The inevitability of change

I’ve been running this blog for over four years now and it’s been some time since I really engaged with it beyond posting my mystery object on Friday and the answer on Monday.

I finally forced myself out of bed extra early on a Saturday morning to give the old blog a bit of a spring clean. What I found was both distressing and heartening.

The links I had to other sites were so out of date that half of them had moved or had simply stopped being updated over a year ago.

With others I found that the content had moved on, from blogs about being a hopeful museum newbie to blogs about being a capable museum professional (see Wunderkammer and Museological Meanderings as examples). In the case of Jake’s bones the blog had changed from being a 9-year-old talking about his bone collection, to an eleven-year-old talking about his forthcoming book on bones.

This sort of progression is wonderful to see and it led me to consider how my blog has changed over the years.

Self reflection

An opportunity for self reflection

The photos now are generally of better quality than they were at the outset, so that’s good. However, I feel that the detail and quality of the answers to the mystery objects have deteriorated, as the time I have available to research and write about them has decreased.

The mystery objects themselves have also become a bit less inspiring, perhaps because the number of striking specimens in the Horniman’s collections that need identification has decreased.

One thing is certain however, after nearly 4 years of running the mystery object I have built up a fantastic community of people who come to Zygoma to have a go at identifying the Friday mystery object, which is something worthwhile.

So now I am left with a quandary – how do I rethink  Zygoma to make better use of my increasingly limited time, while maintaining the sense of community on the site?

I may try reducing the number of mystery objects so they’re not a weekly feature, but if I do that I can fill the gap with photos of interesting specimens I’ve come across at work and perhaps specimens that people request.

If you have any ideas about what you’d like to see on Zygoma please leave a comment below – I’d also appreciate links to other related blogs that I may have missed when tidying up my list, so please feel free to suggest away!

14 thoughts on “The inevitability of change

  1. I know pretty much nothing about bones, anthropology and the like, but I always look forward to your Friday posts. I almost never leave a comment, as I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the jawbone of a badger or an otter but I have always enjoyed your posts and the posts of the people who can tell. I think that I have learnt a lot and would like to learn more. However, if you decide not to carry on, then best wishes, and I’ll still look forward to your more infrequent posts.

    • Thanks Ben,
      I think that as the blog has gone on, the comments have become more dominated by biologists with some specialist knowledge. That’s a great thing for me when I need help with identifications, but I know it has put quite a few non-specialist off commenting. It’s good to hear that the blog is still of interest to people who don’t comment but I’d love to hear suggestions for anything that you think would get non-specialists more eager to contribute their thoughts?

      • Very difficult to say. Like Ben, I thoroughly enjoy pitting my wits, usually silently, on the mystery objects you provide. Perhaps it would be more than a little artificial but if you could, as GrrlScientist in the Grauniad’s mystery bird, ask posters to clue but not actually identify the object, you might have the opportunity to show off the Horniman collection and tempt in even more footfall! (Now that might be serious “punching above your weight”!)

        If it’s taking up too much of your time, however, of course we’ll understand. We will regret our loss, but will not feel worse about you or the magnificent museum in Dulwich.

        • It’s a nice idea – although most of what I show is in our stores, so it might just frustrate people that they can’t see it 😉

          Still, I may well tweak the format of the answering a bit, perhaps having a question one Friday and the answer the following Friday?

  2. I really like the FMO but if it’s taking up too much of your time maybe do them every two weeks or every month.The thing I like about your blog is that it’s fun, you don’t use complicated scientific terms (I try not to either), and you find out about skulls and animals from different countries as well as what a skull shape or bone shape actually means for the animal.
    The other thing you could do is a kind of index to link back to all the FMOs so you can find information on a particular animal.
    Thank you for blogging so much ! It inspired me with mine.

    • Thanks Jake, I think I’ll keep doing them a couple of times a month, since specimens do crop up now and again. I’m really glad that this blog has been useful for you – I really enjoy yours and I can’t wait to see your finished book – I’m just glad I’ll be seeing it before most other people will 😉

      I really like the idea about indexing the FMOs – I use my old posts a lot myself, but I can remember what I’ve done, so it’s easy for me to find what I’m after. I’ll see what I can do to make the archive more accessible. Who knows, I may even be able to add more information and photos to some of the old posts to make them more comprehensive.


  3. It would be a shame if you gave up FMO altogether, but I know you’ve been threatening to for a long time. I’ve learned a huge amount from them, and my skull ID skills are much better for it! Maybe just cut back on the number of them, and it might give you more time to post about other things, like space apes! 😉

    Also, thanks for the little plug for my rather unloved blog! Yours is looking very shiny now.

  4. The FMO is a thing of wonder, both fun & educational. I’ve learned much in the two years I’ve been following the blog — from researching possible solutions, from the comments of other followers, and from the Monday answer with added detail. I learn something new every week.

    I’ve been thinking of how you might engage with the non-specialist. Perhaps present not a mystery object, but an identified object and then ask specific questions about it (e.g., diet, physical capabilities); this would give everyone a starting point from which to research answers.

    Another idea: Guest contributors.

    Anyway, whatever you decide to do with it in the future, many thanks for the story so far. (The new ‘spring-cleaned’ blog layout is very nice, too.)

  5. The FMO was the highlight of my week for a very very long time. (I know, I need to get out more.) It was a wonderful opportunity for me to test and challenge my own knowledge, my ability to research to fill in gaps in my knowledge, engage people I know with more expertise, learn learn learn learn, and meet and become part of this great community. Note that I am using the past tense. I confess to not checking the FMO first thing Friday morning for the last few weeks. But I always check in eventually and see if I can give it a quick go. There were times in the past I literally spent hours online researching to find an answer.

    Lately, tho, I have felt what others describe as the “outsider” in the presence of people with very specialized knowledge. In the past, I loved learning from these kinds of people and I totally understand it’s important to have them on board for the blog to work for YOU, to help YOU. As a public service/ educational blog, I would love to see more information on HOW people who deduce an identification (versus knowing right off what it is) come up with their answer. What are the identifying features? How can the rest of us learn to identify birds, mammals, reptiles, etc. better? I’m not sure how you’d structure that but it would be great if maybe after the “reveal”. those who got it right could chime in and explain how they arrived at their ID.

    I still check in every week and will do so! Thanks for this wonderful kick off to the weekend!

  6. …like several of the folk above I have little or nothing to contribute to this blog other than the fascination of watching a mystery unfold… and a life long interest in things that are no longer animate… I’m would miss a weekly dose of Zygoma, but that will only make the anticipation for the next post build exponentially… as someone who tries to do too much (even though I may appear to be doing very little!) I can empathise with having to put to one side something which is a big part of your routine, but you can’t quite fit in!….my advice?… do as much as you feel comfortable with doing …We’ll be fine!… (is that my other half calling?)….

  7. >I may try reducing the number of mystery objects so they’re not a weekly feature, but if I do that I can fill the gap with photos of interesting specimens I’ve come across at work and perhaps specimens that people request.

    This sounds like a good idea. And as others have mentioned, an index post over previous FMO would be great.

  8. I find I don’t always go straight to the FMO on Friday mornings anymore, and I think this chimes with comments from others. As a non-biologist I feel quite pleased with myself for identifying a snake skull, while the experts are deep into discussion of which type of python it is. More variety would be nice, not just skulls. I like trying to work out what kind of animal something might be via the route form suggests function suggests environment. I liked the occasional anthropological objects, too.

  9. I love the new look. It’s clean and even easier to read the always-great posts.

    Could you get guest bloggers in once a month/fortnight or so to present their mystery objects from institutions around the UK, Europe or the world? Or is that probably just as much/more work?

    I think you’ve got such a great readership that a change will be welcomed, especially if you still do the occasional mystery object to fill that need. Any new content you add is clearly going to go down a storm! I, for one, can’t wait.

    And thanks for the mention of my blog too (and calling me “a capable museum professional”)!

  10. Pingback: Meet a Museum Blogger: Paolo Viscardi | Museum Minute

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