Interactive Media Web 2.0 Web metrics

OPAC2.0 New features – locations and search terms

Another week and another set of new features are now live on our Collection search.

While most local readers of the blog were at Web Directions South (congratulations to Museum Victoria for taking out the Web Excellence award – perhaps the most strict clean code award around!), we’ve been working to get two key new features out on the search.

The first is publicly visible and is an exhibition location field. This now allows users to see the exhibition in which objects that are on public display are in. This will, in the next few weeks, operate in the reverse as well, allowing visitors to each exhibition microsite to quickly view a list of collection objects on display within the exhibition, and pull up more details on each. Filtering by only objects on display is coming soon too.

Examples (scroll to bottom of object record to see the change) –

+ Shou Lao figure on display in Other Histories

+ ‘Wiggle Chair’ by Frank Gehry on display in Inspired

The second key feature is an internal backend tool which allows querying of search terms by object. This queries the ever-growing database of search terms and object views and allows us to quickly examine, by object, the terms used to discover it. This is the start of an internal visualisation project looking at ways of displaying, and more importantly, revealing patterns in the search data.

(Remember, too, all this data is anonymous. We do not gather any identifying data and these terms are not correlated against IP addresses. There is no need for us to do this – the anonymous data provides enough to assist other users discover and browse.)

Here’s a sample of the search terms used to discover the aforementioned Wiggle Chair. As you can see, there are some interesting (and, on the surface, unrelated) terms used to discover this object. Now, this data can then be compared against the discovery terms used to find other chairs in the collection, to build a more effective search thesaurus, suggested search terms, or, as I was calling it today – a ‘searchsonomy’.

(c) indicates a tag cloud click through.

Search terms used

+ 29/09/2006 – gehry
+ 29/09/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 28/09/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 28/09/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 28/09/2006 – cardboard (c)
+ 28/09/2006 – wiggle AND chair (c)
+ 28/09/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 27/09/2006 – gehry
+ 27/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 27/09/2006 – frank AND gehry (c)
+ 27/09/2006 – wiggle AND chair (c)
+ 26/09/2006 – Architecture
+ 25/09/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 24/09/2006 – frank AND gehry (c)
+ 24/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 23/09/2006 – plastic (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 20/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 19/09/2006 – modern (c)
+ 18/09/2006 – frank AND gehry (c)
+ 17/09/2006 – fibreglass (c)
+ 17/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 16/09/2006 – wiggle AND chair (c)
+ 16/09/2006 – wiggle AND chair (c)
+ 14/09/2006 – gehry AND chair AND wiggle
+ 14/09/2006 – wiggle AND chair (c)
+ 14/09/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 14/09/2006 – frank AND gehry
+ 14/09/2006 – cardboard (c)
+ 12/09/2006 – Architecture
+ 11/09/2006 – fibreglass (c)
+ 11/09/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 11/09/2006 – frank AND gehry (c)
+ 11/09/2006 – frank AND gehry (c)
+ 10/09/2006 – wiggle
+ 10/09/2006 – wiggle
+ 09/09/2006 – wiggle
+ 07/09/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 07/09/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 07/09/2006 – wiggle
+ 07/09/2006 – gehry AND chair
+ 06/09/2006 – cardboard (c)
+ 05/09/2006 – gehry AND chair
+ 05/09/2006 – gehry AND chair
+ 05/09/2006 – wiggle AND gehry
+ 03/09/2006 – fibreglass (c)
+ 02/09/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 01/09/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 31/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 30/08/2006 – University of California
+ 30/08/2006 – University of California
+ 30/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 30/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 30/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 30/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 29/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 29/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 28/08/2006 – chair
+ 28/08/2006 – chair
+ 28/08/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 23/08/2006 – double (c)
+ 22/08/2006 – frankgehry (c)
+ 22/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 21/08/2006 – gehry
+ 19/08/2006 – cardboard (c)
+ 18/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 17/08/2006 – University of California
+ 17/08/2006 – University of California
+ 16/08/2006 – Frank Gehry
+ 16/08/2006 – Frank Gehry
+ 16/08/2006 – chair
+ 14/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 12/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 12/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 11/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 11/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 11/08/2006 – wiggle chair (c)
+ 11/08/2006 – frank gehry (c)
+ 10/08/2006 – wiggle chair
+ 10/08/2006 – chair
+ 01/08/2006 – gehry
+ 30/07/2006 – furniture
+ 30/07/2006 – gehry
+ 30/07/2006 – chair
+ 29/07/2006 – architecture
+ 25/07/2006 – marylin sofa
+ 25/07/2006 – marylin sofa
+ 25/07/2006 – frank gehry
+ 23/07/2006 – marc newson (c)
+ 22/07/2006 – marc newson
+ 21/07/2006 – newton (c)
+ 13/07/2006 – chair
+ 13/07/2006 – chair
+ 12/07/2006 – weil
+ 07/07/2006 – chair
+ 07/07/2006 – chair
+ 07/07/2006 – chair
+ 13/06/2006 – chairs
+ 08/06/2006 – wiggle chair

Interactive Media Web 2.0

Museum blogging and WordPress plugins

Mal Booth over at the Australian War Memorial emailed the other day to tell me about their first exhibition blog, and asked about blog recommendations.

Thinking it might be sensible to share the information to help other museum bloggers, here’s what I sent (and a little bit more).

Please add your own recommendations in the comments if you have any favourite and essential WordPress plugins or tips.

This really is just a recommended start point.

Nice to have plugins

Depending on the content and target audience of your blog it might be useful to have an academic citation generator. This one lets people quote and reference your blog appropriately.

If you have multiple blogs and want to have a page that aggregates the RSS feeds of these, or you just want to aggregate other blogs’ feeds to a seperate page on your blog then you need the BDP RSS Aggregator.

If you ever need to embed code in your blog posts then you need RunPHP. This is particularly useful if you want to add interactive scripts to particular posts or subpages.

Maybe you want to put a Flash player in a post but want to make sure your visitors have a the right version of Flash. Then you need the Kimili Flash Embed plugin.

If your blog has a search feature then you are probably wondering how to get the serach to also search ‘pages’ instead of just ‘posts’. After days of fiddling we found this nifty Search Pages plugin.

Dealing with spam

Spam is a fact of life with blogs. Indeed if you don’t get spam then you should be worried, because it probably means the rest of the world can’t see your blog and you need to start doing a bit of promotion. Whilst there are plenty of spam plugins the most effective ones tend to cripple the ability of visitors to quickly leave comments, instead usually requiring them to enter some randomly generated set of character or answer a question. So, I’d been hunting for a robust but unobtrusive solution and now highly recommend SpamKarma for WP above all others. SpamKarma learns as it goes, blocks and keeps a blacklist of IPs and other nifty things – and best of all, it doesn’t interfere with visitors’ ability to leave comments.

Tracking RSS feeds

RSS feeds are great for visitors. They can quickly access the content of your site without actually visiting it – sometimes they never visit and just read the feed. This is good for them, but bad for you – if they don’t visit your page then your usual web analytics aren’t really going to kick in. And if they do you will be hard pressed to determine a lot about their interactions with your feed. The answer is Feedburner.

Redirect the RSS feeds to Feedburner ( – set up an account). This way you can track who and what is accessing your RSS feeds and which articles are being read that way. If you have trouble getting wordpress to change the feed locations then use the Flagrant Disregard Feedburner WP plugin.

Promoting your blog

Claim your blog in Technorati. This helps you expose your blog to the rest of the world and tells Technorati that you exist. WordPress will automatically starting pinging Pingomatic each time you post but I’ve found that the best results are achieved by registering your blog with Technorati.

Technorati also lets you easily track who and what is linking to your blog which is useful to see who to do link swaps with (if that’s something you are interested in doing, or is some cases allowed to do), or just to build a better idea of why people are interested in your blog.

Then submit your blog to

AV Related

Great Wall exhibition TVC up on various video sharing sites

We’ve put the latest television commercial from the Museum up on several video sharing sites as an exercise in viral promotion but also as a way of encouraging viewer feedback.

The advertisement itself is a response to a advertisement from a prominent Australian telecommunications company that has recently been running which has a child asking ‘why did they build the Great Wall of China’.

Are there any other museums out there using the video sharing sites to disseminate their marketing materials?

Google Video –
YouTube –

Web 2.0

A new Powerhouse Museum blog – Free Radicals

Free Radicals logo

Today the Powerhouse Museum launched the Free Radicals blog.

The blog promotes a monthly talks series at the Museum of the same name which covers current issues in sustainability and science. The blog is intended to expand the Museum’s coverage and response to the issues raised by the talks series, as well as allowing community feedback. There is a podcast archive of previous talks available on the site and future talks will be added as they happen, allowing those who miss the on site event to participate in their own time and in their own location.

Folksonomies Web 2.0

OPAC2.0: A better search is here

Today we finally ironed out one of the major problems with the search engine on our OPAC2.0/collection database.

There are still some tweaks to be done on the results, and the advanced search needs to implemented but the new search is much better than the original.

If you have some spare moments and feel like trying a few searches, please do so. If something odd happens then I’d welcome your thoughts in a comment on this post.

Next up for OPAC2.0 is the presentation of ‘other search terms similar to X’ and ‘others who searched for X looked at’ alongside search results. We have already implemented this on Design Hub and have the code and data ready to go.

Then it is on to adding a automatic spell checker for the folksonomy tags to reduce post-user tag editing.

AV Related Interactive Media

Full screen web video

Neave TV is an amazing (but processor heavy) Flash site that delivers video from Google Video, Youtube and Blip. Made by Paul Neave who also made Flash Earth which is also very very cool and combines Google Maps images with Microsoft Virtual Earth images.

Interactive Media Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Current dialogues

Its a busy time at the museum at the moment with the Great Wall of China exhibition coming up in a few weeks. And there are a lot of deadlines so here’s a couple of interesting blog posts I’ve been reading recently.

Andrew McAfee from Harvard Business School leaps to the defense of experimentation of social media like blogs and wikis within organisations. There has been a lot of talk about the internal impacts of these web technologies within museums – usually about the visitor/curator interaction that results – but there may also be some interesting lessons to be learned from IBM and other knowledge companies that have rolled out social media within their organisations to better implement knowledge management internally. And what are museums if they are not centrally about knowledge management?

Fascinating dialogue between Ulises Ali Mejias and Raph Koster following from a multi-person discussion piece in Harpers about video games and literacy.

Also, the American blogosphere has been full of discussion about changes at Facebook. As usual it is Fred Stutzman and danah boyd who offer some great meta-ideas around the how it is users who own social networks (at least at the moment).

Imaging Interactive Media

What does a song look like

There is a nifty new visualisation tool for ‘visualising repetition in MIDI files’ called The Shape Of Song.

What does music look like? The Shape of Song is an attempt to answer this seemingly paradoxical question. The custom software in this work draws musical patterns in the form of translucent arches, allowing viewers to see–literally–the shape of any composition available on the Web. The resulting images reflect the full range of musical forms, from the deep structure of Bach to the crystalline beauty of Philip Glass.

You can view (and hear) a stack of MIDI files on the site or you can point it at an URL containing a MIDI file. Already it has been overrun with Def Leppard and Tool.

Web 2.0

A new look at who writes Wikipedia?

Aaron Swartz in his article Who Writes Wikipedia? takes a new look at the oft-repeated claim by Jimmy Wales, and thus almost everybody else, that Wikipedia’s content is really mainly contributed by a small core group of about 500 people.

Swartz, at Stanford, cleverly unpicks the claim that “the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have done 73.4% of all the edits” by actually looking at the actual contributions in some randomly chosen articles and anaylses them not by number of edits, but by content of edits.

To investigate more formally, I purchased some time on a computer cluster and downloaded a copy of the Wikipedia archives. I wrote a little program to go through each edit and count how much of it remained in the latest version.† Instead of counting edits, as Wales did, I counted the number of letters a user actually contributed to the present article.

If you just count edits, it appears the biggest contributors to the Alan Alda article (7 of the top 10) are registered users who (all but 2) have made thousands of edits to the site. Indeed, #4 has made over 7,000 edits while #7 has over 25,000. In other words, if you use Wales’s methods, you get Wales’s results: most of the content seems to be written by heavy editors.

But when you count letters, the picture dramatically changes: few of the contributors (2 out of the top 10) are even registered and most (6 out of the top 10) have made less than 25 edits to the entire site. In fact, #9 has made exactly one edit — this one! With the more reasonable metric — indeed, the one Wales himself said he planned to use in the next revision of his study — the result completely reverses.

I don’t have the resources to run this calculation across all of Wikipedia (there are over 60 billion edits!), but I ran it on several more randomly-selected articles and the results were much the same. For example, the largest portion of the Anaconda article was written by a user who only made 2 edits to it (and only 100 on the entire site). By contrast, the largest number of edits were made by a user who appears to have contributed no text to the final article (the edits were all deleting things and moving things around).

[UPDATE – more studies on this from Wikimania 2006 (via Ross Mayfield)]

Folksonomies Imaging Web 2.0

Google Image Labeller

Everyone is talking about the new Google image labeller. Think the ESP Game but where your tags help Google deliver better image search results.

O’Reilly nails it in their description of it.

The launch of Google Image Labeler, a “game” that asks people to label images, and figures that images given the same label by multiple people are likely to be correct, continues the Web 2.0 trend towards bionic software, that is, software that combines machine and human intelligence. This is really just another version of the web 2.0 principle, harnessing collective intelligence, but with an emphasis on “harnessing” rather than on “collective.”

Like Distributed Proofreaders (the granddaddy in the space), Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and mycroft, but unlike, say, a Flickr tag cloud as a reflection of collective labeling of images, Google Image Labeler puts people explicitly to work.

There’s a spectrum of ways to put humans to work refining computer results, from the implicit to the explicit. The most explicit, of course, is going to be when the third world job shops now engaged in making booty for World of Warcraft start offering their services for more general hire.

[UPDATE : O’Reilly continues their investigation looking at the roots of the Image Labeller in the ESP Game]