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Niche or Platform - what next for our institutions online?

Niche or Platform - what next for our institutions online?



This presentation looks at the ideas behind institutions delivering a "trusted platform" rather than niche silos. It suggests that "platforms" in this context are places where communities are enabled, ...

This presentation looks at the ideas behind institutions delivering a "trusted platform" rather than niche silos. It suggests that "platforms" in this context are places where communities are enabled, supported and encouraged and goes on to consider ten big ideas which often accompany platform-like approaches.



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  • I’d first of all like to thank John and Rob for inviting me to speak I’m very much looking forward to the talks - and the talking later on..
  • - I had the privilege to be Head of Web at NMSI for 7 years: prior to that I worked for Waterstone’s online and prior to THAT I ran a small business doing....anything that needed doing... - NOW I work for a not for profit IT company called Eduserv in their Research and Innovation Group, looking at new trends and technologies I am a UX zealot, social(web)-ist, soon-to-be-author I work for a not for profit IT company called Eduserv These slides are Creative Commons and available online at slideshare.net/dmje
  • One of the things I do in my day job is to act as a translator between REAL GEEKS and REAL PEOPLE. Truth be told, I understand PEOPLE much more than I understand GEEKS. - ...so rest assured, this talk isn’t geeky - …but I am fond of graphs and charts 
  • - I’m also due to talk for 50 minutes, with a 10 minute slot at the end for discussion...
  • - ...where "n" is A Very Large Number...this could be interesting...
  • - but, DON’T PANIC... I believe in making things look beautiful in the hope that it’ll distract from the poor quality content  - and don’t feel you have to frantically take notes. The slides are in your pack, will also be online, and there’s only...
  • - ...10 IDEAS. These riff around the notion of "institution as platform" - the ideas are IN ORANGE so you know to pay attention. - this one isn’t a real thought. Well, actually, it is, and quite a good one when it comes to it. But not one of the ten...
  • - first, lets ask this, from a high-up, simplified perspective...
  • - this question could be articulated like this:
  • Unless we are proactive, we’ll find ourselves relegated to a niche position - this talk looks at how we might respond to some of the challenges we are seeing - this slide is stolen from the BBC’s Virtual Revolution, which is worth a watch on iPlayer...
  • - everyone who works in a MLA recognises this sense of LIMBO, I think. - we don’t have a huge amount of cash or resource, and we aren’t particularly slimline either… … we’re often stuck in limbo somewhere in the middle
  • - this is the Gartner Hype Curve: the peak of inflated expectations, the trough of disillusionment, the slope of enlightenment and finally the plateau of productivity (or, as Tom Standage likes to call it: invisible technology....) - although the lag can be frustrating, there is a benefit from NOT being bleeding edge: we can watch technologies and approaches, wait to see what works and then adopt accordingly
  • - so coming back to our question: how do we remain relevant...?
  • … and that’s it. Thanks very much for coming. Any questions? 
  • - so what do we mean by “platform”...?
  • - to consider this idea, let’s go back to some basic facts and questions
  • - first of all, about scale...
  • - ...and then about growth
  • - and processing power... - the entire Internet Archive’s vast database (the internet) is stored in a Sun MD [Modular DataCentre]. = a container...
  • - and now the reason: the “what”
  • - ...and the environment - the tablet concepts we’re seeing are also aiming to change things, moving us from a sit-forward WORK browsing experience to a sit-back LEISURE one...
  • - None of this is rocket science, but it’s time for the first idea...
  • - Not just important, but everything. To quote the Google philosophy: “focus on the user and all else will follow”
  • When you work in a museum, you naturally *think* like a museum person. When you work in a bank, you naturally *think* like a banker. To make experiences that work for users, we have to try to *think* like a user. (or employ someone else to do that thinking for us: preferably actual users!)
  • When you think like a user, you can start to focus on what makes them a *passionate* user These are the kinds of things that interest me. Like anyone else, they change depending on context, time and “mode” (search/browse/sit back/sit forward)
  • - here’s an example of an engaging museum experience (sorry, I took one of my own babies - I’m like insufferable proud dad...) but the point is, this is demonstrating two different environments (web and mobile) and an experience which bridges the two is is “some learning”, wrapped up in a game, wrapped up in what became viral..
  • Can anyone provide relevant stuff all the time? In a word, no, of course not We’ve just done two things: 1) focused on how important user experience is (and this in turn should define how we do things like usability, SEO, marketing and content) but also 2) Recognised that a more effective approach to being a silo is to work *with* the internet, and not against it. This’ll become more clear as we go on, but right now it also leads us to the next idea…
  • This is really fundamental, and a sea-change away from how many institutions have positioned themselves online
  • The reality is that people only have limited time, and the chance are they’re not spending that time on your site… A: The people are all over, but increasingly pulled in by the gravity of these big sites… Which of *you* has Facebook accounts? Which ones have Googled this week? eBayed? Flickrd…?
  • Argos? Really?
  • In the past (and still!), institutions have created web presences which look inwards. For funders, it is *still* a tempting proposition to follow the "old way" (build yet another site...): they get gloss and glamour for their money… Now though (especially now there is less money), we need to learn to work WITH the internet by leveraging existing sites and approaches. Does this mean the end of cultural heritage websites? No, just a switch of focus
  • Get “on the web” – this means partly: “have a presence on these SN sites” but also “be good at content, at SEO, at linking” RSS, widgets, feeds, multiple “web presences” rather than “a web site”, SEO Is it hard? Yes, it can be – this is no magic bullet – but the bang for buck is high!
  • - Some examples of having a “presence” in multiple places widgets, feeds, the spreading outwards of content to far-flung places think “broadcast”
  • Idea 3: It's easy to get wrapped up in the "webness" of this thing Actually, it's all about something much more fundamental...
  • Maslow visualised the human needs something like this, with increasing "comfort" as you go up the scale
  • … and this is why “web2.0” or “the social web” or just “the web” is important…!
  • - this is a great piece, well worth reading...
  • Recognising that users are real people is one of the core reasons why “the social web” is such a powerful paradigm Think about a user experience that made you feel good, and one that made you feel bad. Your “loyalty” to that “brand” (sorry) is reinforced every time you have a good experience, and massively undemined each time it is poor Will I ever buy a Dualit again? No, because they made me feel bad when my toaster broke. And now I’m telling *you* about how bad I found the experience. This counts for something, and is the same on the web. Denise Drake uses the example where deleting or ignoring a customer complain online is equivalent to shutting the door in their face when they visit your helpdesk in your institution. Online is offline.
  • The single most successful MLA example is probably Brooklyn Museum, which *lives* social media Before you go thinking that this stuff is really, really hard, bear in mind that there is *one* person doing this stuff at Brooklyn. She is an incredible person, and this isn't normal, but nonetheless it needn't be a huge operation
  • We can all go home :-)
  • Heavily linked to the previous idea: online is just a reflection of the "real".
  • ...the web just happens to make these things a whole bunch easier. It makes it easier to publish, to distribute, to communicate... It also increasingly makes it easier for people to forge connections with each other
  • - for MLAs, we have a huge benefit which is rarely capitalised on: we have a PHYSICAL presence as well as a virtual one. CROSS THE DIVIDE! Mobile, "real-world", connections: tickets, tracking, use cases...
  • “ do less, execute perfectly” (BBC) Google says: “best to do one thing really, really well” Twitter is a pretty good example of this!
  • This also means starting small. It is cheap or free and low-impact to do many of the "social web" things we're talking about. If you can't do the tech, find someone who can, and just do it. Take a simple idea and see what grows! Look at your current web presences: analyse them. What would you keep if you could only keep 10%? Now how does the other 90% feel? Now take 10% of the 10% - what makes it *really* special?
  • I'll take Eduserv as an example here. We started with an internal blog. We got people on board and now have wikis, Yammer, a dashboard, an e-newsletter... By building very slowly we have not only showed the positive impacts these tools can have for free or cheap *internally* but also built awareness of them for clients, ie. externally. You can do the same. Build a team blog, and then use the experiences you have to extend it...
  • Doing less applies to audiences – our USERS – as well. “ lifelong learner” means what…? Everyone! Terrible! Be focussed, brave and specific about who it is you’re trying to connect with, and then put on the blinkers and forget everyone else.
  • - bear with me on this one. It’s a bit random...
  • Brilliant as Einstein was, he provides a level of detail which isn’t often appropriate for “normal life”
  • The suggestion is that an (easy) approximation is adequate, or actively better than a (difficult) exactitude. Newton gave us enough detail to get to the moon. That's a pretty startling and brilliant success.
  • This is really hard for institutions who thrive on perfection! The quality line trends up in an asymptote towards perfection, but it'll never get there. Accept that 90% is good enough. You'll never reach 100%. See also #idea 10...
  • - finding ways of leveraging the network effect is a key to success.
  • The enormously popular bookmarking site Delicious was built like this. The need of one individual was solved first, and the software made useful. The network effect just added to - amplified - the usefulness Build something that solves a simple, single problem, and then use the network effect to grow it
  • This often means "free" - and there is increasing evidence that giving away stuff can lead to long term gain... (Chris Anderson's "Free" as one example of this kind of argument – still widely contested) But, it is also about an approach. Saying "this exhibition wasn't so good" or "here are the mistakes we made. We're working on it" is appreciated on every level By the same token, things like open standards (RSS, RESTful API's, HTTP, The Web!) lead to a vibrant and innovative community and dynamic expressions of your content
  • - open also leads to re-use
  • - ..which is naturally a loss of control..
  • ...but “control” was always an illusion..
  • Ann Arbor District Library catalogue... Two vitally important things here: the URL and the RSS feed for results...
  • I told you I liked graphs... The "cost curve" is a thing I made up when thinking about usability and the thresholds that people will hit "cost" isn't necessarily financial, but a time and effort cost. Ditto, value can be financial, social, entertaining or useful content... In a "bad" site, the poor usability / financial cost / locked-down nature of the site means there is zero value for a users' cost investment "n" increases the better a site gets. At the far extreme, a service provides vast amounts of value for zero or low cost, and the gradient of cost increase is shallow
  • ...it also means there is a "walk away" threshold which determines the point at which the user simply turns the service off: the value has been outstripped by the cost
  • This applies to forms, search engines, navigability, the store, membership schemes, e-commerce, design... Their effort begins the moment they hit the first page of your web presence. Think of it as a ticking clock approaching the threshold at which they simply give up. You have to make your experience sticky enough for them to stay!
  • - ...providing it’s what your audience expects, and you’re really careful with how it is put together!
  • Big budget (?!), big timescales, many stakeholders and funders... This is the traditional project. Try challenging this - suggest an iterative approach where you try, test, fail, fix
  • (I just like this slide)

Niche or Platform - what next for our institutions online? Niche or Platform - what next for our institutions online? Presentation Transcript

  • Niche or platform: what next for our institutions online?
  • http://electronicmuseum.org.uk http://twitter.com/m1ke_ellis http://slideshare.com/dmje hello. I’m Mike Ellis.
  • what I’ve got to say isn’t geeky
  • number of slides > pain 10 bearable it is a well known fact that I should only have 10 slides
  • number of slides > pain bearable n childbirth frankly, quite unreasonable 10 instead, I am going to try the “n-slide experiment”
  • ..no clip art... why are we all holding hands? rest assured, however: there is no comic sans,
  • ..and a mere ten ideas Idea #11: Be nice to each other
  • what is the problem we need to solve?
  • “ how do we ensure we remain relevant?”
  • your site is here ..in a world where it would be easy to become marginalised
  • Money & Resource = Freedom No Money & Resource = Freedom A Little Money & Resource = Limbo Museums, libraries, galleries, archives Google, Microsoft, VC-Funded Apps Kids in Bedrooms, Bootstrapped Ideas, Side Projects thanks to @zambonini ..and where limbo is a problem..
  • institutional lag
  • one answer: we move from niche to platform
  • the ^ one answer: we move from niche to platform
  • a place where we encourage... support... enable... our communities what is a "platform" ?
  • let’s start at the beginning
  • “ The Web is big. Really big. It may seem like a long way to the corner chemist, but compared to the Web, that's peanuts.”
  • In 1997 there were around 26M pages (URLs) on the Web. Today we estimate there are more than 1 trillion pages of content ...an average person would need six hundred thousand decades of nonstop reading to read through the information. bing.com : http://bit.ly/a222zd
  • ...and growing all the time
  • the internet http://www.sun.com/featured-articles/2009-0325/feature
  • http://pewinternet.org we do this online
  • and not just at our desks..
  • ultimately, though, people is what the internet is about
  • Idea #1: The user is everything
  • Be a SonDaughterMotherWifeHusbandFanBelieverTeacherEducatorPoliticianLoverFriendCrazyperson rather than a YOU
  • green issues silliness visualisations crumpets music fun family design web 2.0 technology cider what makes users *really* engaged?
  • green issues silliness visualisations crumpets music fun family design web 2.0 technology cider what makes users *really* engaged? “ relevant stuff”
  • can MLA’s (anyone) provide “relevant stuff” all the time?
  • Idea #2: Q: where should we be? A: where the people are
  • but where are the people?
  • thanks to @zambonini
  • the “silo mentality” is tempting
  • what is the alternative?
  • less "web site", more "web presence"
  • Idea #3: Connecting is a human condition, not a technological one
  • self actualisation esteem love / belonging safety physiological http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs maslow says this:
  • self actualisation esteem love / belonging safety physiological confidence respect community friendship intimacy creativity web2 says this:
  • “ I don't call my parents in Canada and recount the latest additions to my daughter's vocabulary because they need to know that the kid can say ‘ elephant ’ and ‘ potty ’ now; I call them up to say, ‘ all is well with your son and his family’, and ‘ you are in my heart ’, and ‘ I love you ’.” Cory Doctorow: “how to say stupid things about social media” The Guardian http://bit.ly/5WDjsA
  • … and remember that everyone likes being stroked
  • Idea #4: The web isn’t necessary
  • zine blog radio show podcast group project wiki word of mouth twitter address book social network http://www.slideshare.net/ninaksimon ..we already do this stuff
  • the web just makes it easier
  • think about how the offline fits
  • Idea #5: Do less, and do it better
  • start small
  • start internally
  • lifelong learner define your audience
  • Idea #6: We didn’t need Einstein to get us to the moon
  • e=mc hair
  • “ the perfect truth is perhaps not to be had, and certainly isn't necessary for startling and brilliant success”
  • Idea #7: If there was only one telephone in the world, it’d be rubbish
  • (however cool the telephone)
  • the more people who own telephones, the more useful they become. There is a "positive externality" - a user doesn’t intend for their phone to create value for others, but it does positive externality – the “network effect”
  • "A more natural strategy is to build a system that has enough value without network effects, at least to early adopters" ..but this also meshes with "start small"
  • Idea #8: Open is always better than closed
  • standards technology open source information approach honest What is "open" ?
  • this means re-use
  • and also a loss of control
  • re-use is good, and we never had "control" anyway...
  • The BBC's 15 web principles: http://www.tomski.com/archive/new_archive/000063.html "treate the web as a creative canvas"
  • http://www.aadl.org/catalog/search/keyword/tree
  • Idea #9: Think “cost curve” all the time
  • value cost n bad good great the what?
  • "walk away" threshold value cost
  • if you ask your user to put in some effort, provide them with something equal or greater in value as a response in short...
  • http://unicorn.lib.ic.ac.uk/uhtbin/cgisirsi/NUewLUT6Y9/CENTRAL/122810016/38/0/POWER_SEARCH this kind of thing is ok...
  • Search: ...but this is usually better
  • Idea #10: Fail quickly
  • iterate, Darwin-style
  • let the successes float, and sink the failures quickly
  • a takeaway thought..?
  • 1. User is everything 2. Be where everyone is 3. Connecting is a human condition 4. Think beyond the web 5. Do less, better 6. Be less perfect 7. Leverage the network 8. Be open 9. Focus on the cost curve 10. Fail quickly recap..
  • focus on personal connections and real users to build a platform for your [niche] communities or...
  • superhuman http://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/482348262 wrong way http://www.flickr.com/photos/dsevilla/97727582 many me Thanks to http://gilest.org/ don't panic http://flickr.com/photos/brighton/2153602543 answer http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellysmith/519503962 answer2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/rudiriet/525401387/ simple http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmajane/2580835224 problem solving http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanlouis_zimmermann/3042616053 logos 2.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryyo/249804450 containers http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/3898801499 beginning http://www.flickr.com/photos/cefeida/2167070556 no http://www.flickr.com/photos/biscuitsmlp/2247299538 silos http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoomzoom/304135268 hair http://www.flickr.com/photos/ocularsmith/239674652 moon http://www.flickr.com/photos/balakov/2482050441 thanks http://www.flickr.com/photos/compujeramey/22029168 just relax http://www.flickr.com/photos/victornuno/205239817 cloth puppet http://www.flickr.com/photos/hellomokona/2907265786 texture http://www.flickr.com/photos/zooboing/4099287371 thanks to these people
  • http://electronicmuseum.org.uk http://twitter.com/m1ke_ellis http://slideshare.com/dmje and thanks to you. questions..?