Author: Susanne Marx, Aug 2019
1. Event Concept – Lessons Learned
During the first three Baltathon events we found, that defining the challenge to the participants is key and challenging. If it is too narrow and too problem oriented, it has a limiting impact on motivation and creativity. For example an experienced participant said the task was too “business” oriented and not free enough.
For Gdynia Aquarium, the briefing was an app that includes a kind of game. In the warmup, problems of aquarium were highlighted. The aquarium asked to develop a game that solves problems (e.g. people getting lost). This resulted into comparable results, with most groups focused only on the problem in a very narrow sense, some even not considering the gamification aspect. The conclusion was, that a more open task would have resulted into more creative ideas, but these might be difficult to implement. With such a problem based briefing of participants, rather achievable ideas were developed, however, not very innovative.
For Experyment, the briefing was to develop an app. During the warmup, results of a survey of guests and the museum team were presented. Following a design thinking approach, the science center had identified personas to focus on, based on the survey. Experyment presented problems that the guests encounter in the exhibition, and asked the hackathon participants to solve these problems (e.g. exhibition seems to be for kids, not for adults; or how to use exhibits, how to provide instruction – although the description is available people often don’t read it). The museum team even suggested how to solve the problems already during the warmup. During the warmup, the strategy of information was changed as participants seemed to be overwhelmed by expectations. The second part of the warmup was then dedicated to gamification. The Experyment team concluded that clear and detailed result expectations seem to limit creativity. For the future they recommended to provide input only about their institution in more general sense and leave the participants more freedom, to receive more out-of-the-box ideas. The team also proposed to stay in touch with participants after the event, to invite them again or involve them in what happens next or ask them to first test the later developed application. They confirmed the satisfaction with the general organization and the exceptional teamwork in the project team. However, how to take the results from the event further to real developments seems a challenge.
The Lithuanian Sea Museum focused their briefing on a selection of potential topics and problematic issues. Upon post-event reflection, the topics seemed to include already a solution. The topics were promotion, marketing, a game or a product provoking an engaging exploration of one of the exhibition houses. Problematic issues were for example the distribution of visitors along the route, navigation, multilingual, seasonality and online ticket promotion. While gaining considerable experience and learning about potential partners, the museum did not feel to receive creative ideas for their further app development. They expected a functional concept for a product – a BYOD-guided tour providing an enhanced visitor experience during and after the visit. Expectations for unexpected solutions were high. However, the participants presented ideas that were already known by museum staff and very similar to their own solutions. The event format was though very promising to the museum, as uniting museologists and the IT sector. But communication has to be facilitated, in the chosen format contacts were rather little, so the mutual learning remained minimal. An advice for future hackathons would be to have a representative from the museum as an obligatory member of each team during the whole process.
The concept used to derive the task for participants was done through following the Generic Learning Outcomes (GLO) process. From this process the goals for the hackathon were defined. One session had been conducted with the project partners, one with students/school pupils at Malmö Museums and one at NaturBornholm to come to the expected outcomes. The outcomes defined by the project partners were given as a briefing to the participants.
“The chart below tells what we want our visitors to feel, think, and do when they are using our Bring Your Own Device (BOYD)-tool, during and after the guide.” (extract from the briefing for Malmö Hackathon)
|Knowledge and understanding
|Different kind of learning experience.
Add additional content to the visit, that are not available without the tool.
|I will be able to use the tool with ease.
|Attitudes and values
|I will have a feeling of freedom by the possibility of an individual guide
|Enjoyment, inspiration, creativity
|I will have fun, be curious and want more.
|Activity, behavior, progression
|After the guide I will behave in a more environmentally friendly way, specifically regarding the Baltic sea.
The team of Malmö hackathon evaluated the results of the hackathon giving basic ideas and inspiration, however, no final solutions were produced. It can only be understood as an input for a longer process. The workload and effort in organizing the event has to be balanced with the results expected. What the team recommended was working the GLO process to better understand users and the own organizations expectations, and use these to define the challenge. To increase both participation rates and efficiency, a collaboration with other (tech) organizers was recommended.
Overall, the organizer teams were satisfied with the organizational part of the hackathons, despite being challenging for the museums. Learnings and resulting recommendations will be described in the coming chapters for organizing a hackathon. More difficult to judge was the evaluation of the hackathon results. This can be explained by the differing expectations. In the hackathon conditions it was broad, by naming ideas, code or ready solutions as accepted results. However, not only museum staff had different expectations, but also participants, if coding is in focus or general idea development and presentation skills.
There seems to be a tension between readily implementable though not surprising solutions on the one hand and innovative proposals of high creativity on the other hand. The problem solving oriented briefing in the hackathons with even presenting own solutions by the organizers resulted into no out-of-the-box ideas. Moreover in the setup, there was little interaction with participants who mostly worked for themselves silently. Getting more involved in the creative process could have provided the museums with further insights into ideation.
For the final hackathon, the approach was changed. First, an overarching goal was defined that would suit to accommodate various museums and the project: to find gamification ideas for an app that motivate to visit the museum. This implied we were not expecting nor judging the excellence of coding, but the suitability of ideas. The coding aspect was moved to the background, as it was not what we were looking for.
The participant communication was changed accordingly to focus on creativity instead of programming. Here the word “hackathon” proved to be a bit tricky as it implies programming in a narrow sense to many. The event was described as “a creative weekend for IT in museums”.
Moreover, the focus of the event was shifted to focus on learning instead of competition. With learning in focus, museum representatives joined each team to fully participate in the creative process. Teams worked in a concept of 5+1=6, with 5 participants and 1 museum expert. The museum staff was participating in the brainstorming phase to feed into and learn from the creative process of the team. Moreover, workshops and networking activities were offered. Validation was done according to transparent criteria (motivation, innovativeness, simplicity, completeness) by a diverse jury of five members. The jury members received a dedicated briefing. Also the appreciation of learning for all participants was in focus of the jury feedback.
The topics of the seven participating museums, ranging from beetles in the beech forest, over an old, unrestored vehicle to remarkable drawings and tapestry, were given to the teams in the beginning of the hackathon by a draw. The objective of the Baltathon was the development of innovative and interactive mobile games, which shall motivate prospective visitors prior to their visit to a museum. These games shall increase the attractiveness of a visit to the museum, reach out to new target groups and increase the individual visitor traffic. The subject matter of the competition work were conceptions, prototypes (even paper) or mobile applications which are based upon gamification. The participating museums selected their own topics or objects and provided them, along with information, images, data, sounds, etc., to the participants of the Baltathon. These topics and/or objects constituted the working basis of the Baltathon.
Due to the shifted focus of creativity and learning, experts from Lathi University of Applied Sciences in Finland were invited to support both in helping the team with the work process to organize their time efficiently and with a team of Augmented Reality (AR) experts, to provide realization of AR solutions centrally to all teams.
The feedback of both participants and museums was very positive. Participants were motivated to visit the museums afterwards and the museums appreciated both the ideas generated, but especially this form of intense exchange with potential target groups and the impression of what is achievable in short time.
Based on these experiences, we summarize our recommendations in the following chapters.
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