Celebrating Ten Years of ContextMiner
In 2007, Chirag Shah drove himself cross-country, from Chapel Hill, N.C. to Mountain View, Calif., stopping en route not only to gas up and get coffee but to use his laptop to tweak the online tool he was creating that would soon launch in time to capture and preserve hundreds of 2008 presidential election campaign videos from YouTube for posterity. This tool was and is ContextMiner, an open-source Web service at ContextMiner.org, which harvests the contextual information around a digital object.
Beyond metadata, which is static information, contextual information is dynamic and includes, — for instance, if you’re capturing a video on YouTube — ratings and comments, providing a richer context for understanding the situation and time in which a video was created.
On Public Television’s (PBS) “Antiques Roadshow,” for instance, an object (painting, vase, desk) that is brought in for evaluation is considered infinitely more valuable if the owner has contextual information, such as letters or documents, that help place the object in history. The ten-year anniversary of ContextMiner provides an opportunity to retell the story and alert potential users (librarians, archivists, scientists) of the free service for curating digital information. This includes information around videos as well as the collecting of visuals and other digital objects, just as books and documents have been collected for centuries.
The Project was originally funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and over the years its continued support has been through grants and donations brought by Dr. Shah.
ContextMiner won the prestigious Best Political Science Software Award from the American Political Science Association. It has been used by nearly 2,000 people and organizations, who have collected millions of social media objects and associated metadata/context such as comments, view-counts, and links. ContextMiner has been featured in several magazines and conferences, and used by many scholars, students, and professionals in their pursuit of solutions for socio-political issues by mining social media data.
Here’s to the next ten years of ContextMiner! Try it for yourself at http://contextminer.org.