Jeff Doyle on object commenting and the Open Museum project (forwarded from MCN-L)

James William Yoon james.yoon at
Thu Dec 10 14:29:16 UTC 2009

An excellent, intriguing read.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jeff Doyle <jeff at>
Date: Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 2:44 AM
Subject: Re: [MCN-L] Comments on your collections online
To: Museum Computer Network Listserv <mcn-l at>

Registered users can comment on Open Museum objects, chat on museum walls,
and even create their own walls to communicate with other users. We've found
that people comment less frequently on objects than we expected, but are
nevertheless interested in content-centered and creative interactions with
other visitors.

On of the big challenges we are interested in is trying to influence the
general quality of comments. This has led us to provide common spaces for
interactions (e.g. walls in addition to object comments) to give users other
venues for socializing, hopefully preserving object comments for more
content-focused interactions.

However, and this may seem kind of counter-intuitive, comments aren't
visible to non-registered users. One of the problems of scaling social
networking is deciding how to provide the gradients of intimacy the people
need to feel a sense of place. Nina Simon talked recently about the appeal
of secret places in museums. We've been thinking a lot about how to provide
that kind of intimacy in an online museum setting. (Other than just not
having very many visitors - which clearly doesn't scale.)

Because we are focused on using web exhibits for digital outreach and
community building, we are putting a lot of energy into trying to optimize
the experience of repeat visitors: friending individual museums, favoriting
objects, commenting, rating other comments, and even playing
educational/creative games.

If a comment on an object is really good, the museum curator can "promote"
the comment to the status of a contribution - it becomes visible to
unregistered visitors, and a mention is added to the user's profile. Users
can also rack up "kudos" (represented as gold stars) for comments that other
visitors deem valuable. It provides fairly low-key but gratifying
recognition for particularly valuable participation.

Here's a comment that was posted on the Strafford ARTWORKS
wall<>today that pretty much
sums up what we would like to be for more of our

*"Open Museum ma**y **save** **my** **creative** **life. I work alone in the
studio listening to **NPR** or to Balkan or Gypsy music.It can get a little
lonely. Now I allow myself breaks to see what is happening on Open Museum.
Thanks for the interactions."*

Our user numbers are still pretty low (We are  in alpha, entering beta
around the New Year) so it will be interesting to see how the "gradient of
intimacy" theory stands up to increasing traffic. We read today that
Facebook is trying to force everybody OUT of the closet, so it may sound
insane to be heading in the opposite direction, but our sense is that more
is not always more. Lets keep in mind that, much as we want to pump up
visitor numbers at the brick and mortar museum, most of the support
(financial and moral) that museums receive comes from a pretty small slice
of the community. The 90-9-1 rules holds in the real world too. There may be
something to be said for catering to the nines and the ones.

Jeff Doyle

> Date: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 11:15:55 -0800
> From: psully at
> To: mcn-l at
> Subject: [MCN-L] Comments on your collections online
> Hi everyone:
> I'm preparing a lecture (tomorrow) about collections access and the
> creation of wonder and discussion. I know I've seen some museum
> collections online that allow for comments on their site, and have
> generated some great discussions between users. Aaaand, of course, I
> can't seem to remember which sites those were.
> SO! Do any of you know/have collections online that allow for user
> comments? Have you seen some great discussions between users that have
> served to enlighten the staff and public alike?
> Thanks in advance and hope y'all are staying warm.
> Best,
> ~Perian
> Perian Sully
> Collections Information Manager
> Web Programs Strategist
> The Magnes
You are currently subscribed to mcn-l, the listserv of the Museum Computer
Network (

To post to this list, send messages to: mcn-l at

To unsubscribe or change mcn-l delivery options visit:

The MCN-L archives can be found at:
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the fluid-work mailing list