Tag Archives: web2.0

re-imagining museums

Photo by _Robert_C_

Photo by _Robert C_

Museums are changing.

That is, the smart ones are.

Museums are getting involved in social media, just as many corporations and brands are: some of them brilliantly, some less so, as we all stumble up the learning curve and discover that online communities are not just another place for an “e-blast,” an impersonal press release, or an automated newsfeed.

So yes, museums are using the tools of the internet to reach audiences old and new, to build their brands, to raise awareness of their programs, collections, and exhibitions. For a look at how museums are using microblogging tools like Twitter, take a look at Beth Kanter’s recent interview of Amy Fox, otherwise known as @museumtweets.

But a few of them are taking that extra step, and playing around with the implications of social media — exploring community-driven content, collective intelligence, crowd-sourcing, and more — and integrating it into what they do and why they do it.

Take a look at what Nina Simon is doing over at Museum 2.0.

And don’t miss Seb Chan’s work at Fresh + New(er) in Sydney, Australia.

And be sure to notice what Jake Barton is doing over at Local Projects.  You’ll recognize some of his projects, and, if you’re at all like me, wonder with barely concealed impatience and excitement as to what he’ll do next.  Wildly creative projects.

I’m starting to frame some research around this phenomenon, as part of my MBA program at the Simmons School of Management in Boston, so I’ll have quite a bit more to say on the subject over the months to come.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Boston area, and want to help get my research started, why not join me for an hour’s conversation about museums and Web 2.0?

I’m running two informal focus groups this coming Thursday and Saturday.  Details are below.  What do you think about museums, technology, community?  What can a museum be?  What should it be?

Thursday, October 23
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Room W-205
Main College Building
Simmons College
300 Fenway
Boston MA

Thursday Focus Group RSVP:


Saturday, October 25
1:00 ­ – 2:00 pm
Room W-205
Main College Building
Simmons College
300 Fenway
Boston MA

Saturday Focus Group RSVP:


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do you need a web 2.0 website make-over?

(hold your horses)

Now that nonprofits are really getting hip to web 2.0 — encouraging a two-way conversation with constituents, yielding some control of their message to gain bigger and better results, and getting engaged in social networks to expand and enlarge their bases — a lot of us are also looking into shaking up our old websites to reflect these changes.

Maybe you want to rebrand your website just to send the message that you’re using technology in new and exciting ways, to broadcast the fact that there’s new content being created, and not all of it is by you and your marketing director anymore.

Maybe you’re cool with your website, but you’re finding it hard to integrate your newly found web 2.0 tools — does your current website allow you to easily embed YouTube videos? To draw attention to new blog posts and comments? To feature your members’ latest contributions to your Flickr group?

So what does a really well-designed, web 2.0-ready nonprofit website look like?

First, check out this excellent checklist from Kivi Leroux Miller, good for evaluating any nonprofit’s homepage. The list covers all the basics: navigation, SEO, online donations, and more. If you’re not hitting all these notes, all the blogging in the world might not help.

Second, take a look at the nonprofit website that I keep coming back to as an example of Doing It Right, The Nature Conservancy.

Why do I like these guys so much?

    • They integrated their recent successful contest on Flickr that drew thousands of photographic submissions from their community — right at the top of the front page.

    NC banner

    • The most common word on the home page is “you” — and they explain all the different things “you” can do in a quick and easy way.
    • They have a variety of different newsy, well-written content to choose from on their homepage, without making the choices overwhelming. The design is information-packed, but clean and readable.

    news NC

    • They make it easy to donate online, and in a number of intriguing ways.

    donate NC

    • They make it clear that accountability matters to them, by linking TWICE to Charity Navigator, both of which links actually take you to a comprehensive “About Us: Accountability and Transparency” page that addresses these topics in depth, as they relate to The Nature Conservancy.

    accountability NC
    Is it necessary to overhaul your website in order to truly engage your community in the ways they are now coming to expect? Well, that depends on what your website looks like now. Nonprofits are certainly doing nicely without going to the time and expense of a complete redesign, since services like Flickr and YouTube and WordPress make it easy to integrate these tools, if not seamlessly, then nearly so.

    What’s your plan? Are you getting ready for a major website redesign? Or are you waiting to see what shakes out of all this web 2.0 business first?

      words words words

      Words matter. Words can engage, encourage conversation, and foster understanding, but words can also shut others out.

      One serious barrier to entry when it comes to social media is the jargon that goes around; whether it’s all those wacky-sounding Web 2.0 start-up company names (Twitter, Pownce, Meebo, Zooomr, Zaftig…), one too many acronyms (API, RSS, SEO, CMS, CRM, CSNY…), or just familiar words that have been repurposed to unfamiliar tasks (astroturf, feed, AJAX…), the jargon can all too often put off newcomers, curious onlookers, and yes, the very decision-makers you are trying to evangelize about developing a social media strategy for your nonprofit.

      Mike Sansone at Converstations is developing a glossary of Web 2.0 terms that promises to be very useful to both sides of the language barrier. (Hat tip to Geoff Livingston at Now is Gone for the link.)

      It’s not yet complete, and by its very nature it will always be a work in progress, but it’s a much-needed resource and a handy reminder to think about how we speak and write, and think about who we might be excluding by using — and not bothering to define — insider terms.

      Sure, you can look up the occasional new word or phrase on Wikipedia, but is the Web 2.0 novice likely to know that?

      The other value in centralizing this sort of glossary of terms is so that the curious can arm themselves in advance, and stock up on definitions before attending that conference or listening to that pitch in the boardroom.

      Our love of jargon is nothing new — we love to use these words as signals that we’re members of the same club, part of the same tribe, and have a certain number of shared experiences and cultural touchstones. It helps cement us as a family, and that’s nice.

      But the central themes of social media are openness, transparency, and inclusion. Let’s be sure we’re not being closed, opaque, and exclusive. Let’s also not unintentionally hamstring our efforts to get others on board.

      Mindlessly chanting our little Web 2.0 incantations blinds us to what we’re really talking about, keeps us skimming the surface, and keeps us needlessly focused on fondling the hammer, rather than on building the house.

      Lee LeFever at Common Craft does a great job of demystifying technology (his latest is on Twitter). How do you try to break down the language barrier?

      the mobile nonprofit

      by jetheriotOnline collaboration tools are not just for that migratory flock of birds, the mobile web worker — those strange folk who appear to alight for brief meetings in far-flung Starbucks, then scatter, like starlings, to cooler climes.

      I keep an eye on the growing catalog of these tools not just because I deeply envy the starlings of this world, but because nonprofits need mobile capabilities, too. And lots of these tools are free, nearly free, or just totally worth the dough.

      Online collaboration tools should be of interest to any nonprofit that serves any sort of geographically dispersed constituency. This goes for larger regional, national, and international organizations with lots of field offices and branches, but also for the smaller nonprofit that just can’t deliver its programs to every nook and corner of its service area.

      So yes, pretty much everyone should care.

      Here are five online collaboration tools that I think could be helpful to nonprofits, either in internal (project management) or external (program delivery) applications:

      1. Basecamp – Very popular web-based project management software that I have just started using in earnest. Upload files, share to-do lists, live chat, and track progress efficiently in one central spot. Great stuff.
      2. ooVoo – Free, online video conferencing. I’m personally curious about delivering small workshops and seminars to far-flung locales using this multi-user interface that has been getting rave reviews from beta testers. However, ooVoo can only handle six viewers at a time, so for larger classes I might look into using
      3. uStream – I used this recently when I was at NewBcamp in Providence, and was impressed with the alongside-chat capability, as well as the ability to archive the videostream — and the chat –if desired. Again, potentially very useful for long-distance learning.
      4. Jott – I use Jott almost daily to record the thoughts and reminders that only seem to occur to me when I’m in my car. I’ve got the Jott phone number on speed-dial, I call, leave myself a message, and it’s waiting for me, reliably transcribed, in email form when I get home. When summer comes, and I’m managing a team of people in four different locations at once, I hope to test-drive this service as a one-to-many messaging application. Although I am always ready to try a potential upgrade of a similar service, and Web Worker Daily just turned me on to
      5. Pinger – which also looks like it could rock.

      Those are the newer, somewhat sexier ones on my radar. Some of them have been around for a while, but have only just started to impress me as potentially useful for nonprofit program delivery and program management.

      Here are the five, somewhat more pedestrian ones that I already love, use often and with gusto, and really would hate to have to do without:

      1. Google Calendar – About six months ago my group switched from a hand-written wall calendar to Google Calendar, and the change has been phenomenal. There is one central calendar for the organization (which everyone can view and edit), and then every member of the team has their own calendar, which they invite others to view (and not edit). You can toggle your view on and off to view different calendars simultaneously. And, of course, we can access our schedules even when we are miles away in our 100+ mile service region
      2. Google Docs – Again, remote access, combined with the convenience of having a file being reviewed and edited by several people at once stored in one handy place, with no confusion about which version is the most recent version. I’ve mostly used the word and spreadsheet bits, but am planning to use the slideshow option very soon, after a particularly bad date recently with PowerPoint.
      3. WordPress – I like to set up group blogs for working with groups of constituents that are working together on a project, who meet only occasionally, who need to get to know each other better, and who aren’t comfortable enough with technology to use a wiki consistently. I don’t know why, but blogs just seem to be more user-friendly. Also, I like teaching people how to blog because it empowers them to use technology in their own voice. Once somebody starts on a group blog, it’s easy for them to make the cognitive leap into blogging for themselves, to feed their own heads and serve their own passions.
      4. Twitter – Yes, it’s a collaboration tool. I’ve sent out calls for help through Twitter more than once, and each time I have gotten feedback that either solved my problem or sent me in the right direction for a solution. Twitter is a great “lifeline” call, especially if you are careful (as I am) to follow lots of very clever people.
      5. Skype – Free phone calls. What’s not to love?

      What are your favorites? And which ones are you thinking about using in creative ways, bending them to your nonprofit will?

      Photo by jetheriot

      microsoft office live small business (for artists)

      David Pogue of the New York Times reviewed the new release of Microsoft Office Live Small Business on Thursday, and made one of his trademark, quirky videos to tout its value to small businesses.  What caught my eye in particular was the fact that he chose to use an artist as his case study for the target user of Office Live Small Business.

      Watch the video.

      In short:

      Office Live Small Business (O.L.S.B.) is a centralized Web site where you can set up all of those small-businessy things — a Web site, an online ad campaign, e-mail promotions, in-company communications — all by yourself, even if you’re not very technical. For the first time, these big-league tools are within your reach, partly because you don’t have to hire somebody to set them up and partly because many of them are free.

      This is what I’ve been telling artists and cultural organizations for some time now — one of the most exciting new developments in this whole “web 2.0” nonsense is that you can do all kinds of technical things now for free or very little money and with no real technical knowledge.

      What makes Office Live Small Business so compelling is its sharp focus on a single problem: that half the small businesses in America, and 70 percent of one-person businesses, don’t even have Web sites.

      Yes, it still required some digging to find the various purveyors of all the different pieces of the puzzle — get that free basic rate from Constant Contact for your newsletter, get a free blog hosted on WordPress, sell your goods online with Etsy — but it was all there, waiting to be assembled.

      Well, the equivalents of some of these pieces have all been assembled, for free, by — of all companies — Microsoft.

      I expect this package will be compelling to artists (sole proprietors) and cultural organizations (corporations, of the 501 C3 variety) alike.  As Pogue rightly points out, this package is innovative, focussed, and game-changing.

      And totally surprising, coming from Microsoft.

      blogging for the hearts of donors

      Shel Israel just posted an interview he did with Dr. Nora Barnes, chancellor professor of marketing and director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

      It’s a good review of some of the thinking that went into, and results of, the study her team did last year on adoption rates of social media within large charities in the United States, called Blogging for the Hearts of Donors: Largest US Charities Use Social Media.

      I remember when this report came out – it supported what I had already believed to be true, based on personal experience and purely anecdotal evidence. It’s always deeply gratifying when a methodologically sound, quantitative study backs you up like that.

      “Seventy-five percent of the charitable organizations studied are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis. More than a third of the organizations are blogging.”

      She mentions in the interview that charities tend to be nimble in their operations, which might increase their capacity for responding to new developments in technology like the Web 2.0 tools listed above, compared with their for-profit counterparts.

      “It’s very slow to turn a big boat around.”

      And while that’s certainly true, I suspect that it is more a cultural difference that sets charities apart from large businesses than just size. Because the charities she polled were, by and large, pretty large (taken as they were from the Forbes 200 largest charities list).

      Primarily, the disparity lies in the staff time charities have available to allocate to social media projects. Most of these social media tools are either free or very cheap — the only real cost incurred is in time spent. So where does this leave the smaller nonprofit, with a lean and mean staff with little or no time to spare?

      Well, as in all things, they get creative. They look for volunteers and unpaid student interns to get the ball rolling. In some cases, they don’t feel they can make the case for paying staff to work on social media projects until the return can be proven.

      So it’s a bit of a bind for smaller nonprofits, but there are pockets of amazing creativity erupting in small and medium sized organizations. I mostly work with arts and culture nonprofits, which have different “audience development” (read: community-building) strategies than cause-driven charities. So the social media strategies for cultural organizations are going to differ somewhat from the cause-driven organizations.

      But the common thread in all nonprofits is passion, and passion is an attribute that is also widely shared by social media enthusiasts. Passionate people find a way to make it happen. They blog on their own time. They buy decent recording equipment on their own dime and stay up for hours at night editing a five-minute podcast. They share resources, collaborate, and make connections in unlikely places.

      It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of overlap between the nonprofit world and the social media world. We’re already members of the same tribe.

      WESTAF and the technology mandate

      I’ve got a somewhat irregular Saturday ritual of listening to recent NPR show episodes while knitting, or winding yarn, or just cleaning house.  Not long ago, I added Len Edgerly’s Arts and Technology podcast to this ritual. 

      His latest, an interview with Anthony Radich, Executive Director of WESTAF – the Western States Arts Federation, has really got me buzzing.  They talked about what Radich sees as WESTAF’s role in bringing the arts community up to speed in the use of technology.  Arts nonprofits have always lagged in the use of technology, Radich says, but new technology is much cheaper and easier to use – and is really a natural for use by arts organizations and artists. 

      He says that WESTAF really has an obligation, as a super-regional arts agency, to lead the way, both through their own use of technology, and by increasing access to and the understanding of technology for artists and cultural organizations. 

      This is really what I’ve been circling around in many of my discourses on how to use social media, open architecture, and bottom-up content creation even though your constituency might be somewhat behind the times in the adoption of technology. 

      In some cases (in my own, one could argue), the use of technology itself is part of the service you are providing to your members.  The access to it, the opportunity to get familiar with the tools.  A starting point.  A launch pad. A training ground.

      It’s tough to make the case for instituting ground-up content creation when it’s an open question if any of your members will actually create content. 

      But, when an arts agency considers it part of its mandate to provide professional and business training to artists and cultural organizations, isn’t it also part of that mandate to introduce them to the new tools of the internet?  Tools that can bring their creative product and repute to the global community?

      WESTAF is creating a new website that will try to do just this.  It will allow artists to upload video of their events to help them get the word out.  It will help artists findand support one another, despite geographic disparities.  It will give the members agency to decide what programming, modules, and web-based capabilities they want for themselves, by opening up the stage for them to comment and share.

      They already have modules on their website that offer their constituency: 

      • a grant administration technology tool for cultural organizations;
      • a job board for the arts and culture community;
      • a Call for Entry management program;
      • a universal application system for applying to shows and craft fairs;
      • blogs.

      It seems that they are updating all of this (some of it is a little dated, but that’s to be expected) and unifying it under a common banner.  Then they’re adding more useful bits as they go along, based on community response.  How exciting…

      I can’t wait to see the results – and to learn from them.

      The knitting?  I’m afraid it still only looks like this:

      knitty