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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

My answers to Martin questions:

  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] – [bit.ly]

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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

Discussion

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

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Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 September 2014

Background

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 http://bit.ly/8BVFt

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. slideshare.net/sloandr/w4a12-… #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. slideshare.net/sloandr/w4a12-… #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 Academia.edu, 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 Academia.edu 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 Academia.edu 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 Academia.edu 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 Academia.edu 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.

Conclusions

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.

Resources

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


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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

 


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Posted in Guest-post | Tagged: | 2 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 sumall.com/myweek

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!)


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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

Ref.

No.

Institutional Repository Details

Nos. of links

from Wikipedia

View Results
1   2 [Link]
2
InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Repository used: ROSE (http://rose.bris.ac.uk/)
  6 [Link]
3  82  [Link]
4
InstitutionCardiff University
Repository usedORCA (http://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/)
   1  [Link]
5
InstitutionUniversity of Durham
Repository usedDRO (http://dro.dur.ac.uk/)
109  [Link]
6  55 [Link]
7
InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
 17 [Link]
8
InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
120 [Link]
9
InstitutionImperial College
   5 [Link]
10
Repository used: King’s Research Portal (https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/)
  45 [Link]
11
InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
  65 [Link]
12    1 [Link]
13
InstitutionLSE
 186 [Link]
14    74 [Link]
15
InstitutionNewcastle University
   4 [Link]
16   10 [Link]
17
InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Repository usedORA (http://ora.ouls.ox.ac.uk/)
   19 [Link]
18
Repository used: QMRO (https://qmro.qmul.ac.uk/)
  15 [Link]
19     3 [Link]
20
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]
23
InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Repository usedWRAP (http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/)
  57 [Link]
24
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  

NOTE:

  • 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.

Discussion

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 articles 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.


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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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Posted in General | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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:

Trends
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

Background

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” .

Feedback

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 gov.uk 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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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.

 

 

Posted in General, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

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 (http://www.computerworlduk.com/)

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.

Discussion

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.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

 

Posted in standards | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Reflections on #IWMW14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 July 2014

IWMW 2.014: Rebooting the Web

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place last week, from 16-20 July, at Northumbria University. The theme of this year’s event was “rebooting the web“: an idea which came from a participant at last year’s event who felt that, although he felt there was a continued need for an event focussed on the needs of those involved in providing institutional Web services, the event would benefit from ‘rebooting’.

The cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN meant that the event would change its focus in any case. When the event benefitted rom Jisc funding we tried to ensure that we provided a forum for Jisc-funded work, including Jisc services and Jisc-funded projects, which were involved in web-related activities.

This year the content was very focussed on sharing of institutional case studies. In addition this year future-gazing was informed by observing work of early adopters, with advocacy on the benefits of new ways of working being based on organisational issues rather than technological developments.

The Key Themes

Perspectives from Outside

The event began with three talks which provided Perspectives from Outside.

tweet-about Tracy Playle's talkTracy Playle, Picklejar Communications, opened the event with a talk on “Why you don’t need a social media plan and how to create one anyway“. Tracy argued that you shouldn’t create a social media plan in isolation from other activities, including real world engagement activities. A second point which Tracy made was picked up by David Aldred:  “good social content has to be able to have balls – use humour and cross lines. Difficult if committees involved!” This is also true of talks at events – and it was pleasing that many of the speakers were willing to make controversial points or make their pointes in controversial ways which, I suspect, would not go down well with the institution’s marketing team! Perhaps the lack of live video streaming at the event for the first time in several years resulted in more honest and open talks.

christinamcg's tweet about Paul BoagThe need to challenge mainstream orthodoxies in providing institutional Web service was continued by Paul Boag in his talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands “. Paul argued that there was a clear need for changes in the approaches to the provision of Web services which have been taken in the past and of the need to circumvent institutional bureaucracies. He recommended the establishment of a ‘digital transformation team’ to replace the existing Web team as a recognition of the importance of transforming current business processes in light of the impact of today’s digital environment. Christina McGuire (@christinamcg) provided a value service during the event in her comprehensive tweets about the plenary talks. She tweeted a summary of one of Paul’s key recommendationscreate a Digital Transformation Team – name = crucial. Digital = more than a website…transformation = communicates not service“.

The final talk in the session from speakers who were invited to give their perspectives from outside the institutional Web management perspective was given by Martin Hawksey. His talk had an intriguing title “Hyper-connectEd: Filling the vacuum by switching from blow to suck”  Martin’s talk sought to provide a big picture, going beyond institutional Web management issues and addressing the nature of education in higher education in a networked environment. Martin drew parallels with centralised, decentralised and distributed networks and the changing nature of education, and provided some examples of moves towards distributed approaches to leaning. Martin also helpfully published a blog post shortly before he gave his talk in which he explained that “The main idea I want to convey is that in a world which is benefiting from being digitally distributed, networked and increasing crowd driven the IWMW audience is in the prime position to support their institutions creating opportunities for learning aligned to this“.

Institutional Case Studies

Kevin Mears sketch note for Ross Ferguson's talk.The opening day provided inspirational and provocative talks which argued the need for significant changes to the ways we go about providing Web services in higher education. The second and third days provided an opportunity to hear case studies about how institutions have been delivering a variety of services, ranging from use of the Google Cloud Platform for providing the infrastructure for delivering services; ensuring that the importance of the user  experience (UX) is being addressed; rebooting an institutional portal; developing web applications to support work allocation and adopting startup approaches to support the rapid delivery of institutional services.

The talk which seems to generate the most interest and discussion was given by Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath. His talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website” echoed the point made by Tracy Playle on the opening day on what she referred to as “benign violation“: as can be seen from Kevin Mears’ sketch note of the talk, Ross’s slides had not been approved by the marketing team, with his passion for use of startup methodologies in a university context being presented in a forthright fashion which violated conference norms!

Ross’s description of the approaches which are being taken by the Digital team at the University of Bath also reflect Paul Boag’s suggestions, including the name of the team: “Digital Marketing and Communications” and Ross’s job title of “head of digital”.

Looking To The Future

In addition to the first part of the institutional case studies the second day also provided two talks which provided data-driven insights into the web environment which may help to shape future developments.

Ranjit Sidhu opened the session on Looking To The Future in a talk on “You are ALL so weird!” University sector analysis and trends“. One comment Ranjit made which I found of particular interest was the apparent lack of interest in gathering data related to research. As Luca Macis commented:

Business values every single bit of publicity and data. Universities don’t do this. Especially with Research. We undervalue research

Christina McGuire's tweetPerhaps gathering usage data related to research activities tends to be of concern to library staff and research support units rather than institutional web teams. But Ranjit’s comment that we are seeing a decline in traffic to university home pages will be very relevant. This is a trend I first observed in 2011 and described in a post which asked Are University Web Sites in Decline? At the time I concluded:

the evidence is suggesting that we are seeing a slight decrease in the amount of traffic to institutional Web sites for Russell Group Universities

It will be interesting to see the trend over the past three years and invite discussions on the implications.

The final plenary talk I will comment on also described approaches in gathering data not only for use in national services, such as equipment.data.ac.uk, but also in providing answers to the question “What Does The Data Tell Us About UK University Web Sites?“. In his presentation Chris Gutteridge provided background details of the data.ac.uk service  and encouraged participants to create an institutional Organisational Profile Document (OPD).

Finding Out More

Lanyrd page for iwmw 2014A year ago, after the end of the IWMW 2013 event, I described how The Job’s Not Over Till The Paperwork’s Complete. This year is no different. Links are being added to the IWMW 2014 web site. But the most useful resource is the IWMW 2014 Lanyrd entry since this allows others to add links to relevant resources.

The Lanyrd page will provide links to resources which are directly associated with individual talks as well as to generic resources. For example the Lanyrd page for Martin Hawksey’s talk contains links to his slides, the accompanying blog post,  Kevin Mears’ sketch notes of his talk and a Storify summary of tweets made during the talk (and other talks held on the same day).

Generic resources which are linked to from the Lanyrd coverage page include Flickr photographs taken by the Netskills team, other Flickr photos with the IWMW14 tag, Storify Twitter archives for day 1, day 2 and day 3, the Eventifier Twitter archive, a location map of those who tweeted with the event hashtag and Martin Hawksey’s TAGS Twitter archive and the TAGSExplorer visualisation of Twitter conversations.

Additional resources, including blog posts about the event, will be added when I become aware of them.

IWMW 2015: Digital Transformation

I will shortly be reviewing the comments provided by IWMW 2014 delegates on the event evaluation form. However the feedback I received during the event was very positive and there seemed to be broad agreement that the event should continue.

The major challenge in planning for a similar event next year will be managing the financial outlay in, for example, paying deposits on room bookings and accommodation – and the associated risks if things go wrong. This year’s event was organised by myself, Netskills and Cetis, with Cetis providing support for outreach and marketing but the financial outgoings were made by myself and Netskills. I will be looking at new models for organising the event next year – to avoid the worries I had this year when the numbers of bookings were low a month before the event took place.

There will also be a need to reflect on the talks given at this year’s event and the discussions which they generated. In the final panel session at the event Stephen Emmott, Michael Nolan, Mike McConnell and Tracey Milnes led an open discussion on “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?” There seemed to be broad agreement on the need to recognise the diversity of approaches which are being taken across the sector. There also seemed to be agreement that the words ‘institutional’ and ‘web’  are now longer as relevant as they were in the past for the Institutional Web Management event.

In light of this feedback I wonder whether IWMW should not longer be regarded as an abbreviation, but is simple used as a term to describe the event. And perhaps for next year them theme should be “digital transformation”. What do you think?

Posted in Events | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities, July 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 July 2014

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities

In order to gather evidence of use of Facebook in the higher education sector periodic surveys of usage of official institutional Facebook pages have been carried out for the Russell Group universities since January 2011. The last survey was carried out 0n 31 July 2012, the day before the number of Russell Group universities grew from 20 to 24.

The aim of the surveys is to provide factual evidence which can be used to inform policy decisions on institutional use of social media and corresponding operational practices and stimulate debate.

The latest survey has just been carried out. It is intended that the survey will help inform discussions at the IWMW 2014 event, which starts on Wednesday.

Note that the data provided in the following table is also available as a Google Spreadsheet.

Ref. No. Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(May 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Jul 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Jul 2014)
% increase
since Aug 2012
 1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558  14,182  18,611   20,756   88,694    327%
 2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186   7,913  11,480  12,357   27,071    219%
 3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
Fb namecambridge.university
58,392 105,645 153,000 168,000  787,347    369%
 4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035  25,945   30,648  31,989   51,108      60%
 5 InstitutionDurham University
Fb nameDurham-University/109600695725424
N.A.  N.A.   N.A.  10,843   31,153   187%
 6 InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Fb nameexeteruni
N.A.  N.A.   N.A. 15,387    29,054    89%
 7 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb nameUniversityOfEdinburgh
(Page URL changed since first survey)
-  12,053   24,507   27,574    70,667  156%
 8 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
-   1,860   27,149  29,840    68,667  130%
 9 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490  10,257  16,444  19,020    68,347   259%
10 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047   3,587   5,384   7,534   37,370   396%
11 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb nameuniversityofleeds
-    899   2,143    3,091   20,722    570%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb name: livuni University-of-Liverpool/103803892992025
(Page URL changes since survey in May and August 2012)
2,811  3,742   4,410   5,239    63,790   1,118%
13 InstitutionLSE
Fb name: lseps 
22,798  32,290 43,716   50,287  134,799     168%
14 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967  – TheUniversityOfManchester   (Page URL changed for this survey)
1,978   4,734   9,356   13,751  51,659    278%
15 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb namenewcastleuniversity
-     115      693    1,084    34,975   3,126%
16 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameTheUniofNottingham
3,588    9,991  14,692   17,133   119,444      597%
17 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Fb namethe.university.of.oxford
137,395 293,010 541,000 628,000 1,564,871     149%
18 InstitutionQueen Mary, University of London
Fb nameQueen-Mary-University-of-London/107998909223423 – QMLNews (Page URL changed for this survey)
N.A.  N.A.  N.A.  13,362    55,545     316%
19 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb name: QueensUniversityBelfast
- 5,211   10,063   16,989    19,783       16%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  19,308   22,746    67,472     197%
21 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  18,062   19,790   49,876    152%
22 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346  33,853  37,493    91,152   143%
23 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 14,472   15,103    47,204     212%
24 InstitutionUniversity of York
Fb nameuniversityofyork
N.A.  N.A.   N.A.    11,212  19,256      73%
TOTAL 287,767 566,691 998,991 1,116,077   3,600,2652    208%

Note

Summary

Overall Facebook Usage over time: 2011-2014

Figure 1: Overall number of Facebook ‘likes’ for Russell Group universities from January 2011 – July 2014

As can be seen from Figure 1 which shows the growth in the overall number of Facebook ‘likes’ for Russell Group universities from January 2011 – July 2014 there has been a significant growth since the last survey. However please note the following caveats:

  • There has been a gap of two years before the latest survey.
  • There are now 24 Russell Group universities as opposed to the 20 covered in the initial set of surveys.

It should also be noted that comparisons of the numbers of ‘likes’ across individual institutions are probably not very meaningful due to the differing numbers of staff and students across the institutions. However the trends may be more meaningful. especially the trends across the aggregation of the institutions.

The survey published on 2 August 2012 reported that the number of Facebook ‘likes’ for the 24 Russell Group Universities had exceeded 1 million for the first time. However as shown in Figure 2 over half of these likes were for the University of Oxford with the University of Cambridge being the next most popular: these two institutions represent 67% of the total. As can be seen from Figure 3 these two institutions have maintained their positions and now represent 65%.

Figure 2: Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group universities in August 2012

Implications

When Facebook was first launched access was restricted to approved institutions (which the University of Cambridge being the first in the UK to provide accounts for its students). In may 2007 John Kirriemuir felt that Something IS Going On With Facebook! after spotting weak signals of its potential importance. We then saw doubts expressed regarding its relevance for institutions characterised, perhaps, by the statement “stay out of my space“). However the popularity of the service led to suggestions that there was a need for an open alternative – but Diaspora was felt to have the potential to provide an open alternative, but as the post on Whatever Happened to Facebook-Killer Diaspora? concluded the answer was “nothing“.

Now, it would appear, institutional use of Facebook is no longer a policy issue (should we have an account) but rather raises a number of operational issues to be addressed: How should we manage it? How much effort should we allocate to it? and what metrics should we measure to demonstrate the value we get from the service?

Perhaps these are questions which will be asked at IWMW 2014 later this week.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 3 Comments »

Wikipedia and Information Literacy Article in CILIP Update

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 July 2014

Wikipedia and Information Literacy

Wikipedia article in CILIP UpdateThe current issue of CILIP Update (access restricted to CILIP members and subscribers) features a two-page article entitled “Wikipedia and Information Literacy“. The article, which was written by myself, Nancy Graham and Andrew Gray is based on the Wikipedia workshop sessions and talks which we gave at the LILAC 2014 conference in Sheffield in April 2014.

The article is aimed at librarians, especially those with interests in information literacy.  As we described in order to address the pressures to do more in the time available for learning information literacy:

It is a good idea to consider use of resources and methods which are: a) already in widespread use; b) with which readers already have a positive relationship; and c) which can be used to demonstrate multiple aspects of information literacy within a single context.

The article goes on to point out that:

One such resource is the ubiquitous and popular – if often contested – Wikipedia. The ways in which Wikipedia is constructed and operates allows it to highlight many aspects of information literacy, while its high profile and broad subject base mean that users are likely to have some familiarity with it. In effect, we can take the information literacy question to where our readers are already going!

Wikipedia Sessions at LILAC 2014

The sessions we facilitated at the LILAC 2014 conference began with a presentation by Nancy and Andrew on “Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room” (see the slides on Slideshare which are embedded at the bottom of this post).

We then facilitated two workshops sessions: a practical session in which participants could signup for a Wikipedia account and familiarise themelevs with basic Wikipedia markup and the Wikipedia culture followed by an edit-a-thon in which participants looked at ways in which the existing Information Literacy Wikipedia article could be updated.

What Next?

Rather than updating the existing Information Literacy article we decided to create a new page which addresses information literacy from a UK perspective.  The fledgling page is available but, as can be seen, this is a work in progress. We urge librarians with an interest in information literacy to sign up to Wikipedia and contribute to this section.

The slides on Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

 

Posted in Wikipedia | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 July 2014

Two International Conferences: SAOIM 2014 and ELAG 2014

Let's predict the future In June I gave talks and facilitated workshop sessions at two international conferences: SAOIM 2014, the 12th Biennial Southern African Online Information Meeting which was held in Pretoria on 3-6 June and ELAG 2014, the annual European Library Automation Group Conference which was held at the University of Bath on 10-13 June.

Predicting and Planning for the Future

The theme of the SAOIM 2014 conference was “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?“. This theme reflected my participation at the two events: at the SAOIM conference I gave a plenary talk on “Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future” and facilitated a half-day workshop on “Let’s Predict the Future!” and at the ELAG conference I facilitated a workshop on “Preparing For The Future” which was split into two 90 minute sessions held on two days.

The sessions were based on my involvement in the Jisc Observatory and the papers on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” and “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” which summarised the approaches developed by Cetis and UKOLN. Following the cessation of Jisc funding for this work the methodology is being shared with organisations who wish to make use of systematic approaches to help detect technological developments of importance to organisational planning processes.

The workshop has been refined since it was delivered at the ILI 2013 conference last October, at a staff development session at the University of York in July 2013 and at the UKSG 2013 conference in April 2013. In the updated version of the workshop once ‘Delphi’ processes for identifying technological developments have been used workshop participants then make use of an ‘action brief statement’ and a risk and opportunities framework for proposing ways in which the organisation may wish to further investigate the technological developments which have been identified. The action brief statement was developed by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones for the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the risk and opportunities framework was first described in a paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and subsequently further developed to address legal risks in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“.

Reflections on SAOIM 2014

The SAOIM conference theme of “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?” was addressed by invited plenary talks and workshop sessions delivered by myself and Joe Murphy (@libraryfuture), Director of Library Futures and librarian and technology trend analyst at Innovative Interfaces. Joe gave the opening keynote talk at the conference on “Technical Analysis & Inspiration Points for Library Futures” and facilitated a workshop session on “Directions and destinations“.

Our sessions complemented each other nicely, with Joe providing exercises in getting the 60+ libraries attended his half-day workshop session to be willing to consider the implications of technological developments, including developments such as the jet pack! Although Joe was not proposing this as a likely development, it provided a useful means of getting the participants to think beyond the current technical environment.

In my session I asked the 60+ workshop participants to work in groups to identify technological developments which they feel will be important in the short term and medium term. A Google Doc containing a summary of their conclusions is available. In the workshop I then went on to provide a methodology for making a business case fro investigating the technological developments further.

Other Sessions at SAOIM 2014

"Consent that must be obtained"The programme for the SAOIM 2014 conference is available (in PDF format) and many of the slides are also available. The talk which I found of particular interest was on Online Privacy and Data Protection (see slides in MS Powerpint format).

It seems that South Africa will shortly be introducing a Protection Of Personal Information (PPI and also known as POPI) Bill which is based on the privacy requirements which EU countries have enshrined in legislation. The bill is based on eight main principles. Of particular interest was the slide which described consent which must be obtained:

žConsent that must be obtained

Before the data controller will be entitled to collect, use or process any personal information, it must obtain the prior written consent from the data subject to do so

  • Consent requirement = key feature of PPI Bill
  • Without consent no data that might have been collected may be used in any manner
  • Unlawful usage can result in huge fines & possibility of imprisonment

Although such legal requirements may not seem unreasonable the speaker went on to provide examples of the implications of the legislation:

  • You wish to provide a personalised recommendation service based on books library patrons have borrowed. You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!
  • You wish to send an email to a library patron whose books are overdue and is accruing fines.  You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!

Based on the interpretation of the law provided by the speaker it would appear that the legislation could make it difficult for services such as academic libraries to carry out existing services and develop new services unless, perhaps, they update their terms and conditions to allow them to make use of personal data. In light of the uncertainties of the implications and how organisations should respond there may well be new consultancy opportunities for the South African legal profession!

I found this session of particular interest as it highlighted potential legal barriers to the development of useful services for users and the need to understand ways in which such barriers can be addressed, whether in ensuring that terms and conditions provide sufficient flexibility to cater for a changing legal environment or, alternatively, for organisations to be willing to take risks. In the case of the PPI legislation since the person who feels their personal information is being used without their consent has to make a complaint to the appropriate authorities it seems to me that the student will the overdue books who receives a reminder will be unlikely to make a complain that they haven’t given explicit permission to receive such alerts!

Next Steps in Supporting Organisations in Predicting and Planning for the Future

The feedback from the two workshops was very positive. In light of this we will be looking to include further workshops as part of the Cetis consultancy offering. If you have an interest in this please get in touch.

 

Posted in Events, jiscobs | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Building an Accessible Digital Institution: the Next Steps

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 July 2014

Building an Accessible Digital Institution

A few weeks ago at the Cetis 2014 conference on Building the Digital Institution I facilitated a workshop session on Building an Accessible Digital Institution. The abstract for the session described how:

A digital institution should ensure that it supports the needs of students with disabilities. But how should we go about building an accessible digital institution? This session will review the strengths and weaknesses of internationally agreed approaches such as WAI’s WCAG guidelines, explore how the BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of practice may address limitations of the WAI approach and see how BS 8878 may be applied in a learning context.

However the numbers attending the session were low. What is the reason for the apparent lack of interest in accessibility of digital resources?

What is the reason for the apparent lack of interest in accessibility of digital resources?

It may be that universities feel they’ve ‘solved’ accessibility by asking their staff to ensure that content conforms with WCAG guidelines. However, a quick look at the accessibility of many university’s websites is sufficient to indicate that this ‘solution’ hasn’t had the desired effect, which is why I feel it’s important to consider how the BS 8878 code of practice can help to document achievable and realistic ways of enhancing the accessibility of institutional web resources.

And perhaps, since the threat of legal action and fines for organisations whose Web content is not accessible seems to have disappeared, there is less of an interest in this area.

If that is the case, a new driver is about to arrive, which is likely to result in institutions needing to change their approaches to accessibility – the proposed cuts next year to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

As described by Sarah Lewthwaite in a recent Guardian article entitled “Cuts to grant funding for disabled students will put their studies at risk” the proposed cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowances in 2015 “may lead to higher drop-out rates, lower grades and students struggling without support“. The article goes on to describe how:

Under the banner of modernisation, David Willetts has announced measures to cut Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) from September 2015 – grants offered to disabled students to support their studies. Without this funding – a vital support mechanism in recruitment – higher education will no longer be viable for some. For others, cuts will mean persevering without necessary support, leading to higher drop-out rates,dissatisfaction and lower educational attainment.

The article also asks Is disability in higher education being redefined? and points out that:

Proposed changes to DSA funding may fundamentally redefine disability in higher education. Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADD/ADHD, have been singled out for the largest cuts, and there is a real danger that their needs become invisible.

Shortly after the announcement of the cuts was made there was an announcement of a campaign urging all UK political parties to add digital accessibility pledges to their 2015 election manifestos. The petition begins:

We, the signatories of this petition, hereby urge every UK political party to show commitment to building an inclusive society in which all persons can participate without loss of dignity, including older persons, and persons regarded as having disabilities of any kind, independently of ability or skill, creed, race, gender, sexuality or other characteristic or preference.

A follow-up article, Funding cuts to disabled students will hit some universities hard, provides evidence of the likely impact of the cuts:

These cuts, estimated at nearly 70% of the total DSAs budget, will put the studies of disabled students at risk. DSAs currently support 53,000 disabled students, paying for assistive technologies, non-medical assistance and other costs incurred by studying with a disability.

It may be that we will see renewed interest in accessibility issues. But beyond signing a petition what else can be done?

Next Steps

BS 8878

Image from Hassell Inclusion blog – see http://www.hassellinclusion.com/bs8878/

At the IWMW 2013 event held at the University of Bath a year ago Jonathan Hassell gave a plenary talk entitled “Stop Trying to Avoid Losing and Start Winning: How BS 8878 Reframes the Accessibility Question“. At the end of the talk a show of hands showed that there was significant interest in a dedicated event which explored how BS 8878 could be applied in a university context, in particular how it could be used not only to support the provision of accessible informal resources but also in teaching and learning and research contexts.

The announcement to the cuts in the DSA is likely to result in renewed interest in institutional approaches to the provision of accessible web services. Although the numbers attending the Cetis accessibility workshop were low I did receive encouragement to revive Cetis’s work in this area, which had previously been addressed by the Cetis Accessibility SIG. I’m also pleased to say that following discussions with Sarah Lewthwaite (a disability researcher based in London) and Jonathan Hassell (lead author of the BS 8878 code of practice) we have agreed to explore the possibility of further work in this area including running an event of the applicability of BS 8878 in an educational context.

If you’re interested in how the forthcoming DSA changes may impact you, and would like to know how you can respond to the changes in a strategic way, please get in touch and we’ll send you information as it becomes available.

 

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The City and The City: Reflections on the Cetis 2014 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 June 2014

The City and The City

City_and_the_CIty

The City and the City is a novel by China Miéville. As described in Wikipedia the novel “takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully ‘unsee’ (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away.

I read the novel earlier this year. When I saw it in a bookshop over the weekend I thought of the parallels with the Cetis 2014 conference: two plenary talks which occupied the same space but which described the ‘unseeing’ of a shared history.

Cetis 2014: Building the Digital Institution

“lack of knowledge about the history of education and the history of education technology matter”

Phil Richards' keynote talk at Cetis 2014The Cetis 2014 conference, which had the theme Building the Digital Institution: Technological Innovation in Universities and Colleges, took place at the University of Bolton on 17-18 June. As described by Mark Johnson in his blog post about the event the conference “attracted 100 delegates from the UK HE and FE sectors eager to talk about the impact of interoperability, cloud computing, e-books, systems integration and learning analytics“. Mark went on to add that “the conversation has been more eager, imaginative and focused than in previous years. This was helped by the two keynotes“.

Mark was right to draw attention to the two keynotes which opened and closed the conference. After the conference had been opened by Paul Hollins scene-setting presentation, Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer at JISC gave the opening plenary talk in which he described “Innovating for the Digital Institution“. The following day Audrey Watters closed the conference with her talk on Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech.

These talks generated much discussion on the Twitter backchannel, during the conference and afterwards. I welcomed both talks for helping to stimulate such discussions but for me, although the two speakers occupied the same physical (the lecture theatre at the University of Bolton) and virtual (the ed-tech development environment) spaces, they seemed to reflect two very different spaces.

Audrey Watters talk on The Hidden History of Ed-Tech provided examples of how the history of technological developments is written by the victors which depicts a misleading picture of the past. As Audrey described in a blog post about her talk:

[this] lack of knowledge about the history of education and the history of education technology matters. 

It matters because it supports a prevailing narrative about innovation — where innovation comes from (according to this narrative, it comes from private industry, that is, not from public institutions; from Silicon Valley, that is, not from elsewhere in the world) and when it comes (there’s this fiercely myopic fixation on the future).

I agree that such things matter. Indeed a year ago I had responsibilities for the preservation of UKOLN’s digital resources which aimed at ensuring that a record of our work in helping the development of the digital environment across the UK’s higher and further education sector was not lost. And since Audrey suggested hat there was a need for multiple recollections of the history of ed-tech developments to be published in order that historians in the future will be better placed to document the history I will provide my thoughts, with links to supporting evidence, on Phil Richards’ plenary talk.

Innovating for the Digital Institution

Phil Richards Cetis talk: outlinePhil Richards’ talk on “Innovating for the Digital Institution” was very useful in summarising Jisc’s plans for innovation in their new environment. Phil explained how the changes were based on the recommendations of the Wilson review. The Wilson Review (PDF format) described how “There is a common view that it has played a pivotal role in the UK as an enabler of innovation and early and widespread adoption of ICT …. There is no comparable body within the UK, and internationally its reputation is outstanding as a strategic leader and partner” and went on to add that “JISC is unique in the UK, providing what many stakeholders have described as a “holistic approach” to the sectors’ needs, from research and innovation, to core services, resources, advice and training“. However the review went on to comment that there had been “some criticism of the breadth and complexity of JISC’s activity, and of its structure, processes and governance arrangements“.

Phil’s slides are available on Slideshare and, as shown in the accompanying images, provided the reasons why Jisc needs to innovate, reflected on the Wilson review and outlined approaches to innovation in the future.

As can be seen from the video recording of the plenary talk it seems that Jisc needs to innovate in order that Jisc will be able to survive as an organisation, since the move to commodity IT means that Jisc will face competitors in the educational technology environment.

Jisc Moves Away from Open Standards

Phil Richards Cetis talk: standardsIn the moves towards reducing the range of activities which Jisc works on Phil highlighted a move away from working with standards, and highlighted the NHS as an example of a sector in which large sums of money had been invested in the development of interoperable systems based on open standards which had failed to deliver.

In the future Jisc will seek to focus on “innovative, successful learning technology without standards” and cited Sugata Mitra’s ‘hole in the wall ‘ work as an example of successful self-organised learning which we should seek to emulate.

This criticism of an standards-based development work was very radical in a Jisc environment in which for Jisc development programmes such as eLib and the DNER/IE, a strong emphasis had always been placed on the importance of open standards.

I should mention that back in 1996 I was a contributor to the eLib standards guidelines and in February 2001 contributed to the Working with the Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER): Standards and Guidelines to Build a National Resource document (PDF format). In September 1997 in a talk on  talk on Standards in a Digital World: Z39.50, HTML, Java: Do They Really Work? I gave an uncritical summary of the importance of open standards in development programmes. However in June 2005 in a talk on JISC Standards: A Presentation To The JISC I highlighted the potential limitations of open standards.

But using a few slides which are presented to a small audience is, I feel, not an appropriate way to seek to change policies. At the time Jisc made use of posters which contained the slogan: “Interoperability through Open Standards“. Marketing people have a tendency to attempt to reduce complexities to such simple statements. There was a need t help develop a better understanding of the limitations of such views.

Along with colleagues working at UKOLN, CETIS, TechDis, AHDS and OSS Watch we published a number of peer-reviewed papers including “Ideology Or Pragmatism? Open Standards And Cultural Heritage Web Sites” (2003), ” A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes” (2005), “A Contextual Framework For Standards” (2006),  “Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards” (2007) and “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” (2007). The first paper explained how:

The importance of open standards for providing access to digital resources is widely acknowledged. Bodies such as the W3C are developing the open standards needed to provide universal access to digital cultural heritage resources. However, despite the widespread acceptance of the importance of open standards, in practice many organisations fail to implement open standards in their provision of access to digital resources. It clearly becomes difficult to mandate use of open standards if it is well-known that compliance is seldom enforced. Rather than abandoning open standards or imposing a stricter regime for ensuring compliance, this paper argues that there is a need to adopt a culture which is supportive of use of open standards but provides flexibility to cater for the difficulties in achieving this.

This paper was based on the work of the Jisc-funded QA Focus project which ran from 2002-2004. As described in the final report the project was funded by the Jisc to advice Jisc on the conformance regime which should accompany standards documents for Jisc development programmes. The project recommended that rather than mandating conformance with open standards “JISC should mandate that funded projects address QA issues at the start of the project in order to consider potential problems and the most effective method of avoiding them. JISC should also remind projects of the need to implement QA within their workflow, allowing time at each stage to reconsider previous decisions and revise them if necessary

More recently in September 2010 Cetis organised a meeting on the Future of Interoperability Standards. An Ariadne report on the meeting provided the context for the meeting:

In his opening address, JISC CETIS Director Adam Cooper emphasised that the impetus behind this meeting was a sense of growing dissatisfaction amongst many involved in standards development and implementation within education. Where the original intentions of more-or-less formal bodies such as the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Learning Technology Standards Committee (IEEE LTSC), the IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) were laudable, there has been an increasing feeling that the resource put into supporting these standards has not always borne the hoped-for fruit.

A report on the meeting highlighted the issues which had been raised in the position papers presented at the meeting, which included barriers to participation, development and adoption and the importance of supporting an open culture and community engagement in technology development and standardisation:

There is broad agreement that community engagement and openness are key factors in the development of LET standards (Hoel, 2010). Niche software developers, many coming with an open source attitude, have been especially strong advocates for open standards, arguing that their use will enable innovation to flourish. An increasing level of interest and engagement of people from open source communities will naturally drive the standards process to become more “open”. 

The importance of engaging with developers to help validate open standards and provide encouragement in the development on applications and services based on open standards has, in the past, being addressed by Cetis in Cetis ‘code bashes’ (see Engaging Developers in Standards Development; the Cetis Code Bash Approach) and the DevCSI work which was led by UKOLN.

Phil Richards Cetis talk: Standards conclusionsTo conclude, it would appear that Jisc have recognised the arguments which Cetis and UKOLN, along with several other organisations, have been making since 2003: we can’t have an uncritical belief in open standards.

Jisc may well still have to conform with the UK Government’s Open Standards Principles (which is available in PDFMS Word and ODT formats) which states that:

The publication of the Open Standards Principles is a fundamental step towards achieving a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and breaking our IT into smaller, more manageable components

But the emphasis on the value of lightweight standards reflects the advice which the former Innovation Support Centres have provided to Jisc in the past.

What seems to be missing from the new Jisc vision, however, is the community involvement in the open development of further open standards. Perhaps there is an assumption that no new standards are expected to be developed? This would be a mistake, I feel. My Cetis colleagues Phil Barker and Lorna Campbell ran a workshop session at the Cetis 2014 conference in which they asked LRMI: What on Earth Could Justify Another Attempt at Educational Metadata? As Phil described in a report on the workshop session “We really love metadata, but [had] reached a point where making ever-more elegantly complex iterations on the same idea kind of lost its appeal. So what is it that makes LRMI so different so appealing?” Phil went on to conclude that “the general feeling I had from the session was that most of the people involved thought that LRMI was a sane approach: useful, realistic and manageable“.

It would be unfortunate if Jisc and the wider community were to miss out on the benefits which emerging new standards such as LRMI can provide for the education sector. Fortunately Cetis will be continuing to work in this area.

The Jisc Forest

Phil Richards Cetis talk: Co-design work for 2013-14In addition to describing the Jisc moves away from open standards Phil went on to explain Jisc’s core areas of work. As recommended in the Wilson Review Jisc are now focussing on a small number of areas in which they hope to make significant impact.

The areas of work are agreed with the Jisc co-design partners: RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA. In 2013/14 these areas were Access and identity management; National monograph strategy; Summer of student innovation; Digital student; Open mirror; Spotlight on the digital and Extending Knowledge Base +.

Following on from this work five additional new areas of work have been prioritised with four areas being mentioned in Phil’s presentation: (1) research at risk; (2) effective learner analysis; (3) from prospect to alumnus and (4) building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency.

Phil used a forest metaphor to describe this new approach: in the eLib days in the mid to late 1990s it was explained how Jisc were encouraging a thousand flowers to bloom in order to help build capacity across the sector and help ensure that there was abroad understanding of the value of the networked environment across the sector. However in light of funding constraints there will be less experimentation and less risk-taking; rather key areas of particular relevant to the co-design partners will be identified which will form the focus of development work in the future.

Tweet about Phil Richards' talkAs can be seen from the Storify archive of tweets posted during the talk this metaphor caused a certain amount of confusion. During the questions I asked a question based on this metaphor. To paraphrase what I said then “If Jisc are now building a forest containing five types of tree, who will develop the flowers, the shrubs and the hedges? And what would happen if, in three years time when institutions can chose whether of not to buy in to Jisc’s offering, they feel that the flowers, the shrubs and the hedges provide better value for money?

Towards Orciny – the Rumoured Third City

Audrey Waters keynote talk at Cetis 2014In The City and The City it is rumoured that a third city, Orciny, exists in the interstices between one city and another, unseen by occupants of both which has a hidden history. Is there a edu-tech city to be found beyond the forested Jiscdom?

I personally do not feel that the Jisc vision as described by Phil Richards will provide a environment in which those involved in ed-tech will feel at home. For me the future needs to be based on listening and engagement. As Mark Johnson put itwe should hope that the critical debate about those technologies, their implementation and development serves to give us permission to ask the questions about education that urgently need to be asked“. Those who wish to be involved in the discussion and in facilitating the discussion must not hide behind statements such as “people above my pay grade make the key decisions“.

This vision of the future is not based on a proclamation that “We are the UK’s expert on digital technologies for education and research” but on facilitation and support: the experts, I feel, are embedded across the sector and don’t work for a single organisation.

But I think it is also inevitable that the edu-tech future will be more fragmented. In the past the broad Jisc family could provide a leadership role across a wide range of areas. But the refocussing of work will mean the missing void is likely to be filled by a range of service providers, advisory bodies and consultants. I feel that Cetis will have an important role to play in that space. I hope that this will involve continuing to work with institutions, other bodies across the sector and with Jisc itself – but without buying in to the Jisc vision of the future!

As I said earlier I enjoyed the two keynote talks at the Cetis 2014 conference which did succeed in stimulating discussion and debate. If you didn’t attend the conference video recordings of the plenary talks and the accompanying slides are embedded below and are also available form YouTube and Slideshare. I’d welcome your thoughts on these contrasting talks.

Phil Richard’s plenary talk on Innovating for the Digital Institution

Video recording (on YouTube):

Slides for Phil Richards’ plenary talk (on Slideshare)

Audrey Watters’ plenary talk on Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech

Video recording (on YouTube)

Slides for Audrey Watters’ plenary talk (on Slideshare)


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

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Update on Plans for #IWMW14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 June 2014

IWMW 2014: Update on the Programme

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The public announcement that the IWMW 2014 event would be held, under changed management, was made on this blog on 20 January 2014. The following month the IWMW 2014 Web site was launched and the call for proposals was made. On 14 April 2014 the IWMW 2014 programme was announced. This was followed by a series of guest blog posts on Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?Wake Up and Face the Digital RealityBuilding Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud PlatformI Do UX – Do You? and Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again in which speakers at this year’s event have introduced their talks.

Since the event takes place in less than three weeks’ time, on 16-18 July, it is timely to provide a further update on plans for the event.

Beyond the Plenary Talks

Although the plenary talks will provide a shared context for all participants at the event, an important aspect of the event are the workshop sessions, in which all participants should have the opportunity to participate actively, share institutional and personal experiences and concerns and engage in discussions and, perhaps even disagreements and arguments.

In this respect the IWMW event has many parallels with the Cetis conference.  As described in Mark Johnson’s report on the recent Cetis 2014 conference:

The #cetis14 conference at the University of Bolton has been a great success. Although run on a self-funding basis for the first time (and consequently using the facilities of its home institution for the first time), it still attracted 100 delegates from the UK HE and FE sectors eager to talk about the impact of interoperability, cloud computing, e-books, systems integration and learning analytics. If anything, the conversation has been more eager, imaginative and focused than in previous year. [my emphasis]

Mark’s blog post was entitled #cetis14: Granting permission to ask questions about education. It may seem strange to talk about “granting permission to ask questions about education” in our context but as Mark explained we do seem to be moving to an environment in which important policy decisions about the future of education and the role of technology in supporting teaching and learning and research activities across the sector are being made in a top-down fashion with broader discussions being marginalised:

 I thought, the value of JISC projects was that they gave participants permission to think about education, in circumstances where this would otherwise have been impossible. It was this business of ‘asking questions about education’ which seemed curiously absent from the vision of the ‘new JISC': it seemed that the new JISC vision is to think about keeping JISC going, not thinking about education. When explicitly asked about who in JISC was asking the ‘big questions’, the response given was “people above my pay grade”.

In contrast to the changes in the Jisc environment, the IWMW 2014 event will adopt similar approaches to those taken at the Cetis 2014 conference: we will encourage participants to ask “big questions” and engage in conversations about the role of the Web in supporting institutional activities.

Facilitating the Discussions, the Sharing and the Community-Building

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Is content king? Should events ensure that their main focus should be on hosting proven quality speakers and ensuring the the event organisation runs smoothly?

These are, of course, important. But at IWMW events we have felt that “communications, rather than content, is king“.We will be providing a number of workshop sessions which are designed to facilitate communications. But in addition to the formal sessions at the event we will also be providing a number of social events which provide opportunities for informal networking opportunities and discussions.

On the evening of the first day, Wednesday 16 July, the workshop dinner will be held in the Great Hall of the Sutherland Building at Northumbria University. The following day a drinks reception will be held at the Great North Museum (Hancock). As can be seen from the accompanying image (taken from the Wikipedia entry for the Great North Museum: Hancock)  we should be able to see the T Rex in the Dinosaur hall. Or perhaps participants will wish to visit the Elephant display.

While we are having nibbles and drinking wine at the reception we might wish to consider some of the big questions. These might include: “Are we a dinosaur in today’s dynamic web environment?” or “Are we a white elephant?” These are questions which might be worth reflecting on from time to time. But perhaps more pertinently are questions such as “What role does the web professional have in today’s web environment?” “How relevant are Cloud services for delivering mission-critical services?” (a question, incidentally, which was addressed at the Cetis 2014 conference)? and “How do we engage our user communities in the development of new services?

We will not grant participants permission to ask such questions: rather we expect participants to raise these and other challenging question!

In brief, we will aim to provide high quality content with high quality organisation. But we will also provide a high quality experience for participants which will be based on the opportunities to interact with one’s and engage in discussions and debate.

I hope to see you at Northumbria University in a few week’s time. But if you are intended to attend the event please book quickly as the official closing date is just a week away- Friday 4 July!

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Guest Post: Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 17 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event is rapidly approaching- this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. So if you haven’t book your place yet, do so quickly!

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Martin Morrey, Web Integration Manager at the University of Edinburgh provides the background to his plenary talk on Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.

Martin’s talk will open the third and final day of the IWMW 2014 event.


Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey's talk highlighted

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey’s talk highlighted

Apologies to all for the late arrival of this blog post, but I’ve just spent three of the most intense weeks of my working life helping to upgrade the University of Edinburgh’s web portal, MyEd.

Reflecting on this experience has taken me back a masterclass delivered by the intranet usability guru Gerry McGovern, which I attended in 2008. At one point during the day, Gerry started talking about portals …

“For years, I’ve been going around asking people what a portal is, and I still don’t really know. The best definition I’ve come up with is: ‘A portal is like a website….except it takes five times longer to develop.‘”

Not for the first time that day, this was a cue for much hilarity.  For a long time afterwards, I was the smug website guy, pitying the lot of the poor, self-deluding, portal people in the office across the corridor.

Gradually though, I became more and more intrigued by the challenge of making a better portal.  Eventually I made the fatal mistake of commenting on the University’s portal here and there, and lo-and-behold in late 2011 I was put in charge of it.

Web portals were a concept that was born, and to a large extent abandoned again, in the mid-noughties.   However, in the education sector it seems to have hung around, presumably because it does actually deliver some value.

So what is a portal?  Is it just a list of useful links, or a personalised information hub, or a completely customisable experience?  In our case it is a bit of all of these things. What it should be though, is an experience centred on the needs and priorities of the end-user, which actually makes their life easier, as well as supporting the process needs of the institution.

The University of Edinburgh’s portal system was established in the noughties with great investment and fanfare, but later-on other IT priorities took over. So, ironically, a system that was meant to be dynamic, flexible and focussed,  ended up feeling static, out-of-date, and cluttered.

Improving our portal from there has been a slow process. Portal systems have integrations-with and dependencies-on a whole range of other information systems. When we upgrade our portal, updating and testing all these integrations is a real headache.   We are working on a better way of doing this, but in the meantime, we just have to live with it.

Just like a website, a portal needs really active monitoring and management, if it is to continue to meet everyone’s needs effectively.  Unlike a website however, tools like Google Analytics don’t give you the information you need to do this off-the-shelf. The first I thing I did with MyEd, was to find a way to get meaningful analytics on the usage of its content.

Our analytics revealed that mobile users seemed to prefer the clunky, desktop-optimised interface of our web portal, over the trendy native-app that had been rolled-out just the year before. We didn’t have the resources to get the best out of both, so since then we have focussed our mobile effort on developing a mobile-friendly skin for the portal.

My team has used its portal analytics, the results of user surveys, and student input, to inform the design of new layouts and interfaces for our portal.  I’ll be presenting the full story of this process, and some of the initial outcomes, at IWMW 2014 in my plenary Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.


About the author

Martin MorreyMartin Morrey is the manager of the Web Integration Team at the University of Edinburgh, with responsibility for portal, wiki, web hosting and web development services.  He has been working with the web for 18 years, and the mobile web for 14 years (remember WAP?).

He presented at EDUCAUSE last year on “Adding Analytics to the University Portal”.

Formerly an e-learning specialist and software entrepreneur, he won a SMART award in 2000 to develop a mobile-learning system and was co-founder of Intrallect Ltd.

 

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Guest Post: I Do UX – Do You?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 16 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event starts a month today – this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July.

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Neil Allison tells us that he ‘does’ user experience (UX) but wonders if he is alone.

Neil is giving a plenary talk on “Marketing is dead, long live UX” from 11.00-11.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014. He will also facilitate with Bruce Darby a workshop session on “Making Personas Work” from 16.00-17.30 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


I Do UX – Do You?

IWMW 2014 programme, with Neil Allison's talk highlighted

Neil Allison will give a talk on user experience on the second day at IWMW 2014.

I love the IWMW conferences. Always come away with new ideas and food for thought. Always meet good people. But I’ve been thinking about what I don’t get from the IWMW. And it’s this thought that’s prompted me to speak at this year’s conference.

I’ve been working in public sector (and mainly UK HE) for 15 years and attending IWMW since 2006. In that time there has been a lot of change in terms of online content and service management in the sector.

And over this period there has been a huge growth generally in awareness of online usability and latterly the competitive advantage leveraged from improved user experience. But while user experience teams are cropping up in all sorts of commercial organisations, we’re not seeing it in higher education.

This brings me back to what I don’t get out of IWMW. I don’t get a sense of a UX community within the sector. I don’t tend to meet people who do the same kind of things as me. I do meet lots of people interested in usability and user experience but not much in the way of active practitioners.

At first I thought: “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not moving in the right circles or I’ve missed the year when UX was the hot topic.” But taking a look about online reassured me I’m not paranoid :)

Very little turns up on previous conference schedules around UX or usability. The last item was me in Edinburgh in 2012 doing a workshop on our experiences in user centred design. And the JISC usability mailing list is awfully quiet.

A couple of years ago, Dan Jackson at UCL asked the usability mailing list:

I’m wondering out loud how many HEI’s in the UK have positions directly responsible for improving the user experience, interaction design and information architecture of their institutional web sites and web applications? A quick scan of the last 12 months’ activity on this list, and a perusal of the web/digital jobs currently being advertised at jobs.ac.uk, shows the usual mix of adverts for web developers and web content editors, but nothing related to UX or IA. This is in stark contrast to private sector companies, who are recruiting UX consultants like there’s no tomorrow…

Chatting with Dan this week, it seems like he wasn’t overwhelmed with responses to his question. Which is a shame because it’s a very important question.

It’s basically the question I’m asking and attempting to answer in my plenary talk.

My talk at IWMW 2014: “Marketing is dead, long live UX!

I have my opinions, and those of a few people like Dan who think aloud from time to time.

UX survey for UK Higher Education web managers

But what about you? What do you think?

I’ve set up a short survey to gather some experiences from around our sector and feed them into my talk (and probably a blog post too).

Please spare me a couple of minutes to contribute your views and perhaps outline what is happening at your institution.

Take part in my survey – the state of UX in UK higher education.

I’m getting excited already about the conference as it’s not so far off now. Hopefully I’ll be able to prompt a bit of reflection, stir up a bit of controversy and continue the conversation with a few of you…


Neil Allison

About the author

Neil Allison is Head of User Experience for the University Website Programme at the University of Edinburgh.

He believes everyone has responsibility for user experience, and with a background in education and training, works to give colleagues the skills and confidence to conduct their own research and inform their work. He is an active member of the Scottish chapter of the UX Professionals Association.

Neil is currently playing the role of product owner in the agile development of a new University CMS and leading the evolution of the website’s information architecture.


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Planning for the Future: A Keynote Talk at the SAOIM 2014 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 June 2014

SAOIM 2014

Futures sidebarI’m pleased to have been invited to give a plenary talk at the SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) 2014 conference. The conference takes place in Pretoria on 4-5th June, with workshops being held on 3rd and 6th June.

I will be giving the opening talk on the second day of the conference. The title of my talk is “Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future“. In addition to this talk I will also be facilitating a half-day workshop on “Let’s Predict the Future!” on 3rd June.

Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future

The talk and the accompanying workshop are based on my involvement with the JISC Observatory and the accompanying papers on “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” and “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“. The former of these papers was presented to Norwegian librarians at the EMTACL 2012 conference and the latter to (primarily) British librarians at the Umbrella 2013 conference. I am pleased to have this opportunity to disseminate this work with librarians from southern Africa.

Towards the end of the talk I mention one development which was highlighted in the NMC Horizon Report, Higher Education 2014 edition as having a deployment horizon of one year or less: the Flipped Classroom. As described in Wikipedia:

Flip teaching or a flipped classroom is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, flipped classroom, reverse teaching, and the Thayer Method.

We might describe flipped professional development as a form of blended learning by which professionals learn new skills by viewing resources in advance and being able to reflect on the ideas and discuss them with their peers  so that the session itself can address issues in more depth. I am therefore happy to announce that the slides I will use are available on Slideshare and are embedded at the bottom of this blog post. Comments on the slides are welcome!


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Higher Education Web Survey

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2014

TerminalFour’s Long-standing Support for IWMW

Terminal Four survey formFor several years TerminalFour has been a sponsor of IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop. This year is no different. As described on TerminalFour’s Web site:

TERMINALFOUR is once again a sponsor of one of the UK’s premier events for institutional web management teams – IWMW. The event takes place at Northumbria University on the 16-18th of July 2014.

IWMW has grown into a unique forum to share best practice, hear about new developments and discuss their relevance with peers. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Rebooting the Web’. The conference will explore what ‘reboot’ means for web teams. 

Higher Education Web Survey

In return for the financial support for the event I am happy to highlight TerminalFour’s current Higher Education Web Survey. As described by Laura Murphy, Head of Client Relations and Support:

If you work in a web, content, marketing, communications or senior management position in higher education I would be delighted if you could please take 5 minutes to complete our Higher Education Web Survey. You will be automatically entered into a draw to win €/$/£100 Amazon voucher for your troubles and will be among the first to receive a detailed report of the findings of this survey.  We’d also appreciate if you would share the survey – http://surveysandforms.com/e517uy93-67ufh69

If you are a customer of TerminalFour I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to chat with you at the IWMW 2014 event.


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Guest Post: Building Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud Platform

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In a series of guest blog posts speakers at the forthcoming IWMW 2014 event have been providing an introduction to their talks in order to stimulate interest in their ideas and solicit feedback and comments prior to the event – an example of ‘flipped lectures‘ which can provide opportunities for more considered reflections on new ideas provided at a conference.

In today’s guest post Sharif Salah, Senior Systems Engineer at the University of Portsmouth introduces his talk on “Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform”.

Sharif will give his plenary talk on the second day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 09.00-09.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


Building cost-effective, flexible and scalable education resources using Google Cloud Platform

This will be my first time attending the IWMW event, and I’m grateful to fellow speaker Martin Hawksey who highly recommended the event to me. I’m excited and fortunate to be both attending and speaking this year. I first met Martin in 2012 at the annual European Google Apps for Education user group meeting #GEUG12 where we were also both speaking. At that time I had been working with Google Apps for a little over three years and there was a sense that the Higher Education community was growing relatively comfortable with the principles and concepts behind Software as a Service (SaaS).

In fact my colleagues and I at the University of Portsmouth had begun to explore the use of other types of cloud technology to extend the capabilities offered by the Google Apps services. For example, we built a largely cloud-based student portal primarily using Google Sites and then used Google App Engine to provide bespoke functionality such as the delivery of assessment results, that was highly specific to an education context and wasn’t readily available as part of Google Apps. In 2012 Google App Engine was often described as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that allowed developers to deploy application level code without having to worry about the burden of looking after the underlying infrastructure. Today Google App Engine is part of a growing collection of tightly integrated services that make us Google Cloud Platform and include additional services for storage, compute and data analysis.

I’ve continued to build on my knowledge of Google Cloud Platform and earlier this year it led to Google awarding me entry into the Google Developer Experts (GDE) program for 2014. A large part of our activities as GDEs relates to both community engagement and public speaking, and I spend a lot of my time volunteering help with colleagues from both the education and business communities make the most of their introduction to the cloud.

One big shift I’ve observed in recent months within the cloud community is that the model I describe above with clear demarcation between SaaS, PaaS and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) layers is hindering the way that we build and architect our IT services in HE and other large enterprise environments. All too often I find that developers try to shoehorn their requirements into one model or another. However it’s often the case that one layer of the cloud model doesn’t provide enough flexibility, at other times it comes at the cost of too high a management overhead. Google Cloud Platform is helping to define a new way of working across cloud boundaries and this in itself presents us with new challenges as we try to learn to use the new tools effectively. One big theme of my talk will be to share my experience of working across these layers in the process of building hybrid cloud solutions.

Perhaps more importantly for this audience I also look forward to the opportunity to share some of the work we have undertaken at the University of Portsmouth to build new services for our students that might not have previously been possible or practical prior to the availability of cloud services. Over the past year we’ve experimented with the use of Chromebooks for exams, Google Compute Engine to deliver Linux resources for teaching and research as well as the operational use of Cloud Storage for the delivery of content as part of student-facing services. Higher Education is a unique environment that brings with it challenges and opportunities that often don’t apply to the world of business and this is particularly true of cloud services.


Biographical details

Sharif SalahSharif Salah has worked with Google technologies since early 2009 when he began a role as a Google Apps technical lead in Higher Education. Along the way this has given him the good fortune to be involved in evangelising extensively and affecting change and progress on the adoption and integration of Google Apps, Cloud Storage and App Engine both internationally and locally. More recently he has become immersed in and advocate on Google Cloud Platform, open source software as well as mobile app development and strategy.

Sharif is a frequent public speaker and spends time working with both education and startups on making the most of their move to the cloud. He is a Google Developer Expert for 2014 and a Google Qualified Developer for Google Cloud Platform.

Contact details:


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Accessibility for E-learning: What We Can do Today and in the Future

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 May 2014

The Cetis 2014 Conference: Building the Digital Institution

The theme for the Cetis 2014 conference is “Building the Digital Institution“. As described in the conference abstract:

Each year the Cetis conference provides a unique opportunity for developers, learning technologists, lectures and policy makers to come together to discuss recent innovations in the domain of education technology. This year’s conference focuses on the digital institution and explores how technology innovation can support and develop every aspect of university and college life, for teachers and learners, researchers and developers, service directors and senior managers.

The conference will open with a keynote talk from Phil Richards, the Jisc Chief Innovation Officer. The closing talk will be given by Audrey Watters, a Technology Journalist. If you’d like to hear more about Audrey’s talk a 60 second interview ahead of #cetis14 has been published on the Cetis blog.

Parallel Session: Building an Accessible Digital Institution

Abstract for the accessibility session at Cetis conference. Full details at http://www.cetis.ac.uk/2014-cetis-conference/building-accessible-digital-institution/ Although the two plenary talks will provide a shared context for participants at the conference the most important aspect of Cetis conferences has always been the parallel workshop sessions.

One important aspect to consider when looking to build the digital institution is to ensure that the digital institution is an accessible institution.

In the early days of the development of Web-based learning environments the Web accessibility content guidelines (WCAG) developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) were felt to provide a framework for the creation of universally accessible Web resources and services.

However we now know that the development of accessible Web services is more complex than simply following a set of guidelines. As summarised in the abstract of a paper on “A challenge to web accessibility metrics and guidelines: putting people and processes first

This paper argues that web accessibility is not an intrinsic characteristic of a digital resource but is determined by complex political, social and other contextual factors, as well as technical aspects which are the focus of WAI standardisation activities. It can therefore be inappropriate to develop legislation or focus on metrics only associated with properties of the resource.

But if institutions need to look before WCAG guidelines, what should they be doing? In the parallel session on Building an Accessible Digital Institution myself and Andy Heath will try to provide answers to this question.

In the first half of the half-day session we will review the limitations of the WCAG approach and describe how the BS 8878 standard, with its focus on policies and processes, seeks to address these limitations. We will explore how BS 8878 can be used in the context of e-learning.

In the second half of the session we will look at new developments, models and ways of thinking about accessibility.

We will welcome brief case studies from participants at the session who may be working in this area.  Please get in touch if you would like to contribute.

Note that registration details for the Cetis conference are available on the Cetis web site.


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Guest Post: Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 20 May 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.In the first guest post provided by a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2014 event Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, asked “Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?“.

In today’s guest post Paul Boag, co-founder of the digital agency Headscape and regular speaker at IWMW events, urges those working in institutional Web management teams to “Wake Up and Face the Digital Reality“. Paul will give a plenary talk on “Digital Adaptation: Time to Untie Your Hands” on the opening day of the IWMW 2014 event, from 15.45-16.30 on Wednesday 16 July 2014.


Wake up and face the digital reality

IWMW 2014 programme

The opening day at IWMW 2014 provides talks from experienced speakers from the commercial sector including one from Paul Boag.

It’s time for us to face an uncomfortable reality — the way we are approaching digital is not working. I am not talking about how our institutions are approaching digital, although there are problems with that. I am talking about how we approach it as digital specialists. We are failing our organisations and feeling frustrated in our jobs.

We see so much potential. But if we continue to follow our present path, we will not fulfil our potential.

Our digital vision won’t succeed

We all share a similar vision for the future of digital and education. A day when students have a joined up, integrated digital experience. From their first encounter with a university until they are a well established alumni.

We talk of augmented reality apps to help freshers find their way around campus. E-learning environments that widen the reach of the university. Student portals that save users time and the institution money. Unfortunately, this vision is never going to happen if we continue working the way we are.

At the moment every step is a battle. We fight management, get resources, navigate committees, deal with politics and resist scope creep. By the time we succeed in putting one part of our vision in place it has become out of date. We complete one redesign just in time to start the next.

We need to adopt a different approach.

Our tactics have failed

Many of us have resigned ourselves to “the reality of university life”. We work the best we can within the system, making small incremental changes. We hope that one day, somebody with authority will realise how broken the system is.

We hope that maybe this will be the last redesign of the site, with management realising the need for ongoing evolution. That this time governance will be just as important as a new visual appearance.

We spend our days addressing symptoms. We struggle to stop yet another pointless mobile app or unnecessary microsite. We endeavour to set standards and bring order. But never do we address the fundamental problem. We never try and fix our organisations.

After all is beyond our pay grade. That has to come from the executive. But how are they going to know what needs doing? How are they going to even recognise the problem? They are not digital experts.

We fear moving beyond addressing symptoms because it means sticking our heads above the parapet. It means risking stepping on somebody else’s shoes. Most of all it means venturing into areas that we are not experts in.

But here is the thing — nobody is an expert in this kind of digital transformation. It’s new and scary but sooner or later things will have to change.

What it does offer is a unique opportunity that we must grasp.

The opportunity of digital transformation

Digital transformation has crept up the agenda of both public and private organisations. From the British Government to Starbucks, organisations are restructuring for the digital age. These high profile digital projects provides us with a unique opportunity to do more than treat the symptoms.

Now is the time to show management the barriers that prevent your institution adapting to digital. No more working within the constraints imposed on you. Challenge the operating procedures of the past and become agents for change.

Digital transformation projects in well known organisations gives us a precedent. But, we still need to present an attractive vision that gets the executive on board.

Forming an attractive vision for change

As digital professionals we are often bad at communicating the need for change. We talk about user requirements, frustration with organisational structures and the need for speed. But the truth is management don’t care about things like that. They don’t care because they cannot see the connections to things that matter to them.

If we want to see change happen in our institutions we need to speak in terms management care about. We need to help them make the connections. We can do this by focusing on three areas:

  1. Opportunities that will benefit the institution.
  2. Threats that could disrupt the status quo.
  3. Possible cost savings.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Highlight opportunities

Management are always looking for new opportunities. In the case of senior management that is opportunities that benefit the whole institution.

For example, don’t waste your breadth talking about the need to make your website mobile friendly. Instead talk about how a mobile friendly website will help attract overseas students from Asia. These students are valuable to the institution and rely on mobile devices. Use data to backup these claims and you have a compelling case.

Middle management are a bit trickier. They don’t care so much about the bigger picture. Instead they are more focused on their own position and influence.

Moaning about their blinkered vision does not help. Recognise they are in a vulnerable position and work hard to present arguments that make their lives easier.

Take for example forming a digital transformation team. This often involves consolidating staff from other departments. Soften the blow by suggesting secondment rather than a permanent move. You might even suggest this is only for a limited time. Anything to prevent managers feeling that you are stealing their staff. They will interpret this as an attempt to undermine their position.

Try suggesting to management that they want somebody on the digital transformation team. This will ensure they have somebody representing their ideas on the ‘inside’.

Use threats

Another powerful weapon in your arsenal is fear. Large institutions are reluctant to embrace new opportunities. They don’t see a need to change what has worked so well in the past. But if you can prove that past tactics will no longer work they will respond to this threat.

Spend time talking about the threats to the higher education sector. Competition from educational startups, shifts in student expectations, changes in student behaviour. The list could go on.

Reference sectors that have been decimated because they were too slow to act when change came. Talk about how the music industry had a clear sign that things were changing when Napster arrived, but how they failed to act. Apple stepped in with iTunes and HMV and Tower Records went out of business. Also reference stories like Kodak, Blockbusters and many newspapers. There are no shortage of stories that show the cost of failing to adapt.

The key here is demonstrating that not acting will lead to disaster. Change is coming anyway. Those who fail to adapt will become extinct.

Focus on cost savings

Finally, talk about cost savings. Money talks, even in a large institution like a university. At the moment most universities are inefficient in the way they manage digital assets. Each part of the organisation is doing its own thing. If you can show how a single approach to digital can save money it will get the executives attention.

I recently helped a higher education institution put together a case for digital transformation. As part of that I met with a member of senior management to explain why this needed to happen. We covered a lot of ground, but one simple argument won the day. We calculated that to redesign all school websites using the current approach would take seven years. If we implemented a transformation plan that figure would be closer to seven months. We could achieve this by restructuring how things worked. There were no extra costs. This simple argument of more results for the same money was enough to tip the balance.

Talking the language of management will get their attention. But, highlighting threats, opportunities and even cost savings is not enough. You must also present a clear plan for change.

Providing a clear vision

Let’s imagine for a moment that you have persuaded management that change needs to happen. That the way you currently work is failing and they give you free reign to change. What would you do?

Often we moan about the current state of affairs, but lack a clear vision of how we want things to be. We focus too much on fixing the immediate problems with our process, rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Lets take a moment to consider what our roadmap for change might look like. The first step is to form a digital transformation team.

Form a digital transformation team

Most public institutions have expertise scattered across the organisation. They have web developers, IT specialists, content creators, photographers. Often they have all the skills they need, but they are not working together.

Step one is to bring these people together into a digital transformation team. Notice the name I have chosen. There are two parts to it:

  1. Digital: The implication is that this is more than the web. You cannot consider social media, the web, email or mobile apps in isolation. They are apart of one whole.
  2. Transformation: This is not a service team. It doesn’t exist to serve other departments. Its mandate is to change working practices across the institution.

This team should not support the ongoing maintenance of existing digital assets. If things are going to change, updates and fixes cannot distract them. Too many web teams spend the majority of their time providing support for the existing site. Form a separate support team for that job and put new development projects on hold.

Once the digital transformation team is in place, start looking at customer requirements.

Map customer journeys

Any digital transformation project has to start with the user. For too long institutions approach to digital looked inwards. They focused on what it was they wanted to say. This led to a proliferation of content. Many institutional websites run into hundreds of thousands of pages.

One of the best ways to break this thinking is to focus on user needs. This provides an opportunity to rebuild digital assets from scratch. No more porting content from the old site to the new.

Mapping the customer journey identifies user goals when interacting with an institution. They outline the various touch points users use to achieve those goals.

Some argue that as an institution they already have a good idea how users behave. But, behaviour has changed since the arrival of digital. It is important to step back and understand exactly how things have changed.

Customer journeys help show that much of your website’s content is not required. They also help identify organisational problems. For example, they show how many departments prospective students have to deal with. Unfortunately these departments rarely present the same message. Customer journeys shows that to serve the needs of students you may have to make organisational changes.

With a clear idea of who your customers are and what they want to achieve it is time to move onto the prototype stage.

Build a prototype

When the Government Digital Service (GDS) began its digital transformation project it started small. It took a handful of people and built a prototype site. This site only encompassed the first few levels. It then deep linked into existing content on other government sites. This became known as alpha.gov.uk and we can learn much from this approach.

First, it allowed the government digital team to bypass the normal sign off process. Because they were only creating a prototype they didn’t need to get approval for every part. Some higher education institutions have adopted this approach with dramatic results. One institution even achieved design sign-off in less than two week!

Second, it allowed them to show other stakeholders what the future might look like in a much more tangible way than a written report. When people could see the possibilities in a working site they were much more inclined to listen.

Finally, building a prototype allowed the team to gather real data about user behaviour. This helped them to build a compelling case to support their new approach. It was no longer about opinion but rather hard numbers.

Form a digital framework

Digital transformation projects should lead to the creation of a digital framework.

This digital framework consists of guides, policies and processes needed to support the new way of working. They outline what needs doing and methods for achieving those goals.

Although this framework will vary between organisations, typical elements might include:

  • Key performance indicators.
  • User personas.
  • Top tasks.
  • Design pattern library.
  • Content style guide.
  • Accessibility policy.
  • Business objectives.
  • Content management policy.
  • Responsibility assignment matrix.
  • Analytics dashboards.
  • Working processes.
  • Service standards.

This framework is like the GDS service manual. It provides the institution with a pattern for working on digital projects. The digital transformation team should use this pattern. But other internal teams and even third parties should also work within this framework.

In short the digital framework helps educate colleagues about best practice.

Educate and disband

The primary role of the digital transformation team is to bring about organisational change. This will only happen through a programme of education.

What must not happen is for the digital transformation team to become yet another silo in the organisation. It needs to engage with colleagues across the organisation at every level. The aim should be to help them better understand the role of digital.

The best analogy for this role is that of Chief Electricity Officer in the 1900s. The arrival of electricity was changing business, but most organisations were unsure how to use it. Their solution was to appoint Chief Electricity Officers to help them make the transition.

Today the idea of a Chief Electricity Officer seems absurd. Electricity is ubiquitous and none of us would be able to do our jobs without it. Yet, at the time they needed somebody to show them the way. Somebody to help them make that transition. We don’t have Chief Electricity Officers today because they did their job in the 1900s.

In the same way, the job of a digital transformation team is to make the use of digital ubiquitous across the organisation. Their ultimate aim is to become redundant, with digital embedded in the DNA of their institution.

Maintaining this aim is essential. One day we will no longer need digital transformation teams. Transformation is a finite process.

This goal is important for two reasons. First it makes it clear that the aim is to empower others to use digital, not manage it in a single team. Second, it helps reduce the political backlash associated with the creation of a new team. Some middle management will feel threatened by having their team members and areas of authority taken away. Knowing it will not be forever maybe of some reassurance.

How long we will need digital transformation teams will depend. But, if one day they are not disbanded then they have failed. Failed to change their institution’s mindset from thinking of digital as a bolt on to digital being ubiquitous.


About the author

Paul BoagPaul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the digital agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy.

Paul is a prolific writer having written Digital AdaptationWebsite Owners ManualClient Centric Web Design and numerous articles for publications such as .net magazineSmashing Magazine and theeconsultancy.com.

Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both atconferences across the world and on his award winning web design podcast boagworld.

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The Plenary Talk as an Opportunity for Hands-on Activities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 May 2014

Traditional Lecture must DIE!

10 reasons to ditch lecturesThe “Traditional Lecture must DIE” argued Phil Root in a (err) TEDx lecture in September 2012. In the video he cited research which suggested that students learning is more effective when active engagement techniques are provided (5 minutes into the video).

Last Thursday an article in the Guardian’s Higher Education Network gave “Ten reasons we should ditch university lectures“.

Currently there have been 367 comments made to this article. If you have an interest in the relevance of lectures in teaching you may wish to contribute to the discussions. However my interest is in the effectiveness of plenary talks at conferences. A question I’d like to address is “Can we make use of interactive techniques in large-scale lecture theatres?” including conferences used for professional development.

The Plenary Talk as an Opportunity for Hands-on Activities

At the UKSG 2013 conference I recall a plenary talk by Laurel Haak on ORCID: Connecting research and researchers. As flagged at the very start of the video recording of the talk Laurel invited those who had a mobile computer with them to register for an ORCID ID during the talk. “Here is the challenge to you” Laurel said 2 minutes 50 second into her talk “Anyone who has a computer and you don’t already have an ORCID identifier please take about 30 seconds to register for one“.

I have used this approach myself when talking about researcher IDs. Last week I spoke at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference and used this approach again, but this time to encourage participants to sign up for a Wikipedia account.

I was pleased that during the talk one delegate announced:

Inspired by to create Wikipedia account!!

I had announced that the talk would provide an opportunity for a CPD activity – I was pleased to be able to see evidence that this activity was successfully completed by at least one conference delegate.

Further Approaches for Encouraging Take-up of Wikipedia

Storify summary of cilipw14 twets about Wikipedia talkIn the opening talk at the conference, John Griffith, the Minister for Culture and Sport in the Welsh Government told the audience of the importance of the importance of gathering evidence of the ways in which librarians are engaging with their communities. He also encouraged Welsh librarians to “Make yourself heard!

Although I had planned the Wikipedia user registration activity, the inspirational opening talk made me wonder how I could adapt my presentation to relate to such political considerations. The theme of the CILIP Wales 2014 conference was “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. In my presentation I argued that librarians who supported their users in use of Wikipedia, which included creating and updating Wikipedia articles would be a way of engaging with communities in an effective way in light of the popularity of Wikipedia. A show of hands confirmed that Wikipedia was not only popular with the users: the vast majority of the audience made use of Wikipedia with only one (brave!) lady admitting that she had never visited Wikipedia.

Gathering Evidence of Take-up of Wikipedia

But how might we gather evidence of use of Wikipedia by librarians, which might be used as evidence of how librarians are engaging in a rapidly changing information environment? In my presentation I suggested that after spending about 60 seconds in creating a Wikipedia account the next step should be to create a Wikipedia profile page and I gave examples of a simple profile and a slightly more advanced profile which might provide inspiration for a profile page for new Wikipedia editors.

Since the majority of the audience were librarians working in Wales I showed the Wikipedians in Wales page and highlighted two examples of profile pages: one in which the user is willing to share their interests and one in which the user chooses to remains anonymous. I noticed that the Wikipedians in Wales page currently contains 136 entries. Looking at the history of this page it seems that the version of the page in July 2005 also contained 136 entries. It seems that embedding the relevant [category] tag in user profile pages hasn’t taken off. If the hundred of so who were present on the first day of the CILIP Wales conference were to sign up for a Wikipedia account, create a user profile and include the following line in their profile

[[Category:Wikipedians in Wales]]

we would have significant evidence of take-up in Wikipedia in Wales.

Furthermore the Wikipedian librarians page currently contains 267 entries. If you are a librarian and have a Wikipedia account, why wouldn’t you add the following to your user profile:

[[Category:Wikipedian librarians]]

Reflections

I have created a Storify archive of tweets related to my presentation as this enables me to reflect on comments made. I particularly welcomed the comment:

absolutely agree with , if so many are using , it can’t be dismissed by info professionals, realise & engage

Audience at IWMW 2013I have given a number of Wikipedia sessions for those who wish to know more about editing Wikipedia. However such sessions are likely to attract only those who are already convinced of the value of Wikipedia. Of more importance, I feel, is being able to persuade sceptics or those who have not previously considered getting a Wikipedia account and updating Wikipedia articles or the reasons why updating Wikipedia articles is of particular relevance to information professionals and then to convert that moment of inspiration into actions: investing sixty seconds in creating a Wikipedia account and even spending a few more minutes in creating a user profile.

Traditional lectures won’t die, I feel. Especially as in today’s networked environment they can provide opportunities for the audience to be active during the lecture. And, of course, you don’t need mobile devices, Twitter and a WiFi network in order to interact with large audiences. As can be seen from the accompanying image taken at the IWMW 2013 event, you can engage with your audience in more traditional ways!


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Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 May 2014

Making a Difference: Libraries and their Communities

On Thursday 15 May I am giving an invited talk at the CILIP Cymru Wales Library and Information Conference 2014. The theme of this year’s conference is “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. My contribution to this theme is entitled “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users“. In the talk I’ll be explaining why librarians and information professionals, whether working in academic or public libraries, should have a good understanding of Wikipedia and be able to support their users not only in consuming Wikipedia content but also in creating and updating Wikipedia content.

Top Tips for Librarians on Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users

The top Wikipedia tips for librariansIn the talk I’ll be giving my top ten tips for librarians who wish to use Wikipedia to support their community. These are summarized below.

1: Understand why Wikipedia is important to librarians

In a talk entitled Wikipedia in the library – the elephant in the (reading) room? presented at the LILAC 2014 conference Nancy Graham and Andrew Gray pointed out a perceived problem: “The kids these days are reading too many encyclopedias“. However rather than regarding the popularity of Wikipedia as a problem librarians should welcome the opportunity this “perfect teaching moment” can provide. We can help students how to tell the good from the bad; how to think critically about online material and how they can engage with the means of production.

We should also be prepared to question what librarians and academic mean when they say “don’t”. The Wikimedia UK’s Expert Outreach page provides some example of the benefits of use of Wikipedia in education. For example in the Wikimedia UK Annual Review 2012-13 [PDF] Cameron Neylon, Public Library of Science, argued that:

If you’re serious about ensuring public engagement in your research then you need to make damn sure your work can be incorporated into Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the most important engagement channel for your research.

and in an article entitled “21st-century Scholarship and Wikipedia” published in the Ariadne ejournal Amber Thomas, a former JISC Programme Manager, described how:

Wikipedia is an illustration of the way that academic work needs to change to benefit from a more educated public, a more networked world, in an age of information abundance. 21st-century scholars should be working with it, not against it.

In light of the popularity of Wikipedia with the user community, it is suggested that librarians should gain an understanding of the value it can provide.

2: Understand how Wikipedia is being used in education

The Eduwiki (UK) 2013 conference was held in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. The event, the second EduWiki conference held in the UK, included case studies on use of Wikipedia in higher education and the schools sector. Two of the presentations were of particular relevance to librarians:

  1. Nancy Graham and Lisa Anderson outlined work at the University of Birmingham on Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University.
  2. Humphrey Southall’s talk on Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages described how “Each student on a large first year human geography course at the University of Portsmouth is assigned a different Wikipedia stub article, unedited for at least a year, about an English village. They are required to extend it “to provide a rounded description of the place and … an account of its historical development””.

In brief, librarians should seek to gain an understanding of the approaches being take to use of Wikipedia within the education sector. The

3: Gain a better understanding of the Wikipedia service

Librarians would be expected to understand advanced how search interfaces work in order to be able to support their user community. Similarly librarians should gain an understanding of the development of Wikipedia articles which can be seen from use of the View History option. The Talk page may also provide useful summary of discussions about the evolution and scope of Wikipedia articles.

4: Be willing to update Wikipedia articles

The entry for Ely in the Wikipedia article on Libraries in Cardiff states that:

Ely Library is due to undergo development Mid 2014, with plans to move into the Jasmine Centre on Cowbridge Road.

At some point during 2014 this will need updating. In addition to changes to the date this sentence doesn’t read very well – wouldn’t “Ely Library is due to undergo development by mid 2014” be an improvement? If you are a librarian or information professional should you take responsibilities for updating incorrect information and improving its readability, especially if such updates could be done in seconds?

5: Create a Wikipedia account

You can make updates to Wikipedia articles without having a Wikipedia account. But having an account and signing in when making updates has several advantages: as well as keeping a record of your contributions you need to be signed in in order to create new articles, join in discussions and have customised preferences.

6: Create a Wikipedia profile

lawsonstu rofileAlthough you do not need to create a profile page, such pages can be used to provide a summary of your interests and your involvement with Wikipedia. Creating a user profile can also provide an opportunity to learn Wikimedia markup language.

A good approach to creating your user profile is to browse existing user profiles and make use of the markup of one’s which appeal to you. For example Msnancygraham’s profile is a good example of a simple profile whereas Lawsonstu’s profile contains more advanced markup features, as illustrated.

7: Be ethical

When showing others how to use Wikipedia it’s not a good idea to encourage them to vandalise a page in order to demonstrate how quickly such updates are removed – remember that Wikipedia volunteers may have to remove such vandalism.

8: Be prepared for your contributions to be changed (but be willing to get involved in discussions on Talk page)

The fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia articles has been regarded as a weakness of the service but it is now increasingly being acknowledged as a strength. However you should be aware that updates that you make may be removed or new articles deleted. If you are thinking about making significant changes to an article it would be advisable to use the article’s Talk page to state your intentions.

9: Understand the Wikipedia principles

The reason that updates are removed or new articles deleted is likely to be due to a failure to observe the five fundamental principles by which the Wikimedia community operates. Wikipedia:

  1. is an encyclopedia
  2. is written from a neutral point of view
  3. is free content that anyone can edit / use/ modify / share
  4. editors should respect each other
  5. does not have any firm rules

In particular note that original research should not be published in Wikipedia articles. All research must come from published sources such as peer-reviewed journals and books; University-level textbooks; magazines, journals and books published by respected publishing houses; mainstream newspapers; etc. Also note that content should be provided from a neutral point of view:

  • If your viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If your viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If your viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, then — whether it’s true or not, whether you can prove it or not — it doesn’t belong in Wikipedia, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

10: Support others (and feel free to reuse existing materials)

Librarians will be well-positioned to support their users in making effective use of Wikipedia. This is particularly appropriate for the CILIP Wales conference in light of this year’s theme: “Making a difference: libraries and their communities“. As might be expected, the Wikipedia community is very supportive of openness and sharing so there is no need to design your training courses from scratch.

11: Don’t forget Wicipedia!

This post has provided ten tips for librarians wishing to support use of Wikipedia. Since the talk I will be giving will take place at the CILIP Wales conference I felt it would be appropriate to provide an additional top for Welsh librarians or librarians working in Wales: Don’t forget Wicipedia!

Slideshow

Note that the slides to be used in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

Beyond the Presentation

Each year the Cetis conference provides an opportunity for developers, learning technologists, lectures and policy makers to come together to discuss recent innovations in the domain of education technology. This year’s conference, Cetis 2014, has the theme “Building the Digital Institution: Technological Innovation in Universities and Colleges“. In one of the parallel sessions myself and my colleague Simon Grant will be facilitating a half-day session on Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond. As described in the abstract:

Wikipedia is great resource for open education, but what challenges need to be faced to make it into an even more valuable educational resource? It remains the most significant encyclopaedic reference based in user generated content which seeks to develop an “open commons” based on consensus approaches and use of Wikipedia’s “Five pillars” principles which includes content being provided from a neutral point of view.

Participants with no experience of Wikipedia editing will be invited to create a Wikipedia user profile, and to understand the basics of creating and editing Wikipedia content. Experienced Wikipedia editors will have the option of sharing a lightning talk on what they consider to be its most significant challenges.

The session will go beyond the basic of editing Wikipedia articles and provide an opportunity for participants to address:

challenges include[ing] a skewed demographic of editors, and a culture that can too easily descend into edit wars, and conflict between “inclusionists” and “deletionists”. Can we envisage changes to make Wikipedia better, or that could seed a better alternative? Could aspiring editors be required to learn and prove their understanding of the governance principles before being allowed to edit? Can consensus process be trained? And would different approaches such as those taken by GitHub, the P2P Foundation, etc. help to improve the culture?

If you’ve an interest in going beyond the basics you may wish to consider attending the Cetis 2014 conference. Note that the online registration form is open for bookings.


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Learning About Learning Analytics: Launch of the LACE Project Webinar Series

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 May 2014

The Value of Webinars for Professional Development

Last month in a post on “Video is now a ‘must have’ in Higher Education – but what are the implications for accessibility?” I cited a State of Video in Education 2014 report which described how “video has a significantly positive impact on all aspects of the student lifecycle, from attracting and retaining students to enhancing learning, boosting learning outcomes and building stronger alumni relations“.

In addition to its value in supporting student learning and recruitment video can now be used to provide professional development opportunities for academics and researchers. As described in a Jisc guide on Using videoconferencing and collaboration technology to reduce travel and carbon emissionsthe right technology can be a usable alternative to physical travel benefitting administrative, academic and research purposes“.

The Webinar definition provided by Webopedia explains “Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software”. The article does not mention that the term ‘webinar’ is not popular in many circles as it feels somewhat contrived. However the use of networked technologies to enhance presentations, lectures, workshops and seminars should be appreciated by academics and researchers, especially those who are comfortable in making use of IT.

LACE Webinar on Learning Analytics and Learning Analytics Interoperability

LACE Project Youtube Channel

The EU-funded LACE project (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) 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 LACE project will be providing a number of face-to-face events including a half-day workshop session on Developing a Learning Analytics Strategy for a HEI at the CETIS 2014 conference.Such face-to-face events will be complemented by a webinar series which will be launched next week, on Tuesday 13 May 2014 starting at 13.00 BST.

If you are new to learning analytics interoperability a video recording of a short talk given by Adam Cooper, Cetis is available on the LACE YouTube channel.

Next week’s webinar, Big Picture of Learning Analytics Interoperability – LACE webinar, will explore the big picture for learning analytics interoperability and will ask questions such as “What are the main dimension of this domain?” and “Where do we find the low- hanging fruit?

Your Thoughts on Webinars

The LACE Webinar will make use of Google Hangouts on Air  which provides live streaming, storage of recordings on YouTube and management of audience interactions.

We welcome feedback on the technical environment we’ll be using as well as non-technical aspects of use of this technology.

If you’ve used Google Hangouts on Air previously, has the experience been useful or have you encountered difficulties? If you have not used Google Hangouts on Air what are the reasons for this? If may be that there have been no events of relevance to you, but if there are other barriers I’d like to hear about them.

Feedback can be provided as comments to this post. Alternatively feel free to use the online survey.

 

 

 

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Guest Post: Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 8 May 2014

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, takes place at the University of Northumbria. In light of funding changes this year’s event is ore closely aligned with institutional challenges. In today’s guest blog post Hiten Vaghmaria, Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, summarises a problem which all heads of departments will face: how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff though use of a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). Hiten will describe the approaches being taken at the University of Westminster at the IWMW 2014 event and will welcome feedback on these approaches. To start the discussion he invites those with an interest in this area to share details of the approaches you use within your institution.


Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?

Talk by Hiten Vaghmaria at IWMW 2014Each year, heads of academic departments at universities across the country plan how they will allocate teaching, research and administration work to their staff, following a model known as the Workload Allocation Model (WAM). This crucial planning and resource allocation exercise is at the heart of running a successful teaching programme, and ensures that the institution can meet its strategic objectives, yet many universities run the process from basic spreadsheets. In the age of readily available web-based productivity services, are we doing enough to help our institutions plan their work?

There are many different ways of running the WAM, with one institution’s model invariably being different (albeit similar) to the next. The National Academic Workload Management Conference was held on this very subject in December 2013, where leaders from several Universities met to discuss the differences between their models. Whilst the focus for this conference was the model itself, there was some discussion around the mechanisms for collecting the information, and it’s clear that this will soon be a pressing issue for IT departments – if it isn’t already.

At the University of Westminster we’ve moved, within an unexpectedly short timescale, from a variety of different spreadsheets designed separately by each department, to one combined spreadsheet, to a prototype web-based system which is fully supported by the in-house team. It hasn’t been the smoothest of journeys but it has been a fascinating and challenging learning experience which has uncovered a host of issues, related to both technology and people, and we’re confident that a support network for those going through this process (or about to) would be enormously helpful.

As a first step, I’ll be hosting a discussion session on Friday 18th July at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2014, to discuss the ways in which institutions currently collect their WAM information, and ask how they might do so more efficiently. We’ll showcase some existing solutions and talk about how the process could be improved using the technology available to us as Web Managers and developers. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the following questions:

  • How does your University run the WAM?
    • What tools are used in this process?
    • What support is offered by IT?
    • What are the main concerns raised by Heads of Departments?
    • How could this process be made more efficient?
  • What other processes does this link up with (e.g. Timetabling, Module Costs, Transparent Approach to Costing (TrAC))?
  • Does it allocate work based on real hours, or use some form of proxy unit?

About the Author

Hiten VaghmariaHiten Vaghmaria is Head of Digital Development at the University of Westminster, where he leads a team responsible for the operation and development of web-based services for students and staff. Previously, Hiten has worked as a Service and Product Manager for the University of Edinburgh and the BBC.


About IWMW 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th Institutional Web Management Workshop, will be held at Northumbria University on 16-18 July 2014. Details of the event programme are available. The three-day event costs £350 which includes 2 nights’ accommodation. Use the online booking form to book your place.

 

 

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Guest Post: Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 6 May 2014

In a recent post on “Preparing Our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” I highlighted the need to ensure that academics had a digital identity which was not constrained to their current host institution. Earlier today Jonathon O’Donnell, a researcher at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia published a blog post entitled “Allow me to introduce myself” on The Research Whisperer blog in which he gives his thoughts on digital identity. This post is being republished on the UK Web Focus blog in order to encourage feedback on this important subject.


Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My university, like many others, is racing to embrace an open future. We are putting stuff into our repository as fast as we can. Each item has a unique identifier, like an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), so that we know exactly which book or paper we are talking about.

We are also encouraging staff to share their research data, where they can. We are working with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), through their Cite My Data service, to make sure that these data sets also have Digital Object Identifiers.

Excitingly, these identifiers will link the papers, chapters, artworks, and (insert your favourite research output here) with the data sets. How cool is that? When I write my groundbreaking libretto, drawing on my amazing new data set, everybody will know exactly which dataset was used in exactly which libretto.

And everybody will know exactly which ‘me’ did it, because I’ll have included my ORCID ID, Scopus Author ID, Google Scholar ID, or my (insert your favourite researcher ID scheme here).

Everyone will know, that is, except for my university. My university will just have to guess.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jonathan O’Donnell. I’m not this Jonathan O’Donnell (although it would be really cool to work on the Arctic for the US National Parks Service). I’m certainly not this J. O’Donnell (I wish! He writes beautifully about digital humanities).

You might know me by my ORCID ID (0000-0001-5435-235X), or by my Scopus Author ID (23005925700), or even my Google scholar ID (3pvY_LgAAAAJ). If you know who that is, then you know who I am. Categorically. Unambiguously. Forever.

These three identifiers are examples of unique identifiers provided for free to academics. Admittedly, it is probably unlikely that you use identifiers like these day to day:

Hi, 3pvY_LgAAAAJ. How are you?

Not bad, thanks, nla.party-626227. Have you seen 0000-0001-5875-8744 around?

We don’t talk like that. Computers do. They do it so that we can disambiguate scholars of the same name. These sorts of identifiers are vital if you have variations to your name or change your name, lose your job, or move to a different institution (or country) or move between academic and #altac careers. I’m only a tiny researcher, so they are really important to me.

They are so important that I’m going to wait right here while you go and sign up for one right now. Go on – I’ll wait.

I don’t know what it is like at your university, but where I work, we don’t actually know who we are. We know what we publish, and we proudly tell the world about it. We know what data we collect, and are increasingly keen to share it with the world. But we don’t have a clue who we are. Or, to be more exact, my university doesn’t know who I am.

Unless you work at my university, you probably don’t know me as RMIT employee number 24323. That’s what my university knows me as. That’s all they know me as. They don’t know me as any of those other identifiers. At the moment, there is no easy way to link my external identifier (ORCID, Scopus, or Google Scholar) to my internal identifier, my employee number (e-number).

So, I’m having an identity crisis. My external identity is blossoming. It is becoming more and more intertwined as computers pick up these identifiers and I build cross-links between them. Meanwhile, my RMIT identity, the identity that pays my wage, is stagnant. External me is reaching out while internal me is stuck forever in its feeble e-number – limited, lost, dead. Go towards the light, e-number! Go towards the light.

It will take considerable work for my university to see the light. They will need to:

  • Decide that they should adopt an external identifier for all research-active staff.
  • Decide what identifier they should adopt.
  • Explicitly link that identifier to the internal identifier, preferably through our Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server or similar technology.

Making policy is hard. On the face of it, this one should be a no-brainer. By linking internal employee numbers to an external identifier, my university would gain significant advantages:

  • We would encourage all our researchers to adopt an external identifier, which would be a good thing.
  • This would improve the profile of our researchers, in the same way that open repositories improve the visibility of papers and other outputs.
  • It would make it easier for our researchers to measure their performance using alt-metrics.
  • Most importantly for the organisation: it should make the collection of research statistics much easier. Given that we spend an enormous amount of staff time doing this now, that is a clear cost saving for the university.

If it is so smart to do this, why haven’t we done it already? Perhaps we are shy. I don’t think so.

Is it because we are allergic to things that we don’t control? It can’t be that either because we have championed external identifiers for a long time. I remember contacting my university library (probably 20 years ago) to ask for my first International Standard Book Number. I was so excited! In those days, the university library used to be the custodian of blocks of ISBNs and distribute them to staff upon request.

This is what I think it is: we’re allergic to these new technologies that we don’t control, blind to services outside the walls. Also, it is a bit hard to link to different external services, and to keep those links working over time. And it should be noted that identifiers like this are only relevant for staff who may be contributors to research, so they are not a universal solution. They won’t cover all staff. However, they will cover all staff with an academic output, which would be a lot better than the current situation.

Besides that, there needs to be a fight an evaluation of corporate solutions (à la Elsevier and Google) versus open solutions (à la ORCID), and whether the business case is worth the effort. For the record, I think that it is absolutely worth the effort, and that open beats corporate every time.

However it happens, I think linking to an external identifier is inevitable. When it happens, the triangle will be complete. When I write my groundbreaking libretto, which is built upon my wonderful data set, everybody will be happy.

  • People will know exactly what data I have drawn upon.
  • They will know exactly which research output I have created.
  • And they will know exactly who I am.

Everyone will know, including my employer. I will be able to stand up and be counted.


About Jonathan O’Donnell
Jonathan O'DonnellJonathan O’Donnell helps people get funding for their research. To be specific, he helps the people in the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He loves his job. One day a week he does his own research into privacy, identity and transactions on the Internet. He likes that day, too, even when it makes his brain hurt.


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