Web 2.0 For Academic Researchers
A brief guide by Gavin D. J. Harper
Beyond The Ivory Tower...
1.0 PC’s have now moved into shiny black cases and es- 2.0
caped the ivory tower. Web 2.0 changes the rela-
tionship between consumers and producers of infor-
mation—and has the potential to help you get your
work much more widely read and communicate with
different and enlarged audiences.
This guide aims to show you how you can use “Web
2.0” to promote your research and make the most
of your outputs.
Web 2.0 Explained....Visually
The web is now full of social networks that
cater to every branch of society; within them
the full diversity of the human condition and
interests thereof are captured in virtual com-
munities that transcend the ether to link like-
minded folk from Aalbourg to Zanzibar!
Social networks can also be a great forum to
promote you research; many allow you to
post content items such as photos or videos;
and link to other documents on the web; for
example, documents that you host on Scribd,
or Slideshows that you host on Slideshare.
The chances are you will have friends on these
networks that share your research interests.
Academia.edu is a social network geared up specifically to-
wards researchers and people working in universities. It al-
lows you to upload your papers and get involved with
groups of people working in your research area.
Share Your Slides!
If you are routinely creating presentations for lectures,
conferences, seminars e.t.c. Then why not consider
sharing content using an online presentation-sharing
tool. Slideshare (www.slideshare.net) and Slideboom
(www.slideboom.com) are two sites that allow you to
upload content that you have produced in Microsoft
Powerpoint. This is a useful backup in the event that
your memory stick dies when you go to deliver the
presentation! Also, you can then grab a snippet of code
that Slideshare generates, and embed the presentation
into a webpage. You can also easily share presentations
with people on your social networks.
Vs. Top Tip!
• Slideboom lets you keep your custom animations.
If you are struggling with graphics or
• Slideboom allows you to play animated *.gif’s within your presentation.
• Slideboom will not deal with flash animations at all, whereas Slideshare embedded fonts in your presenta-
converts them into static pictures. tion, convert the file to a *.pdf first,
• However, Slideboom only supports files up to 30mb. and upload this to the converter!
Share Your Pictures! Using: /
If you generate lots of images in the course of your research, then a really great way to share them is with a
photo sharing service such as Flickr / Picasa. These services allow you to bulk upload your photos and then
organise them into groups and sets. This can be really use-
ful, as it provides somewhere where you can store you pic-
tures that can be accessed from home or university com-
puters. It also provides a measure of resilience in the event
that your PC hard drive fails. You can permit people the
share your images for example, by embedding them in their
blogs. This is a useful way to drive traffic to your content;
and hopefully through exploring your pictures—they will
want to learn more about you; read your profile and then
discover more about your research.
Share Your Documents
Anyone in the world of academia is routinely creat-
ing documents—whether that be course notes, pa-
pers, or working reports. Scribd is an online service
that you can use to share such documents. You up-
load your files, and Scribd converts them to it’s own
proprietary format “iPaper”, which is easy to view
on any browser that has the “Flash” plugin installed;
without needing to load up an external application
such as Adobe Acrobat. With Scribd; you can share
documents by distributing the link to your document; allowing you to post to social networks and sites such
as Twitter; however, if you host your own website; you can also “embed” documents within the page; Scribd
generates a snippet of HTML code for you, that you can grab and paste into your site. You can specify the
dimensions of this box to fit in with your site layout. Within this box, your document can be previewed, with
the option to click on it, and “pop it out” in its own window.
Publish It Yourself!
If you’ve got to produce a short run of documents;
say for a brochure for a course, or a hand-out or
course book; then Lulu could very well be the an-
swer to your prayers.
Banish visions of badly photocopied sloppily pre-
sented reports amateurishly bound with tacky plas-
tic comb binders and say hello to professionally per-
fect bound reports in hardback or softback!
Lulu is what is known as a print on demand pub-
lisher. The traditional publishing model is that an
author writes a book for a low percentage of the
revenue, whilst the publisher takes on distribution
and marketing activities.
Lulu turns the publishing industry model on its
head, by putting the content creator in control.
Lulu have very advanced flexible printing machines
that are able to produce short runs or even single
books very cost effectively. It works thus; you up-
load your document to the Lulu server in the form
of a *.pdf with a cover image, and tell Lulu what
quality paper you want to print on, what size of
book you want to publish, the type of binding and
whether you want to print in black and white or
colour. Lulu wil then give you a base price for pro-
ducing this type of publication. You can then buy at
this price, sell your work at this price, or choose to
make a profit over and above and market your
book on the Lulu site.
You can also add an ISBN and market your book
more widely through conventional distribution
channels and booksellers such as Amazon.com.
Lulu provides a number of free features to help you
get your book published including an online cover
The quality of the printed documents that Lulu pro-
duce is second to none; however, it should be re-
membered, that unlike working with a professional
publisher—Lulu does not copyedit, proofread or
layout your work—so ultimately the quality of the
output is highly dependent on your own DTP skills
and the effort you put into producing what you up-
load to the Lulu server.
Once uploaded to Lulu, Lulu also gives you the facil-
ity to produce a “Widget” that can be embedded in
your website to market your book!
Learn to use C.M.S!
C.M.S. Is short for content management system; these are little programs which sit on your webserver that
manage your website content for you. Conventional web page programming involved producing a set of
static pages, which are stored as files on your host server. Each file would contain information about the
styles used in the content, and would contain links which manually pointed to different pages.
With content management systems, this is completely different—all of your content is stored in a database;
and the content management system does the job of managing your content, the design of your site, the
structure of your site.
As many of these content management systems have been developed by the Open Source community, the
amazing thing is that you can get functionality today for free, that only five years ago major blue chip compa-
nies would have paid millions to custom developers for!
www.joomla.org, www.drupal , www.wordpress.
Administrating a CMS
Rather than having to faff with creating web pages manually, or
coding them; with a content management, changing the con-
tent of your site is as easy as logging into a system using a user
name and password (If you are using Joomla this will be
www.yourwebsiteaddress.com/administrator) and using the
‘Article Manager’ to edit existing documents or ‘Add New Ar-
ticle’ to append content to the site.
The great thing when using a content man-
agement system is that you can get
‘extensions’. These are little blocks of code,
which can be ‘added’ to your site. Usually
this is as simple as uploading an *.zip file
within your site—no more complicated
than uploading an attachment to an email.
These little blocks of code can do really
clever things, for example - one commonly
used widget will place a little block of na-
tional flags where you choose on your web-
site. Someone visiting your site from an-
other country can now click one of these
flags, and have the content of your site sent
No complicated HTML code; the interface is as simple as using to Google, translated, and then pasted back
Microsoft Word with an interface that should prove friendly onto the page automatically!
to anyone familiar with office applications. Other functions include:
• Twitter Feeds
• Embedding Different Media Types
• Producing Special Visual Effects
Go to: extensions.joomla.org/
Just about anything from a mobile phone with video output upwards can
be used to make web video. Video is a great way to communicate your
Not just for s research to a wider audience; online on-demand web-based video is fast
become the method of choice for some demographics, such as the young
and web aware, to consume video content.
Twitter is what is known as a Windows XP and Vista both contain “Windows Movie Maker” a simple,
microblogging service, which yet capable video editor; which allows you to stream together different
condenses the format of the clips by importing them into the program; dragging and dropping them
written word down to a 140 onto a storyboard; clipping the beginning and end of the clip - to cut out
character snippet. that first few seconds of setting up, and finishing at the end and then ar-
ranging the clips on a timeline to ensure they sync up. You can then ex-
You may find it soul destroying port the video in a range of formats—including suitable for YouTube.
having to summarise your Movie maker also provides a range of different transitions and effects that
100,000 word thesis in a 140 can be applied to the video to give it a professional look - for example
character thought-bubble; but fades between scenes e.t.c.
it makes content rapidly read- YouTube allows uploaders to ‘tag’ keywords to videos to make them eas-
able, allowing you to sift ily discoverable, and also has a ratings and feedback system.
through thoughts which are
and aren’t interesting to you
rapidly. You can also embed
links to other content - how-
ever, in the interests of con-
serving space, it is probably
best to use a redirection ser-
vice such as tinyurl.com or
bit.ly to keep the number of
characters used down.
Once you have established
your Twitter feed; you can use
a range of services to
“automate” your feed; taking
data from other sites you sub-
scribe to and posting it on Just about anything from a video mobile upwards can be used to make web
Twitter in shortened form. video. Windows XP and Vista both contain “Windows Movie Maker” a simple,
yet capable video editor.
You can also “follow” people
that you find interesting, add-
ing them to your twitter feed, RSS Feeds - Keeping You Informed
and be “followed” by people
who are interested in what In the words of IBM “RDF Site Summary (RSS) files, based on XML, provide
you are up to! an open method of syndicating and aggregating Web content. Using RSS files,
you can create a data feed that supplies headlines, links, and article summaries
Arguably one of Twitter’s most from your Web site. These files describe a channel of information that can in-
famous UK denizens is Stephen clude a logo, a site link, an input box, and multiple "news items." Other sites can
Fry who has over 1,000,000 incorporate your information into their pages automatically. You can also use
followers. RSS feeds from other sites to provide your site with current news headlines.”
In plain English, RSS is like a customised ‘news ticker’ which takes informa-
tion that you are interested in, and routes it to you in the form of a
“feed” which is constantly updated with news that you have filtered for its