Cultural Heritage

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

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Elsewhere on UKOLN blogs: November 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1st December 2009

This month’s regular summary of posts on other UKOLN blogs which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community is given below.

Earlier Today I Gave A Talk In Australia
How recording talks can allow them to be reused – which can also help to avoid making trips around the world.
Published 24 November 2009
Time To Experiment With Dbpedia?
Dbpedia is a ‘Linked Data’ version of Wikipedia – which may provide a testbed for experimentation
Published 19 November 2009
Topsy – and Who is Tweeting About You
A description of the Topsy service which can provide information on Twitter posts to your Web services.
Published 13 November 2009
“Web 2.0 Will Change Everything!” But How?
A post looking at the ways in which Web 2.0 might change things.
Published 9 November 2009.
Policies on Drugs, Open Standards and Web Accessibility
A look at a draft EU document on Web accessibility.
Published 2 November 2009.

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Newcastle Libraries New Blog

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19th November 2009

UKOLN is currently running a one-day Introduction to Web 2.0 and the Social Web Workshop in various locations around the country. I attended the one in Devizes recently where the issue of public libraries Web site design came up and the constraints that can be imposed by IT services and council policy. Discussion focused on what the actual barriers were and how they could be overcome.

One solution is to create a presence outside the council Web space that allows more creativity in presentation and content and is out where the potential audience is. That means looking at using blogs, microblogging services like Twitter, social networking sites and picture and video sharing services such as Flickr and YouTube.

So it was good the other day to see the launch message for a new blog for Newcastle Libraries which will host podcasts, news, events information and staff blogs. There’s a local studies picture gallery on Flickr and some videos on YouTube about memories of life in Newcastle collected as part of a recent project. Definitely worth a look for inspiration if you’re considering doing this sort of thing.

You can also follow @ToonLibraries on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook at

If you want more information on how they did this, then contact Jennifer Clark, the eLibraries Support Officer at Newcastle Libraries at:

Tags: ,
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Elsewhere on UKOLN blogs: September 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30th September 2009

This month’s regular summary of posts on other UKOLN blogs which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community is given below.

Tweetboard: Adding Twitter To Web Pages
Thinking about using Twitter to support an amplified event? The Tweetboard service may provide an interface suitable for new Twitter users.
Published 24 September 2009
Reflections on Web Adaptability and Techshare 2009
A summary of a talk on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” given at the RNIB’s Techshare 2009 conference.
Published 23 September 2009
What! No Event Hashtag?
A post on why it is important that ‘amplified events’ provide a timely hashtag.
Published 20 September 2009
Next Generation Wifi Here We Go!
A post looking at the approval of 802.11n WiFi technology.
Published 15 September 2009.
I Want it Now: The Real Time Web
A post on what the real time Web is and what it’s significance will be for those of us working in the information sector.
Published 8 September 2009.

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Elsewhere on UKOLN blogs: August 2009

Posted by Marieke Guy on 2nd September 2009

This month’s regular summary of posts on other UKOLN blogs which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community is given below.

Sharing Screens with Screenjelly
Have you ever wanted to quickly share your screen with others. Screenjelly offers you a free way to do it. This post also considers other screencast software currently available.
Published 28 August 2009
Netskills Web2practice
Netskills are now offering a series of Guides to emergent technologies and innovative practice entitled Web2practice.
Published 26 August 2009
The Live Video Streaming Of IWMW 2009
A review of the live video streaming at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event.
Published 17 August 2009
Paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” Published in Program
A summary of a paper on Library 2.0 published in the Program journal.
Published 11 August 2009
Splendid Streaming at IWMW
A look at the approach taken to streaming the plenary talks at the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) held at Essex University.
Published 10 August 2009
Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging
This post summarises how twitter was used at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event.
Published 4 August 2009

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Top 50 (insert topic of choice here)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21st August 2009

Whenever there’s some slack in the schedules, TV broadcasters seem to have a habit of filling it up with the ‘top 100 xxx xxx’. For xxx xxx, insert war films, comedy films, action heroes, leading ladies, romantic moments, etc. it always seems to me to be a cheap filler programme. Do a quick survey, get hold of some film clips, have a few ‘celebrities’ do some soundbites, and you can fill an hour or two.

Well back in April 2009, there was a blog post on Top 50 Librarian Blogs.

The colleague who alerted me to this noted that all of the blogs listed were published by librarians in the US and wondered whether we should be doing our own list of top UK librarian blogs. Further, she wondered, if we did, who would we be putting at the top and why?

For example, how would we be rating them? I guess they’d need to be posting regularly – large time gaps between posts would not encourage people to revisit or add the blog to their blog reader. They’d need to be posting about relevant issues – more than a semi-official institutional news blog. And then, since there the blogosphere is undergoing a population explosion, I think people would be looking for that extra special factor – the specialist (working on an unusual archive), the experimenter (a public librarian supporting the housebound), the newshound/reviewer (finding the latest thing out there in Web 2.0 and giving it a go).

Should we be doing this for the Cultural Heritage Web site? Well, in a sense we’ve already been doing that ever since we set up the site. For example, there’s the Best Of section – which includes ‘best of blogs‘. Here we’ve listed exemplars of blogs – each with a different focus.

Then we also have a Blogs Directory, which lists a variety of blogs from the cultural heritage sector. We haven’t attempted to list every blog around but just those which focus primarily on aspects of digital technology. So, useful though they are to their institutions, we’re not listing straightforward news blogs in the directory itself.

And as well as main list of the directory, there is also an examples section. Here we have grouped together sets of blogs set up for specific purposes. For instance, a library might want to support its reading group(s) with a blog – so we’ve identified existing blogs set up for this. We’ve got another cluster where the blogs are for artists in residence at a museum or gallery – giving them a blog is a great way of publicising this in between actual events involving the artist and making contact with the public. And we have put together two clusters of news blogs, so if you’re thinking of doing this, take a look at these.

So, do we need a top 50 UK librarian blog list? (Or indeed, a top 50 Museum workers blog list or top 50 archivists blog list.) And who would you nominate to be on it?

Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment »

Using Blogs, Microblogs and Social Networks Effectively Within Your Library

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20th August 2009

Marieke Guy and myself are running a half-day workshop on “Using Blogs, Microblogs and Social Networks Effectively Within Your Library” which will be held on Wednesday 14 October 2009 at the Novotel London West hotel in London, on the day before the start of the Internet Librarian International 2009 conference.

The abstract for the session is given below:

Workshop W5 – Using Blogs, Microblogs and Social Networks Effectively Within Your Library
14.00 – 17.00
Brian Kelly, UKOLN, University of Bath
Marieke Guy, UKOLN , University of Bath

This workshop will offer practical experiences on issues of using social media in your library. Starting a blog, deciding to microblog and contributing to social networks are relatively simple: Setting policies and procedures, choosing tools and measuring the impact are not. Learn how to measure the success of your social networking efforts, focusing on user feedback, return on investment and impact assessment. Is organisational rather than individual use a sensible approach? The session will provide advice on best practices on the use of social networking services in an organisational context.

If this is of interest to readers of this blog you’ll need to register on the ILI 2009 conference Web site.

Posted in Blogs, Events | Comments Off

Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: July 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31st July 2009

This month’s regular summary of posts on other UKOLN blogs which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community is given below.

IWMW 2009 blog
The IWMW 2009 blog has been set up to support UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop event.
Several posts in July 2009
Travelling Kit for a Remote Worker
John Kirriemuir, digital nomad, writes about his remote working kit: from hardware to software, apps and web sites.
Published 20 July 2009
“From Web Accessibility To Web Adaptability”: A Summary
A summary of a paper published in the Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology journal which describes a new approach to Web accessibility.
Published 20 July 2009
“From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” Paper Published
Announcement of a peer-reviewed paper which has been released, and a summary of how the paper came to be written.
Published 17 July 2009
The Network Effect Is Missing From The Standards Debate
A summery of the importance of the ‘network effect’ in the development of communications and collaboration services.
Published 15 July 2009
Come Together
UKOLN staff get together for a lunch at the American Museum.
Published 16 July 2009
Do We Want A Standards-based Voice/Video Service?
The failure of a voice and video service for the UK higher and further education community raises interesting questions regarding the role of open standards in the development of services which users will make use of.
Published 8 July 2009
Thoughts About Dopplr and the Environment
Should the development community making use of – and publish – details of energy consumption for travel related to development activities?
Published 7 July 2009
Enthusiastic Amateurs and Overcoming Institutional Inertia
The potential of lightweight software development tools has generated much interest in various sectors. But how can amateur developers make use of such tools?
Published 6 July 2009
The Psychology of a Remote Worker
What sort of a person does it take to work effectively from home?
Published 6 July 2009
Establishing Our Online Identity
Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University talks about why our online identity is now even more important than our offline one.
Published 3 July 2009
Facebook Usage by US Colleges and Universities
What can be learnt from UK educational institutions in the way in which they appear to have embraced use of Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools?
Published 1 July 2009

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Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: June 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30th June 2009

This month’s summary of posts on other UKOLN blogs which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community is given below.

Local Authorities Working Smarter
A trip report on a one-day conference on Improving Services and Reducing Costs Through Flexible Working. What can the cultural heritage sector learn about roll out of remote working from Local Authorities?
Published 24 June 2009
Openness and IWMW 2009
Although the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2009 event is focussed primarily on the higher education sector as this event will be ‘amplified’ with video-streaming of the plenary talks complemented by live-blogging, the event may be of interest to a wider community, including those in the cultural heritage sector.
Published 23 June 2009
I’m A Top Influencer For The Open University! (Or Am I?)
How does one measure ‘impact’ in the Social Web? Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus blog was listed as a top ‘influencer’ on the Open University in the area of ‘distance learning’. But how accurate is the underlying methodology?
Published 22 June 2009
Reviving Video Conferencing
A recent rour of the University of Bath’s video conferencing suite leads the author to ask why these high spec resources are under used.
Published 21 June 2009
Respect Copyright (and Subvert It!)
The Digital Heritage Report focussed on the need to protect the intellectual property rights of the commercial sector such as the music and film industries. This blog post argues that for public sector organisations, such as higher education, benefits can be gained from opening up access to one;’s content. The post argues that Creative Commons licences provides a way of doing this.
Published 18 June 2009
Digital Identity Dilemmas
This blog post takes a look at recent Facebook vanity URL registration and how it raises questions about our own digital identity.
Published 15 June 2009
Have You Claimed Your Personal And Institutional Facebook Vanity URL?
This blog post suggests that claiming a short name for an institutional presence of Facebook (and for your personal Facebook account, if you have one) will make it easier to market and cite your Facebook URL.
Published 13 June 2009
Amplified Conferences: Are We There Yet?
A look at recent amplified conferences including CILIP events and discussion of what’s still missing from a consumer point of view
Published 11 June 2009
The JISC SIS Landscape Study
Although aimed at the JISC community, the JISC Shared Infrastructure Services (SIS) Landscape study, which aims to explore the reasons for the popularity of many Web 2.0 services, is likely to be of general interest.
Published 10 June 2009
“Wanna chat with me on cam?”
Advice on the need to restrict access to social networking services once they are no longer required.
Published 3 June 2009
Google Wave, HTML 5 and Browser Policies
In light of the recent announcement about Google Wave, isn’t there a need for organisations to upgrade their browsers to versions which support both Web standards and innovative developments.
Published 1 June 2009

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Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: May 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30th May 2009

As described last month, UKOLN publishes a number of blogs which help us to engage with our communities and provide a dissemination channel. A monthly update of posts which may be of interest to the cultural heritage community will be published on this blog.

CILIP: More Popular Than Swine Flu!
A summary of the CILIP Open Session which provided an opportunity for members of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and other interested parties to discuss the role of Web 2.0 to support the professional activities of librarians. A feature of the session was the use of Twitter to allow remote participants to engage in the discussions.
Published 30 April 2009
Permission to capture Twitter
A blog post on the JISC PoWR blog provides some evidence that digital archivists may have permission to archive Twitter posts.
Published 1 May 2009
Swine Flu: Panic in the Streets of London
A look at the effect pandemics, dangerous weather situations and other catastrophes have on the demand for remote working.
Published 5 May 2009
“Seething With Anger” at the Demise of Geocities
The forthcoming demise of Geocities has angered some who are concerned at the loss of the history of early consumer-focussed provision of digital resourced.
Published 5 May 2009
Lessons Learnt from the Amplification of the CILIP2 Event
Although the CILIP 2 Open Session was felt by many to be a great success, behind the scenes there were a number of ways in which the event’s amplification to a remote audience could have been improved. This blog posts shares these experiences.
Published 6 May 2009
Digital Preservation and Nuclear Disaster: An Animation
An animated cartoon, published by DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE), illustrates the importance of digital preservation.
Published 12 May 2009
Remoter Remote Working
A guest blog post about long-distance remote working written by Amanda Hill, an archival consultant based in Ontario, Canada who works on a number of UK projects.
Published 13 May 2009
Remembering the Value of Face to Face
Consideration on the continued value of face-to-face working in the Web 2.0 world many of us now work in.
Published 18 May 2009
Why Video
A look at the key reasons why information workers may want to use video as part of their working practice including the need to reach a wider audience, the ability to give users a visual clue and the the increased desire for video conferencing and amplified conferences. This post also offers some suggestions for ways you can use video more.
Published 21 May 2009
Reflections on Use of Twitter at the #CILIP-CYMRU09 Conference
A summary of how Twitter was used at the recent CILIP Cymru conference.
Published 26 May 2009
The Social Web and the Belbin Model
A blog post which speculates whether ‘plants’ and ‘resource investigators’ tend to make greater use of social networking services such as blogs and Twitter.
Published 27 May 2009

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Aren’t You Talking to a Blog Spammer

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5th May 2009

A recent comment submitted to this blog for the Twitter For Museums post asked:

Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?

The comment was trapped by the Akismet spam filter and required approval by a blog administrator. I would normally automatically delete such comments based on my judgment that any comments which could be made of any blog post is likely to be an automated posting. For example there was another comment which said “My friend on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came here” – and this included a link in the author’d detail to a cigarette-selling Web site.

The sentence in the first example: “Interesting blog post” also provided an indication that this was a spam comment, aimed at getting readers to follow the link to the author’s Web site and hoping to enhance the findability of the Web site in Google and other search engines by creating lots of links to the site.

The Web site in question was a blog provided by a marketing consultant. But as original blog post was concerned with use of twitter for museums it could be argued that a question on “What would you say was the most important marketing factor?” could be a legitimate one to ask.

So I used Google to search for “Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?” – and found the identical phrase being used in a number of blog comments. I also discovered the Backtype service which can report on comments made by individuals are found a whole series of one line comments which have been submitted to a range of blogs. In contrast if use the same service to look for comments I have made on blogs you’ll find a diverse range of more thorough comments which are unlikely to have been generated automatically.

I have now deleted these two comments and flagged them as spam.  And in case of anyone raising issues of censorship, I can point them to the blog’s policy which states that “Comments which are felt to be spam or are inappropriate will be deleted“.

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Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: April 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30th April 2009

Staff at UKOLN provide a number of blogs to support their activities which are listed on the UKOLN home page.  Although some blog posts will be aimed primarily at the higher and further education sector, other posts will also be of interest to the cultural heritage sector.

We will aim to publish a monthly summary contains links to posts which we feel will be of interest to the cultural heritage sector.  This month’s links are:

Sharing the Rehearsal of my Talk at the CILIP 2 Council Meeting
A post on the UK Web Focus blog which provides access to the draft version of slides and accompanying audio for a talk given at a CILIP Council meeting on how CILIP should be responding to the opportunities and challenges provided by Web 2.0.
Published on 24 April 2009.
The European Council Plans an Accessible Information Society
A post on the UK Web Focus blog which points out some concerns related to the implementation details for a policy announcement on European Council plans for an Accessible Information Society.
Published on 17 April 2009.
Further Developments of a Risks and Opportunities Framework
A post on the UK Web Focus blog which describes developments to a risks and opportunities framework for Web 2.0 which was presented at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference.
Published on 16 April 2009.
Ask A Librarian? No Thanks, I’ll Ask The World!
A post on the UK Web Focus blog which describes how some parallels between the Ask-A-Librarian service and Twitter.
Published on 7 April 2009.
Good Practice for APIs
A post on the Good APIs blog which offers links to reports carried out for JISC on what makes a good API? and offers a number of good practice techniques for providing and consuming APIs.
Published on April 15 2009.
12 Ways Remote Workers can Prove they are Working
A post on the Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog on ways that you can raise your profile if working remotely from your office.
Published on April 16 2009.
Growing a Green Policy
A post on the Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog which considers how home workers can make efforts to be greener.
Published on April 4 2009.

If you find the blogs of interest you way wish to add the feeds to your RSS reader.

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Cultural Heritage Blog Directory

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5th March 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.

Posted in Blogs, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Museum Blogs

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29th January 2009

Sebastian Chan, Powerhouse Museum, Australia, and Jim Spadaccini, Ideum, USA presented a paper entitled “Radical Trust: The State of the Museum Blogosphere” at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference. In the paper they provided an overview of use of blogs in the museum sector. They stated that “As 2006 began, there were less than thirty known museum blogs” and then went on to add that in 2007 “there are well over 100 blogs exploring museum issues, from a range of institutions and individuals across the globe“.

I recently noticed that a blog post entitled Museum Blogs and Museum Podcasts Directory Sites published in December 2008 on the Ideum blog announced that “The Museum Blogs directory site has been revised and relaunched“. And looking at the directory I find that there are now 286 museum blogs listed.

There’s clearly been a significant growth over the past couple of years. And yet I also suspect that there are many museums around the UK which don’t have a blog, perhaps because they don’t feel that blogs can provide many benefits, are concerned at the resource implications, don’t feel they have the technical experience to set a blog or writing expertise to write blog posts.  Or perhaps there are museums which would like to set up a blog, but are prevented from doing so by the powers-that-be – the local authority, perhaps, the board of trustees or maybe in-house barriers such as resistant from managers.

UKOLN has sought to address such issues. We have run a blogging workshop on a number of occasions (both as a half-day workshop and, more recently a full-day workshop which provided an “Introduction To Blogs And Social Networks For Heritage Organisations“). I should add that a number of reports on the Using Blogs Effectively Within Your Organisation workshop that myself and Mike Ellis facilitated at the Museums and the Web 2008 conference were published which contain useful feedback on the session and the discussions which took place. In particular I should mention the reports published on the LibraryTechNZ and The Butterfly Net blogs together with brief notes on the session published on the Museums and the Web 2008 conference blog itself.

We have also published a series of IntroByte briefing documents on a variety of aspects related to blogs and blogging, including An Introduction to Blogs, Use of Blogs in Museums, Developing Blog PoliciesPlanning Processes for Your Blog, Quality Processes for Your Blog, Launching Your Blog, Building A Blogging Community, Evaluating Your Blog, Technical Issues For Your Blogging Service, and, last but not least Addressing Barriers to Blogging.

Now I don’t believe in forcing people (or institutions) to blog if they don’t feel that blogs can tangible benefits. But I do feel that, in light of the growing numbers of museums which are using blogs, institutions should explore the potential benefits.  I hope the documents listed will provide an insight into the various issues which need to be explored. And if any organisation (a regional body, perhaps, or a national event) would be interested in hosting a blogging workshop, please let me know.

Alternatively if you have any thoughts on the role of blogs in the museum sector, feel free to add a comment to this post. Perhaps you’ve a success story you’d like to share, or hit unexpected problems. Or maybe you’d like to challenge the view that blogs do have a role to play.

Different Types of Museum Blogs (thanks to Nina Simon)

And maybe you could suggest blogs and blog posts which provide further insights into use of blogs by museums.

One blog blog I found to be of particular relevance to museums thinking of engaging with blogs is the Museum 2.0 blog and, in particular, the post on What Kind of Blog is Right for Your Museum?

This post includes a graphic which provides a great visual summary on some of the issues which you may have to address. I’ve included the image in this post – and would like to give acknowledgments to Nina Simone for making this available.

Posted in Blogs, Museums | Comments Off

The Black Art of Blogging

Posted by guestblogger on 12th January 2009

We intend to feature a series of guest blog posts on UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog, which will provide an insight into the issues and challenges in providing innovative networked services from practitioners in the cultural heritage sector.

The first guest blog post comes from Catriona Cardie, Marketing Director, Our Dynamic Earth, who attended a workshop on blogging organised by UKOLN. In her post Catriona describes her interests in blogging and how the workshop helped her in recognising the advantages – and possible disadvantages – which blogs may have for museums.

Blogging. It’s A Black Art Isn’t It?

Around two years ago I was sent a business questionnaire on the role of ‘blogging’ as a corporate communications tool. I’ve been the marketing director with Dynamic Earth for over 5 years and am ultimately responsible for the delivery of visitors to Our Dynamic Earth. Our Dynamic Earth is the only centre in the UK to tell the life story of Planet Earth. While we do this in a consumer friendly, leisure based visitor centre we also provide a dedicated and specialist education service to over 50,000 schoolchildren from across the UK every year. We’re a not for profit organisation with lifelong learning in Earth Sciences at the heart of our business activity.

Despite being in the communications profession, I had no idea what blogging was, nor indeed what it could possibly offer me as a corporate communications tool. I confess that this whole new generation of networking frightened me a little but I duly put this on my ‘things to explore’ list, before dabbling round the edges of social networking. I chatted about blogging with colleagues and friends only to discover that what we all had in common was that none of us had ‘done’ it and that none of us could agree what it actually was.

When earlier this year I was approached by the Association of Scottish Visitors Attractions (ASVA) to provide a venue for a ‘blogging’ workshop’ I knew that not only would I be delighted to host but I would very much want to be there. And so began my blogging journey.

The workshop was hosted by Brian Kelly here at Our Dynamic Earth in November and was attended by around 35 representatives from ASVA membership, a diverse range of visitor attractions around Scotland. Only one of the attendees was an active blogger but we were all keen to establish how blogging could help us in our businesses.

Blogging Beginners

Confusion abounded as to the differences between social networking, blogging, online forums and chat rooms. To have Brian give a clear indication as to how these differ was in itself hugely illuminating, and actually something of a relief. Almost all of the attendees had some experiences of social networking and forums but most had negative experiences and could cite examples of how these had actually interfered or damaged their business.

Some attendees had experiences where staff or team members had inadvertently worked against the organisation via their social network sites. Examples included posting confidential information about the company, less than positive photographs of staff, comments about their employer or publicly available chat streams between employees.

These negative experiences were certainly serving to create a degree of suspicion about the potential of blogging.

Blogging Blues?

Brian did a great job in giving us a real time overview of blogging in action and within an hour of the workshop there was a palpable sense of revelation about the ease with which we could tap into blogs and blogging. Despite being clearer as to actualities of ‘doing it’ I was still left wondering if getting blogging to work for business as something of a black art.

As consumer businesses a number of key issues were common to the group.

These included:

  • Subject matter – what should I blog about?
  • Frequency – how frequently should I be blogging
  • Will anyone out there read it – and how will I know
  • How to promote your blog – how can I ensure I reach my ideal audience?
  • Should blogging be ‘controlled’ – where does blogging and more traditional customer relationship management meet and to what degree should we control our messages and content
  • Blogging and the ‘brand’ – what happens if blogging activity interferes with our brand position and undermines our key messages?
  • Will we open ourselves to random feedback? – what are the chances of attracting the wrong kind of feedback and opening ourselves up to very random and negative content?
  • Was there evidence that an investment in blogging would deliver a return? – We’re all commercial businesses and how can I justify blogging. After all it really needs to be of clear benefit to the business.

Blogging As A Business

What I learnt was that blogging is currently a marginal, and to some degree underground activity. But there is no doubt that this is a growing activity with a range of possibilities and opportunities. Personally I was astonished at the speed with which specialist could exchange information through a blogging network, and make this specialist knowledge widely available. This was clearly evidenced when Brian asked a question on his blog. Within seconds a really useful response, with further web references, had been returned.

I also learnt that within the next five years blogging will have made its way into the mainstream as a means of communications and networking. As a business we are very keen to be ‘dynamic’ and up to speed with the communication preferences of our customers.

Importantly I learnt that blogging is not about creating manufactured content intent on ‘selling’ to the audience. In my line of business this is a salutary point as my natural inclination is to clearly drive increased levels of business by promoting our products and services.

To this end my mind was racing with how we could tap into this particular communication tool while ensuring it was an activity that we would undertake with integrity and the appropriate levels of consideration but without the constraints of being overtly managed.

At this moment in time I have concluded that blogging would be an excellent communication tool in some areas of our business but inappropriate at this stage in others. I feel sure that the blogging can contribute as a corporate communications and marketing tool but that it is achieves these aims with greater subtlety and over a longer period of time.

While most of the workshop attendees were initially concerned with how blogging would impact on profitability I became less concerned with this as my understanding broadened. Instead, I can see a valuable role for blogging in delivering our educational remit. Indeed what a fantastic outlet for the specialist science knowledge we have on the team here at Dynamic Earth and what a way to share, augment and grow that knowledge. What a great communications medium for the teachers and learning professionals that we work with and what a great means of collecting feedback, hints, tips and signposts to new science, news ways of delivering and communicating our science.

And perhaps most importantly what a great way to deliver additional value to our education based customers and ultimately grow our reputation as a leading provider of Earth and Environmental science communication.

Will Our Dynamic Earth Be Blogging In 2009?

Certainly, Brian’s workshops helped me to discover that successful blogging isn’t as black an art as I had at first suspected. In fact I now consider it another outlet and feedback tool that can be successfully added to the range of our business communications tools. Where’s that questionnaire now?

Here at Dynamic Earth we left the workshop not only with a clear picture of how to start our blogging journey but very excited, almost evangelical, about blogging. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop which itself was educational and fun – everything we aspire to be here at Dynamic Earth. Brian has me absolutely converted and I am becoming a bit addicted to blogs though have so far held back from jumping in with a Dynamic Earth blog. But, look out for a fantastic new Earth and Environmental Science, a blog sometime in 2009!

Catriona Cardie, Marketing Director, Our Dynamic Earth, <>

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