My Boston Library Consortium Presentation

The Distance Between Question and Answer

Speaking Thursday at the Boston Library Consortium‘s annual meeting in the beautiful Boston Public Library, my focus was on the status of our library systems and the importance of remixability.

My blog post on remixability probably covers the material best, but I define it as:

Remixability is the quality of a system or data set to be used for purposes the original designers or owners didn’t predict or intend. If I can define one buzzword with another, remixability is what allows mashups.

…And one of the most heartwarming stories of unintended uses and remixability is Gale’s work to build a public whale catalog from Flickr photos, but I covered a few more stories in the presentation. My slides are online as both an animated QuickTime and PDF.

So what’s the connection between remixability and shortening the distance between question and answer? Easy: we build the systems, but they’re only relevant when they help answer questions, and none of us is so foolish as to think we can anticipate all the questions that might be asked of our systems. Remixability opens our systems to those unforeseen questions and new ways of asking those questions.