Archive for 2008

Tate Liverpool iPhone tours

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

With the recent introduction (for many countries) of Apple’s iPhone, many museums and galleries have been looking at ways they can use the web browser and multimedia player capabilities of the device to enhance the content they deliver.

The Tate Liverpool have made a podcast of their Gustav Klimt exhibition available.  It can be watched from anywhere, but is designed to play on an iPhone or iPod touch at the exhibition. The podcast weighs in at nearly 200Mb so they provide a wi-fi network at the gallery where a user can download it once they arrive or a user can hire an iPod touch.  Given that they have tailored the podcast for these devices and they have a wi-fi network in place, I wonder why they chose to present the content to mimick a traditional audio tour where you walk up to an object and press the corresponding number on the device – rather than as a web based tour that could use a totally different interface to interact with the artwork? 
A user using the Tate iPhone tour

However, the podcast itself has been done very well. It begins with a short introduction, showing a user how to use the device.  For each item, a brief image appears and then the screen goes blank while the narration occurs to allow the visitor to focus on the actual work of art, rather than the video screen.  Towards the end of each items file, videos, stills or interviews are presented as secondary content to enhance what the user has already learnt.

The tour appears to be working for the gallery. Will Gompertz, director of Tate Media, stated that the average visit time increased from 45 minutes to 3 hours since the tour was introduced.

Being in Australia, it’s a bit hard for me to visit the exhibition and experience it fully.  Although the tour appears to be working for the gallery, it still feels as though there is a bit of a missed opportunity in that it hasn’t exploited the unique interface of the device in the ways it is capable of being used.

A Frasier moment

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

This morning I lined up to get a couple of tickets to the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming performance of Vivalidi’s Four Seasons.  What I didn’t know was that this morning tickets went on sale for the rugby league grand final.  You could image the dirty looks I got from the people in the line when I got to the front of the line and asked for classical concert tickets instead of the highly prized limited tickets!

I’m sure I’ll get just as much enjoyment out of my once in a lifetime concert as they will out of their once in a lifetime football game. 

Have I turned into Frasier Crane?

Books alive

Monday, August 4th, 2008

The Australian Council for the Arts have just released their annual Books Alive list of 50 books you can’t put down. Books Alive is an initiative to encourage people to read. On their website they have a list of where you can purchase the books, but they haven’t included a list of which libraries stock the books. If you are trying to encourage people to read then there should be no barriers for anyone – especially financial barriers. So for all of those that wish to read, but don’t want to pay for the privilege, here is a list of all the libraries in Australia that have the 50 books you can’t put down.

Australian iPhone data plans

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Vodafone, Optus and Telstra have announced their pricing plans for the iPhone here in Australia.  Take a look at a summary of their proposed pricing structures:

Price per month Included voice and TXT Included data
$19 – Optus $50 100Mb
$30 – Optus 3G wireless broadband N/A 1Gb
$35 – Vodafone 3G mobile broadband N/A 5Gb
$45 – Optus 3G wireless broadband N/A 2Gb
$49 – Optus $300 250Mb
$50 – Optus 3G wireless broadband N/A 5Gb
$59 – Optus $350 500Mb
$59 – Telstra (8Gb or 16Gb iPhone) $25 93Mb
$60 – Optus 3G wireless broadband N/A 6Gb
$69 – Vodafone $310 250Mb
$79 – Optus $550 700Mb
$89 – Optus $600 850Mb
$89 – Telstra (8Gb or 16Gb iPhone) $50 107Mb
$99 – Vodafone $600 500Mb
$109 – Telstra (8Gb or 16Gb iPhone) $70 107Mb
$119 – Vodafone $800 500Mb
$129 – Telstra (16Gb iPhone) $90 107Mb
$149 – Optus $1200 1Gb
$169 – Vodafone $1200 1Gb
$179 – Optus $1500 1Gb

I don’t think they understand what this phone is designed for and what makes it different from any other phone out there.  The difference between this phone and every other phone on the market is its ability to handle data.  If I purchase an iPhone, I’m not interested in getting ridiculous amounts of talk time, I’m interested in data.  I’m still going to keep on making $30 of voice calls each month, regardless of what phone I’m using.  Having data plans starting at 256Mb is simply crazy (although you can still get home broadband plans that have similar low amounts).  Given my browsing habits at home (and the fact that I can jump onto a wi-fi network) I could quite easily cope with 1Gb of data for the time being, but when I only make $25-$30 worth of phone calls a month, what is the incentive to sign up for an extra $1000 of calls a month that will just be wasted?

How about a pricing structure based upon the data usage rather than the talk time? For example:

Price per month Included voice and TXT Included data
$50 $200 1Gb
$70 $300 2Gb
$100 $400 2Gb
$150 $600 5Gb

Isn’t this tailoring the plan to suit the device, rather than just regurgitating the same pricing structure that their previous business models have been based on?  As much as I would love an iPhone, I won’t be lining up tomorrow morning.  I’m going to hold off a little and (hopefully) after the initial hype has died down the carriers will begin to offer some more reasonable plans.

Update 10th July 2008: I added in the prices for their 3G mobile internet plans for extra comparison on how poor their data plans really are.

Update 12th July 2008: Added Telstra pricing

Libraries, museums and

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Today we released an upgrade to Picture Australia. Most of the improvements were behind the scenes improvements involving building the framework for features that will be implemented in a few months.  One feature that was implemented was an “Add to” link.  

A “share this” link is nothing new for any news site, blog or current affairs site, in fact for these sites it’s nearly essential to get your content out there and distributed as quickly as possible.  So why is this feature virtually absent from the collection searches of most libraries and museums?  Isn’t it an ideal mechanism for promoting the core content from their collections and giving it the opportunity for further exposure, particularly given the difficulties many museums and libraries face getting their collections indexed by search engines?

Picture Australia currently provides what are essentially “pre-configured” searches on particular topics called trails.  These are designed to be easy and topical introductions into the collections.  With the addition of the “share this” link, now any user can create a group of related images, add their own descriptions, tag it however they like and promote it.  For example, a teacher may want to create a group of images for a class they are teaching, or a historical train society may wish to collate all the references to photographs of trains in their area. Through the use of the API, this user generated trail doesn’t even need to be promoted on, it can be incorporated into any site, displaying it in it’s own context.