UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Making Effective Use of Google Docs (and Who Will Support Researchers?)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 November 2014

Looking to Make Google Docs a Richer Authoring Environment

Google Docs: table of contents addon

The Table of Contents add-on for Google Docs

These days I find myself making extensive use of Google Docs. This is the tool of choice for the LACE project I am involved in. Although Google Docs doesn’t have the power of MS Word it does provide access control capabilities which are important for project work with partners working at different institutions across Europe.

As a long-standing user of MS Word (since its days which it competed with WordPerfect on MS DOS!)  I have become accustomed to its functionality and user interface. As I described in a post which summarised the collaborative authoring approach myself and my co-authors used in writing a “Paper Accepted for #W4A2012 Conference” I have made use of MS Word and Microsoft’s Onedrive (then called Skydrive) so that we could edit the document using our preferred authoring tool. Since our paper was hosted in the Cloud we could edit a single copy and avoided the problem of authors editing multiple copies of a paper. However although the approach worked for a small group of authors who were happy to use MS Word, it is not necessarily the best approach when there are a more diverse group of contributors.

In my current environment we used a shared Google Drive folder and I typically create project documents using Google Docs and receive contributions and comments from project partners. Some of the documents, which are intended for use by the project team, will continue to be hosted on Google Drive. However other documents. which are intended for submission to the European Commission, will migrate to an MS Word environment using the project’s template for submission of deliverables.

I have recently started to explore ways to enhance the Google Docs environment for producing documents. Sometime ago I installed the Google Docs Table of Contents add-on which, as shown, provides a document outliner which can be useful, especially for longer documents, in depicting the document structure.

What Do I Do Need to Do More in Google Docs?

It seems that at some point I also installed the Gliffy Diagrams add-on, which can be used to “create professional looking diagrams and flowcharts in Google Docs“.  As I often include diagrams in documents I produce using  MS Word I have felt the need for such functionality, but I haven’t got around to using this tool on a regular basis. This may be because I use Google Docs as the initial authoring environment but produce the final version in MS Word and use MS Word tools for embedding images and producing the polished final version.

Google Docs add-onsBut what more do I need to make greater use of Google Docs, I wonder?

As described in a TechCrunch article published in March 2014 “Google Launches Add-On Store For Google Docs“.  The article explains how on 11 March 2014:

Google announced the launch of its add-on store for Google Docs’ spreadsheet and word processor apps. The store, which resembles the Chrome Web Store in its design, currently features about 50 add-ons, with more coming in the near future.

According to Google, the idea here is to provide users with new tools that will give them access to more features — especially features that aren’t currently available through Google’s own products.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has experiences in use of these add-ons for Google Docs. Are there any power users who are using Google Docs in sophisticated ways and are making use of add-ons to enhance the functionality of the service?

Beyond the Tools – Managing Google Docs

As a long-standing user of MS Word I can remember when using a word processor was a solo experience. However nowadays tools such as Google Docs are designed to provide collaborative authoring environments. Such tools also provide collaborative commenting and viewing capabilities, with the ability to manage access to document, co-authors, commenters or viewers.

There will therefore be a need to understand best practices for managing access to Google Docs. This will go beyond the use of folders and file naming conventions: there will be a need to make use of scaleable approaches which will enable  authors to be able to manage large numbers of documents shared with  potentially a wide range of contributors and viewers. Giving world write access to documents is one way of managing access, but this approach does have risks! Note that there will also be a need to manage access when collaborators leave projects or change their host institution.

Supporting Researchers

Earlier today Dave Flanders alerted  me to the Research Bazaar Conference (#ResBaz) which aims to “kick-start a training programme in Australia assuring the next generation of researchers are equipped with the digital skills and tools to make their research better“. The event is described as:

an academic training conference (i.e. think of this event as a giant Genius Bar at an Apple store), where research students and early career researchers can come to acquire the digital skills (e.g. computer programming, data analysis, etc.) that underpin modern research

I suspect there will be a lot of sharing of open source tools at the event. But I wonder if making effective use of mainstream tools such as Google Docs will be covered? And if such issues aren’t addressed at events such as #RezBaz, who will take responsibility for training of postgraduate students?

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in General, Web2.0 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Including Your Missing 20% By Embedding Web and Mobile Accessibility

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 November 2014

Launch of a Book on Web and Mobile Accessibility

Including your missing 20% by embedding web and mobile accessibilityLast week, on Monday 10 November 2014, Professor Jonathan Hassell launched his highly anticipated book entitled “Including Your Missing 20% By Embedding Web and Mobile Accessibility“. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the launch event, but I used Storify to capture the buzz surrounding the launch event. As described in the book summary on Amazon:

Almost 20% of the world’s population have some form of disability or impairment that impacts their use of digital products. Yet Digital Accessibility is often a misunderstood concept. It isn’t just a way of organisations protecting themselves from being sued by coding their websites according to a standards tick-list so they work with screen-readers. It’s about working to ensure your website, intranet, widget, workplace application, mobile site, mobile app, or IPTV app is able to be used by as many people in its target audiences as possible. It’s about recognising that no product is ever going to be usable to all users, and finding a reasonable, justifiable way of balancing the resource costs of inclusion against the benefits. And it’s about letting your users know when you’ve not been able to fully support their needs. Fundamentally, it’s about understanding the challenges of inclusion, and solving them in creative ways, to gain a bigger audience so your product is more successful. In this book Professor Jonathan Hassell, award-winning international thought-leader in digital inclusion and lead-author of the BS 8878 British Standard on Web Accessibility, will take you on a journey to transform your organisation to achieve the consistent creation of web products that are usable and accessible to all your customers, at the most efficient cost.

I have to declare an interest in this book and the author. I met Jonathan several years ago and his work which led to the development of BS 8878, the BSI’s Web Accessibility Code of Practice, was carried out in parallel to the papers on web accessibility written by myself, David Sloan, Sarah Lewthwaite and several other web accessibility researchers and practitioners. One of our papers from 2007, “Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes“, reflects the approaches which were taken in BS 8878, which, on the web site, explains that (emphasis added):

BS 8878 is not a declaration that the finished web product has met a standard. It’s a statement that the process of developing the product has followed a standard where educated decisions about accessibility have been made. Through this process web managers and developers will gain a deeper and broader understanding of web access issues that will bring both short-term and long-term benefits to the community as a whole.

This focus on following a set of processes is helping to move institutional practices on from use of the WAI model, in which the emphasis has tended to be on ensuring that Web resources conform with WCAG guidelines. For me the next step should be exploring how the higher education sector can make use of BS 8878 in enhancing the accessibility of online teaching and learning and research services.  If you’ve an interest in this area feel free to get in touch. If you’d like to know more about the book visit the Amazon or BSI web site.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Accessibility | 4 Comments »

Thoughts on the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy Report

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 November 2014

Innovating Pedagogy

Innovating Pedagogy 2014 reportThe Open University has recently published the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report (PDF format), the third in a series of annual reports on innovations in teaching, learning and assessment. As described in a blog post which introduces the report:

This third report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.

The blog post also provides links to summaries of these ten innovative areas:

  1. Massive open social learning
  2. Learning design informed by analytics
  3. Flipped classroom
  4. Bring your own devices
  5. Learning to learn
  6. Dynamic assessment
  7. Event-based learning
  8. Learning through storytelling
  9. Threshold concepts
  10. Bricolage

Some Thoughts on the Report

A few days ago I reported on the opening session of The NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries, an event which was based on the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition (available in PDF format). The Open University and the NMC report are important reading materials for those with responsibilities for planning and implementing use of IT in higher education. Although such reports can’t be guaranteed to describe what the future will bring they do provide useful background material which can be valuable in informing institutional planning and decision-making.

I’ll provide some personal thoughts on the areas of innovation which are of particular interest to me.

  • Massive open social learning: The report introduces this topic by describing how:

Massive open social learning brings the benefits of social networks to the people taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). It aims to exploit the ‘network effect’, which means the value of a networked experience increases as more people make use of it.” The section summarises this are as “Free online courses based on social learning“.

Initially I was surprised at the inclusion of this topic as the first innovative area since the Open University has led MOOC activities in the UK through its FutureLearn platform. However it seems that the emphasis is on “social learning” rather than simply massive open online courses. It should also be noted that the report gives this are a potential impact rating of high and suggests a short (1–2 years) timescale for its widespread implementation.

StackexchangeI was interested to note that the report had mentioned StackExchange as a service which illustrates the power of social learning in other contexts:

In our previous reports we have given the example of StackExchange, with over 5 million users, which exploits the power of social learning. It is an example of problem-led massive social learning. When people have a problem to solve in the
relevant field they pose it online. Other people in the community provide answers. Yet more people expand the answers and rate the contributions, so the most interesting questions and best answers become more visible to all users. 

Back in 2010 I asked the question “Is Stack Overflow Useful for Web Developers?” The answer, it seems, was ‘yes': “I’m pretty sure that most web developers will have come across Stack Overflow quite some time ago“.

Looking at the StackExchange lists of sites it seems that although the original Stack Overflow “Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers” is still the most popular, many other areas are also covered as shown (in part) in the accompanying screenshot. The less widely-used areas, which are not included in the image, include “History of Science and Math“, “Italian Language” and “History“. I have to admit that the extent of such communities which can support informal learning as part of the StackExchange range of services was a surprise to me, which I had previously thought was focussed on IT topics.

  • Learning design informed by analytics: This is described as “A productive cycle linking design and analysis of effective learning” which also has a potential impact rating of high although in this case a medium (2-5 years) timescale for its widespread implementation. The report describes how:

As learning is taken online, there are opportunities to collect data on student activities and analyse these, both to inform the design of new courses and to improve the learning experience. The data can also be linked with test results to show which learning activities produce good results and to identify where learners are struggling.

The reports highlights the question of “what to measure?” and “ethical considerations” as two important areas which need to be addressed.

The report concludes:

An important consideration for institutions wanting to implement learning analytics is their capacity to produce and act on reliable data. Organisational change takes substantial time, effort and financial resources. We expect an increased use of learning analytics by managers and teachers to improve the quality of their courses. This, in turn, will help the learning analytics community to understand more clearly which variables for learning are important, how to incorporate informal learning, and where the ethical boundaries of learning analytics lie.

Note these are areas which are being addressed by the EU-funded LACE (learning analytics community exchange) project which Cetis is involved with. I should also mention that my colleagues were authors of the Cetis Analytics Series and co-authors of Analytics for Education, an article published in JIME.

  • Flipped classroom: Flipped learning “reverses the traditional classroom approach to teaching and learning. It moves direct instruction into the learner’s own space. … This allows time in class to be spent on activities that exercise critical thinking, with the teacher guiding students in creative exploration of the topics they are studying.

I’ve an interest the learning and staff development opportunities which networked technologies can provide beyond the lecture theatre. In this context I tend to use the term “amplified event“. For researchers this may be characterised as the “amplified conference“, a term coined in 2007 by Lorcan Dempsey and described in more detail on Wikipedia. Initially communication tools, such as Twitter, were used to encourage a remote audience to engage with discussions. However we may also be seeing resources being made available before an event, in part simply to facilitate sharing with a remote audience, but this enables use of such resources in advance of a talk.

  • Bring your own devices: As described in the report “when students bring their own smartphones and tablet computers into the classroom, this action changes their relationship with the school and with their teachers“. The report feels that BYOD will have a high potential impact in a timescale of 2–5 years.

The importance of mobile devices has highlighted in the recent NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries, with the opening session providing an “Emphasis on Mobile“. The session build on the findings of the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition in which mobile apps was felt to have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less. It therefore seems surprising that the OU’s Innovating Pedagogy report predicts a longer period before ‘bringing your own device’ has a significant impact in learning.

Perhaps the differences reflect the differing perspectives from the teaching and learning and library sectors, with the library focussing on ensuring that content is mobile-ready, whereas the teaching and learning community will need to consider how BYOD policies can be integrated within the learning environment. The opportunities provided by BYOD approaches will also have to aligned with institutional policies regarding security, privacy and support issues, as summarised in the following image (taken from Bring Your Own Device: A Guide for Schools. Edmonton, Canada: Alberta Education, available in PDF format).

BYOD models

Your Thoughts

I’ve given my initial thoughts on four of the ten innovative areas mentioned in the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report. I’d welcome your thoughts.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in eLearning, learning-analytics | 1 Comment »

NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries: Emphasis on Mobile (Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 November 2014

The NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries

NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of LibrariesYesterday I took part in the NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries. I was invited to be a panel member following my participation in the group which took part in the development of the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition.

The half-day symposium provided an opportunity for “library professionals, educators, and thought leaders will explore four major themes from the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition”:

  1. Emphasis on Mobile
  2. Increasing Access and Discovery Opportunities
  3. Content Management and Technical Infrastructure
  4. Rethinking the Roles and Relationships of Librarians

Together with Alex Freeman (NMC), Joan Lippincott (Coalition for Networked Information), Geneva Henry (George Washington University) and Gary Price I took part in the opening session on Emphasis on Mobile.

The virtual symposium was hosted on Google Hangouts and attracted about 100 registered participants.

Emphasis on Mobile

NMC Horizon symposiumThe NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition (which is available in PDF format) highlights mobile apps as one of the two most important technological developments for  academic and research libraries in the short term. The importance of mobile content and delivery is being driven by its prioritization as a key trend which is driving technology adoption in academic and research libraries over the next one to two years.

I won’t attempt to summarize the session as I was concentrating on my contribution, ensuring the technology work and monitoring the backchannels (the Twitter feed and the discussion on Google Hangout) and thus was not able to keep notes on the points made by my fellow panelists. However I used Storify to create a summary of the #NMCHz tweets about the session. In addition, as mentioned below, I also created a Lanyrd entry for the event which can be used by those who attended the event to provide links to reports on the event.

However it is fair to say that the panelists all felt that the mobile environment is important for the future and provides valuable opportunities for librarians.

Anytime, Anyplace Anywhere

The panelists were asked to respond to the question “Do you have a mobile use scenario that you think is particularly innovative?“.  To paraphrase my response:

Think about the world we are now in. We each have (or can have) the equivalent of a supercomputer in our hand. And just as James T Kirk on Star Trek could ask questions of the Enterprise’s computer, so we can make use of tools such as Google and Wikipedia to address out informational queries and social media tools to interact with our social and professional networks. For me, therefore, I wouldn’t like to mention a specific innovative technology. Rather it’s about the scale of use of technologies which we possess. “The future is here and may now be evenly distributed – and it’s in our hands!“. I think this is the exciting future. And surprising for some, use of mobile devices in bed might be important for many of our users.

My comment about use of mobile devices in bed was based on the responses to a question I asked the audience “Have you ever used a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?“. The responses on the Twitter channel suggested that some felt somewhat apprehensive about admitting to this:

  •  uh, yes I do use my device to do work while I am abed. :)
  • Regularly use my smartphone in bed to reply in the evening and to check email in the morning.

whilst others seemed more unapologetic:

  •  i have used my smartphone daily while still laying in bed
  • Me too. Every morning. RT @MULkatie: Checked my work email before I got out of bed this morning
  • @briankelly yes I have done this many times
  • I’d miss too much of general interest if I only checked when at work. How times have changed since I started at IA in 1998!

However some never use mobile devices for work-related purposes in bed:

  • I have never done that in bed.

I first asked this question back in 2012 and summarised the responses in a post on which described how “Twitterers Do It In Bed!“. Since then I have asked the question at a number of events and found, fairly consistently, that the responses are split between those who feel confident about this type of behaviour, those who seem reluctant to admit to it and those who do not use mobile devices in bed, with some being horrified at the idea.

Clearly taking one’s work to bed is a personal decision and taking work to bed which is accessed on a mobile device (rather than on dead trees!) should not be something to be done without the agreement of one’s partner. However asking this question is useful, I feel, as it provides indications of changing patterns of behaviour.

Privacy Implications of Mobile Devices

In the symposium  much of the discussion focussed on the potential benefits of mobile devices to support teaching, learning and research activities in higher education. Due to lack of time (the session only lasted for 45 minutes) it was not possible to address barriers to their use. There was some discussion about DRM barriers to accessing content but, in the conclusions, I highlighted privacy issues as a particularly complex area which needs to be acknowledged. In the presentations we heard speakers describe the importance of content shared on social media and the value of, for example, archiving Twitter streams for subsequent analysis.

I agree with these comments. Indeed in this post I have made use of the Storify archive of yesterday’s tweets which I created and cited some of the tweets in this post. Although in the past people have suggested that it is inappropriate to cite tweets (and may infringe copyright unless permission has been given). I should also note that although use of an event hashtag (“#NMCHz” in this case) may be regarded by some as an implied licence to permit reuse, in this case some of the tweets were public messages to me and did not include the hashtag.

Additional comments were made on the Google Hangout chat tool. I have not included relevant comments in this post, mainly because of technical barriers (I could not archive the content) but also because I feel that the Google Hangout was more of a private area than a public tweet.  But is this an appropriate distinction?

I concluded my summary by mentioning the recent release of the Samaritan’s Radar app which monitored Twitter feeds and the subsequent backlash which led to the withdrawal of the app. As described by the BBC News:

An app made by the Samaritans that was supposed to detect when people on Twitter appeared to be suicidal has been pulled due to “serious” concerns.

Might we find that our current scholarly interests in analysis of social media is meant with a similar backlash?  A topic I will revisit in a subsequent post,  but I’d welcome your thoughts.

Further Information

NMC-Horizon-Symposium-on-the-Future-of-LibrariesIn addition to the NMC Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries a Lanyrd entry for the event is also available. Since Lanyrd provides a wiki-style approach to content creation and updates I hope that participants at the virtual symposium will add links to trip reports and other resources relevant to the seminar.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events, Mobile | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Evidence Submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 November 2014

The House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills

House of Lords Select CommitteThe House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills is seeking answers to the question “how should the UK join up ‘fragmented’ digital skills teaching?

Last month, on Tuesday 14 October 2014, the House of Lords’ Digital Skills Committee quizzed Karen Price OBE, Chief Executive, e-skills UK, Maggie Philbin, UK Digital Skills Taskforce & CEO TeenTech and Rachel Neaman, CEO, Go ON UK about digital skills teaching in the UK. If you missed the live video stream of the meeting  a recording of the meeting is available on the UK Parliament’s web site.

In addition to the oral evidence which has been presented to the Select Committee a significant number of written submissions have also been made, with a total of approximately 125 contributions included in the Oral and written evidence report, a substantial PDF document containing no fewer than 763 pages!

About the Select Committee on Digital Skills

The Select Committee on Digital Skills was announced in the chamber of the House of Lords on Monday 9 June 2014. The Select Committee will consider information and communications technology, competitiveness and skills in the UK. It is expected that the committee will submit its recommendations and publish its report by 5 March 2015.

The Digital Skills Committee published its call for evidence on 11 June. The deadline for submitting written evidence was 5 September 2014.

In addition to the call for written evidence the Select Committee held a number of meeting which sought answers to questions from various sectors:

  •  On Tuesday 22 July the Select Committee asked Google, Microsoft and some of the UK’s leading technology specialists  about the UK’s readiness for technologies of the future.
  • On Tuesday 29 July the Committee heard from campaigners for digital start-ups, the voice of SMEs in the UK and the country’s tech sector and asked them whether rapidly changing technology trends are creating barriers for businesses, whether businesses’ tech skills are falling behind, how the UK’s infrastructure can be improved, and whether the end result of these challenges is damaging to the UK economy.
  • On Monday 1 September the Committee heard from the British Chambers of Commerce, Direct Line, McKinsey & Company, BT, Boston Consulting Group and Virgin Media. Questions that the Committee put to the witnesses included How can UK businesses prepare for the future?; What skills do future workers need for the UK to be globally competitive?; Does the UK have a competitive infrastructure to support a knowledge-driven economy?; How is the change in technology affecting this infrastructure?; How does the UK compare to other countries? and How important is faster Internet speed for businesses and their development?
  • The following day, Tuesday 2 September, the Committee held further evidence sessions, where they heard from the BBC, Ofcom and lifelong learning experts, among others. In these sessions they concentrated on the issues of: boosting levels of digital and media literacy; digital careers; and lifelong learning.
  • On 3 September  the Committee went on a tour of the offices of Guardian Media Group and Google Campus in London. The purpose of the visit was for Committee Members to see both how digital technologies are being produced at Google Campus and to learn about how Guardian Media Group is using digital technology to innovate and grow its global footprint.
  • Finally, as mentioned above, on Tuesday 14 October the Committee asked ‘how should the UK join up ‘fragmented’ digital skills teaching?’ and quizzed witnesses on several aspects of skills delivery, from preparing the workforce, to identifying skills gaps, to reducing inequality between the digitally skilled and the unskilled.

The Oral and Written Evidence Report

As mentioned above the Oral and Written Evidence Report is a substantial PDF document containing 763 pages. I’ve not attempted to read the report. However I have a number of observations after skimming through the list of contributors and reading the evidence provided by organisations I have some knowledge of.

CILIP Response

I was pleased to see that CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, had responded to eight of the fifteen questions in the call for evidence. CILIP pointed out that “Increased mobility within the workforce means the ability to telecommute is more attainable than ever“. CILIP also highlighted two areas which were of particular importance to their organisation:  information which “needs managing well and the skills and expertise of information managers need acknowledging as they will be an essential component to future success in a knowledge driven economy” and information literacy, defined as “knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner“. The CILIP response then went on for 9 pages to provide more detailed responses to points raised by the Select Committee.

Wikimedia UK Response

Wikimedia UK provided 7 pages of evidence. Their submission concluded:

There is an expectation that the fostering of digital skills in the 21st Century will take place in an ‘always on’ open environment. For the potential of such developments to come to fruition, legislative change around the opening of cultural heritage, and innovation around education design both need support. ‘Open’ practices are not simply about copyright reform and open licensing of public materials; they embody the kinds of literacies – informational and digital – required in the digital environment, and as such deserve consideration as important ‘digital skills’.

Other Responses from the Higher Education Sector

Searching the table of contents for submissions from the higher education sector I found:

  • Association for Learning Technology (ALT), on pages 36-39.
  • Bath Spa University on pages 70-71.
  • The Open University (OU) on pages 292-801.

Although there may have been additional submissions from individuals who work in the higher education sector, the limited numbers of responses from higher educational institutions and affiliated organisations seems disappointing, especially in light of the larger numbers of responses from commercial organisations including:

  • Barclays Bank on pages 49-52.
  • British Sky Broadcasting (Sky) on pages 137-143.
  • BT on pages 160-171.
  • Channel 4 on pages 176-179.
  • EE on pages 295-301.
  • Google, Microsoft and UK Forum for Computing Education on pages 364-380.
  • Microsoft, Google and UK Forum for Computing Education on pages 532-534.
  • Samsung Electronics UK on pages 660-676.
  • Virgin Media  on pages 777-786.

There are many other submissions which I have not listed from a variety of sectors. However I find it surprising that a Select Committee which is looking for answers to the question “how should the UK join up ‘fragmented’ digital skills teaching?” seems to have such limited input from the higher education sector. Should we be concerned? Or is the answer to be provided by companies such as Google, Microsoft, Sky and Barclays Bank?!

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From the Modernisation of Higher Education Report to the Open Learning Analytics Network Summit

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 November 2014

More Personalised Learning Informed by Better Data

In a recent post on a Report on Modernisation of Higher Education I described how the High Level Group’s report on the Modernisation of Higher Education which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education gave a high profile to the importance of learning analytics. The report includes a section entitled More personalised learning informed by better data which explains how:

In traditional lecture hall settings, it is difficult for a teacher to follow the progress of each and every student. It is impossible to adapt the pace of the course to match individual needs. Online provision allows the capturing of a range of data that can be used to monitor student progress. Advances in big data and learning analytics can help our higher education system customise teaching tools and develop more personalised learning pathways based on student data. However, the collection, analysis and use of learning data must only occur with the explicit consent of the student.

Data can capture how students engage in the course, interact with other students and retain concepts over time. It can provide information on the learning process as opposed to just learning outcomes. Teachers can experiment with different approaches and examine the immediate impact. Data can also be used to identify at-risk students at an early stage, assisting in efforts to increase retention rates. While still a relatively young field, exciting developments in learning analytics are underway. Several universities in the United States have programmed automatic dashboards, giving teachers the possibility to monitor their student’s performance live. The massive availability and usability of data has also great potential for empirical research on learning and teaching. Stanford’s Lytics Lab is one example that applies empirical research to better understand the performance of students. Learning process and feedback tools are yet another development that allows students to monitor their own performance and adapt it accordingly. The Open-Learning Initiative of the Carnegie Melon University and the Check-My-Activity-Tool of the University of Maryland are two examples of these promising developments.

Note that the 37 page long report is available in PDF format.

Open Learning Analytics Network Summit

Open learning analytics network summit 2014As part of its work on the LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project, Cetis is organising a one day summit event to broker collaboration around the idea of an Open Learning Analytics platform – based on principles of modularity, open architectures, and open standards – in Amsterdam on 1st December 2014, collaborating with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam and the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative.

We have seen how the Modernisation of Higher Education report which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education has given a high profile to the importance of learning analytics.

In addition Learning Analytics and interoperability are identified as key areas for research and innovation in the Horizon 2020 call ICT-20, “Technologies for better human learning and teaching“.

The time is therefore right to gather a European critical mass of activity behind the idea of an Open Learning Analytics platform.

The purpose of the Open Learning Analytics Network Summit Europe event is to develop a shared European perspective on the concept of an Open Learning Analytics framework, based on a critical view of where we are now and what is feasible in the next 3-5 years.

The intended outcomes of the summit are concrete plans for collaborative research and innovation. These plans will set out to meet the challenges and realise the possibilities of 21st century learning and teaching, including those outlined in the ICT-20 call, in a way that properly embeds the Open Learning Analytics principles.

The Open Learning Analytics Network – Summit Europe 2014 will take place at the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam on 1st December 2014. Participation is invited from public and private sectors, including innovators from all sectors of education and training, open source and proprietary software developers, people with experience of learning analytics interoperability and architects of modular and distributed systems.

Further information including the full call for participation is available on the LACE project web site.

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Report on Modernisation of Higher Education: Focus on Open Access and Learning Analytics

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 November 2014

New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Modernisation of higher education reportVia a post on the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group which described how a “Report on Modernisation of Higher Education specifically refers to LA [learning analytics]” I came across the High Level Group’s report on the Modernisation of Higher Education which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education. The 37 page report, available in PDF format, provides two quotations which are likely to welcomed by educational technologists.

We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world” David Warlick


… if we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” John Dewey

The coverage and tone of the report can be gauged from the table of contents:

  1. Introduction: why Europe needs to act
  2. Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education
  3. Challenges and how they can be addressed
  4. Recommendations
  5. Selective glossary of terminology
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Members of the group

From the section on “Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education” I noticed a number of areas of particular interest to me:

  • Greater global and local collaboration and cooperation: I noticed that this focussed on “collaboration and cooperation” rather than competition.
  • More personalised learning informed by better data: This was the aspect of the report which is being addressed on the LACE LinkedIn group.

Report Recommendations

Recommendations of the Modernisation of higher education reportHowever it was recommendation 13 which surprised and pleased me:

Governments and higher education institutions should work towards full open access of educational resources.

In public tenders open licences should be a mandatory condition, so that content can be altered, reproduced and used elsewhere.

In publicly (co-)funded educational resources, the drive should be to make materials as widely available as possible.

I also found it interesting that copyright concerns weren’t considered to a significant barrier in the report. Instead the report focusses on the legal challenges posed by the privacy implications for the collection, analysis and reuse of learning analytics data. For example Recommendation 14 states that:

Member States should ensure that legal frameworks allow higher education institutions to collect and analyse learning data. The full and informed consent of students must be a requirement and the data should only be used for educational purposes.

In addition Recommendation 15, the final recommendation in the report, states that:

Online platforms should inform users about their privacy and data protection policy in a clear and understandable way. Individuals should always have the choice to anonymise their data.


It’s pleasing when a significant report is closely aligned with the interests of one’s host institution! In this case the ebook Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources by Amber Thomas, Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker and Martin Hawksey (which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) provides a series of reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes from staff at Cetis and Jisc who were closely involved with the three phases of the Jisc OER programme.

In addition since the start of 2014 Cetis have been working on the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project. If you’ve an interest in this important new area feel free to visit the LACE project Web site, subscribe to the LACE Newsletter, join the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group, or simply follow the @laceproject Twitter account and the #laceproject hashtag. If you were following the Twitter stream you may have noticed the announcement of the Notes from Utrecht Workshop on Ethics and Privacy Issues in the Application of Learning Analytics –  a very timely report in light of the recommendations made in the Report on Modernisation of Higher Education!

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Posted in learning-analytics, openness | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Subverting Copyright (and Other Flawed Legislation)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 November 2014

Be Informed: Recent Changes to Copyright Law

JISCLegal slide on copyrightLast week Jason Miles-Campbell, manager of the JISCLegal service, gave a talk entitled “Be Informed: Recent Changes to Copyright Law” at the CILIPS Autumn Gathering.

Jason summarised changes to copyright legislation which were approved by Parliament in July 2014 and came into force on 1 October 2014.

The slide (illustrated) Jason used which caught my eye described how:

the fact that our system of communication, teaching and entertainment does not grind to a standstill is in large part due to the fact that in most cases infringement of copyright has, historically, been ignored.

This quotation comes from a post published in 2008. Since the blog asked for its content not to be attributed I will not provide a link (but note that I used Google to find the source of this quotation!)

The quotation came from Sir Hugh Laddie, a British High Court judge, lawyer, professor, and a specialist in intellectual property law who died in 2008. The blog post suggested that:

In the field of copyright, two of Sir Hugh’s articles should be laminated and placed on your desk so they may be re-read often. The first is his 1995 Stephen Stewart lecture, “Copyright: Over-strength, Over-regulated, Over-rated”, published in 18 European Intellectual Property Review 253 (1996).

and went on to describe how Sir Hugh:

criticized the insane criminalization of the economic tort of copyright infringement: “We have … reached the stage where taxpayers’ money is being used to enforce private rights which many might think are more than adequately protected by civil remedies. I should also mention that it appears that in most cases it is not the poor and weak who are using these criminal provisions but the rich and well organised.”

In light of the recent changes to copyright legislation Sir Hugh Laddie’s comment, made that many years ago, that “the fact that our system of communication, teaching and entertainment does not grind to a standstill is in large part due to the fact that in most cases infringement of copyright has, historically, been ignored” could be regarded as demonstrating that flawed legislation will eventually be repealed. However I think this ignores the value of the actions taken not only by those who have pro-actively sought to change the legislation but also the actions taken by those who have ignored legislation which is clearly flawed, in which no or minimal harm is done to others by such action.

A Risk Management Approach to Copyright  Legislation

web2rights risk calculatorSeveral years ago Professor Charles Oppenheim gave a seminar about copyright and institutional repositories at the University of Bath – and terrified the audience when we realised that most of our  work in developing an institutional repository would like infringe copyright.

However in response to a question I posed as to whether copyright concerns would inhibit the development of the repository, Charles said this needn’t be the case: rather there is a need to understand the legal issues but to make an informed decision on actions based on an assessment of the risks and a decision as to whether the organisation was prepared to take the risks.

Charles and I subsequently co-authored a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” in which we documented a framework for making an informed decision in addressing copyright and other issues.

Charles and Naomi Korn subsequently developed a Risk Management Calculator as part of the Web2Rights OER Support Project. As illustrated if you wish to make use of a textual document which wasn’t published with a commercial intent, doesn’t contain clinical content or images of identifiable individuals or children but the provenance and licence of the resource is unknown, there will be risks in reusing the resource, but the risks will be low. In this situation the toolkit concludes “[The] Indicative Risk Value indicates that there is some risk associated with the content that you wish to use. If your organisation is risk adverse and seeking permission or using alternative material then you will need to consider seeking permission or using alternative material.

What Else Have We Subverted?

Beyond copyright there are other examples of supposed legal requirements which can be seen to be flawed, so that ignoring them can be done for those who are willing to take a small amount of risk.

Cookie legislation is one example; since the requirement that users must ‘opt-in’ to use of cookie has been shown to be technically flawed, a pattern of use in which web site owners simply inform visitors that they make use of cookies and document the cookies used and their purpose is now widely accepted as an acceptable practice.

Another example is email disclaimers. A few days ago I received an email message which contained a request for information which could be easily addressed by forwarding the message. However the message contained a legal disclaimer:

Legal disclaimer
The information transmitted is the property of the University of xxxx  and is intended only for the person or entity  to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Statements and opinions expressed in this e-mail may not represent those of the company. Any review, retransmission, dissemination and other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender immediately and delete the material from any computer.

Although I am entitled to forward the message it would appear that subsequent forwarding to other who may have to process the request for information is prohibited. But does anyone care about such legal niceties?

Beyond the infringements which many computer users may be guilty of in the early days of the Web creators of HTML pages will have created pages containing links to other Web sites almost certainly without getting permission to create such links. But even back in 2008 there were still discussions as to whether you need permission to link to someone’s content.


Just over  year ago I asked “Do We Want Radical Law-Breaking Librarians?” The background to the post was a BBC News article which described how “UK’s top prosecutor defends journalists who break law in public interest“. The story was about the role of journalists in making information publicly available. Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions insisted that it “would be very unhealthy if you had a situation where a journalist felt that they needed to go to their lawyer before they pursued any lead or asked any question“.

The article went on to suggest that library rules which seek to ban use of mobile phones which can be used to make copies of copyrighted resources or take photos of people without their permissions may be counter-productive. I would argue that the welcome changes in copyright legislation have come about not just from the advocacy of organisations such as Jisc and CILIP but also by the risks-takers. Blessed are the risk-takers for they set the path for others to follow!

Note: A few hours after this post was published Andrew Cormack alerted me to an article published less than a week ago which described how the CJEU rules on whether ‘framing’ amounts to copyright infringement:

On 21 October 2014 the CJEU had to decide in the case of Bestwater whether embedding content in a website via “framing” constitutes “communication to the public” within the meaning of Article 3 of the InfoSoc Directive [1] and therefore infringes the copyright of the creator of the content.

The article goes on to explain:

The CJEU has now made it clear that linking does not constitute a “making available to the public” (or any other form of communication to the public), irrespective of which linking technique is used as long as the link leads to a website that is available to the public as a whole.

This decision drew on a previous ruling:

where it had already decided that hyperlinks do not constitute a “making available to the public” provided the link is to content that is freely and lawfully available online.

Or, in brief, you can link to Web resources and embed Web content in frames provided that the content itself is freely and lawfully available online. You can now, it would seem, create links from your Web pages to such resources without having to worry too much about the legal ramifications. Of course, you may have been doing this already, before the legal ruling was made!

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“Proud to be a Librarian” – Reflections on #CILIPSAG14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 November 2014

CILIP Scotland Autumn Gathering

Proud to be a librarianThe CILIP Scotland Autumn Gathering event took place in Edinburgh on Thursday 30 October 2014. Although the CILIP Scotland Web site provides information about the event, a more comprehensive set of resources can be found on the Lanyrd entry for the event, including links to speakers’ slides (where available), additional speaker information, links to archives of event tweets, etc.

“Proud to be a Librarian”

The highlight of the day’s event for me and other participants was the opening plenary talk on “Full Disclosure: Hillsborough and the human side of information work” given by Jan Perry, the CILIP Vice President (and President in the new year).

In the presentation Jan  described her work with the Hillsborough Independent Panel. This was a very moving presentation, especially for someone, like me, from Liverpool -and although I’m from the blue half of Liverpool hearing about Jan’s involvement with the independent panel for the Hillsborough disaster brought back particular strong memories as my dad died around that time.

As I commented during the talk:

Listening to talk about Hillsborough, The Sun, etc at is making me feel angry. Memories of 80s: miners strike, Thatcherism.

Others also shared their thoughts on the presentation, including @AminaTShah who began by commenting that:

Jan Parry describing her role in the Hillsborough enquiry and proving information really is power.

and went on to report how:

Liverpool libraries helped families who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster search for information online

and @bainofmylife who tweeted:

the small decisions, personal and political, documented and less so behind Hillsborough – sobering

But the comment which summarised the positive aspects of Jan’s talk was made by @libraries4us who concluded on a positive note:

Proud to be a Librarian today after hearing about their contribution to the Hillsborough Independent Panel

Unfortunately there was no time for questions but over the coffee break I was able to thank Jan for her talk; she told me that I was not alone in my emotional response to the talk.

“[The] current attack on libraries is part of a wider movement against people without money”

Tweets about Alan Bissett at CILIPS Autumn Gathering

The final plenary talk at the event was also full of passion.  Alan Bissett, author and playwright, provided the final keynote talk and was passionate about his belief in the importance of public libraries. Alan’s talk was more overtly political than Jan Perry’s but resonated with many in the audience, with @Miss_Horan7 commenting:

Thought provoking and powerful stuff at today’s How do we distill @alanbissett to share him round Scottish librarians?

and @JLMacfadyen concluding:

Final thought from Alan Bissett: current attack on libraries is part of a wider movement against people without money …

The Role of Library Professionals  in Light of Such Political Considerations

As I have described the CILIPS Autumn Gathering began and concluded with plenary talks which had political connotations for information professionals. The third plenary talk, on “Be Informed: Recent changes to Copyright Law“, also had interesting implications for information professionals with Jason Miles-Campbell, manager of the JISC Legal service, pointing out that “the fact that our system of communication, teaching and entertainment does not grind to a standstill is in large part due to the fact that in most cases infringement of copyright has, historically, been ignored.

The reminder of the CILIPS Autumn Gathering consisted of parallel sessions. As I mentioned previously I had been invited to facilitate a session on “Why and How Librarians Should Engage With Wikipedia”.

The day before the event began a tweet from @CILIPScotland explained:

We’d like to see our organisation documented on . Can @briankelly inspire you to help?

During the session I gave reasons why librarians should engage actively with Wikipedia, not only understanding some of the hidden secrets behind the service but also  why they should be willing to update Wikipedia articles and even create new articles.

The suggestion that there should be a Wikipedia article provided an opportunity to address issues of neutrality and the Wikipedia principal regarding a Neutral Point of View (NPOV).  As described on the Wikipedia Web site:

Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic. All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view. NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. This policy is nonnegotiable and all editors and articles must follow it.

Prior to discussing the creation of an article, I updated the Wikipedia article for CILIP to include details of the membership numbers since CILIP was founded in 2002.  As can be seen from the figures shown below there has been a drop in the membership numbers every year since CILIP was founded (note where possible the figures have been taken from CILIP annual reports but not all annual reports are available).

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
CILIP members nos. ~23,000 22,689 N.A. (20,373) N.A. 19,206 18,490 17,634 17,192 15,705 14,555 13,974 13,470

The decline in CILIP membership numbers has been a bone of contention over recent years. It would probably therefore be inappropriate for a Wikipedia user who is employed by CILIP to comment on the membership trends, as this would conflict with the neutral point of view principle. I would, however, suggest that if a CILIP employee has access to membership numbers for 2002 and 2004-2006 these could be added to the table,  ideally with a comment on the talk page declared a vested interest.

CILIPS Wikipedia articleI used this example when I address the suggestions that there should be a Wikipedia article for CILIPS.

Initially I asked whether CILIPS, the CILIP in Scotland organisation should be regarded as sufficiently notable to have its own Wikipedia article. As described in Wikipedia:

On Wikipedia, notability is a test used by editors to decide whether a given topic warrants its own article. Information on Wikipedia must be verifiable; if no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, then it should not have a separate article. Wikipedia’s concept of notability applies this basic standard to avoid indiscriminate inclusion of topics. Article and list topics must be notable, or “worthy of notice”. Determining notability does not necessarily depend on things such as fame, importance, or popularity—although those may enhance the acceptability of a subject that meets the guidelines explained below.

However in discussions I discovered that CILIPS has its own governance, its own web site and as involved in consultations with the Scottish Parliament for the development of the National Library of Scotland Bill 2011. This would seem to make it appropriate for there to be a Wikipedia article for CILIPS.

We then discussed the need for content to be provided by contributors who have a neutral point of view. I suggested that the talk page for the CILIP article could provide a forum for discussions about the creation and evolution of a CILIPS article.

However as I concluded the session I was informed that a CILIPS article already exists! The Wikipedia article, entitled Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland, is shown. Looking at the history for the page we can see that it was created on 5 November 2013. However on 9 August 2014 it was proposed that the article should be deleted. In response one user “added a reference to a Scottish Parliament document. I believe this organization is sufficiently notable to remain given that they were consulted in writing a national library bill.” It would appear that this information provide sufficient evidence of the notability of the organisation.

Conclusions: The Importance of Librarians’ Trustworthiness

I began this post by describing two plenary talks which described organisations (the police force and the Labour party in Scotland) whose reputations have been undermined through a loss of trust. We are not in that position with libraries. And yet librarians and information professional should not rest on their laurels. In my talk (the slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below) I spoke about the close parallels between librarians and Wikipedia, both of which aim to provide neutral and unbiased access to information. Wikipedia had documented its core principles which aim to ensure that Wikipedia provides a neutral source of information.

A while ago I came across an article entitled “So who’s editing the SNHU Wikipedia page?” which described how analysis of editing patterns and deviations from the norm may be indicative of inappropriate Wikipedia editing strategies, such as pay-for updates to institutional Wikipedia articles.

The article  pointed out how the PR sector has responded to criticisms that PR companies have been failing to abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s terms of use: Top PR Firms Promise They Won’t Edit Clients’ Wikipedia Entries on the Sly. The article describes the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms which is hosted on Wikipedia. The following statement was issued in 10 June 2014:

On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors.

Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfil its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.

We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.

We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.

A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.

If we wish to maintain the level of trust which librarians currently possess and we wish to see librarians supporting use of Wikipedia, should there be a similar statement of neutrality for those who are members of CILIP and CILIPS?

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Forthcoming Talks on Wikipedia in Edinburgh

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 October 2014

Yesterday was the first anniversary since I started work at Cetis. During that period  I have been involved in two main areas of work: supporting the outreach and engagement aspects of the LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project and promoting use of open educational practices and in particular, use of Wikipedia.

Later today I will be travelling to Edinburgh to give talks about Wikipedia at two conferences.

Tomorrow I’ll be explaining “Why and How Librarians Should Engage With Wikipedia” at the CILIP Scotland Autumn Gathering. I will explain how Wikipedia provides a good match for the interests of librarians and how librarians can become involved in updating Wikipedia content in order to both support their role as librarians and t develop skills and expertise which can be used in supporting their user communities.

On Friday I will give a joint presentation with Filip Maljković at the Eduwiki 2014 conference. In the talk on “Working with Wikimedia Serbia” we will summarise the Eduwiki Serbia Conference and Learning Day which I attended earlier this year,

I was pleased to observe that both events are fully subscribed, which might perhaps indicate the level of interest in open practices, such as making use of Wikipedia.

The slides for “Why and How Librarians Should Engage With Wikipedia” and “Working with Wikimedia Serbia” are available on Slideshare and embedded below. Comments on the slides are welcomed. Also note that the Twitter hashtags for the events are “#cilips1g14″ and “eduwiki”14 so feel free to participate in the discussions on Twitter if you can’t make it to either of the events

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What Do You Think Are The Major Technology Trends Which Will Impact Library Services?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 October 2014

Technology Innovation and Impact Strand at ILI 2014

ILI 2014 conferenceOn Tuesday 21 October 2014 I am giving a talk at the ILI 2014 conference which will address the question What are the major technology trends that will impact library services and their users? This talk takes place on the morning of Tuesday 21 October 2014, the opening day of the conference and is the first talk in Track B, the Technology Innovation and Impact strand, one of the three conference tracks.

The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition

The talk will be based on the approaches taken by the NMC Horizon team in the development of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition, a 50-page report which “examines key trends, significant challenges, and emerging technologies for their potential impact on academic and research libraries worldwide“.

I was pleased to have been invited to participate in the expert panel which took part in the NMC’s process for identifying the key emerging technologies and the significant trends which are driving their adoption and the challenges which may impede their take-up.

The report describes 18 topics which the expert panel identified as very likely to impact technology planning and decision-making: six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in technology.

In my 30 minute talk I will review two technologies which the panel feel to be significant ion the short term (less than a year to adoption), two trends driving technology adoption in the medium term (3 to 5 years) and two difficult challenges which may impede technology adoption in academic and research libraries.

Since the report is freely available online (in PDF format) I do not feel that simply summarising details form the report will be the most effective use of the session at ILI 2014. Instead I will describe the ‘Delphi; approaches used by the panel in identifying and then ranking the key trends, challenges and technological developments. I intend to then invite the audience to participate in a mini-Delphi process, whereby they can add their thoughts on technological developments of importance in the short term, trends driving technology adoption in the medium term and difficult challenges which may impede technology adoption in academic and research libraries which may have not been prioritised in the NMC Horizon report.

I intend to gather the suggestions during the talk, using a combination of asking the audience for their suggestions and inviting suggestions on Twitter. This will be followed by a quick vote to identify the responses which the audience feel are most important.

Attempting to reduce the Delphi process for which “over the course of three months in the spring of 2014, the 2014 Horizon Project Library Expert Panel came to a consensus about the topics that would appear here in the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition” will be a challenge and we shouldn’t attempt to read too much into the findings. However the purpose of this approach, rather than taking the safer route of simply summarizing the report, is to make the point that one should not simply accept the findings of a report on technological developments which experts feel will have an impact on the sector. Instead I feel that institutions should use the report to inform institutional planning which should be complemented by identification of developments which are of particular relevance in the context of the host institution’s local context, including local political, economic, social and technological factors.

What Do You Think Is Missing?

Since soliciting user responses in a large conference auditorium may prove challenging I would like to invite contributions to this post, in advance of this talk.

I will report on the technological trends which the NMC Horizon report feels will be important in the short term (less than a year to adoption). These are (with a  summary taken from the 2 page report for each area being provided):

  • Electronic publishing: Electronic publishing is creating a sea change in how people consume media, research, news and stories. Digital assets such as video, images, and audio can be easily deployed in a variety of media formats — a notion that has huge implications for expanding the reach of a library’s content and the dissemination of academic research. Libraries are poised to be major players in the digital revolution as academic electronic publishing becomes more sophisticated. While the PDF format (now an open ISO standard) has long been supported in libraries, closed systems, such as Apple’s iBook and Amazon e-books, are posing challenges to their existing publishing workflows. EPUB 3, a new standard for interactive and media-enhanced e-books, offers many opportunities for electronic publishing and new library content services,207 but there are still no user-friendly tools available for library professionals to aid the process. The emergence of open access policies from government agencies, coupled with unsustainable costs of print and citation cycles, has led to a shift in how education institutions publish. There is now motivation for libraries to take resources that are generated locally, including university research outputs, learning objects, and material digitized by faculty, and turn them into teaching materials as new publications. Among the chief considerations for libraries establishing such e-publishing workflows are storage capacity, comprehensive concepts for linking the scientific working process of text and scientific data, software tools that integrate and visualize complex data, copyright issues, bibliometric tools, and content hosting coordination.
  • Mobile apps: With the advent of mobile apps, the way we think about software itself is changing, and whole industries are adjusting to a new world in which sophisticated but
    simple tools routinely sell for 99 cents or are completely free. In contrast with the model for desktop applications that stack feature upon feature in a one-size-fits-all
    approach, mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant. They generally do one thing, or a small list of tightly related things, extraordinarily well. They cost so little, trial versions are unnecessary, and it is simple to outfit a tablet or mobile phone with exactly the feature set one wants for far less than one would pay for typical desktop software.

I will also describe the trends driving technology adoption in the medium term (3-5 years):

  • The evolving nature of the scholarly record: With the advent of mobile apps, the way we think about software itself is changing, and whole industries are adjusting to a new world in which sophisticated but simple tools routinely sell for 99 cents or are completely free. In contrast with the model for desktop applications that stack feature upon feature in a one-size-fits-all approach, mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant. They generally do one thing, or a small list of tightly related things, extraordinarily well. They cost so little, trial versions are unnecessary, and it is simple to outfit a tablet or mobile phone with exactly the feature set one wants for far less than one would pay for typical desktop software.
  • The increasing accessibility of research content: Academic and research libraries are gradually embracing the movement toward openness as the Internet has opened the floodgates of information and scientific knowledge. The open access movement has been an influential element of this trend, and it has a significant following in the library community among those who believe in removing financial and intellectual barriers for scholarly work. Major funding entities such as the UK’s Research Excellence Framework, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health have implemented guidelines requiring researchers to include dissemination plans for their data along with their outputs, expanding access to encompass all scientific outputs. A number of libraries are opening up their institutional repositories, allowing the general public to access their research. Several journal publishers are meeting institutions halfway by developing novel payment schemes that are based on region or quantity of outputs. More collaboration is taking place between institutions as they work co-operatively to lower costs within the publication process.

My talk will conclude by mentioning the difficult challenges which have been identified (note that the challenges have been categorised as (1) solvable challenges: those that we understand and know how to solve ; (2) difficult challenges: those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive and (3) wicked challenges: those that are complex to even define, much less address):

  • Capturing and archiving the digital outputs of research as collection material: One of the essential purposes of academic and research libraries has been to collect the outputs of academic research. Traditionally this has consisted of collecting textual, audio, video, and image-based outputs. With the introduction of new digitally-generated materials and processes, research outputs are growing in variety and types of format. It is important for these new digital data sets to be preserved alongside the research derived from them for future use and in longitudinal studies, but this presents a perpetual challenge for library acquisition and archiving practices as formats continue to evolve. The shift to new materials and processes has not only affected how material is
    captured and archived, but also how it is accessed and retrieved by other researchers and the general public.
  • Competition from alternative avenues of discovery: Before the rise of the Internet, libraries were widely perceived as the ultimate gateways to
    knowledge. However according to a faculty survey conducted by Ithaka S+R, the information gateway function of the library is declining. Wikipedia, contains nearly five million content articles and over 33 million pages and although sceptics caution that Wikipedia is not a credible resource for academic research and writing projects the sheer number of registered users (21.5 million) indicates a shift in where people are going for information, for convenience and ease of use. Online environments such as Google Scholar and the Web of Knowledge curate data from multiple sources. Academic and research libraries are in the difficult position of having to compete with these channels. However rather than regarding such trends as a concerns for libraries, some library organisations are using the changing environment as an opportunity to adapt and even partner with these platforms.

I’d welcome your thoughts on technological trends which will be important for libraries in the short term; trends driving technology adoption in the medium term and the difficult challenges which impede technology adoption.

Or course if you’d like to make other comments, ask questions or would like to suggest, and perhaps even provide answers, for the wicked challenges facing libraries, feel free to make them!

Note that the slides to be used at the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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Posted in Events, library2.0 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Why Don’t We Share More Multimedia Support Materials?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 October 2014

“Why do so few organisations live-stream their events?”

John Popham's Facebook postI came across two interesting posts in my Facebook stream earlier today. In the first post John Popham, a digital storyteller posed the questionwhy do so few organisations live-stream their events?” As illustrated, John provided an accompanying image which illustrated how live-streaming can nowadays be carried out using a smartphone which many of us will now carry.

Back in March 2011 I asked a similar question. In a post about a Seminar on “Mobile Technologies: Why Library Staff Should be Interested” which I published shortly after giving the seminar to University of Bath library staff I explained how:

As well as describing how I use mobile devices (in particular the iPod Touch) the seminar also provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate various uses of mobile technologies. This included:

I received the following feedback on the live video stream:

  • 11:26  anonymous: Hi Brian!  Bir jerky on the video, audio is fine. :)
  • 11:26  working pretty well brian: Yeah a bit jerky now
  • 11:27  itsme: video jerky audio good
  • 11:27  lescarr: Quality of video & audio very good. It does halt sometimes.
  • 11:27  mhawksey: audio is great, vid a bit jerky cam keeps refocusing
  • 11:29  Jo Alcock: Audio OK – video a bit jerky (but my connection isn’t very good here)
  • 11:30  Jo Alcock: Started watching it on iPad (through Twitter app), works well but moved to desktop now to enable chat
  • 11:30  Nicola: As tweeted: Audio good, video patchy at first but now pretty good – bit blurry but very much what you’d expect from a phone and v. acceptable #bathlib
  • 11:33  working pretty well brian: Video fairly patchy – Mahendra, Audio ok

In addition Ann Priestly (@annindk) an information professional currently working in Denmark) commented:

Watched yr seminar over lunch – thanks! Quality just fine, thinking ROI must be good for these quick sessions

It was interesting to note how Ann had picked up on the return on investment benefits which can be gained from such informal approaches to sharing talks with a wider audience, beyond those who are physically present. Such recordings of talks will enable local staff who weren’t able to be present to be able to view talks which have been recorded using simple mobile technologies. In addition, there are typically no additional costs for sharing such recordings with others.  A great ROI, especially for those who wish to promote open educational practices. And as academic librarians are likely to be involved in promoting the benefits of use of open access research publications it would seem to be a natural extension to promote the benefits of other aspects of openness.

What about sharing screencasts?

Guus van den Brekel's Facebook postI mentioned that I came across two interesting updates in my Facebook stream this morning. In the second update Guus van den Brekel provided “A few useful tips on the use of Google Scholar for work or study in a short video” with a link to an accompanying video recording hosted on YouTube. The video was a screencast lasting 3 minutes 44 seconds which showed Guus demonstrating some of the benefits of Google Scholar. Although I make use of Google Scholar I admit that I learnt something from this, so I am grateful for Guus sharing this not only with staff and students at his host institution, the University Medical Center Groningen, but for making it freely available to everyone and, specifically, sharing it with his Facebook friends. In addition to viewing the video on YouTube, it is also embedded below.

What are the barriers?

What are the answers to the question John Popham posed: “why do so few organisations live-stream their events?” And to broaden the questions slightly: “why don’t more institutions provide screencasts about use of popular services which are freely available to everyone?

Some possible reasons include:

  •  The costs of providing live streaming, video recordings and screencasts.
  • Concerns over the legal implications of publishing multimedia resources (e.g. privacy, data protection, etc.)
  • Concerns over potential copyright infringements (i.e. including of copyrighted user interfaces)
  • Concerns over being seen to make mistakes, which may be accepted in real-life presentations.
  • A belief that institutions should be making money from their intellectual activities.
  • A feeling that there are others who could make better multimedia resources.
  • A concern that multimedia resources which are created may not be used.
  • It’s not our job!

What other barriers may there be? Feel free to add a comment  to this post or participate in the poll given at the bottom of this post.

Is ILI providing opportunities for sharing multimedia resources?

Coincidentally I have just received an email related to next week’s ILI 2014 conference. The email describes the ‘ILI App – Your conference app with your conference content’. The email goes on to invite ILI participants to submit multimedia summaries of work which is relevant to the ILI conference:

Just send or bring along some information you think would be relevant to any of the ILI 2014 conference tracks. This may take the form of something you have written, an image or two, or perhaps a short video or audio file which relates to your work. Email it to us or visit us at the ‘ILI app’ tabletop in the Sponsor Showcase. If you give us a title and a brief description of what you did and the impact it had (100-150 words max), plus whatever visual or audio content you want to share – we will add it into the app. Once we have uploaded it, your contribution and that of all your peers, will be shared in real time to the app.

Perhaps this may provide an opportunity to create a multimedia resource. And, if you’re not attending ILI 2014, why not share it with your peers, as an open resource for other librarians?

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events, library2.0 | 1 Comment »

LACE Project Infographic (and Keeping Up-to-date With New Posts)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 October 2014

LACE Project Infographic

The EU-funded LACE  (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project is “bringing together key European players in the field of learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM) in order to support the development of communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

LACE project infographic (portion)Last week the LACE project blog included a post on “Infographic Learning Analytics“. This post described how learning analytics can help answering questions such as:

  • When is a student ready to proceed to the next subject?
  • When is a student at risk of dropping out?
  • What grade will a student most likely receive for a specific subject?
  • Does a student need extra support on a specific area?

The post, which provided comments on learning analytics from a school perspective went on to add that “It will take some time before Learning Analytics will be broadly adopted in schools. We expect that within two to five years approximately 50% of the schools will make use of systems that are more or less driven by Learning Analytics principles.

In order to encourage discussions on this topic the LACE project team have created an infographic which depicts “the roads to more differentiated and personalised education“.

A portion of the infographic is included in this post.The full infographic (which can be downloaded as a hi-resolution PDF) goes on from the traditional and personalised educational environments to summarise how learning analytics can help; the learning analytics cycle; the four levels of learning analytics; the teacher’s role and ask ‘what’s next?’.

Keeping Up To Date With LACE Blog Posts

Other posts on the LACE project blog published in the past two weeks have covered topics including:

But if you have an interest in learning analytics how should you ensure that you do not miss any of the blog posts? Traditionally this has been done by adding a blog’s RSS feed in your RSS reader. In the case of the LACE project blog the RSS file is available at . However RSS usage seems to have declined significantly in recently years, particularly since July 2013 when Google closed down the Google Reader.

These days many professionals seem to keep informed on new articles and blog posts through their Twitter network. If you use Twitter you may find it useful to follow the @laceproject Twitter account or monitor the #lacproject hashtag which is used by the project team.

However as well as RSS readers and Twitter, another way of ensuring that new LACE project web sites are delivered to you is to subscribe to an email delivery services for new posts.

LACE feedburner - subscription

The Feedburner service is basing used to provide this service. If you would like to receive automated email delivery of new LACE project blog posts simply click on the following link:

Subscribe to LACE – Learning Analytics Community Exchange by Email

You should note that if you wish to unsubscribe from this service you can do so at any time.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []


Posted in learning-analytics | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

New Developments for ILI 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 October 2014

ILI – the Internet Librarian International conference series

Some time ago I was asked if I would be a ‘blog partner’ for the ILI (Internet Librarian International) conference.  I was happy to do that last year and again this year for ILI 2014.

In a report on last year’s event I described ILI as my favourite library conference. I am attending the event again this year – and it seems the conference organisers are not resting on their laurels but are implementing a number of new features for the event this year, as highlighted in the screenshot.

Developments at ILI 2014As described by the event organisers these innovations include “Internet Librarian International’s X Track,
a brand new collaborative space for meeting, co-creating, learning
and problem-solving in a buzzing, fun and hands-on environment“. As illustrated the page goes on to add that “ X Track promises a new and different experience, comprising discussion, get-togethers and hands-on trials, alongside access to experts to help you resolve issues within your own professional environment“.

The X Track sessions include the ILI Unconference, five’sharing sessions‘ (short, informal presentations with a chance to chat to the presenters), the ‘ILI conference App‘ (which is described as a ‘co-created conference experience’), the ‘ILI selfie booth‘ (take selfies with fellow delegates and post on social media) and the  ‘Borrow an Expert sessions‘ (in which participants can spend 15 minutes with an expert through a ‘borrowing’ scheme which provides opportunity for a one-to-one meeting with a library and information specialist).

I am taking part in the ‘Borrow an Expert’ sessions which include:

  • Ask Phil Bradley about social media tools and search techniques.
  • Meet Sindy Grewal, an expert career coach and knowledge management expert.
  • Talk to conference co-chair Marydee Ojala about search.
  • Ask Jan Holmquist about community engagement, gamification, communities and collaboration.
  • Learn how Donna Saxby nurtured the career of style icon and reading champion @realbatgirl.
  • Find out from Brian Kelly how librarians can engage with Wikipedia, including how to update – and even create – articles.

These X Track sessions take place across the two days of the ILI conference, which runs on 21-22 October 2014. In addition to the X Track there are a wide range of more conventional sessions on Tuesday 21 October and Wednesday 22 October.

I hope to see some of you there. And if you are attending, do you fancy taking a selfie with me – there’s a prize for the best photo uploaded to social media!

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events, library2.0 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

An Exemplar Use of Lanyrd (and a Proposal for Creating Lanyrd Entries)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 October 2014

Looking Back at Lanyrd

Back in November 2010 I wrote a post on Developments to the Lanyrd Service two months after the service had been launched. I described how commentators had described the Lanyrd “uses Twitter to tell you which conferences, workshops and such your friends are attending or speaking at. You can add and track events” and highlighted some planned developments: “ soon you’ll be able to export your events as iCal or into your Google calendar … Soon, too, you’ll be able to add sessions, slides, and videos“.

The following week after my initial experimentation I gave some Further Thoughts on Lanyrd. I cited Graham Attwell’s comments that “The site is very open. Anyone is free to add and edit on the wikipedia shared knowledge principle.

Such openness can lead to risks: the wiki approach taken by Lanyrd which allows anyone to create and update Lanyrd entries would appear to be prone to misuse and vandalism. In the post I described how information [is available] on Lanyrd about the forthcoming Online Information 2010 conference – and looking at that entry today it seems clear that the entry has not suffered from vandalism.

In May 20012 I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? and three months later described how Lanyrd Gets Even Better … following the announcement that:

We’re now inviting event organisers to claim their event listings on Lanyrd. Claiming an event is free and claimed events gain access to useful additional features including event descriptions, advanced schedule editing and the ability to embed schedule and speaker information on another website.

My post did add a caveat, though as it went on to ask But Can It Provide The Main Event Web Site? and asked questions about the financial viability of the company. A few hours after publishing the post I received a response from Simon Willison, who established the company:

Our company is actually up to seven people now – we’ve spent much of the past year growing our team and building out important parts of the service such as our mobile apps (for iPhone and Mobile Web). We haven’t come close to spending the money we’ve raised though – expect to hear a lot more from us soon on the revenue side of things.

I share your concern about the longevity of conference data – that was actually one of the things that inspired us to create Lanyrd in the first place: we were frustrated that so many conference websites vanished 6 months after the event. We have no intention of contributing to that problem ourselves, and it’s an issue that has a strong effect on our decision making.

That response reassured me. The news on 3 September 20013 that Lanyrd [had] acquired by Eventbrite also seemed positive as the acquisition by an online event management company appeared to nicely complement Lanyrd’s role. I have continued to make use of Lanyrd and would encourage others to use it.

1:AM: the First Altmetrics Conference as an Exemplar Use of Lanyrd

Annotated Lanyrd entry for 1AM conferenceIn a post I published on Monday on #1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research I highlighted a number of aspects of the 1:AM Altmetrics conference which were of particular interest to me and mentioned the event’s Lanyrd entry as a way of finding further information about the conference including links to reports, video recordings of talks and access to speakers’ slides which may still be being added to.

I was pleased with the way on which Lanyrd page has developed since I created it, a day or so before the conference started.

My contribution to the entry was primarily to create the page, add event details which were provided on the main conference web site, create the schedule for the two days, using the session names and times provided on the schedule page on the conference web site and add the speaker IDs, where that could be easily found.

The Lanyrd entry was announced on Twitter during the event and may also have been mentioned in the concluding session.

Over the weekend additional links to coverage for the event were added by others, which included speakers’ slides (typically hosted on Slideshare), video recordings of the talks (typically hosted on YouTube), reports on the various talks and links to Twitter archives. There are also links to photos from the conference, which is currently based on a Google image search for the conference hashtag. The photos also includes an image of the poster I displayed at the conference.

What Benefits Does This Provide?

Since a conference web site already exists for the conference it might be asked “What benefits does a Lanyrd entry provide?

I think having a Lanyrd entry for an event can provide a number of benefits:

  • Marketing: Hosting information about an event on a popular service provides additional marketing opportunities for the event.
  • Access on mobile devices: Lanyrd is mobile-friendly so having the event’s timetable available on Lanyrd will allow participants to easily read the timetable on their mobile device, even if the main event web site is not optimised for mobile use.
  • Ease of content creation: Lanyrd’s wiki-style approach to adding relevant links can avoid the content maintenance bottleneck which may be encountered when only conference organisers can update the event web site.
  • Raising visibility of speakers: Profile pages for speakers can help to raise their visibility.
  • Providing historical information for events: It is possible to create Lanyrd entries for previous events, thus providing a historical context and potentially enabling trends to more easily detected. For example Lanyrd entries are available for all 18 of the IWMW events with detailed information available since IWMW 2006. Such historical information might also be useful in enhancing the preservation of digital resources for events and the event’s collective memory.
  • Aggregation of related events: Related events can be aggregated in a Lanyrd guide, thus providing those with an interest in a particular area with a simple way of accessing relevant events. For example see the guides for learning analytics and UCISA conferences as well as the IWMW guide mentioned previously.

There are, however, also risks in making use of Lanyrd. Such risks include:

  • Views of the event organiser: Event organisers may feel that they own the information about an event and would not want the information to be reused by others.
  • Duplication of resources: A reason for not wanting a Lanyrd page to be created is that resources (such as details of talks) may be replicated.
  • Changes to content: Replication of content may be of particular concern if the content changes, such as speakers cancelled, timings of talks changed. changes to the location, etc.
  • Private or invitation-only events: It may also be felt to be inappropriate to create a Lanyrd entry for a private event or one for which only invited participants may attend.
  • Content ‘hijacking’: In addition to concerns regarded appropriate use of Lanyrd, event organisers may also have concerns regarding inappropriate use, such as deliberately incorrect or misleading information being provided for vexatious reasons.

In a way such concerns are not new – there have been concerns in the past regarding creating of web sites, Facebook pages, etc. by third parties. In addition Wikipedia articles are expected to be created and maintained by those who have a neutral point of view.

A Proposed Approach for Creating Lanyrd Entries for Events

There are dangers that the concerns could lead to inaction, leading to a failure to reap the benefits which use of Lanyrd can provide. In order to avoid this risk the following approach for creating Lanyrd entries for events is proposed.

Be bold! image (from Wikipedia)

Be bold! image (from Wikipedia)

Key principle: Be bold! This approach is taken from Wikipedia, which states that “The Wikipedia community encourages users to be bold when updating the encyclopedia. Wikis like ours develop faster when everybody helps to fix problems, correct grammar, add facts, make sure wording is accurate, etc. We would like everyone to be bold and help make Wikipedia a better encyclopedia.

Create information for Lanyrd entries at an ‘appropriate’ level of detail: It can be useful to create entries for each session at an event and provide the title, abstract, time and location. However simply creating the entry with a title and time is normally sufficient as this is all that is needed if you wish to be able to associate reports, tweets, photos, etc. for a particular session. Such an approach also minimises the risks of changes to the times and locations.

Be willing to share ownership to others: Lanyrd entries can be ‘claimed’ and, once claimed, others can be granted administrative permissions to the entry.

Be prepared to write-off work: This is also taking from the Wikipedia advice: “Don’t get upset if your bold edits get reverted“. In the case of Lanyrd entries, if event organisers complain about an entry which has been created you may need to be prepared to delete the entry

Encourage event participants to add their details and add links

Ensure that Lanyrd users are aware of ways they can be alerted to other events of interest and ways in which these alerts can be managed.

These suggestions relate to the creation of Lanyrd entries for events organised by others.

Encourage event organisers to create Lanyrd entries for their events: The benefits which Lanyrd can provide to the various stakeholders (event organisers, speakers, participants and others with an interest in the event) can be more easily achieved if event organisers are pro-active in creating a Lanyrd entry.

Encourage event participants to add their content (photos, trip reports, etc) to the Lanyrd entry: Event participants may not be aware that Lanyrd can provide an environment in which user content related to an event can be easily provided and thus discovered.

Encourage event speakers and participants to add their details to the Lanyrd event entry: Adding an identify (normally Twitter) can enable event participants to more easily discover each other and grow their professional network. In addition providing information about the events you attend will enable you to receive personalised alerts about relevant events based on your interests and events you attend together with the events your peers attend

Lanyrd email notificationsEncourage Lanyrd users to understand how they can configure their account to maximise the benefits: Encourage Lanyrd users to understand how email notifications can be managed or disabled (as illustrated) if they are concerned about information overload.

Your Thoughts?

Is this an appropriate approach for encouraging greater use of the Lanyrd service? I’d welcome your thoughts.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

#1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 September 2014

1:AM, the First Altmetrics Conference

Lanyrd entry for 1:AM altmetrics -conferenceAs described in a post entitled , the 1:AM conference, the first dedicated altmetrics conference took place in London last week.

This was a fascinating conference, with lively discussion taking place at the conference and on the #1amconf Twitter back channel.

The conference embraced event amplification technologies, with a number of remote speakers giving their talks using Google Hangouts and all of the plenary talks being live-streamed and made available on the conference’s YouTube channel.

With so much discussion taking place across a range of channels I created a Lanyrd entry for the conference and publicised it on the final day of the conference.

I’m pleased to say that many of the participants and event organisers used the Lanyrd page to provide access to the various reports on the sessions, access to slides used by the speakers and video recordings of the talks, photos of the event and archives of the discussions and arguments which took place on Twitter: at the time of writing links have been added to 35 separate resources.

Altmetrics as an Indicator of Quality or of Interest?

On the first morning of opening day of the conference in particular there were lively discussions on the value of altmetrics with Professor David Colquhoun (@David_Colquhoun) in particular being scathing in his criticisms:

To show that trivialises and corrupts science is to look at high scoring papers

The blog post on Why you should ignore altmetrics and other bibliometric nightmares mentioned in this tweet generated much discussion on the blog and elsewhere. For those with an interest in this area I recommend reading the post and the follow-up comments, such as this response from Euan Adie, founder of the company:

Hi David. Thanks for writing the post! I founded I think you and Andrew have some fair points, but wanted to clear up the odd bit of confusion.

I think your underlying point about metrics is fair enough (I am happy to disagree quietly!). You’re conflating metrics, altmetrics and attention though.

Before anything else, to be absolutely, completely clear: I don’t believe that you can tell the quality of a paper from numbers (or tweets). The best way to determine the quality of a paper is to read it. I also happen to agree about post publication review and that too much hype harms science. 

Euan concluded his comment by providing a link to his post which suggested that those with interests in the impact of scientific research to Broaden your horizons: impact doesn’t need to be all about academic citations.

The consensus at the conference seemed to be that the view (perhaps based on misunderstandings)  that altmetrics would provide an alternative to citation analysis to determine the quality of research and should determine how research should be funding is no longer widely accepted; instead altmetrics are regarded as being complementary to citation data and can provide a broader picture, especially of how research is being discussed and debated.

Raising the Visibility of One’s Research: Kudos

In discussions with other participants I heard how the view that researchers (and funders of research) had responsibilities for raising the visibility of their research is becoming accepted: the view that only one’s peers need be interested in the research was felt to be no longer relevant. “We need to be seen to be able to justify funding for research“was one comment I heard.

Back in March 2012 in a post on Marketing for Scientists Martin Fenner made a similar point:

Scientists may feel uncomfortable about marketing their work, but we all are doing it already. We know that giving a presentation at a key meeting can be a boost for our career, and we know about the importance of maintaining an academic homepage listing our research interests and publications. And people reading this blog will understand that a science blog can be a powerful marketing tool.

But if researchers are now accepted the need to raise the visibility of their research, the question then is what tools can they use to support this goal?

The Kudos dashboardThe session on Altmetrics in the last year and what’s on the roadmap provided brief summaries about altmetrics application including talks about  Altmetric, Plum Analytics, Impactstory, PLOS, Mendeley, Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association and Kudos.

Kudos was the one tool which was new to me. A recent post which describes how Kudos Integrates Altmetric Data to Help Researchers see Online Dissemination of Articles summarised the aim of the service:

Kudos is a new service designed to help scholars and their institutions increase the impact of their published research articles. Altmetric tracks and collates mentions of research articles on social media, blogs, news outlets and other online sources. This integration means mentions are now incorporated on the Kudos metrics pages for individual authors, and accompanied by a short summary which further details the number of mentions per source. Each article is assigned a score based on the amount of attention it has received to date, and authors are able to click through to see a sample of the original mentions of their article.

I have created an account on Kudos. I was able to quickly claim many of my research papers. As can be seen from the screenshot of the dashboard  a number of my papers already have an Altmetric score, which is defined as “a reflection of the amount of interest your publication has attracted across news outlets and social media“.

Altmetric score for paper on "Accessibility 2.0: Next Steps for Web Accessibility"My paper on Accessibility 2.0: Next Steps for Web Accessibility, for example, has an Altmetrics score of 6. If I wanted to raise the visibility and impact of the paper the Kudos tool allows me to:

Explain: Explain your work and tell readers what it’s about and why it’s important.

Enrich: Enrich your publication by adding links to related materials.

Share: Share a link to your publication by email and social media.

Measure: Measure the impact on your publication performance.

Raising the Visibility of One’s Research: Wikipedia

Wikimedia and Metrics posterIn a recent post entitled Wikimedia and Metrics: A Poster for the 1:AM Altmetrics Conference I described the metrics for Wikipedia articles which may provide indications of the effectiveness of the outreach of the article. The post summarised a poster which was displayed at the conference and which is shown in this post.

As may be shown by usage metrics, Wikipedia can provide a mechanism for raising the visibility of topics described in Wikipedia articles, which can include articles based on research work.

It would appear that Kudos and Wikipedia both provide mechanisms for enhancing interest in research work. But these two tools provide contrasting approaches to the way they support such dissemination work.

With Kudos, authors of research papers are expected to provide summaries of their work. by (a) adding a short title to the publication to help make it easier to find and can help increase citations; (b) adding a simple, non-technical explanation of your publication will make it easier to find, and more accessible to a broader audience and (c) adding an explanation of what is most unique and/or timely about your work, and the difference it might make, will help increase readership.

In contrast, content added to Wikipedia should be provided based on the fundamental principles of Wikipedia , known as the five pillars. In brief:

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia: It combines many features of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, an indiscriminate collection of information, or a web directory.
  2. Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view: We strive for articles that document and explain the major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence in an impartial tone. We avoid advocacy and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them.
  3. Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute: Since all editors freely license their work to the public, no editor owns an article and any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed. Respect copyright laws, and never plagiarize from sources.
  4. Editors should treat each other with respect and civility: Respect your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and don’t engage in personal attacks. Seek consensus, avoid edit wars, and never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point.
  5. Wikipedia has no firm rules: Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, but they are not carved in stone; their content and interpretation can evolve over time. Their principles and spirit matter more than their literal wording, and sometimes improving Wikipedia requires making an exception.

The second of these principles,  which expects Wikipedia articles to be written from a neutral point of view, will be the most challenging for researchers who would like to use Wikipedia to raise the visibility of their research to a wider audience. One of three core content policies for Wikipedia articles is that, content should be provided from a neutral point of view – and it will be difficult to do this if you wish to publish or cite content based on one’s own research. Another challenge for researchers is a second core content policy  which states that Wikipedia articles must not contain original research.

What Is To Be Done?

Perhaps a simple approach which could be made by open researchers who are willing to share their experiences openly would be ensure that initial desktop research  which typically may be used as a literature review is used to support existing articles.

However the bigger challenge is to address the tensions between the funders’ requirement to ensure that research they fund is widely disseminated and exploited by others and Wikipedia’s requirement for neutrality.

In a recent post on Links From Wikipedia to Russell Group University Repositories I highlighted similar challenges for universities which may be tempted to seek to exploit the SEO benefits which links from Wikipedia to institutional web pages may provide.

In the blog post I cited an article from the PR community who had recognised the dangers that PR companies can be easily tempted to provide links to clients’ web sites for similar reasons. In response to concerns raised by the Wikipedia community Top PR Firms Promise[d] They Won’t Edit Clients’ Wikipedia Entries on the Sly. The article,which is hosted on Wikipedia, describes the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms . The following statement was issued in 10 June 2014:

On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge thattheprior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationshipwiththe community of Wikipedia editors.Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing anaccurate andobjective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.

We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.

A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.

Might research councils and other funders of research find it useful to embrace similar principles? And is there a role for research librarians and others with responsibilities for supporting members of the research community in developing similar guidelines which will help ensure that researchers make use of Wikipedia in a way which supports the Wikipedia principles which have helped to ensure that the encyclopedia is regarded as a valuable source of information?

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy]

Posted in Events, Evidence, Wikipedia | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Wikimedia and Metrics: A Poster for the 1:AM Altmetrics Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 September 2014

1:AM – time for an altmetrics conference!

Wikimedia and Metrics posterThe 1:AM Altmetrics conference is being held in London today and tomorrow, 25-26th September.

The aims of the conference are summarised on the conference web site. It particular I noted:

We will be taking a closer look at how authors, readers, funders, publishers and institutions are beginning to integrate altmetrics into their scholarly communication processes — and the challenges that they face along the way.

With a quick overview of recent developments and future plans, we will aim to better understand how and why altmetrics can be of use to the community — and draw further inspiration from those outside academia.

The conference programme is packed with interesting talks and workshop sessions running from 9am to 5/5.30 pm on both days. It is not surprising that the conference was fully booked shortly after the conference was announced.

Wikimedia and Metrics

I will be attending the conference and will present a poster designed by myself and Martin Poulter on behalf of Wikimedia UK. The poster (which is shown and is also available on Scribd) summarises metrics which are available for Wikipedia articles, including usage statistics for articles and media, information on both in-bound and outbound links to and from Wikipedia articles, statistics on the contributions made by editors of Wikipedia articles and statistics on the evolution of articles.

If you are familiar with Wikipedia metrics, if you visit a Wikipedia article you will notice a “View history” button near the top of the window, as shown below for the Global warming article.

Wikipedia article on Global Warming

Clicking on this button and then selecting the Revision history statistics you will see a comprehensive set of statistics about the article. At the time of writing (9 September 2014) you can see that:

  • Statistics for Wikipedia article on Global warmingThe first edit was made on 30 October 2001.
  • The latest edit was made 4 days ago.
  • There have been 4,776 minor edits, 3,307 anonymous edits (identified by an IP address) and 200 edits made by bots (automated edits).

In addition to information about edits to the articles indications are provided on the articles potential impact and levels of interest.  For example there are:

  • 8,042 links to the article from other Wikipedia articles
  • 527 links in-bound links to the article.
  • 1,712 watchers (who receive notification of changes to the article).
  • Over 406,000 views of the article over the past 60 days.

Next Steps

As the world’s fifth most popular web site, Wikipedia shapes public discussion of every area of theoretical and applied science. Its open data and APIs are used by to develop new evaluative tools to assess the impact of a user, set of content, or contributing organisation.

The Wikimedia community welcomes opportunities to exchange ideas on further developments with the altmetrics community. Feel free to leave any comments, questions or observations on this blog post.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Wikipedia | 1 Comment »

Analytics Events: For Learning and For Research

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 September 2014

Moves Towards Analysis of Data

I suspect I am not alone in finding that my interests and activities in my professional life no longer focus primarily on digital content but now encompass data. There are two events taking place over then next four weeks which may be of interest to those with interests in the analysis of data to support learning and research.

The SoLAR Flare Event

The EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project is organised a one-day event which will be held at the Open University on 24 October 2014.

As described on the event booking web site:

SoLAR Flare eventThis is a networking gathering for everyone interested in learning analytics. Under the auspices of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) and organized by Europe’s Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE), this event forms part of an international series. SoLAR Flares provide opportunities to learn what’s going in learning analytics research and practice, to share resources and experience, and to forge valuable new connections.

SoLAR defines learning analytics as ‘the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs’. The LACE project is working to promote knowledge exchange and increase the evidence base in this field, so that analytics can be used effectively in a wide range of educational settings, including schools, higher education, workplace learning and within MOOCs.
We therefore invite technology specialists, teachers, researchers, educators, ICT purchasing decision-makers, senior leaders, business intelligence analysts, policy makers, funders, students, and companies to join us in Milton Keynes.

 The event is free to attend, so I suggest that you sign up quickly in order to guarantee a place.

1:AM: The First Altmetrics Conference

On Thursday and Friday of this week 1:AM London, the first altmetrics conference is taking place at the Welcome Collection, London.

1:am ALtmetris conferenceAlthough the conference is fully-subscribed the conference organisers are seeking to maximise engagement through event amplification. As described on the event blog:

Can’t make the conference in person, or missed out on a delegate place? Fear not! Along with a blog write up of each session, we’ll be live-tweeting on the #1amconf hashtag, and live streaming on our YouTube channel:

Note that a Twubs archive for the event hashtag is available.

As illustrated in the screenshot the conference progamme begins with a review of recent altmetrics activities followed by a session on how people are currently using altmetrics. Further sessions on the first day cover research communications, ethical implications of research involving social media, impact assessment in the funding sector: the role of altmetrics and uses of metrics within institutions.

The sessions on the second day cover altmetrics and publishers, lessons learnt, tracking other research outputs, update on standards and a group workshop session to review activity around altmetrics to date, and to propose ideas for future development.

I will be representing Wikimedia UK at the conference and will present a poster on Wikimedia and Metrics.

Are You Attending?

In a recent post I summarised the benefits of Using Twitter to Meet New People on the Way to Conferences. If you are attending either of these events and would be interested in making contact with others you may find the Lanyrd entry for these events of interest. Simply go to the Learning Analytics SoLAR Flare Event in UK or the 1:AM London Lanyrd entries and either track the events of interest or register yourself as a participant or speaker.

As I’ve found with the IWMW event series, the details for the 40 speakers, 59 attendees and 15 people who tracked the IWMW 2013 event can help to identify key members of a community of practice with shared interests. Use of Lanyrd may help, I feel, to support the community of open practitioners who have interests in learning analytics and altmetrics.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events, Evidence | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Using Twitter to Meet New People on the Way to Conferences

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 September 2014

Travelling to a Project Meeting

Using Twitter on the way to eventsLast week I attended a #LACEproject consortium meeting in Graz, Austria. The LACE project, which is funded by the EU, is “bringing together key European players in the field of learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM) in order to support the development of communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The consortium meeting provided a valuable opportunity for me to meet colleagues in the project, most of whom I had only come across in our regular video-conference calls.

As the leader of the work package which covers communications and dissemination I have an interest in how social media tools can be used both for supporting communications and collaboration across the project partners and also with the wider community of people with interests in learning analytics.

Developing One’s Professional Network

The potential value of use of Twitter at conferences, workshops and seminars is now widely appreciated. However one aspect which is probably not so well-understood is using Twitter while travelling to events.

This occurred to me last week following my tweet at Heathrow Airport:

On my way to Dusseldorf and then Graz for a meeting.

Twenty minutes later I received a response to my tweet from Nick Pearse (@drnickpearce):

@briankelly I’m off to Graz tomorrow for ECTEL workshop, are you off to that? …

As can be seen from the Storify summary of our Twitter discussions we tried to meet during the EC-TEL 2014 conference but since my meeting took place at a different location we were not able to do this. However our brief exchange of tweets motivated me to look at Nick’s Twitter profile:

Sociologist having fun teaching anthropology + sociology! at Durham University’s Foundation Centre. Digital scholar interested in social media + pedagogy

and visit his Digitalscholar blog. His areas of interests overlap with mine, I felt. But unfortunately it looked as though we wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet.

As I was leaving Graz I made use of the free WiFi available at the airport to, indirectly, say that I was leaving:

At Graz airport. Couldn’t connect to Internet. Rebooted tablet; no joy. Started IE; saw click to connect button. Should I make IE default?

Nick was also at the airport on his way home:

@briankelly i’m here too, are you getting the frankfurt flight?

Unfortunately we were on different flights but we managed to have a brief chat before we left. This confirmed our mutual areas of interests and we agree to get in touch after we had returned home.

Twitter as the Interactive Business Card

Back in April 2008, in the early day’s of Twitter usage I wrote a post explaining one of the benefits of Twitter for academics, especially when travelling to conferences: Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card.

Since then the online infrastructure has developed significantly. Many people will now own a smartphone which will provide access to networked tools such as Twitter. In addition no longer is WiFi access limited to conference venues and hotels; increasingly WiFi is available. often for free, at airports and railway stations. We can now exchange our virtual business cards whilst travelling!

Trip to LACE meeting announced on FacebookSome people may have concerns about the risks of sharing their location. It’s true that there can be risks in using one’s phone in dodgy areas, but this is not normally the case in airports. And my approach to minimising the risks associated with people knowing that I am not at home is to make sure I’ve locked the doors! I also shared my location when travelling on an extended trip to south east Asia  as a way of ensuring that details of my journey were publicly available in case I had any problems on the trip.

I should also add that I also use Facebook to check in to train stations and airports when I’m travelling. Again I’ve found this useful, for example, when friends suggest places to visit while I’m travelling. However use of Facebook doesn’t provide the serendipity for making new connections which Twitter can provide.

In the past I have also explored the potential for use of dedicated geo-location services such as FourSquare and Gowalla. However I’ve found that these don’t have sufficient take-up to be of value (and Gowalla folded in 2012). I’ll therefore continue to use a combination of Twitter and Facebook when I’m travelling to work-related events.

Do others do likewise? Do you have any stories to share of the benefits of such approaches, or of the risks?

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Social Networking, Twitter | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Reflections on IWMW 2014 from the University of Edinburgh

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 September 2014

In a recent guest post on this blog Mike McConnell described how the IWMW event  “is much loved by its community and reflects a collegiate and resolutely non-commercial mindset that was once taken for granted in HE” and went on to explain how the key theme for the IWMW 2014 event  was “The Year It Went From Web To Digital” and describe how there was “an unapologetic focus of the user as customer and repeated references to ‘product’ and the user experience“.

Mike was not the only participant to find this year’s event a stimulating experience which provided new insights into institutional developments.  Neil Allison, a speaker at this year’s event, attended along with a number of his colleagues from Edinburgh University. In his report on the event Neil described how “my big takeaway was the need for organisational change and executive-level buy-in to truly bring about digital transformation“. Neil, together with his colleagues Aldona GosnellMartin MorreySteven RossStratos Filalithis  and Bruce Darby have summarised their reflections on the event on the University of Edinburgh’s University Website Programme  blog. They have kindly agreed that a slightly modified version of the post can be republished here.

Higher ed web managers conference write up – Neil Allison

Last month a small group of colleagues from across the University of Edinburgh attended IWMW 2014,  the annual web managers conference held, this year, in Newcastle. I asked everyone to answer three quick questions to give you a snapshot of what they thought of the event.

The Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) has been running for nearly 20 years now and I’ve been attending (most years) since joining the University Website Programme in 2006. This is probably the largest turnout by Edinburgh staff (apart possibly from 2012 when we hosted) and definitely the highest number of contributors with myself and Martin Morrey giving plenary talks, while Bruce Darby ran a workshop.

Blog posts on my talk at this year’s IWMW and Martin Morrey and Neil’s preview of their IWMW 2014 presentations have been published previously on the University Website Programme  blog.

As ever, the IWMW event provided a Lanyrd site to capture slides, write ups and various thoughts from contributors and attendees. I recommend you explore the resources, perhaps steered by the additional comments of colleagues which are included below.

Quick conference write ups

I asked colleagues who attended to answer three quick questions:

  1. Why did you decide to attend the conference?
  2. What was the best presentation or session?
  3. What was the big trend or takeaway point you took from the conference?

The responses from my colleagues are included below.

Aldona Gosnell

Ross Ferguson at IWMW 2014My reason for attending the IWMW conference was mostly to keep my eyes open and to listen. Not under any pressure to deliver my own presentation or sell a product, I had the luxury of not having to worry too much about what to say, and the freedom to explore whatever caught my interest. The truth is that we (the CHSS Web Team) don’t get a chance to stop and look around very often.

It is hard to choose one talk out of the many expertly delivered and entertaining IWMW presentations this year. Perhaps the one that rung particularly true for me was “Using the Start-up playbook to reboot a big University Website” by Ross Ferguson (University of Bath) as I have a long standing interest in both start-ups and big university websites. To some extent it echoed the agile processes developed in my team – especially  “release iteratively and often” and “provide ongoing support”.

I had my eyes open for any signs of the agile trend. I discovered that some of the delegates held the official SCRUM accreditation. It was interesting to meet with an official “Scrum Master” – Edele Gromley – and her team from the University of Kent. We have been trying to find our feet in the agile world for some time and come up with a successful recipe for the right balance between planning, doing and documenting.  Had I been less worried about making a nuisance of myself, I would have asked her outright – do you really have the everyday stand-up 15-minute meeting, and is that working for you guys?

Aldona is the Web Team Manager at the College of Humanities and Social Science. See Aldona’s staff profile and the HSS Web Team blog.

Martin Morrey

Martin Morrey and colleagues at IWMW 2014 conference

Martin’s answers to the questions posed by Neil are:

  1. I was speaking (!) + It’s the best way to find out what the rest of sector is doing.
  2. Ross Ferguson.  Reminded me that you can achieve change quickly if you are determined/stubborn/insensitive enough!  Also, Paul Boag on Digital Transformation.
  3. Digital Transformation.  Rethink digital experience from scratch, and from the point of view of the end-user.

Martin is the Manager of the Web Integration Team in Information Services, with responsibility for portal, web development, and graphic design services.

Steven Ross

This was the first IWMW I had attended so wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped it would be an opportunity to gain insight into industry best practice and also a chance to pick the brains of others facing similar challenges. It’s too easy to become stuck in your institutional ways, so a reminder that others face and address similar challenges, was revitalising.

The theme that weaved its way through many diverse presentations was digital transformation.  To meet our users’ needs, we need to enable digital teams to function beyond organisational bureaucracy and dated processes. It’s clear that without organisational belief in the value of digital, we will continue to be perceived as facilitating the vision of others, rather the driver that brings improvement and keeps pace with fast evolving user demands.

Ross Ferguson’s presentation encapsulated these points well and unsurprisingly grabbed peoples’ attention. He countered the challenges we all face by presenting a brave new world where digital teams possess all the building blocks and resources required to deliver user focused services and products. Being able to quickly deliver and iterate products gives credence to this approach and generates confidence within the organisation and management.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Bath to see if the rhetoric rings true.

Steven is the Senior Digital Marketing Officer in Communications and Marketing.

Stratos Filalithis

As this was the first time I have attended the IWMW 2014 conference, my goal was to listen, learn and engage with people working within the UK Higher Education. It was a very nice opportunity to understand how common challenges are dealt in other institutions, as well as to understand different solutions or approaches to similar problems. All IWMW presentations were interesting and I was really happy that they covered an area of themes rather than focusing on a specific subjects.

I think that the presentation by Ross Ferguson (Head of the Digital team at the University of Bath), titled “Using the Start-up playbook to reboot a big University Website” really stood out, and was probably a taste of things to come on how to govern websites and digital services in general.

What was even more interesting was the following ‘birds of feathers‘ session around web governance itself where interesting conversations around how centralised and devolved models address the issue. It was apparent that there isn’t a magic solution as teams are structured in a way to suit each institution’s philosophy, business or organisational structure, while it’s too difficult to make radical changes even though they might directly fulfil their needs. It was really an optimistic touch, though, that there are initiatives, like the one at the University of Bath, which can rock the boat of web governance in UK Higher Education, if successful.

These are, certainly, interesting times and IWMW 2014 showcased the amount of change around us.

Stratos is the CMS Service Manager at the University Website Programme.

Bruce Darby

I’d heard a lot of good things about the IWMW conference but the main reason for going was that I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what issues other education institutes around the UK were concentrating on and what their approaches were. If you never leave the University to go to conferences there is a real danger you can become institutionalised!

Ross Ferguson’s talk on using start-up techniques to reboot the University of Bath’s website was also the best of great bunch for me. I felt that it was an honest and open presentation about his working practises. He’s implementing some of the things we are setting out to do with the new Drupal CMS project we’re currently working on. Three slides in particular I liked which seemed to say if you are using the agile methodology, which we are, be confident to follow these techniques and approaches through to the end however difficult it can become.

A few statements from the three slides stood out:

  1. Put users’ needs first.
  2. Keep things simple and consistent.
  3. Fail fast and lower risk.

And two final points were ‘too much product’ and ‘burn out’. I took the first to mean that there is lot of pressure to build too much into projects in one go and so ‘burn out’ is the inevitable outcome. If you are aware of this and constantly look out for it then at least that gives you some protection.

What surprised me was that quite a few universities seem to be embracing the term ‘digital’ even going as far as to include it in team and job titles. Paul Boag, who was at the conference, has been saying this for some time. It’s about incorporating digital into everything rather than seeing it something separate with its own strand and strategy.

Bruce is a Project Manager at the University Website Programme.

And finally, my thoughts …

Steven Ross at IWMW 2014 conference

I attended the conference as I think it’s a fantastic forum to network with colleagues in the sector, to learn about what they’re up to; their challenges and successes. The presentations are always varied and typically of a high standard. So great from a professional development and a social point of view. I always follow up with a few people via email or Twitter afterwards and end up with a new reading list and a few new people I can call on for an opinion or a bit of help.

Everyone has been talking about Ross Ferguson’s presentations so I will pick on something else – there were a good few excellent sessions besides him. (Martin and I for starters!) I went to a workshop session run by Richard Prowse (coincidentally from the University of Bath) in which he went through the principles of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) and shared his experiences of trying to implement this with his university’s prospectuses. As I suspected, it’s been a big challenge for Bath, but it sounds like his hard work will pay dividends in the years to come. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Richard speak, and his experiences in the emerging field of content strategy are always worth hearing [or reading – see Richard Prowse’s blog – Content Bear].

My big takeaway was the need for organisational change and executive-level buy-in to truly bring about digital transformation. We web management folk can do great things in our sphere of influence, but there comes a point where you have to accept that to be able to present information and services in a way that really works for the customer, then the culture of the organisation needs to change. This message came across loud and clear in the presentations of Ross Fergusson (on agile development), Paul Boag (on digital adaption) and Tracy Playle (on social media). It was also a major point in my own presentation about user experience.

I’d encourage you all to check out the conference materials available and consider coming along to next year’s conference.

About the authors

The contributors to this guest blog post are:

  • Neil Allison, Head of User Experience, University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.
  • Aldona Gosnell, the Web Team Manager at the College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Edinburgh.
  • Martin Morrey,  Manager of the Web Integration Team in Information Services, University of Edinburgh.
  • Steven Ross, the Senior Digital Marketing Officer, Communications and Marketing, University of Edinburgh.
  • Stratos Filalithis, the CMS Service Manager at the University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.
  • Bruce Darby, a Project Manager at the University Website Programme, University of Edinburgh.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Events, Guest-post | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Standards for Web Applications on Mobile: Update on W3C Developments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 September 2014

Standards for Web Applications on Mobile: Current State and Roadmap

Back in July 2014 W3C published an overview report on Standards for Web Applications on Mobile which summarised the various technologies developed in W3C which increase the capabilities of Web applications and how they apply to use on mobile devices.

The document describes a variety of features which will enhance use of mobile devices to access Web products which are grouped into the following categories: graphics, multimedia, device adaptation, forms, user interactions, data storage, personal information management, sensors and hardware integration, network, communication and discovery, packaging, payment, performance and optimization and privacy and security.

For each of these categories a table is provided in the report which, for each of the detailed features relevant to the category, summarises the relevant standard (specification) and the W3C working group responsible for the standard. An indication is provided of the maturity of the standard and its stability (draft standards may be liable to significant changes in light of experiences gained during testing). In addition to information about the maturity and stability of the standard information is also  provided on its deployment in existing mainstream browsers together with links for developers to developer resources and test suites.

An example of the table for graphics. covering 2D vector graphics, is shown below.

Extract from chart on W3C mobile standards


I feel that the report which summarises the current status and roadmap for future development of standards which aim to ensure that mobile devices are an integral part of the “open web platform” provides a welcomed mature approach to the complexities and obstacles which have been faced in the past in the deployment of open standards in a Web environment.

In the early days of the web there was a belief that open standards simply needed to be proven through implementation of at least two interoperable open source implementations – once that was achieved the benefits of open standards, such as platform independence, would inevitably lead to acceptance in the marketplace. That, at least, was the expectation for the W3C’s SMIL standard, which was felt to provide an open killer alternative to the proprietary Flash format.  Of course, despite the availability of a number of SMIL readers, the format failed to take off. Flash wasn’t killed by an open standard, I would argue, but by Apple decision not to support in on the iOS platform. And the eventual alternative to Flash wasn’t SMIL but a variety of W3C standards which are covered by the term “open web platform“.

I made this point in a post published in November 2008 which asked Why Did SMIL and SVG Fail? The post generated much discussion, primarily about the level of support for SVG. In August 2003 Isaac Shapira made the point that I guess in retrospect this article is very wrong. SVG is a prominent use, and has active development and support today -> in 2013“.

As can be seen from the above image this comment is correct: SVG 1.1 is now widely supported and SVG 2.0 is under development. Although, to paraphrase John Cleese “SMIL is dead. It’s passed on! This standard is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker!“. In contrast, SVG was merely resting!

Implications for the Sector

In retrospect institutional conservatism regarding the adoption of innovative open standards is understandable. Institutions may have legitimate reasons to be reluctant to upgrade the desktop environment due to the resource implications, the need for testing, etc. (There will probably also be less justifiable reasons to wish to avoid updating desktop browser as the use of systems which make use of proprietary features of specific – typically Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – browsers; however let us hope that this concern is no longer relevant!)

However W3C now appear to appreciate the need to be transparent about the take-up of their standards by mainstream browsers. This is to be applauded. The risk now, it would seem, involves the development or procurement of systems for use in a mobile context which are based on platform-specific apps.

I hope that everyone involved in the development or procurement of mobile applications, in managing staff with such responsibilities or with strategic planning for the institution’s IT environment will read the W3C’s report on Standards for Web Applications on Mobile and use the report to inform their planning. My concern would be with the senior manager, perhaps in the marketing department, who comes across information such as the recent (April 2014) infographic on “The rise of mobile technology in higher education” who makes a decision to invest on an institutional mobile app based on this evidence. Another interesting challenge will be faced by institutions which have already purchased a mobile app service, before the mobile web environment had approached its current level of maturity. Will this be the twenty-first century equivalent of the institutional Gopher service or Camus Wide Information Service? And is now the time to move to an infrastructure based on the open web platform?

Infographic on student use of mobiles

Posted in Mobile, standards | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 September 2014


Back on 19th June 2014 I gave an invited plenary talk on “Open Practices for Researchers” at the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton. I was pleased to have an opportunity to share my experiences with researchers at the University of Bolton, an institution which has a clear focus on teaching and learning but is seeking to develop its research activities.

The slides for the presentation are available on Slideshare. However these do not provide detailed information on the approaches I would recommend to researchers who wish to develop their professional networks and maximise access to their research outputs.

On Thursday 11th September I am giving an invited presentation on “Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career” at  a workshop on “How to Build an Academic Career“ in Brussels for the five Flemish universities.  The workshop participants (about 60-100) will mostly be late phase PhD students and post-docs in Life Sciences but there will always be some few senior scientists.

This provides an opportunity to document in more detail the ideas I will be presenting in my talk. As well as providing a wider forum for the ideas, this blog post (as opposed to depositing a paper in a repository) makes it easier to solicit questions, comments and feedback.

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Should you use social media to support your research career?

This presentation seeks to provide a response to a rather provocative assertion posted on the Smart Scientist blog: “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!“.

My answer to the question is that researchers should use social media to support their research career. But they should do so for specific purposes, namely to:

  1. Develop your professional network
  2. Engage in discussions and exchange of ideas with your peers
  3. Disseminate your research ideas to a wider audience

The blog post which argued that “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!” highlighted the risks of inappropriate use of social media:

Displaying photos of yourself being drunk, undressed or being masqueraded as Adolf Hitler, a suicide bomber or a sexually overactive transvestite. Your friends may find these pictures funny, many people will find them unpleasant, crude and bad taste.

The post concludes with the advice:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Do NOT use them – or use them professionally.

I propose a modified version of this golden rule:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Use them – and use them professionally.

The question then is “how should researchers make use of social media to support their professional activities?” I will seek to provide answers to this question in this post. But before doing so I would like to address the implied suggestion that social media is inherently irrelevant to researchers professional activities.

Tabloid newspapers

Print media has no relevance to researchers! Really?

We could make similar claims about TV if we looked only at reality TV programmes. We could be dismissive of print media if we considered only the tabloid newspapers.  Indeed the Web could similarly be dismissed (and, in fact, was dismissed by some librarians in the early 1990s) as being irrelevant to the scholarly and research activities carried out in higher education!)

We know, of course, that another form of print media, peer-reviewed journals, is very relevant to researchers. And just as we have Keeping Up with the Kardashians we also have BBC 2’s Wonders of the Universe in which the physicist Professor Brian Cox “reveals how the most fundamental scientific principles and laws explain not only the story of the universe, but the story of us all“.

We can see that print media and the TV can be used for trivial purposes as well as supporting professional activities including exchange of ideas with one’s peers (research publications) and dissemination to the general public (as science documentaries on the TV do). Social media can also be used for a diversity of purposes, and it would be wrong to dismiss it by focussing on only its trivial (mis)-uses.

Similarly it would be a mistake to be dismissive of the ‘social’ aspects of social media. If you think about the environment in which research is disseminated consider how conferences not only provide opportunities for disseminating one’s research, receiving feedback and sharing ideas but also for developing one’s network – indeed the conference dinner and late night drinking in the bar have an important role in cultivating one’s professional network and establishing new contacts. The informal aspects of social media tools can hep support this activity.

Personal Experiences Of Benefits of Social Media

@slewth's Twitter profileI have some personal experiences of how such informal use of social media led to a successful research collaboration. A post on “It Started With A Tweet” described how I received a reply to a tweet in which I invited researchers to complete a survey on use of social media. Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) responded. I then looked at her Twitter profile and discovered she had similar research interests (in Web accessibility). I followed the link in her profile to her blog (if it had been to her university web site I wouldn’t have bothered doing this!) and realised that her interests and expertise complemented mine nicely. So I sent Sarah a direct message:

 BTW was interested in your short paper on Aversive Disablism and the Internet. We’ve similar interests. See

As described in the post “Winner of John M Slatin Award at W4A 2010” that Twitter conversation led to a joint paper on “Developing countries; developing experiences: approaches to accessibility for the Real World” being written. This was accepted by the W4A 2010 conference and subsequently won an award for the best communications paper!

A related example of the tangible  benefits of use of Twitter was summarised just over 4 years ago in a post on 5,000 Tweets On published after I had posted my 5,000th tweet.  As described in the post after presented a paper at the OzeWAI 2009 conference two members of the audience sent me a tweet: @RuthEllison told me that she “enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and @scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth: “Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch ;)”.

Having my Twitter ID on the title slide for my talk made it easier to receive feedback on the talk. In this case subsequent discussions at the conference also led to Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod (@scenariogirl) providing case studies from Australia which were included in the paper on From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability which was published 6 months after we met.

Being Pro-active: An Implementation Plan

Having gained some unexpected experiences of the benefits of Twitter to support my research activities the next step was to make use of social media in a systematic way.

Use of Slideshare at W4A 2012After hearing that our paper on “A challenge to web accessibility metrics and guidelines: putting people and processes first” had been accepted by the W4A 2010 conference myself and my co-authors – Martyn Cooper (@martyncooper), David Sloan (@sloandr) and Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) agreed that we would be pro-active in our use of social media in order to raise awareness of our paper and the ideas outlined in the paper, hoping that this would lead to real-world actions: citations from other accessibility researchers and take-up of the ideas by practitioners.

We ensured that we knew the URLs for the key resources associated with the delivery of the paper: the URL of the paper in the institutional repository and the slides hosted on Slideshare. This enabled the co-authors to write blogs about the paper in advance and schedule them for publication during the conference.

David Sloan, who presented the paper, ensured that the Twitter IDs of the co-authors was included on the title slide, as shown. The slides concluded with links to the various blog posts and other resources (such as a YouTube video which summarised the paper) we had created.

After the conference had finished we used Topsy to analyse the Twitter discussions about the slides on Slideshare, the event hashtag (#w4a12) and the paper in the University of Bath repository.

It was pleasing to observe positive comments we received from influential Twitter users with large numbers of followers:

@stcaccess (Influential):
Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co.… #w4a12 #a11y #metrics

and how such comments were shared by other influential Twitter users across their communities:

Mike Paciello @mpaciello (Influential): RT @stcaccess: Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co.… #w4a12 #a11y

Since both of these Twitter users are well-known in the Web accessibility community we hoped that their actions would raise awareness of our work across their communities. But do we have any evidence that our pro-active approaches was successful in raising the visibility of our work?

Shortly after the conference had finished I analysed the Slideshare usage statistics for the three sets of slides which had been tagged with the conference hashtag. I found that after a week our slides had 1,391 views while the others had 3 and 311 views. It would appear that you need to be proactive if you wish people to view your resources – which it probably a truism which is relevant to many digital resources.

But did the popularity of the slides lead to a corresponding interest in the paper itself? The answer is yes: the download statistics for 2012 show that the paper was the third most downloaded of my papers during the year. The downloads also led to citations with Google Scholar Citations reporting that there have been 12 citations of the paper to date.

Aggregate Links to Your Papers

Whilst use of social media to raise awareness of your research activities engage others in discussions about the ideas is an important aspect of use of social media it would be a mistake to ignore the importance of Google – after all this is probably the most important tool people use for finding your research papers, especially once the buzz associated with a conference is over.

ResearchGate_profile: Brian KellyFor some time I have made use of various third-party services for profiling my professional activities. LinkedIn is an important tool for providing an online CV. However in addition to using it to provide a summary of my skills and expertise  a few years ago I used it to include links to all of my peer-reviewed papers.

As researcher profiling services, such as ResearchGate and, grew in popularity I started to use these services to provide additional links to my peer-reviewed papers, which were hosted in Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository.

I then realised that links from such popular services to the Opus repository was likely to enhance the visibility of papers in the repository to Google, as Google ranking algorithms make use of the numbers of links from popular Web sites as an indication of relevance. This led to myself and Jenny Delasalle writing a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? We concluded:

A survey of use of such services across Russell Group universities shows the popularity of a number of social media services. In the light of existing usage of these services this paper proposes that institutional encouragement of their use by researchers may generate increased accesses to institutional research publications at little cost to the institution.

I now make use of LinkedIn, ResearchGate and to provide details of my research papers. This is an approach I would recommend to others – and since the profile is likely to require updating on change of jobs or significant change of responsibilities and new content needs to be uploaded only when new papers are published the maintenance work need not be too onerous,- unless you are a very productive researcher!

Reviewing the Evidence

This post has summarised personal approaches to use of social media to support my research activities. But what evidence is there of the value of such approaches?

OPUS statistics: Top authors on 8 Sept 2014As illustrated, the download statistics for Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository, show that my papers have, in total, been downloaded over 51,000 times, compared with over 14,000 and 13,000 downloads for the authors with the next largest numbers of downloads.

There may be a number of reasons for such popularity including:

  1. The quality of the papers.
  2. Effective use of SEO (search engine optimisation) approaches.
  3. Use of unethical ‘black hat’ SEO approaches.

I feel that the second reason is the most likely reason for the large number of downloads. But does this lead to increased number of citations?

According to Google Scholar Citations I currently have a h-index score of 13 and an i10-index score of 18 (as shown below).

Google Scholar Citations (August 2014)

I do not find it strange that in order to maximise the numbers of citations you need to maximise the numbers of your peers (the people who are likely to cite your papers) who download and read the papers. Since, if cultivated appropriately,  your professional social network is likely to comprise of fellow professionals who have similar research interest to yours we should not be surprised at the effectiveness of social networks to develop one’s research career. But do other researchers have similar experiences.

In a blog post entitled “The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?” Melissa Terras described how:

In October 2011 I began a project to make all of my 26 articles published in refereed journals available via UCL’s Open Access Repository – “Discovery“. I decided that as well as putting them in the institutional repository, I would write a blog post about each research project, and tweet the papers for download. Would this affect how much my research was read, known, discussed, distributed?

Melissa Terras's download statisticsWas this activity successful? Melissa concluded that:

Most of my papers, before I blogged and tweeted them, had one to two downloads, even if they had been in the repository for months (or years, in some cases). Upon blogging and tweeting, within 24 hours, there were, on average, 70 downloads of my papers. Now, this might not be internet meme status, but that’s a huge leap in interest.

The effectiveness of tweeting links to peer-reviewed papers is shown in the accompanying image. It may be that Melissa gained benefits of being an early adopter of use of Twitter in this way. These days I would feel that there is a need to ensure that you tweet links to papers at an appropriate time or context (e.g. when the paper is first deposited; during a conference when it is being presented or when the content of the paper is appropriate to a Twitter discussion.

In an article by Athene Donald, a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, published on Physics Focus Professor Donald argued that “Tweeting and blogging aren’t wastes of academics’ time – they can be valuable outreach“. She concluded by asking researchers:

isn’t it time you considered blogging and tweeting as part of your professional activity, not just something you ascribe as being only suitable for teenagers or those with time to kill?

What Can I Do?

If you agree with Professor Donald your first question might be “What do I do?“. For those who are new to social media my suggestions are:

  • Identify your personal objectives: Have a clear idea of what you wish to gain from use of social media to further your career as a researcher. Do you wish to use social media simply as a broadcast media to announce your professional activities or will you prefer to engage in discussions with your peers?
  • Identify and follow/engage with your peers: For an effective professional network you will need to establish connections with your peers. Note that even if you are an experienced user of social networks there are likely to be times in your career when you have new responsibilities or areas of work, so you may still need to implement strategies for following and engaging with new peers. Conferences you have an interest in which have a Twitter hashtag provide an ideal opportunity to identify your peers and add them to your Twitter network.
  • Try Twitter for at least 10 days: After you have signed up for a Twitter account you should try and use it on a daily basis for at least ten days. This can help you to ‘get it’. Note that it order to make effective use of Twitter to support your research career you will need to reach a critical mass for your Twitter  community.
  • Make use of social sharing services for your resources: If you give presentations you may find that hosting your slides on a resource sharing service such as Slideshare can provide an effective way of developing your professional network: unlike hosting your slides on your institutional Web side, using a service such as Slideshare enable your slides to be publicly favourited by others and enables other Slideshare users to be notified when new slides are uploaded.

Once you have created and started to make use of a social media services you should ensure that you manage the network and explore additional tools and services you can use:

  • Update your LinkedIn account: LinkedIn is a generic online CV service. As described in a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? presented at OR 2012: the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories since LinkedIn is such a popular service links from the service to papers hosted in an institutional repository are likely to enhance the discoverability (the ‘Google juice’)  of paper in the repository. It can therefore be beneficial to include links to your research outputs to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Create an account on a researcher profiling service: Services such as ResearchGate and can complement use of LinkedIn by providing added exposure to your research papers.
  • Monitor use of Twitter through (freely-available) Twitter analytic tools: As described in a post on The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service and Thoughts on Free Alternatives a number of analytics tools are available which can help you to gain a better understanding of your use of Twitter and your Twitter community.

Managing Information Overload

Researchgate: configuration optionsInformation overload is a concern sometimes raised regarding use of social media.

By default many social media will try and maximise the time users spend on their web sites as these ‘eyeballs’ can be monetised, typically through advertising.

Although advertising on web sites tends not to be very popular, there is a need to acknowledge that the services do need to have some means of raising money to provide their services.

The good news is that many services enable alerts to be configured: there is no need to accept the default settings.

In order to avoid the need to visit Web sites in order to see if your papers have been commented on, favourite, accessed, etc. you can choose to receive email alerts. Many services will allow you to select the activities for which you wish to be notified. ResearchGate, for example, has notification settings for Profile, Network, Q&A, Publications and Job email alerts (there are over 60 activities which can be managed).

Similarly in order to provide management capabilities for lively Twitter streams back in May 2014 Twitter announced “Another way to edit your Twitter experience: with mute“.

Such approaches won’t eliminate the problems of information overload, but can ensure that such concerns can be managed.

Of course another solution to the problems of information overload caused by social media would be to avoid social media completely. This is an extreme way of managing the problems (as you will also fail to gain any of the benefits). However there is nothing to stop you choosing to switch off social media channels when you are on holiday, at weekends or on other occasions when you need  break form your professional activities.

Addressing Other Barriers

The risks and opportunities frameworkThere are other barriers to effective use of social media for supporting one’s research career. A paper on a risks and opportunities framework was described in a paper on Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends which was later enhanced in a paper on Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web to include details of ways of addressing copyright risks.

In brief, yes there are risks in using social media to support one’s research activities. However there are also risks in failing to use social media (the missed opportunities) as well as risks in simply continuing to make use of existing institutional tools.

The risks and opportunities framework provides a structure for identifying and documenting risks and strategies for minimising such risks.


This post is longer than normal. If you have skipped straight to the conclusions here is the TL;DR summary:

Social media is valuable for researchers in enabling them to easily exchange ideas and engage in discussions with their peers and potential beneficiaries of their research. The evidence demonstrates the value of managed use of social media.


The slides used in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness, Social Networking | Leave a Comment »

Guest Post : It’s Not About Technology! The Digital Challenge is Institutional

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 September 2014

Mike McConnell has attended many of the IWMW events which have been held since its launch in 1997. This year’s event made a particular impression, particularly with its focus on ‘digital’ rather than ‘web’. In this guest post Mike reflects on the event and describes the moves towards digital taking place at his host institution, the University of Aberdeen.

In June I attended the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2014) event which was held at the University of Northumbria. IWMW is primarily aimed at Higher Education (HE) web managers and their teams and has been running as an annual event since 1997. Its ponderous and slightly quaint title is much loved by its community and reflects a collegiate and resolutely non-commercial mindset that was once taken for granted in HE.

I have attended IWMW, on and off, almost since its inception and each conference seems to have its defining, epochal ‘thing’, which often overshadows the formal agenda, e.g.  The Year Of The CMS, The Year Of The Rejection Of The CMS, The Year We Daringly Asked Marketing People Along, The Year The Everything Became Irrelevant Because Of Web 2.0, and so on. This year’s formal title was ‘Rebooting The Web’ but the real ‘thing’ was The Year It Went From Web To Digital. There was an unapologetic focus of the user as customer and repeated references to ‘product’ and the user experience.

I expect that before too long the word ‘digital’ in this context will sound as anachronistic as Web 2.0 but currently it makes the term ‘Web’ itself sound dated. My view is that this is because, to an extent, the community has ‘solved’ the Web, if Web is defined as technologies related to the traditional university website. Of course there are massive, ongoing operational issues related to university websites, but the challenge is no longer primarily a technological one.

The disintermediation brought about by social media was an early indicator for institutions of the disruptive effect of digital. Many have risen to the social media challenge, but social is only a piece of the digital jigsaw. Digital goes beyond web and marketing; it is about institutions, how they are structured and how they respond to change. The traditional guardians of Web – IT and Marketing – find that digital increasingly requires them to operate outside their normal spheres of influence – it is a business-wide problem that requires strategy, governance, technology, people and processes. How can IT and Marketing effect the scope of change required?

At my own institution, the University of Aberdeen, awareness of the digital issue grew out of a traditional Web project to implement a new information architecture (IA) for the University site. Once the IA had been approved and the templates created in the CMS, it became increasingly apparent that the challenge was no longer a technological one but was instead related to content, ownership and governance. It became apparent that there was no-one at all in the entire institution who wrote content for the Web as part of their formal duties. This might seem startling to non-HE readers, but I suspect it is not just our institution where this was the case.

The result of this was that we created a new type of role, the Digital Communications Officer (DCO). The DCO job description included the model skills we felt were lacking in the institution’s web authors: writing for the Web, an understanding of IA, web usability and user experience, social marketing experience and the ability to utilise analytics to inform web design.

Our initial appointment of two DCOs and the adoption of a third from another role proved to be transformative for the traditional website. Almost immediately the Web Team were released from having to make decisions about governance and content. The DCOs rationalised website structures and used analytics data to make their arguments. The website became smaller, more effective and standardised.

However, the DCOs also started asking awkward questions. Why is the site not responsive? What is the brand? Why does the architecture reflect the institution and not user journeys? Why do we not have a content strategy? And so on. In short, all the questions that the Web Team had been aware of for years but not had the time, resource or authority to do anything about.

The result was that we managed to persuade the University to create a Digital Strategy Group (DSG). The DSG is a traditional University committee, comprising senior staff from across the institution as well as Web staff and the DCOs. Its remit is “to provide high level direction for the delivery and resourcing of the University’s digital engagement, including the production of an overall digital strategy”.

At the time of writing, the group has convened three times. At the first meeting the group was presented with a vision piece from some third party consultants. This showed a digitally enabled student journey, from applicant to student, alumnus and beyond.

This was tremendously helpful for showcasing the potential opportunities of digital. DSG members responded with enthusiasm, the result of which was that we engaged with the consultants for 5 days of ‘discovery’ work to ascertain our digital readiness. The consultants conducted 3 days of interviews with staff from across the institution to understand activities, strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

The results of this discovery work were presented at the second meeting of the committee. Findings were broadly as follows:

  • There is lots of digital-type activity ongoing in the institution, much of which is good, but there is no overall vision for this, or alignment with strategic objectives.
  • There are varying levels of digital understanding across the institution and no individual interviewed has a complete vision.
  • The University does not currently have the structures or targeted resources in place to deliver a digital vision.
  • The University does not need separate digital strategy; rather it requires an overall business strategy that is fit for the digital age.

It has been difficult for the DSG to convey the universal scope of the digital challenge and indeed group members themselves have differing interests and views. It is hard to explain to some staff that, for example, for a student to have a responsive, seamless customer experience on the front-end website that the institution might require a customer relationship management (CRM) system and beyond that an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). Understandably, such systems and concepts can be alien to many of the key University decision makers.

The DSG acknowledged that to overcome these challenges and identify and articulate a digital vision for the institution it was desirable to seek outside expertise. The University therefore went to tender for support. The following text is abstracted from the tender documents:

This Invitation to Tender (ITT) is issued as part of an initiative to define a digital vision for the University of Aberdeen; to ensure that this is embedded in University strategy, and to help assess what people, systems and processes are necessary to deliver this vision.

The University wishes to define a digital vision that will enable it to achieve its strategic ambitions; differentiate itself significantly from its competitors; engage with all its major stakeholders and customers, and enhance and develop its brand.

It is suggested that in order to achieve this, suppliers might wish to follow the following methodology:

  1. A discovery phase, which would provide a detailed understanding of current capabilities and activities; market analysis, and customer groups
  2. A vision stage, which would identify and prioritise ideas; run research with target groups; identify opportunities, strategic aims and an operating model, and formulate a business case
  3. A planning stage, which would produce a high level business plan, options and recommendations

Suppliers are however welcome to suggest alternative methodologies and outputs to help the University achieve the objectives defined above.

The tender was deliberately written in broad terms because the DSG wished suppliers to engage with the University prior to submission and also because the DSG itself was unclear on what the strategic objectives should be, prior to any visioning stage. Concerns that suppliers would find this confusing or off-putting have proved to be unfounded and we have been encouraged by how many suppliers seem to ‘get it’. Almost all understand the scope of the issue and that it is not about technology – at least at this stage.

The tender has now concluded and we have had healthy number of responses. The DSG trust that the exercise will provide us with a digital vision that is broad in scope and world class in its ambition.

However, I am conscious that despite the University’s aspirations, we are approaching this challenge using traditional methodologies – committees and projects – and existing structures. I am curious how other HE institutions are approaching the digital challenge and would ask colleagues the following questions:

  • What is the focus of your digital activity: student lifecycle, research, alumni, donors, public engagement?
  • Who owns digital: Marketing, IT, senior management?
  • Who drives digital: is it top down or bottom up?
  • What new roles or teams are required?
  • What has changed about the institution? What should change?
  • What effect has this had?
  • What does digital ‘success’ look like?

About the Author

Mike McConnell

Mike McConnell is Business Application Manager in IT Services at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He manages the Web and Corporate Systems teams who are responsible for digital, web and corporate applications development.

His main duties are:

  • Leading on institutional IT digital strategy, including web and mobile development.
  • Supporting and developing the institutional corporate systems environment including Finance, HR, Admissions and Student Record systems.
  • Supporting and developing the institutional SharePoint and CRM environments.

Contact details:

LinkedIn: mikeramcconnell

Twitter: @mike_mcconnell


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Guest-post | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service and Thoughts on Free Alternatives

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 September 2014

The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service

It was via a tweet I received last week when I first heard the news about the public launch of Twitter’s analytics service:

Today, opened its analytics platform to the public TLDR: Images get more engagement

This tweet was of particular interest as it not only provided news of the new service and a link to a post in which the service was reviewed but also a brief summary of findings from the analysis of the posters’ use of Twitter with suggestions for best practice: “Images get more engagement“. The longer version explained how:

Finally, what Twitter Media and News staff had already told people who are listening is backed up by what they’re showing me: including pictures, maps and graphics in your tweets will raises your “engagement” numbers, at least as measured by people resharing tweets, favoriting them, @mentioning or @replying to them.

Twitter analytics for briankellyAs illustrated the service provides statistics on tweets (potential impressions, engagement and engagement rate). Additional tabs provide information on followers (changes in the numbers of followers and profiles of their gender, location and interests) and Twitter cards.

If you don’t use Twitter, make small-scale use of the tool or use it purely for social purposes you probably won’t have an interest in what the analytics may tell you about your use of the tool. However increasingly researchers will have an interest in use of alt.metrics measures which provide indications of interest in their research outputs. In additional research support librarians will have an interest in this area in order to support and advice their users. Finally, those involved in digital marketing are likely to be interested in the information provided by this new service.

Other Analytic Tools

There are, of course, a number of other Twitter analytics tools.

TweepsmapI use Tweetstats which, as illustrated, provided a display of the locations of one’s followers. The free version of the tool also provides information on inactive Twitter followers and other profiles of one’s followers, although subscription to the premium service is needed for the full range of services.

I also use Sumall which provides similar information for which ‘payment’ consists of a public tweet about one’s metrics which is published weekly:

My week on twitter: 2 New Followers, 3 Mentions, 3.66K Mention Reach, 6 Replies, 14 Retweets. via

TwtrlandThe other tool I use is Twtrland. I receive a weekly email summary from this service but I’ve not logged in to the dashboard for some time but, as show, the free version does appear to provide a comprehensive set of information.

Finally I should mentioned Social Bro.  I’ve used this tool in the past and found that the free version was useful in providing recommendations on the best time to tweet and in profiling my followers’ community (e.g. I found that people I follow typically tweet on a daily basis, publish between 1 and 5 tweets daily and follow between 100 and 500 Twitter accounts.  This, for me, was a particularly useful insight into ‘normal’ Twitter use patterns and helped confirm my belief that to make effective use of Twitter to support one’s professional interests  you will need to achieve a critical mass for your Twitter community.

Unfortunately the free version of this service is only available in you have a total Twitter community (your followers and the accounts you follow) which is less than 5,000. Since my community exceeds this by a few hundred I am not able to give an update on the information the tool currently provides, but I did find it useful when I first used it.

Your Thoughts

I’d be interested in hearing about other Twitter analytics tools which people find useful, especially free services which are appropriate for researchers who will not be in a position to afford premium accounts which may be used by those who work in marketing departments. And is anyone advising researchers on such tools (including the dangers of reading too much into the information provided!)

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 5 Comments »

Links From Wikipedia to Russell Group University Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 August 2014

Wikipedia as the Front Matter to all Research

A session at the recent Wikimania conference provided an opportunity for discussion on the topics: “The fount of all knowledge – wikipedia as the front matter to all research“. The abstract describes how:

This discussion focuses on how Wikipedia could become the entry or discovery point to all significant research for the general public, and for scholars who are working just outside of the topic of interest. For most people, even researchers from closely related areas, summaries and explanations of a piece of research can be a crucial means both to discover and to begin to get into a new piece of research.

Currently overviews of research topics are supported through two mechanisms: reviews and “front matter” content. A review is a systematic summary of a field, written by an expert. These go out of date quickly, particularly in rapidly moving areas of research. Front matter is “News and Views” pieces, often found at the “front” of scientific journals that explain newly published research and put it in context. This often includes a discussion of explaining how the research is an important advance and its broader societal implications.

Both of these functions could easily be provided in a more up to date and scalable manner by tapping into a global community of experts. Wikipedia articles are often the top web search result for initial queries in many research areas and these articles are a major source of traffic for scientific journals. As the first port of call for many users of research and a significant discovery route the potential for Wikipedia as a form of dynamic, expertly curated “front matter” for the whole research literature is substantial. This facilitated discussion session will focus on how this role could be enhanced, what is currently missing and what risks exist in taking this route.

Reading this I wondered about the extent to which Wikipedia articles currently link to papers hosted in institutional repositories.

In order to explore this question I made use of Wikipedia’s External links search tool to monitor the number of links to from Wikipedia pages from to institutional repositories provided by the Russell Group universities.

The survey was carried out on 28 August 2014 using the service. Note that the current finding can be obtained by following the link in the final column.

Table 1: Numbers of Links to Wikipedia from Repositories Hosted at Russell Group Universities


Institutional Repository Details Nos. of links

from Wikipedia

View Results
1   2 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Repository used: ROSE (
  6 [Link]
3  82  [Link]
InstitutionCardiff University
Repository usedORCA (
   1  [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Durham
Repository usedDRO (
109  [Link]
6  55 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
 17 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
120 [Link]
InstitutionImperial College
   5 [Link]
Repository used: King’s Research Portal (
  45 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
  65 [Link]
12    1 [Link]
 186 [Link]
14    74 [Link]
InstitutionNewcastle University
   4 [Link]
16   10 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Repository usedORA (
   19 [Link]
Repository used: QMRO (
  15 [Link]
19     3 [Link]
Repository used: The University of Sheffield also uses the White Rose repository which is also used by Leeds and York. See the Leeds entry for the statistics.
 (65) [Link]
21  134 [Link]
22   98 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Repository usedWRAP (
  57 [Link]
InstitutionUniversity of York
Repository used: The University of York uses the White Rose repository which is also used by Leeds and Sheffield. See the Leeds entry for the statistics.
  (65) [Link]
 Total 1,108


  • The URL of the repositories is taken from the OpenDOAR service.
  • Since the universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York share a repository the figures are provided in the entry for Leeds.
  • A number of institutions appear to host more than one research repository. In such cases the repository which appears to be the main research repository for the institution is used.


The Survey Methodology

It should be noted that this initial survey does note pretend to provide an answer to the question “How many research papers hosted by institutional repositories provided by Russell group universities are cited in Wikipedia articles?” Rather the survey reflects the use of this blog as an ‘open notebook’ in which the initial steps in gathering evidence are documented openly in order to solicit feedback on the methodology. This post also documents flaws and limitations in the methodology in order that others who may wish to use similar approaches are aware of the limitations. Possible ways in which such limitations can be addressed are given and feedback is welcomed.

In particular it should be noted that the search engine used in the survey covers all public pages on the Wikipedia web site and not just Wikipedia articles. It includes Talk pages and user profile pages.

In addition the repository web sites include a variety of resources and not just research papers; for example it was observed that some user profile pages for researchers provide links to their profile on their institutional repository.

It was also noticed that some of the files linked to from Wikipedia were listed in the search results as PDFs. Since it seems likely that PDFs referenced on Wikipedia which are hosted on institutional repositories will be research papers a more accurate reflection on the number of research papers which are cited in institutional repositories may be obtained by filtering the findings to include only PDF results.

In addition if the findings from the search tool were restricted to Wikimedia articles only (and omitted Talk pages, user profile pages, etc.) we should get a better understanding of the extent to which Wikipedia is being used as the “front matter” to research hosted in Russell group university institutional repositories.

If any Wikipedia developers would be interested in talking up this challenge, this could help to provide a more meaningful benchmark which could be useful in monitoring trends.

Policy Implications of Encouraging Wikipedia to Act as the Front Matter to Research

Links from Wikipedia to Instituoonal Repositories (pie chart)There are risks when gathering such data that observers with vested interests will seek to make too much of the findings if they suggest a league table, particularly if there seem to be runaway leaders.

However as can be seen from the accompanying pie chart in this case no single institutional repository has more than 17% of the total number of links (and remember that these figures are flawed due to the reasons summarised above).

However there will be interesting policy implications if universities agree with the suggestion that Wikipedia can act as “the front matter to all research”, especially if links from Wikipedia to the institution’s repository results in increased traffic to the repository. Another way of characterising the proposal would be to suggest that Wikipedia can act as “the marketing tool to an institution’s research outputs”.

This could easily lead to institutions failing to abide by Wikipedia’s core principles regarding providing content updates from a neutral point of view and a failure to abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s terms of use.

Earlier today I came across an article entitled “So who’s editing the SNHU Wikipedia page?” which described how analysis of editing patterns and deviations from the norm may be indicative of inappropriate Wikipedia editing strategies, such as pay-for updates to institutional Wikipedia articles.

The article also pointed out how the PR sector has responded to criticisms that PR companies have been failing to abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s terms of use: Top PR Firms Promise They Won’t Edit Clients’ Wikipedia Entries on the Sly. The article describes the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms which is hosted on Wikipedia. The following statement was issued in 10 June 2014:

On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors.

Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices.

We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.

We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.

A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.

If we wish to see Wikipedia acting as the front matter to research provided by the university sector should we be seeking to develop a similar statement on how we will do this whilst ensuring that we act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines? Of course the challenge would then be to identify what the appropriate best practices should be.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Evidence, Repositories, Wikipedia | 2 Comments »

Launch of the NMC Horizon Report 2014 Library Edition

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 August 2014

The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition

The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition was launched earlier today at the IFLA 2014 conference.

NMC horizon report 2014: LibrariesAs described on the NMC Horizon web site:

The NMC Horizon Project charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and research, creative inquiry. Launched in 2002, it epitomizes the mission of the NMC to help educators and thought leaders across the world build upon the innovation happening at their institutions by providing them with expert research and analysis. 

I was pleased to have been invited to have been invited to have been invited to participate in the NMC Horizon Project Library Expert Panel, one of only three invited experts from the UK. My colleagues at Cetis have previously been involved in NMC Horizon Report Regional Analyses on the Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education 2011-2016. My contribution to this volume, the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition, is based on my recent work in predicting technological developments which was described in a paper by myself and Paul Hollins in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” presented at the Umbrella 2013 conference together with workshop sessions on this subject this year at two library conferences this year: SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) 2014 and ELAG (European Libraries Automation Group) 2014.

About the Report

The report examines key trends, significant challenges and emerging technologies for their potential impact on academic and research libraries worldwide. panel. Over the course of three months in spring 2014, the 2014 Horizon Project Library Expert Panel came to a consensus about the topics that would appear in the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition.

The report summarises the trends which are accelerating technology adoption in academic and research libraries; the challenges impeding technology adoption in academic and research libraries and important technological developments for academic and research libraries. As shown in the accompanying image the expert panel identified 18 topics very likely to impact technology planning and decision-making: six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology.

The important technological developments highlighted in the report, especially, in the short term, electronic publishing and mobile apps and, in the medium term, bibliometrics and citation technologies and open content, will probably be familiar to most readers of this blog. Similarly the key trends driving adoption of technologies (an increasing focus on research data management (RDM) for publications and prioritization of mobile content and delivery in the short term; the evolving nature of the scholarly record and the increasing accessibility of research content in the medium term and the continual progress in technology, standards, and infrastructure and the rise of new forms of multidisciplinary research in the longer term) are topics which are widely discussed on library mailing lists and at events for academic librarians.

However it is the challenges which are impeding technology adoption in academic and research libraries which I found of particular interest. Identifying technological developments and associated trends which may drive adoption of technologies is less threatening than the identification of the challenges which are impeding adoption of the technologies within libraries. I found the way in which such challenges had been categorised particularly interesting: solvable challenges which we understand and know how to solve; difficult challenges which we understand but for which solutions are elusive and wicked challenges which are complex to even define, much less address.

What Next?

Understanding the Key Questions in Your Organisational Context

I recommend that those who work in academic libraries and have responsibilities for policy-making or implementing new technologies should read this report. But it should be recognised that reading the report will lead to further questions rather than simply providing answers. Some questions to be considered include: ‘Are the technological developments highlighted in the report relevant to my library in my particular institutional context?’ and ‘Do the trends driving technology adoption which have been identified by an expert panel from 16 countries reflect the trends relevant in my country?’ And, of particular relevance for specific institutions, ‘What are the key challenges our library will face in the short-term, medium-term and long-term which will impede the adoption of relevant technologies?’.

Once these questions have ben re-formulated from an institutional context there will then be a need to answer the question: What should we do next?

ILI 2014 programme: Track AA particular strength of the methodology used by the NMC Horizon team in producing their report is in assembling a team of experts from a variety of backgrounds who can help ensure that a broad range of interests and experiences are used to inform the discussions which inform the production of the final report.

Conferences, especially international conferences, provide another mechanism for hearing about different approaches being taken across the library sector to addressing particular drivers and challenges in order to exploit technological developments.

ILI 2014: Hearing About Other Technology Developments

The ILI 2014 conference takes place in London on 21-22nd October 2014. This conference, for which I’m a member of the advisory committee, will provide an opportunity to hear about technology-related trends in libraries.

As illustrated, the opening day of the conference explores new blueprints for libraries, with track A on New Blueprints for Libraries beginning with a session on Tomorrow’s world today – trends in library services and followed by a session on Redesigning library services.

ILI 2014 programme: Track BAt the same time I will be facilitating the opening session for track B on Technology Innovation and Impact. Following my summary of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition there will be a session on ‘Real-world tech’ which will cover examples of use of 3D printers and augmented reality in a library context followed by a session on ‘Driving change with technology partners’.

The theme for ILI 2014 is “Positive Change: Creating Real Impact“. The conference web site explains how attendance at the conference can help librarians to:

  • UNDERSTAND the changes you can make to ensure your communities thrive
  • LEARN about emerging models and roles that meet the changing demands of end-users
  • HEAR how libraries – and librarians – must change to be future ready
  • TAKE HOME new skills and ideas for transformative new services to impact positively on your organisation

If you’re attending the conference and have an interest in technological developments, the drivers which can help accelerate the take-up of such developments and the barriers to their deployment feel free to either leave a comment on this blog or get in touch and I’ll try to address comments I receive during the session. Of course even if you’re not attending the conference I’d welcome your thoughts on the report.

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Wikipedia, Librarians and CILIP

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 August 2014

Wikipedia and Librarians

Wikipedia article in CILIP UpdateWikipedia is important for librarians. A month ago in a post entitled Wikipedia and Information Literacy Article in CILIP Update I reported on an article published in CILIP Update about the role Wikipedia can play in information literacy. At the time the article was only available to CILIP members. However after a short embargo period I’m pleased to announce that a copy of the article is now freely available on Google Docs.

The article describes how:

Popular, ubiquitous, if often contested, Wikipedia can highlight many aspects of information literacy and librarians can use Wikipedia-related IL activities to provide practical training sessions for users.

However it is not just librarians with responsibilities for information literacy who should have interests in Wikipedia. The recent international Wikipedia conference, Wikimania 2014, hosted several sessions on the relevance of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia projects for those working in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector including sessions entitled Creative Content, Evaluation, Organisations, Sources, Partnerships, Ecosystems, Models and Local. It seems there were no fewer that 20 individual GLAM sessions which were held including one which had the intriguing title “The Future of Libraries and Wikipedia“. The abstract for this session describes how:

Theoretically and strategically, Libraries and Wikipedia are natural allies. This relationship directly impacts our core activity of research and editing. Libraries are the ‘source of sources’, and Wikipedia is only as good as its sources. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has the viewership that libraries crave to bring people to their doors to do deeper research. By connecting Libraries and Wikipedia we can complete a virtuous circle of research and dissemination.

Encouraging Librarians to Be Creators and Not Just Consumers on Wikipedia

In addition to the sessions on Wikipedia I facilitated at the LILAC 2014 conference over the past year I have given several talks about Wikipedia including an invited plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference – a talk which was complemented by a blog post which provided Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users.

CILIP article in WikipediaDuring the talk I encouraged participants to make use of the WiFi network to sign up for a Wikipedia account. I was pleased that during the talk one delegate announced:

Inspired by to create Wikipedia account!!

I also suggested that those who had a interest in and a desire to make updates to Wikipedia articles they could do so during my talk. I pointed out that, as shown, the CILIP article in Wikipedia included slightly dated membership details from 2012 which could usefully be updated. However I pointed out the Wikipedia neutral point of view (NPOV) principle which means “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic“.

One way of minimising risks of sub-conscious biases in articles is to ensure that content is provided by those who do not have direct involvement with the subject area of an article. For an article about an organisation it would therefore be appropriate for an article about CILIP should be updated by editors who are not employed by the organisation.

CILIP Membership Numbers Since Its Foundation

The Importance of CILIP Membership Data

A recent blog post by Barbara Band, the CILIP President, highlighted the importance of data about CILIP’s membership numbers. In a discussion about an apparent decline in membership numbers over recent years Barbara point out that:

The problem I have is with the statement about CILIP membership being at its lowest … the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?

Following a recent Twitter discussion about CILIP membership numbers that CILIP Wikipedia article was updated: the article now states that “CILIP has 13,470 members as of May 2014″ and cites the CILIP “Financial and membership report 8th July 2014″ report (PDF format) as the source of this figure.

However although this information comes from a reliable source and was added by a Wikipedia contributor who is not employed by CILIP this information by itself does not address the suggestion made by Barbara Band that there is a need for membership numbers since CILIP was founded (in 2002) in order to be able to have an informed discussion on trends in membership numbers.

CILIP membership numbers: 2010-2014I was told by a member of CILIP that information on membership numbers is available on the CILIP web site but is not easy to find. The information can be found in the Annual reports and accounts (note since the reports are in PDF format the information cannot be found using the CILIP web site’s search facility).

The “Year end 2013 Financial report item 13 March 2014″ (PDF format) provides, in Appendix D, the CILIP Membership Statistics as at 28th February 2014.

The appendix includes details of the monthly membership numbers from January 2010 to February 2014. A graph of the membership numbers, taken from the report, is shown.

It was interesting to note that this image contained the following interpretation of the decline in membership numbers from 17,857 in January 2010 to 13, 756 I February 2014:

Looking at the year on year graph of membership figure, 2014 continues to reflect positive trends compared with previous years, but this will become more realistic as the year progresses.

I would interpret the graph as indicating a sharp decrease in membership numbers in spring (possibly when annual subscriptions must be paid) with a much smaller increase in numbers over the rest of the year, perhaps when new members join.

Finding Further Information

Although this information is useful it does not answer the question posed by Barbara Band when she said “the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?

An intriguing question for an information profession might be “How would you find the membership numbers of an organisation which has been in existence since 2002?” My initial attempt at using annual reports on, in this case CILIP’s Web site only provided relevant information for since 2010 – I understand that the CILIP web site may have been relaunched around this time, with old content lost.

My next attempt was therefore to use the Internet Archive. I found an archived copy of the Annual Report captured on 5 December 2008 which contained links to annual reports for 2005, 2006 and 2007. However the reports themselves (which were in PDF format) were not captured :-) However from the Internet Archive I managed to find an archived copy of the CILIP Membership page captured on 2 December 2002 which stated “CILIP is the professional Membership body of choice for around 23,000 Members“. Although this isn’t an authoritative figure it does provide an indication of the size of the organisation around the time it was established.

My fourth attempt was to make use of another Web archiving service – the UK Web Archive. I was able to find an archived page of CILIP’s Annual reports and accounts captured on 7 October 2008. However the Annual Report and Account 2006 (PDF format) does not provide membership numbers. Instead the figures are hidden within the statement:

If CILIP members, consumers, e-subscribers and stakeholders are taken together, then the CILIP community encompasses over 40,000 people who give their support to CILIP.

However even this bland statement is better than the Annual Report and Account 2005 (PDF format) which simply states:

The forthcoming year will see a renewed focus on membership growth

My final attempt at finding this information isn’t based on using an advanced search engine. Rather I’m seeking to make use of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. If you’re reading this blog post and you were a member of CILIP between 2002 and 2010 perhaps you may still have copies of official CILIP papers which may contain information on CILIP membership figures during this period. If so, I would invite you to share this information, either as a comment on this post or, preferably, by updating the CILIP article on Wikipedia or the CILIP article’s Talk page. Use of the Talk page would be particularly appropriate if you are new to Wikipedia and are unsure as to the processes for updating content and ensuring that content is provided from a neutral point of view.

Note that the talk page currently contains the following information on CILIP membership numbers [N.A. means Not Available]:

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Nos. of members ~23,000 N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. 17,192 15,705 14,555 13,974

CILIP infobox on WikipediaAs its name suggests the Talk page, which every Wikipedia article has, can be used for discussions about the Wikipedia article. In addition to the thoughts I have added on finding sources for CILIP membership numbers, I have also added a section on “Additional Information for the CILIP Wikipedia Article” which invited suggestions for further developments to the page.

In addition to including further textual information and images to the article another development to the article could be further factual information provided to the article’s ‘info box’. As illustrated this currently contains the name and abbreviation of the organisation, its logo, foundation date and URL for the CILIP web site.

Looking at the American Library Association Wikipedia article for ideas, perhaps additional information such as location (London), region covered (UK), budget, numbers of staff and names of the president and other senior figures could also be provided.

It should be noted that, unlike the content provided in the main body of Wikipedia articles, the information provided in info boxes is harvested by the DBpedia service and made available as Linked Data which enables structured queries to be carried out on the information. Librarians and information professionals, in particular, will appreciate the benefits to be gained from carrying out structured queries!

Final Reflections

I was surprised how hard it was to find information on the membership number. However the exercise has highlighted some issues which I feel should be considered by those with responsibilities for managing organisational web sites:

  • It can be useful to pro-actively ensure that the content of your web site is archived by a service such as the UK Web Archive prior to any Web site redevelopment work.
  • Important information can be hidden in PDF files. Although PDF is an open standard and is suitable for archival purposes, the Web-based archiving infrastructure works better with Web-native file formats (i.e. HTML). In addition content held in PDF files may be hidden from search engines.

So although finding the information is proving difficult, the exercise has been useful in identifying some best practices for web site management which I hadn’t previously considered. In addition I have discovered the value of the Internet Archive and the UK Web Archive in ding content which has vanished from live web sites.

Finally, I hope that trusting the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ will help in finding the missing information and being able to respond to Barbara Band’s request that we “take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?“. Over to you!

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IWMW 2014: The Evaluation

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 August 2014


The 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, was held at Northumbria University on 16-18th July 2014. This was a relaunch of the annual event which began in 1997: following the cessation of Jisc’s funding for UKOLN it was not clear if IWMW 2013 would be the final event for those with responsibilities for managing institutional Web services. However thanks to the support of Netskills and Cetis I was able to relaunch the event, which this year had the theme “IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web” .


The relaunched event provided greater focus on the work which is being taken across the sector in Web management teams, with two of the morning sessions covering institutional case studies. The session on the opening afternoon provided perspectives from outside the sector and the session on looking to the future provided two talks which were based on insights provided by data associated with existing use of Web services.

When significant changes to an established service such as the IWMW event are introduced it will be important to ensure that users of the service are provided with an opportunity to give their feedback on the changes, the organisation of the event, the talks and parallel sessions and the social events which aimed to provide opportunities for developing one’s professional networks. An online survey form was provided and a summary of the responses is given below.

Overall Feedback

IWMW 2014: evaluation of event organisationIWMW 2014: evaluation of event content In the evaluation form we asked participants to rate the event’s content, organisation and the individual talks and parallel sessions on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). As can be seen from the accompanying histograms, the scores were very high, with 75% of the respondents giving a rating of excellent for the organisation of the event (the overall rating was 4.7). We were fortunate in being able to make use of Natasha Bishop’s expertise and knowledge of IWMW event (she has been the event manager for about 9 of the previous events).  However most of the local event organisation was carried out by Netskills staff. As someone who worked at Netskills in 1995 when they were first set up and has had dealings with them ever since, I was confident that Dave Hartland and the Netskills team (primarily Steve Boneham, Hanna Miettinen and Phil Swinhoe) would ensure that the event ran smoothly; this turned out to be the case.

I was pleased that the overall rating for the content of this year’s event was also very positive. As can be seen the majority of respondents felt that the content was either excellent or very good, with an overall rating of 4.3.

The comments provided about the event show the value which participants place on the event:

  • Highly recommended, the IWMW event offers the chance to network with colleagues from other higher education institutions across the country. The event is always well attended and you can expect to see a variety of knowledgeable presenters and take part in individual workshops over the course of the 3 days, as well as get the chance go out and socialise and take in some of your surroundings.
  • I found IWMW 2014 to be practical, encouraging, empowering, and enthusiastic. Brilliant opportunity to network with other people in the sector, and learn that you’re not just on your own. Other teams are going through exactly the same things. Definitely the best IWMW conference I’ve been to.
  • Over the years IWMW events have had more positive and direct effect on my career, the working practices of my team, and the University of Aberdeen than any other developmental conferences or activity. The only opportunity for UK HE’s web professionals to gather in person, compare practices and reflect on current challenges. An engaging and thought provoking event that challenges those in the sector to look ahead and see the possibilities as well as the pitfalls.
  • IWMW has been a constant in my working life since 2003. It allows me space to think, to test new ideas and to develop a strong social and professional network. With contacts built through IWMW I can contact folk anywhere across the UK on any one of a number of (often specialist) topics for a useful insight or debate.
  • Should be in the calendar of every web professional in the higher ed sector. Quality sessions, a great community and excellent value for money make it a no-brainer for me. IWMW offers a unique opportunity for digital professionals to come together, share experiences and learn from each.

We also encouraged participants to give their thoughts on the disappoint aspects of the event or ways in which the event could be improved. The comments included:

  • I enjoyed the Hancock museum — dinosaur, grrrr! I found the conference dinner a bit lack lustre, a bit disjointed, but hey!
  • A few more ‘hands-on’ sessions for the more practically minded. Perhaps include a speaker or two from outside the HE domain (though ensuring content is still relevant): Ross Ferguson clearly demonstrated how ‘non-standard’ approaches can reap rewards in the HE sector.
  • Better accommodation — my room was disgustingly dirty and the bed damaged my back. Yuck! Ouch! The food was a bit meh! too.
  • 1. Industry speakers on general web trends and innovations -expensive and not specific to universities but it would be good to look outside. 2. Move away from discussing corporate websites and CMS to DIGITAL, the full picture, the web is everywhere. 3. Get attendee numbers up, best when more people there, more investment and promotion required….tricky I know.
  • Numbers – in terms of attendees and in terms of the sessions volunteered by the community seemed to be down this year. Do we need to work harder through the year to foster the community and bring us together? My feeling is that the mailing lists are a bit tired, and for newer entrants to the sector do they even know they exist? Not sure how I came across the community when I joined Edinburgh in 2006, but I knew nothing about it during my time in Sheffield (1999 – 2003). Would a Linked In group and/or a Twitter hashtag be useful additions to ongoing comms? And more direct calls to the older hands to encourage participation amongst the newer folk? I just think that if we had a more active and open group (or set of groups – you mentioned different streams at the US conference which could be useful) through the year we might end up with a bigger and brighter annual event. (Not that I’m saying the conference isn’t great, because it is and long may it continue!)

Others also commented that they felt the accommodation and conference dinner was disappointing (although some disagreed with this).

The Plenary Talks

It was pleased that all ten of the plenary talks, together with the final panel session were all highly rated, with all speakers receiving an average rating of good, very good or excellent.

The most highly rated plenary speaker was Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath; 78% thought his talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website ” was Excellent and 22% felt it was Very Good. This was an average of 4.8. Comments on his talk included:

  • Ross was really interesting and I found this talk the most motivational one I attended.
  • Brilliant, fantastic, breath of fresh air and nicely delivered as well.
  • Loved it! He had no need to apologise at the start. I was very encouraged to hear him talk about what we are trying to do at St Andrews.
  • Best presentation – most relevant to how my team are currently working and interesting approach to dealing with some of the University politics/pressures. Would be interested in hearing from other staff who are currently still at as its quite transferable to our sector.
  • Every year there is one stand-out talk for me, and this was it for 2014 an inspiration
  • The way it should be: great to see how it can work with the right support form management. Engaging presentation and I’m sure the highlight for most.

Tracy Playe’s talk on “” Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway which opened this year’s event was also highly rated: 48% thought it was excellent; 24% felt it was very good; 20% felt it was Good and 8% felt it was poor. This was an average of 4.47 . Comments on her talk included:

  • A great opening session and excellent speaker to kick things off. Lots of opinion, good advice and the theme running throughout was nice. Lovely slides.
  • I loved Tracy’s talk! Couldn’t have hoped for a better speaker to open the event
  • Very relevant and interesting idea. Good practical examples too.
  • Awesome, very relevant.
  • Loved this one, Tracy really knows her stuff!

I should add that an innovation this year was the final panel session in which four experienced web managers from a range of old and new universities and large and small institutions were asked to give their thoughts on the topic “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?” and invite feedback from the audience.

  • Loved this, would have liked to have spent more time on it. Think it’s important that we do so we can always be pushing forward rather than just catching up.
  • Well-stewarded discussion.
  • Some good points. I do wonder about whether it’s possible to have a single vision for the future with the range of institutions in the sector. Would have been good to understand why the panellists had been selected. Presuming you’d want a mix of: old and new unis, big and small, marketing and tech people. Maybe the panel could be a bit bigger. Definitely need to have more of an intro to each panellist so we understand better where they’re coming from
  • I thought Stephen Emmott chaired it well. Good input from those on the panel
  • format worked well, good panel

Parallel Sessions

This year initially eight parallel workshop sessions lasting for 90 minutes  were scheduled, but two of these were cancelled due to lack of numbers. In addition there was a 45 slot for birds-of-a-feather sessions, with the two cancelled workshop sessions being provided as birds-of-a-feather session. As ever, there is more diversity in the feedback for the parallel sessions, with some people finding the session they attend very useful but others finding them too simple; too advanced; not covering the expected area or have other reservations.

  • Despite me being tired, boiling and having a dead battery, I found this talk by Martin Hawksey to be a true eye opener in to Google Apps Script and it’s capabilities. It was pitched at exactly the right level.
  • Excellent session. Very well thought out structure, great interaction, great content. Good talk – interesting exercises. Will make use of this in future.
  • Quite a few parallel sessions – would have been good to attend more than 1!
  • It was very good, It covered something a bit basic so perhaps have more detailed descriptions of what will be covered?
  • Very interesting session presenting the content-led aspect of the technology/content/digital workspace. Confidently and characterfully delivered.

Social Events

The conference dinner took place on the first evening. On the second evening there was a wine reception at the Hancock Museum. The following comments on the social events were received:

  • Drinks overlooked by stuffed animals… nice (especially the giraffe). I’m not averse to the odd pint; but some non-alcohol focused events might have been nice. You also need to get someone to sponsor biscuits/cakes in the coffee breaks!
  • The event itself is the social event, if that makes sense. Anything else is icing on the cake
  • Well organised, friendly
  • I attended the reception at the Great North Museum, which was perfect.
  • Catering at Northumbria University could have been better, though it’s probably on a par with ours! Enjoyed the museum and exploring Newcastle – pleasantly surprised!
  • Event 1: Dinner itself was very nice. The setting was a step down from previous events and I felt that the smaller tables did not lend themselves to the networking of previous years. Nominating a specific venue for after-dinner was a good move and I’m glad many attendees made it to the same location. Event 2: the museum was a lovely venue and well-situated for attendees to then move on to their own preferred activities.
  • Conference dinner was better than expected, pub was very pleasant and walk by the river delightful. Reception at the museum was great.

What Next?

It seems clear that the IWMW 2014 event was successful. However the numbers, with 125 participants, were down slightly on last year’s event and significantly on the peak of 1997 at IWMW 2009. Those who did attend this year’s event (which included a significant number who had not attended previous IWMW events) seemed keen on continuation of the event.

Highedweb 2014But if the event is to continue there will be a need to ensure that it is financially viable, which might include revisiting existing sponsorship arrangements and seeking additional sponsorship opportunities. We will also need to revisit the costs for attending the event which have remaining fixed for a number of years. There is also a need to get feedback on possible changes to the scope and format of the event. Feedback is also being solicited from those who did not attend this year’s event in order to understand the reasons for this.

We are also exploring potential links with other organisations in the UK and beyond who may have interests in exploring ways of engaging with those with responsibilities for providing institutional Web services.

Finally we are also looking at the ways in which support for those providing institutional Web services is being taken in other sectors. This will include an analysis of the content and format of events such as the HighEdWeb conference which is aimed at US university web managers and commercial events such as the J.Boye conferences.

The HighEdWeb 2014 conference is interesting as this year’s event, which takes place on the 18-22 October 2014 , will feature six thematic session tracks, with 70+ presentations by industry leaders; pre- and post-conference half-day, add-on intensive workshops; outstanding keynotes; and a number of social and networking events.

Is this an appropriate model for future IWMW events? Or should we aim to keep the event on a smaller scale which provides opportunities for informal contacts and meetings?

The IWMW: Planning for the Future survey form is now available. Whether you’ve attended several IWMW events, participated for the first time this year or have never attended one of the events we’d love to hear from this. This is your opportunity to help shape the future for the development of IWMW!

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Earlier Today I Got Married!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 August 2014

wedding: brian and nicola kellyEarlier today I got married at the Bath Register Office :-). Nicola McNee is now Nicola Kelly

I use this blog for posts primarily related to my work activities but as today is a very special day I feel I can break this rule. However there are aspects of our relationship which overlap with my work interests. If anyone questions the value of Twitter I am now able to say that I met my wife on Twitter :-). This was on the 29th April 2009 when I gave a talk at CILIP HQ on “The Social Web and the Information Professional: Risks and Opportunities“. Phil Bradley had invited me to take part in a discussion on whether CILIP should encourage librarians and information professionals to make use of social media. A certain school librarian with the Twitter ID @nicolamcnee took part on the Twitter discussions on the day. Dave Patten (@daveyp) had created an archive of the #cilip2 tweets and from the archive I found her first tweet:

I’m getting excited about #cilip2 this afternoon. Hope the twittering is good

and her first tweet to me:

@briankelly Go brian we’re right behind you..literally on the wall I believe during the open session #cilip2

Nicola was one of the main event Twitterers for the #CILIP2 event. According to my Twitter archive it seems that it was about 6 weeks later when we went for a drink (not, however, an intimate tête-à-tête but rather a meeting with geeks from UKOLN and Eduserv at the Raven pub:

@NicolaMcNee There was recent discussion about how museums might circumvent council barriers. Let’s plan the revolution down The Raven!

Although we met up from time to time after that it wasn’t until October 2010 when we first started going out. And it was at a geeks event when we first got together! We had agreed to run a session on “Sixty Minutes To Save Libraries”: Gathering Evidence to Demonstrate Library Services’ Impact and Value at the Mashed Library 2010 event. We met at The Raven on the Saturday night; talk part in the various events on the Saturday and, in the evening, went for a drink in the Coeur de Lion, Bath’s smallest pub. “Shall we ‘go out’?” I asked in the pub. Nicola said “yes” but was probably surprised by my follow-up question: “Can we official start going out tomorrow?” My reason was that the following day it would be 1 November, a date which would be easier for me to remember on subsequent anniversaries. I was clearly thinking for the long term.

We discovered that we not only had shared interests in use of online technologies but also in folk music, rapper sword dancing, real ale and real pubs – I’ve already mentioned he Raven and The Coeur de Lion, but in addition we also used to watch live music at The Bell on Monday and Wednesday nights and spend Friday night’s in our favourite pub, The Star.

And now we’re married :-) We’ll shortly we heading off to the south coast and will be popping into to Sidmouth Folk Festival where we’ll having a party on Wednesday lunch with the Newcastle Kingsmen and other friends and family. If you’re around feel free to come along. Myself and the missus would love to see you.

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Posted in General, Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

Life, A Year After Redundancy and Leaving UKOLN

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 July 2014

Looking Back

A year ago today was my final day at UKOLN after the cessation of Jisc funding led to large-scale redundancies. During my final week I posted a series of posts on my Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN. In my final post on Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities I explained how I was looking for new opportunities to continue working in the higher education sector. A year on it is now timely to review my activities over the past year.

A Summer Break

My home officeThe redundancy provided an opportunity for a 3 month break. After a few weeks off and a holiday in the north east (North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland) I took the opportunity to refresh my professional skills which including participating (and completing!) a MOOC: the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.

During the summer break I carried out some consultancy work and applied for a job at the ODI. But the biggest development was the building work to my house, which included installing network points in most of the rooms and converting one of the bedrooms to my office. As I described in a post on Marieke Guy’s Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog I was all set up to be a home worker.

Innovation Advocate at Cetis

I had decided that I was looking for a job which would allow me to continue to work in higher education and would build on my strengths, interests, areas of expertise and the professional connections I had, but would also provide some flexibility to pursue other interests. I was therefore pleased to be offered the post of Innovation Advocate at Cetis, working four days a week.

I have now been in post for nine months and have enjoyed my new role. My man areas of work have been:

Open practices: I have continued to seek to work in an open fashion, in particular using this blog and Twitter to share my thoughts, ideas and opinions. I also facilitated a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them” which addressed moves towards openness and the implications for open educational practices.

Promoting use of Wikipedia in education: A year ago I became a member of WMUK (WikiMedia UK). I have promoted use of Wikipedia as an open educational practice. My work has included talks on “Wikipedia, Wikimedia UK and Higher Education: Developments in the UK” at the Wikimedia Serbia Eduwiki conference; a workshop session on “Getting to Grips with Wikipedia: a Practical Session” at the LILAC 2014 conference; an invited plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference and a workshop session on “Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond” at the Cetis 2014 conference. In addition I was a co-author of a feature article on “Wikipedia and Information Literacy” which was published in CILIP Update.

Information literacy and life-long learning: I presented a poster on “Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” at the LILAC 2014 conference.

Use of emerging standards: Together with Cetis colleagues I have contributed to reports on developments to standards for the Jisc and have been the editor and lead author on a landscape report on standards also for the Jisc.

Learning analytics: I am leading the outreach and user engagement work for the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project.

Web accessibility: I am continuing my long-established work in Web accessibility, which includes raising the visibility of BS 8878. I gave an invited online talk which argued that “Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!” at the OZeWAI 2013 conference; gave a talk on “Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer?” for an ILSIG Webinar on ‘MOOCs and Inclusive Practice’ abnd faciliated a workshop on “Building an Accessible Digital Institution” at the Cetis 2014 conference.

Social media for researchers: This year has been unusual in that I have not written any peer-reviewed papers or invited conference papers – this is the first time since 1997 that I have failed to do this (although I still have a few months to remedy this!). However I have continued to promote ways in which social media can be used by researchers, including giving the final plenary talk on “Open Practices for Researchers” at the University of Bolton;s Research and Innovation Conference 2014 together with talks on “How Social Media Can Enhance Your Research Activities” at the IRISS Research Unbound conference and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the annual DAAD conference for young academics from Germany working at UK Universities. Interestingly when I updated my talk for the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton I found that not only have I continued to have the largest number of downloads of any researcher at the University of Bath but my former colleagues Alex Ball, Ann Chapman and Emma Tonkin are also listed in the top ten researchers having the largest number of downloads. Despite three of us having left UKOLN a year ago, we are still finding that our research and project outputs are very visible!

Preparing for the future: I was particularly pleased to be able to continue to develop joint work which UKOLN and Cetis had been involved with in the past. This work, which was initially carried out as part of the Jisc Observatory, was summarised by myself and Paul Hollins, the Cetis director, in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“. Institutions continue to have an interest in methodologies for identifying and making plans for technological trends. I have further developed the methodologies, which was helped by my involvement this year with the forthcoming NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition (the final report is scheduled for publication on 16 August). I have facilitated workshop sessions based on the methodologies at the SAOIM 2014 and ELAG 2014 conferences, which were aimed at those working in the library sector, and at Brighton University for those working in a merged Library/ IT service department.

IWMW 2014: I have heard the IWMW event and the Ariadne ejournal described as “UKOLN’s crown jewels”. I was pleased to see a new issue of Ariadne published earlier this year. And last month we held IWMW 2014, the 18th in the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series.

What Of The Future?

It has been a busy year. But what of the future? I feel that we will continue to see uncertainty across the higher education sector, with ongoing political and sectoral discussions about the nature of funding. Closer to home it seems that the announcement on the Jisc blog that “we are changing the current host grant agreements as of 31 December 2014” conceals further redundancies in the Jisc world which the closure of the RSCs and advisory services will entail. Although the Jisc future may continue to be uncertain we do know that Jisc are now focussing their work on a small number of areas which are agreed with the Jisc co-design partners (RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA). In addition Jisc are now a ‘solutions provider’ rather than a funder so that the solutions which they develop will subsequently be sold back to the sector. [Note this is my understanding of the new approaches which Jisc are taking, based on the opening plenary talk given by Phil Richards at the Ceis 2014 conference. However I’d welcome comments if I’ve misinterpreted what was said.]

In this changing environment I feel that there will continue to be opportunities for organisations such as Cetis to work with institutions and other players in the sector since I think we can predict that higher educational institutions will continue to exists for a number of years. The Cetis web site lists a number of areas in which we provide consultancy. We should probably extend this list to include additional areas in which we can support and advise institutions. I hope to continue my work with Cetis. In the short term, I’ll be away on holiday next week but feel free to get in touch if there are areas of interest to your institution which I might be able to address.



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UK Government Mandates Open Document Format! A Brave or Foolhardy Decision?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 July 2014

UK Government Policy Announcement on Office Standards

UK Goverment policy on ODF

Image from Computer Weekly (

Back in October 2012 in a post entitled Good News From the UK Government: Launch of the Open Standards Principles which described how the UK government had published a series of document which outlined the government’s plans for use of open standards across government departments.

Last week the government made its first significant policy decision about one standards area: as described in a Computer Weekly article: UK government adopts ODF as standard document format.

Further Details

On 22 July 2014 in a blog post entitled Making things open, making things better posted on the UK’s Government Data Service blog Mike Bracken announced the UK Government’s policy on open standards for document formats. As described in a document entitled Viewing government documents the open standards mandated for viewing Government documents are:

  • HTML5 (either the HTML or XML formulation) must be used for all new services that produce documents for viewing online through a browser
  • PDF/A must be used for static versions of documents produced for download and archiving that are not intended for editing.

Where editable information is required the approach must be as set out in the sharing and collaborating on government documents standards profile which mandates ODF 1.2 as the standards which must be used.

A document on Open formats for documents: what publishers to GOV.UK need to know summarises the policies:

Documents for ‘viewing’ must be available in one or both of the following formats:

  • HTML5
  • PDF/AA separate set of standards applies to documents that users will want to edit. This type of document must be published in Open Document Format (ODF). The most common examples of this are:

For documents designed for sharing or collaborating:

A separate set of standards applies to documents that users will want to edit. This type of document must be published in Open Document Format (ODF). The most common examples of this are:

  • .odt (OpenDocument Text) for word-processing (text) documents
  • .ods (OpenDocument Spreadsheet) for spreadsheets
  • .odp (OpenDocument Presentation) for presentations. Once open publishing standards are adopted in full by your organisation, no documents should be published in proprietary formats.

The document goes on to explicitly state that:

Where editable information is required the approach must be as set out in the sharing and collaborating on government documents standards profile which mandates ODF 1.2 as the standards which must be used.


Initial Skirmishes

It seems the initial battles regarding the government’s approaches to open standards took place in 2012. I commented on the initial skirmishes in May 2012 in a post on Oh What A Lovely War! and followed this in October 2012 in a post “Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market” which described the approaches being taken by Open Stand: “five leading global organizations jointly signed an agreement to affirm and adhere to a set of Principles in support of The Modern Paradigm for Standards; an open and collectively empowering model that will help radically improve the way people around the world develop new technologies and innovate for humanity“.

The signatories affirmed that:

We embrace a modern paradigm for standards where the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status.

In this paradigm, standards support interoperability, foster global competition, are developed through an open participatory process, and are voluntarily adopted globally. These voluntary standards serve as building blocks for products and services targeted at meeting the needs of the market and consumer, thereby driving innovation. Innovation in turn contributes to the creation of new markets and the growth and expansion of existing markets.

It should be noted that the five leading global organizations which were supporting “the economics of global markets” were not IT companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google but IETF, Internet Society, IAB, W3C and IETF.

The Government Rejects Microsoft’s Lobbying!

The Computer Weekly article entitled UK government adopts ODF as standard document format had a sub-heading “Cabinet Office resists extensive lobbying by Microsoft to adopt open standards“.

I must admit that following the Open Stand announcement I had expected those formulating national policies in the western world to take a similar approach in supporting “the economics of global markets“. The UK Government’s decision to reject Microsoft’s call for inclusion of OOXML (Open Office XML), which is an ISO standard,  appears surprising. But perhaps this provides an unusual opportunity to praise the government!

Challenges to be Faced

In making a bold decision it should be expected that there will be challenges to be faced in implementing the decision.  In this case some of the challenges to be faced may include:

Implications for use of OOXML: The document on Open formats for documents: what publishers to GOV.UK need to know states that “Once open publishing standards are adopted in full by your organisation, no documents should be published in proprietary formats“. But a government department which makes extensive use of Microsoft tool could legitimately point out that it uses OOXML, an ISO standard. There will be a need to clarify that the policy decision is concerned with specific open standards rather than open versus proprietary standards.  It may be more appropriate to say that the government is mandating particular open standards for which open source tools which provide rich support are readily available.

Financial implications: The policy decision will be seen as a move from Microsoft Office to Open Office software which will bring significant financial savings due to the licence costs of Microsoft software. But what of the costs in migrating to new office tools and new workflow processes? It might be argued that there is a need to make a change at some point and there is no point in continuing to defer such a change (indeed, it can be argued that the Labour government should have made this decision which there was more money available). But since the Government seems to be prioritising financial issues in policy decisions there will be a need for the costs of this change to be monitored.

Implications for users: The policy decisions will be seen as a move from Microsoft Office to Open Office software which will bring significant financial savings due to the licence costs of Microsoft software. But what of the

Exporting to ODF: It should be noted that the decision appears to relate to document formats when these are to be shared with others. Will be see existing Microsoft Office tools continue to be used but files exported in ODF format?

Scope of the policy: This policy would appear to apply to central government services. I would be interested to hear if its scope will go beyond this and apply to local government and, of particular interest to me, the higher and further education sectors and associated educational funding bodies and agencies. Will, for example, documents submitted by educational institutions to government departments, funding agencies, etc. be expected to be in ODF format?

Use of Cloud services: We are seeing moves to Cloud services for office applications including but not limited to Google Docs and Office 365. It seems that documents hosted on Google Drive can be exported to ODF format, although I am unclear as to whether similar functionality is available for Office 365 [Note as described in a comment, Office 365 does allow ODT documents to be created].  However if government bodies have chosen to migrate their office environment to the Cloud it will be interesting to see how this will be affected by the policy on file formats. It should be noted that there does not appear to be a mature Cloud environment which is tightly coupled with Open Office.

Your Thoughts

I suspect that many readers for this blog would feel that the UK coalition government does not have a good track record of making evidence-based policy decisions which have been widely acknowledged to have provided benefits to those living in the UK.

But might this be a decision which should be welcomed? Are the challenges I’ve listed (and there will be others I haven’t described) simply issues which will be addressed, whilst the benefits of the decision will quickly become apparent?

I’d welcome your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment or respond to the poll.

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