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Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for August, 2009

Hashtags for the ALT-C 2009 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 August 2009

This Year’s ALT-C Conference

I will be attending the ALT-C 2009 Conference at the University of Manchester in a couple of weeks time where I’ll be facilitating a session with Martin Weller on “Realising Dreams, Avoiding Nightmares, Accepting Responsibilities” – a title chosen to reflect the conference theme of “In dreams begins responsibility“.

Yesterday I was involved in discussions on Twitter regarding use of hashtags (hash tags?) for referring to specific sessions at the conference. The conference tag has already been agreed – it is altc2009 and this has been announced on the conference home page. Let’s hope that this high visibility avoids tag fragmentation.

But there are many sessions at ALT-C and many parallel sessions. So an active Twitter community – which we are likely to find at the conference – may well find itself talking at cross-purposes if nothing is done to differentiate between the sessions. It may also be useful to be able to be able to identify particular sessions using a short and unambiguous tag e.g. so people can say “Are you going to Brian’s session?” or “What did you think of Martin’s session?” without confusion and using fewer characters.

Experiences of Using Hashtags at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 Event

At UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 event we allocated a two-digit code for the plenary talks (P1-P8) and the parallel sessions (A1-A9, B1-B4 and C1-C5) . This short code was used consistently on the Web site, initially for selection of the parallel sessions.

Hashtags used to find tweets about #iwmw2009 and #p3Shortly before the event we encouraged use of these codes, together with the codes we assigned for the plenary talks, in Twitter. And, as I’ve described previously, after the event we captured the tweets for the plenary talks and provided links to this record of discussions which used the Twitter hashtags in this fashion (see, for example, the tweets made during Paul Boag’s plenary talk P3 which is illustrated).

After the event we used the Archivist Twitter archiving tool in order to capture these tweets are store them locally. These local archives are available in CSV and XMLformats. As can be seen, for Paul Boag’s talk, 78 tweets containing the pair of hastags were found.

What To Do For ALT-C?

What approach should be taken to use of hashtags at this year’s ALT-C conference? A similar answer might be to do nothing other than use the event’s hashtag. After all, some may argue, Twitter’s strength is its simplicity and adding anything new is likely to undermine this simplicity. Whilst I’d agree with this sentiment I don’t feel that adding an additional optional tag is complex. And we know have some examples of the benefits of doing this, which I’ve described in a recent screencast published on this blog.

But how should we select the hashtags for the session? I recently discovered that the unique identifier for the workshop myself and Martin Weller are facilitating is 113. And looking at the conference introduction and abstracts which arrived in the post a few days ago it seems that the session ids range from 0012 to 0322. I’m assuming that the unique ids were assigned when the proposals were submitted as the numbers aren’t consecutive (hmm, were the first 11 proposals rejected, I wonder?). To avoid confusion and to save space I’d suggest that leading zeroes are ignored. So my proposal for a hashtag to identify the session would be #snnn – in my case this would be #s321 #altc321 and James Clay’s four sessions would have the identifiers #s208, #s221, #s286 and #s301.

These tags would be used in conjunction with the main conference tag. A Twitter search for “#altc2009 #s321″ should find tweets referring to my session. Simple? Indeed a simplification of my initial suggestion of #altcnnn as a session identifier.

But although this approach worked at IWMW 2009 and would work for my workshop session it has been pointed out to me that this approach won’t work for the sessions which have multiple papers being presented. Although the individual papers have a unique identifier, the sessions themselves do not. Owen Stephens suggested that the identifier used in the conference’s CrowdVine social networking environmentcould be used but this then causes potential confusion with the identifiers allocated by the conference and won’t easily be found by conference participants who aren’t using CrowdVine. And further discussions is only likely to lead to confusions and unnecessary complexity.

So my proposal is this:

  • The conference hashtag is #altc2009.
  • If Twitter users wish to identify a specific session they should use the #altc2009 hashtag in conjunction with a session tag which has the format #snnn when nnn is a the session identifier given in the conference programme, with leading zeroes omitted (the prefix s standards for the session identifier).

Is this approach worth trying?

Title slide for session at ALTC-C showing proposed Twitter codeIn light of the workshop session on Teaching With Twitter which Steve Wheeler will be giving at the ALT-C Conference, I can’t help but think we do need to be experimenting with ways in which Twitter can be used in a learning context and in enriching its use in community building.

Reflecting on Tony Hirst’s recent post on “A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network” which analysed and visualised tweets at the IWMW 20009 event in order to “help to identify amplification networks” it occurs to me that something similar might be useful at a larger event such as ALT-C. Do, for example, the Twitterers who @ each other and RT tweets tend to go to the same sessions, I wonder?

And if you still think this may be too complicated I intend to include details of the session hashtag on the opening slide for the session Martin Weller and I will be facilitating, as illustrated.

Posted in Events, Twitter | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

The Science Online 2009 Unconference Video

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 August 2009

As described on the On The Roof blog a video clip of the Fringe Frivolous Unconference is now available. The Fringe Frivolous Unconference took place on the evening of Friday 21 August 2009 on the roof terrace of the Mendeley offices. About 40-50 people attended this event, which provided an opportunity for science bloggers and other interested parties to talk about and discuss science blogging.

The video clip (which lasts for 7 minutes 47 seconds) is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

As you can see the video contains brief interviews with many of the participants who attended the unconference in which they explain why the blog or mention other topics of interest to them.

In a blog post about the event Richard Grant described how he “stalk[ed] the rooftops with a Flip camera (kindly loaned by Alom Shaha)” and subsequently “edited the clips into a short film that I think captures the essence of the evening perfectly“. And I think Richard is to be applauded for so quickly taking so many video clips and editing them to produce the short film.

But is this YouTube video accessible? Where are the captions which are needed to ensure that the resource complies with the Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? After all the WCAG 2.0 guidelines state that:

1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded): Captions are provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such. (Level A)

But do the unconference organisers (unorganisers?)  have to follow these guidelines? Legislation requires organisations to take reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against unfairly. And is it reasonable to expect a light-weight approach to recording a video of an event to require captioning? I think not – and recall a suggestion that ‘reasonable measures’ meant an addition 10-15% of effort. I suspect the time it would take to caption this video would probably be significantly greater than this.

In addition perhaps as this event wasn’t ‘official’ and the video wasn’t a deliverable of a public sector organisation, conformance with WCAG guidelines is not needed. But might there not be a moral responsibility to enhance the accessibility of this resources – after all, discussions of the ethical as well as legal aspects of blogging cropped up during the unconference as well in the opening talk at the Science Online 2009 conference the following day?

But how might one go about enhancing the accessibility of the video, in light of the limited effort to do this – and the difficulties of doing this on a sustainable basis?

One approach might be to crowd-source the captioning to share the effort. If, for example, everyone who was interviewed in the video provided a textual summary of what they said, could that be used to caption the video? I’m not sure – but I am willing to provide a summary of my contribution:

4 minutes 45 seconds: Brian Kelly introduces himself. Brian is based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information management, located at the University of Bath. He blogs about Web and Web 2.0 issues on the UK Web Focus blog, which is available at ukwebfocus.wordpress.com

5 minutes 7 seconds: end of Brian Kelly’s clip.

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

The Back Channels for the Science Online 2009 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 August 2009

The Science Online 2009 Conference

On Saturday 22nd August  2009 I attended the Science Online 2009 Conference which was held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. The conference followed on from last year’s event, which had the title Science Blogging 2008, but had a broader remit addressing issues such as “What is a scientific paper?”, “Author identity – Creating a new kind of reputation online”, “Real-time statistics in science” and “Google Wave: Just another ripple or science communication tsunami?” as well as blog-related talks such as “Blogging for impact” and “Legal and Ethical Aspects of Science Blogging “.

With an audience of experienced scientific bloggers  present it is only to be expected that, just a few days after the conference, blog posts about the conference has already been published.  So rather than repeat what has already been said, I will link to one blog post  which provides links to a number of posts already published: Thoughts on the Science Online London Conference.

The Event Back Channels

This post mentions the Twitter hashtag for the event (#solo09) and provides links to the  FriendFeed Science Online London group (which used the tag solondon for the Friendfeed room) and also the Flick group for the event (which used the tag solo09).

For an event aimed at scientists which focussed on innovative online technologies (as well as a talk on Google Wave several of the talks were also available in Second Life) and which discussed the implications of the online environment on traditional views on scientific papers and mechanisms for measuring the impact of scientific research in this environment it was perhaps surprising that there wasn’t more discussions of ways of preserving the online discussions associated with the conference itself which took place on Twitter, FriendFeed and Second Life, in addition to blog posts, some of which were published during the conference itself.

Preserving the Back Channel Discussion

Now although links have been provided to Twitter searches for “solo09″ I suspect the short lifespan of Twitter searches may not be well-known. Following my recent blog post containing links to the Twitter channel for UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event I subsequently discovered that tweets disappear from Twitter’s search index in a short period of time: as reported in a recent TechCrunch articleAccording to Twitter’s search documentation, the current date limit on the search index is “around 1.5 weeks but is dynamic and subject to shrink as the number of tweets per day continues to grow.“”

Further information on these experiences has been published. As I have described many (but not all) of the tweets associated with the event were stored locally using the Backupmytweets, Twapperkeeper, and WTHashtag services in order to avoid the dependencies on the Twitter service.

Tweets with the #solo09 tagTesting one of these services with the #solo09 hashtag I find that currently Twapperkeeper finds 1,1472 tweets for the “#solo09″ tag. This service also provides a graph of the numbers of tweets which is illustrated. To summarise in the last 7 days there have been:

  • 1,435 tweets
  • 193 contributors
  • 205.0 tweets per day
  • 29.8% come from “The Top 10″
  • 16.0% are retweets
  • 43.0% are mentions
  • 5.7% have multiple hashtags

In addition the top contributors were:

  1. @kejames – 65
  2. @rpg7twit – 55
  3. @kjhaxton – 51
  4. @Allochthonous – 50
  5. @skyponderer – 41
  6. @brian_condon – 38
  7. @morphosaurus – 36
  8. @PaoloViscardi – 34
  9. @phnk – 29
  10. @allysonlister – 29

Discussion

We might expect the science community to have a particular interest in citations and the online science community and the early adopters to have a particular interest in citations related to new collaborative and communications techn0logies such as Twitter, FriendFeed and Second Life.

In previous discussions on this topics there has been a view expressed by some that Twitter should be regarded as a transient form of communication and the loss of data should be regarded as one of Twitter’s strengths. And this might be particularly relevant when the communications relates to trivial issues or issues which time out quickly. Examples of both instances took place at Science Online 2009: the unaswered iPhone caused lots of people to complain on the various channels and the updates on the Ashes test scores  are no longer relevant.

The experiences of Science Online 2009 do, however, underscore an additional challenge: the diversity of the back channels. In addition to the Twitter channel, the science community has been an adopted of FriendFeed and this was popular at the event. Discussions were also taking place on Second Life.  As well as the different applications being used there were multiple variants of the event tags: ‘#solo09′ on Twitter, ‘solo09′ on Flickr and ‘solondon’ for the name of the FriendFeed room.

The conference was also faced with the question of how to display the back channel.  At one point a Twitter Search screen was displayed alongside the FriendFeed display. However since the Twitter display required manual refreshing to display new tweets this was replaced by the Twitterfall software during one of the presentations. Unfortunately this last minute adjustments meant that the text on the  screen display wasn’t large enough to be read comfortably by many in the audience.

Where does this leave us? I would hope that the experiences of Science Online 2009, IWMW 2009, etc. and the subsequent sharing and discussions of experiences will help to inform approaches and best practices for future amplified events. And as suggested in a recent blog post on Feral Event Data: Twitter at IWMW 2009 aren’t the benefits of preserving the (reusable) data associated with live blogging at events particularly relevant for the research community? Tony Hirst has recently given his Preliminary Thoughts on Visualising the OpenEd09 Twitter Network. And he has started “thinking about how we might start to analyse the structure of the network around the hashtag, in part so we can understand information flow through that part of the open education network better“.

Tony has written a follow-up post giving “A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network” which shows who cited who on Twitter during the IWMW 2009 event. This might give rise to some interesting questions. But might the interesting observations which can be made about the IWMW 2009 event (an event aimed at Web practitioners) be of more relevance in a research context? Perhaps not -but you can only ask the questions and carry out this type of analysis if you have the data. So if there is anyone who wishes to mine the ‘#solo09′ Twitter data I hope the data I have captured is useful.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

Feral Event Data: Twitter at IWMW 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 August 2009

I have been asked to give a talk at a workshop session to be held at the Dublin Core DC-2009 conference on “Semantic Interoperability of Linked Data”. The invitation arose after my recent posts on the use of Twitter at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event. The talk is intended for a session on “feral data”. This, I assume, is meant to cover data which may be uncontrolled and unmanaged but which may be useful in ways which are not originally envisaged.

The DC-09 event is being held in Seoul, South Korea in October 2009. I won’t be attending the conference, but have agreed to produce a brief pre-recorded presentation. My first rehearsal of the talk was too long (20 minutes rather than 10) and the sound quality wasn’t great (interference caused by the close proximity of my mobile phone to the microphone). However I thought it might be useful to make this draft presentation available for those who may have an interest in this subject. The draft abstract for the talk is give below:

Increasingly research conferences, such as DC 2009, will have a WiFi network which conference attendees will use to enhance their learning and engagement with ideas, as well as for supporting administrative and social needs.

Tools such as Twitter enable conference attendees to engage in discussions during talks in ways which would have been frowned upon before hand-held devices and laptop computers became an essential item for many researchers.

The pre-recorded presentation will describe the approaches which were taken at UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 (Institutional Web Management Workshop) in which Twitter (together with technologies such as Twitter, an event blog, Flickr and live video streaming) was used to enrich the quality of the event and maximise its outreach.

The presentation covers:

  • The reasons for the ‘event amplification’.
  • Tools used to aggregate information provided on a diversity of services.
  • Tools used to ‘preserve’ the event ‘tweets’.
  • Challenges in curating the event ‘tweets’.
  • The dangers in attempting to manage an event’s back-channel”

This talk is available as a slidecast (slides plus audio) on Slideshare and is also embedded below.

Your comments are invited.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

25 years of PowerPoint. But What Next?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 August 2009

Happy Birthday

PowerPoint was born 25 years ago, on 14 August 1984. An article on the BBC News Magazine, entitled “The problem with PowerPoint” points out that “They’re often boring” and goes on to point out the problems with PowerPoint presentations which are too wordy, make excessive use of bullet points, etc.

The Need For Good Design and Visual Impact

Slide by Alison Wildish

Nothing surprising, you may think.  And I too have been bored with such presentations and have been impressed with more visually oriented presentations, in which the design creativity is apparent.

Slide by Alison WildishIn particular I remember how impressed I was with Alison Wildish’s plenary talk at IWMW 2007 – a talk which was radical, at the time, in the summary of how a relatively new institution (Edge Hill University) was embracing Social Web services to engage with students and potential students.

The accompanying slides were also visually impressive, with each slide having its own visual identity and some of the slides challenging the assumptions that a speaker from a marketing background would invariably promote their own institution.

As someone who gives a lot of talks my slides should be more like Alison’s, I can remember thinking at the time. I should ditch the UKOLN template and make the individual slides distinctive, as Alison did. And I should reduce the amount of text on the slides, leaving it to my memory, or the accompanying speaker notes, to provide the details of what I will say in my talks.

An Alternative View

But whilst I’ll acknowledge the impact that good design and visual diversity can have on an audience I do wonder whether the points made in the BBC article start to become slightly less relevant in the environment I increasingly work in, in which ‘amplified conferences’ will be built around the speakers and their slides but the audience may not be physically present in the lecture theatre but viewing the talks on a video streaming service or accessing the slides after the event is over.

UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 event was one such amplified event.  And for this event we sought to treat the remote audience watching the video stream as first class participants, providing access to the plenary speaker’s slides using Slideshare, as well as using various social media services, such as Twitter to encourage discussions, etc. Liz Azyan, in a blog post entitled “Iwmw2009: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly…“, picked up on the importance of this approach:

Let’s talk a bit about some of the stuff I liked about the conference…

There were alot of things that this conference did get right in terms of using social media to fully aggregate the workshops content effectively online. Check out how #iwmw2009 came alive online and created real-time conversations and feedback …

  1. Slideshare of all presentation slides (Excellent!) – I always find myself needing to ask for these at events and often take a long time to become available. So, well done!

In a follow-up post Liz, in a report on the opening session at the event, embedded the slides from the two opening talks, thus illustrating how such slides can now be decoupled from their use in the live presentation.

I personally am finding larger numbers of people seem to access to my slides on Slideshare than are present when I give the live presentation. Looking at the statistics I notice that a the slides for a talk on “Introduction To Facebook: Opportunities and Challenges For The Institution“, which was given to a small number (less than 20) of staff at Bath University has been viewed 10,900 times.

Who, then, is my main audience? Should I seek to treat the remote audience on par with the live audience? And if I do wish to do this, will it (should it) have any relevance to the design of the slides?  Perhaps for the remote audience, there should be a greater emphasis placed on the informational content, whereas for the live audience the emphasis may be on engaging with the audience?

And does a personal visual appearance for slides possibly make it difficult for the slides to be reused? For a number of years I have provided a Creative Commons licence for my slides, and have welcomed their reuse. But if they were less neutral in the appearance and contained less content, would this detract from their potential for reuse?

Or are these just excuses for my lack of design skills!?

Posted in General | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

If Not Too Large, Are University Web Teams Poor Communicators?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 August 2009

I recently posed the question “Are University Web Teams Too Large?“. The context to this question was a suspicion that the UK HE sector is lagging behind smaller US colleges in exploiting the potential of various Web 2.0 services. And maybe organisations with well-established IT Service departments try to develop services in-house because of the relatively large Web team and Web developers.

A response to this assertion would be to argue the diversity of services which University Web teams are engaged in. But do Web teams take the time to communicate within their institutions and inform their user communities of the work they are engaged in? And do they work effectively by sharing their approaches with their peers in other institutions, and learn from approaches taken in other higher educational institutions?

This was an issue raised last year by Mike Nolan on the Edge Hill University Web team blog on a post on “Blogging web teams” in which he pointed out that  “Blogging web teams are rare. I suspect you could count them on one hand“.

In the blog post Mike provided a whole series of reasons why Web teams should be making use of blogs including:

  • Communicating what you’re doing.
  • Personal Development.
  • Community Engagement.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Networking with peers.

Those suggestions, which I’d endorse, were made before the economic crisis began to seriously affect the higher educational sector. But in a recent issues of the Times Higher Education (6 August 209) I read  a news item which states that “The University of Wolverhampton is to cut about 250 jobs – about 11% of its total staff“.

So to Mike’s list of reasons why Web teams should be blogging I’d add:

  • To ensure that University policy makers are aware of the importance of the activities of the Web team to the institution.

And if you still argue that you haven’t got time to blog, be warned – you may find yourself with more time on your hands than you bargained for! At least the Web Team for the Electronics and Computer Science department at the University of Southampton seem to have got the message – they set up a Web team blog at the start of August with a simple and clear remit: “This blog is aimed at people doing similar jobs to ours, and to members of our school so they can see a bit of what we do“.

Posted in Blog, General | 1 Comment »

The Use of Blogs and Wikis in Scholarly Communication

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 August 2009

I have been invited to give a talk on “The Use of Blogs and Wikis in Scholarly CommunicationALPSP 2009 conference to be held at the at  The Oxford Belfry, Milton Common, Thame on 9-11th September. The talk will take place on the final day in the closing session on “The Transformation of Scholarly Practice”. The abstract for this session is given below:

The way that researchers work is changing and so is the way they interact with the scholarly literature. Publishers and academics are experimenting with different types of scholarly content ranging from ‘informal’ scholarly communication on wikis and blogs through different ways of writing books and journal articles, linking data to the primary literature and on to new technologies that render information in ways that transform online content beyond a mere digital facsimile of print. This session will provide food for thought for publishers by exploring this transformation and examining the new ways in which scholars and practitioners are generating and interacting with the literature.

But what should my take be, I wonder? I suspect that a simple promotion of the potential benefits of blogs and wikis in the research community could easily be too bland for a final session at the conference. Some ideas which reflect my areas of interest which I could cover in the 25 minute talk include how micro-blogging fits in; the risks of reliance on services in the cloud and using the Social Web to help to maximise the impact of research activities.

I’d welcome comments on ideas which I could explore in this session? And if any readers are using blogs and wikis in innovative ways to support the “Transformation of Scholarly Practice” I’d love to hear about such approaches.

Posted in Events | Leave a Comment »

The Live Video Streaming Of IWMW 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 August 2009

This year, once again, we provided a live video stream of the plenary talks at IWMW 2009, something we have been doing since IWMW 2006.

But how many people watched the live stream? Last year 160 remote viewers watched the final plenary talk given by Ewan McIntosh. The statistics provided by the University of Essex are not directly comparable, but indicate that there were about 50 viewers for Derek Law’s opening plenary talk with slightly larger numbers for the opening plenary talks on the second day of the event.

Location map of IWMW2009 video streaming viewersAs can be seen, a location map of the viewers has also been provided by the University of Essex. And clicking on the icons will provide further details on the numbers of viewers at the IP address together with the total time spent viewing the streaming video.

A good example of the global impact of the event? On an initial view of the map this would seem to be the case. But on further examination we can see that some of the views were only for a few seconds. For example the information for the viewer in Africa tells us that:

Kinshasa, Kinshasa, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
1 hits (1 unique IPs), 0d0h0m12s total.

The 8 hits from Finland, which lasted for over 4 hours, appear to indicate a commitment to watching several of the talks (assuming the video wasn’t simply left on over lunch). But is there a viable business model for providing live video-streaming for such events? As the event was fully subscribed (as it has been for a number of years) we can argue that the live stream helps to maximise access and the impact of the talks, especially to the core target audience in the UK.  And the (apparent) popularity of the video stream in North America help to enhance the UK’s activities to a wider audience.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the video streaming have been the experiences we have gained in the delivery of ‘amplified events’.  The four years’ of video streaming of IWMW events have helped us to gain a better understanding of the best practices. And we have tried to summarise our experiences in a briefing paper on “Using Video at Events“.

Posted in Events, iwmw2009 | 2 Comments »

Social Networks, Open Source and Risk Assessment

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 August 2009

Does The Ownership Of Social Networks Really Matter?

In my most recent post entitled “Facebook Buys FriendFeed; Identica is Open Source; Does It Matter?” I asked “But how relevant is this dogma?” in response to the apparent suggestion on a mailing list for an international standards body that since “above all laconi.ca is Open source” the standards body (DCMI) should make use of the laconia.ca micro-blogging service in preference to the closed source Twitter solution.

I sought to draw parallels with the recent announcement that Facebook had bought FriendFeed, suggesting that, although some may feel that this announcement will force them to leave FriendFeed and use an alternative micro-blogging environment, for me and, I suspect, for many the ownership of the service and the underlying software isn’t a clinching argument. We know that this is the case generally (although many won’t like it to admit it, the reality is most users use Microsoft Office products rather than Open Office and Internet Explorer rather than FireFox). And for social networking environments there is a added complication – social networks don’t work unless there is a community – you might be happy to use Open Office on your own, but an open source community with few members is likely to be an unproductive environment for many.

So rather than the ‘we must use an open source micro-blogging environment – full stop‘ argument, let’s explore the reasons ownership issues could matter and the associated challenges if it is felt there may be a need to consider migrating to a new environment.

A Risk Assessment Approach

In response to my post Cameron Neylon pointed out that “if Friendfeed goes away from what our community wants from it we have no way of maintaining our community because it isn’t open source“. He went on to add “If twitter were swallowed by google tomorow and everyone forced to use Google Talk instead (I don’t say its likely, just possible) then you’re in trouble“.

That’s true, and as I have recently had a paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” published recently in the Program journal I would endorse Cameron’s approach of identifying risks. What then are the risks? I think, in the case of the Facebook purchase of FriendFeed, these might include:

  • Facebook shuts down FriendFeed. It regarded it as competition for its core business and bought the company in order to remove the threat.
  • Facebook continues FriendFeed, but changes its terms and conditions which are felt to be unacceptable to significant parts of the FriendFeed community.
  • Facebook makes changes to the FriendFeed user interface which users don’t like (e.g. provision of ads in the free version of the client).

These are legitimate questions to raise. But that does not necessarily mean existing users should abandon FriendFeed. There is a need to ask how realistic such risks may be and also to consider the costs and the effort of moving to an alternative. I remember being told that organisations shouldn’t use Google as a search engine as we can’t guarantee that Google wouldn’t change their terms and conditions. True – but most people are prepared to accept that risks.

The likelihood that such changes will happen is likely to be very subjective, so I’ll not engage in that assessment here. I would suggest, however, that if FriendFreed users are seriously considering a migration to an alternative environment (as opposed to just having a moan) then they will need to think about what the migration strategies would be. There is also a need to be honest about the costs and difficulties of such a migration, including the difficulties of migrating a community, the associated costs of doing this and the dangers of associated losses (of data, communities and credibility).

And although FriendFeed users may be asking such questions in light of the purchase of the company by Facebook, the general issues I’ve raised are likely to be true in other context, whether a move from Flickr if Microsoft were to purchase Yahoo or a move from Twitter if its ownership were to change.

The Risks Of Change

As well as the risks associated with use of current well-established services such as FriendFeed or Twitter, there is also a need to consider the risks of alternatives, especially when the alternatives are immature or unproven. And simply arguing that, for example, “above all laconi.ca is Open source” is an inappropriate response.  Look, for example, at the evidence provided by failed open source initiatives in the area of social networking environments. Who remembers “Marc Canter’s much anticipated PeopleAggregator“, which provided, as described in TechCrunch in 2006, “free downloads of the software for organizations who prefer to host it themselves” which meant that “it will be easy to come and go from new social networks, instead of being locked in to one just because you’ve put the time and energy into using your account there. Instead of being at the mercy of one centralized database and service, if Canter’s vision succeeds then countless social networks will proliferate with unique styles and function but with interoperability.

The People Aggregator software may not have been open source but, as it could be downloaded and installed locally, it avoided the single point of failure problem which has recently troubled Twitter. But let’s now consider Eduspaces, an open source social networking environment designed for the educational community which announced the closure of the service in 16 December 2007, giving the user community just a few weeks before the service was scheduled for closure.

And looking at the Eduspaces Web site today I see it describes itself as “the world’s first and largest social networking site dedicated to education and educational technology“. But looking at the FAQ to see who owns the company, where it is based, what jurisdiction covers the content and terms and conditions I find a series of questions but no answers, other than the stark message “[available soon]“. And the terms and conditions state that:

  • We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time.
  • We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify you via an appropriate method. What is a ‘material change’ is at our discretion
  • We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time.

So remember, there may be flaws and concerns over the social networking services we are using today. But an uncritical adoption of alternatives just because they are open source could lead to a worse scenario than the potential risks identified above.

Posted in Social Networking | 2 Comments »

Facebook Buys FriendFeed; Identica is Open Source; Does It Matter?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 August 2009

As described on TechCrunch a couple of days ago, Facebook Acquires FriendFeed. The Monkey Bites blog advises “Let’s Be Friends in its article on how Facebook acquired FriendFeed. But the reaction in the Twitterverse seems to be negative, with concerns that Facebook’s walled garden mentality will be applied to FriendFeed and that the ownership which Facebook claims for content posted within Facebook will also apply to content on FriendFeed. This acquisition may be a threat to Twitter, as suggested on the ZDNet Asia blog: “Facebook takes aim at Twitter, buys FriendFeed“.

Meanwhile the announcement that the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative has “started a little DC twitter activity” has been met with comments suggesting that identi.ca should be used on the grounds that “above all laconi.ca is Open source“.  Dan Brickley backs this suggestion:

While it has a smaller userbase than twitter, the project is very friendly to standards such as RDF which DCMI is also committed to. Identi.ca/laconi.ca is also API-compatible with Twitter, and allows you to repost from identi.ca to twitter accounts automatically.

Oh, last thing re identi.ca: there’s a groups mechanism, so we could experiment with groups for DCMI or sub-communities…

But how relevant is this dogma? FriendFeed, it seems, is cool in some circle, as is identi.ca, whereas Twitter and FaceBook aren’t.  And some FriendFeed users are talking about closing down their accounts whilst fans of identi.ca are seeking to encourage newcomers to joint, citing the richer functionality it provides as well as its open source pedigree. But to what extent will the issues of ownership of the code, rights over the data and the richness of the functionality affect people’s decisions?

For me the important aspect of these social tools is the associated community – and as a well-established Twitter user I am not too concerned regarding the openness of the source code. And although I am willing to experiment with providing richer functionality with Twitter, such as recent experiment with use of multiple hashtags for events,  I do appreciate the point which Mike Ellis has raised, suggesting that it’s Twitter’s simplicity which is a key aspect of its success. So is there any evidence that identi.ca open source code and richer functionality will be successful in migrating a community to it? And is it really true that the integration between Twitter and identi.ca will be seamless and transparent?  Why do I feel I’ve heard these arguments before – without the supposed benefits actually being delivered? Facebook buys FriendFeed; Identica is open source; does it matter? To you it might, but to the vast majority of users I suspect it doesn’t.

Posted in openness, Social Networking | 10 Comments »

Paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” Published in Program

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 August 2009

A paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” has recently been published in the Program journal (Program Electronic Library and Information Systems, 2009, 43 (3), pp. 311-327). This paper is accessible from the University of Bath Opus institutional repository service.

This paper was originally presented at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference held at the National Library of Singapore in October 2008. I am the lead author of the paper and the other contributors are Paul Bevan (National Library of Wales), Richard Akerman (National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, Ottawa, Canada), Jo Alcock (University of Wolverhampton) and Josie Fraser (consultant).

The process of depositing the paper into the institutional repository was much easier than my previous experience – now that I know which option to select when a DOI for the paper is available. However since depositing my various papers in our institutional repository it has struck me that although my papers should now have a stable URI and will have associated metadata designed to make the papers easier to discover the institutional repository does not provide a forum for interested readers to discuss the paper openly. So, as I did with another recent paper, I am writing this blog post which will allow comments to be made. And after this post has been published I should updated the details in the repository to link to this blog post.

Hmm – shouldn’t all papers have a mechanisms whereby readers can ask questions about the ideas which have been exposed to a peer-reviewing process?

Posted in Web2.0 | 3 Comments »

Are University Web Teams Too Large?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 August 2009

Mike Richwalski was very busy at IWMW 2009 (and beyond). Mike, Assistant Director of Public Affairs at Allegheny College, submitted a proposal to run a workshop session on “Using Amazon Web Services (AWS)” which we were happy to accept. In subsequent discussions with Mike I discovered that he was not only a techie who knew about managing Amazon services but had recently presented a webinar on Facebook & Twitter Recruitment Tools to Engage Prospective Students.

This was a topic which was directly related to a series of workshops I was involved with on behalf of the SCA (Strategic Content Alliance). When I discovered that Mike was arriving in London on the day of the workshop in London (they day before the start of IWMW 2009) I tentatively asked if he’d like to give a brief talk at the SCA workshop (I have to admit that I was particularly interested in any cultural differences between educational institutions in the US and the UK in a willingness to make use of Social Web environments such as Facebook and Twitter). Mike not only agree to take part, he was also able to participate in the workshop in Cardiff, as he was returning to the US from Cardiff airport. And Mike also gave a bar camp at IWMW 2009 in which he summarised the ways in which Allegney College is using Social Web services.

In the IWMW 2009 bar camp Mike described his college’s use of Facebook, Twitter (for general use, admissions, student orientation and sports) and YouTube. Amazon Web Services (AWS) also powers many areas of their Web site, such as their multimedia fund-raising activities.

Following Mike’s overviews of these services, I asked others in the bar camp whether UK higher educational institutions were taking similar approaches in exploiting such Web 2.0 services. The answer, it seems, is not yet.

But why, I wonder? What are the barriers? Is it because we are seeking perfection? Do we hide behind phrases such as ‘creepy tree-houses’ and ‘walled gardens’ when the evidence seems to suggest that institutions feel that they gain benefits from use of such services? And, secretly, are members of Web teams feeling threatened? Is there a view that if we don’t develop the services in-house, we’re not doing our jobs properly? And is it significant that members of UK institutional Web management teams  are leaning from the approaches taken by a small US college with 1 Web team, of 1.5 FTEs?

I recently suggested that The Recession Has Still To Hit the Public Sector! And I’ve heard rumours of layoffs and early retirements in University Web teams.  So it strikes me that it is now very timely to make use of the global infrastructure which various Web 2.0 services can provide to support our institutional activities. I was therefore pleased that Barry Cornelius, for example, ran a workshop session at IWMW 2009 on “Time for iTunes U“.

But will this provide an opportunity for the bean-counters in the institutions to ‘right-size’ the Web team? Possibly, but I also feel there is so much more that could be done to make in exploiting the potential of the Web to support our institutional objectives. Why waste effort in attempting to replicate in-house what is already working on a global scale?

Posted in iwmw2009, Web2.0 | 6 Comments »

How People Access This Blog – 600 Posts On

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 August 2009

This is the 600th post since the blog was launched in November 2006. As I have done a couple of times in the past, I will use this occasion to document some statistics related to this blog.

Blog referrer statisticsHow do people access the blog site? Well as the WordPress.com service provides me with analytics on the Web site usage I can easily answer that.

Unsurprisingly Google is the Web site which has delivered most traffic to the blog site since it was launched, as can be seen from the accompanying image. However unlike conventional Web sites, it is the Google RS Reader which delivers the traffic, rather than the Google search engine.

In second place is another RSS reader: Netvibes.

But perhaps of most interest is the Web site to be found in third, fifth and sixth place – which is Twitter. Yes, although Twitter has only became such a popular service after this blog was launched it is responsible for delivering a significant amount of traffic to the blog.

I noticed recently that Twitter was frequently appearing in the list of referrers to this and to UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog. I then came across the TechCrunch articles on “For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown)” and “The Value Of Twitter Is In ‘The Power Of Passed Links’“. The latter article  suggests that:

Twitter “will surpass Google for many websites in the next year.” And that just as nearly every site on the Web has become addicted to Google juice, they will increasingly try to find ways to get more links from Twitter. Because Twitter equals traffic.

Hmm. It could be that the Twitter users who follow links to this blog would have viewed the posts anyway in their RSS reader. But maybe Twitter is becoming a replacement for RSS for many users.

Posted in Blog, Twitter | 5 Comments »

Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 August 2009

When we encouraged use of Twitter at the IWMW 2009 event we ensured that tweets containing the event’s #iwmw2009 tag were archived using a variety of services including Backupmytweets, Twapperkeeper service, wthashtag and Tweetdoc.

A page on the IWMW 2009 event’s Web site provides links to the various archives of the tweets, allowing the different approaches taken by the services to be compared. But the most interesting feature was provided by the wthashtag which provides a record of tweets over a user-definable date range in HTML and RSS formats. But even more interestingly, it provides a range of statistics on usage of the selected hashtag.

iwmw2009 Twitter statisticsAs well as the histogram of usage of the tag which is illustrated, I also discover that over the past seven days the top contributors have been:

  1. @iwmwlive – 255
  2. @spellerlive – 60
  3. @mecb – 58
  4. @bensteeples – 54
  5. @MikeNolanLive – 45
  6. @catmachine – 41
  7. @PlanetClaire – 36
  8. @kammer – 35
  9. @webpackets – 34
  10. @m1ke_ellis – 32

Unsurprisingly the official @iwmwlive Twitter account was in top place (this belonged to the event’s live blogger who had a remit to keep a record of the plenary talks). Two of the other top contributors, @spellerlive and @MikeNolanLive also contains the ‘live’ suffix, indicating regular Twitter users who have chosen to create a second account to be used for live blogging at events. The numbers of tweets from @mecb is perhaps surprising as the user has previously been an infrequent blogger, although, as described in a video interview, Miles Banbery has discovered a new found enthusiasm for Twitter

In addition there have been:

  • 1,530 tweets
  • 170 contributors
  • 218.6 tweets per day
  • 42.5% come from “The Top 10″
  • 4.4% are retweets
  • 20.0% are mentions
  • 34.5% have multiple hashtags

I am particularly interested in the statistics of usage of multiple hashtags. As described in a post on Use of Twitter at IWMW 2009 published a few days before the event began we suggested that “if you wish to refer to a specific plenary talk or workshop session [in your tweets], we have defined a hashtag for each of the plenary talks (#p1 to #p9) and workshop session (#a1-#a9, #b1-#b4 and #c1 top #c5“.

Mike Ellis responded to this suggestion: “I’ll be interested to see what take-up is for your #complexhashtagsuggestion. Personally (as you know!) I think it’s an error of complexity over usability.

I feel the evidence indicates that many of the participants were willing to use multiple hashtags when their use was appropriate (hashtags were not suggested for the bar camp sessions or for social events, so we wouldn’t expect 100% of the event tweets to have multiple hashtags.

Hashtags used to find tweets about #iwmw2009 and #p3We can now, after the event, exploit the  multiple hashtags to more easily find what people were saying about particular sessions. Use of #iwmw2009 and #p3 in a Twitter search, for example, enables us to quickly discover what was being said about Paul Boag’s talk on Making your killer applications… killer!. Why might we want to do this? Well towards the end of the talks we invited participants to post a single tweet summarising what they felt they had gained from the session. This may be useful information to reflect on after the event.

And it should be noted that some of the comments were made after the talk had been given – without the additional hashtag it would have been difficult to relate a comment to a particular session (in the example illustrated the reference to Paul Boag’s plenary talk #P3 was made in the final summing-up session).

An approach to be recommended for future events?

Posted in iwmw2009, Twitter | 7 Comments »

Event Amplification at IWMW 2009

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 August 2009

IWMW 2009

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2009, is now over. Despite being the 13th in the series on annual events aimed at members of institutional Web management teams, the event was not unlucky! The largest event audience for an IWMW event (200 registered delegates) arrived at the University of Essex campus which began on Tuesday 28 July with the opening plenary talk on “Headlights on Dark Roads” given by Professor Derek Law. And despite a rail dispute on Thursday (the final day of the event) there was still a large audience for the final talk on “How the BBC make Web sites“, an entertaining session on the importance of developers by the two Mikes (Ellis and Nolan) and my closing summary.

Amplification of the IWMW 2009 Event

I’ll not attempt to summarise everything that took place at IWMW 2009 in this blog. However there were a number of issues which were raised during the event which will be worth exploring in future posts. But for now I thought I’d summarise three aspects of the event organisation (rather than the content) which I feel are particularly noteworthy.

The IWMW 2009 Blog

Last year we provided a Ning social network for use by the workshop participants. This year. inspired by the approaches taken at the Dev8D and Mashed Library Oop North events, we decided to set up a IWMW 2009 blog. The aim was to provide a less formal environment than the main event Web site, for  both published information about the event and about the workshop participants, including their interests, recollections of previous IWMW events from those who have attended previous event and reasons why newcomers at the event have decided to travel to Essex in the last week of July.  The blog proved very successful. We will be continuing to encourage some further posts to the blog before the participants disappear off for their summer holiday.

Video Streaming

For the third year running we provided a live video stream of the plenary talks. I understand that there were about 50 people viewing the opening plenary talk. It will be interesting to see the viewing statistics for the second and third days.

In order to provide a richer experience for the remote audience we ensured that the slides for the plenary speakers who used PowerPoint were available on Slideshare (and note that many of the slideshows used in the parallel sessions are also available) .

Live Blogging

In addition an official live blogger used the iwmwlive Twitter account to provide a running commentary of the plenary talks. Kirsty McGill, who provided the live blogging service, also used these notes as the basis of a summary of the talks which was posted to the blog shortly afterwards.

We made a conscious effort to treat the remote audience as ‘first class citizens’. As well as the technologies listed above, we also tried to ensure that everyone used a microphone so that the remote audience could hear not only the speakers, but also the session chair and any questions posed by the live audience.

Twitter Channel

As well as the official use of Twitter for recording plenary talks and an IWMW Twitter account for administrative use (I’m pleased the missing phone reported on Twitter was found) we also encouraged participants to use the #iwmw2009 tag when tweeting about the event.

Links with the US

Thus year, for the first time, we worked with Higher Ed Experts who provide professional development and social networking online opportunities to higher education professionals working in Web, marketing, PR and admissions offices in the USA. Two of the parallel sessions,  Where’s the University? Building an institutional geolocation service by Janet McKnight and Sebastian Rahtz (Oxford University Computing Services) and Using Amazon Web Services by Mike Richwalsky (Allegheny College) had been pre-recorded in advance of IWMW 2009 and were provided as free Webinars on the Higher Ed Experts Web site.

Reflections on the Event Amplification

None of the aspects of IWMW 2009  I have described is significantly new. We have made use of wikis (at IWMW 2007) and social networks at previous events; the use of communication technologies to facilitate discussions during plenary talks dates back to IWMW 2005 when we made use of IRC (as you can see from the archive of the IRC discussions)  and we have been video streaming the plenary talks since 2007.

In previous years use of these technologies to ‘amplify’ the ideas and thinking beyond the physical event and enhance the discussions and debate at the event has been experimental. This year we have attempted to provide this as a service. The local participants have expectations of reasonable levels of service for the food and accommodation at the event. But now we can expect remote participants to have similar expectations regarding access to the content and the discussions and debate.

Did we provide a satisfactory level of service? Please let us know.

Posted in Events, iwmw2009 | 6 Comments »