Week 15

On Monday I spent the day in Birmingham for Museum Camp 2013. The event was billed as an ‘unconference’ which essentially means we collectively (100 or so) had 15mins at the beginning of the day to suggest topics to talk about for each of the six 45min slots across five rooms. My hope for the day was to bend the ear of just one person about my draft 8 digital principles. Instead I pitched it as a session and the pleasure of explaining each principle to 15 people and listening to their experiences. I think I was coherent and some of the feedback will be helpful in refining some of my examples. Much of the day was just listening to others but with the helpful caveat that you are allowed to interject at any point which made for a fun day. Topics we touched on included “Why online collections are crap, our biggest digital fundraising mistakes, gesture-based gaming and much more”.
For the rest of the week I rolled my sleeves up for a bunch of interesting stuff. I met with a researcher about trying to collaborate with the University of the West of England. Met the Apple Business team with a view to see what is involved in leasing iPads, explored digital signage (shouldn’t be this hard to find a TV stand should it!). Experimented with Shopify as an online shop, which then unravels data protection issues and careful reading of terms and conditions. I got a quick and dirty demo from a local developer of his work on augmented reality with somebody from the learning team. I am keeping an eye on as many technologies as possible as I really need to think how we can integrate digital into exhibitions and learning work.
I ended the week with a session with my boss about plans and personal development for the next six months. I like to think of the next phase of work as spinning 1001 tiny plates. Lots of things that need juggling across varying time-spans which i’m really looking forward to.

Week 14

30th Sept – 4th Ot

An important part of this week was taking the time to listen to the team. By this I mean I sat in their environment for half a day and in between disturbing them just got to ‘listen’ to what requests came in and see a tiny bit of the detail within their roles. I think there is a lot to be gained from better understanding the fine detail within any job role – i was even jokingly offered an official polo shirt to blend in. What became clearer is what tasks I should maybe take off their plate and what other things I could delegate. One of my tasks is to clear the way for the team to work and to better allow them to contribute to the future activity across the service.

A key activity throughout the week was to join planning sessions on exhibition and service delivery for 2014-16. Much of this I can’t speak on other than to say i’m glad I can be in the mix. Related to this is my need to be thinking more about what ‘digital transformation’ might mean to us. Doing what we do now physically and merely shifting it online is only one side of the dice. I really liked reading ‘Digital innovation in the arts must be about the art‘ and will be revisiting this with the programming team. One tangible outcome was confirmation that although I can’t affect some of the exhibitions that are very well developed for the first quarter of 2014 we NEED to start tinkering around the edges. By this I mean from a technology point of view that we need to start experimenting with RFID, Raspberry Pi, sensors, data and more so that we can build up to contributing meaningfully for later in 2014.

I drafted in Stephen Gray to demo virtual reality using the Oculus Rift headset and as a result we need have 1 project idea to pursue.

I have been tasked with looking at digital signage in the foyer of the City Museum, which basically means a large TV on a stand. However said TV stand is the head-scratching part. The stand must be movable yet safe for the public who may knock/run into the TV. Somebody pointed me to the set-up at the nearby Colston hall and I think this is the kind of setup we need (photo of the tv).

What elseā€¦ oh, I met a group of local partners about a project we have agreed to bid on which will really be interesting digitally if we are successful. More on that should it come off.

A final highlight was a telephone call with Kevin Bacon from Brighton Museum. We are comparable museums and so was a welcome discussion about keeping each other in the loop about our plans and working together. As my role is the only one of its kind in the service, working with similar posts elsewhere will be essential to bounce ideas and learn from others. For example I shared my draft ‘digital principles’ for feedback.

If others would like to chat then do get in touch as i’m very approachable.

Week 13

Monday was the tail end of our holiday so the working week began on Tuesday to a mere 128 emails. The emails were largely CC messages and so were dispatched in 10 minutes. I have been making it clear to everybody that email is great but I don’t need to know everything – if you need a reply from me then send it but I don’t need ‘reference/covering’ emails. The rest of the day could be spent clearing a path for activities in October.

Tuesday and Wednesday were both used to catch up with various staff about their projects and for me to better understand some of the detail a few of our roles deal with. The devil really is in the detail and I feel the more I can understand the better for future working together.

Thursday was a social media oriented day. First I met with the Bristol Records Office to see how they run social media and where my team could be of assistance. Then I checked in on the Red Lodge as they are doing an outstanding job and have plenty of ideas for continuing over the winter. In the evening I attended “This Happened Bristol” at the Empire Theatre which had three enjoyable speakers (John Durrant, Dan Efergan, and Lizzie Ostrom) talk about past interaction projects, one of which was about smell.

On Friday I got to tinker with a small website project and had an important meeting regarding a project i’ll keep quiet about for now.

Bonus day. On Saturday I attended a raspberry pi bootcamp run by uob at the @bristol site. The event was spilt between 90min sessions on a broad range of introductory topics and some drop-in areas to ask questions and see some very interesting uses of the kit. The event had a lot of help at hand and was well attended by school children and a few oldies like me. I attended a non-pi session on using twine, a easy to use tool for making interactive if/else type stories that spits out html. I think this could be pretty handy for lightweight public facing games and stories.It was great to see kids coming to events at the weekend like I used to.

Attending local events in the evening and weekends not only helps keep me in the loop but i think is crucial for raising our service profile. I know that these things are hard for many to attend but I really hope I can convince a few others to start doing likewise.

Week 10

This will I got up to the following:

  • Welcomed our new team member, an apprentice who will be helping with our digital marketing including social media and storytelling across our collections
  • Shared internally our 7 service digital principles for feedback
  • Investigated leasing tablets
  • Explained our digital plans to central ICT for the Council
  • Continued writing our expression of interest for the Big Data call
  • Discovered it takes 1.5hrs to read and digest the average report (thanks to harvest timer)
  • Caught up with my old team (cheers!)
  • Started to think about how we should tackle our websites
  • Floor walk of two sites to watch the public use our interactives and see how they move around the building

Week 9

Monday was a Bank holiday. Tuesday was enjoyable as it was our second introduction to the visitor services assistants combined with a floor walk. Long story short a fair amount of our AV needs revisiting. The VSA staff use the kit and see the public using it all day and quickly pointed to poor interaction design, missing content and failing kit. The whole experience made me very glad I am taking the time to listen to the tiniest problems as there are some patterns emerging.
On Wednesday the guys setup for a special session at M Shed to celebrate 50 years since the Bristol bus boycott. Really good talks followed my my schoolboy error of lifting cables which were held down by masking tape… never again. Also the recording failed so we need to figure out exactly what caused this.
Thursday was a meetings day around our future data management planning.
On Friday me and Tom went out to Blaise Castle Museum to have a flying tour and then to discuss options for digital on-site. I think with a little investment we can make lots of impact on-site for the public whilst using the site as a testing ground for wider deployment e.g. Nexus 7 vs iPad.
Throughout the week our funding bid was shaping up quite nicely.

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.