Museums, Notes, technology

Week 54 at work

This week I think email took over my life but I managed to:

  • One of our new style Culture management team meetings – change ahoy!
  • Made plans to start our digital literacy programme – learn how to use email, twitter and record oral histories for beginners
  • Met our Arts Council relationship manager and talked lots about working together
  • We’re on the verge of winning a 12 month project but needed to spend some talk meeting their ‘conditions’
  • Talked all things ‘interpretation’
  • Looked at how we’ll resource our marketing efforts once Claire leaves and Kerrie goes off for awhile and came away with 18 issues to resolve
  • Decided how to best proceed with our learning section in the short term
  • Showed a few folks how we’re using basecamp for small projects to ease the process and help us all feel more in control
  • Attended the monthly South Media South West event
  • Prepared our website and social media for the industrial action on the 10th
  • Spoke at an eLN workshop about making ebooks
  • Attended a half day Nesta project workshop
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Museums, Notes, personal, technology

Year one: A year in review

Last week’s wrap up #52 marked the end of my first year at Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. It has been a great year for me across the board. It was the year I decided to get more organised (at work anyway!), take control of my own working life by working on meaningful projects and we’re having our first baby soon!

I mostly stopped freelancing which was both easy and hard to do. Stopping meant that I could focus more clearly on the job and not let other people down. I can now come home and not worry about saying “i’ll only be an hour, only to disappears into some code deep into the evening”. This also gave me more time to enjoy personal pursuits including trying to say YES to any travel or holiday opportunity. I got to enjoy France twice, Budapest in Hungary, and the Peak district.

July

Starting a new role in a new sector takes some getting used to and I spent much of the first month getting to meet people, listen, review but ultimately kept quiet about possible new ideas – nobody wants to hear the unknown new guy stating the obvious. It was towards the end of the first month I realised too that I should blog regularly, mostly for myself to laugh or cringe back at in many years to come. I started to write a weekly blog post which i’ve just about managed to keep up with.

August

I was starting to find my feet and voice during the second month and began to make small ‘interventions’ such as opening up wide our social media accounts to staff. My favourite quote to this day happened during August “What have you actually fixed?” and it was a nice reminder that people must SHIP projects not ‘manage’ your career away. I got my head down planning what projects our team could actually ship during my 18 month contract.

September

I got busy building the digital team’s foundation and drafted our 8 digital principles. By now I could see some of our weak spots and set things in motion to improve across short and long term projects. I took on a marketing apprentice with a digital twist who has just written her first blog post yah! I took the second half of the month off to motorcycle down through France.

October

By October it was clear to me that as a manager I needed to better understand what I needed our ‘digital team’ to be. Plus I was so used to being ‘in’ a team rather than running one that I was in danger of neglecting my duty so I set about on revised course. During this month I put the wheels in motion for what turned out to be an unsuccesful Nesta project bid. Sometimes we need the wind to be knocked out of our sails. I finally got to meet a group of likeminded folk at Museumcamp and by the end of the end decided that my role is often best described as “spinning 1001 tiny plates”. I also worked with the team to produce draft social media training and guidance. Unsurprisingly, but a bit disappointing, is that opening up the flood gates for staff to use social media doesn’t actually mean many will. I strongly suggest you have an ‘open’ policy… you won’t regret it or be made to eat humble pie. We at least now have a framework and training to begin longer term digital take-up initiatives.

November

I kicked off the month running social media related training and being as sociable as possible by attending local digital events shouting to everybody that our museum service is taking digital seriously and we’re after collaboration. A thread of work that i’m very excited about long term ‘student as producer’ breathed into life. Our 8 digital principles were signed off with our mantra being to ‘create a ruckus’. I attended lots of events and cast one eye to our 2014-15 road map. By now I have clear vision for our most pressing projects and so this month felt like a real turning point.

December

A packed month around revising our digital strategy, launching an exhibition and agreeing to get involved in the forward plans. It was also the month where I knuckled down to start our website project which eventually went ‘live’ on 15th May. I learnt all about procurement, tendering, hidden agendas and being proved right and wrong ha. I also picked myself from the disappointment of our earlier Nesta bid and ran straight into a collaboration with Aardman and University of Bristol which eventually become our successful application in June. Notice that the timescales require a focus on both the here and now and also to think about 2-5 years ahead. Parked our online shop ideas. Spent a bunch of time reviewing our digitisation efforts. This will be a thread of work for an entire career. During December I also realised that having a wooly digital strategy wasn’t a great idea and ultimately decided to tackle projects in smaller pieces to let the strategy and tactics naturally surface. We were also short staffed over the christmas break so I got my first experience working as a visitor assistant to ensure our gallery doors stayed open. Our director sailed off to the sun.

January

During January we got the green light on our website project which I see as the foundation platform for much of our future work. I got to crack on reviewing our existing offering and making suggestions for direction to help the website agency. Our interim director took office and has been very supportive since day one – i love to learn from more experienced people which is a bonus. I and the team got our hands wet by agreeing to use trello to manage our workload and show our public roadmap.

 February

We kicked off the website project and used the helpful GDS service model to ensure we met our user needs AND stayed aligned to the general direction that public sector digital is heading. Took on a young student for one week’s work experience which was a privilege. Much of this month and the next was spent writing and revising our Arts Council 2015-18 bid. This cash keeps us afloat and pays my wages. A simple move to eventbrite for our event bookings literally has saved us thousands of plans. Amazing to be reminded that not all projects need to take a long time nor be expensive. Attended some events. Loved the smack in the face quote by Steve Jobs “Nothing is being held up that is any good“.

March

Towards the end of the financial year everybody sees what small pots of cash they had tucked away and get spending. I learned that others may spend your cash if you’re not quick enough. The result of which is we lost out on some kit we really needed but lesson learned! The council offered staff voluntary severance and it was sad to wave farewell during March and April to some great folks.I was working on two major project bids and this was a burn the candle at both ends month. Needless to say I hope I don’t have too many months like this one. That being said everything came good so it was worth the effort.

April

Heading out of the fog that was bid deadline submission felt great and made April whizz past. I had to take on some of the workload from those who left the service, some of this was good of course… some of it now forces me to spend too much time on frustrating processes that I hope to whack soon. Our website project moved through alpha and beta stages. We learned tons from our users and understanding data. I’m now converted to using data to help us in all corners of the service! Spoke at a conference and tried to visit a bunch of museums.

May

We hosted a MCG Museums Get Mobile conference and launched our website less than 24 hours apart bristolmuseums.org.uk which was intense but rewarding. It was a month of major projects converging and i’m glad that things panned out. I perfectly timed a week holiday in the south of France post launch which recharged the old batteries. Our service began what seems to be a long and protracted restructure which is never comfortable. Made our first internal ebook for an exhibition.

June

During this month I took on new responsibilities and got the new title ‘interim head of digital’. I have been moving quickly to get the ball rolling on related activity which i’ll talk about soon. I had lots of post website launch work to do as well as our 2014 digital p Right at the end of the month we heard we were successful in both our Arts Council bid which cast a shadow over Feb and March and another project subject to a few conditions. A great way to cap off the first year working at the service.

I’d like to thank David, Emma, Fay, Tom and Zahid for all their HARD work. I believe we have a great digital team and we should be proud of the work we’ve done together. Now let’s ship some even better work!

Onwards.

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Museums, technology

Introducing shopify

At work I’m currently working on delivering a project to offer online shopping to the public. So 2005 I know but better late than never. In the web world Shopify rings bells so I figured it was a safe bet to experiment for us. One of my favourite companies abookapart uses shopify and having been on the customer stand I feel happy with the platform.

I’ve just attended a half day workshop led by Keir Whitaker from Shopify which was an introduction to the platform with time to have a little dig under the hood. The session gave me the confidence that shopify should meet our immediate needs and longer term needs. The point of sale (POS) rollout in 6-12months is also pretty exciting. I made a few notes:

  • Shopify is a theme based e-commerce hosted platform
  • you can try out the partnership platform for testing out the entire process and flow for internal stakeholders
  • uses an open source template language called liquid
  • at present over 110,000 stores
  • Shopify uses stripe to handle payments but accepts many other gateways
  • examples of great shops included – United pixel workersGreats brandHerb Lester
  • essential cheatsheet for code snippets
  • you can use www.fetchapp.com for handling digital products
  • there are new EU rules coming into force in 2015 that need exploring around item returns and digital downloads from 2015
  • if you’re a mac user like me you can use their free desktop app to edit themes on your computer
  • get used to making shudder for, else, if statements
  • one product can have multiple variates e.g. a product is a t-shirt but the sizes are variates
  • building a theme consists of HTML, CSS,  javascript and the liquid template language
  • uses five folders (assets, config, layout, snippets, templates) and 11 core files.
  • #shopifyu

I’ll let you know how we get on in July!

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Museums, Notes, technology

Week 51 at work

This week i’ve been up to:

  • Shorter week due to being at the Le Mans 24 race in France
  • Shut down over 200 web pages which were scattered across the retired mshed.org website and Bristol City Council pages
  • Set up 301 redirects which are critical to help Google know we’ve moved the content. Where possible I have mapped old URLs to their new home
  • Met with Bristol Record Office to review their web section
  • Went on a fact finding mission to see how we can improve our performance data gathering
  • Enjoyed being part of the IT Desktop user group giving feedback about what needs to improve: start up and shut down speed, unrestricted web access and skype!
  • Carried out my final team members six month review
  • Improved the staff ebook I released last month
  • Sent the director my draft plans for the next few months: interpretation, website phase two and more!
  • Spent a lot of my time with my head in the GDS measurement guidance and coming up with key performance indicators based on our Council and Arts Council measurements
  • Agreed to start a ‘behind the scenes’ breakfast instagram and blogger tour of the sites
  • Chopped it up with Sarah Saunders about images, metadata and engagement
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technology, Travel

A few thoughts on in-car technology

View of the cockpit from the drivers seat

This is a post about how in-car technology has clearly moved on since our 2001 car was built.

Last week I rented a Nissan Note for our week in the South of France. I grabbed the keys and found my silver car in a long line of shiny new cars. I pressed the unlock button on the key fob and jumped into the driver seat. Everything lit up like a runway and my immediate thought was what the heck do I do now AND don’t touch anything. I moved to put the key into the ignition and realised it didn’t have a keyhole but those ‘push to start’ buttons. The car knows i’m the driver as it senses the key fob close enough. The last time I saw this feature was on Top Gear with a Ferrari. At this point I think must people will try and press the button to start the car but they’d be wrong. You need to press the clutch at the same time or the car won’t start – i found this out a few years back when I wasted 15 minutes failing to work it out on a previous rental. Once the engine started I decided to check my surroundings properly. My dashboard displayed a range of completely comprehensible details, which I later learned stood for ‘range of fuel left’, how green I was currently driving, current fuel level, gear etc. My steering wheel also had a number of buttons which I steered clear of initially. These controls allowed me to change the radio settings, activate cruise control (which I played with at 130kph to learn…!) and mess around with bluetooth devices.

In short, things have moved on in 10-15 years but not massively and I was a little bit disappointed. In addition to the above, I had a front and rear camera to assist parking (a bumper is a much simpler feature ha PLUS I built a parking sensor in college in 2000 for under a fiver), LCD display control unit with GPS and some odd flashing lights for whenever I was very close to a car or wall when driving – something that is required to drive those amazingly twisty narrow roads like the D44 between Plan De La Tour and Le Muy.

We are looking at buying a larger car yet I can’t help wonder who would pay for all these ‘features’ which basically poorly replace good road craft. Also I can’t imagine the LCD screen or many of these features still working perfectly in 10-15 years.

The best features? a cup holder next to the driver seat and a cubby hole under the boot, which probably is possible with a small spare instead of a full blown wheel I lug around.

At least now I can rest easy just looking for a second hand car with a decent cup holder and the will to carry me around.

A few details:

  • Approx £190 for seven days rental from the airport
  • We covered 650KM for £40 fuel

 

 

 

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