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UK Web Focus blog posts published up to 31 October 2009.

UK Web Focus blog posts published up to 31 October 2009.

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  • 1. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 1 of 616 Skip to content Skip past content ukwebfocus-backup Forecasting Trends Backwards Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 “Forecasting for the Future” was the title of an article published in the recent issues of the JANET Newsletter (No. 9, September 2009 – PDF format). It won’t surprise people that the byline for the article was positive about the future: “Outlook – sunny, with a good chance of videoconferencing“. To be fair, the byline was a play on words of the topic of the article, which described use of the JANET Video Conference Service (JVCS) at the Met Office. The article concluded with a quotation from Tim Marshall, JANET CEO: “The Met Office videoconference programmes are an excellent example of how the JANET Videoconference Service makes sense not only in terms of delivering excellent educational content and cost savings, but also through its real contribution in reducing our customers’ carbon footprint“. Such optimistic views of the benefits which technologies promise to deliver are, however, being criticised. In a post entitled Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New? Dave White introduced the ‘postdigital’ concept, a topic he revisited after co-facilitating (with Rich Hall) a post-digital F-ALT session on the opening night of this year’s ALT-C conference. As Dave described in that post, in the session (which I attended) the participants were invited to debate a series of statements which were designed to provoke post-digital thoughts, including: • Learning technologists are obsessed with technology more than learning, which is why elearning will never make the mainstream. • We are purveyors of the worst kind of spin: ‘This new thing will solve all your problems’. But how might we go about challenging such ‘technological determinism’ (which, of course, goes beyond the e- learning community)? Inspired by the F-ALT session and further brief discussions with Dave, an approach I took in a panel session on “Top Technology Trends for Libraries and Information Professionals” at the recent ILI 2009 conference was to take as the starting point the optimism felt towards various of today’s technologies and to travel backwards in time, and attempt to give plausible reasons why today’s exciting technologies will not be around in the past. This was an idea I got from a BBC 4 programme back in 2007 which I described in a post on “The History Of The Web Backwards“. And following the postdigital discussions it occurred to be that the approach might be worth revisiting. The night prior to the panel session I described the idea to a number of fellow speakers including Tony Hirst and Peter Murray-Rust. Tony was full of enthusiasm for the idea and, as he often does, came up with new ways in which we could use this approach (e.g. looking at a variety of expected future trends and how we got there from the present). And a few days later Tony alerted me of a YouTube video which took a similar approach: [youtube=] After I had given my brief presentation, which I had published shortly before the conference, Peter Murray-Rust did wonder whether such Radio 4 humour would be understood by an international audience. And I did notice that some of the tweets about my talk had failed to pick up on the humourous intent of my presentation. To summarise what I said (or meant to say) with respect to the demise of Twitter: Today many people are exploiting the potential of Twitter to help them find resources they are looking for. Indeed last night I tweeted that I was looking for a good pub to go to and my Twitter community helped me in my information searching task – and because they knew me, they knew to suggest a good real ale pub and not a trendy wine bar. An Ask-A-Librarian service wouldn’t be aware of my personal preferences. 29/10/2009
  • 2. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 2 of 616 But, as we travel through time backwards, we need to ask “Why did twitter die off in the early part of the century?” The answer is obvious. Twitter doesn’t scale. As more and more people asked such questions, the Twitterverse became clogged. “It’s similar to email spam” people felt and started to cancel subscriptions to the service. And of course although I can benefit, as an early adopter, from having large numbers of followers, many people will have only small Twitter communities, and so won’t gain the benefits which I have. So Twitter is inherently undemocratic and professions such as Librarians, with their commitments to social inclusion, were amongst the first to move away from such undemocratic technologies. The demise of Twitter was eventually accepted by all. And in the new environment of the latter part of the twentieth century, people met in pubs with their real friends. The term ‘virtual friends’ was felt to be on par with ‘imaginary friends’ – something you grow out of. And to mention the ‘followers’ you had would result in strange looks and suggestions that you should seek psychiatric help! Funnily enough, although I am aware of reasons why people are sceptical about Twitter and why some Twitter fans feel that the service may eventually be replaced by an open source or distributed alternative service, it wasn’t until I gave the talk that I used the “Twitter is inherently undemocratic” argument. So using the device of seeking to give persuasive reasons why technologies disappeared as we travel backwards though time did give me some fresh insights. Why then, did video-conferencing, which had such a bright future in 2009 die out? Although popular at the high of the envirornmental concerns in the early years of the twenty-first century subsequent research by sociologists revealed that academic and librarians preferred face-to-face meetings. Further research revealed that most conference participants can’t remember the details of talks given at conferences, which made people question why one should use networked technologies to access talks which are quickly forgotten. Rather than computer networking, people networking (including plotting, politicking and such skull-duggery – as well as opportunities for sexual relationships) were found to be the real reason why people travel to conferences, although for some strange reasons, such issues were not identified in the user needs gathering exercise. Might this have an element of truth? Filed in General, Twitter | Tagged ili2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Viewing a WordPress Blog on a Mobile Device Monday, October 26th, 2009 WordPress, in a post somewhat confusing entitled “The Hero Is In Your Pocket“, have recently announced that they have “launch[ed] a couple of mobile themes that will automatically be displayed when your blog is accessed with a compatible mobile phone“. 29/10/2009
  • 3. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 3 of 616 The new theme is now enabled by default on blogs, such as this one, which are hosted by And yes it does make blog posts much easier to read as the mobile interface has a less cluttered interface which, although unlikely to provide significant usability problems on a typical desktop computer, can be irritating on a mobile device, such as a iPhone or iPod Touch (which was used to capture the image of the blog which is illustrated). Best of all is that this enhanced interface has been provided without the need for me to do anything – no software to be upgraded or new themes to install. Filed in Blog, Gadgets | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Opening Up Institutional Training Resources Friday, October 23rd, 2009 I’m now back from a few day’s at Aberystwyth University, where I had been invited to speak at the launch of the HEFCW-funded Gwella project and to give a seminar on “The ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ Report: Implications For IT Service Departments“. As this involved a long train journey I also sought to maximise my time in Aberystwth by participating in a regional meeting for Welsh Web managers. During the brief summaries of areas of work which the members of institutional Web management teams had been involved in I noticed that a number of the institutions were involved in the delivery of training in use of Terminal 4’s Content Management System. But why, I wonder, are institutions still developing their own training resources? As the meeting took place at the start of the first international Open Access Week I did wonder whether an institutional move towards (or committment to) open access for research publications and research data shouldn’t be complemented by an institutional committment to providing Creative Commons licence for institutional training resources. And shouldn’t Information Services departments and Libraries be taking a leading role in this area? After all it is staff in the IT Services departments who will be well-placed to develop the technical infrastructure to provide access to such resources and Library staff who can advise on access mechanisms, use of metadata, etc. This suggestion is not new – back in 2005 I presented a paper on “Let’s Free IT Support Materials!“ at the EUNIS 2005 conference. But it is probably timely to revisit this subject, not only due to links with the Open 29/10/2009
  • 4. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 4 of 616 Access Week but also the related interests in open access for learning resources, as described recently in an article entitled “Get it out in the open” published in The Times Higher. Now I’m not saying that the availability of open training resources, which might include podcasts and screencasts as well as more conventional training resources, will necessarily always be used – perhaps trainers and user support staff will continue to prefer to use resources they have developed themselves. But if that is the case, then what is the point of services such as JORUM and funding initiatives such as JISC’s Open Educational Resources programme? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to the community in general if more people were involved in such debates? Filed in openness | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (8) RSS Feeds For Welsh University Web Sites Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 RSS Usage On Welsh University Home Pages Last year I published a blog post which provided a summary of usage of RSS feeds on Scottish University home pages. The survey was carried out in July 2008, shortly before the IWMW 2008 event was held in Aberdeen. The aim was to collate evidence on the extent to which best practices in institutional use of RSS were being implemented in Scotland and to facilitate discussions on reasons why best practices may not always be being implemented and ways of addressing such barriers. As I will be visiting Wales shortly I thought it would be useful to carry out a similar survey of the 12 Welsh Universities. The Findings The findings, based on a manual survey carried out on 21 August 2009, are given in the following table. No. of RSS Institution Comments Feeds 1 Aberystwyth University 0 2 Bangor University 0 3 Cardiff University 0 4 Glamorgan University 0 RSS feeds for news, sports news, Careers centre news 5 Glyndŵr University 4 and Student news. Royal Welsh College of Music & 6 0 Drama 7 Swansea University 0 8 Swansea Metropolitan University 1 RSS feed for news. 9 Trinity University College 0 University of Wales Institute, 10 0 Cardiff 11 University of Wales, Lampeter 0 12 University of Wales, Newport 0 It appears that only two Welsh institutions are providing RSS feeds which can be found from the home page (16.67%). 29/10/2009
  • 5. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 5 of 616 Revisiting Community Surveys Last year’s blog post on RSS usage on Scottish University home pages discussed possible reasons for the low levels of usage, and I don’t intend to revisit that discussion as I suspect the same reasons will be valid for both communities. I should also add that Tony Hirst has developed a tool for dynamic discovery of auto-detectable RSS feeds for all UK University home pages, which currently reports a total of 48 out of 133 institutions (36.1%). So rather than discussing the specific example of RSS feeds across a sector, I’m more interested in ways in which a sector (or interested and motivated individuals within a sector) can provide similar (factual) surveys which can help to support discussions and, perhaps, inform policies. Liz Azyan has compiled lists of UK Universities usage of YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace. But, as can be seen from the list for MySpace usage, it is not always easy to provide complete coverage and there are likely to be difficulties in ongoing maintenance of such resources. Would it be useful, I wonder, for the Welsh Web management community to set up a wiki to keep a record of trends within their own sector? This is something I will explore at a meeting of Welsh institutional Web managers at the University of Aberystwyth on Monday. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Top Technology Trends – For The Twentieth Century! Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 Top Technology Trends for Libraries and Information Professionals Later this week I’m taking part in the Internet Librarian International (ILI) Conference in London. In addition to running a workshop and giving a talk on standards I’ll also be taking part in the closing panel session on Top Technology Trends for Libraries and Information Professionals. What should I say, I wonder? Should I talk about the importance of social tools for resource discovery, using Twitter as an example of a tool whose success was unexpected. Or shall I try and quickly gain an understanding on Google Wave and talk about its potential relevance to information professionals. But doesn’t this approach simply repeat the technological determinism which the postdigital advocates point out has continually failed to deliver on its promises. Instead I’m intending to take today’s environment as the starting point and explore how technological developments promise to take us towards a better world – in the 1990s. Today’s Networked Environment How can we summarise today’s environment, which provides the starting point for a journey towards the past? Let’s mention a few examples. Twitter: It might be appropriate for event aimed at the Library community to begin by talking about the success of Twitter, not only for providing community support but as a mechanism for resource sharing and resource discovery – yes, Twitter now seems to be a very effective tools for sharing links with one’s friends and colleagues. Lightweight development: We now hear developers being critical of large-scale funding initiatives, preferring instead small amounts of funding to support rapid development work. The JISC’s recent Rapid Innovation Grants provided an example of a funding body recognising the benefits of such an approach. Barcamps, Bathcamps, Hackfests, …: Proponents of light-weight development approaches also feel that meeting up with like-minded people, perhaps at weekends, can be a useful way of supporting one’s professional activities (and in the case of the recent Bathcamp, the weekend away also involved camping!) 29/10/2009
  • 6. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 6 of 616 Crowdsourcing: Examples such as the crowdsourcing of the digitisation of MP’s expenses claims, Galaxy Zoo, reCaptcha and other examples provide further illustrations of today’s networked environment, in which enthusiasts, who need not be developers, can achieve benefits which previously may not have been felt to be achievable without significant expenditure. There is, of course, a political and social context to this technical environment – and, especially, for those working in the public sector, the context is the gloomy economic situation, an expectation that things will get even worse and a likely change of government in the near future. Looking Forward to the 1990s Let’s assume that, due to a malfunctioning (time) portal, we, like Benjamin Button, find ourselves being taken backwards in time, in our case towards the 1990s. How might the networked environment I have summarised above develop? Here ares my predictions: Twitter: The sceptics who argued that Twitter doesn’t have a sustainable business model will be proved correct. The Twitter service will die and, despite an attempt by Facebook to provide a simple type of service using its Status updates, the concept of ‘micro-blogging’ will disappear. The resulting productivity gains will be instrumental in helping the Twittering nations to move out of the global recession. Lightweight development: The limitations of lightweight development approaches and simple (some say simplistic) formats such as RSS become apparent and, despite providing interesting exemplars, fail to provide an infrastructure for serious significant development work. ‘Enterprise development’ becomes the new ‘lightweight development’ and large-scale Content Management Systems become the popular with organisations facing pressures from their peers to deploy such technologies. Barcamps, Bathcamps, Hackfests, …: The growth in large-scale enterprise development environment (accompanied by pressure from friends and families to achieve a more healthy work/life balance) brings to an end the culture of the amateur hacker and events such as barcamps, bathcamps and hackfests. Crowdsourcing: The importance of the professional in the development of high quality networked services goes beyond the developer community. The failure of amateurs to provide the required levels of quality for digitisation, metadata standards, etc. results in an appreciation of the merits of the professional. Librarians and related information professionals become critical in the development of sustainable networked services. Of course, as with many technological predictions, this vision of the 1990s is an optimistic one. Not only does the demise of social networks lead to an emphasis on real-world friends and relationships, but the political and economic environment will also see tremendous improvements – indeed I predict that in 10 years, or possibly 12 years time (say 1997), we will be very pleased with our political and economic situation and positive about the benefits that the future will bring. Postscript This post was influenced by the post-digital session which Dave White facilitated and Rich Hall as part of the fringe (#falt09) activities around the ALT-C 2009 conference. In a blog post about the session Dave White felt that “After the fringe session I was even more convinced that the post-digital was a useful concept but that we hadn’t found the right way of expressing it yet.” John Maeda has described how “Recently I have had the sense that no matter what new digital territory may arise, we end up where we first began – back in an infinite loop. My instinctive response to this personal perception has been to proclaim a new effort to escape to the post digital . . . which I am certain lies in the past.” Can we gain a better appreciation of our perhaps naive expectations of the benefits of technological developments by, as John suggests, looking back into the past? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) 29/10/2009
  • 7. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 7 of 616 Twitter Event Hashtagging Strategies Monday, October 5th, 2009 Background In a recent post on the eFoundation’s blog Andy Powell wrote about “Flocking behaviour – why Twitter is for starlings, not buzzards“. Based on the statistics I had provided for use of Twitter at the recent ALT C 2009 conference Andy picked up on the use of two tags (#altc2009 and #altc09) and pointed out that “if you don’t tweet using the generally agreed tag you are effectively invisible to much of the conference audience“. I agree – so there’s probably a need to agree on hashtagging strategies for events, which I’ll explore in this post. And I’ll use this as an opportunity to consider what hashtag UKOLN should be using for next year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2010). Issues To Consider What are the issues to consider when selecting a hashtag for use at an event? Being brief The initial requirement is that as tweets are limited to 140 characters, hashtags should be brief in order to maximise the amount of content that can be containing in a tweet about an event. Avoiding problems with non-alpha-numeric characters It may be felt desirable to avoid use of certain non-alphanumeric characters which may cause problems in some Twitter clients. For example, the hashtag #clip2.0 was initially suggested for an event on the relevance of Web 2.0 technologies for the CILIP organisation and CILIP members. However Twitter clients seem to truncate hashtags containing a full stop, so the hashtag #cilip2 was used. Similar problems have been observed with use of a dash (-) as illustrated in the display of a tweet in the TweetDeck client. In addition there was a complaint that use of an underscore (_) in the #cilip_lams event caused usability problems, especially on mobile devices. The advice would seem to be stick with alphanumeric characters in hashtags. Avoid numbers at the start of hashtags Hashtags which begin with a number (e.g. #2009foo ) are believed to cause hyperlinking problems in some clients. Should you be consistent with other tagging services? Although those who make intensive use of Twitter may feel that the first two points are all that need to be considered when formulating a hashtag for an event, there may be an argument for being consistent with recommendations for tags using in other environments such as other Flickr, YouTube, etc. These services do not suffer for the length constraints imposed by Twitter and so can provide more flexibility. There may be an argument for using a Twitter-safe hashtag in these other services, but what if these other services are the more widely-used services (e.g. events with an established use of Flickr)? Should the year be included? Many of the events I’ve attended or followed on Twitter have included the year in the hashtag (e.g. #iwmw2009, #altc2009 and #solo09) but some have not (#alpsp and #cilip_lams). Does the year have to be included, especially as the tweets will be readily accessible via the Twitter search APIs for only a short period? But might a decision to save space by omitting the year cause problems if the Twitter API changes or other tools are used? And might this cause additional confusions with tags for which date encoding may be useful. One hashtag or several? If there are multiple events associated with a main event (e.g. pre-conference workshops or fringe events) you will need to consider whether to recommend use of the main event hashtag for these peripheral events or to suggest an alternative hashtag. Branding issues There may be pressure to ensure that an event hasthtag provides the correct branding for the organising bodies. The hashtag for the CILIP’s Umbrella 2009 conference, for example, was #cilipumbrella. Multi-lingual issues 29/10/2009
  • 8. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 8 of 616 Welsh institutions may need to consider use of bilingual tashtags. Note, for example, that for the CILIP Wales 2009 conference the conference hashtag was cilip-cymru09. I should add, however, that I havent any experience of the implications of use of non Latin characters (ironically, as Im typing this sentence on a Croatian keyboard and cant find the single quote character!) Being memorable Perhaps because I’m getting older I am finding it difficult to remember random strings of characters – so I wouldn’t appreciate a a tag such as #xuj740n9 (having to re-authenticate a username and password with a similar pattern can also be irritating). I found the hashtags used for the recent Oxford Social Media Conference (#oxsmc09) and Science Online London (#solo09) events easy to remember as the conference names themselves were memorable. Being different Having an event hashtag which could clashes with other hashtags is likely to lead to confusion. Avoiding ambiguities in the characters Many years ago I was an information officer and I was very aware of the need to avoid confusions between characters such as 1 and i and o and 0 (in some fonts these many be indistinguishable). Note that this may be very relevant for events held next year. The (fictitious) Input Output’s annual conference hashtag #io10 could be particularly confusing depending on the font used on your computer. Being timely and promoting the hashtag effectively As mentioned recently, it is important to finalise a hashtag in advance of the event and to ensure that participants and other interested parties are aware of the official hashtag for the event. In many cases participants are likely to tweet about an event prior to the event, perhaps when a call for paper has been published e.g. “Loking for partners to write a proposal for #altc2010 with“. Obtaining buy-in from users of the tag As it is not possible to mandate use of an official event hashtag you should seek to ensure that users of the tag will be inclined to use the hashtag. If the hashtag is too long the users may choose to use a shorter one. Explaining the tag As well as promoting the hashtag to the event participants you should also try to ensure that other interested parties, who perhaps might notice a stream of tweets with the tag, can easily discover more about the associated event. One way of doing this might be to ensure that a Web page containing details of the hashtag and the event is published early so that it may be indexed by Google. In addition it may be useful to describe the event in Twitter aggregation services such as WThashtag (e.g. see the description for the IWMW 2009 event). #iwmw2010, #iwmw10, #iwmw – or something else? This post has described some of the issues which should be considered when choosing an event hashtag. But to put such discussions into context, I’d like to consider the hashtag UKOLN should be using for next year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2010) – the fourteenth in this series of annual events for members of institutional Web management teams. I’ve recently attended four events which had a Twitter hashtag, each of which took a different approach: #altc2009, #techshare09, #alpsp and #cilip_lams. As there aren’t pressures to brand our host institution, UKOLN, there’s no need for a ‘#ukoln_iwmw” style tag. The options, and arguments for and against, are therefore: #iwmw2010 For: Consistency with previous years and consistency with tags used in Flickr, YouTube, etc. Also consistency with URL used on UKOLN Web site. Against: Uses 9 characters – this could be shorter. #iwmw10 For: Saves two characters over #iwmw2010. Against: Loses consistency with previous years and with other tag services. Possible confusion over the characters (could it be confused with #iwmwi0?) #iwmw For: Saves four characters over #iwmw2010. No confusion with the ‘10′ characters. Against: Loses consistency with previous years and with other tag services. Loss of the date may cause 29/10/2009
  • 9. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 9 of 616 problems if data is to be used in content of other years (but not necessarily so as the tweets do have a machine-readable date) What do you think we should go for? And are there other issues one should consider when choosing a hashtag for an event which I haven’t mentioned? Filed in Events, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) Guest Post: Blogs At Imperial College Friday, October 2nd, 2009 After a gap of 11 months the guest blog post returns with a post by Jenny Evans, Liaison Librarian: Maths and Physics at Imperial College. Jenny provides a background to two blogs (to support the Physics and Maths and Engineering departments) which were set up by liaison librarians in 2006 and answers many of the questions which librarians in a similar role may be asking: how did you get agreement from the management?; who contributes; what is the target audience; what do you write about; how long does it take to support; is it sustainable and, perhaps most importantly, can the blog service be regarded as a success? About Imperial Imperial College London is a science-focussed institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research with approximately 12,000 full time students. The Library comprises the Central Library and the Mathematics Department Library, located on our South Kensington campus, as well as campus libraries at Charing Cross Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Brompton Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital and Silwood Park. Background Our first two blogs were created by liaison librarians, Ruth Harrison and myself, in March 2006. There were three main reasons we considered using a blog. Firstly, we had tried sending out emails and newsletters to departments informing them of relevant developments. Problems with this method included academics wanting different formats, or complaining about email overload. From our perspective, as a newsletter tended to be produced only once a term, information we wanted to get out to them quickly was often out of date by the time it was sent. There was the option of adding pages to the library website, however this relied on us getting information to another library staff member, and then waiting for them to put the page up. Which if you needed to get information out to staff/students quickly was not the ideal solution. Finally, the library Web site doesn’t provide detailed subject specific information pages, which academics had complained about to us, so we wanted to address this issue – the blogs were a way in which we could provide very specific information and only to those people who wanted it. As such, we felt a blog would be an ideal way to be able to communicate quickly, effectively and directly with our respective departments about information that was relevant to them. Blogs would enable us to post content as we needed to, they would be easy to set up and maintain, and we could delegate responsibility to staff where appropriate. It also meant academics could set up an RSS feed to the pages so they could control how they viewed the information. WordPress software We decided to start the blogs using the free blogging software from WordPress. It was a fairly new option at the time, but it was getting good reviews, seemed to be flexible, offered some useful features and was free. 29/10/2009
  • 10. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 10 of 616 Getting agreement from management Working on the assumption that it is much easier to sell an idea that you can demonstrate we created a working prototype and began posting content to the blogs before presenting them to our respective managers. They then took them to the relevant management meetings. Although there was some unease about the lack of branding, and the idea that at the time not all liaison librarians would have a blog, it was agreed that as this was a form of communication, specific to a liaison librarian and their department (not unlike email) that we could continue. Over the past 3 1/2 years, other liaison librarians have seen the success of our blogs and have created their own. We now have thirteen blogs covering a variety of subject areas. There is currently no specific ‘library style’ for the blogs, although some look more ‘Imperial-like’ than others. Blog authors Our blog authors are a mix of library staff – though all work in Library’s Faculty Support Services for Teaching and Research Directorate – as the blogs are aimed staff and students in specific departments/subject areas. As such, the relevant library liaison team are responsible for the blog. This could be a single person or more than one member of the same team. Our medicine blog is aimed at all medical staff and students and as such members of staff from all of the medical campuses contribute to this blog. Target audience Each of our blogs has a different target audience, depending on what is thought appropriate for that subject area. This can include: • Academic/research staff • Postgraduate research students • Postgraduate taught course students • Undergraduate students For example the maths and physics blog that I am responsible for (as I’m no longer responsible for chemistry) is aimed at academic and research staff, and research post-graduate students, although some content is relevant to post-graduate taught course students and I do make them aware of its existence. It is not so relevant to the undergraduate students, however I do have a maths projects blog I have created to support the projects they work on in the first and second year of their course. Content This is also something that relies on the particular person or group of people responsible for each blog. Examples of what people include in their blogs: • New resources including new book purchases and journal subscriptions • News • Custom search engines • Journal citation reports/bibliometrics information • Help/advice pages • Support for teaching sessions • Identifying key resources such as e-books • Highlighting relevant parts of the library website • Highlighting the physical location of relevant collections • Overview of relevant key database and referencing information Generally, we would try not to duplicate information found on the library Web site, but do highlight relevant content. 29/10/2009
  • 11. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 11 of 616 How long we spend maintaining our blogs As you can imagine, this differs depending on who is working on the blog. I did a quick survey of fellow bloggers as to how often they post on their blogs and this ranges from a couple of times a week to once a month. Personally, I must confess I don’t spend as much time on mine as I used to, though my team member Katie does most of the posting these days. Publicity/Marketing You can find a link to our blogs on our library homepage and there is also a link from the College blogs page. I’ve also got links on the Physics department website and the Maths Library web page. For my blog, I email department staff, PhD students and MSc students at least once a term, reminding them the blog is there and highlighting any current news. Some bloggers use Feedburner which enables them to give people the option to receive updates by email. Our Life Sciences team introduce their blogs to students in induction sessions and point out useful features. This is possibly something we could market better than we do so at the moment. Suggestions from fellow bloggers include giving them a higher profile, making them more visually appealing, perhaps giving them a similar style/layout. Success? As a whole our blogs have been very successful – they are all getting used. They enable us to raise our profile as liaison librarians within the departments we work with, and provide our users with a resource that is specific to their areas of expertise. In the words of one of our Life Sciences bloggers: “Subject blogs are an ideal way to gather relevant subject specific material together in one place for your staff and students, they can be tailored and expanded to meet the need and are much more flexible than having to coordinate an official webpage update. We introduce our students to them in inductions and point out useful areas such as ‘Finding Books’ (which is a well-used page) and Academic Writing Skills (another well-used page which lists academic writing skills books in the library with links to the catalogue – this really picked up over the summer when Masters students were focussing on writing up).“ The statistics available via WordPress do enable you to see details about how many people are viewing your blog, who is referring to your blog, what the top posts and pages are, search terms people are using to find you, and what people are clicking on and incoming links. However, this doesn’t include RSS feeds (unless you are using Feedburner). And these statistics do demonstrate that our blogs are being used. Personally, I didn’t expect loads of comments on my blog – I use it more as a means of getting relevant information out to my departments (maths and physics) – however I do encourage people to get in contact via the comments mechanism of the blog. I have installed a MeeboMe widget on my blog which hasn’t had a great deal of use (though the widget I installed on the blog I created for my maths undergraduate students has had a few enquiries). My humanities colleague has also tried MeeboMe with limited success. Our Life Sciences team has noticed that the more time they have invested in “developing, populating and marketing (not to mention regularly updating) the blog has seen a continued growth in usage figures”. Another unexpected outcome has been the interest from third parties such as Victor Hemming from Mendeley who had seen “posts we had put up about referencing and networking for researchers. This initial contact led to Mendeley coming to Imperial to give a personal introduction. It was good to know that our blog was attracting the attention of useful people and sending them in our direction”. 29/10/2009
  • 12. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 12 of 616 Sustainability Our blogs have been running for 3 and half years now and show no signs of slowing down. The bloggers I have been in touch with all feel that it is worth the time they spend maintaining and updating them. Jenny Evans, Liaison Librarian: Maths and Physics Imperial College London Email: Blog: Filed in Blog, Guest-post | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) If It's Not "All About The Technology" Then What Else Is It Not About? Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 The announcement of the availability of a video summary of the event reminded me of the opening F-ALT session, held on 8 September in the Lass O’Gowrie pub (a pub I always try to get to when I’m at a conference at Manchester University). This was my first time at F-ALT, the ALT’s Fringe event, and I was looking forward to meeting up with the F-ALT organisers and participants, many of whom I’ve met previously or may not have met but read their blogs or follow on Twitter. From what I’d heard of last year’s F-ALT, the Fringe event would provide an opportunity to discuss topics related to elearning in a informal and friendly setting. I’d heard anecdotes of last year’s debate on the “Edupunk” meme and was looking forward to a similar light-hearted evening of geeky fun. However the topic of the opening F- ALT session was “Postdigital” and the description on the F-ALT wiki read: “What does this mean? Why is it not two words? Is it just Dave making-up another term in an attempt to get keynote gigs? No, it actually has some substance to it and could be a very helpful way of framing the learning-tech discussion over the next few years. If you are sceptical about all this then you should definitely turn-up. The chances of an argument breaking out are very high.“ Perhaps this year’s F-ALT wouldn’t turn out to be the informal evening and drink and chat that I had expected! The participants at the event were asked to give a two-minute response to a number of ideas we were presented with. Mine was, if I recall correctly: The speed of the change, however, has left us with the mistaken belief that social change was somehow ‘created’ by the digital rather than simply played out on a the canvas of the digital; that the digital itself is the main driver of change. Being presented with this serious topic in the pub on the opening evening of the conference I tried to response in a light-hearted fashion. I suggested that it was appropriate that this topic was raised in a traditional Manchester boozer, possibly a pub which Fredrick Engles drank in when he spent time in the city. And just as we call for ownership of our scholarly works in ours IRs (institutional repositories) so Engels called for ownership of the means of production in the better known IR – the industrial revolution. So the arguments we are having now aren’t about primarily about the technologies, but reflect arguments which date back hundreds of years (indeed Martin Weller has suggested that the debates go back many centuries). The publication of the video summary of the evening (which is embedded below) provides an opportunity to revisit ‘postdigital’ debate … [youtube=] 29/10/2009
  • 13. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 13 of 616 If, as Dave White suggests in a post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?“, we tend to overhype the new and exciting, and fail to appreciate the aspects which are actually useful, what are the implications? Perhaps this is a topic which is worthy of more considered thinking. Now maybe it is correct to suggest that we in the development community, who consider ourselves to be agents of a transformational change to a better environment, fail to appreciate that our users often ignore our developments and our vision. After all, if the initial evidence reflects a more general trend, we seem to be living in a world in which most users use an MS Windows platform to access institutional resources – they’re not interested in Linux, for example, despite many years of evangelism from the open source community. A computer’s a computer, just like a fax machine is a fax machine – only nerds care about what goes on underneath the bonnet. But if this is true, what are the implications for accepting that we are in a postdigital age? Don’t we then accept that our IT environment will be owned by the mega-corporations – Google and Microsoft. And let’s forget debates about device independence and interoperability – unless the mega-corporations feel such issues may provide a competitive edge. It strikes me that the postdigital agenda is a conservative one, in which we are asked to accept that we (in our institutions and in our working environment) cannot shape our digital environment. And for me that is a worrying point of view which I don’t accept. Filed in Events, General | Tagged altc2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (9) 200,000 Views Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 On 6 September 2008 I published a post entitled 100,000 Views which documented the date of this blog having received 100,000 views according to the usage statistics provided on the site. I described how: “I’ve found it useful in the past to write about significant landmarks on this blog in order to provide some data which other bloggers may find useful in drawing parallels. And such factual data may also be useful in the various blog workshops which myself and colleagues have been running“. Just over a year later, with the blog having yesterday received 200,000 views, this milestone provides another opportunity for some reflection. As can be seen from the graph, there has been a significant increase in the number of average monthly page views which began (coincidentally?) after the blog reached 100,00 views in September 2008. 29/10/2009
  • 14. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 14 of 616 There was a peak (of 9,108 views) the following month (October 2008) followed by a plateau of over 7,000 views until June 2009, which saw a new peak of 9,300 views. This peak coincided with work I had been involved in for a workshop on “Using the Social Web to Maximise Access to your Resources” – it would seem that the experiments (including gathering evidence of the influence of Twitter in generating traffic) were successful. However there has been a significant decrease in traffic since that peak, although the figures are still higher than a year ago (the dip could be accounted for by the summer holidays and a decrease in the numbers of posts while I was away at conferences recently – but could also reflect a more general decrease in blogging activities which some commentators have speculated about recently). Although I recognise that it is not possible to gain a picture of the state of the blogosphere based on usage figures for a single blog (to say nothing of the view that there may be Lies, Dammed Lies, Blog Statistics and Unexpected Spikes) I hope this snapshot is of interest to others. It would be particularly interesting to hear if others are experiencing a downwards trend in light of the supposed move away from blogs to use of Twitter. Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) We Need Evidence – But What If We Don't Like The Findings? Monday, September 28th, 2009 The Need For Evidence We know that technologies have the potential to provide many benefits, but this potential is not necessarily also realised. We therefore need to gather evidence in order to inform our policies – perhaps to help us recognise that what seemed to be a great idea has actually not been delivered in practice, perhaps to make us aware of a need for greater advocacy and user engagement or perhaps for refining the approaches we initially took. Usage Statistics For Mobile Devices Such issues came to mind following a recent discussion on the website-info-mgt JISCMail list. The discussion began by addressing the question of whether institutions should be developing iPhone applications providing, for example, resources of interest to new students. Following a discussion as to whether we should be developing generic applications for mobile devices and whether this could fail to exploit device specific features, especially features which might be particularly valuable for students with disabilities, David Bailey (Bath Spa University) put the discussion into context by providing statistics on access to his institutional Web site from various platforms. His statistics revealed that 80.55% of visits to the Web site in the past month came from an MS Windows platform, 17.84% from the Apple Macintosh and 0.66% from a Linux platform, The figures for mobile devices 29/10/2009
  • 15. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 15 of 616 were iPhone (0.44%), iPod (0.11%) and Symbian (0.10%) with the figures for mobile devices such as the Palm, Blackberry and Android and gaming devices such as the Wii and Playstation being less than 0.1%. In response to this sharing of evidence a number of follow-up posts provided additional statistics: Heriot-Watt: MS Windows (93.51%), Apple Macintosh (5.05%), Linux (0.67%), iPhone (0.34%), Symbian (012%) and iPod (0.11%) (see email). Sunderland: MS Windows (92.4%), Apple Macintosh (5.7%) and Linux (0.7%). The figures for other devices were all less than 0.1% (see email). Imperial College: MS Windows (91.69%), Apple Macintosh (6.9%), Linux (0.87%), iPhone (0.3%), Symbian (012%). The figures for other devices were all less than 0.1% (see email). University of Warwick: MS Windows (89.19%), Apple Macintosh (8.4%), Linux (1.85%) and iPhone (0.25%). The figures for other devices were all less than 0.1% (see email). Before reflecting on the implications of this evidence we need to be aware of the limitations of these figures: it reflects the experiences of only four institutions; the data is not necessarily based on institutional data and may reflect usage for departmental Web servers and the data reflects usage in the summer vacation. But having acknowledged these caveats, what might the implications be if this evidence does prove to be indicative of the wider higher educational community? Discussion Ironically although the discussion on the website-info-mgt list began over access to institutional Web sites from mobile devices the data provides little evidence of significant usage by mobile devices. But the data does reveal patterns of desktop usage which are worthy of further consideration. I suspect many of the Web and IT developers and support staff who have been critical of Microsoft over the years will be disappointed at the overwhelming popularity of the MS Windows platform for accessing the institutional Web sites described above. Should we now accept that MS Windows has won the battle for the desktop operating system environment? And at a time when, if the predictions are correct, we may see a reduction in staffing levels, do these figures suggest that the time and effort in testing Web sites on the Linux platform may not be justified? This isn’t to suggest that Web sites should be designed for the MS Windows platform, rather that the effort in testing and tweaking for little-used platforms may not be justified. Of course an argument could be made that the figures suggest that there is no point in developing services for the mobile Web as the current levels of usage are very low. But the difference is that the desktop and laptop computer environment is now mature, whereas the mobile environment is new. I think there is a debate to be had – and there is also, perhaps, the need to ask “Where did it go wrong? What happened to the diversity of operating systems? Where have the Mac users and Linux users gone?” Or perhaps they are still around, and simply aren’t visiting institutional Web sites. What do you think? Filed in Gadgets | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (14) Tweetboard: Adding Twitter To Web Pages Thursday, September 24th, 2009 I was recently alerted to a blog post on TechCrunch entitled “Tweetboard Launches Twitter Client And URL Shortener“. The article described how this service “lets you create a Twitter-powered forum on any site“. In addition Tweetboard provides “the ability to view discussions as a thread, similar to what you’d find on FriendFeed or Facebook“. 29/10/2009
  • 16. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 16 of 616 This sounded interesting so I signed up for a (free) Tweetboard account and created a page in which I added the HTML code to created the embedded interface. An screenshot of my experiment is illustrated. As can be seen the tool provides a threaded view of replies to tweets – something I’ve not seen before but a feature which does seem popular in FriendFeed. However as has been pointed out, the service does seem slow (although I wonder if this might be due to the increased usage of the service which the TechCrunch article may have generated) and the tweet display cannot be moved. Now although many experienced Twitter users may be interested in the threaded replies feature I suspect that a typical response is likely to be “So what? There are lots of good twitter clients available – why should I be interested in this one?“. This may be true, but will this approach be a useful way of introducing new Twitter users to the service, in a specific context of use. At an amplified event, might an event page with this embedded interface prove useful, I wonder? And if the HTML <script> fragment can be embedded in more mainstream applications environments – such as a VLE, for example – might this be a way of embedding Twitter functionality in the context of existing widely used services? Hmm, might there be life in the VLE yet? Filed in Twitter | Tagged Tweetboard | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) 29/10/2009
  • 17. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 17 of 616 Reflections on Web Adaptability and Techshare 2009 Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 Last week I gave a talk entitled “From Web Accessibility To Web Adaptability” at the RNIB’s Techshare 2009 conference. I have already posted about this talk and described how I had created a slidecast of a rehearsal of the talk (containing an audio track synched with the slides) in order to (a) check the timings for the talk and (b) allow the co-authors of the paper on which thew talk is based to see how I intend to present our work. An additional benefit is that the talk is more accessible to people who attended one of the parallel sessions at the conference or who couldn’t attend the conference. In addition people who could attend the talk will be able to revisit the ideas and share them with colleagues. In addition to the slidecast of the rehearsal I also brought a Flip video recorder with me, together with a tripod and recorded my live talk. This 30 minute talk is now available on (and a master copy is also held on the UKOLN Web site). It should be noted that there are some differences between the rehearsal and the live talk. In part this is due to the delayed start of the talk (due to technical difficulties) which meant I had to skip a couple of my slides. But in addition on the evening before the conference I met up with a number of conference participants, including Lisa Herrod (one of the co-authors of the paper) and Joshue O Connor, who is a member of the W3C WAI Protocol and Formats WCAG 2.0 and WAI-ARIA Working Group. The chat I had with Joshue provided me with a fresh insight of my criticisms of the WAI model. I’ve argued previously (initially in a paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World” published in 2005) that expecting a combination of best practices for accessible Web content (WCAG), Web authoring tools (ATAG) and Web user agents (UAAG) to provide rich accessibility is naive. And, in addition, focussing on this model fails to provide any assistance on what content creators should be doing in a world of flawed browsers and a rich diversity of ways of creating Web content. The valuable discussion I had made me realise that the flaws aren’t in the model itself. Rather it’s with the user community’s acceptance of the model as the approach which should be accepted in the real world. The WAI model is valuable in managing WAI’s development activities and clarifying different areas of responsibilities (how the content can be described; how tools can be used to create and manage that content and how user agents – browsers, automated agents; aggregators, etc. can then access and render such information). But this isn’t a model which we need to use ourselves when we are developing institutional policies for our approaches to enhancing the accessibility and usability of our services or when legislators are writing laws describing the legal responsibilities organisations have in providing accessible services. Following my talk, Joshue and I had a brief chat. Despite the concerns I’d raised it seems that we had similar views. The difficulties, I feel, is in how the WAI approach is being adopted in the real world. So whilst I appreciate WAI’s advocacy in promoting take-up of their guidelines, I now have a better appreciation that their hands are tied when it comes to real world deployment challenges. WAI aren’t in a position to advise on how we should prioritise our (increasingly scarce) resources – such as the example I gave in my final slide on how higher educational institutions should go about enhancing the accessibility of PDFs in institutional repositories. But perhaps WAI could help by openly stating that decisions on how WAI guidelines should be deployed is up to individual organisations to decide. We do need to remember that there are ‘accessibility fundamentalists’ who 29/10/2009
  • 18. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 18 of 616 bought wholesale into the WCAG 1.0 vision and who may now be finding it difficult to come to terms with a more flexible approach. Let’s use the release of WCAG 2.0 to promote a more flexible approach to accessibility in the real world. And let’s also not forget that the UK Government’s blunt approach of “The minimum standard of accessibility for all public sector websites is Level Double-A … Websites owned by central government departments must be Double-A conformant by December 2009” . This policy fails to recognise the low penetration of UAAG-conformant browsers in the Government sector, the resources needed to implement this policy, the reduced level of funding which government departments will be faced with and the likelihood that risk -averse decisions-makers in government departments will use the policy as an excuse to deploy innovative Web- based services. The slidecast and video of my talk at Techshare 2009 gives another illustration of how providing a diversity of resources might enhance the accessibility of a resource (my talk and the related ideas) which is, to my mind, preferable to not making these resources available as they aren’t universally accessible. And this view appeared to be shared by a number of people at the conference who couldn’t attend my talk but werre interested in listening to what I had said. Filed in Accessibility | Tagged techshare09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) A Lack of 'Social' and 'Media' at the Oxford Social Media Conference Monday, September 21st, 2009 The Oxford Social Media Conference The Oxford Social Media Conference, held on Friday 18 September 2009 at Said Business Centre, University of Oxford, was one of the few events I’ve attended this year in which I haven’t spoken at. And it came at the end of a very busy two weeks, having facilitated workshops and given talks at the ALT-C, ALPSP and Techshare conferences and the Silos of the LAMs briefing event. But despite not being on the programme, these days attendance at many conferences can provide opportunities for more active participation than was the case in the past, through use of Twitter and other ways in which Social Media can be used to engage with the audience (both local and remote) and facilitate informal discussions amongst the participants. I have already described how the failure to announce a conference hashtag in advance led to participants being unable to meet up in advance (I’m sure I wasn’t the only participant to arrive the night before – and I was fortunate in spotting a colleague in my Twitter network who was also travelling to the conference). But what of use of Social Media at the conference itself? Use of Social Media at the Event The summary for the event began “With corporations, governments, newspapers and universities embracing blogs and Twitter feeds as key elements in their communication strategies, social media have finally come of age” and promised to “look back at the evolution of blogs and other social media to give a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which such tools have or have not made a difference at the social, political or economic level“. Although the event did not have a technical focus, I expected it to embrace use of various aspects of Social Media as the opening statement suggested universities are doing. I was pleased, therefore, when it became clear that the panelists in the opening session were using Twitter to observe what the participants were discussing. And, following a Twitter response from Bill Thompson to a my tweet in which I linked to a screenshot of an Augmented Reality view of twitterers in the nearby locality, I took the opportunity ask (slightly tongue in cheek) whether such engagement by the panel with the audience’s ‘backchannel’ wasn’t a somewhat worrying appropriation by those in a position of power (the speakers) of what may be regarded as a democratising tool. I went on to ask whether the expected spamming of the event’s hashtag (which happened) provided an example of the inevitable commercialisation of the Social Web. We were naive in 1993 and 1994, I suggested to Bill (whom I first met at the first WWW conference in Geneva in 1994) when we described that conference as the “Woodstock 29/10/2009
  • 19. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 19 of 616 of the 1990s” and predicted that what we might now refer to as ‘Web 1.0″ would bring about a radical democratisation of society. Aren’t we being equally naive to suggest that the Social Web will bring about this change? The response was, not unexpectedly, uncertain, with the panelists pointing out that it is difficult to predict the future and that the Social Web is likely to develop in unexpected ways, and what may be regarded by some as spam (I gave an example of advertising from a taxi firm at the end of the Techshare conference) could equally be felt to be useful information by others. For me this opening session established a lack of experts in Social Media and would be followed by more open discussions – and would avoid the lengthy responses to questions made by each member of the panel. But what happened throughout the rest of the day was a repetition of the opening panel session: talks from each of the panelists, with the occasional question or comment being made by the chairperson. I felt like I was a member of the audience at a Radio 4 programme. So for a conference on Social Media the event was missing on the ’social’ aspect, with little opportunity for participants to engage with the discussions. There was also little ‘media’ at the conference, with none of the speakers using any visual aids. For me meant the day was very repetitious, with little visual stimulation. It was also at odds with a comment made in the final session that “it’s all about video, video, video. There will be screens EVERYWHERE very soon“. Now perhaps I’m being unfair. I have to admit my recent intensive spate of travelling meant that I was probably suffering from an overdose of conferences – and the enjoyable lunch provided did mean that I wasn’t paying full attention to the sessions after lunch. And an early departure meant that I missed the panel session on corporate blogging which was described as “by far the most entertaining and informative of the day, mostly dealing with the politics of setting corporate blog tone and complaint/query response rate“. Final Thoughts I’ve described how the description for the conference suggested that “With corporations, governments, newspapers and universities embracing blogs and Twitter feeds as key elements in their communication strategies, social media have finally come of age“. For me many of the events I now attend make use of technologies such as Twitter, blogs and video streaming as a key part of the ‘amplification’ of the event – and this amplification takes place before, during and after the event. For an event about Social Media such expectations do not seem unreasonable. It is pleasing, therefore, to note that a number of blog posts about the conference have already been published including: • What we learned at the Oxford Social Media Convention, Digital Content Blog, The Guardian • How social networking is changing journalism, Digital Content Blog, The Guardian • A social media proposal (you’re not going to like it) #oxsmc09, • Kara Visits the Oxford Social Media Convention: I Say Twitt-er, You Say Twitt-ah, BoomTown • Oxford Social Media Convention 2009, The first of these links, from The Guardian, concludes: “PS: To find more detailed bits about the conference, look up the hashtag #oxsmc09 on twitter“. However as I have described previously, content posted to twitter becomes unavailable via Twitter’s search interface after about 10 days. Since media organisations such as The Guardian are likely to ensure that such evidence does not disappear, I have created a copy of the #oxsmc09 tweets which should make subsequent analysis of the discussions easier to carry out. And looking at the HTML version of the archive there is a noticeable lack of tweets by the conference organisers – unlike, say, the recent ALT C and Techshare conferences, both of which used Twitter during and after the event. Filed in Events, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) What! No Event Hashtag? Sunday, September 20th, 2009 29/10/2009
  • 20. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 20 of 616 Tim Berners-Lee at the Science Museum Last Monday I attended a talk on “The Web Revealed” given by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the Science Museum as part of the centenary celebrations for 100 years of the Science Museum. This was a last minute decision – I was about to head off to London as I was taking part in a session at the CILIP Executive Briefing on “Beyond the Silos of the LAMS” the following day and spotted a tweet about a spare ticket for the event which was available. When I joined the queue for the event I tweeted my location – to indicate to any Twitter followers where I was, with the possibility of meeting up and perhaps going for a drink afterwards. As I commented at the time it felt slightly strange to be at an event about the Web which did not have an event hashtag, thus making it difficult to make links with other Twitterers at the event and share thoughts on the content. However one of my Twitter followers, @brian@condon, who was following the event from a distance, spotted my tweet and suggested “How about #bernerslee?” as a tag for the event. A few minutes later he tweeted: RT @martingoode: Am following the #Berners-Lee talk via twitter thanks to @joannabutler @briankelly- seems to be a hashtag! So now it seems we have two people (@martinegoode and @brian_condon) following the talk on Twitter, via tweets from myself and @joannabutler, with two hashtags (#Berners-Lee and #bernerslee) having being suggested. I also spotted some tweet from @filce who concluded: Sir Tim Burners-lee was amazing. Very interesting and brilliant. It was recorded so hopefully it will be available the web! And thanks to @filce I’ve spotted a recording of the opening of Sir Tim’s talk. as well as a link to his slides (the URL was displayed very quickly at the end of his talk, and I had no time to make a note of the URI). Without following up on @filce’s tweets, I would probably have missed out on this information. But how could have it been made easier for the event Twitterers to be found and for them to be aware of each other’s presence? Perhaps the Science Museum should be suggesting hashtags for its anniversary talks (especially with another distinguished Web luminary – Dame Wendy Hall scheduled to talk in November). And what approach should be taken to coining the hashtag? Should it be related to the venue (”I’m at the @sciencemuseum to listen to Sir Tim Berners-Lee”), the anniversary series (”I’m at the @sciencemuseum-100 talk”) or, as mentioned above, should the tag be based on the individual speaker’s name? If the latter, there will probably be a need to avoid possible organisers – @timberners-lee (note the hyphen can cause hyperlinking problems in some Twitter clients) or @timbl, for example. Or in the case of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Dame Wendy Hall and other members of The Knightage, will an updated version of Debretts guide to forms of address require the title to be included, so we’ll have to use #sirtim and #damewendy? The Oxford Social Media Conference (#oxsmc09) On Friday I attended the Oxford Social Media Convention 2009 held at Said Business School, University of Oxford. As might be expected for an event which promised to “look back at the evolution of blogs and other social media to give a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which such tools have or have not made a difference at the social, political or economic level” the event did have a hashtag (#oxsmc09) which was widely used by the Twitterers in the audience. Indeed, following a suggestion I made at the event a colleague set up a wthashtag page for the tag, so that we can see that there were almost 1,000 tweets during the day, from 200 contributors (note there would probably have been more, but the conference WiFi network went down during the conference). 29/10/2009
  • 21. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 21 of 616 But as can be seen from the histogram of the event tweets, nothing was said prior to the event. This was due to the hashtag only being announced in the conference pack when the delegates registered at the event. This resulted in a missed opportunity for participants at this conference on Social Media to, for example, meet up prior to the event and, err, be social. Indeed it was rather fortuitous that while travelling from London to Oxford I spotted a number of tweet from EDINA’s Nicola Osborne who was travelling from Edinburgh to London Heathrow and then, I noticed, to Oxford. In response to my tweet: @suchprettyeyesI’m on way to Oxford for Social Media conf. Fancy drink tonight? Am sure someone can suggest decent real ale pub. I discovered that Nicola was going to the same event and we met up at the Eagle and Child (thanks to @sboneham for the suggestion). But despite asking: Is there a tag for Social Media conf at Said College? Would be good to meet up with others. it wasn’t until the next morning that we found out the event’s hashtag (with the first event tweet coming from Nicola ). A missed opportunity, I feel, which was echoed by Bill Thompson, one of the conference speakers: @deejacksonI’m looking forward to Oxford Social Media Convention tomorrow – no idea of hashtag but will be tweeting… The need to find the information containing the hashtag also caused confusion for people who had arrived and, in the absence of advance notification, had started to make us of their own hashtag. As rohanjay commented: foxed by random hashtagging, calls for order at the Oxford social media bunfight -is it #oii or #oxsoc or #oxsmc09? There are lessons which can be learnt from such confusions, especially for anyone organising events about Social Media. Augmented Reality and Geo-Location But need an event’s Twitter discussions necessarily require agreement on a hashtag? Following problem’s with the conference WiFi network I started to use my HTC Magic Android mobile phone to follow the conference tweets. Due to the phone’s poor user interface, I didn’t contribute significantly to the discussions. However it did occur to me that the event might provide an opportunity to make use of the LayarAugmented Reality application which I’d installed the previous week, after hearing about it from Joss Winn, a fan of the HTC Android phone (he has the newer model which has, I understand, an improved user interface). 29/10/2009
  • 22. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 22 of 616 I had first started to use the application the previous night in the pub, using it to find information on nearby pubs and historic building which could be viewed on a map and relevant Wikipedia pages or geo- located photos displayed. The Layar environment also has two Twitter applications which enable me to view nearby Twitter users and Twitter posts. I used this at the conference and posted a link to a screenshot of my mobile phone display, which is illustrated. It would be nice if the display showed that a prolific Twitter user was located in from of my and slightly to the left, with another prolific user being near the front of the lecture theatre. However that wasn’t the case – the image shows tweets within about a mile of my location, some of which had been posted the previous day. So this isn’t a way of finding tweets from others at the same conference – yet! Conclusions To conclude, events such as Tim Berner’s Lee’s talk at the Science Museum and the Oxford Social Media Conference need an event hashtag. There’s also a need for the tag to be announced in a timely fashion and not just on the day itself. There’s also a need for process for selecting a tag (which I’ll discuss in more detail in a future post). But perhaps the importance of hashtagging at events may be complemented by developments such as geo- location application. But as we will still need to talk about the events we are planning to attend as well as the event we are at, we’ll still need the event hashtag, Filed in Events, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Use of Twitter at the ALTC 2009 Conference Monday, September 14th, 2009 Back After A Week Away Last week was unusual – not a single blog post published in the week. Although there were suggestions at last week’s ALT-C 2009 conference that blogging is in decline with established bloggers making greater use of Twitter, my failure to blog last week was due to being away all week at the ALT-C conference followed by the ALPSP 2009 conference. And although I’d brought along my ASUS EEE PC, I couldn’t get it connected to the network in my bedroom at either of the conferences. So my connectivity was restricted to use of my iPod Touch and HTC Magic mobile phone – which I used for reading email messages, tweets and RSS feeds and writing the occasional Twitter post. ALT-C 2009 Summaries A number of valuable summaries of the conference have already been published. I don’t intend to repeat what has already been said, apart from mentioning that the two plenary talks I saw (from Michael Wesch and Martin Bean ) were both excellent (I had to leave on the final morning and so unfortunately missed Terry Anderson’s closing plenary talk); the VLE is Dead debate was entertaining, with witty contributions made from the four speakers and was useful in raising issues and providing insights which I hadn’t previously considered. 29/10/2009
  • 23. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 23 of 616 Twitter at ALT-C 2009 But what of the use of Twitter at ALT-C 2009? Philip Paasuke, an e-learning enthusiast based in Adelaide, Australia, has described how he followed the conference from home using a variety of technologies: watching the keynote plenary talks on Elluminate and using Tweetdeck to follow the back channel discussions. As Philip describes: “The Twitter postings gave me an interesting perspective on what participants at the conference and those observing it remotely were thinking about the various presentations“. Philip went on to add that “Following ALT-C 2009 on Twitter has also led me to increase the number of people that I am following using this service from what might loosely be called ’the elearning community’. The Twitter posts also included a lot of useful links to more detailed blog postings by some of the conference participants“. But how extensively was Twitter used at the conference? And what was the profile of its usage? I have previously described how I used a variety of Twitter analysis and management tools to analyse use of Twitter at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event. For that event, which had 200 participants, there were 1,530 tweets. For the ALTC 2009 conference, with had over 700 participants, there were over 4,300 tweets published in a week! This figure, which was obtained using the wthashtag service, provides a summary, illustrated above, based on tweets posted from Monday 6 to Sunday 13 September. We can expected further tweets this week, as other participants get round to writing their reports on the conference and continue the discussions. And I should add that Philip Paasuke’s blog post mistakenly gives #altc09 as the official Twitter hashtag – there were a further 128 tweets using this tag from 51 contributors. During my analysis of #iwmw2009 event Tweets, I discovered that tweets seem to disappear after a short period of time. I subsequently came across a TechCrunch post which reported that tweets currently become unavailable from the Twitter search API after about 10 days. In order to carry pout more detailed analyses, it will be necessary to ensure that a copy of the relevant tweets is kept, ideally in a format suitable for data analysis. I have therefore once again used the wthashtag, Twapperkeeper and Tweetdoc services to keep a local copy of the conference tweets. Links to the data and to these servicesis available on the UKOLN Web site. Why The Interest? What is the point of the analysis of the Twitter posts made at the ALTC 2009 conference? Isn’t the point of Twitter it’s spontaneity and perhaps its subversive use? 29/10/2009
  • 24. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 24 of 616 Well although that may be one use case for Twitter, it’s not the only one. The interest in use of Twitter as an educational tool can be gauged from the popularity of the Teaching With Twitter workshop facilitated by Steve Wheeler and colleague. And mining the data might also provide interesting insights into the event, the community and the ideas discussed and shared. Looking at the summary of trending words provided by the Tweetdocs service, for example, might indicate an interest in Twitter (to be expected) but also in openness and people. And the two people who seem to have been most discussed (or, in the case of James Clay, contributed to the discussions) seem to be James Clay and Anderson (probably Terry Anderson, the final plenary speaker). The conference organisers might be pleased to see the popularity of the words “good” and “great” – but what about the criticisms that were made of the queues for the food and coffee and the conference accommodation? Will analysis of the Twitter discussions start to from part of an organisation’s debriefing after an event - and might not the venue itself have an interest in what was said about the facilities? Well the data is now available for reuse. Filed in Events, Twitter | Tagged altc2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) "Realising Dreams, Avoiding Nightmares, Accepting Responsibilities" Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 Martin Weller and I will be facilitating a workshop session entitled “Realising Dreams, Avoiding Nightmares, Accepting Responsibilities” at the ALT-C 2009 conference. Martin and I met over blog comments and Twitter posts and discovered we had similar interests. In particular Martin and I bounced around some ideas on the theme of “Even if we’re wrong, were right”, which started with a blog post by Martin on “Web 2.0 – even if we’re wrong, we’re right“. When a few months ago I saw a tweet from someone saying they were find it difficult to think of a proposal top submit which fitted in with this year’s ALT-C theme of “In dreams begins responsibility” I felt that this theme provided the ideal opportunity to write a joint proposal. So on Wednesday 9 September, starting at 9 am, we’ll be facilitating a workshop session. In the 90 minute session the participants will explore the (probably) diverse visions (the dreams) they have for e-learning and the barriers (nightmares) which may be faced. We will then explore the approaches (the responsibilities) we may need to avoid the nightmares and bring about a realisation of the dream. The workshop session itself has a dream in which interested participants, including those who may not be physically present at the session, will engage in the discussions and debates and contribute to examples or the dreams and nightmares and suggestions for the responsibilities. 29/10/2009
  • 25. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 25 of 616 In order to bring about this dream we hope to provide live streaming of the talks in the session using the Bambuser service on my HTC Magic Android mobile phone. Discussions will take place on Twitter and contributions to the session can be made by tagging tweets with the tags “#altc2009″ and “#s113″ (as described previously, the second hashtag will enable tweets to be differentiated from other Twitter posts at the conference). My nightmare is that video streaming won’t work (will there be a mobile phone signal for the venue, I wonder) or will be of poor quality. My responsibility, however, will be to write a summary of the session so that if you tried to participate remotely but failed you will at least be able to read a summary of the discussions. Filed in Events | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) "From Web Accessibility To Web Adaptability" Talk at Techshare 2009 Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 A proposal for a talk I submitted to the RNIB’s Techshare 2009 conference has been accepted. The talk on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” will be given on 17 September 2009. The talk is based on the paper of the same name which was published recently in the Disability and Rehability: Assistive Technology journal. The talk at the Techshare conference will provide an opportunity for the ideas in the paper (which I have also outlined in a recent blog post and in an article published in the e-Access Bulletin) to be described to those in the disability community who may not read academic journals or blogs. There is an expectation that presentations at the conference will be accessible to those with visual impairments. An approach I have taken to enhancing the accessibility of the slides (and the ideas which will be described in the talk) has been to create a slidecast of the talk, by synching the audio of a rehearsal of the talk with the slides. This slidecast is available on Slideshare and is embedded below. [slideshare id=1881012&doc=web-adaptability-090819092258-phpapp01] The rehearsal also provided an opportunity for me to time the talk – and I found that at 34 minutes it was slightly too long, so the version I will give at the conference will be slightly shorter. As well as helping me with the timings and allowing me to spot where the material can be improved, creating the slidecast prior to the talk has some additional benefits: • It provides a back-up in case I lose my voice or am ill at the conference or fail to arrive at the conference venue due to travel difficulties. • Conference delegates can listen to the talk after the event. • The talk can be shared with others. • The slidecast is a richer resources than the slides on their own In addition there are parallels with open source software development – this early release of a talk and exposing it to many eyes ears can potentially allow my peers, including co-authors of the original paper, to listen to what I 29/10/2009
  • 26. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 26 of 616 intend to say and provide comments and suggestions as to how the talk can be improved. The talk isn’t trapped in my head until the live delivery! If you have a particular interest in Web accessibility your comments and questions are welcomed. Filed in Accessibility | Tagged techshare2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Skype, Two Years After Its Nightmare Weekend Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 The headline in the Technology Guardian supplement read “Skype’s nightmare weekend highlights peer-to-peer fears” two year’s ago back on 23 August 2007. The article described how “Skype’s popular internet telephone service went down on August 16 and was unavailable for between two and three days“. I remember this incident as, with people’s attention focussed on the loss of this service (fortunately at a non- critical time in the academic year) our University IT Service department took the opportunity to remind the Skype users on campus (which included me) that Skype was a proprietary application. The recommended VoIP application, which was about to be deployed for the start of the academic year, was the FreeWire phone service. This, I was told, was recommended as it was based on open standards. This sounded interesting, especially if it provided the application independence which Skype lacks. So I looked at the FreeWire Web site and found that “It’s only when you call non-Freewire phones that you have to pay“. So its’ based on open standards, but you have to pay if you try to call a user who isn’t running the same software as you. It’s no different from Skype, it would seem – except, perhaps, that as I speak there are almost 17 million Skype users online. In comparison the standards-based FreeWire service services a niche market (and perhaps a satisfied niche market as, here at Bath University several student residences now have Voice-over-IP telephones in the bedrooms). But the promise of VoIP telephony services seems further away than it did two years ago (and the access problems Skype suffered from were due to a bug triggered by large numbers of automated Microsoft Windows updates – a bug now fixed). I now have Skype clients on my office PC and my laptop (both running MS Windows), my Asus EEE netbook PC (running Linux), my iPod Touch and my HTC Magic Android. A proprietary application running on four different platforms seems pretty good! So what’s the future for VoIP telephony services? Yesterday the BBC News announced “eBay reaches deal to sell Skype“. The article states that “Online auction site eBay has agreed to sell the majority of internet phone company Skype for about $2bn (£1.2bn)” and goes on to explain that the deal values Skype at $2.75bn, a slight increase on the $2.6bn it paid for the company in 2005. Attempts by JANET to deploy a standards-based VoIP service (called JANET Talk) for the UK’s higher/further education community were abandoned a few months ago bacause, as described in JANET News (PDF format): ” The results from both trial feedback and market research showed that the appetite for a service like JANET Talk had diminished. The reasons cited include a preference for alternative solutions that are now available from the commercial sector. These solutions were deemed easier to use, reliable and free.” Sometimes standards-based solutions don’t take off, it would seem, even when there are JISC-funded initiatives encouraging the take-up of such solutions. And as Nick Skelton suggested in a post entitled “Why did JANET Talk fail?” perhaps this is due to a failure to appreciate the importance of the network effect. Nick concluded: “When planning a new service, see if it has built-in positive network effects. It is doesn’t have these naturally, find a way to connect it to larger networks so it can benefit from theirs. If you can’t find a way to do this then you are dooming your project from the start. You’re better off doing nothing, unless you want to see your service become irrelevant, pushed to one side by a larger, more popular one.“ I agree. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (8) 29/10/2009
  • 27. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 27 of 616 Hashtags for the ALT-C 2009 Conference Friday, August 28th, 2009 This Year’s ALT-C Conference I will be attending the ALT-C 2009 Conference at the University of Manchester in a couple of weeks time where I’ll be facilitating a session with Martin Weller on “Realising Dreams, Avoiding Nightmares, Accepting Responsibilities” – a title chosen to reflect the conference theme of “In dreams begins responsibility“. Yesterday I was involved in discussions on Twitter regarding use of hashtags (hash tags?) for referring to specific sessions at the conference. The conference tag has already been agreed – it is altc2009 and this has been announced on the conference home page. Let’s hope that this high visibility avoids tag fragmentation. But there are many sessions at ALT-C and many parallel sessions. So an active Twitter community – which we are likely to find at the conference – may well find itself talking at cross-purposes if nothing is done to differentiate between the sessions. It may also be useful to be able to be able to identify particular sessions using a short and unambiguous tag e.g. so people can say “Are you going to Brian’s session?” or “What did you think of Martin’s session?” without confusion and using fewer characters. Experiences of Using Hashtags at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 Event At UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 event we allocated a two-digit code for the plenary talks (P1-P8) and the parallel sessions (A1-A9, B1-B4 and C1-C5) . This short code was used consistently on the Web site, initially for selection of the parallel sessions. Shortly before the event we encouraged use of these codes, together with the codes we assigned for the plenary talks, in Twitter. And, as I’ve described previously, after the event we captured the tweets for the plenary talks and provided links to this record of discussions which used the Twitter hashtags in this fashion (see, for example, the tweets made during Paul Boag’s plenary talk P3 which is illustrated). After the event we used the Archivist Twitter archiving tool in order to capture these tweets are store them locally. These local archives are available in CSV and XMLformats. As can be seen, for Paul Boag’s talk, 78 tweets containing the pair of hastags were found. What To Do For ALT-C? What approach should be taken to use of hashtags at this year’s ALT-C conference? A similar answer might be to do nothing other than use the event’s hashtag. After all, some may argue, Twitter’s strength is its simplicity and adding anything new is likely to undermine this simplicity. Whilst I’d agree with this sentiment I don’t feel that 29/10/2009
  • 28. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 28 of 616 adding an additional optional tag is complex. And we know have some examples of the benefits of doing this, which I’ve described in a recent screencast published on this blog. But how should we select the hashtags for the session? I recently discovered that the unique identifier for the workshop myself and Martin Weller are facilitating is 113. And looking at the conference introduction and abstracts which arrived in the post a few days ago it seems that the session ids range from 0012 to 0322. I’m assuming that the unique ids were assigned when the proposals were submitted as the numbers aren’t consecutive (hmm, were the first 11 proposals rejected, I wonder?). To avoid confusion and to save space I’d suggest that leading zeroes are ignored. So my proposal for a hashtag to identify the session would be #snnn – in my case this would be #altc321 and James Clay’s four sessions would have the identifiers #s208, #s221, #s286 and #s301. These tags would be used in conjunction with the main conference tag. A Twitter search for “#altc2009 #s321″ should find tweets referring to my session. Simple? Indeed a simplification of my initial suggestion of #altcnnn as a session identifier. But although this approach worked at IWMW 2009 and would work for my workshop session it has been pointed out to me that this approach won’t work for the sessions which have multiple papers being presented. Although the individual papers have a unique identifier, the sessions themselves do not. Owen Stephens suggested that the identifier used in the conference’s CrowdVine social networking environmentcould be used but this then causes potential confusion with the identifiers allocated by the conference and won’t easily be found by conference participants who aren’t using CrowdVine. And further discussions is only likely to lead to confusions and unnecessary complexity. So my proposal is this: • The conference hashtag is #altc2009. • If Twitter users wish to identify a specific session they should use the #altc2009 hashtag in conjunction with a session tag which has the format #snnn when nnn is a the session identifier given in the conference programme, with leading zeroes omitted (the prefix s standards for the session identifier). Is this approach worth trying? In light of the workshop session on Teaching With Twitter which Steve Wheeler will bve giving at the ALT-C Conference, I can’t help but think we do need to be experimenting with ways in which Twitter can be used in a learning context and in enriching its use in community building. Reflecting on Tony Hirst’s recent post on “A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network“ which analysed and visualised tweets at the IWMW 20009 event in order to “help to identify amplification networks” it occurs to me that something similar might be useful at a larger event such as ALT-C. Do, for example, the Twitterers who @ each other and RT tweets tend to go to the same sessions, I wonder? 29/10/2009
  • 29. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 29 of 616 And if you still think this may be too complicated I intend to include details of the session hashtag on the opening slide for the session Martin Weller and I will be facilitating, as illustrated. Filed in Events, Twitter | Tagged altc2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (10) The Science Online 2009 Unconference Video Thursday, August 27th, 2009 As described on the On The Roof blog a video clip of the Fringe Frivolous Unconference is now available. The Fringe Frivolous Unconference took place on the evening of Friday 21 August 2009 on the roof terrace of the Mendeley offices. About 40-50 people attended this event, which provided an opportunity for science bloggers and other interested parties to talk about and discuss science blogging. The video clip (which lasts for 7 minutes 47 seconds) is available on YouTube and is embedded below. [youtube=] As you can see the video contains brief interviews with many of the participants who attended the unconference in which they explain why the blog or mention other topics of interest to them. In a blog post about the event Richard Grant described how he “stalk[ed] the rooftops with a Flip camera (kindly loaned by Alom Shaha)” and subsequently “edited the clips into a short film that I think captures the essence of the evening perfectly“. And I think Richard is to be applauded for so quickly taking so many video clips and editing thenm to produce the short film. But is this YouTube video accessible? Where are the captions which are needed to ensure that the resource complies with the Web Acessiility Initiative’s (WAI’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? After all the WCAG 2.0 guidelines state that: 1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded): Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such. (Level A) But do the unconference organisers (unorganisers?) have to follow these guidelines? Legislation requires organisations to take reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against unfairly. And is it reasonable to expect a light-weight approach to recording a video of an event to require captioning? I think not – and recall a suggestion that ‘reasonable measures’ meant an addition 10-15% of effort. I suspect the time it would take to caption this video would probably be significantly greater than this. In addition perhaps as this event wasn’t ‘official’ and the video wasn’t a deliverable of a public sector organisation, conformance with WCAG guidelines is not needed. But might there not be a moral responsibility to enhance the accessibility of this resources – after all, discussions of the ethical as well as legal aspects of blogging cropped up during the unconference as well in the opening talk at the Science Online 2009 conference the following day? But how might one go about enhancing the accessibility of the video, in light of the limited effort to do this – and the difficulties of doing this on a sustainable basis? One approach might be to crowd-source the captioning to share the effort. If, for example, everyone who was interviewed in the video provided a textual summary of what tey said, could that be used to caption the video? I’m not sure – but I am willing to provide a summary of my contribution: 4 minutes 45 seconds: Brian Kelly introduces himself. Brian is based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information management, lcoated at the University of Bath. He blogs about Web and Web 2.0 issueson the UK Web Focus blog, which is available at 5 minutes 7 seconds: end of Brian Kelly’s clip. 29/10/2009
  • 30. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 30 of 616 Filed in Accessibility | Tagged solo09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) The Back Channels for the Science Online 2009 Conference Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 The Science Online 2009 Conference On Saturday 22nd August 2009 I attended the Science Online 2009 Conference which was held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. The conference followed on from last year’s event, which had the title Science Blogging 2008, but had a broader remit addressing issues such as “What is a scientific paper?”, “Author identity – Creating a new kind of reputation online”, “Real-time statistics in science” and “Google Wave: Just another ripple or science communication tsunami?” as well as blog-related talks such as “Blogging for impact” and “Legal and Ethical Aspects of Science Blogging “. With an audience of experienced scientific bloggers present it is only to be expected that, just a few days after the conference, blog posts about the conference has already been published. So rather than repeat what has already been said, I will link to one blog post which provides links to a number of posts already published: Thoughts on the Science Online London Conference. The Event Back Channels This post mentions the Twitter hashtag for the event (#solo09) and provides links to the FriendFeed Science Online London group (which used the tag solondon for the Friendfeed room) and also the Flick group for the event (which used the tag solo09). For an event aimed at scientists which focussed on innovative online technologies (as well as a talk on Google Wave several of the talks were also available in Second Life) and which discussed the implications of the online environment on traditional views on scientific papers and mechanisms for measuring the impact of scientific research in this environment it was perhaps surprising that there wasn’t more discussions of ways of preserving the online discussions associated with the conference itself which took place on Twitter, FriendFeed and Second Life, in addition to blog posts, some of which were published during the conference itself. Preserving the Back Channel Discussion Now although links have been provided to Twitter searches for “solo09″ I suspect the short lifespan of Twitter searches may not be well-known. Following my recent blog post containing links to the Twitter channel for UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event I subsequently discovered that tweets disappear from Twitter’s search index in a short period of time: as reported in a recent TechCrunch article “According to Twitter’s search documentation, the current date limit on the search index is “around 1.5 weeks but is dynamic and subject to shrink as the number of tweets per day continues to grow.“” Further information on these experiences has been published. As I have described many (but not all) of the tweets associated with the event were stored locally using the Backupmytweets, Twapperkeeper, and WTHashtag services in order to avoid the dependencies on the Twitter service. 29/10/2009
  • 31. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 31 of 616 Testing one of these services with the #solo09 hashtag I find that currently Twapperkeeper finds 1,1472 tweets for the “#solo09″ tag. This service also provides a graph of the numbers of tweets which is illustrated. To summarise in the last 7 days there have been: • 1,435 tweets • 193 contributors • 205.0 tweets per day • 29.8% come from “The Top 10″ • 16.0% are retweets • 43.0% are mentions • 5.7% have multiple hashtags In addition the top contributors were: 1. @kejames – 65 2. @rpg7twit – 55 3. @kjhaxton – 51 4. @Allochthonous – 50 5. @skyponderer – 41 6. @brian_condon – 38 7. @morphosaurus – 36 8. @PaoloViscardi – 34 9. @phnk – 29 10. @allysonlister – 29 Discussion We might expect the science community to have a particular interest in citations and the online science community and the early adopters to have a particular interest in citations related to new collaborative and communications techn0logies such as Twitter, FriendFeed and Second Life. In previous discussions on this topics there has been a view expressed by some that Twitter should be regarded as a transient form of communication and the loss of data should be regarded as one of Twitter’s strengths. And this might be particularly relevant when the communications relates to trivial issues or issues which time out quickly. Examples of both instances took place at Science Online 2009: the unaswered iPhone caused lots of people to complain on the various channels and the updates on the Ashes test scores are no longer relevant. The experiences of Science Online 2009 do, however, underscore an additional challenge: the diversity of the back channels. In addition to the Twitter channel, the science community has been an adopted of FriendFeed and this was popular at the event. Discussions were also taking place on Second Life. As well as the different 29/10/2009
  • 32. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 32 of 616 applications being used there were multiple variants of the event tags: ‘#solo09′ on Twitter, ’solo09′ on Flickr and ’solondon’ for the name of the FriendFeed room. The conference was also faced with the question of how to display the back channel. At one point a Twitter Search screen was displayed alongside the FriendFeed display. However since the Twitter display required manual refreshing to display new tweets this was replaced by the Twitterfall software during one of the presentations. Unfortunately this last minute adjustments meant that the text on the screen display wasn’t large enough to be read comfortably by many in the audience. Where does this leave us? I would hope that the experiences of Science Online 2009, IWMW 2009, etc. and the subsequent sharing and discussions of experiences will help to inform approaches and best practices for future amplified events. And as suggested in a recent blog post on Feral Event Data: Twitter at IWMW 2009 aren’t the benefits of preserving the (reusable) data associated with live blogging at events particularly relevant for the research community? Tony Hirst has recently given his Preliminary Thoughts on Visualising the OpenEd09 Twitter Network. And he has started “thinking about how we might start to analyse the structure of the network around the hashtag, in part so we can understand information flow through that part of the open education network better“. Tony has written a follow-up post giving “A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network” which shows who cited who on Twitter during the IWMW 2009 event. This might give rise to some interesting questions. But might the interesting observations which can be made about the IWMW 2009 event (an event aimed at Web practitioners) be of more relevance in a research context? Perhaps not -but you can only ask the questions and carry out this type of analysis if you have the data. So if there is anyone who wishes to mine the ‘#solo09′ Twitter data I hope the data I have captured is useful. Filed in Twitter | Tagged solo09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) Feral Event Data: Twitter at IWMW 2009 Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 I have been asked to give a talk at a workshop session to be held at the Dublin Core DC-2009 conference on “Semantic Interoperability of Linked Data”. The invitation arose after my recent posts on the use of Twitter at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event. The talk is intended for a session on “feral data”. This, I assume, is meant to cover data which may be uncontrolled and unmanaged but which may be useful in ways which are not originally envisaged. The DC-09 event is being held in Seoul, South Korea in October 2009. I won’t be attending the conference, but have agreed to produce a brief pre-recorded presentation. My first rehearsal of the talk was too long (20 minutes rather than 10) and the sound quality wasn’t great (interference caused my the close proximity of my mobile phone to the microphone). However I thought it might be useful to make this draft presentation available for those who may have an interest in this subject. The draft abstract for the talk is give below: Increasingly research conferences, such as DC 2009, will have a WiFi network which conference attendees will use to enhance their learning and engagement with ideas, as well as for supporting administrative and social needs. Tools such as Twitter enable conference attendees to engage in discussions during talks in ways which would have been frowned upon before hand-held devices and laptop computers became an essential item for many researchers. The pre-recorded presentation will describe the approaches which were taken at UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 (Institutional Web Management Workshop) in which Twitter (together with technologies such as Twitter, an event blog, Flickr and live video streaming) was used to enrich the quality of the event and maximise its outreach. 29/10/2009
  • 33. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 33 of 616 The presentation covers: • The reasons for the ‘event amplification’. • Tools used to aggregate information provided on a diversity of services. • Tools used to ‘preserve’ the event ‘tweets’. • Challenges in curating the event ‘tweets’. • The dangers in attempting to manage an event’s back-channel” This talk is available as a slidecast (slides plus audio) on Slideshare and is also embedded below. [slideshare id=1861131&doc=twitter-at-events-090814085552-phpapp02] Your comments are invited. Filed in Twitter | Tagged dc09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) 25 years of PowerPoint. But What Next? Thursday, August 20th, 2009 Happy Birthday PowerPoint was born 25 years ago, on 14 August 1984. An article on the BBC News Magazine, entitled “The problem with PowerPoint” points out that “They’re often boring” and goes on to point out the problems with PowerPoint presentations which are too wordy, make excessive use of bullet points, etc. The Need For Good Design and Visual Impact Nothing surprising, you may think. And I too have been bored with such presentations and have been impressed with more visually oriented presentations, in which the design creativity is apparent. 29/10/2009
  • 34. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 34 of 616 In particular I remember how impressed I was with Alison Wildish’s plenary talk at IWMW 2007 – a talk which was radical, at the time, in the summary of how a relatively new institution (Edge Hill University) was embracing Social Web services to engage with students and potential students. The accompanying slides were also visually impressive, with each slide having its own visual identity and some of the slides challenging the assumptions that a speaker from a marketing background would invariably promote their own institution. As someone who gives a lot of talks my slides should be more like Alison’s, I can remember thinking at the time. I should ditch the UKOLN template and make the individual slides distinctive, as Alison did. And I should reduce the amount of text on the slides, leaving it to my memory, or the accompanying speaker notes, to provide the details of what I will say in my talks. An Alternative View But whilst I’ll acknowledge the impact that good design and visual diversity can have on an audience I do wonder whether the points made in the BBC article start to become slightly less relevant in the environment I increasingly work in, in which ‘amplified conferences’ will be built around the speakers and their slides but the audience may not be physically present in the lecture theatre but viewing the talks on a video streaming service or accessing the slides after the event is over. UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 event was one such amplified event. And for this event we sought to treat the remote audience watching the video stream as first class participants, providing access to the plenary speaker’s slides using Slideshare, as well as using various social media services, such as Twitter to encourage discussions, etc. Liz Azyan, in a blog post entitled “Iwmw2009: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly…“, picked up on the importance of this approach: “Let’s talk a bit about some of the stuff I liked about the conference… There were alot of things that this conference did get right in terms of using social media to fully aggregate the workshops content effectively online. Check out how #iwmw2009 came alive online and created real-time conversations and feedback … 1. Slideshare of all presentation slides (Excellent!) – I always find myself needing to ask for these at events and often take a long time to become available. So, well done!“ In a follow-up post Liz, in a report on the opening session at the event, embedded the slides from the two opening talks, thus illustrating how such slides can now be decoupled from their use in the live presentation. I personally am finding larger numbers of people seem to access to my slides on Slideshare than are present when I give the live presentation. Looking at the statistics I notice that a the slides for a talk on “Introduction To Facebook: Opportunities and Challenges For The Institution“, which was given to a small number (less than 20) of staff at Bath University has been viewed 10,900 times. 29/10/2009
  • 35. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 35 of 616 Who, then, is my main audience? Should I seek to treat the remote audience on par with the live audience? And if I do wish to do this, will it (should it) have any relevance to the design of the slides? Perhaps for the remote audience, there should be a greater emphasis placed on the informational content, whereas for the live audience the emphasis may be on engaging with the audience? And does a personal visual appearance for slides possibly make it difficult for the slides to be reused? For a number of years I have provided a Creative Commons licence for my slides, and have welcomed their reuse. But if they were less neutral in the appearance and contained less content, would this detract from their potential for reuse? Or are these just excuses for my lack of design skills!? Filed in General | Tagged Slideshare | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) If Not Too Large, Are University Web Teams Poor Communicators? Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 I recently posed the question “Are University Web Teams Too Large?“. The context to this question was a suspicion that the UK HE sector is lagging behind smaller US colleges in exploiting the potential of various Web 2.0 services. And maybe organisations with well-established IT Service departments try to develop services in- house because of the relatively large Web team and Web developers. A response to this assertion would be to argue the diversity of services which University Web teams are engaged in. But do Web teams take the time to communicate within their institutions and inform their user communities of the work they are engaged in? And do they work effectively by sharing their approaches with their peers in other institutions, and learn from approaches taken in other higher educational institutions? This was an issue raised last year by Mike Nolan on the Edge Hill University Web team blog on a post on “Blogging web teams” in which he pointed out that “Blogging web teams are rare. I suspect you could count them on one hand“. In the blog post Mike provided a whole series of reasons why Web teams should be making use of blogs including: • Communicating what you’re doing. • Personal Development. • Community Engagement. • Practice what you preach. • Networking with peers. Those suggestions, which I’d endorse, were made before the economic crisis began to seriously affect the higher educational sector. But in a recent issues of the Times Higher Education (6 August 209) I read a news item which states that “The University of Wolverhampton is to cut about 250 jobs – about 11% of its total staff“. So to Mike’s list of reasons why Web teams should be blogging I’d add: • To ensure that University policy makers are aware of the importance of the activities of the Web team to the institution. And if you still argue that you haven’t got time to blog, be warned – you may find yourself with more time on your hands than you bargained for! At least the Web Team for the Electronics and Computer Science department at the University of Southampton seem to have got the message – they set up a Web team blog at the start of August with a simple and clear remit: “This blog is aimed at people doing similar jobs to ours, and to members of our school so they can see a bit of what we do“. Filed in Blog, General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) 29/10/2009
  • 36. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 36 of 616 The Use of Blogs and Wikis in Scholarly Communication Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 I have been invited to give a talk on “The Use of Blogs and Wikis in Scholarly Communication” ALPSP 2009 conference to be held at the at the The Oxford Belfry, Milton Common, Thame on 9-11th September. The talk will will take place on the final day in the closing session on “The Transformation of Scholarly Practice”. The abstract for this session is given below: The way that researchers work is changing and so is the way they interact with the scholarly literature. Publishers and academics are experimenting with different types of scholarly content ranging from ‘informal’ scholarly communication on wikis and blogs through different ways of writing books and journal articles, linking data to the primary literature and on to new technologies that render information in ways that transform online content beyond a mere digital facsimile of print. This session will provide food for thought for publishers by exploring this transformation and examining the new ways in which scholars and practitioners are generating and interacting with the literature. But what should my take be, I wonder? I suspect that a simple promotion of the potential benefits of blogs and wikis in the research community could easily be too bland for a final session at the conference. Some ideas which reflect my areas of interest which I could cover in the 25 minute talk include how micro-blogging fits in; the risks of reliance on services in the cloud and using the Social Web to help to maximise the impact of research activities. I’d welcome comments on ideas which I could explore in this session? And if any readers are using blogs and wikis in innovative ways to support the “Transformation of Scholarly Practice” I’d love to hear about such approaches. Filed in Events | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) The Live Video Streaming Of IWMW 2009 Monday, August 17th, 2009 This year, once again, we provided a live video stream of the plenary talks at IWMW 2009, something we have been doing since IWMW 2006. But how many people watched the live stream? Last year 160 remote viewers watched the final plenary talk given by Ewan McIntosh. The statistics provided by the University of Essex are not directly comparable, but indicate that there were about 50 viewers for Derek Law’s opening plenary talk with slightly larger numbers for the opening plenary talks on the second day of the event. 29/10/2009
  • 37. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 37 of 616 As can be seen, a location map of the viewers has also been provided by the University of Essex. And clicking on the icons will provide further details on the numbers of viewers at the IP address together with the total time spent viewing the streaming video. A good example of the global impact of the event? On an initial view of the map this would seem to be the case. But on further examination we can see that some of the views were only for a few seconds. For example the information for the viewer in Africa tells us that: Kinshasa, Kinshasa, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the 1 hits (1 unique IPs), 0d0h0m12s total. The 8 hits from Finland, which lasted for over 4 hours, appear to indicate a commitment to watching several of the talks (assuming the video wasn’t simply left on over lunch). But is there a viable business model for providing live video-streaming for such events? As the event was fully subscribed (as it has been for a number of years) we can argue that the live stream helps to maximise access and the impact of the talks, especially to the core target audience in the UK. And the (apparent) popularity of the video stream in North America help to enhance the UK’s activities to a wider audience. But perhaps the most important aspect of the video streaming have been the experiences we have gained in the delivery of ‘amplified events’. The four year’s of video streaming of IWMW events have helped us to gain a better understanding of the best practices. And we have tried to summarise our experiences in a briefing paper on “Using Video at Events“. Filed in Events, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Social Networks, Open Source and Risk Assessment Thursday, August 13th, 2009 29/10/2009
  • 38. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 38 of 616 Does The Ownership Of Social Networks Really Matter? In my most recent post entitled “Facebook Buys FriendFeed; Identica is Open Source; Does It Matter?” I asked “But how relevant is this dogma?” in response to the apparent suggestion on a mailing list for an international standards body that since “above all is Open source“ the standards body (DCMI) should make use of the micro-blogging service in preference to the closed source Twitter solution. I sought to draw parallels with the recent announcement that Facebook had bought FriendFeed, suggesting that, although some may feel that this announcement will force them to leave FriendFeed and use an alternative micro- blogging environment, for me and, I suspect, for many the ownership of the service and the underlying software isn’t a clinching argument. We know that this is the case generally (although many won’t like it to admit it, the reality is most users use Microsoft Office products rather than Open Office and Internet Explorer rather than FireFox). And for social networking environments there is a added complication – social networks don’t work unless there is a community – you might be happy to use Open Office on your own, but an open source community with few members is likely to be an unproductive environment for many. So rather than the ‘we must use an open source micro-blogging environment – full stop‘ argument, let’s explore the reasons ownership issues could matter and the associated challenges if it is felt there may be a need to consider migrating to a new environment. A Risk Assessment Approach In response to my post Cameron Neylon pointed out that “if Friendfeed goes away from what our community wants from it we have no way of maintaining our community because it isn’t open source“. He went on to add “If twitter were swallowed by google tomorow and everyone forced to use Google Talk instead (I don’t say its likely, just possible) then you’re in trouble“. That’s true, and as I have recently had a paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” published recently in the Program journal I would endorse Cameron’s approach of identifying risks. What then are the risks? I think, in the case of the Facebook purchase of FriendFeed, these might include: • Facebook shuts down FriendFeed. It regarded it as competition for its core business and bought the company in order to remove the threat. • Facebook continues FriendFeed, but changes its terms and conditions which are felt to be unacceptable to significant parts of the FriendFeed community. • Facebook makes changes to the FriendFeed user interface which users don’t like (e.g. provision of ads in the free version of the client). These are legitimate questions to raise. But that does not necessarily mean existing users should abandon FriendFeed. There is a need to ask how realistic such risks may be and also to consider the costs and the effort of moving to an alternative. I remember being told that organisations shouldn’t use Google as a search engine as we can’t guarantee that Google wouldn’t change their terms and conditions. True – but most people are prepared to accept that risks. The likelihood that such changes will happen is likely to be very subjective, so I’ll not engage in that assessment here. I would suggest, however, that if FriendFreed users are seriously considering a migration to an alternative environment (as opposed to just having a moan) then they will need to think about what the migration strategies would be. There is also a need to be honest about the costs and difficulties of such a migration, including the difficulties of migrating a community, the associated costs of doing this and the dangers of associated losses (of data, communities and credibility). And although FriendFeed users may be asking such questions in light of the purchase of the company by Facebook, the general issues I’ve raised are likely to be true in other context, whether a move from Flickr if Microsoft were to purchase Yahoo or a move from Twitter if its ownership were to change. 29/10/2009
  • 39. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 39 of 616 The Risks Of Change As well as the risks associated with use of current well-established services such as FriendFeed or Twitter, there is also a need to consider the risks of alternatives, especially when the alternatives are immature or unproven. And simply arguing that, for example, “above all is Open source” is an inappropriate response. Look, for example, at the evidence provided by failed open source initiatives in the area of social networking environments. Who remembers “Marc Canter’s much anticipated PeopleAggregator“, which provided, as described in TechCrunch in 2006, “free downloads of the software for organizations who prefer to host it themselves” which meant that “it will be easy to come and go from new social networks, instead of being locked in to one just because you’ve put the time and energy into using your account there. Instead of being at the mercy of one centralized database and service, if Canter’s vision succeeds then countless social networks will proliferate with unique styles and function but with interoperability.” The People Aggregator software may not have been open source but, as it could be downloaded and installed locally, it avoided the single point of failure problem which has recently troubled Twitter. But let’s now consider Eduspaces, an open source social networking environment designed for the educational community which announced the closure of the service in 16 December 2007, giving the user community just a few weeks before the service was scheduled for closure. And looking at the Eduspaces Web site today I see it describes itself as “the world’s first and largest social networking site dedicated to education and educational technology“. But looking at the FAQ to see who owns the company, where it is based, what jurisdiction covers the content and terms and conditions I find a series of questions but no answers, other than the stark message “[available soon]“. And the terms and conditions state that: • We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time. • We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify you via an appropriate method. What is a ‘material change’ is at our discretion • We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time. So remember, there may be flaws and concerns over the social networking services we are using today. But an uncritical adoption of alternatives just because they are open source could lead to a worse scenario than the potential risks identified above. Filed in Social Networking | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Facebook Buys FriendFeed; Identica is Open Source; Does It Matter? Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 As described on TechCrunch a couple of days ago, Facebook Acquires FriendFeed. The Monkey Bites blog advises “Let’s Be Friends in its article on how Facebook acquired FriendFeed. But the reaction in the Twitterverse seems to be negative, with concerns that Facebook’s walled garden mentality will be applied to FriendFeed and that the ownership which Facebook claims for content posted within Facebook will also apply to content on FriendFeed. This acquisition may be a threat to Twitter, as suggested on the ZDNet Asia blog: “Facebook takes aim at Twitter, buys FriendFeed“. Meanwhile the announcement that the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative has “started a little DC twitter activity” has been met with comments suggesting that should be used on the grounds that “above all is Open source“. Dan Brickley backs this suggestion: While it has a smaller userbase than twitter, the project is very friendly to standards such as RDF which DCMI is also committed to. is also API-compatible with Twitter, and allows you to repost from to twitter accounts automatically. … 29/10/2009
  • 40. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 40 of 616 Oh, last thing re there’s a groups mechanism, so we could experiment with groups for DCMI or sub-communities… But how relevant is this dogma? FriendFeed, it seems, is cool in some circle, as is, whereas Twitter and FaceBook aren’t. And some FriendFeed users are talking about closing down their accounts whilst fans of are seeking to encourage newcomers to joint, citing the richer functionality it provides as well as its open source pedigree. But to what extent will the issues of ownership of the code, rights over the data and the richness of the functionality affect people’s decisions? For me the important aspect of these social tools is the associated community – and as a well-established Twitter user I am not too concerned regarding the openness of the source code. And although I am willing to experiment with providing richer functionality with Twitter, such as recent experiment with use of multiple hashtags for events, I do appreciate the point which Mike Ellis has raised, suggesting that it’s Twitter’s simplicity which is a key aspect of its success. So is there any evidence that open source code and richer functionality will be successful in migrating a community to it? And is it really true that the integration between Twitter and will be seamless and transparent? Why do I feel I’ve heard these arguments before – without the supposed benefits actually being delivered? Facebook buys FriendFeed; Identica is open source; does it matter? To you it might, but to the vast majority of users I suspect it doesn’t. Filed in Social Networking, openness | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (9) Paper on "Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends" Published in Program Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 A paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” has recently been published in the Program journal (Program Electronic Library and Information Systems, 2009, 43 (3), pp. 311- 327). This paper is accessible from the University of Bath Opus institutional repository service. This paper was originally presented at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference held at the National Library of Singapore in October 2008. I am the lead author of the paper and the other contributors are Paul Bevan (National Library of Wales), Richard Akerman (National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, Ottawa, Canada), Jo Alcock (University of Wolverhampton) and Josie Fraser (consultant). The process of depositing the paper into the institutional repository was much easier than my previous experience – now that I know which option to select when a DOI for the paper is available. However since depositing my various papers in our institutional repository it has struck me that although my papers should now have a stable URI and will have associated metadata designed to make the papers easier to discover the institutional repository does not provide a forum for interested readers to discuss the paper openly. So, as I did with another recent paper, I am writing this blog post which will allow comments to be made. And after this post has been published I should updated the details in the repository to link to this blog post. Hmm – shouldn’t all papers have a mechanisms whereby readers can ask questions about the ideas which have been exposed to a peer-reviewing process? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Are University Web Teams Too Large? Friday, August 7th, 2009 Mike Richwalski was very busy at IWMW 2009 (and beyond). Mike, Assistant Director of Public Affairs at Allegheny College, submitted a proposal to run a workshop session on “Using Amazon Web Services (AWS)” which we were happy to accept. In subsequent discussions with Mike I discovered that he was not only a techie who knew about managing Amazon services but had recently presented a webinar on Facebook & Twitter Recruitment Tools to Engage Prospective Students. 29/10/2009
  • 41. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 41 of 616 This was a topic which was directly related to a series of workshops I was involved with on behalf of the SCA (Strategic Content Alliance). When I discovered that Mike was arriving in London on the day of the workshop in London (they day before the start of IWMW 2009) I tentatively asked if he’d like to give a brief talk at the SCA workshop (I have to admit that I was particularly interested in any cultural differences between educational institutions in the US and the UK in a willingness to make use of Social Web environments such as Facebook and Twitter). Mike not only agree to take part, he was also able to participate in the workshop in Cardiff, as he was returning to the US from Cardiff airport. And Mike also gave a bar camp at IWMW 2009 in which he summarised the ways in which Allegney College is using Social Web services. In the IWMW 2009 bar camp Mike described his college’s use of Facebook, Twitter (for general use, admissions, student orientation and sports) and YouTube. Amazon Web Services (AWS) also powers many areas of their Web site, such as their multimedia fund-raising activities. Following Mike’s overviews of these services, I asked others in the bar camp whether UK higher educational institutions were taking similar approaches in exploiting such Web 2.0 services. The answer, it seems, is not yet. But why, I wonder? What are the barriers? Is it because we are seeking perfection? Do we hide behind phrases such as ‘creepy tree-houses’ and ‘walled gardens’ when the evidence seems to suggest that institutions feel that they gain benefits from use of such services? And, secretly, are members of Web teams feeling threatened? Is there a view that if we don’t develop the services in-house, we’re not doing our jobs properly? And is it significant that members of UK institutional Web management teams are leaning from the approaches taken by a small US college with 1 Web team, of 1.5 FTEs? I recently suggested that The Recession Has Still To Hit the Public Sector! And I’ve heard rumours of layoffs and early retirements in University Web teams. So it strikes me that it is now very timely to make use of the global infrastructure which various Web 2.0 services can provide to support our institutional activities. I was therefore pleased that Barry Cornelius, for example, ran a workshop session at IWMW 2009 on “Time for iTunes U“. But will this provide an opportunity for the bean-counters in the institutions to ‘right-size’ the Web team? Possibly, but I also feel there is so much more that could be done to make in exploiting the potential of the Web to support our institutional objectives. Why waste effort in attempting to replicate in-house what is already working on a global scale? Filed in Web2.0, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) How People Access This Blog – 600 Posts On Thursday, August 6th, 2009 This is the 600th post since the blog was launched in November 2006. As I have done a couple of times in the past, I will use this occasion to document some statistics related to this blog. 29/10/2009
  • 42. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 42 of 616 How do people access the blog site? Well as the service provides me with analytics on the Web site usage I can easily answer that. Unsurprisingly Google is the Web site which has delivered most traffic to the blog site since it was launched, as can be seen from the accompanying image. However unlike conventional Web sites, it is the Google RS Reader which delivers the traffic, rather than the Google search engine. In second place is another RSS reader: Netvibes. But perhaps of most interest is the Web site to be found in third, fifth and sixth place – which is Twitter. Yes, although Twitter has only became such a popular service after this blog was launched it is responsible for delivering a significant amount of traffic to the blog. I noticed recently that Twitter was frequently appearing in the list of referrers to this and to UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog. I then came across the TechCrunch articles on “For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown)” and “The Value Of Twitter Is In ‘The Power Of Passed Links’“. The latter article suggests that: Twitter “will surpass Google for many websites in the next year.” And that just as nearly every site on the Web has become addicted to Google juice, they will increasingly try to find ways to get more links from Twitter. Because Twitter equals traffic. Hmm. It could be that the Twitter users who follow links to this blog would have viewed the posts anyway in their RSS reader. But maybe Twitter is becoming a replacement for RSS for many users. Filed in Blog, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 When we encouraged use of Twitter at the IWMW 2009 event we ensured that tweets containing the event’s #iwmw2009 tag were archived using a variety of services including Backupmytweets, Twapperkeeper service, wthashtag and Tweetdoc. 29/10/2009
  • 43. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 43 of 616 A page on the IWMW 2009 event’s Web site provides links to the various archives of the tweets, allowing the different approaches taken by the services to be compared. But the most interesting feature was provided by the wthashtag which provides a record of tweets over a user-definable date range in HTML and RSS formats. But even more interestingly, it provides a range of statistics on usage of the selected hashtag. As well as the histogram of usage of the tag which is illustrated, I also discover that over the past seven days the top contributors have been: 1. @iwmwlive – 255 2. @spellerlive – 60 3. @mecb – 58 4. @bensteeples – 54 5. @MikeNolanLive – 45 6. @catmachine – 41 7. @PlanetClaire – 36 8. @kammer – 35 9. @webpackets – 34 10. @m1ke_ellis – 32 Unsurprisingly the official @iwmwlive Twitter account was in top place (this belonged to the event’s live blogger who had a remit to keep a record of the plenary talks). Two of the other top contributors, @spellerlive and @MikeNolanLive also contains the ‘live’ suffix, indicating regular Twitter users who have chosen to create a second account to be used for live blogging at events. The numbers of tweets from @mecb is perhaps surprising as the user has previously been an infrequent blogger, although, as described in a video interview, Miles Banbery has discovered a new found enthusiasm for Twitter In addition there have been: • 1,530 tweets • 170 contributors • 218.6 tweets per day • 42.5% come from “The Top 10″ • 4.4% are retweets • 20.0% are mentions • 34.5% have multiple hashtags I am particularly interested in the statistics of usage of multiple hashtags. As described in a post on Use of Twitter at IWMW 2009 published a few days before the event began we suggested that “if you wish to refer to a specific plenary talk or workshop session [in your tweets], we have defined a hashtag for each of the plenary talks (#p1 to #p9) and workshop session (#a1-#a9, #b1-#b4 and #c1 top #c5“. Mike Ellis responded to this suggestion: “I’ll be interested to see what take-up is for your #complexhashtagsuggestion. Personally (as you know!) I think it’s an error of complexity over usability.” 29/10/2009
  • 44. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 44 of 616 I feel the evidence indicates that many of the participants were willing to use multiple hashtags when their use was appropriate (hashtags were not suggested for the bar camp sessions or for social events, so we wouldn’t expect 100% of the event tweets to have multiple hashtags. We can now, after the event, exploit the multiple hashtags to more easily find what people were saying about particular sessions. Use of #iwmw2009 and #p3 in a Twitter search, for example, enables us to quickly discover what was being said about Paul Boag’s talk on Making your killer applications… killer!. Why might we want to do this? Well towards the end of the talks we invited participants to post a single tweet summarising what they felt they had gained from the session. This may be useful information to reflect on after the event. And it should be noted that some of the comments were made after the talk had been given – without the additional hashtag it would have been difficult to relate a comment to a particular session (in the example illustrated the reference to Paul Boag’s plenary talk #P3 was made in the final summing-up session). An approach to be recommended for future events? Filed in Twitter, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) Event Amplification at IWMW 2009 Monday, August 3rd, 2009 IWMW 2009 This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2009, is now over. Despite being the 13th in the series on annual events aimed at members of institutional Web management teams, the event was not unlucky! The largest event audience for an IWMW event (200 registered delegates) arrived at the University of Essex campus which began on Tuesday 28 July with the opening plenary talk on “Headlights on Dark Roads” given by Professor Derek Law. And despite a rail dispute on Thursday (the final day of the event) there was still a large audience for the final talk on “How the BBC make Web sites“, an entertaining session on the importance of developers by the two Mikes (Ellis and Nolan) and my closing summary. Amplification of the IWMW 2009 Event I’ll not attempt to summarise everything that took place at IWMW 2009 in this blog. However there were a number of issues which were raised during the event which will be worth exploring in future posts. But for now I thought I’d summarise three aspects of the event organisation (rather than the content) which I feel are particularly noteworthy. The IWMW 2009 Blog 29/10/2009
  • 45. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 45 of 616 Last year we provided a Ning social network for use by the workshop participants. This year. inspired by the approaches taken at the Dev8D and Mashed Library Oop North events, we decided to set up a IWMW 2009 blog. The aim was to provide a less formal environment than the main event Web site, for both published information about the event and about the workshop participants, including their interests, recollections of previous IWMW events from those who have attended previous event and reasons why newcomers at the event have decided to travel to Essex in the last week of July. The blog proved very successful. We will be continuing to encourage some further posts to the blog before the participants disappear off for their summer holiday. Video Streaming For the third year running we provided a live video stream of the plenary talks. I understand that there were about 50 people viewing the opening plenary talk. It will be interesting to see the viewing statistics for the second and third days. In order to provide a richer experience for the remote audience we ensured that the slides for the plenary speakers who used PowerPoint were available on Slideshare (and note that many of the slideshows used in the parallel sessions are also available) . Live Blogging In addition an official live blogger used the iwmwlive Twitter account to provide a running commentary of the plenary talks. Kirsty McGill, who provided the live blogging service, also used these notes as the basis of a summary of the talks which was posted to the blog shortly afterwards. We made a conscious effort to treat the remote audience as ‘first class citizens’. As well as the technologies listed above, we also tried to ensure that everyone used a microphone so that the remote audience could hear not only the speakers, but also the session chair and any questions posed by the live audience. Twitter Channel As well as the official use of Twitter for recording plenary talks and an IWMW Twitter account for administrative use (I’m pleased the missing phone reported on Twitter was found) we also encouraged participants to use the #iwmw2009 tag when tweeting about the event. Links with the US Thus year, for the first time, we worked with Higher Ed Experts who provide professional development and social networking online opportunities to higher education professionals working in Web, marketing, PR and admissions offices in the USA. Two of the parallel sessions, Where’s the University? Building an institutional geolocation service by Janet McKnight and Sebastian Rahtz (Oxford University Computing Services) and Using Amazon Web Services by Mike Richwalsky (Allegheny College) had been pre- recorded in advance of IWMW 2009 and were provided as free Webinars on the Higher Ed Experts Web site. Reflections on the Event Amplification None of the aspects of IWMW 2009 I have described is significantly new. We have made use of wikis (at IWMW 2007) and social networks at previous events; the use of communication technologies to facilitate discussions during plenary talks dates back to IWMW 2005 when we made use of IRC (as you can see from the archive of the IRC discussions) and we have been video streaming the plenary talks since 2007. In previous years use of these technologies to ‘amplify’ the ideas and thinking beyond the physical event and enhance the discussions and debate at the event has been experimental. This year we have attempted to provide this as a service. The local participants have expectations of reasonable levels of service for the food and accommodation at the event. But now we can expect remote participants to have similar expectations regarding access to the content and the discussions and debate. Did we provide a satisfactory level of service? Please let us know. 29/10/2009
  • 46. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 46 of 616 Filed in Events, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) A World Where No-One Visits Our Web Sites Friday, July 31st, 2009 In a blog post entitled Pushing MRD out from under the geek rock Mike Ellis provides access to the slides he used in a session on “Digging into data: text and data mining” at the recent JISC Digital Content Conference. Mike’s blog post goes on to explain his views which he helpfully summarises “I think that MRD (That’s Machine Readable Data – I couldn’t seem to find a better term..) is probably about as important as it gets“. Mike goes on to ask us to: … be prepared for a world in which no-one visits our websites any more, instead picking, choosing and mixing our content from externally syndicated channels. This world in which people don’t visit Web sites to read content as the content appears in their preferred environment is one in which I live. The content I have an interest in reading appears on my iPod Touch ready for me to read on the bus travelling to work in the morning. I seldom visit Mike’s Electronic Museum blog site or the other blogs (such as the eFoundations, OUseful, The Ed Techie, and From a Distance blogs which are on my must-read list) – these appear automatically in my RSS reader. Of course I still visit Web sites – and increasingly I am finding that the new Web sites I visit are those I am alerted to by the people I follow on Twitter. But the more traditional marketing campaigns for new Web sites or redesigned Web sites tends to have little impact on my browsing habits. Unless the content can be accessed without having to visit the Web site I am unlike to be a regular visitor, no matter how useful the content may be. Now we still do need Web sites – the content needs to be held somewhere. And not everyone makes use of an RSS reader. But we are finding that Web sites are sucking in content held elsewhere, perhaps using RSS. And of course the growth in popularity of mobile devices is likely to see a renewed interest in ways in which content can be accessed without having to visit Web sites and navigate the Web sites on small screens. Mike Ellis suggests we need to rethink our approach to Web site development: “Don’t Think Websites, think data” he argues. His slides are available on Slideshare and are embedded below. Well worth reading. [slideshare id=1714963&doc=dontthinkwebsitesthinkdatafinal-090713100859-phpapp02] Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) The Recession Has Still To Hit the Public Sector! Monday, July 27th, 2009 Last week began with the gloomy headline in the Sunday Times Whitehall sharpens the knife for university cuts. The article began: WHITEHALL is drawing up plans for deep cuts in the higher education budget that in the worst case would slash a fifth from university finances, funding officials have disclosed. and went on to point out that: If implemented, they [the cuts] would lead to the widespread closure of university departments and could cause some institutions to shut altogether. A few days later the times then described how “Arnold Schwarzenegger [is] in last-minute deal to save broke California“. But this isn’t Arnold playing a heroic role as: “The higher education system, including the University of California, will be hit by nearly $3 billion in cuts“ 29/10/2009
  • 47. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 47 of 616 It seems that public sector organisations are facing the brunt of such cuts. Indeed the Time praises Arnold Schwarzenegger: “His greatest victory was standing firm and warding off tax increases“. I’ve heard financial commentators suggest that the recession hit the private sector first, whilst public sector organisations were initially protected by 3 year funding agreements. But as the private sector slims down and closes unprofitable areas of their activities they will be in a better position to respond to the economic recovery, whilst public sector organisations begin to experience their financial difficulties. Indeed in a blog post entitled “Universities and financial crisis” the elearningspace blog reports that: “The Bank of Canada has declared that the recession is over. While the numerical indicators (small growth predicted) may support this assertion, reality will tell a different story for many people and institutions. Universities, for example, are only now beginning to feel the impact. University of California is starting with deep cuts. Canadian universities are facing cuts as well. Few universities, however, face the difficulties of Harvard. Hard Times at Harvard provides a rather depressing glimpse into university systems that have lost focus and direction.“ Whilst I appreciate that the Times may be accused of using a tabloid headline and language in its article, I do think we need to reflect on the implications of significant cutbacks in the education sector. Especially in light of the Conservative’s recent success in the by-election and the headline on the front page of Saturday’s Guardian “I’ll be nation’s hate figure, says top Tory Philip Hammond” in which the shadow Treasury chief secretary, “anticipat[ed] an era of deep short-term cuts in public spending“. We can’t say that JISC has failed to provide support for such a gloomy future: they did, after all, commission work on Scenario Planning which was was originated by the JISC’s Users and Innovation programme, and further developed by JISC infoNet in partnership with Netskills with the aim of “providing a sustainable online resource as well as a range of workshops for the sector“. My scenario, based on these recent reports: “The higher education sector has to deal with severe cuts in its funding, at a time when the weaker Web 2.0 companies have gone against the wall, leaving the stronger companies well-placed to deliver services on a global scale”. How should we plan to respond to this increasingly likely-looking scenario? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) The IWMW 2009 Blog Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009) takes place at the University of Essex on 28 -30th July. In order to support the institutional Web management community we have made use of social networking environments over the past few years. Last year we made use of Ning but this year, inspired by the approaches taken at the Dev8D and the recent Mashed Library Oop North events, we have decided to make use of a blog to support the workshop. The blog was created on 26th June but was officially launched on 10 July. Since them the blog has published introductions from UKOLN’s organisers (Marieke Guy, Natasha Bishop and Michelle Smith and myself), provided a multimedia record of last year’s event, explained the barcamps and barpicnics, summarised the plenary talks from Derek Law, Paul Boag and David Harrison and Joe Nicholls and, perhaps most importantly, provided an opportunity for the workshop participants to introduce themselves. Additional posts will be published which are likely to be of interest to the participants who will be physically present at the event. But if you can’t attend, please note that IWMW 2009 will, once again, be an amplified event. You’ll be able to join in the discussions using the #iwmw2009 hashtag on Twitter and we also intend to provide a video stream of the plenary talks. Filed in iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) 29/10/2009
  • 48. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 48 of 616 This Year's Technology That Has Blown Me Away Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 About Bathcamp The history of the Bathcamp is described by Mike Ellis on the Bathcamp Ning service: Back on 13/14th September 2008, we ran a BarCamp in Bath called – obviously – BathCamp. It was a fun event and brought together a bunch of local (and some not-so-local) people who talked about a range of interesting stuff. Some of it was geeky, some of it wasn’t. You can read more about BathCamp over on the blog or see some Flickr pics. After the event, I had a think about what we could do to keep the momentum of BathCamp going, without (necessarily!) having to organise another BarCamp any day soon. I did a survey, and a large bunch of people seemed interested in meeting up more regularly. Last night’s Bathcamp, held in conjunction with the Bath-based Carsonified company, was entitled “BathCamponified: 3 minutes, one technology…“. The task which the Bathcamp participants were invited to take was to identify “the one technology that has blown you away more than any other in the last year, and [describe] why?“. The challenge was in three minutes or less to “tell us about your chosen technology: why it has changed your life, the way you work or ways in which it has improved the world“. As there was a promise of a free bar and a prize I decided to miss my normal Wednesday night rapper sword practice and summarise the one technology which has changed my life this year. For those of you who weren’t there, here is a summary of the script I’ve prepared. The Technology That Has Transformed My Life in 2009 As there’s a prize at stake I’ve decided to go for a crowd-pleaser for the geeky Bathcamp audience. It’s a technology that is close to my heart. It is [takes phone from shirt pocket] my HTC Magic Android mobile phone. And as I’m sure you know it has an open source operating system. I decided to get the phone after reading a blog post about it written by Dave Flanders who works for the JISC. Dave described the features of the phone, and concluded by arguing that you should get the phone for ethical reasons. Now I have to confess – I’m not as ideologically pure as Dave – or, I suspect, many of you. I got the phone for free, and simply had to upgrade my voice-only contract from £15 to £20, which includes data. OK, the device which has transformed my life this year may be free (as in open source software) but is also cheap (as in the costs of the device and the monthly contract). And I can download applications from anywhere. I avoid the censorship of the single source for applications. Yes I can download music with rude words which certain other companies will block for fear of offending the sensitivities of the American mid-west. This is a feature which I’m sure Mike Ellis (@dmje to his followers) will warmly endorse (warning, adult content!). A camera, video camera and sound recorded were supplied with the phone. I’ve also installed GPS software, Shazam, an Augmented Reality browser and the Qik live-video streaming application. OK, I’ll admit, the results from Qik weren’t great. Well, they were pretty poor. Some might even say unusable. But its open source, so let’s not quibble about minor details. I’ve also installed a couple of Twitter clients – so if I have problems with one I can always use the other. I should apologise, by the way. If you follow me (briankelly) on Twitter and you sometimes see a half-composed or misspelled tweet I’m (probably) not drunk – it’s just the Magic’s virtual keyboard and annoying auto-correct feature. Oops, sorry, I’m getting a bit off-message. It’s probably my fault – I’ve got the wrong size fingers for the phone or I’ve got used to tweeting on my iPod Touch. 29/10/2009
  • 49. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 49 of 616 I ought to confess that I also own an iPod Touch. It’s easy to use. I can easily install new applications. It has WiFi, so I can connect to the Internet. I can – and indeed have – installed Skype, which I used when I was in Australia earlier this year. Now it did occur to me that if you were to take the telephony aspect of the Android device and couple it with the usability of the iPod Touch, you could create a market leader. But that, I fear,would be dangerous. The ease of use would appeal to the naive and gullible. But us geeks know about the dangers of walled gardens, single providers of hardware and device lock-in to single network providers. We know we don’t want to unleash a twenty-first century Microsoft into the mobile world. And although we may be geeks, we also care about non-geeks – so we know that ‘jail-breaking’ isn’t an ethical or scalable solution to vendor lock-in. So join in with me and rejoice in the technology which has blown me away this year. Embrace the system error messages which pop up from time to time. These remind you that your phone is a computer and not a fashion accessory! Smile, as I did, when I upgraded the NewsRob RSS reader at the message “Version 2.5.1 Fixed an issue where Mark All Read marked too many articles read“. Exercise your brain: see if you can work out how to use the Augmented Reality app. Remember the Android device is for clever people! Become part of a thriving community: tell me how the application you find cool works and I’ll tell you about the application that I’ve eventually mastered. Note My slides from last night are available on Slideshare. In addition a video clip of part of my talk is available on YouTube part 1 and part 2 (I’m afraid I was over the time limit as I was so passionate about the technology I described!. [slideshare id=1735385&doc=kelly-bathcamp2009-090717113633-phpapp02] But Seriously I failed to win a prize last night (but congratulations to my colleague Julian Cheal who won a ticket to FOWD Tour Bristol) – I’d forgotten that most of the people at the event were proud owners of an iPhone! But seriously, doesn’t the popularity of the iPhone amongst many software developers, including those who are supporters of open source software, tell us something about the limitations of open source software. And it’s not just me who feels the Android device is flawed – Tony Hirst recently commented “A few weeks ago, I got my first “real” mobile phone, an HTC Magic (don’t ask; suffice to say, I wish I’d got an iPhone:-(” As someone said last night, open source software might be fine for server applications, but the user interfaces often appear clunky. Does the open source development community or open source development processes fail when it comes to developing applications to be used by non-techies? Filed in Gadgets | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) Depositing My Paper Into the University of Bath Institutional Repository Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 29/10/2009
  • 50. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 50 of 616 I recently mentioned that my paper on “From Web accessibility to Web adaptability” had been published in a special issue of the Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology journal. Shortly after receiving the notification that the paper had been published I deposited the author’s version of the paper in Opus, the University of Bath Institutional Repository. As I had attended a short training course on use of Opus (which uses the ePrints repository software) a few hours before uploading the paper to the repository I decided to time how long it took to complete the process. I discovered it took me 16 minutes to do this. As someone responded to my tweet about this, this seemed too long. I subsequently discovered that I had mistakenly chosen the New Item option – as a DOI for the paper was available I should have selected the Import Items option (not an intuitive name, I feel). In addition I also copied the list of 46 references and tried to apply some simple formatting (line breaks between items) to the list and also to the abstract. This was a mistake, as any line breaks appear to be ignored. In order to understand what I should have done, I went through the deposit process a second time and this time recorded my actions, with an accompanying commentary as a screencast which is available on YouTube and embedded below. [youtube=] The video lasts for 10 minutes and the deposit process took 7 minutes (although this includes the time taken in giving the commentary and showing what I did the first time). It does occur to me that it might be useful to make greater use of screencasting not only as a training aid for institutional repository staff to demonstrate the correct processes for depositing items but also to allow authors themselves to show and describe the approaches they take. I’m sure that some of the mistakes I made are due to limitations of the user interface and I won’t be alone in making such mistakes. Indeed having shown this view to the University of Bath’s institutional repository manager she commented: I’ve also noticed, from your video a few issues that should be fixed, so it was helpful to see. Why aren’t we making more screencasts available of user interactions with the services we develop, I wonder? And why aren’t we sharing them? Note: Just to clarify, this post was intended encourage users to described (openly) their experiences in using services such as repositories. and to share these experiences. The video clip is not intended as a training resource on how to deposit an item in a repository! [24 July 2009] Filed in Repositories | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (13) "From Web Accessibility To Web Adaptability": A Summary Monday, July 20th, 2009 I recently announced that a paper on “From Web accessibility to Web adaptability” by myself, Liddy Nevile, Sotiris Fanou, Ruth Ellison, Lisa Herrod and David Sloan has been published. I also said that, due to copyright restrictions, access to this article will not be publicly available until next year, when it will be released from the embargo on the University of Bath institutional repository. David Sloan, who also edited the special issue of the Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology journal which published the paper, has written a brief summary of the paper: A review of web accessibility from an organisational and policymaker’s perspective. This paper focuses on ways to strike a balance between a policy that limits the chances of unjustified accessibility barriers being introduced in web design while also providing enough flexibility to allow the web in a way that provides the best possible user experience for disabled people by acknowledging and supporting the diversity of and the occasional conflicts between the needs of different groups. In this post I will give a extended summary of the ideas and approaches outlined in our paper. 29/10/2009
  • 51. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 51 of 616 The paper begins by adopting the UN Convention’s view that “disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others“. Disability is therefore a social construct and not an attribute of an individual. In particular, resource accessibility is the matching of a resource to an individual’s needs an preferences – and is not an attribute of a resource. From this perspective we see the limitations of the WAI’s approach to accessibility, which regards accessibility as a characteristic of the resource (which should conform to WCAG guidelines) and the tools used to create the resource (which should conform to ATAG guidelines) and view the resource (which should conform to UAAG guidelines). In a previous paper we have described in more details the limitations of the WAI approach to accessibility (see Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World) and here we describe the limitations of what we call ‘Web accessibility 1.0‘ in the context of the UN Convention. The paper reviews the holistic approach to Web accessibility which we have described in several papers previously (see Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility, Holistic Approaches to E- Learning Accessibility, Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes and Reflections on the Development of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility). The approach, which we refer to as ‘Web accessibility 2.0‘, explores accessibility in a number of areas which are more challenging than the simple provision of information, such as access to e-learning and cultural resources. We then describe an approach which we call ‘Web accessibility 3.0‘ in which access to resources can be personalised to match an individual’s needs and preferences. As described in our paper Accessibility 2.0: Next Steps For Web Accessibility instead of seeking to ensure that all resources are accessible to all potential users (an approach which the evidence suggests is not a realistic goal), this approach aims to provide resources and information about them that enables users or automated services to construct resources from components that satisfy the individual user’s accessibility needs and preferences. The paper accepts that the labelling of these different approaches (which has parallels with the ‘Web 2.0′ and ‘Web 3.0′ terms) can be confusing: for many it would imply that Web accessibility 1.0 and 2.0 are now obsolete. This is not the case: there will still be a need for certain types of informational resources (a bus timetable, for example) to conform with WCAG guidelines and the Web accessibility 2.0 and 3.0 approaches describe different approaches which can complement each other. We have therefore coined the term ‘Web adaptability‘ to described an approach which attempts to support the “interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. The paper provides four case studies which illustrate how a Web adaptability approach is being used: Support for users with learning disabilities: An example is provided of a project at the University of West of England of an e-learning system for people with learning disabilities. The approach taken is to engage the end users in the design and development of the system, rather than the application of WCAG guidelines. A decision was taken “not to try to create a system and content that are universally accessible, but rather to try to maximise the usefulness and usability for a specific audience of learning users with particular permanent disabilities“. Adaptability for the deaf: This example illustrates the inappropriateness of the medical model of disabilities which underpins the ‘Web accessibility 1.0′ approach. The deaf community itself recognises both the medical and cultural model of Deafness (and note that the capital D is used to distinguish them as an ethnic community, just as we would use a capital E for English). The case study (which is described in an article on Deafness and the User Experience published on A List Apart) reinforces the merits of the ‘Web adaptability’ approach which can apply a cultural rather than a medical definition of deafness. Adaptability in a government context: The challenges of applying best practices when faced with limited resources and timescales form the basis of the third case study. This example considers the decisions taken in an Australian government organisation and how the challenges of addressing several constraints: government policies, budgetary measures specific deadlines to meet legislative requirements and availability of staff with the expertise to develop the accessible solutions. The ‘Web adaptability’ framework supported a holistic and 29/10/2009
  • 52. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 52 of 616 pragmatic approach to the challenges by enabling both usability and accessibility issues to be addressed and appropriate solutions to be deployed on time and within the budget. Adaptability and institutional repositories: Increasing numbers of universities are providing institutional repositories in order to enhance access to research publications and to preserve such resources for future generations. However many of the publications will be deposited as a PDF resource, which will often fail to conform with accessibility guidelines (e.g. images not being tagged for use with screen readers; text not necessarily being ‘linearised’ correctly for use with such devices, etc.). Rather than rejecting research publications which fail to conform with accessibility guidelines the Web adaptability approach would support the continued use and growth of institutional repositories, alongside an approach based on advocacy and education on ways of enhancing the accessibility of research publications, together with research into innovative ways of enhancing the accessibility of the resources. The paper addresses some of the criticisms which may be made of the Web adaptability approach such as ‘doesn’t the Web adaptability approach allow organisations to disregard accessibility considerations?’ and ‘if WCAG conformance isn’t mandated in law, won’t organisation simply ignore accessibility issues?‘ How does one specify accessibility requirements in a tender document? How does an organisation audit its resources for accessibility? We describe how we regard the WCAG 2.0 guidelines as a valuable resource for enhancing the accessibility of resources. The guidelines should be used in they can be used in a cost-effective way and if they do not detract from the core purpose of the service. We also point out that legislation isn’t the only driver for implementing best practices – and indeed focusing on legal requirement can be counter-productive as if case law subsequently rejects WCAG conformance in a test case (after all the RNIB home page doesn’t conform with the guidelines) this would undermine WCAG as a key component for enhancing the accessibility of Web resources. Rather than the threat of disability legislation for ensuring organisations enhance the accessibility of their Web services we describe a range of other drivers such as peer pressure, cultural pressure, user engagement, maximising business opportunities and corporate social responsibility and reputation management. The paper concludes by describing the areas in which standardisation is beneficial. Since we have adopted the UN’s perspective on disability as a social construct and not an attribute of an individual or the resource, we feel that standardisation work should focus on the practices which facilitate the “interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others“. The BSI PAS 78 on “Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites” provided a good example of a code of practice which documented best practices for the commissioning of accessible Web sites. The draft BSI PAS 8878 on “Web accessibility. Building accessible experiences for disabled people” has the potential to build on this, although, as I pointed out earlier this year, the initial draft provided too great an emphasis on the potential of the nearly arrived WCAG 2.0 guidelines, rather than documenting proven best practices. I will conclude this summary of the paper by repeating the final paragraph of the paper: [This paper] argues for the adoption of a Web adaptability approach which incorporates previous approaches and, perhaps more importantly, embraces the future, including technical innovations, differing perceptions of what is meant by accessibility and real world deployment challenges. Your views and feedback are welcomed. Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) "From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability" Paper Published Friday, July 17th, 2009 I’m pleased to report that a paper on From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability has been published in the Disability and Rehability: Assistive Technology journal. The full citation details are: 29/10/2009
  • 53. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 53 of 616 From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability, Kelly, B., Nevile, L., Sloan, D., Fanou, S., Ellison, R. and Herrod, L. Disability and Rehability: Assistive Technology, Volume 4, Issue 4, July 2009, pages 212 – 226. doi:10.1080/17483100902903408 I’ll summarise the contents of this paper in a subsequent post. For now I thought it would be worth describing how this paper came to be written. I, along with other authors of paper published at the W4A 2009 event, was invited to submit an updated version of my paper, entitled “One World, One Web … But Great Diversity“, although there was a requirement that the requested paper would be substantially different. I received this invitation in early January 2009, with the deadline of early March. As I had been invited to give the opening plenary talk at the OzeWAI 2009 conference in January and was already thinking about further developments to the holistic approach to Web accessibility I had been involved in developing over the past 5 years or so, this invitation provided an ideal opportunity to put down in writing the approaches I intended to talk about at the OzeWAI conference. As I have described previously, immediately following the talk I received tweets from two participants at the conference saying how valuable they found my talk and wished to have further discussions about the ideas I had described. Following those further discussions I invited Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod to provide case studies based on their involvement in Web accessibility work in Australia as examples of the ‘Web adaptability’ approach which the paper describes. Although I was a bit grumpy at having to submit the final edits to the paper over Easter, I’m pleased that our paper has been published. And the ideas described in the paper were strengthened by the concrete examples provided by Ruth and Lisa. A good example of how Twitter can help in bringing together people with shared interests who can then engage in publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal The other aspect of the process which I was pleased with was the two pages of comments we received from the anonymous reviewer of the first draft of our paper. The reviewer pointed out a number of weaknesses in our arguments, challenged us to justify a number of our assertions and queried whether our criticisms of the traditional approaches to Web accessibility could be interpretted as suggesting that institutions could ignore accessibility considerations. Our responses to these comments helped us to submit a much-improved final version to the publisher – and we were pleased when the reviewer warmly endorsed the final version. The paper is available on the publisher’s Web site. In addition my version of the paper is available on the University of Bath Institutional Repository. Unfortunately, due to copyright restriction, access to this version is embargoed until next year Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) The Network Effect Is Missing From The Standards Debate Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 In a recent post I asked “Do We Want A Standards-based Voice/Video Service?“. The post suggested that the failure of the JANET Talk service to gain significant support or interest provided evidence of the failure of a development approach based solely or primarily on support for open standards. In a response to the post, Nick Skelton provided his explanation for why JANET Talk didn’t take off – the lack of positive network effects. Nick pointed out that as network grow “its usefulness increases in proportion to the number of potential connections between people in the network – the square of the number of people“. Nick felt that JANET Talk’s failure was inevitable as it “was only for people in UK HE to talk to others in UK HE“. 29/10/2009
  • 54. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 54 of 616 Although Nick’s point specifically addressed telephone networks I feel his arguments are also applicable to social networks in general – an argument I made at the JISC Digitisation Conference back in July 2007 in a talk on “Globalisation Of Social Networks and Networked Services. We are now beginning to appreciate the importance of the network effect in a range of application environments – saving bookmarks used to be a function of the user’s browser but now we are seeing advantages of social sharing services such as But this seems to be missing from the approaches which have been taken to support IT development activities. In a post about the JISC e-Framework, for example, Andy Powell questions whether the e_framework is of “any value to anyone“. In a response Wibert Kraan felt that we can’t “forget about [the e-Framework] and pretend it never happened” – rather there’s a need to “look at what went well and why and what went wrong and why“. And this is equally true when considering the failure of open standards to live up to their expectations. We need a better model for the adoption of open standards in our development activities since the current approach, which tends to assume that an open standard from a trusted and mature standards body will inevitably be accepted by the marketplace, is clearly flawed. And the network effect would appear to be a significant aspect in solutions which do become widely deployed and used. Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Do We Want A Standards-based Voice/Video Service? Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 Last year JANET(UK) launched a trial of a voice, video and collaboration application called JANET Talk. As described in JANET News No.8 June 2009 (PDF format): “The aims of the trial were to understand the precise requirements and service provisioning model for an ‘on net’, standards-based SIP service that could be used for communication between JANET users via a software PC client interface, mounted on the user’s PC or a SIP-based traditional phone handset“. A survey of potential users also “showed a requirement for a feature rich collaboration tool for exclusive use by JANET connected users that didn’t use peer-to-peer technology“. Sounds good doesn’t it? A standards-based solution should avoid the problems caused by use of proprietary services and access would be available on both a PC and a phone handset which supported the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard. Who, apart possibly Macintosh and Linux users who seem to have been excluded from the trial, would not wish this trial well (which attracted over 100 institutions) and look forward to deployment of the service across the JANET community? However, as described in JANET News “The results from both trial feedback and market research showed that the appetite for a service like JANET Talk had diminished. The reasons cited include a preference for alternative solutions that are now available from the commercial sector. These solutions were deemed easier to use, reliable and free.“ So now we know. Users don’t care about standards. Users care about solutions that work, are easy to use and, ideally, are free! I know this is true for me, as I was an early adopter of Skype. At one stage use of Skype was frowned upon here at Bath University due to the load it could place on the campus network as well as the concerns about its proprietary nature, and the licensing conditions. However over time the local network team deployed solutions to manage the network load and we now seem to have happy Skype users, such as myself. The University has also deployed a SIP solution which is available on SIP-compliant phones in various halls of residence. I must admit that when I heard about this offering I was interested. Was there a service based on open SIP standards which would enable me to talk to others without being constrained by a particular client? Sadly it seems that with the Freewire service used at Bath calls are free “when they’re made from one Freewire user to 29/10/2009
  • 55. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 55 of 616 another” although you can “download the Freewire Telephone software for nothing“. But if you want to talk to someone on another service (Skype, for example) you’ll have to pay for the call So let’s remember, open standards don’t always succeed. And users may reject standards-based solutions in preference to other alternatives. There are risks in investing in open standards. And there should be lessons to be learnt from examples such as this. But I sometimes feel that we will ignore evidence which does not fit in with established dogma. Filed in standards | Tagged JANET, SIP, VOIP | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Thoughts About Dopplr and the Environment Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 I’ve been using Dopplr for a couple of years now, and have used it to keep a record of my substantial work trips over the last three years. Wikipedia describes the service as “a free social networking service, launched in 2007 that allows users to create itineraries of their travel plans and spot correlations with their contacts’ travel plans in order to arrange meetings at any point on their journey“. Although there is a social aspect for the service (I can share my trips with others) the aspect which is of particular interest to me is the way it can be used to the carbon costs of one’s trips. Could we envisage a future in which institutions are required to account for the carbon emissions associated with travel by members of staff, with targets for reducing the amounts? And possibly the contracts for JISC-funded projects could require projects to report on the carbon costs of the travel associated with project-funded activities. If this did happen I hope that rather than developing an application for aggregating such data from scratch, the potential of existing services, such as Dopplr, was explored. And this is something we can be doing now. Now although I know I can share this information with others, I wonder if I can export the carbon data (which is created by the AMEE service) for use by other applications? And what about the traveller’s individual sensitivities? We can appreciate why one might not wish information about futiure trips to be made publicly available (so opportunistic burglars can’t find out when your home might be empty) but what about the carbon costs? Is this something we should be more open about (as the general public expect MPs to be with their expenses claim)? And if so, who will be the first? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Dopplr | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) 29/10/2009
  • 56. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 56 of 616 Enthusiastic Amateurs and Overcoming Institutional Inertia Monday, July 6th, 2009 I was very pleased but also slightly embarrassed when Dave Pattern invited me to speak at the Mashed Library UK 2009 event (also known as ‘Mash Oop North‘). Pleased because this event, which is building on the success of the first event which took place at Birkbeck College in November 2008, reflects the interests I have in this area and will provide an opportunity to learn from some of the people (such as Tony Hirst, Mike Ellis and Dave Pattern) who are actively engaged in significant development activities. But embarrassed because I’ve been asked to speak to an audience who would, I suspect, prefer to listen to and talk to the gurus of mashup developments! Dave convinced me, however, that as there appear to be a significant number of participants at the event who don’t regard themselves as mainstream developers, but rather as ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ that there is a role to play in exploring how the learning which will take place at the event can be exploted. So I will be giving a talk and inviting discussion on the topic of “Enthusiastic Amateurs and Overcoming Institutional Inertia“. This session will take place on Tuesday 7 July 2009. My slides are embedded below (and are also available on Slideshare). If you have any thoughts on this subject, especially if you regard yourself as an ‘enthusiastic amateur’ yourself I’d welcome your comments. Of you may wish to particuipate in the Twitter back channel, using the hastag “#mashlib09″. [slideshare id=1681576&doc=enthusiastic-amateurs-090704084747-phpapp02] Filed in Events, mashups | Tagged mashlib09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) Wolfram|Alpha's Terms and Conditions Friday, July 3rd, 2009 Wolfram|Alpha Wolfram|Alpha is described in Wikipedia as “an online service that answers factual queries directly by computing the answer from structured data“. Comparing Web Sites When I discovered that Wolfram|Alpha could be used to compare Web sites I thought it would be interested to compare the Web sites for Oxford and Cambridge Universities. From this I found that the Web site has 960,000 daily pages views and 230,000 daily visitors and the site is ranked 6,289th, whereas the figures for are 760,0000,d 260,000 and 6,269 respectively. Table comparing three blog Web sites (from Wolfram|Alpha) Closer to home I thoughts I’d compare the figures for this blog with those for the eFoundations blog provided by Andy Powell and Pete Johnston and Martin Weller’s EdTechie blog – of some interest in light of recent 29/10/2009
  • 57. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 57 of 616 discussions about impact metrics for Social Web services. Here I find the amazing statistics that my blog has 150 million daily page views and 53 million daily visitors and is ranked 15th of all Web sites. The eFoundations blog has 16 million daily page views and 7.3 million daily visitors and is ranked 195th with the Ed Techie trailed way behind with 61,000 daily page views and 47,000 daily visitors and is ranked 53,872th. Unbelievable, isn’t it? And, of course, wrong! The figures provided by Wolfram|Alpha, which they got from the service, seem to be based on the figures for the and domains, with Martin Weller’s blog trailing as it is hosted on the domain. So further analysis has given us a better understanding of how WolframAlpha uses the statistics provided by And the comparisons for Oxford and Cambridge Universities Web sites may be skewed bv the number of Web services in their domains. And maybe other services which make use of such figures can be similarly skewed. Does this, I wonder, have any relevance to the metrics to measure online digital reputation described recently by Martin Weller? Perhaps my unexpectedly high ranking in a list of influencers in ‘distance learning’ is due to the service which hosts my blog? Wolfram|Alpha’s Terms and Conditions Interesting questions which we need to ask if we are to build up a better understanding of the digital world we’re living in, the tools that can help us in our tasks and the strengths and weaknesses of such tools. But of interest – and perhaps concern – are the terms of use for the Wolfram!Alpha service . It short it seems that, as my colleague Emma Tonkin recently pointed out to me there are “no guarantees, no under 18s, no organised repeated access, no mashups (don’t think about accessing this service in your software). Use must be personal, ad hoc (no organised groups of users please, so don’t think about teaching or training with it) and not for a professional reason unless you buy a licence for an unspecified price (curious amateurs only please). They reserve the right to assert IP rights over anything given as input to their site if they can think of any reason for doing so. Whilst they got much of their data for free by spidering sites, they will be deeply upset if you do the same.” In addition is the requirement that “the results you get from Wolfram|Alpha are correctly attributed to Wolfram|Alpha itself“. The terms of use go on to say: If you make results from Wolfram|Alpha available to anyone else, or incorporate those results into your own documents or presentations, you must include attribution indicating that the results and/or the presentation of the results came from Wolfram|Alpha. Some Wolfram|Alpha results include copyright statements or attributions linking the results to us or to third-party data providers, and you may not remove or obscure those attributions or copyright statements. Whenever possible, such attribution should take the form of a link to Wolfram|Alpha, either to the front page of the website or, better yet, to the specific query that generated the results you used. So if I ask Wolfram|Alpha what 1+1 is, if I published the result ‘2′ I must provide a link back to Wolfram|Alpha. And if I ask “What were the dates of the second World War?” I need to provide a similar link before using the answer “1 September 1939 to 2 September 1945″. What Should We Do? What should we make of this? As students are encouraged to cite their sources, perhaps educational institutions should welcome the support they are getting from a commercial company? And maybe we should work with the manufacturers of calculators and require that any numerical calculations include details of the make of the calculator used. There might be sponsorship possibilities in doing this, as well as allowing the teachers to spot flaws in the answers which might be due to errors on the chips on the calculators (after all, we don’t have open source calculators so, according to Peter Murray-Rust, we probably shouldn’t be using them to carry out open science. I’m joking! But what should we do? Should we block access to Wolfram|Alpha from our firewalls? Should we simply ignore the terms, as we know that few people will bother reading them (although this story has been picked up on the Grocklaw blog, Slashdot, CNet and The Register)? Or should we actively break them? After all 29/10/2009
  • 58. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 58 of 616 Peter Murray-Rust recently argued that “We must reform the practice of copyright. We may be getting close to civil disobedience. Because unless we do we shall not control our future but be controlled by others.“. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged WolframAlpha | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Facebook Usage by US Colleges and Universities Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 I’m pleased to publish a guest blog post by Mike Richwalsky, assistant director of public affairs at Allegheny College, a small, private liberal arts college in the United States. Mike provides a US perspective on a topic which often generates heated debate in the UK – the role of Facebook in higher educational institutions. Facebook Usage by US Colleges and Universities First, thank you to Brian for allowing me to use this space to talk about how we at US colleges and universities are using Facebook. I’ll be presenting a session at IWMW 2009 (on cloud computing, not social media), and I’m interested to learn more about how schools in the UK and Europe are using tools like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with different audiences. Here we go… Several years ago, in its infancy, Facebook was all the rage among students on campuses large and small across the United States. At that time, many schools were panicked about what services like Facebook and MySpace allowed students to do, often with an eye towards potential liabilities the school may face due to photos being posted, thoughts being shared, disagreements and much more. Fast forward to today, and a large majority of schools have changed their tune about Facebook. Yes, we still worry when students post photos of themselves drinking and the like, but now we in college administrations have adopted the site as an effective way to reach students, both prospective and those students already attending our schools. I’d like to examine how schools in the US are using Facebook and share some thoughts and experiences I’ve had from managing my school’s presence there. First, why are schools using Facebook? First, it’s where the students are. College students today in the US live and breathe Facebook all day long. For us, using it to reach them makes sense – after all it’s a medium they are comfortable in. Second, it’s free for our institutions to use. Finally, the tools that Facebook offers have developed to the point where it’s become a compelling communication platform for us to use to reach a large number of people very easily. Now that we’re in the golden age of social media, many colleges are developing strategic plans on how to use Facebook. At Allegheny, our adoption of this medium and the successes we’ve had have been very organic. We didn’t jump right in with a set plan, instead we started small, just creating an official page before someone else did. As we got more comfortable with the tools, we added more and more and have grown to the presence we have today. When Facebook launched its Groups tool, many schools, mine included, created a group for not only our institution but many offices across campus, such as career services, student life, libraries and more. The groups behaved much like they do today, we could post events, participate in discussions and more. Eventually, Facebook created its Fan page platform, and many schools transitioned their main institutional presence from the Groups tool to the new Fan page format, which offered many similar functionality but added new tools like video, wall posts and most importantly, analytics. At the time I write this, we have just north of 2,100 fans of our institution ( Our largest number of fans are in the 25-34 age group, which includes graduates of the last several years, so it makes sense that number is high. The next largest group is the 18-24 group, with the 35-44 group a close third. 29/10/2009
  • 59. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 59 of 616 The smallest age group is 13-17, which is interesting since that’s an audience we actively market to since they are the college students of the near future. 2% of our college’s fans fall in that age group. It’s great that 45 or so people have indicated they are a fan of our institution, I wonder why that number isn’t larger. Perhaps people of that age don’t want to commit to a college in this way, or they are still into their college search research and planning. This past academic year, we actually had a student working in our office 10 hours a week that posted events and news to our Facebook fan page. The student worked under close supervision, but it worked out well for us and gave our presence some authenticity and a voice that even someone in their early 30’s can’t provide. As I mentioned, our college moved its institutional profile from a group to a fan page, but that doesn’t mean Facebook Groups are no longer used by offices on our campus. Our most active group is a yearly “Class of” group – this year its the Class of 2013 group. For several years prior to this one, incoming students would create an unofficial group for their class and use it to start to get to know each other. The challenge for us as marketers and admissions folks was that we didn’t want our new students to think that group was sanctioned by the college or an official voice of the college, so in 2008, we created the official Class of 2013 group, with several people in different offices across campus serving as administrators. Now, it’s become a very useful tool for communicating quickly with that group of students. Our student orientation program leaders use it to answer questions, be a part of the conversation and post reminders and prod the students to complete tasks like completing necessary paperwork or registering for fall events. We’ve also had great success in our career services group, who have used Facebook to promote employment fairs, recruiter visits and other employment-related activities on campus. They have seen program attendance increase over previous years, and Facebook has been a great way for them to reach an audience they otherwise may not have been able to be in contact with. Hopefully, as Facebook grows they will continue to develop new technologies and ways for us to communicate. I think they’ve done a good job of it thus far, but it highlights one of the perils of social media in general – things in this area change very quickly and without warning. It can require a bit of work to keep track of all the new features, rules and more. Four years ago we had no idea of how to use Facebook and two years ago we didn’t know how to use Twitter. There may be a new tool that’s being developed right now that may come along and change everything we’re doing and we’ll look back and say “wow, we didn’t even think about how to use X two years ago.” Mike Richwalsky is assistant director of public affairs at Allegheny College, a small, private liberal arts college in the United States. He is also a technology fellow at NITLE, the National Institute of Technology in Liberal Education. He has a blog at, is on Twitter at @mrichwalsky and Facebook at Filed in Facebook | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) From Search Engine to Twitter Optimisation Monday, June 29th, 2009 Workshops on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) As described on the JISC Digitisation blog the Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) are running a series of free workshops entitled “Improve your online presence“. The workshop series, which will be held in June and July in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, is being coordinated by Netskills. The workshops will “introduce simple and inexpensive search engine optimisation techniques to improve your online presence, web visibility and website traffic“. I will be contributing to the workshop content by running a session on the role of the Social Web in enhancing access to scholarly and cultural content. 29/10/2009
  • 60. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 60 of 616 The Potential of Twitter The potential of Twitter was recently discussed in a post entitled How much is it worth to be one of Twitter’s suggested users? which was published in the Guardian’s Technology blog. As described in this post, being included in Twitter’s Suggested Users List can boost one’s numbers of followers, and thus traffic to links included in the tweets being published. Coincidentally on Friday 5th June 2009, whilst accessing this blog’s administrators interface in order to delete one or two spam comments which had failed to be detected by the Akisimet spam filter, I noticed that the top three referrers for the day were from the Twitter Web site (from, and On further investigation I discovered that a page on the Twitter Web site which provides links to resources about use of Twitter had included the following link to a post on this blog: What is Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card: –Share this article: Now although this link resulted in driving the most traffic to the blog in over 3 weeks, this was disappointing to me. I had been after evidence that Twitter can provide successful in driving traffic to arbitrary resources, rather than just traffic to an article about the Twitter service. However a better example was provided by the blog statistics for UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog. As illustrated the statistics for May 2009 showed that, after Google, the second most popular Web site for driving traffic to the blog was Twitter. In this particular example the most popular post in the month was one on Explaining the Risks and Opportunities Framework- a blog post which was announced on Twitter at 08.55 on 21st May: Blog post explaining the Risks & Opportunities Framework published at Evidence, it would seem, that Twitter can enhance the visibility of one’s Web content and therefore provide an example I can use in the workshop. But what of the dangers of using Twitter in this way? Might not Twitter followers resent being used as fodder for marking materials? Isn’t there a danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? Twitter Optimisation Although some people regard Twitter as being essentially an informal communications channel and a tool for community building we can now observe that it is being used for a much wider variety of purposes. But what are the emerging best practices which one should adopt in order to optimise Twitter’s potential to maximise access to ’stuff’ out there, as opposed to engaging with one’s Twitter community? Keep it short: Perhaps the best advice is to keep your tweets short to allow other to retweet (RT) the message, perhaps including their own comments. Acknowledge the limitations: If you do intend to use Twitter as a one -way publishing mechanism (as, for example, the MLA does) then you need to recognise that you should not expect to gain the benefits which fans of Twitter, as described in a post entitled “The person is the point” by Mike Ellis, feel they gain from its use as an individual. 29/10/2009
  • 61. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 61 of 616 Consider publishing a policy: You may also wish to consider having a policy covering your use of Twitter, as described in a recent post on “Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter“. Think about your followers: If you are using Twitter as an individual but also wish to promote areas of your work you will need to consider the balance between engagement (chatting with your mates), support (helping your mates), requests (asking your mates for held) and dissemination (telling your mates what you’ve being doing and what you’re proud of). This was an area I addressed in a post on “Twitter Can Pimp Up Your Stuff – But Should It?“. And if you’re still sceptical that Twitter has any significant role in delivering traffic to a Web site I’d suggest you read the TechCrunch article “For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown)“. Filed in Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) "Is It Really A Good Time To Be Asking For More IT Money?" Friday, June 26th, 2009 Michael Cross in the Technology Guardian asked back in April “Is It Really A Good Time To Be Asking For More IT Money?” Michael poked fun at the notion that “as the chancellor announces the largest peacetime deficit in history, the IT industry is lining up to say what the government really needs to do is spend more taxpayers’ money on computers“. His blunt response: “Dream on“. He is, of course, correct to remind us that public sector funding is in decline and this is likely to impact grandiose plans for large-scale IT developments. Indeed, as I pointed out recently, we have already seen the recent demise of the Hero gateway to UK higher educational institutions. Michael Cross’s suggestion is to “freeze budgets at just those needed to keep existing big systems … ticking over“. He goes on to propose that “Any new programmes would have to be achieved with Gmail, Flickr, and whatever other free stuff can be found on the web. Preferably running on public employees’ own laptops and mobile phones” and points out that “the market research firm Gartner is peddling a similar line, under the heading ‘The future of government is no government‘”. A ridiculous notion? Maybe, but consider the alternatives which might include a lack of services and innovation or a move towards centralised solutions. And let’s be honest about the dangers of the centralised solutions. I’ve heard people talk about ideas floating in government circles that the Open University should be the provided of e- learning resources for the high education sector – a suggestion which Open University e-learning staff I know are happy to debunk. And what of he wider public sector service? A tweet from Joss Win pointed out that it cost: £168,000 to out-source the Treasury’s website last year?! (only 4 visits/minute) Surely this deserves full disclosure? which led to suggestions from other Twitters that they would be happy to deliver Web pages on a memory stick transported on a Rolls-Royce if funding of that scale was available And the response given in Hansard went on to add that “Staff costs are not included as they could only be established at disproportionate cost“. Now I’m not suggesting that we should necessarily or in all cases require that “new programmes would have to be achieved with Gmail, Flickr, and whatever other free stuff can be found on the web” (or, as Tony Hirst describes this “Appropriating Technology“). But these are possibilities which should be treated on par with in- house development work, just as open source software solutions should be evaluated along side proprietary solutions for public sector procurement exercises. And yes, the risks of such out-sourcing to such Web 2.0 companies should be included in any procurement exercises. But let’s also ensure that development work outsourced in more conventional ways is also open to public scrutiny. Otherwise we may find that figures such as £168,000 of the public’s money to outsource hosting or development to companies which have close links with public sector bodies is being wasted. As Joss suggests, this deserves full disclosure! (Oh, and if you don’t think that public sector should be reliant on commerical services, remember that the U.S. Government Ask[ed] Twitter to Stay Up for #IranElection Crisis) . 29/10/2009
  • 62. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 62 of 616 Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Launch of 'The Edgeless University': a new Demos report Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 A report entitled “The Edgeless University: why Higher Education Must Embrace Technology” was launched earlier today. As described on the JISC Web site: The Edgeless University argues that technology in higher education is not just about virtual learning environments, but is increasingly central to the way institutions provide learning and facilitate research. Technology is making research and learning possible in new places, often outside of institutions. Far from undermining them, this is creating exciting opportunities for universities to demonstrate and capitalise on their value so will take strategic leadership from inside institutions, new connections with a growing world of informal learning, and a commitment to openness and collaboration. This is the radical role of The Edgeless University. I haven’t yet had a chance to fully absorb this 90 page report but there were a number of aspects to the report which reflect my areas of interest. I should first disclose, however, that I contributed to the report (Peter Bradwell, author of this DEMOS report, was aware of my work in this area and invited me to give my views). The need for fundamental changes in the higher educational sector: The report describes the comment made by one participant at a roundtable meeting who described the current predicament of the higher education sector: ‘This seminar feels a bit like sitting with a group of record industry executives in 1999’. The report went on to say “It is no use lamenting the golden age of universities (or record companies). The goals of the two ‘industries’ remain the same, but they must refocus on how to achieve them. Society’s aspirations for the sector remain the same. The challenge for institutions is to find the way to do it.“ The need to understand changing student expectations: The report quoted an interviewee who said “Technology is part of people’s daily life in a university, I would say everywhere except in the classroom” in order to illustrate the need for institutions to “get better at understanding exactly what it is these students need” . New tools to support teaching: It was interesting to note that the report, in a section on how social media tools can support collaborative teaching described Michael Wesch’s work at the University of Kansas in the US in using using online tools for collaborative and team-based student coursework including tools such as sites such as Netvibes, Yahoo Pipes and Diigo. Although I’m pleased to see Web 2.0 tools being highlighted in the report, it was somewhat strange to see a US-based example of use of these fairly mainstream tools. Aren’t there similar examples to be found in UK HEIs? “A renewed commitment to openness“: The report includes a section with this title. The opening quotation for the section “Science is as much about conversations in corridors as it is about papers in journals” strikes me as summarising the benefits which the Social Web can provide for the research community. However this section seems to focus more on the ease of access provided by tools such as Scribd and iTunesU rather than the issues of open access and open data. “Experimentation and investment“: I was particularly pleased to see that JISC Developer Happy Days’ (Dev8D) being mentioned as an “event brought together communities of coders and users from educational software and beyond” with the aim of “mix[ing] people interested in civic society with those who have the skills to develop tools to encourage social change“. Dave Flanders (now of JISC) will be pleased to see that his work in bringing together a set of developers has been appreciated in this report. A few weeks ago the “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” report was published. And today we see another report which provides a similar top-down view on the importance of Web 2.0 in higher education. If you encounter resistance to change from senior managers in your institution I’d suggest you beat them over the head with these two report until they realise that Web 2.0 is changing the higher educational environment. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged #edge09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) 29/10/2009
  • 63. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 63 of 616 Openness and IWMW 2009 Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 IWMW 2009 Fully Subscribed Bookings are now closed for this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009), with the event again fully subscribed with 190 participants (the limit imposed by the numbers of bedrooms available and the size of the venue for the reception). Amplification of IWMW 2009 If you haven’t booked a place but do have an interest in the range of plenary talks which will be given, don’t worry – the event will be ‘amplified’. This reflects our commitment to openness which I argued the higher educational community should embrace more fully in a recent post on Respect Copyright (and Subvert It!). In that post I also suggested that we need to be more open about the risks and the approaches taken to managing the risks. So here is a summary of the various approaches we are taken to encouraging openness for the event. Maximising the Impact of the Plenary Talks The plenary talks at IWMW 2007 and IWMW 2008 were streamed live and we will be doing the same again this year. We hope to have an official ‘live-blogger’ who will take responsibility for providing a live summary of the plenary talks. This will be available using the event hashtag #iwmw2009 and may also be aggregated in another environment (such as Coveritlive, use of which has described in a Review of Web2.0 amplification at CILIPS Conference) to allow people to contribute to the discussions if they don’t have a Twitter account. Due to logistical reasons (only one screen display in the lecture theatre) we will not be providing a live display of tweets during the talks (which means we aren’t addressing the issue of whether a live display would be valuable or distracting). However we intend to make use of a live Twitter display (a ‘Twitterwall’) during the opening of the event and at other times in order to allow participants to say hello to each other if they are not sat in adjacent seats, an approach I felt worked well at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference. We will also try to ensure that the speaker’s slides are available on Slideshare so that the remote audience is able to view the slides and the talk simultaneously. We know that speakers sometimes change the slides at the last moment – we’ll try and keep the versions in synch, but can’t guarantee this. Note we’ll need speaker’s permissions for this – and will respect their (e.g. if their organisation doesn’t allow this; they want the freedom to be more open; etc.). The Risks I’ve described what we are planning on doing. But what about the risks of embracing openness more fully at an event? We will be seeking permission from the speakers for the live streaming of their talks. And we do appreciate that there may be reasons why such permission may not be given (the speaker wishes to be able to speak freely or the speaker’s organisation may not allow this). We also intend to have a Creative Commons notice on the lectern (as we did last year) so that a rights statement will be embedded in the video. We will allow the speaker to change their mind about making a recording of the talk available after the event (we will clarify this immediately after the talk, so that we do not have to write off time which may be spend on post-processing the video). 29/10/2009
  • 64. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 64 of 616 We will be providing a ‘quiet zone’ in the lecture theatre for participants who wish to avoid possible distractions caused by live-blogging and who do not wish to be photographed or videoed. We will also ask other participants to respect the guidelines for this area. We will, of course, be evaluating the event, including the innovative aspects as well as the mainstream aspects. As we would like to share the user feedback more widely the evaluation form will state that anonymised comments may be published openly. We appreciate that amplified conferences are still in their infancy, and there may be a diverse range of expectations from the audience, both local and remote. We are interested in learning from related events, such as Dev8D, Mashed Library UK 2009 ‘Mash Oop North’, Amplifiedat Nlab 09 day and the Eduserv Symposium. We’d welcome feedback and suggestions. But, please no suggestions that will take too much time and effort – there’s not much time left! Filed in Events, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) I'm A Top Influencer For The Open University! (Or Am I?) Monday, June 22nd, 2009 Metrics For Measuring Impact in the Social Web Martin Weller has published a blog post on Connections versus Outputs which discusses a report produced by the Open University Online Services team in collaboration with external consultants (MarketSentinel). The aim of the work was to examine “the broader influence of various web sites and looking at sentiment mining. The idea from an official communications perspective being you can see how well regarded your institution is in different sectors, and maybe influence that perception“. Their findings? Well it seems this UK Web Focus blog is: • In 4th 6th place in a list of the Open University’s top 100 influencers in ‘distance learning’; • 4th in a ‘betweenness‘ category of “Stakeholders who are “stations” where information (on the issue in focus) is passed via in order to reach the constituency of said stakeholder”; • 8th in a ‘hubness‘ table which “is a characteristic of disproportionately linking to those who are authoritative on a given topic”. Andy Powell responded to this post in a comment saying “Sorry… not meaning to pick on Brian here but the appearance of his blog, given this particular choice of topic [distance learning], stuck out a little“. Andy was correct in mentioning this strange result. I will have a better awareness of the topics I have covered in my 580 posts and I know this isn’t a topic I write about – and a search for the term confirms this (although there may have been a couple of occurrences of the term in comments). Andy’s comment also touched on the sensitivity of discussing an individual, and this concern was shared by others on Twitter. Let me make it clear that I think it is appropriate to explore both the reasons for my inclusion in this list and the relevance of such an approach. As Martin Weller commented, this is very appropriate academic debate. Interpreting The Findings Let’s begin by trying to explore the reasons why I’m listed so highly (Martin Weller and Tony Hirst are also featured highly in the tables, but this can probably be explained by the fact that they work at the Open University). 29/10/2009
  • 65. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 65 of 616 Collusion: Perhaps Martin Weller, Tony Hirst and myself collude in linking to each other, in order to boost our rankings. After all we know each other and follow each other on Twitter. That could be a possibility – but we don’t. Echoing: It may be, as was suggested on a second post on Martin Weller’s blog, that we are echoing each others views and the metrics simply reflect that. There may be some truth in that. As you can see from Martin Weller’s post on Web 2.0 – even if we’re wrong, we’re right following a talk I gave on What If We’re Wrong? and my follow-up posts on “Even If We’re Wrong, We’re Right” and What If We’re Right? we can see this in action. Now this reflecting on other’’s views and adding new insights is, for me, part of the learning process. And although we’ve created something new in this process (we’re thinkers and not just linkers, as the saying goes) I appreciate that the metrics may give (undue?) weight to this. Complementing: It may also be that the reason this blog is ranked so highly is that it complements the topics covered by Martin, Tony and others. This blog tends to reflect my background in working in IT Services and my interests in, say, Web accessibility – areas which tend not to be addressed in Martin or Tony’s blogs so much. So perhaps my ‘influence’ reflects this? Being an early adopter: Although I wasn’t an early adopter of blogging (I started in November 2006) it may be that my high profile in the Open University reports simply reflects my presence in various the Social Web technologies (Twitter, Friendfeed, etc.) This could mean that the survey is picking up on the technologies I’ve been using, rather than the content I publish on this blog. Blog is outside the institution: This blog, as is the case for the blogs published by others mentioned in the report, is hosted outside my institution. Perhaps the high ranking is a manifestation of the hosting arrangements? Or perhaps the fact that we have chosen an external hosting body indicates early adoption of blogging (before our host institution provided a blogging service) and the survey is skewed by the presence of the early adopters? Or perhaps a willingness to use a third party service, when this may have been discouraged (it’s not open source; what about sustainability of the service? …) , reflects a level of independence and willingness to take risks which the survey picks up on? Social Web presence builds on peer-reviewed publications: I don’t just publish on Social Web services, such as blogs, Twitter, Slideshare., etc. I also write papers for peer-reviewed journals and conferences and invited papers for conferences. I then reference the papers on the social Web on my blog and make slides (and sometimes video recording) of the accompanying presentations available on services such as Slideshare, Vimeo and Google Video. Perhaps the amplification of peer-reviewed ideas and approaches via the Social Web helps to enhance the impact I have, which is being detected in the survey? Writing style, linking style, etc.: I may be that my writing style, the ways I try to cite relevant posts, Web resources and even tweets contribute to the high ranking. Relevant, Useful and Interesting Content: In an attempt to document the range of possibilities for this blog being identified as a significant influencer and hub for ideas related to ‘distance learning’ I should include the possibility that the content of the blog are felt to be relevant, timely, useful and interesting! These are some thoughts which occur to me for my high ranking in the survey. But surely we simply need to find out what algorithms are being used. And, as Peter Murray-Rust has pointed out in a bog post on “Open Source increases the quality of science” if we have access to the source code we will be better placed to spot any flaws in the code itself. This argument reminds me of the time I attended a WWW conference and heard a research er describe how his team had reverse engineered the algorithms used by a number of the global search engines. In the subsequent questions an engineer from Google said he wished the paper hadn’t been published, as Google would have to change the algorithms in order to prevent spammers from exploiting this knowledge. I suspect that we’d find institutions looking at ways to game Social Web metrics,especially if this became competitive. And as we know how one’s position in the University league tables are to institutions, I suspect this would happen. 29/10/2009
  • 66. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 66 of 616 Is This A Useful Starting Point? If we have to accept that there are likely to be various metrics covering use of the Social Web, the question may be whether the approach which is being taken at the Open University provides a useful starting point. Andy Powell agrees with Martin that metrics on how the Social Web can impact scholarly activities are needed: “I think we want to get to the same place (some sensible measure of scholarly impact on the social Web)” but goes on to add “ I disagree with you that this is a helpful basis on which to build.” Is this glass, as Martin feels, half full or would you agree with Andy that it’s half empty? I’ll add a third alternative – I’ll finish off what’s in the glass while the rest of you are arguing! Or to put it another way, while the academics go off in pursuit of the perfect metric the marketing departments will make use of a variety of impact measurements in any case. I suspect we’ll find people in marketing departments asking “How can we use the Social Web to market our institutions, attract new students and new funding?” and then asking “How can we measure the impact – or ROI – of our presence in the Social Web?“. I’ll conclude by echoing Martin’s conclusions: We’ve got to start somewhere – my take on this is that the output may have problems, but it’s a start. We could potentially develop a system focused on higher education, which is more nuanced and sophisticated than this. By analysing existing methodologies and determing problems with them (such as the three I’ve listed above) we could develop a better approach. I hold out hope that we can get interesting results from data analysis that reveals something about online scholarly activity. And we should be analysing the existing methodologies in an open fashion. I hope my observations have contributed to this analysis. Filed in Impact | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Twitterers Subvert Daily Mail's Racist Poll Sunday, June 21st, 2009 On Friday I was alerted by one of the people I follow on Twitter to a poll which asked “Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue?“. I responded by voting Yes, and send a tweet which said I’ve just been to the Daily Mail Web site for the first time ever. And so should you – 29/10/2009
  • 67. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 67 of 616 My tweet was then echoed (’retweeted’) around the Twitterverse by a number of people including lucy3point0 and ccsnjf with others picking up on my posts and adding their own commentary (as shown). Other communities picked up on this for, as you can see, there were over 90% of people voting on the Daily Mail Web site that the NHS should allow gipsies to jump the queue! I was intriguing to see what the final total was (it reached 96% at one point and I grabbed the screen image shown above – to use in a forthcoming talk – with the total of 94%). But on Saturday I found that allow the question was included in a list of Daily Mail polls, clicking on the link took me to another page on the Daily Mail Web site, and not to the results of the poll. (Ironically another discussion which took place on Twitter on Friday discussed URL shorteners and the possible dangers of a lack of long-term persistency of URL shortening services – in this case the short URL for the Daily Mail poll is still available – – but the page it points to – – is not the gipsies poll. The reason I captured the screen was to make use of this example in a forthcoming workshop session I am facilitating on “Using the Social Web to Maximise Access to your Resources“. I’ll make the point that Twitter can be used to engage a community through a viral campaign for (or against) a particular idea. I’ve an interest, therefore, in how this poll went viral, and also in the ethics of commenting on the poll and attempting to influence the votes. This story has been picked up on with an article on Twitterers claim victory over loaded Daily Mail gypsy poll. Here I find that : Brighton-based senior lecturer in experimental psychology Dr Sam Hutton contacted today to reveal that there was also an email campaign among UK-based psychologists who, as part of their jobs, take questionnaire neutrality seriously. Was this the start of the viral campaign? Or did a number of people become aware of the poll and mention it on Twitter independently of each other? And why did this become viral whereas, for example, a poll on Should immigrants be forced to respect British culture? has failed to attract a similar level of interest, despite covering a similar topic which is liable to inflame liberals? Do successful viral campaigns need to attract the attention of ‘hubs’ to use a concept from Gladwell’s Tipping Point, which Martin Weller mentions in a post, also published on Friday, on “Connections-versus outputs“. And what of the ethical aspects from those of us who are engaged in observing, commenting on and analysing the way in which the Social Web is shaping our society? You should note that my initial tweet did not suggest how people should vote: I’ve just been to the Daily Mail Web site for the first time ever. And so should you – The wording I used was also intended to intrigue people; anyone who knows me or has read my tweets or blog posts over time will know that I am not in sympathy with the Daily Mail’s views. The tweet was also brief, and so allowed other to easily retweet it i.e. append “RT @briankelly” to the front and add heir own commentary, such as lucy3point0’s “Laugh or cry?“. 29/10/2009
  • 68. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 68 of 616 However I should disclose that I voted three times in the poll. Despite responding to a suggestion that “If you disable cookies you and refresh the page and vote gain to your heart’s content” by saying that we should keep the high moral ground over the Daily Mail I did vote on two additional occasions (using the Flock and Opera browsers) – as I wanted to see if I could get the error message which a couple of people had encountered. In retrospect I should have ensured that these two votes cancelled each other out. And finally I’m also linking to, citing and including a screen image of a number of people who have engaged in the debate. Should this be done? Am I infringing copyright (indeed, am I infringing the Daily Mail’s copyright in including a screen image taken from their Web site)? I am taking a risk management approach to this. Rather than seeking written permission (which may be time- consuming) I have made a judgement as to whether the people I have mentioned are likely to be concerned. I suspect not. And inclusion of the poll from the Daily Mail Web site? This may be a risk, although I might claim fair use. But won’t it be a greater risk for the Daily Mail if they ask me to remove? If I do get a letter from their solictors I don’t intend to fight them. But everyone will know they have done this. Filed in Twitter | Tagged #dailymail | Permalink | Edit | Comments (12) Respect Copyright (and Subvert It!) Thursday, June 18th, 2009 The Digital Britain Report The Digital Britain report was published a few days ago and as is stretches to over 230 pages we’ve needed that time to digest the report or, perhaps more likely, allow others to read the report and publish their summaries! My specific area of interest in the report is what it says about copyright. The report describes how “Already today around 7.5% of total UK music album purchases are digital and a smaller but rapidly increasing percentage of film and television consumption is streamed online or downloaded” and that although “User-generated and social content will be very significant” it will not be “the main or only content“. The report goes on to argue the case for the ‘creative industries’ and repeats their claims that they “have indicated they suffer considerable losses from unlawful peer-to-peer file-sharing” – and fails to acknowledge the criticism of these figures described by Ben Goldacre’s “Illegal downloads and dodgy figures” article in the Guardian’s Bad Science column. Section 18 of the report puts the recommendations bluntly: This is unacceptable. The Government considers online piracy to be a serious offence. Unlawful downloading or uploading, whether via peer-to-peer sites or other means, is effectively a civil form of theft. This is not something that we can condone, or to which we can fail to respond. We are therefore setting out in this report a clear path to addressing this problem which we believe needs to result in a reduction of the order of 70-80% in the incidence of unlawful filesharing. My fears are that equating use of networked technologies with large scale copyright infringement will lead to organisations’ being conservative in their approaches and being unwilling to take any risks that they might be seen to condone the ’serious offence of online piracy’. So let’s look at other views on copyright, beyond the teenage kids who seem to stand accused of downloading music and videos and ruining the country’s economy (I’ve tried to avoid the temptation to say the bankers have done that, but have failed!) 29/10/2009
  • 69. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 69 of 616 “Copyright Warriors” Earlier this year Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University wrote a blog post on “Universities as copyright warriors“, this being a follow-up post to one which asked “Should universities break copyright law?“. In the former post Martin described how he: “wasn’t arguing that universities should ignore copyright because they think they’re special, or that they should advocate wholesale piracy. Rather it was that universities are in a privileged position. They can fight on behalf of the general populace.“ Professor Stephan Harnad, University of Southampton, has been fighting for the research community for several years. You just have to visit the Open Access Archivangelism blog to see evidence of the work being done by Stevan and many fellow open access researchers not only here in the UK but around the world. “Ensure your research publications are published in an open archive” is their cry “and make publicly-funded research openly available“. And such simple requests are supported by significant examples of technical solutions, business models, institutional services and growing international pressures to build on this work. Professor Peter Murray-Rust, Reader in Molecular Informatics at the University of Cambridge (who, incidentally, has his own entry in Wikipedia), has been making a similar plea to open up scientific data. Peter recently argued that “Copyright in Scientific Theses is holding us back; Ignore it“. Peter’s opening comments are worth noting: I feel the dread hand of copyright hanging Mordor-like over the whole area of scholarly publishing. I heard to my horror in PennState that one University had embargoed all its theses in case they violated copyright. So I tested this in my talk and asked “are there repositories that embargo all their content for fear of copyright?” and got a few nodding heads. So I am taking this as fact, and asking: Why is no-one except me angry about the way that copyright (or exaggerated fear of it) is stifling electronic innovation in academia? Pete goes on to make the plea “let’s abandon copyright in science. What does it gain us? Almost nothing, unless you author a successful textbook. Nowhere else is copyright the slightest use to a scientist and its stands in their way at every step.” And note that Peter is not arguing for the abolition of copyright; he makes it clear that “if you are working in creative arts you may wish to protect your work“. Peter’s views are focussed on science. And he repeats this message loudly “SO AS A FIRST STEP LET’S JUST PUBLISH ALL OUR **SCIENCE** THESES OPENLY AND ALLOW UNRESTRICTED DOWNLOADING AND RE-USE?”. Beyond The Professors If you read Martin Weller’s, Stephan’s Harnad’s and Peter Murray-Rust’s blogs you will find much more in- depth discussions on the benefits of openness in teaching and learning and research. But the danger is that such views will be dismissed as the ramblings of professors who are secure in their own position. How can others engage in maximising the openness of resources? How should young researchers and academics respond? And what approaches can the service departments – libraries and IT Services, for example – take? A Personal Approach Back in 2005 I gave a paper on “Let’s Free IT Support Materials!“ which concluded “IT Service departments are well-positioned to encourage a culture of sharing by encouraging an open access approach to IT support materials through use of Creative Commons licences“. In January 2006 I made a commitment that the resources used in my public presentations would be available with a Creative Commons licence – and since giving a talk on “Web Futures: Implications For HE” at King’s College London on 27th January 2006 the title slide of my presentations has contained a Creative Commons licence. That talk was also the first time (I think) in which I recorded my talk and made the talk available also under a Creative Commons licence. 29/10/2009
  • 70. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 70 of 616 But what of the risks in making one’s own resource available under a Creative Commons licence? What if the slides contains resources owned by others (e.g. the JISC and MLA logos on the title slide; a screen shot of the BBC Web site; etc.)? What if I make defamatory comments in my talk? Rather than ensuring that no copyrighted material are used in my presentations I take a risk assessment approach. I weigh the risks that if I use the JISC logo on my title slide that JISC will sue me for copyright infringement – pretty unlikely! I also try to ensure that a provide hypertext links to third party resources so that the original site can be easily found. And the Creative Commons logo has a caveat which links to a statement that points out that the slides may contain copyrighted resources. The onus is then on anyone who wishes to reuse my resources to undertaken their own risk assessment. Professor Charles Oppenheim helped me to understand a risk management approach at a seminar he gave at UKOLN on the copyright implications of institutional repositories. In response to my question as to whether the complex copyright questions (”Podcasting lectures? What about performance rights?” ) meant that institutional repositories were unlikely to take off, Charles suggested a simple formula which could be used to gauge the risks. The Oppenheim formula is simply: R=AxBxCxD where R is the risk factor of your decision; A is the probability that you are infringing copyright; B is likelihood the the copyright owner finds out; C is the likelihood that they will care enough to take any action and D is the compensation they are likely to seek. A simple formula which (when I asked permission to publish it) Charles told me is intended as rhetorical device rather than aiming to provide any significant deep insight. But this has been an approach I have found useful. What Next? What can we do if we are supportive of the views which Professors Weller, Harnad and Murray-Rust, but feel constrained by our perceptions of the risks and barriers? My suggestions: Free your materials: Make use of Creative Commons for the materials that you create. Take a risk management approach: Change does not occur without taking risks. So we prepared to take risks, but asses the risks and make an informed decision. Be open about the risks: Share the approaches your have taken with others. Help them to assess the risks they may face in reusing your content. And remember that there will be people and organisations within our sector who will have vested interests in maintaining the status quo. If, for example, you are involved in negotiating copyright deals, you may be concerned that your empire would be threatened by the widespread available of open content. Or maybe you simply don’t want to rock the boat. But change is needed! Filed in openness | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) Who Needs Social Networks? I've Got Opera Unite Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 Opera, the browser vendor, have released a new version of their browser, Opera Unite. And they launched their browser will the slogan “Today, we reinvent the Web“. So what’s behind this rather grandiose claim? Well: Opera Unite allows you to easily share your data: photos, music, notes and other files. You can even run chat rooms and host entire Web sites with Opera Unite. It puts the power of a Web server in your browser, giving you greater privacy and flexibility than other online services. 29/10/2009
  • 71. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 71 of 616 In addition: What if you use Opera at home, and a different Web browser at work? Opera Unite services can be accessed from any modern browser, including mobile browsers! At home, just select what you want to share, and you can view it later using your work Web browser without any problems. A post on sums this up nicely “Opera Unite: Web Browser Becomes the Web Server“. But do we need another Web server environment? Do we need the ability of every networked PC to be able to share files? What are the networking implications? What are the security implications? How will we find the stuff? I suspect this may the the reaction of members of institutional Web teams. But, on the other hand, mightn’t this free us from a reliance of the commercial sector and the concerns we have over companies such as Facebook? And might not the innovative e-learning developers welcome the opportunity to explore how the sharing of learning resources and the use of collaborative technologies can be provided without having to rely on the local Web services team whilst avoiding the need to deal with companies such as Google and Facebook. Opera, it might appear, are unlikely to have a desire to take over the networked world as Google, Facebook and Microsoft want to do. Have Opera really reinvented the Web? And is this announcement good news or bad? Or perhaps it is irrelevant – this is file sharing for home users and need not concern those of us who work in a networked environment? Filed in browser | Tagged opera, unite | Permalink | Edit | Comments (16) Which Will Last Longer: or Facebook? Monday, June 15th, 2009 A Hero For Our Sector One of the real strengths of the UK higher education sector is the way in which we can work together as a sector, meaning that the whole is geater than the sum of the individual parts. This is undoubtedly true of JISC (which is envied in the higher education and research sectors around the world) but also applies elsewhere. One example of this is Hero: “the official gateway to universities, colleges and research organisations in the UK“: a gateway funded by the various funding bodies (HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW and DENI) and supported by other higher educational agencies and by the high educational institutions themselves (and note that I was involved in the technical advisory group for the “HE Mall” as it was originally called. Indeed will a service such as Hero, why would higher educational institutions wish to use other channels for online marketing, particularly social networking service such as Facebook which, despite its popularity are, in some circles, regarded with suspicion in not hostility? 29/10/2009
  • 72. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 72 of 616 Our Hero Is Dead … Alas for those who believe that the sector should own its marketing channels, the service was closed on 4th June 2009 (and the image shown above was taken from Hero’s most recent entry in the Internet Archive, from 10th February 2008) I should disclose that last year I was interviewed by a consultant who had been appointed in order to identify future directions for the service, including whether the service was viable. I pointed out the flaws in the Hero service: it did not have the community aspects which potential new students might expect and it was a ‘walled garden’ – information could be uploaded to the service but there were no easy ways of getting the data out again. “Make ‘Hero 2.0′ a trusted service which could host structured institutional data“, I suggested “and provide APIs to allow developers elsewhere to add value to the service“. But this did not happen. … Long Live a New Hero? If the managed service to promote UK higher educational institutions is too costly to provide, why don’t we appropriate popular social networking services to fulfil this role? This is an idea inspired by a Tony Hirst’s post on “Appropriating technology” which he described as “appropriating technologies that might have been designed for other purposes in order to use them in an educational context” but I would replace ‘educational context‘ by ‘marketing context‘. And, if we’re honest, isn’t Facebook the new Hero? It can provide the popular service for hosting institutional marketing materials. And it can provide the community aspects which Hero failed to provide. Admittedly it may be a ‘walled garden’ – but then so was Hero, so nothing is being lost. But if we wish to use Facebook in this way, don’t we as a sector need to identify the best practices for making use of Facebook, including minimising the risks associated with the service? And shouldn’t we be exploring the benefits which might be gained by working collaboratively? Some initial thoughts on this: Institutional URL: As mentioned in my recent post on “Have You Claimed Your Personal And Institutional Facebook Vanity URL?” we are seeing Facebook URLs being minted as a single string (edgehilluniversity) and words separated by dots ( We might wish to consider whether there are advantages in seeking agreement on the form of the name – perhaps even using an institutional domain name in the URL (e.g. However it is probably too late to do anything about this (which arguably demonstrates the failure in having not had such discussions previously). Trademark disputes: We’ll want to avoid the possibility of trademark disputes. Might we see one between Leeds Metropolitan University and say, Loyola Marymount University over Ownership of Facebook resource: Who has access to the institutional Facebook account in your institution? And what if they’ve left or you can’t find the owner? The information should be regarded as a valuable institutional resource and ownership should be managed appropriately. Workflow processes: There’s a need to establish effective workflow processes for information provide on the institutional Facebook page. Ideally information would be hosted elsewhere and automatically updated in Facebook though use of, for example, an RSS application in your Facebook page. Will Facebook pages enhance or diminish Google Juice: Might not institutional content which is replicated on Facebook pages diminish institutional ‘Google juice’ as my colleague Paul Walk has suggested? Or, alternatively, might content held in popular services such as Facebook and Wikipedia (and previously, to a lesser extent, Hero) held to increase traffic to the institutional Web site? Indeed if such replication of content is felt to be counter-productive, shouldn’t institutions try to prevent Web sites having links to their content rather than seeking to maximise such links? Facebook Terms and Conditions: It would be useful to gain a better understanding of the Faceboom terms and conditions and the implications for an organisation’s pages in order to inform appropriate risk management approach. If the concern is that Facebook will claim ownership of marking material provides, is that really of concern? 29/10/2009
  • 73. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 73 of 616 Explore Possibilities for Facebook Applications: Might there be benefits in developing Facebook applications to make the UK HEI pages more appealling? But have we, in the UK, missed the boat? Looking at the timetable for the forthcoming Eduweb 2009 conference I notice sessions on topics such as “Facebook — a case study of building virtual relationships“, “Cheap, Fast, & Out of Control: Brand management & recruitment..” and “Recruiting and Marketing in the Web 2.0 World“. We’ve nothing along these lines planned for IWMW 2009 – but as the bar camp sessions can be submitted at the workshop itself, perhaps there’s an opportunity to build on these ideas? Oh, and if you think it is inappro[oriate for an organisation to make use of a social network in this way, look at what companies such as Starbucks and McDonalds are doing on Facebook. Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (8) Have You Claimed Your Personal And Institutional Facebook Vanity URL? Saturday, June 13th, 2009 Short URLs for Personal Facebook Accounts The Facebook vanity URL landrush began at 9 PM PST (5 am in the UK). I woke up early and claimed my personal short URL for my Facebook page at about 06.30 (actually I wasn’t awake early enough as the obvious short form had already been claimed). Now I won’t divulge this short form of my Facebook ID as I don’t necessarily want you trying to befriend me just because you read this blog. But I now have a much easier way of sharing my Facebook details with people I may wish to befriend in Facebook – previous they had to search through the large numbers of ‘Brian Kellys’ or I had to give them my email address. The short form is much more convenient. Short URLs for Organisational Facebook Accounts You can also claim short Facebook URLs for an organisational Facebook page – provided you had more than 1,000 fans before the cut-off date. Again if you are in this position this strikes me as a no-brainer – as described in a TechCrunch article you should go to and log into Facebook. And then enter your preferred name. That’s it. Earlier this morning I discovered that some of my Twitter contacts had already got a short name for their institution. Mike Nolan announced first thing that his institution has claimed edgehilluniversity and slightly later Matthew Cock took the opportunity to promote a group on the britishmuseum’s Facebook account. Both Matthew and Mike had already made there plans for claiming a short form for their organisational Facebook account. Keele University had also made their plans, pre-registering their institutional name as a trademarked name – but then subsequently encountering difficulties in using this name. “Somehow Feel Dirty After Minting Fb URL” Despite the ease of getting such short URLs, a number of my Twitter contacts seems very discomforted with the notion. Now I understand why people may not approve of Facebook, but if they, or their institution, do have Facebook accounts then surely it’s only sensible to make access to the Facebook pages easier? And in the case of institutional pages which are used to market the institution, then surely we should be expected the marketing departments to have spend 10 seconds or so on a Saturday morning to claim the short name which can, if so desired, be used in marketing materials. And I would hope that rather more time would have been spend in selecting the short name – poppletonuniversity, poppleton-universityor university-of-poppleton, for example. Or perhaps there’s even a case for 29/10/2009
  • 74. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 74 of 616 Discussion So tell me, what is the logic in having a personal or institutional Facebook account and keeping the long form for its address? Or are the tweets I’ve been seeing simply a minority view from the ideological purists (the 21st century equivalent of the Tooting Popular Front?) Of course, it may be that your institution hasn’t claimed the short name as it doesn’t know who owns the acount! But that’s another matter. Institutional ownership of services in the Social Web is worthy of a post in itself. Filed in Facebook | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (10) "#firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine" Friday, June 12th, 2009 Recently the FireFox browser has been crashing on me. But because FireFox is a Good Thing TM I’ve tending to gloss over the problems (we do this for our loved ones, don’t we). But when the browser started to crash consistently when embedded images in this blog I decided enough was enough. I’ve moaned a bit on Twitter about FireFox over the past few days and was interested to see that other people had had similar experiences. So I thought I’d try and find out how widespread this problem might be. In order to minimise the time and effort in analysing responses I sent the tweet: Firefox is crashing frequently. Is this true for others? Respond with #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine. Please RT. I then used the search capabilities in Tweetdeck to search for tweets containing #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine (bearing in mind that retweets would contain both strings. The response are illustrated in the screen shot (or you can see the live search results for #firefoxcrashes and #firefoxisfine). 29/10/2009
  • 75. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 75 of 616 There seems to be growing evidence that FireFox is not as reliable as we might have expected. And as I know a number of the people who responded I am confident that these responses aren’t coming from people who think that open source software is some form of communism, but from people who prefer the FireFox browser to Internet Explorer. The next question might be “what is the cause of the problem?” A couple of people suggested it might be FireFox plugin bloat or maybe problems with specific FireFox plugins. The final question is “what do I do next?” Tolerating the problem was no longer acceptable, so I wondered whether I should use Google Chrome (which is installed on my PC) as my main browser. But I also wondered whether it would be timely to try out a new browser, But rather than installing Apple’s Safari browser, which a couple of people suggested, I decided to try out Flock. However during the installation of Flock I also restarted my PC, which had been put in hiberation at the end of the working day for a while. And as there were various plugins I was missing I decided to restart FireFox – which I’m now finding is working fine. So I think I’ll stick with FireFox unless the problems re-occur. But to me the ease of getting a rapid and semi-structured response from Twitter was the most interesting part of the exercise. A couple of people responded asking for details of my operating system I was running, FireFox version number, installed plugins, etc. Now I could have set up a SurveyMonkey form to gather such information – but I know that not many would have responded. I feel that the important thing was that the survey was available from within the recipient’s environment – they could immediately respond from whichever Twitter client they were using. What, though, of the others for whom #firefoxcrashes? What do you intend to do? Opera, Chrome, Safari, Flock – or even the other browser? 29/10/2009
  • 76. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 76 of 616 Filed in Twitter, browser | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) The JISC SIS Landscape Study Wednesday, June 10th, 2009 The JISC is funding a landscape study on the UK HE sector use of content, communication and social networking services developed by commercial companies (or, perhaps more accurately, outside of the JISC sector). As we know although JISC has developed a number of services specifically for use within the UK higher and further education sector (e.g. Jorum, JISCmail, etc.) people within the sector are increasingly using services developed outside the sector, either in addition to – or in some cases instead of – JISC-provided services. Since evidence of this usage is fragmented and often anecdotal, the JISC SIS Landscape study aims to provide a snapshot of the current situation in the UK. My colleagues Ann Chapman and Rosemary Russell are leading this work and have set up the JISC SIS Landscape Study blog to facilitate their work. We welcome contributions to this blog in order to collate evidence on how such services are being used within the sector. Please note that JISC are primarily interested in use of such services within the UK higher and further education sectors. If you are outside this sector, feel free to contribute but please make it clear in your comments the sector you work or study in. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) There Is No Institutional Blueprint for Web 2.0 – So Let's Develop One Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 Last week I gave a talk on “The ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ Report: Implications For IT Service Departments” to staff in BUCS (the Bath University Computer Services Department. The following day, as she described in a blog post, Chris Sexton, IT Services Director at the University of Sheffield and UCISA chair, facilitated a similar session on “IT Service 2.0“. Chris concluded that “There was a general acceptance of the conclusions of the report which was that Universities need to change, and that change will be driven by students and what they will demand“. Such comments could also apply to the discussions at the BUCS seminar. And the reservations which Chris described: “However, there was some opinion expressed that the report was an exaggeration of the change that web 2.0/social web will make in students. There was also a concern that we could be in the situation of using technology to cut costs – to deliver more with less – to the detriment of what a University education means“. also reflected some concerns which were aired here at Bath. Both of these events were based on the recent report on the recent “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” CLEX report. One of the points made in the report was the lack of a clear institutional blueprint for action: Decisions on whether or not to implement Web 2.0 technologies are, however, the responsibility of each institution individually having regard to its particular ethos and circumstances. Here, experience can be shared, but there is no blueprint for action and, indeed, it may not be possible to develop a blueprint in an area that is so highly context specific. Senior managers in IT Services at the Universities of Bath and Sheffield have started the discussions regarding such an institutional blueprint. I’m also aware of a forthcoming Web Community event at the University of Bradford which will address how the Web can be used to support the University’s mission and objectives. 29/10/2009
  • 77. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 77 of 616 Is there scope, I wonder, for an event for the community on exploiting the potential of Web 2.0 which could help in the process of developing an institutional blueprint? In November 2006 UKOLN organised an event on “Exploiting the Potential of Wikis” followed a year later by a similar one-day event on “Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks“. Both of these events, which were fully subscribed, provided an opportunity to explore some of the policy issues associated with provision of or access to wikis, blogs and social networks. I think we are now in a situation in which we need to address the institutional issues associated with use of services in ‘The Cloud’ (e.g. sustainability, reliability, and legal issues) , the relationships between the bottom-up and personal use of networked services and the institutional provision of such services and the relevance of ‘Social Web’ technologies to support teaching and leaning and research activities within our institutions. I’ll start exploring the possibilities of organising such an event. I’d welcome suggestions on the topics which should be addressed at such an event and possible speakers. I’ll conclude by sharing the resources for the talk I gave at Bath. The slides are available on Slideshare (and embedded below) and a video of my talk is available on Vimeo. In addition local-hosted copies of the resources are also available on the UKOLN Web site. [slideshare id=1558270&doc=social-web-090610015810-phpapp02] Please note that this post originally had a link to an incorrect version of the slides (a version which had been uploaded to a guest account). The post has been updated with a link to and an embedded versionof the managed resource. However the original version of the slides has not been deleted. Filed in Events, Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Who'll Last Longer – Gordon or Google? Monday, June 8th, 2009 On Friday I gave a talk on Benefits of the Social Web at the Association of Independent Museum’s (AIM) annual conference. In the subsequent workshop sessions the issue of the sustainability of the services provided by companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr was raised. In response I asked “Which do you think is likely to be more sustainable – Gordon Brown or Google?” And that was a question I asked before I heard Friday’s announcement that DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) was no more, being replaced by DBIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills). Now the question of the sustainability of instiuional services is something I’ve raised previously, ever since the Guardian had a front page article on the Secret List of Universities Facing Collapse, which I described in a post entitled “Universities, Not Facebook, May Be Facing Collapse“. But this news item (which the Guardian subsequently admitted was inacurate) was concerned with higher educational institutions which were in financial difficulties. The demise of DIUS made lead us to the situation in which well-regarded bodies and initiatives cease to be funded due to political manouvering in Westminster, Matt Jukes, whilst admitting that he is “no expert on the comings and goings in Westminster” goes on to add that “I really don’t see how this can be anything but bad news for FE and HE“. I would agree with this – as, it would seem, would many people I know on Twitter who sharing similar misgivings since the announcement on Friday. Indeed Andy Powell created a Wordle map of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill press release which formed the basis of discussion on the lack of any mention of learning and the emphasis on skills and the economy. And such concerns shoudn’t be restricted to the higher education sector. I suspect we’ll see other significant changes which affect public sector organisations such as libraries, museums and archives, either before or after the election. 29/10/2009
  • 78. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 78 of 616 Shouldn’t we now be including the dangers that our funding bodies and government quangos won’t be around for very much longer in our risk assessments and scenario planning exercises? And just as IBM has lived through the rise and fall of several generations of governments and government policies, might not Google provide a level of stability amid the current uncertainies in the government? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) "Wanna chat with me on cam?" Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 Last year we set up a Ning social network to support the IWMW 2008 event. Afterwards I forgot about the network until a few days ago I was alerted that a number of members had received spam messages. And on checking I discovered that Lucile Sawyer was sending messages asking others “Wanna chat with me on cam?, come see me here You’ll enjoy it. I promise!!!!” And on checking the membership details I discovered that Genvieve has a twin sister called Lucile Sawyer, as you can see. I have now banned Lucile and Genvieve and changed the registration options for the site, so that any new members have to be approved. The lesson I’ve learnt – there’s a need to change the settings for social networks set up to support events after the event is over. I still prefer to make it easy to subscribe to such services, however, in order to avoid any delays caused by the need to accept new subscriptions manually. Filed in Social Networking | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) The Ethical Mobile? (No, not the iPhone!) Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 Dave Flanders recently published a blog post which gave an Independent UK Hardware Review of HTC Magic (Vodaphone) vs HTC G1 (T-Mobile). The blog post (and embedded video clip) made a case for the HTC Magic mobile phone (which uses Google’s Android open source operating system) in preference to Apple’s iPhone for several reasons and concluded with an ethical argument: Ethical computing! <–! Last but certainly not least (IMHO)–> In an age of global financial crisis and corporate bastardising the technology we decide to spend our money on says a lot for how we want the world to turn out for the next generation. In my opinion using an Open Source phone (like Android) says you want a world where we as a global community decide what we want, NOT one where a company decides how we want it. Choice is yours, but this phone proves without a doubt that you can have both the ethical openness of Open Source while still having all the functionality and services of a proprietary company. Truly, this could be the first time Open Source is the top of the stack and I can only hope it will stay this way (for a month or two anyways Now a debate of the relative merits of the iPhone and the Google Android device took place following my post on Google’s G1 Phone: “Innovation For Tech Heads” in September 2008 and a follow-up post on The Wow Factor, The Openness, The Developers Environment, … published the following month. That debate appeared to conclude with a concensus of the benefits of the usability of the iPhone, which outweighed the closed nature of the platform, the centralised Apple Store and the costs of the the iPhone. 29/10/2009
  • 79. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 79 of 616 Well I have now got myself a HTC Magic Android device. And have I selected this device based on the ethical considerations which Dave has raised? Of course not! I chose the HTC Magic phone as wanted a device which meant I could be always connected, and not tied to a WiFi network. And I was out of contract I was able to obtain the HTC Magic free-of-charge, with an increase of my monthly tariff from £15 to £20, which included the data rate. And having had the device for a few days I’m enjoying it. I’ve installed a variety of Android applications (all of them free) included an email client (K9), an RSS reader (NewsRob), a couple of GPS applications, a Twitter client (Twidroid), a barcode reader (to experiment with), Quikipedia (for cheating in pub quizzes), Skype, Shazam and Last.FM. For me the deciding factors were the cost and usability – and the iPhone’s better usability isn’t enough to outweigh its costs. And although this might not be a fashionable comment to make in developers’ circles, the ethical issues which Dave has described have IMHO little to do with the selection of mobile phones. You just need to ask an iPhone user to see the truth of this. Now where are the other HTC Magic users to chat to and discuss the cool apps to install? Filed in Gadgets | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Google Wave, HTML 5 and Browser Policies Monday, June 1st, 2009 Over the past few days the Twitterverse seems tobe full with of discussions regarding Google’s announcement of Wave. The Techcrunch article on “Google Wave Drips With Ambition. A New Communication Platform For A New Web” is worth reading. But I was also interested to read a couple of blog posts on how Google Wave might be used to support teahcing and learning and research activities within higher educational instituions. In a post entitled”Google Wave and teaching & learning” Wilber Kraan, who works for JISC CETIS, described how a technology like Google Wave has the potential to support a social constructivist’s model based on group collaboration activities, especially those that can be constructed, annotated or modified collaboratively. And whilst Wilbert feels that Google is “evil” he feels that “a technology like Google Wave has the potential to impact this area significantly” and as Social Networking isn’t a market in which Google dominates, Google “needs to play nice and open“. Meanwhile over on the Science in the Open blog Cameron Neylon feels that “OMG! This changes EVERYTHING! – or – Yet Another Wave of Adulation“. Cameron, a research scientist who is an unapologetic evangelist for open science, describes how, up till now “Those of us interested in web-based and electronic recording and communication of science have spent a lot of the last few years trying to describe how we need to glue the existing tools together, mailing lists, wikis, blogs, documents, databases, papers“. But Google Waves seems to have fundamentally changed things (if the service lives up to the hype): The lack of a framework to glue various communications and collaboration tools together “as far as I can see has now ceased to exist. The challenge now is in building the right plugins and making sure the architecture is compatible with existing tools. But fundamentally the framework seems to be there. It seems like it’s time to build“. An exciting future, if Google Wave lives up to the hype, for the learning and research communities, it would seem. And therefore Google Wave could be of particular important to the higher education community. There will be lots of issue that will have to be addressed, not least the dangers of a monopoly provider and concerns over privacy. But, less emotive, perhaps, but of particular importance to IT Service departments is the question of the browser environment which will be needed to access Google Wave. It appears that Google Wave is an HTML 5 application – and HTML 5 is supported, in part, by all modern Web browsers, with the exception of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – which dominstates he marketplace. Isn’t it time for IT Services department to acknowledge that Internet Explorer is a major barrier to innovation in higher education? Would it be too much to expect a search and destroy operation to be carried out during the summer vacation to the desktop environment across the sector? Or, as a Google member of staff was quoted as saying that Google aim to get it working for all browsers: “People will not have to upgrade their browser to use Wave” maybe not? Perhaps if we find the innovators and early adopters grow to like Google Wave and wish to 29/10/2009
  • 80. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 80 of 616 see it used more widely within or institutions, we’ll also find that it will eventually be made to work in the latest version of Internet Explorer. So maybe the summer’s search and destroy operation could be a less radical search and update operation. Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Defend this Tory MP (yes, really!) Friday, May 29th, 2009 Whilst reading the Guardian’s RSS feed on my iPod Touch on the bus yesterday I came across an article entitled “The internet – a threat to free speech?“. The opening sentence was intriguing “It’s probably not the best time to be seen defending an MP, but here goes“. In the article Padraig Reidy described how “Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has been pilloried for likening the Daily Telegraph’s handling of the MPs’ expenses story to “torture” – drip-feeding information and keeping MPs waiting nervously by the phone each morning, awaiting the dreaded call“. And this complaint, it seems, was published on her blog, in which Nadine Dorries questioned the motives of the Telegraph and its owners, the Barclay brothers. Now although I have little sympathy for Tory MPs, I am concerned with the news that “solicitors acting for the Telegraph and the Barclay brothers sent [a] complaint about not just to Dorries, but to her internet service provider, TDMWeb” which resulted in Dorries’ blog being taken down by the ISP. And although the blog was later restored, it seems that the material the Telegraph and the Barclays found so offensive has been removed. The Blog of Nadine Dorries MP was launched in August 2006. It has a blog policy on the home page stating: “It’s simple. Be nice. If you try and misinterpret the position I have laid out in a blog; if you swear, are rude, abusive, aggressive or threatening, I will not publish. If you want to be any of the above, there are lots of other sites you can go to. This blog is civil, respectful and will try always to be caring (except when in verbally, armed, political combat) I will not tolerate the harsh political, aggressive tones accepted on other blogs. Anyone who breaks these rules will be sent to the naughty step until they learn to behave. I have a very keen nose for Trolls, so beware.“ Although I’ve not read any of the posts on the blog I’m pleased that an MP has been blogging for that length of time. And I’m very concerned that a newspaper can insist that a critical blog post can be removed and that the ISP will cave in. A clear example of the dangers of flaws in the legal system which can cause an ISP to cave into such threats. And we should be pleased we won’t experience such problems in our sector. Of could we? I recently looked at the “IT ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY” at the University of Bath, which covers us of blogs hosted at the University. This states that “You must not use University computing services to harass, defame, libel, slander, intimidate, impersonate or otherwise abuse another person“. It goes on to state that a breach of the AUP can include “Copyright infringement“. Hmm. A search reveals I’ve written several blogs posts containing the words ‘George Bush’ – and they were unlikely to have been complementary! And I’ve also embedded various images, YouTube videos, etc. which may infringe copyright. So if this blog was hosted on the University of Bath blog server there could be a risk that I could face pressure to moderate my posts. A very slight risks, I’ll admit, and I would be prepared to justify the content I’ve published. But if the IT Services department was as easily intimidated as the provider of Dorries’ blog, there might be a risk. I’ve also recently come across consortia agreements which contained a clause that organisations would not publish content which critical of other signatories (this wasn’t the exact wording, please note). So if, for example, JISC has signed up to such an agreement and I was posting on a JISC Involve blog, I might not be able to post anything critical of other partner organisations. Now I don’t think such possibilities are likely. But, in light of the Nadine Dorries incident I think we need to be careful. I could imagine some academics or academic disciplines in which one could envisage tensions between the individual and the institution. And the clause in the JISC Involve blog terms and conditions which states that JISC has the “right (though not the obligation) to, in JISC’s sole discretion (i) refuse or remove any content that, in JISC’s reasonable opinion, violates any JISC policy or is in any way harmful or objectionable” seems to set a 29/10/2009
  • 81. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 81 of 616 particulurly worying precedent – content can be removed if someone in JISC deems it “in any way harmful or objectionable“. I wonder if this post, which expresses concerns over this clause, could be considered objectionable and subject to removal if my blog was hosted on the JISC Involve service? In order to avoid such risks wouldn’t it be desirable to make use of an external blog provider will whom one has a disinterested relationship? And if the service provider in based overseas we might avoid the pressures which have occurred in the Dorries blog case. Wordpress pr Blogger, anyone? And that includes MPs such as Nadine Dorries. Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) The Social Web and the Belbin Model Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 I have previously suggested that although I feel that the Social Web has much to offer that doesn’t mean that I would want everyone to have a blog, to Twitter, to record talks and make them freely available on video sharing services. Rather I feel that these approaches should be available to people who wish to exploit their potential, whether in teaching and learning, research or enriching access to scholarly and cultural resources. But who are the people who may be best suited to using Social Web services in this fashion? A couple of decades ago I took part in a team building workshop during which I was introduced to the Belbin model. On completing the questionnaire on my personal preferences I discovered that I was a plant and a resource investigator. According to Wikipedia these are defined as: Plants are creative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good plant will be bright and free-thinking. Plants can tend to ignore incidentals and refrain from getting bogged down in detail. The Plant bears a strong resemblance to the popular caricature of the absentminded professor-inventor, and often has a hard time communicating ideas to others. The Resource Investigator gives a team a rush of enthusiasm at the start of the project by vigorously pursuing contacts and opportunities. He or she is focused outside the team, and has a finger firmly on the pulse of the outside world. Where a Plant creates new ideas, a Resource Investigator will quite happily steal them from other companies or people. A good Resource Investigator is a maker of possibilities and an excellent networker, but has a tendency to lose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget small details. Are these characteristics still true, I wonder? And do they reflect the way I use Social Web tools, such as this blog? As I defined the role of this blog as an environment to provide “an opportunity for me to ‘think out loud“: i.e. describe speculative ideas, thoughts which may occur to me, etc. which may be of interest to others or for which I would welcome feedback” I think I have been using the blog to support my preferences as a plant. I most definitely use the blog to pursue contacts and opportunities beyond my host institution. And as well as sometimes creating new ideas (such as the holistic approach to Web accessibility) I will also “quite happily steal them from other companies or people” (though I do always try to provide links back to the original ideas, whether in blog posts or even tweets). Is the Belbin model useful in identifying the characteristics of those who enjoy blogging and micro-blogging, I wonder? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Belbin | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) Reflections on Use of Twitter at the #CILIP-CYMRU09 Conference Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 29/10/2009
  • 82. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 82 of 616 Last week I gave a talk on “Virtual Space for All: The Opportunities and Challenges Provided By The Social Web 2.0” at the CILIP Wales, Welsh Libraries, Archives and Museums Conference 2009. The organisers, Mandy Powell in particular, were keen on building on the success of the amplification of the recent CILIP2 open meeting by encouraging exploitation of the conference’s WiFi network though use of Twitter with the conference tag ‘#cilip -cymru09‘. Although the numbers of twitterers were small I thought it was interesting to observe and reflect on the ways in which Twitter was being used and the possible benefits it can provide as usage grows. Jane Stevenson of the Archives Hub, MIMAS, University of Manchester, was the main conference twitterer. As can be seen for the accompanying image, Jane provided a running commentary of the talks (in this case my talk) with, on a number of occasions, links provided to the resources being described, such as the link to the National Library of Wales community wiki at What we have here is potentially an accessibility benefit, provided by the textual transcript of a talk. In contrast a tweet by BeccaDavies, who chaired my session which asked “have we ritualised our reasons for not allowing access to web 2.0 – can we remember why? #cilip-cymru09” provided me with a new insight into my talk (a talk which I have given on a number of occasions recently). Have established a number of unthinking reasons for not engaging with the Social Web? I’d not thought of it in those terms before. Bob McKee, CEO of CILIP, in his introductory comments for the panel session, suggested that as well as the physical space provided by libraries and the virtual space which I described, there is also an internal space, where the learning takes place. A tweet by MartinNHW commented on this remark: “#cilip-cymru09 Bob McKee – re Martyn Wade: space between our ears – echoes of JG Ballard’s inner space – as well as physical and virtual“. Afterwards I heard Bob remark that he hadn’t made the connection with JG Ballard’s ‘inner space’, but seemed to welcome this analogy. Again we are seeing how Twitter can provide differing perpectives on a talk, which can help enrich the learning for others. 29/10/2009
  • 83. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 83 of 616 We are starting to see a number of posts describing experiments in using Twitter in lectures, such as Where for art thou Twitter? on the Classroom 2 blog, and The Twitter Experiment – Bringing Twitter to the Classroom at UT Dallas on the Kesmit-ing blog, Classroom idea: Twitter note-taking on Steve Outing’s blog, and Embracing the Twitter Classroom on the Huffington Post. We’ll be seeing much more of this, I suspect. Filed in Twitter | Tagged #cilip-cymru09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) You Care About Innovation? Then Tell Me What You Think, Not Who You Work For! Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 I recently commented how Twitter provides a means for not only finding out and discussing new ideas but also establishing and developing new professional relationships. And sometimes the contacts may take place initially in the blogosphere which can then be supported by discussions, or even just listening, on Twitter. But how easy do we make it for others to establish new contacts and engage in discussions in this way? I was thinking about this in the context of a comment made recently by Nicole Harris who described how “the fact that I am connected to JISC in my e-mail address is important…“. As I wanted to read Nicole’s blog to see what else she’d written on this topic I Googled “Nicole Harris JISC Blog” - and found that her staff page on the JISC Web site was the first hit. This page provided contact details (including her JISC email address) and a brief summary of her areas of work – but no link to her blog. I had to scan through the Google results more carefully before finding her JISC Access Management Team blog – and, interestingly the link was to a post entitled “The opinions expressed on this blog are only the opinions of…?” which concluded with the questions: - As a manager at JISC, should my blog posts reflect my personal opinions or that of the corporate body of JISC? - How can senior managers within our organisations best understand the role of web2 platforms so we don’t get our wrists slapped for being vocal on such platforms? - Should we be vocal on such plaforms? - Should policies be governed by communication mode (i.e. blogging), platform (JISC Involve versus general Wordpress) or job role (would this policy be different for me and mark, who now lives in JISC Collections but continues to blog with me)? Now a discussion about the contents of a blog is worthy of another post. In this post my interest is in how one’s active participation in innovation can be surfaced for the wider community. Shouldn’t it be the address of the blog which is included in one’s profile in various social networking services (e.g. Link-in). And shouldn’t a staff page on one’s organisational Web site link to the place where views and opinions are being surfaced and discussions take place? Surely if you care about innovation (which I know Nicole does) then you’ll make it easy for your user community and your peers to find out what you think and help then to engage in the discussions and debate? And these days that is increasingly likely to take place on blogs and via Twitter. And the debate never took place on instituional Web sites, did it? Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) How Do New Ideas Start? How Do New Contacts Develop? Monday, May 18th, 2009 29/10/2009
  • 84. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 84 of 616 The Question How do you ideas start? How can a informal conversation lead to an exploration of new ideas? How do such conversations start? And how does one participate in such conversations, especially with new people? These were a series of questions which occurred to me a few days ago, following some early morning light- hearted banter on Twitter. I thought I’d share the dialogue and invite comments on the more general issues. The Twitter Discussions At 7 am on Friday 15th May 2009 I got up and downloaded the new tweets on my iPod Touch. I noticed that James Clay had spotted that the “Latest upgrade to TwitterFon on the iPhone now includes Ads. There will be a paid for Pro version which doesn’t“. As I was using Twitterfon to view the tweet I had an interest in alternative Twitter clients, in case the ads on the new version were to intrusive. In response to my query on alternatives Joss Winn responded by suggesting that “if you’re going to pay, Tweetie is worth every penny“. Now I’ve not met Joss (as far as I know) but, a few months ago started following him on Twitter and subscribe to his blog. In order to put his suggestion into context, I visited his blog and spotted his (then current) post on “The user is in control“. This post was written in response to Andy Powell’s post about Identity in a Web 2.0 World and contained some comments which reflected my view of how Web 2.0 is requiring higher education to challenge some of the assumptions we have previously taken for granted (in particular that higher educational institutions should regard themselves as automatically the main provider of a student’s digital identity). As I appreciated Joss’s work in this area, I tipped my hat in his direction with a tweet posted at 07:23 saying “Ta for suggesting Tweetie app. BTW have just looked at your blog & will cite your post on “The user is in control” l8tr today“. I’d made links with a new contact before 07.30 am. When I arrived at work forthy minutes later Joss had responded with a jocal tweet: responded shortly afterwards saying “excellent A citation from Brian Kelly surely counts towards the REF!“. And in a similar vein I made fun on the notion that citing tweets would have any relevance to REF (the Research Exercise Framework alternative to the RAE for identifying the merits of research publications: “A citation from Brian Kelly surely counts towards the REF!” True – so if I cite u, will u cite me? (hmm should have DMed that!)”. Martin Weller observed this dialogue and joined in by suggesting that “semi-seriously we should work up our own set of metrics of reputation etc so we can compare when REF is done“. Following a few further tweets between Martin, Joss and myself a few hours later Martin published a blog post on “What would ALT-REF look like?“. The blog post included an image (shown below) which captured the discussions: 29/10/2009
  • 85. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 85 of 616 Discussion Martin Weller’s suggestion was that an alternative to REF would “take in the sort of distributed identity we have online, so measures activity in blogging, delicious, slideshare, YouTube, twitter, etc. It would need to measure not just activity but influence, impact, etc in some data driven manner“. Whether this idea has any merits might be worth exploring on Martin’s blog. My more specific interest is how the people who may be working together across the “blogging, delicious, slideshare, YouTube, twitter, etc” services might find each and share ideas which, at some later point, might provide significant benefits. Martin and myself have already benefitted from the discussions we’ve had on Twitter and from reading and commenting on each other’s blog posts, with the shared understanding we’ve gained having led to a submission for a workshop session at the ALT-C conference which we’ll be faciliting at the conference in September. I have also received contributions to a number of peer-reviewed papers from contacts I’ve met on Twitter. Thinking about this in more detail, I realise that typically I might start following someone on Twitter if I feel I might gain something from this, such as new insights into digital library developments, use of Web 2.0, digital preservation, etc. If I do find myself following links embedded in tweets or enjoying contributions to a twitter discussion I might look at the Twitterer’s blog (if, as is often the case, they have one) and subscribe to it so I can read their ideas in more depth on their blog. And this might then lead to further sharing of ideas and possibly joint work. But if you don’t tweet or don’t blog then you are likely to be invisible to me. This, I’m sure, won’t be of concern to many people! But, more generally, won’t a failure to have a presence in the blogosphere, on Twitter and in other social media which are being increasingly used in certain sectors of the research community result in a failure to have one’s ideas being known about and opportunities to engage with others being missed? Speculation on my part, I’ll admit. And there will be a need to gather evidence. So I’ve provided my anecdote. Anyone had similar experiences? Filed in Twitter, Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Not Your Father's IT Innovation! Friday, May 15th, 2009 Yesterday a leader column in The Guardian suggested that the current global economic crisis is “Not your father’s recession“. Rather than being simply the latest downturn in a economic cycle which has been with us since 1945 the leader writer feels that this recession is very different from those we (and our parents) have experienced in the past. On the same day Andy Powell on the eFoundation’s blog invites us to consider The role of universities in a Web 2.0 world? Andy feels that the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX)’s report on “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” should have sought to address the question”what is the role for universities in a Web 2.0 world?” rather than “how do universities best use Web 2.0 to enhance their current practice?” Similarly Andy feels the the recent CILIP2 Open Session missed an opportunity to address the fundamental issue of”What is the role of an organisation like CILIP in a Web 2.0 world?” instead discussing the much safer question of “how should CILIP use Web 2.0 to engage with its members?“. Andy’s post concludes by suggesting that “if Web 2.0 changes everything, [he] see[s] no reason why that doesn’t apply as much to professional bodies and universities as it does to high street bookshops“. Or to put it another way, it’s not just about sometimes slow-moving institutions eventually accepting the importance of the IT innovations which the early adopters have been talking about – and using – for some time now. Rather we don’t just have to develop the “best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0” which I suggest. This needs to be done (and I’ve very pleased that the CLEX report and the CILIP community seem to have accepted this) – but we also need to look closely at the roles which our institutions have traditionally played and the services they have provided and questions whether these are still needed. 29/10/2009
  • 86. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 86 of 616 On one level support services in our institutions need to question their traditional roles. Is there a need for IT Service departments, for example, to continue to provide and host mainstream services such as email. In her blog Chris Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield and UCISA chair has described proposals to move its email service for students to Google – and the comments from the users on her blog seems very positive. And how should academic libraries respond to the wide range of information sources of available ‘out there’ . The traditional approach has been to ensure that information literacy provision allows users to be able to differentiate between quality controlled sources of information, such as academic journals, and widely used services such as Wikipedia which don’t provide such managed approaches to quality. But as we have recently discovered that publishers of research journals such as Elsevier publish fake academic publications, it would seem that such traditional notions are already questionable. Put as well as the provision of services such as email we also need to question whether it is desirable for institutions to provide email addresses for staff and students. Since email is used to authenticate registration and subsequent changes for many Web 2.0 services, what will happen when people leave the institution and thus can no longer use their email address? Wouldn’t it be sensible for institutions to advice students on short course and staff on short-term contracts to use an email account which can still be used when they leave if they wish to use Web 2.0 services, whether for social or academic purposes? And if so, how short is a short course? A diploma, lasting a few months? A 1 year MSc? Or a 3 year undergraduate course? This is part of a wider discussion about identify in a Web 2.0 world, and the focus of another post on the eFoundations blog. “Identity in a Web 2.0 world is not institution-centric” argues Andy; a view strongly supported by Paul Miller. Joss Winn explores these issues in more depth in a blog post entitled “The user is in control” in which he describes a blueprint outline which recognises that “University students are at least 18 years old and have spent many years unconsciously accumulating or deliberately developing a digital identity” and will increasingly question and resist the idea that the instituion will impose a new digital identity. What, then, “is the role for universities in a Web 2.0 world?” to revisit Andy’s question? And will a combination of the continuing economic recession, possible implications of global warming and the availability of Open Educational Resources does the traditional higher education institution have a future? And if you point out the failure of the UK eUniversity (see The Real Story Behind the Failure of U.K. eUniversity – PDF) to argue for a continuation of the status quo I’ll suggest that that provides a valuable learning experience, illustrating some of the ways approachs to radical transformation of the sector which we now know to avoid. Web 2.0 is not just the latest in a series of IT developments (ranging from mainframes, mini-computers, workstations, standalone PCs, PCs on a LAN, PCs with Internet and Web access to today;s mobile devices) which institutions have successfully absorbed and integrated into the mainstream, I feel. It’s not your father’s IT innovations – it’s something much more radical. And if you deny this aren’t you behaving in a similar fashion to the music industry, which refused to acknowledge that developments such as the Internet, mobile music players and P2P networks fundamentally changed how the industry needed to operate? Or is this a tongue-in-cheek post, which I’ll be happy to distance myself from in a few year’s time? To be honest, I don’t know. What do you think? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged clex09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) The Launch of the CLEX09 Report Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 Yesterday morning I wrote a blog post about the report on “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” published by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX). In the afternoon I went to the Barbican Centre London in order to attend the official launch of this report. It was good to meet up with Sir David Melville, who chaired the Committee of Inquiry, and Ewan McIntosh, both of whom spoke at the launch event. The two speakers had also spoken at UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshops, incidentally, Sir David in 2003 and Ewan McIntosh at last year’s event. I think it is fair to say that the “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” report does not provide any new insights for those who have been actively involved in the Web 2.0 world over the past few years. What it does provide, 29/10/2009
  • 87. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 87 of 616 however, is senior management endorsement for the work of those of us who have been involved in promoting and exploiting the potential of Web 2.0 and the Social Web within higher education. And the list of recommendations should be closely looked at by policy makers and senior managers as well as those of us who, like me, will be welcoming this report. I brought along a digital camera (which could also take video recordings) to the meeting and, with permission of the two speakers, recorded their two talks (I also recorded the third speaker, Wes Streeting, President of the NUS but haven’t been able to upload it). The videos of Sir David Melville (13 mins long) and Ewan McIntosh (16 mins long) have been uploaded to the Vimeo service. It is not possible (I understand) to embed the Vimeo video player in this blog. However clicking on the images below will take you to the Vimeo Web site. What do you think of their views of the future for Higher Education in a Web 2.0 world? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged clex09 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) "Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World" Report Published Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 The CLEX Final Report The final report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX) entitled” Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” has just been published. The report built on work which began last year included a “Report of the review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education” (available in PDF Format) to which I contributed the section which provided a history of use of Web 2.0 in the UK. Article In Today’s Education Guardian The official launch of the CLEX report has been accompanied by an article entitled ”Time to get with the program” published in today’s Education Guardian. As I mentioned in a blog post on How Is HE Embracing Web 2.0? How Is Web 2.0 Changing HE?” published yesterday I had been interviewed by the author of the article, Anthea Lipsett, last week. The article in the Guardian begins with a description of a student experience which is at ease with the social web: The “Google generation” of today’s students has grown up in a digital world. Most are completely au fait with the microblogging site Twitter; they organise their social lives through Facebook and MySpace; 75% of students have a profile on at least one social networking site. And they spend up to four hours a day online. 29/10/2009
  • 88. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 88 of 616 The article cites the CLEX report ’s conclusions that although UK Universities are doing “pretty well” there are “major issues to address if universities and colleges are to keep up with these changes in student practice and attitude” since “use of Web 2.0 … is far from systematic in universities” and is “driven by enthusiastic individuals who have embraced the opportunities it offers” . Discussion The CLEX report is very positive in its views on the potential of Web 2.0 in higher education. The report provides a series of recommendation including, for example, the recommendation that that “JISC continues to develop a research and support programme into the use of Web 2.0 for all aspects of university business“. Should this be regarded by higher educational institutions as encouragement to make more systematic use of the Wocial Social Web? After all, today’s Guardian includes, as well as the Education supplement, a University Guide supplement which contains on the front page an article on “Tweet and lowdown” which describes how “most univerities are so desperate to come across as cool that they’ve joined Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and are happy to meet you online” and how “a lot of institutions offer free podcasts of lectures and tutorial recordings via their individual websites or Apple’s portal iTunesU“. Evidence that Universities are successfully embracing Web 2.0 technologies (despite the snide remark about ‘desparation’)? Or should we be concerned regarding the way in which social networking technologies are being institutionalised to support marketing purposes? In our contribution to the “Time to get with the program?” article myself and Professor Martin Weller both warned of the dangers of institutions “infiltrating Facebook”. Martin described how “If you ask students: do you want the university to come on Facebook, the answer is no. They don’t want their professor as a friend” and I questioned whether “universities [need] to get involved in … informal learning” which can be supported by social networking environments. But what if Martin and myself are wrong? After all the CLEX report concluded with a quotation from a student: I think it’s great to have tutors/university staff on Facebook. After all, it is supposed to be a social community network and I think they [deserve] the right to have their own community or form a network with students (if the students are willing). The answer to this dilemma should be addressed by another of the recommendations of the CLEX final report: “JISC works with the HE funding bodies and Universities UK to explore issues and practice in the development of new business models that exploit Web 2.0 technologies“. We haven’t yet identified the best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0. But the report makes it quite clear that we need to be asking these questions. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged clex | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) How Is HE Embracing Web 2.0? How Is Web 2.0 Changing HE? Monday, May 11th, 2009 On Thursday I received a message followed by a subsequent email asking me to contact a journalist at the Guardian newspaper who was writing an article about institutional use of Web 2.0 in higher education. In her email Anthea Lipsett told me that she was writing an article for the Education Guardian about a report on ‘HE in a Web 2.0 World’ due to be published on Tuesday, 12 May 2009. Anthea wanted some background information on whether HE had embraced Web 2.0 technology, how Web 2.0 is changing HE and whether universities keeping pace with the changes and had been given my name as someone to talk to. A challenge for me, then, to give my thoughts on these questions! My initial response was to post a tweet inviting suggestions from my Twitter followers. I then drafted some notes which on some of the key points which I felt might be useful to raise in the interview. Although I didn’t have an opportunity to mentioned all of these points in the brief interview I felt it might be worth expanding on my notes and sharing them on the blog so that others can see how I feel the higher education sector is responding to and engaging with Web 2.0. 29/10/2009
  • 89. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 89 of 616 What is Web 2.0? If you are writing an article about how Web 2.0 is changing higher education and how higher education is responding to Web 2.0 you first need to clarify what you mean by the term ‘Web 2.0′. ‘Network as a Platform’ Web 2.0 could refer to the concept of ‘network as a platform’. In the past I feel that institutional IT service providers have felt threatened by this notion which, in the UK, seems to imply Thatcherite out-sourcing and privatisation. This doesn’t go down well with the Guardian and Independent readers you will typically find in the university sector! However back in 2006 at the UCISA management Conference I gave a talk on “IT Services: Help Or Hindrance?” in which I argued there was a need to embrace the mixed economy of in-house and external providers of IT services. I was pleased (and slightly surprised) to discover a willingness to accept such changes – this was a very different response to my “A Controversial Proposal” talk which I gave to an audience of institutional Web managers back in 2000 which, in retrospect, made similar arguments but at a time in which the underlying technical infrastructure and business models had not been established. I think now, however, IT services departments are much more comfortable with embracing ’services in the Cloud’. As an example, see the recent blog post on “Google for students” by Chris Sexton, IT Services Director at the University of Sheffield and UCISA Chair in which she described how a “project group agreed to recommend that we outsource our service to Google and implement Google mail and calendar in the first instance – possibly moving to more of the apps later such as Google docs” and then went on to add “first major service we’ve outsourced, but I suspect that over the next few years it won’t be the last“. Culture of Openness Web 2.0 also embraces a culture of openness. And this is an area in which the higher education community has taken a high profile in for several years. The research community has been pro-active in promoting open access to research publication, with advocates such as Professor Stevan Harnard playing a prominent role in promoting alternative business models which can enable research publications to be freely available for use by others whilst maintaining editorial and peer reviewing processes which are essential for maintaining the quality of research outputs. This culture of openness is increasingly being applied in other areas of higher education, such as open educational resources, with the JISC funding an Open Educational Resources Programme) to expand on the amount of educational content which is available. Similar initiatives are being taken to open access to scientific data as can be seen from the blog posts of open science advocates such as Professor Peter Murray-Rust and Cameron Neylon. Blogs, Wikis, … But rather than the more philosophical aspects of Web 2.0, perhaps the issues concern the provision of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis. The University of Warwick was the first UK university to provide a blog service for its staff and students. And after some initial concerns about how an institution should go about managing the content I suspect we are now finding that IT Services are starting to regard blogs and wikis as fairly mainstream the higher education sector – that the impression I had after the UKOLN workshop on Exploiting the Potential of Wikis held back in November 2006 and Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks held a year later. Social Networks I suspect, however, that the main area of interest may be how universities are engaging with the Social Web and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. The first example of institutional engagement with such social networking services I was aware of was Edge Hill University, which Alison Wildish (who is now manager of the Web Services team here at the University of Bath) 29/10/2009
  • 90. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 90 of 616 described in a plenary talk on “Let the Students do the Talking…” at the IWMW 2007 event (and note that a video of her talk is available). I suspect that nowadays institutional marketing departments and alumni offices will be familiar with the potential of social networking services and many will have established a presence in popular service such as Facebook. In addition institutions have also started to make use of Twitter as another channel for engaging with their communities. Social Networks Beyond Marketing Of more interest, I feel, is the question of how universities are using social networks to support their teaching and learning activities. And this is probably an area in which there it is more speculative as to is happening beyond the early adopters . I suspect there is also more diversity of opinions on the question of what institutions are seeking to achieve through use of social networks and how institutional policies and decisions should be developed to support such nebulous aims. If we regard social networks as supporting informal learning it may be questionable as to whether institutions need any formal policies beyond not banning their use. After all informal learning has always taken place in universities, in bars, coffee rooms, students kitchens, etc. but we haven’t sought to manage the discussions and interactions. Should we seek to do so in online social spaces? And if we try do, isn’t there a danger that student will simply move to other online spaces? Some Concluding Thoughts I feel it is important that universities should be pro-active in developing and implementing new media literacy strategies for members of their institutions, including members of staff (academic, senior policy makers, …) as well as students. This should not only cover assessment of information found on the Web but also issues related to creation of content and engagement with communities. There will be a need to gather evidence as to the effectiveness of informal learning and the effectiveness of use of social networks in more formal contexts. I suspect there will be a need to understand how the effectiveness of social networks differs across different disciplines and also across different groups of users. And as well as gaining a better understanding of how social networks can support student learning, there is also a need to understand how social networks can enhance the effectiveness of teaching and research staff within our institutions, through, for example, support for communities of practice. This is an area of particular interest to me, with my interests in engaging with and learning from a number of communities related to my professional areas of interest and activities, including standards development, Web accessibility and the broad area of digital library development activities. That’s my summary of how I feel the higher education sector is embracing Web 2.0. I’d welcome your thoughts, comments and observations. Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (9) Reflections on eLib and Other National Digital Library Programmes Sunday, May 10th, 2009 I have been invited to give a talk at the CILIPS Annual Conference 2009 on “Inspiring Excellence: Yourself, Your Service, Our Future” which will take place in Peebles on 1-3rd June 2009. I have been invited to give a talk in a session on “How Far Have We Come?” and the draft title of my talk is “From eLib to NOF-digi and Beyond“. In the talk I’ll give my thoughts on a number of national digital library development programmes which I have had some invovement with: namely eLib, DNER (which was subsequently renamed the JISC Information Environment) and the NOF-digitise programme. Rather than looking at the outputs of such programmes I’ll be exploring the technical guidelines which funded projects were expected to follow. This will include a review of the standards documents developed to support these programmes and some of the important architectural decisions which had an influence across a range of 29/10/2009
  • 91. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 91 of 616 projects. I’ll also explore the things I feel we got write – and also the things we missed or were late in adopting. The intention is to try to inform large-scale initiatives in the future by learning from our successes and failures. I’ll write a number of blog posts in which I’ll describe my thoughts prior to writing the presentation. And I’d welcome comments from people who may have been involved in these programmes or have views and opinions they would like to share. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) IWMW 2009 Event Open For Bookings Friday, May 8th, 2009 This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009) is now open for bookings. This year the 3- day event, which is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams and others with interests in institutional use of Web services, will be held at the University of Essex, Colchester on 28-30th July 2009. Although the event is well-established, having been launched in 1997, the event continues to develop in response to the ever-changing Web environment and the needs and expectations of the Web management community. We will continue to have a number of plenary talks which will provide a shared context for all workshop participants. However this year, in response to feedback we’ve received from previous events, we are splitting the talks (and related workshop sessions) on the second afternoon into two strands: a ‘front-end’ strand which focusses on the services as perceived by the end user and a ‘back-end’ strand which addresses the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities which are needed in order to deliver the user services. We will also continue to provide the parallel workshop sessions. These sessions aim to provide all participants with the opportunity to contribute actively to the sessions, rather than simply sit back and listen to talks! A significant development to the event, which was trialled for the first time last year, are the bar camp sessions. These sessions will be more informal than the workshops, and ideas can be submitted during the event itself. Another new development is the developer’s lounge. We will be encouraging active participation from the development community but will let developers provide a structure to how this will develop. The cost is £350 per person which includes two nights ensuite accommodation (or £300 with no accommodation). The delegate fee includes attendance at the workshop, conference materials, refreshments and lunch, workshop dinner and social events. We hope to see you in July! Filed in Events | Tagged iwmw2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) The "Good Practice for Provision of APIs" Project Thursday, May 7th, 2009 For the past few months my colleague Marieke Guy has been working on the “Good Practice for Provision of APIs” project. As described on the project blog “the ‘Good APIs’ project aims to provide JISC and the sector with information and advice on the factors that encourage use of machine interfaces, based on existing practice“. This work involved working with a community of developers in order to collate and disseminate advice on best practices for the provision of and use of APIs. In addition background information about APIs (what they are and why they are important) was also produced which is aimed primarily at project managers, programme managers and policy makers. An initial report was produced but, following discussions with a number of the stakeholders, it was felt to be more appropriate to provide access to the report using a blog in order to allow discrete parts of the document to be referenced and commented upon. Use of the blog’s comment facility will also provide an opportunity to receive additional feedback from the developer community prior to submission of the final report to JISC. 29/10/2009
  • 92. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 92 of 616 The deadline for comments is 18th May 2009. Once any additional feedback has been incorporated into the report the document will be available as entries on the blog together with a final project report in PDF resource. If you would like to provide feedback, please visit the Good APIs blog site. Filed in Technical | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Lessons Learnt from the Amplification of the CILIP2 Event Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 Reasons for This Post At last week’s CILIP2 Open Session both Phil Bradley and myself argued that there was a need for the Library community to actively engage with Web 2.0 tools and even be prepared to make mistakes. Without making mistakes, it will not be possible to innovate, we argued. We also felt that we should be open about our mistakes, in order to learn from them and to help others in the sector from repeating such mistakes. Such views echo the sentiment expressed by Mia Ridge who, in a blog post about the recent Museums and the Web 2009 conference entitled “Oh noes, a FAIL! Notes from the unconference session on ‘failure’ at MW2009 ” explained her “motivation in suggesting the ['Failure' unconference] session – intelligent, constructive failure is important. Finding ways to create a space for that conversation isn’t something we do well at the moment“. This post is my attempt at explaining aspects of the ‘amplification’ of the CILIP2 open session which failed or could have been improved, and to identify ways in which the next attempt at amplifying a physical event to a wider remote audience can be improved. (Note the term amplified conference was coined by Lorcan Demsey Dempsey and a summary is provided on Wikipedia). Things Which Worked Before describing areas for improvement it is worth summarising the things that worked! I was pleased that the pre-event publicity of use of Twitter at the event succeeded in attracting large numbers of participants, with some, I think, being willing to subscribe to Twitter and possibly even install a Twitter client in order to participate on the day itself. The event organisers played their in supporting the amplification of the event. Caroline Moss-Gibbon, who chaired the event, described the live-blogging at the event and asked the participants physically present at the meeting at CILIP Headquarters to regard any comments they made or questions they asked as being in the public domain. The evnt organisers had also arranged for two official bloggers, who would act as public note-keepers at the event, using both a Twitter channel and a CILIP blog post as a means of keeping the remote audience up-to- date with the talks and discussions. The Twitterfall client which was suggested as a way in which remote participant could keep up-to-date with Twitter posts containing the ‘cilip2′ tag also seemed to prove popular judging from subsequent comments I read of various blog posts. And the goodwill of software developers – in particular Dave Patten – was appreciated by the CILIP community for his transcript of the tweets and his Wordle visualisation of the content of the tweets. I was also pleased to have recorded a slidecast of a rehearsal of my talk prior to the event. A couple of people commented that they had listened to my talk prior to the event which enabled them to have a feel for the issues I would be raising in my talk. Areas For Improvement There are a number of areas in which I felt improvements could have been made. Most of these will not have been apparent to others and so I could feel safe in keeping them to myself. However sharing the experiences with others will remind me to do better next time and will allow others to make additional suggestions. 29/10/2009
  • 93. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 93 of 616 Reporting: After the event it was pointed out to me that the description of ‘official’ Twitterers and bloggers at the event could have been interpretted as a way of ensuring that an official party line was documented which censored any criticisms of CILIP. As Caroline Moss-Gibbons, chair of the CILIP Council, described in her brief report on the session the reporters ”had full editorial freedom of course, no ‘party line’ to follow“. Although Caroline made this point in her introduction to the session, the remote audience would not necessarily have picked up on this. Lesson: next time I feel it would be helpful to provide a Web page about the amplification of the event which explictly clarifies the autonomy of the reporters. Lack of audio/video recordings: I recorded a video of Phil Bradley’s talk at the event using my Nokia N95 mobile phone – but despite having deleted old videos from the memory card the previous day, the phone ran out of memory after only two minutes. I subsequently discovered that the phone was storing the video on its built-in memory rather than using the 2 Gb memory card. Lesson: check configuration options on mobile phone to ensure recordings are being made to correct storage device. I also brought along a digital camera which could take video recordings (and isn’t limited to the 10 minutes of video footage which my personal camera has). I also brought along a tripod to avoid camera shakes. As my intention was to record my own talk I needed a helper to start the recording. Unfortunately no recording was made, possibly because the camera had switched itself off. Lesson: I need to remember that people who I ask to use my digital devices are unlikely to be familiar with them and there will be a need to provide some training. Lack of streaming audio/video: I brought along my Asus EE PC and intended to try out Skype in order to its potential for allowing a remote user to listen in to the two opening talks (and also possibly record the talks). I also brought along a Polycom Communciator device and tested that it worked correctly as a microphone and speaker. Unfortunately although the devices worked correctly I couldn’t connect to the two new Skype contacts who had expressed interest in listening to the talks. This may have been due to user interface problems on my Linux-based Asus EEE. Lesson: I need to authenticate remote users in advance, on user interfaces which I am more familiar with. How Else Could the Event Amplification Have Been Improved? What else could have been done to enhance the amplification of the event to the remote audience and to people who may have wished to hear the talks and discussions but did not have networked access at the time of the event? I am aware that James Clay, e-learning resource manager at Gloucestershire College, has been using Qik at various conferences for some time. I did wonder whether a streaming video service such as Qik might have been used by members of the CILIP2 audience with a suitable mobile phoneand a contract which allowed for data to be transmitted within incurring significant charges. However I suspect that this service is still being used by the early adopters, such as James, and hasn’t yet caught the attention of the early mainstream user community. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for its use at a forthcoming CILIP event? But if members of the audience did not have a device and contarct which could be use for video streaming, I suspect many of them did have mobile phones which culd be used for sound recordings. SHould we have encouraged the audience to record the talks, I wonder? Rather than a single centralised approach, which has a single point of failure (as I’ve described above!) possibly we should be adopting a LORKSS approach (Lots of Recording Keep Safe and Secure). Should we be encouraging others to take recording in order to minimise the risks of failures? Filed in Events, Web2.0 | Tagged cilip2 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) 29/10/2009
  • 94. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 94 of 616 CILIP: More Popular Than Swine Flu! Thursday, April 30th, 2009 Background When Bob McKee, CEO of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) wrote his blog post on “All of a Twitter” we can safely predict that he wouldn”t have expect to CILIP to be featured as one of the topic topics of discussion on Twitter, at one stage, according to one one the Twitter tending tools, seemingly being more widely discussed than swine flu. Bob’s post, which was published back in February, looked at the question of CILIP’s involvement with Twitter. Should a professional organisation such as CILIP make use of Twitter? Bob view, which went beyond discussions of Twitter and addressed the wider use of social networking services hosted outside the institution, was unequivocal: “The simple answer, of course, is no. In terms of “official” activity, cyber life is just like real like – if it happens in a CILIP-sanctioned space, it’s official; if it happens down the pub or in someone else’s space, it isn’t.” Phil Bradley responded with a blog post with an unequivocal title “CILIP – Epic FAIL“ although the tone of the post was measured I like Bob – he’s a nice chap and very personable, but I can’t articulate enough how wrong he is on this issue, though I’ll try. He says ‘There’s some twittering at present about whether CILIP has (or should have) any “official” presence on various lists or micro blog sites. Sorry Bob, but we were discussing this on Twitter two weeks ago. The boat has long since left on this one and we’ve moved onto other things related to CILIP now. and invited CILIP to engage in a wider and more open discussion about how an organisation such as CILIP should be engaging with a Web 2.0 world. CILIP2 Open Meeting Phil was pleased that the CILIP Council responded to his post by arranging an open session on how CILIP could make use of Web 2.0 which was held yesterday afternoon (29 April 2009) after the morning’s Council meeting. I too was invited to speak at the meeting and, like Phil, was delighted to see how the Council had embracinga willingness to make use of Web 2.0 by encouraging live Twittering at the event and publicising it to a wider community who were invited to follow the #cilip2 tag on software such as Twitterfall. The Twitter Channel It was particularly pleasing to see the extent to which the wider CILIP community and other interested parties who couldn’t attend the meeting engaged with use of Twitter to get a feel for the talks and discussions at the Council meeting and also to raise a much wider set of issues about the role of CILIP. The popularity of the #cilip2 discussions became apparent as the Twitterfall display (which was displayed following the two presentations by myself and Phil) began to include posts from a number of Twitter-trending services – and the inclusion of a number of Twitter spam posts. Incidentally for me the spam provides an indication of how Twitter is now mainstream – and if you feel a service shouldn’t be used if it can attract spam, I assume you’re not using email! Incidentally if you wish to see examples of the popularity of the Twitter discusisons you can view the trends shown on the hashtags and Twitscoop services – although as the event is now over we have probably lost a record of the popularity of the tag. 29/10/2009
  • 95. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 95 of 616 The Discussions Dave Pattern, Library systems manager at the University of Huddersfield Library provided a good example of rapid software development when he wrote software to harvest tweets containing the the #cilip2 tag. And not only is a record of the discussions, annotated with the time of posting, now available, a Wordle cloud is also available (and shown below) which provides a visual summary of the topics which were discussed on Twitter. There have already been a couple of blog posts published about the event which I’ll briefly summarise. Alison Williams (a remote participant) felt that the Twitter channel was “excellent in that it was discussing how librarians and specifically CILIP (1) could make use of web 2.0 tools, and it was doing it by…. making use of web 2.o tools! What a good idea!” She also joined in the discussions by “suggest[ing] that CILIP might look to the ALA (American Library Association) as a role model“. Amelia Luzzi appreciated the Twitter channel in her post “Twitter – better than a conference“. She found it useful to be “able to follow the talks at CILIP 2.0, without an expensive trip down to London“. I also found her observation that ” in case you were wondering why video/audio isn’t a better solution – I can discuss what is said with other participants, also in real time: if an interesting comment comes up, the discussion can start amongst us virtual participants in a way that it simply can’t amongst real-life ones. I’ve heard it said, often, that the best bit of a conference is the bit where you end up talking to other participants in the hallway. Following #cilip2 on Twitter has had the feel of that“. That’s an interesting point – live audio and video simply amplifies the one- dimensional publishing aspect of conference whereas successful conferences often provide an environment for two-way(or rather multiple-way) discussions. She concluded “Today, I think I’ve expanded my professional network by about 25%. And, granted, the ties aren’t all that binding – but I now have a way of keeping an eye on what they’re talking about, and engaging them when I feel I have something to add. It’s a great starting point for building a more solid professional relationship“. Neil Ford on the Random Letters blog also felt that “it was fascinating for me to attend an event like this on Twitter”. In answer to the question as to whether any concrete decisions were made on the day Neil felt the he “didn’t pick up on any hard action or proposals. I can’t see that any actual decisions were made by the CILIP top brass“. But rather than this being regarded as a criticism Neil realised that the event “was more about CILIP Council *listening* to it’s members. This is something I’ve never heard of before and I really think CILIP Council deserve a big hats-off for hosting the event”. Carl on the Sinto blog felt that CILIP ”does appear to have been slow to develop a coherent approach to some of the emerging technologies” but felt there was a need for “the more considered responses that will soon appear in blogs and printed articles“. Carl is concerned that although there are “Web 2 savvy professionals who are part of this debate“ we may find that “there is a larger group of web-sceptics who are excluded“. Revisiting The Main Themes of the Day Returning from the remote participants’ views on the day to some of the issues which I (who am not a CILIP members of librarian) picked one on. 29/10/2009
  • 96. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 96 of 616 CILIP As An Enabler A view was expressed at the meetingthat , rather than providing a variety of Web 2.0 services on the CILIP Web site, CILIP shouldact as an enabler, perhaps sharing best practices and patterns of usage, aggragating content provided by members (as CILIP already do with CILIP memebr blogs) and providing directories of CILIP member users of various services which can help members to find like-minded collagues more easily on the various social networking services. Exclusion The dangers that sections of the CILIP membership ould be marginalised though an ainability to access social networkingservices down to organisational poplicies and firewalls, which Carl referred to, was discussed at the meeting. In my talk I suggested that CILIP should have a role to play in gaining a better understanding of such barriers and to explore ways in which organisational concerns, across the various sectors represented within CILIP, can be addressed. I also pointed out the dangers that CILIP members might feel pressured into using social networking tools in areas which are not appropiate and which do not reflect individual styles of working. CILIP and Twitter But what of the question which led to the CILIP2 meeting – should CILIP make use of Twitter? In all of the wider discussions about the role of CILIP we lost sight of that question during the meeting itself. However in the pub afterwards myself, Phil Bradley, Caroline Moss-Gibbon (leader of the CILIP Council) and a few others revisited that question. In my talk I described the risks and opportunities framework which I presented at the recent Museums and the Web 2009 conference. The framework described the need to clarify the purpose of a tool rather than developingpolicies for the tool itself. I illustrated this point by speculating on whether professional organisations in times gone by debated whether they should use new technologies such as the telephone, with the early adopters pointing out the benefits to the organisations whilst others pointed out the dangers that the technology could be used for social purposes and that employees may use the technology to bring the organisation into disrepute in ways that wouldn’t be possible when the established forms of communications (business letters) has editorial and work flow processes in place to minise such risks. My suggestion? CILIP Council should welcome initiatives from CILIP, CILIP branches and CILIP workinggroups in making use of social networking services such as Twitter in ways in which support their business aims. And rather than developing a policy (it’s too soon, for that, I feel) they should observe patterns of usage which work and share emerging best practices – but also monitor usage patterns which aren’t feel to be working and learn from such experiences. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged cilip2 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (12) What Can Web-Based Presentation Tools Offer? Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 Back at IWMW 2007 Helen Sargan ran a workshop session entitled “Just say No to Powerpoint: Web Alternatives for Slides and Presentations“. As someone who has used PowerPoint extensively since I’ve been at UKOLN and also have an interest in what Web-based alternative can provide I thought I would explore such alternatives. And as I recently suggested an approach in which “Critical Friends, Friendly Critics and Hostile Opponents” could either help or hinder a development or evaluation process I’d like to start off by describing the policies, environment, sensitivities and resources issues which I would regard as out-of-scope for such an evaluation, as the main area of interest are the specific issues related to the various Web-based presentations tool. A secondary agenda is to explore the limits of the model I described in my previous post. But what of the policy issues which scope this evaluation work? I regard this exercise as looking at possible alternatives to PowerPoint as a desktop presentation tools to support mainstream teaching, learning and research activities. In my case this is for exploring ways in which over 10 year’s of PowerPointing can be made more interesting whereas from an institutional perspective this might be to explore possible savings which could be made by replacing PowerPoint. And as my area of interest lies primarily in Web-based services I won’t be looking at desktop alternatives to MS PowerPoint, such as Open Office. 29/10/2009
  • 97. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 97 of 616 What are the environmental, sensitivities and resourcing issues which I have suggest could be disclosed in order to provide a context in which discussion and debate can be fruitful? Well, this work will be neutral about issues such as open source versus proprietary solutions. It will also be neutral about the technologies used to provide access to Web-based solutions – so Flash-based solutions can be considered. And the discussions will be framed around a bottom-up approach for solutions which might be considered by the individual or small group or used within the context of an event which invites diversity in how speakers give their presentations. Similarly the issue of whether a presentational tool is an effective way of communicating ideas is out-of-scope. But what type of tools should I be looking at? I think this should include office-based solutions available in the cloud and Web-based repositories of presentations, such as Slideshare and Slideboom. Is this a useful approach? And any thoughts on what might be missing? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Critical Friends, Friendly Critics and Hostile Opponents Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 I recently wrote a blog post on We Need More Critical Friends! and have made this point in several of my recent talks on A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0 and Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Services and in a workshop I facilitated at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference on Openness in the Cloud. In recently discussions with my colleague Paul Walk Paul has suggested that there is a need to differentiate between Critical Friends and Friendly Critics and I think this is a useful distinction. In the real world the critical friend is the person who would be honest about a response to a question such as “Does my bum look big in this?“ But the friendship would mean that this response would be given in private and not in a public space. The friendly critic, in contrast, might be someone who is willing to be critical in public, but would not do so in a way which is rude or undermines confidence. Comments in response to my blog post by Pete Johnston and Mia Ridge made similar points arguing that “our choice of style and language matters – a lot” and “communication has to be both appropriately private and timely“. But Mia goes on to conclude “That said, I’m not sure what happens when you raise concerns privately and don’t get an acknowledgement or other response“. And this is a legitimate concern to raise. What happens in one’s concerns are ignored? And in the context of services provided bu public sector funding don’t we all, as citizens, tax-payers and, possibly users, have responsibilities to raise concerns which we have. After all, aren’t we correct in raising objections to a wide range of mistakes which the Government has made? Weren’t we right in our objections to the Iraq war, despite being told that the Government had evidence of ownership of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to launch an attack within 45 minutes? Of course there are huge differences between declaring wars and engaging in IT development work! But if we are in favour of openness and transparency in our development work this tension between open and closed criticisms is something which needs to be addressed. 29/10/2009
  • 98. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 98 of 616 In discussions I had at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference there was an understanding of the need for projects to welcome feedback, especially in the current environment we find ourselves in in which there is an increasing diversity of approaches to developments. But there is also a need for critics to appreciate the complexities of a specific development environment, aspects of which will not always be appreciated by the remote observer. Based on the discussions I had will various people at the conference and my suggestion in the final session at the MW2009 that “We need more formal approaches for structuring feedback to the diversity of approaches to development work which can help to de-personalise criticisms” I have produced a diagram which is embedded in this post which provides an initial attempt at providing a structure approach for gaining feedback. The diagram acknowledges that there will be areas (such as policies, the local environment, sensitivities and levels of resources) within which a development project will have to work. Concerns about such issues are likely to be out-of-scope for Critical Friends. This should help to scope the areas in which input, comments and concerns can be raised and which should be able to be acted upon. The development project will need to provide an infrastructure for engaging with a Critical Friends community. We are finding in some areas of the JISC development sector that a Critical Friends approach is becoming a formal part of a bidding process. However it is likely that in many any cases it may not be possible to adopt such a formal approach. Perhaps then it is the responsibility of the the project team to open up their development processes, perhaps by making use of a blog for use by the developers to describe their development plans and decisions and any complications which may not be apparent to others, ideally at an early stage in the development process. This, I think, reflects the approaches take by the COPAC development team in their COPAC development blog which, for example, described back in August 2008, the reasons why they removed and then reinstated links to Google Book following feedback from “a vociferous few who questioned why Copac would give Google ‘personal data’ about them as users“. As I wrote back in November 2008 “raising these issues in an open fashion is to be applauded“. Our IT development work does need to have a reviewing process and I feel that we should be pro-active in seeking ways of opening up such processes. Let’s be aware of sensitivities, but let’s not use that as an excuse for being closed. And if there is a failure to open up feedback to development ideas remember that this may leave the concerned tax-payer to act not as a friendly critic but as an unfriendly, and perhaps even hostile, opponent. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Sharing the Rehearsal of my Talk at the CILIP 2 Council Meeting Friday, April 24th, 2009 As I described a couple of day’s ago in a blog post on CILIP2.0 – Open Session on CILIP’s use of Web 2.0 myself and Phil Bradley will be giving brief talks about how we feel CILIP should respond to the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 at a CILIP Council meeting next Wednesday (29th April 2009). I have produced the first draft of my slides and I’ll be chatting to Phil how this may fit in with the approach he will be taking. I have also created a ’slidecast’ of the talk, by recording a rehearsal of the talk and synching the 29/10/2009
  • 99. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 99 of 616 audio with a copy of the slide on Slideshare. This will help Phil to gain a better understanding of what I’ll be saying. But I also feel that their can be benefits to be gained by sharing this pre-release verion with a wider audience. In suitably-configured browsers the slidecast will be embedded below: [slideshare id=1336675&doc=web-2-0-risks-framework-rehearsal-090424061228-phpapp02] I’m well of of some risks in doing this: I feel slightly self-conscious about listening to the sound of my own voice and towards the end of the talk I found myself forgetting what I was intending to say and start stuttering and repeating myself. If I felt that as a professional all of my outputs mist be of high quality although I might write a script I would leave the reading of it to a trained actor. But this would undermine the key point in my presentation that information professionals (in particular) should be willing to make use of innovative approaches to one’s work, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them and be prepared to be open with one’s user community in the early stages of development and not just when a service has been finalised. Making this particular slidecast available can also provide some specific benefits: • Users can comment on my talk. • Users can suggest other relevant resources, either by commenting on this blog post on or Slideshare page or by bookmarking resources on using the same tag. • Anyone who would like to attend the meeting but can’t make it will get a feel for my contribution. • If I fail to attend the meeting (I’m ill or First Great Western fails to get my to London on time, for example) my slidecast can be used as a replacement. But before you start listening to the slidecast (which lasts for about 20 minutes) I should say that the talk contains nothing that I haven’t written about in my blog previously. Indeed the talk is very similar to a talks on Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Services and A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Library 2.0 which I gave in the Indianapolis last week. To summarise the key points. The talk begins by reviewing examples of Library 2.0 approaches, add the University of Wolverhampton and the National Library of Wales. A description of various barriers which have been identified at various UKOLN workshop for the cultural heritage sector is given. It is acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns which need to be addressed such as sustainability, interoperability, staff development, cultural barriers, etc. The talk describes a variety of deployment strategies and outlines a risks and opportunities framework for the deployment of Library 2.0 services. The talk suggests how a ‘Critical Friends’ approach (which I will expand on next week) can be used in conjunction with this framework and help to identify possible problem areas. The need to balances such risks with the possible benefits to be gained and the risks of doing nothing – as well as the risks of doing something similar in-house which fails to meet user’s expectations. The talk concludes by looking at what a professional organisation such as CILIP should be doing for a young librarian (using Jo Alcock as an example) and suggests that thinking about what might be provided in a ‘CILIP 2.0 Manifesto’ could be helpful in furthering the debate. Your comments are welcomed! Filed in Events, Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) CILIP2.0 – Open Session on CILIP's use of Web 2.0 Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 Phil Bradley and myself have been invited to take part in an open session on CILIP’s use of Web 2.0 (CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is “the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers“). This event, which is being referred to as CILIP2.0, will take place at CILIP offices, Ridgmount Street, London from 14.30-16.30 on 29th April 2009. The information about the event describes how Phil and myself (well-known ‘gurus’) will be “kicking off the Open Session with presentations about what has worked elsewhere, and the types of things CILIP could try out“. 29/10/2009
  • 100. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 100 of 616 The aim of the session is to generate ideas about how the CILIP Council could be using Web 2.0 to engage better with the library and information community. These ideas will be fed into CILIP’s Communications Framework which is due to be published in the summer. The Open Forum was set up following a blog post entitled CILIP – Epic FAIL made by Phil Bradley in response to a post entitled All of a Twitter by Bob McKee, CILIP CEO. I’ll not revisit the different visions of the role of a professional organisation such as CILIP in today’s Web 2.0 environment, but will simply say how pleased I am that CILIP have invited Phil and myself to facilitate a discussion for an audience who will be physically present on the day and a remote audience who may follow the tweets and live blog. Phil Bradley will probably provide his vision in which information professionals are comfortable in making use of a variety of networked tools and services which are available ‘out there’, and don’t restrict themselves to applications which may be managed in-house. And I intend to explore the risks of this way of working and suggest that, rather than seeking to develop a safe, risk-free environment, information professionals do need to engage with the networked environment that exists today and need to recognise that a failure to take risks can result in a failure to innovate. I’d be interested in the views of reaers of this blog. What are your views on how information professionals should engage with a Web 2.0 world and how CILIP should respond? Filed in Events, Web2.0 | Tagged CILIP2.0 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) (TwitterFall) You're My Wonder Wall Monday, April 20th, 2009 This year’s Museums and the Web conference (MW2009) marked the first occasion I have attended an event during which the Twitter back channel has been embraced by the conference organisers and by many conference participants and not just the usual early adopters. At last year’s event (MW2008) we saw many developers making use of Twitter, with a display of the tweets about the conference (i.e. tagged with #mw2008) being shown near the registration area. And as a demonstration of the willingness of the conference organisers (David Bearman and Jennifer Trant) to embrace innovation at the conference a live display of the tweets, which were being aggregated by Mike Ellis’s Onetag software, were shown during Clifford Lynch’s closing talk at the conference. I have to admit, though, that there were concerns about this live, unmoderated display of Twitter posts during a talk: what if personal banter were displayed (”anyone fancy going for a drink later?”); critical comments about the speakers (”this is a boring talk”) or bad language or even spam from people who weren’t at the conference. But whilst such concerns may be legitimate, David and Jennifer showed that they were willing to tak and risk and “just do it”. So when the conference delegates arrived at the auditorium for the conference welcome and opening talk we found two computer displays: one of the speaker’s slides and the other a display of Twitter posts tagged with the #mw2009 tag, using the Twitterfall software, 29/10/2009
  • 101. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 101 of 616 And judging by comments made on the conference blog, many people found that this live display of tweets in the opening session provided a valuable way of developing a shared sense of community and active participation which continued throughout the conference, with many newcomers subscribing to Twitter, following the more well-established Twitter users and engaging with the discussions themselves. In fact use of Twitter at the conference was so popular that, during the opening talk, there was a message displayed showing the the #mw2009 tag was ‘trending’ – and was one of the top ten tags used during the day. Which is not to say that everyone found the Twitterfall display useful: some participants, for example, did find the display distracting. And once the tag was included in the top tags of the day it, perhaps inevitably, attracted the attention of Twitter spammers, with a tweet from ‘PantyGirl’ - and an associated image being included in the live Twitterfall display. But despite such concerns, others identified some perhaps unexpected benefits of such displays of live tweets. After I published a tweet one person in the audience, with whom I had worked with a few years ago but hadn’t spoke to since, spotted my image in the display and sent me a direct message suggesting that we should meet up. The ability for participants at a large conference to make their prescence known in this way is a benefit which I hadn’t prevviously considered. Someone else, who hadn’t used Twitter prior to the conference, reflected that in plenary talks people often lose concentration, even if the talks are interesteding (as the opening plenary talk at MW 2009 was). Having additional channels, in which other participants can share their thoughts and provide perhaps different views can help to provide richer insights into the talks. But what of the dangers that people might make inappropriate comments. Well at MW2009, apart from the PantyGirl spam (which I suspect most people found inoffensive) I feel that the Twittering participants were aware of the issues and avoided tweets which others might have felt inoffensive or inappropriate. The benefits of the conference Twitter back channel were also officially recognised in the firanl session at the conference when Jon Pratty provided prizes for the MW2009 Backchannel Stars for Saturday. And I was pleased to be the first in the list of prize-winners for my two tweets: briankelly Due to lack of unions in museums sector @jtrant& David Bearman have got us working at #mw2009 on a Saturday. Capitalist oppressors. briankelly: @bsletten is right – photo at (expand) could be me. Waiting for groupies to arrive at #mw2009 But what of next year? Clearly many particioants found the Twitter wall display useful, with one participant commenting that ”based on how well tweets were working @ mw2009 I set up a twitter account for our staff intranet. Public site next? #mw2009“. But this wasn’t true for everyone. Should this be managed by better use of the physical space, I wonder – perhaps suggesting that those who don’t wish to be distributed by the visual intrusion should sit on one side of the lecture theatre? Or perhaps, with the growing popularity of iPhones and iPod Touches participants should simply view the communal wall on their own mobile device? Filed in Events, Twitter | Tagged MW2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (15) The European Council Plans an Accessible Information Society Friday, April 17th, 2009 The European Council has recently announced a set of conclusions on how to deliver an accessible information society. In the announcement the Council welcomes the European Commission’s communication on “Towards an accessible information Society” and acknowledges that ICT is “crucial in today’s society and economy and they can greatly improve personal autonomy and quality of life, particularly for people with disabilities or elderly” . I too welcome such principles. However the document goes on to underline that “The adoption of the second version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides the necessary technical specifications“. 29/10/2009
  • 102. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 102 of 616 Hmm. So the answer to the delivery of an accessible information society is to be found in the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, is it? Well not according to Wendy Chisholm who, in a talk on “Interdependent Components of Web Accessibility” at the W4A 2005 conference described “how Web accessibility depends on several components of Web development and interaction working together” (namely ATAG and UAAG as well as WCAG). So even people who have worked on the development of WAI guidelines wouldn’t, I suspect, agree that WCAG “provides the necessary technical specifications“. And what evidence do we have that WCAG 2.0 by itself will “greatly improve personal autonomy and quality of life, particularly for people with disabilities or elderly” . What about accessibility issues which aren’t addressed in WCAG? What about the different definitions of accessibility (on 1st January 2009, for example, the definition of ‘disability’ was changed drastically in the Americans with Disabilities Act)? What about accessibility solutions which can be provided in ways not covered by WCAG guidelines? What about blended solutions to Web accessibility? What about the danger that the communication only covers access to Web resources and not other uses of IT by people with disabilities? What about the lack of evidence to support the positioning of WCAG guidelines as the only solution mentioned in the document? The document could have focussed on a different part of the WAI model – it could have supported a requirement that member countries enact legislation that organisations must provide UAAG-conforming Web browsers, for example. This would be a more achievable goal, focusing on the small number of browser vendors rather than the much larger number of Web authors and Web publishing tools and work-flow systems. Although I suspect many accessibility evangelists will welcome the publication of this document I fear that it is based on flawed underlying assumptions and will be ultimately counter-productive. We need more open discussions about the limitations of the WAI’s approaches to Web accessibility and of ways of enhancing accessibility for people with disabilities in the complex environment in which we live. Where are the Critical Friends, I wonder? Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Further Developments of a Risks and Opportunities Framework Thursday, April 16th, 2009 I have previously described a risks and opportunities framework which I will be presenting shortly at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference. At the Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists conference I described a slightly updated version of the framework, which includes ‘Critical Friends‘ as a means of ensuring that a degree of scepticism is applied to planned innovative services. The framework is based on the notion that the risks and benefits of innovation cannot be considered without considering its intended purpose. 29/10/2009
  • 103. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 103 of 616 In order to ensure that the framework does not result in inertia and an avoidance of new developments it is envisaged that the approach will also be applied to existing services, in-house development, etc. During my talk on “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” at the Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists conference I gave an illustration of how this framework might be applied in two contexts related to use of Web 2.0 services: use of (a) Twitter by individuals in an organisation and (b) organisational use of Facebook. The intended use of Twitter by individuals described at the Archives .2.0 conference was to provide support for a community of practice. The individual should benefit from working in a community and such benefits would should also help the institution. The risks might include the time required to use Twitter and to become part of a community and the dangers that Twitter is used inappropriately or excessively. It should also be noted that inappropriate use of Twitter could include requiring members of staff to use Twitter against their will or inclination. There might also be risks that to the organisation in terms of its brand (”I hate working here“). Failing to allow staff who so desire to make used of Twitter (by firewalls, policies or more subtle pressures) could result in a failure to make use of the benefits provided by being part of a (virtual) community and a failure to understand the potential of Twitter for organisational use. It should also be noted that the costs of using Twitter can be small, as Twitter tools are available for free, no editorial mechanisms need to be deployed and no archiving of Twitter posts need to be kept. The intended use of Facebook by organisation described at the conference was as a marketing tool for the archive or museum. This would have the advantages to the organisation of being able to market to the large numbers of Facebook users and to exploit the various functions provided by Facebook without needing any in-house development work. However there may be risks related to data lock-in, giving permissions to Facebook to commercially exploit content which is up-loaded and disenfranchising users who chose not to sign up to Facebook or users whose assistive technologies may not work with Facebook. Failing to use Facebook could, however, result it missed opportunities for marketing to large numbers of users and a failure to allow users to engage with the service. The costs of setting up an organisational presence in Facebook should be low, but consideration does have to be given to ongoing maintenance (e.g. responding to wall posts). Critical friends, such as my colleague Paul Walk’s various posts on possible risks associated with use of Facebook and Twitter, can help to inform organisational decision-making processes, as can discussions on mailing lists, sharing experiences at conferences and blog posts (such as recent guest blogs post on use of social networking tools at the National Library of Wales, Wolverhampton University Library and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery). Finally I should add that there will be subjectivities and personal biases in how I’ve described use of this framework. But let’s acknowledge that such biases and personal prejudices will always exist. 29/10/2009
  • 104. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 104 of 616 Filed in Facebook, Social Networking, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) I Won't Be Censored! Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 Stephen Downes recently published a blog post entitled “Lessons From Slidesharegate” which began “Brian Kelly wrote, in a post he later deleted“. In his blog post Stephen described some of his concerns regarding Slideshare and concluded by “wondering why Kelly deleted his Slideboom post“. The answer to that is simple – I’d accidentally published the post prematurely, as I wanted to see if Slideshare published their comments on “Slidesharegate” before describing how I was evaluating alternatives to Slideshare. No big deal – but I did wonder whether Stephen (or readers of his blog) had thought that I had deleted the blog post, perhaps having been ‘got at’ by Slideshare. The answer is no, there is no conspiracy. But could this happen? Well as we have seen, once a blog post is published it is “out there” – and even if I delete the original there will be copies in people’s RSS readers and blog aggregators. And attempting to delete a blog post may well result in drawing people’s attention to it with people wondering, perhaps, if the post has been censored, So I know that deleting a post once it has been published can be fraught with possible dangers. So if I publish a post and am subsequently asked to delete it, I can point to this post. Of course this also means that if I’m embarrassed about something I’ve written it will be difficult for me to erase it from public view. But that’s something I’m prepared to accept. And I can’t help but think that the former Downing Street adviser Damian McBride should have been aware of the difficulties of deleting copies of digital resources once they have been published. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Slideshare? I'm Now Flirting With Slideboom! Monday, April 13th, 2009 You know what it’s like. You’ve been together for some time. And you get on well together. And then something goes wrong. So you start looking for something new. And you start to get excited about the new things on offer. And perhaps you then decide it’s time to move on. Well this is happening to me at the moment, after Slideshare’s April Fool gag caused me to explore alternatives to their service. I signed up to Slideboom and uploaded my most recent presentation on “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0“. I have embedded this in my Web page. And I have to say I’m impressed with the features it provides. However rather than describe these features (which are 29/10/2009
  • 105. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 105 of 616 described on the Slideboom Web site) I thought it would be more effective to capture the screen display of my use of the service which is available on YouTube and embedded below: [youtube=] Now although I like the functionality provided by Slideboom it is even more important than it used to be to consider the sustainability of remote services. And this is where Slideboom’s track record and financial stability is unknown to me. But such considerations are also true of Slideshare. So I intend to continue to keep a master copy of my PowerPoint slides on the UKOLN file store, whilst using the richly functional and embeddable third party services to act as access points. And it will be useful to gain experiences of a competitor to the market leader in Web 2.0 slide repository services. After all, what would happen if Slideshare’s market lead went to their head and they started to treat their customers in a similar fashion to Microsoft? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Slideboom, Slideshare | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) How Many Publishers Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb? Friday, April 10th, 2009 “Submit Comments By Easter Monday” I’m feeling a bit grumpy. On Wednesday night while listening to some excellent live music at The Bell, Bath I checked my email in the interval. There was an email from a publisher with the final corrections for an accessibility paper which had been accepted for publication. The email message give the blunt instructions: “Please approve these proofs, or return any corrections by 13 Apr 2009. Failure to do so may result in delay of your publication, reallocation to a later issue, or review and approval of your article by the journal’s Editor -in-Chief.” That’s right on Wednesday 8 April at 21:50 I received an email telling me my updates had to be submitted by Monday – that’s Easter Monday. And today (Good Friday) I’m in a cyber cafe in London sorting out the corrections before heading off the the Museums and the Web 2009 conference. The email message (which was sent from India) also contained the stark warning: PLEASE NOTE: The CATS system only supports Internet Explorer versions 5.5 and up, or Firefox 1.0 browser software. Popup blockers should be disabled. If you have any difficulty using CATS, please contact me. And there’s me using FireFox 3.0 (not supported, it would seem). As for the comments themselves, they were fine, asking us to supply, for example, years of publication which we had omitted for a couple of the references. But for one reference the Production Editor had requested the page numbers of one of my previous papers, and the URL of the online version of the paper had been removed. It would appear that the publishers are trying to help the reader of the printed journal by providing the page number, but hindering users who wish to access the paper online. Good business for the publishers who might expect to receive additional income for requests for the journal or paper but bad news for other researchers who might wish to access such papers which are freely avaailble online. Why Do I Bother? Why do I bother writing peer-reviewed papers, I sometimes ask myself. In this particular case myself and David Sloan were invited to submit a paper based on an update to a paper published at the W4A 2008 conference. As I received this request when I was preparing an invited keynote presentation at the OzeWAI 2009 conference I felt this would provide an ideal opportunity to publish my updated views on Web accessibility, which I described to a 29/10/2009
  • 106. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 106 of 616 small but supportive audience at the OzeWAI conference. And after I gave my talk I discussed my ideas further with two delegates who, I discovered, had similar interests regarding the complexities of Web accessibility in the context of accessibility for the Deaf and implementing best practices for Web accessibility when challenged with limited budgets and short deadlines in a Government context. As I was in the process of finalising the paper, the meeting with Lisa Herrod and Ruth Ellison provided an opportunity for me to strengthen the paper with these two case studies. I should also add that the (anonymous) reviewer’s comments we received were invaluable, pointing out flaws in our arguments, ways in which are ideas might be misinterpretted and suggestions for how the paper could be improved. The updated version of the paper was improved greatly following these comments, so you could argue that the publishers had a role to play in enhancing the quality. But why do I suspect that the reviewer was an academic who was doing this work for free? Look on the Bright Side I have now submitted the corrections to the production editor and am feeling less grumpy (I started this post yesterday evening). And to cheer myself up (and others who might have had similar problems with publishes, here’s a joke: Q. How many publishers does it take to change a lighbulb? A. It’s a trick question – publishers are living in the drak ages and the light bulb hasn’t been invented yet. Mind you, they’ll charge you for use of a candle if you want to read your manuscript. Have a good Easter. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) Contrasting Visions of the Library of the Future Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 My Views From 2001 I was invited to take part in a panel session at the Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference way back in 2001. Myself and my fellow panellists (Greg Notess and Mary Peterson) had encountered a number of bland panel sessions at previous conferences in which panelists uttered trite sentiments which nobody could possibly disagree with (yes, user testing is a good thing and so is accessibility and quality information). We decided to avoid falling into this trap and I found myself in the position of having to respond to Greg and Mary’s views of the key role the library sector had in supporting use of networked services and supporting users in a networked environment. I suggested that librarians were just another group of users who had nothing special to add to the development of innovative networked services and, indeed, could inhibit development by seeking to take inappropriate methodologies to the Web environment. Now although these remarks were somewhat tongue-in- cheek, it would be interesting to see how they may relate to today’s networked environment, 8 years later. The Darien Manifesto The authors of the Darien Manifesto (John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill and Cindi Trainor) have no doubts regarding the importance of librarians, with a manifesto which begins by giving their view that “the purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization“. And this “purpose of the Library will never change“! Whilst a number of people have expressed concern over this monolithic description of The Library, and pointed out the unease we would feel if other bodies made similar statements (”The purpose of the government/the police/the Freemasons is to preserve the integrity of civilization and this purpose will never change“) other comments do appear to more accurately reflect the role of libraries (”provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment“; “encourages the love of learning” and “empowers people to fulfill their civic duty“) and librarians (”select, organize and facilitate creation of content” and “connect people with accurate information“), various commentators, including the Annoyed Librarian, are questioning the manifesto. 29/10/2009
  • 107. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 107 of 616 The Researcher’s Perspective Here in the UK a debate is taken place on the Libraries of the Future which is being led by the JISC. At a recent debate on Libraries of the Future Professor Peter Murray-Rust gave his thoughts on what he expects from an academic library from a research/scientific perspective. Peter’s views had been outlined in a series of blog posts prior to the debate (Peter was living his open vision and encouraged those interested in helping to shape a vision to engage with the ideas he was developing in his blog). As described by Professor Bruce Royan in a report on the event, Peter’s views challenged current orthodox thinking regarding the libraries’ relevance in a networked world: “The Librarians of the future will not emerge from the Libraries of today. The researchers of the future won’t want journals, they’ll want little bits of lots of papers, and they won’t respect faculty or subject boundaries, as their work will be interdisciplinary. If they need an information service, they’ll JUST DO IT for themselves“ What Does The Future Hold? The official blog for the debate provided a summary of Peter’s talk which began: What is happening in the world is bypassing university libraries. I talk to colleagues and the feeling is that libraries for STM (science, technical, medical) are not useful. That’s not my polemic view – that’s reporting on having spoken to people. Will librarians have a significant role to play in the academic library of the future (the future of public libraries, whilst important, was not touched on in Peter’s presentation)? And is Peter’s assertion and question in a recent blog post: “Wikipedia has won – how can we convince you?” further evidence that the librarians who warn their users against such popular Web 2.0 services are becoming marginalised? But maybe the Dryberg Darien manifesto does contain elements which reflect Peter’s views: • Adopt technology that keeps data open and free, abandon technology that does not. • Be willing and have the expertise to make frequent radical changes. • Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not. • Trust each other and trust the users. Perhaps Peter would endorse the third bullet point which calls for staff who aren’t prepared to adapt to a changing environment to be sacked. And there was me thinking that the manifesto simply endorsed woolly liberal values! Filed in Events, library2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Ask A Librarian? No Thanks, I'll Ask The World! Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 On the same day that I came across a thread on “Ask a Librarian” on the LIS-LINK JISCMail list, Chris Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield, was sharing her 5 interesting things found on my Twitterfeed today… which included: Ten years of The Guardian on-line plotted in expletives – very illuminating! MPs expenses by geographical location- a good example of information from the Guardian’s databank, in a mashup with map and postcode data. How cats can give us tips to be good corporate strategists – if you’ve got cats, you’ll appreciate this. How to turn your house lights off using Twitter – will appeal to the really geeky 29/10/2009
  • 108. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 108 of 616 Bakertweet – a way for bakers to tell the world that their bread has just come out of the oven I had also come across the first two examples in my Twitter feed. What Twitter provides to Chris and myself, it seems, is not only a mechanism for asking questions to my friends, colleagues and others who have chosen to follow me, but also finding things out from them without needing to ask. Do we, I wonder, need to develop Ask-A-Librarian type services any longer when services such as Twitter are now available to everyone for free? And if the response is we need a trusted service, can’t we make use of the existing infrastructure (which need not be Twitter, of course) and wrap a trust mechanism around it? And although on the LIS-LINK list there was a view that “Since IM widgets rely on external systems which sometimes crash, the reliability of any service based on them can be adversely affected” aren’t in-house systems also likely to fail? And will an in-house system provide the potential for a 24×7 coverage? Now I should add that my speculation on whether a micro-blogging tool such as Twitter could be used as an Ask- A-Librarian type service is very much ‘thinking out loud’. But it does seem to me that with the large numbers of Twitter applications which are now available it might be worth carrying out such speculative thinking. Filed in Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (9) Must Institutional Repository and Open Science Software be Open Source? Monday, April 6th, 2009 “Institutional Repositories Should Be Built on Open Source Software” is one topic in “Institutional Repositories: The Great Debate“ which is being held in the current issue (April/May 2009 -PDF format) of “The Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology”. Meanwhile over on Glyn Moody’s Open … blog an argument is being made that “Open Science Requires Open Source“. Here we read that: “The central argument is important: that you can’t do science with closed source software, because you can’t examine its assumptions or logic (that “incomplete scientific record”). Open science demands open source.“ And who could possibly disagree? Well I’d challenge such conclusions. I feel that we need to reflect on the over-hyping of open source software over the past decade: we should now, if you believed the hype, all be using open source office software on our desktop PCs, and those desktop machines would all be running Linux. But this doesn’t reflect the working environment for most people, with open source email clients now seemingly in need of saving. Despite its failure to live up to the expectations of the evangelists, we are now seeing more effective use of open source software. But for me this is because open source software is now being evaluated on par with licenced software, and not because open source software is felt to have any natural advantages. I would argue, in fact, that uncritical acceptance of open source software in the past led to disillusioned end users and the ‘counter-culture’ approach adopted by some open source developers led to the software development which failed to have a community to ensure that the software was sustainable in the long-term future. Despite the frequently cited examples of Apache, email server software and the like, is there evidence that open source software has a significant role to play beyond the server environment? And in cases in which open source software is growing in use, such as Open Office on cheap Netbook computers such as the Asus EEE PC, isn’t it the case that the advantages provided by such software are in avoiding licence costs rather than in the other benefits which open source evangelists promote? Aren’t the benefits for most users to be found inthe amntra that the software is “free as in beer” rather than “free as in speech”? At the JISC OSS Watch’s inaugural conference Jeremy Wray, Business Development Executive for Public Sector, IBM argued that it would be a mistake to compete in well-established markets such as office software, citing IBM’s failures in competing with Microsoft. Perhaps open source software should be positioned in more 29/10/2009
  • 109. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 109 of 616 niche sectors such as institutional repositories and open science? And yet even here I have my doubts. If we are passionate about open access to research publications and open access to scientific data, then shouldn’t we be focussed on such issues and be neutral on the production mechanisms used to develop the associated software? And the argument that you need open source software to examine the assumptions and logic is flawed – source code can be made available for inspection without it being licensed under an OSI-conformant open source licence. Yes, use open source institutional repository software and open source open science software. But do so because the software satisfies its intended purpose and is better than proprietary alternatives and not just because it is open source. And let’s not forget the associated risks of using open source solutions: many of the more widely used open source applications are bankrolled by large IT companies which are suffering from the economic downturn. And if widely used open source solutions start to suffer from a lack of ongoing inverstment, where will that leave the more niche solutions? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) Lessons From 'Slidesharegate' Sunday, April 5th, 2009 Blog posts from Phil Bradley and myself published at lunch time on 1 April 2009 where amongst the first to take Slideshare to task for the April fool’s prank. Now although a number of people felt that people should have expected such gags’s on April Fool’s Day, many others were very critical. And now Slideshare have admitted they were wrong and have just published a blog post in which they ask their users to “accept our whole-hearted apologies“. I would agree Phil Bradley’s response to the blog post: You’ve put this really nicely and thoughtfully. It’s going to be a harsh critic who’s still unhappy. As I said elsewhere, it’s not making the mistake, it’s how you deal with, and recover from the mistake. This makes you a bigger and better company. Thank you. But what lessons can others learn from what by colleague Paul Walk has described as ‘Slidesharegate‘? I would like to suggest three areas in which pranksters for next year’s April Fool should give some thought to: Don’t tamper with data: Rashmi Sinha, SlideShare’s CEO has admitted that “Statistics are sacred. (don’t mess with them, even in a prank!)”. Concerns were expressed by many Slideshare users over the way in which their usage statistics had been artificially boosted. But as well as modifications to such data can upset the owners of the data and other users, there are also dangers that data could be reused (by screen-scraping software) and displayed in other environments. Let’s not foget that that software does not have a sense of humour and won’t be aware of April Fool pranks. Time zones: Of course software could know that it is before midday on 1st April. But in the global environment of the Web, somewhere it will not be April Fool’s day. I have just come across the concept of the ‘International day’, on the CSS Naked Day Web site: this event lasts for one international day, so that “to ensure that everyone’s website will be publicly nude for the entire world to see at any given time during April 9” the day when Web site owners are encouraged to remove CSS from there Web site will technically speaking, will be correct somewhere in the world for 48 hours. But until a standards body agrees to internationalise April Fool’s day there’s a need to remember that somewhere in the world it will not be April Fool’s day (which isn’t to say that one shouldn’t carry out April Fools gags, however). Unsolicited mail: The use of email to encourage users of a service to view an April Fool’s gag is probably a mistake, since most users are likely to read such email when ‘April Fool is past and gone’ . Rashmi Sinha has asked for comments on his blog post. I welcome his her apology and hope that my suggestions can help the Slideshare team in deciding what to do next year. Will it be like last year’s “hoax announcement that SlideShare would not allow bullets in presentations anymore” I wonder? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) 29/10/2009
  • 110. ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 110 of 616 Have Slideshare Avoided Their Ratner Moment? Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 Background Gerald Ratner was responsible for one of the most famous gaffes in corporate history when “he joked that one of his firm’s products was “total crap”, and boasted that some of its ear rings were “cheaper than a prawn sandwich“. Did Slideshare come close to a Ratner moment with yesterday’s April Fool gag, I wonder? Yesterday I described how Slideshare had sent out an email entitled “You’re a SlideShare RockStar” which contained spoof statistics on the popularity of uploaded presentations. The Reactions Phil Bradley spotted the so-called joke and gave his reasons why he felt this was a “huge mistake” by Slideshare: 1. I don’t appreciate anyone manipulating data on my content. That Slideshare are so relaxed about this, and feel they can do what they like is really sending entirely the wrong message about how they view users and content. 2. Using an April Fool prank to generate comment and visits is dubious at best. If they’d not used the hashtag suggestion I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it’s a deliberate attempt to get publicity. 3. This has lead to a huge spike in traffic to the site. This is the most annoying aspect because the whole POINT of the site is to allow people to get access to slideshows directly from the site. It’s slowed down to a point where it’s entirely unusable. I’m just grateful that I don’t have any need to use it professionally today. 4. There’s already a really big backlash against this prank on Twitter – people who are using the hashtag are looking stupid, which is making them angry. Clicking on a link privately and realising you’ve been caught is one thing – getting them to do it in public is another thing entirely. Now rather than revisit yesterday’s discussion on Slideshare’s blog on whether the joke was funny or not I’d like to explore the issue of reputation management. After all, those “po-faced and humourless” Slideshare users are at liberty to migrate to other services such as Slideboom, Authorstream, Sliderocket or 280Slides. And if they feel they have been made to look stupid they may respond in a similar fashion to custmomers who used to shop at Ratner’s. Reputation Monitoring and Management In Ratner’s case his speech was picked up by the media, wiped an estimated £500m from the value of the company. Could Slideshare, who Secured $3M for Embeddable Presentations in May 2008, suffer a similar backlash? In this case, however, I have to admire how quickly staff at Slideshare spotted that, in certain quarters, their joke had misfired and their honesty in their apologies. Rashmi, Slideshare CEO & Cofounder, SlideShare, responded to Phil Bradley’s blog post by saying “My sincere, personal apologies. Its just an April Fool’s prank. I understand why you are upset, however, we did not mean to offend our users who we love. But I can see your perspective“. This comment was repeated on my blog. In addition Jonathon Boutelle, Slideshare co-founder added “Really sorry if we offended you. The prank was my idea, and I take full responsibility. There’s a lot of pressure to get April fools day right (sounds bizarre but is true), and it looks like we got it way wrong.” with an additional lengthy apology coming from Daniel in Slideshare’s marketing department. In his blog post about this incident Phil Bradley commented that “I’m already seeing a lot of tweets f