Thursday, September 18, 2008

Your Help Needed to Steer the Museum 2.0 Live Archive

Over the life and growth of this blog, one statistic has remained the same: 60% of the visitors to the site at any given time are new to it. This has always made me a bit uneasy. I love that new people are coming, but I worry that these people are coming to a resource site that isn't organized in a particularly useful fashion.

Many blogs don't have this problem because they function more like news services--the most recent post is the new news and the archives are history. But here, there are many "evergreen" posts dating back to the beginning with design ideas, analysis, links, and interesting projects.

So I've decided to make a better archive, one that organizes posts by questions ("How do I get familiar with Web 2.0 tools?," etc.) and starting points ("I'm a curator from a small art museum...") rather than by tags which may or may not be relevant to your needs. I was inspired by this site about collection management, which organizes the resources in a sidebar in a really practical, understandable way.

And I need your help. Because while I can guess at some of the major questions and starting points, I don't really know what YOU want... and the archive should be a place that serves you as well as possible. I'll be building the archive over time, and I want to make sure to start with the questions and paths of most interest and importance to you.

There are two super-simple (3 min or less) ways to participate:
  • add a question that brought you to this blog here
  • add your starting point for thinking about 2.0 and museums here
And for those of you who are interested in helping in a more significant way, I invite you to create your own page of preferred posts, the things you've found most useful, etc.

To be clear: ALL YOU HAVE TO DO to contribute is TYPE IN A QUESTION OR STARTING POINT. Then I and other ambitious volunteers will do the rest, and we'll have a great resource.

To contribute to the site, you will need to register an account with the wiki host. It is easy and non-spammy, but I know it's a pain. Once you've done that, you can edit any page on the wiki and create your own as well.
I'll be checking in on your questions and starting points frequently and will try to provide paths within a week of your question or starting point being submitted. Once the site has enough content, I'll tie it into the sidebar of this blog so you can access the archives directly and easily. I particularly want to encourage the 516 people who read this blog via email to click on the links and add your feedback--you are the least likely folks to be accessing the current archive and might find a question-based one quite useful.

And for those of you who are interested in how I created this archive site, here's the process I went through. After asking around, I considered four free-ish options for the wiki: pbwiki, wikispaces, Google sites, and wik.is. I was looking for something without ads that looked decent, was easy to use, and wasn't going to cost anything. I eliminated wikispaces because you have to pay to be ad-free (though it looks and functions very well). I eliminated pbwiki because you have to pay if you want to have more than 3 contributors. I was going to go with Google sites but I haven't found it to be completely intuitive in past experiments. Then, Dee Elling recommended wik.is to me. I was very impressed by how simple it was to use and how clean it looks, so I went with it. With a basic (free) account, the only significant feature that is not available is custom domains, which means you have to suffer with a strange URL (mine is http://museumtwo.wik.is). But it's a small price to pay for a nice site with few restrictions.

It took me about 2 hours to set up the whole thing, though that included a bunch of dinking around and creating the first two answer sets (1 and 2). So please check it out, add a question or a starting point, and let's create an archive that can really help you get the information you want.

6 comments, add yours!:

Roebot said...

You could setup your own custom domain at http://wik.is with the Pro account (a whopping $99/year) so the domain isn't funky.

Patricia Martin said...

Nina-
I've been reading your blog, on and off, for a few weeks. I like it. I appreciate the way you are experimenting to retain audience. I read other "culture" blogs and often post comments. I rarely get replies. My observation of the blogging landscape in arts and culture is that it's not really a conversation. Experts post info and commentary. Period. Blogs in other realms exchange comments more often. What's up with that? Do I have that wrong?

Anna Holloway said...

Nina - the wiki looks great! I'll pass the link along to my other colleagues here at The Mariners' Museum (where you have several fans). In response to Patricia's comment - we've found ourselves with a blog that no one can comment upon - a remnant of an older hierarchy here that was afraid of relinquishing control - something endemic to many museums and cultural institutions. But we're changing it on ours in the next few months so that there can be a dialogue. Wish us luck!

Nina Simon said...

Patricia,

Three thoughts:
1. Good bloggers SHOULD respond to comments, especially if they are questions or comments that invite further conversation. I try to do it as much as possible, though I often wait for a few comments to come in so I'm not overwhelming the post AND the comments with my voice.
2. Most comments are responses to the post, not responses to each other. It's hard to get a threaded conversation going in comments because everyone clicked "Add comment" based on the post, not the comments. There are some blogs that do a better job inciting comment-based conversation, but they are often blogs in which posts are short, provocative, and open to interpretation.
3. I realize that as the writer of the blog, I care a lot more about comments than the readers do. I want to hear from you. But I also recognize that as a reader of blogs, I very rarely am motivated to write comments. I'm too conditioned by years of reading magazines and newspapers and books to automatically imagine that there's a place for my response. I think that attitude is going to shift as we spend more time with media in a "comment-friendly" environment.

So I say sincerely: thanks for commenting!

Ruth Cuadra said...

Nina,

This is a terrific new development. Often what I come back to your blog for are the unique ideas you have about taking ideas from another "domain" (for lack of a better word) and using them in the museum setting. For example, you had an idea that stemmed from watching someone pay a toll for the person behind them. Or the one about geocaching and how museums could use the principles of the geographic location of objects to excite visitors. These kind of posts tend to be tagged with "Unusual Projects and Influences", but I don't know how to pose questions that might go on your wiki that would take people to the sort of unexpected and ingenious stuff that makes your blog such a rich source of ideas.

Maria Mortati said...

Hi Nina,

I think this is a great idea, and I will work on your question this weekend of ways to organize the wiki.

I agree with what Patricia Martin has said- that mirrors my experience. However, I like how this blog handles comments- it sets up a situation where the comments feel more like a dialogue than in other formats (like on Typepad).

I'm hopeful about your prediction- once people are more accustomed to a 'commentable' world, they'll start to remark more. We'll see!

Like I said offline, I think you should write a book based on your posts. You've got the material there... just need a publisher (and time).