The MoLAS ‘Roman glass’ research project blog is live

Hooray! The first proper MoLAS blog is live. The Roman glass blog is written by Angela Wardle, a Finds specialist for the Museum of London Archaeology Service. To quote from the ‘about‘ page:

In 2005 at 35 Basinghall Street London, a large dump of waste from a glassmaker’s workshop was excavated by the Museum of London Archaeology Service for Stanhope plc.

This website tells the story of the discovery, and how John Shepherd and I, with other colleagues, are working on this amazing collection of glass in order to learn more about the glassworkers of Roman London.

There’s also a related photo gallery on Flickr. Angela will be explaining more about some of the images in the gallery as the project progresses. I hope the blog will provide a fascinating insight into the kinds of things we can learn from finds, as well as how specialists actually discover those things.

Breaking out of the walls of the museum?

Wired on a location-based game at the Tower of London.

Through a thick drizzle I gaze at the ominous gray stone buildings of the Tower of London, England’s most notorious prison. I wander from one to the next, trying to imagine what it was like to be held captive here hundreds of years ago. That’s when I hear a ghost. “Psst, you there… I’m sentenced to die tomorrow morning. Please, I beg you, can you help me escape?” I stop walking and look down at the screen of my HP iPAQ. There’s a picture of a portly Brit in 18th-century garb. His name is Lord Nithsdale, and he was involved in a plot to overthrow King George I. In my earphones, the voice tells me I’ve entered the year 1716 and again asks if I want to play the Lord Nithsdale adventure. I wipe the raindrops off the clear plastic pouch holding the PDA, a GPS unit, and a radio transmitter and hit Yes.

The adventure is part of a prototype location-based game designed for visitors to the tower, where inmates like Guy Fawkes and two of Henry VIII’s wives were executed. The idea is that instead of reading plaques and staring solemnly at the Bloody Tower, tourists skulk around with PDAs, re-creating classic prison breaks.

These historically accurate scenarios were created by the charity group Historic Royal Palaces, working with Hewlett-Packard and using software developed by HP Labs. The free app lets anyone layer a virtual landscape — what HP calls a mediascape — over real-word terrain using maps and GPS coordinates. Audio and visual media can be triggered by a user’s location or by sensors that detect proximity, light, heat, trajectory, and even heart rate.

Lessons from the online music industry

The 20 things you MUST know about music online

I think it’s of interest partly because the companies with big budgets are educating our visitors and training them in certain habits and expectations, and this will affect how they understand our sites and content; and partly because it’d be nice if the music industry finally caught up to its consumers.

I’ve linked to the summary post, but you can also download an ebook or read the original full-length posts.

More Jonty! A tour of the Museum of London

Jonty’s tour of the Museum of London

It’s also up on Google video (Museum of London tour, Museum in Docklands tour) where I’m guessing more people might see it. I’m really curious to see if they bring in new visitors, and how much they increase awareness of the museums.

Jonty’s tour of the Museum in Docklands

You probably didn’t realise that one of the Museum of London’s visitor assistants was in the UK Big Brother 2007 household. He’s popped back into the Museum in Docklands to give a ‘personal guided tour of his favourite things at Museum in Docklands’, and it’s available online now at www.museumindocklands.org.uk/jonty.

Feeds for beginners

From A Consuming Experience, Feeds basics 101: introduction to newsfeeds:

Feeds, RSS feeds, Atom feeds, XML feeds, newsfeeds, web feeds, they’re increasingly common on the internet these days – but what are they, how do you subscribe, and how do you publish and publicise your own news feed? This post is a 3-part introductory tutorial guide to web feeds, aimed at intelligent non-geeks

Metrics and ROI for social software

A useful post about Social Media Metrics/Return on Investment with some thoughts on “how to provide useful metrics and measurements on the effects of social media for a nonprofit organization” and lots of useful links. It suggests “audience, engagement, loyalty, influence, and action” can put metrics in the “more holistic” context of outcomes, measures, strategy.

New models for measuring the effectiveness of websites

From an article called Evidence-based website management, some thoughts from Gerry McGovern on measuring the effectiveness of websites:

We can, with increasing precision, know what content gets people to act and what content doesn’t. The length of time people spend on the page is just a basic measure. Here are some others:

  • How many links have there been to the content. This is the ultimate measure as the link is the gold standard of the Web.
  • Where did the customer go once they read the content? Did they have a positive or negative reaction?
  • How has the content been rated by customers?
  • Has the content been blogged about? Did it get a conversation going?

Where should social networking ‘live’?

Chris Anderson says social networking is a feature, not a destination:

Right now the world is focused on stand-alone social networking sites, especially Facebook and MySpace, and the fad of the moment is to take brands and services there, as companies build Facebook apps and MySpace pages in a bid to follow the audience wherever they happen to be. But at the same time there’s a growing sense that elements of social networking is something all good sites should have, not just dedicated social networks. And that suggests a very different strategy–social networking as a feature, not a destination.

So far, so good – but Chris Anderson’s day job is at Wired, which is definitely a destination site with a huge audience. Cultural heritage sites are useful for a range of people, but I suspect most people stumble across our content incidentally, through search engines and external links – they don’t think “I’ll spend my lunch break browsing the Museum of Whatever’s website”.

But another of his projects is much smaller so the issues are more relevant to the cultural heritage sector:

So we’ve been debating internally whether we want to shift to a distributed functionality strategy (AKA “go where the people are”), where most users interact with us via a widget on third party sites, clicking through to our site only when they want to go deeper. We’re embarking on some experiments with a few partners we like to see how that goes. Hopefully a distributed strategy will help us reach critical mass as a destination, too, but right now we’re simply experimenting to see what works.

I think focused sites that serve niche communities will extract the best lessons from Facebook and MySpace and offer better social networking tools to the communities they already have. I’m sure huge and generic social networking destinations will continue to do well, but I’m placing my bet on the biggest impact coming when social networking becomes a standard feature on all good sites, bringing community to the granular level where it always works best.

So how would this work for us? Would our visitors gather around specific institutions, around institutional collections, around meta-collections that span several institutions, or around the sector as a whole? Would they, for example, gather around a site like Exploring 20th Century London, which has a very specific temporal and regional focus? Or are these potential users already on sites that meet their needs, at least to some extent? Our collections will inevitably still form a valuable resource for discussion, no matter where that discussion takes place.

Who knows? I think it’ll be fun finding out.

I keep meaning to post about Ning. As the post above says, “Ning is not a destination itself–instead, it provides hosted social networking tools for niche sites to create their own destinations.”

It could be a useful tool for smaller organisations who want to get into social software but don’t have the means to build their hosts or applications, or for small ad hoc team working.