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There isn't a Dewey Decimal system for objects, unfortunately. There's a standard nomenclature (Chenhall's), but it isn't consistently used, and a separate nomenclature for art museums. Often, history museums use a trinomial system to number their objects: the year received, followed by the accession number, followed by the item number (ex. 2008.4529.207). However, this is specific to each museum and basically tells how the museum acquired the object, not any other information about it. The numbering systems are not at all interoperable.
It would be lovely to have a way to attach stories and community information to objects.

That sounds like a lovely idea. The book Taking Things Seriously http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Things-Seriously-Unexpected-Significance/dp/1568986904 was something like you suggest in your last paragraph. The personal stories of particular objects.

Oh and this is really pedantic but the Dewey Decimal System does have things in it, but not to the level of detail that you need. You could get it to electronic calculators for example and narrow it down by age and country but it wouldn't cover make and model. Easy to set up your own extensions though. If you ever have an opening for a museum of things cataloguer let me know.

Since there is a consumption aspect to what you describe as ownership, this would also be the ideal repository for people to append their learning and fill in the inevitable gaps in the instructions/manual/user experience.

Ongoing product testing at no expense to the company - why wouldn't they set this up?

Love the idea. Could you key it by EANs/barcodes? I bet most phones could be made to read barcodes with a bit of work...

(That'd be a cool toy. Scan something in your shop with your iPhone, get the received wisdom back.)

There's certainly a thriving body of work studying material culture and consumption in academia, using approaches developed from anthropology and ethnography. About the meanings that people attach to objects and how they use them in ways often unanticipated by the original producers. The Social Life of Things is worth seeking out if this interests you:

Your post made me think about Moo cards (just got a new set of business cards today, hooray!) - they have flickr groups and a flourishing international swapping/trading culture, and as a business they are totally engaged in what happens to their products after they ship them.

I love the idea of owner/curators . The notion of consumers being curators of the products they own is important. It's one of those "big ideas" you can see it playing out in sites like ThinkWiki...

... and briskoda ( an unofficial online community of skoda owners) ...


Looking at my own consuming habits, I have a tendency to fetishise products before I buy them, actively seeking out unofficial communities of similarly fetishistic owners. Sites like thinkwiki and briskoda have tipped the balance for me in my choice of computer and car. My wife on the other hand just visits a couple of car showrooms over a day or two and takes a couple of test drives before buying a car - madness ;-)

Richard Pope at MOO was doing some work on a barcode-based wiki for objects as a little side project
It might be worth having a chat to him about it? I know we talked about implementing SKU Barcode scanning so you could, for instance, check the ethics / carbon footprint of products in the supermarket.

I think the long-lifecycle aspect of this idea is interesting. Good semantic data would be interesting there, for instance, encouraging people to add purchace and failure dates to white goods to track obsolesence rates, whilst ensuring that's held as accessable data to allow the statistics to be abstraced out.

But also, the idea of an evolving folk instruction manual is interesting - a place where hacks and alternate uses can naturally aggregate. A good technical example would be the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSLU2 - the device was extended and extensively hacked, so accumulated additional functions over its lifespan.

I'm interested to see the comment about MOO cards as a digital-physical bridge. We talked a lot about finding ways of attaching each card back to a digital location that would allow the relationship between card, content, giver and reciever to become explicit, but never had time to develop it very far.

This is a really fascinating idea. There's clearly lots of places to go where you can get information about objects but this is all from people wanting you to buy the object from them e.g. Kelkoo, eBay etc. I love the idea that people would go on and write about how their Mont Blonc Boheme Pen and their own little stories and experiences with it. I could write an essay about my Roberts Digital Radio.

SKUs are okay for FMCG goods but what about classic cars? Should a British racing green e-type Jag categorised as the same object as a black one that rolled off the production line two years later? I suppose the writers decide.

I think it's worth some time for sure.

Just read about this project 'The Everyday Life of Objects' on the Material World blog:


Unfortunately you need to download a 326MB program to enjoy it . . .

More than objects is the idea of experience, that the relationship between two entities is fundamentally different when they have direct experience of each other (whether people or objects). I explored this in my tagtracker project (at http://dev.davemee.com/#tagtracker ) a few years back, connecting virtual representations of objects to their original signifiers. Interestingly, I never considered the idea of stereotypes, of annotating a 'class' of objects (such as 'all the Billy shelf units from Ikea', rather than just 'my Billy shelf unit'). Thanks for the trigger!

Lovely idea. I'm planning on opening a bike shop sometime before I die and was trying to think of something better than just taking a polaroid of the new owner and their new bike. How perfect..a hand-made wiki for every hand-made bike.

It reminds me of how I bought an old merc a while back and the previous two owners had fastidiously noted the service history in a lovely little blue book, complete with little personal comments along the way. How cool to have much richer version of that to enjoy.

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