UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for April, 2007

I’ve Lost My Widgets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 April 2007

Those of you who have visited this blog’s Web site recently may have noticed that the appearance is rather more minimalist than it used to be. This wasn’t my doing – it seems that it has reverted to the default for this theme. However this does provide me with an (unexpected) opportunity to rethink the appearance, so I’ll just retrieve on or two of the sidebar features before relaunching a new (or possibly old) interface – but I’ll also use this as an opportunity to experiment with some of the new widgets which WordPress has released recently.

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All Change: Adapt and Thrive in a Digital Age

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 April 2007

As may be apparent from recent postings, UKOLN is active in working, not just with libraries, with also with the museums and archives community.

Following my recent trip to the Museums and the Web 2007 conference, on Thursday 26th April I spoke at the All Change: Adapt and Thrive in a Digital Age conference organised by the London Museums Librarians and Archivists Group. The topic of my talk was How Recent Web Developments Offer Low-cost Opportunities for Service Development – and my slides were based on a similar talk entitled Library 2.0 on a shoestring: cutting the costs of your investment which my colleague Marieke Guy gave at the Library 2.0 Forum at the Library + Information Show in Birmingham on 18th April 2007.

It’s always good to receive positive feedback when you give a talk; even more so when you don’t have to wait long for the feedback. However I must admit that I felt somewhat embarrassed when Caroline Warhurst of the London Transport Museum opened her talk by saying that “Brian Kelly is a well-honed athlete in comparison with the toddler steps I’m taking.” Believe me, I’ve never been described as a ‘well-honed athlete” before!

Further positive comments about the conference were made in the museums i imagine… blog: “Some really interesting and inspiring ideas were flying around at this conference yesterday, focusing on how to “adapt and thrive in the digital age.” The author went on to say “Brian Kelly of UKOLN stole the show with his energetic and informed challenge to received wisdom, leaving me (an many others I’m sure) with no excuses about taking web 2.0 forward in some way, shape or form. Every organisation needs to look carefully at their needs and what users actually want, but it’s clear that the challenges aren’t primarily technical.

I also enjoyed the event, and the positive views of various developments within the cultural heritage sector which were described by the speakers. Of particular interest to me were the talks by Frances Boyle who described (in the absence of Michael Popham) Oxford University’s involvement with Google in the digitisation of out-of-copyright books; the talk by James Strachan, The National Archives who outlined plans for The National Archives to provide wiki facilities to enable the user community to provide information on its huge backlog of records to be catalogued and Graham Higley who gave a captivated description of the Biodiversity Heritage Project.

There were also a number of interesting talks on non-technological issues: Pat Christie, University of the Arts, described their approaches to the provision of learning spaces (which included ‘trusting your users’ in the design and maintenance of physical resources: it was interesting to see how relevant this Web 2.0 term is in other contexts) and Caroline Warhurst, London Transport Museum on similar redevelopments to her museum.

I have to admit that I came away from the conference feeling inspired by the talks I’d heard, and the interest shown in my talk. My enthusiasm, itself, was inspired by the Museums and the Web conference. The museum sector is well-positioned, I feel, to gain real benefits from adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. And I’ll be looking forward to discussions with the sector on strategies for moving beyond the rhetoric and developing systems and services – the suggestion I gave at the end of the day’s event was to geo-locate your museum using very simply tags in your museum home page or RSS feed. Something I’ll return to later. And the other suggestion I made to the conference organisers was to suggest to speakers that their slides are uploaded to a service such as Slideshare, to allow people who couldn’t attend the conference to view the slides.

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Blogging At The MW 2007 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 April 2007

The Museums and the Web 2007 conference was the first time I’ve use a blog to record and share my thoughts on the sessions. I found that it did require more concentration than I’d expected – and on a couple of occasions I missed sessions in order to do some further reading (of the papers presented, for example) and to compose my postings. However I felt it would be useful to do this, partly to inform a wider sector, especially members of the museum’s community, of the key issues which were being discussed at the conference, and also to familiarise myself with the process of conference blogging, in order to do things better at future events and also to share my thoughts on this with others.

I was therefore pleased with the feedback from Martin Mackain-Bremner: “thank you for such a fantastic job in recording the proceedings of MW2007. There is a huge quantity of ’stuff’ to be absorbed here“. Martin went on to add “I would really value a meeting at some time to discuss some of the issues you have raised/spoken on/commented on“. Making new contacts was an additional benefit of blogging – and, in Martin’s case, this will be a face-to-face meeting as we both live in Bath.

And at a meeting in London a couple of days ago Paul Mayes, University of Teesside, told me that he’d used a posting about a paper Mike Ellis presented at the conference during a staff development event he was running for a group of archivists. As he describedwe used the paper by Mike Ellis and yourself on organisational barriers to Web2.0 in museums at a recent archive staff development event. The delegates were asked to compare your very useful structure of barriers with possible barriers in archives. The session was very successful.

I’m planning on doing more of this in the future – but given the mental effort it takes, I’ll try and share this responsibility with others at UKOLN’s forthcoming Institutional Web Management Workshop.

I’ll also, I think, need to document best practices for blogging at events. I didn’t, for example, describe the social events at the conference. Would this have helped provide a better feeling for the events, or would it have distracted from the content?

Technorati Tags: mw2007

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Accessibility and User-Generated Content

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 April 2007

I met Jacco van Ossenbruggen from CWI, Netherlands at the Museums and the Web conference. I’d seen Jacco at previous international WWW conferences, but this was the first time we spoken – and Jacco provided valuable contributions to the UK Museum’s Semantic Web Thinktank meeting.

After the conference I wanted to email Jacco about another area of mutual interest (URIschemes). A Google search for “Jacco CWI” quickly found a page containing Jacco’s email address – and the page I found, a Web-based record of an IRC chat – raised some interesting issues related to accessibility.

The page on MMSEM XG First Face to face meeting in Amsterdam, held on 10 July 2006 contained a transcript of the IRC channel, which was used by remote participants at the meeting:

<jacco> A use case from, for example, the MESH project, could be on news.
<jacco> Giovanni: MUSCLE is working on music use cases
<jacco> AXMEDIS is a big player in this
<jacco> Massimo, could you say something on MUSCLE
<jacco> ?
<giovannit> http://www.axmedis.org/
<jacco> within the MPEG-7 standard actually using the description schemes is really difficult

Now I suspect that the Web accessibility hardliners would tell us that this infringes accessibility guidelines, with the various project acronyms and technical standards not being expanded (e.g. through use of the <abbr> or <acronym> elements) and possibly on the difficulty in understanding.

Interestingly enough a similar example came up in the Accessibility 2.0 Professional Forum at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference which I’ve mentioned previously. How should institutions address accessibility issues when end users add comments to a blog posting or contribute to discussion board? As we can’t expect that they’ll provide the necessary semantic markup (and, in many cases, the software doesn’t allow them to do this) does this mean we can’t deploy systems for users to create their own content?

The example given above, taken from the W3C Web, illustrates that W3C itself takes a pragmatic approach to this problem. They will take ‘reasonable measures’ to ensure resources on their Web site are accessible – but if that can’t be done, they don’y take the approach that they can’t provide the service at all. And the IRC channel itself provides a valuable aaccessibility aid, especially for participants who are ‘geographically-challenged’ and can’t attend the meeting.

So if your accessibility hardliners are using accessibility issues as an argument for not providing such services, feel free to use this as example.

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This Blog Is Worth ….

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 April 2007

The Business Opportunities blog contains a post on How much is your blog worth? The answer for this blog is given below:

My blog is worth $34,436.94.
How much is your blog worth?

Another gimmick, similar to the Are You an A-List Bloglebrity? tool described in the Metrics For Measuring The Effectiveness Of Blogs posting? Or a valuable service which may be able to identify whether an organisation is getting a satisfactory return on investment (ROI) on its commitment to providing a blogging service?

I would suggest that this tool may be useful in thinking about metrics which may be useful in measuring ROI, subject to all the useful caveats. This services states that it is based on an applet which “computes and displays your blog’s worth using the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal.

From this we can speculate that the worth of a blog could be indicated by how much the blogging service would be worth if it was taken over by another company, subject to a weighting based, perhaps, on the numbers of in-bound links, numbers of postings, etc.

Another approach might be to simply host advertisements on the blog and if the income generated was in excess of the costs taken to deliver the service, then the service could be regarded as providing a satisfactory ROI.

And, thinking about my recent posting about using Dapper to screen scrape Technorati in order to give a graphical visualisation of Technorati rating trends, it also occurs to me that Dapper could also be used to screen scrape the ‘How much is your blog worth?’ figure, and possibly fed into other Web 2.0 services, such as Google Spreadsheets, in order to deliver a spreadsheet into the inbox of one’s funder! Could this approach be applied to the blogs listed on the Museums Blogs.org Web site, I wonder?

Technorati Tags: mw2007

Posted in Blog, mw2007 | 4 Comments »

Accessibility of MW 2007 Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 April 2007

Papers from the Museums and the Web 2007 conference are available online on the MW 2007 Web site. That’s great – but are the papers accessible, one might ask. And are they available in a variety of formats, to suit the end users preferences – including, perhaps, as a MP3 file?

The papers may comply with Web accessibility guidelines, but in general the answer to this question will be ‘no’ – and for perfectly understandable reasons: there is a cost associated with converting documents into a variety of formats, and there is probably no great demand for this.

But what if such conversion could be done easily, including conversion to MP3 format? And what if the he effort in doing this was devolved to the authors, rather than expecting the conference organisers to take responsibility for yet another task?

I’ve been looking at this recently, and have been evaluating the Scribd document repository service. As an experiment I have uploaded my papers on Addressing the Limitations of Open Standards and How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers to Scribd. What this provides is a nice interface to the document in a variety of formats including MS Word, PDF, plain text, HTML and even MP3. The service also provides n annotation services and various statistics for me, as the author. The paper can also be embedded in third party resources, thus helping to maximise the impact of the ideas in the paper by simply embedding the following HTML code into a page:

<object width=”450″ height=”500″><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”SameDomain” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://static.scribd.com/FlashPaperS3.swf?guid=fz90upfh93ql3&document_id=35035&#8243; /><embed width=”450″ height=”500″ src=”http://static.scribd.com/FlashPaperS3.swf?guid=fz90upfh93ql3&document_id=35035&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”></embed> </object>

And although some may have reservations over the use of Flash as an interface to the resource, it should be noted that the MS Word, PDF and MP3 files can all be accessed directly.
All good stuff, I think.

So wouldn’t it be great if, at the MW 2008 conference, successful authors were invited to upload their paper to Scribd and to use the ‘MW2008′ tag to allow all papers to be easily found? It could be suggested that this process could be the responsibility of the conference organisers (and they might benefit from being able to include MP3 versions of papers to enrich the accessibility of the conference). But I feel that encouraging the authors to do this may help to embed an understanding of Web 2.0 technologies and the ease of use of such services more widely.

What do you think – potential authors of papers for MW 2008 conference, and perhaps the ichim07 conference? And, perhaps more importantly, what are the views of the conference organisers?

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Posted in Accessibility, Events, mw2007 | 4 Comments »

Blotter And Museum Blogs

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 April 2007

As described by Nate Schroedr the session at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference on Radical Trust: The state of the museum blogosphere by Sebastian Chan and Jim Spadaccini, was “One of the most anticipated sessions of the conference for me — and more than a few others, judging by the size of the crowd!“. And you can include me in that sentiment.

In the session the facilitators spent some time discussing Technorati ratings for blogs, and how to build and sustain one’s rating. This was based on the observations of museum blogs and manual analysis of their ratings and monitoring of trends.

As I subsequently suggested to Seb, wouldn’t it be useful to make use of Web 2.0 services to support this process of monitoring the state of the museum blogosphere. I suggested that Blotter could have a role to play – a service I’ve commented on previously.

So I thought I’d demonstrate this tool, applying to to the blogs which have impressed by at the conference: the New Media Initiatives blog at the Walker Art Centre, the Museums Blog.org service, the Ideum blog, the Brooklyn Museum Dig Diary, the Smithsonian’s Eye Level blog and the Fresh and New blog at the Powerhouse museum.

I’ve included the rolling 7-day graphical representation of the Technorati ranking of these blogs with, as a comparison, the details for this UK Web Focus blog:

UK Web Focus blog (Technorati ranking of 69,782 on 21 April 2007):

Walker Art Center New Media blog (Technorati ranking of 98,648 on 21 April 2007):

Museum Blogs.org (Technorati ranking of 74,158 on 21 April 2007):

Ideum blog (Technorati ranking of 89,517 on 24 April 2007):

Brooklyn Museum’s Dig Diary blog: (Technorati ranking of 474,425 on 21 April 2007)

Smithsonian’s Eye Level blog (Technorati ranking of 51,006 on 21 April 2007):

Powerhouse Museum’s blog (Technorati ranking of 75,598 on 21 April 2007):

Now it is trivial to do this for your own blog, as described on the Blotter Web site. And I would recommend this to blog authors as it can provide a useful visualisation of trends (it has helped me to spot sudden jumps in my Technorati ranking).

But what, I think, would be more interesting would be to explore how Dapper, the application which drives Blotter, could be used across a community of blogs, such as the museum blogosphere.

Perhaps next year’s paper on the state of the museum blogosphere could be based on use of an application such as Dapper. And, as Dapper seems to be a lightweight application, perhaps this is an example of work which can be carried out by an enthusiast working in a small museum. An opportunity for someone, I think.

Technorati Tags: mw200,

Posted in Blog, Events, mw2007 | 4 Comments »

Radical Trust? We’re Doing It!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 April 2007

I mentioned recently that one of the sessions at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference I found very useful was entitled”Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere“. I have to admit that when I decided to attend the session, I was rather confused by the title: I realised that the speakers would be likely to review developments with blogs in a museums’ context, but what did ‘radical trust’ mean?

I was told that this term had been coined to describe how the commercial sector was starting to engage more actively with its user community. I subsequently found the Radical Trust blog which states that:

For years, marketers have been asking consumers for trust in making informed purchase decisions. The trick to conventional marketing is knowing what to say, and what not to say to create and influence the largest possible persuasion in purchase decisions.

Today, however, the consumer can become a segment expert overnight and can own and control the key brand information independent of the manufacturer. The tide has turned and now marketers must radically trust the consumer to build the brand based on the information that is most relevant to them.

It strikes we that this radical approach may be needed by the commercial sector (they advertise on broadcast media such as the TV and radio and expect consumers to ring premium rate numbers when the goods or services we’ve purchased don’t work).

But within the educational and cultural heritage sectors, surely user engagement is what we’re about. We may need to think through the implications of moving from a Web 1.0 to a Web 2.0 environment, and assess the risks in making use of new services. But the principle of user engagement is deeply ingrained within many aspects of our organisational culture, I would suggest.

And the term ‘radical trust’ could well endanger moves towards greater use of services such as blogging: we should be arguing that such technologies can support our core mission – s, indeed, the two speakers from the Brooklyn Museum did, with the Powerhouse blog describing the impact of the talk aseveryone was floored by the efforts of the Brooklyn Museum who have managed to build a strong user community around their online presence“.

In addition, I feel that the term ‘radical trust’ could be interpretted as being somewhat elitist – “We’re cool; we’re into radical trust! You’re not – you must be dull and boring”.

So I’m afraid I would disagree with Michael Casey’s LibraryCrunch article and the visually appealing but misleading photograph on Darlene Fischer’s Blog the Side posting.

Radical trust? Let’s encourage the commercial sector to engage more with their consumers – but let the education and cultural heritage sectors extend their engagement with their users beyond the real world and do even more in the networked environment.

Technorati Tags: mw2007

Posted in Blog, Events, mw2007 | 3 Comments »

UK Museums and the Semantic Web Thinktank

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 April 2007

Background

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded a Thinktank with the remit to engage with a variety of experts on the potential for making use of the Semantic Web in a museum’s context. I attended the launch meeting and the final meeting of the group. One suggestion I (supported by Paul Shabajee) made at the initial meeting was that the group should set up a blog rather than a mailing list as a mechanism for discussion and dissemination. We were therefore very pleased when we found the UK Museums and the Semantic Web blog. This blog provides a very valuable summary of the six meetings held with a variety of experts and the various discussions and shared resources.

Reflections

Initially I suspect that there was a feeling that various Semantic Web experts would describe the role of Semantic Web standards and technologies such as RDF and OWL. In reality discussions on the difficulties and complexities of Semantic Web technologies were surfaced, and there were debates on its applicability, especially for the smaller museums, and the timeliness of the debate, especially in light of the wider interests in Web 2.0 in a cultural heritage (and wider) context.

My feeling is that museums should be experimenting with and debating the issues associated with use blogs and wikis, opening up access to their data and making use of popular services such as YouTube, Flickr and iTunes for maximising access to their resources, in parallel with discussion about legal issues, sustainability of services, etc. Whilst development programmes to provide services based on Semantic Web technologies should be left to the research community until the benefits of this approach have been proven and the technologies and standards have matured.

Further Thoughts

Ross Parry and Jon Pratty gave an update on the Semantic Web Thinktank at the Museums and The Web 2007 conference. Jacco van Ossenbruggen (CWI, Amsterdam) provided some fresh insight into the work of the Thinktank – and something that emerged from the discussions was the different areas of interests of the members of the Thinktank. The focus of my interests is in the provision of services to the end user community; others, however, were more interested in developments to the internal processes within museums, including enhancements to systems used to manage museum documentation. It then dawned on me that a Semantic Web approach may be relevant in updating the systems used to manage documentation of museums collections from an architecture based on early database principles to a Semantic Web environment. An advantage in this context is the widespread usage across the sector of the SPECTRUM standard, so there is not the competition of a variety of different approaches that we find in services targetted directly at end users of museum services.

The meeting at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference was therefore useful in developing my thinking in this area – and many thanks to Jacco for his contributions to the discussion. There will still, however, be a need to manage expectations and to develop the risk assessment and risk management approaches which will be needed in any new areas which are likely to require significant investment in resources.

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Museums and the Web 2007 Conference: Day 3

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 April 2007

Saturday 14 April 2007

The final day of the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference – and it’s a Saturday with, again sessions starting at 08.00 (I don’t think this would happen in similar conferences held in the UK).

Bookmarking Session

This morning I chaired the session on “Bookmarking”. David Bearman, the conference co-chair, described this as the ‘Brits Session’ when he invited me to chair the session, as the main authors of the two talks, on Visitor-constructed Personalized Learning Trails and Bookmarking in Museums: Extending the museum experience beyond the visit?, were based in the UK. When I met the two speakers, however, I found that the speakers, although working in London, were from the US and Italy (and Jonathon Bowen, who was supposed to speak, unfortunately could not attend the conference).

Despite only having two talks (most of the sessions had three) this was a content-rich session, and I had to draw questions to a close at the end of the 90 minutes. I have to confess that I was initially puzzled by the theme of the session, as bookmarking to me meant either recording my favourite Web pages in my browser or, in the context of social bookmarking, on a service such as del.icio.us.

Kevin Walker‘s talk described what was meant by bookmarking in a museum’s context. It seems that the term refers to the ability for users to record details of their visit to a museum Web site (or, indeed, the museum itself) for subsequent use. This is often achieved not, as I assumed from the term, by recording details on a Web browser within a museum, but by sending the information to the user in their home environment. The information may be recorded in a variety of ways (recorded as a personalised trail, on a PC, by recording the visitors physical location using Bluetooth, by recording their aural comments as they view exhibits, etc.) And the information may also be delivered to the visitor in a variety of ways, including email, SMS messages, etc. Kevin also explained why such bookmarking can be beneficial, particularly in terms of enriching the learning experiences of a visit to a museum.

Following Kevin’s broad overview, Silvia Filippini-Fantoni questioned the success, or not, of bookmarking services in libraries. It seems that bookmarking services are not very widely used. This, in part, is due to the low visibility of such services and also the confusing terminology. Such issues can clearly be addressed – and there is a feeling that bookmarking is not necessarily for everyone (and is likely to be of particular benefit to repeat visitors to a museum).

Small Museums

In the afternoon I attended a session on Small Museums which was chaired by Ian Edelman, Hampshire County Council. Joy Suliman gave the opening talk on Facilitating Access: Empowering small museums in which she described the centrally-provided content management system and hosting service provided by the Collections Australia Network (CAN) which is proving very popular for many small museums in Australia.

The second talk on A Family of Solutions for a Small Museum: The case of the Archaeological Museum in Milan described an open source tool which can be used for developing multimedia stories about exhibits in a museum, which can be accessed either using a Web browser or as a Flash application.

The final talk by Peter Gray, East Lothian Museum has the title Who are you calling cheap?. This was a great talk, describing how a consortium in Scotland had been successful in developing a variety of services without needed significant resources to support the development environment. This approach very much reflects my views on the approaches I think are currently applicable in a variety of areas.

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Museums and the Web 2007 Conference: Day 2

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 April 2007

Background

Day 2 of the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference (Friday 13 April, I need to remind myself) began with Birds-of-a-feather sessions which started at 08.00. I didn’t attend any of these session, partly as I’m not staying at the conference hotel, but more importantly Stephen Brown and I needed to sort out the final details for our Professional Forum on “Accessibility 2.0: A holistic and user-centred approach to Web accessibility“. And as this was the most challenging day for me (facilitating workshops can be much more mentally draining that giving talks, I find) I even missed out on a meal with fellow delegates last night, returning to my hotel at 9 pm last night and in bed soon afterwards.

Professional Forum: Accessibility 2.0

I’m pleased to say that the Professional Forum seemed to go down very well. About 50 people attended the session and they participated fully in the breakout groups, in which we asked them to discuss how the approaches they are taking to Web accessibility, the difficulties they are experiencing and any successes they have. Stephen facilitated the report back, while I kept notes in a wiki. Stephen did well in pulling about the various approaches which are being taken, from use of automated testing tools, provision of accessible HTML and CSS fragments for reuse across a web site through to user testing, including involvement by people with disabilities. During the feedback the issues of the rich content museums hold, the interactive services they are seeking to provide, the use of user-generated content and the limited resources smaller museums may have were raised. This provided an opportunity to describe the approaches to e-learning accessibility I have been involved in, with a focus on the accessibility of the learning outcomes, and not necessarily the e-learning resources – an approach which we have described as ‘blended accessibility’. We then described how we are seeking to build on this user-centred approach within a broader cultural heritage context, and also within an international context. An example I gave of the difficulties of addressing accessibility within a cultural context was of a Salvador Dali painting. This example was particularly appreciated by several people in the audience, who are faced with similar challenges, within a legal framework which is felt to mandate compliance with WCAG guidelines. However shortly before the workshop started I spoke to several attendees, and found that most were from the US, Canada, UK and the Netherlands, with one person from China. Stephen quickly found the legal requirements across a number of these countries, and found that in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK the legislations requires organisations to take reasonable measures. This is great, as the approach we have been developing is based on use of WCAG guidelines when they work, but a willingness to take alternative approaches when the guidelines either don’t work or compliance would require unreasonable measures to be taken.

We concluded by described the Accessibility Summit II and the manifesto we are developing. Several people expressed their willingness to become engaged in developing this manifesto further – and I’d extend an invitation to readers of this blog. Either add a comment to the blog, or send me an email.

Also note that my friends on the New Media Initiative blog have given their thoughts on the session and Majawat concluded that MW2007: Accessibility ain’t so hard.

Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere

After the Professional Forum I attended the session on “Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere”. This was a very popular session, illustrating the clear interests in the provision of blogs within a museums context. Again I’ll point to the New Media Initiatives blog entry for their thoughts on the session (there’s a team contributing to their blog, and they won’t be jet-lacked, I should add!)

The discussions on approaches to deploying blogs and ways of measuring, maximising and sustaining the impact of blogs reflect a number of the postings on this blog. And it was very interesting when one person commented that the museum community was way behind the library sector in making use of blogs – with one person responding by pointing out that the library sector is much larger than the museum sector.

So I would hope that the issues discussed on this blog will be of interest to the museum community – and I’ll try and contribute to blogs such as the Walker Arts Center’s Off Center museum blog (which has the wonderful byline “outside ideas from inside the walker”).

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Museums and the Web 2007 Conference: Day 1

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 April 2007

The opening plenary talk at the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference was given by Brewster Kahle if the Internet Archive. Brewster spoke on “Universal Access to Human Knowledge (Or Public Access to Digital Materials)“. This was a great inspirational opening to the conference, with Brewster arguing that “universal access to global knowledge is within our grasp”. He argued that the costs of the digitisation and storage of text, sound and video resources was achievable – and that society had a responsibility for rising to these challenges.

After coffee there were three parallel sessions. I attended the session on “Web 2.0″ where Mike Ellis presented our joint paper on “Web 2.0: How to stop thinking and start doing: Addressing organisational barrier“. As I was on stage during the talks it was difficult for me to make notes of the session. Fortunately I’ve managed to find a post on the session on the New Media Initiatives blog. As described in this report, the first speaker in the session described a managed approach to the use of blogs within a museum, with a formal workflow process for identifying topics for blog postings with editorial processes to ensure posting complied with institutional policies on the scope, writing style, etc.

The second talk, by Shelley Bernstein and Nicole Caruth (Brooklyn Museum), in contrast, described how the museum was encouraging use of third party services such as Flickr and MySpace in areas related to the interests of the museum, such as public grafitti. This approach was very much based on the museum’s mission, which emphasises the importance of engagement with the user community.

Mike’s talk, which closed the session, went down very well, with Nate Schroeder commenting on the New Media Initiatives blog “Really good ideas, another one I want to chat with over a beer later“. The other interesting comment made on this blog was “[Mike] touched into a lot of the phobias many people have about technology and change in general. I can understand concerns people have in this regard, but Mike is right in that if many of us don’t adapt and move past them, we’ll be left behind and become largely irrelevant. Technology moves too fast for us to sit on our hands“.

Unfortunately further comments on the day’s events were hindered by problems with the WiFi network. As the the New Media Initiatives blog commented “Advance apologies – this post sort of fell apart as I went. Internet access at the conference has been spotty at best, it seems like DNS lookups are failing or being blocked upstream. Very frustrating. If I get a chance I’ll clean it up in a bit, but for now I want to keep the “liveblogging” thing going so it’s time to hit post!“. As I spoke in the afternoon session it was not possible for me to keep a record of the afternoon sessions. And as I’m co-facilitating a Professional Forum tomorrow morning, I’ll be having an early night tonight. So I’ll give another pointer to the New Media Initiatives blog for their views on the Alternative Realities session which I attended. One comment I would add is that the talk on Second Life (which generated most of the interest) featured two examples from the UK – Andy Powell’s ArtsPlace work (including a comment on use of Library of Congress exhibits as their licence permitted such reuse) and Talis’s Cyberia Second Life presence.

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Model For Making Use Of Third Party Web Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 April 2007

When I spoke recently at the AoC Nilta conference, I attended a session given by Randy Metcalfe of the JISC-funded OSS Watch service on “Comparison Shopping Evaluating Open Source Wikis and VLEs“. One interesting aspect of the session was the brief description Randy gave of the Business Readiness Rating approach to assessing the appropriateness of open source software for use in the enterprise. OSS Watch have published a discussion paper on this topic. This paper mentions the OBRR Web site which states that “Business Readiness Rating™ (BRR) is being proposed as a new standard model for rating open source software. It is intended to enable the entire community (enterprise adopters and developers) to rate software in an open and standardized way.

It struck me that this approach might be applicable when wishing to select Web 2.0 services for use in the enterprise.

On this subject I am a co-author of a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers” which has been accepted at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference. Mike Ellis, the lead author, will be presenting the paper on 12th April 2007 (and I have uploaded a draft copy of his slides to Slideshare).

The paper argues that it is now timely for museums to start deploying Web 2.0 technologies and makes a number of suggestions for addressing various barriers, including understanding organisational barriers, encouraging enthusiasts, identifying ‘low-hanging fruit’, developing a risk assessment and risk management strategies, etc.

My work in supporting take-up of Web 2.0 has included publication of a number of briefing papers, including one on “Risk Assessment For Use Of Third Party Web 2.0 Services“. It does occur to me that the suggestions given in this document, and the ideas outlined in our paper, could be used in the development of a Web 2.0 Business Readiness Rating.

To provide a context for this, imagine you are considering deploying a blog service, but don’t have the technical expertise to install software in-house. You have heard about the WordPress blogging service, which hosts this service. You’ve also heard some positive comments about the Elgg software and the (recently renamed) Eduspaces hosting service.

What factors do you think need to be considered if you wish to decide which, if either, of these services is ‘Business Ready’ for your library, museum or educational service?

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Museums and the Web 2007: Day 0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 April 2007

I am currently in San Francisco, for the Museums and Web 20007 conference. I was pleased to be invited to be a member of the Program Committee last year, as I am seeking greater involvement with the museums sector. It was therefore appropriate for me to make a number of submissions to the conference – and I was pleased that all four submissions were accepted, although the proposal for a half day workshop was cancelled due to only a small number of bookings for the workshop. I’ll describe my other contributions to the conference in other postings.

I have just registered for the conference, on the day before the conference officially starts. Various half day and full day workshops are being held today – and I find it very interesting that so many are addressing Web 2.0 issues e.g. “Beyond Blogging: Is it a Community Yet?“, “Museum Mashups“, “Planning Social Media for Museums“, “Power To the Pod People: Design Your Own Podcast“, “Leveraging The Internet Video Book in a Museum Context“, “Web 2.0: Technologies and Design Strategies for Robust Online Applications“, “Real Science 2.0: Interacting with Scientific Imagery and Live Data“, “Remixing Museum Education through Online Participatory Learning“, “Exploring RSS in a Cultural Content“, “Creating Interactive Content and Community in Second Life” and “Vodcasting: 5 Easy Steps to Film an Interview and get it Online in a Day!“.

It seems that eleven of the twelve half-day workshops cover Web 2.0 technologies or user-created content and only the three full day workshops cover traditional Web topic areas (CMSs, online learning and usability testing). Perhaps this might explain the lack of interest in our half-day workshop on accessibility – all of the workshop participants want to learn more about Web 2.0 (indeed all of the morning sessions were fully subscribed when I registered this morning.

I’ll be very interested in the talks on use of Web 2.0 within a museums context over the next few days.

I’ll try and give a daily report from the conference – although the WiFi network in my hotel is very flaky.

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Accessibility 2.0: A Holistic and User-centred Approach to Web Accessibility

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 April 2007

Web accessibility, just like open standards may be regarded (like motherhood and apple pie) as concepts which one could not possibly argue against. But what if the traditional approach to Web accessibility, based on ensuring Web resources comply with WCAG 1.0 guidelines, doesn’t work? And perhaps one interpretation of the poor levels of conformance is the case with the SiteMorse automated survey of compliance with accessibility guidelines for various disability support bodies in the UK. SiteMorse’s news article, entitled How can everyone else be expected to achieve website accessibility, if the experts can’t?, focusses on the findings of an automated test and fails to acknowledge that accessibility may be more complex than that. As myself and colleagues at the JISC TechDis service pointed out in a response to SiteMorse’s news item, a more holistic approach to accessibility is needed which focusses on the importance of satisfying user needs rather than simply following a checklist.

In November 2006 UKOLN and TechDis organised the Accessibility Summit II meeting (which followed on from the first Accessibility Summit held in 2005). As described in a report on the meeting the participants called for the development of a holistic approach to the development of Web services which addresses the broad set of issues which need to be addressed in order to provide quality Web services, including factors such as usability, the purpose of the Web site, interoperability, cultural and resource issues, as well as accessibility. The meeting also called for an evidence-based approach to demonstrating viable approaches for providing accessible Web services and for a clear recognition of the need to take into account various contextual factors.

Our work in this area continues and on 13th April 2007 myself and Professor Stephen Brown from De Montfort University will be facilitating a professional forum on “Accessibility 2.0: A Holistic and User-centred Approach to Web Accessibility” at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference. The abstract for this session, a briefing document and the slides to be used in this forum are available online.

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Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 April 2007

Open standards are great – they can provide machine- and application-independence, thus avoiding vendor lock-in and they can help to ensure services are interoperable and are widely accessible. Unfortunately open standards don’t always work – they can be too ambitious, fail to gain market acceptance, may be too costly to implement or be superceded by alternatives. So how do development programmes ensure they make use of open standards which will be successful and avoid making costly mistakes when selecting standards? This is the theme of a paper on “Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards” by myself, my colleague Marieke Guy and Alastair Dunning, AHDS which will be given at the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference on 12 April.

The paper and accompanying slides are available. Your comments are welcome.

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Rediscovering My Past

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 April 2007

I will shortly be moving offices (along the corridor from where I’m currently based). The process of sorting out my files is providing a valuable opportunity to get rid of out-of-date papers. It is also very intriguing when I find various old papers, providing an opportunity to reflect on the past and the views we had back then of the future.

Some things which have brought back memories:

  • An ALT workshop on Hypertext In The Unix Environment held at the University of Kent at Canterbury in September 1993. This was intended as a roadshow for the Guide hypertext systems which was developed at the University of Kent, I was invited to talk as the organisers were aware that the Web was generated a lot of interest. I remember enjoying giving that talk, as I was confident that the Web would be a winner and Guide would probably die off or just have a niche role. Does anybody know what happened to Guide?
  • A copy of the Newsletter published by the Computing Service, University of Leeds in November 1993. I was editor of the Newsletter at the time and this issue featured online information services, in particular the Web, with a colour front cover showing screen shots of XMosaic and example of use of the Web. Unfortunately, although the Newsletter was published on the Web, in appears to be no longer available (the online issues date back to 2004).
  • A mention in the University of Leeds’ Report newsletter of my talk on Global Publishing on the world wide web at Oxford University on 2 March 1994. I remember the room being overflowing and the audience being fascinated to discover that third parties had created Web interfaces to cultural resources hosted (on an FTP server) at Oxford University. I discovered a few weeks later that the talk generated much interest within the University, with the help desk receiving requests from users wishing to have the Mosaic browser installed on their PCs and others who wished to set up departmental Web servers. This caused consternation, as apparently a committee had decided that the University’s future lay in the provision of a Gopher service for the University.
  • Slides from a trip report of the first World Wide Web Conference (W3 as it was referred to in May 19994). This conference, which at the time was referred to as the Woodstock of the 1990s (the Gopher crowd were the squares, I assume), attracted 380 delegates, including 46 from the UK.
  • A photocopy of an article about the Internet published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 6 June 1994, just after I got back from the first Web conference. The article’s sub-title was “Greenpeace use it, supermodel Claudia Schiffer hates it and Bill Clinton thinks it’s wonderful. Tim Power explores Internet – the new Information Superhighway“. I remember the journalist quizzing me about Internet pornography and despite my protestations (“there’s pornography in print and on films; why focus on Internet pornography?”) that was the angle taken (” Bulletin boards within the ‘Net have become ideological grounds for anti-facist and hard-right racists groups. Paedophile rings and pornographers are also weasling their way around the ‘Net …“). Also the photographer asked me to look upward and to the right; I discovered why when the article was published, as I was looking up Claudia Schiffer skirt! Still I managing to get the local angle in: “Computer wizards at Leeds where quick to spot the potential. They helped develop the World Wide Web or W3 a kind of universal language which lets ‘Net users find their way around tis digital labyrinth.

This brought back memories of some of the things we were doing with the Web at Leeds University in 1993 and 1994. But is this memory being lost? Should the University of Leeds seek to capture some of the stories of its early involvement with the Web? I should also point out that the Computer Science department has recently celebrated its half-centenary and a feature article in the Alumni newsletter using this as an opportunity to reprint photographs of female computer operators in miniskirts!

And as well as the relevance for the University of Leeds, it does strike me that if we lose the early history of the Web we may repeat the mistakes made back then. This is of particular importance at present, with the current debates of the merits (or not) of Web 2.0 and of the challenges our institutions are facing in seeking to exploit such technologies. Let’s not forget that the Mailbase archives for the web-support list, which was set up in 1993 or 1994, disappeared when this service migrated to JISCMail :-)

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Guest Post: UK Library Blogs – What Do We Think We’re Doing?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 2 April 2007

Background

Roddy MacLeod was invited to launch the guest blog spot in the UK Web Focus blog by giving his views on issues which have been raised on this blog. Roddy’s posting addresses the use of blogs in the UK Library community.

UK Library Blogs – What Do We Think We’re Doing?

Brian doesn’t need to twist my arm for me to say that UK Web Focus is one of my regular reads. Several UK LIS-related blogs, such as UK Web Focus, Karen Blakeman’s Blog (which moved on the 19th February of this year to this new site), Phil Bradley’s Weblog, Chris Armstrong’s info NeoGnostic and Peter Godwin’s Information Literacy meets Web 2.0 have emerged as very welcome sources of information, advice and opinion for the rest of us information professionals, as many of us are still finding our feet in the blogosphere. Brian’s Blog Experiments are also useful in this respect.

In the UK, we appear to be lagging behind the USA somewhat in terms of uptake and exploitation of blogs. Brian recently warned about the limitations of blog statistics and so I don’t want to make too much of this, but LIS bloggers in the USA seem to have a much larger following than their UK equivalents. According to Technorati, UK Web Focus is today ranked 81,591 and according to Bloglines has 55 Bloglines subscribers. Phil Bradley’s Weblog is ranked 41,011 with 136 Bloglines subscribers. Compare this to The Shifted Librarian ranked 4,320 with 44,734 Bloglines subscribers, and librarian.net ranked 6,740 with 3,734 Bloglines subscribers, and you can clearly see the discrepancy between the two sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps this is only to be expected, given the size of the respective communities, but it’s therefore very good to see the recent emergence of a number of UK library blogs, and the swapping of ideas between those involved in them. Thanks to Duncan Chappell, Glasgow School of Art, there’s now a LIS-Bloggers JISCmail list which already has over 250 subscribers, and there’s a British Librarian Bloggers Google Group. I’ve also been noting new UK library blogs in the Blogorama section of each issue of the Internet Resources Newsletter.

There are too many to list them all here, but some of the UK university library blogs which I monitor because they cover the same sort of technology-related subjects that I deal with, or appear interesting for other reasons, include LRC Blog from the University of Glamorgan, Engineering Info @ Imperial College London Library, ILS Matters from the University of Worcester, Library and Learning Resources from the Glasgow School of Art Library, Shush! from the University of Northampton, Library News for Applied Sciences from the University of Huddersfield, University of Bath Library :: Science News and Library News for Maths and Computing from the Open University. There’s also our own collaborative blog at Heriot Watt University Library, called spineless? (sadly, currently ranked only 1,313,575 on Technorati :-( ).

Even a cursory glance at some of the blogs mentioned above, or other UK library blogs, reveals new ideas and considerable innovatory thinking. For example, as you might expect, GSoA’s Library and Learning Resources is full of good images and design ideas (Duncan Chappell recently wrote an article in Information Scotland (February 07, Vol 5(1)) which mentioned some of the ideas behind the Glasgow School of Art Library blogs – this is not available on the Information Scotland Web site at the time of writing, but check back in the future). There’s a fitting use of an image and another nice one (ILS Matters incorporates particularly impressive photos). It looks as if Perth College Library sees its blog as an opportunity to do some information literacy as well as resource announcements. The University of Bath puts human librarians in the picture which is nice, and thought is being given to categories or tags for classifying posts.

So, with respect to these and other UK library blogs, what exactly do we think we’re doing? What is the purpose of these library blogs? What are their aims?

It was recently suggested by Nicholas Carr, writing in the Technology Guardian that an important function of blogs was simply to act as a kind of global echo chamber by commenting on comparatively few original items published elsewhere, or by replicating items appearing on other web sites.

I would anticipate that most UK library bloggers are capable of much more than this. There may be good reason for occasional items, such as the appearance of a particularly good new resource, to be posted on numerous library blogs within hours of each other, and as each of these blogs has its own targeted audience, this ‘duplication’ causes no problems, but there are many more things we can write about as well.

Another issue is whether, or to what extent, library blogs should be ‘linkers or thinkers’ i.e. is it the place of a library blog to pass comment on something, or simply report the facts? In this respect, library blogs are probably quite different to librarian blogs, where opinion is almost certainly both welcome and essential.

Our blog at Heriot Watt arose out of a suggestion that the library newsletter needed updating, and after considerable discussion, we decided to create a blog instead of a print/online newsletter. A blog was seen as a potentially good way to help market the library, its resources and services as well as keep our community informed on other matters. Early on, therefore, we decided that it needed to contain more than simply postings about library opening hours or this week’s long list of new books.

In planning spineless? we had no intention of writing an overly formal strategy, or of creating a blueprint straight-jacket, but we did end up with a document which sets out its general purpose and style.

The following are some extracts from this document, and is offered here for discussion (not for instruction). I hope that it, and this post, will generate comments and examples from elsewhere, plus the sharing of experiences, so that we are all better able to answer the question “What do we think we’re doing?”

Who is the spineless? blog for?
All staff and students of Heriot-Watt University

What is the purpose of spineless?

  • To distribute information about the Library’s resources and services
  • Market and promote resources and services
  • User education
  • Encourage more involvement and feedback from library users.
  • Lend a human voice to the Library and try to create a sense of community
  • Transparency, consult with users

Suggested posts for spineless

  • Information about new services or resources.
  • Posts to market the Library’s services and resources, e.g. Subject Librarians can feature a particular resource in their subject area.
  • Refresher information, i.e. what is Athens, how to get started with e-resources.
  • Posts to inform of changes/developments in resources or the delivery of services.
  • Posts inviting feedback, e.g. on a proposed change to a Library service, resource or trial.
  • Answer frequently asked questions, e.g. a weekly: “Ever wanted to….” column where we take a common question from the enquiry desk and do a generic answer.
  • Perhaps an occasional feature on a member of library staff, to explain what they do, and how their work assists the library in its purpose.
  • Responses to comments in the satisfaction survey.
  • Publicise user comments/suggestions/complaints and answer them.
  • Find a friendly student we could feature every now and then on the blog – showing how they find/use/discover material in the library.
  • Other items meeting the purpose of the blog which will spark interest in the library and its resources.
  • etc.

Posting style for spineless?
Mostly informal, friendly, jargon free, interesting, user focussed, encourage a conversation with Library users, informative, user focused titles/headings.

Try to create posts from a user perspective. This is sometimes easier said than done, and in some cases may not be appropriate, but here are some suggestions:

Think hard about the title. How can it be made to appear interesting and relevant to readers? E.g. “BSI release Interface ver 3.12″ might become “New British Standards Online interface makes it easier to find full-text Standards”.

Try not to assume that readers know anything about what is under discussion. It may often be necessary to include reminders – e.g. “IEEE Xplore, the full text access technical literature service in electrical engineering, computer science, and electronics.” Rather than just “IEEE Xplore”

If appropriate, explain who the service/item is aimed at, and what subjects it covers.

The above is concerned with content and style. With respect to the design of library blogs, I personally prefer a simple approach. I recently did an infoskills session with 20 MSc students, and not one of them had heard of RSS, Bloglines or feedreaders. Whilst many students are obviously familiar with MySpace, Podcasting and other Web 2.0 initiatives, there are loads who are not yet even aware of Google Scholar, and this is one reason we kept the design of spineless? as simple as possible. Other library blogs (e.g. Library and Learning Resources) have taken a different approach. There’s no right or wrong here, I would hope, and we can all learn from experience and sharing ideas.

Please feel free to post comments below on this topic of “UK Library blogs – What do we think we’re doing?

Thanks. Now I need to go and blog on spineless?

Roddy MacLeod
Senior Subject Librarian
Heriot Watt University

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Guest Bloggers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 April 2007

A new blog experiment which is being launched on 1st April is the Guest Blogger. The aim of this is to allow a fellow blogger to give their views and thoughts on a topic area covered by this blog.

I hope that this will provide some variety to the blog. The experiment is also intended to provide exposure to a fellow blogger.

The first Guest Blogger is Roddy MacLeod of Heriot-Watt University. Roddy’s posting, which goes live on 2nd April 2007, will address the issue of blogging within a UK librarian context.

Depending on the success of this experiment I will look to have a regular Guest Blogger. So feel free to get in touch if you’d like to contribute.

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