Developer tools Imaging Web 2.0

Comparing a site across browsers

One of the biggest problems when designing and developing a new website or rolling out a new look and feel is cross-browser compatibility. Usually the solution has been to have a series of machines, real or virtual, with different versions of the various different browsers out there installed, and then go through each one laboriously.

Fortunately now there is Browsershots which is a web-based browser farm which you can utilise for browser checking. You simply submit an URL to Browsershots and tick the various flavours and versions of browser you want to check against and then wait . . .

Your request is queued and once processed you can view and download screenshots of your site as it look in each of the browsers selected. Because it runs on actual machines these screenshots aren’t kludges, they are the real thing.

Conceptual Digitisation

Subscription museum content? Some implications of the NYT announcement for museums

The New York Times announced last week that it was stopping charging for archival and subscription content on its website. As its self-report explains, the NYT has realised that selling and managing subscription service to archival content now is not going to be as profitable as selling advertising on this content and making access to it easy and free.

This turnaround has come at the hands of Google and the power of search – search which is now driving less ‘serious’ readers to their content who are unwilling to buy a subscription. For the NYT they expect to get better returns on material previously only available through subscriptions via onsite advertising and the ability for readers to engage in conversations around the content. Conversations mean exposure, exposure means advertising. Blogger Jason Kottke (amongst many others) has already been digging through the archives exposing some of the more interesting material.

There has been an explosion of discussion across the web but the Future of the Book pulls together three commentaries to suggest that

Whatever the media business models of tomorrow may be, they will almost certainly not revolve around owning content.

and drawing on Jeff Jarvis’s 2005 proclamations, explains that the future lies in integrating your content into your audience’s conversations.

But in this new age, you don’t want to own the content or the pipe that delivers it. You want to participate in what people want to do on their own. You don’t want to extract value. You want to add value. You don’t want to build walls or fences or gardens to keep people from doing what they want to do without you. You want to enable them to do it. You want to join in.

So what might this mean for museums?

Whilst those in collecting institutions often see themselves as the sole holders of particular objects, it is becoming more acceptable to acknowledge that as institutions there is still a lot to learn about these objects and that that knowledge may lie elsewhere in the community. Certainly injecting museum content into, and encouraging audience conversations then is not as controversial as it might have been ten years ago. Exclusivity might work with our physical spaces but not online.

At the same time increasing commercial pressures are asking museums to find new revenue streams – image sales, licensing, syndication, partnerships. Already the V&A and the Met have moved to ‘no-fee’ image licensing for small run academic publishing after discovering that the internal cost of charging for these operations outweighed their commercial returns. From the WIPO’s Guide to Managing Intellectual Property for Museums (pt 6.6) –

Recent developments in business models concerning the production and distribution of content on the Internet, coupled with a continued examination by museums of their missions and mandates has led to an awareness that the making available of museum images is merely a means to a commercial end, and not the end, itself. Indeed, in a recent press release, the Victoria and Albert Museum announced that it would no longer charge fees for academic and scholarly reproduction and distribution for its images, claiming that while it earned approximately 250,000 a year from scholarly licensing programs, the overhead costs associated with licensing fees rendered their profits much less. What is not reported, but suspected, is that the Victoria and Albert Museum determined that it was wise business practice to allow its copyright-protected images to be made available for free, thereby increasing their circulation and delivering significant promotional opportunities back to the museum.

As the WIPO Guide suggests, there is some potential for museums in the online space in the brand and promotional opportunities in the short term, and then flowing from these in the medium-long term, the partnerships and commercial content syndication options that are expected to flow from a greater awareness (and discussion) of content.

What the NYT announcement does, along with the increased commercial activity around digitising state-held records, especially those relating to the profitable family history space, is create significant competition for museum content online.

Social networking Web 2.0

Who participates? The many and the few

Who is really participating on so-called ‘social media’ websites? Research at both the academic and the market research level continues to probe this question.

Firstly, there is a fascinating paper titled ‘Power of the Few vs. Wisdom of the Crowd: Wikipedia and the Rise of the Bourgeoisie ‘ by Kittur, Chi, Pendlteon, Suh and Mytkowicz presented at SigGraph 2007 that looks at the changes in contribution trends to Wikipedia and charts the declining influence of an elite cabal of admins, and then compares this to behaviour on

In this paper, we show that the story is more complex than explanations offered before. In the beginning, elite users contributed the majority of the work in Wikipedia. However, beginning in 2004 there was a dramatic shift in the distribution of work to the common users, with a corresponding decline in the influence of the elite. These results did not depend on whether work was measured by edits or by actual change in content, though the content analysis showed that elite users add more words per edit than novice users (who on average remove more words than they added).

This paper’s research contributes to Wilkinson and Huberman’s ‘Assessing the value of cooperation in Wikipedia‘ at First Monday (from April) which asserts that there is a significant correlation between article quality and number of edits.

Then over at the McKinsey Quarterly this month (requires a free registration), McKinsey presents their comparatively small-scale research (573 users) from Germany to examine some of the potential lessons from why Germans upload content to video sharing sites.

Few companies, however, have a clear understanding of what inspires users to contribute to such sites. Executives might start by looking to the world of online video sharing, another fast-growing test bed for participation. McKinsey research conducted in Germany finds that motives such as a desire for fame and a feeling of identification with a community encourage collaboration and participation. Such findings, we believe, offer insights into the way companies might tailor their Web 2.0 offerings.

Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Brief notes on the vernacular web, class and design

A few days I was on Facebook and saw an advertisement to add ‘glitter’ to my profile. And then I came across Russian net artist/curator Olia Lialina’s highly entertaining essay called Vernacular Web 2 (which comes complete with an ‘almost spam’ URL).

Lialina’s exploration of the new forms of ‘vernacular’ design explores the transition from ‘My Home Page’ to customised ‘services’ (iGoogle, MySpace, Facebook etc).

Collection databases Interactive Media Young people & museums

C is for collection – an ABC book with collection objects

Two weeks ago we made a simple ABC book for young children available on our children’s website. It is called ‘C is for collection‘ and is a very basic extension of our online collection built in Flash with an XML file supplying the necessary collection data allowing for easy expansion.

A longer term objective of ‘C is for collection’ is to build a database of child-friendly object descriptions and explore the options for a children’s tagging game with the same XML.

Have a play and remember to turn up your speakers. More children’s games are coming shortly.

Folksonomies Web 2.0 update as a podcast

I’ve just finished a presentation to art museum folk at the Sites of Communication 3 conference at the National Gallery of Victoria, and true to form there was quite a bit of interest in social tagging. There seems to now be widespread awareness of the problem of the ‘semantic gap’ between the language of art museums audiences (especially as they are being seen to be diversifying) and that of art curators and researchers. And there is increasing interest addressing this problem.

Thus when museum people ask about collection tagging projects other than our own, I send them off to the project website. Invariably they come back, having dipped their toes into some of the research material, with more questions. Jennifer Trant has produced a rather excellent podcast summary of the project to date and some of the preliminary results emerging from it. The podcast is a good example of making what is otherwise a time consuming and text heavy task an easy-to-digest and informative 12 minute presentation – complete with a few slides. (It uses the M4A format so you will need Quicktime or iTunes.) is doing some excellent and very considered research that will re-assure many tag skeptics and no doubt lead to more and better tagging implementations down the track. Whether the Steve results will be able to be applied directly to collections outside of visual art – social history and natural history collection especially – remains to be seen.