#okcon – Small Museums and Open Data – my presentation text

Notes from my presentation, delivered at OKCon in the Open Culture session on 18th Sept. 2013.

Doc available on Scribd:


Although I didn’t use my slides in the end, the presentation that I put together is available on Slideshare:


Museums and Wikipedia

This is a copy of a blog post I wrote for the University of Southampton Digital Humanities blog: http://digitalhumanities.soton.ac.uk/blog/2755

Today, the Museums Association published the new issue of Museum Practice. This month the magazine focuses on Wikipedia, and I contributed an article providing practical advice for smaller museums. The journal is behind a paywall, but the Museums Association have kindly agreed to let me share a draft of the article here at the Digital Humanities blog.

The final article (and much neater version!) can be viewed at the Museums Practice website, alongside the rest of the issue, which is a fantastic resource for those interested in cultural heritage and the web: http://www.museumsassociation.org/museum-practice/wikipedia/

Wikipedia for Regional Museums

Nicole Beale

From its humble beginnings in 2001, Wikipedia has grown exponentially, and to date (May 2013) the multi-language website boasts over 4 million articles, with 19 million named user accounts.  The site is one of the most visited on the web, coming 6th in Google’s ranked list of most popular websites (in 2011, Wikipedia achieved 410 million unique visitors), beaten only by Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Live, and MSN. The key to Wikipedia is that anyone can create and edit content, but all content must be evidenced with sources, modelled on the original format of the paper-based encyclopaedia form. Participation numbers are high; currently there are 300,000 active Wikipedia users who have edited more than 10 times, and nearly 130,000 users who have edited something on the site within the last month.

The large museums, libraries and archives are engaging with the Wikipedia community on a piecemeal basis; setting up projects at an organisation level to reap the benefits of this great resource. But how can smaller organisations engage with Wikipedia? The larger institutions have specialised IT teams and dedicated marketing departments. What if you are part of a small team of staff and volunteers?

There are plenty of examples of projects and events that can be adapted to suit regional, and specialist museum needs, and the needs of the communities that they serve. This article brings those examples together in one place and lists four things that you can do right now, and four things that you can plan for the future, to better use Wikipedia to support the work that you do.

Four things you can do right now

Task 1. Become a Wikipedia Editor

Wikipedia’s greatest challenge is motivating readers of content to become editors of content. The site has a huge readership, but the percentage of users who are actively contributing to the site is very low. The sustainability of Wikipedia relies on contributions from people like us, who can improve and augment content, creating links and references to the objects, buildings, events and archives that we hold.

Wikipedia may have lots of information in it, but it has always been conceived of as a place that people pass through. It is a conduit, through which a user gets to further information and knowledge. Wikipedia cannot hold all of the knowledge in the world, but it could link to some of that knowledge. There is information that can never be in Wikipedia, but that is within our museums’ collections, or our archives, or our libraries’ shelves, and this is where you come in.

The biggest contribution that any one person can make to Wikipedia is to sign up for a user account and to edit an article. Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, can provide training for members of your organisation to start to contribute to Wikipedia. The Wikimedia project to provide Wikipedians-in-Residence is the best place to begin to request training. These individuals are highly motivated, and skilled users and advocates of Wikipedia. Generally based in large galleries, museums, libraries and archives, they can be contacted through the Wikipedian in Residence website. I can’t recommend this option enough. I recently organised a visit to our university department by Andrew Gray, then British Library Wikipedian in Residence, along with representatives of the Southampton Wikipedia community. The workshop that they ran was inspiring, as well as being practically useful.

Task 2.  Use Wikipedia referencing structure

Wikipedia has a strict rule, all articles must be validated. This means that any content on Wikipedia must have recognised references to evidence the veracity of claims being made. These references can take many forms, and present a great opportunity for regional museums. To find out what kind of an influence Wikipedia has in your museum’s area of expertise, use this online tool to visualise page visit figures for Wikipedia articles: http://stats.grok.se/ Not only is this a great indicator of people’s browsing habits in your area of interest, giving you hints as to which articles to add useful references to, but this can also be used as a way to bring traffic to your own online resources.

Take for example a museum based in Southampton, Hampshire. When we use the stats tool to search for articles about two similar heritage buildings in the city, we find that the article “Medieval Merchant’s House” was viewed 4 times more often than a page about “Southampton Tudor House and Garden”. The lesser viewed page has less information on it than the Medieval Merchant’s House. The lack of information means that there is a lack of links out to other websites. Using this information, staff from the Southampton museum could perhaps contribute to improving the Tudor House page by providing more information about the history of the house, creating references to relevant Historic Environment Records, or related Tudor objects in the county’s online collections database.  These references are links, and will help people to find this Wikipedia page, or to find the linked websites through this Wikipedia article.

Task 3. Engage with your local Wikipedia community

Chances are that in your area there is a group of Wikipedia editors (Wikipedians) who meet regularly. Most cities and larger towns have Wikipedia chapters meeting and deciding on locally-focussed drives for editing. These groups generally welcome support from other organisations. Check the UK Wikimedia chapter website to find out whether there is a group meeting near to you.

You could offer to host a Wikipedia meet-up at your museum, or run a Wikipedia event. One of the most popular forms of Wikipedia events is an editathon. An intensive editing session where a group meets and focussing on a topic for improvement in Wikipedia and together adds and edits content. In May 2013, the University of Oxford, Bodleian Libraries ran an editathon for Wikipedia pages relating to Queen Victoria’s Journals. The day-long event incorporated an exhibition visit, with a talk and an editing session; Introducing participants to the Queen Victoria Journals online resource. Check out the Wikipedia Loves Libraries pages for more information on how to get involved in editathons.

Other types of events that you could support through your museum include competitions that result in improving records. Wiki Loves Monuments, was awarded the Guinness World Record of the world’s largest photographic competition, with entrants from all over the world taking part in international and national awards, but there is currently no UK based branch of the competition. Now that’s an opportunity!

Task 4. Get to know GLAMWIKI

The GLAMWIKI project aims to create relationships between Wikimedia and galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The group runs events, including an annual conference, and is a great support network, as well as source of inspiration for project ideas.

Four things you can do in the future

Task 1. Enable Wikipedia to use your museum website

If you work on your own museum website, and you have a collections database that is accessed online, you might want to consider adding to any objects the option to copy Wikipedia Citation Code. This is a short snippet of Wikipedia styled code that allows anyone writing a Wikipedia article to easily reference a particular piece of online content. The Powerhouse Museum is a great example of this. Read Seb Chan’s excellent blog post on how it works.

Task 2. Engage with Wikipedia in your own museum

Increasingly, museums are using Wikipedia inside their buildings. Ways to do this include using Wikipedia articles to supplement labelling for exhibitions. Tablets displaying related Wikipedia content can be set up next to display cases. Or locations of Wikipedia articles in the form of URLs can be displayed allowing visitors to use their own mobile devices to scan quick links.  QR tags, as used by Derby Museum and Art Gallery, are a quick way to do this, although they are not the most attractive option!

Task 3. Link with Wikipedia outside of your museum

The hugely successful MonmouthpediA project embarked on a large scale attempt to improve content relating to Monmouth on Wikipedia, and involved the use of signage throughout the town that linked to particular articles using QR tags. Since the project started, over 550 articles have been created, and there are over 1000 QR tags up within Monmouth.  You could try this approach on a smaller scale, providing heritage buildings of interest with QR tagged signage.

Task 4. Host a Wikipedian at your museum

The Wikipedian in Residence programme is ongoing. You could consider having a Wikipedian work with your museum for a few weeks to encourage Wikipedia use and improve coverage of particular topics of interest.


Despite their global successes, the Wikimedia team is friendly and responsive to individual contact. There is often Wikimedia funding to set up projects, so if you have an idea, contact them.


Digital Futures – Day 2

Ramine Tinati (Les Carr, Susan Halford, Catherine Pope): Exploring the Impact of Adopting Open Data in the UK Government

How is the web growing? Can we apply models to this to understand how the web is growing?

The web as a network of networks.

Looking at the UK Govt Open Data Community.

Consists of multistakeholders (govt, academics, civic society, lobbyists, developers, citizens). Active both online and offline.

What Ramine is doing:

How is the community established? how is it developing? what are the implications for adopting Open Data in the UK?

Mix of quanitative and qualitative data: including: interviews, harvesting data, etc.

There were previous open data, open source, open knowledge communities; Academic research groups involved in Web Technologies and Knoweldge Representation; Civic Society involved in transparency; Public Sector Information committees in Government.

Ramine talked about the structure of the Open Government Data community. National level, regional level, local councils and authority stakeholders. And there are movements joining these. Such as the Open Govt Data Blog.

Open Data Communities have been active since 2009. Growth since then.

National level impacts:

  • Cabinet Office Transparency Board
  • National Datastore (data.gov.uk)
  • New Open Government Data License
  • Mobile apps and web services breaking down barriers between people and Government.

It looks from the slides Ramine is showing that all of the above have been increasing since 2009.

City and council level impacts:

  • data portals being developed (examples of Greater Manchesters, Kent, Warwickshire, London)
  • cost benefits to the LAs.Resulting in less FOI requests, and reduction in internal depatment costs.
  • general change within the LAs. 25% of UK councils are Open Data councils, using Open Government License.

Impacts on other communities:

  • Open Data Institute
  • mobile apps development
  • data journalism increase


Very little of the Open Data is published as 5 star data. Less than 1%!

Data needs to be of value.

[That word keeps coming up here at DE2012.]

Bridging the gap between government actions and citizen knowledge.

Needs to be sustainable: Socially, technically, economically.

Poster Lightning Talks

Dickinsons: 6th Senese Transport. Visualising Network Opportunities to Enable Fluid Tourism Destination Travel.

Tony Stockman: Using Low-cost devices to support non-visual interaction with diagrams.

Allowing visually impaired people use a haptic device to interact with a diagram software. But very expensive. Looking for an alternative, the team compared a falcon device (the hand-pen tool) with a Wacom pad.

Ruth Aylett: Heriott Watt University. Protoyping 3D smart textile surfaces for pervasive computing environment.

Interactive dance environmnet with smart costumes. Using a 3D printer to make thermochromic dyes in shoulder pads. 3D surfaces that can change colour, reacting differentially depending on the light on them. Now working on an environment which will allow you to coreograph the effects on the textile.

Caroline Leygue: Horizon, Nottingham: Changing energy Use Habits Through Implementation Intentions

Used mobile phones to monitor and change peoples energy use habits. To postpone energy to off-peak times. Two groups. 35 participants. The intentions technique made poeple specify how, when and where people were going to use things at off peak times. And the second group just said they were going to use off-peak times. The first group made a change.

 Mark Davies: Nottingham: The Rural Digital Economy: the local market as an arena for digital economic consideration and design. 

Developing an IT intervention.  Doing initial ethnographic work.  Plan is to develop an online market portal.  Designing systems in the wild with the users. Building a trusts relationship with the community, market organisers and stall holders.

Missed the name! Brunel (Horizon): Open Design meets Open Science

How can the design world interact with the making community?  Open design is a product where the design itself is open for anyone to use. But not everyone can be a designer of things (quotes Chris Anderson). So this research explores tools and techqniues so that a non-designer can participate in the design process. Citizen Science is a key.

Chris Phethean: Southampton: Measuring the Megaphone: How are charities using social meida for marketing?

What are charitable orgs doing on social media? But before you can measure something, you need to know what constitutes success. So this poster covers how orgs are using social media. And what the tools are that are being used. Triangulating what they think they’re doing, with what they’re actually doing on social media. The measurements are based on a framework of metrics that Chris is making. i.e. likes on Facebook. But this isn’t enough. So what metrics can provide an accurate measurement of engagment from a compaign. And of course the nature of the organsiation will affect the base line.

Will Fyson: Southampton: Dissemination through Disintermediation

Affect of the web on scholarly publishing. But there are still paper articles being shifted round (but as PDFs). Alot of scientific output isn’t covered by the academic peer-review journal system.  But there are issues to consider such as knowledge sharing being very time consuming, and IP theft. The poster looks at what we can do to look at these concerns.

Phil Waddell: Southampton: The role of the web in the formation of political activists.

Going to look at how web technologies are being used in a live contest by going to protests.  This uses qualitative methods, not just the more conventional apparoach of analysing the quantative data post-event. Aim is the identify what kinds of things are useful to get a sense of the global network of activists that are forming online. e.g. how can social media create instances of solidarity during a protest between people at the protest, and people in a different country?

Personal Containers Project

Connecting your web histories. Now collecting data in houses.

Name? Aberdeen: Towards an Ecosystem for Social Computation on the Web.

Using data. Provenance, policy, quality, linked to data, trust and reputation, workflow, surrounded by user, services, and crowd.

Eleonora Oreggia: Queen Mary and BBC: Touch-controlled panoramic video stremaing for film directing.

Stageview: A 360 degree view to support the interaction between film director and camera operator. Allows for remote direction. A film director can therefore be in a separate city, and instead of just seeing a frame, the director can see all around. ‘Sterams from a Linux system to an iPad. Unwrapping the image to a rectangle.

Aberdeen: WiSE: Wireless Internet Sensing Environment.

Camera traps to record wild animals. Based on sensors for movement. The data is retrospective, the researcher goes onto tthe site to collect the data. Often triggers wrongly. The idea is to develop a way to record stuff in the environment using a digital sensing platform – for internet enabled remote moitoring. This could be used for environment monitoring generally.  Could also then be available for the public to see.

A. Sathiaseelan: Cambridge: PAWS: Public Access WiFi Service

Digital inclusion is a problem. People need access to the internet. There are lots of initiatives to provide superfast broadband connections. But there are infrastructural barriers.  And socio-economic barriers. Why: Can’t afford it, can’t access it (i.e. don’t know how), see no use for it.  This addresses access to essential public services. The solution involves multistakeholders.

End of session. Phew!

Digital Futures 2012 – Day 1

Digital Futures 2012

Tweeting Note: I’ve stopped tweeting during the papers as there is a screen underneath the speakers showing all of the #de2012 hashtag tweets, which I’m finding really distracting. So I’m afraid no more tweets from me during the papers, but I’ll try to tweet in the breaks, and will blog instead.

Tuesday 23rd October 2012


These are my scruffy notes from the first day at DE2012. I haven’t blogged the talks in detail, as all of the papers are available on the http://de2012.org website, so you can read them there. What follows is merely my own notes on the parts of the conference that I have found most useful.

Keynote: Edward Cutrell: Innovating in India: Disruptive Technology for the Developing World

Edward Cutrell (@edcutrell) of Microsoft Research India, gave an interesting talk about some of the projects that the organisation has been involved in. I live tweeted from this one, so have copied the tweets in below:

@edcutrell of #microsoftresearchindia at #de2012 telling about evaluating prototypes for expanding communities and then scaling with orgs.
@edcutrell at #de2012: We go from technology to people then back to technology again. #CGNetSwara for #citizenjournalism sounds v. cool.
@edcutrell at #de2012. Alternative to #onelaptoponechild. Have multiple pointers for multiple users for one pc. For collaborative learning.
@edcutrell of #microsoftresearchindia at #de2012. Look up #MultiPoint for info on project. Continuum of sharing: i.e. split screens.
@edcutrell at #de2012 now talking about micro finance self help groups in india. Creating digital records without moving away from paper.
@edcutrell #de2012 Trialled mapping a standardised form onto a tablet/digital slate. Uses audio validation. Improved accuracy & efficiency.
@edcutrell #de2012 Actually audio output proved very popular; Particularly for illiterate members. Paper copy still important bec tangible.
@edcutrell at #de2012 But slates are expensive… Cue Android phones.
@edcutrell #de2012 #CGNetSwara now: “Voice is the most important thing in the developing works right now.” Mobile internet not that common.
@edcutrell #de2012: How do you manage communicating via system where language literacy’s so mixed? 25% no literacy 25% Eng. 25% Other lang.
@edcutrell #de2012 A voice-based wiki for citizen journalism. Great oral histories! Transcribed online. But users don’t have web access.
@edcutrell #de2012 So I wonder does this voice wiki have a use for inadvertent political activism?
@edcutrell #de2012 Find this citizen journalism project: http://cgnetswara.org  Do you give people a voice if they can’t access the platform?
@edcutrell at #de2012: #ivrjunction is the platform for the system for citizen journalism. They’re looking for partners!
@edcutrell #de2012 Q&A now. On economic bus. models: Cutrell says there is no resistance to new tech. But additional work not appreciated.
@edcutrell #de2012 On justifying to stakeholders why R&D should happen. Unanticipated devs of course!
Ditto! MT:@PaulWatsonNcl: #de2012 Enjoyed @EdCutrell talk on MSR India.Exploiting low-tech solns, integrating w. current customs & practice

Session 1B: Tales of Engagement

Maria Angela Ferrario (Jon Whittle, Erinma Ochu, Jen Southern, Ruth McNally): Beyond Research in the Wild: Citizen-Led Research as a Model for Innovation in the Digital Economy


Team use PROTEE project management approach.

Sprint teams has same core panel members, but bring in others from the wider #CATALYSTAS network. Impressive NodesXL visualisation of the network on Twitter.

The team ask for submissions from organisations who would like a Sprint event to create something that is easy to make but deals with a difficult issue. Organisations do not need to submit a complication proposal, only a paragraph is needed. The panel selects a project to carry out. The team have completed seven projects, only one wasn’t suggested by this method.

Patchworks with Signposts

Example or an organisation supporting homeless people in Lancaster, called Signposts.

The project used RFIDs and Thermo Mini Printer to create a printer of timetables for visitors to Signposts.

Find it

The project is extended very soon in MOSI, Manchester in the form of a treasure hunt using RFID tags that explores the difficulties in locating resources that homeless people encounter. Look on the MOSI website for ‘#Pat Goes Wild’. See also #Patchworks



Marianne Dee on Tales of Technology

@SiDEResearch – has drop in centre in Dundee. With a focus on access to technology. Has a research pool of 800 users and 40 organisations to take part in research. Great for user perspectives.

The Tales of Technology project collected positive stories about use of technologies. The stories were recorded from a call out to all 800 users via email and newsletter.  Many responded by email, some by post. 80 respondents. Many felt that their use of technologies was not notable, but it became clear during the recorded interviews that there were lots of unexpected brilliant positive stories.

Marianne told two great stories. Adam was interested in genealogy so searched for people who shared his surname through the internet and then emailed them all. Over a period of time he communicated with relations in lots of different countries and then via email invited 70 people to Scotland to visit their ancestral home. The visitors had a big impact on the local economy.

Marianne also told a great story about a lady who lost her husband who left a large collection of books. She decided to sell the books on Amazon (having decided that eBay was too complicated to use). Following her success, she started to buy books in secondhand and charity shops to sell through Amazon. She has never bought a single thing on Amazon, but has sold thousands of books.

The videos have been transcribed and have subtitles.

Questions to consider

How does the project fit into social mobility?

Access to community groups?

Is there a model here for sharing stories and for giving training to people for using technologies?

Favourite Idea

The stories will be linked to information about the technologies mentioned in the videos, therefore providing a way to join up technologies with user experiences.

Digital Storytelling Model – and how to craft these.

Find it

They’re on YouTube, and then project has a website currently at: http://tinyurl.com/talesoftechnology/ But soon to be at http://talesoftechnology.co.uk


Olga Fernholz: Innovation for Today While Innovating for Tomorrow. Perspectives on Building Ambidextrous Organisation

HORIZON, Nottingham.

Innovative Management

Olga talked about one of her case studies: Ordnance Survey. Olga interviewed 5 managers at OS, interested in the Agency of Leaders.

Innovative Ambidexterity:

Exploitation Exploration
Products Processes
Manipulating existing technologies/skills Shifting to new technologies/skills
OSMasterMapOSVectorMap District Linked Data Web – GeoVationOpen Data

Favourite Idea

Are exploitation and exploration mutually exclusive?

Connected Digital Economy Catapult Information Session

I attended the lunchtime briefing on the DE catapult for Connected Digital Economy. It was really interesting to hear about this scheme. I haven’t written notes as I found this pretty comprehensive record of the scheme elsewhere: https://connect.innovateuk.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=6593370&folderId=9473587&name=DLFE-103319.pdf

Workshop 5 (WS5): Harnessing the Power of Storytelling in the Digital Economy

Stephann Makri: Storytelling in Research

Identifying serendipity through storytelling. Carried out critical incident interviews as storytelling for data collection.

Interviewing techniques for conversational approaches to encouraging storytelling.  Stephann would summarise the story, email it to the participant, who could amend the record if they chose to do so.

How do we summarise? This is the data analysis part. By identifying patterns in the circumstances:

  1. Unexpected circumstances
  2. Insight (lightbulb moment)
  3. Valuable and unanticipated outcome

Presenting data: Multiple options: YouTube stories, narrated stories, illustrated stories, radio stories, poster stories. And finally, exploiting findings through drama.

Favourite Idea

Reflecting on stories, to reveal a metalayer on serendipity as a phenomenon.

Find it

See http://youtube.com/serendipiTV



Ruth Aylett

Heriott Watt University & SAGE

Persuasion: education can be about attitudes and behaviour as well as knowledge.  In schools, this takes the form of PSHE. In adults, this could be education of health.

Storytelling as a narrative loop. The loop is important. Linking events emotionally.

World state changes, causes Actions causes Affective Change, causes Events causes World state changes.

Persuasion is all about affective change. But there is a disconnect between story and reality.

One way to do this is to use role play. Experiential learning. Need a facilitator. Development of perspective taking. Thinking differently about points of view. Creation of empathy is essential. It won’t work if it is too predictable, or if it is too formulaic, or if the immersion is broken.

Sense of presence:

  • Summon up visualisation
  • Events fitting with logic of world
  • Challenges for user
  • Characters for feeling of social presence – it matters what you do; actions impact on characters. There are consequences.

You have to care about the digital character. Emotional involvement fostering.

Davis, 1994: Empathy is Cognitive (knowing) / Affective (experiencing).

Ruth gave the example of the FearNot project (virtual exploration of bullying for 9-11 year olds) and ORIENT project (Wii remotes on a large screen).

FearNot Project

Empathic agents – influencing behaviours.

Check out the RIDERS, http://riders-project.net, the next event is at QMUL.

Discussion Group

We split into groups to discuss how we used storytelling in our own research. Our group came up with the following uses that take place:

  1. Processes
  2. Inputs
  3. Outputs

And under these headings, we used storytelling for:

  • Reflection
  • Teaching
  • Communication of Work
  • Justification
  • Relationship Building
  • Story from Stories
  • Exploration
  • Different Audiences
  • Freeform

The other groups talked about:

  1. Validation of the story that you might tell. Cross-validation/triangulation from other sources.
  2. Mediating technologies to tell stories (tweets, photos, etc.).
  3. Different cultures for storytelling
  4. Different user groups – narrators, entrepreneurs, etc.

Colin Case

Colin facilitated an activity where we played the game Consequences, but using a conversation between a computer and a human. Then we discussed how collaborative storytelling occurs, in particular the role of chance and serendipity in this process.


We had a really good discussion at the end of the session for 15 minutes about the shift in focus from narrative to storytelling. Is this reflective of the shift in general? In museums, there is certainly much written about the shift from museum as knowledge producer, to the museum as a space/place/agent to facilitate knowledge production by/with audiences. E.g. User Generated Content.

Narrative is what you end up with when you combine:

  1. Story as collection
  2. Discourse is how it is expressed.

There is more of the author in storytelling than in narrative.

Passive Audience of… Active Participant in…
Engineered artefact Doing


What is the impact of storytelling?

Digital Economy Impact Panel Results

At the end of the day, I managed to get to the presentation on the results of the DE Impact Panel Review.  This has been the most thought provoking thing so far at #de2012 for me.

Paul Nightingale began the session.

Research to Practice takes time. We should get the research out there and ensure that VALUE is realised in society.

Haldane idea that Government doesn’t choose research may hold true, but impact will ensure funding from the Government.

Science Research Council, 1965: Achieving impact focus early on.

In the UK, DE is having a tangible impact on:

  • UK economy
  • UK society
  • UK research community


  1. DE – internationally excellent quality. UK research is in a leadership position.
  2. Quality of many of the students is ‘stella’. Beyond internationally excellent.
  3. Doesn’t neglect fundamental research because of applied focus.
  4. Was evidence of impact – but too early to assess.


Need to manage impact more strategically: Record, measure, communicate.

Some other thoughts from Paul Nightingale:

—  Monitoring process should be lightweight (when its going well!).

—  Cross portfolio networking

—  Academic research feeding into public policy debates is on Radio 4 all the time. Yet the average-spend on social sciences research for each UK resident is less than a gin and tonic worth per year.

—  Impact doesn’t happen at the end of a research project.

—  Early engagement is key.

Andrew Herbert then arrived and added the following thoughts:

—  Impact opportunistic. We’re not managing for it. There are no impact strategies. I.e. if you have a good idea, who do you tell? What/where do you go with it?

—  Too much digital, very little economy.

—  Define measurable desired long range target:

  • Goal to measure
  • You can see how you get there
  • Stages to get there (clear milestones with evaluation)

—  Link research and training strategies.

—  Business management and researchers needed. To think about:

  • IP
  • SWOT
  • Partner Relationships
  • Policy Input Development

— Attraction of critical mass is important

— Steering Boards with teeth as a model. Like an executive director. Keeping the PIs on track.

— Soft money is very important.

I’ve not been able to track down a digital copy of the report yet, but as soon as I do, I will put a link here.

Wednesday 24th October 2012

Today promises to be another interesting day, with poster presentations, a Dragons Den competition, and what look to be some great sessions. I will probably write up my notes for today on the train home tomorrow evening, so do look out for those here sometime on Thursday.

Charging for Digital Content

Waiting their turn for tickets
Flickr Commons - National Library of Scotland -OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. Refreshments at a horse show. Waiting their turn for tickets

The Web Science Doctoral Training Centre organised another fantastic talk for us last week, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts that came out of it here.

We spent an engaging afternoon listening to MaryAnn Johanson of FlickFilosopher introduce what she felt were some of the key issues coming out of the increase in popularity of sites that invite bloggers to contribute free content.  Thanks MaryAnn!

MaryAnn had some really interesting points to make about (amongst many other things) the difficulties in making money through maintaining sites such as e-zines, and this prompted some thoughts around the disparities between our feelings around the value of content produced online and the value of content produced offline.

I have been thinking recently about the differences between the expectations that museums have of engagement achieved off line and online and MaryAnn’s visit helped me to clarify some of these thoughts.

Undervaluing digital content

Firstly, I think it’d be useful to try to understand why we undervalue digital content.  Very often we expect digital content to be made available freely that, if compared to its real world counterpart, we would normally expect to pay for.

MaryAnn talked about the fact that the notion of the long tail does not work for many instances: for example, the blogger asked to contribute content to a large online news site, will not be paid, but will instead be offered exposure on that site.  Very few referrals will actually result from that content. Over on one of my favourite comic blogs (Septagon Studios) there is a great discussion of the way that e-comics can attempt to walk the tightrope of the long tail.  There is a lot here that rings true with museums and galleries’ adoption of social media more generally.

So often for those creating content online, the effort expended far outweighs the benefit received.  And yet this artificial model of contributing to reap huge rewards still seems to prevail.

How to revalue content

But, and I suppose this is secondly, I am really very interested in how we judge the worth of the digital content.  If the website asking for the content is gaining benefits, through the means of the long tail, then this is only sustainable whilst the content remains free.  Is there a model that could work where the content is paid for? Is the long tail only useful when sites reach a certain size (like the tipping point that we hear so much about?)?

If digital content is being undervalued, then how can we change this?  Is there a way to modify people’s opinions of very high quality journalistic blogs to understand that they are as valuable as printed papers?

One fellow web science believer mentioned Flattr as a potential alternative for attracting revenue for digital content.  This made me very happy as I have been following this Swedish company for a while and have been very excited about the potential for museums and galleries of this personalised method for funding organisations. I read a real food-for-thought post all about Flattr way back in May (I finally found it after much Googling – other search engines are available) – Flattr and why paying for free stuff is stupid  

The article provides a really interesting perspective (and not one that I share incidentally).  But it does make you think about the reasons that people blog.  The article ends with “The content isn’t the product… it’s free marketing.” Really? Is that why people blog? I am relatively new to blogging, but it seems to me that its a bit of both.

I started this blog to encourage conversation around the topics that I am interested in (and as an outlet for thoughts that I very frequently won’t have time to follow up in my academic life).  Consequently, the network and the contents are of equal importance to me.  Is this article just highlighting the problem; that we are undervaluing the content that is being created online? Or is it just that the kinds of blogs that this article talks about (like mine I think) are so far from the high quality editorials that excellent journalists like MaryAnn share that it is not relevant to this argument?

Museums, Galleries, Blogs and Expectations…

The thing that I am interested in ultimately from all this has to do with expectations.  Are we expecting too much from blogs?  Museums and galleries are starting to use blogs as an additional avenue for engagement, but are we approaching this all wrong? There are so many different types of blogs; this brings to mind the excellent diagram that Beth Kanter posted on her blog ‘What Color is your Non-Profit’s Blog?’, and it is so often that museums and galleries use the wrong model for the outcomes that they are wanting to achieve. Or worse still, they start a blog without any clear outcomes.

Could spending some time thinking a bit deeper about the value of the content that we are putting into our blogs as museums and galleries help to ensure the successful uptake of those blogs by the audiences that we want to engage with, as well as contributing to the design of more realistic targets for those blogs? So many thoughts, sadly, not enough time to pursue them!