Is Web 2.0 user-centred design in action?

An interesting perspective from Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly at MW2007:

Trawling the Web finds the following phrases recurring around Web 2.0: “mashup”, “de-centralisation”, “non-Web like”, “user generated content”, “permission based activity”, “collaboration”, “Creative Commons” … What sits at the heart of all of these, and one of the reasons Web 2.0 has been difficult for bigger, established organisations (including museums) to embrace, is that almost all the things talked about put users and not the organisation at the centre of the equation. Organisational structures, departmental ways of naming things, the perceived ‘value’ of our assets, in fact, what the organisation has to say about itself – all are being challenged.

Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers

Libraries and Web 2.0

Via Wired’s article on Web 2.0 in libraries, I found the fabulous resources ‘Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software‘ and 23 Learning 2.0 things: “23 Things (or small exercises) that you can do on the web to explore and expand your knowledge of the Internet and Web 2.0” at Learning 2.0, an “online self-discovery program that encourages the exploration of web 2.0 tools and new technologies”.

Jennifer Trant posted about the reaction of the Museums and the Web copy editor to the papers about interactive papers for this year’s conference:

“Rather than thinking about the Web site as a reference work, our editor had repositioned it and herself. The museum was no-longer a remote information resource. The technology had become an enabler in the museum space, that made it possible for her to record the story that interested her.”

I think that’s the type of response that makes the movement towards the user-focused/participatory web so worthwhile.

I’ve put a draft of my CAA paper online because I said I’d get copies to a few people. I’ll be re-organising it a little to get away from the Powerpoint slide-ishness of some of it, and re-writing into the 3rd person next week but I’d be interested to hear any comments in the meantime.

Buzzword or benefit: The possibilities of Web 2.0 for the cultural heritage sector, CAA UK 2007

Update: I’ve put the final version online at the same address (Buzzword or benefit) and moved the draft.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented!

Tagging goes mainstream?

“A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.

Tagging is gaining prominence as an activity some classify as a Web 2.0 hallmark in part because it advances and personalizes online searching. Traditionally, search on the web (or within websites) is done by using keywords. Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon – a way to mark, store, and then retrieve the web content that users already found valuable and of which they want to keep track. It is, of course, more tailored to individual needs and not designed to be the all-inclusive system”
Pew Internet and American Life project: Tagging

The report also goes into the definition of tagging as well as who tags and there’s an interview with David Weinberger on ‘Why Tagging Matters’.

More on Web 2.0 post-CAA

Some more quick thoughts as conversations I had at and after CAA UK settle into my brain. This doesn’t really apply to anyone I talked to there, but as a general rule I think it’s worth saying:

Don’t chase the zeitgeist. It’s not a popularity contest and it’s not a race to see who can cram the most buzzwords into their site.

Also, here’s a link to the blog of the AHRC-funded Semantic Web Think Tank I mentioned, and the original announcements about the SWTT.

Finally, what’s hopefully a quite useful link for those considering official institutional blogs: Sample guidelines for institutional blog authors.

CAA UK 2007 Chapter Meeting

Last week I went to the Computer applications and quantitative methods in archaeology (CAA) UK 2007 Chapter Meeting in Southampton. There was a range of interesting papers and it was really exciting to talk to people with similar passions.

I managed to overrun and didn’t get to the last few slides of my paper, which were some random suggestions for cultural heritage organisations looking to get started with Web 2.0. They’re based on the assumption that resources are limited so the basic model I’ve suggested is that you think about why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for, then start with something small. I would also suggest matching the technology to your content, using applications that meet existing standards to avoid lock-in, ensuring you backup your data regularly (including user-generated content) and taking advantage of existing participation models, particularly from commercial sites that have User Interface and Information Arcitect specialists.

  • Start small, monitor usage and build on the response
  • Design for extensibility
    • Sustainable
    • Interoperable
    • Re-usable
  • Use existing applications, services, APIs, architectures, design patterns wherever possible
  • Embrace your long tail
  • It’s easy and free/cheap to create a blog, or a Flickr account to test the waters
  • Investigate digitising and publishing existing copyright free audio or video content as a podcast or on YouTube
  • Add your favourite specialist sites to a social bookmarking site
  • Check out Myspace or Second Life to see where your missing users hang out
  • Publish your events data in the events microformat so they can be included in social event sites
  • Geotag photos and publish them online
  • Or just publish photos on Flickr and watch to see if people start creating a folksonomy for you

“Encouraging a “There Are No Dumb Questions” culture is only part of the solution. What we really need is a “There are No Dumb Answers” policy.”

How to Build a User Community, Part 1 offers some good solutions to the kinds of issues I’ve worried about when thinking about our user communities. I think it’s a good basis for some guidelines but really we just need to get it up and running and see how our users respond.