QRpedia Demo at Mobile Monday

I love going to Mobile Monday London – it’s a great meeting place for those of us in the mobile industry. It’s also one of the few spaces which holds the equivalent of an “Open Mic” night.
momo logo
MoMoLo’s Spring Demo Night was crowded with great entrants. So much so that each of us had only three minutes to present! That’s quite tight. I’m used to 15-30 minutes. I’m not sure how, but I managed to distil the QRpedia pitch down.

QRpedia was received warmly by the crowd. Massive thanks to the ever-patient Liz for recording it.

Don’t just take my word for it – here’s a sample of tweets from the evening.

Fantastic demo at #momolo from @ for QRpedia.org. He's slapped up a QR code in the British Musem.
Lisa Devaney

#qrpedia is an awesome idea and implementation! #momolo
Sebastian Brannstrom

Great presentation on QRpedia by @ Looking forward to seeing lots of QR codes in museums #momolo
James Nash

I love qrpedia. Simple but very useful hack. :) #MoMoLo
David Maria Zverina

#momolo loved @ 's QRPEDIA this has 2 b the way 2 go 4 any right thinking museum who wants to connect with a wider aufjagst - 8/10
Michael Ohajuru

I enjoyed the mobile app demo night at #MomoLo tonight. Best of show: Threedomphone, Smart Wifi (already on my G2), QRPedia, & Mindings.
Jenifer Hanen

Love the simplicity of @ QRcode > language detection > article on appropriate language wikipedia. Instant localised info.
Tony Kennick

We also had a lovely write up from Ged Carrol

QRpedia was less of a business and more of a duh why hadn’t anyone else thought of putting QRcodes more effectively with Wikipedia.

So, onwards and upwards. I’ll be getting in contact with the journalists who approached me to see if we can get some favourable press. I’m also talking to people who might be able to sponsor free WiFi in museums to reduce the cost for international tourists.

Any questions – drop them in the comments box.

QRator – QR Codes in the Petrie Museum

As promised earlier this week, I popped over to London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology to take a look at what they’re doing with QR codes.
iPad QRator
The staff were very friendly and quite happy to chat about their experiences with the codes. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to talk to me about the installation – and for letting me photograph the exhibits.

About The Museum

The Petrie is one of London’s smallest museums. Nestled within UCL, small but perfectly formed, it contains a fascinating array of ancient Egyptian artefacts.
It also held one of my all-time favourite events last year – Sci-Fi and Ancient Egypt. I think it’s the only time I’ve wandered round a museum reading about the inspiration for StarGate while listening to The Pyramids of Mars play in the background. Let’s just say, I’m predisposed to love this museum.

When I heard about their Digital Technology Open Day, I couldn’t resist going along to see what they’d done with QR codes.
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QR Codes In Museums

It seems that all good ideas are invented simultaneously. Calculus was arrived at by both Leibniz and Netwon, Gray and Bell invented the telephone within days of each other, and the electric car is currenly being pursued by many different manufacturers.

Now it looks like sticking QR codes onto museum exhibits is the next big thing!

QRpedia is the venture I’m involved it, but I’ve recently become aware of Edinburgh Museum’s Tales of Things project and the QRator project of UCL.

Now, obviously, I’m biased towards QRpedia – but I wanted to jot down some quick thoughts on where I think QRator and Tales of Things may be going wrong.

Firstly, I’m enormously impressed with the scope of both projects. I don’t mean to denigrate them – I just want to point out how they could be made better.

Tales of Things

ToT has several deeply cool aspects. The ability to watch video and the ability to contribute UGC are two of the highlights. But it does, to my mind, have three serious deficiencies.

Firstly, it requires a proprietary app which only works on Android or iPhone. Got a BlackBerry, Nokia, or Windows Phone? Tough!

The app itself is fairly well thought out – but it’s nothing which couldn’t be done on a mobile website.
ToT App

Which leads me on to the second flaw. What if you can’t install the app?
Scanning the code with any other phone leads the visitor to a non-mobile site!
ToT non-mobile website
To make matters worse, the video is presented in Flash which means it’s inaccessible to most phones and will be hard to stream unless you’ve got excellent mobile coverage.

Although there is a mobile internet signal in the gallery, it may be best to download and install the code reader before you visit the museum.
Tales of a Changing Nation Website

Finally, although they want people to comment on the exhibits, there’s a rather strong barrier to entry.

You’ll also need to register a username and password at www.talesofthings.com in order to submit your comments and memories.
Tales of a Changing Nation Website

Which means, I guess, either do it at home or find a free computer somewhere in the museum. Would it really have been so hard to create a mobile friendly sign up process?


I’ll be popping off to the Petrie Museum this weekend to play with their QR code installation. I’m not sure how or if it’s tied in to Tales of Things – they’re often mentioned together. One thing that strikes me is that it seems to revolves around having iPads located around the museum.

Buying a huge number of iPads feels like it’s an expensive extravagance. Yes, it shows off the exhibit nicely – but is it any better or cheaper than the touchscreen displays museums have had for years? Is there a risk that the iPads might go “wandering off”. Can the codes be scanned by normal phones?

All questions I hope to answer tomorrow!


Of course, it’s unfair of me to criticise QRator and Tales of Thing without subjecting QRpedia to the same treatment.
QRpedia has a number of deficiencies which we hope to address after our initial trials.

  • No social media integration. There’s currently no way to “like” an object on Facebook or share it on Twitter.
  • No video or sound. The Wikipedia page for The Beatles has lots of audio clips – but there are none on the mobile version. In general, there seem to be very few videos on Wikipedia and, because they are OGG formatted, rarely play on mobile.
  • No commenting or other interaction.
  • Museums can’t create their own page – they are reliant on Wikipedia.
  • What to do about the iPad and other tablets? Currently QRpedia only shows the mobile version. Should tablets get taken to the full version? Or are tablet users happy to save the data charges and / or click on to the full versions themselves?

Internet Coverage

I’ve cheekily singled out Edinburgh Museum for potentially having poor coverage – in reality, it’s a problem in many museums. Most were designed before the ascendency of the mobile phone and, as a consequence, often struggle with 3G reception.
Even when they do have signal, it’s expensive for visitors from overseas to roam onto a network and download data.

One solution is free WiFi throughout a museum. Obviously, that’s an expense and has to be carefully managed to avoid abuse – but it would solve a problem common to all three approaches.


Despite my grumblings, I’m really excited to see more QR codes appear in museums. Anything which connects people to education is a great achievement.
I just want to make sure that the solutions which are deployed work well for everyone – no matter how expensive their phone.

QRpedia Presentation at Derby Museum

It’s always an odd experience to watch yourself speak. Everyone – I think – finds the sound of their own voice really odd. I’m no exception!

This is the video from the Derby Museum Backstage Pass where we gave the first public demonstration of QRpedia.

The Video

Video shot by Nick Moyes.

The Slides

All slides are a work in progress. This is a close approximation of what was presented on the day.

QRpedia – Results from First Trial at Derby Museum

Wow! What a day! I headed over to Derby Museum for the Wikipedia “Backstage Pass” event.
Presenting in Derby

I was invited there to talk about QRpedia and how it can improve visitor engagement in GLAM – Galleries Libraries Archives Museums.

After the introductions, I had a quick wander around the museum – where I found the first set of QRpedia codes! I was, as this video will attest, very excited!

I’ll place the slides and video of the talk on the web once they’re ready. In the meantime, here’s what I learned from the day.

Lessons Learned

Not everything went perfectly with our first public trial – that’s to be expected. So here are the top tips that we discovered from the day

Too tall

I couldn’t help but laugh as a young boy struggled to scan the code right at the top of this exhibit.
Tall Exhibit
While watching him jump up and down was hilarious – there’s a serious point about accessibility. Not everyone can reach as high as the code was placed – especially wheelchair users. It might be worth having some guidelines around code placement.

Too small

Some of the codes were printed quite small. My original intention was to have postcard sized QR codes – large enough to easily see and for several people to scan at once.
What I hadn’t figured on was the lack of space in the exhibits and the sheer number of codes that would be there. Here’s a snap from one of the display cases, I’ve highlighted the codes.
Small QR Codes
They were just about scanable – but I still think printing them larger will make it easier to scan. It’s especially important if the code is behind glass and visitors can’t get close to them.

Too Much Glare

With the light from the exhibits, the laminate on the QR codes, and the glass cases, there was a lot of glare. Luckily the QR codes were all scanable thanks to the error-correction built in. I think it’s probably best not to laminate the codes – keep them as matt as possible.

Unexpected Usage

One thing I hadn’t counted on was the creative uses to which the codes can be put. For example, one of the most famous paintings in Derby Museum was on loan. Rather than just put up a regular sign, they’d put up a QRpedia code so that visitors could still see the painting and read all about its history. Brilliant!
Painting on loan
Whenever you create a project, don’t be surprised if people put it to a use that you had never envisioned.

Code Design

As well as the technical aspects of code design – making them large enough and with sufficient border space – there are some practical considerations.
Without any human-readable identification, it’s hard for museum staff to place the codes accurately! A big pile of QR codes are easy to mix up – and finding which code goes with which exhibit can be tricky.

Too wobbly

Rather embarrassingly, I tried to demonstrate how easy it is to scan in QR codes using a code printed on a free-standing poster. The breeze in the room was sufficient to cause the poster to billow back-and-forth meaning my camera couldn’t focus on it. QRpedia codes must be afixed to something solid for best results.

The Language Issue

What do you do if an article isn’t available in the visitor’s preferred language?
My initial suggestion was not met with universal acclaim.

Hey, it’s not my fault they don’t teach Latin any more!
The suggestions which came out of the discussion were…

  • Default to the article in the language of the museum.
  • Redirect the visitor to the Mobile Wikipedia homepage in their preferred language – then they can search for something similar.
  • QRpedia should look through the article and try to find something similar in the visitor’s language.
  • Present a screen showing all the available languages for that article. Let the user choose which language to read. This is what QRpedia does currently.

There are no easy answers – I guess we’ll have to do some trials to see what people prefer. Any suggestions welcomed!


Bane of web developers everywhere. The accursed IE6 is still in use in museums who can’t afford to upgrade their computers. QRpedia.org only works in modern browsers. So we’re going to have to do some redesigning to make sure that everyone can use the service.

…And Finally

After an amazing day, we retired to the The Old Silk Mill pub. There, I found my new favourite stout – Spire’s Sgt Pepper. Made with ground black pepper. it provided the perfect end to a perfect day.
Sgt Pepper Stout
Thanks to everyone who made the day such a success – especially the gloriously bearded Andy Mabbett, the hugely entertaining Richard Mackney, Wikimedia’s Andrew Turvey for his kind offer of help, the knowledgeable Hannah Fox, Nick Moyes for all his hard work during the day, the BBC’s Mark Ansell for interviewing me about QRpedia, Marrianne Bamkin for pointing me back towards the station, and – of course – Roger Bamkin without whom none of this would have happened.

A special thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Derby Museum for making us feel so welcome – and for allowing us to pepper their exhibits with our QR codes.

Today Derby – tomorrow the world!

Introducing QRpedia

My new project – QRpedia – gets its first official outing at Derby Museum’s Backstage Pass this Saturday. Do come along if you’re in the area.
Before then, I thought I’d give you a sneak-peek at what’s happening.
Don't Tell The British Museum
In February, there was a discussion on this blog about using QR codes in museums to link to Wikipedia pages. Things have rather snow-balled from there. Working with Roger Bamkin, we’ve created a working prototype which is ready to take over THE WORLD!
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