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Social Interpretation Presentation at UKMW11

We presented some of the work of the Social Interpretation Project at UK Museums on the Web Conference on the 25th November 2011.

Agile as a starting point: We have taken an agile approach quite naturally, as it fits the New Media team at IWM and UCL’s focus on user centred design, works well with agile principles. Tom then went on to explain, the project.  Social interpretation happens anyway in person, it’s not new, you share stuff with other people all the time, we are  just using new digital platforms to facilitate it.

Project Aims: To increase Engagement with IWM content and Spread of collections and we are going to utilise social media methods to develop three applications, in gallery, mobile and online which hopefully facilitate social interpretation. Tom pointing out that as soon as the idea that visitors will be allowed to voice their opinions in any kind of permanent space (in gallery or online) museums have a tendency to get anxious, Tom framed this conversation quite nicely, with swear words and Nazis.

So, yes we are giving visitors carte blanch to swear (there will be an obligatory filter however) and for them to express their Nazi sympathising tendencies. But giving visitors a voice, the ability to do ‘naughty’ things, doesn’t mean that they will! AND if they do it is not a disaster, because we can post moderate if necessary, and we are also working on the concept of social moderation, where the visitor community will itself self moderate any depravities.

The presentation was then broken down into how using agile project management principles have helped us get it right from the start from application to outlook:

Agile in application: collaboratively writing the application form for the project using google docs.

Agile in Management: Each key deliverable will be broken into separate work-streams, partitioned amongst the project team there is clear delineated responsibility ensuring that hiccups in sub teams don’t affect overall delivery, then there’s the project board and a wider reaching advisory board, who will inform formative concept generation and ongoing development.  Traditionally on R&D projects, they have been internalised.  Only discussed with the sector once the project is delivered. And only if they have been successful. We are doing things differently: with external researchers and dissemination via the NESTA R&D blog, the IWM Social Interp blog and talking with the wider sector.  This isn’t an internal project, it is for the whole sector to comment and contribute to and hopefully to learn some interesting things from. Whether they be good or bad.

Agile in Design: One of the main principles of Agile is to delivery frequently, from prototypes to working software, in iterative runs and the shorter the timescale the better.  We have a fail faster attitude. So we can learn from our mistakes.  Talking face to face is also really important, it’s the most efficient way of team working, and a great way to keep everyone dynamic and engaged, especially when you have scattered project partners involved. There is commitment of the team is to produce at each phase, moving project forward in baby steps each time a cycle is completed and as the design progresses, all design iterations, even post it note sessions, will be tested quickly with users. A major aspect of the project is User Centred Design. Embedding users at every point of the development process, Evaluation Isn’t a Party at the End, it should be a continuous process right from beginning.  Focusing on users will (hopefully) enable us to deliver appropriate solutions, owned by the users

Agile in Outlook: Management of any project is difficult, particularly when faced with an ambitious project on a tight schedule with multiple project partners.  We believe working collaboratively and using agile principles, will help us to work together, quickly and efficiently and most of all create a system which works well for its users.

And we are going to do all of this by:

Welcoming change

  • Welcome changing requirements even late in development
  • Respond to change quickly
  • Plan with what you know, and if what you know changes. Go with it.

Reflecting regularly

  • Always look at the bigger picture
  • Thing about what has gone previously
  • Re-focus on the user
  • Reflect on how to become more effective
  • Adapt to change and adjust the process accordingly

By Keeping calm and carrying on

  • Being agile means sustaining your output
  •  steady, not stalling

And finally by eating more Cake


You can see some other blog posts about UKMW11 here, here, here and here.

We really do want to know what you think (of the project not our cuteness) so if you have any comments about the project do let us know.

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  1. Museums Computer Group » UKMW Blog Posts says: December 9, 201110:05 am

    […] Claire Ross, UCL on IMW’s blog Social Interpretation Presentation at UKMW11 […]

  2. Tom says: December 12, 201111:22 pm

    A quick point of clarification – there will be a swearing filter. So we’ll make it difficult to post obscenities. However, when I was working on the 10 Downing Street Kids’ Site, I reminded the web-team there that it was “us vs. the world’s teenagers”. The same applies here. Some people will always find ways round obscenity filters, the little 5h1t3s. Fortunately, doing so often makes ones posts almost incomprehensible. This will, hopefully, decrease the risk for highly offensive words in a museum’s space.

    We really believe that social moderation – giving other users the power to remove offensive content – is the only large-scale way of managing very high volumes of UCG … unless you’re the BBC and can afford a large number of mods!

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