I was at the Imperial War Museum for an advisory board meeting for the Social Interpretation project recently, and had a chance to reflect on my experiences with previous audience participation projects. As Claire Ross summarised it, the Social Interpretation project is asking: does applying social media models to collections successfully increase engagement and reach? And what forms of moderation work in that environment - can the audience be trusted to behave appropriately?
One topic for discussion yesterday was whether the museum should do some 'gardening' on the comments. Participation rates are relatively high but some of the comments are nonsense ('asdf'), repetitive (thousands of variants of 'Cool' or 'sad') or off-topic ('I like the museum') - a pattern probably common to many museum 'have your say' kiosks. Gardening could involve 'pruning' out comments that were not directly relevant to the question asked in the interactive, or finding ways to surface the interesting comments. While there are models available in other sectors (e.g. newspapers), I'm excited by the possibility that the Social Interpretation project might have a chance to address this issue for museums.
A big design challenge for high-traffic 'have your say' interactives is providing a quality experience for the audience who is reading comments - they shouldn't have to wade through screens of repeated, vacuous or rude comments to find the gems - while appropriately respecting the contribution and personal engagement of the person who left the comment.
In the spirit of 'have your say', what do you think the solution might be? What have you tried (successfully or not) in your own projects, or seen working well elsewhere?
Update: the Social Interpretation have posted I iz in ur xhibition trolling ur comments:
"One of the most discussed issues was about what we have termed ‘gardening comments’ but to put it bluntly it’s more a case of should we be ‘curating the visitor voice’ in order to improve the visitor experience? It’s a difficult question to deal with...
We are at the stage where we really do want to respect the commenter, but also want to give other readers a high value experience. It’s a question of how we do that, and will it significantly change the project?"
If you found this post, you might also be interested in Notes from 'The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC'.