The Coming Home search experience went live on 11 November 2008, to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the World War One Armistice. This was a sneak preview of the DigitalNZ tools that allow users to build their own NZ search tool, finding hidden and buried NZ content about their topic of interest. We undertook to connect together content from a whole range of sources, and in the process learn about how to open up more of NZ's rich digital treasures.
How did we do it and what did we learn?
The Coming Home search was mainly fuelled with content contributed by members of the National Digital Forum (NDF). A key feature of the DigitalNZ search approach is that we focus on aggregating metadata content, and on collecting descriptions of content objects, so we can drive visitors to websites around NZ. We had a three-pronged approach to gathering that content:
We approached organisations and individuals to participate and asked them to let DigitalNZ do one, some, or all of the following:
So what does all this mean? We asked that people share their metadata with us, so that we could share it with everyone. This is not a straight-foward thing to agree to, and even now we are still working through the details. We thank everyone who gave us the benefit of the doubt when all we had were concepts and ideas.
Very early on in the project we decided building another website or online exhibition around 'Coming Home' would be a wasted effort. Instead we set out to allow anyone to build a search tool that explored the NZ content that they were interested in. We created the search builder and then used it to build our very own 'Coming Home' search. The search builder uses a straight forward boolean search query to gather up all the content we we're interested in, for example here's the query for 'Coming Home':
((War OR WW? OR "great war" OR peace OR flu OR influenza OR day? OR victory OR treat* OR parade OR celebration OR armistic* OR soldier* OR army OR anzac OR wounded OR gallipoli OR commemorat* OR memorial OR monument? OR carillon OR medal* OR military OR (maori AND battalion)) AND (191? OR 192?)) OR ComingHome2008 OR (returned AND servic*) OR "R.S.A" OR RSA OR veterans
At the time of writing this post, the query pulls together 14,156 related items for the 'Coming Home' search. The result is unique New Zealand content on a chosen topic being brought together and accessed through discovery points all over the web.
There is so much more to say, but we are only at the beginning of the journey. Here are a few things we've noted:
You can of course use the search builder to create your own search experience, it's a demonstration of what's possible. What can you add? Can you become a contributor? Can you develop using the APIs? Do you know of a burning issue in this digital space that needs attention? Have something to share or comment on? We'd love to hear from you.