Developer tools Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0

Museums on the Web UK 2007 – Friday June 22 – register now

If you happen to be one of our UK or European readers then you may be interested in Museums on the Web UK 2007 which happens on Friday June 22. It is organised by the Museum Computer Group, 24hr Museum and the University of Leicester.

The Web is changing – faster, smarter, more personal, more social. The software that drives it and the usage that shapes it are evolving at a rapid pace. Is the museum sector responding to this evolution? And as visible and trusted providers of rich and unique content might museums have, in fact, an opportunity to influence the future Web?

Is it time to become more ‘Web adept’?

From Web ethics, to user-generated content, and from the implications and possibilities of mashed-up content, to the need for new values and holistic approaches to accessible design…this year’s conference will explore the many ways the Web is being transformed around us, and how museums can respond to – and perhaps lead – this change.

UKMW will, as in previous years, be an accessible and affordable event welcoming around 100 delegates. It will aim to bring to together a programme of high quality speakers with a national and international perspective, from inside and outside the sector, offering creative, leading edge thinking relevant to anyone working with museums and the Web today.

I am giving one of the keynotes on social tagging and the future of collections online. The other keynote is Michael Twidale speaking about Second Life. Other speakers include Mike Ellis, Naomi Korn, Jon Pratty, Jeremy Keith (Clearleft), Paul Shabajee (HP Labs) and Brian Kelly. It is a low cost single day event and should be excellent.

Register online over at the UK Museums Computer Group.

I hope to see you there.

Collection databases Folksonomies Museum blogging Web 2.0 Wikis

A reminder about ‘participation inequality’

I’m busy preparing a couple of new and remixed presentations for delivery in the northern hemisphere in the next few weeks and Tony Walker over at the ABC reminded me about this excellent summary of Participation Inequality by usability evangelist Jakob Nielsen.

How to Overcome Participation Inequality

You can’t.
The first step to dealing with participation inequality is to recognize that it will always be with us. It’s existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.

Your only real choice here is in how you shape the inequality curve’s angle. Are you going to have the “usual” 90-9-1 distribution, or the more radical 99-1-0.1 distribution common in some social websites? Can you achieve a more equitable distribution of, say, 80-16-4? (That is, only 80% lurkers, with 16% contributing some and 4% contributing the most.)

Although participation will always be somewhat unequal, there are ways to better equalize it.

In our collection database tagging represents less than 0.01% of activity on the site. But, because we also do some neat search tracking we can combine a very low level of tagging (folksonomy) with our existing rich taxonomies and the ‘read wear‘ trails left by users in browsing the site to enhance the user experience for everybody.

Others ask me – “I have a blog but no-one ever posts comments, why?”. The answer to which is usually, “are you writing your posts in a way that leaves space open for people to respond simply and quickly?”.

The danger in all this quick uptake of social media amongst the cultural sector is that we often over estimate how much our audiences want to particpate. Sure, in our physical spaces we see them interacting with our on-floor interactive experiences but we then make the mistake of thinking that this will transfer over to the online space. Participation is not the same as interaction – interaction is a much more transient activity whereas participation generally requires effort over time. My advice in the online space is to implement solutions that require, as Nielsen writes, “zero effort” to participate – this is why we do so much work around user tracking and making that tracking simultaneously transparent and, paradoxically, invisible.

Try it.

Here’s my well-trotted out example – search for ‘cricket’ in our collection database.

What does it recommend as ‘related searches’? Other sports and some other words as well usually – it changes dynamically over time which reflects the different patterns of usage and association over time.

Why? Because other users like yourself have told it that these words are related to ‘cricket’.

Have they done so explicitly? No. They just browse the site and their behaviour tells our system that certain terms are related. There is ‘zero effort’ on the part of the user.

How? Ahhh, that’d be telling . . . come to one of my future presentations and find out.

Collection databases Digitisation Imaging Interactive Media Metadata Web 2.0

Hyperlinking collectively shared images – Seadragon/Photosynth

There’s been a lot of discussion on the web about Microsoft’s Photosynth but this demonstration from TED really reveals the real possibilities. The image navigation opportunities offered by Seadragon are quite amazing but as Blaise Aguera y Arcas points out in the short demonstration, what a collective Photosynth experience offers is the ability for one user/contributor’s content to benefit from the metadata associated with everyone else’s content that is visually related (around the 6:10-6:30 mark).

If the cultural sector contributed images, or made use of this sort of application our very rich contextual metadata could be added to the common pool allowing for holiday snaps to be explored with deep connections to cultural collections and other people’s snapshots. And, again as Blaise Aguera y Arcas makes clear, the other side effect is the ability to generate rich virtual reconstruction works as well.

The BBC has already been exploring these possibilities.

Developer tools Interactive Media Web metrics

All you ever need to know about Google Page Rank at Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine have put together a splendid and pretty much definitive guide to how Google’s Page Rank works. It is full of links to more information. Essential reading.

AV Related Collection databases Web 2.0

OPAC2 does video

We have added the first of a batch of videos to our collection database.

The first one features Tom Crawford, a former train driver who drove one of the locomotives in our collection discussing his experience.

Rather serendipitously Tom’s family made contact with the Museum and Irma Havlicek from the Web Services team organised for Tom to come in and for his story to be filmed and recorded for posterity.

There are many many stories of objects about which the Museum knows more about as a result of public contact generated by the collection database and through visitation to the physical museum, but this is the first object for which we have been able to add a personal story to in such a way.

For those wanting to know how this is done technically, we store the video in our kEmu collection database in its multimedia table, just like all the images, which is then harvested periodically. We currently use Flash Video (FLV) as a preferred format to balance size and quality.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

‘Thinkering spaces’ for children in museums

The IIT Institute of Design is undertaking some very interesting work with American libraries prototyping what they call ‘Thinkering spaces’ for children.

I’m particularly struck by how appropriate this research is for museums, and how many museums have already made large steps in this direction.

Tinkering for the sake of one’s own discovery promotes more than just learning about the topic of inquiry. Tinkering further promotes the development of critical thinking skills that will prepare kids as they encounter future, more-complex scenarios. The trends resulting from the digital revolution indicate a demand for all kids to develop more progressive skills for future success. In particular, the following list of competencies, formerly seen as niche skills sets, is forecast to be of major importance for today’s kids in their adult futures:

– Creative Thinking (developing intellectual independence and multiple perspectives)
– Systems Understanding (seeing meaningful relationships in complexity)
– Innovative Problem Solving (framing problems in unconventional ways and connecting ideas through lateral thinking)
– Information Management (knowing how to find, organize and use resources)
– Interdisciplinary Teamwork (collaborating effectively across disciplines)

By providing kids with opportunities to develop these competencies they will be better equipped to face future issues. The experience of tinkering, self-directed discovery, and peer engagement within both physical and digital environments can help kids to develop these competencies. The ThinkeringSpace initiative aims to support and nurture children in their exploratory activities to help them develop these important skills.

Imaging Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0

Visualising sound and music – visualisation tools

The big news around the internet at the present, apart from Microsoft’s Surface, is that Last.Fm has been bought out by CBS. Hopefully that isn’t going to mean the closing down of their current open policy towards data sharing and use.

One of the coolest data visualisation applications for is one that creates a rather stunning layered histogram of your tracked listening habits. Originally this popped up as an art project by Lee Byron at Carnegie Mellon, but now you can create your own visualisations via this nifty little program written by a 23 year old, albeit a little rougher.

Here’s my listening habits based on my Top 50 most listened to artists, averaged monthly,for the last 12 months.

Top 50 for the last 12 months

(click for larger)

I’m very excited about generating one of these layered histograms based on object usage in our collection database . . . . stay tuned.