Take homes from the National Digital Forum (NDF2009) in New Zealand

It was long way to New Zealand from Brighton, three planes, 28 hours and a lot of movies, but it was worth it. The people are friendly, the landscape breathtaking and the coffee is fantastic. Add to this the National Digital Forum itself and you have a recipe for a really fun, thought provoking and stimulating week.

above: Penny Carnaby (National Library) and John Garraway (NDF Chair)

Thanks to the British Council, I was sponsored to come over and invited to do a keynote on the afternoon of the NDF’s first day. The conference venue was in the truly wonderful Te Papa museum and I was one of three international speakers, the others being Daniel Incandela (Director of New Media, Indianapolis Museum of Art) and Nina Simon (Museum 2.0 blog).

above: Te Papa wall outside conference “Embrace the past. Prepare now to shape the future”

Daniel opened with a very witty account of the transformation he has overseen of the IMA’s online presence and production. In particular the great use of personalities, narratives and stories told using low cost video but with high production values). He comes from a background like myself of video production and I totally related to his insistence on voice, opinion, humour trumping over the technology.

Nina (a woman after my own heart) talked about audience, mostly from the point of view of the physical exhibition but the issues translate to the online world very easily. The spoke of the importance of framing the ‘right’ question as a way to draw people in to an idea. She also got the whole conference on its feet, sharing skills and seeking advise in the one-to-one, with the reward for a a successful skill swap of banging a huge gong hanging on the stage. See the visual evidence of my successful sharing here!

above: me and my big slides!

For my slot, I told the story of Culture24 over the last ten years, what we set out to do, what we actually did, what worked, what didn’t and what next. I also looked back on the duplication, lack of strategy, leadership and sustainability in UK digital cultural online. Ending with what I see as possibly the start of some real change in 2009 thanks to the following:

MLA digital principles published
Arts Council state digital opportunity as a key priority
National Museum directors speak out to say future for museums lies with Internet
MA conference, first year they have had a strand on ‘digital change’

You can see the slides of my talk, which are in two parts here: Part One / Part Two.

It seems from the Twitter back channel and the face to face chat that the stories were appreciated, which coming from such a highly skilled and digital literate group of people was a real compliment.

Also enjoyed hearing about the excellent stuff they are doing at the DigitalNZ (part of the National Digital Library). Their work with API’s, data aggregation and date sharing is really innovative for the cultrual sector and I for one an watching their space with interest.

Same applies to the stuff that Liam Wyatt from Wikimedia Australia is talking about concerning how to engage the GLAM sector more effectivly with Wikimedia. His recent blog posts on the low hanging fruit in this area are really interesting.

above: Liam Wyatt (Wittylama) and Phillipa Tocker

Finally, this has got to be the best badge ever ….

Thanks to the British Council, Te Ara, NZlive and the NDF committee for their support and for making the trip both possible and worth it.

Take homes from two Culture24 workshops – Social Media, Web Metrics, Evaluation by Seb Chan

Just finished a full-on week with Seb Chan from Powerhouse, delivering this years ever popular and inspiring workshops – the first on Social Media and the second on Web Metrics and evaluation.

Under Seb’s guidance, Powerhouse Museum has been consistency leading internationally on how museums can use digital tools to further engage and reach audiences. This fact, combined with Seb’s own passion for the subject and his ability to dissect, confront and interpret his own digital, made this years workshops better that ever.

Take homes for me from both were:

Tuesday 3rd November – Social Media

1. Start with what are you trying to achieve and who is it for. Sounds obvious but its harder than you think.
2. You have to know who your audience are to reach them (the more segmentation the better).
3. Your content is your marketing. If your messages are not your actual stuff, your stories, your views, the stuff that makes you who you are, then its just noise.
4. Your social media channels need curating just like your exhibitions (all the time).
5. You need to monitor what is happening in our social media channels – what are people saying about you – and you need to respond to them.
6. Digital strategy needs to really be the responsibility of the whole museum team.
7. One museums misuse is another person’s valid interpretation.
8. Websites are not social spaces so don’t try and make your one. Take your stuff out into the existing social spaces where your target audience already are.

The day was held at CILIP in central London, great venue for courses and good catering with real hot food (very important). The mixture of people was really interesting, some museums, heritage, photography, arts – and individuals with responsibilities for marketing, curation, publishing, technical.

Living proof of the huge range of ways that organisations are dealing with digital strategy. There was a marked different from last years workshop and people seemed to be further developed in their thinking and understanding of the key issues. You can see this clearly in the fact that this year at least third of those attending were in the process of writing a digital strategy for their organisation, whereas last year, about the same number left the workshop having realised this was something that needed to do.

Wednesday 5th November – Web Metrics

This subject is a particular hobbyhorse of mine as I am so often amazed by how many digital projects have not even considered the basic questions of what are they trying to achieve and who is it for – without this how do you know what to evaluate to tell if it worked?

The big issue here I think is the fact that some projects are clearly commissioned because people think they have to ‘do’ something about digital – have a website, have a facebook page, put their collections online – whatever it might be.

Seb has done a great blog post on what he calls the “five rules of museum content” Worth a read and definitely worth interrogating your own work to see if you can answer the questions well or not.

Next meeting up Seb at the New Zealand National Digital Forum where we will do the Web Metrics workshop again as part of the 5th Culturemondo roundtable. Looking forward to seeing how the NZ museums/galleries/archives are coping with all this.

A further set of take homes from another participant – Bilkis Mosoddik at the Museum of London – can be found on her blog here.

Two new Culture24 training events by Seb Chan

Following the sold-out success of last years event, Culture24 are pleased to welcome Seb Chan back to the UK for two dynamic sessions:

“Strategic social media for the cultural sector”

“Web analytics and measuring online success in a rapidly changing online landscape”


Strategic social media for the cultural sector
Tuesday, November 03, 2009 from 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
At: CILIP, 7 Ridgmount Street, London
Cost: £150 (inc lunch)

How does your museum engage with its audiences? Do you use social media to reach and engage with new audiences?
Understanding social media marketing is essential for museums in the 21st century. This workshop will show you how you can listen to and engage with audiences online, and consider some of the challenges involved in running effective campaigns.

What will you get from the day?
• Practical ideas about ways to make your digital collections more accessible
• An understanding of the changing nature of online publishing
• Evidence to argue for investment in online services within your organisation
• Ideas and strategies for building sustainable online audiences

For full details and how to book click here:

Web analytics and measuring online success in a rapidly changing online landscape
Wednesday, November 04, 2009 from 1:30 PM – 6:00 PM
At: Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Cost: £75

Explore the emerging landscape of metrics and measurement in the world of the social Web. The workshop will begin with an examination of the traditional measurement tools available on the Web, explaining their pros and cons, before looking specifically at the new suite of tools needed to discover ‘actionable insights’ for your social media projects.

What will you get from the day?
· Insights into current issues around online measurement
· Practical understanding of how to use and not to use existing measurement tools
· Ideas and strategies for developing more complex and effective results

For full details and how to book click here:

About the presenter:
Sebastian Chan leads the Digital, Social and Emerging Technologies department at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. His teams include the museum’s web unit, audio visual and photography, rights & permission and the photo library, the research library and Thinkspace, the Powerhouse’s digital media teaching laboratories. He is a researcher in several Australian Research Council Linkage projects researching social media, museums, and technology; and speaks internationally about the use of cutting edge technology in the cultural sector. He is on the international programme committees of Museums and the Web (USA), Digital Strategies for Heritage (Eu), the Horizon.Au New Media Consortium, and is an International Steering Committee member of Culturemondo, an international group of representatives of cultural portal strategists. Seb is also a member of the Australian Government’s Government 2.0 Taskforce examining ways of improving citizen engagement with government and opening access to public sector information

Collaboration can be transformative – Take homes from the CILIP executive briefing ‘Beyond Silos of the LAM’s

Beyond Silos of LAMs conference

“Collaboration can be transformative”. This was the opening statement made by Gunter Waibel at the ‘Beyond Silos of the LAM’s’ event at CILIP on 15th September.

He used an analogy for collaboration being like a trapeze artist, swinging from one swing to another. In other words, something that requires an act of faith and a trust in yourself, your fellow flyers and the technology you are using.

Trust and risk were themes of the day. Who was willing to do both? It was clear that in most cases it was getting a mandate for collaboration from senior management that was necessary.

Case studies from V&A, Smithsonian and York Library and Archives all shared the presence of a clear vision, a belief and clarity about purpose and value that drives your ambitions. With this, securing the mandate for collaboration seems easier – as Stuart Dempster so nicely put it“ success breeds success”.

One thing that struck me was the question – What are the incentives to collaborate beyond personal success that so often (if we are honest) can be defined as trumping your partner? Guenter spoke accurately I felt, about the inherent tension in the fact that we are often measured “against each other – not really a natural state for collaboration”!

Maybe a way to deflect this dichotomy might be as Nick Poole suggested in his talk the need to collaborate “beyond our mates”. and consider wider collaboration with perhaps the creative industries, tourism, arts or commercial partners.

This mirrors my personal feelings that by far the biggest threat facing LAM’s is the risk of not collaborating beyond their mates – not to face outwards from the sector to the wider environment and the many places where cultural content could be of value (schools, broadcasters, publishers, bloggers and more).

Nick encapsulated this very well when he said “ we have a collective opportunity, we are all emerging from an ere of mass digitisation into something more nuanced and sophisticated.”

Roy, Nick and Brian
Left to right: Brian Kelly, Fiona Williams, Roy Clare, Nick Poole and Guenter Waibel

I was struck by the fact that within the Smithsonian, they face internally all the same issues that an individual museum, library or archive face in collaborating with others. With their 19 museums, 20 library branches, research facilities, archives and a zoo, they probably have as many objects as a small country! They are singlehandedly their own silo, but with a brand (a bit like the Tate), that needs no introduction.

My own presentation considered the issue of users, their needs and behaviour online. In particular what methodologies and tools are available to us now that could deliver more focussed user friendly services that have a collaborative model at their core.

You can view the presentation of slideshare here.

My essential premise took a specific profile of a 10 year old child sitting down to a computer in a library. It asked “why can’t the library’s online offer, engage the child to the same degree as the physical library?

It’s a very good question and one that is long overdue in asking. For me, the answers are all there for the taking – diverse content feeds, open data sharing, aggregation platforms and interface personalisation.

I would love to see my idea tried out in a library and then track the usage.

Any takers???

Take-homes from btween09 digital media forum, Liverpool

Just spent a great two days in Liverpool with a very interesting mix of creative types (entrepreneurs, developers, thinkers, social media start-ups, agencies and broadcasters) as part of the btween09 digital media forum. Well done to Katz Kiely and her team at just-b.


I was one of only a handful of people from the public cultural sector and probably one of the only people who doesn’t have the successful monetising of their offer at the heart of what drives their service. Not that I am saying that the task of justifying the spending of public money is not something that should be quantified and considered as ROI but that the mindset of being driven by a remit to promote learning and engagement for its own sake puts you in a different box to commercial companies.

For me there are a number of key take-homes and formation of early ideas.

1. I was struck by how clever commercial agencies are getting in their manipulation of social media. Ogilvy talked about Brands not just using social media, but being social. But the methods within this new marketing 2.0 seems sometimes counter intuitive in some ways to traditional marketing methods. For example, you don’t talk about yourself within networks, you talk about other people or you support networking and ideas shaping events such as this one in order to make sure you are on the right wave. I guess no one would be surprised to hear that I am deeply cynical about agencies in general and about this kind of clever intrusion into the heart of social networking but, as the revenue streams generated support the sector that I hold dear, I have to bite my tongue. Also, hats off to the people at Ogilvy who are seriously smart (love the brainZ internal problem solving solution, read a post from the people that built it here). I would love to see this kind of intelligence applied to arts, heritage and education!

2. Charles Leadbeater’s analysis of the switch between traditional media and what he calls ‘mutual media’ is excellent. It’s a very clear visual image of the shift between mutual media as the moon orbiting around the huge sun of traditional media (the model of the past), and the future trajectory that he predicts will see the positions switch. He talked around many of the ideas present in his books, such as the breakdown of people activities into three categories – Enjoy, Talk, Do. You can get his essay with a lot of other good stuff in the recently published “After the Crunch” book by CCSkills and British Council here).

3. The three speakers from my session (Will Gompertz, Peter Buckingham and me) were presenting and discussing the issues faced by different aspects of cultural sector as funded by three different government funded agencies – Film Council, MLA and Arts Council – three different organisations but all clearly arriving at the same place at the same point in time with regard to the potential of digital services to transform user engagement. All looking for the holy grail of what this should mean in terms of policy development. But the really cool bit was that Leadbeaters introduction couldn’t have provided a better platform or introduction to the issues we were discussing. It was not planned, it was just all true. True and very reassuring that our observations and thoughts about what is possible and the value of real collaboration put us on the right track, Very comforting when weighing up the price of all the blood, sweat and tears or trying to get people to see the links between all these things.

4. It was really inspiring to see FACT thriving as a venue and as an organisation. Looking really good with projects like FACT TV and Abandon Normal Devices. They were contemporaries to the organisation I used to run before Culture24 called Lighthouse, who roots came out of the independent film and video workshop initiatives in the 80’s and who have both blossomed through the careful and clear advocacy of the role of creative activities and industries in economic development and reform at a local level. The original key player in FACT, Eddie Burg, is now at the Southbank and soon to join the Culture24 board. Very nice and looking forward to working with him.

5. I have learned that five and a half hours on a bus that was sold to you as a techbus, but actually lacked much actual ‘tech’, not really enough beer and a huge traffic jam, can actually be really fun if you are travelling with a group of truly free minds (thanks to Alfie Dennen and Adam Gee for the stories). Charlie Leadbeater called the people who are pushing to find the meaning of the new digital spaces (socially and culturally) “pirates and renegades”. I say ‘yes’ to that.


Check out the little blue buy who blows bubbles when you tweet!

ippr and NMDC book launch ‘Learning to Live’: Museums, young people and education

book cover

I spend much of the Christmas holidays last year writing a chapter for a new book about museums, young people and education. The finished book, entitled ‘Learning to Live ‘ and published by ippr and NMDC jointly, was launched today at an extremely interesting event at the National Portrait Gallery. You can download a pdf here. The first panel was chaired by Jon Snow and speakers included Estelle Morris, Nicholas Serota, Dea Birkett, Virginia Tandy and David Anderson.

The focus of the discussion was on what some museums were already doing, that many needed to do more of, in order to engage and attract young people.

There was much agreement about the intrinsic value of learning and museums and the body of evidence that has been collected over recent years (Virginia’s work in Manchester in particular came out strongly). However the heart of the conversation lay around the widely acknowledge benefits of opening up the physical museum and gallery space to be more welcoming and to offer ways for young people to interact with what is going on. This could be by putting sofa’s in the gallery to allow kids to hang out or by getting rid of the desks in entrance halls and replacing them with meet and greet (to see how the retail world get this approach you just have to go into Jack Wills clothes store, any Saturday afternoon).

As Dea Birkett put it so nicely, “ many museums ask young people not to chat, not to sit down and not to use their mobile phones – three things that many of then find virtually impossible”.

Jane's chapter

Unsurprisingly my chapter in the book is about unlocking online opportunities which did come into the debate about half way through. When asked by ippr co-director Carey Oppenheim to say a bit more about my ideas I couldn’t help wonder what the digital equivalent was of putting sofa’s in museums for teenagers to sit on?

Maybe it is finding a way to make the museum collections comfortable within the kinds of spaces young people hang out in online? Maybe it is allowing them to pick out and take the stuff they like into their own spaces and reuse it – become the producers as well as the consumers (I first heard this phrase in the late 90’s in relation to a conference I ran at Lighthouse called ‘Catching Up with the Kids’ – see Julian Sefton-Greens book “Young People, Creativity and New Technologies: The Challenge of Digital Arts” … sometimes I do feel that the museums world are still playing catch up to the rest of the arts?)

There then followed a second panel of eight 11 to 15 year olds from London schools talking about their own particular experiences and reactions to the contact they have had with museums and galleries, both in school and with their parents.

They were a pretty articulate group who would dispel any stereotype that young people and museums don’t mix. They were very clear that what they liked was being made to feel welcome, to be able to touch and play with stuff and to have fun. Not really an unrealistic request and one that the sector is perfectly placed to respond to.

The book has a VIP launch at No10 next Monday and I hope that there is the chance to impress these messages onto those within government who could offer read leadership in this area. I shall invest in a new frock and do my best.

Experimenting with iGoogle

Before Christmas we went live with a simple iGoogle gadget full of stories from the 24 Hour Museum website. The first cultural iGoogle gadget of its kind (correct me if I am wrong).

It looks like this (below) and will change branding as the new Culture24 site goes live (next week, 11th Feb, yes really …).

Am interested in how this kind of ubiquitous gadget might help to get the message about great culture being free and a good idea in planning what you might do if you are skint.


On that theme, loved the Science Museum recent late night ‘adult only’ opening. Read more from the Evening Standard here.