‘It’s not about technology it’s about people’ Part deux

Part 2

claire rI’ve already had a mini rant about the audience and their reactions to user generated content at World Wide Wonder by the Museums Association.  This seems to be happening quite often Nina Simon has posted ‘Don’t Join the conversation if You aren’t ready to listen’ recently with her experiences of similar events. Online museum stuff should be engaging for the museums and its users, its not a pedestal to push the ‘we are the keepers of truth card and we dont want to speak to the likes of you’.  Anyway… So the content of the World Wide Wonder event was pretty full on, it was great to see different people talking about museums and the web.

There’s too much to discuss so I’m going to focus on the points that particularly interested me.

Matthew Cock’s welcome note suggested some tips for what we should be thinking about:

  1. Do one thing really really well- what do we do best?
  2. Have clearly defined audiences and clearly defined user needs
  3. Use others peoples content and tools to enhance your site and vice versa. Don’t feel you have to host the conversations about your content, just link to them. E.g flickr competitions, blog debate and discussions.  Work with flickr. Don’t just use them.
  4. You’re too close to it. in order to fully evaluate watch other people using your website. Even better, watch a disabled person using your website.
  5. Engagement with your audience is about quality.

He also asked us a question Do you have a web/digital strategy for your museum? If not why not?   That’s a good point.  When I joined Geevor, there wasn’t a web/digital strategy despite Geevor having a website (please don’t look at it- its awful- I’m currently giving it an overhaul- then it will look and feel good hopefully…).  By the time I leave (2 and a half months agh!) Geevor will have a strategy for all facets of the web that engages with/in, hopefully which will continue to grow and evolve as Geevor grows and as the web audience changes too.

Jason Ryan – Head of User Experience at ICrossing UK.  Talking about IA for the distributed online experience. I have to admit I didn’t actually know what IA was…. But now I do! Jason also asked us whether we should be considering centralised and de-centralised web strategies?

Information architecture (IA)- series of site maps and the effective organisation labelling and layout.  Ahh now it makes sense. So  IA is a way of working- a toolbox of principles, guidelines and techniques.  Many museums see their website as the sum total of their online existence.  But every organisation exists in a broader network; through networks of links and conversations.  The question is to what degree we as museums choose to be part of those extended networks- through listening and engagement?  to what extent can we  develop our IA to embrace and optimise the flow.

So basically our audiences are changing, they are no longer passive consumers.  They are active, engaged and thirsty to collaborate. We need to change to suit their needs not our own.

Jason suggested at the moment there are three types of visitor to our museum websites:

  1. I am looking for something specific
  2. I am interested in a topic or theme
  3. Inspire me

Jason also suggested three simple principles for success in broader networks

  • Listen
  • Be useful
  • Be live

Next up was Anra Kennedy from Culture 24.  This was pretty cool.  Anra was talking about meeting the needs of the youngest online audiences.

Firstly Caboodle is now live! Why didn’t anybody tell me, and why wasn’t it tweeted to oblivion??

So museums face stiff competition when it comes to children’s time and attention. And what are they doing with their screen (not necessarily online) time?? Playing, communicating, creating and finding out.

The best place for museums to position themselves is in the finding out section of children’s time. So what do children find out and when?

  • At home- unguided, informal, craze led, and interest led
  • School- guided, time limited, formal, info led
  • Homework- a combination of the two.

Children have a wide option of experiences open to them and they love sharing interesting content.  Anra posed the question why isn’t it happening with out content??

She provided a brilliant example of her daughter who was doing a piece of homework on Boudicca. By using google images her daughter chose an image that she felt best represented Boudicca, and what was it? this!

why wasn’t museum content chosen? Because its not visible enough!  Homework should be the quick win for the museum.  We definitely need to work on this!

Anra also discussed crazes that children are in too and these crazes are in a format that museum could try and adopt.

www.neopets.com ( I have to admit I used to have a neopet, I was an only child and my hamster had just died- I needed something- don’t judge me)  it’s a virtual pet community. All I can really remember is playing solitare with this blue dinosaur looking thing, giving me points to feed it, it was addictive for a while. I soon got bored and went to play outside in the mud (archaeologist through and through), but the point is the majority of people didn’t get bored and played for hours on end! Why cant children or in fact everyone be playing with museum content, museum games?

www.clubpenguin.com (its tag line is ‘waddle around and meet new friends’ fab) – club penguin is a safe and moderated virtual world where you are a penguin avatar in a continually evolving community.  What’s interesting about club penguin is that it has been far reaching.  Its everywhere! You tube, twitter, you name its there’s a club penguin waddling about.

www.moshimonsters.com – Moshi Monsters is a free online game for kids, in which they adopt a monster and look after it.  whats great about moshi monsters is that learning is at the heart the experience.  The child’s monster will create a series of puzzles that test everything from vocabulary and arithmetic to logic and spatial skills. It might actually be good for me to do, test the brain a little. My logic and arithmetic and my vocab for that matter and not up to scratch.

It wasn’t in my remit to work on games for Geevor.  But I think tapping into the crazes that children are in to, is something really worth looking into for museums as a whole.  Plus it would be fun to research- Anra suggests that if museums are going to tap into childrens games, the first thing you need to do totally immerse yourself! Cool. I would like that job.

A few good museum websites/games aimed at children are:




Finally, the final talk of the day was by Carolyn Royston, Carolyn focused on working in partnership and the benefits and challenges she faced as the project manager of National Musuems Online Learning Project.  The title of the post ‘It’s not about technology, its about people’ is from Carolyn’s talk.  It was one of the most important lessons Carolyn learnt from the project. And from my experience I would have to agree. My job is to lead a collaborative project between Geevor and the University of Exeter. I have had to develop strong partnerships with internal and external stakeholders and work collaboratively within Geevor, with the local community and with several departments in the University of Exeter.  And what it comes down to is the people involved.  You need to effectively communicate with everyone all the time. This on occasions is exceptionally difficult.  Carolyn was faced with ‘so what’s this project actually about?’ by a partner involved a few months before the end of the project!  People and communicating with them are the key factor in the successful management of any project .

Some key points that Carolyn discussed:

  • Project needs clear benefits and value for all involved.
  • Clarity about what the project will deliver (and what it won’t)
  • Capability and capacity clearly defined.
  • Agreement on how you will work together
  • Spending time on the partnership early on will benefit you throughout the project
  • Legacy strategy and sustainability issues must be discussed
  • Setting up clear lines of communication
  • Understanding that milestones and deadlines have to be met otherwise they impact on everyone
  • Gaining advocacy- being a project champion
  • Gaining commitment- building commitment
  • Partnerships require work- all the time.

(on a another note. The webquests are pretty good!)

A point that was left ringing in my ears is – a good project manager will lead your project but implementation and delivery is a collective responsibility.

There was also great talks by Areti Galani- Participatory media: one size does not fit all. Areti looked at the ladder of participation and asked key questions about who participates, what does it look like and what is its purpose.  Martin Bazley- understanding online audiences: how to evaluate your website(s) and why .  Martin discussed why we need to research are online audiences – basically because otherwise users don’t get what we are offering.  and Phil Poole- Enhancing websites on a shoestring budget (which I mentioned in Part 1).

One Response to “‘It’s not about technology it’s about people’ Part deux”

  1. Hi

    only just seen this… Firstly, really interesting write-up, thank you 🙂
    2ndly – re Caboodle – it is live and we’d love people to start playing with it but it’s not finished. I’m not quite happy with the usability yet, or the level of interactivity. Especially re the museum caboodles – want to weave some some more ways to share/swap. The developers are fab and open to ideas so we’ll see what we come up with – planning some more work over the next month or so. Working on real world support resources too and will launch a marketing campaign in early 2010. We will then tweet it, promise!

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