Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Updating Go Play – the cross-agency school holiday calendar

July 5th, 2011 by Seb Chan

Last September we quietly launched the alpha version of Go Play, a site that Powerhouse was commissioned to produce for the then Communities NSW (now Office of Communities). Go Play was built to address the problem of the general invisibility of the wealth of great school holiday events, often free or low cost, put on by government organisations. On commercially operated parental events calendars these cultural events are buried amongst the latest family movies, and on individual government agency websites there is no suggestion that there might be other relevant activities nearby. Beginning with the cultural institutions and sport and recreation facilities, the site was also built to ensure that event metadata was enhanced with standardised parent-focussed information like age suitability and whether or not the venues have baby change facilities etc.

Initially managed by Renae Mason at the Powerhouse and programmed by the IXC, the Go Play went live as a public alpha with school holiday activities collated from five NSW government agencies to test the database structure and robustness. In December the site, complete with a stack of bugfixes, went into beta with more agencies involved.

Under the purview of a new producer at Powerhouse, Estee Wah, the April holidays came around and the site continued to grow with more and more contributors and general operations for the site began shifting over to staff fat Office of Communities. At the same time for April, we launched a mobile App version of Go Play funded through Apps4NSW and was developed by The Nest.

Now we’re in the winter school holidays and the site has just added even more partner organisations and the App has also received its first major update.

Not only that, the enhanced event copy is now licences under CC-BY-NC for re-use by others (excepting, of course, the images). The event data and venues can be obtained as XML from the Data Output section. (Alternative licensing of the data can no doubt, be negotiated).

So how has it gone?

Go Play, to date, has shown that with a mix of great SEO and search marketing coupled with a relatively simple UI there is a good audience for tightly focussed cross-agency event calendars. Traffic has been strong with each holiday period delivering more and more visitors to the site – now nearly 60K – and consolidating repeat visitors. The iOS App has had nearly 1100 downloads since launch, and the update has been applied 234 times in the last few days since release showing ongoing usage by those who downloaded the first version.

Not surprisingly, those institutions who chose to add the Go Play banners to their own sites ended up sending a good deal of traffic to the site – showing that, unsurprisingly, parents who visit, say the Powerhouse Museum website looking for holiday activities are interested in seeing what else in on too. It would seem, too, that those who sent traffic also had their own events viewed the most in Go Play creating a net gain in traffic and awareness, instead of a net loss.

The initial ideas that such a site might be able to run automagically, harvesting new content from participating institutions, have unsurprisingly been optimistic. In fact these were scoped out after the initial alpha release and the focus on having a human editor who ensures that events have full enhanced metadata not only makes the site a lot more valuable to parents but also realistically deals with resource levels at contributing agencies.

Next school holidays the site will be completely under the operation of Office of Communities and will hopefully grow to take on many more content partners (local government is an obvious option), and maybe down the track be able to operate all year round.

Check out the Go Play site and the free iOS App!

Tags: 4 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Was this based on Ronit Olovitz’s “NSW4Kids” submission for Apps4NSW?
    http://apps4nsw.uservoice.com/forums/40102-ideas/suggestions/562845-nsw4kids

    • Anonymous

      Hi Andrea, 

      Indeed it was! And I should have mentioned that in the initial post!

  • Lynda Kelly

    This is great, thnx. Few questions:
    * user-testing – what was done and how many changes did you need to make based on that?
    * some of the data from the Australian Museum does not show up – do we need to do anything at our end?
    * is it possible to link to online bookings for those institutions that have that facility (I couldn’t see that anywhere so maybe noone has this facility!)
    * apart from ‘favourite-ing’ is there any other way/s to hare the event via social media/email??

    Thnx again Seb and crew.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Lynda

      1. User testing has been done primarily with the data entry folks – the selected staff at the agencies putting data in. Interface changes have been made through observing behaviour on the live site and App using a combinaiton of analytics tools including Flurry on the mobile App.

      2. The only Australian Museum events that will be on the site are those that have been entered into the backend of the site by AM staff who have a login – most likely in your public programs or marketing teams. Your web team can request a login to enter data by contacting the site’s main email address.

      3. You can make the event link jump to bookings if you wish. Most agencies don’t have online booking and some event types don’t work well with online bookings (vacation care groups, for example, often prefer to pay cash or cheque). Further, there was a decision not to encourage online booking links in the mobile App because almost all booking systems used by agencies haven’t even considered making them mobile friendly.

      4. The mobile App allows event sharing via Facebook, Twitter and email. The website primarily promotes event sharing via email but also has the Share This widget for 1000 other platforms too.