Trends, Success & Games, some more Museums and the Web

Trying to fit the rest of #MW2011 into one post ain’t going to work, so I’m taking things three at a time.  Its nearly a week since Museums and the Web and there is just so much to think about!

Grounding Digital Information Trends

Kristen Purcell from Pew opened the conference with an a massive explosion of statistics about evolution of the Internet and its use in the US, from broadband, mobile, social networks and now apps. The information overload was staggering but it really hit home some the key issue: The digital divide isn’t disappearing.  For example:

In 2000 46% of adults used the internet by 2010 it is up to  74%, and 93% of teens (12-17) have internet access. Broadband has become the norm, but only 63% have broadband at home. Privilege and access is a huge issue. Broadband internet access is most prevalent in white, educated households with + $50K income. Who are you not reaching?

How to evaluate online success?

Rachel Clements, Seb Chan and Jane Finnis gave a really interesting session on evaluating online success.  Explaining where they have got to so far with an action research project with Seventeen individual museum and heritage institutions.  I really liked the social media benchmarking across the main social media channels, particularly using the free analysis twitter tools to look at influence and user engagement were from Klout and Tweetlevel.

Gaming the museum

Martha Henson and Danny Birchall gave an excellent workshop on Games. Talking at first about High Tea which is a highly addictive (no pun intended) brilliant game about the tea and opium trade.  Since Jan 2011 High tea has had 2.5 million plays world-wide! That’s an insane amount. They talked about Embedding google analytics in Flash games to evaluate game use and the fact that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be effective.

Part of the workshop involved us coming up with our own games reusing game formats that already exsist.  This was a really excellent idea; the creativity of the group really brought the workshop to life (after a few terrified looks at the thought of having to do some team work before lunch).   We came up with a First person (shooter) conservator. Cleaning up archive town one work at a time.  Explaining the process of object conservation in a shoot em up stylie and a card game called Three of a kind for a person to person game in an art museum, where three people would be given a card of an art work, a review and a artist statement and would have to find each other over wine.

It was great to think out of the box about what you can do with museum games. Someone else pitched the idea of a ceramics exhibition game: World of Craft Wars. Genius.

Back to the Grid

I really enjoyed the Grid based design to Optimize Content Authoring and Presentation session, not only because it introduced me to Josef Muller Brockmann absolutely amazing grid based designs (I can now see what I will adorn my walls with when I am a grown up in a nice house) but also because I have a museum crush on the IMA. I love everything they do.

Matt and Charles from the IMA introduced us to Grid-based Web design built on a print ‘typographic grid’ technique. Emil Ruder and Josef Muller Brockmann played with this technique to produced a flexible layout system which is rational, beautiful and easy to understand. They showed us that by borrowing a grid design approach from print and applying it to their website, it can create a common and simplified language for the web developers and Designers alike. Changing the focus on style more than layout, because the grid system does the layout for you with columns conventions. The IMA website is a great case study for grid based design – the site looks elegant, clean and consistent.

Benefits for designers:
• a grid framework automatically define the number of adding and margin of columns
• Clearly and logical patterns which helps organise a wide range of dynamic content
• Dramatically cuts the time devoted to creating CSS style sheets to define.
• Template that can be easily replicated customized and rapidly implemented
• use negative margins to pull elements out of grid boundaries
• Abandon the grid inside or outside content areas
• Use background images that bleed outside of the grid boundaries
• Wrap grid divs with container divs
• Unique of examples of grid design
• 12 column wide grid layout

Benefits for web developers:
• tools are easier to build
• Predetermine image/content sizes; layouts

Benefits for content authors:
• easy to understand concept
• Indirectly enforces consistency
• Reducing concepts encourages consistency
• Enables rich layouts
• Simple tools

Mobile, mapping, neighbourhoods and Neolithic rock art

What I really like about Museums and the Web is the variety, so from Information seeking I jumped straight into Mobile and issues of geolocation. As people are accessing museum data wherever and whenever they like, it has huge implications on the ways in museums work, the models they use, and the projects they create.

The first project looked at building a community platform for sharing history and mapping it.   PhilaPlace is really nice actually, it created resources to showoff  the history and culture of Philadelphia’s unique neighbourhoods, by connecting stories to places.  Its interesting to see how a community curated content can be situated to give a really sense of place.

The second project is from the RAMP project, based at Newcastle University and looks at Neolithic rock art in Northumberland.  I love the cup and ring marks up there.  They are such beautiful, integrating carvings in the middle of nowhere. So the idea of using situating Cultural Technologies Outdoors to provide mobile interpretation of them is brilliant.

Here are some of my quick and dirty notes:

  • Natural environment of Northumberland not actively managed for visitors, complex land ownership. Interpretation is very limited.  Hardly any signs but there is rich digital documentation.
  • Visitors are Opportunistic, often coming across rock art by chance without any expectation and preparation for them.  Does lead to repeat visits
  • Alleged lack is signal for mobiles, but project found that it was workable coverage
  • Why mobile? Situated, opportunistic engagement, flexible self paced, no new infrastructure required
  • Idea of Bring your own device
  • Phenomenology – Situate digital tech in the landscape
  • Empathy in design Is about being able to imaginatively construct the world from another persons perspective.  But how do you translate empathy into design?
  • Visiting rock art- findability, sense of self, sense of place, desire for speculation
  • Intuitive navigation, Map a central to navigation, plus textual descriptions
  • And panel confirmation- not geo located, triggered by visitor
  • Space for speculation: dialogical style
  • Space for speculation: archaeological ambiguity
  • Dialogical content and space for speculation via questions
  • Resource intensive but ultimately rewarding process for all involved – Opportunities to build relationships

Information Seeking at Museums and the Web

Yesterday I took part in a session on Information Seeking. You can see my prezi here (I cant figure out how to embed it – if anyone knows how to embed prezi’s let me know).

One of the really interesting things I discovered whilst making the presentation is that the British Museum and UCL look spookily alike….  It could explain why we work so well together.

I was sharing the session with Sarah Kenderdine from the Museum Victoria, Australia who was talking about Cultural Data Sculpting: Omni-spatial interactive visualization.  Sarah’s work is amazing and her research looks at interactive and immersive experiences for museums.  Sarah presented some brilliant projects from ALIVE (Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment).  The projects use massive data sets to create fully immersive experiences.  One that I really liked was called Blue Dots, which featured Chinese Buddhist Canon which has 52 million glyphs.  It reminded me of a excellent paper at DH2010 by Lewis Lancaster about visualisation of Chinese Buddhist Canon, but Sarah’s work just seems to push the boundaries of what is you can do with geospatial and immersive technologies (actually I’ve just read through Sarah’s paper and its a project with Lewis Lancaster – I feel smug that I thought they were familiar!)

Again it’s a case of information overload.  I’m going to come back to this.  It’s got me thinking lots of interesting immersive time things that I would love to explore further.

You can read Sarah’s paper over at the Museums and the Web conference site.

museum web metrics a crash course

This week I’m at the Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia. I really struggle with jetlag and insomnia, so my brain is already frazzled, so I will be blogging a lot in attempt to make sense of all of the interesting conversations, people, presentations and workshops I am going to.

Day 1: Getting more from Metrics Workshop, lead by Seb Chan from the Powerhouse museum

I am not a fan of numbers. Particularly big numbers with attached graphs.  But I am finding more and more that I am faced with enormously large numbers of web traffic data, and I don’t really know quite what to do with it.  I claim to know the basics of Web analytics, but really it is a tricky beast and the different ways of measuring things confuse me and I don’t know whether the buttons I am pressing and the filters I am creating are actually making it easier, or just more complicated.

I went for the GA workshop because a part of my PhD focuses on metrics.  Quantitative data for my PhD will be gathered using web traffic data to find out levels of use, where users come from and what they access.   I am going to be looking at whether or not quantitative metrics like this are suitable to gain an understanding of user experience.  Quantitative data and log analysis can determine which pages are accessed, but not whether the content was actually read or understood or if a user was satisfied with what they found. I particularly interested if impact relating to museum content can be measured as well as whether users actual end use of digital museum content can be assessed, and whether metrics can help with this.  I went to the workshop to see how far I can take the numbers to into gaining an understanding of visitor use. Google analytics is generating huge amounts of quantitative data about museum visitors, which is great, but really without knowledge of what the numbers mean, they really are pointless.

The workshop was intensive, but brilliant (I think – it’s going to take me a while to take it all in).  I really got the feeling that you need to spend a lot of time working your way through google analytics before you can get to grips with it properly and really start to break things down with segmentation goals, and filters.

One of the key things that came across is that it is about the patterns – don’t obsess on the raw numbers! Month by month you don’t see the patterns clearly.  Quarterly or yearly is much better.

Over the day we looked at loads of stuff and went through a lot of examples of:

  • Site based user metrics – improve user experience, identify potential new user types
  • ISP level metrics – find comparative data, spot macro trends. Patterns of web use beyond your website – allows you to see comparative data – macro trends ( is website traffic growing or shrinking how am I doing on the website as a whole)
  • Social metrics – identify social content and issues, understand users better
  • Qualitative research – understand user needs

Seb always brought it back to key questions to ask yourself when looking at web metrics and creating goals to measure:

o   What are you trying to do?

o   Who are you trying to reach? Be precise

o   How will you know you have been successful?

o   What does success actually look like?

o   What methods best measure this success?

o   Can I find comparative data?

o   What insights are you gaining form your data?

o   Does success equate with visitor satisfaction?

The final question is what I am really interested in does success equate with visitor satisfaction?  And if it does, can you actually measure that?

Scholarly Information-Seeking Behaviour in the British Museum Online Collection

Paper numero 2!

I love this paper; Not only because I get to present it at Museums and the Web or that I got to work with brilliant people Like Matthew Cock and David Prudames from the British Museum and Melissa Terras here at UCLDH.  What I love about this paper is the fact that it came about because of Twitter. Its amazing what you can get out of a Tweet. Collaborative research projects in abundance!

So you can read all about our a collaborative study between UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and the British Museum. If looks at the use and information seeking behaviour by scholars of the British Museum’s Collection Online. From May to September 2010 a series of analyses of users of the British Museum’s COL was undertaken: including log analysis and targeted surveys.  This paper only focuses on the results of the academic users – There is a lot more analysis which could be done, we just havent had time yet! The findings in the paper focus on the online survey which concentrated on gathering data specifically on users of the British Museum’s Collection Online; focusing on user perspectives of their use of the Collection Online, search strategies and general use of museum digital resources. I love it.

You can read the paper in full here!