Where to document things?

Documentation is a necessity for both researchers and artists. Both scientific and artistic output requires an audience, people in a concert venue, a museum, a lecture room, a web page, etc. In some cases the documentation of the work may be closely connected to (or even the same as) the scientific or artistic “product”. In other cases, documentation serves the purpose of merely being a summary of what you have done.

More and more documentation is happening on the web, but where should the documentation be located? I see at least two different main strategies here, each with two opposing solutions:

  1. a traditional single-server multimedia approach vs. a monomedia social networking approach
  2. a person-centred vs. project approach

In the following I will try to look at each of these problems.

A monomedia approach

Even though everyone is talking about multimedia all the time, some of the most popular media web services are in fact monomedia. We have YouTube and Vimeo for videos, Flickr for images, MySpace for music, FreeSound for sound, Slideshare for presentations, CiteULike for references, etc. Each of these web locations have their own social networking system, where you can subscribe to feeds from your friends and colleagues. Probably one of the reasons this type of mono-media approach to web publishing works, is the excellent solutions they provide for embedding their content into other web pages. This means that even though the media file is stored on their server, and using their playback technology, it can still easily be embedded in other web pages on other servers.

The problem with this monomedia approach is that if I want to share pictures, videos, photos, sound and a presentation from a workshop, I have to go to a number of different places and upload my content. And afterwards I have to embed it all on my own web page to make all the different things belong together. The question is whether I would just be better off just uploading everything to my own server instead. But then I would loose the social aspect that each service offers.

A problem related to this is which services to choose. For images it is easy, since Flickr doesn’t really have any competitors. But for videos I am not sure which one to choose: Vimeo or Youtube? Or both? But starting to spread things everywhere does not seem like a good solution. And related to all of this: do I really want to spread all my content everywhere else, and rely on these services to live on?

Person or project?

The other main question I have is whether documentation should be personal or project/group based. To take myself as an example. I work in the fourMs group at UiO, and participate in several different projects there, of which the SMA-project is the largest. I therefore find it natural that most of my research activities are documented on the fourMs web page. But the SMA project also has a web page at the Department of Musicology, and a rarely updated web page in the Norwegian research portal Cristin. The Cristin portal is actually where we have to register all our publications, but there is unfortunately no good way of getting access to these data (yet).

On top of this I also have a part time position at the music academy, and there we also have a project page, and a system for registering scientific and artistic activities. Not to mention that I participate in development of Jamoma, where we have a number of different websites to keep track of.

Only keeping track of all the web pages that I am supposed to maintain and update with information is mind blowing, not the least actually updating them. In many ways I think it would just be so much easier if I could focus on updating my own web page, and leave it with that. I am really looking forward to the day when we can add content somewhere, and it will be accessible everywhere it is needed. Hey, but isn’t that the idea of embedding from the monomedia web sites mentioned above…?

Well, obviously I have no good answers, but I am very interested in hearing how other people solve these problems.