Thursday, August 5, 2010

Testers, Maybe?

I read on Daring Fireball yesterday about the new Library of Congress iPhone application. I love libraries, museums, and any large collection of interesting data and was really excited about this app.

It's a nice app, and a really good start for the Library of Congress, but it's missing something I wanted: access to the Prints & Photographs Online Collection. For over a decade, the Library of Congress has been digitizing material from their collections and putting them online. Unfortunately, the web interface is kinda weak on a computer and nigh unusable on an iPhone. Which is too bad, because there's a lot of really cool stuff in here, including works by and photographs of many famous artists such as Ansel Adams, Alice Boughton, Edward Weston, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and many others. There is also a huge amount of historical photographs, artworks, and documents going back to the founding of our country and even earlier. It's the kind of place you can easily lose hours exploring.

I actually hacked out an iPhone app for searching the Prints & Photographs Collections quite a while back. I started it originally because I wanted to play with a few things I hadn't used yet, like iAds, and I find it's easier to do so if I'm writing a "real" app rather than just playing.

And when I say "hacked out", I'm not exaggerating in this case. This wasn't architected so much as thrown together. It started out an entry page where you enter a search term, and then a single table view with the results. I wrote it in one Saturday night after several beers, scope creep increasing with each new beer. But… it works and seems to work pretty well. I spent another couple of hours this evening cleaning up the rough edges and running it through Instruments. I've got a short list of bugs I need to fix, but it probably needs not more than a day's worth of work before it could go to testers.

After the Library of Congress came out with their own app and it didn't include this functionality, I started thinking it might be worth throwing this on the app store as a free app to complement the official one. The ads might generate a little income, but I don't expect very much from what I've heard about iAds fill-rate, and it doesn't really matter, most of the work is already done. Be kinda nice if one of the many abandoned apps in my dev folder got to see the light of day.

So, what do you think? Any interest? I've attached some screenshots of the app so you can see how it works. You can click them for full iPhone 4 resolution. Let me know in the comments if you think this is an app you'd download and also let me know if you're interested in testing.

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15 comments:

bbrown said...

Yes! I hate that site's interface and yours looks so much better!

rjsmsu said...

Nice! Looks like a good way to waste some time. Count me in as a tester!

sreltgen said...

Definitely interested by your app ! Count me in as a tester if feedback is needed...

preston said...

Hey Jeff, app looks great! I'm a big fan of your blog by the way, would love to test as well.

Ken Pespisa said...

I like this app and I'm happy to test if you need another tester.

Seems like a good one for the iPad too, since you're dealing with images. Perhaps when iOS4 comes out you could turn it into a universal app.

isaac said...

I personally love this part of the LoC and the app looks great. Given the underlying media I think it would look even better on iPad.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Thanks for the feedback. I actually have architected it so that I can add iPad support, but haven't found the time to do the iPad UI. If people like it and I can find time, I'll definitely add the iPad view controllers. I don't even need to wait for iOS4 to come to the iPad - I don't use blocks or anything else that would prevent it from running on the iPad as far as I can recall.

dopiaza said...

Are you aware of the LOC's participation in the Flickr Commons - they were the first institution to join and now have nearly 10,000 photos available there.

I wrote the Indicommons app to browse and search the Flickr Commons - it was the second app I ever wrote - and your book helped me enormously, so thank you!

Version 2.0 of indicommons is pretty much finished and ready to roll - I expect to upload it to iTunes Connect in the next couple of days - and features full iPad support, (and finally proper iOS4 compatability).

DadGuy said...

Looks pretty polished, though I've done quick projects that look good that I about cry when I look at the code. =) Let me know if you need another pair of eyes on it.

cjr said...

This looks very interesting and I would be happy to test.

Jeff LaMarche said...

dopiaza:

Yes, I know about the Commons. However, 10,000 images is actually a tiny subset of what's available in the Prints & Photographs collection. In order to release an image to the Commons, they have to do a rights assessment and make sure that it's in the public domain or that they have been given assignable rights.

A huge percentage of their images haven't had a rights evaluation, and a number that have, can't be contributed to the commons, even though they're available from the LOC website because they've specifically been given the right to publish them they're.

Your app sounds great to me, but I don't think there's really a conflict between the apps. The two apps will have some common images, but that's all.

DadGuy:

Yeah, the codes not bad, but the architecture is a little funky. I didn't plan it for multiple searches from the beginning. I'm not sure I want anybody looking at this code until I've had a chance to clean it up a bit, though.

Samantha said...

Looks like an interesting app. I would definitely check it out, and you can count me in for testing, too!

just_a_friend said...

I would definitely download this. If you still want a tester, let me know.

Dav Coleman said...

I'd love to test this out as well.

Amit said...

I am a long time fan; photo enthusiast. Would love the opportunity to test.