How many of us are there?

I was poking around the Internet Archive yesterday In the text Archive an noticed that last week Beeton’s Book of Needlework was the second most downloaded book of the week with 8,293 downloads.Now these are downloads of this book in one single week. That’s a lot of needleworkers online downloading this book in one week. I would love to know just how many active stitchers are online.
In the industry often the various textile and craft communities are seen as small little backwaters of the net filled with little old ladies who barely know how to click a mouse let alone communicate online. I know this stereotype is wrong and I sense that as a niche it is not as small as even some stitchers think particularly if we take this little statistic as an indicator of interest.
I think there are many stitchers who are active on discussion forums and email groups and yet another cluster who blog but I sense this is just a very small indicator of the number of stitcher who use the net regularly.

Many people simply browse, read and download material but do not necessarily keep a blog or regularly interact with a discussion group. In other words lots of stitchers lurk. As an indicator this blog gets between 1,000- 1,500  hits in a day – which it does regularly – often those hits only generate 4 or 5 comments. So there is a lot of hidden activity which I think this download statistic from the internet archive also points to. Think about it for a moment if you think of all the sub categories of textiles knitting, quilting, sewing, costume , and so on. How many of us are there? Of course there is no real way of knowing or linking up such a large group but boy what a social network site it would make if it did and knowing stitchers they would talk to one another- gosh it would be a busy corner of the web! It would be a busy online life indeed – perhaps too busy to get any stitching done!

That wild thought aside why do you think people lurk? By lurk I mean read but never even leave a comment? I can understand how people might find a discussion group or keeping a blog too time consuming but I am interested in those who read but never even comment. If you read something interesting it is easy enough to chip in to the conversation for moment but many don’t. Why do you think? Is it that they feel there is nothing in it for them? Are people conditioned to consume but not participate? Or do we really in a world where people happily take but don’t give back? These are just a few questions in my mind before I bound into the shower and go to work. I would love to hear people thoughts on this.

Ma.gnolia

Ma.gnolia is a social bookmarking site. Those who are familiar with del.icio.us will know what I mean by the term.

Basically these sites are way for people to share bookmarks. Social software services such as these are causing a lot of buzz around the net. In this case the idea is to share your favourite places on the web. It means for anyone who moves from computer to computer – perhaps between work and home that because your book marks are on the web, you have access to your favorite websites from anywhere .

Although bookmarks can be kept private the idea is to share them and you can see what other people have found and see who has the same interests as you which of course means you can share bookmarks with your friends. People can rate bookmarks on Ma.gnolia so it acts as a sort of popular quality control. It also means that you are browsing through links that are thought to be worthwhile by people – not a search engine. I am sure everyone in their browsing have encountered link farms and quickly realised just how useless they are. Social bookmarking is not like that. A person has thought the link worthwhile and entered it into their favourites list. It is along the line of bookmarks by the people for the people.

Ma.gnolia allows for tagging. Anyone who is familiar flickr will have encountered tags. Tags are like categories or labels that you and others can allocate to bookmarks. It means you can search or browse by tag. It’s a great way to while away an afternoon.

You can import your bookmarks from popular browsers or other social software sites such as del.icio.us so you don’t have to re bookmark everything. I imported 500 odd bookmarks from del.ic.ious and it only took a few moments. Also Ma.gnolia keeps a copy of the page so if you have ever had the experience of bookmarking a site and then discovering it is no longer online you at least have a copy.

Also Ma.gnolia caters to groups which the social aspect of bookmarking is highlighted making it slightly different from del.icio.us. People can leave messages in a similar way you can at flickr. At the moment most of the groups seem to be orientated around geeky topics which is normal with new stuff like this, but there is no reason why the textile community can not establish groups and use the service. Anyone who is a member can start one. Best of all the service is free.

Just in case anyone is interested my bookmarks are under – you guessed it – sharonb. Now if I was really good I would annotate the lot – but I am a bit busy to do that but I think a good sort out might be in order. They are a bit geeky but they are open for anyone who wants to take a peek.

Retrievr


The idea of sketching to describe something is not new but to use the concept to find imagery online is experimental. A new search engine based on this idea is very much in the experimental stage. Retrievr allows the user to find related Flickr images by drawing a sketch.

It is not a case of if you are looking for a picture of a rose you can find it. The application matches large shapes and colors in other words compositional elements in an image. I found it fascinating as I sketched in basic compositional divisions of a page and watched what came up. It’s one of those things that for me turned into a way to switch to neutral and just enjoy experimenting with imagery. I first just played around with black and white then I mucked about with primitive sketches.

This is what I found during my experiments. The large box on the left is a rough drawing of a general landscape just blocking in areas. The four little images on the right is what was found. It’s a long way from being a search engine as such, but boy what a lovely source of inspiration when you feel a bit dead headed.

The nuts and bolts behind the scene is run by python but it is fascinating to see the path that this is taking in combination with tagging, RSS and social software I get quite excited about this. I am not about to go all geeky on you, but it’s all interesting stuff to me. I am constantly fascinated not by the technology as such, but how people use the technology.