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Below The Surface

Monday, March 23, 2009

Water You Think of This?

Here are some interesting pieces I've come across recently online.
~Bridget, VFL Manager

5 Wartime Water Conservation Posters : What would "recession" posters look like?

Robofish Sniffs Out Pollution : Would Lake Champlain benefit from robofish?

Social Objects Stimulate Stranger Conversation : What object reminds you of Lake Champlain?

Friday, March 13, 2009

ECHO - It's Not Just for Kids Anymore

One of our challenges with the video capture kiosk at the aquarium is audience. ECHO, like most science centers or museums, attracts a family audience. I could go even further and say that it attracts a mommy & me audience: moms with kids mainly under 5 years old. Recognizing this, ECHO has made it a priority to reach out to an older demographic. The audience for Voices For the Lake (VFL) is teens & adults.

The challenge is to get the parent/adult visitors to see the VFL kiosk as an interactive experience for them. Most of the videos we get are recorded by kids; say 65%. The other 35% are recorded by teens or adults. I'd like to see this tip a little more towards the 50-50 split.

Here are some questions we are asking ourselves. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

How do we encourage parents/adults to record their story and not just their kids?

How do we get parent & child to record together?
(we had a suggestion of two stools at the kiosk instead of just one)

Will signage help?

(The kiosk sits by itself looking over the Lake. No current signage.)

Should we change the location?
(suggestion to put it on our Emerging Threats workbench which is heavy in adult content)

A couple of examples for you:

This one is typical of a family interaction. The parent is out of the frame of the camera, but is prompting their child on what to say. This clip is different in that the parent visibly joins in the story. We get many "parent whisperer" videos.

This mom actually filmed one with her preschool aged son and then recorded this gem herself.

Friday, March 6, 2009

LakeStewardship Blog: EPA Launches Water Quality Video Contest

LakeStewardship Blog: EPA Launches Water Quality Video Contest

Here's a great post on a really cool contest that will be taking place over the next month. Get your videos in!

I can't wait to see the results! ~Bridget, Voices For the Lake Manager

Think Voices should do something similar for Lake Champlain?

Web Wiser

It's Friday. A whole week away from the WebWise gathering in Washington, DC last week and I'm still trying to process everything I gained from the conference. It's a challenge coming back from an event like WebWise, especially if it's done really well. Your mind is busting with new ideas, contacts, programs and projects you want to learn more about, books you need to read, people you want to talk with again.

So, how about a brain dump of why I am WebWiser after hanging with the museum & library folks last week:
  • Many museums and libraries at the conference were looking at how to bust into the social media or new media scene. Concerns about branding, content, control were expressed. Voices has been grappling with these as well and what I heard from the panelists jibes with the decisions we've made. Check out one of the best presentations on this very theme by Michael Edson, the Director of Web and New Media Strategy for the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Patrick Whitney, Dean of the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology said: "Everyone wants change but they don't want to do anything differently." That's just a thinker for those of us throwing ourselves into the Web 2.0 world.
  • As we introduce new social media tools like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. to our patrons, make it easy. Bring them along with you so that you build and expand your online community rather than targeting only those that are "web-savvy". Great example from the Columbus Center of Science and Industry (CoSI) is their Share tab on their website.
  • From participant Aaron Schmidt "Social media is like a free kitten. Easy to get one, but then you have to take care of it." Managing and monitoring your social media tools takes people, time & a commitment to keeping a true dialogue alive online.
  • LISTEN-JOIN-CONNECT-LISTEN MORE-EXPERIMENT I'll keep this mantra in my head as our project grows, especially the experiment part. Some things work, some don't, some take a bit of tweaking and that's a part of how we're learning to deepen the experience for our guests both at the aquarium and online.
I can hear the back-up warning beep as the dump truck of WebWise deep thoughts keeps unloading more, so I'll stop here. Just like Travis, I've got a queue of post ideas now and I can't wait to share more. I want to thank everyone at WebWise, it was a fabulous and mind-blowing three days. I'm all ready jonesin' for more! ~Bridget, Voices For the Lake Manager

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WebWise 2009, or, What I did on my spring vacation.

I awoke this morning to one of those sure signs I was in Vermont - visible breath in my bedroom. It was hard not to miss that lovely 60 degree spring-like weather of Washington DC, just under a week ago. Perhaps this would be a good time to introduce myself. Hi, I'm Travis Cook, Information Technology Coordinator here at ECHO. I'm the T in our tasty BLT team. That's me in the tomatoish red. Bacon, err, Bridget is the one in the green, ruining the acronym metaphor. My role on our team is to coordinate all of the fun technical aspects of this project, identifiable by their use of other acronyms, like API or PHP.

So, you might be wondering, why did Mr. Tomato go to Washington? You might also be wondering what exactly is going on in the picture up above. I'll let you figure out that second one on your own, but if you need a hint, think "3 second self-timer." The first question is what I'm actually here to write about. Besides the nice weather, we went to Washington DC to participate and demonstrate our Voices for the Lake project at the IMLS Conference, WebWise 2009: Digital Debates.

While I'll let Bridget get to the real, umm, "meat" of the debates, I wanted to drop in and offer my perspective as well, and try and lay down a bit of a roadmap for some upcoming posts. It was nice meeting a number of you in the Museum and Library fields. The next time Bridget sends me a link to the latest blog posting on Museum 2.0 (Who is already talking about one of the interesting things we both observed - the use of the technology-facilitated backchannel), I've got a face to put with it. I also enjoyed Michael R. Nelson's Keynote Speech, The Cloud, the Crowd, and the 3-D Internet - Implications for Cultural Organizations, and left wondering how we should balance the use of the cloud - YouTube - vs. storing our videos on traditional servers here at ECHO. Look for a post on that at somepoint in the future.

Touring the project demonstrations, it didn't take long to pick up on one phrase making a repeated appearance - "Google Maps". I'm not just talking about what Bridget was saying, either. Everywhere I went, someone was finding a new use for the API or even the interface, ranging from the Civil Rights Digital Library - who have tied it into the search results to give a graphic sense of where events occure - to Developing Advanced Technologies for the Imaging of Cultural Heritage Objects - which allows you to navigate historical objects and artifacts in 3D, using an interface very similar to Google Earth.

When we were presenting, I had a number of people interested in how we were able to use our Kiosk to automatically upload videos to YouTube. I've taken note, and will be devoting a whole post to that soon, so if that interests you, keep an eye out for it. If you watched our demonstration and didn't have a chance to get your question in, by all means, embrace that backchannel again and drop us a comment or email!

Finally, while in DC, we got a tip that the Newseum - located just blocks away from our hotel - had something we should check out. While it's temping to think they might have meant the section of the Berlin Wall, the awesome view of the city from the 6th floor balcony, or the emotionally moving wall of front-page headlines from around the world following 9/11... what they really thought we should see was located on the 2nd floor, in the center of a fogged glass room. Check back later this week to find out what it is!

~ Travis Cook, Information Technology Coordinator