Blogs Media Lab Blogs

Fine-tuning blogs

After our workshop and listening to Seb and Jim I came home with a Must-Do list of changes for our blogs. During the research on these changes I stumbled across a recent post by Tom Johnson on his blog “I’d Rather Be Writing”: Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ […]

After our workshop and listening to Seb and Jim I came home with a Must-Do list of changes for our blogs. During the research on these changes I stumbled across a recent post by Tom Johnson on his blog “I’d Rather Be Writing”: Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ Experiences. This is incredibly good information that every blogger — and especially museum bloggers — should take to heart. And then I found this post – also a great read. In fact, I just spent about 20 minutes on his site: I think everyone should go read and subscribe to his blog right now. :)

MW07 – Radical Trust: The State of the Museum Blogosphere

Seb Chan, Jim Spadaccini One of the most anticipated sessions of the conference for me — and more than a few others, judging by the size of the crowd! Refreshingly, they start by saying they won’t just rehash the paper since it’s available online. Rather they’ve continues to check the blogosphere and will report on […]

Seb Chan, Jim Spadaccini

195524.jpgOne of the most anticipated sessions of the conference for me — and more than a few others, judging by the size of the crowd!

Refreshingly, they start by saying they won’t just rehash the paper since it’s available online. Rather they’ve continues to check the blogosphere and will report on recent developments and other insights not in the paper.

Tracking the number of blogs shows essentially exponential growth after a slow start: as far as Jim can tell the first museum blog was infoTECmuseo, Quebec, Canada, started on 6.06.2002! They summarized some findings from the paper, with Seb mentioning how the bottom-up approach for starting a blog has been a theme. Just as the Walker blogs started under the radar with the NMI blog, PowerHouse’s Fresh+New started as an internal blog and later went public.

[ Interesting case study: Zeke's Gallery - tries to have 3 posts before 10am. Uses Google Alerts to seed him with art news every morning. This model requires much less time than purely original content. ]

They included a well-done slide on “recommendations” for those about to blog or already blogging – the biggest one we’re missing is the format of our permalinks. It’s been on our list for ages, time to do it. The remaining points were all good tips for increasing searchability and keeping momentum rolling on the blog. One final bullet point recommended linking to other museum blogs. The NMI team has been debating this internally for a while, and I think we’ve decided to do it in a two-pronged approach: a blog-wide linkroll, and an author-specific blogroll that would show on their profile page. This will hopefully give us the resolution we need without cluttering the site.

Discussion!

First question had to do with that very issue – how to ethically cross-link without just throwing up an OPML file with no filtering. Jim addressed it by explaining how museumblogs.org vets inclusion into their site and recommending museums use a similar process of deciding who to link to.

A question about comment-friendly posts had Seb trying to explain how hard it is to predict – often comment solicitations are ignored. He basically summed it up by saying if you know your audience you may be able to prod them with an on-topic post that ends up generating discussion. In our workshop we essentially recommended people not ask for comments – nothing looks worse three months later than a request for comments followed by … nothing.

Seb mentioned he thinks the library sector is probably about 2 years ahead of the museum blogosphere – they already Radically Trust their users in ways museums are still learning. Jim also brought up political blogs such as Daily Kos and Huffington Post as being well on the front of the trend. The volume is so big they have to self-curate on Kos.

Bryan Kennedy piped up and said in addition to trusting users we need to trust time – it takes time and involvement to build a successful blog. Older posts can re-appear and become popular down the road. Seb followed up by pointing out F+N’s plugin that automatically pulls “related posts” – again, something we should do.

Kevin from RedShift Now cautioned that the care and feeding of a blog actually takes significant time and effort, and a committed team is important. A woman from the Antarctic project I linked to from the workshop mentioned that images in the posts were key, especially if they’re taken just for the post.

Donovan brilliantly tied in BF Skinner’s schedules of reinforcement – that our readers are the rats pushing the bar to get the positive feedback (our posts). Of course, isn’t random reinforcement the most effective? We’re there!

Robin gave a hat tip to the NMI team and emphasized trusting the staff with the blogs, especially the more junior staff who may be less intimidated by blogging.

Seb summarized: do it. Start a blog. It should be free, easy, and fun, so go start experimenting.

Museums and the Web 2007

The entire New Media Initiatives department of the Walker is currently in San Francisco attending MW07. Nate, Justin, and Brent lead a workshop this morning on Museums and Blogging, and it seemed generally well-received. Our notes are online at the New Media wiki site, please feel free to surf around and explore there – especially […]

The entire New Media Initiatives department of the Walker is currently in San Francisco attending MW07. Nate, Justin, and Brent lead a workshop this morning on Museums and Blogging, and it seemed generally well-received. Our notes are online at the New Media wiki site, please feel free to surf around and explore there – especially pay close attention to the Strategies section, unfortunately we were running short on time and a lot of Justin’s fantastic research didn’t get the time it needed.

We’ll try to keep blogging the conference as we attend various sessions and meet more people, so far it seems to be even bigger than last year…

WebWalker 1.3

Let’s see, it’s Friday morning… haven’t posted in forever… must be time for WebWalker! The Quartet Project is built on the very cool idea of mixing multiple inputs – sound, movement, motion capture – into multiple outputs: virtual instruments, and even a projected virtual dancer. The cast of Quartet comprises of a dancer, a musician, […]

quartet1.jpg asirra.JPG wppluginsshot.png

Let’s see, it’s Friday morning… haven’t posted in forever… must be time for WebWalker!

  • The Quartet Project is built on the very cool idea of mixing multiple inputs – sound, movement, motion capture – into multiple outputs: virtual instruments, and even a projected virtual dancer. The cast of Quartet comprises of a dancer, a musician, a motion controlled robotic camera, and a 3D virtual dancer. It looks like a lot of custom development for this, tied together with MAX/MSP. The Project Outline section has more details on the performance.
  • You won’t generally find these opensource advocates linking to Microsoft, but this is actually a cool project and they’ve got an API so you can plug into it for your own site. Asirra is an alternative to the widely-used CAPTCHAs involving wavy and distorted text that PETA’s blog described as being “torture devices for dyslexics“. MSR calls Asirra a “HIP” (Human Interactive Proof) and it involves quickly classifying pictures of pets as either dogs or cats – so easy a child could do it, but difficult for computers without some serious processing. Just another tool in the constant arms race against the spam bots…
  • WordPress continues to make my life better: the team has just released (finally!) a central repository for plugins. What used to be a rather complicated process – “1. I know there must be a plugin for this… 2. What was that site again? 3. Man, how can I be sure this is the latest version? Who’s the original author? 4. Cross fingers and download.” – is now reduced to “1. Go get it from WordPress plugins.” Sweet.

Blogs bits and pieces

If you’ve visited the blogs lately you might have seen a few small changes around here. There have been a few under the hood too. Here’s a quick list in case anyone is interested: We’ve made comments more prominent on individual blogs as well as on the blog home page. We wanted to increase the […]

If you’ve visited the blogs lately you might have seen a few small changes around here. There have been a few under the hood too. Here’s a quick list in case anyone is interested:

  • We’ve made comments more prominent on individual blogs as well as on the blog home page. We wanted to increase the visibility of comments in order to foster more of a community feel. People do comment and you should too.
  • Nate also re-enabled the subscribe to comments plugin. If you make a comment and want to get further responses by email, it is for you. And we have a general comments feed as well as comment feeds for each blog. Again, this change is aimed at fostering more dialogue on the blogs.
  • Nate performed an upgrade to WordPress 2.1, which made life a lot easier for us, thanks to the dual mode visual/code editor.
  • We’re now using Viper’s Video Quicktags to let our authors post youtube video without having to deal with embed tags and what wordpress does to them.
  • The ECP blog has received some customization for two categories: Girls in the Director’s Chair and Respond to Kara Walker. I was able to modify the template in such a way that the design changes can be implemented with css. Posts to these categories get a different design treatment, and the category pages themselves also get a different design treatment.
  • For the Respond to Kara Walker category, we also wanted to let people post their responses to the exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, in much the same way that the postcards and response book in the gallery allow visitors do. We figured the best way to do this was to let people simply create their own post. And thankfully the TDO Mini Form plugin lets us allow people to create a post without having to log in.
  • We also began using another plugin, Better Feed, to modify our feeds to add some meta info and a link to our survey in order to promote it to our readers.
  • Finally we put out our first-ever blog survey to try and understand more who our readers are and what they’re coming for. Initial results have been encouraging and give us some ideas for things we might want to work on. The survey is still open, so please take it if you haven’t yet. We’ll be discussing it during our upcoming workshop and posting some of analysis here after that.

More changes to the blogs

We have made some small, though useful, changes to the blogs in the past few weeks and we think they’re worth a small note. Brent added the blog title to the blog aggregator page. Now it is much easier to tell what content goes to what blog. Additionally, post titles link to the blog post […]

We have made some small, though useful, changes to the blogs in the past few weeks and we think they’re worth a small note.

  • Brent added the blog title to the blog aggregator page. Now it is much easier to tell what content goes to what blog. Additionally, post titles link to the blog post and the blog name to the front page for that blog.

  • We’ve added the ability to display info about our blog authors. Authors are now listed in the sidebar in each blog. When you click our name you’ll be able to see our email address, personal or departmental URL, and a bio, if the author has elected to post one. Not all of our authors have updated their profile yet, but eventually you should be able to learn more about just who we are. Some of our authors have also elected to post photos.

    Eric posted about some of Jakob Nielsen’s weblog usabilty tips discussing author bios and photos. I agree with Eric that author photos are certainly not necessary, and we’re not requiring them for our authors. Those of us that are brave enough are breaking the ice and have posted photos. Please be kind. It just happened to work out that Party People Photos gives us some recent, high quality photography.

  • Last week Paul posted the first in what we hope will be a more frequent audio blog series. We’re using the wordpress plugin WP-SingleMP3 to embed a nifty flash audio preview in the blog post, but also linking the mp3 audio so the category RSS feed can function as a working podcast.

We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience and information on the blog. If you have any ideas or constructive criticism you’d like to share, we’re listening.

Walker blogs ping Walker calendar

Often in our posts we’ll include links to upcoming or current events at the Walker, but those events rarely if ever include links back to the blogs. We’ve always intended to go back into the events and add related links to the blog posts to help foster discussion, but it’s just one of those things […]

Often in our posts we’ll include links to upcoming or current events at the Walker, but those events rarely if ever include links back to the blogs. We’ve always intended to go back into the events and add related links to the blog posts to help foster discussion, but it’s just one of those things that kept slipping off the radar.

Until now! I just finished writing an XML RPC ping server for Walker content and have set WordPress up to ping it every time we post. The ping server pulls the RSS feed and looks for links back to the Walker site, and then does some magic to add a related link from that page back to the blog post. If all goes well we’ll start to see more traffic between the calendar and the blogs and vice versa, and best of all it will happen automatically whenever we post about an event.

AOC in the blogosphere

CultureGrrl gives Art on Call a try and writes a review on her blog. I’m not sure when she actually used the service, but we’ve just recently installed a nifty cellphone signal repeater in the space deepest in the galleries that previously got terrible reception – right next to the Burnet gallery. It’s possible her […]

CultureGrrl gives Art on Call a try and writes a review on her blog. I’m not sure when she actually used the service, but we’ve just recently installed a nifty cellphone signal repeater in the space deepest in the galleries that previously got terrible reception – right next to the Burnet gallery. It’s possible her carrier simply doesn’t benefit from the frequencies we’re repeating (it doesn’t cover them all) but I’m hopeful it was just a matter of timing and the repeater hadn’t kicked on.

As for her other comments, I think some of them will be addressed in the near(ish) future as we start incorporating feedback into the menu prompts. For instance, many people don’t realize you can interrupt the initial prompt by typing in the 4-digit code, effectively skipping right to the artwork you’re looking at. Hopefully that will take some of the hassle out of repeated calls if you can just hit redial, wait for the answer, and then just punch in the code. Much faster.

Anyone else lurking on the blogs have an experience with Art on Call (web or phone) they’d like to share? Leave a comment or link back to this post and we’ll pick it up.

How often should a blogger post?

We’ve often discussed how much we should be posting behind the scenes of the Walker Blogs. I’m sure most people writing a blog or reading a blog have opinions about that. Darren Rowes has a post about this very topic where he raises several valid points on his own and quotes an equally relevant post […]

We’ve often discussed how much we should be posting behind the scenes of the Walker Blogs. I’m sure most people writing a blog or reading a blog have opinions about that. Darren Rowes has a post about this very topic where he raises several valid points on his own and quotes an equally relevant post by Seth Godin.

So how do you balance growing an audience through frequent posts against retaining people by avoiding reader fatigue? An article previously mentioned suggested publishing at regular frequencies, a strategy we’ve tried on our Visual Arts blog with some success. That is certainly a good for bloggers to get in the habit of writing but with more people using RSS it certainly seems less important for readers.

Sources:Beth’s Blog

Shields up!

We’ve decided to give Akismet a new test: trackbacks. Walker blogs have been trackback-free since the launch, and this was generally considered to not be a loss since we were too new to generate many inbound links. Today, however, a quick tour through the list of linking blogs proves otherwise: there are worthwhile posts out […]

We’ve decided to give Akismet a new test: trackbacks. Walker blogs have been trackback-free since the launch, and this was generally considered to not be a loss since we were too new to generate many inbound links.

Today, however, a quick tour through the list of linking blogs proves otherwise: there are worthwhile posts out there talking about us! (awww) In fact, the whole reason I’m posting this here is so I can link to this post about the channel (and link to the original post in the ECP blog). In the future that will all happen automatically with this change.

Hopefully everything will go according to plan, but believe me I’ve got my finger on the trigger over here – any spam gets through, any lame posts about nothing and BAM, no more trackbacks…

In the meantime, read something you like here? Something you hate? Post about it on your blog with a link back to the original, and you’ll show up in the trackback list.

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