Cultural Heritage

A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived)

Cultural Heritage Blog Directory

Posted by Brian Kelly on March 5th, 2009

I’ve just added a new resource, a Blog Directory to the UKOLN Cultural Heritage Web pages. As I discovered when I started looking for blogs to create this, there are increasing numbers of blogs out there in the cultural heritage sector. Not only are there lots of blogs, but they are very varied in both scope and viewpoint. Some are corporate, while others are personal. The focus might be on news or topics or it might be more reflective. Some blogs contain only text, while others include images and video clips.

For this Blog Directory the decision was to list blogs which in varying ways deal with using Web 2.0 within the cultural heritage sector. The process of deciding what to include left me with other blogs that didn’t fit those parameters but which demonstrated the reasons why organisations might choose to set up blogs and which I felt it was useful to list in some way.

Rather than simply extending the Blog Directory, I decided to try out a service called Dipity. This is an aggregator service for blog RSS feeds; a widget enables you to embed clusters of RSS feeds into your web page. There are other aggregators available, so why choose Dipity? Well, typically aggregators display lists of posts, but Dipity displays the entries in a graphical timeline format, and as the posts are displayed chronologically, the ‘list’ order mixes up posts from the various blogs.

I’ve selected groups of blogs that demonstrate the use of blogs for specific purposes – news, reading groups support, etc. Equally, if your organisation has a number of blogs, then you could provide a Dipity timeline view of all your blogs from somewhere on your Web site.

This whole process has thrown up some issues.

To start with, Dipity is an external service. There are no service level agreements, so we can’t guarantee that the display always appears – the service might go down for a period, or even disappear entirely at some point in the future. On the plus side, my colleague Brian Kelly, who also uses Dipity, noticed a problem, reported it to Dipity and it was quickly fixed – see his post about this.

The Dipity display also poses accessibility problems due to its graphical nature, so we’ve included a list of the blogs below the display, together with URLs.

A further issue is that the content shown in the displays is drawn from external content sources – i.e. the blogs themselves – over which we have no control. And, as with Dipity itself, we cannot guarantee that the blogs will continue in the long-term.

So why go ahead? Well, the Dipity displays provide useful information now so the decision was to go ahead with using Dipity, and find easy ways to addressing the problems we identified. So the supplementary list of blogs provides an alternative route for anyone who finds the display inaccessible, and adding a bit of text that mentions potential problems, and identifies potential reasons for them, means viewers have some idea of what’s gone wrong if the display is not functioning.

So I’ve learnt that the trick here is to evaluate the potential problems of using an external service and what impact each will have, and explore the possible fixes and work-arounds; if you decide to go ahead, then provide some useful information for the viewer.