I have previously described a risks and opportunities framework which I will be presenting shortly at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference.
At the Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists conference I described a slightly updated version of the framework, which includes ‘Critical Friends‘ as a means of ensuring that a degree of scepticism is applied to planned innovative services.
The framework is based on the notion that the risks and benefits of innovation cannot be considered without considering its intended purpose.
In order to ensure that the framework does not result in inertia and an avoidance of new developments it is envisaged that the approach will also be applied to existing services, in-house development, etc.
During my talk on “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” at the Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists conference I gave an illustration of how this framework might be applied in two contexts related to use of Web 2.0 services: use of (a) Twitter by individuals in an organisation and (b) organisational use of Facebook.
The intended use of Twitter by individuals described at the Archives .2.0 conference was to provide support for a community of practice. The individual should benefit from working in a community and such benefits would should also help the institution. The risks might include the time required to use Twitter and to become part of a community and the dangers that Twitter is used inappropriately or excessively. It should also be noted that inappropriate use of Twitter could include requiring members of staff to use Twitter against their will or inclination. There might also be risks that to the organisation in terms of its brand (“I hate working here“). Failing to allow staff who so desire to make used of Twitter (by firewalls, policies or more subtle pressures) could result in a failure to make use of the benefits cheap pills provided by being part of a (virtual) community and a failure to understand the potential of Twitter for organisational use. It should also be noted that the costs of using Twitter can be small, as Twitter tools are available for free, no editorial mechanisms need to be deployed and no archiving of Twitter posts need to be kept.
The intended use of Facebook by organisation described at the conference was as a marketing tool for the archive or museum. This would have the advantages to the organisation of being able to market to the large numbers of Facebook users and to exploit the various functions provided by Facebook without needing any in-house development work. However there may be risks related to data lock-in, giving permissions to Facebook to commercially exploit content which is up-loaded and disenfranchising users who chose not to sign up to Facebook or users whose assistive technologies may not work with Facebook. Failing to use Facebook could, however, result it missed opportunities for marketing to large numbers of users and a failure to allow users to engage with the service. The costs of setting up an organisational presence in Facebook should be low, but consideration does have to be given to ongoing maintenance (e.g. responding to wall posts).
Critical friends, such as my colleague Paul Walk’s various posts on possible risks associated with use of Facebook and Twitter, can help to inform organisational decision-making processes, as can discussions on mailing lists, sharing experiences at conferences and blog posts (such as recent guest blogs post on use of social networking tools at the National Library of Wales, Wolverhampton University Library and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery).
Finally I should add that there will be subjectivities and personal biases in how I’ve described use of this framework. But let’s acknowledge that such biases and personal prejudices will always exist.