This is a follow-up report to my earlier post about utilizing YouTube Quick Capture to create a community voices component for The Black List Project. The exhibition closed yesterday, so the time seemed right to post an analysis of the experiment.
Let’s take a look at the basic statistics. During the show’s four month run, visitors recorded 482 videos, 236 of which made it to our Black List Project YouTube channel. Of the 236 that were published on the channel, 96 made it to the Brooklyn Museum favorites playlist. We had 43,386 video views overall, but keep in mind one video (recorded by one of our security guards) was seen over 23,000 times when it was featured on YouTube during MLK day. Also, the channel was given non-profit status at YouTube which means auto-play is activated for videos featured on our channel and this will raise the view count.
The project required a sizable amount of moderation. Videos went live throughout the day and were post-moderated in the evenings. Depending on how many videos were recorded, moderation took between 5-15 minutes per day. When we had higher volume at Target First Saturday, we’d see anywhere between 40-80 videos recorded and this moderation required an hour or two. Interestingly, we received some of our best comments during Target First Saturday and the ratio on those days was much more signal than noise, so even in the volume, it felt worth it. Moderated videos fell into three areas and I’ve left a few of these live so you can get a chuckle: 1) kids goofing off 2) adults goofing off 3) people who would press record and walk away. There were also more than a few instances of will our hardware make it out of this experiment alive!!??! Only one video was removed because it violated our comment guidelines. Typically, we don’t moderate this heavily, but on this particular project we decided to do so because wading through video content to get to decent recordings is a lot more difficult than scanning text comments for gold. As someone who did almost all of the moderation on the project, I can tell you it’s a time-consuming process and not one that I’d want to put our web visitors through. We toyed with the idea of letting the community moderate itself at YouTube (ratings were left on), but we ran into issues there. For starters, we didn’t have enough traffic to the channel to generate enough ratings on all the videos. You can see what happens when you look at most viewed. Some videos were seen a lot (due in part to our featuring the videos in different ways) and others were not seen much at all—had we left all the content, I have a feeling the view numbers would have plummeted out of sheer viewer frustration.
We ran into one significant issue along the way and this is something I was prepared for in my head, but perhaps not in reality. I was surprised by how many members of the community were sharing racist statements at YouTube (we have never had this problem on other platforms). *wow* can only describe some of the comments that were deleted because they were in such clear violation our comment guidelines. Only one video was deleted due to a violation in guidelines, but the opposite was true on YouTube, where in my entire career, I have never deleted more comments or blocked so many users. We have a very high threshold, so just know this problem was significant. There was something about the subject matter of the show, what we were asking and how people were responding, combined with this particular on-line community that generated a lot of issues in this arena. Now that the show has closed, we will go in and turn off comments on every video and that’s a first for us.
We had a some technical trouble (crashing, sound mismatches, pixelated capture) in the early videos. We solved it by prioritizing traffic on that part of the LAN and enabling flow control at the switch side. So you need a strong LAN infrastructure where you can tweak a bit if you are seeing problems. I would not try this over a wifi connection. We also found lights were needed and we grabbed those at Ikea for very little money.
I don’t have a great answer for this. Because the videos are uploaded directly to YouTube, archiving them becomes a manual process where we use free tools to download the files back to our systems. This is a time-consuming process, so we will probably only do this for the ones that made our favorites list. In addition, the channel and some of the videos with comments and ratings will be screenshot. The channel itself will stay up for as long as it can be there—we have no plans to remove it.
Yes, but there’s more we can do next time. This was a very simple system which cost us very little in actual dollars. As low-fi as it was, it worked well to provide something that we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. Staff time was needed for moderation, but other than the volume at Target First Saturday, the time needed to be accounted for, but was not overwhelming. I will never forget seeing more than one visitor in tears when expressing themselves at these kiosks. Browse through these videos to get an idea of why this was so great.
Given the amount of moderation, I don’t think we’d use these often, but when we have a really important question we want to ask, it will be worth considering. If I had to do it all over again, I’d make sure we had our favorites playing in the gallery alongside the recording area, so people could get inspired by what others had to say—closing the loop and bringing the voices back into the gallery. For the record, our Education Department was advocating this from the start, but given the time constraints we were under, we couldn’t make this part of the first round. Nina Simon also has some good reasons for it here that you may want to read. In a future instance, we’d ideally leverage the YouTube API to allow people in the gallery to comment on and rate the existing videos, but that’s a pretty large project for another day. For now, we were happy with and learned a lot from this first try.
Shelley Bernstein is the Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she works to further the Museum's community-oriented mission through digital projects. Through her work at the Museum, she explores the intersection of public participation and digital and has organized three projects— Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process. She's currently working on a museum-wide digital initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of their Bloomberg Connects program. In 2010, Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy and approaches to social media have been featured in the New York Times. She can be found biking to work or driving her '74 VW Super Beetle in Red Hook, Brooklyn with her dog Teddy. ::contact::