Archive for October, 2006

ExhibitFiles structure emerges

Monday, October 23rd, 2006 by Jim Spadaccini

This site diagram (site diagram v2 PDF) illustrates the relationship between the various components of the proposed ExhibitFiles site. Since one of the key functions of the site is to “include shared records of exhibition descriptions,” the ability to add, browse, and search these records is a major part of the site structure. So far the design process has focused on the elements that make up these individual records. (See blog posts, “Personal Profiles” and “Case Studies and Reviews“).

Beyond the specifics, our discussions have focused on what is the “right amount” of information. Too much and users won’t want to add case studies or reviews, too little and we might be omitting important information. Obviously, we need to meet the needs of the members of the ExhibitFiles site. A major and ongoing concern has been how can we best encourage active participation.

Wendy’s last post, Tapping the wisdom of the crowd, explained in detail the concept of drawing ISEN-ASTC-L messages directly into the ExhibitFiles site. This is not the only place that ExhibitFiles members will have opportunities to converse. Comments (and ratings) can be added to any case study or review. Trying to anticipate conversation in a complex social site is difficult, so we intend to see how things go and make some adjustments as the site is launched and these conversations begin.

In our Berkeley design meeting, the issue of “ratings” was discussed and, for the most part, participants were concerned that employing such a system could trivialize contributions to the site. It was agreed that rating systems such as the starred Yahoo! ratings for news stories would not be appropriate in this environment.

As an alternative, we looked to favorites as way to sort reviews, case studies, and other content on the ExhibitFiles site. As members add items to their own favorites, a record of that addition will be associated with that item, so reviews or case studies that are favorited by many users could be presented in some way (e.g., most favorited). Also, each member’s list of favorites can be useful for others, in the same way the del.icio.us bookmarks can be made available to all members.

As our discussion progressed, we revisited the concept of “ratings.” This was due in part to addition of the ISEN-ASTC-L component. Having a way for ExhibitFiles members to help sort the messages that are most relevant to the site is essential, since not all of the messages on the Listserv are directly related to exhibit design. The example of Digg in which visitors give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down to content items as way to sort was discussed, as was Amazon’s Was this review helpful to you? Yes or No feature.

We’re looking to add a similar feature: “Did you find this useful? Yes or No.” This simple Yes/No rating along with favorites will help “score” the Listserv messages as well as case studies and reviews. While ratings won’t be the only way to browse (and search?) the ExhibitFiles content, having some methods for letting the community decide what information is most useful is important. We hope to have a large collection of records and conversations about exhibit design, so community members will need various methods to find the materials that are important to them.

After months of discussion and review we’re finally getting to the point of building out components of the ExhibitFiles site. While the pace will pick up dramatically over the next few weeks, we’re still very interested in your comments and ideas. The current push is for our first build to be ready in January 2007. We will be taking a look at the site again in late spring once the first members begin to contribute and use the site. As we design and develop elements for the ExhibitFiles, we’ll be posting page grids and other diagrams on this blog. As always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Tapping the wisdom of the crowd

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006 by Wendy Pollock

Earlier discussion about the relationship between ExhibitFiles and the ISEN-ASTC-L list got us thinking. Paul Orselli notes that topics recur and wonders whether we could create an FAQ or resource drawn from the list archive. Like Paul, we wondered whether there is a way to integrate ExhibitFiles and the list, with its well-established community of 1,370+ members. And then: Is there a way to tap the collective wisdom of the exhibit community to add value to the discussions already happening on the list? We’ve come up with these ideas:

  • Draw ISEN-ASTC-L messages directly into the ExhibitFiles site, identifying threads and perhaps adding photos for registered ExhibitFiles users. (We would notify ISEN-ASTC-L subscribers, of course, and also encourage them to register as ExhibitFiles users.)
  • Add a simple rating system: “Did you find this message useful? Yes or No
  • Enable registered ExhibitFiles users to add messages (and threads) to a list of “favorites” within their profiles

These ratings would then help sift out what’s of most lasting interest and make it available for others.

Andrea Bandelli (drawing on James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds) has reflected elsewhere about the qualities that make a crowd “smart.” “It needs to be diverse, so that people are bringing different pieces of information to the table. It needs to be decentralized, so that no one at the top is dictating the crowd’s answer. It needs a way of summarizing people’s opinion into one collective verdict. And the people in the crowd need to be independent, so that they pay attention mostly to their own information, not worrying about what everyone around them thinks.”

We hope that the design approach we envision will help us, collectively, tap the wisdom of the exhibit “crowd.”