Things dot Photos

We are surrounded by artefacts (manmade things).  Although there are catalogues of living things (the most famous being the Catalogue of Life), there are no catalogues of artefacts.

Today, people are also more attracted to images (than to text).  This is the idea behind Things dot Photos.

I know of a similar project,, based in Russia.  This project features artifacts from museums.  Things dot Photos will feature photos of everything.

The People Behind Things dot Photos

Guo Yanru refined some of the very rough ideas I initially had.

Balasubramaniam Mohanbabu (“Luke”), Ravichandran Sathiyavanan (“Yoda”) and Divya Viswanathan (“Leia”) helped design and setup the database (a NoSQL database called “Apache Cassandra“), and to build a web interface for the database.  They have chosen to use Ruby on Rails to develop the web application.

Balasubramaniam Arul Kumar (“Hans”), Karuppiah Vallikkannu (“Rey”) and Ravi Raj (“Kenobi”) helped to programme the Android app.  They are currently applying Google’s Material Design techniques to design a great looking and usable interface.  As you can see from their names, these two groups of students are die-hard Star Wars fans.

Mankad Twisha Piyush (“Dylan”), Lily (“Alex”) and Smriti Sudhir (“Natalie”) worked on the taxonomy for the artefacts featured on the site.

Don Chai has been very generous is providing server space, and very helpful advice to me.

Technical Details

The database used is Apache Cassandra, and open source NoSQL database.

We hope to have the Android app uploaded to Google Play Store by February 28.

I also like photography, and so I combined information science and photography to come up with “informational photographs”, as opposed to artistic ones (there are enough of these out there, e.g., in Flickr).  Photographs have the potential to convey so much information in a wordless way, information that may be critical to some people.

The Mathematics Digital Library (MathDL)

The first, the Mathematics Digital Library (MathDL), is a digital library of mathematics questions.  It was created because I felt that publishers are charging too much for mathematics textbooks.  They reuse most of the material (examples, questions, explanatory text) from one edition to the next, and charge users as if most of the content were new.

Over the years I’ve taught (over 26 years!), I’ve accumulated many textbooks.  In fact, I’ve a few editions of several textbooks!  I thought a database of mathematical questions would be useful.

Today, textbooks have become bloated.  Many pages in a textbook are devoted to examples and exercises.  I’m hoping that one day, authors will not have a “exercise” section in their textbooks.  They will just include links to the questions that this database provides, from their textbooks.  I think this would thin down textbooks quite a bit, and make it less intimidating.