Keynote for Open Digital Heritage, Almedalen Week, 2012                   A symposium at the           National Heritage B...
A video of this talk is at http://youtu.be/IVZE-B0C80kOther slide shows on digital strategy available at http://www.slides...
Table of ContentsThe 20th century broadcast model ...........................................................................
[Slide: A Washington D.C. Landscape by Rob Shenk. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcsj/5087028899 CC-Attribution License]I wo...
You put resources in one end: attention, real estate, stuff, money, trust, reputation. And then somethinghappens inside th...
[Slide: Joys Law, cognitive surplus, every user a hero…]Joys LawBill Joy was the co-founder of Sun Microsystems in the U.S...
government would say "Trust me, trust us, because we are great." And she observes that now theformula is "Trust us, buy ou...
[Slides: Left, SpaceShipOne on Smithsonian collections website,http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A2005...
And they are often magnificent photographs. They show SpaceShipOne at many phases of itsconstruction and development, they...
[Slide: composite of Smithsonian, Wikipedia, Flickr, and YouTube web pages for SpaceShipOne]So, which one of these places ...
[And note that today, the day Im finalizing this document, July 13, 2012, the Trove website reports thattheyve had 103,031...
neighborhood, and youre motivated, you have the ability to edit and create. What kind of scale do youget with this? OpenSt...
I was trying to find out something about the Trundholm Sun Chariot, a very important Danish culturalartifact, and I found ...
[Slide: Kolenboer / Coal merchant, from the Nationaal Archief, NL, on the Flickr Commonshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/natio...
James Boyle, author of The Public Domain, Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, writes"The public domain is not some gummy re...
Questions and Answers[Photo by Lars Lundqvist, 2012-07-04, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arkland_swe/7507931952/ ]Gunilla K...
i   Joys Law is frequently referenced in business and strategy contexts without academic source attribution. Asuitable pri...
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Open Digital Heritage: Doing Hard Things Easily, at Scale (text version) :: Michael Edson

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The text of a brief keynote for the 2012 Open Digital Heritage symposium at the National Heritage Board of Sweden, organized with the Swedish National Archives and National Library as part of the Almedalen Week events.

Abstract: Heritage organizations need to adopt new tools and new ways of thinking to achieve meaningful outcomes in the 21st century. Open content and participatory knowledge creation are vital to the success of knowledge institutions.

A video of this and other talks from the conference are available at http://oppnakulturarvet.se/

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Open Digital Heritage: Doing Hard Things Easily, at Scale (text version) :: Michael Edson

  1. 1. Keynote for Open Digital Heritage, Almedalen Week, 2012 A symposium at the National Heritage Board of Sweden Visby, Sweden, July 4, 2012 Organized by the National Heritage Board,the National Library, and the National Archives of Sweden http://oppnakulturarvet.se/ Michael Edson | @mpedson Director, Web and New Media Strategy Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  2. 2. A video of this talk is at http://youtu.be/IVZE-B0C80kOther slide shows on digital strategy available at http://www.slideshare.net/edsonm Lego Beowulf and the Web of Hands and Hearts Come, Let Us Go Boldly Into the Present… (video of the talk) Making and the Commons (video of the talk) Prototyping the Smithsonian Commons
  3. 3. Table of ContentsThe 20th century broadcast model ................................................................................................................ 1New rules of organizational physics ............................................................................................................. 2Doing hard things easily, at scale .................................................................................................................. 4 SpaceShipOne ........................................................................................................................................... 4 Trove ......................................................................................................................................................... 7 Zooniverse................................................................................................................................................. 8 OpenStreetMap ........................................................................................................................................ 8 Ancestry.com ............................................................................................................................................ 9 Flickr .......................................................................................................................................................... 9Its about work .............................................................................................................................................. 9Intellectual property policy is a platform.................................................................................................... 10Questions and Answers .............................................................................................................................. 13
  4. 4. [Slide: A Washington D.C. Landscape by Rob Shenk. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcsj/5087028899 CC-Attribution License]I work at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.Its the worlds largest museum and research complex. It has 139 million physical collection objects, 28museums and research centers. A zoo. 6,000 employees. More than 6,000 volunteers. 700 buildings.And our mission is the increase and diffusion of knowledge.Thats big stuff. Its a big job.The 20th century broadcast modelBut at the end of the day—or the beginning of the day, its like any other organization. Its like anybusiness or non-profit or school, or your heritage organizations here in Sweden. Its a group of peoplewho have to figure out how to work together, and weve made certain assumptions about how we dothat. And I dont know when we made these assumptions—nobody really remembers how or when wedecided how we would work, but there is sort of a law of physics about how we do group work in thesebig organizations—in government and business and non-profits and mission-driven organizations…andthe formula goes something like this.[Slide: Resources go in, Outcomes come out] 1
  5. 5. You put resources in one end: attention, real estate, stuff, money, trust, reputation. And then somethinghappens inside that white box [see slide] and then out the other end come some beneficial outcomes—something that youre not supposed to be able to get any other way. Particularly in a mission-drivenorganization youre supposed to get something meaningful and audacious and valuable and precious outof the other end of that box.And the way that we decided to do that in the 20th century—without ever really formally deciding—wasto use the broadcast idiom. The broadcast idiom was great.The broadcast idiom says that you get all the smart people, all the highly paid experts, and you put themin one place and they do all the things that need doing. And then they shoot those things down a one-way pipe to a passive and grateful audience.[Slide: The broadcast model, we do, they consume]All the great stuff in the 20th century happened that way. The broadcast idiom gave us automobiles, andthe Hoover Dam, and the Smurfs—we got all the great stuff that our culture generated, through thebroadcast idiom.New rules of organizational physicsBut theres a nagging doubt weve all had since we started typing "http://" that there was maybe someother way to do group work. And I think there are new laws of physics here. Its as if we are astronomerswho have predicted, using the math and physics available to us, that a certain celestial object should behere, but we observe that it is over there. We need some new math, or some new constants like darkmatter, to account for the differences between what is observed and what should be.I think that new math, that dark matter, for our kinds of organizations, comes down to these threeideas. 2
  6. 6. [Slide: Joys Law, cognitive surplus, every user a hero…]Joys LawBill Joy was the co-founder of Sun Microsystems in the U.S., and he famously said "no matter whatbusiness youre in, most of the smartest people work for someone else."iTry saying that at one of your next staff meetings.It was a funny thing to say, but think about it for a minute. One of the Smithsonians main interests is inmaking breakthroughs in biodiversity and climate change. There are 6,000 Smithsonian employees, onlya small fraction of whom work directly on climate change or biodiversity issues. How many people arethere on earth now? 7 billion? Where is most of the innovation, and the drive, and the knowledge, andthe discovery going to happen---where is most of that work going to happen? Inside the walls of ourinstitutions? Or everywhere else on the planet? Thats what Joys Law is all about. Joys Law stands oneof the tenets of organizations in the 20th century on its head.Cognitive SurplusThe second idea is Cognitive Surplus. Cognitive Surplus is the title of a recent book by Clay Shirky, and init Clay figures out that among the Internet connected, educated population of planet earth there are atrillion hours of free time every year that can be used to achieve some greater good.A trillion hours.Clay notes that in the United States over 200 billion of those hours are spent watching television.Theres a lot of time there that can be used, with a new way of organizing, to accomplish something.Chris Anderson, the author of the Long Tail, told us at a conference at the Smithsonian, pick anythingfrom your 139 million object collection and the odds are that the people who know the most about thatobject dont work for you, and you dont even know who they are. Thats what Joys Law is all about.Every user a heroThe third law of physics I want to talk about is by Kathy Sierra, who is a thought leader in social mediaand new media. Kathy has observed that in the old days of the 20th century, an institution, a brand, a 3
  7. 7. government would say "Trust me, trust us, because we are great." And she observes that now theformula is "Trust us, buy our product, follow us, because we help make you great."Kathy Tweeted in 2009"I am your user. I am supposed to be the protagonist. I am on a heros journey. Your company should bea mentor or a helpful sidekick. Not an orc." ii[Slide: Kathy Sierra, "Im your user…"]When you take these new ideas—theyre not that new actually—and you start looking at how we dowork…what happens inside that box we call the organization, it should cause you to step back a secondand re-evaluate. Are we using the best tools to achieve meaningful outcomes in society? Maybe not.Let me give you some examples.Doing hard things easily, at scaleSpaceShipOneThis is the Smithsonians collection information page for SpaceShipOne, the first privately financedrocked ship to take a person into orbit. Its a testimony to human ingenuity and verve and theSmithsonian owns the rocket ship—it hangs at the National Air and Space Museum a block from myoffice. You can go online, and if youre tenacious you can find this web page, and you can see a nice littlephotograph and some text and its all very compact and happy and good.But then you go to Wikipedia. And what do you get, right away?Hyperlinks! 4
  8. 8. [Slides: Left, SpaceShipOne on Smithsonian collections website,http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A20050459000; Right, SpaceShipOne on Wikipedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipOne]How could we tell this story without hyperlinks? There are links to profiles of the people who builtSpaceShipOne, the rocket science, the X Prize, the history of the project, photographs, photographs inhigh resolution…it goes on and on and on. This article has been translated, by Wikipedians, into 28languages. 400 editors have worked on this page. Imagine coming into work one day and your Directorsays "were going to put a new page on our website and 400 people are going to edit it." You wouldthrow yourself out a window. But this kind of collaboration—this kind of group effort just happens. Itjust happens the way that planets orbit their stars. It happens because the physics of human interactionon the web—Joys Law, Cognitive Surplus, and "every user a hero" and what happens when we type"http://...".Or we go to Flickr.[Slides: Left, SpaceShipOne search results on Flickr; Right, SS1landing.jpb, © Peter Vogel, on the Flickr website,http://www.flickr.com/photos/pvogel/110579166/in/set-72057594079211111 ]Flickr is the free photo sharing website used by amateur and professional photographers all over theworld. You type the name of the rocket ship, "SpaceShipOne", in the search engine, and you come upwith 2,592 photographs of SpaceShipOne uploaded by users. No curator said "we need to have morephotographs of SpaceShipOne this month." It just happens. Users—people—upload these photographs,they tag them with the name of the rocket ship, and there they are. 5
  9. 9. And they are often magnificent photographs. They show SpaceShipOne at many phases of itsconstruction and development, they show it flying, being tested, they show pictures of peoplesSpaceShipOne tattoos. Its amazing.Its predictably amazing. Because of the number of photographers, the volume of photographs, and theculture of sharing on Flickr—and the infrastructure that makes that sharing easy and fun—you getreliably amazing results every time you go to Flickr. Its the same kind of reliability, of predictability, thatwas once only available through institutions with impressive names and buildings with marble columns. Imean, what kind of an institution is Flickr? Why do we trust it? "Flickr" isnt even a real word, its noteven spelled right! We trust it and rely on it because it works, over-and-over, every time.This is more predictably amazing than what we can do with the broadcast method. Imagine trying tomake Flickr with the broadcast method. How many interns would you have to hire to get this kind ofscale and these kinds of outcomes?And SpaceShipOne is a rocket ship. What do rocket ships do?On YouTube, through a search for "SpaceShipOne", we learn that rocket ships fly![Slide: "Spaceshipone Flight" video on YouTube, http://youtu.be/FNXahIoXMw8]Who knew?! We can make and share videos of them!(When I was in high school, I knew exactly one person who possessed and regularly used a device thatrecorded moving pictures. Now, I bet that everyone in this room has, on their body, in their clothing, ahigh-resolution video recording device attached to a global information sharing network. Why would wenot expect videography to be a part of organizational storytelling about the meaning and context ofheritage objects?) 6
  10. 10. [Slide: composite of Smithsonian, Wikipedia, Flickr, and YouTube web pages for SpaceShipOne]So, which one of these places would you go to figure out the world? You can choose the broadcast page,and broadcast is still important. Were not going to crowdsource a nuclear power plant. We still needscholars and experts to go deep into the wilderness and come back with hard won wisdom, butbroadcast is not the only tool we have, and in many cases its not even the best tool.And in many cases these new tools reveal new kinds of work that we didnt even know could be done.Let me show you.TroveTrove. The National Library of Australia website, says at the top of their homepage "Find and get over302,682,563 Australian and online resources: books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archivesand more."[Slide: Trove website, http://trove.nla.gov.au/]Over 302,000,000 resources. Thats impressive. When I talked to the managers of Trove a year or twoago that number was around 100 million. Theyve tripled it, in a very short period of time.And then this caught my eye—50,785 newspaper text corrections were made today.Today! Could you get your staff to do 50,000 text corrections today? 7
  11. 11. [And note that today, the day Im finalizing this document, July 13, 2012, the Trove website reports thattheyve had 103,031 newspaper text corrections.]I think that Trove has over 90,000 active volunteers who transcribe newspaper articles. They just do itbecause they like to do it. As soon as the library digitizes a copy of a historic newspaper page it gets putinto a queue and it is transcribed, so it is searchable, by a volunteer. Do you know how many peoplemanage that project? One person does it, part time. You cant get this level of participatory effort withbroadcast. [to-do, double-check my notes for this number and provide citation.]ZooniverseAnother example: Zooniverse[Slide: Zooniverse home page, www.zooniverse.org/]Zooniverse is a framework for getting citizens to participate in scientific research. Its like acrowdsourcing engine. Zooniverse has over 650,000 volunteers. Can you get that with a broadcastmethodology? Absolutely not.OpenStreetMap[Slide: OpenStreetMap home page, http://www.openstreetmap.org/]The OpenStreetMap website says "OpenStreetMap is a free worldwide map, created by people likeyou." And its done without central coordination or control. If you know something about your 8
  12. 12. neighborhood, and youre motivated, you have the ability to edit and create. What kind of scale do youget with this? OpenStreetMaps users have contributed 12 million edits and 1.8 billion map nodes. Andthe resulting maps are free to use and to incorporate into your own projects.Ancestry.com900,000 participants—in the old days you might have called them your "audience"—have created morethan 26 million family trees containing over 2.6 billion profiles. They have uploaded and attached totheir trees over 65 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories.iiiFlickr ivFlickr is an amazing website. There are over 9 billion photographs on Flickr. And it keeps growing. I justchecked the Flickr website and it says that there were 3,492 images added to Flickr, by users, in the lastminute. In my research Ive noticed that its often easier to find pictures of Smithsonian artifacts onFlickr, taken by our visitors in our museums and uploaded to Flickr, at higher resolution and with bettermetadata, than what I can find on our own websites.Its about workAnd this isnt just about getting and sharing resources. Its really about work. About doing hard work. 9
  13. 13. I was trying to find out something about the Trundholm Sun Chariot, a very important Danish culturalartifact, and I found a very brief conversation about the Trundholm Sun Chariot on this online forum forGermanic Studies—the Skadi Forum. [http://forums.skadi.net/][Slide: the Skadi Forum, http://forums.skadi.net][Note: see Lego Beowulf and the Web of Hands and Hearts for more about open content in the contextof Danish cultural heritage, http://www.slideshare.net/edsonm/michael-edson-lego-beowulf-and-the-web-of-hands-and-hearts-for-the-danish-national-museum-awards ]The Skadi Forum has 40,000 active participants discussing 300 topics with over 700,000 posts. With thatlevel of participation, it is quite likely that any question I had about Germanic culture could be answeredvery quickly by someone with a high reputation and a high degree of accountability within thiscommunity.Scale. This is scale. I think that we, in the cultural sector, have very small ambitions for scale. Werehappy if we put up a beautiful museum exhibit that gets 10,000 people to come. What if we could get 10million people to come? What if we get 100 million people to come? Those kinds of numbers arepossible. And this kind of scale should redefine what we think should be coming out of the other end ofthat white box. What the outcomes could be if we started thinking differently about the toolset.Intellectual property policy is a platform 10
  14. 14. [Slide: Kolenboer / Coal merchant, from the Nationaal Archief, NL, on the Flickr Commonshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/nationaalarchief/3281460486/ ]This guy is carrying coal.When was the last time you saw someone carry coal?When was the last time you saw one of your curators carrying coal to heat their office?We decided, somehow, without ever really consciously making the decision, that we would not requirecurators to bring coal to the office every day to burn for heat. Did you see a memo about that? No. Wemade some assumptions in the 20th century about what we would provide our knowledge workers withso that they could be successful. We provide them with coal, electricity, heat, water, phones,computers, light—we take care of a lot of stuff so they dont have to worry about those things. This newstuff, this web stuff, this collaboration and crowdsourcing stuff is really just part of the platform of the21st century workplace. This is what knowledge workers need to be successful now. And we can makethis hard…we can make this transition from what we did 10 or 20 or 50 years ago to what were clearlygoing to be doing as institutions 20 years from now…we can make the transition slow and painful andbureaucratic, or we can get out of the way. Because if we dont, this work is going to happen anyway,without us. We might as well be that helpful sidekick, not the orc.[Slide: "No known copyright restrictions" statement from the Flickr Commons.]The thing that lubricates so much of this new kind of working is intellectual property policy. Theseimages in Flickr can become a platform, can become useful to people because these particular imagesare labeled with "no known copyright restrictions."Copyright can be a great thing. Copyright is very complicated, when its complicated—but when its not,its very very simple. Many of the items in heritage collections have, as my colleague Merete Sanderhofffrom the National Gallery of Denmark says, "been in the public domain for centuries."v They have beenavailable for citizens to reuse for any purpose whatsoever, without restrictions, for centuries. We needto let go of these resources a little bit. The free flow of resources is the oil that lubricates the machineryof progress. 11
  15. 15. James Boyle, author of The Public Domain, Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, writes"The public domain is not some gummy residue left behind when all the good stuff has been covered byproperty law. The public domain is the place where we quarry the building blocks of our culture."viIts foundational.Note, also, that this type of intellectual property represents an enormous economic force: TheComputer & Communications Industry Association estimates that public domain, fair use, and otherforms of non-copyright content contributed $4.7 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2007, and industries thatbenefit from this type of intellectual property employ 1 in six workers in the U.S. vii[Slide: James Boyle, "The public domain…"]The neat thing about this is that you, the people in this room—you get to decide. You get to decide howthis works out. You get to decide how this new platform gets built and what it becomes. You can do itfairly quickly and it wont cost a lot of money…but no one else is going to figure this out for you. No oneelse can do it—can make the decisions that set the wheels in motion.I think when we look back 100 years from now, the decisions we make around changing from thebroadcast model to other models, the decisions we make around intellectual property,collaboration…who we think of as the active participants and who we think of as the beneficiaries of thework "we" do…these are the decisions that are going to be remembered. These are the decisions thatwill allow us to build the next thing.Thank you.********** 12
  16. 16. Questions and Answers[Photo by Lars Lundqvist, 2012-07-04, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arkland_swe/7507931952/ ]Gunilla Kindstrand (moderator): Michael, a short question: how would you like to describe the role ofthe curators in this new media landscape? Here we have a lot of curators.ME: Thats a great question.We did some testing with the public about what this new platform might look like at the Smithsonian.We did this testing through a public-facing wiki with full transparency, very quickly, and we receivedover 1,200 comments from the public. Over 70,000 words of commentary.We heard very clearly from the public that they wanted our expertise. They wanted to know thatsomething belonged to the Smithsonian—that was an important part of the narrative, and they wantedour help in deciding…in helping them find and see patterns and important ideas…but they didnt justwant that. They also wanted the stuff. They wanted the stuff because they had, in their minds,something important to do. Some work to do. What we give them isnt an end product, it is a start—rawmaterials. Theres so much being written about how curation is more important now with the richnessof information we have available to us, but its not the only thing we, as institutions, have to offer.Curators need this too. They need this new platform to do their own work. We did a survey a few yearsago of Smithsonian employees who share and use digital images as part of their daily work. 600employees responded to this survey, and they reported that it can be more difficult to share resourceswithin our own organization than it is to get resources from other institutions. Curators need a free flowof information, need this collaboration, to get their jobs done. 13
  17. 17. i Joys Law is frequently referenced in business and strategy contexts without academic source attribution. Asuitable primary reference seems to be Lakhani KR, Panetta JA, "The Principles of Distributed Innovation," 2007,http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1021034.ii From Twitter user KathySierra, November 5, 2009iii Sourced from research on the Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy Wiki: "Sites that Tick, Websites thatGet 1 Million Hours of Community Effort", http://smithsonian-webstrategy.wikispaces.com/websites+that+get+1+million+hours+of+effort, accessed 2012-07-13, and"Ancestry.com Reaches Two Million Subscriber Mark", Ancestry.com, http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2012/07/ancestry.com-reaches-two-million-subscriber-mark-/?o_iid=51477&o_lid=51477&o_sch=Web+Property , accessed 2012-07-13v Quotation is from Merete Sanderhoffs presentation to Smithsonian Institution digital managers, May 11, 2012.See slides at http://www.slideshare.net/MereteSanderhoff/the-hows-and-whys-of-sharing-at-smk-11052012vi Boyle, James, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, New Haven and London, Yale UniversityPress, 2008, p. 40.vii See "Fair Use in the U.S. Economy. Computer and Communications Industry Association (pdf), April 27, 2010. 14

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