Sesamoid Consulting says "Hello!"
Hi. I'm Jeremy Ottevanger, and Sesamoid Consulting Limited is me. I am a technologist working in the heritage sector, and I may be able to help you and your organisation do better in your digital work, drawing upon long and wide experience in digital heritage.
I have twin goals in my work. Firstly, to help cultural and heritage institutions to make the very most of what is special about them, through the digital medium and using the resources available to them. Secondly, through doing this to have a satisfying and rewarding work-life. This sector is special, and the quest to make it ever better keeps me passionate and creative.
If you bring your own passion and skills to the table then, working together, we should be able to think our way out of whatever corner you are in. Talk to me and let's find out if we're a good fit.
What I do
Just how might I work with you? I wear a few hats, and will happily try others, but you could think about me in one of the following ways.
A champion for hire
Large organisations usually have someone in the “technical lead” role who can mastermind their technology for digital communication. They will
- ensure it fits with the uses of technology elsewhere in the building
- set standards
- take a long-term view of architecture and approaches to delivery that will support the vision for digital engagement
- be a bridge between the people who are responsible for the grand problems that need solving, and the people who can deliver the technological solutions to the problems (in-house or agency developers, the IT department etc.)
Smaller places and budgets can rarely support someone in-house to do this all of the time, but if you are one such organisation, why shouldn’t you have that authoritative support when you need to do something big, something that goes beyond the capacity or skills of your own people to deliver well? Every bit as much as a bigger place, you need to
- think strategically about new infrastructure and sustainability
- have confidence when choosing a supplier, and when directing and managing their work
- know whether what you are building is effective, and how to demonstrate this value to other people
Fundamentally, you need to get best value for money, which isn’t just about what’s cheapest now but about making choices that assess the full costs and benefits over an uncertain long term.
You need a champion. Someone to understand the needs of your organisation and fight to its corner. I can help you by bringing my experience to less privileged places when they need it most. I can help you to understand what is needed, both by your users and your organisation; to synthesise this into strategic goals, outputs and outcomes, and define the general shape of a solution; work with you to find and organise people or agencies to execute that plan; and be on your side to ensure that they do that well, with your interests always coming first.
If you're wondering how to make sure your next project has an advocate on the technical side that means you can sleep at night, or you’re trying to create a digital roadmap for your next planning period, we should talk.
A helping hand to bring you insights
Making the right decisions means having the best information available. Data you may have in abundance, or know how to gather, but it needs analysis in order to bring you any insight, and is often more powerful when joined to other data. And then you need to reflecting upon decisions that have already been taken so that you can keep improving, whilst reporting genuinely useful information to stakeholders.
I will work to integrate and interrogate raw materials including
- website analytics
- sales or attendance figures
- collections metadata
- various unique datasets
and with these unearth insights to help you make decisions. This provides information you can act on, often opening up unexpected avenues to explore and new questions to ask.
We’ll start by interrogating the problem or decision that needs addressing, thinking about what indicators might be helpful. With a creative approach you can often find a signal in the least promising data. According to your needs this might result in a dashboard for regular reporting or a one-off analysis to answer a unique question.
Whilst we're on the subject of data, let's not forget GDPR and, of course, cookies. It's a complex area and one that causes a lot of concern amongst museums who know they need to act legally, conscientiously, and ethically in gathering and using data, but worry that in doing so they will lose in other ways. I can help with advice and cost-effective implementation of solutions. To start, though, you might want to check out my series of blogs on the subject.
An expert in opening up museum collections
When it comes to getting your collections – and other unique sets of content and knowledge in the care of your museum – out to a wider audience, there are so many questions to answer
- how do we get from a collections management system to a website?
- what about media – what should we deliver and to whom, how do we prepare and host it, how else could we use it?
- what about copyright, licensing, orphan works? Do we need to protect the media, and how?
- how do we make this a strategic investment, not a flash in the pan?
- how will we understand the impact of what we do?
- how can we connect diverse datasets and create imaginative experiences on them?
- can we avoid making my investment completely dependent on a system that might change or be replaced?
I have extensive and varied experience of delivering collections online in many different contexts, as well as other uses of collections data. I can give you in-depth support with:
- identifying audiences and understanding their needs
- aggregating and modelling data from multiple sources
- combining data of different types (for example, records of people, places and things)
- enriching it with machine learning and other processes
- delivering video, audio, zoomable images and maps
- integrating discovery into websites
- exchanging data with other heritage organisations
- opening data and media to developers
- legal and commercial questions
I’ve been building websites since before the Millennium Bug, but before that I put down my roots in museology, archaeology and the natural sciences. I have spent most of my career at the Museum of London and Imperial War Museums, including in-depth involvement in many partnership projects with other heritage and education organisations, notably Europeana, Lives of the First World War, Art UK, the First World War Memorials Programme, and Nesta R&D projects Putting Art On The Map and Social Interpretation of Collections. My work has involved a broad spectrum of activities around the production of digital resources, from the coal-face – development and hosting/server work, data and process modelling, user experience research, web analytics – to the managerial and strategic – team management (including Agile teams, as a Scrum Master), developing tender documents and grant applications, and producing strategic plans, architectures and roadmaps for technology. My work has always been cross-organisational by nature, and I strongly believe in the need to build a common vision and ambition amongst the people working on and invested in a project.
My consultancy work has let me employ my skills beyond the heritage sector too, within higher education funding and for conservation charities, as well as collaborating with other companies working in digital heritage.
I do most of my work from home in north Essex, using Skype and similar for regular contact with clients, but we will plan the work face to face if at all possible and I can make other site visits by arrangement. We can agree a payment system for the job that suits its nature and your needs, whether a fixed price for a job, payment per day, or by putting a retainer in place so that you can consult me as required.
And what if I can’t do every part of a project? Well, I have a network of other experts I work with, with skills from collections data management to web and software development to legal expertise, and we can put together whatever team is required to provide all of the skills needed, rather than relying on a generalist with a bit of everything but not enough of anything.