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How come nothin is tagged "nekkid?"
May 1, 2009 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Tag! You're It! The Brooklyn Museum is inviting its user community to tag its online collection.
posted by Miko (26 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another site that implements user generated content wrong. Look, you obviously want me to contribute stuff to your site, so why make it difficult for me and require that I create account? Just let me do some fun stuff for a while and then try to sell me the account creation process. Learn from StackOverflow.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:03 PM on May 1, 2009


Sorry for the poor grammar.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:05 PM on May 1, 2009


Why register? Because as soon as I saw this I was ready to tag everything with "penis", when I saw you had to register I dropped the idea. That's why you make people sign up, as an extra step to keep out the punks.
posted by Science! at 4:11 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's why you make people sign up, as an extra step to keep out the punks.

I think if you find yourself visiting a museum's website and tagging works of art, you no longer qualify as a "punk" per se.
posted by aheckler at 4:18 PM on May 1, 2009


I think if you find yourself visiting a museum's website and tagging works of art, you no longer qualify as a "punk" per se.
posted by Mblue at 4:38 PM on May 1, 2009


aheckler: "if you find yourself visiting a museum's website and tagging works of art, you no longer qualify as a "punk" per se."

This makes me want to get sushi and not pay.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:47 PM on May 1, 2009


I was at the Boston ICA awhile back. There, in the new "Mediatheque" digital center, I spent about twenty minutes watching three very high, college aged, art school type kids tag photos on the ICA's tagging program.

waitwaitwait... igot one....(concentrates)... P E N I S. all three collapse on floor laughing uncontrollablely..... whhhhhhaaaaa! SHH.... SHHH.... no no,.... wait wait... i got one.... (repeat endlessly)

It was pretty funny.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a good idea, but it has to be moderated somehow.
posted by sswiller at 4:53 PM on May 1, 2009


Of course user tagging doesn't have to be instantanious; let users tag stuff right away, then ask them to register for an account, then moderate their tags and finally display their tags. Sorry for the crappy derail, Miko.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:11 PM on May 1, 2009


It's a cool idea. It's a great idea for decentralizing the classification of artifacts, such that we can see the ways in which art historians would classify the important details of paintings, and the ways in which folks off the street will. At the same time, it definitely needs moderation. Check this painting: "Kiss Me and You'll Kiss the 'Lasses".

We've got "sexual", "naked", "nude". Sexual? Perhaps, but the "innuendo" tag works better. "naked" or "nude"? Certainly not.

We've got "oil", "oil painting", "American oil". A quick test reveals you can even have "spoon" and "Spoon" (case difference).

Then someone has tagged the work with its own title, which is a piece of information that hardly seems importantly taggable.

On top of all of this, you cannot edit anyone else's tags, so as much as I might want to remove "nude" from this (having gone through the registration process), I can't.

So A for idea, C- for execution.

And just wait 'til 4chan discovers this ...
posted by barnacles at 5:12 PM on May 1, 2009


Metafilter has set a higher standard than this. So much so that I won't participate unless I get some kind of written confirmation from them that I was a backtagging superstar.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:24 PM on May 1, 2009


I saw the gal from the Brooklyn Museum give a talk about the user generated content stuff they've been doing on the site at the Computer in Libraries conference. My best guess as to why they want you to register is so that they can get numbers for grants. In the non-profit world, especially with libraries and museums, you can't just say "oh look we've got this 2.0 gewgaw that people like to screw around with" and expect people to pay you for it. But you can say "we've got 125 unique users who have added 2500 tags over two months from elevent differnt countries" and that's a whole new ballgame. Like it or lump it, many of these institutions rely on grant funding and the registration hurdle is a pretty small one if it helps them stay open and in business. If it were my museum site, I'd make this explanation part of a "why register?" bit of explanation.

Part of it also is getting people used to the idea of interacting with artwork by adding metadata. Again it's old hat for a lot of people on MeFi but for many people checking out the Brooklyn Museum's site it may be the first time they've interacted with artwork in that way. That interaction has value even if they make rookie taggin g mistakes. The museum has staff [though not many] that can oversee how this is going and adjust and make corrections and I'm sure we'll see this smoothing out as they learn from this. I'm sure we'll aslo see tag clouds filling up as more people use this and the little used or screwed up tags will drift into obscurity.

So, we're not a museum here on MeFi but we already

- make you register to tag content
- make you actually become part of an elite tagging squad to "back tag" content that is already up or not made by you or a contact of yours
- don't let you remove/edit other people's tags

I'm not surprised that this isn't bleeding edge implementation. I see this as partially helping them get metadata for the collection but also a larger service to the museum and library community to do advocay and outreach work to people that

- explains what tagging is
- explains how to do it in a (mostly) user friendly way
- doesn't just say UR DOIN IT WRONG all the time and makes the tagging experience mostly painless (except for registration which could be explained more, sure)

and for that, I'm thankful.
posted by jessamyn at 5:30 PM on May 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I plan on tagging everything in the collection with "fugghedabboutit".
posted by ...possums at 5:39 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm guessing your account probably gets deactivated after ten consecutive uses of the "batshitinsane" tag. Which seems perfectly fair.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:46 PM on May 1, 2009


That's why you make people sign up, as an extra step to keep out the punks.

Wikipedia manages without this.
posted by DU at 6:07 PM on May 1, 2009


> We've got "sexual", "naked", "nude". Sexual? Perhaps, but the "innuendo" tag works better. "naked" or "nude"?

Well, from a management standpoint, they can flip the sort, and view all nude images in a gallery, and clean up the tags that way.

Once the general sorting is done, it makes drilling down and removing the wrong tags really easy. And then this is where registration comes in: they can hopefully dig up who was doing more real sorting, and who was tagging everything penis. Invite the first group back, give them the ability to edit tags and see tag based galleries, throw them some identification guidelines and tools, and let them clean up the initial sort.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:20 PM on May 1, 2009


> Wikipedia manages without this.

Wikipedia also has a near full time 'staff' of volunteers with registered accounts who track all of the changes being made, as another way to keep out punks. I don't think the library has the same ability to instantly generate a community of moderators to manage this for them.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:30 PM on May 1, 2009


I'd make this explanation part of a "why register?" bit of explanation.

That was my central critique. I couldn't find either an explanation of "why tag?" for those who undoubtedly are encountering it for the first time, nor an explanation of "why register."

Even so, this represents a useful step forward for museums. Though it may look pathetic to people used to social tagging in other environments, museums have had a much harder time releasing curatorial control over content and categorization. Interesting things result - in the last few months I've heard two or three stories about items in online collections being identified much more fully or significantly through the invitation of user tagging - instances like a member of a culture (the Masons, a Native group) being able to give specific names and ceremonial uses for objects that no one on the museum staff had the insider knowledge of, or offering information that corrects an original cataloging error, that kind of thing.

As far as the reward? You don't get a "backtagging superstar" label, but you do get to see goofball videos made by the staff as you pass certain stages.

And finally, though I posted it here because the community here might find this application of tagging interesting, it's really designed for people who are already accessing the museum's community portal for whatever reason - so you can assume people land at the site with a greater degree of investment if they've searched it out. This (and the other components of their online presence) is a way to strengthen relationships between the museum and its user community.

In short, it might look primitive to people who use sites funded by significant private capital or ad-generated revenue. But the budget here is a lot lower than that, and the Brooklyn Museum is most definitely one of the few leaders in pioneering ways to give museums a meaningful interactive presence on the web using information technologies that might get people somewhere in terms of understanding of art, culture, history, and support of the institutions that preserve them. Museums could not do this at all, or they could do it imperfectly and learn from it. Ultimately, I think they could do it extremely well if there can be enough experimentation of this type - and if they succeed, they'll be doing some work that no one else, including those well-funded private sites, has any interest in doing for the public.

w/r/t Wikipedia - I often wonder what the long-range strategic vision is for the thing. One day, interest will peter out. Windows will get broken and not repaired. New volunteers won't be sufficient to replace attrition. What then? What's the survival plan here?
posted by Miko at 9:15 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


jessamyn and Miko (and the rest of The Blue),

I am now working at an institution that uses Omeka to display the records of some of our holdings. One of the very cool features that Omeka offers is precisely this ability (user-generated tags), yet we are not taking advantage of it.

Why? For the very reasons cited in this discussion...

Moderation requires human intervention and a lot of institutions simply haven't the funding to support a staff person sorting through all of the "penis" tags (or worse).

So thank you for reminding me of the simple tool of requiring registration. It's going to be an amusing meeting with my super on Tuesday ... *grin ... we LIKE Omeka and are looking for new ways to take advantage of its power.
posted by aldus_manutius at 9:17 AM on May 2, 2009


Moderation requires human intervention and a lot of institutions simply haven't the funding to support a staff person sorting through all of the "penis" tags (or worse).

This is the generally accepted understanding of "moderating comments (or tags) in an online community": somebody has to look at all the content contributed by members to "moderate" it, "edit" it. And it's wrong. Totally wrong. It's not how it works at all, if you only look at Metafilter:
- there are guidelines
- the members themselves are guardian of the guidelines
- they flag anything that they think "break the guidelines"
- moderators don't have to sift through all the content: they only check flags.

But first, you have to trust your members to be members, partners in the curation (?) of the museum, not commoners to whom you generously give the opportunity to comment (or tag) in your palace.
posted by bru at 8:43 PM on May 2, 2009


But first, you have to trust your members to be members, partners in the curation (?) of the museum, not commoners to whom you generously give the opportunity to comment (or tag) in your palace.

Sure, but part of this is just a traffic issue. Smaller sites than MetaFilter do moderate every comment.

How do you get people who like a museum and want to tag a museum collection to feel enough potential for reward, and enough ownership, to keep returning to the site and to participate to the degree of monitoring other people's contributions? After all, if it's not fun it's work. It's not the same as MeFi where the community is actually an end in itself. For a museum, the community is organized around the content in the collection, and the collection isn't just "what everybody was interested in" but a specifically developed array of objects to illustrate a specific point. Museums, almost by definition, aren't commonses but niches that enrich the life of the commons. As such, they don't draw as much generalist traffic; they draw interest-based communities, and those communities are aware that they are not involved in a collaborative project, but are one outgrowth of a mission-driven institution. The users don't provide the content, so they may feel less required to police it. I think the relationship to the content is different.
posted by Miko at 9:23 PM on May 2, 2009


I think the relationship to the content is different.

Interesting point of view.
I had visited the Brooklyn Museum website a few months ago and I had found that their use of content created by their visitors was very clever at the time: they asked visitors to post photos on flickr, videos on youtube and comments on their own blogs and then email the links to the Museum. Then the Museum would decide which of these links it would display on the Museum site. Clever use of free hosting opportunity, but also clever appearance of involving visitors without losing an inch of control.

So I am not sure I even agree with the premise:
How do you get people who like a museum and want to tag a museum collection to feel enough potential for reward, and enough ownership, to keep returning to the site and to participate to the degree of monitoring other people's contributions?

My point is: if you don't want to develop a community of members that you can trust, if you think that your visitors are just strangers that you can't involve into the Museum's life, if you are just trying to give lip service to the idea of "community", why choose tagging as a way of involving those "visitors"? If you don't trust them, if you don't plan to trust them in the long run, the tagging program is not a good idea.

And I really, really disagree that a museum can't become a collaborative project. A lot of people in the museum community are exploring avenues in this direction.
posted by bru at 2:53 PM on May 3, 2009


My point is: if you don't want to develop a community of members that you can trust, if you think that your visitors are just strangers that you can't involve into the Museum's life, if you are just trying to give lip service to the idea of "community", why choose tagging as a way of involving those "visitors"?

Because tagging is actually a way of learning more about the museum collection and improving searchability for users. It's not only, or even mostly, for building community. I do think that like all online interaction it can have the ancillary benefit of bringing people more closely into the museum's community, but tagging isn't primarily for community building. It's a way of making information better and more accessible.

If you don't trust them, if you don't plan to trust them in the long run, the tagging program is not a good idea.

What makes you think they aren't trusted? I don't see anything they can really break, so I don't see a trust concern. Like Jessamyn, the only reason I see to require registration is to save moderation time for staffs that are already overstretched. My concern isn't about trust at all - it's that no museum will really generate high enough traffic on its web interactives to constitute anything like the kind of online community that can self-police. And, as noted, even this "self-policiing" community depends very much on its registration system and paid staff. Do you feel you're not trusted at MeFi?

As for AAM, yes, I attend that conference and many other museum conferences, and yes, we are exploring avenues in this direction. And this is one of them; the Brooklyn Museum is definitely a leader in this regard.

In one sense, a museum is already nothing other than a collaborative project - that's why they exist, at least the nonprofit ones - they create a platform for people to collaborate on collecting, preserving, and educating about objects. So they're already collaborations in themselves at the most fundamental level, and they continue to create collaborative projects in both meatspace and online.

What kind of collaboration would you envision that (a) large numbers of people would actually be interested in participating in more than casually and (b) would be different from a brick and mortar museum? I ask in sincerity. I know the ideas are out there, but have not really been tried yet, and some have not yet been proposed. I find ideas that look new but are really rehashes to be pretty much a waste of time for museums. I'd like to see some really new ways of working with content and interpreting content that online channels make available.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on May 3, 2009


It's possible to tag object anonymously, there is not requirement to register. Go to an individual object and tag away. Registering simply attributes the tags to you--which is necessary if you're playing the "Tag! You're It!" game for the standings. (Note: I work at the Museum in question, feel free to remove this if it's inappropriate.)
posted by erin_trying at 7:48 AM on May 4, 2009


Thanks erin_trying: I was wrong about the Museum intention. I apologize.

Great that you are working at the Museum: what would be inappropriate would be to make a front page post about something you are involved with; adding information in a post written by someone else is very appreciated.

Miko: I don't work at all in the museum world; I am just interested in art and in online communities. That's why I am interested in reading, for example, about the Smithsonian 2.0 Forum: "This, I think, should be a core strategy. To create spaces where content-seekers can connect with our collections and with other content seekers. Where motivated individuals can work together to come up with innovative and effective ways to apply SI's content knowledge and expertise in ways we haven't thought of yet."

Generally speaking, I don't think that museums are very different from main stream media when it comes to the Web. Most of them are still at step one: they want to use the Web to expand reach. Step two will follow: the Web is a two way street and in the end, the community will be part of the Museum, like it will infiltrate main stream media. The only question is how to operate this transition, to view it as an opportunity or as a burden.
posted by bru at 7:58 PM on May 4, 2009


Step two will follow: the Web is a two way street and in the end, the community will be part of the Museum, like it will infiltrate main stream media. The only question is how to operate this transition, to view it as an opportunity or as a burden.

bru, I'm totally down with that and I read lots and lots of forums and blogs and Museum 2.0 weblists and things like that, too. My frustration is that I'm starting to hit a wall with it and want to know where to go next.

I agree completely that the web is not that different from mainstream media, and that a lot of practical lessons transition perfectly. And I agree that it offers an opportunity for a two-way street. I disagree that museums always see it as a burden; that's fading. What I'm thinking about is: assuming that a given museum doesn't see it as a burden, how can a museum offer a better two-way street? What would a museum that really engaged its interest community online be doing well? What would that look like? What do you want to do that you can't now? And of that set of ideas, what would you really, actually go out of your way to spend time doing? What would enrich your own life meaningfully? What would you go in search of? What would you enjoy doing so much you'd send it to/enlist others? The catch is: it has to be about interacting with objects/content - because that's what museums are about.

I think this is where we're at a sticking point. Museums have some really wonderful stuff to share and they are using the web to get some new audiences interested/involved. There is an emerging culture of openness and authentic interaction. So, now what?

I'm not so much concerned with opportunity vs. burden. We'll get over the issues of people feeling burdened. What I'm concerned about is that we offer once we get over that is something really vital and interesting and powerful, some way of creating access to content that isn't the same-old "ooh, play curator and make your own collection" thing, or just an extension of the marketing strategy, what Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 blog recently called the "participatory ghetto" that begins and ends with social networking instead of a really new and changed approach to content.

Some neat projects: ArtsConnectEd lets you use a couple of museums' art collections to create your own annotated slide show, useful for teaching purposes. There are things that web technology, especially, can do uniquely well and in fact better than mainstream media. What are some applications for those abilities that serve the purpose of bringing people into contact with objects and the information for which objects are vehicles? Objects themselves are information - how is this information to be presented and used on the web?

We could stand to demonstrate some serious value if we're to get over the "burden" concerns. If we're so great at collecting and interpreting objects, shouldn't we be finding some really amazing ways to do that using connectivity?

And that is a bigger question than creating usertagging or anything like that. The thing is they can't remain just novelties - I hope they are stepping stones to a reinvigorated and vital museum sector, one in which that is taken for granted but isn't the center ring of the circus. bru, you might really like to browse through the 2009 Best of the Web nominees and winners from the Museums and the Web annual conference.
posted by Miko at 8:41 PM on May 4, 2009


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