Where the F have you been?

Posted on December 23, 2008

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It’s been a long while (possibly the biggest gap since the launch of this blog..) since my last post – over a month.

This is unprecedented for me, and I’ve had four or five emails (thanks!) asking me why. I’ve always dodged around with an answer, not because I was trying to avoid some horrific truth but because until the last couple of days I simply haven’t had the brain time to devote to the reasons.

The first part of the answer to “Mike, where the F have you been?” is this: I’ve been busy keeping balls in the air: another presentation (What does Web 2.0 DO for us?) which I delivered to a roomful at Online Information 2008 on 4th Dec…the beginning stages writing a module for the new Digital Heritage MA/MSc at Leicester University – an opportunity which I’m hugely excited about, and not a little bit scared too…continuing work on three side-projects, none of which I can talk about just yet…development and writing for a corporate blog for internal comms…a desktop notification app…not to mention the hectic craziness of helping look after a 2-boy young family. Etcetefuckinra.

All of which is terribly boring, TBH, because if there’s one thing we all know about each other it is this: we’re all much too busy. In fact a corporate stat somewhere a while ago said that everyone believes themselves to be busier than 90% of everyone else. This is, of course, also true for me.

This leads to the second part of the answer: I’ve felt for a long time that the landscape of blogging has been changing considerably, particularly with lifestreaming now a part of our daily diet. I’ve blogged about noise on various occasions, and I’ve also noticed a huge shift in my own reading habits – a shift which has an obvious effect on my writing habits, too. I’m less interested in “blog post as news”, instead preferring longer, deeper, better written pieces like the beautifully-crafted Business Requirements Are Bullshit. I’m me – you’re you – but the important thing for me is that I write in a way which complements the medium and as much as possible brings some kind of value to those of you who have given up some of your valuable time to read what I have to say.

This brings me neatly on to the third part which was summed up in a conversation with Brian Kelly and Paul Walk over a post-work pint recently: why the F do we all blog, anyway? We were talking at the time about Paul’s much-commented post on blog awards. Paul is similar to me – and different to Brian – in that the former blogs as a hobby and not as a job. Paul runs his blog under his own name; Brian runs his (albeit not “officially”), under “UKWebFocus”. Brian has a series of blog policies and sticks closely to his particular topics; Paul could write about his washing powder if he so chose. I’ve always been clear (both to my readers and employers) that this isn’t a “work blog” – but it isn’t a “personal” one, either.

I started Electronic Museum as a way of reflecting on technology in the museum space. More than a year on and I’m interested in innovation, in technology ubiquity, in sharing data, in real people, in the value of attention data, in the user as focus. All of these call back to what makes museums unique, in my opinion, and it is in these arenas that I personally feel the battles for online content will be (or are being) fought and won. The point is it isn’t just a conversation about museums any more. And really, it never has been, in this always-on, radically-connected crazy internetwebthing we spend so much time staring at and talking about.

Much as I’ve carved a niche here with museum professionals who seem to value what I have to say, I’m also fascinated by the irony that nowadays it isn’t niche professionals that we need any more. Curators (museum and otherwise) – IMO – aren’t anything at all without the vision to see that what they know needs communicating in new, challenging ways; ways that may well undermine their professionalism purely because the social network they engage with has dug up someone who knows better than them. Content owners need to start to understand that value simply can’t be measured by “visits” when many people are out there having experiences with their content and not within the walled garden of their site. Technologists have got to stop hiding behind PEBCAC and start engaging with the people that are currently alienated by technology.

So what – exactly – am I saying?

I guess it is this: you’ll notice a shift over the coming weeks and months as I write about more of the things I’m doing outside of the museum space: my dabblings with the Arduino, for instance, the various other projects I’m continuously working on, a secretish partnership I’ll be able to talk about in January, and so on. I hope I won’t break the niche I’ve created – I hope that if you are a “museum professional” then you’ll continue to hang out here – I think what I have to say will be interesting, or at least mildly entertaining, whoever you are.

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Posted in: museum