There's a post on Museums and Social Networking Sites that is nicely timed given the 'should museums be on Facebook' discussions on the UK Museums Computer Group and Museum Computer Network mailing lists. I particularly liked the following:
[M]useums that venture haphazardly into the wilderness of social networking sites may end up looking stiff and frozen. Institutions need to enter these spaces with firm answers to these questions:
- What audience(s) are we trying to reach, and why?
- What information do we want to convey to these people?
- What actions do we want them to take?
- Demographically, where do these constituents congregate online?
- Do these virtual spaces provide the tools that will allow us to circulate our message?
- Do the sites then provide ways for users to circulate our message without too much futher effort from us–that is, do the sites allow for percolation, or will our message merely appear for a moment and then pass quickly from users' radar?
I would add, is it an appropriate space for instutitions or is it a personal space?
The post also points out one of the major problems with Facebook groups that's been irritating me for a while – they don't notify you of new content, whether as an RSS feed, Facebook notification or in email. The Groups page doesn't even order groups by those with the most recent wall or discussion posts. No wonder groups languish on Facebook – most seem to collect members easily, but hardly anyone actually posts any content on them. There are always barriers to participation on social software or reasons why more people lurk than post, but if people don't know new content has been added, they'll never respond. It's a step backwards to the world of checking to see if sites have new content – who does that now we have RSS?
And just because I like it: when xkcd and wikipedia collide.
This article explains how you can use RSS feeds to track mentions of your company (or museum) in various blog search sites: Ego Searches and RSS.
It's a good place to start if you're not sure what people are saying about your institution, exhibitions or venues or whether they might already be creating content about you. Don't forget to search Flickr and YouTube too.
Ok, so we already knew that. But this comScore report confirms that if we want to reach younger audiences, the internet is the place to do it: "U.K. Teens and Young Adults Spend 24 Percent More Time Online Than the Average Internet User".
And, "The comScore study revealed that many of the sites with particular appeal to the 15 to 24 age segment fall into the Social Networking category, including Facebook.com, Bebo.com and Tagged.com. Other properties with strong teen and young adult appeal include ARTISTdirect Network and Alloy, which are news and entertainment sites."
I'm sure this has been everywhere already but the NY Times have an excellent article on museums and tagging.
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.
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