Russ Weakley: open web, open data, open panic?

Russ Weakley has a 13 year pedigree in graphic design, web development, interface design and standards based development. He’s the author of Teach yourself CSS in Ten Minutes and he works for the Australian museum. Two years ago he presented to Webstock suggesting that navigation be torn apart and be replaced by total reliance on tagging – today’s talk is a “so what happened?” review.

In relation to the Australian Museum project, having to defend every aspect has meant that he’s had to defend every aspect prior to launch. Over time the site has deteriorated, become difficult to maintain and is difficult for users to navigate and interact with. Net result? The museum site has lost relevance.

The aims then were to build a rich active website with four distinct objectives;

  1. Allow users communicate easily with the museum and with each other
  2. Allow users to share their own content
  3. Provide new and easier pathways to content
  4. Allow all staff to publish easily

So how did management react? Shock, one year of silence, a year of discussion, a  year of planning and a year to build.

The site has three main levels – categories, sections, assets. Every piece of content will be an asset, there are no more “web pages” but there will be a range of different types of assets – page, fact sheet, image, movie, event, media releases, publication etc. Assets and sections can exist in multiple locations. Ever asset will have five different navigation methods.

So what have the benefits been for users?

  • The ability to comment on any asset
  • They can add tags to any asset
  • Users can create favourites and sets
  • Upload their own images, movies, audio, comments, stories
  • Users can help monitor, answer questions, encourage discussion and create content – “virtual deputisation”
  • Users can move seamlessly through any type of content

So what’s in it for staff?

  • Every staff member will become an author
  • Publish assets directly (after training)
  • Create their own focussed, passionate and personal blogs
  • They can microblog

What if information in comments is wrong? Don’t sweat it – identify comments, identify tags, let the community self-moderate. To encourage contributions;

  • answer comments
  • encourage comments
  • reward good behaviour
  • promote outside the site
  • eventually let it go

Overall it’s been frustrating but it’s been fun!

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