UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for May, 2009

Defend this Tory MP (yes, really!)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 May 2009

Whilst reading the Guardian’s RSS feed on my iPod Touch on the bus yesterday I came across an article entitled “The internet – a threat to free speech?“. The opening sentence was intriguing “It’s probably not the best time to be seen defending an MP, but here goes“. In the article Padraig Reidy described how “Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has been pilloried for likening the Daily Telegraph’s handling of the MPs’ expenses story to “torture” – drip-feeding information and keeping MPs waiting nervously by the phone each morning, awaiting the dreaded call“. And this complaint, it seems,  was published on her blog, in which Nadine Dorries questioned the motives of the Telegraph and its owners, the ­Barclay brothers.

Now although I have little sympathy for Tory MPs, I am concerned with the news that “solicitors acting for the Telegraph and the Barclay brothers sent [a] complaint about  not just to Dorries, but to her internet service provider, TDMWeb” which resulted in Dorries’ blog being taken down by the ISP. And although the blog was later restored, it seems that the material the Telegraph and the Barclays found so offensive has been removed.

The Blog of Nadine Dorries MP was launched in August 2006. It has a blog policy on the home page stating:

It’s simple. Be nice. If you try and misinterpret the position I have laid out in a blog; if you swear, are rude, abusive, aggressive or threatening, I will not publish. If you want to be any of the above, there are lots of other sites you can go to.

This blog is civil, respectful and will try always to be caring (except when in verbally, armed, political combat) I will not tolerate the harsh political, aggressive tones accepted on other blogs. Anyone who breaks these rules will be sent to the naughty step until they learn to behave. I have a very keen nose for Trolls, so beware.

Although I’ve not read any of the posts on the blog I’m pleased that an MP has been blogging for that length of time. And I’m very concerned that a newspaper can insist that a critical blog post can be removed and that the ISP will cave in. A clear example of the dangers of flaws in the legal system which can cause an ISP to cave into such threats. And we should be pleased we won’t experience such problems in our sector.

Of could we? I recently looked at the “IT ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY” at the University of Bath, which covers us of blogs hosted at the University. This states that “You must not use University computing services to harass, defame, libel, slander, intimidate, impersonate or otherwise abuse another person“. It goes on to state that a breach of the AUP can include “Copyright infringement“. Hmm. A search reveals I’ve written several blogs posts containing the words ‘George Bush’ – and they were unlikely to have been complementary! And I’ve also embedded various images, YouTube videos, etc. which may infringe copyright. So if this blog was hosted on the University of Bath blog server there could be a risk that I could face pressure to moderate my posts. A very slight risks, I’ll admit, and I would be prepared to justify the content I’ve published. But if the IT Services department was as easily intimidated as the provider of Dorries’ blog, there might be a risk.

I’ve also recently come across consortia agreements which contained a clause that organisations would not publish content which critical of other signatories (this wasn’t the exact wording, please note).  So if, for example, JISC has signed up to such an agreement and I was posting on a JISC Involve blog, I might not be able to post anything critical of other partner organisations. Now I don’t think such possibilities are likely. But, in light of the Nadine Dorries incident I think we need to be careful.

I could imagine some academics or academic disciplines in which one could  envisage tensions between the individual and the institution. And the clause in the JISC Involve blog terms and conditions which states that JISC has the “right (though not the obligation) to, in JISC’s sole discretion (i) refuse or remove any content that, in JISC’s reasonable opinion, violates any JISC policy or is in any way harmful or objectionable” seems to set a particulurly worying precedent – content can be removed if someone in JISC deems it “in any way harmful or objectionable“. I wonder if this post, which expresses concerns over this clause, could be considered objectionable and subject to removal if my blog was hosted on the JISC Involve service?

In order to avoid such risks wouldn’t it be desirable to make use of an external blog provider will whom one has a disinterested relationship? And if the service provider in based overseas we might avoid the pressures which have occurred in the Dorries blog case. WordPress pr Blogger, anyone? And that includes MPs such as Nadine Dorries.

Posted in Blog | 7 Comments »

The Social Web and the Belbin Model

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 May 2009

I have previously suggested that although I feel that the Social Web has much to offer that doesn’t mean that I would want everyone to have a blog, to Twitter, to record talks and make them freely available on video sharing services. Rather I feel that these approaches should be available to people who wish to exploit their potential, whether in teaching and learning, research or enriching access to scholarly and cultural resources. But who are the people who may be best suited to using Social Web services in this fashion?

A couple of decades ago I took part in a team building workshop during which I was introduced to the Belbin model. On completing the questionnaire on my personal preferences I discovered that I was a plant and a resource investigator. According to Wikipedia these are defined as:

Plants are creative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good plant will be bright and free-thinking. Plants can tend to ignore incidentals and refrain from getting bogged down in detail. The Plant bears a strong resemblance to the popular caricature of the absentminded professor-inventor, and often has a hard time communicating ideas to others.

The Resource Investigator gives a team a rush of enthusiasm at the start of the project by vigorously pursuing contacts and opportunities. He or she is focused outside the team, and has a finger firmly on the pulse of the outside world. Where a Plant creates new ideas, a Resource Investigator will quite happily steal them from other companies or people. A good Resource Investigator is a maker of possibilities and an excellent networker, but has a tendency to lose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget small details.

Are these characteristics still true, I wonder? And do they reflect the way I use Social Web tools, such as this blog? As I defined the role of this blog as an environment to provide  “an opportunity for me to ‘think out loud“: i.e. describe speculative ideas, thoughts which may occur to me, etc. which may be of interest to others or for which I would welcome feedback” I think I have been using the blog to support my preferences as a plant.

I most definitely use the blog to pursue  contacts and opportunities beyond my host institution. And as well as sometimes creating new ideas (such as the holistic approach to Web accessibility) I will also “quite happily steal them from other companies or people” (though I do always try to provide links back to the original ideas, whether in blog posts or even tweets).

Is the Belbin model useful in identifying the characteristics of those who enjoy blogging and micro-blogging, I wonder?

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Reflections on Use of Twitter at the #CILIP-CYMRU09 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 May 2009

tweets with the #cilip-cymru09 tagLast week I gave a talk on “Virtual Space for All: The Opportunities and Challenges Provided By The Social Web 2.0” at the CILIP Wales, Welsh Libraries, Archives and Museums Conference 2009. The organisers, Mandy Powell in particular, were keen on building on the success of the amplification of the recent CILIP2 open meeting by encouraging exploitation of the conference’s WiFi network though use of Twitter with the conference tag ‘#cilip-cymru09‘. Although the numbers of twitterers were small I thought it was interesting to observe and reflect on the ways in which Twitter was being used and the possible benefits it can provide as usage grows.

Jane Stevenson of the Archives Hub, MIMAS, University of Manchester, was the main conference twitterer. As can be seen for the accompanying image, Jane provided a running commentary of the talks (in this case my talk) with, on a number of occasions, links provided to the resources being described, such as the link to the National Library of Wales community wiki at www.ourwales.org. What we have here is potentially an accessibility benefit, provided by the textual transcript of a talk.

In contrast a tweet by BeccaDavies, who chaired my session which asked “have we ritualised our reasons for not allowing access to web 2.0 – can we remember why? #cilip-cymru09” provided me with a new insight into my talk (a talk which I have given on a number of occasions recently). Have established a number of unthinking reasons for not engaging with the Social Web?  I’d not thought of it in those terms before.

Bob McKee, CEO of CILIP, in his introductory comments for the panel session, suggested that as well as the physical space provided by libraries and the virtual space which I described,  there is also an internal space, where the learning takes place. A tweet by MartinNHW commented on this remark: “#cilip-cymru09 Bob McKee – re Martyn Wade: space between our ears – echoes of JG Ballard’s inner space – as well as physical and virtual“. Afterwards I heard Bob remark that he hadn’t made the connection with JG Ballard’s ‘inner space’, but seemed to welcome this analogy. Again we are seeing how Twitter can provide differing perpectives on a talk, which can help enrich the learning for others.

We are starting to see a number of posts describing experiments in using Twitter in lectures, such as  Where for art thou Twitter? on the Classroom 2 blog, and The Twitter Experiment – Bringing Twitter to the Classroom at UT Dallas on the Kesmit-ing blog, Classroom idea: Twitter note-taking on Steve Outing’s blog, and Embracing the Twitter Classroom on the Huffington Post. We’ll be seeing much more of this, I suspect.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

You Care About Innovation? Then Tell Me What You Think, Not Who You Work For!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 May 2009

I recently commented how Twitter provides a means for not only finding out and discussing new ideas but also establishing and developing new professional relationships. And sometimes the contacts may take place initially in the blogosphere which can then be supported by discussions, or even just listening, on Twitter.

But how easy do we make it for others to establish new contacts and engage in discussions in this way?  I was thinking about this in the context of a comment made recently by Nicole Harris who described howthe fact that I am connected to JISC in my e-mail address is important…“. As I wanted to read Nicole’s blog to see what else she’d written on this topic I Googled “Nicole Harris JISC Blog” –  and found that her staff page on the JISC Web site was the first hit. This page provided contact details (including her JISC email address) and a brief summary of her areas of work – but no link to her blog. I had to scan through the Google results more carefully before finding her JISC Access Management Team blog – and, interestingly the link was to a post entitled “The opinions expressed on this blog are only the opinions of…?” which concluded with the questions:

- As a manager at JISC, should my blog posts reflect my personal opinions or that of the corporate body of JISC?

- How can senior managers within our organisations best understand the role of web2 platforms so we don’t get our wrists slapped for being vocal on such platforms?

- Should we be vocal on such plaforms?

- Should policies be governed by communication mode (i.e. blogging), platform (JISC Involve versus general WordPress) or job role (would this policy be different for me and mark, who now lives in JISC Collections but continues to blog with me)?

Now a discussion about the contents of a blog is worthy of another post. In this post my interest is in how one’s active participation in innovation can be surfaced for the wider community. Shouldn’t it be the address of the blog which is included in one’s profile in various social networking services (e.g. Link-in).  And shouldn’t a staff page on one’s organisational Web site link to the place where views and opinions are being surfaced and discussions take place?

Surely if you care about innovation (which I know Nicole does) then you’ll make it easy for your user community and your peers to find out what you think and help then to engage in the discussions and debate? And these days that is increasingly likely to take place on blogs and via Twitter. And the debate never took place on instituional Web sites, did it?

Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »

How Do New Ideas Start? How Do New Contacts Develop?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 May 2009

The Question

How do you ideas start? How can a informal conversation lead to an exploration of new ideas? How do such conversations start? And how does one participate in such conversations, especially with new people?

These were a series of questions which occurred to me a few days ago, following some early morning light-hearted banter on Twitter. I thought I’d share the dialogue and invite comments on the more general issues.

The Twitter Discussions

At 7 am on Friday 15th May 2009 I got up and downloaded the new tweets on my iPod Touch.  I noticed that James Clay had spotted that the “Latest upgrade to TwitterFon on the iPhone now includes Ads. There will be a paid for Pro version which doesn’t“. As I was using Twitterfon to view the tweet I had an interest in alternative Twitter clients, in case the ads on the new version were to intrusive. In response to my query on alternatives Joss Winn responded by suggesting that “if you’re going to pay, Tweetie is worth every penny“. Now I’ve not met Joss (as far as I know) but, a few months ago started following him on Twitter and subscribe to his blog.

In order to put his suggestion into context, I visited his blog and spotted his (then current) post on “The user is in control“. This post was written in response to Andy Powell’s post about Identity in a Web 2.0 World and contained some comments which reflected my view of how Web 2.0 is requiring higher education to challenge some of the assumptions we have previously taken for granted (in particular that higher educational institutions should regard themselves as automatically the main provider of a student’s digital identity).  As I appreciated Joss’s work in this area, I tipped my hat in his direction with a tweet posted at 07:23 saying “Ta for suggesting Tweetie app. BTW have just looked at your blog & will cite your post on “The user is in control” l8tr today“. I’d made links with a new contact before 07.30 am.

When I arrived at work forty minutes later Joss had responded with a jocal tweet saying:

excellent :-) A citation from Brian Kelly surely counts towards the REF!

In a similar vein I made fun of the notion that citing tweets would have any relevance to REF (the Research Exercise Framework alternative to the RAE for identifying the merits of research publications:

“A citation from Brian Kelly surely counts towards the REF!” True – so if I cite u, will u cite me? (hmm should have DMed that!)”.

Martin Weller observed this dialogue and joined in by suggesting that semi-seriously we should work up our own set of metrics of reputation etc so we can compare when REF is done“. Following a few further tweets between Martin, Joss and myself a few hours later Martin published a blog post on “What would ALT-REF look like?“. The blog post included an image (shown below) which captured the discussions:

Discussion

Martin Weller’s suggestion was that an alternative to REF would “take in the sort of distributed identity we have online, so measures activity in blogging, delicious, slideshare, YouTube, twitter, etc. It would need to measure not just activity but influence, impact, etc in some data driven manner“. Whether this idea has any merits might be worth exploring on Martin’s blog. My more specific interest is how the people who may be working together across the “blogging, delicious, slideshare, YouTube, twitter, etc” services might find each and share ideas which, at some later point, might provide significant benefits.

Martin and myself  have already benefitted from the discussions we’ve had on Twitter and from reading and commenting on each other’s blog posts, with the shared understanding we’ve gained having led to a submission for a workshop session at the ALT-C conference which we’ll be facilitating at the conference in September. I have also received contributions to a number of peer-reviewed papers from contacts I’ve met on Twitter.

Thinking about this in more detail, I realise that typically I might start following someone on Twitter if I feel I might gain something from this, such as new insights into digital library developments, use of Web 2.0, digital preservation, etc. If I do find myself following links embedded in tweets or enjoying contributions to a twitter discussion I might look at the Twitterer’s blog (if, as is often the case, they have one) and subscribe to it so I can read their ideas in more depth on their blog. And this might then lead to further sharing of ideas and possibly joint work.

But if you don’t tweet or don’t blog then you are likely to be invisible to me.  This, I’m sure, won’t be of concern to many people! But, more generally, won’t a failure to have a presence in the blogosphere, on Twitter and in other social media which are being increasingly used in certain sectors of the research community result in a failure to have one’s ideas being known about and opportunities to engage with others being missed? Speculation on my part, I’ll admit. And there will be a need to gather evidence. So I’ve provided my anecdote.  Anyone had similar experiences?

Posted in Twitter, Web2.0 | 2 Comments »

Not Your Father’s IT Innovation!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 May 2009

Yesterday a leader column in The Guardian suggested that the current global economic crisis is “Not your father’s recession“. Rather than being simply the latest downturn  in a economic cycle which has been with us since 1945 the leader writer feels that this recession is very different from those we (and our parents) have experienced in the past.

On the same day Andy Powell on the eFoundation’s blog invites us to consider The role of universities in a Web 2.0 world? Andy feels that the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX)’s report on “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” should have sought to address the question”what is the role for universities in a Web 2.0 world?” rather than “how do universities best use Web 2.0 to enhance their current practice?

Similarly Andy feels the the recent CILIP2 Open Session missed an opportunity to address the fundamental issue of”What is the role of an organisation like CILIP in a Web 2.0 world?” instead discussing the much safer question of “how should CILIP use Web 2.0 to engage with its members?“.

Andy’s post concludes by suggesting that “if Web 2.0 changes everything, [he] see[s] no reason why that doesn’t apply as much to professional bodies and universities as it does to high street bookshops“. Or to put it another way, it’s not just about sometimes slow-moving institutions eventually accepting the importance of the IT innovations which the early adopters have been talking about – and using – for some time now. Rather we don’t just have to develop the “best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0” which I suggest. This needs to be done (and I’ve very pleased that the CLEX report and the CILIP community seem to have accepted this) – but we also need to look closely at the roles which our institutions have traditionally played and the services they have provided and questions whether these are still needed.

On one level support services in our institutions need to question their traditional roles.  Is there a need for IT Service departments, for example, to continue to provide and host mainstream services such as email. In her blog Chris Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield and UCISA chair has described proposals to move its email service for students to Google – and the comments from the users on her blog seems very positive. And how should academic libraries respond to the wide range of information sources of available ‘out there’ . The traditional approach has been to ensure that information literacy provision allows users to be able to differentiate between quality controlled sources of information, such as academic journals, and widely used services such as Wikipedia which don’t provide such managed approaches to quality. But as we have recently discovered that publishers of research journals such as Elsevier publish fake academic publications, it would seem that such traditional notions are already questionable.

Put as well as the provision of services such as email we also need to question whether it is desirable for  institutions to provide email addresses for  staff and students. Since email is used to authenticate registration and subsequent changes for many Web 2.0 services, what will happen when people leave the institution and thus can no longer use their email address? Wouldn’t it be sensible for institutions to advice students on short course and staff on short-term contracts to use an email account which can still be used when they leave if they wish to use Web 2.0 services, whether for social or academic purposes? And if so, how short is a short course? A  diploma, lasting a few months? A 1 year MSc? Or a 3 year undergraduate course?

This is part of a wider discussion about identify in a Web 2.0 world, and the focus of another post on the eFoundations blog. “Identity in a Web 2.0 world is not institution-centric” argues Andy, a view strongly supported by Paul Miller. Joss Winn explores these issues in more depth in a  blog post entitled “The user is in control” in which he describes a blueprint outline which recognises that “University students are at least 18 years old and have spent many years unconsciously accumulating or deliberately developing a digital identity” and will increasingly question and resist the idea that the institution will impose a new digital identity.

What, then, “is the role for universities in a Web 2.0 world?” to revisit Andy’s question? And will a combination of the continuing economic recession, possible implications of global warming and the availability of  Open Educational Resources does the traditional higher education institution have a future?  And if you point out the failure of the UK eUniversity (see The Real Story Behind the Failure of U.K. eUniversity – PDF) to argue for a continuation of the status quo I’ll suggest that that provides a valuable learning experience, illustrating some of the ways approaches  to radical transformation of the sector which we now know to avoid.

Web 2.0 is not just the latest in a series of IT developments (ranging from mainframes, mini-computers, workstations, standalone PCs, PCs on a LAN, PCs with Internet and Web access to today’s mobile devices) which institutions have successfully absorbed and integrated into the mainstream, I feel. It’s not your father’s IT innovations – it’s something much more radical. And if you deny this aren’t you behaving in a similar fashion to the music industry,  which refused to acknowledge that developments such as the Internet, mobile music players  and P2P networks  fundamentally changed how the industry needed to operate?

Or is this a tongue-in-cheek post, which I’ll be happy to distance myself from in a few year’s time? To be honest, I don’t know.  What do you think?

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

The Launch of the CLEX09 Report

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 May 2009

Yesterday morning I wrote a blog post about the report on “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” published by the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX).  In the afternoon I went to the Barbican Centre London in order to attend the official launch of this report.  It was good to meet up with Sir David Melville, who chaired the Committee of Inquiry, and Ewan McIntosh, both of whom spoke at the launch event. The two speakers had also spoken at UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshops, incidentally, Sir David in 2003 and Ewan McIntosh at last year’s event

I think it is fair to say that the “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” report does not provide any new insights for those who have been actively involved in the Web 2.0 world over the past few years.  What it does provide, however, is senior management endorsement for the work of those of us who have been involved in promoting and exploiting the potential of Web 2.0 and the Social Web within higher education. And the list of recommendations should be closely looked at by policy makers and senior managers as well as those of us who, like me, will be welcoming this report.

I brought along a digital camera (which could also take video recordings) to the meeting and, with permission of the two speakers, recorded their two talks (I also recorded the third speaker, Wes Streeting, President of the NUS but haven’t been able to upload it).

The videos of Sir David Melville (13 mins long) and Ewan McIntosh (16 mins long) have been uploaded to the Vimeo service. It is not possible (I understand) to embed the Vimeo video player in this blog. However clicking on the images below will take you to the Vimeo Web site.

Sir David Melville speaking at launch of the CLEX09 ReportEwan McIntosh speaking at launch of the CLEX09 Report

What do you think of their views of the future for Higher Education in a Web 2.0 world?

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

“Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” Report Published

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 May 2009

The CLEX Final Report

The final report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX) entitled” Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” has just been published.

The report built on work which began last year included a “Report of the review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education” (available in PDF Format) to which I contributed the section which provided a history of use of Web 2.0 in the UK.

Article In Today’s Education Guardian

The official launch of the CLEX report has been accompanied by an article entitled  “Time to get with the program” published in today’s Education Guardian. As I mentioned in a blog post on How Is HE Embracing Web 2.0? How Is Web 2.0 Changing HE?” published yesterday I had been interviewed by the author of the article, Anthea Lipsett, last week.

The article in the Guardian begins with a description of a student experience which is at ease with the social web:

The “Google generation” of today’s students has grown up in a digital world. Most are completely au fait with the microblogging site Twitter; they organise their social lives through Facebook and MySpace; 75% of students have a profile on at least one social networking site. And they spend up to four hours a day online.

The article cites the CLEX report ‘s conclusions that although UK Universities are doing “pretty well” there are “major issues to address if universities and colleges are to keep up with these changes in student practice and attitude” since “use of Web 2.0 … is far from systematic in universities” and is “driven by enthusiastic individuals who have embraced the opportunities it offers” .

Discussion

The CLEX report is very positive in its views on the potential of Web 2.0 in higher education. The report provides a series of recommendation including, for example, the recommendation that that “JISC continues to develop a research and support programme into the use of Web 2.0 for all aspects of university business“.

Should this be regarded by higher educational institutions as encouragement to make more systematic use of the Social Web? After all, today’s Guardian includes, as well as the Education supplement, a University Guide  supplement which contains on the front page an article on “Tweet and lowdown” which describes how “most univerities are so desperate to come across as cool that they’ve joined Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and are happy to meet you online” and how “a lot of institutions offer free podcasts of lectures and tutorial recordings via their individual websites or Apple’s portal iTunesU“.

Evidence that Universities are successfully embracing Web 2.0 technologies (despite the snide remark about ‘desperation’)?  Or should we be concerned regarding the way in which social networking technologies are being institutionalised to support marketing purposes?

In our contribution to the “Time to get with the program?” article myself and Professor Martin Weller both warned of the dangers of institutions “infiltrating Facebook”. Martin described how “If you ask students: do you want the university to come on Facebook, the answer is no. They don’t want their professor as a friend” and I questioned whether “universities [need] to get involved in … informal learning” which can be supported by social networking environments.

But what if Martin and myself are wrong? After all the CLEX report concluded with a quotation from a student:

I think it’s great to have tutors/university staff on Facebook. After all, it is supposed to be a social community network and I think they [deserve] the right to have their own community or form a network with students (if the students are willing).

The answer to this dilemma should be addressed by another of the recommendations of the CLEX final report: “JISC works with the HE funding bodies and Universities UK to explore issues and practice in the development of new business models that exploit Web 2.0 technologies“.  We haven’t yet identified the best practices for institutional engagement (or not) with Web 2.0. But the report makes it quite clear that we need to be asking these questions.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 14 Comments »

How Is HE Embracing Web 2.0? How Is Web 2.0 Changing HE?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 May 2009

On Thursday I received a message followed by a subsequent email asking me to contact a journalist at the Guardian newspaper who was writing an article about institutional use of Web 2.0 in higher education. In her email Anthea Lipsett told me that she was writing an article for the Education Guardian about a report on ‘HE in a Web 2.0 World’ due to be published on Tuesday, 12 May 2009. Anthea wanted some background information on whether HE had embraced Web 2.0 technology, how Web 2.0 is changing HE and whether universities keeping pace with the changes and had been given my name as someone to talk to.

A challenge for me, then, to give my thoughts on these questions! My initial response was to post a tweet inviting suggestions from my Twitter followers. I then drafted some notes which on some of the key points which I felt might be useful to raise in the interview. Although I didn’t have an opportunity to mentioned all of these points in the brief interview I felt it might be worth expanding on my notes and sharing them on the blog so that others can see how I feel the higher education sector is responding to and engaging with Web 2.0.


What is Web 2.0?

If you are writing an article about how Web 2.0 is changing higher education and how higher education is responding to Web 2.0 you first need to clarify what you mean by the term ‘Web 2.0′.

‘Network as a Platform’

Web 2.0 could refer to the concept of ‘network as a platform’. In the past I feel that institutional IT service providers have felt threatened by this notion which, in the UK, seems to imply Thatcherite out-sourcing and privatisation. This doesn’t go down well with the Guardian and Independent readers  you will typically find in the university sector! However back in 2006 at the UCISA management Conference I gave a talk on “IT Services: Help Or Hindrance?” in which I argued there was a need to embrace the mixed economy of in-house and external providers of IT services. I was pleased (and slightly surprised) to discover a willingness to accept such changes – this was a very different response to my “A Controversial Proposal”  talk which I gave to an audience of institutional Web managers back in 2000 which, in retrospect, made similar arguments but at a time in which the underlying technical infrastructure and business models had not been established.

I think now, however, IT services departments are much more comfortable with embracing ‘services in the Cloud’. As an example, see the recent blog post on “Google for students” by Chris Sexton, IT Services Director at the University of Sheffield and UCISA Chair in which she described how a “project group agreed to recommend that we outsource our service to Google and implement Google mail and calendar in the first instance – possibly moving to more of the apps later such as Google docs” and then went on to add “first major service we’ve outsourced, but I suspect that over the next few years it won’t be the last“.

Culture of Openness

Web 2.0 also embraces a culture of openness. And this is an area in which the higher education community has taken a high profile in for several years. The research community has been pro-active in promoting open access to research publication, with advocates such as Professor Stevan Harnard playing a prominent role in promoting alternative business models which can enable research publications to be freely available for use by others whilst maintaining editorial and peer reviewing processes which are essential for maintaining the quality of research outputs.

This culture of openness is increasingly being applied in other areas of higher education, such as open educational resources, with the JISC funding an  Open Educational Resources Programme) to expand on the amount of educational content which is available. Similar initiatives are being taken to open access to scientific data as can be seen from the blog posts of open science advocates such as Professor Peter Murray-Rust and Cameron Neylon.

Blogs, Wikis, …

But rather than the more philosophical aspects of Web 2.0, perhaps the issues concern the provision of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis. The University of Warwick was the first UK university to provide a blog service for its staff and students. And after some initial concerns about how an institution should go about managing the content I suspect we are now finding that IT Services are starting to regard blogs and wikis as fairly mainstream  the higher education sector – that the impression I had after the UKOLN workshop on Exploiting the Potential of Wikis held back in November 2006 and Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks held a year later.

Social Networks

I suspect, however, that the main area of interest may be how universities are engaging with the Social Web and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

The first example of institutional engagement with such social networking services I was aware of was Edge Hill University, which Alison Wildish (who is now manager of the Web Services team here at the University of Bath) described in a plenary talk on “Let the Students do the Talking…” at the IWMW 2007 event (and note that a video of her talk is available).   I suspect that nowadays institutional marketing departments and alumni offices will be familiar with the potential of social networking services and many will have established a presence in popular service such as Facebook. In addition institutions have also started to make use of Twitter as another channel for engaging with their communities.

Social Networks Beyond Marketing

Of more interest, I feel, is the question of how universities are using social networks to support their teaching and learning activities. And this is probably an area in which there it is more speculative as to is happening beyond the early adopters . I suspect there is also more diversity of opinions on the question of what institutions are seeking to achieve through use of social networks and how institutional policies and decisions should be developed to support such nebulous aims.

If we regard social networks as supporting informal learning it may be questionable as to whether institutions need any formal policies beyond not banning their use.  After all informal learning has always taken place in universities, in bars, coffee rooms, students kitchens, etc. but we haven’t sought to manage the discussions and interactions. Should we seek to do so in online social spaces? And if we try do, isn’t there a danger that student will simply move to other online spaces?

Some Concluding Thoughts

I feel it is important that universities should be pro-active in developing and implementing new media literacy strategies for members of their institutions, including members of staff (academic, senior policy makers, …) as well as students. This should not only cover assessment of information found on the Web but also issues related to creation of content and engagement with communities.

There will be a need to gather evidence as to the effectiveness of informal learning and the effectiveness of use of social networks in more formal contexts. I suspect there will be a need to understand how the effectiveness of social networks differs across different disciplines and also across different groups of users.

And as well as gaining a better understanding of how social networks can support student learning, there is also a need to understand how social networks can enhance the effectiveness of teaching and research staff within our institutions, through, for example, support for communities of practice. This is an area of particular interest to me, with my interests in engaging with and learning from a number of communities related to my professional areas of interest and activities, including standards development, Web accessibility and the broad area of digital library development activities.

That’s my summary of how I feel the higher education sector is embracing Web 2.0. I’d welcome your thoughts, comments and observations.

Posted in Web2.0 | 11 Comments »

Reflections on eLib and Other National Digital Library Programmes

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 May 2009

I have been invited to give a talk at the CILIPS Annual Conference 2009 on “Inspiring Excellence: Yourself, Your Service, Our Future” which will take place in Peebles on 1-3rd June 2009.

I have been invited to give a talk  in a session on “How Far Have We Come?” and the draft title of my talk is “From eLib to NOF-digi and Beyond“. In the talk I’ll give my thoughts on a number of national digital library development programmes which I have had some invovement with: namely eLib, DNER (which was subsequently renamed the JISC Information Environment) and the NOF-digitise programme.

Rather than looking at the outputs of such programmes I’ll  be exploring the technical guidelines which funded projects were expected to follow. This will include a review of the standards documents developed to support these programmes and some of the important architectural decisions which had an influence across a range of projects. I’ll also explore the things I feel we got write – and also the things we missed or were late in adopting. The intention is to try to inform large-scale initiatives in the future by learning from our successes and failures.

I’ll write a number of blog posts in which I’ll describe my thoughts prior to writing the presentation. And I’d welcome comments from people who may have been involved in these programmes or have views and opinions they would like to share.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

IWMW 2009 Event Open For Bookings

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 May 2009

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009) is now open for bookings. This year the 3-day event, which is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams and  others with interests in institutional  use of Web services, will be held at the University of Essex, Colchester on 28-30th July 2009.

Although the event is well-established, having been launched in 1997, the event continues to develop in response to the ever-changing Web environment and the needs and expectations of the Web management community. We will continue to have a number of plenary talks which will provide a shared context for all workshop participants. However this year, in response to feedback we’ve received from previous events, we are splitting the talks (and related workshop sessions) on the second afternoon into two strands: a ‘front-end’ strand which focusses on the services as perceived by the end user and a ‘back-end’ strand which addresses the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities which are needed in order to deliver the user services.

We will also continue to provide the parallel workshop sessions. These sessions aim to provide all participants with the opportunity to contribute actively to the sessions, rather than simply sit back and listen to talks!

A significant development to the event, which was trialled for the first time last year, are the bar camp sessions. These sessions will be more informal than the workshops, and ideas can be submitted during the event itself. 

Another new development is the developer’s lounge. We will be encouraging active participation from the development community but will let developers provide a structure to how this will develop.

The cost is £350 per person which includes two nights ensuite accommodation (or £300 with no accommodation). The delegate fee includes attendance at the workshop, conference materials, refreshments and lunch, workshop dinner and social events.

We hope to see you in July!

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The “Good Practice for Provision of APIs” Project

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2009

For the past few months my colleague Marieke Guy has been working on the “Good Practice for Provision of APIs” project. As described on the project blogthe ‘Good APIs’ project aims to provide JISC and the sector with information and advice on the factors that encourage use of machine interfaces, based on existing practice“. This work involved working with a community of developers in order to collate and disseminate advice on best practices for the provision of and use of APIs. In addition background information about APIs (what they are and why they are important) was also produced which is aimed primarily at project managers, programme managers and policy makers.

An initial report was produced but, following discussions with a number of the stakeholders, it was felt to be more appropriate to provide access to the report using a blog in order to allow discrete parts of the document to be referenced and commented upon. Use of the blog’s comment facility will also provide an opportunity to receive additional feedback from the developer community prior to submission of the final report to JISC.

The deadline for comments is 18th May 2009. Once any additional feedback has been incorporated into the report the document will be available as entries on the blog together with a final project report in PDF resource.

If you would like to provide feedback, please visit the Good APIs blog site.

Posted in Technical | 1 Comment »

Lessons Learnt from the Amplification of the CILIP2 Event

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 May 2009

Reasons for This Post

At last week’s CILIP2 Open Session both Phil Bradley and myself argued that there was a need for the Library community to actively engage with Web 2.0 tools and even be prepared to make mistakes. Without making mistakes, it will not be possible to innovate, we argued. We also felt that we should be open about our mistakes, in order to learn from them and to help others in the sector from repeating such mistakes.

Such views echo the sentiment expressed by Mia Ridge who, in a blog post about the recent Museums and the Web 2009 conference entitled  “Oh noes, a FAIL! Notes from the unconference session on ‘failure’ at MW2009 ” explained her “motivation in suggesting the ['Failure' unconference] session – intelligent, constructive failure is important. Finding ways to create a space for that conversation isn’t something we do well at the moment“.

This post is my attempt at explaining aspects of the ‘amplification’ of the CILIP2 open session which failed or could have been improved, and to identify ways in which the next attempt at amplifying a physical event to a wider remote audience can be improved. (Note the term amplified conference was coined by Lorcan Demsey Dempsey and a summary is provided on Wikipedia).

Things Which Worked

Before describing areas for improvement it is worth summarising the things that worked!

I was pleased that the pre-event publicity of use of Twitter at the event succeeded in attracting large numbers of participants, with some, I think, being willing to subscribe to Twitter and possibly even install a Twitter client in order to participate on the day itself.

The event organisers played their in supporting the amplification of the event. Caroline Moss-Gibbon, who chaired the event, described the live-blogging at the event and asked the participants physically present at the meeting at CILIP Headquarters to regard any comments they made or questions they asked as being in the public domain. The evnt organisers had also arranged for two official bloggers, who would act as public note-keepers at the event, using both a Twitter channel and a CILIP blog post as a means of keeping the remote audience up-to-date with the talks and discussions.

The Twitterfall client which was suggested as a way in which remote participant could keep up-to-date with Twitter posts containing the ‘cilip2′ tag also seemed to prove popular judging from subsequent comments I read of various blog posts. And the goodwill of software developers – in particular Dave Patten – was appreciated by the CILIP community for his transcript of the tweets and his Wordle visualisation of the content of the tweets.

I was also pleased to have recorded a slidecast of a rehearsal of my talk prior to the event. A couple of people commented that they had listened to my talk prior to the event which enabled them to have a feel for the issues I would be raising in my talk.

Areas For Improvement

There are a number of areas in which I felt improvements could have been made. Most of these will not have been apparent to others and so I could feel safe in keeping them to myself. However sharing the experiences with others will remind me to do better next time and will allow others to make additional suggestions.

Reporting:
After the event it was pointed out to me that the description of ‘official’ Twitterers and bloggers at the event could have been interpretted as a way of ensuring that an official party line was documented which censored any criticisms of CILIP.  As Caroline Moss-Gibbons, chair of the CILIP Council, described in her brief report on the session the reporters “had full editorial freedom of course, no ‘party line’ to follow“. Although Caroline made this point in her introduction to the session, the remote audience would not necessarily have picked up on this.
Lesson: next time I feel it would be helpful to provide a Web page about the amplification of the event which explictly clarifies the autonomy of the reporters.

Lack of audio/video recordings:
I recorded a video of Phil Bradley’s talk at the event using my Nokia N95 mobile phone – but despite having deleted old videos from the memory card the previous day, the phone ran out of memory after only two minutes.  I subsequently discovered that the phone was storing the video on its built-in memory rather than using the 2 Gb memory card.
Lesson: check configuration options on mobile phone to ensure recordings are being made to correct storage device.

I also brought along a digital camera which could take video recordings (and isn’t limited to the 10 minutes of video footage which my personal camera has). I also brought along a tripod to avoid camera shakes. As my intention was to record my own talk I needed a helper to start the recording. Unfortunately no recording was made, possibly because the camera had switched itself off.
Lesson: I need to remember that people who I ask to use my digital devices are unlikely to be familiar with them and there will be a need to provide some training.

Lack of streaming audio/video:
I brought along my Asus EE PC and intended to try out Skype in order to its potential for allowing a remote user to listen in to the two opening talks (and also possibly record the talks). I also brought along a Polycom Communciator device and tested that it worked correctly as a microphone and speaker. Unfortunately although the devices worked correctly I couldn’t connect to the two new Skype contacts who had expressed interest in listening to the talks.  This may have been due to user interface problems on my Linux-based Asus EEE.
Lesson: I need to authenticate remote users in advance, on user interfaces which I am more familiar with.

How Else Could the Event Amplification Have Been Improved?

What else could have been done to enhance the amplification of the event to the remote audience and to people who may have wished to hear the talks and discussions but did not have networked access at the time of the event?

I am aware that James Clay, e-learning resource manager at Gloucestershire College, has been using Qik at various conferences for some time. I did wonder whether a streaming video service such as Qik might have been used by members of the CILIP2 audience with a suitable mobile phoneand a contract which allowed for data to be transmitted within incurring significant charges.  However I suspect that this service is still being used by the early adopters, such as James, and hasn’t yet caught the attention of the early mainstream user community. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for its use at a forthcoming CILIP event?

But if members of the audience did not have a device and contarct which could be use for video streaming, I suspect many of them did have mobile phones which culd be used for sound recordings. SHould we have encouraged the audience to record the talks, I wonder?  Rather than a single centralised approach, which has a single point of failure (as I’ve described above!) possibly we should be adopting a LORKSS approach (Lots of Recording Keep Safe and Secure). Should we be encouraging others to take recording in order to minimise the risks of failures?

Posted in Events, Web2.0 | Tagged: | 7 Comments »