Shipping web features for winter 2017

Until you ship a product or feature its just a trello card with a wish. Shipping “things” is the aim of the game.

Performance dashboard

According to the trello card of the request dashboards have been brewing since 17 June 2016. This month the team have finally been able to launch an initial performance dashboard at https://performance.bristolmuseums.org.uk/  We aim to publicly share our performance data so that anybody can see how we’re doing. We want to share our successes and show where there is an opportunity to do better. So far for 2017-18 we’re tracking 14% up from last year with a target of 1 million or more visits across our 5 museums and our Archive.

Exhibitions online

Since I started at Bristol Culture about 4.5 years ago using the web to display our exhibitions has been a recurring dream. Thanks to Mike, Fay, Mark and Lacey this dream has come true at https://exhibitions.bristolmuseums.org.uk/#/ the point of this project was to highlight some of the key aspects of past, current and forthcoming exhibitions. We regularly get asked about past projects so this seemed a good starting point to figure out how we can tell stories in long form format. With an average reading time of 2 minutes its important to be clear and concise.  During its inception originally we were comparing this style of website as being like a weekend supplement of a magazine rather than a full autobiography.

Public timeline

Internally we’ve started to attempt to improve how we visualise some of our most used data. An obvious element is “What’s on” which isn’t always easy to understand from huge spreadsheets or our standard web section https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/whats-on/ so we’ve introduced a timeline feature to hopefully make it easier for people to look at on any device.  Internally the timeline also includes things like room booking, install and de-rig periods and can map our KPI data over it. Nobody likes or uses data spreadsheets so i’m hopeful this is the beginning of a journey to make our data more usable for all. Hello https://d1g1t.al/#/timelinef

This work has been made possible in the large part by our own digital team who do a fantastic job under the hood of the museum and out in the galleries. Onwards.

Museums Journal: Charity commission issues cyber security warning

From a telephone interview I did about a week ago, following the NHS IT problems, for Museums Journal:

“Cyber security is something we think about frequently, but in the last few weeks it’s risen to the top of everyone’s agenda,” he said. We would be crippled if our collections database was unavailable to us for more than a couple of days.” Keeping secure backups in several different UK locations is a crucial part of the service’s security approach, Mensah added. And because hackers often take advantage of human error, other key measures include making sure strong, frequently changed passwords are used, and limiting access to key systems.

Link to the full article. I was trying to make it clear that weak passwords and our human nature to do the easiest thing is often the biggest challenge.

Visit to Brooklyn Museum 9th September 2016

I’ve wanted to visit Brooklyn Museum for years. I love hip hop and the museum crops up directly and indirectly in the culture – from my favourite rapper talking about art “Cop Rembrandt, hang ’em, pay the lot. Can’t complain, we ballin, true or not ma?” To showing artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat which pop up in my feeds frequently. No other museum has crossed my radar as much as the Brooklyn Museum and its famed African art collection to name just one area.

All of the above coupled with the exciting digital work such as the ASK project made choosing a holiday to NYC a sound decision. We took a stroll around the botanic gardens located next to the museum before visiting which our daughter loved. In addition to wanting to see the museum as a fan, in the back of my mind I’m also looking at our own future redevelopment of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery so seeing how other museums position various services will give me good ideas for the welcome, shop cafe, toilets etc.

The welcome

I’d say that the main entrance has three phases: an initial public outdoor space with cool foundation and seating, an inner floor to ceiling glass area with further seating and security (my normal bag too big which left me carrying a zzz 2yr, her change bag and my iPad – common practice in nationals) and then finally a large reception with bag checking-in area, welcome desk, access to the shop and toilets in view. The cost of “admission” is a suggested $16 or pay what you think. The messaging is good at having the bahaviour of paying the fee for me. The person at the desk explained the admission policy and that a benefit of paying is access to the special exhibition ‘Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present’. I took up this option whilst my wife went for $4 as she wasn’t bothered about sports. At this point I was expecting to hear about the ASK app but nope. A missed opportunity as Sara did say that staff normally tell folks about it. Hey we all have this happen. At this point I always ask the first visitor asssistant I see a question (I have a mystery shop list that is secret ha) and after they finally got my Bristol twang they gave me a very helpful answer. But first I needed to check out the cafe as I oversee two cafes at our own museums.

Cafe

They have two options, a lovely looking restaurant and bar called The Norm or a standard cafe. I was tempted to try The Norm but it looked too lovely to disturb the diners with my young daughter. I’m sure it is kid friendly but I had that “pang” of not wanting to be loud as it didn’t look like that kind of space – more cool date type. This is the same feeling everybody has about being very quiet in gallery spaces even though this isn’t a rule! Instead we ate a lovely curated (I forgot the name of the artist) turkey cheese sandwich with coffee. Service was very good and I loved the design of the menu and bar area itself. There was indoor and outdoor seating.

ASK app
Whilst having lunch I started to spot messaging for the ASK app on the tables and lift. The app connects you in real time to staff who you can ask any question to and they get back to you. It wasn’t immediately obvious if you didn’t already know what it did. They seem to have mostly solved this by the helpful staff who work at the ASK station which you pass early on the first floor. I “asked” about what Ghanaian art they had on display and got a few suggestions and liked the style of interaction which was friendly and felt personal with lines like “my personal favourite”. The app worked well and lived up to my expectations having read about it on their labs blog for the whole development.

As much as I wanted to see everybody in the museum using the app I feel that this strand of “connection” with the public is very much in its infancy. The team behind ASK are tinkering with the future by making it. In 20-30yrs it may not be ASK but it will be a distance relative. Personally I think voice recognition will be something to keep an eye on. As an aside when I’d previously mentioned ASK to our curatorial team they were intrigued and also concerned about the time involvement of answering questions – when is too much of a good thing a burden? I didn’t get a chance to ask about this.

Galleries
I really enjoyed the four open floors of galleries and started top down. The Luce Center for Amercian Art visible Storafe Study Center is the best example of explaining how a museum works I’ve come across. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a simple clear explanation of an accession number. The ASK app suggestion had the additional benefit that I felt I was seeking out a unique way to find objects.
I enjoyed seeing a closed section being worked on. I loved the African art, Rodin and got a sleeping baby and me selfie with the Venice scene by Monet. I enjoyed the sports photography and was pleasantly surprised to see a photo of Wolverhampton wanderers football team (I lived there for 12 months and saw them play) among the basketball all stars, boxing stars and Motorsport. Use of tech was subtle and mainly used for TVs with bright signs. I liked the use of directional audio. There was lots of big open empty space throughout the building.

Shop

Our own shop suffered from neglect for years so shops are front and centre in my head at the moment. The layout of the main shop was very nice and sweeping. I thought I’d see lots more budget kids stuff we love in the uk but it was more gift stuff which I’m sure works very well. I saw a print on demand station but sadly ran out of time to try it out. There was a pop up shop in the special exhibition area that was well visually merchandised. I liked the seating by the book section and overall visual merchandising.

Meeting a few of the team

I was very fortunate to get to spend an hour with Sara Devine, JJ and Christina who took me up on the offer of saying hello. I explained how we’re trying to transform our service and focused on our own version of Pay What You Think, user research, shops and digital literacy for staff. I picked up Some helpful nuggets and hope to see these guys on the circuit soon.

Thank you Brooklyn Museum and thank you Sara, JJ and Christina for taking time to meet me…. Now back to my holiday!

Press quote in Fresh produce can add value to the art experience

Earlier this week I had a quote on Produce Business UK online in their article Fresh produce can add value to the art experience.

Zak Mensah, head of transformation for Bristol City Council, represents the city’s four museums and art gallery. He says the role of catering cannot be underestimated. “Bristol City Council’s culture team runs two cafes and a private hire business in partnership with Levy Restaurants UK,” he explains. “The year on year revenue exceeds £1 million. In line with the rest of the sector, the private hire side of the business generates more income than our cafés.

“It not only generates vital income, it also means we can make the best use of our venues, further opening them up to individuals, organisations and businesses across the city and beyond. Our cafés undoubtedly contribute to our very high overall visitor satisfaction, some 85% based on exit-survey data.” –

I always find it strange to write a comment that then gets adapted by an editor/press officer. The quote should have said we have five museums not four buy hey – oh and i’m only Head of Transformation for Culture not the entire Council!

Notes from Banksy panel: Does Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art?

On Saturday 14th May 2016, to launch the 4th edition of the book Home Sweet Home by Tangent books we decided to host a panel “Does Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art.?” At M Shed in collaboration with the Festival of ideas.

It was a glorious sunny day and about 100 people came to hear Will Simpson, Marc Leverton and Katy Bauer, all authors of Banksy books. Richard Jones was referee.

The third edition was one of our best selling products last year so this event seemed a great way to fly the flag whilst quenching the thirst of the Banksy loving public. We can’t go a day at the museum without people coming specifically to see our Banksy statue on their trail across the city.

We sold £100 worth of books and people seemed to really enjoy it. I know one person came all the way up from Cornwall.

It was only my second attempt at book signing and I have learned a few things to make it better. Also I’m convinced that it needs to either be an event or pure book signing. Either you want a signed boom or you come for the chat/debate. Cool.

Anyway below are the notes I scribbled down. They aren’t exhaustive and I may have misunderstood of misattributed points so please forgive any errors I may have made.

My panel notes

The majority of the audience answered “No” to the question “Should Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art.
Will: explained that he was part of a group who went to Mexico with Banksy to paint and highlight the Zapatista movement. The plan was that Banksy was going to spend a few days painting and in-between they played some football. Whenever they were short of players, Banksy would be in goal. Will is recalling this trip from around 15 years ago and hasn’t seen Banksy in over a decade but remembers he was very smart and had a dry sense of humour. As Banksy was there to paint, Will remembers that Banksy had done lots of research and spoke to locals to see what they wanted. Will then backtracked to the Autumn of 2000 when Banksy was starting to get popular. To fundraise, he had an idea to use a painting, which was pink with a footballer doing an overhead kick and let people guess where the ball landed. The winner of the raffle would keep the painting. The painting was on display at Eat the Beat in St Nics for 1-2 months. Will and a few others thought of trying to rig the raffle but the person they sent pulled out at the last minute as they didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. The painting raised about £200 and eventually went on to be sold for £20,000 years later (Jo).

Katy: Described her encounter with Banksy’s people during the time of the Bristol tension with a new proposed Tesco in Stokes Croft. Chris Chalkley from People’s Republic of Stokes Croft funded a Banksy print to help fundraise. A Banksy contact approached Chris about the collaboration. It was very particular. All the proceeds must go to PRSC, it can only be £5 and they could only print the agreed 2000 [note – i have a signed copy of this as a wedding present…].
The prints were sold at the Anarchist book fair. Katy had asked if it could be sold for £10 as it was clearly going to be a sell out and the money would benefit but was told no. Katy says the experience was clearly very much that Banksy is in control and it must go the way he wants. Katy shared a story about a piece she wrote that never saw the light of day as Banksy censored it, Katy was appalled. The piece was intended for Paul Gough’s book on Banksy and was written as an honest piece that wasn’t meant to offend about Banksy maybe [recanted]. The incident left Katy a little disappointed that Banksy would do this.

Richard: The level of control and attention to detail is astonishing.

Marc: says that Banksy doesn’t have to be socially responsible but his size means that he almost has to. He thinks Banksy is very aware of his early start as a vandal and is now ironically part of the art world.

Richard: questions how much control Banksy really his over his own image and ability to affect anything.

Will: agrees broadly with Marc and that Banksy’s unique selling point is his leftie/punk

Marc: Says to answer the question you need to understand Banksy and he thinks punk was a big influence. For example Banksy and his contacts would have known the queue to buy the Tesco posters would have been chaotic and they probably like that. Hence why they didn’t stop people buying more than one.

Richard: If Banksy cares then why wouldn’t he allow a second print run, knowing it would have greatly helped?

Katy: Says it is sad that more people in the audience don’t think Banksy has a responsibilty as she thinks not only does Banksy but all of us should be helping each other and the planet. Banksy is the left-ing voice the media can’t resist. Katy def thinks Banksy would be left-wing and is very Bristol i.e. d.i.y with Marc saying Banksy is capitist. Katy doesn’t see addressing social issues and making a living as being exclusive.

Will: If Banksy making the news helps highlight a cause that is enough and is helping.

Audience now join in.

Audience: thinks his work is giving back to the community and showing we can take it further.

Richard: If he was Batman he’d have a charitable Wayne foundation surely?

Marc: Part outlaw, part capitalist

Richard: During the mobile lovers episode he thinks it was clear that Banksy only got involved as he was forced into it and that the piece wasn’t meant to be removed or sold.

Marc: Dismaland has lots of local people involved which shows social responsibility.

Richard: During the Banksy vs Museum exhibition Oxfam and the city benefited. Also the sale of advertisement opening tools for ads hells shows his view on advertising and his radical/left stance. However at the end of the show, all the works were sold.

Katy: Perhaps Banksy could be more helpful.

Audience: everyone has responsibility, especially with some power, influence and money. Being negative towards Banksy is a defence mechanism [claps from audience].

Audience: missing the point. Feels that Banksy is about making you think for yourself.

Audience: His work raises awareness when it disturbs us and his work is disturbing.

Audience (Chris Chalkley): we all need to be thinking of the arts as a movement to help. The techniques Banksy uses re purposefully the same as corporations. We should all be thinking about how to tackle keeping ownership of the visual spaces in the city. So much is now being hidden behind advertisement hoardings e.g. Bear at the end of the M32. We should heed the message from the Banksy piece laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge.

Audience: Banksy really appeals to everybody. The converted in the room but also the new people to his work.

Richard: The positioning of pieces at Bus height shows he is thinking of the average person not just car drivers. The Mild mild West piece in Stokes Croft was in response to the police breaking up a party.
Marc: Saw Dismaland as a return to form with the messaging, appeal and humour, even though the media missed the point. He thinks the GCHQ piece would really have annoyed him as it caused a headache for the family living in the house and this wouldn’t be be what he wanted.

Richard: the press didn’t like the dismal dismaland people

Will: His presence is important to the city.

Audience: He is a national treasure.

Audience: There is a battle for public spaces.

Chris: We should be fighting this attack on the visual public spaces – he turned down a lot of money when advertisers wanted to place ads around the bear pit in Bristol. Big corps should kindly go away

Katy: Sees Banksy as one of us.

Thank you New Zealand, thank you #NDFNZ

My 22 day trip here in New Zealand is nearly at an end – boo hiss.

During this time I’ve visited a LOT of gardens, museums, art galleries and cultural spots. Oh and small businesses.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet volunteers through to directors and CEOs. Every conversation was valuable and I’ve met some great folks who I hope take me up o my offer to meet in Bristol some day.

So thank you New Zealand for letting me behind the curtain and coping with my 1000mph Bristolian accent.

I’ve listened a bunch and learned tons.

A special shout to Matt Oliver for arranging me safe passage with the Wellington gang 😉

 

Hello New Zealand, Hello #NDFNZ

When I travel I like to try and visit as many interesting places as possible that  touch on my work interests of digital, connections, retail, cafes, commercial hire, user research, fundraising and more!

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter I have been able to arrange an introduction with some kind folks who hang out on the #ndfnz hashtag. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who reached out and/or suggested people and places I should check out.

Trust me I’m not a traveling salesman ha. I’m just keen to say hello to as many like-minded folks as possible and swap stories about where I/you are at and if I can be of any help from my neck of the woods in Bristol, England.

The main reason I’m back in New Zealand is for a wedding this weekend with family and I’m around until the 9th May.

So if you want to say hello or meet up for a drink in or outside of work don’t be shy just email zakmensah@googlemail.com or drop me a tweet or text  +447730574129

The short version of my job title ‘Head of Transformation’ is that I work for Bristol Culture, a local authority culture service with a remit to make a ruckus in user research, digital, earning income – retail etc, and making us digital by default.

I oversee a third of the service, we have over 1M visitors a year and 5 museums plus archive and arts team who make cool stuff happen across the city.

My background is helping people to use technology and address user needs

I hope to see as many of you as time allows.

Thanks

Get your museum digital skills started in 3 steps

As we rapidly approach 2016 i’m still amazed at how many people (organisations are people right?) say they are still yet to get started with “digital”. I’m also still reeling over a comment from a chatting with strangers at the Making Digital Work conference back in October in which I was told “it’s alright for you Zak, you are a senior manager so you can do what you like and make it happen”. That comment hurt me, not personally but my sense of championing “digital” for everybody. I wasn’t always a “boss – who lets not forget has a boss who has a boss and so on”. But I disgress. YOU, yes YOU can do digital. You simply start. You don’t need permission from anybody in your organisation. Pssst people actually like it when their colleagues get stuff done for them.

Here is how I would start to do digital today (1hr to 1 week):

Step 1:Google your organisation

Log out of your google account and search the name of your organisation. What results came back? For me it is our website, followed by a Wikipedia entry about us and then trip advisor.
Both Wikipedia and trip advisor WANT you to use them. Setup an account, review their guidelines and start to review entries. When you spot an error fix it or in the case of trip advisor write a reply to any comments that have 2 stars or less.

There is a good reason that Wikipedia and trip advisor show so highly in the Google results and that is because so many people use them. And you also using it will get your work in front of the many people looking at those websites. You’ll immediately be improving your organisations customer service by keeping an eye on these two website and the wonderful thing is you just did it without a committee. If you don’t feel empowered to even do this then I suggest you leave your employer and I’m not kidding.

Done that? You have just earned your first digital badge and it took less than one hour.

Step two: Simple – copy what others are doing

Organisations like mine recruit people with lots of experience and/or potential. As at this stage I assume the digital team is YOU you probably don’t have others to bounce ideas off. I look at it as an opportunity as there is nobody to tell you no. Instead of giving up, copy what others are doing, that’s how I started. Watch and copy how they respond to tweets, negative comments on Facebook or trip advisor etc. This approach lets you piggyback off much more experienced people and only costs you a bit of time. If you can I also suggest you attend as many of the free evening meet ups that nerds like me speak at throughout the country. You rock up to a pub, buy a drink and listen to a variety of people who love digital so much they want to spread the word or share a problem. I know rocking up to an event on your own is difficult but that tingle of fear is only in your head. You don’t even have to talk to anybody if you don’t want to, just smile and politely clap after the talk.

Step three: Read the GDS service manual

The Government Service Design Manual is the blueprint about how to start and scale a digital service. The brightest minds in the land of digital have produced this resource for YOU to learn on the shoulders of giants.

How Can I Help?

In my old role as Head of Digital, when I was asked what I did it was easy “I help people to use technology”. My latest role is a mixed bag of things and I’ve spent the first *gulp* 11 months stumbling around with awkward answers to concisely say what I do. My new remit is far reaching and covers nearly all of the service even if I don’t directly hold responsibility. It is much more than being the money guy who prefers to DO rather than talk about strategy. However as the months have flown by I’ve started to feel that ” How can I help?” is a pretty accurate and easy to say sentence.

so if you want Bristol museums, arts and events, film office and more to help you – don’t be a stranger … how can I help?