In Summary….

22 May

Although I don’t consider myself being very technically advanced, I do find that I’m drawn towards the application of technology. Through the taking of this class, my ‘strategy’ for technology integration has morphed from ‘How can we use this new and flashy technology in our organization to fix problems?’ to ‘What problem are we trying to fix in our organization? Is there a technology that can assist in fixing this problem?’ If that was the ONLY shift in thinking I gained from this class (don’t worry, it’s not), I would count it a monumental gain. I’ve learned that technologies are not destinations, rather they are avenues in which we can implement something else. Rarely is the technology itself going to fix problems.

How I’m Already Benefiting from Taking this class:

There are many tools in this class that I know I will take with me. Some of them I am using already. In my graduate thesis work, I spend a lot of time reading articles and recently published materials on the web. Diigo, a tool that was introduced to me in this class, has already proven to be instrumental in my research process. I know that in the future I will continue to explore the value of social bookmarking, although it is sure to rapidly continue changing, as with most technologies.

Some of the things I benefited from the class the most were actually in things that were not fully explored in the class, but that were found as a result of what I learned in the class. Crowdsourcing is probably the largest concept that falls into this category. It was through the readings and some brief mentioning of it in class that I became interested in it and continued exploring. It’s now something I keep a look out for information on, as I see myself implementing various ‘micro-volunteering’ opportunities in my career. How crazy would one be for not trying to benefit from this outsourcing of technology and content development?

The element of the class where we focused on a specific project is certainly something I’m already benefiting from. I know this will carry over into future work as well. Not so much the content of the project I helped with, but the steps taken in order to come to a conclusion. The process of building a strong business case for technology integration wasn’t something I had previous experience with, but I now feel confident enough that in my current position as graduate student and my future career that I will be able to present new solutions and technologies in a professional and sound way.

My Pursuits and Projected Benefits of this Class::

As I consider how to best position myself in my future career, I see myself leaning more and more towards the application of technology. This is not something I would have considered, even a few years ago; it’s been a recent interest. Although, ironically, now that I’m looking back on my education and past work experiences, I can see how technology integration has been a large, albeit subtle, element. I started out by having ‘knack’ for computers, as my teachers in high school said. In college, I worked for a company as their AutoCAD technician. When I graduated from college I began building things with technology. In an internship I aided the design and building of an interactive plant collections database that was made available to the world-at-large online. However, in all these experiences with technology (and many more not listed), I’ve never been in a position where I managed a system or managed individuals who are IT inclined. The more I look at the direction my career has taken me, and now in graduate school, I see that I cannot ignore these veins of technology that have showed up in my path. This class has helped to solidify this direction, particularly in understanding the need for IT as a manager.

I’ve always been a ‘nuts and bolts’ kind of girl. I learn software quickly and can do any sort of data entry, design, or project work on a computer once given a few hours to tinker with it. But to completely contradict that, my masters degree is taking me away from the likelihood of a hands on job to more of a managerial position. One of the overall concepts I will take away from this class is in relation to that. I may never have a full time job again where I perform data entry work or draw plans in AutoCAD day-in and day-out, but it’s through those experiences that I can take my basic knowledge of processes and applications of technology to better manage someone else or an organization that will require those skills. I have had many a boss who doesn’t understand the importance of technology, and I have seen the disasters this can create. I hope that through what I’ve learned not only in this class but also past experiences, that I can be a manager who inspires innovation and creativity in the use of technology and it’s integration within a non-profit organization.

Another key lesson I’m taking away from this course is the very nature of technology. I see that for my career as a manager in a non-profit institution, that I need to stay grounded in current technology trends and applications. This is because I now look at IT less as a new gadget or a new smartphone application, but as a whole. It’s like the wind. Where it’s important, you don’t necessarily see it. You see the effects of it, but it’s not the IT itself that you’re focusing on. In my career, knowing what other institutions are doing will be important, but I will need to stay abreast of what’s available in all fields. This is NOT because I will want to incorporate new and flashy things, but as the organization looks at their problems and deals with the struggles of a non-profit, I want to be able to provide practical solutions from what I know and will learn about systems, methodologies, and even software.

In my field, public horticulture institutions such as botanic gardens, technology tends to elude us. As one example, it’s only been in recent years that more effort has been put into understand the ‘online visitor’ of public gardens, where in the past this was not the case. There are still many gardens whose websites are purely an online brochure. They house information about visiting (directions, hours, events, etc) but don’t go far beyond that. The expansion of technology in other fields has begun to spark realizations for our field. I mean by this that the right questions are starting to be asked, such as: ‘How can we use technology to reach younger audiences or minority groups?’, ‘How do we use our website to further support our mission?’, ‘What needs are there in my organization and are there any technologies that can be used to solve this issue?’. My thesis research, entitled Evaluating Web Technology: the use and measurement of web initiatives in Public Horticulture Institutions, relates to this notion of ‘what are we using our website for?’. I will spend the next year compiling research for the purpose of answering this question, but more importantly, determining how most institutions answer this question via website evaluation. This course has given me a lot of insight and information that will aid me in this research.

And last, but certainly not least, I owe it to this class for my new found appreciation of Hitler and his aversion to the iPad. You said it Hitler.


Wikipedia and Museums

3 May

Back in 2006, the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, discouraged schools from using Wikipedia and was said to comment that college students should know better than to quote the resource. (resource)

In 2007, Wikipedia was listed as being useful for finding out background information on something, links to similar topics within the topic you were currently searching, a way to develop keywords on a topic you were studying, and a great place to find resources listed on the topic (such as the books listed at the bottom of the articles). It was continually expressed that Wikipedia should NEVER be cited, but that it should be considered a worthy place to find information. (resource)

(Just for fun :))

In more recent years, the general populous has seemed to begun embracing Wikipedia as a source worth using. In fact, according to a statistics page for Wikipedia, English wiki pages had almost 9.5 million views per hour on March 31st, 2011. Posts about how to use Wikipedia best and what is available in it are readily available on the web. Some of the tips you can find include  finding knowledgeable writers for your blog or print magazines via Wikipedia, reading Wikipedia pages without internal links, tracking Wikipedia articles via RSS or email alerts, reading Wikipedia on mobile phones, how to find Wikipedia articles about places/people/events near your home, how to download the full Wikipedia encyclopedia, and now you’ll even find instructions on how to credit articles published on Wikipedia. (resource)

So in general, from the readings I’ve been able to find, it seems as thought Wikipedia has been gradually moving from ‘beware Wikipedia’ to ‘use it properly’ to ‘this is a great resource!’.

I recently came across an article posted on the Center for the Future of Museums, part of the American Association for Museums, that looks at how Wikipedia can be a benefit for collections sharing. This article opened my eyes to the possibilities that lay beyond petty disputes about the sources of content. I do realize that there are legitimate situations where Wikipedia should not be used, such as writing a research paper, but what the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Museum of Art has done is pretty inspiring. (see the article here)

Now this may come across as odd, but I was gleefully happy by one of the author’s comments regarding how the purpose is not to direct more visitors to the actual museum website, but it’s “about benefiting a much wider, global audience through the sharing of content.” In the field of public horticulture (botanic gardens, public gardens, parks, etc), this may be a long way off. I hope that as part of my career, as this is a passion of mine, that more and more institutions will come to be more open with their content and to collaborate more amongst themselves. It’s an encouragement to see some success stories from the museum world, as their institutions are similar to public gardens.

Obviously, there are some concerns – a few which were discussed in the comments section of the above mentioned posting. I recommend having a look at them. In response to this article, I think that there is great potential in the use of Wikipedia for museums. I do think that as reputable non-profit organizations we need to tread lightly and keep the general perceptions of Wikipedia in mind. In some cases it may NOT be the best choice for information sharing, but as in all technology offerings, we must evaluate it’s use according to an already existing need we have. In some cases, there may not be a need for this form of information sharing and therefore this argument is irrelevant.

In closing, and if you’re interested in learning more, here is research done in 2010 on the use of Wikipedia by students. I think this research helps to solidify where were are now in our perceptions of Wikipedia.

Museums and the Web 2011 Overview

21 Apr

This month I had the opportunity to attend a conference I’ve had my eye on since last year. Although my first love will always be horticulture, my interests have grown to include understanding how public horticulture institutions can utilize the different opportunities that technology can provide. Exploring how we can use technology in innovative, sustainable, and problem solving ways is a passion of mine.

Museums and the Web, hosted by the Archives and Museum Informatics organization, is designed by and for museum professionals, features the best work from around the world, and highlights the use of new technologies in the museum context. Imagine my excitement when it was being held at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia this year! Over 25 countries were represented and over 600 individuals attended.

(A selected slide from the Plenary Session)

The opening plenary session was a fun start – it was presented by Kristen Purcell of the Pew Internet Research group. This was such a great way to start the conference; she provided an overview of the data they had found for currently trending topics. The overall focus was on how the internet is currently shaping our country. Some of the subtopics included cell phone use across all demographics, teens use of texting and social media (it may surprise you, but teens are using social media less and less – primarily because it’s no longer ‘their’ space. Parents have invaded!), mobile, the changes in how society finds information, etc.

(Another selected slide from the Plenary Session)

A new experience for me was the ‘un-conference’. After my confusion as to what it meant, I was really excited about it.  (thank you Wikipedia! Yes, I use Wikipedia; I openly admit that I’m not afraid of user generated content :)) Okay, so if you don’t know what an un-conference session is, it’s a participant driven session where anyone can suggest a topic and groups are formed around those topics. (I attended Crowdsourcing Plus Tools for Mobile User Generated Content)

(Here is part of the list of topics that came up in the un-conference – it was really hard to choose!)

Other sessions I attended were Social Media and Organization Change, Online Presence and the Act of ‘Just Not Being There‘, Mobile and Geolocation Issues (Getting on, not under, the mobile 2.0 bus), Web Crit Room (existing webpages were evaluated by a panel of professionals), How to Evaluate Online Success, Professional Forum on Re-Thinking Evaluation Metrics, Mini Workshop on Grid Based Web Design, Mobile Crit Room (existing mobile initiatives were evaluated by a panel of professionals), and a few other in conference opportunities. A few of these sessions were direct connections with my thesis, so it was great to speak with professionals about their work that is similar. Here’s a teaser about my thesis, should you be interested…

(From the Mobile Crit Room – they put a camera over a smartphone so we could all see the multiple apps)

I would love to talk to anyone about these sessions that is interested; I’m not going to put details abut them here lest this blog post become WAY too long. But I’ve learned so much from this conference; I’m hoping to continue to attend them in the future.

Questions? Comments? Would love to hear them! E-mail me at aubrecherie (at) gmail (dot) com

The Commonalities of Howard Dean and Pork (Games in Political Campaigns)

18 Apr

I don’t consider myself political. I’ve never closely following political campaigns and I’m lucky if I know all the names of the people running in my own state – forget about anyone else’s state. I’m even registered as an independent; I’m that ambiguous about politics.

So imagine my surprise in realizing that I know who was in the running for IOWA (I’ve never even been to Iowa!) back in 2003! I think that in itself provides us with some idea of how effective using games to support a political campaign can be in creating awareness. Granted, I can’t vote in Iowa, but if I – from NY – found this site and played the game MUCH longer than I had intended when I went to explore it, than I’m guessing that the effect was even more so within the state.

And here is proof that I spent too much time on this game. (I actually stopped playing at the end and just let the clock run. Let’s be realistic here, I’m in graduate school and have more important things to do than support an Iowan whose campaign has been over for at least 7 years… 😉

In having been prompted to play this game, I was curious to see what other types of political campaigns made use of online games.

I was particularly taken by the humorous Pork Invaders, a Facebook distributed game application from the John McCain campaign. Aside from the unusual use of the game to promote the McCain presidential campaign, there was a bonus of having mainstream coverage of it – all courtesy of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. I thought the connection with pork barrel spending, the earmarking of funds for seemingly unnecessary projects, was actually pretty clever. ‘m also a huge fan of retro video games, so of course I like this spin off. I guess the question is left as to whether I would have voted for John McCain has I seen this game prior to the election. And, of course, the answer is no…

So, in conclusion, I guess I would need to see some statistics on these types of games for political campaigns before I would say they are worth the input for the output given. Also, I found this article, from, to be interesting should you like to do some further reading on the topic of games and game characters in political campaigns.

Exploring new concepts: Crowdsourcing

12 Apr

(This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia, where much of the material from this post is referenced from. Read more about the conference here.)

It wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t know what crowdsourcing was. I think that the principles I understood, but it was more of the fact that I didn’t know it had a ‘name’. It wasn’t until I began reading Wiki Government, by Simone Noveck, that I was formally introduced to the term. According to the book, the term was coined by Wired magazine editor Jeff Howe. According to him (and, not to surprisingly ironic, Wikipedia), Crowdsourcing is defined as ‘a neologistic compound of Crowd and Outsourcing for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an “open call” to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions’. Although the reading I did for class was focusing on how crowdsourcing was in relation to collaboration (and how it differs), this small off-shoot discussion spurred my interest.

As luck would have it, I was able to participating an ‘unconference’ session at the Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia just a week ago. I don’t think that I would have chosen to participate in that particular session if it hadn’t been for the interest gathered from learning the new term in Wiki Government. I’m very glad it did, as I was able to learn a lot about what Museums and other Non-profit organizations are doing with crowsourcing to further their missions and work.

Within our ‘unconference’ session group of approximately 25 professionals, we worked to identify what sorts of tasks were typically associated with crowdsourcing, which were:

Correction and transcription
Complimenting a collection

These items are also re-affirmed in an article by one of our discussions participants, Johan Oomen who co-authored Crowdsourcing in the Culture Heritage Domain. This concept of breaking down the presumed tasks of crowdsourcing really took a conceptual idea that I had in my head and made it tangible. If you think about projects that utilize crowdsourcing, they should naturally fall into at least one of these categories. We also discussed the term ‘micro-volunteering’, which I discovered is really truly what a participant in crowdsourcing is doing; volunteering in some form.
I have to admit, I was skeptical that this would be something that held any weight as we all move forward with our online initiatives. However, as a group, we discussed different user motivations and I started to see how this could hold up. Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Many users are content with receiving credit for something that they’ve done. Donating time to the organization is a way for them to connect with it, to share and be a bigger part of it. It not only connects them to the institutions they are helping, but it helps connect them to each other. It’s another social element in our new online social world.
I think that this can easily translate into government as well. I was thinking about it in that some museums or non-profit organizations don’t have a strong ‘issue’ that backs them, such as ‘Save the Ocean’, but a lot of governmental initiatives are in relation to strong issues that citizens are passionate about. Crowdsourcing can be a strong method for getting those advocates involved. It also can provide them with a feeling of participation and therefore greater buy-in and loyalty to a particular government campaign.

To wrap up this quick summary of crowdsourcing and some of the things that I learned, here are some great projects and examples of how museums and like institutions are currently using crowdsourcing for their benefit. Check some of them out, they are very interesting. I know for me, truly learning what crowdsourcing was required me to see it in action and to even participate.

  • Tag gardening to clean up messy user-generated data
  • Smithsonian Archive of famous people in science: crowd cleans up Institution’s data, fills in gaps. Why do people do it? Interested in topic, reached out to dedicated existing Flickr Commons fan group; report results and profile star contributors
  • Museum of City of New York’s FB page, mystery image project; Museum truly doesn’t know what they are; now trying to do this on a larger scale and build API to reingest this info into their db – possibly works because the interaction is in a place where people already are
  • Project Budburst, gets people to report on when their flowers are blooming etc.
  • GalaxyZoo Old Weather Project: incredibly easy-to-use transcription tool
  • Broadcastr platform, tags audio file at geolocation; see also Woices, Roundware, AudioBoo
  • Scapes: questions are the motivator; 6 months, 800 recordings, no take-downs due to inappropriate content; also important is how the content is presented back to people, in a collage re-presentation of the comments & voices – designer can control parameters of how long messages are played before fading out, how often repeated, how many voices at once – typically Halsey chooses 2 voices, puts them in an asynchronous conversation about having visited the same place at the same time; music changes based on location as well, makes the experience continuous
  • Broadcastr: plays recordings within a given radius nearby, also based on a ranking system – Ed Rodley’s friend works there and is happy to talk with folks!
  • British Library has a collaboration with AudioBoo, paying £5,000
  • Soundcloud: iPhone app that is adding geotagging as new feature
  • Epicollect app: allows you to add images, geotags, and classify it with tick boxes; still very rough but intriguing;
  • Europeana is doing a large-scale content-gathering campaign around WWII using Oxfor University platform “go-go-go” – opensource
  • History Pin: closed system, collaborating with NY City Museum – a way for people to comment on and contribute pictures; log in using google account
  • V&A’s system to crowdsource the best photos of objects; still working on algorithm to decide how an image gets selected, too many variables
  • IMA project
  • Design patterns for Crowdsourcing!! Can we crowdsource this book?? See Floss Manuals; best practice from storytelling, marketing, outreach, micro-volunteering
  • microvolunteering; Mechanical Turk model
  • in Finland
  • Ask your future self a question (Theater project) – way to redirect the conversation to people in the audience, rather than to the actors
  • Center for Creative Generations, 12 monitors, visitors contribute to exhibition on encountering space, submit their photos of Texas space
  • YouTube Play – people submitted work to Guggenheim for curators to look at; exhibition of this video and online in a YouTube Channel, 23million views; will present results at MuseumNext – will be livecast

Learning About Collaboration from World of Warcraft

20 Mar

Picture a large, cool, warehouse-like room with a large circle of chairs. Most of us are desperately clinging to a large foam cup of coffee and nervously tapping our feet. It’s my turn to stand up.

Hello everyone. My name is Aubree and I am a recovering WoW addict.

Hi Aubree

I’m not sure if they have groups like AA for World of Warcraft addicts, but sometimes I feel like it would have been helpful when trying to give the game up. Much to my excitement, however, my knowledge of the game hasn’t been a complete suck of my brain – it’s proven somewhat useful in the readings of this class and in understanding principles that are becoming more and more important in the collaborative environments around us.

Naturally, the chapter in Novecks Wiki Government that discusses Designing for Collaborative Democracy was of particular interest to me, as World of Warcraft is used to depict concepts of ‘groupness’.

In the book, one of the central themes revolves around the idea of lawmakers and politicians accessing information from ‘regular’ citizens in order to improve decision making and other processes. This term ‘groupness’ speaks to the individuals becoming aware of themselves as groups and how collaboration of knowledge is inherently more effective and efficient than individual knowledge.

Wiki Government also uses an example of this approach to groupness in the ‘real’ world as an emergency room team. Each individual brings skill to the situation that in itself would likely not be enough to do the patient any good. Multiple things need to happen at once. Or, I like to think that even if each team member was able to do each of the tasks expertly well (such as transporting the patient, preparing a shot, or the use of a surgery tool), they wouldn’t effectively be able to do them all at once. So they need each other to function as a successful unit. I liked the termed used in the book ‘plug compatible’, which was to support the point that people can be a force that helps us extend our own selves. That we can be more with others than what we could have been if we were by ourselves merely by realizing the value of collaboration within a situation or instance.

Being the above stated recovering WoW addict, I have seen how this also works in the virtual gaming world. It’s uncanny how similar it is to the real life example of the ER. Just as Noveck mentions, a specific example of collaboration success in WoW is the component of Guilds. Guilds are completely run by the players, not the creators of the game – they are truly a collaboration between individuals. They allow for players to ‘group’ (join to quest or fight as a unit), trade abilities, skills, or items, and build social relationships with other players in the game. By working together with others in a group, your individual character elevates itself much faster than if going it alone. I know this from personal experience. When I first started the game, I had heard a lot of things about people that ‘played WoW’ and I didn’t want to interact with ‘weirdos’. So I played completely solo. I didn’t advance very much and certainly not quickly. In joining a guild and experiencing raids, instances, or general questing with other players – I found that I not only was able to accomplish things more efficiently, I learned skills from those players that made me inherently better at the game. Most importantly, even if players had similar abilities or skills, it was the power of using them in a collaborative way that made us impenetrable to adversaries. One would aggro (hold the enemies attention to themselves at close range), another would do a ranged attack or send in a ‘pet’, one player would provide shielding, and yet another player would heal any wounds as they occurred. Even if I, as one character, could physically perform each of those abilities, I would never be able to do them all at the same time like we were able to as a group working together as one.

So I would consider myself a classic example of what Noveck was saying can sometimes be a challenge when creating a collaborative effort to achieving a goal. Making a group of individuals aware that they could be so much more if they looked beyond themselves can be hard to do if they’ve always seen themselves as only one unit.

Bringing it back around to Noveck’s points, I think that the Peer-to-Patent program illustrates a great success. Experts are typically only that. They know their topic well, but outside the realm of their topic, they’re likely to be a lot less knowledgeable or useful. For something as open as patents (for anything and everything!), having a staff that could be experts on any possible application seems absurd. It IS absurd. Noveck’s method of utilizing citizen experts demonstrates the power in using collaboration for success. Much like killing a dragon in World of Warcraft. 😉

A review of Jumo

7 Mar

What is it?
In the words of the creator, Chris Hughes (who also happens to be the co-creator of Facebook), Jumo is “an online platform to connect individuals and organizations working to change the world. We’ll be matching people based on their skills and interests with organizations around the world that need their input. It’s a discovery process that first matches, then helps people build relationships, then let’s people share their resources.”

Why Jumo?
Jumo means “together in concert” in Yoruba, a West African language.

How can nonprofits use Jumo?
I should think this bit is rather obvious, but nonprofits can sign up for Jumo to have an opportunity to solicit funds for their causes. It’s also for networking opportunities with individuals who have also set up an account to keep track of their favorite charities and nonprofit organizations.

An example of a non-profit organization who is using Jumo:
New York Botanical Garden – currently has 27 followers (10,492 followers on Facebook). Almost all of the content they put on the page is straight from their Facebook page. My argument from this and other similar cases of nonprofits on Jumo, is what is the added value of having both a Facebook AND a Jumo when they’re really delivering the same things?

The ugly side of Jumo
Hey, don’t take MY word for it… There are actually many different forums that are discussing what they don’t like about Jumo. This is a snapshot taken today from one of them…

ANY nonprofit organization with an EIN can register on Jumo, so although there are great organizations represented like Planned Parenthood, you’ll also find organizations like the Austin Urban League, whose site displays an error. There is no system of qualifiers – anyone can join and accept donation. There is no rating system either, so there doesn’t seem to be a tangible way to lift your organization in this social media program. You can get ‘likes’, because Jumo essentially functions just like Facebook.

I guess my argument still lies in the point. I think it’s a great concept, one that needed to be pursued. But what is Jumo giving nonprofits that their Facebook pages can’t? Sure, they have a direct donation link, but I think it’s just as beneficial to have a donate ‘tab’ on Facebook that directs the users to that organizations donation system. I don’t think there is anything negative about having a Jumo account, but I do think that organizations with limited time and resources for social media shouldn’t spend less time focusing on their Facebook pages to maintain a Jumo page.

But to be fair, Jumo was started in November, 2010. Who knows what the future holds for it…