Tag Archives: ndf2012

Disorganised post-#ndf2012 jottings

It was fantastic to see the NZ Sign interpreting in so many of the presentations. I’m in awe of interpreters in general (once considered interpreting as a career when I was super keen on French, but ended up deciding it’d be too high-pressure for my taste) but interpreting presentations jam-packed with such varied technical jargon (plenty going over my head) is… well, one example of why it’d be too high-pressure for me. 🙂 I wonder if/hope recordings of these are to be added to the SignDNA project which I heard people talking about. –Noted just before posting: a PledgeMe campaign to digitise and process the 50 films most at risk of “vinegar syndrome”.

I recognised a lot fewer people than I would have at a LIANZA conference, thus forcing me to accost more random strangers and leading to some fantastic conversations which have mostly now blurred together along with everything else. I do recall (related to Andy’s wrap-up admonition to not try doing it all) deciding with someone that the key was to find one simple thing you can do – often the simple thing is the most useful thing for users. (I haven’t yet decided what the one simple thing I could take away from this is; may have to reread my notes to find out what I wrote.) But also because doing something big and coordinated is hard. But doing something small is easy, and if you do it in an open way (in terms of using standards to accept data in and put data out, and in terms of communicating it) then people can build on it so that it ends up becoming something big.

(Of course sometimes and for some things you need to do something big despite this, but that’s another discussion.)

If pressed to make summarise a theme of the conference I’d say something incoherent about community and content: content developed for our community and community-developed content. Also linked data, the buzzword du jour. Connections in general, I guess: between data, between people, between people and data and stories and…

Most everyone I talked with agreed it filled our brains quite full. But if it occasionally felt overwhelming, there is definitely something to be said for an environment where the casual watercooler talk is about ontologies, and coding, and how much data you can get out of conductive fabric; and over-dinner recommendations range from Tufte’s “Quantitative analysis of qualitative information” to DJ Earworm‘s “United State of Pop” mashups (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. As you might tell by all the links, the latter was and remains my recommendation: we were talking about the (mood?) trends you could see by aggregating Time covers, and could one do the same with major/minor keys in music? and I said yes, listen to the mashups this guy’s done for each year pulling together the top 25 music hits into a single song.)

Practicalities: fantastic to have powerboards set out along every second row in the main theatre. The wifi held up pretty well considering the number of devices being used, though it did get slow; the worst was when speakers had trouble with live demos. The food was excellent (especially Wednesday afternoon’s tartlets with the berries and custard, mmm!) and it was great having a constant table full of fruit and a freezer full of icecreams. The weather and view were stunning: well done those organisers!

Wrap up #ndf2012

Wrap up
Andy Neale (@andyhkn), NDF Board
Andy Neale is the Manager of DigitalNZ at the National Library of New Zealand and Department of Internal Affairs. He is a current member of the NDF Board, and is most well known as the founding technical lead of DigitalNZ and New Zealand’s Mix and Mash competitions.

Risk with conferences like this is if it’s too inspirational it can seem out of reach, detached from everyday life. Don’t be put off by this, by lack of funding, no designer, whatever limitation.

It’s okay to beg and borrow if necessary – that’s how we all get started. No-one comes along with a bucket of cash and time. All have to find a way.

Don’t need to do everything. Used to come away buzzing and wanting to do it all. Digital envy. We want all these amazing things for our customers and institutions but neither possible nor necessary to do everything.

If you like something and think it’s relevant to you, talk to the people involved and find out if they can share / extend it. None of the stuff seen here was achieved on their own. Everything built on top of the work of others.

Take whatever ideas you’ve got – talk to someone in another organisation – pick up the phone, email, tweet until they respond… and continue the conversation. Turn it into collaboration and new ways of working.

Cats, Content, and Community by @homebrewer #ndf2012

Cats, Content, and Community: a year of long tails on walerart.org
Nate Solas (@homebrewer), Walker Art Center
Nate is the Senior New Media Developer and Head Technologist at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. In that role, Nate leads the team responsible for back-end development and database work for all Walker web properties: walkerart.org, artsconnected.org, and mnartists.org.
A technology leader at the Walker since 2003, Nate has helped shape the direction of the institution’s web presence and developed strategies for multidisciplinary content online. In 2011, Nate and colleagues launched the new Walker Art Center
website, walkerart.org. Awarded 2012 Best Innovative/Experimental Site and Best Overall Site by the International Conference of Museums and the Web and nominated for a Webby Award, the site has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’.

In this talk, Nate thinks about cats, content, and community: a year of long tails at walkerart.org. Launched at about the same time as last year’s NDF, the site caused a stir felt as far away as Wellington. What made it unique? And how can its success be measured a year on, once the lustre of launch has worn off? What difference has the site made on the internal culture at the Walker and to its local audiences? And what of the cats?

New website a significant approach from brochure-style, marketing-based, to a content model. Nina Simon described as “not about the Walker Art Center. It is the Walker Art Center in digital form”.

More measuring. Less guessing. –both to be more transparent and more accountable.

Walker recognised as multidisciplinary contemporary arts centre. Wanted to drag web presence along with the physical.

Site is content-centred – more like museum than website. No longer an island on the internet. Why content-centred? World is changing. Taking message to audience, telling our story. Add context to conversation about arts.

Betting: People will engage if you provide content that delivers value. We can do this in physical but not good at transitioning to web or retaining it.

Heat map of views – people don’t always scroll down but often do – and of clicks – hotspot right at the bottom: “jobs”. People do scroll if they’re looking for something!

Pull in art news from elsewhere (big sites and small), changes throughout the day and keeps the page fresh. We don’t try to trap people – we’re not the destination – we let them go. Minnesota arts news, artists’ voices, archives connectable with current events — all this is on homepage which is very long, scrollable. Like a magazine

Many users just want to get in and out, only want to know the hours so put that at top left. Visit menu is on every day – hover over and it shows hours and map. Similarly on mobile hours and today’s exhibitions show up at the top.

Search includes spelling corrections. “More like this” features even if doesn’t link only to own website. “404 not found” and “Server error” pages show materials from collection. Events page includes animated confetti; one exhibition page has a bees appearing at 7-second intervals.

“Huge webteam” — well, compared to what? The team is this big because something else is smaller. Not rolling on money, it’s a tradeoff. Wanted to run as a content hub but didn’t have staff. Managed to get a new hire. Much development then presented in-house and got feedback….

What designers say: “This isn’t quite finished yet.”
What clients hear: “Oh good, there’s still time for them to add our programme above the fold.”

Need to entice locals as well as engaging those who can’t visit.

Is it working?
Yes. Visits up 35% (year to year). Immediate shift when site launched – 200% increase of people going straight there by typing in address. People staying for 3 pages are up 30%. 50% more visitors return within 2 weeks. International visits up 32%. Paid gallery admission up 12% – nothing to do with the website – or does it?

What about content? Harder to compare year over year. But can say it’s hard being a content producer – “shaking the content tree” going to departments to try and get content to put online. 6-8 pieces of content per day. Includes links to other sites which aren’t written but are read and approved to link in. A couple of original pieces per day.

Assumption that articles would have long life on line but hadn’t tested this.

Long tail of usage of individual bits of content. Looked at individual bits to get graphs, overlaid all and got a long tail. How many pageviews would we be getting in the longterm? Calculated as 1.5views/day. Turns out for their content usage in head (first 2 weeks) = usage in next 9 = tail (usage in next year). Interestingly when page is fresh people glance at it; but when less fresh, people who get there spend more time on it. At the longtail – after about 80 days – it’s less “Please read this thing we wrote” and more them searching out a resource they need.

Ran same analysis on blogposts. Blog content getting less usage. Why? Articles written better? How do you measure this? One measure is the Flesch-Kincaid measure, counting syllables in words etc. Found when blogposts are well-produced – peak at grades 12-13 – it’s used in the longtail. (OTOH there’s a spike at grade 6-7: this turns out to be things the internet loves, eg top ten lists, interviews with artists, and technology how-to posts.)

External search drives the long tail especially where it’s quality content; people need it.

Online community exists in the intersection between authentic and interacture. Eg on every page include the weather. It says, “We have a building.” Shared experience, even if just the weather, is a pillar of community.

Use Facebook comments with the new site. Scan list and look for question marks.
But don’t get comments on their events pages. Why? Shows graph of 90 days before event and 90 days after: the long tail goes the wrong way – leads up to and peaks on day of event. The day after the event you have to search to find the page. Might as well not exist – but people are interested in this. They are looking for it. Maybe want to talk about it. What if after the event we gave them an opportunity to discuss it? Light it up with links to everything we know about artists, become a hub for discussion. –This is the biggest gap on their site right now.

Big tip: cat videos. Irresistible. Wondered what could we do with an open field? Screened an hour’s worth of internet cats. 10,000 people came, spilled out onto freeways. Number of pageviews on day of festival doubled compared to day of site launch. OTOH it turns out that cat lovers aren’t fans of contemporary art. However people landing on catvidfest page make up 3% of all visits to the Walker site. A few people do explore the site a bit (though they may just be lost).

But you can’t trick people. If they came for the cats, don’t try to make them look at contemporary art. Leave it around the edges. If they want it they’ll find it.

Highlights Rijksmuseum – a mobile-first site. Mobile site has three things in navigation; website has three things in navigation. Will this be successful? If so, who’ll be the first to flat-out copy it?

Stop inventing, start iterating.

Don’t just copy unless you can add value. If someone else is doing something well, just link to them. Get back to the basics of what only you can do that no-one else can do.

Q: Impressed by making web its own thing, not just copy of physical.
A: Need to recognise a big chunk of world is interested in this but won’t come to build it. How do we balance serving local audience with distance audience especially with limited budgets? Depends on what you care about – make sure you measure that.

Q: Metaphor of intersection – what about revisitation? Audience might be able to come (physically) once a year but maybe not three times a year. Barrier of charging may reduce visits.
A: Not sure if web presence has impacted this. Local traffic hasn’t changed much – still want to know how to get there, when they’re open.

Q: Have you brought any of the online into the physical?
A: No but have thought about it and a possible space. Tempted to even just throw website up to let visitors know but space not consumption-friendly.

Q: Plans for resurfacing content from the long tail? Eg annual, biannual events?
A: We do – “from the archives” section on homepage, “here’s more like it” section, search.

Q: Events page with long tail ‘the wrong way round’ – is the marketing making effort to get more interaction including before event?
A: Don’t want to put more resources than needed to sell out!

Q: Do you have comments on collection pages?
A: No space for that to happen. Has seen comments in a separate tab which hides them and ruins the point. Would be most compelling in connection to an exhibition.

Q: Any thoughts on how to advocate for value of the size of the team going forward? Is it sustainable – any post-success pressure to now reduce size of team?
A: Yes, always pressures. Some grace period now, giving them time to educate, lobby, sustain development. “So much of job not just doing the good work but defending the good work.”

PDF for digital preservation and delivery #ndf2012

PDF for digital preservation and delivery
John Laurie, University of Auckland Library
PDF is ubiquitous on the web and many organisations in New Zealand are using it as a document storage format. It has been an open standard since 2008, and has been endorsed by key organisations around the world. It is a complex format with many different versions. This paper will look at differences between PDF/A archival formats and other PDF formats, methods for handling born-digital PDFs and PDFs created by scanning, problems with dirty OCR (optical character recognition) and text extraction for indexing, and issues around file sizes for preservation and online display. It will also look at usage of Adobe’s RDF and Dublin Core-based XMP metadata and compare PDF with METS-Alto as a format for different types of digitisation.

Doubts about PDF as a format – have sometimes used it and then changed to TEI – but with all its faults it’s here to stay.


  • Is PDF good enough?
  • what’s a maximum file size
  • pdf/a or simple pdf?
  • searchable text or clearscan?
  • OCR?
  • etc

Various local pdf collections at UofAuckland – past exam papers, Journal of the Polynesian Society, New Zealand Journal of History, early NZ statutes, theses, working papers, course materials.

B-engine platform displays as pdf and extracts text and makes it available for cross-site search.

Pdf continually improving – read aloud versions; now working with citations[1]. But hard to edit.

Focusing on digitising pdfs. Choice to use Adobe’s own scanning/ocr or to use other specialised ocr engines? Need to look at outputs you want – many variables to consider. Do you want to save pdf as preservation master copy or keep FineReader tiffs. Have only scanned 300-400dpi for text and haven’t seen advantages to greater for his purposes. Need greyscale for ocr. FineReader better than Adobe but doesn’t offer ClearScan. Is trainable – useful for fractions. Spellchecking options.

Tables are a particular problem. OCR confuses vertical lines with text. Can’t extract tables from PDF to Excel. Could do some training for OCR to recognise the two dots of “blank field” and vertical lines. Thinking of using dirty OCR and making it available as a link from the pdf page.

Compromise between quality and file size. Born digital (usually as Word -> PDF) are usually very small because use fonts. PDFs from scanning balloon out a lot as images. If text is clear can do black and white. Working with 5-10MB TIFF files as preservation master (FineReader creates these automatically).

PDF/A is archival version – ISO-standardised, supposed to be self-contained including embedded fonts. But often if you use “reduce file size” can’t save as PDF/A because it substitutes non-embedded fonts. Many files from big publishers aren’t pdf/a. But will the smarter computers of the future really need embedded fonts? “As we all get smarter and technology improves the acute concerns about format obsolescence may diminish” – Butch Lazorchak The Signal

PDF/A-1a, A-1b, A-2… Can get quite complicated!

ClearScan vs searchable image – clearscan files are just over half the size. Substitutes a new font – matches shape not OCR’d text. Much clearer, less blurry than searchable image version.

Problems with text extraction using pdftotext applet. Applet preindexes results. But with particular fonts/books you get extra spaces between characters. (Finds examples using search for “t h e”.) Problems with macrons won’t ruin display but will ruin search.

PDF XMP metadata – has made attempts at adding dublin core metadata. Automatically extracts a lot of its own. Can add elements from any metadata scheme. File > Properties > Additional metadata. Set up a custom file info panel – can populate a whole group of documents. Advanced shows it with Dublin Core elements.

METS-ALTO looks a lot like pdf – has image in front of text / dirty ocr hidden behind it which you can search on and get either text or image. METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard) is structural metadata linking things together; ALTO (Analyzed Layout and Text Object) stores layout info, OCR text. Can be used to create derivatives eg pdf, tei, xml, epub.

[1] Allusion relates to an article I came across last night, Refurbishing the Camelot of Scholarship: How to Improve the Digital Contribution of the PDF Research Article. -Deborah

Comment: Budget of 0 so upload pdf to Google Docs and let the settings there OCR it. Little success with older material though.

Comment: Someone at Access conference (Art Rhyno from UofWindsor) has had good luck with open source Tesseract.

Comment: Experimented with Tesseract, Abby – problems with the latter.
A: Tried writing to Abby re problems but no luck.

Comment: Option of using multiple search engines to increase chance of getting a hit. Can render marvellously different results. So training package very valuable because it’s in context of your collection.
A: Then can use trained package on new documents.

Q: How does file size impact decision on format?
A: Often split it up to keep file to 10MB – per chapter or per 50pages. Otherwise risk compromising quality. Best to do this within FineReader to target dpi/quality. Because this is just the delivery file – we keep preservation masters.

Q: When do you decide the OCR’s not good enough and better to transcribe?
A: Outsourced transcription on one project to India and excellent job but expensive, dense text, not in English, hard to proofread. Now use OCR only and provide warnings if quality not good.

Comment: Anyone transcribing? Crowdsourcing transcribing?
Comment: Would need automated software
Comment: Like Trove / National Library of Australia
Comment: This proves there are keen people out there
Comment: Also Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders – volunteers proofread a page at a time and each page proofread multiple time
Comment: Can add layers of rigour

Q: Anyone collecting pdf as born digital?
A: Yes, Journal of Polynesian Society comes born digital, his job is just to split it as appropriate. Once with New Zealand Journal of History an author wanted him to add a section that the journal had missed out. He did it but marked very carefully that he’d done it!

A: Has anyone used XMP metadata?
Comment: We did for Flickr – works but it’s not fun. Software around worldview is incomplete.

More lightning talks #ndf2012

Jock Phillips, Manatu Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage: Short Stories
Began with Rugby World Cup 2011. Wanted to recreate childhood experience of driving around with parents reading out stories from a guide. So got 140 stories prefaced of extracts from RadioNZ archives – 4minute sound bytes. Then road tested them, listening to stories and taking photographs.

Didn’t originally realise how important these photos would be. Originally envisaged as CDs they could hand out at airport but then found out the cost this would involve and rethought… How to get the stuff out? Could deliver as mp3 files so people could download trips. Put together iPod app with sound and images. Put together a google map with access to all stories. But main way was on YouTube. And had to use images taken as historic images often had rights issues.

Roadside Stories possibly not that successful with rugby fans — but the YouTube videos have been viewed often and often also embedded in other contexts.

Main problem is that does involve staring at still photos – hope to work with archives to move beyond this and put together some war stories.

Max Sullivan, Victoria University of Wellington: Digitising sensitive material
Digitising Salient student magazine. Contains a lot of images that can be considered offensive – nudity (inc. child nudity), violence, death. 50,000 images on website and haven’t dealt with this before or had policy to deal with it, though have withheld images for cultural reasons.

Image of dead child from Vietnam War. Does portraying it respect the person?
One with headline re “rapes chicken”.

Need to display images in context. If you can’t display in context maybe shouldn’t display it at all. Eg album cover with naked 13-year-old – okay if used to illustrate article on music.

Need to create a defensible position – create and display a policy.

Will display Salient in full; but want people to see images in context, so will block the images from search engines. Will also develop and display an image policy.

Why block all images? Easier to be consistent, easier to implement, avoids having meetings about each image (because will soon be doing the 70s!)

More info: An Investigation into the Display of Potentially Offensive Salient Magazine Images

Stuart Yeates, Victoria University of Wellington: Digital usage statistics

Web stats – google analytics, apache logs, other systems

Good for some things – how many people use site, what pages more frequently used, did people stop using search after upgrade, did marketing lead to uptick in usage?

Do we value reuse and remix? Everyone.
Do we measure it and report it upwards? A few tentative hands

“Bureaucracies measure success in terms of what is reported up the management chain. If you have no plan to report, you are planning to fail.”

Broadcast vs kaitiaki – broadcast is all about selling slots, measuring bums on seats. If we’re to be guardians, we don’t have content, users have content loaned to us for their future selves. If they’re not doing stuff with it, why the fuck do we have it?

Easy measures

These are quantity not quality. (If you measure gate count, you don’t subtract the number who just came for the toilet.) They don’t mean more than current statistics, they mean different things.

Chris Thomson, University of Canterbury: Digitising a bibliography of writing by Māori in English
Bridget Underhill created Kōmako bibliography as dissertation. Bibliography is authorised – she contacted writers and whanau for consent and to annotate.

Chris involved much more recently. They’re doing project mostly in spare time. Bibliography is a Word file, non-searchable pdf, and in print. Want to turn into flexible data format, interoperable with other systems, maintainable and updateable.

Using TEI, eXist-DB, and XSLT and XQuery. Doing everything with xml which can be verbose, pedantic, heavy-handed but others love it.

“XML is like violence – if it doesn’t solve your problems, you are not using enough of it.” attributed to sparklemotion

OxGarage to convert docx to flat TEI XML

Lots of tools out there for learning this stuff.

Coming soon: www.komako.org.nz

Clarion Wells, NZ On Screen, How to Survive the Content Apocalypse
Clip of Rotting Hill zombie apocalypse in NZ outback which Clarion says is how she feels about the web.

NZonscreen has thousands of title free to watch. Tasks include selecting, clearing, sourcing digitising, writing. Very high stats. But besieged by horde of information. How do we survive and thrive in information apocalypse?

4 rules

  1. use the right tools – have built own ruby on rails applications, and challenge is to keep it simple and usable. Use analytics tools to get info about visitors and measure performance
  2. find your peers and work with them. Don’t become isolated. NZonscreen team from film/tv background, involved in industry. But also part of cultural and heritage sector.
  3. find allies outside of your peers. Find common ground in sectors beyond your own. Eg approaching Tourism NZ re helping tourists find out more about locations of favourite films.
  4. make yourself known to the public – survival depends on people knowing you exist. Active on Facebook and Twitter, strong relationships with the Press, approach radio and tv when something to offer.

Digital Channel Strategy: onsite, offsite and online #ndf2012

Digital Channel Strategy: onsite, offsite and online
Karen Mason and David Reeves (@requironz), Auckland Museum
How does an encyclopaedic museum, that is also a war memorial and a classified heritage building located on a sacred site, develop serious street cred with a virtual community?
Auckland Museum is in a process of renewal. Within a broader, strategic context – which includes the future vision for Auckland City – planning has begun towards significant enhancements to public and back-of-house spaces, the roll-out of a new brand, new collections, research and audience engagement strategies and commercial initiatives. Lock-step with these developments is the upgrade of legacy IT systems and the formation of a digital roadmap spanning distributed channels: web, smart devices, social media, ecommerce, elearning, third-party content aggregators, in-gallery interactives and off-site programmes.
This presentation aims to bring to life the practical process of defining a growth path for the integrated use of discrete digital channels aligned to the needs and motivations of prioritised users. We’ll cover ICT platforms, searchable, useable and shareable content, online engagement with collections and public programmes; who our audiences are and what is meaningful to them. We’ll question which onsite programmes need an online iteration and which interactions work better online than physically. We’ll ask what does success look like and how is it measured. And what does all this means for resource allocation and planning processes?
While answers to these and other burning questions have yet to be fully revealed, our experiences are shared as a ‘work-in-progress’.

Project started as web redesign but early realised not just redesigning website; collided with org masterplan about recasting/refurbishing galleries. Took a step back to think of digital strategy fitting into broader strategy.

Digital channels include: website, blogs, apps, onsite interactive displays, audio tours, scholarly databases, facebook, flickr, youtube, twitter…

Are we all strategied out? Is this a strategy, roadmap, plan? But needed guiding principles to inform future use and prioritisation of time, skills, money.

Want to be audience-focused and collections-led. Want to connect audience and collections. Extend reach, enable audiences to go deeper. But collections becoming more complex, audiences more diverse and with higher expectations. Challenge to create connected experiences across this complex landscape and let audiences connect back to us and to each other.

Have website, blog, social media. Various databases which don’t talk to each other. Many in-gallery interactives and trails – lots of work which proud of, but want to stop creating content that’s locked into a single system: want to repurpose. Hard to know where it even is. – audience reaction indicates a familiar sight.

Looking at EDRMS and DAMS

Creating a content map to show content / channel / who’s responsible for it / how it joins up with other content / how it can link to/from third-party sites.

Using website as central layer; social media to start conversations but website to continue conversations; where relevant drive to other sites including external sites or back to website eg for online bookings/subscriptions.

Developed guiding principles:

  • Digital guardianship
  • sustainable delivery
  • universal access

Not just collections but context becoming increasingly important. Need to represent relationships across platforms. Build a platform not to replace systems but let them speak to each other. Collection data and context are an essential foundation – we don’t have all of this in electronic form yet.

Facebook (or similar) as front face of collections? [rights issues if taking this literally]

“Collection readiness” – getting collections ready for presentation in projects. Digitisation, capture content in workflows, capture data in open formats. Can be disruptive. Permissions, rights etc – more of an issue now that we’re less hesitant about letting things go. Enriched records for items on display (#1 priority.)

(Getting high quality images of “types” (butterfly specimens) [me: wouldn’t it be great to get 3d images of these?] but not connected to records system.)

COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere. Capture content without thinking of how outputted, need to make it channel-neutral. Then have templated ways to turn it into various forms.

Web-centric but want to make things available across a range of devices. Universal access principle to let people connect wherever they are, whatever device they use. Also supports pre-visit, during-visit, post-visit, and instead-of-visit.

Easy to be captured by the latest shiny – but don’t want to go down cul-de-sacs. Take a measured approach to new technologies. But confident in investing in bring-your-own-device.

The long game – vision to enrich collection with deep, rich content, deliver by open data standards, shared functional components, to let content be repurposed as diverse connected experiences across many devices to anyone anywhere.

The life cycle of online content #ndf2012

The life cycle of online content
Kate Chmiel (@cakehelmit), Museum Victoria
Content is king, declares the familiar refrain. We technologists in the cultural sector talk a lot about brilliant new applications, platforms and containers for web content, but not so much about the slippery business of creating, managing and retiring the content itself. At Museum Victoria we’re working on ways to steer our content and address three of our biggest challenges: what to do with old content, how to make great new content, and how to keep users – external and internal – happy. In this presentation, Kate will run through Museum Victoria’s online content plan, and whether it’s helping us nail the jelly to the tree.


Sean Connery may have been best Bond but not up to job now. Similarly with many old websites. But can take long discussion to turn off old sites.

Should be easy to update content but someone needs time to check content and update.

Generally content worthless unless supporting business objectives and/or fulfilling user needs. Need to make sure stuff is efficient, be sustainable, make content work harder – be reused over multiple platforms.

Often content doesn’t need to be made… But if you’re going to, need masterplan: a map defining what, when, who, how.

  • When it’s born, maintained, retired. Need to return to it regularly and decide if needs to be kept, deleted, updated, replaced. Create an expiry date for content – makes review less painful down the track.
  • Where it’s found – not just a “dumping ground of shame”. Navigation important but may become less so with new ways of exposing content. Tagging, taxonomy, metadata becoming important.
  • Who – content often gets orphaned; contractors move on, staff get busy with other things. Content needs to get attached to a person, or better a position. Who makes it, edits, links, publishes, updates, removes.
  • How it goes in and comes out. (The bit in the middle is outside her realm.) Need a flexible CMS – but needs to be simple for content providers.
  • What – what’s the content? Often needs new container – hard to create container without knowing what will go in it. Content provider working with a template doesn’t always know what’s happening elsewhere – that’s the job of a content strategist.

Keeping everyone happy is biggest part of the job in getting people to change the way they work. Start by asking questions and listening. Who will use it? What do you know about them? How will they get to it? Clarifies purpose for content. Often people make pages for themselves – what they would like if they were the user.

Convert people. Need to convince people why this is a priority. What are the advantages of doing this? What are the disadvantages of not doing it? People are committed; no-one’s twiddling their thumbs. Have to convince people this’ll save time in longterm. Convince them it has to be done at all. “I spent a lot of time doing this site in 2002 and now you want me to change it?”

Web users rarely initiate communication about problems, just go away. Make user testing a spectator sport. Pick a day a month – stream the video of the testing, have tea and coffe and invite people (developer, manager, everyone…) to watch and discuss. (Have done it once but not ingrained as a habit.)

Working with researchers, some people will never play, but don’t let them hold back others. Just do it – maybe professional rivalry will then come into play.

Content strategy – focus is on content rather than container. Create once, publish everywhere. Get out of pattern of thinking that website is done. Currenly most of the innovative work is happening outside of the website. Make sure our content is great so it’s always worth consuming.

Humanities Informatics #ndf2012

Humanities Informatics:
Ingrid Mason (@1n9r1d), Intersect Australia
The Humanities Networked Infrastructure project is a virtual laboratory project funded by the NeCTAR programme in Australia. The project has several significant scholarly humanities datasets to bring together and map across. The immediate goal is to enable researchers to explore and interpret the commonalities.
The initial design challenge is to select description schema and use linked data and controlled vocabularies for data to align the data. This approach tests the assumption that configuring and building on the knowledge of available schema, methods and datasets, will provide a standards based and curated foundation layer to support research requirements.
This ‘prefabricated’ approach has been the basis by which the digital humanities and GLAM sectors have provided access to data. Observing how researchers shape and use this prefabricated environment will inform the value of that approach and the architectural modelling, and inform next steps to building infrastructure where the ‘researcher query’ is the lens that defines the schema.

Anonymous quote: “Gah semantic web is frying my brain!”

Intersect Australia is eResearch org. Working on virtual lab project in humanities informatics field. Talking and dreaming and living data… Have become conversant in RDF; even taking step to ontology development. Talking about linked data, data as graph. Interested in overlap between humanities informatics and GLAM digital cultural heritage.

Wants to provoke thinking – datasharing across GLAMs and scholarly datasets? Who has authority, truth, encoding consensus or contradiction? Doing something with HuNI data? etc

Digital Humanities sits within eResearch (which has been dominated by science). HuNI (@hunivl – Humanities Networked Infrastructure) is a distributed project want to explore commonalities/divergences in data. Bring together datasets, meaning dealing with multiple standards, need to build an ontology. User-centred design.

Assumptions – they’re “prefabricating” but talking to researchers all the way through. Building foundation layer. Fascinated by idea of a researcher query. Work to help researchers ask the questions they need.

Project to integrate 28 cultural datasets (using linked open data) into a virtual laboratory. Want to break down barriers between disciplines. Want it to be available to all but licensing comes into it.

Data – AusStage, bonza, CAARP, AustLit, CircusOz, Australian Dictionary of Biography, PARADISEC, Australian Women’s Register…….
Tools – eg Omeka, Neatline, LOREinformatics from Wikipedia: “studying how to design a system that delivers the right information, to the right person in the right place and time, in the right way”

(Skimming through – slides will be online.)

“Data” an ineffective word to describe all the kinds of data there are.

Linked Data on Wikipedia.

RDF – resource description framework. Statements known as “triples” – subject, predicate, object. In different formats eg RDF/XML, RDF/JSON
SPARQL – query language

“Ingrid is a Kiwi. Conal is a Kiwi. But what is a Kiwi?”

Ontologies have concepts, relations, instances, and axioms. A set of entities within a domain are related by a concept.

Connections between people within Australian Biographies, and between a group of datasets.


  • Need to help researchers go from above the forest through the canopy into the trees and branches.
  • Unlock data, value in controlled vocabularies.

Going back to gallery land #ndf2012

Going back to gallery land
Courtney Johnston, Hutt City Council @auchmill
This talk has been prompted by a shift: from private to public sector, from things on the web to things on walls, from Cuba Street to Lower Hutt. It will range over a group of freewheeling ideas, including the sensitised museum, the stack as metaphor, and the potential of emotional interfaces. There will also be 90 seconds on the topic ‘How to be a great client’.

Refers to article by Alexis Madrigal on “giving a shit”.

Advice for being a good client:

  • build a good relationship – trust
  • be customer-focused
  • don’t think of them as vendor but as customer
  • hard decisions are around money

Director of the Dowse Art Museum – big enough to do stuff but small enough to fly under radar. Leap from running web company to becoming director of art museum. Budget management and HR and strategy all obvious. But also experience of customer-focus, experimentation….

Lots of thinking in metaphors for transition. They’re a bridge between familiar and unfamiliar. A way of making a new kind of sense. Thought of “the stack” – visualises racks of VCRs. Old boss used to say when starting a new project should go through the whole stack. Never used to take diagrams seriously because didn’t help her think but now started drawing own – using stack metaphor.

“We should do X because it will better allow us to fulfill Y aspect of our mission by Z” (Nina Simon at NDF2009)

Realised her “stack” isn’t a straight line but a circle – realising that fans and mission aren’t two ends of a line, they’re the same thing.

Can’t afford to have visitors feel stupid or wrong, online or in physical space. No 404 or 403 pages in our buildings, and customer service people need to be our Fail Whales. Don’t hide the thing people come to place for – in art gallery the art.

Emotional response to books, art, museum spaces. Sport as “spectacle” – event designed to evoke reaction from viewers/participants. Memorable, moving. Have we become timid? Our visitors are hungry for experience. What if we had more emotion, personality, connection in our museums and galleries.


Museum of emotions – up to beginning of previous century men would have intimate relationships with each other, now seems lacking. Our language has become impoverished, fewer words for feelings. “Chivalry” reduced from whole code to “holds doors open for women”. Museum of emotions is a place you go to to experience emotions that have fallen into disuse, emotions you haven’t experienced yet. Not a place to learn about them but to experience them. Not a programme designed to evoke them, but one where exhibits radiate the emotion at you.

Emophoto – Makes DigitalNZ sets for various reasons – pulling things together and annotating; exploring ideas/thesis; to accompany blogposts; for amusement as public/private gifts to people. Currently can’t search for sets or see sets other than those on homepage – have to follow setmakers on Twitter. Created Tumblr site to aggregate some but dependent on time. Meaning accruing to images as collected in different sets. Wants to make sets collaboratively. Frustrated that can’t search sets by emotion. Let people classify images by an “emotion picker” (like a colour picker) – quality vs intensity. Both what emotion do you see in the photo, and what emotion you feel – these are different things.

[Shares descriptions of images that have moved her emotionally.]

Metadata as a way of turning looking into thinking. (@petrajane)

Hard to tweet as a director! Personal and professional smash up against each other. Risk of putting foot wrong and standing on landmine – but doesn’t want to stop because openness is powerful and scalable way of staying connected to fans.

Keynote 3 by @_sarahbarns #ndf2012

Past forward: speculative adventures in the city’s archive
Sarah Barns @_sarahbarns
Dr Sarah Barns is a researcher, strategist and digital producer whose work sits at the intersection of cultural heritage, digital media and urban history. Her interest take collections out of the building, capture unguarded moments, and create real time city- and data-scapes from intangible heritage.
Recent projects include the ABC Mapping Emergencies trial (2012), which delivered a crowd-sourced platform for journalists, emergency service agencies and social media users to share information on natural disasters across Australia, Unguarded Moments for Art & About Sydney (2011); About NSW Suburb Labs for the Powerhouse Museum (2011); and ABC Sydney Sidetracks (2008), a cross-platform project exploring the history of Sydney using documentary archives from the ABC, the National Film and Sound Archive and beyond.
She has a PhD in Public History and a background working as a strategist and research adviser for many cultural and media sector organisations. These include the ABC, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Creative Industries Innovation Centre. Projects, sound resources and writing by Sarah can be found on her blog at www.sitesandsounds.net.au/.

[ETA: Sarah’s slides and notes.]

Last year comment made that “The 20th century has released us into history through technology”. Big data is a big concern – digital deluge. She’s interested less in dealing with it than in experiencing it. Previously had a sense of distance, peering through a window; now we can interact with it as a resource. A direct experience. Shows overlay of historic video over Streetview; video of Bert and Ernie peering through the camera and saying hi to us. We can interact with our past.

Interested not necessarily in most technically advanced way to do things but in where platforms are going. Various projects she’s been working on in last 9 years, in interaction between archives (film, tv, sound, image), digital (relationship between information and space – eg geoweb, locative media), place (important to who we are as people), public space (site-specific installations).

“Making the invisible visible” installations from Helsinki – eg visualising pollution.

2003 looking at phones with GPS technology, location-aware, and wondering what might be done with this futuristic tech. Heard people talking at conferences about would be able to watch tv at bus station – was horrified at idea of replicating the past with old media monopolising new tech. Eg news companies when radio was introduced, opera when phone was introduced. So thinking how to engage location-aware phones with world around us? Idea of public authoring of the city. Someone did pilot of people contributing stories re places; another did pilot of navigating space and stories attached. But clunky tech meant you’d have to walk around looking at device, not interacting with the space itself. Also privileged the digital story over the physical reality.

Wanted the street to speak for itself so idea of using phone to act as homing device to history of place. Already had film and sound archive so could use these? Found people creating “sound walks”; artists and acoustic ecologists. 2007 worked with National Film and Sound Archive to reimagine archive as archaeologies of recorded action. Collection didn’t include ambient recordings – hard to find. Protest footage from the 1970s (opposition to development) cf gentrified area in the present. (more on her website)

Found only could use ABC archives if employed by them, not as member of public. Created “Sydney Sidetracks”. Moved away from pure interest in sound as website needs more visual stuff too. Mobile interface but very clunky and no-one used it. (She didn’t even use it herself.) But well-received in terms of encouraging archives to rethink how to present collections. [Sound recording of Martin Place 1945 (first in situ sound recording in Australia) cf image of Martin Place 2008.]

Started to look around spaces for surfaces – can we interact with a space including sound but using projections? Project photos onto built spaces. Project for “Art and About Sydney” who think of city as collaborative canvas. “Unguarded Moments” asked people for photos from their life in Millers Point and got queues with photo albums. Site-specific projections of photos around the area, used windows showing (slow) video.

Last Drinks” incorporates sound archives, images about the Australia Hotel (now site has MLC Centre), lots of culture documented about these times/places. Asked people for stories – work, marriages, photos. Scanned old Australia Hotel Journals. Not just website expecting people to visit, but plinths and other on-location things. Created a mobile site – pared down version of site.

No metrics on usage as all in public domain so hard to measure where people got to it. Naively thought could access eg ABC archives as a researcher because publically funded but no, doesn’t work like that… Could only do it with partnerships/relationships.