Week 8

This was my 8th week in the job and I think writing about what I do is useful for myself and hopefully some of the weeks will be helpful to others in similar roles as me. Plus I really like following Matt’s weeknotes.

This week I got asked “what I have actually fixed” since starting which reminded me that documenting the teams progress should help with our visibility and I can point to these weeknotes.

The week can broadly be split between thinking about our current audio visual offering (AV) and beginning to simmer and reduce my thoughts towards our digital plans.

AV kit, which covers items such as tv, projectors, touchscreens, and interactive interfaces (buttons to smash in kid talk) in the public areas get a hammering. From general usage being turned on for 70 or so hours a week plus anything that can be touched many hundreds of times a week, will inevitability be a point of failure at some point. I have been asking people within all parts of the service about their digital problems and aspirations. This week was the turn of the ‘front of house’ staff, all the helpful people who see the public in action and therefore are best placed to give me direct insight regarding the AV.

The team is quite large so I need to see more staff but the first group have said that out of order kit is the biggest issue – no surprise but is very helpful to have this confirmed. Kit that has out of order signage or is ‘off’ for no apparent reason makes us look bad and of course is required to aid the interpretation of displays.

So next week we’ll do a floor walk at our primary site to review every item of AV kit and also make usage instructions for each item widely available. Giving the staff the confidence that we are actively on the case is critical. Fixing, maintaining and future planning our AV will continue to simmering in the background.

One of my key tasks is to raise our profile within the digital sector, locally at first and then the world! As part of this I met with a few local arts organisations looking at partnering on a funding bid which will hopefully progress well in the next few weeks.

I also attended a local social media meetup run by Sift Digital which had a great session by Teresa Chinn an agency nurse who started @WeNurses. The gist of the session was that a community was built from the outside, not an organisation led initiative or under control of the biz – reminds me of unofficial fan clubs which is no bad thing. After the session we all had a good discussion so i’ll be attending future sessions when possible.

An example in a similar vein of relinquishing control is our Red Lodge Museum and their twitter account. Within a few weeks of starting I was doing the rounds of introducing myself to each museum and staff when I got a request from Mark at The Red Lodge Museum asking to tweet on behalf of the museum. I heard a straight-forward elevator pitch of what Mark and The Red Lodge Museum wanted to do and gave them the green-light the same day. Over the past few weeks The Red Lodge Museum account has been churning out very interesting items about the museum and its history. In fact it has been running so well that all of this week The Red Lodge museum took over the main Bristol City Council twitter account and even held a tweet-up.

By Friday I had decided our Make Mantra should be: cause a ruckus, something Ill talk about in the near future.

I have started to distill my digital strategy thinking and begun to draft some principles to share internally very soon. if we agree then these will under-pin our digital strategy and be public.


Introducing the Mac Mini to the toy box

At the museum we have a collection of devices for tasks such as running our video projectors and as interactive kiosks (widely used at M Shed and the Egypt gallery at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery) .
Some of the kit dates back 5-8 years and I need to get my head around repairing, replacing and planning for the future in the area referred to as “interactives”. Some of the oldest devices are Mac Mini computers. I began to wonder if these needed replacing “like for like” or if we should look at alternatives. Either way I figured having a number of tablets, mac mini computers and PC equivalents (e.g. Arduino or Raspberry Pi) to begin tinkering with would be a good idea. As yet I don’t have an R+D budget and I’m not sure I ever will so I asked twitter if anybody had some older kit that they wouldn’t mind parting with.
Very kindly Mark Annand raised his hand and gifted me a Mac mini PowerPC G4 running 10.5.8.
I now have a device that I can start to play around with – should it be used as a kiosk, can multiple computers be connected and controlled (with dropbox serving files), and all the common uses for kiosk requirements. I stumbled across a blog post on mac mini configuration by Graham Thorne which sounds well researched and road-tested so i’ll probably start here. Of particular interest is getting notifications when a device fails to start-up which is an inevitable consequence of running many devices.
So watch this space!
Also if anybody has played much with computers as kiosk and control devices i’d love to hear from you.