Museum people

I spent Thursday evening at a smallish venue in the London Trocadero, discussing 'Web 2.0' with a bunch of museum people. The title of the event - 'Wine, Web 2.0 and What's New' - was fairly vague, and so the discussion wandered across a few different topics, including the use of social sites like Flickr and Facebook, web services like YouTube, and self-hosted social formats and software like wikis, blogs and general user-generated content. Fairly standard stuff, but a few interesting points did come up.

I was on the 'panel' - a long table complete with bright overhead lights illuminating our faces - and thus gave a five (or probably ten) minute introduction to the subject. The main point I tried to press home was that it was important to actively take part in web communities and sites as an individual, before deciding whether and how best to represent an institution in these spaces - in each community, the conventions and social nuances are different.

Mia Ridge from the Museum of London has written up a useful summary of the event, so I won't bother to say much more. One of the frustrations I felt throughout the debate was some crossing of wires when it came to discussing the use of Web 2.0 sites for 'delivering content' or taking part in a conversation. For instance, there was talk of a need for an 'exit strategy', in case a third-party service gets abandoned or taken over by another company with bad intentions. But this doesn't apply so much for social and conversational functions, where you sometimes simply have to accept that you can't own the conversations, and instead focus on the here-and-now benefits, deploy a fair amount of trust that sites will stay up, and perhaps look at some kind of self-documentation if longevity is important to you.

It was good to catch up with some other museum people, and to meet a few new faces, so hello to anyone who's found me online (did I plug my blog enough? I hope so). In particular, a hello to Rhiannon Looseley, who looks after the British Postal Museum & Archive website, which now has a delightful wiki that you can explore and perhaps contribute to. It uses Plone-based zwiki software, rather than the more familar MediaWiki, so is a little harder to navigate, and confusingly doesn't have sign-ins or a 'recent changes' page, but is nevertheless interesting to look through.