Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BioMoby Annotation Jamboree

If you happen to be a BioMoby developer, a bioinformatician, or just interested in helping us out and possibly making $20 of gift certificate remuneration, come have a go at annotating some BioMoby web services with a specialized version of the Entity Describer.  You will need to use Firefox, Safari, or Opera - no Explorer support so far.. and jam on over to the jamboree website.  

Warning, it is seriously difficult..

We've been working hard to produce a system that makes this task (a) possible and (b) as intuitive as possible. However, even when you know what you are doing and have figured out how to use the interface, the task of describing things you don't necessarily know intimately with a vocabulary you are also unfamiliar with is a real challenge.  I'm very curious to see what people end up doing and to assess how well we can pull their collective efforts together.

Working on this project has reminded me just how difficult interface design (and implementation in javascript) really is.  It is absolutely stunningly surprising to watch people try to use a tool like this for the first time.  They simply never do what you expect them to, nearly everyone seems to react differently, and no one reads the instructions (even while I stand right beside them encouraging them to do so).  The challenge of building software to aid in accomplishing a task that most users will never have done before to satisfy a purpose they ubiquitously have difficulty grasping has been quite an adventure in iteration.  We think we have something that works, finally, but we won't know until you give it a try now will we ;).