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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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  • 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hds3jvjZY-Y] 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Wordpress.com. 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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%). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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!) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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”. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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: j.evans@imperial.ac.uk Blog: http://physmaths.wordpress.com/ 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKPoWMYEvvg] http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Wordpress.com 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Vimeo.com (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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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, jennifr.net • Kara Visits the Oxford Social Media Convention: I Say Twitt-er, You Say Twitt-ah, BoomTown • Oxford Social Media Convention 2009, MarkAttwood.com 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T2wIpCq0RE] 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 ukwebfocus.wordpress.com 5 minutes 7 seconds: end of Brian Kelly’s clip. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 laconi.ca is Open source“ the standards body (DCMI) should make use of the laconia.ca 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 laconi.ca 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 identi.ca should be used on the grounds that “above all laconi.ca 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. Identi.ca/laconi.ca is also API-compatible with Twitter, and allows you to repost from identi.ca to twitter accounts automatically. … http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 40 of 616 Oh, last thing re identi.ca: 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 identi.ca, whereas Twitter and FaceBook aren’t. And some FriendFeed users are talking about closing down their accounts whilst fans of identi.ca 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 identi.ca 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 identi.ca 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 42 of 616 How do people access the blog site? Well as the WordPress.com 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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.” http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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“ http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSi76y3k5N0] 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a912788469 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“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 del.icio.us. 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 www.ox.ac.uk Web site has 960,000 daily pages views and 230,000 daily visitors and the site is ranked 6,289th, whereas the figures for www.cam.ac.uk 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Alexa.com service, seem to be based on the figures for the wordpress.com and typepad.com domains, with Martin Weller’s blog trailing as it is hosted on the typepad.co.uk domain. So further analysis has given us a better understanding of how WolframAlpha uses the statistics provided by Alexa.com. 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 (http://facebook.com/alleghenycollege). 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 HighEdWebTech.com, is on Twitter at @mrichwalsky and Facebook at http://facebook.com/mrichwalsky. 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Twitter.com, twitter.com/home and twitter.com/Twitter_tops). 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: http://cli.gs/YL6R4D –Share this article: http://bit.ly/180g9w 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 http://tinyurl.com/p72kld 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://bit.ly/zndCW 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) . http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 – http://bit.ly/w4b6Q http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 – http://bit.ly/w4b6Q – but the page it points to – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/index.html?pollId=1011506 – 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 blogs.journalism.co.uk 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 Journalism.co.uk 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 – http://bit.ly/w4b6Q 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?“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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!) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Mashable.com 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: Hero.ac.uk 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? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 Hero.ac.uk 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 (aberystwyth.university). 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. www.facebook.com/www.bath.ac.uk). 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 www.facebook.com/lmu? 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? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 facebook.com/username 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 www.facebook.com/www.poppleton.ac.uk? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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). http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 www.ourwales.org. 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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, http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 del.icio.us 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“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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, http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://tinyurl.com/3aessg (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“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O_67PWfyQI] 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • 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 from people saying that they’re annoyed and unhappy” and went on to provide a link to a list of 25 alternatives to Slideshare. Providing a well-read and well-respected blogger such as Phil with an opportunity to comment on rivals to Slideshare shows how inappropriate April Fool gags can go wrong. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 111 of 616 Personally, though, I’m still a fan of Slideshare (although yesterday’s incident did cause me to sign up to Slideboom – and I’m impressed with my initial experience). And I admire the way they have responded. I’d go along with the comment from Steve Ellwood who said “kudos to the guys from slideshare for a clear explanation and what appears to be a genuine apology“. And to be honest, this probably wasn’t a Ratner moment. It was just a bit of April fool’s fun, which only sad humourless people failed to get. Although, of course, Garland Ratner was also just having a bit of fun – although for Gerald Ratner “It still hurts 16 years on“. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Slideshare | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) "You're a Slideshare Rockstar!" – Not! Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 The April 1 Joke Yesterday (1 st April 2009) I received a couple of email messages from Slideshare which stated that some of the slides which I have uploaded to the Slideshare repository have “been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours“. Now back on 25th July 2008 I received an email informing me that a slideshow of mine on Web Preservation in a Web 2.0 Environment had been included in the ‘Spotlight section’ on the SlideShare homepage. So I know that Slideshare do have mechanisms for highlighting slideshows, which can help to maximise the impact of the slides on behalf of the author. For me such exposure has resulted in a number of slides having up to about 10,000 views (and one on Introduction To Facebook: Opportunities and Challenges For The Institution, which was a featured Slidecast of the day shortly after Slideshare announced it slidecasting facility for synching audio with slides, having over 9,000 views) . I’m pleased that Slideshare has allowed me to reach a much wider audience than would have been possible when the slides were only available on the UKOLN Web site. But on this occasion on checking the numbers of visits I found that many of the slideshows were seemingly being viewed by 10,000, 20,000 and above occasions. As I was a bit suspicious of the statistics, I send a Twitter post warning others that these figures appeared incorrect. I initially suspected that Slideshare had been the victim of a harvesting attack, as I suggested in my tweet: “Slideshare have emailed me saying that http://bit.ly/rbKi is v. popular (200,398 views) I suspect a robot! #bestofslideshare (not)“. In response my Twitter followers suggested that this was “some kind of April Fool malarky” / “weird april fool thing“. Someone else who appeared to have received a similar email message pointed out that it “looks like the slides with 810 views are being displayed as 80010 view” – and this, I discovered, was also the case for me. Is It Funny? This seems to me some kind of April Fool joke, although not one that I find particularly funny – and although some appeared to have accepted the email message at face value others appeared bemused or puzzled. Normally http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 112 of 616 there would be a subtle clue about the joke which would not be spotted on initial reading. So I revisited the email which said: Hi lisbk, We’ve noticed that your slideshow on SlideShare has been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours. Great job … you must be doing something right. Why don’t you tweet or blog this? Use the hashtag #bestofslideshare so we can track the conversation. Congratulations, -SlideShare Team Nothing obvious there, but there was an embedded image in the email which is not displayed by default, as shown. I right-clicked the image place-holder in order to download the image, but nothing was shown. Viewing the source of the email I found the following image tag: <img src=”http://marketer.slideshare.com/open.php?M=5662259&L=25&N=92&F=H”> So rather than this being an innocent April Fool joke, it seems that I’m being stalked by Slideshare’s marketing department. And they’ll also be able to relate my Slideshare ID to my Twitter ID if I use the “#bestofslideshare” hashtag as they suggested in their email. At least they were honest when they said “so we can track the conversation” – but I suspect most users won’t be aware of how intrusive such tracking would be. Is this reaction over-the-top? Perhaps when Slideshare announce this joke they’ll also say that the extra advertising revenue which the additional views generated will be donated to a worthy cause – which would make me appear somewhat of a curmudgeon. And if I have got this wrong I’d be happy to apologise – after all I have in the past admitted to being a fan of the Slideshare service. But I still think we have to be very wary that April fool gags may be being exploited by marketing peope in ways which would not be accepted during the rest of the year. What do you think? Phil Bradley, it seems, is in agreement with me. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Slideshare | Permalink | Edit | Comments (28) Standards are for Catholics Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 Being brought up in an Irish Catholic environment in the 1960s meant that life was full of religious and moral absolutes. If you were good you’d go to heaven (with some time in purgatory a likelihood) whereas protestants would go to hell. Black babies, who never had the opportunity for redemption, would go to limbo (it was only in 2006 limbo that limbo was abolished). And I can recall the Irish missionary priests who came to school collecting for the black babies – peer group pressure meant that the 12-sided 3d coin from your pocket money was the expected contribution. (The local catholic junior school, incidentally, hadn’t been rebuilt after being bombed in the war which meant we had the upstairs classroom in a protestant school – and we had staggered breaks so we http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 113 of 616 wouldn’t mix. Little did we realise in the annual ‘Wessie Road’ upper vs ‘Wessie Road’ lower grudge football matches that the the over-the-top tackles were reflecting disagreements over the Virgin birth and Papal infallibility). Now although I have already confessed to losing my religion the Jesuits may well have been right in their views on the power of indoctrination in early years. So although I no longer believe that I must not eat meat on Fridays, I am aware of the meaning and power of the word must and can differentiate it from should. Such an understanding is very relevant in the works of standards. If a programming language requires statements to be terminated with a “;” then you must do so, otherwise your progam with fail (or, as is often said these days, FAIL). It’s not a fuzzy choice – it works or it doesn’t. Period. But it seems that the meaning of must is slowly being lost. This first struck me several years ago when UKOLN was involved in the development of the standards and guidelines which support the national NOF-digitise programme. We were told that the document should state that “All Web sites must be available 24×7″ (or words to that effect). Our protestations were ignored – until projects reported that responses to the invitation to tender were rather over budget (to put it mildly). We then described that 24*7 availability requires duplication of servers, backup networking capacity, backup power supplies, etc. and was only likely to be required by international organisations. It subsequently turn out that the requirement was that servers should not be turned off at 5 pm on Friday evenings, as had been the case in some circumstances in the past. The document was updated with the mandatory requirement being replaced by “Projects should seek to provide maximum availability of their project Web site” – as there was a contractual requirement to implement all of the ‘musts’ in the document this was needed in order to safe the entire NOF-digi budget being used to ensure 24×7 access for a single project! Now I recently asked the question Is The UK Government Being Too Strict? as it similarly seemed to be requiring a must in circumstances in which the evidence suggests that such strict conformance very seldom occurs. Is this just me and my background, I wonder? When I see the word must in a standard, I think it really means must – otherwise you’ll be dammed forever in a non-interoperable hell. But maybe I should chill out a bit? Maybe when I read must I should think of the kind friendly maths teacher I had at school who told me I should try harder, but he knew that it was sometime difficult, so he wasn’t too concerned if I gort it wrong. After all, I’ll probably find it easier in the future. So tell me, are there policy makers and authors of standards and specifications who really do feel that must means must, whereas the developers interpret must as should? Is the problem that we have a non-interoperable mix of religions involved? Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) We Need More Critical Friends! Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 My First Encounter With The Term ‘Critical Friend’ I first came across the term ‘critical friend’ when it was used to describe my colleague Paul Walk when he was interviewed at the JISC-funded Dev8D event. Shortly after the event I noticed the term being tweeted by a number of participants at an e-learning event. The Critical Friend Network On further investigation I found the Critical Friends Network which quotes Professor John MacBeath, Professor of Education Leadership, University of Cambridge: “The Critical Friend is a powerful idea, perhaps because it contains an inherent tension. Friends bring a high degree of unconditional positive regard. Critics are, at first sight at least, conditional, negative and intolerant of failure. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 114 of 616 Perhaps the critical friend comes closest to what might be regarded as ‘true friendship’ – a successful marrying of unconditional support and unconditional critique.“ The Critical Friend’s Network has been funded by the JISC Users and Innovation (U&I) Benefits Realisation programme and aims to build a community of shared effective practice for current and future JISC Programme Critical Friends. Membership of the CF Network is open to Critical Friends, JISC Programme Management and project teams as well as the HE/FE sector as a whole. Critical Friends I’ve Encountered The term ‘critical friends’ would seem to be self-explanatory. And I find it a valuable concept to describe, for example, the approaches myself, David Sloan and a number of other accessibility researchers and practitioners have been taking over the past four years in our criticisms of the approaches taken by WAI in the developments of guidelines to enhance the accessibility of Web resources. Peter Murray-Rust is applying similar critical thinking in a series of blog posts on “Libraries of the Future” which will inform his talk at the ‘Libraries of the Future’ debate to be held at the Bodleian Library on 2 April 2009. We Need More Critical Friends! I feel we need more critical friends, especially at a time in which organisations will find funding increasingly difficult to obtain. We can see the need for such critical thinking by looking at recent history, such as the rise and fall of the UK eUniversity, from the HEFCE Press Release published in 2002 described the appointment of the senior management team for the “government-backed initiative to provide online delivery of UK higher education courses to students worldwide and to give improved access to higher education for under-represented groups of students in the UK” through to the The Real Story Behind the Failure of U.K. eUniversity (PDF) which described how “The picture behind the public failure of the UKeU is more complex, interesting and salutary than many reports would suggest“. Frankie Roberto demonstrated how the role of a critical friend need not be resource intensive when he initiated a discussion on the MCG (Museums Computer Group) JISCMail list with the one-word question “Why?” about the launch of the Creative Spaces service by a group of museums. In the email messages about this newly launched service, questions were raised as to whether the debate was really needed with the complexities of, for example, copyright issues being suggested as a reason why discussions on an open mailing list where not helpful. Paul Walk responded to this by saying: So, this thread was started by Frankie Roberto asking the question, “Why?”. His approach, a simple one- word question, was criticised – unfairly I think. Implicit in Frankie’s question is a challenge – it invites someone to explain, very succinctly and convincingly what it is that that Creative Spaces (in its guise as a user-facing application) is for. I think this challenge is well made, and deserves to be answered. Well-said Paul. And if the general public can listen to, read about and , if they so desire, engage in discussions about complex issues such as sub-prime markets and global warming professionals in the sector should also be not allowed but encouraged to contribute to the discussions about the networked services we are seeking to develop. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up Friday, March 27th, 2009 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 115 of 616 It was announced in the lead article in yesterday’s Guardian “Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up” (and note this was the main section of the paper, and not the education supplement). There have already been a number of blog posts about this headline, ranging from the sceptical (”It’s already bad enough having students checking their mobile phones for text messages every five minutes. Soon they’ll all be Twittering as well!“) to the neutral. But in my initial skim though the search results I couldn’t find any positive responses. So I’ll position myself in this space. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers was quoted in the article saying “It [the report] seems to jump on the latest trends such as Wikipedia and Twitter“. So once again, it would seem, defenders of the status quo are dismissive of innovation as being merely trends (the term ‘fads’ is sometimes used in this context) with the implication that is detracts from traditional areas of study. My view is that there is a need to engage young people from a early age in understanding communications technologies, especially those they are likely to be using before they become adults. And understanding how micro-blogging tools such as Twitter and Yammer (and related technologies such as SMS messages) work, their subtle differences and the ways in which they can be misused is a new media literacy skill which young people need to develop. Now Andy Powell pointed out that the “twitter terms of service prevent use by primary age children“. But for me this is not a show-stopper: terms of conditions can change and the term “Twitter” may be being used to describes a range of micro-blogging applications and not just the Twitter services itself. I would expect many in the higher and further education sectors to particularly welcome this news, as ensuring that student arriving at college or university will several years of experience of such technologies should help to ensure that they can make use of such communications and collaborative tools more effectively when begin their studies. And I find this announcement particularly interesting coming as it does that day after Ewan McIntosh, in the closing plenary talk at the recent JISC09 conference, praised the Twitterers in the audience who were engaging in active learning and discussions during his talk, whilst others were being passive consumers – which is particularly ironic as JISC and many learning developers are actively seeking ways in which innovation can enrich learning experiences. Perhaps in a few year’s time those senior managers will be seeking help from their children – or possibly grand-children – on how to make effective use of such micro-blogging services. Filed in Blog, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) UKOLN and the FE Sector Thursday, March 26th, 2009 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 116 of 616 A number of years ago, following the announcement that the LSC (Learning and Skills Council) was to be a co- funder of JISC along with the various funding councils the various JISC-funded organisations set about extending their remit to provide support for Further Education (FE) colleges. I was involved, for example, in running several workshops which were organising in conjunction with JISC Regional Support Centres). However following subsequent changes in funding it was suggested to us that we need not be pro-active in engaging with the FE sector. But recently we have been asked to provide evidence of ways in which we have engaged with the FE sector. Now although some people are uncomfortable with the notion of metrics and impact measures, I am happy to go along with this New Labour phenomenum, as am aware that the people requesting such information have no say over the policy decisions. The question for me is how to gather such evidence, especially as we had felt that there was no need to record such information. At the recent JISC09 conference I was told that this blog is read by practitioners in the FE sector and it was suggested that the blog may also be embedded in FE college Web sites – who may read the blog without being aware of its provenance. So if you are in the FE sector and are a regular reader of this blog , have attended any of our talks or workshops, have made use of our QA Focus or Cultural Heritagebriefing documents or have benefitted from UKOLN’s work in other ways (perhaps being influenced by our work in the area of Web accessibility, for example) then please let me know, either by leaving a comment on this post or sending an email message to b.kelly@ukoln.ac.uk. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Blessed Are The Software Developers Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 I have to admit that at one point I had somewhat of a downer on software developers. I felt that there was a tendency for many in the development community to be driven by ideology rather than than supporting user- needs. I encountered this amongst the Web community where there was a tendency to be dismissive of software which wasn’t open source, even if it would provide benefits to the users. And similarly open source software was often given an uncritical support, even if it was difficult for typical users to use. In many respects things have progressed. Open source software is now being evaluated alongside proprietary solutions and the failings of poor quality open source software will be acknowledged. And many developers will themselves make use of proprietary software if it provides benefits over closed solutions – look at the popularity of the iPhone, Skype, etc. for example. I now feel that we should acknowledge the ways in which software developers are making today’s Web environment, in particular, a much richer and easy-to-use environment. But there are still ideological positions which are being held – in particular the view that light-weight development is to be preferred to ‘enterprise’ solutions and that tangible user benefits can be delivered quickly without the need for large-scale budgets. The good news is that such views are being supported by the JISC in its Grant Funding Call 03/09: Rapid Innovation Grants. Under this call funding is available for technical rapid innovation projects, lasting up to 6 months. Grants of £15,000 to £40,000 are available for individual projects. The call states, for example, that “Any outputs (prototypes, services and/or code) should strive to maintain a lightweight architecture. Using, for example, ReST, XML over HTTP, Cool URIs, JSON, etc, other machine interfaces such as SOAP will need to be justified in terms of their ease in reuse“. At a time of an economic recession I am pleased that the JISc is encouraged such initiatives. We still need to recognise, however, that not everthing can be solved in this fashion – there will still be a need for heavy-weight enterprise solutions in certain areas. But I do wonder whether those who many be critical of small levels of funding for IT development work may be those who have vested interests in maintaining power bases and hoping that large-scale investment in funding will tide them over until the econonmy recovers. But am I just being paranoid about this? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (4) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 117 of 616 Metrics For Measuring The Impact Of Blogs Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 I have an interest in approaches to measuring the impact of Web 2.0 services such as blogs – and this is an area of work which is being discussed with our funders, JISC and MLA. The conventional approach when engaged in such activities could be to carry out a literature search (which of course these days tends to mean Google, especially for Web-related areas of work). Sometimes, however, rather than having to search for information, the information comes to you. What do I mean by this? On this blog’s admin page I recently noticed a referrer link from a post on the Intelligent Measurement blog which provided details of the Eleven Evaluation Blogs. This contained a link to a list of 11 blogs that focus on evaluation published by the American Evaluation Association (which included the Intelligent Measurement blog). Incoming links are normally from pages which have a author-created reference to a post on the blog. However last year WordPress announced a new feature on blogs hosted in WordPress.com which “show[s] posts related to yours a little section at the end [of the post]“. So resource discovery doesn’t have to mean going to a search engine – instead blog posts of interest to you can arrive in your blog based on the title of and content of your blog posts. So if I write a blog post entitled “Metrics For Measuring The Impact Of Blogs” I might discover incoming links for possibly related posts automatically embedded at the bottom of this post. It will be interesting to see how well this works. And will we be able to say that “blessed are the blog authors for they shall find what they seek”? Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Attention – Services Unavailable! Monday, March 16th, 2009 Background Bath University Computing Services (BUCS) is planning engineering work from 4:30 pm on Friday 27 March until 9:00 am on Monday 30th March 2009. This means that no UKOLN Web sites or services will be available for that period. Further information is available on the BUCS Web site. Dissemination As a variety of UKOLN services will be unavailable over the period (which is the weekend after next) we will need to ensure that our key stakeholders are informed (including our funders, JISC and MLA) and take steps to ensure that we alert anyone who may be making use of such services over this period – and possibly afterwards, if any unexpected problems are encountered. Before alerting the key stakeholders we needed to identify affected services. As well as the obvious Web sites on a .ukoln.ac.uk domain there are also the Web sites, such as Exploit Interactive (http://www.exploit-lib.org/) and Cultivate Interactive (http://www.cultivate-int.org/) which, although they are hosted locally, do not have an obvious dependency on UKOLN servers. There was also a need to identify other network services besides Web sites. Being unable to send email messages or receive incoming email may be obvious, but do we have any services which rely on automated processing of emails (such as various Listserv mailing lists we host?) Similarly what about other networked services besides Web and email – what about any LDAP services, streaming video services, Z39.50 services, etc. , etc.? And what about the services outside of Bath which may make use of our services? Will they degrade gracefully if our http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 118 of 616 servers are unavailable over the weekend or mwill such services (which are not only external to us, but we may not even know they exist) fail or timeout as they await a response from our servers? Having (we hope!) identified the key services we need to disseminate the news of the unavailability of our services and the possible implications for other service providers who have dependencies on our services and the end user communities we need to make use of the various dissemination challenges in order to alert the various affected communities. Clearly email has an important role to play in communication with the key stakeholders. And we have provided an alert on UKOLN’s news service, which is also available via RSS. These are the obvious dissemination channels, but what else can we use? In this blog post about the associated issues (which I’ll expand on in the following section) I’m also alerting readers of this blog (who may also be users of UKOLN – and Bath – services) of the scheduled downtime. And I will also use Twitter to send out an announcement about this post which will be followed by another tweet shortly before the services are brought down. I’ve also updated the RSS feed for the QA Focus Web site and will do something similar shortly for the Exploit Interactive and Cultivate Interactive news feeds. General Issues For this scheduled downtime we have had time to discuss the implications and make plans for informing our users. And we’ve had useful discussions with other affected parties in the University, including the e-learning unit. But what about the wider issues such as whether a weekend of service down-time should be regarded as acceptable, whether we should provide mechanisms for prov9ding backup services which aren’t dependent on the local network or even looking to migrate our services to external providers? We, of course, aren’t alone in having to consider such issues. Last week there were a number of Twitter posts about service problems with a number of MIMAS services including COPAC and the Archives Hub. And although a MIMAS news item was published when the service was restored I felt that the various tweets which were published when the services first became at risk demonstrated how Twitted can be useful in immediate feedback and also a mechanism for feedback. Back in January 2008 I wrote a post entitled When Web Sites Go Down which was concerned with the announcement by the University of Southampton that its Web site was down for scheduled maintenance from 2- 4th January 2008. In light of the service unavailable of well-established services hosted by prestigious institutions such as the universities of Bath, Manchester and Southampton it might be timely to ask ourselves whether educational institutions need still to be involved in the hosting of widely used services? Wouldn’t it be better, we may ask, to leave hosting to the global organisations such as Google and Yahoo? But if that’s your view, reflect on a recent email sent out by Yahoo to users of the Yahoo Mail service: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 119 of 616 From: “Yahoo! Mail” <noreply@email.yahoo-inc.com> Date: 10 March 2009 23:50:43 GMT To: Subject: Scheduled Maintenance We are undertaking some essential, but extensive, maintenance to improve Yahoo! Mail this weekend. The maintenance is part of our ongoing efforts to give you the best Mail service we can. Beginning the evening of Friday March 13th (PDT) you may experience problems accessing your Yahoo! Mail account. If your account is affected, it should be available again by midday on Saturday March 14th (PDT). We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience. Best regards, The Yahoo! Mail team I think we do need to keep asking such questions. But we also need to remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. And I hope the email send by Yahoo’s support team on the 10 March about the downtime on 13-14 March wasn’t the only notification which Yahoo Mail users received! But as well as asking ourselves the longer term question about how our services should be hosted, we still need to address the issues of service downtime (whether scheduled or not) and how we alert our users and other service providers who may be affected. Any thoughts? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) Guerilla Accessibility Researchers Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 The recent Dev8D Developer Happiness Days provided an environment for developers in the JISC development community (and more widely) to engage in rapid software development. As the “Dev8D produces rapid results” post described “Day three of Developer Happiness Days is only just beginning but two ideas have already been made real by the keen coders here“. As I attended only for parts of the first two days of the event I’ll not blog about the event – if you’d like to hear more about what happened I suggest you look at some of the search results for the ‘dev8d’ tag. However the enthusiasm I came across from developers who could see tangible outputs being produced over a period of a few days (although the more significant outputs will probably have been finalised over the following week) I’ve recently seen echoed in another context. David Sloan, a researcher based at the University of Dundee (and co-author of several of our joint papers on Web accessibility) recently announced, on Twitter, the launch of his blog. And in a post entitled “Sad Professors” David described his frustration with “the slow process of peer reviewing” and went on to add that “If I find accessing the research I need can be challenging what about the people who are making day to day decisions that might affect the accessibility of the resources they produce, and who could benefit from the results of research?” This is a heart-felt plea from someone who sees clearly the tangible benefits that his accessibility research can have for people with disabilities. Coincidentally a few days after reading David’s blog post in which he criticised slow peer-reviewing processes, I received an email saying that a paper on “Accessibility 2.0: Next Steps For Web Accessibility” authored by myself, David and several others had been published in the Journal of Access Services, Vol.6 Issues 1 & 2, 2009, pp. 265-294. That was the good news – the bad news was that the deadline for submissions was 30 September 2007:-( However rather than simply complaining about the seemingly glacial processes of engaging in publishing research findings in peer-reviewed publications David has decided to engage in guerilla accessibility research. This is “work typically done in a short period of time, to answer a very specific question, or target a very particular group of web users and published online in a (usually) easy to find place, such as a blog“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 120 of 616 David goes on to add that: As a bonus … research written for the web is generally easier to read than an academic paper, and easy to extract the key points. It will be peer-reviewed, but after publication. If the work is good, people talk about it; if it’s of poor quality, reaction in the blogosphere will be swift. And more and more often, the results of this work are referenced in academic literature, yet I’ll bet is of more direct impact to the people it aims to inform – web designers and developers, assistive technologists, policy makers and anyone else who needs accessibility information quickly. In David’s first post on his blog he admitted: “I succumbed! After resisting a blog for years, joining Twitter made me realise that I do actually have things to say on a fairly regular basis, things that other people just might be interested in reading” He went on to confess that “Yep, I work in a university, where there is a culture of publishing information at conferences and peer-reviewed journal papers – not always the easiest (or quickest) way to share information. This means we sometimes neglect more direct (and to be honest, probably more effective) routes – such as blogs like this“. Perhaps we could say, to paraphrase a recent post, that in the research community “slowly, one by one, the lights are switching on“. David’s “The 58 Sound” blog should be a must read for anyone with interests in Web accessibility and usability. Filed in Accessibility, Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) From 'Archivus Coelacanth' to 'Archivus Sapiens' Monday, March 9th, 2009 I’m pleased to report that a proposal for a talk on “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” has been accepted for the “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists” conference which will be held in Manchester on 19-20th March 2009. The risks of Web 2.0 are often mentioned but those who use this as an argument for refusing to engage may miss out on the risks of doing nothing and the missed opportunities. It struck me recently that Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhikers Guide series, provided a wonderful historical perspective on the need to take risks in order to evolve. In the first series “The Book” described “an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea“. The book then went on to add: “Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.” In homage to Douglas Adams I’d therefore like to describe the evolutionary history of the Archives profession. Feel free to adapt this to other scenarios – I’ve sure we are all familiar with theAcademus Coelancanth and the Librarian Coelancanth (and if I’ve confused Latin and Greek terms I’d welcome more approariate suggestions). Archivus Coelancanth is rarely spotted in the wild these days, still to be found but can still be spotted in the depths of the archives. This is the species which failed to evolve with the changing environment. As documented in Wikipedia “the coelacanth is almost worthless” although it is worthy of interest to those who have an interest in evolutionary dead ends. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 121 of 616 In contrast to Archivus Coelancanth the Archivist Raptor has failed to survive. This species was terrifying when it ruled, rapidly destroying many of its competitors. However the destruction of the local IT Servitus proved to be its own undoing and the species is now in grave danger of becoming extinct following an inability to respond to the rapidly changing (economic) climate. Archivus Sapiens (the wise archivist) is not as intimidating as its predecessor. However it has the agility and mental capacity to respond quickly to the changing environment. A distinctive feature of the Archivus Sapiens is the ‘elbow patches’ on its outer garments which have no practical important but, like the appendix in the related Homo Sapiens is a relic of a previous environment. Which species, I wonder, is to be found in your archive? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) The Long Tail of the Topless Swedish Model Friday, March 6th, 2009 What is the usage profile like for a typical blog post on this blog? I suspect the statistics for the post on “Are You Able?” is fairly typical (although, as I confessed recently I did pimp up this post on Twitter. What we can see is the post was viewed by most users on the day it was published, with a steady drop after that, although there was a slight increase in the numbers of viewers on the Monday after the weekend. It was also pleasing to note that most uses have been via the syndicated RSS feed. This is good news and provides evidence that much greater use is being made of RSS readers, by readers of this blog at least. But let’s look at another blog post to see a very different usage profile. As can be seen we again saw a peak of about 200 views (again mostly views of the syndicated feed) on the day the post was published. But since the post was published there has been a long tail of daily views of the post and with a current total of 1,946 views on 23rd February 2009, most of the views of this post have taken place in the weeks and months after it was published. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 122 of 616 What’s the reason for the difference? Although it may be felt that there aren’t significant differences as, over time, the Are You Able post might have a long tail of views. I’ll address that point by concluding this post with the usage statistics for a post published around the same time as the one mentioned above. And the title of that post “Pinky and Perky and Swedish Topless Model Caught in Use as Learning Objects” might give a indication for its popularity. Yes, you’re right. This post is so popular because of the numbers of people searching for “topless model” and “Swedish topless model“. And I’ve been caught out for the unethical approach of using an inappropriate title with the sole intention of boosting the blog’s usage figures. Well, not (quite) true in my opinion. I did have a legitimate interest in how use of such phrases could effect the amount of traffic. But I also have a need to think of new titles for blog posts (I’ve published over 500 posts, and I can’t call them all stuff I think is interesting about Twitter, Facebook, …). And I’ll continue to think of puns and word plays for the titles of the blog posts – and I know I’m not alone in this. I will, though, try to ensure that the titles are relevant to the post (there was a photograph of a topless Swedish model included in the post) – but a post called “Britney Spears nude” purely to pull in the traffic would be inappropriate (as well as showing that I’m not up-to-date with the latest pop babe). But what about concerns that although it may help to motivate me as the author to think up interesting titles, this can skew the usage figures may may be requested by funding agencies? My response is that there are many ways to enhance usage statistics – as I illustrated in a post on Lies, Dammed Lies, Blog Statistics and Unexpected Spikes. So for me, if funding bodies wish to request inappropriate metrics, then that is their prerogative. But at least I’ve been open about my awareness that the usage statistics are flawed. And hopefully going public about the dangers of over-simplistic metrics will discourage the civil servants and bean-counters from mandating their use. As I mentioned above in order to provide a meaningful comparison a graph of the usage statistics for a post on Butler Group Report on “Enterprise Web 2, published on 11th December 2008, a week after the Swedish model post, is shown. As can be seen, after the first week the number of views dropped off sharply, confirming, I believe, the reasons for the popularity of the Swedish model post. Now isn’t it strange that the Swedish topless model has the long tail and not Pinky and Perky? I guess she must be a mermaid. Filed in Blog, General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) What Are the #jiscbid Evaluators Thinking? Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 123 of 616 A few weeks ago Gráinne Conole, a professor of e-learning at the Open University, used Twitter to ask for suggestions on how to go about writing a bid for one of the forthcoming JISC calls. And, as I recently described, many useful suggestions were given – despite that fact that this was a competitive process and the suggestions were being provided in an open space. A great example of a community working in an open fashion, I feel. And the benefits (better prepared submissions, clearer ideas of approaches to project management and dissemination described, etc.) will be beneficial to many stakeholders, including the JISC programme managers, evaluators of the proposals and, eventually, the users of the project deliverables. But did this happen? Were the bids well-written and had they followed the guidelines? Or was marking the bids a time-consuming and difficult process for the many evaluators who were involved in marking the bids? Well we can get an insight into the evaluators though processes by looking at the Twitter stream for tweets tagged with “jiscbids”. I think this tag was originally developed by an informal process, although at one point Amber Thomas (JISC Programme Manager) did suggest that this should be the tag adopted for sharing thoughts on the evaluation process: #jiscbids dons [corporate hat] i am assuming all other markers are using this hashtag to offer constructive comments on anonymised bids too Subsequently Sam Easterby-Smith (CETIS) commented that he was: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 124 of 616 Finding the #jiscbids tweet feed rather too fascinating… @briankelly MUST do follow up to his blog post from feb 5th – woo I’ll not, however, discuss the details of the tweets, other than to say that having the opportunity to observe evaluators’ thoughts on the marking process should provide immensely valuable feedback to those at JISC who are responsible for managing the evaluation process. There have been discussions, for example, on whether bids which were over the maximum number of pages allowed should be automatically discarded (possibly before reaching the markers) or whether such bids should be marked down, but could still be funded it the bid is strong enough. Having been involved in bid marking in the past it has only just struck me that in my experience there has been very little discussions on the evaluation process itself, perhaps because once the marks are returned to JISC the programme managers will be busy comparing the responses, making final decisions, suggesting changes to proposals, etc. By the time this is all over, I suspect there will be little energy left for reflecting on the evaluation process. So I hope that someone will find the time and energy to go through the various tweets made by the evaluators (including those which did not have a #jiscbids tag). But as well as identifying aspects of the reviewing process which can be improved, there will also be a need to consider whether the openness and informality which Twitter has provided could be in conflict with a closed reviewing process. I disagree with Mike Ellis’s view that Twitter “needs an edge, a voice, a riskiness” – in some cases this may be true, but in discussing a bidding process or, as my colleague Marieke Guy has recently commented, in the context of discussing talks at conferences, we need to establish best practices. But I hope the best practices which emerge acknowledge the benefits which can be gained from using services such as Twitter. Filed in General, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Rethinking Web Accessibility for E-Learning Monday, March 2nd, 2009 Why would we want to rethink Web accessibility in an elearning context? Surely application of WAI’s WCAG guidelines will provide universal accessibility? And the recently released WCAG 2.0 guidelines should improve things further. As described in a paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility” the WAI approach is flawed when applied in an elearning context. The WCAG guidelines seek to ensure that information can be processed by people with disabilities using a variety of assistive technologies. But learning isn’t about the simple processing of information (effective learning isn’t provided by encylopedia!). This was the core of our initial work. Further research described flaws in WAI guidelines and provided evidence that, although a political success, WCAG guidelines aren’t being implemented to any significant extent. The reason for this isn’t that educational institutions aren’t aware of the guidelines or don’t care about enhancing the quality of learning for students with disabilities. And although there are instances in which accessibility could be enhanced relatively simply, there is a need for an alternative approach which http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 125 of 616 recognises the complexities of user needs and requirements, the rapidly changing technical environment, our understandings of what is meant by ‘accessibility’ and ‘disability’ and our ability to implement desirable solutions (and not just policies) within our institutions. Our proposed approach (solution would be too bold a term) describes a Web Adaptability framework which builds on our holistic framework and focusses on the accessibility of learning outcomes rather than e-learning resources and the involvement of a broad spectrum of stakeholders. And rather than a simplistic legal framework, institutions should deploy such approaches due to peer pressure, involvement of learners with disabilities in the design process, corporate reputation management, peer group pressure and sharing of solutions and failures. Please join in the debate on how this goal can be realised! Please note that this post was submitted to the Edu Blogger Scholarship contest and has been shortlisted in the 20 finalists. For details on why I am entering this contest see my previous post. Filed in Accessibility | Tagged WAI, WCAG | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Entering the Edu Blogger 2009 Awards Sunday, March 1st, 2009 I know from recent discussions that some people don’t like awards being given to bloggers for various reasons (blogging is a personal activity; awards can be divisive; etc.). But although there may be an element of truth in such comments I also feel that there can be benefits providing in entering such competitions. For me entering a blog post in an international Edu Bloggers scholarship contest allows me to reach a much wider audience and to have the potential that this wider audience can provide feedback on my ideas and also, perhaps, be influenced by the topic of my post. And, to be honest, much of my work is about seeking to influence the educational sector in making effective use of networked technologies. I may be getting on a bit, but I still feel passionate about such things! http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 126 of 616 Tomorrow’s post will provide me with the challenge of saying something important and influential in 200-300 words. And that in itself will provide me with a valuable learning opportunity – Twitter has helped me develop skills in writing pithy comments in 140 characters and my peer-reviewed papers are often about 5,00 words long. But how will I do in a middle distance event? Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Revisiting Web Accessibility Metadata Friday, February 27th, 2009 At the OzeWAI 2009 conference Liddy Nevile gave a talk on “AccessForAll Metadata for all Australian Resources”. I’ve known Liddy for over 10 years (I think we first met at a W3C working group meeting on PICS). Liddy has interests in both metadata and accessibility and has been working on the development of standards for accessibility metadata for some time. Liddy prefers the term ‘adaptability’ to ‘accessibility’ for reasons she explains in her paper on “Adaptability and Accessibility: a New Framework” – and I’m in broad agreement with her. Liddy gave several reasons why the vision of making every digital resource universally accessible to all was flawed (but unfortunately her talk was not recorded, so you’ll have to take my word for that . Her talk reminded me of the ideas concerning accessibility and metadata which I had about 10 years go and presented in a talk in May 1999 on “Accessibility, Automation and Metadata” at a WAI meeting held in Toronto after the WWW 8 conference. [slideshare id=966277&doc=metadata-1233241139293685-3&w=425] It’s funny looking back at a presentation like this after a period of almost 10 years. Sentiments such as those expressed by Julie Howell (who then worked at the RNIB): “Rather than encouraging ’simplicity’ in Web design … we try to encourage ‘flexibility’, so that Web sites can be tailored to individual need ’simply’. Flexibility affords the personalisation which people with sight problems require.” still do not seem to be accepted in some quarters (such as policy makers in the Government) where there still seems to be a culture of mandating a single approach rather than responding to a diversity of requirements. I suspect that the (rather vague) ideas suggested in my talk haven’t yet really surfaced in widespread use not because of the lack of tools to implement such approaches, but because ideas based around personalisation weren’t popular back then. But now that PLEs and PREs are in vogue, we need to be revisiting these issues – and not just at the application level, but also the metadata standards needed to implement this. But as Liddy and I admitted in a paper on “Web Accessibility 3.0: Learning From The Past, Planning For The Future” we also need to acknowledge that good ideas are not necessarily implemented. There a need to learn from failures of the past and take into account the following when seeking to develop alternative approaches: • The need for acceptance in the market place for tools which support the a personalisation vision for accessibility; • The dangers of seeking to standardise too soon; • The dangers of embedding technological decisions within legislation too soon; • The need to ensure that solutions can scale to vast numbers of resources and users. Are we, I wonder, now in a position in which such concerns can be addressed? Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Impact Of This Blog On My Publication Record Thursday, February 26th, 2009 http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 127 of 616 Does The “Blogging Bug” Affect Academic Publishing? Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, recently wrote a blog post on Blogging impacts on formal academic output in which he describes how the numbers of his published articles had declined since being “bitten by the blog bug“. He didn’t regard this as necessarily a bad thing, though, as Martin feels that “Blogging meets these needs [to share ideas and fulfill a creative urge to write] better than formal publications” and the benefits of networking, which was an important factor in submitting papers to conferences can now be achieved using online communications technologies such as blogs and micro-blogs. My Publishing History Martin asked if anyone else noticed a similar trend. So I checked my publication record – the figures are illustrated in the accompanying diagram. I started to write papers for peer-reviewed journals and conferences seriously in 2004 with four papers being published: two based on a JISC-founded QA Focus which I was the project manager of, one on standards and the fourth a short paper I co-authored with Andy Powell and Pete Johnston, then colleagues at UKOLN. Interestingly, although one of the QA Focus papers was co-authored by fellow team members the second was written jointly with staff from the University of Strathclyde, following a discussion in the pub after I gave a seminar in Glasgow. The following year another four papers were published which cover three of my main areas of interest: Web accessibility, social networks and interoperability. Again three of the papers were written with contacts I had made professionally but another one arose from discussions in a pub in Bath, at a Semantic Web Southwest meeting. My most productive year for publications was 2005 with nine papers published, covering accessibility, social networking and standards. In retrospect this was the year in which I had gained the confidence that I had something worthy of publishing, the necessary writing skills, a good appreciation of the effort needed and contacts who I knew could contribute to a joint papers. By 2006 I was able to further develop ideas on Web accessibility and standards and contribute to a short paper in a new area which I suspected would be of increasing relevance to myself and UKOLN, preservation of Web resources. A total of six paper were published that year. The UK Web Focus blog was launch in November 2006, so during 2007 I was developing my skills in writing blog posts and responding to comments. But I still managed to publish four papers in the year, on accessibility, open standards and the first on Web 2.0 – the lead author of this latter paper, incidentally, was Mike Ellis whom I first got talking to in a pub in Leicester after the UK Museums on the Web conference. “Let’s write a paper” was my parting shot to Mike as he left the pub – which we went on to do (and subsequently much more). Six further papers were published in 2008, together with two contributions to books. The papers included one on Web site preservation with fellow members of the JISC PoWR project (I was correct in 2007 when I felt this would be an important area). The final paper of the year was an invited paper which was presented at the Bridging Worlds Conference in Singapore. The co-authors for that paper included people I had met once at a workshop in http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 128 of 616 Wales, had met at a conference several year’s ago but re-established informal contact through Twitter and one person who I have met primarily via blog posts, blog comments and on Twitter. Discussion Preamble The first comment I should make is that I’m not attempting to suggest that there is any equivalence in quality between my papers and Martin Weller’s. My papers, for example, include those which have been accepted by a formal peer-reviewing processes, but also include short papers, papers for which only the abstract has been reviewed and, in the final example, an invited paper for presentation at an international conference. But at least I am aware of a level of consistency across my publications. Finding Co-Authors Writing this post has given my an insight into the ways I have gone about the task of discovering people to collaborate with in writing such papers (I’ve realised that, apart from the two books, there have been only two papers which I have written on my own). The approaches I have taken can be summarised as: Initially the papers were a dissemination activity of a funded project (initially the QA Focus project) and this has continued with, for example the recent JISC PoWR project). I had also supported the staff development of colleagues in my team at UKOLN and regarded joint authorship of papers as a way of developing writing skills and adding valuable content to their CVs. Several of the papers were written with staff from our strategic partners – other JISC services with whom we have good links with and a desire to work with (and be seen to work with) including JISC TechDis, CETIS and OSS Watch. But I was surprised when I did this analysis and found that significant numbers of my papers had been written with people with whom I had developed good social links. And this is even more important than I’d realised as the papers with strategic partners and project partners also reflected good social contacts with individuals within those organisations. For me it seems that the social contacts can be important in the writing process. On a number of occasions a paper has arisen from discussions and a shared understanding which have taken place over several pints which has led to papers been written and accepted for publication. More recently it seems that discussions based abound blog posts and on Twitter have served to support the social lubrication when a pint (or two) of real ale was not available. Quality Issues Discussions based on the content of blog posts supported by getting to know people on Twitter may have helped to build links with authors and potential authors, but has blogging affected the quality of the papers themselves? I feel my papers have improved in quality, although clearly this would be expected as one gains experience and gets a better understanding of the topics of the papers. But I also feel that blogging has been beneficial to the process of writing papers. I’ve used my blog as an open notebook, recording ideas which previously I may have forgotten when it came around to writing a paper. And as the ideas have been exposed to a wide audience I have benefitted from comments I have received (and perhaps even a lack of comments which may possibly that the idea isn’t too outrageous). And as a number of my papers have been about observing how the world is approaching particular uses of technologies (such as Web accessibility) I’ve made use of blogs and microblogs (both as an author and reader) in order to gain a better understanding of patterns of usage. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 129 of 616 Dissemination The dissemination aspect of the blog for my papers is self-evident. For papers presented at conferences I normally publish something on this blog. Over the past six months of so I have also recorded my talk on video, providing an additional dimension for those who prefer the more chatty explanation of the ideas to the more formal prose of the scholarly publication. Conclusions Returning to the question posed by Marin Weller “Does the ‘Blogging Bug’ Affect Academic Publishing?” I would say it does. But for me, unlike Martin, I feel it has enhanced the quality of my publications, enhanced awareness of the papers and the ideas they have explored and widened my circle of peers with whom I collaborate with. And although I recognise that thing may be different in other disciplines and for people with different working styles and organisational priorities (e.g. the RAE) for me blogging and engaging with blogs (reading other blogs and commenting on them) is now an essential part of my paper-writing process. Filed in Blog, General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Crowd-sourcing Ideas for IWMW 2009 Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 In a trip report on the Institutional Web Managers Workshop 2008 Andy Stewart was full of praise for the event: “it was absolutely fantastic“. Andy went on to say that although “The plenaries, parallel sessions, discussion groups and social events are all extremely useful in their own right” for him “it’s the inspiration and sense of belonging that one feels during and after the conference I think makes the difference“. We’re currently inviting proposals for this year’s event, IWMW 2009, which will be held at the University of Essex on 28-30th July 2009. Last year we providing an innovation competition and encouraged developers to make use of the data provided by the university of Aberdeen, Bath and Edge Hill University. This encouragement for openness within the community was welcomed by Andy: “One theme which stuck out above all, to me, was that of transparency through initiatives to open up our information allowing others to do what they feel with it“. We are looking to build on this culture of openness. So this year rather than simply inviting submissions for talks and workshop sessions to be sent to the chair of the event (my colleague Marieke Guy) we are using the Ideascale service in order to crowd-source suggestions for content at the workshop. We’re doing this to allow potential participants and other interested parties to provide suggestions on topics they’ve like to see covered at the address (as well as provide other more general suggests for the event – such as what type of social event we should provide). Doing this in this open fashion, as illustrated below, enables participants to become more active participants in the processes of putting together the programme for the event. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 130 of 616 Now we have to be honest and admit that we can’t guarantee that the most popular options will necessarily be provided or that seemingly unpopular topics won’t be covered. But at least everybody will have had the opportunity to participate in this process. And this is also a learning process for ourselves – in retrospect we realise that the suggested titles should have been neutral in tone, rather than the provocative title which could be suited for a session itself (we don’t know if people are voting on the sentiment expressed in the title or on whether the topic should be addressed at the workshop). And I’m not sure what the usage statistics are meant to be saying. It doesn’t seem likely that 16 users have cast 1018 votes! But if you have views on topics which members of institutional Web management teams should be discussing feel free to provude your suggestion. Now this won’t be regarded as a submission to the event, but if you would like to give a talk or run a session at this year’s event details of how to submit proposals are available on the IWMW 2009 Web site. Filed in iwmw2008, iwmw2009 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Twitter Can Pimp Up Your Stuff – But Should It? Monday, February 23rd, 2009 I recently published a blog post entitled “Are You Able?“. Shortly after it was published I wrote a tweet which linked to the post. Although at one stage I had registered with a service which would automatically send a tweet when I published a new post I no longer do this. Rather I’ll send a tweet if I think the post might be of particular interest or is relevant to discussions which have taken place in my Twitter community. Shortly after I sent out my tweet I received a response from George Brett who had retweeted my post (forwarded my tweet to his group of followers): RT @briankelly: Are your resources available, reusable, usable, accessible, exploitable and preservable? Is it feasible? http://is.gd/jOWg 6:57 AM Feb 17th from TweetDeck http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 131 of 616 This was followed by another retweet by digicmb (Guus van den Brekel) tweeted: RT @briankelly: R ur resources available, reusable, usable, accessible, exploitable & preservable? = ur approach feasible? http://is.gd/jOWg 6:32 AM Feb 17th from TweetDeck Now at recent Web 2.0 and blogging workshops I’ve facilitated for staff working in museums, libraries and archives I have been asked how one can demonstrate that time spent in using various Web 2.0 technologies provides an positive return on investment. The impression I get is that people in these sectors do need to demonstrate tangible and measurable benefits in order to justify their usage (and perhaps even have firewalls configured so that the services can be accessed). How, then, might you provide evidence that Twitter can be used to support organisational aims? Well I currently have 777 followers on Twitter, so I might argue that Twitter can provide a cost-effective dissemination mechanism. And as George Brett has 1,109 followers and Guus van den Brekel has 332, there could be over 2,000 users who have received the notification of my latest blog post. Job done, you may feel, I’ve provided an example of the how Twitter has the potential to maximise access to one’s digital resources, whether this is a blog post, as in this example, an event, a new service or whatever (although I should add that I haven’t said anything about whether those followers still use Twitter or that they may not be people, but spam harvesters). But yesterday (Sunday 22 February 2009) Mia Ridge sent a tweet saying: You are not you, you are a brand. ‘no one enjoys someone who posts spontaneously’ http://bit.ly/qGRdk I don’t get the obsession w followers Mia was linking to a blog post on Being a Useful Twitter User [and receiving followers in the process] which provided advice (”Be consistent and organized”; “Pace yourself!”; etc.) aimed at helping you to maximise the number of your followers. I think Mia was quite right to highlight the dangers of such depersonalisation of Twitter. And as the individual and quirk, aspect of Twitter has played a role in its success following a set of guidelines which aim to provide a sterile environment could well lead to a killing of the golden goose. Which isn’t to say that one shouldn’t ‘pimp up’ one’s blog posts, however. Mia herself tweeted a few hours after her previous post that she “blogged my dev8D talk (http://bit.ly/d9z5y) on happy museums, developers and punters (right URL this time), open to suggestions, comments“. But rather than Twitter users using the service to post factual information about themselves, their work and their organisation I’d suggest that the emphasis should be on those aspects that you care about and, as Martin Weller suggested recently, the things you love: your iPhone, your musical taste, your football team and the like. And as Mike Ellis recently suggested that Twitter “needs an edge, a voice, a riskiness” I think I’ll announce this post with the tweet “Pimping up my blog post on the attractions & dangers of pimping up blog posts: http://is.gd/kt2t“. Filed in Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (10) "Slowly, One By One, The Stars Were Going Out" Friday, February 20th, 2009 I recently asked on Twitter “Who remembers the SciFi short story ‘Slowly, one by one, the stars were going out’?” I went on to add “It’s happening with Twitter profile pictures“. It turned out that this came from Arthur C Clark’s short story “The Nine Billion Names of God, although I’d misremembered the final sentence which, according to the entry in Wikipedia, actually read “overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 132 of 616 The reason many people are blacking out their profile image is to express support for the New Zealand Internet Blackout campaign. This campaign, which has successfully made use of a number of social networking services (and not just Twitter) in a viral fashion to protest against a new law in New Zealand – the Guilt Upon Accusation law ‘Section 92A’. As described in a post on the Read Write Webblog “this law may have major implications for Internet users in NZ, because it calls for internet disconnection “based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny.” The use of social networking services as a way of exploiting the network effects in protests against political decisions which seek to impose restrictions on Internet services is not restricted to just New Zealand. I was surprised to learn recently that in Australia, as described on the No Clean Feed Web site: “The Australian Federal Government is pushing forward with a plan to force Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to censor the Internet for all Australians. This plan will waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and slow down Internet access“. Regional protests, such as the No Clean Feed Canberra rally held in December 2008 made use of Facebook event page. to provide details of the rally (with an alternate page provided for those who could not/would not access Facebook). Now I haven’t blacked out my Twitter (or Facebook) profile, although I would agree that the proposed developments (in Australia as well as New Zealand) are to be regretted. I’ve chosen not to do this as I prefer to reserve any protests I may wish to make to something I feel more strongly about – and rationing such protests should enhance the impact of any campaigns which I may chose to support. I also find that blacked out profile pictures is reducing the usefulness of Twitter, as it is more difficult to see who is writing the tweets. However that is not to say that I do not want to contribute to the protests, so I am writing this post in order to alert readers of this blog who may not be aware of the New Zealand Internet Blackout campaign (and I know that not everyone is a regular Twitter user and so may not have seen these blacked out images). I also thought it would be worth embedded this YouTube video: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpbadsgW4Qg] http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 133 of 616 Note that if you wish to join in with this campaign you’ll have to hurry as the dates of the campaign are 16-23 February 2009 Filed in General, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) My Thoughts On The Facebook Debate Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 The blogosphere and the Twitterverse have been full of angry posts and tweets on the recent changes to Facebook’s terms and conditions and the subsequent reversal in the light of the negative publicity. My, perhaps somewhat controversial, view is that there has been a failure to recognise the complexities related to ownership of data in a social networked environment and instead we have been seeing simplistic solutions being proposed which, if applied generally, would undermine the development of the more open social networks which, ironically, many of those engaged in the discussions would actually prefer to see. Consider the view that “it’s my data and if I wish it to be deleted then this must be permitted“. There’s no ambiguity in such a view which, on the surface, appears reasonable. But how might this be applied in other contexts such as, for example, the UK’s JISC-funded JISCMail service. This service has a policy document which is publicly available. This states that “When you leave JISCmail, your name, email address and, if relevant, Shibboleth Targeted_ID will be removed from our database“. That sounds good, and is in keeping with the expectations which have been raised in the context of Facebook’s changes to its terms and conditions. However the JISCMail policy goes on to state that “However, any message you have posted to a list will remain in the archives“. What? JISCMail are going to keep my data (forever, I assume) even though, in the policy on copyright, JISCMail have admitted that “When you send a message to a JISCmail list, you retain your copyright in that message“. JISCMail, it would seem, are behaving even worse than Facebook; at least Facebook have been honest and openly stated that they won’t delete users’ data, with (new) users having to acept these terms and conditions. JISCMail, on the other hand, states that it’s the user’s data but keeps the data if the user leaves the service. What about all of those embarrassing messages I posted when I was young and naive, I may wonder? Now I should hasten to add that I’m not saying there is anything wrong in JISCMail terms and conditions; I am simply pointing out one example of the complexities. And yes, I am aware that an email message will be replicated in many places, so deleting one instance in the JISCMail archive wouldn’t be of much use. And I am also aware that deleting individual messages would undermine records of discussions. And these are arguments which Mark Zuckerberg has been making in his defence of the changes to the terms and conditions. But many of the initial responses have failed to acknowledge such complexities. The first post I read which did have a more considered view was the Dataportability blog which, in a post on “Redefining and Standardizing ‘Ownership“, acknowledged that “Facebook, by virtue of its sheer size and scope, is often the first to run into issues that the rest of the social web will need to address sooner rather than later“. The other post which gave carefully considered thoughts was published by my colleague Paul Walk in his post which argued “Facebook wants your attention, not your photos“. Now Paul has admitted “I’m certainly not a fan of Facebook. I have yet to find a use for it in my professional life and have criticised before the assumption that, for example, Higher Education should be embracing it as a service because it is widely popular“. But rather than taking an opportunity to join in the general condemnation, Paul describes how he “think[s] the furore about Facebook’s ‘ownership’ of user-generated-content has, by and large, slightly missed the point“. As someone who has posted a number of posts which have had a more positive view towards Facebook than Paul it would be appropriate for me to agree that Facebook have made mistakes in the way it has handled the changes to its terms and conditions. And yet, ironically, Facebook can manage (and delete) content held in its ‘walled garden’ than would be the case in more open and distributed social networked environments. But let’s join in with the Data Portability blog and Paul Walk in having a more mature and considered discussion of the complexities of ownership and controlled within social networks. Filed in Facebook | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 134 of 616 Are You Able? Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 There were two invited keynote speakers who travelled from Europe to speak at the OzeWAI 2009 conference. As well as my talk (which I described recently ) Dr. Eva M. Méndez (an Associate Professor in the Library and Information Science Department at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and not the American actor!) gave a talk entitled “I say accessibility when I want to say availability: misunderstandings of the accessibility in the other part of the world (EU and Spain)“. Eva’s research focuses on metadata and web standards, digital information systems and services, accessibility and Semantic Web. She has also served as an independent expert in the evaluation and review of European projects since 2006, both for the eContentPlus program and the ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) program and her talk was informed by her knowledge of the inner working of such development programmes funded by the EU. Her talk explored the ways in which well-meaning policies may be agreed with the EU, although such policies may be misinterpreted or misunderstand and fail to be implemented, even by the EU itself. I don’t have access to Eva’s slides, so I will give my own interpretation of Eva’s talk. We might expect the EU to support the development of a networked environment across EU countries across a range of areas. These areas might include: Available: Have resources been digitised? Are they available via the Web? Reusable: Are the resources available for use by others? Or they it trapped within a Web environment which makes reuse by others difficult? Findable: Can the resources be easily found? Have SEO techniques been applied to allow the resource to be indexed by search engines such Google? Exploitable: Are the resources available for others to reuse through, for example, use of Creative Commons licences? Usable: Are the resources available in a usable environment? Accessible: Are the resources accessible to people with disabilities? Preservable: Can the resources be preserved for use by future generations? Since the acronym ARFEUAP isn’t particularly memorable (and ARE-U-API would be too contrived) we might describe this as the Able approach to digitisation. But there is 0ne additional concept which I feel also needs to be included: Feasible: Are the policies which are proposed (or perhaps mandated) feasible (or achievable)? We might ask are they actually possible (can we make all resources universally accessible to all?) and can they be achieved with available budgets and with the standards and technologies which are currently available? There is, of course, a question which tends to be forgotten question: is the proposed service of interest to people and will it be used? The worrying aspect of Eva’s talk was that the EU don’t appear to be asking such questions – or even used the same vocabulary. We need to have the bigger picture in order to address tensions between these different areas and the question (and power struggles) of how we prioritise achieving best practices – for example, should we be digitizing resources, even if we can’t make them accessible; should we regard access by people with disabilities as being of importance than ensuring the resources can be preserved? And let’s not fudge the issue by suggested that each is equally important and all can be achieved by use of open standards. That simply isn’t the case – and if you doubt this, ask managers of institutional repositories. They will probably say that they are addressing the http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 135 of 616 available, reusable, findable, preservable and, perhaps, exploitable issues, but I suspect that the repository managers would probably admit that many of the PDFs in the repositories will not be accessible. Filed in Accessibility, preservation, standards | Tagged ozewai2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Should Projects Be Required To Have Blogs? Monday, February 16th, 2009 The Context Last week CETIS’s Mark Power started off a brief Twitter debate when he asked “Is the use of project blogs becoming too formalised by JISC? Still strikes me that many set one up simply because they feel they *should*“. Amber Thomas, a JISC Programme manager, responded by informing the Twitter community that she was “interested in what you all think about project blogs. for lightweight projects we like the idea of enforced transparency” concluding this request with “… thats easier said than done. we don’t expect every project blog frequently but it does provide the chance to aggregate easily“. The Tweet Debate The responses received over the next few hours included: Brian Kelly: @MarkPower I disagree. Project blogs mean words get written, content is public and content is syndicable. let’s encourage such openness! Sheila McNeil: @briankelly but how much really gets written in project blogs? I think still an onerous task for many Owen Stephens: @ambrouk don’t necessarily think you shouldn’t mandate, but keep in mind you are mandating a tech/platform not attitude. What to achieve? Andy Powell: @MarkPower blogging is an attitude not a technology, so simply “setting one up” doesn’t necessarily lead to results anyway Amber Thomas: project blogging: so … noone says make it mandatory, some say strongly encourage, some say don’t. good blogging good, bad blogging bad. ok Brian Kelly: @ambrouk bad blogging ok as part of learning proces. Allow mistakes please Amber Thomas: @markpower scoping a Call as we speak where we want to make it mandatory to use a blog or wiki Paul Walk: @MarkPower not sure that JISC is culpable – but there are definitely examples of project blogs where you wish they hadn’t felt the need Amber Thomas: @sheilmcn i guess community engagement and collaboration are one thing, reflection is another, transparency of progress is another again??? Andy Powell: @MarkPower blogging is an attitude not a technology, so simply “setting one up” doesn’t necessarily lead to results anyway Mark Power: @andypowe11 Exactly right…that’s why they won’t always work for a project and why the use of them shouldn’t be mandatory…not that they Paul Walk: @ambrouk the attitude of ‘publish early, publish often’ is worth cultivating. But team blogs are often terrible. Encourage – don’t mandate http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 136 of 616 Amber Thomas: ..but is the issue that they create extra “noise” that makes it hard to spot the real voices amongst the dutiful posts? Brian Kelly: @ambrouk Project managers should encourage ‘noise’ and use good filtering tools . Noise is better than silence! Paul Walk: @ambrouk @briankelly ‘noise is better than silence’ just doesn’t work for lots of ppl – especially researchers. It’s not appropriate for all Now as Paul Walk’s last tweet was preceded by “@andyramsden nah – that one wasn’t James’s fault surely. The Calamity will come in the second half. The dropped ball came close though” we can see that this discussion was taking place at around 10pm, while people were also watching the Spain vs England match live on the TV. I think from this dialogue we can see that a useful discussion can take place using Twitter, and that JISC are getting their money’s worth from their investment in UKOLN and CETIS, with us (together with a number of others) being on call on Wednesday evenings, even when we are in the pub watching England, once again being beaten! My Thoughts But what of the discussion itself? Should projects be required to have blogs? I think the Twitter debate brought out many of the important issues, but as Mark Power commented “twitter [is] not the best for such an in-depth discussion really“. However I do think it is worth exploring these issues in more depth. I would very much agree with Amber’s comment on the need for transparency for JISC-funded project work and, as a couple of people commented, blogs can provide a simple lightweight way in which projects can make visible what they are doing, what they are thinking and what they are planning – and feedback can be easily obtained using blog comments. However concerns were raised regarding the time and effort in may take to write blog posts, the associated (writing) skills needed and the dangers of too much information being published. There are also the dangers that blog posts will be written for their own sake, so that contractual requirements or expectations will be achieved to little concrete benefit. But surely skills in writing useful blog posts will only be gained through experience? And we should remember that blog posts can be useful for a variety of purposes: not only should project managers find blog posts useful in seeing how project work is progressing and seeing how the project is engaging with its user community but benefits can be gained by other project partners (through open sharing) and by the intended user community. There can also be a public record which might prove useful if project staff leave. The benefits of syndication of blog posts, which allow the content to be easily viewed on various devices as well as on a range of RSS readers should also be considered. And this is where filtering capabilities and other visualisation tools (e.g. Wordle) may help programme managers and other interested parties to have access in ways which are appropriate to their specific interests. Having said that, I’d still avoid a formal contractual requirement for project blogging, preferring, instead, an expectation that the benefits of open engagement with the key stakeholders and ease of use and reuse of the content would be provided. I would hope then that the bidding process would see projects which fulfilled such requirements would be funded. This approach, it should be noted, should also be future-proofed, allowing new technologies (Podcasting, micro-blogging or whatever) to be included in the range of options. So for me, project blogging would be a strong should rather than a must. But how do we ensure that blogs are useful? We all have come across the good, informative and perhaps opinionated blog with a clear voice and a passion which engages our interests – and this is no doubt something we would like to see more of. But how do we get there? And what about the dangers that we’ll end up with bland team blogs? Are such blogs an inevitable part of a learning process and better than no blog at all? Or are counter-productive? What’s are your view of blogs to support project work? Filed in Blog, Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (16) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 137 of 616 "Standards Are Like Sausages" Friday, February 13th, 2009 “Standards are like sausages” suggested Charles McCathieNevile at the OzeWAI 2009 conference. “I like sausages” he went on to say “but I’m not keen on exploring too closely how they’re made“. This was a wonderful metaphor which appealed to several Twitterers at the conference, including scenariogirl and RuthEllison. A quick Google suggests the origin of this saying is “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made” by Otto von Bismarck (although this origin is disputed) with the Healthcare Standards blog applying it to standards-making in a post on The Making of Standards and Sausages published in August 2008. Paul Downey, an advocate of Web Architecture at BT and formerly BT’s Chief Web Services Architect, chair of the W3C XML Schema Patterns for Databinding Working Group and BT representative at various organisations including OASIS and the WS-I, may has some sympathy with this view judging by the title of his talk at the QCon conference ”Standards are Great, but Standardisation is a Really Bad Idea“. The abstract for this talk is worth quoiting in full: Standards arise from consensus between competitors signaling maturity in a marketplace. A good standard can ensure interoperability and assist portability, allowing the switching of suppliers. A widely adopted standard can create new markets, and impose useful constraints which in turn foster good design and innovation. Standards are great, and as the old joke goes, that’s why we have so many of them! If standards represent peace, then formal standardisation can be war! Dark, political, expensive and exclusive games played out between large vendors often behind closed doors. There are better ways to forge consensus and build agreements and the notion of a committee taking often a number of years to writing a specification, especially in the absence of implementation experience appears archaic in today’s world of Agile methods, test driven development, open source, Wikis and other Web base collaborations. This talk will draw upon Paul’s personal experiences forged in the wonderful world of XML and Web service standardisation, examine the risks of premature standardisation, unnatural constraints, partial implementations and open extensions, puzzle how to avoid cloud computing lock-in, and contrast formal activities with lightweight open processes as exemplified by open source, Microformats, OpenID, OAuth and other Web conventions being ratified through open, lightweight, continuous agreement. Now I’ve heard it suggested that in order to avoid choosing the wrong standard, you simply need to look at the worthiness of the organisation which produced the standard, perhaps on the assumption that a reputable standards- making organisation is like an approve sausage-making company. But as Paul Downey suggests, and Keith Boone seems to confirm in his post on the Healthcare blog, the unsavoury standardisation processes take place in an organisation responsible for delivering globally-accepted standards such as HTML, CSS and XML. Selecting the standards that will not only work as specified but will be widely accepted and supported in the marketplace is not an easy task. And it is good to see that evidence of such concerns is now becoming more widely available. Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference? Thursday, February 12th, 2009 Background to IWMW The Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series was launched in July 1997 and has been held every year since, with the 3 day format being used since 1998. This event is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams and has been attracting an audience of 150-200 for some time now. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 138 of 616 The eduWeb Conference But what, I’ve wondered, is the equivalent in the US? I recently came across the eduWeb conference Web site, which appears to be similar to IWMW. Reading the history of the eduWeb conference page I find that the original conference started in 2000 although it previously had a different name and location. The event, which is privately owned, was relaunched in 2005. I found it interesting to read about how it perceives its target audiences: “The conference continues to focus on “both sides f the fence” (front end and back end) regarding a website’s development. • The “front end” includes marketing, communications, advancement, admissions – it includes any non-IT office that now has a website and knows that part of its strategy is to communicate to internal and external audiences. • The “back end” includes information technology, database development, applications, instructional design, mobile technology, RSS and more. The core to having a conference like this was to bring these sides together…to learn from the other side, to learn to talk each other’s language and hopefully bring a better working relationship among the personnel that now create the Web.“ It was also interesting to view the call for papers, which has three strands: (1) Marketing Communications; (2) Design & Development and (3) a Guest Track on Getting It Done!. An accompanying page provides suggestions for possible topics. A draft timetable is also available which, although it doesn’t yet provide details of the individual sessions, does show how the conference is themed into the three strands. Comparisons The IWMW event, like eduWeb, has sought to engage with the marketing, design and management communities as well as those involvement in development work. And I have to admit that I find eduWeb’s terms ‘front end’ and ‘back end’ quite useful – although I’m unsure how those involved in RSS, XML and other TLA and XTLA work will take to the ‘back end’ term. I wonder if developers in the UK, with the pantomime tradition which is probably not significant in the US (”oh no it’s not”), would resent being relegated to the back end of the pantomime horse? Unlike eduWeb, plenary talks at IWMW are intended for all participants. We have wondered whether we should provide streamed plenary talks, but feel that having a small number of plenary talks (ideally by charismatic speakers, such as Ewan Mcinosh’s closing talk at IWMW 2008) can provide a unifying theme which we can all talk about during the conference and afterwards. But is it time for a change? As all twelve IWMW events have been organised by UKOLN with myself, initially and my colleague Marieke Guy having responsibility for the events, we have been able to ensure continuity of access to the event Web sites. This enables myself and Marieke to be able to review the content over the years and to spot trends and themes – and as this Web site are publicly available, others can do the same. In the past few years we have also provided RSS feeds for various data sources, which enables us to, for example, provide a Google Map of the locationof the events and locations of the plenary speakers. Trying to find out what had happened at previous eduWeb conferences has proved somewhat difficult. The best I could find were the Google results for searches for “eduWeb 2008“, “eduWeb 2007“, etc. which typically take me to individual blog posts about the event. I could find an official Web site or even a page which aggregates content from blogs of the event. In the bar at the recent dev8D event I did, however, learn that a number of developers from the UK repository community had attended the eduWeb 2008 event. The developers, who attended several events in the US thanks to funding from the JISC CRIG project, have provided a video in which Dave Flanders (who, despite his American accent is based at Bloomsbury Colleges consortium and will shortly be starting work at the JISC) describes how the University of Chicago winning web site could be made even more effective. As described in the accompanying description of the video: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 139 of 616 The EduWeb Awards had the University of Chicago as the winning web site (CMS). It was acclaimed for its minamalistic design, but we thought it could even take it a step further by utilising the Google minamalist search approach. We also thought it might be worth looking into Google SiteMaps to provide a common way of presenting University web sites to the user which could be optimised via the kinds of searches that took place on the local search engine.Point being that better search facilities (analytics) should be put into the institutional search engine so as to guarantee that the user is getting back what they want It seems that valuable links have already been established with eduWeb. What other links could be made, I wonder? And has anyone attended both the eduWeb and IWMW events? If so, it would be useful to hear about the similarities, differences and things we can learn from each other. Note that eduWeb 2009 will be held in Chicago on 20-23 July and IWMW 2009 in the University of Essex on the following week (28-30 July). An enthusiastic University Web developer could therefore attend both! Filed in Events | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Is The UK Government Being Too Strict? Monday, February 9th, 2009 I recently noticed a blog post published on the home page of the WASP (Web Standards Project) Web site. The blog post, UK government browser guidelines: good sense prevails by Bruce Lawson, Opera applauded the UK Government for responding to pressure from the Web standards and Web development communities on its guidelines aimed at providers of UK Government Web services. The document initially stated that … webmasters need not test in less popular browsers (those with less than 2% in that site’s usage statistics) and that there should be a page on the site listing the popular browsers which had been tested with the message “We advise you to upgrade your browser version as far as your computer allows and if possible to one of those listed above”. Following over 400 emails made in response to a plea from Bruce, Adam Batenin, author of the document, published a revised browser testing guidelines, and, according to Bruce “he’s done a great job of including best- practice development.” I too welcome that change. However the guidelines also state (paragraphs 21-23) that: All (X)HTML content must validate with respect to your chosen DTD. Now although I’d agree with Bruce in his comments on the ”importance of valid code” I feel that a formal requirement that all (X)HTML content must validate with the appropriate DTD will be counter-productive. We should recognise that the vast majority of HTML content does not comply with HTML standards – and it will be difficult for one sector to deviate substantially from the norm. This situation is likely to be made worse as use of embedded Web 2.0 technologies grows (e.g. YouTube videos of the Prime Minister embedded in UK Government pages) as embedding these services typical causes HTML validation problems. Now such problems are (primarily) the responsibility of the third party Web 2.0 providers. And here we should be lobbying them to ensure that code to embed their content does not break HTML standards. But they might argue that, as global services, they need to be very conservative in making changes to services which work, even if they don’t necessarily comply to published HTML DTDs. The companies could argue that they are being user- focussed in such considerations, as isn’t there some truth in this? I can recall one hard-line ’standardista’ who, on being told that a (University-developed) service didn’t render correctly in Internet Explorer, was told that the user should upgrade to a standards-compliant browser. And of course the university’s provided browser, was Internet Explorer! Such indulgences may occur in the public sector, but a commercial company which behaved likewise would soon find itself out of business. As well as concerns that a formal requirement that UK Government Web pages must be fully HTML compliant may mean that pages aren’t rendered by the (flawed) browsers which people use, there is also a danger that this requirement will stifle developments and innovation in Government. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 140 of 616 HTML itself has, sadly, proven a difficult language to evolve over time. We are now in a position in which the usability and accessibility benefits which sensible use of AJAX technologies can provide and being made accessible to, for example, screen-reading software and assistive technologies through a standard known as ARIA. However use of WAI-ARIA (to use its official name) will normally mean that strict HTML compliance will not be possible. And when I’ve raised this issue with people involved in development of the standards and assistive technologies the response I have consistently received is that accessibility benefits which can be provided shown be prioritised over strict HTML. And this view has been endorsed in WCAG 2.0, which has dropped WCAG 1.0’s formal requirement for HTML compliance, requiring, instead, that markup elemnts are currectly opened and closed. I would therefore suggest that the guidelines document should state that: (X)HTML content should validate with respect to your chosen DTD. After all, if the Web Standards Project Web site isn’t able to fully comply with the standards, should we expect every government Web site to? And let’s also remember that these requirements only apply to (X)HTML content. If these requirements are too difficult to achive, won’t we see content being trapped in PDFs? You might, for example, like to think that the Digital Britain – Interim Report would be available as a HTML resource, but no, it’s only available in PDF and MS Word formats. But at least the such PDF documents won’t fail the government guidelines I’ve described. Let’s not pretend that mandating conformance with HTMLK guideines will result in better HTML documents. I’m convinced that it won’t – it will result in documents being provided in formats such as PDFs. And who bothers checking that PDFs conform with PDF standards? Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Web Accessibility Framework in 3 Words Friday, February 6th, 2009 Since 2005 I, in conjunction with a number of other accessibility researchers and practitioners in the UK and Australia, have sought to develop a framework for Web accessibility which addresses the shortcomings of the WAI model (which suggests that universal accessibility will be provided by a combination of guidelines for Web content, authoring tools and user agents). This work began with a paper on “A Holistic Approach to E-Learning Accessibility” by myself, Lawrie Phipps and Elaine Swift published in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Research in 2005. Ten further papers weres subsequently published which furter developed these ideas. A fair amount of thinking and discussions have taken place in the past 5 years. However at the recent OzeWAI 2009 conference Lisa Harrod summarised our work in a Twitter post: massive thanks and kudos to @briankelly for adding context & purpose to my accessibility methodology i.e. Accessibility isn’t binary. Yes, that’s a great summary: “Accessibility isn’t binary“. It’s not about following a set of rules to achieve universal accessibility. It’s about shades of grey, differing interpretations, differing user requirements, differing scenarios, etc. And the advocacy, the policies and the appropriate areas for standardisation all arise from those three words. Thanks to Lisa for spotting the key aspect – and for perhaps coming up with an appropriate title for my next talk on this topic. Filed in Accessibility | Tagged ozewai | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 141 of 616 Twitter For JISC Bid Writers And Web Developers Thursday, February 5th, 2009 Twitter and Bid Writers On Tuesday (3rd February 2009) Grainne Conole send off a Twitter post: just about to do presentation at OU on how t get JISC dosh – any tweet suggestions to throw into the pot??? use #JISCBIDS In response she received a fluffy of useful suggestions, which Lorna Campbell has helpfully summarised: “Advice ranged from the obvious: Make sure you read the call. sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at how many bidders don’t! We’ve all done it – it’s simply not fun, and risky, sending proposal on deadline day. Get into mindset of deadline is week before. Provide *all* info asked for – such a shame to mark down a bid because it didn’t include risk assessment for example 10 page limit means 10 page limit. Do not put your budget on page 11. Read the circular. Then read it again. Then do what it asks. To the astute: Don’t underbid to be competitive if this means your project will run out of money before the end. Your background/intro section is too long. Ditch half of it and write a really good use case scenario instead. Make it clear what funding your proposal would do for the wider community. To the obscure: A project with an acronym that alludes to bodily functions or sexual practises will (almost) always remain an unfunded project.“ What a wonderful example of how people involved in writing JISC proposals, those who have been involved in bid-writing previously, potential markers and JISC programme managers themselves are willing to share their thoughts and suggestions. And, of course, such sharing is good for everyone – better submissions should be prepared which makes it easier for the markers and JISC and the wider community should benefit from the project deliverables. Twitter and Web Developers I recently received an email from the manager of an institutional Web development team who asked “Do you know of any universities which have implemented some kind of iGoogle like home page for their students and staff? Something which lets users customise the data sources and layout and presentation of their start page, and which supports both internal gadgets – my courses, my marks, my timetable, etc. – and external ones; my Twitter, my Facebook, my news feed, etc. It seems like something someone must have done already somewhere, but who? Any pointers very welcome.“ http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 142 of 616 The University of Southampton’s iSoton service (which I wrote about a while ago) came to mind initially, but that wasn’t quite what was wanted. Not being able to come up with any other suggestions (and not wanting to give a negative reply and look stupid!) I turned to my Twitter community and asked: Any universities provide an iGoogle-style page for staff / students with personalised links to remote (e.g. delicious) & internal stuff ? Responses appeared immediately: Response 1: my old university did. https://my.mq.edu.au/ both for staff and students. various boxes showing your inbox, exam timetable etc. Response 2: do you have an example? Would this be as a personalised or general portal? Interesting idea. Response 3: OU has a couple of iGoogle widgets….? Response 4: Is iSotton (http://www.soton.ac.uk/isoton/) the kind of thing you mean? Response 5: check out http://www.uspace.org.uk. – jisc funded igoogle project. (must record I’ve used twitter as a dissemination tool now) Response 6: we have some delicious links in our toolbox and looking are a few other things … what about you guys Response 7: is it still the case that iGoogle pages don’t have unique urls? (So publishing them to the world is problematic.) Response 8: Sussex do. it’s called SPLASH http://splash.sussex.ac.uk/ Response 9: See also the PADDLE project http://www.chester.ac.uk/ple/ both SPLASH and PADDLE are part of http://tinyurl.com/75khnw Response 10: iGoogle/NetVibes/etc examples http://tinyurl.com/5jgucc And it seems that these responses where of use to the person with the initial query as he commented “Brian, that’s fantastic; thanks for your help” Discussion The UK HE’s development community has a well-established tradition of sharing, as can be seen by the popularity of (initially) the Mailbase mailing list service, which was replaced by the JISCMail. But as technologies develop well-established tools get replaced by new, and often more flexible alternatives. I think we are now seeing this with Twitter. But what of the Twitter sceptics, the one’s who invite us to: Imagine a world in which Twitter did not exist (give it a couple of years…) would you really invent a constantly-updated trivia machine as the best way of communicating with [your] audiences? Is Twitter a trivia machine? Yes, it can be. But then again, so can email. And did you stop using email when those first Viagra posts appeared in your inbox? Filed in Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (10) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 143 of 616 The Launch of OPuS Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 The University of Bath’s OPuS service, the online archive for University of Bath research publications, was launched yesterday (3rd February 2009) by Professor Jane Millar, the University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research). OPuS (which, incidentally, stands for ‘Online Publications Store’) currently holds over 12,000 references including journal articles, books and book sections, conference items, patents, reports and working papers, and research degree theses. Some of these items, including the theses are available in full-text. The aim of the service is to help strengthen the promotion and preservation of research outputs. I recorded (with permission) Professor Jane Millar’s official launch of the service and this clip (which is also available on YouTube) is embedded below: [youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yrCYNlPDm30] I should also add that the introduction to the launch was given by University Librarian, Howard Nicholson (YouTube video clip available) and Kara Jones, the university’s Research Publications Librarian, concluded the event by providing some facts and figures about the service and the role that she can play in supporting departmental use of the service (YouTube video clip available). Many thanks to Kara Jones for organising this launch event and ensuring that a large number of the University’s research publications were uploaded to the service prior to the launch. Readers with particular interests in repositories may wish to add Kara’s My:self Archive blog to their RSS reader. Filed in Repositories | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) #uksnow and the Mainstreaming of Twitter Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 In Sunday’s post about the problems with Google search in passing I commented that I have learnt of this problem from Twitter. I went on to add that: Now I could use this as an example of showing the benefits of Twitter when something significant happens in the world. And I suspect that when the next major incident (bombings, severe weather problems, major accidents, etc.) occurs we’ll hear stories of how Twitter was used and we’ll have another of influx of subscribers. Little did I realise that the severe weather problems occurred the following day. And yes, Twitter did have a major role to play. I noticed this first thing in the morning after I switched on my iPod Touch and downloaded my latest Tweets. There were several updates on the state of the weather around the country. When I got to work I gave an update on the weather at the University and in town (Bath University, being located at the top of a steep hill, has its own microclimate). And I tagged my tweet with the #uksnow hashtag as I’d noticed many others doing. And later that evening I discovered that people were adopted the convention of using this tag in conjunction with the post code together with a scale of the intensity of the snow. So I should have tweeted “No snow in Bath BA1 0/10 #uksnow” but a few hours later given the update “Snow started at Bath University BA2 4/10 #uksnow“. This use of Twitter to exploit the wisdom of the crowds at the advent of the snow was driven by Ben March, using an approach which seems to have been inspired by Ben Smith, who built UK Trains Wiki which Tweets disruption alerts for 25 UK train operators. You can view the snow map which is built from an aggregation of tweets with the #uksnow tag on Ben Marshs’s blog. And a follow-up post on the blog provides links to people who have commented on this approach which includes The Guardian, The Telegraph and UK Techcrunch. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 144 of 616 Some people might regard this as trivia – and many of the photos uploaded to Flickr with the #uksnow tag show kids making snowmen, sldeging, etc. But for me this is a great example of community benefits of Twitter. And if I was travelling London today I would be reading the tweets from my Twitter contacts in London. A recent high-profile BBC news item on Twitter suggested it was becoming popular because of the number of celebrities, such as Jonathon Ross and Stephen Fry, who are on Twitter. Not for me. The reason it’s becoming embraced beyond the early adopters and becoming mainstream is because of the benefits which early adopters have been talking about for the past year or so. It provides a sense of community; it can be used for sharing and for alerting. And I’m pleased that this has happened. Now where have the Twitter sceptics gone? Filed in Twitter | Tagged uksnow | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) Google Breaks! Sunday, February 1st, 2009 There was much lively discussion from my Twitter community yesterday – and not on from the football fans whose teams were involved in a flurry of goals in the second half. Josie Fraser was one of the first to report the incident: Google’s gone a bit mental. Every site it returns for any search comes with a ‘this site may harm your computer’ warning 2:52 PM yesterday Phil Bradley commented seconds later: Google malware error running wild http://tinyurl.com/akuar3 Everyone is seeing this from what I can tell. 2:54 PM yesterday And then there was a flurry of comments from people confirming that the problem was widespread. Now I could use this as an example of showing the benefits of Twitter when something significant happens in the world. And I suspect that when the next major incident (bombings, severe weather problems, major accidents, etc.) occurs we’ll hear stories of how Twitter was used and we’ll have another of influx of subscribers. But as I suspect that many readers of this blog will be aware of the benefits which Twitter can provide I’ll instead comment on the incident itself. The official Google blog has described this incident in a post entitled “‘This site may harm your computer’ on every search result !?!?“. The post summarised the incident: If you did a Google search between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning, you likely saw that the message “This site may harm your computer” accompanied each and every search result. This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 145 of 616 And goes on to explain what happened: What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message “This site may harm your computer” if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. … We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs. So a simple human error caused all results returned by Google to be flagged with a worrying message. Now the Google blog posts points out that the problem was quickly resolved, claiming that “the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes“. But should this act a a wakeup call warning us of the dangers of a reliance on Web 2.0 companies? It should be pointed out that this isn’t really a question of the ownership of the service. Does anyone really think that if a global search engine was nationalised that it would be immune to human errors? The incidents we’ve seen in recent years with government data clearly demonstrates this. However as my colleague Paul Walk commented in an email shortly after this incident in a paper he had just submitted to the Museums and the Web conference “ I talked about distributed web services and chains of responsibility“. The Google incident would have provided a great example of such dangers, if it had only happened before he had submitted the paper! Now Phil Bradley has already written about this incident, including a screen image of a Google search warning about the possible dangers of visiting the Goole Google site itself! But I think that I’d agree with Paul Walk that the more interesting issues are to do with the chains of responsibility, rather than a destination site which people visit, even one as popular as Google. Google may have quickly fixed this particular problem. But we’ve not seen the end of discussions of the implications of breakdowns in cloud services. And what will this incident do for the trust people may previously have had in Google? Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (11) "Britain Faces Worst Year Since 1930s" Thursday, January 29th, 2009 “Britain Faces Worst Year Since 1930s, warns IMF” screams an article on the front page of today’s Guardian. It seems that that the International Monetary Fund has warned Britain that it will be at the bottom of the league table of major developed countries this year. And although many will share a feeling of optimism at the recent political changes in the US, here in the UK we can’t blame Thatcher for this one. And we can’t even blame Tony Blair – after all, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer for all those years? So what does this means for our networked services? What does it mean for those Web 2.0 services many of us know and love? It now seems a long time since I used the line “People say Google may go out of business, but banks could also go out of business. But we don’t put our savings under the mattress just in case this happens “. That later evolved to “People say Google may go out of business, but, as we know, banks also go out of business. But we don’t put our savings under the mattress as we know this has happened“. Should we now be saying “Google services have gone out of business – look at Jaiku, for example. I’ve already moved my data to the safety of my institution. You’re foolhardy if you don’t do likewise.“? http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 146 of 616 Well if you work at London Metropolitan University you’re probably more concerned about the sustainability of your own position and your institution rather than Britain’s economic woes. As described on the UCU Web site “London Metropolitan University has recently had a cut of £18 million in its teaching budget and HEFCE has confirmed that it intends to ‘claw back’ £38 million in past funding as a result of inaccurate returns on student completion rates“. But to shrug our shoulders and say “we’ll all doomed – not just economically, but also with global warning” is a defeatist attitude I don’t go along with. I’ll be giving some thought about what I think we should be doing (in the context of exploiting Web 2.0 service to support the aims of our institutions). But I’d welcome suggestions from others? Are any institutions making any strategic decisions in this area? After all, we were warned about the implications for higher education last August by HEFCE’s John Selby. Filed in General, Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Do You Want The Good News Or The Bad News About Jaiku? Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 A service announces that the software is to be made available under an open source licence. That’s good news, isn’t it? A company announces that one of its is to be withdrawn. That’s bad news, isn’t it? But what if a service makes both announcements in the same press release. How should we react to the news? That’s the dilemma which uses of the Jaiku micro-blogging service are faced with following Google’s announcement: “Changes for Jaiku and Farewell to Dodgeball and Mashup Editor“. Vic Gundotra, Vice President, Engineering gave a positive spin to this announcement “we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License“. He then went on to add that “While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers“. Some commenters focussed on the move to an open source licence (e.g. “Jaiku is going open source on Google App Engine“) whilst other headlines were more negative (”Google kills Jaiku“). For me, however, the interesting aspect of this news is how it should help to move the discussion on beyond simplistic cliches and perceptions. A couple of articles struck me as particularly interesting. An article published in The Enquisitr entitled “Google Massacre: Google Closes Jaiku, Dodgeball, Notebook, Catalog Search; Google Video Downgraded” felt that “The cut to Jaiku puts what was once a promising platform out of its misery. Since acquiring Jaiku, Google has all but ignored the service, culminating in a weekend long and seemingly unnoticed downtime in August.” Meanwhile a Techcrunch article entitled “Jaiku Founder: ‘We’re Not Dying, We’re Morphing’” has generated a lively discussion on Google’s motivations for this announcement. I needed to read the statement that “But few people seem to care that handing out the code to the open source community and starting the ‘Jaiku Engine’ project is actually great news for companies, groups and individuals who were looking to roll their own, decentralized microsharing / lifestreaming applications, initiatives we’ve seen pop up here and there already” in order to make sense of it. But the comment that “If the code that Google is releasing only makes it possible for you to run “Jaiku Engine” only on Google’s App Engine, then it is not open enough. I have the feeling that this will be the case.” is intriguing. Are Google buying software such as Jaiku in order to ensure they will run on their platform engine before making the source code available to others in the belief that the big money is to be made in providing the platform and not the application. Now isn’t this the approach which has proved so profitable for Microsoft over the past 20 years? And, if so, isn’t Jaiku just a pawn in a much bigger game? But on the other hand if you’re simply a user of such services, maybe http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 147 of 616 you don’t care about issues such as ownership and open source. And, after all, it’s the users who ultimately determine whether a service will be used or note, not the developers. Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Jaiku | Permalink | Edit | Comments (7) From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 OzeWAI 2009 The opportunity to escape the depths of a cold January in the UK to give the opening talk at the OzeWAI 2009 conference was too good to miss. So last week’s trip to La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia provided me with the opportunity to go into the mountains for a barbecue, go to the beach, take a ride along the Great Ocean Road, see the koalas and kangaroos and try the local Cooper’s IPA (which needs to be rolled before drinking, I discovered). From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability (1.0) But I had to earn my supper (the goat at the barbie) and so as well as giving the presentation on “From Web Accessibility 2.0 to Web Adaptability (1.0)” I took part actively in the conferences discussions (and drinking). I have also made the slides available on Slideshare (which is embedded below). [slideshare id=880257&doc=from-web-accessibility-20-to-web-adaptability-101632&w=425] The talk seemed to go down well – and I was particularly pleased that when I sat down after my talk and refreshed the Twitterfon application on my iPod Touch it provided me with instant feedback on the talk from two of the participants at the conference. RuthEllison told me that she “@briankelly enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth: “@briankelly Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch “. The talk was an update on recent papers and presentations and contains much of the material I used in a talk on “Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility” which I blogged about recently. I therefore won’t expand on the ideas and approaches which I explained in my talk. Rather I want to discuss the accessibility of the talk itself. Accessibility of Talks at Conferences As I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, the slides are made available under a Creative Commons licence. In addition, as I’ve also been doing for some time the slides are available on Slideshare. These approaches provide a number of benefits: Creative Commons Licence: • The content can be reused by others by minimising legal barriers to their reuse. • The content can be preserved by others by minimising legal barriers to their preservation. • The content can be integrated with other content (e.g. ‘mashed up’) by minimising legal barriers to their preservation. Use of Slideshare: • The content can be reused by others by using a service which allows the content to be embedded in third party services. • The content can be commented on and annotated. • The content can be tagged to facilitate discovery. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 148 of 616 Over the past few months I have also been making use of a Flip video camera to record the talks I give at conferences. A video of the talk is now available on Blip.TV and embedded below. The video can also be accessed from the UKOLN Web site, which also provides links to a variety of resources associated with the talk, including the PowerPoint slide, a HTML version of the slides, the AVI master of the video and links related to the presentation. [blip.tv ?posts_id=1712779&dest=-1] Discussion But what benefits can the provision of videos of such talks provide? Using Web 2.0 video sharing services such as Blip.TV (or Google Video, Vimeo, etc.) can clearly provide similar benefits to those provided by Slideshare – and sharing a talk is often even more beneficial than simply sharing slides, I would argue. And if I reflect on the underlying purposes behind my talk I think I would suggest: • To describe an approach (to Web accessibility) which I think addresses some of the limitations in current approaches. • To seek to gain feedback on the ideas. • To encourage others to make use of this approach. The video helps with all of these purposes: the video can help to provide a better understanding than would be provided by simply viewing the slides. And despite the hard work which has gone into the various peer-reviewed papers which underpins the presentation, I’d be the first to admit that papers written for scholarly publications aren’t necessarily easy to understand. And Web 2.0 video sharing services can also facilitate feedback and reuse of the content. So if anyone would like to embed the video in their own Web resources (to share with others; to comment on; to critique; etc.) then I would encourage this. But, and there is a but, is the video itself accessible? In the final panel session at OzeWAI 2009 I argued that the OzeWAI 2010 conference should be an’ amplified conference’, with the talks being recorded and made freely available for use (and reuse) by others. And in response to a question as to whether it would be affordable to provide captioning for such videos, I argued that this may not also be needed. In UK legislation, for example, we are required to take reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t differentiated against unfairly. I feel that providing slides, audio and videos at conferences can now be done reasonably easily, but captioning is an expensive process. And providing a variety of alternatives (slides, videos, links to papers, links to resources) can enrich the impact of and access to the underling ideas of talks given at conferences, including access for people with a range of disabilities. Lisa Herod (scenariogirl) summarised the discussions on the Twitter back-channel thus: Is it better to have some content or no content at all if some content == partial accessibility? Discuss. #ozewai09 4:43 AM Jan 23rd What’s your view? Should I remove the embedded Slideshare and Blip.TV resources from this post as they don’t conform with accessibility guidelines? Or should my organisation request that I remove them as they could be liable? Filed in Accessibility | Tagged ozewai, ozewai2009 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (14) Growing Blog Monday, January 26th, 2009 I’ve just noticed that on 13th January 2009 the UK Web Focus was included in Wordpress.com’s list of the top growing blogs. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 149 of 616 It’s been a while (over a year) since the blog was included in this list. I thought it would be interesting to see when the blog had been included in such daily lists. It seems that Wordpress.com provides a search interface for the blogs it hosts, and this helped my to find record of the occasions when my blog was in the list of growing blogs. The details were: • 13 Jan 2009: No. 13 in list • 8 Jan 2008: No. 78 in list • 3 Apr 2007: No. 11 in list • 20 Mar 2007: No. 26 in list • 7 Feb 2007: No. 81 in list • 15 Dec 2006: No. 1 in list • 20 Nov 2006: No. 73 in list There was also one occasion when a specific blog post was found to be one of the most widely read posts in a 24- hour period: the post on “UK Universities on Facebook” published on 9th November 2007. These metrics may be of interest to those who feel that there is a need for objective and measurable criteria for determining the effectiveness of blogs – although, as will as Web statistics, remember the mantra hat there are lies, dammed lies and Web statistics Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) You Don't Blog? You Don't Tweet? Next Applicant, Please! Saturday, January 24th, 2009 Although I don’t feel that everyone should necessarily publish a blog, make use of Twitter or, indeed, give presentations or appear on YouTube or Google Video, I do feel that these can be skills which will be valuable for many information professionals and software developers at a time of economic difficulties. And if that short-term project fails to receive continued funding how should staff ensure that they can continue to find employment in the job market? I would argue that having demonstrable skills in making use of a range of Web 2.0 technologies may well help. This might include publishing a blog (which can demonstrate good written communications skills), creating and editing content in wiki tools such as Wikipedia (demonstration of collaborative working), using micro-blogging tools such as Twitter (the ability to interact with other users, including those you may not have met), using social sharing tools such as del.icio.us (as awareness of the benefits of sharing resources using popular services) and social networking services such as Facebook (all of the above together with an understanding of privacy and other ethical issues). And of course as well as having skills in use of such social networking tools, having a community of peers may well also be valuable in a new job. Hmm, will: “You mean to tell me you worked in a library and you only ever used email and a word processor? You used a Web browser but never used an RSS reader? You contributed to a newsletter but never published a blog? Thank you for your interest in out company. Next candidate please.“ be the approach that employers will take when theree is a large pool of information professionals to chose from? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) Are Your PDFs Conformant? Friday, January 23rd, 2009 I’ve never been much of a fan of the PDF format. Back in the early days of the Web I had hoped that the proprietary PDF format would be replaced by HTML and CSS. Back then there was an expectation that CSS would be developed to provide the fine control over page layout that is available using word processing and DTP applications. The development of the Document Object Model (DOM) for HTML/XML various also promised to deliver an environment in which such resources could be interrogated and manipulated in ways which would not http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 150 of 616 be possible with more monolithic resources such as PDFs. And finally HTML and CSS provided accessibility benefits not available in PDF. However over the years it became apparent that HTML/CSS wouldn’t provide such fine layout control. And we found that HTML as used in the real world tended to be a structural mess, sometimes referred to as ‘tag soup’. We also discovered that in many cases users preferred PDFs, especially for resources which designed as printed documents. And last year PDF became an ISO standard, following on from the standardisation of PDF/A as an archival format. So PDF is now an open standard, is suitable for archival purposes, has widespread support, accessible PDFs can now be created – and there is also an Adobe SDK which supports the development of applications to create and process PDF files. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But in practice, do PDF files actually conform to the PDF standard? And although PDF files can be accessible, in practice do the PDF files which are produced in normal work flow processes actually comply with accessible PDF guidelines? I recently searched for PDF validation tools. I found that a number of tools were available, many of which were expensive to purchase. I made use of one free email-based tools (Validatepdfa) and used it to report on the conformance of a couple of PDF files for recent peer-reviewed papers which I had submitted to journal / conference organisers. Although these files may have conformed with the publisher’s layout and house style requirements, I found the tool found quite a number of error As you can see the error messages aren’t particualrly helpful and it is difficult to see how such errors can be remedied: Issues addressed (1) File structure Incorrect delimiter used for indirect object 340 0 Issues addressed (2) File structure Incorrect delimiter used for indirect object 370 0 Issues addressed (3) File structure Missing ID in trailer dictionary … Issues addressed (118) Fonts Font ‘TrebuchetMS-Bold’ was successfully substituted and embedded Issues addressed (119) Fonts CID font subset without CIDSet Issues addressed (120) Fonts CIDToGIDMap has been successfully embedded in Type2 font LHCKAJ+SymbolMT. Issues addressed (121) Fonts CID font subset without CIDSet I then used the Adobe Acrobat software to report on any accessibility problems with the papers. I used this tool to analyse all of my peer-reviewed papers which I have written in the past 10 years – and found that none of the papers actually conformed with Adobe’s accessibility guidelines. The error messages provided in Adobe Acrobat were mostly helpful and it seemed that one consistent problem was the lack of a language to describe the contents of the document. Fortunately Adobe Acrobat does allow some of the accessibility problems to be fixed with the software – so I assigned the language English to all of the documents. Some of my papers now do conform with PDF accessibility guidelines (at least as far as automated checking tools can detect) – but the documents which had been uploaded to the University of Bath’s institutional repository a few months ago will be the non-accessible versions. There are issue about the workflow processes for uploading papers to institutional repositories: who should have a responsibility for ensuring compliance with guidelines; at what stage should appropriate metadata be added; who should ensure that the metadata is correct; what tools can be used to create and maintain such metadata; what level of detail should be provided; how do we ensure that the metadata isn’t corrupted during workflow processes; etc. Did you really think that using PDF was easy? I suspect that most people aren’t particularly interested in conformance of such resources with PDF standards and accessibility guidelines – although it was reassuring to see the post on”Survey on malformed PDFs?” on the DCC blog. But if we are serious about the importance of standards, particularly in the context of digital preservation, and if we are serious about the accessibility of digital resources, we will need to ensure that our workflow practices result in resources on our Web sites and institutional repositories which are conformant. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 151 of 616 Or perhaps strict conformance with standards and accessibility guidelines is over-rated. Should we simply acknowledge that the ease of creation of PDF resources is key to the creation of such resources and adding additional steps into the workflow processes will add unnecessary complexities and barriers? Filed in Addressing, standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) Risk Management – the JISC infoNET Perspective Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 I’ve previously written about the need to adopt a risk management approach to the use of Web 2.0 services. This was something I started doing back in 2006, when I wrote a risk assessment page which covered use of a variety of Web 2.0 services which were used to support the IWMW 2006 event. I’ve an interest in further developing a framework for the effective exploitation of Web 2.0 service and clearly the risks management approach should form an important part of such a framework. So I found it very useful to read the JISC infoNET Risk Management infoKit. As pointed out in the introduction to this document “In education, as in any other environment, you can’t decide not to take risks: that simply isn’t an option in today’s world. All of us take risks and it’s a question of which risks we take“. So we can’t avoid risk-taking. And yet the document suggests that public-sector organisations – which will include the educational sector – tend to be very risk averse, as shown in the spectrum of attitudes to risk-taking: There is therefore a challenge which we need to face, especially if we are seeking to be innovative. And an important aspect of this challenge will be cultural change. Now many of the early adopters of Web innovations might feel that this view of being risk adverse isn’t applicable to them. But my interest is in mainstream adoption of innovative services and this requires a willingness to take risks associated with changes. And the document provides examples of people who are likely to be adverse stakeholders: • People who fear loss of their jobs • People who will require re-training • People who may be moved to a different department/team • People who may be required to commit resources to the project • People who fear loss of control over a function or resources • People who will have to do their job in a different way • People who will have to carry out new or additional functions • People who will have to use a new technology So what should the early adopters and developers do if they wish to see innovations which they feel will benefit the organisation be adopted more widely? As the document points out “At the risk of labouring a very obvious point you don’t create risks by identifying them. You are simply revealing them so that you can do something about them”. So one thing we should be doing is being open about risks and failures (as I have done recently in describing the failure of Squirl and Pownce). But we should also be open about the failures of in-house developments and project work, too. The JISC infoNET infoKit goes on to list five stages in its approach to risk management: risk identification; qualitative risk analysis; quantative risk analysis; risk response planning and risk monitoring and control. In further blog posts I intend to further explore approaches to risk management in a Web 2.0 context. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else is taking a similar approach within their institution. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 152 of 616 Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) What Makes a Good API? Monday, January 19th, 2009 I previously mentioned “What Makes A Good API?” work which my colleague Marieke Guy is working on. Marieke set up a very brief research survey asking developers about use of APIs (both providing and consuming). The survey (which was first announced on Marieke’s Good APIs blog and subsequently picked up by Tony Hirst and Mia Ridge) is due to be close tomorrow (21 January). So if you have an interest in having input into a document which will provide advice and examples of best practices we’d encourage you to complete the survey. If, however, you’ve missed the deadline, feel free to add comments and suggestions to this post. Marieke and myself will also be attending the second day (10 February 2009) of the JISC Developer Happiness Days event. Owen Stephens has already mentioned this event on his blog, and he picked up on the booking form’s categories of participants: “developer / hacker / scriptkitty / user / uber-user / usability expert”. Now I’m not a developer or hacker (although some of my best friends are). But no matter which ctaegoigy you are in, we’d welcome your thoughts on good APIs. And if you are planning on attending the event, it would be good to meet up with you. Filed in Development | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) 500 Posts and Counting Sunday, January 18th, 2009 This is the 500th post which has been published on the UK Web Focus blog since it was launched on 1st November 2006. That comes to an average of over 4 posts per week since the launch just over 2 years ago. I’m pleased that I’ve maintained a consistent level of productivity. I made a decision shortly after the blog was launched to use it for sharing my thoughts and ideas, including those which were at an early stage of development, rather than using the blog purely for dissemination of well thought-out ideas or completed actions and work activities. And I’m pleased at the level of and quality of responses I’ve received, even to ideas which have been at a very early stage of development. I’m also pleased to see that the numbers of visits to the blog continues to grow, with a particular rise in the last six months of 2008 (although, as I’ve commented previously, these figures don’t always reflect reality). Blog usage up to January 2009 But what of the future? In order to try and provide slightly more focus for this blog I will be using UKOLN’s recently-launched Cultural Heritage blog to write about topics which are more directly related to use of the Web by (public) libraries, museums and archives and will be using the JISC PoWR blog to write about issues related to the preservation of Web resources. I intend to continue to write regular posts on this blog on topics such as Web 2.0, standards and accessibility – and I’ll continue to invite your feedback and comments. Filed in Blog | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 153 of 616 "SOA Is Dead" Friday, January 16th, 2009 “SOA is dead; long live services” announced Anne Thomas Manes recently. In her obituary for SOA she wrote: SOA met its demise on January 1, 2009, when it was wiped out by the catastrophic impact of the economic recession. SOA is survived by its offspring: mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on “services”. Her post has attracted a lot of comments, mostly but not all in agreement with her view. Now I can recall a few years ago there was a lot of excitement about SOA. In retrospect, however, much of this excitement seemed to come from funding bodies rather than developers or users – perhaps the benefits of SOA (reduced costs and greater flexibility) appealed particularly to those responsible for funding IT development rather than those involved in the development work itself. But is SOA dead, I wonder? Or has it just been over-hyped and applied in inappropriate areas – I’ve heard it suggested, for example, that SOA makes sense in the context of enterprise applications, but not for networked applications. What do you think? Filed in Development | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) What I Would Like From The BS8878 Accessibility Code of Practice Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 I recently expressed reservations about the approaches being taken in the BS 8878 draft code of practice on Building Accessible Experiences for Disabled People. But I do feel that such a Code of Practice is desirable. However rather than the current approach which places the main emphasis on conformance with WCAG, together with an inappropriate reliance on UAAG tools (which organisations providing Web sites have no control over) and a reliance on use of ATAG-conformant tools (which ignores the complexity of workflows, the increasing diversity of file formats and the growth in importance of user-generate content) I feel the Code of Practice should provide a framework for a user-focussed approach to accessibility, which provides a content for use of good practices for developing widely accessible Web sites, such as WCAG guidelines, usability guidelines, etc. The BS 8878 draft code of practice already includes much valuable advice, especially on the need to engage users with disabilities in both the design and testing phases of Web site development and on the need for organisations to provide accessibility policies. These sections should be provided at the start of the document and not relegated towards the end, as they currently are. Once the need to include people with disabilities in the planning and development stages and the need for organisations to explicitly state their accessibility policies, only then should the code of practice include implementation details. And rather than repeat the advice included in WCAG, I feel the document should require that such recommendations should only be used if they are proven to work in their intended context of use and they can be implemented and maintained with reasonable levels of expenditure of resources. And finally I feel that the code of practice should seek to be future-proofed, and recognise that technical innovations are likely to take place which may enhance accessibility of services although infringing guidelines developed in the past. Filed in Accessibility | Tagged BS8878 | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 154 of 616 A Framework For Making Use of Facebook Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 Many organisations are looking at ways in which they can make use of the Facebook social network. The Open University, for example, provides details about its Facebook page (which, as I described last year seems to be one of the most popular University pages available in Facebook). Jo Alcock wrote a guest blog post in which she described how the University of Wolverhampton is using Facebook – and she’s written a post on her blog in which she describes feedback she’s received from “students who feel it is a good way to be kept up-to-date with Learning Centre services and resources as they use Facebook regularly“. And I could go on to describe other ways in which Facebook is being used – as Jo commented in her blog post “It certainly seems that the use of Facebook in libraries is becoming more mainstream“. And yet others seem to argue that institutions shouldn’t be making use of Facebook. Stephen Downes, for example, responded to my post entitled Facebook Saves Lives by arguing that “You don’t need Facebook to send out appeals; it is merely one more channel in a universe full of channels ” before going on to conclude that “There is only one context in which Facebook should not be avoided: the current one, in which there is no decent alternative.” And Paul Walk in a post entitled Why I suppose I ought to become a Daily Mail reader was dismissive of Facebook’s popularity although admitting that he “wouldn’t stand in the way of people wanting to access Facebook“. Mike Ellis responded to Paul’s blog post and argued that the scale of Facebook’s user base cannot be ignored: “100 million people is an enormous chunk to ignore for the sake of some niche argument about content ownership and portability which *those same users* couldn’t give a crap about“. In response Paul stated that he is not “arguing that we should ignore FaceBook – it has its uses for millions of people. I’m arguing that it does not follow that we should necessarily advocate it’s use to support teaching and learning in HE for example. There are reasons why it might not be appropriate.” Paul is quite right – there will be times when Facebook will not be appropriate. But I am more interested in exploring ways in which Facebook can be used to provide useful services whilst minimising the associated costs and dangers. I have previously suggested that one approach to minimising the time and effort needed to provide content within Facebook for use by others is to simply provide access to content which is already available elsewhere on the Web. This is an approach I use with RSS readers, Twitter, Slideshare, del.icio.us and other Facebook applications automatically surfacing content within Facebook which is created elsewhere. I must admit that I had thought that this approach was obvious, but when I ran a workshop up in Edinburgh last year I found at least one organisation which was re-keying event details into Facebook. No! Let’s use RSS to syndicate such content, please! But over on Wendell Dryden’s qualities – communities – literacies blog Wendell recently pointed out that not all Facebook applications behave in a benign manner. Wendell mentioned how I had “suggested a work-around which would allow users to harness Fb’s tremendous networking capabilities while still providing maximum access to content: host the content elsewhere, and then provide a link or feed into Fb” but described his experiences in using this approach with the Multiply photographic sharing service. However due to “Multiply’s somewhat complicated services structure” Wendell found that Multiply’s “smarmy behaviour” forced him into advertising “a beautiful photo calendar” to friends and colleague with whom he wished to share resources. Now for Wendell “the search goes on. I still want a non-Facebook, real-world social networking site where learners I and can connect“. He feels that “Multiply’s too scammy. Yahoo’s lost at sea. This spring, I guess, I need to take another look at Orkut“. But I suspect he may be on a time-consuming quest – and as I pointed out recently, Orkut currently doesn’t appear to have much to offer. And as I don’t use Multiple, Wendell’s specific concerns aren’t an issue for me. So for me the issue is how we can exploit the potential of today’s market leader whilst mimising various dangers. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 155 of 616 Framework for Making Use of Facebook I’d like to suggest that we might like to build a framework by considering the advantages and disadvantages of the two (?) main stakeholders: the institution and the individual. The first draft of this framework is illustrated. As can be seen use of the framework requires decision makers to document the benefits to the organisation and the user, the associated risks, the costs and resource implications for using the service and the missed opportunity costs of not using the service. The framework requires that these issues are addressed within the context of the particular usage which is envisaged. So rather than resorting to generic slogans about the service itself ( “it’s a walled garden”, “it’s proprietary”, …) the discussion should focus on specific aims of the service and the way it is being used. And finally there is a recognition that there will be prejudices and biases when using the framework, and suggested that it is better if such biases are openly acknowledged. Is this approach useful? Is it worth developing further? Filed in Facebook | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (6) What Is A Web Site? Monday, January 12th, 2009 What is a Web site? Strange question, you many feel – surely everyone knows what a Web site is. Why would we want to try and define what a Web site is? And yet if you consider last year’s announcement that all Government Web sites must comply with WCAG AA guidelines by December 2009, I think it becomes clear that a clear unambiguous and agreed definition is needed. Otherwise how will the Government know which Web sites – the ones which don’t comply with accessibility guidelines – should be closed down (as they have threatened to do). Here are some thoughts as to may be meant by an organisation’s Web site: The domain name: an organisation’s Web sites refers to Web sites for which the domain name is owned by the organisation. So www.bath.ac.uk and foo.bath.ac.uk are the University of Bath’s Web sites. The Web server: Or perhaps an organisation’s Web sites should refer to Web sites which are hosted on Web server hardware which are owned by the University. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 156 of 616 But perhaps a organisation’s Web site may also need to be defined at a more detailed level. The HTTP protocol: Perhaps an organisation’s Web site refers to resources which are served by the http: (and https:) protocol schemes. If a resource is accessed via the ftp: protocol from an organisation’s FTP server, isn’t this on the FTP site rather than the Web site? And clearly http protocol schemes such as mailto: don’t really related to Web resources. This was an argument made recently by “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” in a comment on this blog who felt that “Regarding the web as being “anything addressable with a URI” is not a reasonable definition. A URI might be used to address a file on an FTP server; do FTP servers now have to provide HTML versions of all their content? The FTP server in question may even have existed before Web!“. The file formats: Or perhaps policies on a Web site should relate only to native Web formats, such as HTML. This was another argument made by “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” in a comment on this blog when he argued “sticking content in a powerpoint file isn’t ‘putting it on the web’, it’s deciding not to put it on the web”. Some further complications arise when we consider the different ways on which Web sites are now being used. Agreements on the meaning of the term ‘Web site’ might make sense if we are thinking about a Web site as an informational resource, but may break in the context of a Web site as an application (Web-based email services, for example). And what if a Web page contains resources which are embedded from third party Web sites (e.g. an embedded YouTube video or embedded RSS content). Should the resources embedded from elsewhere be regarded as part of the organisational Web site or not? Now I intend to avoid falling into the trap of seeking to create another definition. Rather I’d point out that when standards bodies and institutions develop policies which apply to Web sites, they need to appreciate that this term can mean different things to different people. DO you haved a clear understanding of what you mean by a ‘Web site’? Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (15) BS 8878: Building Accessible Experiences for Disabled People Friday, January 9th, 2009 The BS 8878 Draft Code of Practice on Building Accessible Experiences for Disabled People The draft BS 8878 code of practice on “Building Accessible Experiences for Disabled People” is currently open for review, with the deadline for comments being 31 January 2009. That’s great, you may think, we do need to have an agreed set of national guidelines which can help organisations commissioning and developing accessible Web sites. And the tight deadline seems to indicate that the code of practice will be out quickly. Limitations of The Reviewing Process Sadly, I feel, this isn’t the case. If you register to access the draft document (that’s right, you need to register not only to give comments but also to view the document) you’ll see that the first set of comments (29 at the time of writing) are very critical of the usability of the processes for accessing, reading and commenting on the document: “Given that this is a draft code of practice for web accessibility, it’s astounding the lengths to which BSI has gone to make this document inaccessible and difficult to follow.“ “it is appaling that the BSI should even think of publishing this information in a non-accessible format. Clearly the BSI has no moral authority to recommend accessibility standards to anyone else“ http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 157 of 616 “Accessing this document was the hardest web related task i had to do today. Comical when the goal was reaching a web accessibility document.“ “Is this supposed to be a demonstration of how NOT to make web documents accessible?“ I had similar difficulties accessing the draft document – and I am an experienced Web user . But eventually I discovered that there were MS Word and PDF versions of the document available which I printed out for reading at home. Flaws in the Content Despite this draft Code of Practice supposedly being intended, I understand, to document agreed industry achievable best practices the document simply requires use of the WAI model (WCAG, ATAG and UAAG) despite the fact that, for example, the document itself acknowledging that “At the time of publication, no single authoring tool that supports all ATAG priority 1 checkpoints is known“. The document also seems to have a view of the Web as it was in the late 1990s – there is no recognition of the diversity ways in which the Web is being used, the complex workflows, the importance of user generated content, etc. There is also a failure to take into account the work of the research community in gathering evidence and using such evidence to develop more achievable approaches to Web accessibility. The latter part of the document is better, requiring organisations to develop and publicise accessibility policies and involve people with disabilities in the planning and testing processes. Dangers in its Implementation There’s a danger, I feel, that this document will end up being published with the expectations that public sector organisations, in particular, will be forced to implement such recommendations. And I am concerned that this will be counter-productive – if there’s one thing that is worse that a lack of standards or codes of practice it’s severly flawed standards and codes or practice, in my opinion. The document states that “Organizations wishing to claim conformance with BS 8878 should do so in hard copy, electronic media or any other medium“. Now although I don’t understand the structure of this sentence (organisations must claim conformance in any medium – how could they not do so?) it is clear that there is an expectation that organisations will state that they conform with the code of practice. Indeed the document goes on to mandate that “In making such a claim, a business or organization should address all of the provisions of BS 8878“. OK, so organisations can’t simply choose parts of the specification which they conform to (such as the reasonable and achievable parts of the document!) What Next? Now you may disagree with me. And whilst I would welcome further discussion on this topic, I would encourage you to read the document first, and give your feedback to the BSI. You should bear in mind that the code of practice will be updated before publication to refer to the newly published WCAG 2.0 guidelines. And as that document makes it clear that the guidelines are format-independent, the principles will apply to, for example, MS Word and PDF documents on Web sites as well as HTML resources. If you don’t feel it is likely that you’ll be providing accessible PDF and MS Word resources on your institutional Web sites (including institutional repositories) surely you should ask the BSI to revisit this document in order to describe more achievable goals. Or to put it another way, is this code of practice intended to describe best practices which are achievable in the complex Web environment in which we now live or a set of well-meaning aspirations which are unlikely to be achievable in practice? And remember, if the code of practice is accepted in its current form the danger is that institutional conformance with the code of practice (in its entirety, remember) will be required. And what will then happen if existing services fail to conform? Will we see institutional repositories containing inaccessible PDF documents being removed from service in other that institutions can claim conformance? Filed in Accessibility | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 158 of 616 JISC to Increase UKOLN Funding Significantly from 2009 Thursday, January 8th, 2009 UKOLN received a pleasing Christmas present recently, in the form of the JISC announcement of a significant increase in our funding. As described in the press release “This increase is both a mark of confidence in the work of UKOLN but also a recognition of the increasing importance of investment in a national e-infrastructure to support the UK’s global competitiveness in science, research and innovation“. Sarah Porter, Head of Innovation, JISC commented that “UKOLN has been central to the development of JISC digital information programmes and services; it gives me great pleasure to announce this investment that will help support the sector to respond to emerging requirements for research and learning and the opportunities that new technologies offer“. Now that’s a great start to the New Year And I should acknowledge the contributions made by my colleagues at UKOLN. Filed in General | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Remember Orkut? Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 In a post on Salesman, Salesman… Why don’t you sell me something…Wendell Dryden described problems he’d encountered using the Multiply.com service from within Facebook. Wendell has still not found the ideal solution: “So, the search goes on. I still want a non-Facebook, real-world social networking site where learners I and can connect” and then concluded “Multiply’s too scammy. Yahoo’s lost at sea. This spring, I guess, I need to take another look at Orkut.” Now who remembers Orkut, Google’s social networking service? As described in Wikipedia “Orkut is a social networking service which is run by Google and named after its creator, an employee of Google – Orkut Büyükkökten“. The service was launched in 2004, initially by invitation only. And it is now the most visited website in Brazil and second most visited site in India. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And I subscribed to the service shortly after it was launched. But what can it offer in 2009? Logging on for the first time in ages I found the various discussion groups (forums) which I’d subscribed to after I joined, which included one on Libraries. And what did I find? Well not much discussion – and the odd spam comment, as illustrated. Similarly the Web Developers and Designers forum, which has over 3,500 members, seemed to contain mostly messages advertising Web design companies. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 159 of 616 But Orkut now provides more than just discussion groups – it also provides access to Open Social applications. And looking at the list of applications which I can add to my Orkut page I discovered, on the first page of applications, that I can add Photobuzz to “Make [my] friends smile! Animate their photos with Hugs, kisses, hearts and much more“, Superscrap to “Send christmas scraps and wish merry christmas to your friends. Dozens of new templates created to each occasion. Handwrite your personal message and superscrap [my] friends. True friends deserve a super-scrap everyday!” or use an ‘educational’ applications such as IQ Test to “Take a free 15 minute intelligence test to find out your IQ and compare it with [my] friends to see who is the most intelligent“. You can even install Slapster which promotes itself with the summary: “Don’t just poke your friends, slap’em around with Slapster! Select your friend’s orkut profile picture and slap it around as hard as you can with this fun application!“. This will be an undoubted favourite for Facebook users. Not! Does Orkut have anything to offer me? I don’t think so. It seems to have been abandoned by the 35 colleagues I had befriended. And what’s the point of a social network if nobody is using it? It looks like Facebook will continue to provide the environment for me to keep in touch with friends and colleagues – despite the criticisms which this service seems to attract. Filed in Social Networking | Tagged Orkut | Permalink | Edit | Comments (5) Thoughts On Erik Duval's Post On Standards Monday, January 5th, 2009 In a post entitled “Standards for Technology Enhanced Learning” Erik Duval gives his thoughts on the issues related to the standards which have a role to play in providing technology enhanced learning. Erik feels that: 1. The main issue is no longer that we do not have sufficient standards. Rather, we have maybe too many and, more importantly, we don’t make use of them in very advanced ways… Tools are lacking or too much let the standard shine through, rather than focusing on the user experience. 2. We should avoid continuing the ‘not invented here’ approach that has made us develop learning specific standards when there may be quite appropriate standards already out there or being developed. 3. Standards should not be research oriented but rely on proven practice. Of course, standards enable deployment at large scale, and therefor make it possible to do research on global infrastructures. 4. Standards enable openness, and that enables innovation – that is another way for standards to be relevant to research. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 160 of 616 I would not only agree with Erik’s comments, but suggest that they are relevant beyond the e-learning environment. Erik’s comment that “Standards should not be research oriented but rely on proven practice” does, I feel, need to be reflected upon by the research community and by organisations such as W3C. I’ve comment previously on the failure of W3C standards to have any significant impact, and I feel that this is due to a failure to take into account practical issues in preference to developing innovative or elegant solutions. And I feel that there may be problems with funding streams which seek to encourage the development of new standards (which will, of course, promise a whole set of rich possibilities) at the expense of encouraging greater uptake of standards which are already available (and failing to exploit the rich possibilities which bright them abpout in the first place). Erik’s suggestion that there’s a need to “rely on proven practice” does, to me, emphasise the need to engage with the software developer community. In the past recommendations of standards had been taken by policy-makers, often with little involvement of those engaging in using such standards. But now, I feel, this is beginning to change. And I’m particularly pleased to see that JISC are sponsoring Developer Happiness Days in February 2009. I hope we will see more of such events – and that these will provide an opportunity to share proven practice. And if the proof demonstrates that standards don’t work or are too complex to use, that will have been valuable in itself. And finally when Erik “We should avoid continuing the ‘not invented here’ approach” I would suggest that we need to ensure that standards evolve slowly, with only minor fixes – and the fifth edition of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 provides a good example of this. It’s good that we aren’t at XML 5.0, with a new generation of tools needing to be developed to support each new version. Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) Revisiting Web Server Usage Statistics Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 Back in April 2008 I published a blog post entitled “The Rise and Fall of Apache?” which described the sharp decline in use of the Apache Web server software – and the corresponding growth in use of Microsoft’s server software. This led to a debate as to whether the figures gave an accurate picture, with Mike Nolan, Phil Cunningham, Stephen Downes and Phil Wilson pointing out some flaws in the statistics, outlining some of the complexities of the server environment and commenting on another set of figures which showed that the numbers of active Web sites using Apache was still growing, unlike the numbers for Microsoft. Well the figures six months later show that the relative numbers of Web servers provided by Apache and Microsoft have stabilised, as shown below. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 161 of 616 And I’m sure we will also find that these figures will continue to be interpreted in various ways, with marketing departments for Microsoft and Apache (if such a beast exists) and proponents for the two products using the same data to justify their own preferences. But I also suspect that we’ll see similar responses being taken to graphs for a whole host of Web 2.0 services, including services often mentioned in this blog such as Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, etc. Indeed a tweet by Dion Hitchcliffe alerted me to a post on The Poverty of Social Networks and the Death of Web 2.0 which argued that “It is safe now to say that “Web 2.0″ is dead. The evidence is irrefutable …“. We do need to monitor such trends, especially when we are using services to support important activities. But let’s remember that the discussion often starts with the figures. The evidence is often not irrefutable and open to discussion and debate – as many of the comments to Peter Schwartz’s post on the death of Web 2.0 has demonstrated. Filed in Web Server | Tagged Netcraft | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) W3C's Financial Difficulties Affects Their Validators Sunday, December 28th, 2008 Molly Holzschlag recently wrote a blog post entitled W3C Validators in Jeopardy in which she pointed out that “As many folks who follow the W3C are aware, financial and bureaucratic issues have challenged the organization for many years“. Molly went on to describe how “It’s come to pass that the funding necessary to maintain and grow validation services at the W3C has become overwhelming to the W3C’s operational budget. As such, the validators are in jeopardy.” A donation system has been set up which is described on the W3C Validator Donation Program page. As Molly says “we’ve had the use of validation tools via the W3C for so long and without cost has been a significant component in the teaching and evangelism surrounding Web standards and best practices“. But who will have the resources to support this request? And if funding for the validators is uncertain, what next? Is W3C in a position in which the long term sustainability of its standards can be guaranteed? And didn’t we feel that open standards brought about freedom from the uncertainties of commercial pressures? It’s time for the risk assessment of standards organisations, I feel, and not just the providers of networked services. Filed in standards | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (0) Facebook Saves Lives Thursday, December 25th, 2008 “But let’s be honest – not all Facebook applications allow data to be exported. But need this be a overriding reason why Facebook should be avoided?” I asked recently. And Stephen Downes’s response was unequivocal – “Yes“. Now Stephen is an intelligent man and I’m a regular reader of his blog. But I feel that he’s wrong in his seemingly fixed position on Facebook – and note I say ’seemingly’ as Stephen is a Facebook contact of mine! And when I read the article in the Guardian recently on how “Facebook is new tool in transplant donor appeals” which described how “Facebook users are coming to the aid of children who need life-saving transplants“ it struck me that if I or a friend or family member needed a transplant, I wouldn’t have a blinkered view on the mechanism used to provide the solution. But it’s true that their are issues which need to be acknowledged and decisions which need to made for organisations which are thinking about making use of Facebook – and, let’s be honest, many organisations do make use of Facebook. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 162 of 616 Richard Akerman (who, like Stephen Downes is from Canada – the country which has the highest Facebook usage) touched on the complexities in a recent comment on my blog post: Facebook is quite a complex example of a walled garden unfortunately. In a way, it’s more like a one-way mirrored garden. You can easily bring content *in*, but it’s hard to let content *out*. And when we talk about wall, it has a couple meanings: 1) can’t be seen unless you’re logged in 2) can’t be indexed by Google (more important to me than #1). I guess the main issue I have with Facebook is it’s a garden where the plots have no markers. *Some* things are indexed on the public web. Others are not. *Within* Facebook, some kinds of content (e.g. notes) are very hard (impossible?) to search. From this perspective we might regard Facebook as being like paper – it’s easy to get digital content into paper content but more difficult to get it back to digital format again, especially if you want to get it into a rich digital format. And Facebook, like paper, isn’t easy to search. Perhaps, also like paper, we should be less fixated with having an institutional ‘position’ on Facebook. And yet the development community does seem to want to continually discuss the problems with Facebook. I can appreciate the need for user education on best practices for making use of Facebook (I was surprised when recently I learnt that one museum was creating content about forthcoming events in Facebook rather than surfacing an RSS feed of its events). Andf there’s a need to understand the terms and conditions – not many, people, for example, seem to have read that “Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content“. Last year the evidence showed us that “A student campaign using the social networking website Facebook has forced a multinational bank into a U-turn over charges” and now Facebook seems to be saving lives. And maybe it can attract potential students to a university or visitors to an exhibition. Is this so bad? And to revisit the question “”not all Facebook applications allow data to be exported. But need this be a overriding reason why Facebook should be avoided?” perhaps the answer has to be “It all depends on the context”. An answer which reflects a moral relativism which I suspect the Irish catholic priests who were responsible for my education when I was young would not agree with – particularly on Christmas day. But lets leave the moral simplicities to the past . And remember that as Kathryn Greenhill recently pointed out on this blog “… the recent change to the Facebook video platform – which allows the user to upload a video to Facebook and then embed it for public viewing outside Facebook – may be indicate a bit of experimentation with the usual “lock out” approach ??” Perhaps we should be rejoicing for the sinner who has repented Merry Xmas to all. Filed in Facebook | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) 14 UK Information Professionals to Follow on Twitter? Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 A tweet from Owen Stephens alerted me to the news that “TFPL blog has 14 info professionals to follow on Twitter Inc. @andypowe11, @paulmiller, @psychemedia, @briankelly, @karenblakeman“. And yes, a post of the TFPL lists “14 UK information professionals to follow on Twitter” and goes on to suggest that “If you are not on Twitter, and are fed up of listening to everyone go on it, here are 14 UK information professionals whose tweets should be interesting enough to tempt you to dip your toes into the water“. But this, to my mind, is missing the point of Twitter. You don’t follow someone on Twitter to listen to pearls of wisdom; rather Twitter is about your community and your engagement with the community. I made a similar comment in a post on the “Directory of (E-)Learning Professionals on Twitter” which described “Jane’s list of “100+ (E-)Learning Professionals to follow on Twitter“. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 163 of 616 Now if the blog post had mentioned the briefing documents we have recently published on micro blogs or the various posts about Twitter on this blog then the post might have been more useful to the readers. But when, I wonder, will blogs published by information professionals start to get Twitter? Filed in Twitter | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Just What Is A "Walled Garden"? Monday, December 22nd, 2008 You read comments, from time to time, dismissing a service because it’s a ‘walled garden’. And no further discussion seems to be needed. It’s a walled garden. Period. Except the research community is expected to challenge received wisdom and to be prepared to challenge conventional thinking. So let me ask the question. What is a walled garden? The entry in Wikipedia states that the expression “refers to a closed set or exclusive set of information services provided for users (a method of creating a monopoly or securing an information system)“. The entry goes on to state that the term “is in contrast to providing consumers access to the open Internet for content and e- commerce“. The examples of walled garden’s provided include the original AOL Service (”AOL started its business with revenue-sharing agreements with certain information providers in their subscriber-only space“), many of the initial set of services provided on WAP and Apple’s iPhone service. But the definition is related primarily to phone and mobile devices – there is no suggestion that a Web-based service can be a walled garden. The Whatis.com service’s definition does however address a broader notion of a walled garden: “On the Internet, a walled garden is an environment that controls the user’s access to Web content and services”. It is interesting that this definition is not judgmental. The entry explains that “AOL UK’s Kid Channel established a walled garden to prevent access to inappropriate Web sites” although the entry does goe on to describe how a more common use of a walled garden is to protect business revenue: “a common reason for the construction of walled gardens is for the profits they generate: vendors collaborate to direct consumer’s Internet navigation to each others’ Web sites and to try to keep them from accessing the Web sites of competitors“. A walled garden then, may be established to protect members of a community. So if an educational institution installs software “to prevent access to inappropriate Web sites” it then will be providing a walled garden. Similarly as the UK’s JISCMail has been established to support the UK’s higher and further education communities an has policies which restrict use by people outside this community, we might also regard JISCMail as being part of a walled garden. But the term walled garden seems to be more commonly used in a derogatory fashion, especially when used in the context of social networking services. But is Facebook, for example, really a walled garden? And if it is, then how significant is this fact? I’m assuming that the criticism of Facebook is based on the belief that you can add data to Facebook but you can’t get it out again. Such criticisms could also be applied to Apple with its iPhone service: applications can only be installed using Apple’s iStore service, unless you are willing to take the (possibly criminal) risk of ‘jailbreaking’ the device. And recently I’ve read an article published in the Register which argues that Apple [is] more closed than Microsoft. The good news for Facebook users, though, is that there are ways in which you can use the service without facing such barriers, Unlike, say, the situation with mobile phones there don’t seem to be significant barriers to getting your stuff into Facebook. There are, for example, a variety of ways in which blog posts can be incorporated into Facebook. And many other Web 2.0 services (such as Twitter, Slideshare, ) also provide Facebook applications which provide the convenience of allow their services to be used within the Facebook environment. And the data http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 164 of 616 held in such services can still be managed by the host service – this, for example, is the approach I take with the UK Web Focus blog, which is managed in the Wordpress.com environment, but is also surfaced within Facebook. But let’s be honest – not all Facebook applications allow data to be exported. but need this be a overriding reason why Facebook should be avoided? After all when, in August 2007, students made use of Facebook which was successful in forcing the HSBC to make a U-turn on its plans to introduce student charges (a story which was picked up by the BBC and by many newspapers and bloggers) the important aspect was the exploitation of a popular communications medium. Job successfully done, many of the students who were involved would probably argue. And to suggest that they should wait until a social networking service which the twittering classes would prefer is to miss the point. What do you think a walled garden is? And how should we respond (as individuals and, perhaps, as educators and policy makers) to the popularity of services which may (or may not) be classed as walled gardens? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (10) An Alternative to Europeana? Friday, December 19th, 2008 A tweet from Owen Stephens alerted me to a blog post from Lorcan Dempsey entitled “Das Bundesarchiv and Wikimedia Commons“. Lorcan’s blog post described the announcement from Das Bundesarchiv (German National Archive) and Wikimedia Commons: Starting on Thursday Dec 4, 2008, Wikimedia Commons will witness a massive upload of new images. We are anticipating about 100,000 files from a donation from the German Federal Archive. These images are mostly related to the history of Germany (including the German Democratic Republic) and are part of a cooperation between Wikimedia Germany and the Federal Archive. [Commons:Bundesarchiv - Wikimedia Commons] Lorcan went on to add that “This is another interesting example of a major cultural organization putting materials in an important web destination. Presumably there is some background context which explains why they are going here rather than in the Flickr Commons which has been providing a venue for image collections from several cultural institutions (most recently The National Library of New Zealand and the Imperial War Museum).” Indeed. Where should we provide access to such valuable cultural resources – Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons or elsewhere? In his tweet Owen concluded with the question “An alternative to Europeana?“. Could services such Flickr Commons and Wikimedia Commons provide alternative access points to cultural resources? Or could depositing such resources in these services as well as in centrally-funded services maximise the impact and use of such resources – whilst also sharing the bandwidth demands which caused Europeana to crash on the day of its launch (a topic, incidentally, which was addressed in some depth my my colleague Paul Walk)? What do you think? Is the future centralised and managed by public institutions, open to the commercial providers or a hybrid of the above? And if the hybrid approach appears to provide a safe compromise how do we establish where the boundaries should be? Filed in Web2.0 | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (1) Dipity Breaks – And Is Then Fixed Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 Back in August 2008 I wrote about problems with the Squirl.info service – and despite the “It works!” message I’m currently receiving it seems that the service is now no more, it’s an ex-service, it’s gone to meet its maker. http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 165 of 616 In light of the credit crunch we might expect to hear of more Web 2.0 failures (although, of course, it may be that it’s the more heavyweight traditional IT companies which fail to respond to changing market conditions). And when I went to my Dipity timeline for my involvement in Web accessibility work and discovered that no data was being displayed I wondered if the Dipity service was starting to break. But rather than curse technology for failing to work I filled in the Feedback form on the Dipity Web site. And within a couple of hours I received the following response from Zack Steinkamp: Hi Brian – There seemed to be a small glitch in our rendering system. I’ve cleared it out, and your timeline is whole again. Regards, Zack Steinkamp dipity.com Now I’ve encountered many small glitches in services provided locally. And I have to admit that they aren’t all resolved so quickly (these days the speedy response will tend to come from an automated fault reporting system). So my thanks to Zack for responding so quickly. And not only that – I now have more faith in Dipity as I know that they’re not only providing the service but also have an effective fault reporting and fixing service. But this, of course, doesn’t guarantee that the service will survive the economic crunch. So what should I do about the data hosted by the service? It may be that I don’t need to worry about the long term sustainability of the data. The reason I created the timeline was to support a paper myself and David Sloan were writing on “Reflections on the Development of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility”. The visualisation of our work, which I described in a blog post on ” Over Ten Years Of Accessibility Work“, helped me to identify a number of distinct phases in my activities related to Web accessibility work, from a period of naivety (when I felt that the WAI model would provide universal accessibility), to a period of doubt (when I was doing littler work in this area), followed by a meeting of minds when I discovered others with timilar reservation which then led to our first paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility“. This then led to a period in which the holistic approach was further developed and extended to other areas, followed by a period of promoting this approach to various user communities, the most recent event having been described in a post on “Designing for Disability Seminar“. So for that example the timeline was used as part of the process of reflecting on my work and the paper (and accompanying blog post) were the main outcomes of my use of the timeline. And just as I have thrown away the various scraps of paper I used when I was working on the paper and have forgotten the various discussions I had with my co-author, so I could regard the timeline as having fulfilled its main purpose. But I’ve left it (and have recently updated it) because I feel it may have some additional worth. And if I wish to manage the underlying data I can simply export the data as an RSS feed and host this elsewhere. I’m pleased that the rich functionality provided by the Dipity service is based on the simplicity of this data: <item> <title><![CDATA[Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility]]></title> <description><![CDATA[Brian Kelly gave a talk on "Holistic Approaches To Web Accessibility" at the "Designing for Disability" seminar held at the British Museum, London on 5th December 2008.]]></description> <link>http://www.dipity.com/briankelly/Web_Accessibility_Timeline_For_ Brian_Kelly?eid=a5b0837020c5cef0</link> <guid isPermaLink="false" >a5b0837020c5cef0</guid> <pubDate>Fri, 5 Dec 2008 12:00:00 GMT</pubDate> </item> But if I do wish to (or am forced to) move to another service, having the data isn’t sufficient. What alternative service can I use? And how easy would it me to import the data and have an equivalent service up and running? Filed in Web2.0 | Tagged Dipity | Permalink | Edit | Comments (3) http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 166 of 616 Disappearing Resources On Institutional Web Sites Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 I recently received the publisher’s proofs of an accessibility paper which will be published in the new year. The reviewers spotted a number of broken links in the references. Some of them were links to previous papers I had published, and the errors were introduced by the publisher (which I confirmed by checking the details of the paper which I submitted). But for a couple of other references the pages did seem to have disappeared. I contact Stuart Smith, one of the co-authors, and asked him if he knew anything about the references he had supplied which seemed to have disappeared. Stuart told me that a new e-learning team in his institution has rebuilt the e-learning Web site, resulting, it seems, in the loss of existing resources. Stuart wrote a blog post about this incident entitled “Mummy I lost my MP3!“. Stuart felt that “My MP3 problem shows to me that the argument that the ‘cloud’ is too unstable doesn’t hold water … because institutional systems are open to the same criticisms“. Stuart concluded that “My solution to my MP3 problem will probably lie in the ‘cloud’ I’ll find a suitable archiving host that I like and also keep a backup offline (like I should have done in the first place) and if that host disappears at least I will know about it“. I’m sure Stuart isn’t alone. How many resources do you think will have disappeared following the establishment of new Web teams or the release of new software? Maybe institutional repositories will have a role to play, as they try to address the persistent identifier problem by at least decoupling the address of the resource form the technology used to access the resource. But repositories won’t be used to manage all resources on an institutional Web site, will they? Since our institutions don’t seem to have yet cracked the problem of management of resources across changes in policies, staff and technologies, is Stuart right, I wonder, in regarding ‘the cloud’ (e.g. services such as the Internet Archive, perhaps) as the place (or one of the places) to deposit resources for safe-keeping? Or perhaps the question is whether such services may be more reliable than the institutional Web site. After all, if your own institution misplaces your resources, you can;’t sue them, can you? Filed in Web2.0, preservation | | Permalink | Edit | Comments (2) Why I'm A Fan Of The Edublog Awards Monday, December 15th, 2008 I mentioned recently that the UK Web Focus blog had been shortlisted for the Best Educational Tech Support blog in this year’s Edublog Awards. As I commented in the post there have been criticisms of the idea of awards for blogging and Paul Walk has recently joined in the discussion. I disagree and am pleased to have been nominated by Martin Weller andAJ Cann. And I’d like to give my reasons. In some quarters there is a view that because of the differences between blogs it would be unfair to have an annual awards ceremony. But equally you could argue that you can’t judge the merits of different works of fiction – and yet this is done, with the Booker awards being the best known. And as to the flaws in making worthwhile comparisons of merit, you might also argue that the Premiership isn’t about the merits of 11 footballers over a season, but the purchasing powers of American, Russian, Thai or Saudi billionaires. This may be true, but it’s also irrelevant. I don’t feel we should be living in an ideologically-pure IT environment, independent of the complexities, challenges and flaws of the real world. Martin Weller put such differing perspectives in an historical context in his http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/ukwebfocus-backup/ 29/10/2009
  • ukwebfocus-backup > A Backup of the ukwebfocus blog Page 167 of 616 post on Cato and Cicero – and, as I said in a post based on Martin’s observation, I am on the side of realism and pragmatism. I suspect that Stephen Downes’ comment that “… the internet is already awash with really vile and intrusive commercial activity“ (which I mentioned in that post will be regarded by the purists as applicable to blog awards) is a view that will be shared by some. Indeed I’m aware of a certain antipathy towards those involved in commercial and marketing activities from many involved in IT development. But as I say in my talks about Web 2.0, “Web 2.0 is a marketing term” before going on to add that “there’s nothing wrong with that“. Although I should add that despite acknowledging that I live in (and benefit from) a capitalist society I haven’t benefitted financially from the 483 blog posts published in just over 2 years – and there’s no personal financial reward for the winner of the Eddies. Being shortlisted for awards such as the Edublogs will, however, be helpful in promoting the work I am involved in. In brief this, and the main topics covered in this blog are standards, accessibility and Web 2.0. But rather than having a one-dimensional