It’s been a while since I have posted (long enough for me to not notice WordPress updated their interface – ack!) and what better inspiration to get me writing again than a blogging workshop at the Museums & the Web conference! I am at the conference in Montreal and participated in this great session hosted by Brian Kelley and Mike Ellis. What made it great? Mostly the discussion with colleagues from other museums from all over – mostly North America, the UK and New Zealand. We shared our experiences with blogs, got some great ideas about how to make them successful, and whether to do them at all. One participant, arkrausehardie, posted a great summary of the sessuion on the M&W Conference Blog: Blogging with Master Bloggers Mike Ellis and Brian Kelley.
For me, the best bits were the brainstorming and advice about how to promote the benefits of blogging in museums. This largely amounts to quelling fears about opening up the institution to comments from “anyone.” But it seems clear that the building-community potential of a blog is huge. The opportunity a blog can offer for a museum to be open and honest and build trust with an online audience should be embraced, not feared (easier said than done). I also liked that Mike pointed out that a blog can help you maximize what you already do. And Brian and a few participants in the session made the point that if you’re not going to embrace the spirit of the blog — with non-institutional language, allowing unmoderated comments, and a simpler workflow for approving posts than most publications in museums have — then you should just not do it.
I agree. And yet, many of the most successful blogs I have seen are peer-to-peer blogs. Museum staff writing about our work, “thinking out loud” as Brian said it, to our peers. I am still wondering what makes a successful blog for our visitors? And I am still wondering who is going to write that blog? Maybe most of the blogs coming out of museums now are about technology in museums because the people inclined to blog at the moment are the technologists in museums? (Indeed, most blogs out there are peer-to-peer. Most bloggers write for themselves, don’t they?) I think a blogger needs to feel the compulsion to blog, to write. How do we tap into the great voices in our institutions and get them inspired to write…in their own voices?
The other thing that really struck me in the session was the advocacy for starting blogs about your institution, or associated with your institution, on your own. This is the spirit of the Web, right? To do so, Brian and Mike advocated for clarity about ownership of the blog and stating clear policies about posts. This just opens up, for me, the huge Pandora’s box of personal vs. professional activities. Where do you draw the line? I am starting to think that in this day and age, the line is decidedly dotted.