Category: Strategy

Make sure your investments on web sites, apps or new real-life programs don’t fail by conducting usability and user experience testing.

“Usability testing differs from focus groups in that it involves the observation of participants as they actually use the product,” said Ian David Moss, a development consultant who works in the Arts. “They key feature of usability testing that makes it different from most other kinds of feedback-gathering methods is that it is based on direct observation rather than self-reporting….So, rather than have people sit around a room and talk about (for example) how they might react to a new feature or what challenges they face in their daily work, you have people sitting in front of a computer and trying to navigate a website’s capabilities while staff members look over their shoulders and take notes.” (more…)

Gameplay has a lot to teach us about motivating participation through joy. ‘Gamification’ is a new term, coined in 2008, for adapting game mechanics into non-game setting — such as building online communities, education and outreach, marketing, or building educational apps. Here are some ideas for how to do it.


Badges, trophies and points represent having accomplished something. Since antiquity, people have been honored with medals, crowns and other decorations. Wreaths made of bay laurel were awarded to Greek athletes, and worn by Roman poets (e.g., Ovid, at left). (more…)

Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit,” is a useful way to deliver scientific and cultural knowledge to the public. Wikipedia is the 5th most visited web site, with 400450 million unique visitors per month.

It’s not “merely a larger audience, but a different audience,” says Sara Snyder, webmaster for the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, who has recently started to use Wikipedia more. She says, “Our main website is geared towards an academic-minded or university-level student, researcher, curator, or professional art historian. Yet we have information and collections that may inform or appeal to a broader set of folks, such as younger students and art enthusiasts.  Wikipedia is a platform for trying to start serving those researchers too, without overhauling the current way we do business or our existing website.” (more…)

So you want to create a niche social network? And you’ve read the prior post on overall issues to consider? Here’s an overview of over a dozen software platforms you might consider. (more…)

Social networking gives professionals and enthusiastic members of the public a great way to connect and share information about scientific or cultural topics.

A niche social network can benefit small, grassroots projects as well as large institutions, achieving many objectives simultaneously. A social network allows members to  e.g., exchanging information, making personal connections, fostering dialog and awareness on a topic, as well as fundraising or promoting products and services.

Here are some tips and considerations for getting started… (more…)

Thinking about launching a new niche social network for a science or cultural community of professionals? Think again. It costs a lot to do well, and there’s a major risk of failure. People don’t have much time to spend logging into yet another social network, and it’s hard to reach a critical mass so that the site is interesting for people to use.

On the other hand, many niche communities still lack a good way to interact online. So there’s a potential need for new social networks.

Ravelry (for knitters and crocheters) is a fantastic example of a thriving niche social network. It has over 1.4 million members (and my wife loves it: she spends more time in there than on Twitter or Facebook). A recent article about Ravelry in Slate talks about how “social sites work better when they’re smaller and bespoke, created to cater to a specific group.” Members share photos and swap tips on their knitting projects. The site was started by a husband & wife team, and now has a 4-person staff. Revenue comes from their online store and advertisers. (more…)

There’s a great new video on YouTube, “I’m a climate scientist.” It uses gangsta-rap flavor to bring home the point that a lot of people talking about climate change are not actual climate scientists. Here’s the video, which contains some expletives:

If you are at work, or don’t like the word “F##k,” try out this clean version. Here’s the story… (more…)

All publications from the National Academies Press (NAP) are now available for free as PDFs. NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academies, and publishes 200+ books a year on topics in science, engineering, and health.

Making the PDFs free is the culmination of a decade of research and sales modeling on how to finance a nimble publishing house with paid print books, with enough spare revenue to allow free release of electronic books. Here’s the evolution:


Is the art enough? Probably not. Art museum revenues are falling and museums need to experiment with new business models and ways to build a buzz and relevance with young audiences.

Yesterday, art critic Judith Dobrzynski wrote in her Real Clear Arts blog about how an upcoming nighttime event at the Hirshhorn is elitist, flaunted, and inexcusable. Dobrzynski says, “I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, if museum officials don’t believe that art is enough, no one else will either.” What do you think? (more…)

Innovation takes years, if not decades. An essay by Bill Buxton, principal scientist at Microsoft Research, introduced the idea of the “The Long Nose of Innovation.” In his Jan 2008 Business Week article, he draws parallels to the ‘long tail’ of products. This has applications to all kinds of planning.

This is what the long nose looks like as a graph (it’s a nose pointing to the left): (more…)