Mike Edson talk at Powerhouse Museum from 15/10/10

Mike Edson, Smithsonian Institution at the Powerhouse Museum 15/10/10 from Powerhouse Museum on Vimeo.

Last week we held a public talk by Mike Edson. Here’s the video from the night. In roughly 70 minutes Mike talks about the Smithsonian Commons and Web Strategy organisational change imperatives and initiatives. I was reminded of Ivan Chtcheglov’s much used quote from Formulary for a New Urbanism

You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.

The hacienda must be built.

About the talk:

Mike Edson, Smithsonian Institution’s Director of Web and New Media Strategy, talks about his work and the Smithsonian Commons, a new part of the Smithsonian’s digital presence dedicated to catalyzing learning, innovation and creativity through open access to Smithsonian resources, communities, and expertise. The Smithsonian Commons project is just beginning, but the commons concept and the strategy behind it reveal important ideas about reputation, risk, and the changing work of public institutions in the 21st century.

Michael’s talk is followed by a Q&A session.

Michael Edson was in Australia supported by the Powerhouse Museum with thanks to the New Zealand National Digital Forum.


A new strategic plan for the Powerhouse

A few days ago we published our new Strategic Plan to be implemented over the next couple of years. The plan has come together through focus groups with external stakeholders, communities, specialists; as well as a long process of rethinking and reorganisation within the Museum as well.

This has been the most broadly consultative ‘strategic plan’ I’ve been involved in developing and it makes sense that the key tenets of the Museum going forward are ‘openness and transparency’. And from my perspective I’m pleased that digital engagement is well represented, as is the promotion of an internal culture of experimentation.

There’s a lot of difficult transitions underway and anyone who works in a large museum or cultural institution will understand that we’ve set some pretty difficult targets.

But thats what’s change is about.

I’d be keen to hear any feedback on the Strategic Plan . . .


Research into the value of public sector information for cultural institutions

The Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce is calling for quotes for a range of research projects.

Project #6 (pdf) is a quick turnaround project examining the ‘value of public sector information for cultural institutions’. AU$40,000 is available with a quote deadline of 9 September. Report due by 19 October.


Assess and quantify the economic and social benefits of making government information held by cultural institutions more widely available. For example, a cost benefit analysis of the social value of the additional outreach of the Powerhouse Museum in releasing various ‘orphan’ works into Creative Commons licensing.

Develop a tool or method to assist cultural agencies in providing open access to information. The tool or method should consider costs for open access, “second-best principles” for pricing data and could also include decision support on intellectual property issues.

Read and apply over here.

Policy Wikis

Help out with direct input into the Australian Government 2.0 Issues Paper

As regular readers know I am on the (Australian) Government 2.0 Taskforce.

We’ve just released an alpha version of our Issues Paper and we’d like you to add your comments and input.

I’m especially interested in input from the web developers and creative nerds, as well as from the government-funded cultural sector – who I’m working to ensure will be explicitly included in the final report.

It doesn’t matter of you are from Australia or not – in fact, I’d really like to get input from those overseas. It is the Internet after all, and a lot of great Government 2.0 thinking is happening all over the world.

We’ve used a great WordPress theme called CommentPress developed by the Future of the Book people. This allows you to add comments to any paragraph of the issues paper. I’ve found that CommentPress is better for tightly time-constrained projects than a wiki and allows for more focussed discussion and commenting.

You can also download the Issue Paper in offline formats.

Policy Social media

Demspey on libraries, networked services and mobile communications

The latest First Monday contains a great essay titled Always on: libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. Written by OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey it gives a broad overview of the changes in networked communication and service delivery and explores the coming issues for libraries (and by extension, museums) wrought by mobile communications and mobile patrons.

Here’s a few pithy quotes.

On how libraries ‘present’ themselves:

One clear development is a blurring of our social, business, learning and educational lives as the pattern of our communication and interaction across time and space changes. For example, the Blackberry has raised the expectation of anywhere, anytime availability in some work environments. Think of this in institutional terms. This blurring raises interesting questions about how libraries are ‘present’ to their users, and how their users see the library. The position of the library as a functionally integrated, discrete presence, whether on the Web or as a physical place, becomes diffused through various manifestations (a physical place to meet, a toolbar, a set of services in the course management system, a FaceBook application, a set of RSS feeds, office hours in a school or department, and so on). It also changes the relation between the library and other service providers on campus as organizational boundaries track less well to learning and research behaviors. As more activities move onto the network, and as the network becomes more diffused through mobile communications, then workflow and information management become pervasive issues which prompt interesting questions about how academic support services are best configured.

On ‘timely services’:

Participation in a shared communications space blurs boundaries between work, social interaction and leisure. This is related to our altered relationship to time and space, as it becomes possible to engage in different types of activity wherever we are and at whatever time. This may be both liberating and stressful, and poses interesting questions for service providers tied to ‘office hours’. If assignments are prepared at two o’clock in the morning, should reference services be available at those times?

On the centrality of network services:

As a growing proportion of library use is network–based, the library becomes visible and usable through the network services provided. On the network, there are only services. So, the perception of quality of reference or of the value of particular collections, for example, will depend for many people on the quality of the network services which make them visible, and the extent to which they can be integrated into personal learning environments. Increasingly, this requires us to emphasize the network as an integral design principle in library service development, rather than thinking of it as an add–on.

Grab your favourite beverage and read.

Policy Web metrics

Australian internet usage trends and statistics

Knowing your audience is critical yet being outside of North America often means that we end up justifying projects, strategies, methodologies on general audience data drawn from another continent.

The CCI at QUT has just published the latest ‘Digital Futures Report – the Internet in Australia‘ which is a very comprehensive look at how Australian internet users connect, what they look at, and how they behave online. With the continuing digital divide, and amongst users a usage divide, there are obvious implications for those of us whose mandates is either national or state-wide compared to city or community museums.

Read the full 65 page PDF.

Museum blogging MW2008 Policy Social networking Web 2.0

Updating your social media and staff blog policies

At Musuems and the Web 2008 in the Planning Social Media workshop I briefly talked about the need for organisations to engage with, rather than ignore, the reality that their staff are using social media – even if not in their professional lives, and that this can cause occasional issues.

One year ago we launched our blogging policy at the Museum. This was to cover the behaviour of staff on the offical Museum blogs as well as outline the approval processes for other blog activities. Already we are finding that it is in need of an update. As they say, one year is a long time on ‘teh internets’.

Not surprisingly we are not alone in this. There have been plenty of corporate blogging policies made available publicly however the best fit, in my opinion, are the recently updated policies of the BBC which now extend into covering social network participation and more.

The BBC’s new policy for its staff on using social networking services like Facebook, writing and commenting on blogs, contributing to wikis including Wikipedia, are all covered in detail. The over-riding principle in the BBC policy is one of ‘awareness’ rather than censorship. The BBC realises that their journalists and staff are enriched by participating in robust community debate (more and more of which now occurs online), and also, that to attract younger generation staff (who are growing up with the expectation of participation in online communities), they need to be proactive.

So the BBC encourages awareness amongst staff that their private comments and opinions need to be kept in check and balanced if they are identifying or associating themselves in any of these public forums as BBC staffers or journalists.

The Internet provides a number of benefits in which BBC staff may wish to participate. From rediscovering old school friends on Facebook or Friends Reunited or helping to maintain open access online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.

However, when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.


The intention of this note is not to stop BBC staff from conducting legitimate activities on the Internet, but serves to flag-up those areas in which conflicts can arise.

For those agencies considering introducing policies I would also recommend the fantastic work of Jason Ryan from the NZ Network of Public Sector Communicators. Jason has been at the forefront of developing and implementing sensible and realistic strategies for social media within government.