Friday 30 July is New Zealand’s National Poetry Day, a ‘celebration of this country’s unique and vibrant poetic voice’.
Just in time for the celebration, the National Library of New Zealand has released a new look website for the New Zealand Poet Laureate.
The website was set up on the Blogger platform in January 2008 and over the past two and a half years has filled up with rich content provided first by Michele Leggott (Poet Laureate 2007-2009) and now Cilla McQueen (the current Poet Laureate). During Michele’s time as Poet Laureate the site had functioned as a normal blog, with regular updates from Michele as well as the publication of pieces of poetry (such as wonderful to relate and work for the living). Cilla McQueen took a different approach to the blog, writing Serial, a poem published in many pieces, each accompanied by an item from the Library’s pictorial collection (see the chapters so far: Higgs, Hotdog, Birdie, Inflation, Pleochroic). All this activity meant the site was becoming a little difficult for visitors to understand.
The National Library wanted to stay on Blogger, but also wanted to bring the site into focus with new content and a new look. Earlier this year Blogger introduced the ability to add static pages to blogs. This meant that the Library could now set up individual pages for each of the laureates, as well as an information page about the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award itself. While staff at the Library were working on new content, at Boost we were working on a new design and template.
The Library wanted a design that was clean, elegant, and served the dual purpose of showcasing the changing content that makes up Serial, while also providing clear paths to information about each laureate and the Award. The Poet Laureate Award does not have a brand as such, so we were asked to keep the design consistent with the Library’s existing brand guidelines. In discussions with staff at the Library we discovered that intelligent use of typography was important, as well as creating a sense of space and ease for people visiting the site.
New Zealand Poet Laureate website - homepage
The resulting design hits all these notes. The navigation is treated as a frame for the main content and presented in a quiet shade of grey, enlivened with flashes of teal green for roll-over effects. A number of small tidy-ups have been put in place, such as subtle frames around images and repositioning comments and tags, to reduce the clutter on the page. Fine horizontal lines have been introduced to help separate individual pieces of content and navigation.
At the end of last week I was in Westport, running a workshop on using social media tools for National Services Te Paerangi. The weather was lovely, the people were welcoming, and the lamingtons were fabulous. And I learned something interesting.
At the beginning of these workshops I ask everyone to introduce themselves, talk about where they work or volunteer, and describe the social media/online tools they use both for work and for themselves. I’ve noticed a trend in these sessions. With a small number of exceptions people are using two tools, personally and professionally: email, and Facebook. Blogs aren’t mentioned. Few people have even heard of Flickr. Twitter has more awareness, but is usually dismissed as silly or pointless at the start of the day (after more discussion, people often warm to it). But everyone has an email address, and almost everyone has a Facebook account, and has set one up (or is considering doing so) for their organisation. In particular, older participants in the workshops say that they’ve joined Facebook to stay in touch with children who have left town (or New Zealand) and to see pictures of their grandchildren.
A few years ago – say 2006/2007 – everyone in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector was getting hot under the collar about this Web 2.0 thing. The two keynotes at the 2006 National Digital Forum conference for example were Jim Spadiccini from Ideum and Toby Travis from the Victoria and Albert Museum, both talking about ways museums could harness this explosion of new, free communication and collaboration tools to reach out to online audiences. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking sites, Flickr … we were all over it.
So I’ve been interested to see that people working in small museums who are just starting out on this social media thing are now leaping over all these options in favour of Facebook. Facebook is, of course, in some ways the new Google – for many people, it is where the internet begins. Because people often use the same tools for their organisations that they use at home, Facebook is becoming the default starting point when setting up social media presences.
Facebook is an all-purpose tool: a way to blog, share photos, schedule events, send email and post brief updates all in one place. With the spread of the ‘Like’ button, it’s all over the web. It’s great for publishing content, and for building connections with physical and online visitors. But what else might it be used for?
If you can identify similarities between the fan membership of your own institution and those of others you can start to think of new partnerships and collaborative opportunities.
Seb pointed to Pete Warden’s Fan Page Analytics as an example of a lightweight tool to look for cross-fan linkages. You just drop a Facebook URL into site, and hey presto …
Auckland Museum fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Auckland Art Gallery fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Of course, you can use Facebook’s own analytics package to delve into the age, gender, location and activities of your fans. In this sense, it’s a lot like the physical visitor surveys many museums and galleries run. Or you can just ask them questions, as Brooklyn Museum did recently when they started thinking about updating their collections handbook.
To my mind, the main point of analytics is to understand how people are finding your online presence (be it your blog, website or Facebook page) and how they respond to your content. In this vein, Beth Kanter’s (co-author of The Networked Nonprofit) blog post about ‘spreadsheet aerobics’ makes good reading. Beth uses metrics drawn out of Facebook to analyse the responses to different kinds of content she’s posting to Facebook, and tweak what she’s doing:
My Facebook page is focused on a listening and engagement objective – starting and maintaining a conversation. I view it as a focus group that offers content ideas for blog posts as well as to provide another conversation channel to share insights about social media. The target audience is people who work for nonprofits.
Here’s my description:
This is a focus group and sand box to learn more about how nonprofits can use social media effectively, especially Facebook. You are all the experts here! That statement guides how I engage and what content I share. That in turns drives my measurement strategy.
Here’s a brief list of New Zealand museums and galleries who are on Facebook – feel free to add your own in the comments!
“Return on investment for social media activities”. It’s not a sexy phrase, but it’s one I’ve been pondering hard as I prepare for a National Services Te Paerangi workshop I’m running later this month in Westport (here are some notes on the first running workshop, held here in Wellington).
The workshops are targeted at the GLAMs sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) and the people attending often come from quite small or even volunteer organisations. One of the interesting discussions we had in the first workshop was around measuring ROI (return on investment) for the social media activities.
ROI is the ratio of money made or lost on an investment, relative to the amount of money invested. It’s expressed as ROI = (X – Y) / Y, where Y is the investment, and X the final value. A good ROI might look like initially investing $100 and having a final value of $150: that’s a 50% ROI (a 50% profit). A bad one might might look like this: a $100 initial investment and a $0 final value; that’s a ROI of -100% (a 100% loss). This presentation by Oliver Blanchard gives a good overview of how this formula can be applied in a meaningful way to businesses’ social media activities, especially in terms of measuring whether there’s a link between activity and increased sales revenue.
I often struggle with the applying this idea of ROI to GLAMs activities. Firstly, for these organisations it’s rarely about investing hard money. Galleries and museums and the like are not diverting cash in their marketing budget away from one form of advertising and into social media. Instead, they’re reallocating their staffs’ or volunteers’ time and energy. Secondly, benchmarks are rarely in place to make comparisons between social media activities and other promotional activities, such as print advertising.
This is not a reason not to think about the return on effort, rather than pure cash, expended. In fact, one of the best reasons to think about measuring ROI at the start of a social media project is that it helps you clarify what you’re doing and why. I think the time of people rushing, lemming-like, towards the latest tool has passed: now when I talk to people in cultural organisations who are starting or running social media channels, they’re more reflective about who they’re trying to reach, what content they’re wanting to share, and what outcomes they’re trying to achieve. Figuring out ‘what success looks like’ is an important part of the planning process.
There are all sorts of tools out there that can help you measure some kind of ROI, beyond the simplistic follower counts and page views. This Altimeter report gives a good overview of social marketing analytics, and this Mashable post gives a good overview of tools (most better suited to large organisations, to be fair).
Of course, there are all sorts of outcomes other than making money, and different ways to measure whether what you’re doing online is benefiting your organisation. For example, looking at your Facebook stats can help you learn more about the people who are interested in you, as Seb Chan shows. Posting collection items to Flickr might drive interest, enquiries and sales back to your website, as Paula Bray’s paper suggests. Simple tools like bit.ly help reveal how and where your content is spreading. Studying analytics can help you improve what your content and communication, as Beth Kanter blogs about her own Facebook activity. Setting up funnels in Google analytics could show if efforts to publicise exhibitions and events, or fundraising drives, are paying off.
However, after covering tools and ideas like these in my workshops, I usually end with a plea. And that’s for people to think about a human measure – one that captures the benefit for the people who are undertaking the work, who are usually doing this social media stuff on top of already full workloads, and who aren’t being repositioned as well-paid social media managers in order to do so.
When I was at the National Library of New Zealand I worked with the Services to Schools team to set up the Create Readers blog. When we surveyed the staff who were contributing to the blog, one of the things we found was they almost unanimously felt good about was having learned a new communication skill (only one or two contributors had blogged before) and mastered a previously foreign technology. This is still one of my favourite examples of return on investment.
There’s also a sense of pride and community that I don’t think should be undervalued. Most people don’t work in the GLAMs sector for the generous salaries and the stock options. They work in them because they believe in the social value of what they do, and often because they love the stuff they’re working with, be it books, paintings, or bird specimens. Having an opportunity to share the things you care about with other people who’re interested too? To quote Mastercard – that’s priceless. A tweet that gets re-tweeted by half a dozen people, a blog post that garners a bumper crop of comments, a photo on Flickr smothered in notes – that’s the kind of thing that makes your heart glow. As we look for new ways to motivate the people we work with – and ourselves – I think these kinds of measures have a very valid place within discussions of return on investment.
During a brief slow period on a Friday afternoon I started pondering how much work I actually do, and if it was even useful knowing. Obviously all our code is stored in a version control system (git), so in a way all of the data for finding out the quantity of work is readily available. A little investigation and I found that it’s quite easy to pull a list of commits from git showing total lines added and deleted per file:
git log --oneline --numstat
I’ve committed a lot of code that I didn’t write, such as plugins, the Rails framework etc. So a quick and dirty ruby script later I could get a list of all unique files in all repositories that I’ve committed to. It was pretty easy to go through the list and create an exclusion list. I then broke out Ruport to aggregate everything by extension. That gave me the following table:
I’ve cleaned this up a little and collapsed some alternative extensions down.
Commits per week
Just over 110,000 lines added and 50,000 deleted, of which about 100,000 are to Ruby files. Now I’m not claiming to have written all those lines myself, any part of any line changed counts towards the total. All this does is illustrate the general balance of work that I do. There have been two lines added for every line deleted. This year has seen a lot of refactoring work, so it’ll be interesting to run the same exercise next year and see if the results are similar (of course git holds historical data, but we only started using it about 18 months ago, and previously had everything stored in subversion).
It’s interesting to see that the proportion of additons to deletions is much higher in view (rhtml/haml) files than in ruby code. This could point to the way things look being changed much more than the way things work.
Now if only there was a way to measure the quality of work. (Actually there are tools; metric_fu is a good starting point and we use it a lot at Boost. However, that’s going a little too far for this post).
Another interesting bit of data I extracted from git is the number of commits I’ve done per week over the last 52 weeks.
I’ve posted my script as a github gist. You can run it by modifying the @repositories array with a list of git repositories, @author with your email address and @excludes with a list of regular expressions for excluding files. Run the script as ruby gitcount.rb. If it is run with the argument “files” then it will list individual files, making it easier to build the exclude list.
Last week I was lucky enough to go along to Foo Camp in Sebastopol, California. ‘Foo’ stands for ‘Friends of O’Reilly’, and Foo Camp is a yearly gathering of about 250 people (largely from the web and technology fields) at the O’Reilly Media headquarters. Run unconference-style, the weekend is a chance for people and ideas to mix and mingle, in hopes of producing those magical moments of realisation and inspiration.
Foo Camp is also a terrific chance to see a whole bunch of alpha geeks in their natural environment. And one of the most interesting trends evident at the event – as Linda Stone noted – was that laptops seemed to have disappeared in favour of iPads and smartphones.
What was interesting about this, for me, was the different tone an iPad brings to a group interaction. In meetings or gatherings, laptops form walls between people. Keys clack away noisily. Whatever the person behind the laptop is doing – work or play – is hidden and solitary. In this sense, the laptop is something of a dis-connecting tool.
In contrast, the way I saw people using the iPad was more like a menu or a map or a comic – something to be freely passed around, used by a couple of people at once. iPhones are similar, but they’re still more like sharing around a work tool – a practical act. The iPad doesn’t strike me as a work tool at all. When people use it, they seem either relaxed or immersed; if the laptop is a wall, then the iPad is a pool – something to dive down into. Or as Matt Jones observes, a magic table. Writing about the experience of playing Marble Mixer on the iPad, he notes that it’s a ‘simple game, well-executed’, which ‘sings’ when your friends join in:
Beautiful. Simple. But also – amazing and transformative!
We’re all playing with a magic surface!
When we’re not concentrating on our marbles, we’re looking each other in the eye – chuckling, tutting and cursing our aim – and each other.
There’s no screen between us, there’s a magic table making us laugh. …
It shows that the iPad can be a media surface to share, rather than a proscenium to consume through alone.
Amish settlements have become a cliché for refusing technology. Tens of thousands of people wear identical, plain, homemade clothing, cultivate their rich fields with horse-drawn machinery, and live in houses lacking that basic modern spirit called electricity. But the Amish do use such 20th-century consumer technologies as disposable diapers, in-line skates, and gas barbecue grills. Some might call this combination paradoxical, even contradictory. But it could also be called sophisticated, because the Amish have an elaborate system by which they evaluate the tools they use; their tentative, at times reluctant use of technology is more complex than a simple rejection or a whole-hearted embrace. What if modern Americans could possibly agree upon criteria for acceptance, as the Amish have? Might we find better ways to wield technological power, other than simply unleashing it and seeing what happens? What can we learn from a culture that habitually negotiates the rules for new tools?
When choosing whether to adopt new technology, the Amish ask: will it bring us together, or draw us apart? When someone sits down in a group and flips open a laptop, it immediately disconnects them. At Foo Camp, the absence of laptops seemed to bring people together. At the same time, people using iPads seemed no less connected to what was going on – logically – than people using pen and paper.
Am I – once something of a doubting Thomas – now a convert? No. I still don’t think I need an iPad, unless my future holds a lot of travelling that I don’t currently know about. But I am really excited to see how iPads get used in places like classrooms and museums, and how we all exploit their ability to draw people together.