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Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web

Slides from a talk by Andy Powell on "Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web" given at the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2006 on 16 June 2006.
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Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web

  1. 1. Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web Institutional Web Management Workshop 2006, Bath
  2. 2. About the talk… <ul><li>reflections on 10 years… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>social </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>political </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>technical </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>legal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>cultural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>err… business modal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>all the ‘als’ I could think of… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but above all – personal and anecdotal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and somewhat ad hoc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but ending with reflections on where we are now </li></ul></ul><ul><li>not really clear (even to me!) why I’m giving this talk </li></ul>
  3. 3. About me… <ul><li>background in computing services at University of Bath </li></ul><ul><li>culminating (ha!) in being first ‘webmaster’ </li></ul><ul><li>moved to UKOLN in 1996 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>digital library projects, libraries, cultural heritage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>advising JISC and the wider community about standards (e.g. for the JISC Information Environment) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>remained member of various Web-related committees at Bath until recently </li></ul><ul><li>now at the Eduserv Foundation </li></ul><ul><li>been a member of the web-support and website-info-mgt JISCMail lists for most of that time </li></ul><ul><li>ran the Web noticeboard at Bath for 10 years or so </li></ul>
  4. 4. 10 years after… <ul><li>a lot changes in 10 years… </li></ul><ul><li>… but not everything! </li></ul><ul><li>some of us have got older </li></ul><ul><li>look back at some history… </li></ul><ul><li>… not with the intention of dwelling on it </li></ul><ul><li>but because there might be things we can learn from it and it’s a useful reminder of where we were when other things happened </li></ul><ul><li>and there were early hints at the promise of the Web for learning and research that we are still working towards! </li></ul>“ Change is inevitable… except from the University of Bath’s vending machines.” John Kirremuir circa 1995 circa 2005
  5. 5. A webmaster’s timeline <ul><li>1969 – first ARPANET link established, 1977 – first demonstration of TCP/IP </li></ul><ul><li>1984 - Novelist William Gibson coins the term ‘cyberspace’ </li></ul><ul><li>mid-80’s – term ‘Internet’ coined </li></ul><ul><li>1990 – HTTP invented </li></ul><ul><li>1993 - NCSA graphical browser launched </li></ul><ul><li>1994 – 1 st WWW Conference, AGOCG “ Running A WWW Service” published; web-support Mailbase list created </li></ul><ul><li>1995 – Search Engine Watch founded </li></ul><ul><li>1996 – Brian Kelly joins UKOLN as UK Web Focus </li></ul><ul><li>1997 – 1 st IWMW (as “ Running An Institutional Web Service”) </li></ul><ul><li>1998 – Earliest records of web-support and website-info-mgt lists </li></ul><ul><li>1998 – first mention of ‘accessibility’ on website-info-mgmt list </li></ul><ul><li>1999 - Webtechs becomes porn site, RSS invented (2001), term ‘Blog’ coined (2002) </li></ul><ul><li>2000 - UniServity – first mention on website-info-mgmt list </li></ul><ul><li>2001 - Google University Search – first mention on website-info-mgmt list </li></ul><ul><li>1999 - 2000-03 – RSS invented again… and again… (and finally Atom) </li></ul><ul><li>2004-05 – ’Ajax’ and ‘Web 2.0’ terms coined </li></ul>&quot;The Internet? Is that thing still around?” Homer Simpson &quot;Oh, so they have internet on computers now!” Homer Simpson what year did we first see URLs on the sides of busses and planes?
  6. 6. The age of the institutional webmaster (*) <ul><li>(*) insert your favourite job title here </li></ul><ul><li>seen the growth of a new ‘profession’ over last 10 years </li></ul><ul><li>but one still without an common job title or easily defined job description or role </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. strategic vs. operational </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. variability of positioning within institution </li></ul></ul><ul><li>happened against a rapidly evolving backdrop </li></ul><ul><li>note demise of ‘webmaster’ term (non-PC) </li></ul><ul><li>Andrew Cox’s (Sheffield) paper </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ young … hybrid and marginal”, “I’m responsible for stuff” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I do not do any web page creation in any shape or form” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not one of “the odd people in the corner” (i.e. the techies!) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. With the benefit of hindsight… &quot;If I had to live my life all over again, I'd do it all exactly the same - only I wouldn't read Beowulf.“ attributed to Woody Allen
  8. 8. Web servers July 1993 --
  9. 9. The land before Web… <ul><li>yes, there was such a time… </li></ul><ul><li>… though of course, today’s new student’s will not really have known it </li></ul><ul><li>coloured books </li></ul><ul><li>Bristol CWIS software </li></ul><ul><li>gopher </li></ul><ul><li>numbered lists as user interface! </li></ul><ul><li>home grown (open, but UK-specific) solutions </li></ul>&quot;Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)
  10. 10. Case study - Web notice board <ul><li>1997 – 5 or 6 notices per day </li></ul><ul><li>2005 – ~100 notices per day </li></ul><ul><li>everything manually approved </li></ul><ul><li>no serious legal issues ever </li></ul><ul><li>generally open policy – except for very obviously illegal or offensive stuff </li></ul><ul><li>few cases of abuse </li></ul><ul><li>few rejections (ticket re-sales, cigarettes, uni accommodation issues…) </li></ul><ul><li>most hit pages on site </li></ul>
  11. 11. Simple architecture <ul><li>original… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web form submission area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>email to maintainer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>manual email forward to Perl script </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>transform to HTML and email to Web server </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>dump into notice area and rebuild main list (both as HTML) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>now… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web form submission area – content stored as XML file </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>email loop back to submitter to validate email address </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>email/Web-based confirmation to Perl script to move XML file from pending area to final location </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>build full listing, category listings, RSS channel, HTML view of notice dynamically using PHP and Perl </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. New policy enforcement mechanism <ul><li>essentially based on trust… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… trust built from experience of manually moderated system </li></ul></ul><ul><li>no proactive vetting </li></ul><ul><li>clear sanctions against abuse (blacklisting, and usual Computing Service AUP abuse mechanisms) </li></ul><ul><li>immediate (reactive) response to complaints </li></ul>
  13. 13. A general trend? <ul><li>from flat HTML files, pretty much static content </li></ul><ul><li>to XML, managed content, with dynamic interface </li></ul><ul><li>higher quality (X)HTML – largely driven by desire to make content more accessible </li></ul><ul><li>better integration with institutional branding </li></ul><ul><li>general recognition that end-user need varies widely </li></ul><ul><ul><li>in particular that it is better to move the content to the end-user rather than try to pull end-user into content via the Web user-interface </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>therefore, use of RSS for lists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>allowing choice of user interface technology </li></ul></ul><ul><li>static pages -> portal -> Web 2.0 </li></ul>
  14. 14. The other trend <ul><li>pressure for control of content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>perfectly reasonable from perspective of senior management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>totally at odds with web ‘culture’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>fear of ‘publishing’ something that damages University brand </li></ul><ul><li>desire to moderate </li></ul><ul><li>concern about data protection issues, concern about IPR issues </li></ul><ul><li>though interesting, most concerns about content were raised by other members of the institution, not by central management </li></ul><ul><li>sense that this has eased with rise of blogging, etc. ? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Using external services <ul><li>Webtechs story </li></ul><ul><li>external web stats services </li></ul><ul><li>UniServity and the ‘risk’ of outsourcing the whole site </li></ul><ul><ul><li>school’s sector this is exactly what tends to happen </li></ul></ul><ul><li>library community very early adopters of ‘service’ approach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>standardised search interface in the form of Z39.50 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>invented before anyone had a usable client on desktop  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>also much too complicated </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 gives us much lighter-weight interfaces to work with – e.g. A9 OpenSearch </li></ul>
  16. 16. Guidelines for webmaster – circa 95 <ul><li>presentation by Brian at a meeting in Loughborough </li></ul>
  17. 17. Research Application <ul><li>Details of experimental apparatus used at CERN are available on WWW. </li></ul><ul><li>Information about ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) available on WWW. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Libraries <ul><li>A backup copy of the Library catalogue at Leeds University is held in a BRS system. </li></ul><ul><li>A CGI program (C) accesses the BRS database. The output is converted to HTML and displayed by the browser. </li></ul><ul><li>This technique can be used for teaching & learning applications. </li></ul>
  19. 19. CWIS <ul><li>Many universities have developed Campus Wide Information Systems (CWIS) based on WWW. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Distributed Teaching <ul><li>It is possible to dissect a virtual frog on WWW. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Student Learning <ul><li>Second year undergraduates in the Fine Art department, University of Leeds write multimedia essays, which will act as a resource for the next year’s second year students. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Visualisation <ul><li>A Chemistry MIME type has been proposed by Henry Rzepa (Imperial) and others. It can be used as a visualisation aid. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Platform independence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Application independence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential for distributed teaching & learning </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Control Systems <ul><li>A robotic telescope is available at Bradford University. </li></ul><ul><li>Authorised users can submit a request or operate the telescope in real time. </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Cox’s paper Robotic Telescopes - An Interactive Exhibit On WWW was presented at the Mosaic & WWW conference. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Conferences <ul><li>About 200 papers from the Mosaic and The Web conference were available on WWW before the conference started. </li></ul><ul><li>Undergraduate students can now attend virtual conferences . </li></ul>
  25. 25. Collaborative Systems <ul><li>At WWW 94 Tim Berners-Lee asked for groupware facilities for WWW. </li></ul><ul><li>A week later WIT (WWW Interactive Talk) was announced. </li></ul><ul><li>For further examples, see the URL </li></ul><ul><li> collaboration.html </li></ul>
  26. 26. Follett and all that… <ul><li>1993 - Joint Funding Council’s Libraries Review Group published the Follett Report </li></ul><ul><li>directly led to JISC funding the eLib Programme </li></ul><ul><li>range of projects broadly in the area of libraries and information provision generally </li></ul><ul><li>huge influence (IMHO) on JISC development strategy since then </li></ul>Most important, there needs to be a sea-change in the way institutions plan …d provide for the information needs of those working within them. The view of the learning, and research … is no longer adequate. Information is now available …gh many different media, and in all manner of locations. Depending on history, …ography and the resources available, more or less of this material may be …le in the &quot;library&quot;, but it is no longer possible for any single &quot;library&quot; alone to contain it all. The emphasis is shifting towards information and information …ccess. This has profound and far reaching implications, and all institutions … act to ensure that they are in a position to deal with these to best advantage. <ul><li>1990 – HTTP invented </li></ul><ul><li>1993 - NCSA graphical browser launched </li></ul><ul><li>1994 – 1 st WWW Conference, AGOCG “ Running A WWW Service” published </li></ul>
  27. 27. JISC strategy <ul><li>to enable UK education and research to keep their activities world-class through the innovative use of ICT </li></ul><ul><li>to provide advice to institutions enabling them to make economic, efficient and legally compliant use of ICT </li></ul><ul><li>to help the sector provide a positive, personalised user experience </li></ul><ul><li>to develop mutually advantageous partnerships with organisations in the UK and abroad </li></ul><ul><li>to advise, inform and implement the strategies of government, funding councils and research councils </li></ul>
  28. 28. JISC activities
  29. 29. JISC initiatives and issues <ul><li>Access Protocols Shibboleth Evolution </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional Repositories </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Preservation and Curation </li></ul><ul><li>e-Learning Support </li></ul><ul><li>Open Access Publishing </li></ul><ul><li>E-Frameworks </li></ul><ul><li>Text Mining and Search Engines </li></ul>
  30. 30. Open Access <ul><li>making research output available on the Web for free </li></ul><ul><ul><li>self archiving (of peer-reviewed, published papers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>open-access publishing (author pays model) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>institutional repositories seen as key part of the supporting infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>2000 - UniServity – first mention on website-info-mgmt list </li></ul><ul><li>2001 - Google University Search – first mention on website-info-mgmt list </li></ul><ul><li>1999 - 2000-03 – RSS invented again… and again… (and finally Atom) </li></ul><ul><li>2004-05 – ’Ajax’ and ‘Web 2.0’ terms coined </li></ul><ul><li>1991 – arXiv launched </li></ul><ul><li>2001 - Budapest Open Access Initiative </li></ul><ul><li>2001 - OAI Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) published </li></ul><ul><li>2001-2003 - Harnad, Stevan (2001/2003) For Whom the Gate Tolls? </li></ul><ul><li>2004 – Google Scholar launched </li></ul><ul><li>isn’t it just putting research papers on the Web? Not really! </li></ul><ul><li>structured access using metadata (to support citation analysis, author search, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>explicit and open licensing to encourage re-use </li></ul><ul><li>management of resources (IPR) </li></ul><ul><li>linkages between papers and research data </li></ul><ul><li>preservation of scholarly record </li></ul>
  31. 31. E-Framework <ul><li>e-Framework for Education and Research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an international attempt to “ produce an evolving and sustainable, open standards based, service oriented technical framework to support the education and research communities ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on the basis that SOA provides flexibility, (cost and other) efficiencies in long term and avoid vendor lock-in </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>collaboration between JISC (UK), DEST (Australia) and New Zealand (with intention to widen participation gradually – e.g. SURF?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(from a UK perspective) builds on JISC’s E-Learning Framework (ELF) and the JISC Information Environment </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. e-Framework background <ul><li>E-Learning Framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a service-oriented approach to building e-learning systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>unbundling of monolithic learning management systems into functional components (services) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>based on open standards where possible </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>relatively formal – but still significant issues with how best to do that </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>recognition that this work would have wider applicability (e.g. to research domain)… hence, becoming the e-Framework </li></ul></ul><ul><li>JISC Information Environment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a national approach to information resource discovery provision (discovery to delivery – d2d) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>based on open standards (OAI, RSS, SRU, OpenURL, etc.) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  33. 33. The JISC development agenda – in context <ul><li>essentially a ‘digital library’ agenda </li></ul><ul><li>much of it flowing fairly directly from Follett </li></ul><ul><li>could argue that some of the stuff talked about on web-support is digital libraries </li></ul><ul><li>but… strikes me that there has been relatively little talk on the web-support list about e-learning or e-research </li></ul><ul><li>odd isn’t it – these are key to the mission of universities but they aren’t talked about much on the web-support and website-info-mgmt lists? </li></ul>
  34. 34. Take ‘search’ for example <ul><li>lots of talk on web-support over the years about search – generic good ol’ search </li></ul><ul><li>home grown solutions, ht://Dig, use of embedded external services like Google, use of Google Appliance </li></ul><ul><li>solving a general requirement for searching a set of Web pages </li></ul><ul><li>not specifically solving a requirement for e-learning and e-research? </li></ul><ul><li>little discussion about other approaches to finding stuff </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ library’ approaches, collaborative tools, folksonomies, ontologies, etc. </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Or take ‘content management’ … <ul><li>again, lots of discussion about this over the years </li></ul><ul><li>lots of talk about ‘content management systems’ </li></ul><ul><li>very generic </li></ul><ul><li>essentially about managing and delivering Web pages </li></ul><ul><li>little discussion about management of learning objects or management of research publications or management of research data </li></ul><ul><li>this seems a shame… there seems to be a lot that both sides could learn about the other </li></ul><ul><ul><li>policy and process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>technical solutions and standards </li></ul></ul>
  36. 36. What special about e-researning? <ul><li>the requirement for persistence </li></ul><ul><li>the need to manage the scholarly record – i.e. research publications </li></ul><ul><li>similar requirement for management of learning objects though timescales less </li></ul><ul><li>requirement to manage data – potentially huge amounts of data over relatively long timescales </li></ul><ul><li>impact on </li></ul><ul><ul><li>data formats </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>management of content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>identifiers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>managing knowledge about people </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. What’s special about e-researning? <ul><li>need to support changes in learning – i.e. pedagogy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>from delivery to facilitation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>group learning and collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><li>DfES agenda for personalised learning, e-portfolios, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>handling of IPR </li></ul><ul><li>increasingly mobile and technology aware learner base </li></ul><ul><li>sharing and re-use of learning objects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>within and between institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>desire to tag and annotate other people’s work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. MIT OpenCourseWare, JORUM,, Connotea, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>and so on </li></ul>
  38. 38. The ‘m’ word <ul><li>m = metadata </li></ul><ul><li>… and the semantic Web </li></ul><ul><li>in 1998 Brian and I jointly ran a workshop session on metadata at the 2 nd IWMW in Newcastle </li></ul><ul><li>what we failed to do (IMHO) was identify the functional requirements we were trying to meet </li></ul><ul><li>we started from Dublin Core and worked backwards (“we have DC, therefore it must be useful to us”) </li></ul><ul><li>not unique in this – I think one could make the same kind of arguments about LOM </li></ul><ul><li>Google showed us (the library community?) where we were going wrong, but … </li></ul>
  39. 39. But… <ul><li>… not completely wrong </li></ul><ul><li>even Google Scholar still fails us in the context of searching for scholarly publications </li></ul><ul><ul><li>inability to do citation analysis properly (because of mis-match between HTTP links vs. ‘old fashioned’ text citations (and more recent OpenURL citations) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>inability to undertake ‘author’-type searches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>inability to spot duplicates, where multiple copies exist on the Web </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>particularly where different copies have different formats (PDF vs. HTML vs. …) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>inability to track through versions of documents (draft -> preprint -> postprint, etc.) </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. eresearning and the instutional webmaster <ul><li>JISC perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>emphasis on management of objects (scholarly papers, learning objects, complex objects and packaging, metadata, preservation) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>relatively formal approaches to service description </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>etc. etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>real-world perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>emphasis on management of web pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>blogs and RSS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>simplicity (by and large) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ darwinian’ approach – those services and standards that work, survive – those that don’t die </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. the wider environment <ul><li>RSS and Atom </li></ul><ul><li>blogging </li></ul><ul><li>access to and use of online facilities outside the institution </li></ul><ul><li>Google and Google Scholar, Amazon </li></ul><ul><li>social systems – Flickr, del.ic.ious, Connotea, MySpace, MyFace, YouTube, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>microformats </li></ul><ul><li>growth of Web 2.0 mindset </li></ul><ul><li>all pulling the end-user away from institutional solutions </li></ul><ul><li>not clear how we use or embed these things in our services </li></ul>
  42. 42. Conclusions <ul><li>firstly, that it would be good to see more engagement by the IWMW community in the issues being raised in the e-learning and e-research areas of JISC activity – notably the e-Framework and Open Access/Repositories </li></ul><ul><li>secondly, that a small amount of effort should be put into ensuring that we don’t lose our digital record of what the IMWM community has done over the last 10 years </li></ul>JISC Institutions wider environment
  43. 43. Postscript… <ul><li>the following slide was shown by Brian Kelly during the 2 nd IWMW in Newcastle (1998) </li></ul><ul><li>it caused some merriment among the assembled audience (we were younger and more juvenile then)… </li></ul><ul><li>… especially when Brian failed to recognise the typo it contained and carried on giving his talk completely ignorant of why everyone was laughing! </li></ul>
  44. 44. Addressing <ul><li>URLs (e.g. ) have limitations: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of long-term persistency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Organisation changes name </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Department shat down / merged </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Directory structure reorganised </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inability to support multiple versions of resources (mirroring) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>URNs (Uniform Resource Names): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Proposed as solution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficult to implement (no W3C activity in this area) </li></ul></ul>