Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Just how popular is that Facebook application? Artshare and Steve Art Tagger and Developer Analytics

June 13th, 2008 by Seb Chan

I’ve been wondering for a long time about the real popularity of Facebook apps that are targetted at specific niche user groups.

Well with Developer Analytics you can find out – without needing to be the actual developer of the Facebook application in question.

With the museum community starting to build useful applications like the Brooklyn’s ArtShare or the Steve Art Tagger, the ability for us all to evaluate the success of these sort of projects is increasingly important. This is especially the case for cross-institutional projects to which we are all beginning to contribute our content. Are these projects reaching the audiences that we want our content to reach? Where should we focus our energies?

What can you learn from Developer Analytics?

For Artshare I can quickly see that as of today it has 2,900 install with 58 average daily users, as well as pull up a popularity graph to see this over time. (Update: Shelley at the Brooklyn says that these stats conflict with the ones she can pull up from within Facebook – see comments below) I can also compare it with the Steve Art Tagger which has been up for a few months and has 200 installs but only an average of 2 active daily users. Readers from the libraries world might be interested in taking a look at the statistics for the OCLC’s recently released WorldCat Facebook app.

I can also look at which commercial applications are most successful and track trends across, say, the multitude of Flickr-related applications to see which are the most sticky and used.

There are important lessons to be learnt from the other successful Facebook applications which we can draw upon when building our own.

Here’s a chart from the My Flickr application which, being an app with a large-ish userbase provides significantly more data about users – including the other apps that users of My Flickr use, gender, age and friend demographics. (A side note – the availability of this information to application developers in itself should be of interest to all Facebook users concerned with privacy).

Head over to Developer Analytics and do some digging of your own.

Tags: 11 Comments

  • Ha, Seb, you are such a stats hound. However, they are not that accurate. As of today, the dev stats I see (via FB) are Daily Active Users: 74; About Page Fans: 222; Total Users: 3,231 Not sure where the discrepancy is, but there is a slight one.

    The thing to realize about the OCLC worldcat app is they force you to install it if you want to use it. For instance, if I go to someone’s profile and they have worldcat installed – if I try and do a search, they make *you* install the app. This is very annoying behavior and I didn’t appreciate it. We hope ArtShare is a better community member. If people want it, great. If they don’t, we are not going to try and trick people to get better numbers :)

    We saw a big drop in users after FB made changes to the profiles that put ArtShare into hiding on many of them. We find (via FB stats), most people install the app when they see it on a profile – if they can’t see it there are fewer installs. At this point, however, FB is changing profile layout again, so we are waiting to see what that brings prior to modification.

  • Seb Chan

    Hi Shelley . . . I think Developer Analytics must cache data.

    It would be interesting to know if you can pull up stats on *which* artworks are getting most views or have been added to people’s Artshare configs the most.

    (I think that has much more value)

    And none of the cultural sector apps are at the level where Developer Analytics can pull up the sort of demographic info that I could for the bigger apps like My Flickr.

  • Agreed, but that is dev time we don’t have time for right now – I’ve also got serious issues with privacy of participating institutions to think about. For instance, I think it may be OK to provide you with which PH objects are getting picked, etc. But I’m not sure it’s OK to show that globally to everyone. Though that may be of interest, it’s not a popularity contest and I’d bet that each participant will feel differently. This, of course, makes for a much bigger dev project – to provide specific stats to specific peeps. Not high on our priority list at the moment, I’m afraid. We may in future dev provide a top 10 within the app itself, so users can explore the most popular. That’s a good way to get users into content (especially now that we have so many museums) and the daily active stats would probably rise a bit as a result. Generally, we are thinking more along these lines in terms of dev time – what will be fun and good for the users, not necessarily the content providers.

    Re: caching – yeah, really poorly – it’s got app info on developers and institution participants from version 1!

    Re: demographic. I have that at my disposal via FB dev stats, but they are careful here (a very good thing in my opinion). You can see data only when the user base gets big enough to keep it anonymous. Smart cookies.

  • Seb Chan

    I think this highlights some of the problems facing the sector in terms of justifying the development of, and participation in Facebook form an organisational perspective.

    What are we really trying to achieve with Facebook applications?

    Some things I’d put on the table that have come out of various conversations include –

    – ability to communicate directly with audiences who are leaving email behind. (everyone is seeing reduced effectiveness of email marketing campaigns now so Facebook might provide a new way to reach people)

    – brand awareness and brand association

    – market research (requires the ability to data mine the behaviour of Facebook users – which has clear ethical issues)

    – audience research into user behaviour (the Steve Art Tagger is a good example of this and is clearly tied to a research project)

    I’m still unconvinced of the strategic benefit of a Facebook application in the museum sector. How does it fit into an existing marketing or campaign strategy? (If it doesn’t then what is it for?)

    I know there are enormous benefits from a technical experimentation and prototyping standpoint, but organisationally there needs to be some clear goals and measurement strategies to be able to evaluate their success or otherwise.

    StartupNorth has some interesting commentary on this too.

  • Seb Chan

    Also, there is a clear tension between being a personal user of Facebook, and also being a developer of social graph harvesting applications for Facebook.

  • Ugh. I’ve said this time and time again, community is not marketing and this may be a big difference in the way we think :) For us, the FB app is not marketing or brand association – if it was, we’d never have given it a generic name and asked others to join us. For us, this is simple – applications are what make FB unique, applications are the way peeps on FB prefer to communicate – so rather than just going and creating a page – another way we expect FB users to come to us within FB, we create an app that goes right to them. Give to the community, rather than always expecting the opposite. This idea of giving extends to other participants – we open it up to not make it all about the BM, we know people want more and respect that. Regarding measurement, etc – it’s not the way we go about Community and you’ll have to deal with that if you are in ArtShare :)

  • lyndak

    Hi Seb and Shelley, reading these posts with interest.

    As Seb will know where I’m coming from, the thing that interests me is not the numbers of people adding the app to their pages, it is their motivations for doing so. I’m thinking that FB and other social networking sites are really all about a person’s identity – what they want to express about themselves to both their friends and to the world. Artshare is a great example of identity expression as it may be that people want to: demonstrate that they are a museum person; support their innovative colleagues; share their collection; and/or show their preferences and tastes in various kinds of artworks. It is but one example – think of all those groups we joined and now the Fan pages we belong to – these are expressions of who we are.

    I think we need to do further qualitative digging with users on these questions. I’ve said somewhere before that for me I’m more interested in why someone posted an artwork to their page rather than how many people posted how many artworks from a particular collection or museum. I’m also especially interested in those who aren’t museum professionals who choose to use this app as this is where we get the real reach and buy-in.

    Also, I’m with Shelley on the point that it doesn’t necessarily need to be about numbers and marketing – it’s great just to try these things out, so that as the field develops and moves so swiftly we have developed skills and agility to move with it and keep experimenting.

  • HI Lynda – yay! a voice of reason. The kind of metrics you mention here are much closer to what we should be asking peeps – asking people directly is much more about community and people and much less about straight stats and metrics which I do not believe are applicable in these areas. When dealing with people, it’s best to ask them their personal thoughts rather than assigning assumptions based on numbers (something I took away from your MW presentation – bravo!). Given that, we might consider an online poll prior to any more dev time, which might give us more insight into what users would find more helpful. It would also give us the opportunity to ask profession, to see how varied the user base is – I’ll have to think about that after Click! opens and I have a bit more time.

    I posted to our blog a while back and have not looked at the stats since that post, but one thing we do know is a lot of artists are using the application to share their own work. If those numbers are still holding true today making artist uploads easier and allowing global sharing of their work will become a big part of the future of ArtShare. We’d like to give artists a lot of control to share/promote their own work, and if they also want to rotate work from an institution along with it – so much the better. Like everything we do with community – we want to keep the measpect in every part of the equation.

  • Seb Chan

    Heh heh.

    Its not an either/or situation between quantitative and qualitative research! And those who read my What is wrong with web metrics paper at MW know that quantitative on its own is not the way to go.

    However the Developer Analytics tool lets people other than the application developer make some basic high level quantitative comparisons between apps. Especially in the absence of any other ways of measurement from the user-side.

    DA is akin to standard web metrics – a very blunt instrument for examining motivations and behaviour but useful for measuring trends and observing patterns in demographics and visible site interactions. User surveys and qualitative research are of course an excellent way of doing sharper investigations but are necessarily limited in scale.

    Quantitative often reveals the most fruitful niche with which to engage in qualitative research with.

    Using both will help you ensure that your project meets its targets – which in most organisations’ cases is a combination of quantity of users/contributors and quality of engagement and experience.

  • argh! targets! enough already.

  • lyndak

    One of the most memorable things from my early doctorate conference attending adventures was a paper (from someone I can’t remember) at an AARE conference (I think it was) about the wasted time and energy that had been expended in the so-called “paradigm wars” – aka arguments about qualitative vs quantitative methodologies in social research (unfortunately both Google and my home filing system have failed me so I can’t find the paper!).

    I totally agree that we need to collect both kinds of measures. It is in this way that we really get close to our audiences, or communities, to track their experiences and figure out how we’re going in terms of generally what we both want to achieve. These measures may be as qualitative as “building community” (in our case relationships with our Indigenous and Pacific constituents) or as quantitative as “who did we attract to our new dinosaur exhibition and were they any different to our regular audiences”.

    Measuring the impact of what we do both in physical, online and outreach is only going to get tougher over the next few years, certainly in Australia, so it’s good that we are having these passionate conversations now and can share how we are going in this messy environment :)