With the Open Plaques project it’s difficult to separate content from technology – where does one end and the other start, and are they even usefully separated? But thanks to the team assembled in the Content working group at our Open Day on 25th September, we had a surfeit of experience on both fronts and no such issues. A wonderful venue (C4CC), delicious food (Niven’s) and supersize helpings of enthusiasm completed the circle.
Following four opening presentations from Frankie Roberto, Emily Toop, Ian Ozsvald and Richard Varhman (more on those in future posts), the attendees broke into three groups (the others being Development and User Interface/User Experience). We in the Content group were a motley crew – developers, pervasive game designers, entrepreneurial geeks, web content and community folk, and Open Plaques enthusiasts – and we were all the better for it. It was challenging but equally fun and hugely exciting to brainstorm, document and discuss the possibilities for the site with people from such diverse backgrounds.
We’d been planning the day for two months and I’d already drawn up a list of topics and ideas for the Content group but what amazed me, as I stepped into role of facilitator, was not just that almost all those ideas bubbled up unprompted (and heaps more great suggestions too!) but the level of debate, finessing, and speedy prioritisation that animated the group’s discussions.
One minute we pondered triage of email enquiries, user feedback and bug tracking, the next we were debating what is a page and what is just an attribute? Media feeds, content curation, guerilla plaques, and guided / unguided tours were considered, as were geocaching, timelines, waymarking, and becoming the default support service for the multitude of resource-stretched plaque erecting bodies. At one point I started to draw a (slightly wonky) Venn diagram of the Open Plaques service’s main constituents, which the group then helped in completing.
The sheer volume of ideas could have overwhelmed other groupings, but we navigated the chaos and worked through them from a number of perspectives: type of user, page types, content types, and types of participation, to name a few. These approaches helped us juggle the ballooning list of ideas while thinking about how the nuts and bolts of content fitted together both practically and strategically.
When we re-convened after lunch the ideas were still flowing, but we soon knuckled down to some “must-haves” and key outcomes that we thought would help improve the (still very much Alpha) website and move things forward.
In no way is what we ended with a finished plan, as the Open Day was about opening-up, collaborating and laying the groundwork for further community and website building. Everyone who participated in the Content group played a very active and valuable part, and this was mirrored elsewhere. Through hours of deep confab the Technology group did some actual hacking and developing, and the UI/UX group (pictured above) produced well-rounded concepts and wireframes.
A special mention goes to Emily Toop who had already built the Open Plaques iPhone app from our data, and which is now in the App Store! In the next few months we’re planning to get stuck into more of the key ideas that were collectively cooked up on the day. If you were there and have any comments or weren’t there but want to get involved, we’d love to hear from you!
[Photos of the day can be seen on Flickr]