Wednesday 12 March 2008

Nerds, words, and novel uses for blogs.

In this post about 'nerdfotainment', Michael Lopp writes about a genre of entertainment that's sprung up over the past 10 years for the generation of nerds in their 30s, who love complexity, Apple, and exercising their 'systematic comprehension muscles. Lopp takes in a variety of nerd-oriented story-telling, moving from 'Lost' to 'Pride and Prejudice', via WoW. Don't worry if this takes you out of your art comfort zone: it's a brilliant and entertaining piece of writing, and you should check it out.

From the brilliant to the torturous: Tyler Green on the Whitney Biennial language (cp. Peter Peryer on a GBAG wall label).

Also from Green, a list of his favourite art museum blogs. His comment about the Amon Carter blog was particularly interesting to me: the staff use the blog to talk about works from the collection that are either out in travelling shows, or on loan to other institutions. A really simple way of showing that while only 5% of your collection might be on display at any one time, other parts of it are in public circulation.

Another novel blog use I've seen recently is Library Answer Person, from Duke University Libraries. The tag line is "Answering your questions about life and the library since 1982", and it includes gems like this page on 'Sex in the stacks'.

Once a physical book in the library, where visitors could write their questions and return later to see the answers, it's been moved online, with people leaving questions using the Comments function, which are later answered as blog posts. The Library has a separate function for research queries - this blog seems to act like a search engine alternative, with questions like 'Does the President shop for his own groceries' and 'Why are phone calls to Europe so expensive'.

I think there's a interesting opportunity to transfer this idea. A blog like this (and here I'd use Wordpress rather than Blogger, because you can build site navigation more easily) could reproduce a lot of the info that gets tucked into the About Us section of a gallery's site in a more interactive way. What's the cheapest way to get to the gallery from the airport? How do I get a job at the Gallery? What shows will you have on in December? I'm a student - can I use your library? Will you be open on Good Friday?

All those questions that the person on your reception desk get asked (and trust me - these questions are both myriad and repeated) could be transcribed over, along with the answer. The blog becomes a resource for internal information sharing (especially if you have a number of staff working the reception desk, or volunteers), is likely to be easier to update with corrections and new info than your website, and can also be opened up to the public to ask questions. Of course, you might end up having to answer some tricky or uncomfortable questions. But with humour, and some lee-way afforded to your staff, it could be great.


Anonymous said...

I am all for the idea of interaction. Wouldn't a FAQ cover most questions though? BTW I have a freind in england who works for a live question service people text in their questions and a "live person" looks up the answer and texts it back

Courtney Johnston said...

I'd hope a dynamic FAQ would encourage people to ask more questions. Plus, websites can sometimes be quite arduous to update, if they're not running on CMSs that are easily accessible by gallery staff. This way answers could be given nearly as quickly as they would be over the phone, but be available for others to benefit from, or interrogate further.

"Live person" sounds similar to things quite a few libraries are doing. one of the nice things I've heard of is embedding instant messaging into catalogues and other search functionalities; if the user gets a 'no results found on that search topic' response, a IM box is presented that they can type their query into for real time help.

Anonymous said...

I think the compay is called Q&A. The catalogue concept with IM sounds great. I have to travel a distance to do research and always get annoyed when I can't find what I need in my limited time available. Its not always easy finding a real person to help. I am actually putting off some research at Natlib because of it. I do a lot over the net rather than in person and hope for the day when more collections are available for viewing on line eg microfiche stuff and newspapers. I know thats a huge lot to store but it would make life so much easier!