UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for May, 2007

Blogging And Learning From One’s Peers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 May 2007

One of the aims of this blog was to explore best practices for setting up and sustaining blogs within the educational and cultural heritage sectors and to share experiences across these sectors.

Of course I myself learn from observing successful blogs published by others, especially my peers with whom I have shared interests and audiences.

As this blog has now been live for six months I though it would be useful to compare the status of the blog, based on data provided by Technorati, with the eFoundations blog, provided (initially) by my former colleagues Andy Powell and Pete Johnson, who now work for the Eduserv Foundation; Scott Wilson, a well-established educational who works the JISC-CETIS service and, to make comparisons with a blog provided by a commercial company, the Panlibus blog, which is written by staff at the UK-based library vendor, Talis, with regular contributions from Paul Miller, another former colleague who used to work at UKOLN.

And, in addition to the Technorati rankings, I also thought it might be useful to summarise the data provided by another service – the How Much is Your Blog Worth? Web site (which I’ve mentioned in a previous post).

At the time of writing (22nd May 2007) the Technorati rankings and estimated value to the blogs (final column) were as follows:

Blog Authority Rank Date Created Check Estimated Value
UK Web Focus blog 81 57,542 1 Nov 2006 Check $46,856
eFoundations blog 78 59,754 11 Sep 2006 Check $44,034
Scott Wilson’s blog 64 59,754 17 Jan 2005 Check $44,034
Panlibus blog 91 50,089 16 Aug 2004 Check $56,454

The Blotter application (described previously) is being used to display rolling graph of the current data taken from Technorati (although it should be noted that, (a) probably due to changes to the data provided on the Technorati Web site, this display is not as rich as it was originally and (b) the data for the UK Web Focus blog gives a better indication of the medium term trends as this blog was registered with Blotter before the others):

UK Web Focus blog (and current Technorati statistics):

Scott Wilson’s blog (and current Technorati statistics):

eFoundations blog: (and current Technorati statistics):

Panlibus blog, Talis (and current Technorati statistics):

The initial conclusion that one can make from this data is that in order to have a high-ranking blog, you should set it up before your peers (your competitors?) and you should post to it regularly.

However the factors which influence the sustainability of such ratings are not readily apparent. Should one seek to post frequently (daily perhaps) or will less frequent postings (which can allow more time to be spend in preparing the post) be a better alternative? Will the ratings drop if postings cease for a period (e.g. holidays)? And what factors can help in enhancing the rating of a blog?

I hope this data will help to inform these issues – and I also hope that the blogs I’ve mentioned all succeed in maintaining and enhancing their current ratings and that any best practices we discover from analysing this data will be useful to others within the educational and cultural heritage sectors.

Posted in Blog | 8 Comments »

Data Available For IWMW 2007 Competition

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 May 2007

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2007), the eleventh in the series, will be held at the University of York on 16-18th July. We always aim to make this event, which is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams, very participative in nature with an emphasis on the workshop sessions, discussion groups, debates, etc. with the plenary talks providing a shared context for the event.

This year we are extending the participative aspect  of the workshop by inviting workshop delegates to take part in an innovation competition.  Submissions to the competition should be user-focussed, lightweight and ‘cool’ – we hope the competition will provide an opportunity to try out some of the lightweight Web 2.0 services in a friendly, informal environment.

In order to provide some data which can be used in the competition (although there is no requirement to use this data) we have provided a number of RSS feeds related to the IWMW events.  This includes the news feeds for recent events, syndicated content of the various sessions for the last three years, blog postings for last year’s event, the location of all eleven of the events and details of the plenary speakers at all of the events.

In order to illustrate how this data can be used, we have a map showing the location of this year’s plenary speakers. A better picture of the geographical spread of the speakers at all eleven of the events can be seen from the map showing the location of HE institutions of the speakers since 1997.

The RSS feed contains the speakers’ names and biographical details, the location of their host institution and the date on which they spoke, with the ACME GeoRSS Map Viewer service processing the data.

Anybody fancy doing anything else with the data? A tag cloud, perhaps, or even using the date field (which I’ve not used) to show the distribution for different years. Or even, if you’re feeling adventurous, a timeline based on the data.

Posted in iwmw2007 | 4 Comments »

Something IS Going On With Facebook!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 May 2007

Something is going on with Facebookcommented John Kirriemuir yesterday in response to my “Death Of Email Debate Continues in Facebook” post.

Well he was right. A post published in a Guardian blog today entitled “Why Facebook is the new Apple” links to the announcement of Facebook’s F8 platform – a development which lets users embed other services inside their pages in Facebook.

The Facebook Developer’s site states that “The Facebook Platform is a standards-based web service with methods for accessing and contributing Facebook data. We’ve made the methods as easy to understand as possible, and included full documentation to help you learn more“.

I suspected something was happening to Facebook when I viewed ajcann’s Facebook page yesterday and noticed that it contained an embedded video clip (a teaching clip about some aspect of microbiology). So I added the Splashcast application to my Facebook account (this has only been available since 25 May, incidentally). I also noticed a whole range of additional applications which are available, so I added my del.icio.us feed and the Scribd repository service, as illustrated below.

Facebook interface to applications

What does this provide us with? Well I think we can regard Facebook as now providing an operating system environment which can provide access to a whole host of applications to support teaching and learning :-) And it’s popular with students – and a lot cheaper than Blackboard! Good news then?

Technorati Tags: Facebook

Posted in Facebook | 6 Comments »

Death Of Email Debate Continues in Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2007

Facebook discussion on email debateOn Friday I received several email invitations from people wishing to add me to their list of Facebook contacts. It struck me that this must be due to someone promoting the benefits of Facebook within the IT Services and Web research communities (these being the sectors from which I received the email invitations).

Shortly after accepting the invitations I received further email alerts informing me that messages had been posted to my Facebook account. The messages I discovered, were made in response to a post in this UK Web Focus blog, which can be viewed from within the Facebook environment – and, as I discovered, responses can be made in Facebook, although they will not be visible on the main UK Web Focus blog site.

So there is a separate chain of discussion taking place within Facebook (which includes a number of my typos, I’ve just discovered, which I can’t edit).

It could be argued that this is fragmenting the discussion – but, to be honest, I often find that I would welcome fragmentation of discussions in emailing lists.

So here we have the potential of a discussion from the perspectives of IT Services managers (Dave Surtees and Chris Sexton work in IT Service departments in the University of York and Sheffield respectively). And their anecdotes are in alignment with the comments made by ajcann, Alison Wildish and James Brown.

And I have discovered the advantages of syndicating the UK Web Focus blog to other places where there are likely to be lots of users. Has anyone else added their blog to Facebook – where it has the potential of being viewed by 25 million users (according to Wikipedia)?

Technorati Tags: Facebook

Posted in Facebook | 10 Comments »

W4A 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2007

About The W4A 2007 Conference

I recently attended the W4A 2007 conference (the 4th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility), which was held in Banff, Canada prior to the International World Wide Web 2007 conference (WWW 2007) which I have posted about previously. The theme of the conference (which is now a fully-fledged international conference.) was Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web: Hindrance or Opportunity?

Please note that this is a long report. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Accessibility, w4a2007 | 3 Comments »

Email IS Dying

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 May 2007

I gave a talk entitled “Email Must Die!” at the ILI 2005 conference in London back in October 2005 and followed this up with an Ariadne article with the rather more hesitant question “Must Email Die?“.

I can recall that the title of the talk was felt to be rather controversial at the time. So I was interested to read an article entitled “Firms to embrace Web 2.0 tools” in the Computing newsletter (which was also picked up by IT Week) on a recently released Gartner report.

The report states that:

MySpace and FaceBook are the most successful community environments on the planet because they have pulled people away from email, which is the one thing that nothing else has managed to do so far’.

I should add that I was the not the only person to predict this trend. In a UCISA Poll on Instant Messaging a correspondent from the University of Bath stated that “mail seen by younger people to be ‘boring’ ‘full of spam’, IM and SMS immediacy preferred” – and this was back in 2004.

Are mailing list services just for old people, I wonder :-)?

Posted in Web2.0 | 11 Comments »

Report On The ARLIS/UK Study Day

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 May 2007

Yesterday (Wednesday 23 May 2007) I gave a talk on “Building (and Sustaining) Impact for your Web Resource” at an ARLIS/UK & Ireland Study Day on “Dip’ping Your Toe In The Water: Digital Image Projects, Where To Begin And How Not To End“.

The ARLIS/UK & Ireland society is new to me. It is an educational charity which seeks to promote all aspects of the librarianship of the visual arts, including architecture and design. The aim of the study day was to provide advice for members who are involved in or planning digitisation projects.

Institutional Case Studies

The first two talks described case studies in use of (proprietary) software used to manage collections of digital images. It was particularly interesting to hear the case study from Birkbeck University, which described the approaches taken by the London Architecture Online (LAO) project which aims “to create a searchable, high quality collection of c.2000 digital images on architectural developments in London during the 17th and 18th centuries.” It struck me during the presentation (unfortunately the planned demonstration could not be given due to access restriction problems) that many institutions will probably be going down the route of multiple provision of repository services, such as departmental digitisation of key resources (as in this case) together with institutional learning repositories, eprints repositories, media repositories, perhaps provided by AV departments, etc, as well as the various national repositories, such as JORUM.

We have started to have discussion here at the University of Bath on the duplication of effort as well as the potential problems this can cause to the end user community, who will potentially have multiple repository services they may need to access. I don’t think the solution to this problem is for institutions to decide on a single application for all uses; rather there is a need to ensure that the various repository services which are deployed are interoperable, allowing, for example, for the metadata to be harvested by other services in order to allow a single (and possibly personalised) interface to be provided to multiple repository services.

This is also an opportunity for me to mention the JISC-funded RSP Project which has the remit to encourage the reuse of repository content, which will include support for institutions in exploiting interoperable services. UKOLN is one of the partners in this project, which is led by the University of Nottingham.

The Bigger Picture

The three other talks provided a bigger picture. Grant Young, TASI, in his talk on “Going Digital: Overcoming the Barriers to Digitisation” summarised the findings of a recent survey he had carried out on the barriers which the ARLIS community faced in digitisation work. The biggest barrier was copyright, followed by various resourcing challenges (finance, technical expertise, etc.). Grant also mentioned his involvement in discussions on future developments to the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) copyright licence.

After lunch I gave my talk on “Building (and Sustaining) Impact for your Web Resource. I described (and demonstrated) how various Web 2.0 services could help to overcome barriers due to limited technical expertise an, in response to a query which had been raised in the morning session as to why users who may be willing to make use of Flickr, did not, in some cases, seem to be interested in making use of similar services provide in museums, I suggested that many users who have gained familiarity with the popular Web 2.0 social networking services, may not be interested in services which did not provide annotation and discussion services or the lonely ghettos which can be found in over-managed social networking services. I concluded by suggesting that the emphasis on users and trust which underpins much of the thinking on Web 2.0 is close to the hearts of the cultural heritage and educational sectors (“You mean that I can borrow resources for free and browse an art gallery with often unhindered viewing of priceless paintings, but you don’t trust me to leave a comment in your online visitors book” – to paraphrase a recent discussion on the topic of “Radical Trust”).

The final talk of the day was given by Mike Pringle (current) director of the AHDS Visual Arts service. Mike gave a talk entitled “From Analogue to Digital: the Slide into Total Immersion“. Mike’s talk complemented mine nicely, and, as I discovered in the panel session at the end of the day’s event, he endorsed the paper by Mike Ellis and myself which Mike presented at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference: “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers“.

Next Steps For ARLIS

I found the ARLIS study day very enjoyable, not least for the willingness which I felt that the delegates and ARLIS committees members appeared to have for engaging with the Web 2.0 world. One of the committee members is already a del.ici.us user and several people expressed an interest in supporting an ARLIS blog :-) It would be great to see ARLIS follow the example set by the CILIP South East’s Hampshire and Isle of Wight sub-branch who recently set up a blog to implement the new CILIP’s president’s call for member organisations to “Encourag[e] member activism“.

Feel free to add a comment to this post when the service is available. And feedback for participants at the ARLIS Study Day is also welcomed.

Technorati Tags: ARLIS

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Enhancements to Dapper

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 May 2007

I noticed recently that Tom Roper had spotted my posting about Blotter and has announced that he’s using this service himself. This motivated me to revisit the Blotter Web site – where I discovered that the service seems to have been enhanced (or perhaps I missed these options originally). As well as a number of options to manage the display of the graph, it is also possible to change the time period from its default of one week to either a month or indefinitely.

As can be seen below, the indefinite display gives a much better visualisation of the trends for this blog, with a noticeable leap in the Technorati ranking in March 2007 (which I commented upon at the time).

UK Web Focus blog:

As I mentioned recently Technorati statistics can also be obtained for standard RSS feeds, and not just for blog feeds. So I’ve included a graph showing the trends for the UKOLN feed since this was registered at Technorati.

UKOLN Web site:

Again we can see a big leap in the numbers of links in early May – but I’m not sure why this is. And, despite this leap, the overall Technorati trend is downwards. I suspect that this is because Technorati is meant primarily for use with blogs and its algorithms will be flawed when used with conventional Web sites (i.e. I suspect it will be looking for links from blogs rather than conventional Web sites).

Technorati Tags:

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Innovation Competition at IWMW 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 May 2007

I’ve mentioned previously that bookings are open for the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2007 (IWMW 2007), the annual event organised for members of institutional Web management teams (and note that this year the capacity is limited to 180 participants, so early booking is recommended).

This is the eleventh in the series. As regular attendees will know, every year we seek to introduce something new to the event, in order to provide an opportunity to demonstrate examples of Web and related IT developments which may be new to participants. Last year, for example, we hosted Brian the Brain Chatbot, a speaking avatar which provided information about the event. And at IWMW 2005 we exploited the WiFi network which was available for workshop participants by providing access to a range of networked technologies, including chat facilities and a wiki.

We will be continuing to innovate this year. However, more importantly we are encouraging workshop participants to take part in the Innovation Competition. IWMW 2007 participants are invited to submit lightweight examples of innovative uses of Web technologies which may be of interest to fellow participants.

This could include:

  • ‘Mashups’ which integrate content from multiple sources.
  • Informative, educational or entertaining use of multimedia (e.g. podcasts, YouTube videos, etc.)
  • Informative, educational or entertaining use of 3-D virtual environments such as Second Life.
  • Seamless access to content using technologies such as OpenID.

The criteria for the competition are:

User Benefits
The benefits to users i.e. what users will gain from using this innovation.
Simplicity
How easy it was to develop and deploy the innovation.
Coolness!
Innovation which is cooler than other submissions. For example, submissions which get people talking over coffee or which they will seek to deploy once they return to work. Alternatively examples which make other participants laugh might be rated as cool.

At the time of writing we haven’t finalised on any prizes for the competition – we would prefer participants to compete primarily for fun and to share their work with others, rather than for mercenary reasons.  However we  will be providing a prize  (or prizes) as an appreciation of the work done.

We will also be providing data which participants may like to make use of in the competition. A page containing access to a variety RSS feeds and structured geo-location data for previous IWMW events is available – together with a link to a mashup of the location of all eleven of the IWMW events, to illustrate how easy it can be to create a Google Maps mashup.

We look forward to receiving your submissions

Posted in iwmw2007 | 1 Comment »

Building (and Sustaining) Impact for your Web Resource

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 May 2007

How should you go about “Building (and Sustaining) Impact for your Web Resource“, especially if you have limited resources and technical expertise? This is a topic I’ll be talking about on Wednesday 23rd May 2007 at an ARLIS study day on “Dip’ping Your Toe In The Water: Digital Image Projects, Where To Begin And How Not To End“. The aims of the day are described in the abstract for the event:

This study day is aimed at librarians, ‘ACADIans’, visual resources curators & other professionals working in HE, FE, art colleges, museums, galleries and art collections, as well as anyone involved in managing digital images.

Three years ago, slide libraries and image collections were moving towards a ‘digital future’. Now it has arrived, are we getting any closer to achieving the transition from analogue to digital? This study day will give some practical guidance on how to manage and, just as importantly, sustain such a project.

I will be describing some simple search engine optimisation techniques which can help to ensure that Web resources can be found using search engines such as Google. I will also describe ways of finding out who is linking to your service and, moving on from usage statistics to impact analysis, exploring ways of discovering what people may be saying about your resources and your service. I’ll conclude by suggesting that a way of maximising the impact of your service would be to engage your audience with your service, and that Web 2.0 techniques such as use of blogs (to talk about the service and to encourage feedback) and syndication (to allow details of your service to be more easily used by others) should now be considering by organisations who may just be starting to provide Web services.

I ‘ve discussed this previously, but primarily in the context of higher educational services. However the ARLIS organisation is new to me. Looking at their Web site I find:

ARLIS/UK & Ireland is an independent body, founded in 1969, which became an educational charity in 1995.

It aims to promote all aspects of the librarianship of the visual arts, including architecture and design. The Society welcomes as members all those involved in the documentation of these fields and represents the profession to the outside world.

I would welcome examples of Web 2.0 approaches from anyone who may be involved in librarianship of the visual arts, which I could demonstrate in my talk – thus maximising the impact of your service :-). My current set of slides are available on my Web site and are also available on Slideshare.

Technorati Tags: ARLIS

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Further Thoughts On WWW 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 May 2007

I have previously described how, for me, Linked Data was the highlight of the WWW 2007 conference. But what else was of interest?

Web History

As well as looking forward, this year the conference had a Web History track which included an exhibition of artefacts from early days of the Web and a series of presentations and panel sessions which discussed various aspects of the development of the Web. If I had had more time prior to the conference I would have brought various items that I have in my possession from the time I became involved in Web activities starting back in December 19992, including the Running An Institutional WWW Server handbook I wrote, various newspaper clippings and memorabilia from the Web conference I have attended. However Bebo White did invite me to take part in a panel session which reminisced about World Wide Web conference series, together with Professor Wendy Hall. Following the session, Marc Weber of the Web History Centerasked if I would be willing to be interviewed (and recorded) about my involvement in the early days of the World Wide Web, and, in particular, the promotional activities I was involved in across the UK higher education community (when everyone else seemed to be convinced that the future lay with Gopher). Marc was a very successful, non-intrusive interviewer and the 30-45 minute interview I had expected actually lasted for about 90 minutes. Marc and his colleagues appreciate the need to preserve such key moments in the development of the Web – and there are close links with the work of the DCC (Digital Curation Centre) which UKOLN is a member of. So I’m looking forward to building on my initial contact with Marc – and perhaps finding others within the UK HE sector who were active in the early days of the Web (for example, the UK Active Map of UK Universities at Wolverhampton University). And, incidentally, isn’t in unfortunate that the sector has lost the archives of the web-support Mailbase list which was the prime discussion service used by the community back in 1994.

The Keynote Presentation

The keynote talk which had the biggest impression was given by Dick Hardt. Dick, CEO of SXIP Identity, gave a performance, which, while lacking in implementation detail, was never dull and did seem to stimulate many of the delegates. This talk is one Dick has given at other conferences, and a recording of the talk on Identity 2.0given at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention is available on YouTube.

Other Aspects

There was a lot of interest in the talk on Yahoo Pipes in the Developer’s Day track. A live demonstration was given which showed how Yahoo Pipes can be used to very quickly generate an application which processes structured information, such as, but not restricted to RSS. I’ve previous looked at Yahoo Pipes, but I know I should spent a but more time in familiarising myself with it, as I do think it has a lot of potential. Further information on the talk is given in a blog posting by Peter Murray-Rust.

But the best thing about the conference was the people I met, the ideas we exchanged and the (very friendly) discussions and arguments that ensued. When I return to work some of the people I’ll be getting in touch with in order to follow-up on our discussions include Marc Weber, Peter Murray-Rust, Glen Newton, Tom Heath, Stephen Coast, Christian Bizer Freie, Danny Ayres and Denny Vrandecic.

And finally it was flattering – and rather embarrassing – when I met one of the conference volunteers who works at a UK university who, when she found out who I was, described me as the “God of the Web in the UK”. After having recently been described as a “well-honed athlete” I suspect there will be a lot of disappointed people who read these postings and then meet me in the flesh :-)

Technorati Tags: WWW2007

Posted in www2007 | 2 Comments »

Technorati Rankings For Web Site Feeds

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 May 2007

Technorati Ranking For RSS Feeds

As well as finding resources in the blogosphere, Technorati can also be used to measure the number of inbound links to blogs. The corresponding Technorati ranking can be useful in giving feedback on the effectiveness of dissemination strategies for a blog.

I was surprised, however, when I discovered that Technorati also gives a ranking for the UKOLN Web site (but not one of the two other Web sites I tried).

Technorati ranking for UKOLNWeb site

On subsequent reflection I suspect that this will have happened as a consequence of using Technorati’s ‘ping service‘ on the UKOLN’s RSS feed – which can help to ensure that Technorati indexes UKOLN’s latest news.

Recording Trends Using Blotter

It struck me that it might be useful to make use of the data provided by Technorati to measure certain aspects of UKOLN’s Web site. And rather than having to do this manually or commission software to support this task, I have used the Blotter applications (which, as described previously, I use to give a rolling snapshot of the rating of this blog). The snapshot of the numbers of links from blogs to the UKOLN Web site, the numbers of blogs which have links and the Technorati rating, is shown below.

A Suggestion

If we want to maximise ways of findings our organisation’s news feeds, we should probably ping the RSS feed in Technorati. This will help ensure that Technorati knows about the existence of our feed.

If we are interested in trends in the blogging community’s links to our organisation’s Web site it is probably worth visiting the Blotter Web site and getting the simple HTML element which will create the above graph:

<a href="http://www.dapper.net/dapplications/Blotter" mce_href="http://www.dapper.net/dapplications/Blotter"><img src="http://www.dapper.net/dapplications/BlogPlot/http://YourBlogUrlHere" border="0"></a>

Let me know what you think about this suggestion.

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Report On The WWW 2007 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 May 2007

Background

Banff Springs HotelLast week I attended the WWW 2007 conference, which was held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Canada. And, as can be seen from the accompanying photograph (or the 646 and rising photos tagged with ‘www2007′ at Flickr) this was a spectacular location for the 974 participants from 40 different countries.

Initially I had intended to write daily trip reports from the conference. But a combination of (a) difficulties logging in to the WiFi network (on a number of occasions delegates unplugged the WiFi router in order to plug in their own laptop!); (b) needed to reflect on the new topics I was hearing about; (c) networking and (c) spending time admiring the view made me decide to write my reports after the conference had finished.

Overall Impressions

It wasn’t just the location of the conference (although that undoubtedly helped) but I’m sure I wasn’t the only delegate to feel inspired by the conference – indeed Peter Murray-Rust (whom I first met at the first WWW conference in 1994) commented on his blogI am delighted that I had the chance to go to WWW2007 – at one stage I’d wondered whether there would be anything of interest other than the session I was in. … As it turned out I got so excited I found it difficult to sleep“.

Web 2.0 seems to have been accepted as the norm by many participants. There were several talks and sessions which covered blogs, wikis, social networks, AJAX, etc. And Tom Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, demonstrated an AJAX application which he had written.

The Semantic Web featured in many of the sessions. However in various discussions I had during the conference, it seems that some of the criticisms which have been raised about the Semantic Web are now being acknowledged. In particular it seems that the focus for Semantic Web activities is now on linking large data sources, with a move away from the knowledge representation issues (and, in particular, from the notion of the view of the Semantic Web as a global expert system).

Linked Data

I attended a couple of sessions on or related to Linked Data. This term, which was new to me, was coined by Tim Berners-Lee last year. The ideas were explored in more depth in the Developers Track (chaired by Danny Ayres whom I met for the first time, having frequently come across his blog postings when searching for information on RDF) which included a panel session on Building a Semantic Web in Which Data Can Participate(chaired by Paul Miller from Talis and a former colleague of mine) and a session on Linked Data, which Danny chaired.

The focus of the panel on Building a Semantic Web in Which Data Can Participate was on openness with talks from Steve Coast (on his OpenStreepMap work), Peter Murray-Rust (a chemist at the University of Cambridge who used his blog as the basis for his presentation to describe his passion for openness of scientific data), Ian Davis Rob Stiles (from Talis in the UK who described the need to provide open licences for databases and the work Talis is engaged in in developing such licences) and Jamie Taylor from MetaWeb and a developer of Freebase – an open Web 2.0 database, which has been exciting many Web developers recently – as can be seen from Denny Vrandecic’s blog posting.

The Linked Data session the following day featured three presentations from Tim Berners-Lee (W3C) on ‘Tabulator: A Semantic Web Browser‘, Christian Bizer (Freie University Berlin) on ‘Querying Wikipedia Like a Database‘ and Tom Heath (KMi, The Open University) on ‘How to Combine the Best of Web2.0 and a Semantic Web: Examples from Revyu.com‘. Tim described the Tabulator generic data browser which he had developed (note that this prototype works only in a suitably configured FireFox browser and its functionality can be difficult to understand – it brings together data from disparate sources). Tim’s talk was somewhat confusing, as he was clearly so excited by the topic that he lost his focus. On the other hand, Tim did succeed in providing an on-the-fly integration of bioinformatics data provided by one of the delegates in the audience which, for those who understood what was happening beneath the surface, was very impressive.

Another live demonstration of the power of linked data was given by Christian Bizer who described DBpedia – “a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia and to link other datasets on the Web to Wikipedia data“. As an example see the query of Tennis players from Moscow. The power, though, is the integration of queries of the DBPedia database with other data sources – details of which are provided on the DBPedia Web site.

The final talk was given by Tom Heath, a PhD student at KMi, in the Open University (and someone I have known for a number of years). Tom demonstrated his Revyuapplication. On the surface this looks like many of the other review services on the Web. The power of Tom’s application is that the data is freely available as RDF, again allowing the data to be integrated with other data sources.

These two session very much excited me. At previous WWW conferences Semantic Web sessions had focussed on the underlying technologies (RDF, OWL, etc.). Now, it seems, Semantic Web applications are starting to be developed which can demonstrate the power of ‘linked data’. And, over lunch, I had discussions with Peter Murray-Rust, Tom Heath and others on the application of linked data in scientific applications. This led to Peter’s posting on the chemical semantic web has arrived! just do it NOW – May 11th, 2007.

This excitement continued in the Balkan Restaurant later that evening. Initially intended for a small group, the invitation was posted on the conference wiki and over 20 people, mostly those who are active in linked data research and development work, attended. This is an area very much of interest to UKOLN, with our long-standing involvement in library applications and more recent interests in the scientific area. My own particular area of interest is in disseminating and embedding innovations across UKOLN’s communities. I think there is now a feeling within the Semantic Web community that the previous focus on the underlying standards, accompanied by the hype in the Semantic Web, had proved counter-productive, and there was a need to engage more effectively with user communities, including the research and education sector. So I was pleased to have discussions with several of the participants at the meal which explored ways of making use of the various applications I’ve described across a wider community. I’ll need to send lots of emails when I return to work.

So Linked Data was the highlife of the conference for me. If you carry out a Technorati search for Linked Data WWW2007 you’ll find other blog postings on this subject, including one’s by Paul Miller (twice) and the anarchitect blog (again two postings).

Further reflections on the WWW 2007 to follow.

Technorati Tags: WWW2007

Posted in www2007 | 11 Comments »

The First IT Services Blog?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 May 2007

It was via Michael Nolan’s blog that I discovered that Edge Hill University have recently announced the launch of a blog for their Web Services department.

I’m aware of blogs in various academic Library services and individuals within IT Services who have blogs – such as Phil Wilson, here at Bath University, Michael Webb at Newport College and John Dale at Warwick University – but I’ve not come across an IT Services blog (and I guess the Edge Hill University blog doesn’t could as this is for the Web Services department). Are there any? And are IT Services having to catch up with Libraries with making use of blogs to engage with their users?

Posted in Blog | 3 Comments »

IWMW 2007 Open For Bookings

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 May 2007

Bookings are now open for this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2007) . This event, which is aimed primarily at members of institutional Web management teams, will be held at the University of York on 16-18th July 2007.

The event, the 11th in the series is, once again, being chaired by my colleague Marieke Guy. This year’s theme is “Next steps for the Web management community” and will focus provide an opportunity for the community to explore ways in which collaboration can help support the challenges which the community face.

It should be noted that the capacity for this year’s event is limited to 180 participants (fewer than last year) – so we’d advise early booking to avoid disappointment. And if you look at the list of sessions, you should find many topics of interest.

Posted in iwmw2007 | 1 Comment »

Blogs For The Intranet

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 May 2007

 

On 1st March 2007 I published a post on FireFox – The Researchers Favourite Application?. I had expected this to be an uncontroversial posting, so I was surprised when Mark Sammons, a Sys Admin at Edinburgh University, stated that “Simply put, Firefox is not Enterprise-ready enough to be considered for migration from IE“. Mark gave a full explanation of the difficulties on large-scale deployment of FireFox and his reservations were echoed by Phil Wilson.

Mark commented on these discussions on his In-Cider Knowledge blog in a posting entitled Blogging On The Intranet – The Real “Killer App” of Blogging? :

I recently got into a discussion about the deployment of Firefox with Brian Kelly from the UK Web Focus blog. The discussion was quite interesting in that me and him were coming at the topic of Firefox from totally different angle – but it was interesting because we both listened to the others’ viewpoint, understanding where and what our areas of expertise in this field were.

I would very much agree with this sentiment; this, after all, is surely what blogs are about. So I was fascinated by Mark’s alternative interpretation:

However, what interested me is that this sort of issue that is raised within the University where I work yet the conversation isn’t happening.

He went on to add:

One of the most significant barriers that I see is that blogging is very transparent, very outward-looking, all posts are in the public domain. This seems an ideal scope for the conversation but the reality is, people will temper their language if talking to people outside of the organisation, temper their views to more “official” viewpoints. This does not match the ideals of what blogging was mean’t to be. I wonder if blogging confined to people on the intranet might be its real “killer app”.

My view of blogging is very much about openness and transparency. This, after all, reflects my role as a national Web adviser, with a responsibility for dissemination and engagement with my user communities. But am I guilty of assuming that an approach which may work for those with responsibilities for liaison with the wider community will also work within a organisation? I do, of course, see arguments and debates which take place within my institution, often on mailing lists. And I wonder whether blogs have a role to play in these debates – and the extent to which the culture and best practices which are being developed for public blogs will be applicable for blogs within an Intranet.

Thanks, Mark, for this insight. Does anyone have any experiences in the use of closed blogs? And might this be a way of addressing the concerns raised by Sheila Webber in her recent posting on Webbed or Websceptic: You Decide. – rather than a debate on the relative merits of blogs versus more traditional publications, might not blogs have a more important role in encouraging internal debate and discussions?

Posted in Blog | 4 Comments »

Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 May 2007

I’m pleased to report that a paper on “Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes” has been accepted by the W4A conference which will he held in Banff, Canada on 7-8th May 2007 (the conference runs in parallel with the International WWW 2007 conference).

My co-authors are David Sloan, Professor Stephen Brown, Jane Seale, Professor Helen Petrie, Patrick Lauke and Simon Ball, all of whom are active accessibility practitioners or researchers in the UK higher education community.

The paper is the latest in a series which has addressed the challenges of providing accessible services in the ‘edge cases’ of e-learning and cultural heritage services. Initially, back in 2004, myself, Lawrie Phipps and Elaine Swift had a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology on Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility. Several papers followed and in 2005 myself, Lawrie, David Sloan and others had a paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World” accepted at the W4A 2005 conference. This paper argued that “the context of the Web resource in question and other factors surrounding its use are [needed] to shape an approach to accessible design“. At W4A 2006 our paper on “Contextual Web Accessibility – Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines” followed up on this theme.

Our latest paper is available online, as are the slides. In this post I give a brief summary of our work:

  • Accessibility is foremost about people. Accessibility guidelines are useful as guidelines, but there are real dangers in treating them as infallible and in Web developers thinking that there job is to ensure compliance with the guidelines, rather than in ensuring they provide accessible services.
  • We should therefore regard Web services as ways of delivering services, but not as the final thing in itself. In e-learning, for example, the important aspect is the accessibility of the learning outcomes, and not necessarily the e-learning resources. This leads to the notion of ‘blended accessibility‘ which has parallels with ‘blended learning‘.
  • There is a context to accessibility, which includes the context of use (e.g. informational services, learning services, cultural resources, games, entertainment, etc.). The approaches developed to enhance the accessibility of informational resources do not necessarily apply in other contexts. In learning, for example, the new information (or knowledge) which a learner gains is the result of a particular pedagogical approach which is likely to be somewhat more sophisticated than the ‘pouring of information into empty vessels’ than can result from a simplistic application of WCAG guidelines for e-learning resources. Similar issues are relevant for cultural resources: why is Mona Lisa smiling and what does that painting by Salvadore Dali ‘mean’?
  • There is a need for documented policies, but these policies should be developed according to the context of use (which will also reflect institutional contexts, such as the resources which are available).
  • There will be a need for processes which implement agreed policies. And for the policies and procedures to become embedded, there is a need to engage all relevant stakeholders in their development and deployment.
  • Within the UK, in particular, an approach based on ‘widening participation‘ and ‘social inclusion‘ can be used to describe this approach in ways which resonate with wider political developments within the public sector. This phrase also avoids the implications that there is a single, universal solution to accessibility, within corresponding imperialistic undertones.
  • Our approach would appear to work well within the UK legal system which requires organisations to take ‘reasonable measures’ to ensure that services are accessible.
  • The ‘Cathedral and the Bazaar’ analogy developed to contrast open source development with that taken by proprietary software developers can also be applied to accessibility: the authors feel we should encourage development of a diversity of solutions, rather than the slow-moving centralised edifice we see with WAI and WCAG.
  • We shouldn’t, though, throw away WAI’s successes. Rather, in our paper we promote the term Accessibility 2.0 as a way of building on WAI’s political successes and high profile and the valuable set of guidelines which WAI have developed which, although not universally applicable, can be valuable in many areas.

Your comments on our paper are welcomed.

And, for the sake of completeness and to ensure all authors are credited, here is a full list of my peer-reviewed papers in this area:

  • Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes
    Kelly, B., Sloan, D., Brown, S., Seale, J, Petrie, H., Lauke, P. and Ball, S. W4A 2007, Banff, Canada, 7-11 May 2007. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2007/>
  • Using Context To Support Effective Application Of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
    Sloan, D., Kelly, B. Phipps, L., Petrie, H. and Fraser, H. Journal of Web Engineering, Issue 4. Vol. 5, 2006. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/jwe-2006/>
  • Contextual Web Accessibility – Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines
    Sloan, D, Kelly, B., Heath, A., Petrie, H., Hamilton, F and Phipps, L. WWW 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM). <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2006/>
  • Personalization and Accessibility: Integration of Library and Web Approaches
    Chapman, A., Kelly, B., Nevile, L. and Heath, A. WWW 2006 Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM). <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/interop-focus/publications/www2006/>
  • Holistic Approaches to E-Learning Accessibility
    Phipps, L. and Kelly, B. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 69-78. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/alt-j-2006/>
  • Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility
    Kelly, B., Phipps, L. and Howell, C. ALT-C 2005 Conference Proceedings. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/alt-c-2005/>
  • Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World
    Kelly, B., Sloan, D., Phipps, L., Petrie, H. and Hamilton, F. Proceedings of the 2005 International Cross-Disciplinary Workshop on Web Accessibility (W4A). ISBN: 1-59593-036-1. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/w4a-2005/>
  • Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility
    Kelly, B., Phipps, L. and Swift, E. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 2004, Vol. 30, Issue 3. <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/papers/cjtl-2004/>

Technorati Tags: accessibility2.0

Posted in Accessibility, publications, w4a2007 | 2 Comments »

Dodgy Blog Link Spam

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 May 2007

The first link I spotted from the admin section of my blog to Sheila Webber’s guest blog posting was entitled “Blogs and RSS May 1, 2007 3:29 pm”. That sounded of interest, so I followed it, to be presented with a porn site which had aggregated various postings on the subject of blogs and/or RSS.

The blog had also aggregated content on a variety of porn topics, but also the following:

yahoo>yahoo
photo>photo
picture>picture
streaming>streaming
travel>travel
girl>girl
cam-girls>cam-girls
free-rss-feeds>free-rss-feeds

I suspect the company isn’t doing anything illegal – it’s simply taking RSS feeds (often with Creative Commons licences)  and choosing its own preferred links, adverts and accompanying images.

But such services will possibly adversely influence link rating schemes, such as Technorati (although, to be fair, Technorati does seem to be quite good at filtering link and tag spam). But be warned – those links to your blog may not be all that they seem!

Posted in Blog | 3 Comments »

Social Networking Article in Forthcoming Education Guardian

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 May 2007

I have just had a phone call from a Guardian reporter who is writing an article for the Education Guardian which is due to be published next Tuesday.

Her feature is about “academics who argue that universities should relax their constraints on students’ use of MSN, MySpace and Facebook. They say these sites can actually be helpful for students and even help their academic work.” She asked for my views on why universities are imposing constraints on use of such services – and was, I think, somewhat taken aback when I suggested that many universities have moved on over the past few years and are acknowledging the potential benefits of such services. I gave example of the survey carried out by Edinburgh University of IT Service department policies on use of MSN Messenger. Although the report was internal to the University of Edinburgh, I did receive a copy, which included some great quotations such as the following which I used in a talk I gave on What Can Internet Technologies Offer? at the UCISA Management Conference way back in March 2004:

IM … is ‘here to stay’ – an ‘unstoppable tide’. Seen as part of youth culture, along with … SMS” – Liverpool John Moores University
Students will arrive familiar with, and expecting to .. use such tools. Email seen by younger people to be ‘boring’, ‘full of spam’, IM and SMS immediacy preferred” – University of Bath

From subsequent talks I’ve given to senior managers in IT Services (the most recent one on “Web 2.0: How Should IT Services and the Library Respond?“) I’ve got the feeling that, at a senior management level, IT Services are willing to embrace use of such technologies, leaving it to the academics to discuss the learning benefits and the challenges of assessing use of the services. And others have put it to me that it is actually other academics who would like to see such technologies based, and not the service departments. This was how I finished my contribution to yesterday’s Webinar on Web 2.0 for content sharing for learning and teaching in which I gave a talk on Content Creation: Web 2.0 Is Providing The Solution!.

Have IT Services redefined themselves, or does the management rhetoric fail to be implemented by the staff who are responsible for implementing such policies? And am I missing out on the general trends? Perhaps we are better served, in this respect, by BUCS, the Bath University Computing Service than other institutions?

Posted in Web2.0 | 4 Comments »

Guest Posting: Webbed or Web Sceptic? You Decide!

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 1 May 2007

Welcome To May’s Guest Blog Post

Following the interest generated by Roddy MacLeod’s guest blog post last month I am planning on having a regular slot from guest bloggers.

This month’s guest blog post is from Sheila Webber of the Information Literacy blog.

Webbed or Web Sceptic? You Decide!

Hi to all Brian’s blog readers and thanks to Brian for inviting me onto his blog.

When Brian asked me to guest here, I thought I’d write about the division that seems to be growing up between:

a) those information professionals who mostly gather and disseminate information to their peers in a webly fashion (I shall call these people the Webbed), and
b) those for whom all this faffing around on the web seems (frankly) a waste of time (I shall call these Web Sceptics).

My argument is that this seems to be adding to the existing divisions in our fragmented information profession. And, perversely, in some ways I think it’s getting harder to get into this Webbed information existence the more interesting information there is out there on the web.

In the past (generalising wildly) where you went for news and information about the information/library world tended to be driven by:

  • the sector you work in; plus
  • your specialist interest; plus
  • your geographic location.

However, from what I can see, an extra element “how you prefer to consume your information & interact with your peers” (Webbed or Web Sceptic) has been thrown into the mix.

This has been creeping up on us for a while, of course, but I now know people who mostly rely for their information (and a good deal of interaction) on blogs, online conference presentations, RSS feeds and so forth. On the other hand, I also know people:

  • who think blogs are vacuous ramblings,
  • who regard time spent faffing round the internet as time wasted,
  • who would see print publications as their formal information channel, and
  • would be highly sceptical of the idea of making useful professional contacts via Internet engagement.

And these Web Sceptics can be interesting, dynamic information professionals. It’s just that they don’t much like hunting out or consuming their information online.

What may also be happening is that people who write about the information world are tending to one mode or the other. Now, here I’m biased by my own experience, since I use to write a huge amount for Inform (the Institute of Information Scientists newsletter), fairly often for Information World Review and now and then for Library and Information Update.

Once I started blogging, though, basically I stopped doing much print stuff for professional mags. One element is the time factor. Another is that they are different kinds of writing (further information on this is available); getting back into “print article mode” becomes a bit more difficult. A further one is that when I blog I don’t have to worry about some Editor changing the title, or snipping out sentences: I can publish what I like. Plus it’s published immediately. Plus people can respond more easily. And this makes such a nice contrast with writing for peer-reviewed journals (which I have to do as part of my job).

Anyway, Big Trends in the information world seem to get through to everyone who takes any interest in professional things (since Big Trends get picked up in all media channels, print or online). However, details on what people think, and who the important thought leaders are, and what the not-so-big trends are may vary depending on whether you are Webbed or Web Sceptic.

Although, as more and more stuff is happening on the web, there may be more pressure on Web Sceptics to go to the web, on the other hand, the very fact that there is now so much stuff out there is becoming a bit of a turn off.

Take conference blogging. Brian has just blogged Museums on the Web, and he quotes people who found it useful. Similarly, I’ve blogged conferences, and had people thank me for it, and I’ve enjoyed other people’s conference blogs.

But …. a week or so ago I dropped in on the wiki for the then ongoing Computers in Libraries. A day or so in, there were already 150 posts from assorted bloggers. Now there are over 350 blog posts and 1,300 photos.

I just wanted to get a feel of how the conference went: where on earth do I start? Unfortunately, those photos are just too distracting (have you seen the one in the Museums on the Web set of a delegate apparently drinking from a bidet?? What was that all about?). And presumably Web Sceptics would look at the 350 postings and 1,300 and say: told you so: what we need here is a bit of quality control and filtering, like you get in those old fashioned print magazines.

To be honest, I find it a lot easier to get a feel for the conferences where there are just a few people blogging. Faced with 350 posts what I’m probably going to do is look for names of bloggers I know, and just follow their thoughts. I’m aware of the blogosphere expanding (even a year ago I think I knew about all the information literacy blogs, now I’m sure I don’t) with all sorts of useful stuff. There only being 24 hours in the day I’m carving out my own view of the information world, influenced most by the voices I hear online rather than the voices in print publications. I think this is also influencing who I talk to at conferences, who I correspond with most via email and so forth.

So I come back to what I said at the start, I think that this is probably fragmenting still further what is lumped together as “the library and information profession”. Within an organisation, this can be a good thing, if getting different perspectives from employees is seen as a positive thing, and reward and status isn’t associated with just one kind of information-world-view. I think in some organisations this might be a big “If”.

I also think it is making it even more difficult for any one national organisation to say it is the “voice” of the profession. There are lots of communication and news channels growing up that have no affiliation with any particular professional organisation. There are growing numbers of podcasts (e.g. Talking With Talis, UC Berkeley Webcasts, Information Literacy 2006 conference), presentations and online courses (e.g. Five Weeks to A Social Library), not to mention virtual shindigs in Second Life, which mean professional development via online is more of an option. I still feel meeting people face to face in real life is important for good relationships. But I wonder whether the role of associations in mediating this is getting less important?

As you might have gathered, I would see myself more in the Webbed category (with my name, I suppose I have to). And possibly the fact that I’m contributing to the online information universe as well as consuming it is an important part of being Webbed rather than Web Sceptic.

What do people think? Is this not a potential split at all, just a phase? Am I wrong to think that the Webbed and Web Sceptics are developing different information-world–views – it’s more than just reading things in different media? Am I right in thinking that in some ways it is getting more challenging for a Web Sceptic to start to become Webbed? Will associations and commercial information publishers start taking back some of the Webbed ground?

I’m hoping people will have some comments!

Sheila Webber

http://information-literacy.blogspot.com/

Posted in Blog, Guest-post | 9 Comments »