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Glen Barnes

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.

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

Your Tours: CityExplorer San Francisco & crowdfunding

By Case Studies No Comments

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.

Experiments in Crowd Sourcing Culture and Heritage Data

By Experiments No Comments

Recently, we decided to run a little crowdsourcing experiment. We wanted to take data from the IMLS Museum Universe Data File, and add links + images to Wikipedia articles for each museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a ‘crowd’ to call on, so to speak, and it’s a difficult task to program primarily due to differences in spelling, duplicates and etc. Small discrete tasks like this are perfect for crowdsourcing. We utilised a service called Crowd Flower, and were quite happy with the quality of the results.

So how did we do it?

Finding the crowd

Some institutions may be lucky and have a great team of supports ready to jump in and to do the grunt work of a crowd sourced project — but an equal amount don’t. The task is also a bit boring, we aren’t digitising maps or restaurant menus. So we turned to a commercial service. There are a ton of services out there to do crowd sourcing and we choose Crowd Flower as I had looked at them a while ago for some other work.

Setting up the data

The process was pretty easy. We exported some data from the source file that we wanted to use in our questions (museum name and address). We forgot to add our unique ID which was bit of a hiccup, but luckily the combination of name and address was good enough to match records post processing. We decided to export all California museums from the file — that’s 1700 records in total.

We imported the data and then set up a questionnaire for the crowd to answer:

  1. Does this museum have a Wikipedia page?
  2. What is the URL of the Wikipedia page?
  3. What is the URL of the image?

Testing the questions

When you first run the job you set up several validation answers that the crowd fills out to make sure they are providing the correct answers. We set up 7 museums and gave the ‘correct’ answer to each one. We then ran 100 museums through the crowd to get responses. Responses came thick and fast with some ‘colourful’ responses to our test questions. It turns out there are multiple URL’s to a Wikipedia page:

We had only put in one of the possible responses so we had to go back and amend our test answers to not fail those people. We also added further instructions to clarify what we were after. For example we said that people should try slight variations of the museum name to find a match. “Mountain View Cemetery” instead of “Mountainview Cemetery” as one example.

Now we should be able to go back to the workers and update them but I can’t seem to work out how. TBH the Crowd Flower rep hasn’t answered my questions on this which is a bit disappointing.

Running it for real

So we sorted out our test questions and turned on the tap. We had set the price at 10c per record but I decided to drop that to 5 cents and see what happened. We decided on only having 2 people look at each record although you can set this higher for better accuracy. After all this was trying to get the best value for money. There is of course and ethical quality issue here and decisions around pricing are hard.

The results!

We submitted 1700 museums. Of those 435 (26%) of the museums have a Wikipedia page. Of those 397 (22% of the total) have an image.

The total cost was 57USD or 13 cents per wikipedia page link and 14.35 cents per image.

They processed 231 records per hour.

And the quality? So far it seems pretty good. You can download an aggregate file which chooses the ‘best’ result or you can download all the results and do your own analysis. Are you going to trust this with your precious collections database? I would seriously consider using these types of services as one tool in your kit.

Next steps

We’re now using the Wikipedia API to pull in the image metadata, download the image and add the record to the museum data file. We will also look at adding the actual wikipedia metadata to the records as well to help fill in some missing fields. We’re hoping to open source the museum data file at some point along with the work we’ve been doing aggregating other museums from around the world.

Stay tuned!

PS: You can download the results of the test here – Wikipedia Test File

Header Image: Crowd of soldiers watching a boxing match at the New Zealand Divisional Sports, Authie. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013325-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.