Category : Uncategorized

Thinglink session at Google

Paul Socolow of Google invited me to pay a visit. He gave Jyri and I a fun tour of the Googleplex and I gave a talk on the online crafting phenomenon and Thinglink. It was a nice opportunity to discuss Thinglink with Google’s engineers and I learned some new things.

Tracy Scott, who works on Google Base, suggested we create a feed from Thinglink to Google Base. It’s an interesting idea and something I’ve been thinking about for a while. The most interesting prospect is to enable thinglinked items to show up in Google search results with the structured information (image thumbnail, maker, year, country, etc.) presented nicely. I’m still learning how Google Base works though. For instance I’m still not quite clear on how the information entered in Google base can be updated / changed / deleted later.

Jeff Breidenbach reminded that it’s a good idea to discuss Thinglink with the people on standards bodies like AIM Global to prevent possible collisions. He also suggested the option to store the database record in the barcode itself (see PDF417).


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Visiting Institute for the Future

Alex Pang invited me to the Insitute for the Future, where I also met the young mathematician-turned-futurist Mike Love. Alex blogged about the visit on his blog and Mike on Smartmobs, where he’s a contributor.

We lunched and spent the afternoon discussing Thinglink, crafting culture, and how that all fits into the IFTFs vision of the future. I really liked their notion of “jobby” (the cross between a job and a hobby). Alex and Mike had some nice points about developing Thinglink. For instance, they pointed me to item retrieval services like Global Bag Tag that create unique IDs for your valuable objects. We also discussed the case for offering rights management services through Thinglink, like Numly, who offer unique IDs+DRM for electronic media.


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Thinglink in brief

Here’s a short description on Thinglink that I just wrote.

Thinglink – a free product code for creative work is an open database where makers can register free unique identifiers for their work and create labels for their products. The beta was launched at the Maker Faire/San Francisco in April.

Artists, crafters, designers, and small producers stand to benefit from online recommendation systems because recommendation systems place their products on equal footing with those of the large corporations. However, recommendation systems require unique identifiers for products. UPCs, EANs and EPCs are examples of standard ID schemas. These codes are not accessible to individuals and small producers especially in developing countries because the codes cost money and reserving them is a complex process.

Thinglink is a free, alternative product ID code that can be attached to products in the form of a human-readable label, a barcode, or a RFID tag. The idea is that anyone can thinglink a product, and anyone with the will and the skills is free to create a recommendation system for thinglinked products.

Read More is up! has now been officially launched! To get started, register yourself a free maker account.

Creating thinglinks is easy: click Create, and a blank form will appear with a unique thinglink. To register this thinglink for your work, fill in the required information. You might want to describe your work by writing stories about the ideas, materials, production techniques and the personal history behind the product, but it’s also ok to just add a link to your home page or blog post. To make it easy for other people to find your work, add tags (keywords) that describe your things. On people can search things by makers, tags, time period, and description. will also publish personalized thing-labels that you can use to label physical or digital products. Currently, the Labeling function is still under construction, but you can already send your own label design as a jpg file to to ulla*at*

There are still many details to be improved on the site but please, be patient with us. We’ll be doing our best to improve both the design and the functionality.

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Three days to go!

The new site will be launched at Maker Faire, San Mateo Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 23th. I have a short presentation about the project at the DIY theatre on 2:30 pm.

There are so much exciting things to see at Maker Faire! See the program.

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Creative Commons for will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.

Creative Commons License.<!–


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The past three weeks I’ve been working with Joni Suominen, Sanna Isotalo and Jessica Leino to put up the site. Now this weekend we get to test it. In this version you can register unique identifiers for your work, save them into your own maker portfolio, search things by tags, titles and makers, as well as print personalized thing-labels.

If you are interested in testing the site with us, please email me ( ulla_( at ) or leave a comment here so I will notify you as soon as the site is up!

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Speaking about markets and free product codes at Kiasma 31.3.

On Friday 31st, I will be speaking about markets and free product codes in Pixel Ache at Kiasma Museum of Modern Art.

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Thinglink code format

We haven’t had a proper discussion about the format of the thinglink code yet. The issue came up some days ago when Wesa Aapro from the University of Art and Design Helsinki was testing the code for a mobile application he is developing. He noted that a random code (thing: 9A5Y43U9) that mixes letters and numbers is extremely slow to write with a mobile phone. What options do we actually have? Let’s make a list.

a) A random code with numbers and letters, for example thing:6R45TJ9C
+ no administration
+ no speculation or code trade
+ wide number space
– difficult to remember
– difficult to write with a phone

b) Random code with sequential numbers and letters, thing:347HTU or 123ABC456
+ no administration
+ no speculation or code trade
+ easier to remember
+ easier to write with a phone

c) Random number, thing:95846759
+ no administration
+ no speculation or code trade
+ easier to remember
– can be confused with other number codes
– limited number space

d) Accumulating number, thing:100 530 60, thing:100 530 61
+ tells about the size of the database
+ no administration
– possiby some speculation
– can be confused with other number codes
– might cause problems in the registration

e) Structured, meaningful number thing:358-09-45-6 (358 for Finland, 09 for Helsinki, 45 for hobbyprincess, 9 for HB thing number 9)
+/- difficult to estimate the administration needed?
+ the code could instantly tell about the origin of the thing
+ easy to remember
+ more credible?
+ no speculation
+ easy to write with a phone
– things change, makers quit, and areas merge.

f) Free format, DIY code created by makers, thing:ULLA12
+ easy to remember
+ fun
– high risk for speculation
– what would make them thinglinks?

A couple of days ago I talked with Julien Dossier from Paris, who has consulted Reuters on building databases. Julien suggested we’d try the second option, a random code with sequential blocks of numbers and letters. That is also my personal favorite.

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Thinglink posts on Hobbyprincess

In the past two months I’ve mostly been posting about Thinglinks on my Hobbyprincess blog. Just for the record, here are the recent thinglink-related HB posts:

Microformats for Thinglinks?

2006: The year of unique IDs? (For some reason this permalink does not work. Typepad issue.)

Thinking about metadata and databases

Using thinglinks to follow the life of an object

Logo by Syrup

What is a thinglink?

On the invisible tail and free product codes

Thinglinking at Maker Faire

Listen to Bruce Sterling

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