Picnic 10

Sketchy notes from Picnic 10 (part 1 of 2)

Picnic 10 has been very rewarding – Picnic is why I’ve been in Amsterdam delivering two presentations and helping organise three sessions on different issues in cultural heritage.

In the main pavilion in amongst interactive promotions from various major companies and a healthy smattering of startups was a pop up Fab Lab run by the Waag Society and a rather excellent pop up Instructubles Restaurant. In the Fab Lab people were using rapid prototyping tools and 3D printers to build all sorts of little creations whilst the Instructibles Restaurant made entirely from crowdsourced components and cooking up crowdsourced recipes from the Instructibles site. If anything shows the micro-industrial revolution occurring under our noses it is this. (And the food is tasty too!)

In a session on transmedia (games), Dan Hon who was responsible for such things as the We Tell Stories project for Penguin, bemoaned the genre formulas of transmedia productions. He posed whether the present would be radically different if the first transmedia production hadn’t been for Speilberg’s techno thriller A.I. but instead had been for the feelgood film of the same year – Amelie? Dan pushed this further. Is it possible to develop transmedia experiences for mass audiences – not just ‘puzzle geeks’?

These are real challenges for those trying to bring the opportunities of transmedia games to the cultural sector. Puzzle geeks aren’t our natural audiences and we are far more Amelie than A.I.

The next day i managed to catch a brief moment of Jeff Jarvis introducing his ideas of ‘entrepreneurial journalism‘ – an idea that probably has equal implications for the cultural sector. CUNY is now offering a Masters in the topic – where students not only learn journalism but are required to come up with a business model and sustainability strategy for their work. From this have already come several journalism startups’ although none have been ‘traditional journalism’ – instead have been about connecting and amplifying the things that matter to creation niche communities bounded by experience and/or geography.

Then it was off to present to the Hot 100 – 100 hand selected young entrepreneurs and graduates. I probably was a bit outside their usual scope but I hope the lessons around audience/user focus and continual refinement were universal. Also presenting in this session was Anab Jain from Superflux. I hadn’t heard Anab before and her presentation was one of the highlights of Picnic. Anab’s work – initially as an artist and now as a researcher and designer – centres on the cultural and shared social contexts of various technologies. Her early experiment in 2005 – Yellow Chair Stories – saw her sharing her wifi connection in London and striking up conversations with those who used it was wonderful. Similarly her prototype Sketch-A-Move for Mattel was totally inspired.

Anab later was part of the Urban Lenses panel organised by Adam Greenfield where she, again, presented some insightful views on the experience of connectivity in the city, contrasting the role of mobile technologies in Amsterdam with those of people technologies in cities in India.

After a non-existent lunch break, I presented again in our main event – the Beyond Tourism mobile discussion. The premise for this panel was to consider how cultural institutions and cultural content might be best delivered, adapted, and contributed to by a broad citizenry using mobile devices. Up until now, the rapidly expanding mobile space has considered cultural content as fodder for endless variants of tourism apps. Indeed, at Picnic itself, there were more than a few start ups pitching ‘interactive mobile tours’.

Gillian Schrofer opened by showing his QR code incursions around Amsterdam that when scanned, made visible the interiors of private residences that had had their interiors designed by his company. There was more than a little synergy with the kind of work that historic house operators have been considering – as his panoramic interior photos were hyperlinked to information about furniture and fittings.

My own presentation explored some of the failures we’ve been learning from at the Powerhouse – QR codes, URLs on object labels – and, the core problem of incentive (or lack of). My slides don’t make a great deal of sense without audio so I’m not posting them – suffice to say, my big hairy issue, despite seeing promise in a number of augmented reality apps, is that in every example thus far, a piece of physical tourist signage in location would be more effective in terms of reach and communication (just not as nerdy).

More importantly, my other issue with seeing the world as objects is that it diverts us from the core notion of storytelling – which is, in reality the only thing that will make any of these technologies truly compelling for users. In fact museums are rather good at storytelling and we’ve been diverted from our course by the lure of ‘liberating objects’ – which, on their own, are much less than when organised into a narrative.

On the storytelling meme, I also riffed around the need to transform the narrative of the ‘museum visit’ from one that starts at the door and ends at the door, to one that starts well before the visit, and ends well after the visit – each ‘chapter’ being a stage. If conceived of in this way, the ‘museum visit’ narrative is much more able to accommodate the idea of pre- and post- visit interactions. As a result marketing and promoting events and incursions that occur outside the museum itself should become far less difficult to conceptualise and implement.

Mike Edson from the Smithsonian followed me with his pitch for the Smithsonian Commons and what he saw as not being the future of mobile but the future as mobile. Mike and I had a bit of a discussion during Picnic about the potential for the Smithsonian Commons to potentially crowd out other initiatives globally through sheer scale and volume – or as was coined, the idea of ‘data imperialism’.

Jarmo Eskalinen spoke about open data especially at the city level and David Vogt from Mobile Muse spoke eloquently about the mobile web being, potentially, the first media technology to offer a intimate, participatory and social experience of media akin to our shared cultural understandings of the night sky. David’s short talk resonated with my feelings about the as yet untapped potential of mobile. I’ve included one of his slides which illustrates his claim for mobile.

(image from David Vogt’s slidedeck)

Conferences and event reports

Upcoming digital talks & events for October/November

We’re going back into a cycle of talks with a lot of new things to talk about and announce. There’s a whole swag of previously unspoken about goodies going live in the next 8 weeks, and everyone has been head down working hard. However, it being conference season again means we’re going to be getting the word out on these projects . . .

In the next fortnight I’m in Amsterdam as part of Picnic 2010 (September 22-24). I am involved in a trio of (free) seminar sessions for Culturemondo and as a guest of Virtueel Platform – the Dutch peak body for media art. Picnic is an annual event that operates in the interzone between science, art, media and commerce. Purposely diverse it is a great mix of speculative talks, hands on demonstrations (there’s a competition to build augmented reality games to run live during Picnic this year, for example), media industries, artists and investment types. I spoke there in 2008 and it was one of the most interesting events I’ve been to. (Here’s my reports from 2008).

The three talks I’m involved with fit into a sequence teasing out issues around how digital cultural heritage can operate in the rapidly changing economic and media environment. On Wednesday (Sept 22) in a session called Cultural Criticism In The Age Of New Journalism, we look at the impact of models of new new journalism on cultural criticism and how this, in turn, impacts upon the arts. Whilst at one end of the spectrum, the broad reach of amateur criticism in blogs and across the web is very welcome, at the other the dispersal of such critique across the web makes it difficult for those who rely on such criticism as a part of their professional practice. This is impacting art, the performing arts, and film industries as well as critical practices in these in widely different ways.

On Thursday the series turns to mobile and in a session titled Beyond Tourism: Future Directions For Mobile Cultural Content, speakers question how the development and use of mobile apps in the cultural sector can move beyond (just) tourism and marketing applications. Then that night Non-Fiction takes a group of us on an underground tour of Amsterdam’s mobile incursions and experiments being deployed across the city by media artists. And on the Friday in New Business Models for Culture & Heritage, we look at a range of ‘business model experiments’ that are taking place with digital cultural heritage and collectively consider how best public value might be served.

In between all that I’m hoping to be blogging the rest of Picnic and catching some of the exciting sessions on gaming, transmedia, urban design, sensors and the internet of things, and possibly even some of the bio-engineering stuff.

If you are in or near the Netherlands then come along. Registration for the three Culturmondo seminar sessions is free and if you are coming for them there is also a discount available for the broader Picnic tickets (read to the end of this).

In mid October senior online producer Renae Mason is heading to the New Zealand National Digital Forum in Wellington this year (Oct 18-19) for the Powerhouse. She’s talking about the impact and evaluation of some of our recent social media forays and doing a no holds barred teardown of our investment in prolonged social media and content development for The 80s Are Back exhibition. No doubt she’ll also talk about our Ask A Curator experience. Don’t miss Dan Hill, Mike Edson and Nick Poole’s keynotes at NDF – they should all be fascinating and I’m quite disappointed to be missing it this year.

That same week on this side of the ditch it is Australian Web Week 2010 and Visual & Digitisation manager Paula Bray is doing a ‘big picture’ talk to the assembled throng of web geeks at Web Directions South. Web Directions South is an event we always try to send team members along to to expand their technical and conceptual knowledge of where the web is heading. Paula’s going to be covering a broad range of Powerhouse activities and initiatives and encouraging developers to consider cultural datasets when they are experimenting with new projects. Paula’s in great company with some our teams’ favourite web people are speaking there this year.

On the Saturday (October 16), the Powerhouse is the venue for Web Directions’ Amped – a free ‘hack day’ with special guests from Web Directions and lots of challenges and prizes. If you work with data, are a web designer and work on the web, or are a developer then register and come along as there’ll be lots of great things going on and some great micro-talks as well.

Then in early November, Paula is speaking at the CEBIT Government 2.0 Conference in Canberra and I’m speaking at the NAA/CAARA Residential School with what seems like most of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce!

Busy times.

Oh . . . and we’ll be announcing a bunch of new things at each of these . . . stay tuned. They deserve their own separate blog posts.

Conferences and event reports

Report from THATCamp Canberra

Ingrid Mason who is working on the Museum Exchange project for the Powerhouse went to THATCamp in Canberra on the weekend to talk about the project (more on that in a post shortly!), and to absorb some new thinking from Australian ‘digital humanists’ (the opposite of ‘analogue fundamentalists‘?).

I asked Ingrid a couple of questions about this gathering in wintery Canberra.

F&N: What is THATcamp?

THATCamp is The Humanities And Technology Camp. Take a look here for the idea: There are camps happening all over the world – next one is in Cologne – where people are interested in how humanities study and technology is working, can work and is transforming as a result of increasing use of computing technologies. The THATCamp in Canberra for example had people from academia, from the galleries, libraries, archives, museums, PhD students, technical developers and representatives from national technology initiatives and eresearch bodies such as the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and Victorian eResearch Strategic Initiative (Versi).

There is no – pitching – of – tents or bonfires but there is great exchange of information and at times debate – plenty of bonhomie. The by-product of this is catalysing of and gathering up interest to build some momentum in the digital humanities and stimulate innovation and collaboration. The THATCamp was called an “unconference” in that no-one prepared papers but people came with ideas they wanted to offer and questions to ask. If this is what an unconference is, it is great, and a lot like the “birds of a feather” sessions you get a major conferences – except more dynamic.

F&N: Can you explain what, exactly, is/are digital humanities?

Digital humanities is “in process” you could say.

Over dinner with Dr Craig Bellamy and Conal Tuohy from Versi in Melbourne I learned that the humanities has been computing since the 1940s. That came as a surprise, but then on further questioning it emerged that this early start in digital humanities was the development of concordances. We also talked about the field of linguistics which is strong in the use of computing technologies. I guess with using words as units for data mining and analysis this seems obvious and straight forward. What I see as digital humanities is much bigger and broader in its manipulation of data. However this text processing work is fundamental and foundational to other areas of the humanities (and not just the humanities btw) that also deal in text, in sound, in colour.

I’m sure there is more that I can articulate but by example if we study games as cultural artefacts, then we are going to have to figure out how to enable annotation in multi member and player gaming spaces and enable the publication of the researcher’s observations and “data” and “publication” to be in a multimedia form. Without knowing what curricula are available internationally in the “digital culture” and “digital humanities” I can’t say where digital humanities is. The comment I will make though is eventually I assume that we’ll lose the “digital” in digital humanities and the technology will be so embedded we won’t notice it, or, it will get its own specific title, e.g. nanotechnology. How about – annotechnology – the technologies used to draw together and analyse and create meaning drawing from annotations?

F&N: What were the best things you saw/heard at TC?

Formal conference presentations are good to go to and the time to sit back and reflect and explore ideas. THATCamp was alive and wildly mentally stimulating because it is group and knowledge exchange all happening at once. I’m pretty focused 80% of the time on learning quickly, exchanging ideas and getting stuck into doing something – so I was in my element surrounded by thinkers and doers and active communicators. In that heady brew of ideas and challenges to immerse myself in several bubbles of inspiration and ponderence caught my attention and snagged my thoughts and interlinked as I drove back to Sydney from Canberra.

1. The concept of “network literacy” – that a really good understanding of how the ‘net works is critical to digital humanities study. There was plenty of discussion about “how much” and I raised the question of whether it was knowing as in “familiar with” or “how to” encapsulated by the French words connaitre and savoir. Strikes me this is where digital humanities research is going and new discourses will be emerging if they aren’t already! See the software studies/cultural analytics work being done at Calit2.

There is also a general level of understanding the web and its connections that all humanists can benefit from, at the most simple, in citing complex web content in bibliographies. I think network literacy has an obvious relationship with information literacy, traditionally taught by librarians to new university students to help them with their information seeking.

2. The need for a tools and a platform to be developed to support complex use of web material, capture, citation and archiving. This can be done by those that know how to use the tools and how to archive but this process of using web material in the course of research isn’t supported within a platform with tools plugged in for ease. I’m sure the Bamboo project in the US has picked plenty of this up already.

Essentially the humanities scholar’s desk and room needs to be recreated and enabled to support sourcing, coordinating, referencing, and archiving of digital material including the data and publications that are generated.

3. The necessity for scholarly environments to change to support these changing needs of scholars undertaking eresearch. For humanities scholars, well, their relationships with collecting organisations and use of their collection material, have been long and strong. Notably there was a strong representation from both domains at the THATCamp: collectors and scholars. This is a key issue to address in the tertiary sector and that message came through clearly.

4. The opportunity for collecting organisations and scholars to collaborate and undertake joint research is ripe. The Dictionary of Sydney is a good example of this. It is a great opportunity to skill share and provide the different needs and outcomes as components of a research project together.

Conferences and event reports

Upcoming talks: Sydney, Taipei, Canberra, London, Albury

Tomorrow I’m speaking at TedX Sydney at Carriageworks. Unsurprisingly this has turned out to be a massive event and is now being webcast live on the ABC. There’s an invited audience in the auditorium but the foyer space is simulcasting live along with Q&A sessions and extra performances – it is free to come along!

TedX Sydney ushers in a two month period of endless talking.

In mid June I’ll be doing a public talk on June 10 in Taipei at Fu Jen Catholic University as part of a series of workshops I’m running in Taiwan.

Switching to Government 2.0 matters – using the publicly funded cultural sector as a testbed – I’ll be speaking at the National Public Sector Digital Media Forum in Canberra on June 23, closely followed by the Web 2.0 in Government 2.0 in Sydney on June 24. And, the next day, June 25, I’ll be speculating about ‘What Now?’ at the Fastbreak breakfast at the Powerhouse Museum.

Following that I’m delivering a keynote at EVA London 2010 on July 5, and at the Public Libraries Impact 2010 conference in Albury on July 15.

And if semantic web and metadata are your thing, two other Powerhouse digital folks – Ingrid Mason, CAN Project Manager and Luke Dearnley, Web Manager, will be presenting at Metadata Australia 2010 next week in Canberra.

MW2010 User experience Web metrics

Tracking what gets ‘used’

Theres been a fair bit of excitement around the traps today about the revealing of Amazon’s tracking of highlighting on their Kindle devices.

In fact this sort of interaction tracking has been going on on the web for quite a while – but the Kindle example is one of the first where this data is being used to encourage serendipitous discovery and interest.

I started doing some work around this on the Powerhouse collection site in July last year and it forms the basis of the paper I presented at Museums and the Web this year (as well as briefly mentioning it at Webstock in February).

We’ve been trying to figure out alternative ways of measuring the success or otherwise of making large amounts of our content available on the web. Traditional web metrics just don’t cut it – millions of views of your content isn’t really helpful in improving the content you make available. And whilst qualitative research is invaluable it is generally expensive and just doesn’t scale.

So in July last year we started using a tool called Tynt Tracer.

What Tynt does is intercepts cut & paste using Javascript. It records what is copied, and, inserts into the buffer the license information and a unique hyperlink. We chose to use Tynt because it was the least intrusive and most anonymous of the options available to do the same task (there are quite a number of similar solutions out there). Tynt was also the option that made the least mention of ‘enforcement’ – which seems to be the selling point of the other options.

We aren’t interested in ‘enforcement’ or preventing visitors from cutting and pasting content – but we are primarily interested in learning about what parts of our content is the most useful to cut & pasters, and where it ends up so we can improve it and its structure.

Here’s what Tynt says about their service.

Tynt Insight anonymously detects when content is copied from your site, and can help determine what they are doing with it. At Tynt we believe content copying can be beneficial to the site owner. We find that most people copy content innocently because they are your fans. They copy content to either preserve it for themselves or to share it. Half of copied content is still shared by email because it is still the easiest and most familiar way to share content.

My paper explores how we applied this in a fair bit of detail as well as some of the findings of roughly six months’ worth of data. Suffice to say, it isn’t perfect and the paper ended up revealing that there is far less educational use of our collection in schools than we hoped for (education users being the ones we’d expect would most likely cut & paste!) – but that’s another blogpost.

Nearly 3 million words had been cut and pasted during the sample period. That’s possibly a better measure of the success, or ‘usefulness’, of our collection metadata than object views.

During a six-month period, 20,749 copies were made: 5% of these copies were images – predominantly thumbnails and, curiously, the Museum’s corporate logo; 36% (7,601) were copies of 7 words or less in length. Tynt calls these ‘search copies’ and implies that their likely use was for use in search. These search copies do not have licence and linkback text appended to them. The remaining 58% (12,608) were copies of greater than 7 words and thus had license and linkback details added to them. These 12,608 copies contained nearly 3 million copied words (2,906,330 words).

We’ve been looking at the resultant heatmaps that highlight the content that gets most cut and pasted. These offer the opportunity for us to learn and think about how we present and refine content for certain types of users.


Short report on Museums and the Web 2010, Denver

Denver is a very high altitude city. One mile up, many of the conference attendees suffered from altitude sickness – especially those who had flown directly into such a high altitude.

This year’s conference was slightly different to previous years. Session formats had changed ever so slightly and the conference venue had had to split some sessions over rooms in adjoining buildings. For the first time, too, there was an extra pre-conference day exploring ways in which the museum community might work with Wikipedia. As one of the most highly trafficked, if not the number one ‘information’ website, it is easy to see why Wikipedia is an attractive site for museums. Thus the pre-conference day was pulled together to explore some of the barriers preventing museums from engaging with Wikipedia and how these might be overcome.

Undoubtedly there are fertile opportunities. It seems self-evident that “publicly funded museums with an educational mission” (not all museums) would wish to have their research and scholarship used to improve the areas of Wikipedia which lacked the correct or most up to date information. On the Wikipedia side, too, there seems to be a broad realisation at the Foundation level (but not necessarily a consensus amongst the editors of Wikipedia) that such information is of great value to Wikipedia – especially as it continues to expand its depth and quality. (Brianna Laugher delved into related issues in a speech at the National Library of Australia a little while back).

By the end of a long day it felt like both the museums and Wikipedia were sometimes talking at cross purposes – with some misunderstandings and misconceptions on both sides. On the positive side, there were a number of experimental projects discussed involving museums and Wikipedia already happening in Australia, USA, USA and Europe – and these were all proving to be working and shared a committed local Wikipedia community respectful of the institutions and an equally committed institution or group of institutions who had dedicated resources to working with the local community. Equally positive was the general consensus that more liberal licensing on museum content as a whole might achieve the same end goals as direct collaboration with Wikipedians – but without the resourcing, scaling and sometimes difficult community management issues.

On the following day – the workshop day – I ran my metrics workshop in the morning then a social media strategy workshop with Dr Angelina Russo in the afternoon both to full houses. Such workshops are always good to run in the conference as they draw a much more diverse group of participants than when I run them with individual institutions. Then it was into the conference proper.

Thursday opened with local serial-entrepreneur Brad Feld talking about the ethos of the entrepreneur. You’ve probably used the technologies that Feld has been involved with over the years, and you probably, as he acknowledged, know someone with addictions to his latest venture – Zynga who make Farmville. Feld’s introduction was what you would expect at a technology event but stuck out a lot more in the museum space – where the kind of risk-tolerant experimentation that is encouraged is a little harder to make a reality.

After Feld’s introduction it was into the split sessions. I followed the collections track starting with Aaron Straup-Cope’s paper titled Buckets & Vessels. Aaron’s presentations at Museums & the Web over the past few years have been highlights – his ability to pull together theoretical and philosophical approaches as well as heavy technical material is completely compelling. This year his paper examined the changes in the practice of ‘curating’ broadly resulting from the Internet. Using Flickr Galleries (and the hilarious Regretsy) as an example, he demonstrated how tools can be developed to encourage and shape the curating of digital content.

Notions of authority are not eroding. People will continue to seek out and reward expert opinion. No one is storming the proverbial gates, and there are still plenty of people who want to get inside them. What is happening instead is the creation of a de facto, rather than de jure, culture of curation to deal with a world that has become more of an abundant present than a considered past.

Nate Solas from the Walker Art Center followed with a detailed teardown of the Arts Connected collection search. Nate trawled through the search logs of the former site and compared the effectiveness and style of searches performed with those on the new site which has alternative ways of navigating the detailed content. This was impressive stuff and very valuable for all of us who are trying to develop better ways of making museum collections discoverable – his paper is essential reading.

I presented my own paper after lunch. The published version looks at some of the data that we’ve been collecting over the past year in our collection database. In analysing the data the focus of the paper shifted from looking more generally at types of use and reuse of content, to highlighting shortcomings with regard to the use of our collection content by schools. In the presentation I focussed a little more on the still unrealised promise of opening up our collections, and the need to keep a focus on the audiences that are most aligned to the delivery of our short and long term goals. I’ll follow this through in more detail in a later blogpost as it needs dedicated space to explain and explore.

The next day was filled with off-conference discussions. One of the best parts of Museums and the Web is the connections that are made between attendees – and it is one of the few museum and technology events that draws a mix of both North Americans and Europeans. (The #ashcloud from Iceland impacted the return travel plans of roughly 1/4 of the conference!)

In between these discussions I popped in to the Crit Room – an annual session where several museum websites are torn down and critiqued by a panel of peers. I’d submitted the Powerhouse’s Play at Powerhouse microsite for critique – the site is due for a rebuild and the Crit Room offered a good opportunity to get some objectivity on the problems. I’d expected worse and the session provided some very useful outcomes for me – several of the elements of the site that we’d thought internally, were superfluous and had outlived their usefulness were well regarded, whilst some things we had overlooked were pointed out. The Israel Museum, MOMA and the Getty’s sites were also examined and the peer review notes from this session are available.

The final day kicked off with a mega-session of mini case studies, again new for this year. Jane Finnis and I had been asked to chair the session and between us we had come up with a way to hopefully make 9 presentations, each of 7 minutes in length, exciting. Presented as a ‘social media circus’, each speaker was introduced with a theme song related to the topic of their paper, and each played a circus character. It seemed to work well and keep a buzz and a pace throughout the long session. In the circus two Powerhouse colleagues presented their case studies.

Paula Bray spoke with Ryan Donaghue (George Eastman House) about the process and learnings from the first Common Ground international Flickr meetup, whilst Erika Dicker presented the findings of her survey of curatorial attitudes to social media and the new pressures of content creation.

I really enjoyed the short form presentations – and they were just the entree to the full paper versions. I’d really recommend checking them out – they cover everything from organisational change and the exhibition process to uses of Flickr, Twitter, and APIs, and an integrated CRM and visit system.

Elsewhere there was a lot of discussion of mobile and every non-American was trying to track down someone with an iPad to give one a go. This year, too, there seemed to be a more sober/realistic assessment of online initiatives. The euphoria of new technologies now replaced with a ‘how does this help us achieve our mission’ and ‘what resourcing does it require’ being regular (and essential) reality-checks.

And much like Indianapolis the year before, a surprise conference meme emerged. This year, in the absence of a revolving restaurant in Denver, the Spinny Bar Historical Society was formed. Perhaps an example of the entrepreneurial spirit gone awry, you can read more about the SBHS’ presence as Museums and the Web elsewhere.

Mobile MW2010 User experience

First impression of the iPad (and museum possibilities)

Here’s something I wrote about the iPad on the flight back from Museums and the Web 2010. I promise a full conference rundown later.

I’ve just spent about 24 hours sitting in a confined airline seat playing with an iPad. I picked up one in New York on the day before flying out and here’s some thoughts on the experience.

The iPad is quite a lovely device – it is tactile and, whilst heavier than expected, it is far lighter than the only other device I’d try typing this out on – my laptop which is now “safely stowed in the overhead locker”. Not to mention if the guy in front of me decides to lean his seat back suddenly it won’t get crushed.

I managed to load the iPad up in the hotel with a small selection of iPad apps – Pages which I am using to type this, Scrabble for playing with my seat-mate, Instapaper for offline reading of webpages I’ve bookmarked to read later, and GoodReader for the PDFs of academic and business papers I end up with. It also transferred all my existing iPhone games happily.

As expected there were a few slight difficulties. It took me a little while to figure out how to load documents onto the device – loading them to Pages and GoodReader via the ‘Apps’ tab in iTunes isn’t the most logical place. And, to make sure I could catch up with some videos I had on my laptop I had to do some file conversion to MP4 format using the open source tool Miro.

On one single charge I’ve managed a full flight from New York to Sydney with moderate use and there’s 20% charge left. It wasn’t running all the time but I’ve done a bunch of typing, watched a couple of hours of video, listened to music, played some graphically intensive games on it, as well as about 10 rounds of Scrabble. I even managed to spend an hour on the painfully slow wifi at the LAX lounge.

I’m not a current consumer of ebooks but I do read a lot of long-ish form online content – 3000 word plus articles. Magazine articles, extensive blogposts, opinion pieces – and for this use Instapaper and the iPad is a killer combo. If I find something I want to read during my day I can just mark it as ‘read later’ with a bookmarklet in my laptop browser and then when my iPad connects to wifi it downloads these for me and I can read offline whilst in transit. The iPad version of Instapaper works very well and allows font and flow changes making for a good reading experience on the device.

In many ways the iPad fills an immediate need of mine to have something more portable than my laptop and bigger than my phone for reading this kind of content – I expect there are a fair few people who share a similar need. Does it replace these other devices? No, it simply offers a more convenient context and experience for reading. Is it a ‘lean back’ device – definitely. And there are plenty of times when I need to be able to ‘lean back’ and absorb/consume content before heading off to ‘make and do’ content elsewhere on another device.

There’s a stack of potential for these devices in the museum space. I’m not a fan of the individualizing nature of traditional museum guides and tour devices. I find the small screen and inherently singular experience of a museum guide delivered either on a ‘hired’ device or my own phone, severely compromised.

But here with the iPad (and whatever follows as a result of it changing the tablet marketplace), we finally have a light, portable, and easy to use device that allows museum tours to be enjoyed collectively – even as a family group. In fact, the development work needed to convert an existing iPhone-optimised web content into one that suits the iPad is relatively minimal.

Consider the options for visitors stopping by a showcase or a set of objects wanting to know more about them. They pull out the iPad that they have ‘hired/borrowed’ at the front desk, and flick through to the collection information about those objects, pull up the videos in which the makers are interviewed, and pass the device between family members to show each other. Better yet, if they so wish, all this content is still available online for reference when they get home or back to school.

Conferences and event reports

Upcoming talks update – Stockholm, Amsterdam, London, Wellington

I’m hitting the road again in a few weeks – this time spending a bit of time in Europe working with a range of institutions – before the National Digital Forum in New Zealand at the end of November.

First up is a presentation for ABM-Centrum in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday October 23. This event is a half day presentation with myself and Johan Ronnestam talking about social media and cultural institutions, and how Swedish institutions might experiment and engage.

The following week I am in Amsterdam working with the newly in development Nationaal Historisch Museum. This includes a one day event called New Museum Lab which brings together a good sized group of museum policy makers, academics and outsiders including myself and Jake Barton from Local Projects, StoryCorps and (There’s a good piece on Jake over at City of Sound from the 2007 Postopolis).

Then it is off to run two workshops in London organised by Culture24. The first is a reprise of a sold out workshop I did last year roughly around the notion of ‘Strategic social media’, updated, remixed and with some fresh ideas thrown in. It takes place on Tuesday November 3 at CILIP in Central London. Then on Wednesday November 4 I’m leading a half day workshop on ‘Web metrics and measuring success’ which is very similar to the ones I ran in California last month. This one is being held at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Both these workshops for Culture24 are focussed on “warts and all” practicalities and require no technical experience.

Following all this I’ll be in Wellington for the National Digital Forum on November 23-24 where I am chairing a session of geodata and the cultural sector, and taking part in the next Culturemondo Roundtable. While I am there I’m also running the Web metrics workshop for the NZ sector at the National Library of NZ on November 26.

If you happen to be a regular reader in Stockholm, Amsterdam or London and would like to catch up whilst I am in the neighbourhood, then drop me an email.

Conferences and event reports

Upcoming talks, workshops and presentations

I’ve got a bunch of sector talks, workshops and presentations coming up over the next few months. I’ll be talking about some brand new (and right now, top secret) projects that focus on ‘linked data’, maps and the ‘Papernet’, as well as delving deeper into metrics, ‘value’ and digital strategy.

So you just missed me at Glam-Wiki at the Australia War Memorial in Canberra but I’ll be giving a whole day long seminar titled Social Collections, New Metrics, Maps and Other Australian Oddities at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on August 27. I’m really excited to be catching up with everyone on the West Coast and exchanging new ideas and strategies. This is a free seminar presented by the Wallace Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, Grants for the Arts/The San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, Theatre Bay Area and Dancers’ Group. It is also part of the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP), a program of Americans for the Arts that is sponsored nationally by American Express.

Then I’ll be giving a presentation focussing on ‘The Social Collection’ at Raise Your Voice: the Fourth National Public Galleries Summit, September 9- 11 in Townsville. I’m looking forward to hearing Virginia Tandy from Manchester City Council and the NGV’s Lisa Sassella is running a masterclass on audience segmentation and psychographics which looks fascinating. And of course, artist Craig Walsh is speaking as well and, well, we’ve been working on a little something.

There’s even rumours that there might be a reprise of my UK workshops of last September run jointly by Culture24 and Collections Trust sometime in early November – but right now, UK readers, that is still just a rumour.

After that I’m at the New Zealand National Digital Forum in Wellington, NZ on November 23-24 where I’m presenting and facilitating sessions around locative cultural projects. I’m excited about NDF because it is always full of inspirational Kiwi initiatives and a couple of well chosen international speakers – this year the inimitable Nina Simon, and Daniel Incandela from the Indianapolis Museum of Art. No doubt there’ll be some exciting new initiative from Digital NZ announced at NDF – just because they can.

Conferences and event reports open content Wikis

Some thoughts: post #GLAM-WIKI 2009


Photography by Paula Bray
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0

(Post by Paula Bray)

Seb and I have just spent two days at a conference, in the nation’s rather chilly capital that involved a bunch of Wikimedians (wonder what that would be called) and members from the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries and Museum sector) sector. This event was touted as a two-way dialogue to see how the two sectors could work more closely together for “the achievement of better online public access to cultural heritage”.

So what do we do post conference?

GLAM-WIKI was a really interesting conference to be a part of even if some of us were questioning ‘why’ are we here. Some of the tweets on Twitter said that there is a need for some concise decisions instead of summary. I am not sure at this stage if there are complete answers and concise decisions will need to be made by us, the GLAMs.

Jennifer Riggs, Chief Program Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation summed it up quite well and asked the question “what is one thing you will do when you leave this conference?” I think this is exactly the type of action that can lead to bigger change. Perhaps it is a presentation to other staff members in your organisation, a review of your licensing polices and business models, a suggestion of better access to your content in your KPI’s or start a page on Wikimedia about what you do and have in your collections.

One of the disturbing things for me came from Delia Browne, National Copyright Director at the Ministerial Council for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Browne highlighted the rising costs the education sector is paying to copy assets including content from our own institutions. Delia stated that there is a 720% increase in statutory licensing costs and the more content that goes online the more this cost will increase. Now the GLAM sector can help here by rethinking its licensing options and look towards a Creative Commons license for content they may own the rights to, including things like teachers’ notes. Teachers can do so much with our content but they need to know what they can use. She raised the question “What sort of relationships do we want with the education sector”? The education sector will be producing more and more content for itself and this will enter into our sector. We don’t want to be competing but rather complimenting each other. Schools make up 60% of CAL’s (Copyright Agency Limited) revenue. What will this figure be when the Connected Classrooms initiative is well and truly operational in the “digital deluge” a term mentione by Senator Kate Lundy.

Lundy gave the keynote presentation titled Finding Common Ground. She brought up many important issues in her presentation including the rather awkward one around access to material that is already in the public domain. Lundy:

“These assets are already in the public domain, so concepts of ‘protection’ that inhibit or limit access are inappropriate. In fact, the motivation of Australia’s treasure house institutions is or should be, to allow their collections to be shared and experienced by as many people as possible .”

Sharing, in turn, leads to education, research and innovation. This is something that we have experienced with our images in the Commons on Flickr and we only have 1200 images in our photostream.

The highlight for me was the question she says we should be addressing “why are we digitising in the first place?”.

This is a really important statement and should be asked at the beginning of every digitisation project. The public needs fast access to content that it trusts and our models are not going to be able to cope with the need for fast dissemination of our digital content in the future if we don’t make it accessible. It costs so much to digitise our collections – so surely we need to ask this question first and foremost. Preservation is not enough anymore. There are too many hoops to go through to get content and we are not fast enough. “The digital doors must be opened” and this is clearly demonstrated with the great initiative Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program presented by Rose Holley of the National Library of Australia.

However as Lundy said during the panel discussion following her presentation was “goodwill will have to bust out all over”. There is a lot of middle ground that the GLAM sector needs to address in relation to policy around its access initiatives and digital strategies and, yes, I think policy does matter. If we can get this right then the doors can be opened and the staff in organisations can work towards the KPI’s, missions and aims of unlocking our content and making it publicly available.

Perhaps your one thing, post GLAM-WIKI conference, could be to comment on the Government 2.0 Taskforce Issues Paper and ensure that all the talk of Government 2.0 clearly includes reference to the Government-funded GLAM sector.