The really successful apps and services we see today do one of three things: provide something fundamentally useful to other apps, collect together the already existing data and functions of other apps, or provide a central place for gathering all your interactions with other apps and services. Think Foursquare, Instagram, and Facebook. Foursquare provides location data and check-in for many apps; Instagram uses Foursquare to map your photos as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to share them; all your check-ins, instagrams and anything else can be on your Facebook wall. The “ecosystem” (mostly APIs provided by all these services) allows these parts to sum into a greater whole.
Most museums apps feel like dead ends to me because they don’t really do anything. They don’t share very well (if at all) and they don’t interact with anything else, not even the institution’s own website. I think what we lack is a sense of the proper “ecosystem” for Museum apps and web services. Some parts of a potential ecosystem exist, such as Foursquare, but what are the missing elements? What could a museum provide that would make a check-in at a museum more than or different from a check-in elsewhere (or how could we use check-ins more to our benefit)? Easier membership? If we could get over cameras in the gallery, what could we add to Instagram? A way to attach object information to the photo? Foursquare can find all the pizzarias near you, but if object information could be attached to a photo that was that attached to a check-in, couldn’t Foursquare then find all the nearby Van Goghs?
What kinds of interactions are going to truly benefit museums and museum visitors, how do identify the missing pieces and then… how do we build them?