Imaging Social networking

Common Ground – The Global Flickr Commons Meetup October 2 & 3

CommonGround copy copy

Common Ground – The Global Flickr Commons Meetup October 2 & 3

On October 2 & 3, depending on where you are in the world a group of institutions who have put photographs into the Commons on Flickr are having a ‘meet up’. The Powerhouse is hosting the Sydney one on Saturday October 3, 630-9pm.

What, who & why?
Common Ground began as an idea that was bounced around via email – “Could a global meetup happen that involves local communities, the global community around Commons on Flickr and be on at the same time in different locations around the world?”

Between Shelley Bernstein (Brooklyn Museum), Ryan Donahue (George Eastman House) and Paula Bray at the Powerhouse the notion took form. So the work on Common Ground formed as the idea of a projection onto the participating institutions’ buildings at night using a slideshow of content from all of the Commons on Flickr accounts and curated by the Flickr community.

Common Ground is a chance to say ‘thank you‘ to the community that has spent many hours devouring these collections online and giving them a new life outside the vaults of the institutions that they have been housed in for many years.

The meetup also provides an opportunity to get to know the online community face-to-face and engage in conversations that may not happen online – or are just best handled in face-to-face in meatspace.

We are also very interested in bringing the online community into the physical institution space and we were inspired by Kevin von Appen et al’s work at the Ontario Science Centre (documented at MW09).

The Commons is a very inclusive and global project and it didn’t seem quite right to do this in isolation at just one institution. Hence the attempt at making a global meetup that happens at the same time (albeit time differences).

Who is it for?
Common Ground is for and about community.

The Flickr community is curating the content that will make up the slideshow but the meetup is open to all.

Common Ground is challenging the notion of the museum professional selecting images to show the public. The aim of Common Ground is to have the community-curated slideshow seen by as many people as possible even after the event is over. We want this to be available for other purposes too – it will be able to be downloaded and used by teachers and others after Common Ground is finished.

Come celebrate this crowd-curated slideshow with a participating institution.

To vote you need to

– first log in to Flickr
– go to the voting web application
– then check out the Flickr discussion for updated information.

Remember voting closes on the 9th September.

We can’t wait to meet you!

projectionphm2 copy
Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0

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?

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.)

Social media Social networking

Powerhouse on Facebook

We’ve kept this quiet so far but along with the start of the Sydney Design 08 campaign the Museum launched a small Facebook presence. Importantly this presence is managed as a joint effort between the Museum’s Marketing Department and the Web Services Unit, rather than just being a web project.

Sydney Design has a profile as well as the Powerhouse itself.

The Powerhouse profile is not getting a push at the moment but Sydney Design is being promoted through our email newsletters and it is gaining friends like a celebrity. That said, we’ve got a lot of work to do on these still and there are plenty of bugs. Time is always a challenge and you’ll notice that we’ve taken a minimalist approach to listing exhibitions and events so as to not have to struggle to keep everything up to date.

But, we’re very excited that these efforts are not being contained within the Web Services Unit, but are being run by marketing staff. This is an important strategic development, hopefully further embedding social media in the core of the Museum’s operations.

Come and friend us.

(And if anyone knows how to get the MyFlickr application working properly on Facebook Pages with different Flickr accounts then get in touch – we’ve tried everything!)

Conferences and event reports Social networking Young people & museums

Camilla Cooke explains the Kevin07 digital campaign – notes from CCI ‘Creating Value Between Commons and Commerce’ conference, Brisbane, 2008

Here’s the second of a set of notes scribed during the main sessions of the CCI’s conference ‘Creating Value Between Commons and Commerce‘.

Camilla Cooke was the strategist behind the Kevin07 digital campaign in what she described as ‘Australia’s first digital election’. In a fantastic presentation she went through the rationale behind the digital elements of the Kevin07 campaign and some of the figures and outcomes (beyond the election result!).

Social networking Web metrics

Just how popular is that Facebook application? Artshare and Steve Art Tagger and Developer Analytics

I’ve been wondering for a long time about the real popularity of Facebook apps that are targetted at specific niche user groups.

Well with Developer Analytics you can find out – without needing to be the actual developer of the Facebook application in question.

With the museum community starting to build useful applications like the Brooklyn’s ArtShare or the Steve Art Tagger, the ability for us all to evaluate the success of these sort of projects is increasingly important. This is especially the case for cross-institutional projects to which we are all beginning to contribute our content. Are these projects reaching the audiences that we want our content to reach? Where should we focus our energies?

What can you learn from Developer Analytics?

For Artshare I can quickly see that as of today it has 2,900 install with 58 average daily users, as well as pull up a popularity graph to see this over time. (Update: Shelley at the Brooklyn says that these stats conflict with the ones she can pull up from within Facebook – see comments below) I can also compare it with the Steve Art Tagger which has been up for a few months and has 200 installs but only an average of 2 active daily users. Readers from the libraries world might be interested in taking a look at the statistics for the OCLC’s recently released WorldCat Facebook app.

I can also look at which commercial applications are most successful and track trends across, say, the multitude of Flickr-related applications to see which are the most sticky and used.

There are important lessons to be learnt from the other successful Facebook applications which we can draw upon when building our own.

Here’s a chart from the My Flickr application which, being an app with a large-ish userbase provides significantly more data about users – including the other apps that users of My Flickr use, gender, age and friend demographics. (A side note – the availability of this information to application developers in itself should be of interest to all Facebook users concerned with privacy).

Head over to Developer Analytics and do some digging of your own.

Museum blogging Social networking

Beth Kanter at the Powerhouse

We were very lucky to have non-profit and NGO social media trainer Beth Kanter drop by to run a whirlwind seminar for us on Friday. Beth lives social media and technology. My team’s first words with her were captured and streamed live to the web on her Nokia N95 phone via – even us technophiles were surprised by her gadgets! I had never met Beth in person myself before Friday although we’d exchanged ideas and methodologies over the past few years; most recently for a piece on ‘Effective social networking‘ over at Techsoup.

Lynda Kelly from the Australian Museum took copious notes and blogged during Beth’s 2 hour micro-workshop – which was held with a mix of Powerhouse staff and those from other arts agencies. Lynda’s notes capture the overall flow of the workshop and covers the main points that were discussed – it should be noted that the focus of the workshop was on social media in marketing and fundraising for non-profits.

In her work Beth emphasises the value of the network of people with whom she is loosely and electronically connected. She places a lot of trust in that network – a trust that has paid back many times over – as her fundraising is a testament to. Her blog is her diary of her explorations, trials and discoveries and as such provides a very accessible entry point to everything from video blogging to NGO web strategy.

Many of the strategies Beth outlines are applicable within the museum and cultural sector – especially amongst those developing next generation marketing strategies.

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.

Museum blogging Social networking Web 2.0 Web metrics

Applying a new social media framework from Forrester to the cultural sector

Josh Bernoff at Forrester has put together another good chart of how corporations might use social media to support five key functions – research, marketing, sales, support and development. He neatly ties together function, objective, the appropriate choice of social media application, and then a success metric for each.

Whilst the cultural sector may not have the same ‘sales’ and ‘support’ needs, there are clear parallels if we begin to look at the objectives column.

(source: Groundswell at Forrester)

Let’s break it down.


Audience evaluation practices in light of visitor generated social media are clearly undergoing change and there are enormous new opportunities for insights. As Josh indicates, good metrics of success for ‘listening’ are the value and depth of insights, and the comparable cost of focus groups and surveys. In light of Lynda Kelly’s work in this area I’d say that social media offers many exciting new ways to not only undertake audience research but also to present it. Her work with ‘visitor stories’ is particularly exciting.


Most museum marketing teams, sometimes assisted by the web team, are now ‘talking’ to audiences in new ways and starting conversations. Officially sanctioned museum blogs are now far more common and many museums both small and large are talking to audiences on Flickr and YouTube as well as Facebook and MySpace. Where the cultural sector lags is in having well developed measures of ‘buzz’ and awareness – and few are tracking through the door visits that are a result of these activities. Offering downloadable tracked discount passes through these media are an easy way of starting to track ‘conversions’ and ‘sales’.


Museum membership departments are starting to look at social media as a way of creating and strengthening the member community but these are still early days. The real ‘energising’ in the sector lies in the deep engagement in social media of niche communities of visitors – Flickr pools, YouTube groups, MySpace friends. Probably the best examples of ‘energising’ in the cultural sector lie around the well developed MySpace presence of MOCA and the Flickr pools and groups run by the Brooklyn Museum. Here there are some very ‘engaged’ visitors who act as brand ambassadors for the organisation.


This is perhaps the most difficult objective for museums to engage with. It relies on building a strong community around your content – most probably your collection – and then letting go. In workshops and presentations the inevitable question comes up here around ‘authority’ and ‘reputation’. What if the community knows ‘more’ about part of your collection than your museum does? In the corporate/commercial world some of the most significant successes from social media have been in reducing customer support – and having the customers answer each other. Look at any support forum for any product and you will see, if it is working well, that most of the responses and suggestions are from other users. Now, could a museum provide a platform for community members to answer the questions of others about objects in the collection?

Here at the Powerhouse we are struggling with the increased volume of public enquiries since we launched our social media-infused collection database. Requests for information have tripled and now the sort of questions we are asked are more detailed and require significantly more curatorial research time than previously. At the same time we are receiving valuable new information and corrections to our collection documentation at a rate of nearly 2 a day.

Would it be possible to provide a platform for, say, the numismatics experts to answer the questions of other collectors directly, through our site, and reduce the ‘support calls’ needing to be answered by curatorial research staff?


Already many are starting to harness the insights they are gaining from their visitors. At the Brooklyn they are going as far as having a ‘crowd-curated’ exhibition soon called Click!. and back here at the Powerhouse we have been using a lot of the insights of the users of the collection database to inform our classification and documentation practices. I also know that over at the Australia Museum Lynda Kelly’s innovative collaborative evaluation work with visitors, especially teens, is transforming the content of future exhibitions.