I started this post around 6 months ago, and never got round to finishing it, probably distracted by the end of the rugby season. I’ve been looking around for Museum sector blogs for a while, just to see if there’s much to be learnt from, what standards are being employed etc. I see that Tom Goskar has been doing much the same over at Past Thinking>>. The Museums Computing Group mailing list recently carried a message from Mike Ellis at the Science Museum, London regarding their development blog; it is interesting for me to find out that another national museum is about to revamp their web presence as well.
Looking at their Dana Centre web pages, they’re attempting to meet web standards, have made use of RSS auto discovery, look as though they have tried to use semantic markup – only 9 validation errors. There’s a few accessibility problems, such as red/orange (depends on your monitor) text on the same colour background, no link titles etc. Easy to resolve though.
However, at least they are trying to implement social software – discussion and blogs, good stuff. If institutions are going to create new websites, they have to buy Content Management Systems that allow you to create web standards based sites, valid and accessible. It’s not hard and there’s loads written on the web about how to achieve the outcomes. Saying that, time I checked my code again….
There’s some good stuff out there about creating and improving museum blogs, for example Leslie Madsen-Brooks gives you ten rules – I break a few, too apathethic and no one really wants to read my rambles for cardinal rule 2!
Perhaps the most comprehensive survey of Museum blogging that I’ve seen can be found over at Museum Blogs, which has some use of AJAX functionality in it’s design – for example the add blog and about page transition effects. There seems to be under representation of UK based institutions, will this change over time? I guess so as the social interaction begins to be accepted and seen as beneficial to Museum’s core objectives such as diversity and engagement. This topic is also seen as a session at the Museums and the Web Conference in SanFran in 2007:
Museum 2.0 Services
- Podcasting, Blogging, RSS, Social Tagging,
- Folksonomy, Wikis, Cell Phone Tours …
- Museum Mashups
Ideally Museum’s should make their collections data available via an API to allow creativity to flourish on the web. You’ll see more traffic driven to your website, and possibly (or should that be definitely) new avenues for research and interaction with collections. Time will tell…. as Bob Marley sang.
I’m currently playing with AJAX hacks from O’Reilly to see what I can use, not sure about accessibility or web standards implications though.
I’ve also got to get round to upgrading the wordpress edition that this runs on, someone give me an assistant please! Strike that, I’ve just done it. Still wouldn’t mind an assistant(s)….
The other development that I’m about to incorporate into our design is Microformats. Microformats can be described as:
Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simpler problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. XHTML, blogging).
So does that make it clear, thought not. Well to elaborate take a look at their wiki and you’ll possibly get a clearer understanding. The casual web user won’t notice any difference I’m sure once implemented. However, Firefox users can take advantage of a plugin called TAILS. You’ll be able to get contact information and download vcards for use with your email client direct from the page, is that useful, you tell me.
There’s also been a few developments over at TheyWorkForYou, where a recent API has been launched that allows you to query ministerial debates and information. Not quite sure how I can use it just yet, but I have some ideas that may need a license to be acquired from Parliament first.