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Glen Barnes

Geofencing and Auto-Play

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With the release of our new tour builder we have unlocked a couple of features that have been lurking in the background for a couple of months. When combined they offer a powerful new way for your users to experience tours. The two new features are get-fencing and auto-play.

Geo-fencing

Geo-fencing has been available on iOS for a while and has now launched on Android. As the user approaches a tour stop, an alert is sent to your device as the geo-fence is activated. This location based alert lets the user know what stop they have reached and tapping on it will take them directly to the stop info. Even better, with the new tour builder you can determine the radius of your geo-fence! Be it 100 meters, for walking tours, or 1000 meters, for driving tours. The choice is yours.

To customise the geo-fences simply tap on the stop pin in the map edit screen. You will be able to set the latitude and longitude of the geo-fence (if different from the stop) and the radius.

IMG_3834

Audio Plays Automatically

Building on the geo-fence alerts, users can now set any audio content to play automatically. Very handy if you have your hands full with other things whilst on a tour – such as a steering wheel or even the handle bars of a bike. Users can easily turn this feature on and off depending on their preferences and best of all the feature works even when the app is running in the background.

WalkAuck_Auto Play Audio

 

Interested in adding geo-fence alerts to your app? Give us an email at support@mytoursapp.com and we’ll be happy to help. It’s a free upgrade for existing users

Getting your vineyard on the map

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We recently completed a project for Yealands Estate in Marlborough which posed a couple of interesting challlenges that we wanted to share with you. The app had to be available in 6 languages and the existing maps of the area were not that great.

Mapping

Many platforms use Google Maps for their mapping which is OK if you’ve got well mapped areas and you want a more ‘street map’ based look for your app. At My Tours we use maps based on Open Street Map which allows you to add you own data to the map. Consider this Google Map of the area:

 

By editing the Open Street Map version of the map we were able to add a lot more data to the map. We could add everything from buildings to vineyards and picnic tables:

 

And the result in the app? The default rendering of the Open Street Map using Mapbox is looking pretty good:

There are a few more things we can do given time and budget. For example we could create a completely unique style to match any corporate branding or we could import any special layers and style these in a particular way to highlight certain features. Get in touch if you would like any custom map work done on your app.

Translations

The app also needed to be available in six languages and be released in under 3 weeks. We were supplied the content in English and used our translators to turn around the translations in under a week. The result? An app released on time, in six languages.

You can see the results on iOS and Android.

 

Your Tours: Hobsonville Point Secondary School

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We recently published an app for Hobsonville Point Secondary School. It explores the school’s surrounding area, in particular the rich aircraft history of New Zealand’s first international airport. That’s not even the best part, though — the app was created by the school’s year 9 and 10 students. The other great thing is that the app’s proceeds go to charitable organisation KidsCan.

We had a chat to the innovative Sarah Wakeford from the school, and asked about the experience and thinking behind making the app.

What gave you the idea of making a tour app?

Glen from My Tours approached the school showing us the potential for student led learning using the app. We are always interested in authentic real world learning opportunities and I saw straight away that it could be a fantastic project for our students.

What was the thinking behind it?

My initial thoughts were really focussed on the area we live in and the important history that is found here. We are on an old airbase site, with lots of history around aircraft (this was NZ’s first international airport). As the community grows and develops, this history is being lost. I see it as our schools responsibilty to try and protect as much of the history as possible. My Tours App seemed like a fantastic tool to help us do this.

Why My Tours?

My Tours seemed very straightforward and manageable for students in Yr 9 and 10 to create. The software was easy for our kids to use, had lots of versatility and looked very professional – so our kids could do an amazing job. Glen was happy to help in all stages of the production, which put me at ease. He was always working with the kids and helping them to improve what they were doing.

It was an awesome idea to involve the students in creating the app — was organising all the different parts challenging?

Setting up the ‘accounts’ for Google and Apple was a little challenging at first – just finding the time to meet with the finance and IT expertise to set up all the accounts was a bit tricky. The actual creation of the trail was very smooth, and Kim Mi the project leader found putting the trail together very straightforward, once all the passwords and accounts were set up.

How did they find the tour content?

The students decided to keep the first project very small and managable – so they decided on 5 key sites in the Hobsonville Point area – knowing that it was better to research these sites well and do a good job, rather than spread themselves too thin. However, on reflection they could have done 10 sites, as they found the process really straightforward and there was definitely time to do more. The idea is to build on this site and increase the trail in 2016.

Did they enjoy it?

Absolutely – here are some quotes from the student reflections:

*I really liked learning about the history and then being able to do something about it. We could share the information with the community and also help raise money for KidsCan, so that felt really good. I also liked working as a team and seeing a final product at the end. The project was cool. – Kim Mi

*I really enjoyed the design stuff we did for the app – it was cool to make logos and find images and photos, choose colours and create the app – it felt like you were doing a real design project as well as a history project. – Matthew

What about production — who took all of the photos and recorded the audio?

The students collected the photos from the on-line archive sites and also took photos themselves at the different spots. Students also did all the recording themselves at our recording studio at school.

How long did it take?

Student worked on the history trail for approx 10 weeks – every Wed from 12.00 – 3.00pm. They also did promotional material, a website and other resources to promote the app and the history of Hobsonville Point.

Who had the idea to sell the app and donate the proceeds to KidsCan?

The project is part of a learning programme here at HPSS called “Big Projects” and the idea as all the projects have to contribute to a ‘big picture’ partnership or challenge, which for semester one in 2015 was raising money for KidsCan. Over 120 students were involved in enterprise projects that had to raise funds for kids living in poverty. It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to use the app to also do a positive thing for kids in need – so that was a great connection to the overall Big Project challenge.

In 2016 there will be a range of history projects and we hope to improve on the trail and add new ones 🙂

Header Image: Aeroplane assembly, Hobsonville RNZAF base, with plane in cratee. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-21516-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23011349

NDF Talk – Open Data is Table Stakes

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At the NDF 2015 conference I gave a talk on measuring the success of your open data work. Here is text and the YouTube video for the talk.

1. Intro

I said in my pitch for this talk that no GLAM organisation in New Zealand provides truly open data and this makes me a little sad. Now, I’m not going to go into why you should do open data, there is a great presentation called The Future is Open by Michael Edson which I recommend you take a look at if you need to be convinced.

The good news is that there are very few if any organizations worldwide who are doing it right. So, we’re not alone.

But what is right?

Well, firstly we should define data. And sometimes it is easier to define what data isn’t. Data is not metadata, data is not numbers, data is not charts, data is not image files, data is not essays.

Data is all of the things. Data is everything that your organization outputs. To steal a proverb, one man’s essay is another man’s corpus of text mining training data. And when you think about it an image is simply data on a point in time.

2. NZGOAL

So if we think about data like this, how do we make it open? Contrary to popular belief open data is not a CC license. Now NZGOAL, along with other tools are great initiatives and we hear a lot about these in the GLAM sector.

But we actually have the rather dryly titled “New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles” which came out in 2011. It’s a great framework for thinking about what open data actually means in practice.

3. 7 principles

There are 7 principles:

  • Open
  • Protected
  • Readily Available
  • Trusted and Authoritative
  • Well Managed
  • Reasonably Priced
  • Reusable

And when we dive into these one by one we can easily measure ourselves against the principals.

4. Open:

Data should be open. You need a really, really, really good reason not to release it. I’m not going to go into the OIA in 7 minutes but national security probably isn’t the reason why you are choosing to not open something, although the archivist for the GCSB may beg to differ. So what is your moral argument for not opening something?

5. Protected:

Of course, some items are going to be personal or confidential — so how do we deal with those? At what point does a soldier’s medical record become acceptable? For our sector I’d go further and bring in issues of cultural sensitivity. The National Library has really good policies around this and maybe this is something that we can work on as a sector to come up with a starting point for all organizations to follow.

6. Readily Available:

You think about making the information accessible from day 1. You don’t give Google something and not everybody else. And you need to make sure it is well documented and easy to find. Have a page or catalogue outlining what data you have, what your policies are and list this data in data.govt.nz. Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to any natlib.govt.nz/data or tepapa.govt.nz/data or aucklandmuseum.govt.nz/data and know that you will find their open data policies and what data they have available?

Earlier today there were questions about the licensing of the Cenotaph database that are not clear on the website even though it contains a lot of reusable content and access via the Auckland Museum API.

7. Trusted and Authoritative, Well Managed:

We should have this nailed right? This is what we do, we’re memory institutions! On the flip side, don’t be afraid to open something that isn’t perfect. People will forgive if you if you are upfront about your imperfections.

8. Reasonably Priced:

A pretty binary decision here. The cost of dissemination is trending to zero, there is no reason to charge if you are a reasonable sized organization. In fact, charging can cost you money, we have yet to see an organization that makes a profit from licensing images when people‚’s time has been taken into account. Now I get the issues that small museums face with funding and selling images can help, a few hundred dollars a year can make a real difference when volunteers are fulfilling the request.

9. Reusable:

This is the nuts and bolts so let me dig deeper here.

10. Original versions:

I don’t care how good your lossy jpeg is, the source or it isn’t original. Now feel free to provide reusable derivatives, as a default but only derivatives is not original. You may protect these behind some form of key to limit the effects of network traffic but they should still be readily available if requested.

11. Re-usable:

It needs to have a proper license. In New Zealand a NZGOAL license is understood and well documented. And let me reiterate, Non Commercial licenses are not truly open.

12. Machine-readable format:

Understand how coders think. If we can write a script to do something then we will. Make sure that your data can be downloaded and processed with a script. This can be as simple as dumping a CSV file on your web server or as complex as an API. A data dump of some key fields and the urn to the original images is a perfect starting point for most collections data sets.

13. With metadata:

Well documented data is critical. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve run into an API only to find that I can’t get it to work. Just last week with the Cooper Hewitt API it took me a few tries to work out if the ‘has_images’ parameter needed a ‘yes’, ‘true’ or ‘1’ as the value. There are a bunch of tools out there now which make it really easy to document your API‚’s and datasets, use them.

14. In aggregate or modified forms if they cannot be released in their original state:

Because sometime we can’t release the originals. If you have a dataset with lots of personal information it isn’t something that you want to, or should release. But think about what you can release. Is there aggregated data that you can release? Can you strip personal information out and still release it?

15. Non-proprietary formats

Data and information released in proprietary formats are also released in open, non-proprietary formats:

Sometimes you do want to release something in a proprietary format to make it really easy to integrate with some industry standard software. That’s OK as long as you also release it in an open format as well. I’ll also go further and say that you should release the data in simple formats even if you are releasing it in an open hard to use format.

16. Digital rights technologies are not imposed on materials made available for re-use:

No watermarks, no DRM.

17. Conclusion

So there you have it. 7 principles in 7 minutes that can guide you in opening data and help you measure where you are.

So how do you measure up?

Header Image: Measuring instrument, 1800s, maker unknown. Acquisition history unknown. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH002995)

How to beat bugs

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We all know what updating apps is — and nowadays most updates are downloaded onto our phones automatically. We’ll wake up with new features in our favourite app. So: you’d be right to think that the purpose of app updating is getting new features. You’re not wrong — but you’re not completely right, either.

The problem is that the operating systems on our little devices — that’s Android or iOS — are in an ever-upward spiral of updates. That’s great for the consumer — who gets a new update with great new features on a regular basis. But it’s less great for app developers, or those who have had their own custom app developed, because with new features comes new bugs.

Here’s our most recent example. iOS 9 was released last week. There are some great new features we’re excited to implement, like 3D Touch. But right after the update we found our map pins had stopped displaying properly. Over 50% had installed iOS 9, meaning that a huge amount of potential downloaders wouldn’t get the perfect map experience.

Luckily for us, our iOS Developer found and deployed a fix pretty quickly — and we’ve started updating apps at no additional cost to our customers.

But what if you had your own custom app developed? Well, first you’d have to notice the bug — and nobody has time to be checking their own apps to make sure they’re still working perfectly. Then, you’d have to figure out what causes it and how it’s triggered, and tell your developers. And, once you’ve done this, which could have taken a few months, you then have to wait for the developers to find a fix, and then pay them for it. That costs even more time — and could cost anything from $500 to $5,000, as well as the $15,000 or more you spent on getting the app developed in the first place.

And here’s the crux — we give you your own, custom branded app for $1,995 for three years, and a $145/month subscription fee. You read that right — you get your own, always up to date app for a fraction of the price.

If it makes perfect sense to you, get in touch at hello@mytoursapp.com.

Digitising Local Heritage Links

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We ran a workshop on digitising local heritage last week at the Pt Chevalier library and it was great to hear about the different experiences among the attendees. Timothy Barnett from Auckland Libraries was kind enough to share these links on caring for and digitising heritage items. There is a wealth of information as you start to read through these and I encourage you to spend some time browsing the resources and watching some of the videos.

Digital NZ

The Digital NZ Make it Digital Guides have a wealth of information on digitising content including digitising and imaging.

National Services Te Paerangi

National Services Te Paerangi have a resource section covering a wide range of topics. I particulary liked the photograpy videos on this page.

National Library

The National Library has great resources and a section just on caring for your collections

Other Links

Cover Image: CC-BY_SA Wikipedia:Dvortygirl

Digitising Local Heritage Workshops

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The Albert-Eden Local Board is holding the Bungalow Festival this month and we’re lucky enough to be involved in a couple of the programmes. As well as 2 audio guides we’re running a couple of digitising local heritage workshops, plus setting up a DIY Book Scanner. Now, you may wonder what this has to do with mobile apps and you’d be right to think that it has absolutely nothing in common!

But we work alongside organisations of all sizes from large museums to small historical societies. And what we love doing is finding ways to make technology available to everybody, whether it’s a massive museum or an individual with a passion for exploration. So we are are running two workshops at the event (both free):

Digitising Local Heritage Workshop

When: Fri 25th Sep 11:00am – 12:00pm
Where: Point Chevalier Community Library, 1221 Great North Road, Point Chevalier, Auckland

As old technology becomes obsolete, how do we preserve our heritage for future generations? Experts from Auckland Museum and Auckland Libraries are coming along to talk about digital archiving, and how we can work together to archive and preserve local heritage.

Register here!

DIY Book Scanner Workshop

When: Sat 26th Sep 11:30am – 12:30pm
Where: Point Chevalier Community Library, 1221 Great North Road, Point Chevalier, Auckland

Find out tips and techniques for scanning and digitally archiving your own photos, books and documents at this workshop. Best of all, you’re encouraged to bring your own materials along on the day.

Register here!

Looking forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make the workshops we’ll be there all day Friday and Saturday with the scanner. Feel free to come chat to us!

Upgrading your old custom app

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Did you have an app custom developed a few years ago that hasn’t seen an update for a while? Chances are it’s seen better days. Learn how you can utilise My Tours to make it super simple and affordable to keep your app in top shape.

Unfortunately, apps take a long time to develop, and can go out of date from a single software announcement. These updates offer great new features, but making sure your app isn’t slow, buggy, or downright impossible to use will cost you thousands.

There’s also updating the content in your app. Information changes, images and audio go out of date, organisations are rebranded. Often, even these updates require paying a developer to do it for you — as if getting all the content created and together isn’t hard or expensive enough!

At My Tours, we know there’s a better way. Our platform works on both Apple and Android, and is continuously being fine tuned and tweaked to make the most of the latest updates and technology: so your customers get the best and easiest experience, letting your content speak for itself.

And, on the topic of content: you can update it in real-time, by yourself. Just pop onto our website and do anything from changing a word to making a new tour. When you hit publish it’s live in your app, even for those who have already downloaded it. You get full control, like custom branding — so it’s still your app.

Switching to My Tours

So: how easy is it to switch to My Tours from your existing app? Answer: not hard at all. Just head over to our app builder and get to work transferring your content. You’ll need a few extra graphics, and maybe a few minor content tweaks, but we promise it’ll be over in a jiffy. And, once you’re done we can send you a demo to peruse, or put it live on the App Store for you. And what about the users of your old app? We can replace it on the stores, meaning devices that had the old app downloaded will download your shiny new one.

Other features

  • Great maps that work offline
  • A handful of beautiful map styles
  • Custom maps for indoor or outdoor use
  • Geofences: give your users notifications based on where they are
  • Audio content
  • Video content
  • Custom colours
  • Up to 50 tours in one app
  • Multilingual support (14 languages, and counting!)

Services

Content, branding, audio, images, maps — it can all be a bit of a nightmare, especially when you’re on tight deadlines, or don’t have the skills in-house. We know this isn’t the funnest situation — so we’re happy to help. Everything from great customer service to content creation or curation, designing or translation, we can do it. And if we can’t, we have partners around the world who can.

Header Image: Army dental mechanic completes a set of dentures. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-012970-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23135801

Upcoming Conferences – October 2015

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It’s that time of year again. NDF is on October 13th and 14th in Wellington and Museums and the Web Asia is on October 5th-8th in Melbourne, Australia. The two conferences are among my favourite and this year I’m a bit biased – I am on the programme committee for MWA2015 and I have joined the board of NDF 😉

National Digital Forum (NDF)

NDF is New Zealand’s main conference for technology and museums. The conference has a really good reputation drawing attendees and speakers from New Zealand, Australia, and around the world.

We’re involved in a couple ways this year; presenting a lightning talk titled Open Data is Table Stakes and helping run a hardware hacking workshop where I will be showing off the DIY Book Scanner. The scanner will also appear during the demo table sessions during the lunchtime of day 1 or day 2 of the conference.

Museums and the Web Asia (MWA2015)

MWA2015 is the offshoot of the MW conferences run out of the US. I’ve attended the US conferences on a number of occasions and it is always good to get a over to the states to get a feel for the state of play in #muestech. This year I was luckily enough to be on the programme committee to review talk proposals and I’m really looking forward to anything on digitisation, collaboration and the museum as a platform. My mind has been buzzing recently with ideas about how we can make small museums be more awesome!

If you are off to either conference and want to catch up on anything mobile, collections, open data, or general museum tech I would love to chat. Just get in touch via email or Twitter.

See you in a few weeks.
Glen

Header Image: Wellington, 1858, by John Bunney. Purchased 1944. Te Papa (1944-0001-2)

Your Tours: CityExplorer San Francisco & crowdfunding

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Earlier this year we put CityExplorer San Francisco live for Gloria Lenhart. One of the first apps to use the new platform, Gloria also funded her app using Kickstarter. We had the opportunity to catch up with Gloria in San Francisco and take a walk around the Mission Murals walk. We also chatted with her about the experience of making her app.

What made you decide to make a tour app?

As a tour guide in San Francisco, I know a lot about the history of our neighborhoods and what’s happening in them right now. I have fun sharing stories and tips with the travelers and locals on my tours. But with the City Explorer San Francisco app, I can make the tours available to more people. Plus, the app lets people take a private tour when they want to rather than having to meet up with a group.

Why San Francisco?

San Francisco offers so many interesting places to explore. We have historic buildings mixed in with innovative modern architecture. San Francisco is one of the leading cities for street art in the world and we also have a large collection of public art. There’s a lot of history, from the Gold Rush days on the Barbary Coast to the Summer of Love in Haight Asbury to the tech revolution that happening right now. We also have some of the most recognized landmarks in the world. I can provide an insiders view since all of this is right in my backyard.

It was pretty brave to use a Kickstarter campaign to fund your app — when did you realise this was the best way to go?

I used Kickstarter to raise money but also to raise awareness of the project. I was surprised and pleased at the amount of support it got. I exceeded my goal amount, which was great because a portion of the proceeds from the app go to a local non-profit, 826 Valencia, which provides tutoring and writing programs for kids in under-resourced schools throughout city.

What made you choose My Tours?

I was so lucky to find My Tours. I could not have produced the app without them. I’m a tour guide not a tech person, and My Tours gave me an easy, affordable way to leverage their technical expertise to present my information on a variety of platfroms. It’s an affordable way to have a professionally-produced app without the worry of large cost overruns.

How did you find setting up your app — audio, writing, photos etc. Any tips?

It is extremely easy and intuitive to load my information into the My Tours templates and have the app look professional. One tip I have is to not finalize the text until after you record the audio – I always make changes after I’ve heard it.

One big advantage to using My Tours is that you won’t have to worry about getting your app accepted by iTunes or Google Play. I’ve heard other developers complain about delays going back and forth on specs and requirements, but with My Tours the City Explorer San Francisco app was accepted immediately and went up quickly and effortlessly.

What was your favourite part of the process — getting to go on your own tours perhaps?

My favorite part is the look on people’s faces when I tell them that I launched an app! However, if enough tours are downloaded so that I can write a substantial check to support 826 Valencia’s programs for kids, then that will be my favorite part.

What’s next for City Explorer?

There are seven tours on the app now, and I plan to have a dozen tours in all by the end of this year. After that I may develop a few limited-time or seasonal experiences – like Spring in Golden Gate Park. I’d also like to experiment with longer hikes. My Tours is a great platform that supports many different kinds of tours so there are no limits.

Heading to SF soon, or keen to have a play on Gloria’s app? Download it here.

Any further questions for Gloria, or keen for your app to be showcased next? Email us here.