We are (partially) mobile – Powerhouse on your phone

Today we went live with a mobile version of the Powerhouse Museum site. Open up on your phone browser and you’ll see a stripped back version of the site with the bare necessities and a slimmed down architecture.

It is a still a work in progress – we’ve been greatly impressed with how SFMOMA incorporated a mobile version into their recent website redesign – and there’s a few more tweaks to be done.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how our site might translate on a mobile – and the sorts of information users might privilege over other information when looking on their phones. Obviously separate pages for prices, location, etc that exist on the ‘normal’ site are just an annoyance on a hard-to-navigate phone interface so we slimmed it right back to one key information page, three pages of exhibition listings and what’s on information, and the collection search. You’ll notice that exhibition pages, themselves, revert to the full web version at the moment.

Here’s what it now looks like on an iPhone.

(home page 7″ edit)

(featured 7″ edit)

(collection object 7″ edit)

Designing for mobiles is still a challenge given the diversity of devices, screen sizes and plugin support. But the real challenge is information architecture. Mobile browsing is all about getting timely, pertinent, situationally relevant, slimmed down information – and most cultural organisations have spent a lot of time, money and effort doing the exact opposite.

In our sector, plugin-heavy exhibition websites still abound – especially in the art museum world, and in the science and social history museum world we go all out on deep information heavy resources. All this is wonderful (well, maybe not always the plugin stuff) if you are sitting in front of a broadband connected modern computer with a large monitor, a hot beverage, a comfortable chair and plenty of time to kill.

But on a mobile phone when you are making a snap decision as to where to take your date – or maybe you are just looking for the street address – these bells and whistles just don’t cut it. In fact they get in the way.

Next week you’ll see why the collection was so important to have working on mobiles . . .

Conferences and event reports Social networking

Twitter and upcoming presentations and workshops

As many of you know I’ve got a large number of workshops and presentations coming up.

Next week I’m speaking at the State Library of NSW’s Perceptions and Connections conference then later in the week running two workshops on metrics and giving a presentation at the Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication conference in Melbourne. A little later it is Museums and the Web 2009 and then Museums Australia.

Now I can almost be certain that I and a lot of other presenters these days are coming to terms with the #backchannel. Twitter is suddenly taking off in an almost mass culture big way and this year at MW09 you can be sure it is going to be almost ubiquitous.

The question then is, how does a presenter cope with mass Twittering?

Olivia Mitchell has some good ideas – both for presenter and audience. Here’s an excerpt.

1. Ask a friend or colleague, or a volunteer from the audience to monitor the back channel and interrupt you if there are any questions or comments that need to be addressed. Jeffrey Veen calls this person an ombudsman for the audience.

2. If you can’t find someone to take on this role take breaks – say every 10 mins – to check Twitter. Robert Scoble calls this taking a twitter break. You can combine this with asking the audience for “out-loud” questions as well. It’s good practice to stop for questions throughout your presentation – rather than leaving questions till the end.

3. If you’re courageous and know your content backwards, display the back channel on a screen that everyone (including you) can see. This is potentially distracting for you and has the downside in that the visibility it provides can provoke silly tweets from some (eg: “Hi Mom”). But it does mean that you can react immediately to any issues. Spend some time at the beginning of your presentation explaining to your audience how you will respond to the twitter stream and audience members are more likely to use it responsibly.

Social networking

Mapping your social network

What you see above is a map of my Facebook friends and their interconnections. The core mesh shows the tight interlinking of my social friends who I went to university with or are involved in some way in musical pursuits. The smaller, less dense cluster to the right are my ‘museum tech’ acquaintances – drawn from all over the globe and less connected to each other.

There’s been quite a few Facebook applications that have offered simpler maps but Nexus is probably the best as it lets you navigate your network and explore similarities and visualise your network map in different ways. (Like any Facebook app, read the Terms of Service first).

How diverse is the social network map of your organisation’s fans/friends?

Imaging Web 2.0

Sydney Observatory and astrometry bots

Over at the Sydney Observatory blog you can read about our astronomy curator’s experiments with the ‘astrotagging bot’ behind the Astrometry project and group on Flickr.

Today 20 February 2009 (Sydney time) the above image and five others were posted on the image sharing website Flickr here. Within a few minutes found the image and analysed it to provide full details such as the astronomical coordinates of the image centre, its scale, its orientation and marked the main objects visible on the image.

About the Astronometry project

The removal of astrometry as a barrier to using legacy and badly archived (or not archived) data will greatly extend astronomical time baselines into the past, and greatly increase time sampling for sources all over the sky. It facilitates work with distributed, heterogeneous data sets. It also provides a channel for professional and amateur astronomers to collaborate, as the installation of correct WCS makes currently hard-to-access amateur imaging data interoperable with professional projects.

It is a quite amazing use of citizen-contributed data (via photographs of the night sky) to hard science. The use of Flickr as a data source is quite magical – read the interview with Christopher Stumm from the Astrometry project.

Museum blogging

The Powerhouse Museum library now blogs

Another thing I’ve neglected to mention is that our Research Library now has a blog. They are the fourth internal unit to blog publicly about their day to day work (joining our Image Services and Photography team, Conservation team, and of course the Digital group – which you are reading now).

The Library is home to a great collection of books and journals with a particular speciality in design all of which can be browsed in a ‘research visit’. Other libraries can make an inter-library loan request.

The Library is a bit of a hidden treasure known primarily to researchers, although we do a brisk trade for design students doing courses at the nearby UTS. The blog is intended to document some of the results of the ‘specialist research services’ our reference librarians undertake. This research is often fascinating and has, until now, been locked away in monthly reports and the like.

Now we hope some of the great discoveries and interesting people – filmmakers, designers, writers – who ask our library to undertake research for them, will be revealed to the public.

Enjoy another side to the Museum’s research work and services.

open content Web metrics

Attempts at quantifying social behaviour in the Commons

Over at the fantastic Indicommons blog there has been a flurry of activity around generating data from the various collections in the Commons on Flickr.

Patrick Peccatte initially posted on his blog a set of figures extracted using the Flickr API across the institutions in the Commons. Patrick has reworked these figures a little and they’ve been re-blogged on Indicommons.

The Powerhouse Museum figures work out like this – (as on Feb 7/8)

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia

Launched on 7 April 2008, currently has 1,101 photos in 27 sets.
1,464 comments,for an average of 1.33 per photo. Max = 97
4,619 tags, for an average of 4.20 per photo. Max = 34
305 notes, for an average of 0.28 per photo. Max = 19
Images with no social behaviour (identified in a separate post) – 336 out of 1,101 (30%)

(source: Patrick Peccatte)

Incidentally these images have been viewed just over 600,000 times at the time Patrick generated the data – which gives some indication of the participation rate (0.2% comment/view rate).

Now as with any quantitative measures these figures have problems. For some institutions the way the Flickr API extracts and reports data has been an issue. But for us these figures are useful given the very Australian and Sydney-centric content of images we’ve been uploading.

Anecdotally we’ve seen a huge increase in viewing as our relatively geographically-specific images have been exposed more widely by Indicommons and others.

Some questions worth exploring further –

– Who is doing the commenting, tagging and note additions?
– Are the repeat viewers?
– How diverse are they? Is it a lot of people doing a little, or, a few people doing a lot?
– Do those who ‘participate’ become ‘contacts’ (do they want to stay notified of future uploads?)

Social media Social networking

Engaging audiences with exhibitions in early development – Signs and the 1980s

Much like other museums we’ve started in earnest committing to engaging collaborators in exhibitions from the earliest stages possible. Our next two big(-ish) exhibitions are using different methods to collate, curate, and select content and ideas.

Our upcoming exhibition on Signs which will open around the time of Sydney Design 09 in August has just launched a Flickr group focussed on collecting the best, strangest, and ‘altered’ signage from around Australia.

By encouraging the use of a Creative Commons license we are hoping that some of these images will be featured in the exhibition and those that are geo-tagged may end up being used for walking tours. There will be specific challenges issued to the group over the coming months so if you have some great photos of signage around Australia, join up and participate. 6 days in we’ve already collected 173 photos form 114 people!

Another exhibition planned to open a little later this year is focussing on Australia in the 1980s. Now given the period in focus we’re operating on three different fronts. Firstly we launched an exhibition development blog written by the two curators, Peter Cox and Rebecca Bower. The blog introduces and teases out the key exhibition themes and is allowing the curatorial staff to ‘test’ ideas and ‘talk out loud’ about their plans.

Second, the blog links to a Flickr group where, like the Sign Design group, we are inviting people to submit photos of themselves and others in the 1980s. This is going to be a tricky challenge as relatively few people people have digitised their photos from the 1980s compared to the huge volume of digital born material of current times. We see this as an opportunity.

Thirdly there’s the Facebook group – an obvious choice – where we’re expecting a different kind of community will emerge around the exhibition content – less image-based and more conversational.

(Apologies to regular readers – it has been very busy and the blog has had to lay idle. However a large backlog of posts which will emerge over coming weeks along with the fruits of some exciting projects.)