Tagger – Final Blog Post

As part of the UK vision for supporting open discovery principles in relation to education materials, JISC has sponsored a number of projects to assist in discovering and enriching existing resources.Tagger (variously referred to previously as GTR or geotagger), was one strand of the JISC funded umbrella DiscoverEDINA project. For the two other strands to this work see here.

The primary purpose of Tagger is to assist in enriching and exposing ‘hidden’ metadata within resources – primarily images and multimedia files. Images for example embed a lot of descriptive and technical metadata within the file itself and very often it is not obvious that the main focus of interest – the image, is carrying a ‘secret’ payload of information some of which may be potentially compromising. For example, the recent embarrassment suffered by Dell after a family member uploaded images to social media sites with embedded location information, thus frustrating the efforts of a multi-million pound security operation. Or take the case of the US military when an innocently uploaded photograph of a new assignment of Apache helicopters led to their destruction when insurgents used the location information embedded in the image to precisely locate and destroy the helicopters.

There are many other instances of people being innocently or naively caught out by these ‘hidden’ signposts in resources that they distribute or curate. Tagger helps by providing tools to expose those hidden features and makes it easy to review, edit and manage the intrinsic metadata routinely bundled in resources. It has concentrated on, but not been limited to, geotags.

Tagger has delivered three main things:

  • A basic web service API based around ExifTool, suitable for 3rd party use to geo-tag/geo-code image, audio, and video metadata.
  • A demo web site enabling user upload, metadata parsing (from resource) and metadata enrichment (map based geo-tagging/geo-coding);
  • An Open Metadata corpus of geo-tagged/geo-coded enriched records with a REST based query interface. Currently, this corpus consists of approximately a quarter of a million creative commons licensed geotagged images mainly bootstrapped from Geograph.

Tagger supports the open discovery metadata principles and has made extensive use of open licensing models.

Along the way we started thinking about specific use cases. The ‘anonymise my location’ seemed an obvious case and Tagger’s API and website reflect that thinking. Additionally, in talking to colleagues involved in field trips it was clear that there was potential in providing integrated tooling and we experimented with Dropbox integration.

Taking this further and building on EDINA’s more general mobile development work, we then started to think about how Tagger could be used to assist and enrich in-field data capture use cases and post-trip reflective learning. We continue to explore this beyond the project funding as the enrichment facilities Tagger provides allows for flexible integration into 3rd party services and projects.

Of course, Tagger will never be a complete panacea for all the ills of metadata nor should it aim to be. However by building on best-of-breed opensource tools (Exiftool) Tagger, or more accurately the Tagger API, provides a facility for other service providers and projects to make use of to enable better manipulation and management of those ‘hidden’ metadata.

Therein lies the rub – the perennial  question of embedding and take up.

That’s are next challenge.

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