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
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.
Via the Museums Computer Group list, the Emerging Technologies Initiative 2007 Horizon Report has just been released. It “highlights six technologies that the underlying research suggests will become very important to higher education over the next one to five years. A central focus of the discussion of each technology is its relevance for teaching, learning, and creative expression. Live weblinks to example applications are provided in each section, as well as to additional readings.”
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
- 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
On the way home from the Semantic Web Think Tank last week (see previous post), I suddenly thought: are small or specialised museums the long tail?
Each museum by itself would represent a tiny proportion of the overall use of museum collections online, but if you put all that usage together, would their collections in fact have a higher rate of use than those of more ‘popular’ museums?
At the moment I don’t think there’s any way to find out, because so many small or specialised museums don’t have collections online, through a lack of expertise, digitisation resources or an easy-to-use publication infrastructure. Still, it’s an interesting question.