Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Pre-tagging content for sharing on Twitter

The Age newspaper has implemented an interesting social media widget on their article pages. Their 'Join the conversation' widget shows how many people are reading the same article, links to discussion of the page on Twitter, allows the reader to easily add their own comment to Twitter, lists other articles that people who read this article read, and where appropriate, adds a 'Related Coverage' section above the other standard nav links.

I've included a screenshot because I assume attention for each article is fairly transitory so there may not be other readers or twitter discussions on the sample article by the time you read it:

I'm particularly interested in their approach to Twitter. They've used automatically generated hash tags to group together discussion of each article on Twitter. For example, in this article, 'First climate refugees start move to new island home' the hash tag is '#fd-e06x'. If you use their 'Comment on Twitter' link it automatically sends a status to the Twitter site (if you're logged in) with the article URL and '#fd-e06x'.

The 'Read tweets' link takes you to the Twitter search page with the pre-populated search term '#fd-e06x'. Of course, the search won't show any discussion about the issues in the article or about the article itself that haven't used their hash tag.

The system also seems to generate a new hash tag for each article, even those that are updates on previous breaking news stories. So these two articles (Woman hit by train fights for life, Woman fights for life after train station accident) about the same incident have different hash tags - perhaps this can be fixed in a later iteration.

I wonder if it would be possible to harvest possible topical tags from other tweets about the article (checking all the various URL shortening services) to suggest more human-friendly tags related to an article? It's probably not worth it for The Age, but it might be for content with a longer life. Or would an organisation be at risk of appearing to endorse those labels?

Interestingly, the pages don't mention the hash tags, so the process is invisible to the user. Would explaining it lead to greater uptake? I use a Twitter client (partly because I can easily shorten long links, while The Age doesn't pre-shorten their links) so would take the URL directly from the location bar, missing out their hash tag.

Selfishly, because I'm thinking about it for work, I'd love to know how they generate their 'other people who read this' and 'Related Coverage' links. I assume the latter is manually generated, either as direct links or based on article or section metadata.

Also selfishly, I'd like to know their motives, and whether they have any metrics for the success of the project.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The NPG's response to the Wikimedia kerfuffle

[Apparently responses are being listed on a Wikimedia page, which I suppose makes sense but please bear in mind this is usually read by about five people who know my flippant self in real life]

I haven't been able to get the press release section of the National Portrait gallery to load, so I'm linking to an email from the NPG posted as a comment on another blog.  I'm still thinking this through, but currently the important bit, to me, is this:

The Gallery is very concerned that potential loss of licensing income from the high-resolution files threatens its ability to reinvest in its digitisation programme and so make further images available. It is one of the Gallery’s primary purposes to make as much of the Collection available as possible for the public to view.

Digitisation involves huge costs including research, cataloguing, conservation and highly-skilled photography. Images then need to be made available on the Gallery website as part of a structured and authoritative database.

Obviously, I am paid by a museum to put things online so I might be biased towards something that ultimately means my job exists - but while a government funding gap exists, someone has to pay the magical digitisation fairies. [This doesn't mean I think it's right, but the situation is not going to be changed by an adversarial relationship between WMF and the cultural heritage sector, which is why this whole thing bothers me.  Lots of good work explaining the Commons models and encouraging access is being undone.]

You can't even argue that the NPG is getting increased exposure or branding through the use of their images, as there's a big question over whether images hosted on Wikimedia are being incorrectly given new attribution and rights statements.  Check the comment about the image on this blog post, and the Wikipedia statement from Wikimedia about the image and the original image page.  

To use a pub analogy, is Wikimedia the bad mate who shouts other people a round on your tab?

Soliciting conversation and listening actively while isolating discussion

I've been paying more attention to The Age's "what's on" listings and reviews while I'm actually in Melbourne, and noticed that their film critic, Jim Schembri, is doing a fine job soliciting responses on his film reviews.  At the end of a piece on 'Bruno: Comic genius or witless git?', he asks:

What do you think? Is Bruno funny? Half funny? Not funny? What do you think of Sacha Baron Cohen? Do you agree with anything in this article? Does the author make any valid points? Is there skill involved in this brand of comedy? Or is he a middle-aged fud who just doesn't get reality humour?

What do you think of the Shock and Guffaw School of Comedy? Should ethics factor in to it? Or are the laughs worth it, whatever the cost?

And what did you think of the saturation Bruno media blitz? Did you enjoy it? Or was it a case of "enough already"?

What is you favourite Sacha Baron Cohen moment? Is there a scene from his films or TV shows that make you laugh every time you think of it?

And if you had to choose between Bruno, Borat or Ali G, who would you most take to: (1) a wedding? (2) a funeral? (3) a kid's birthday party?

Your valued thoughts are hereby sought.

These direct questions are a good attempt at provoking discussion. I'm never sure how well specific questions soliciting audience response work, and in this case I'm not sure what prompted them - does it lead to a more constructive discussion? Reduce flame wars or trolling? Your valued thoughts are hereby sought.

But this is the best bit, and the point I'd like to make to museum bloggers - he also responds to comments:


The design is subtly clever, in that the blog author's responses appear inline, but are distinguished from audience comments with a heavier typeface. They're also attributed differently - "Schembri note" versus the 'Posted by blah on blah at blah'. This provides a level of authority while allowing direct responses to specific comments. I'm not sure how he'd respond to a bunch of similar comments - does it work if it appears as a separate comment? Would it display differently?

It's a great example of starting a discussion and actually sticking around to listen to the results - it turns a blog post into a conversation.

The other interesting point is that there's a very similar piece of content by the same author, Borat's bro is fully sick in the film section of the 'main' site, and the sub-heading makes it sound like it's also a participatory piece - "Bruno: a comic genius or a witless git? You be the judge" - but it's not.  And there are no links to the blog piece, so at a guess the majority of readers would never know they could comment on the film.  Effectively, the discussion is isolated from the main site, the general reader.  I can think of a few reasons why this might be the case, but a more interesting question might be - what effect does this have?

I'm still thinking this through (particularly in relation to cultural heritage and social media) - your thoughts would be welcome in the meantime.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Melbourne museum 3.0 meetup/pecha kucha July 16

More details about the museum 3.0 meetup/pecha kucha in Melbourne on July 16:

Drinks @ ACMI Lounge from 5:30pm
About 6pm take our drinks to Studio 1 for the Pecha Kutcha sessions
After that: a selection of this side of the city's finer drinking establishments...

We have four pecha kucha speakers so far - you could volunteer yourself (or a workmate) on the museum 3.0 ning thread.  It might sound intimidating, but it's a lot of fun, and as a speaker it's good because it's all over in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

The London museum pecha kucha was a lot of fun and I'm generally looking forward to meeting some people working in cultural heritage in Melbourne and finding out about some of the cool work going on here.