by Steve Hitchcock
"lovely, very very very nice, wow! fantastic:) impressive Woah! Really easy! working!"
A summary of some of the reaction to the first ever public appearance of the EPrints Bazaar at Repository Fringe 2010.
A new app store, EPrints Bazaar, that enables users to install repository apps and plugins with a single click, made its debut to great acclaim at the latest Repository Fringe meeting in Edinburgh.
The idea for EPrints Bazaar takes its lead from other widely successful platforms, particularly for mobile applications, making the apps, extensions and design themes simple to upload, install and use. The apps are designed for use on a single platform, in this case EPrints repository software, and the store will be open to all apps, developers and users.
A pictorial interface greets users and emphasizes the easy installation and upgrading of packages. As soon as a new add-on is uploaded to the store a repository administrator can install it without leaving their own repository. The Bazaar will also alert you to available updates for installed packages, ensuring your repository is up to date with the latest version of each package.
Already up to a dozen apps are available, including apps custom built for the Bazaar, and existing tools from earlier projects that can now find greater visibility and use. Among those apps demonstrated in Edinburgh are a tool for adding comments and annotations to eprints (SNEEP), social tools for creating user home pages (MePrints), sharing bookmarks and collections (EdShare Collections), and tools to support digital preservation.
The app that made most impact on the Edinburgh audience, drawing a Jobs-like spontaneous outbreak of applause, provides document previews (PreviewPlus). In the modern repository a document, or eprint, record can often present a range of linked resources, including the text, slides, video and data. PreviewPlus allows the user to instantly play a preview version of the item without needing to download often large data files.
EPrints Bazaar is expected to motivate a number of ways for use of the store to grow. In particular, a marketplace community could enable developers to test their apps with users, while users could place requests for required apps.
Apps such as SNEEP and MePrints have developed from JISC projects, and it is expected that EPrints Bazaar could become an important part of the dissemination strategy for such projects.
EPrints Bazaar takes advantage of the modular structure of EPrints, first introduced with version 3.0 some years ago, to separate the development of specific applications by any developer from the core code that has to be maintained by the EPrints developer team. Until now such apps have been available as code downloads from a wiki source, EPrints Files, and required more complex installation procedures familiar to coders and developers but which are less attractive to the majority who are the target users of EPrints Bazaar.
EPrints Bazaar will launch fully early in 2011 with the next iteration of EPrints, version 3.3, when this extension to files.eprints.org will come built into every install of EPrints.
Later this year a developer workshop, to be announced, will enable people to get hands on with the Bazaar and develop their first apps. This will also be an opportunity to develop the community marketplace with discussions about licensing and charging, and a chance to identify missing features before the first release.
Modular EPrints: the final piece of the jigsaw
According to the developer of the EPrints Bazaar, Dave Tarrant: “Recent releases of EPrints have been the fastest, most flexible and most reliable yet. Since the release of EPrints 3.1 we have been abstracting the core of EPrints to enable modules to be plugged in to perform many specific operations from importing/exporting data, reporting statistics, handling complex multimedia formats and storing files in the cloud.
"This modular approach offered users and developers the opportunity to put together repository modules. The EPrints Bazaar represents the final piece in this jigsaw, which allows these extensions to be installed in a single click from within the repository interface. The Bazaar also represents a huge leap forward in EPrints development where abstraction layers sit between the core repository of managed objects and the modules which bring turn-key features.
"We are very excited about the future of the Bazaar and feel it will provide a real turning point in repository customisation. There is also an incredibly simple API for developing extensions, and packaging and testing can be done within the Bazaar itself.
“This empowers the community to take control of repositories without needing a full understanding of the inner workings of the software itself.”
Transforming repository records
Apps such as PreviewPlus transform repository records. To show how other apps might look in the repository, here is a before-and-after screenshot of the abstract and record page for a single item in the repository. This record is chosen for its richness, containing a number of documents, images and videos, and shows how extensions available through the Bazaar can help transform a repository.
A rich content eprint before any Bazaar add-ons
After Bazaar add-ons (each add-on has been tagged for clarity)
First Bazaar Apps shown at Repository Fringe
To demonstrate the EPrints Bazaar at Repository Fringe seven existing add-ons were adapted by the developers to be installed via the Bazaar (in many cases this just involved designing an icon!).
The video of the Repository Fringe presentation covers these and more apps, some of which are entirely new to repository use. In one novel case we look at a plug-in which enables users to view the repository contents as a magazine in the FlipBoard app for the Apple iPad!
Many thanks goes to JISC also who funded many of the projects from which these add-ons come.
- SNEEP: Social Networking Extensions for EPrints – Richard Davis @ ULCC (http://sneep.ulcc.ac.uk/)
- EdShare Toolbox: EPrint actions box + Web 2.0 Integration – Marcus Ramsden @ Southampton
- MePrints: A Users Home in EPrints - Marcus Ramsden @ Southampton (http://wiki.eprints.org/w/MePrints)
- Digital Preservation Toolkit: Everything you need for Digital Preservation – Dave Tarrant @ Southampton (http://preservation.eprints.org)
- EdShare Collections: Bookmarks and Collections creation – Seb Francois & Patrick McSweeny @ Southampton
- PreviewPlus: Rich Document Preview - Patrick McSweeny @ Southampton
- GreenSpring Theme: A pretty green theme for your repository - Patrick McSweeny @ Southampton
Reaction from the Repository Fringe Conference (#rfringe10)
Some lovely simple to browse customisation
Nicola Osborne - Edina
preview app and themes - very very very nice
John Robertson (University of Strathclyde)
EPrints Bazaar - wow!
Ian Stuart (Edina)
seeing MePrints in action - fantastic :)
Helen Muir (QMU)
Very impressive live demo of enhancing Eprints repository with plugins from Eprints Bazaar - piece of cake
Herbert Van De Sompel (Los Alamos National Library)
Woo hoo! EPrints Bazaar live demo install of Sneep SUCCESS! Really easy!
Ianthe Hind (University of Edinburgh)
live demo of eprints bazaar installation actually working!
Neil Stewart (LSE)