Museum blogging Other museum blogs (from Powerhouse Museum websites Young people & museums

What to do when it comes time to retire a museum blog? The end of Dragon & the Pearl

‘What to do when it comes time to retire a museum blog?’ has been a question that has been bouncing around for a few weeks.

Our Great Wall of China exhibition closed a few months ago and with it our Dragon & The Pearl blog. The dragon blog was always conceived of as an experiment in ‘public programme’ blogging – a blog attached to a time-specific, audience-specific event series. The problem, we discovered, was that once you start a blog like that the audience isn’t always just confined to those who are aware of the ‘public programme’ aspect – and we guess that a fairly large proportion of its readership may never have seem the dragon at the Museum. Of course, those who did see the dragon at the Museum were all told to go home and keep track of its progress on the blog and it is also likely that the children reading the blog may not have been aware of the time-limited nature of the project (I doubt many of them even thought of the dragon as ‘a project’ – judging from the ‘live’ appearances it was very real to a lot of them).

So how to let them down gently?

Well, after a few more public comments and questions came in over the past week or two, the Education and Visitor Services department have made their final concluding post to the blog.

We used the Comment Timeout plugin for WordPress to bulk-close commenting on all the old posts.

Museum blogging Social networking Web 2.0 Web metrics Young people & museums

More on levels of participation / Forrester’s “social technographics”

In a most timely fashion for our recent discussions of ‘levels of participation’, from Forrester’s comes the ‘Social Technographics‘ report.

This is a very interesting and relevant report to all the museum sector. It breaks down user-types into several categories and then maps the differing proportions of each category as represented across different social media websites.

I particularly like their breakdown of users into creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. Their call for companies and others to analyse how their customers might fit into these categories before creating their ‘social strategy’ is timely, post MW2007. I would expect that in comparison to larger corporate social sites, museums are most likely to have their major audiences less likely to be creators and that we should be encouraging a growth in critics – who most likely align with our existing strategies and long-time organisational strengths in encouraging and managing academic criticism.

Also, looking at their figures for the different user breakdowns between sites classifying as ‘entertainment’ (more participatory) and ‘family’ (less likely to be participatory), our sector needs to be conscious of how our sites appear to our audiences.

Those who have looked at our recent website for parents and young children – Play at Powerhouse – will notice we haven’t included any ‘social’ elements. We did an analysis of who the likely users of the site were going to be, considered their time constraints, and focussed on producing a site full of offline interactive activities (we’ve just added 4 new craft activities), and visit-related content. As the audience for the site grows, we will be adding social elements.

Museum blogging Web 2.0

Powerhouse Museum’s official blog policy – April 2007

Many museums have been asking about blog policies.

Our Executive has recently signed off on a museum-wide blog policy and so I’m happy to be able to share ours with you.

The policy document is presented as a series of points to make it a little more readable, and overall the intention has been to make the process of proposing and getting approval for a museum blog as quick and easy as possible.

Download as a PDF.

We are much indebted to the Walker Art Center whose publicly shared blogging guidelines formed the initial framework for our policy.

Museum blogging MW2007 Web 2.0 Web metrics

M&W07 – Day three: Radical Trust – State of the Museum Blogosphere

Jim Spadaccini and I have just finished presenting our mini-workshop surveying the museum blogosphere.

The detailed results are online at Archimuse, and the slides including updated data are available here.

(update – Nate at Walker Art has posted some discussion of the q&a at the end of the presentation)

Interactive Media Museum blogging MW2007 Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

M&W07 – Day two: Web2.0, EyeLevel, Brooklyn Museum, Science Museum UK

The Web2.0 stream began with Jeff Gates from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s EyeLevel blog. Discussing EyeLevel, Gates explained their cautious but highly successful approach to getting blogging activated within a large and venerable organisation like the Smithsonian.

Before gong public EyeLevel was used internally for two months with sample posts and comments within SAAM to ensure that they had got the workflow for the blog sorted out. Their workflow, which continues today is that posts are suggested, discussed by the web team, drafted, then rewritten where necessary. All posts are then edited by the publications unit, and require individual approval by the Director before going live. They use Basecamp for the drafting and discussion (which is a nice way doing things).

Whilst this approval model brings delays and limits their ability to do quick response posts it brings great clarity to the roles of each blog team member which has helped keep the blog sustainable. Also, by defining and articulating their blog policy internally prior to launch EyeLevel has been able to maintain “authenticity and transparency” with their readership without being dragged into being overly promotional. That said, part of he rationale for establishing EyeLevel was to help expose their long tail of collection and online content, and to build a strong connection between web visits and bricks and mortar visitation.

The Brooklyn Museum team presented their very inspirational work in engaging their communities through the use of Flickr and MySpace. They were at pains to point out that before the web the Brooklyn Museum was already very heavily oriented as a museum belonging to and integrated with the local community. It was also already highly interactive. They showed their public graffiti wall within an exhibition on street art and graffiti, and it was from this exhibition that they started using Flickr as a way of documenting the use of the wall. By using Flickr they were able to connect to other images of graffiti around Brooklyn and connect with the Flickr community. Likewise they have used Flickr to pull in public images of the Brooklyn Bridge.

From this point they moved to establish a main navigational node on their website titled ‘community’. This uses Flickr and YouTube APIs to pull in user generated content from those other external sources to the Brooklyn Museum site based on user tags. They also established a comments gallery which is user-moderated, and most excitingly, replaced all their paper comment forms with kiosks in the galleries for visitors to type their comments directly in. By doing this they have removed the distinction between the comments of in-gallery visitors and web visitors – ALL are visitors.

The final presentation was from Mike Ellis at the Science Museum in London. Mike talked about ways of navigating the institutional barriers to implementing Web2.0. He pretty much addressed each of the major concerns of those outside of web teams – do the users want it?, issues of voice and authority, technical impediments with small teams, resourcing and cost, and legals.

Interactive Media Museum blogging MW2007 Web 2.0

M&W07 – Other workshops: mashups and blogging

M&W07 is already causing timetable clashes! Running simultaneously with my workshop were many other excellent workshops. Two colleagues have posted their workshop slides and notes online as well.

The team at Walker Art Center ran their Beyond blogging: is it a community yet?. They have posted some rather extensive and excellent notes for their session which give a great overview of museum blogging, all the necessary technical details to get you started if you aren’t already, tips to improve your blog, as well as rationales to sell the concept of blogging to your colleagues. All of this is accessible through their nifty wiki (the only downside of the wiki being the inability to print or read the whole thing flattened on one long page)

Jim Spadaccini and his Ideum cohorts ran a workshop outlining the processes and practises of making mashups. Ideum has done a lot of work with mashups and is a great advocate of their use within museums – especially as a way of more easily making the type of rich media, geotagged experience that impresses everyone but can nowadays be done on a shoestring with a bit of nouse. Jim has uploaded his slides for the workshop which explain and deconstruct some of the recent mashup work done by Ideum.

Museum blogging MW2007 Web 2.0

Museum blogs survey results online / San Francisco blogger meet-up

Museums & The Web has published the survey conducted by Jim Spadaccini and myself earlier this year titled Radical Trust: the State of the Museum blogosphere.

As 2006 began, there were less than thirty known museum blogs; since then, that number has more than doubled. Today there are well over 100 blogs exploring museum issues, from a range of institutions and individuals across the globe. All of these blogs have embraced the concept of ‘radical trust,’ taking the big step to trust (radically) the community on-line. This paper reports the findings of the first major survey of museum blog operators and their readers. Developed by Powerhouse Museum and Ideum, this comprehensive survey of bloggers paints a picture of where the field is today, and where it is headed in the future.

How popular are they? How is popularity measured? Do these blogs operate from the inside or the outside of museums? Who is their audience? What of RSS, aggregators, and link exchanges? Are there emerging commonalities in practice and usage that can be brought together to strengthen and expand the collective worth and impact of museum blogging? This paper explores these questions and more. Several successful operational models have emerged and are outlined here, along with emerging trends for the field. It is our hope that these survey results will also provide a starting point for those museums looking to launch their own blogs.

I hope you find the results interesting and useful – thank you, too, to many of you who participated in the survey and also helped beta-test it for us.

Jim and I are running a one hour workshop presenting the results, discussing them in detail, making recommendations to organisations currently running or considering setting up blogs and, bringing the results a little more up to date with some new analytics on Friday 13 April at 10am at M&W07.

Immediately following the workshop at 11am Jim and I will be leading a merry band of museum bloggers to a local eatery for an informal meet up and get together. Many of us only know each other by our handles and avatars. Indeed, when Jim and I first considered running the survey and writing the paper, neither of us had met face to face!

Please join us if you are in San Francisco.

If you have any suggestions of somewhere close to Union Square for food that can accomodate a band of bloggers then suggest in the comments!

AV Related Developer tools Interactive Media Museum blogging

Weekly digital media production tips

Over at the site promoting the Powerhouse Museum’s digital media learning labs (SoundHouse VectorLab) we’ve started a weekly ‘tip of the week’ series written by the Vector Lab boss Mike Jones.

The ‘tip of the week‘ series covers everything from simple Photoshop tasks to how-to do tricky video editing tricks with Premiere and Vegas.

And, of course, we’re using WordPress for their microsite.

Feel free to leave any specific technical questions you’;d like answered in forthcoming tips of the week in the comments either here or on the SoundHouse VectorLab site.

Digital storytelling Museum blogging Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

What museums might learn from how news organisations are trying to engage communities

This week’s essential reading comes in the form of the Center for Citizen Media’s report titled Frontiers of Innovation in Community Engagement: News Organizations Forge New Relationships with Communities.

The report is written for those who are yet to become interested in the new opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 and contains plenty of global case studies and some very practical recommendations for those heading down this path.

Replace ‘news organisations’ with ‘museums’ and there are some terrific and practical insights into new ways of engaging audiences and in so doing embedding the museum experience in the everyday life of communities (and vice versa).

If you have attended any of my talks and presentations you will know I am fond of talking about museums as potential media organisations, and as platforms for multi-directional publishing and engaging communities. From the report, here are the four reasons as to “why news organisations should bother experimenting with user communities” –

– Regaining a place at the center of the civic conversation
– Enhancing institutional memory
– Reducing bunker mentality
– New stories, new ways

Sound familiar?

Here are there recommendations for anyone looking at rebuilding their online presence along the lines of increased community engagement.

Take risks.

In the Internet Age, it’s easy — and relatively inexpensive — to try new ideas. The cost of failure is low for any individual experiment.

Don’t merely tolerate risk-taking in the newsroom and on the business side of the operation. Embrace it, and the fact that failure is part of risk-taking.


Approach community building with confidence, teamwork, and appropriate expectations.

• Confidence: Building an online community requires a different tone and approach than a traditional news site: personality, humor, and authenticity are key.
• Teamwork: Community sites have a better chance of success if staffers throughout the newsroom and the organization use them rather than being the province of a small “community team” that has little or no contact with the newsroom.
• Expand your team beyond your staff, and even beyond your site. For example, reward local bloggers who link to your site just as much as you reward readers who contribute to your site directly. Consider growing the “ecosystem” of local sites that link to yours as part of your mission.
• Expectations of Contributors: Don’t expect nonjournalists to feel comfortable taking on the role of journalist. While some contributors may be eager to write a “story,” others will want to share lived experiences. Finding ways to accommodate, encourage, and learn from contributors is key to success.
• Expectations About Growth: Communities are organic. They grow through the web-equivalent of word of mouth. Expect a significant period of time – as much as six months, maybe much more – before a community gains a life of its own. (If things aren’t working a year after you start, however, it’s definitely time to reconsider your approach.)

Museum blogging Web metrics

Towards an ROI measure of museum blogging

Museum blogging is taking off.

Jim S and I have been talking a lot about how blogging is an efficient way of generating a buzz around your museum’s content. At the Powerhouse Museum our flagship blog is really the Sydney Observatory’s blog. It has been charting ludicrous traffic – it now represents over 60% of the Sydney Observatory’s traffic and has been responsible for a 300% rise in site visitation. Most excitingly though is the level of audience participation. So far for 111 posts there have been a mammoth 490 user comments after filtering and spam removal. One post on the Mars hoax email received 135 comments.

I’ve been reading Charlene Li at Forresters’ work on corporate blogging. Their reports propose a framework for measuring ROI on organisational blogging. She summarises the methodology as a chart –

(source: Forresters)

Within the non-profit sector brand visibility is the key benefit from blogging – brand awareness leads to potential future (real world visitation), and in terms of collecting museums and research centres, a general awareness of the nature of “what exactly it is you do other than exhibitions”.

The Sydney Observatory has always had a lower public profile than the Powerhouse Museum. Those Sydneysiders who are aware of its existence (and don’t get it confused with the Observatory Hotel) often don’t associate it with a place that they and their family could visit – let alone look through a telescope – each night.

Prior to the launch of the Sydney Observatory blog there was no way for the astronomers at the Observatory to publish sky-related news, let alone the discoveries of amateur astronomy groups affiliated with the Observatory, nor respond to sightings of fireballs in the sky. The previous website architecture didn’t allow for such ‘loose’ content, nor did workflows allow for such material to quickly edited and posted.

Now, though, Sydney Observatory features prominently in Google searches for related topic areas as a result of the content on the blog. It is also critical to understand that everyone who does a search for ‘Comet McNaught Sydney’ for example, and visits the blog (which ranks #2 for such a search), is now made aware of the existence of the Sydney Observatory, and its activities.

Here’s another excerpt from Li –

(from Charlene Li) Q: Is there a standard ROI for blogs? A: Nope – sorry, it isn’t that easy! Just as there isn’t a standard ROI for a Web site, there’s no standard for a blog. It depends on what the goal of the blog is and also how much investment the company (and the blogger) puts into it.

Q: What’s the best way to measure the effectiveness of a blog? A: Again, it starts with the goal of the blog. I strongly suggest that companies start with the goal, develop metrics that measure the attainment of that goal, and find ways to assign value to those metrics.

Q: But aren’t blogs risky? How do you take that into account? A: We definitely take risk into account by generating scenarios that show the impact of low-likelihood but high impact events — such as a lawsuit.

Q: Our CMO/CEO/CFO won’t let us have a blog until we can show him/her the definitive ROI of a blog. Help!! A: It’s not an unreasonable request — they don’t really understand the value of a blog and see just the potential cost and risk. By going through the exercise of defining and quantifying the benefits, costs, and risks of a blog, you’ll be educating your C-level executives while also demonstrating the discipline that they expect.

So, how does your organisation measure the success of its blogs?

Jim and I will present some answers shortly.