MOA06 uses thinglinks

This year all the Masters of Art 2006 (MOA06) works at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH) are tagged with thinglinks. At the exhibition thinglinks show on the text posters beside the works. Visitors at the exhibition can collect object-specific business cards (thing-stickers) of the works they like, find the work later by using the code on Thinglink search, bookmark it with Delicious, etc.

Thinglink complements the UIAH-authored presentation of the MOA works by giving visitors the possibility to leave comments to MOA06 makers. By signing up a personal Thinglink account, young artists and designers get to edit the descriptions of their work, as well as to add other projects into the database.

Visit the exhibition at Arabianranta.

Photo: Matti Suominen


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Thinglinks for people?

In the comments to his <a href=”post on Thinglink, Robert Wallis wondered if thinglinks apply to people as well material objects.

I wondered how it

unknown thinglink object ''

could be extended further, i.e. for people. There are obviously legitimate concerns about the “big brother state” etc, but I have so much information related to me (as a thing) that I have to remember etc that I wondered if it would be possible to have it somewhere under my own control etc. Have you thought about how that may be possible, or reasonable etc?

The concepts “thing” and “creative work” are so vague that I think all kinds of interpretations should probably be allowed as long as they’re not offensive. That’s how Thinglink works now and it’s possible to thinglink persons although I don’t particularly envision thinglink should be used for that purpose. Like Robert said, most people already have unique identifiers, like social security numbers. Works of art, design and craft don’t have unique IDs, and I think that’s where Thinglink can help most.

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Browser problem

There has been a problem that the thinglink front page breaks up with Internet Explorer and some versions of Firefox. Apparently the problem has been an XML-prolog that IE does not read properly.
Juha and Joni are working to get it fixed as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!

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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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