Two bits of tech for museums to love

Posted on May 17, 2007

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Two things got a load of coverage this week which should – for very different reasons – be getting us museum types excited.

First off, Google analytics launched a new version which is being rolled out for existing users. Seb Chan mentioned it on a recent post and also links to a couple of introductory articles about it. From my perspective, here are the immediate wins:

1. The dashboard…in true igoogle style, a new customisable view homepage. Choose which reports you want to promote and they appear here. Drag and drop them around. Ajax-tastic.

2. The emailable reports…say goodbye at long last to those *endless* emailed requests for stats from every last person in your organisation.. Just specify a searchterm, location, page, view, map or whatever, and – please stop salivating – choose the frequency you want to send it. The report arrives as an email with a beautiful PDF attachment. Bliss.

3. The map…oh God, the map…you can, like, zoom in and zoom in…and…

4. The entrance paths…a really intuitive way of getting to grips with where people go, where they’ve been and how they left

5. The navigation…ok, they could have done anything to this and it would have been a major improvement because it was terrible in the previous version…but such a relief that you can actually find reports now…

This is a seriously powerful tool. I have a few concerns about data protection and auditability, but these can be got over by using it in parallel with log-based stats. Analytics works well, looks great, your mum could implement it and it’s really, really, really, no, really free. The other analytics companies must be panicking, big time.

Bouncing manNext up is MIT’s Scratch which the BBC covered in detail so I won’t spend much time on it. There’s lots of great stuff going on here: a freely available tool for DIY content creation with loads of flexibility for sprite creation, programming logic, mouse movement etc. It’s positioned as a tool to teach kids programming but I think it’s going to appeal to a mass market wanting to knock out quick animations for sharing.

The thing that I think makes this stand apart is the way the desktop app lets you save not just to your local machine but also – with a single click – to upload to the Scratch web page. Here’s my really quite terrible bouncing man.

Although the future is undeniably in thin clients with all the processing power “in the cloud”, it’s great to see applications like this which talk seamlessly between desktop and web. The big players obviously think so too – that’s why Adobe Flex and widgets are such big news.
The other thing which is really important to note is that – just like Yahoo! Pipes – once you upload anything for public view, it also becomes available for anyone else to download and amend. This is a really interesting model for UGC which I think will increasingly become the norm.

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