The preamble: We put in a 250 word summary of what we thought we would talk about in a Getting it right from the start session and came up with this:
Social Interpretation and (SI) explores how social media models can be applied to museum collections and interpretation, offering new frameworks for engagement and social interpretation. By applying successful social media intellectual and technical models SI is developing a platform that provides accessible, extensible, and open technology to aggregate, share and augment cultural data and social interpretation. The SI Project, Led by IWM, KI and UCL, utilises Agile project management principles and a user centred approach to provide museum objects with profiles, social circles, crowdsourced comments, and community moderation tools: creating truly social, shared objects. This approach guarantees appropriate solutions by embedding users, stakeholders and the entire project team at every point of the development process, leading to advocacy and ownership.
This paper presents the progress of SI so far, highlights the collaborative project process and user centred development activities, its opportunities, challenges and provides an outlook on the next steps of the Project. This paper aims to stress the necessity in including users, stakeholders and the project team into a systems design process. Although this paper will concentrate on tools and the development of the SICE project, issues of user led design, agile project management and collaborative working are applicable to the development of cultural technology projects by any institution.
Sounds like we know what we’re talking about right?
This was presented at the Museum Computer Groups, UKMW11. Many thanks to the MCG committee for thinking it was interesting enough to be included! a brilliant day, my take aways are here.
We were told that the presentation had to be “Shit hot” (I don’t think I’ve sworn on the blog before or in fact in any digital space. This is a quote. Honest). Pressure was on. Right. So out came the IWM collections search for some pretty awesome slides. IWM has some truly beautiful photographs in its collection, as well as some brilliant figurines, honey jars, and pandas. If all else failed, there would be pretty pictures to look at. Now because the slides have a lot of pretty pictures, and not much text, in fact no text, just titles. I’ve attempted to capture everything we said in those very fast minutes we spoken for.
It started with explaining Agile, breaking it down into 4 core values and 12 principles. We have taken an agile approach quite naturally, because well look at us, we’re like puppies, we like doing things the exciting, scary way, whilst giggling childishly to ourselves. Tom then went on to explain, the project. Tom is a really engaging speaker, very eloquent too. I can’t express myself without huffing and puffing and urming. My dad points that out to me every time I do a podcast. I think it’s because my brain and my mouth don’t really work at the same speed. Tom, however, none of that. Straight down to business. Social interpretation happens anyway in person, it’s not new, you share stuff with other people all the time, whether it’s you mother, brother, partner or cat- we are just using new digital platforms to facilitate it.
The aim of the project is 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 freak out, 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.
We then broke down the presentation 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:
- 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.
- 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 (and my favourite) by eating more Cake
The aftermath: lots of Tweets, particularly about Tom swearing on stage and my advocacy for eating more cake. Apparently as a duo, we are cute, energetic, puppy like, and are bound to be pains in the backsides to project managers everywhere. Whether that means we are going to contribute to an excellent project, or are good at presenting our ideas, is unclear.
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.