Thursday, 27 September 2007

Two unrelated posts I've liked recently, on Navigators, Explorers, and Engaged Participants as user models; and going back to basics for digital museum content:

We don't need new technologies to attract teen audiences, we need, if anything, to revisit how we (and others) interpret our collections and ideas and then decide what new technologies can best convey the information

Friday, 21 September 2007

Some random links...

Two very handy resources when choosing forum software: opensourcecms.com lets you try out various installations - you can create test forums and play with the settings and forummatrix.org helps you compares applications on a variety of facets, and there's a wizard to help you narrow the choices.

Andy Powell makes the excellent point that social software-style tags function as virtual venues:
if you are holding an event, or thinking about holding an event... decide what tag you are going to use as soon as possible. ... In fact, in a sense, the tag becomes the virtual venue for the event's digital legacy.


In other news, Intel get into Mashups for the Masses - "an extension to your existing web browser that allows you to easily augment the page that you are currently browsing with information from other websites. As you browse the web, the Mash Maker toolbar suggests Mashups that it can apply to the current page in order to make it more useful for you" and the BBC reports on Metaplace, a "free tool that allows anyone to create a [3D] virtual world" and incorporates lots of social web tools.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

ENO goes 2.0

The English National Opera's site for their production of Carmen is all 'Web 2.0' - they've made use of 'behind the scenes' video interviews and blog posts and there's also a Flickr group and Facebook profile. It's great to see this kind of experimentation, especially as it helps us all find out if there's an audience for this type of content and level of engagement, how sustainable that engagement is and on which platforms it works best. It also helps us learn how organisations react to this kind of direct engagement with their audiences - the comments on this post show that sometimes this can be a difficult relationship.

Interesource, the company who made the site said:
Carmen also features tagging, user comments and some beautifully rich video and audio that will turn the production inside out to provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes back story. We are also integrating with several external services such as Flickr, YouTube and Facebook that provide users with additional ways of participating. We’re going to bring the production to life online using ‘people media’ throughout the Social Web.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

According to Merlin on the Web: the British Museum Collection Database Goes Public on the CHArt conference site, the British Museum are putting their entire catalogue online. The evaluation will make fascinating reading and I hope can be made public - I'd like to know who uses it and why, does the variation in detail and 'quality' of records matter to them, how much of the collection is accessed, how many corrections or requests for more information are made, and how public comments work in practice.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The New York Times on what the American public want in a history museum, and some discussion of the value of multimedia and interactive exhibitions:

if memorizing dates and place names hold little appeal, history museums still rate very highly with the American public. "What people say they’re excited about in terms of history museums is contact with real stuff of the past,” he explained.

They also want to find themselves — spiritually, socially and intellectually — among all that material
...
"In the visitation research that's been done for many years," Ms. Davis said, "the thing that we hear most is that people want to see something about themselves and that they trust information the museums are giving them even more than they trust what schools are telling them and even the stories their grandmothers are telling them.

"People want to see themselves in the exhibit. And the research done at individual museums suggests that when they do find themselves there, they fare much better."


All fair enough. But the article concludes with a quote, "The greatest danger is not that people get a version of history that is dramatized. It's that people don't pay attention to the past at all" but to me that contradicts the responsibility museums have as trusted institutions. The stories we present should be real; if they're not real, both the sources and the areas of fabrication or uncertainty should be clear.

History’s Real Stuff (Sorry, Miss Grundy)

Friday, 7 September 2007

Funding for major heritage projects to be slashed by £60m

Lottery money for major heritage projects in Britain is set to fall to £20m a year, down from £80m last year. ... The most important reason for the cuts is the London Olympics. Originally HLF was set to lose £143m to help finance the games, but last March a further £90m was taken, making a total of £233m up until 2012.


From The Art Newspaper.

In the same edition of The Art Newspaper, Giles Waterfield, former adviser and a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) asks "What will happen to Britain’s museums now?":

The HLF is—or has been—the only body in this country capable of making multi-million awards to museums for building projects or acquisitions.

...

While the Fund will continue to play an important role as a funder, as a result of pressure from the Olympics it will become just one more organisation dispensing helpful, but not crucial, sums to a great variety of bodies including museums. A highly efficient and discriminating funding mechanism is being junked.

...

England's DCMS never has the funds to make major grants, and apparently never will. The situation is highly ironic since the Blair administration has loved grand gestures such as the Millennium Dome and now the Olympics. Museums, clearly, are not big enough to excite Government interest, in spite of the huge numbers of visitors they attract. While this Government has been quite generous in funding running costs for national museums, over acquisitions and capital projects they have sheltered behind the Lottery. Asked for financial support, whether for building projects or acquisitions, the Department refers applicants to the large and generous body which until lately has dispensed over £300m per annum: the HLF. Well, no longer.

...
The next decade looks to be a dim one for British museums: let's hope the Olympics will show that the sacrifice was worthwhile.

New culture secretary says era of "targets" is over

I wonder what effect this will have on our online metrics and evaluation.

James Purnell, 37, the newly-appointed secretary of State for Culture, made his first substantive speech calling for a change in statistical "targets" in the arts: "Targets were probably necessary in 1997 [when Labour came to power], to force a change of direction in some parts of the arts world. But now, we risk idolising them." He has appointed Sir Brian McMaster, a member of Arts Council England, to advise on "how we can remove crude targets".

Article from The Art Newspaper

Thursday, 6 September 2007

"Open Source Museum"?

I came across this fascinating ad somewhere in my RSS feed: Open Source Museum Project Leader at The Tech Museum of Innovation.

The Tech is seeking an energetic and innovative Project Leader to launch its "Open Source Museum" project. This is a unique opportunity to "reinvent" the exhibit development process at one of the world's most innovative technology centers, and to make a lasting impact on the museum field.
...
Using the power of the Internet as a venue for designing and prototyping individuals
will be able to create a space where they can design and develop an exhibit based on a specific theme. They will be able to link with others from around the world to share ideas and knowledge, create teams and refine their design.

The project leader will engage a jury of professionals who will select the top virtual exhibits generated by these teams. These exhibits will then be developed and built in the real world.


I'd love to know how the exhibition design process works in practice.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Ok, last Facebook post, I promise, but for Londoners, there's Poke 1.0, a 'Facebook social research symposium':

This social research symposium will allow academics who are researching the 'Facebook' social networking site to meet and exchange ideas. Researchers are welcome from the fields of sociology, media, communication & cultural studies, information science, education, politics, psychology, geography and any other sphere of 'internet research'. PhD and post-doctoral researchers are especially welcome, as are researchers considering Facebook as a potential area of research.

Usability articles at Webcredible

The article on 10 ways to orientate users on your site is useful because more and more users arrive at our sites via search engines or deep links. Keeping these tips in mind when designing sites helps us give users a sense of the scope, structure and purpose of a website, no matter whether they start from the front page or three levels down.

How to embed usability & UCD internally "offers practical advice of what a user champion can do to introduce and embed usability and user-centered design within a company" and includes 'guerrilla tactics' or small steps towards getting usability implemented. But probably the most important point is this:

The most effective method of getting user centered design in the process is through usability testing. Invite key stakeholders to watch the usability testing sessions. Usability testing is a real eye-opener and once observed most stakeholders find it difficult to ignore the user as part of the production process. (The most appropriate stakeholders are likely to be project managers, user interface designs, creative personnel, developers and business managers.)


I would have emphasised the point above even if they hadn't. The difference that usability testing makes to the attitudes of internal stakeholders is amazing and can really focus the whole project team on usability and user-centred design.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Bad archaeology

Bad Archaeology is a site where you can explore "the diversity of archaeological misconceptions, mistakes and distortions" written by archaeologists who say they are "fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that books written by people with no understanding of real archaeology dominate the shelves at respectable bookstores. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines (for example) as if they are real".
(via 24 Hour Museum news feed)