IT Services: Help Or Hindrance? Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath Bath UK Email [email_address] UKOLN is supported by: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/conferences/ucisa-2006/ About This Talk IT Services – managing and supporting complex IT systems for a diverse and challenging HE environment with limited resources … … or a difficult and conservative service department with a mainframe culture which is obsolete to the Google generation in a Web 2.0 world? Let's explore the issues! This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 licence (but note caveat)
About Me: Gamekeeper Turned Poacher
Let's Live Dangerously! Exploiting The Conference Network
IT Services: The Historical Context
"Nobody Likes Us … … We Do Care"
IT Services (2.0) For A Web 2.0 World
Questions, comments, back channel feedback, thoughts from remote participants, …
Applications support, Loughborough University (1984-90)
Information Officer, Liverpool University (1990-91)
Helped set up Web service in Jan 1993 (one of first 50 in the world) and then evangelised about Web
JISC/MLA-funded UK Web Focus advisor on Web issues
Promotes best practices and innovative uses of Web (now a poacher!)
Exploiting The Network
Audience – senior IT professionals, keen to learn
Venue: prestigious venue with WiFi network
" Next time let's exploit the WiFi network " – talk at UCISA 2004 conference in Manchester
We've a WiFi network; you've got the hardware; some of us know about the technologies
Exploiting technologies to further conference aims
Rapid learning, with minimal user support
Minimising problems for others
AUP For The Talk
Permission is given to make use of mobile devices (laptops, PDAs, phones, iPods, etc.) to support the aims of the talk/event …
… provided disruptions to others is kept to a minimum and you respect others' privacy, copyright, etc.
You are responsible for abiding by the AUP and familiarising yourself with your technologies.
No formal policing, rather peer group pressure
Peer Group Pressure Your Blackberry just beeped – I claim my free pint User Support
User Support For Senior Managers
These slides available at:
If something looks like a hyperlink, it probably is – so click on it.
http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/conferences/ucisa-2006/ Del.icio.us : View bookmarks for talk. And add your bookmarks using an agreed tag e.g. "ucisa-2006-03". User Support Problems : This talk is "always beta" – and if the technologies don't all work, you still gained a valuable learning experience JohnSmith : Brian said foo? Is this correct? FredBloggs : No, we tried it and it didn't work. JaneBrown : It worked fine for us. Chat : Web-based IRC channel. Feel free to discuss the talk
IT Services – Historical Perspective
The Old Days (Life On Mars)
Mainframe computers (remember ICL George?)
MTBF – support contracts with manufacturers
We discovered applications support
And then user support
Evaluation of software (in-house, UCISA-SG, …), led to selection of approved & supported product.
Consistency of user interface became important
User support important:
Documentation Training courses
Support categories …
History This history has influenced where we are today and our views on user support. But to what extent has the world changed?
Support For Children Of The Web
How do many of today's undergraduates view IT?
Experienced Web users
Users of computer games
Use MSN to chat to mates (multi-tasking)
Email is a Web application. Note at Bath, Webmail is preferred to recommended email client to surprise/dismay of techies.
What does support mean to:
Users of Amazon, eBay, Google, Yahoo, …
Users of Flickr, Bloggers, contributors to Wikis, …
The IT world has changed (mostly for the better). Do we need to change our views on the support and provision of IT? User Support
The Bigger Picture
How does society at large view IT and IT support?
"The IT Crowd" (C4 show)
"Computer Says No" (Little Britain)
Terminology such as ''geeks" and "nerds"
Good news : It not just IT Services in UK Universities Bad news : The image is a negative one (worse than Librarians?) Where are the TV shows which show us in a positive light?
Nobody Likes Us - The Users' View
Don't understand learning and teaching and think that students only ever use the Web for messing around.
Have no interest in what the users actually want and generally prefer to give the users what they themselves think they want. (I've seen senior IS staff dismiss the data gathered in formal user requirements gathering exercises because it doesn't fit their own viewpoint.)
Tend to work in silos (example: student information systems team which won't talk to the VLE team), and will do anything to avoid working with others outside of their own silo. They have no concept of team working across services or with academic staff.
Consultation usually consists of them telling you what they are going to do . If you tell them what you want they don't listen!
User Support Do these comments ring any bells? If not, how can you be sure?
E-Learning Is Different
IT Services need to understand that e-learning is different from other applications:
Word processing: find the best software for making words on paper
Spreadsheets/stats packages: find the best software for processing numbers
E-learning: ensure changes (learning) happens inside a student's head!
A Lack Of Understanding "This is the best e-learning software. It's open source and supports XML, so you can do anything. We can use it across the University, to maximise the benefits." "Ahh! No! It doesn’t support the pedagogical approach used in my department. It might be fine in (some) sciences, but not in arts or social sciences!" User Support
A Blairite Vision Of Control?
The government wishes to introduce:
Greater powers of arrest
in order to minimise the dangers of global terrorism
IT Services (esp. networking staff) seem to wish to:
Manage applications used by users
Ban certain software
in order to minimise dangers of computer attacks
The rational for organisations to wish to introduce greater control mechanisms is understandable. But citizens / users may regard such measures as not also necessary and may tolerate some level of risk-taking. (And do any of the above "sex up" the information to achieve these goals?) User Support
Web 2.0 – Time For Change
What Is Web 2.0?
A marketing term, rather than formal technical standards ("“an attitude not a technology”)
Web2MemeMap, Tim O’Reilly
Characteristics Of Web 2.0
Network as platform
Remix and mash-ups
Architecture of participation
Blogs & Wikis
Social tagging (folksonomies)
Trust and openness
Google as a Web 2.0 Exemplar
Google – developed GMail, Google Maps, …
Use AJAX to provide richly interactive interfaces
Is your campus map rescalable (without loss of resolution)?
Or do you have a campus map in GIF format: poor quality when printed, not reusable, but at least you own it and you've got the University logo on it.
Can you provide overlays on your campus map?
Can you choose arbitrary starting points?
Can you merge data from 3 rd party sources with your maps, like this merging of Google maps and BBC traffic data?
See <http://www.backstage.co.uk/> for examples.
Web 2.0 Mashup – merging information from multiple sources (cf music mashups)
Blogs seem to be ideal for use in HE:
Use by students: sharing learning; reflections on learning; developing writing & social skills; …
Use by researchers: sharing knowledge and ideas; maximising impact; … (plus above)
Web 2.0 Google " auricle bath " for URL High profile e-learning Blog from Bath Univ. Note reference to Podcast – another very relevant technology for HE. Keep informed of e-learning developments from Scott Wilson's (CETIS) Blog. Note use of an RSS reader (reuse of chunks). http://www.cetis.ac.uk/members/scott/ http://www.technorati.com/ Use Technorati to search new postings in Blogs. Will you / your researchers) miss out? (NB 88 hits for UCISA including 1 from 2 hours ago!)
Blogs And IT Services (2)
University of Warwick seem to be leaders in the UK with their Student Blogging service:
Listen to Auricle Blog & Podcast with John Dale
Note that "students will say the wrong thing" issue has been addressed!
http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/johndale/ entry/student_mobile_ownership/ Want to engage with your users? Why not set up an IT Services Blog? Here John Dale has received 20 comments on a posting about student mobile ownership (a typical high response rate) Or read Owen Stephen’s Blog about this UCISA conf.
Wikis provide collaborative, easy-to-use Web-based authoring.
Sounds ideal for HE:
Students, researchers and support staff:
focus on content, not on authoring tools
Web 2.0 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=University_of_Warwick
Issue: (for Web/marketing people)
Shouldn't you be proactive in ensuring content is accurate, …
Should you seek to lead in order to define structure?
How can you not have a Wiki, for (e.g.)
Student group working
Collaborative research work
Should we be promoting/providing Wikis? UCISA/UKOLN event, Nov 2004 Yes. There could be real benefit and exciting possibilities in every area of institutional activities: teaching & learning, research, administration and user support. We need to get in there first and understand what users need and what they might do. We also need first make better use of wikis ourselves so we can ..
Social Bookmarking / Folksonomies
Social bookmark services introduced "folksonomies":
Used for bookmarking, shared photos, etc.
Librarians point out flaws in approach
But can miss the potential benefits
Web 2.0 http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/ events/workshops/ucisa-wlf-2004-11/ Looks a good event – I'll bookmark it (with 'UCISA' tag). What else have I bookmarked with the 'UCISA' tag? I notice others have bookmarked the same page. Who are these other people? What are their interest?
As well as resource discovery, social bookmarking can help:
Find related resources (cf Amazon)
Instant Messaging (IM)
IM – popular, widely used, with benefits for collaboration, but banned in some places
Web-based IM client
An AJAX application
How do you ban it?
Doesn't it break WAI guidelines?
http://www.meebo.com/ Should IT Services ban applications when there are trivial ways around such bans? What is the reason for such bans: ideology; resource management; support; security; …? Web 2.0
Skype / VoIP
Skype is a good example of Internet telephony:
Integrated voice, IM, Web (and now video)
Can be high quality
Free / cheap calls
Network and management issues
Web 2.0 VoIP is coming, so now’s the time to gain experiences. What are the implications of ‘free’ always-on telephony (i.e. it's not just about software) - you could be broadcasting this talk now!
Reflections On Web 2.0 Issues
Reviewed some of the "buzz words"
Seen how they can enrich teaching & learning, research & support
But deployment isn't just about evaluating, installing and supporting the software.
Some of the issues:
Can we trust our users
Can we trust the companies (Google, Flickr, …)
Does it fit in with our culture:
Control Historical perspective
Web 2.0 Nobody likes us – but we do care. So what can we do?
Our Diversity - 1
Q1 A My institution seeks to provide support (connecting to PCs, synching files, calendars, address books, etc.) for a wide range of mobile devices. Yes
Q2 C My institution actively bans/discourages use of the Skype Internet telephony application. Yes
Q4 A My institution provides and actively supports instant messaging applications (e.g. MSN/AOL/Yahoo messenger, Jabber, IRC, etc.) Yes
Q5 A/B My institution provides and actively supports locally hosted Blogs / Wikis and external Blogs / Wikis.
With the exception of Skype, we’ve been fairly active in encouraging the use of such technology, and it’s a specific part of our IT strategy. This is partly down to a presentation you gave at a UCISA conference, so thanks! Respondent from a Welsh college A=Proactive B=Liberal C=Bans (or blind eye) Deployment Challenges
Our Diversity - 2
Q1 C: My institution allows users to connect mobile devices but does not provide user support. Yes
Q2 C: My institution actively bans/discourages use of the Skype Internet telephony application. Yes
Q4 C: My institution and actively bans instant messaging applications (e.g. MSN/AOL/Yahoo messenger, Jabber, IRC, etc.) Yes
Q5 B: My institution supports use of external Blogs / Wikis.
A diversity of views across the sector (based on limited survey).
Reflect on the diversity across our organisations?
Mean some have got it wrong?
Both of the above?
Need To Change Catch Phrases
Computer Says No!
Time to ditch this catch phrase
Wikis? IT Services says no Folksonomies? Library says no Skype? UKERNA says no Deployment Challenges Yer, but, no, but, yer Time to embrace the ambiguities acknowledged by Vicky Pollard Yer, like Wikis are well cool, but, OK so I copied my homework, but, like I always copy my homework Images from BBC Web site
Revisiting An Old Favourite
The cartoon is well-known
Why has it not lost its impact?
How can we address the issues raised?
Note that Googling for " what the user really wanted! " shows the cartoon is still relevant:
iSeries 400 tips
(Anybody fancy updating the cartoon for the C21st)
Beware The IT Fundamentalists
We need to avoid simplistic solutions to the complexities:
Open Standards Fundamentalist: we just need XML
Open Source Fundamentalist: we just need Linux
Vendor Fundamentalist: we must need next version of our enterprise system (and you must fit in with this)
Accessibility Fundamentalist: we must do WAI WCAG
User Fundamentalist: we must do whatever users want
Legal Fundamentalist: it breaches copyright, …
Ownership Fundamentalist: must own everything we use
Perfectionist : It doesn't do everything, so we'll do nothing
Simplistic Developer : I've developed a perfect solution – I don't care if it doesn't run in the real world
Jobsworth : Tried that in 1980, didn't work. More than my job's worth to try anything new.
Acceptable Use Policies (AUP)
Is Skype Permitted over JANET?
"The Computing Service is frequently asked for a ruling on whether Skype may legitimately be used ... the Computing Service considers that use of Skype contravenes the JANET Acceptable Use Policy, although UKERNA does not concur with this view."
Missing The Point?
There may be (religious) debates over the interpretation of UKERNA's words. But
Did the policy come from God? Is it infallible?
Why do we hide behind AUPs?
Managing Change Proposal : An AUP is meant to work on behalf of an organisation, helping to ensure the effective use of IT by its users. An AUP should not be used as a control mechanism to prevent usage which IT staff may frown upon.
The Need For An AUPP
Shouldn't be cast in stone: technologies change; usage changes; culture changes (e.g. AUPs banning social use; email; Web; messaging; …)
Therefore need for mechanisms for changing AUPs and engagement with users
We need an Acceptable Use Policy Process (AUPP)
We need mechanisms to ensure users can input into the discussion process
We need more flexibility in our AUPs (e.g. to reflect blended learning, pervasiveness of IT; …)
Example of AUPP For Skype
P2P applications banned: typically used for downloading copyrighted materials
Legitimate uses of P2P grow e.g. Internet telephony
Skype is proprietary; lack of management control; can degrade performance; SIP provides open alternative; …
Skype works; minimal support needed; provides rich functionality not available with SIP (e.g. video; shared browsing; etc.); my remote colleagues use Skype; …
Pragmatic Solution (Yer, but no, but yer):
Network problems in halls banned there in response to user concerns; discouraged on campus, until technical solutions (e.g. network shaper) tested, with plans to then liberalise policy (or SIP is usable)
Framework For Diversity: Standards
Open Standards – the Challenges
Open standards? Yer, great. Like, Bill Gates is SO evil. But, well RDF, hmm. OSI? Coloured Books? How old do you take me for? No, but, I always use MS Windows for playing games.
A contextual approach to standards has been developed:
Recognises context (not one-size-fits-all)
Scalable for use by others
See " A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes ", ichim05 conf & " A Contextual Framework For Standards " at E-Government: Barriers & Opportunities workshop, May 2006
See paper on " Let's Free IT Support Materials! " at EUNIS 2005 conf
Exploit UKOLN's QA Focus briefing documents: 90+ documents available with CC licence (why reinvent the wheel?)
Contribute to UKOLN's Wiki on best practices For CMSs (being planned)
Liberalising Our Policies
Derek Law pointed our arguments for a more liberal approach at IWMW 2002 (see video clip from 09:50-11:00).
Should we ban dubious (but legal) use if students have paid?
How strongly do we enforce bans of P2P apps (Napster)?
These issues related to clear 'social' use of IT – and didn't consider use of P2P, etc. in a work-related context.
We need to think about policies in a wider context:
Blended Policies which reflect wider University culture (e.g. blended learning; blended accessibility; …)
Policies which describe principles, but allow flexibility in implementation (e.g. to allow academics flexibility in exploring learning issues )
Need For Shared Understanding
UKOLN/UCISA/CETIS workshop on “Disruptive Technologies” agreed on potential benefits for principles on mutual understanding between user community and IT Services
Draft Principles for Service Providers User Focus : We will ensure that priority is given to a user focussed approach to our services. Avoiding Dogma : We will develop policies (e.g. standards, open source, accessibility, …) would these will evolve and won't be used in a dogmatic way. Responsive to Change : We will seek to be responsive to changes in technology, user needs, cultural and political developments. Good Communications : We will establish (and monitor) effective communications channels Learning : We recognise that HEIs will seek to make use of IT in innovative ways and we will support such innovation
Proposed Principles (2)
Draft Principles for Developers
Scalability : Developers will recognise that there will be scalability issues to be addressed if innovations are to be deployed into service.
Sustainability : Developers will recognise that innovations need to be sustainable if they are to be deployed into service.
R eliability : Developers will recognise that a high level of reliability is needed if innovations are to be deployed ...
Integration : Developers will recognise that innovative services may need to be integrated with existing systems.
Consistency : Developers will recognise that innovations need to be harmonised with existing systems (e.g. avoid replicating functionality, …)
(Also need something on security)
Draft principles available Notes on Wiki available
Application To UCISA (2.0)
Simple solutions for an agile professional organisation (& show that national bodies don't have to be slow-moving):
Let's add a UCISA entry to Wikipedia (catch up with CILIP and beat SCONUL)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CILIP UCISA UCISA represents the whole of higher education, and increasingly further education, in the provision and development of academic, management and administrative information systems, providing a network of contacts and a powerful lobbying voice.
Tag UCISA events with "UCISA" and "UCISA- foo "
Use of Wikis for collaboration (e.g. at events; developing the draft principles, …)
Revive the UCISA Blog –get noticed in the Blogosphere!
Provide RSS feeds for your news (free with Blogs!)
Let's make UCISA 2007 conference a rich interactive networked user experience!
Black Tie Optional?
An alternative approach would be:
Keynote talks from vendors:
They’ll suggest software (which we understand)
They’ll wouldn’t challenge us with cultural change
Consistent approach to all events
It makes things much easier to manage
Slides submitted 2 weeks in advance to be used (and no risky updates)
But isn’t this applicable to IT Services for conservative professions (e.g. banking)? Surely this doesn’t reflect the requirements and the culture of the HE sector (innovation, continual learning & development, …)?
Elephant In Computer Room
The obvious challenges which Web 2.0 deployment raises for IT Services:
Will it work
The unspoken issues:
Do my institution need IT Services on the current scale?
How do we get rid of staff no longer needed?
Can I get a god redundancy offer??
IT Services: help or hindrance?
Mostly helpful – have a well-established support culture and willingness to help …
… but aspects of the culture may be dated
Need to revisit culture in a pervasive network, Web 2.0 environment
Need to go elephant hunting:
We’ve been here before (mainframe demise, distributed computing, …)
But we need to be open about the issues
And don't forget the 10 th " Institutional Web Management Workshop: Quality Matters ", University of Bath on 14-16 June (featuring a Web 2.0 panel) And opportunity for someone to facilitate staff development session at USICA User Services Conference, University of Cambridge on 5-7 July