because I can’t point to it it limits what can be done with it. If I can’t link to to, I can’t embed it elsewhere, I can’t link it to other data sources and mash it up. And that’s a problem because the only possible URI for this sort of information about me is locked away in the daytum interface. Why isn’t there a nice RESTful URL for each ‘display’. Something like:

daytum.com/:user/:statement

Once everything has a URL then I want each of those resources to be made available in a variety of different representations – as JSON, RDF and ATOM for starters – that way the data can be used, not just visualised.

And finally I want to be able to use URIs to describe what I’m measuring, not just strings. I want to be able to point to stuff out there on the web and say “at this time I consumed another one of those”. I’m not suggesting that everything should have to be described like this, but if there’s a URI to represent something I want to be able to point to it so everyone knows what I’m talking about.

In other words I want daytum.com to be following the Linked Data principles rather than an ajax only interface.

If you have a look at Felton’s own annual reports you will see that they group and aggregate all sorts of information but to achieve something similar (conceptually if not visually) then you will need a lot more from daytum than currently being offered.

Felton Annual Report 2008
Felton Annual Report 2008

The other big gap is the lack of an API to update information. Keeping daytum.com up to date is actually quite hard work and certainly to be able to collect the sort of data Nicholas Felton does to put together his annual reports would be onerous to say the least, but it needn’t be.

If daytum.com provided an API that allowed me to post information from other services that would be a great start, but actually it’s not always necessary, nor even that desirable. The Web already knows quite a lot about us, for example Fire Eagle and Dopplr know where I am/ been, delicious knows what I think is interesting on the web, and how I describe those things, Twitter and this blog what I doing and thinking about; for others Last.fm knows what music they are listening to. Daytum doesn’t need to replicate all of that data, indeed it shouldn’t, it could simply request that data when needed — to visualise it. (it shouldn’t store it because it makes it harder to manage access to it).

The one thing I don’t want, however, is yet another social networking site, I don’t want social features to be part of daytum. I don’t want them because I don’t need them – there are already loads of places integrated into my social graph, whether that be Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or this blog. I really don’t want to have to import and then maintain another social graph. I do however want to be able to squirt the data I’m collecting or aggregating here at daytum into my existing social graph; much as Fire Eagle adds location brokerage to existing services so I want a service that adds personal data to existing social networking sites.

Interesting stuff from around the web 2009-01-25

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I'm going to be a daddy -- w00t!

Some nice publicity for the BBC music site

BBC’s Semantic Music Project [ReadWriteWeb]
“As more projects like this take advantage of the publicly available metadata available, the beginnings of a real semantic web can finally take root.” What a nice thing to say.

BBC Artists: Getting down with semantic Web [CNET UK]
BBC’s new music site gets a great write up on cnet. But why is it that there appears to be an inverse relationship between distance from the team and an understand of the project’s importance and benefit?

More good news…

Twitter can has OAuth? [factoryjoe.com]
Twitter API lead Alex Payne announced today that Twitter is now accepting applications to its OAuth private beta, making good on the promises he made on the Twitter API mailing list and had repeated on the January 8 Citizen Garden podcast.

Obama’s agenda for technology [whitehouse.gov]
“Protect the Openness of the Internet: Support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.” I find the face that this is his first agenda point in “ensuring the full and free exchange if ideas through an open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets” surprising (for a politician) but truly wonderful.

Cool…

Harder, better, faster, stronger [digital urban]
“David Hubert wanted to make a video of London but I didn’t have a camcorder, so he took pictures instead. In fact he took more then 3000 pictures and put them all together into a video lasting less then 2 minutes with excellent result”

On writing about Perl on Rails

When I wrote about ‘Perl on Rails’ on the BBC’s Radio Labs blog, naively perhaps, I didn’t expect the storm that resulted. I wrote it because I thought that it was interesting and I hoped that others would find it interesting.

Those that followed the story will be aware that much of the discussion wasn’t about what I wrote per se instead what it implied about the BBC’s infrastructure. This was a shame because ‘Perl on Rails’ is really a very good piece of technology. Its light weight, our teams understand the paradigms and syntax (without retraining) and it performs very well. Anyway you will be able to see for yourselves when we release the source.

But the BBC’s response to all of this has been incredible, and one that I am clearly very thankful for, as discussed by Curtis Poe:

We’ve recently gotten in some new IT management and today when I got into work, I found a scathing email from one of the higher ups. He read the “BBC Fails at the Internet” post and rather than blow a gasket that internal details had been made public, he forwarded it to the responsible parties, said he agreed, and made it very clear that the problem will be fixed immediately or else he will personally (do something which should obviously be kept secret). Whether or not this presages a significant change remains to be seen, but it was far and away one of the most enlightened responses I’ve seen from management to a situation like this. Rather than try to fix the blame, he is trying to fix the problem. What a novel idea!

And despite various things the BBC has done wrong, this is what the BBC does right. Blogs are for communicating, not for press releases. They’re not official discussions, but they can say a lot more about a company than an official communication which is carefully vetted by lawyers. And while the BBC has plenty of blogs, you don’t even have to blog there about your job if you don’t want to… I finally get to work for a company which “gets” blogs.

Quite right.