UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for July, 2010

Automated Accessibility Analysis of PDFs in Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 30 July 2010

Back in December 2006 I wrote a post on Accessibility and Institutional Repositories in which I suggested that it might be “unreasonable to expect hundreds in not thousands of legacy [PDF] resources to have accessibility metadata and document structures applied to them, if this could be demonstrated to be an expensive exercise of only very limited potential benefit“. I went on to suggest that there is a need to “explore what may be regarded as ‘unreasonable’ we then need to define ‘reasonable’ actions which institutions providing institutional repositories would be expected to take“.

A discussion on the costs and complexities of implementing various best practices for depositing resources in repositories continued as I described in a post on Institutional Repositories and the Costs Of Doing It Right in September 2008, with Les Carr suggesting that “If accessibility is currently out of reach for journal articles, then it is another potential hindrance for OA“. Les was arguing that the costs of providing accessibility resources in institutional repositories is too great and can act as a barrier to maximising open access to institutional research activities.

I agreed with this view, but also felt there was a need to gain evidence on possible accessibility barriers. Such evidence should help to inform practice, user education and policies. These ideas were developed in a paper published last year on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” (available in PDF and HTML formats) in which I suggested that institutions should “run automated audits on the content of [PDF resources in] the repositories. Such audits can produce valuable metadata with respect to resources and resource components and, for example, evaluate the level of use of best practices, such as the provision of structured headings, tagged images, tagged languages, conformance with the PDF standard, etc. Such evidence could be valuable in identifying problems which may need to be addressed in training or in fixing broken workflow processes.”

I discussed these ideas with my colleagues Emma Tonkin and Andy Hewson who are working on the JISC-funded FixRep project which “aims to examine existing techniques and implementations for automated formal metadata extraction, within the framework of existing toolsets and services provided by the JISC Information Environment and elsewhere“. Since this project is analysing the metadata for repository items including “title, author and resource creation date, temporal and geographical metadata, file format, extension and compatibility information, image captions and so forth” it occurred to me that this work could also include automated analyses of the accessibility aspects of PDF resources in repositories.

Emma and Andy have developed such software which they have used to analyse records in the University of Bath Opus repository.  Their initial findings were published in a paper on “Supporting PDF accessibility evaluation: Early results from the FixRep project“. This paper was accepted by the “2nd Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries International Conference (QQML2010)” which was held in Greece on 25-28 May 2010. Due to the volcanic ash Emma and Andy were unable to attend the conference. Emma did, however, produce a Slidecast of the presentation which she used as she wasn’t able to physically attend the conference. This has the advantage of being able to be embedded in this blog:

The prototype software they developed was used to analyse PDF resources by extracting information about the document in a number of ways including header and formatting analysis; information from the body of the document and information from the originating filesystem.  The initial pilot analyse PDFs held in the University of Bath repository and was successful in analysing 80% of the PDFs,with 20% being unable to be analysed due to a lack of metadata available for extraction of the file format of file was not supported by the analysis tools.

In my discussions with Emma and Andy we discussed how knowledge of the tools used to create the PDF would be useful in understanding the origins of possible accessibility limitations, with such knowledge being used to inform both user education and the workflow processes used to create PDFs which are deposited in repositories. However rather than the diversity of PDF tools which were expected to be found, there appeared to be only two main tools used. It appears that this reflects the software used to create the PDF cover page (which I have written about recently) rather than the tools used to create the main PDF resource. If you are unfamiliar with such cover pages one is illustrated – the page aims to provide key information about the paper and also provides institutional branding, as can be seen.

As Emma concluded in the presentation “We may be ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ with additions like after-the-fact cover sheets. This may remove original metadata that could have been utilised for machine learning.

Absolutely! As well as acting as a barrier to Search Engine Optimisation (which is discussed in the paper)  the current approaches taken to the production of such cover pages act as a barrier to research, such as the analysis of the accessibility of such resources.

It does strike me that this is nothing new. When the Web first came to the attention of University marketing departments there was a tendency to put large logos on the home page, images of the vice-chancellor and even splash screens to provide even more marketing, despite Web professions pointing out the dangers associated with such approaches.

So whilst I understand that there may be a need for cover pages, can they be produced in a more sophisticated fashion so that they are friendly to those who are developing new and better ways of accessing resources in institutional repositories? Please!

Posted in Accessibility, Repositories | 8 Comments »

Twitter Captioned Videos Gets Even Better

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 28 July 2010

A recent post described the Captioned Videos of IWMW 2010 Talks which made use of Martin Hawksey’s iTitle service to synchonise a video with an accompanying Twitter stream.

I was not along in being impressed by this service – but since it made use of HTML 5 and the videos were encoded in MP4 format the video display would only work in a limited number of browsers, including Google Chrome.  Many users who do not have access to such browsers will not be able to see how this service works and try out for themselves features such as searching the Twitter stream and having the video jump directly to the appropriate point.

Captioned video of Paul Boag's talk at IWMW 2010However Martin has updated the service to provide a Flash-based solution for viewing the captioned video, thus enhancing access  to a much wider audience.

So if you use Opera or Internet Explorer you can, for example, visit the page about Paul Boag’s talk and search for what he had to say about ‘legacy’ Web sites.

The rapid development we have seen with Martin’s service illustrates the benefits of  a ‘just-in-time’ approach to accessibility which myself, Sarah Lewthwaite and David Sloan described in a paper on “Developing countries; developing experiences: approaches to accessibility for the Real World“.  If the videos had not been made available due to concerns regarding the costs of providing captioning in order to conform with WCAG accessibility guidelines we would not have been in a position to exploit the rapid developments we are currently seeing across the Web development community, including this example of exploiting the Twitter stream – which, again, we needed to archive in order to provide the content for this just-in-time solution.

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

“You are a natural with a face for radio”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 27 July 2010

An Interview on Radio 4

After a recent tweet in which I revealed the nervousness I had whilst waiting to take part in a Radio 4 programme Paul Hollins (@PaulHollins) put me at ease with his commentyou are a natural with a face for radio“. I have to admit that Paul’s comment succeeded in making me smile. But although I informed the various organisations –  Hartlepool Museum, Brighton Museum and Gallery and Leeds University (and my mum) – I mentioned in the interview for the programme on Making History I personally still felt too embarrassed to listen to the programme when it was broadcast on 6 July  -  I felt I would come across as very nervous and geeky. But after receiving a number of emails, Facebook messages and Twitter @s and DMs from people who heard me (including an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t heard from in several years) and some positive comments from colleagues at UKOLN I decided to listen to the programme on the BBC iPlayer.  And it wasn’t too bad :-)

Sharing My Experiences

I firmly believe that those of us working in higher education have a responsibility to communicate with the general public and this was the reason why I responded positively to the email request I received a few days before the interview took place. I also believe that we should be open with out peers and we willing to share best practices (and concerns) in order that we can all gain the benefits.  So here is my summary of my experience. I feel that documenting my reflections on the experiences will ensure that I do better if I have another opportunity to engage with the mass media. I’d also welcome feedback from those who are more experienced than me in this area.

It is important to know what you intend to say or, perhaps more importantly, the points you wish to get across. The day before the interview I started to prepare my notes summarising the key points which were:

  • There’s not a binary divide between real world visits to museums and access museum resources online.
  • Online resources can provide many benefits such as engaging with young people and thus helping to widen participation, and provide access to resources without necessarily needing to travel, thus perhaps addressing green issues as well as enhancing access to those who might find it difficult to travel.
  • Various benefits of encouraging the general public to engage with cultural resources has already been demonstrated so such approaches should be relevant to the Government’s Big Society rhetoric.

I had prepared notes for a talk in which I would make these points. However I was not able to give a prepared speech (which I suspect would have sounded too stilted) and instead had to respond to other pre-recorded interviews and the questions which the interviewer raised.  I was aware that specific examples would sound better than general points so I had prepared a number of examples which I used in my responses.  I was particularly pleased when the interviewer asked whether innovative use of technology was something that was only happening in the national museums based in London (to paraphrase her question slightly).  This provided me with the ideal opportunity to describe Hartlepool Museum’s use of Twitter – the sub-text of this example was ‘yes there is innovation taking place up north’!

Once the interview was over I wrote a brief news item which was published on theUKOLN news feed and featured on the University of Bath home page.  I also sent the BBC a list of the links I mentioned in my talk which have been included in a page about the programme. They seem to have included my text in full, which included:

An example of the technical innovation which is happening in regional museums is illustrated by the @yuffyMOH Twitter account provided by the Harlepool Museums and Heritage service. This is described in a book on Twitter for Museums: Strategy and Tactics for Success.

The Twitter account is available at: http://twitter.com/yuffymoh

Twitter for Museums

I was pleased to have have been able to promote the work which has taken place at Harlepool Museums, Brighton Museum and Gallery and Leeds University. I was even more pleased when I saw that the BBC had referred to me as Dr Brian Kelly. I emailed them to say I was a Doctor but the page hasn’t been updated. Perhaps the BBC have the power to award honory degrees :-)

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

“I Want To Attend All The Parallel Sessions!”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 26 July 2010

The Problems With Choice!

I can recall reading evaluation forms for IWMW events several years ago and seeing people saying how much they valued the event but wishing that they could attend more of the parallel sessions as there was useful content in these sessions; participants could only attend two (or, in some years, three) of the parallel session out of a total of around 20 on offer.

Maybe we should invent a time machine!” I thought on reading such remarks. How can we be expected to provide participants with a variety of sessions to choose and then respond to comments that the participants want to learn from many more of the sessions on offer?

Well, we’ve now done it. Not (quite) by inventing a time machine, but by ensuring that a variety of resources associated with the various parallel sessions is available.

Access to Resources From the Parallel Sessions

At the recent IWMW 2010 event we encouraged the facilitators of the parallel sessions to make their slides available on Slideshare. We have provided summaries of a number of the parallel sessions which have been published on the IWMW 2010 blog and have also published brief video interviews with a number of the workshop facilitators.

Links to the resources are provided from the individual pages providing abstracts for the parallel workshop sessions. For example Joanna Blackburn’s session of “Follow us on Twitter’…’Join our Facebook group” contains a link to her video interview; the session on “Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring” facilitated by Stuart Church contains a summary of the session written by Linda Bewley.

We have also published a page on the IWMW 2010 Web site containing links to the key resources related to the sessions and talks at the event. This page also provides a Slideshare pack widget which provides access to all of the slides presented at the event which we have access to.

Amplified Events and the ‘Big Society’

What I am describing is another aspect of the amplification of the IWMW 2010 event. This time we are amplifying the resources used in parallel sessions across time as well as distance, so that participants have access to resources used at sessions they were no able to attend.

Of course we are still in the early stages of using technologies to maximise learning and staff development at such events and I am very much aware of the limitations of simply providing access to slides and other related resources. It is possible to listen in to the discussions on the Twitter back channels which are available on the #IWMW10 Twapper Keeper archive, especially if participants used the appropriate session tag. And the summaries of the sessions and the brief interviews with a number of the workshop facilitators can be beneficial in providing others with a better understanding of the topics discussed in the sessions.

But should we looking to stream and subsequently make available for download the presentations made at future IWMW? And rather than expecting the event organisers to add this of the list of things to do might we encourage participants to take part in the ‘Big Society’ of Web managers, videoing the talks themselves and uploading videos to video sharing services?

Or to put it another way should we expect, if not require, participants at events to take greater responsibility for sharing the learning across the community?  And if this can be regarded as an application of the Government’s Big Society idea then maybe we should be doing it in order to demonstrate a commitment to making the best use of tax-payers money.

Posted in Events | 5 Comments »

Captioned Videos of IWMW 2010 Talks

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 July 2010

Twitter Captioning

As part of our support for the remote audience at UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2010 event we provided a live video stream of the plenary talks.  The videos have now been uploaded to the Vimeo video streaming service.  In addition we have made use of the Twitter captioning tool developed by Martin Hawksey based on an idea originally suggested by Tony Hirst.

Since  it was launched there have been a number of developments to the Twitter captioning service, which, incidentally, is described in Wikipedia.  I was particularly pleased at the developments Martin implemented which we could use during the IWMW 2010 event.  At the event Owen Stephens processed the video of the welcome talk I made on the opening and from its original file format and uploaded it to Vimeo. Right at the very end of the closing session Owen demonstrated how the talk had been captioned using the tweets with the event hastag.   Owen also demonstrated the search capability which Martin had developed, which allows the user to search the Twitter stream. Once a search term has been selected the video will jump directly to the appropriate point in the video.  This provides us with an example of a mashup of a Twitter stream and a video with a crowd-sourced bookmaking capability. I think this is very impressive!

Twitter Captioning of IWMW 2010 Talks

Twitter captioning for video of talk on HTML5Most of the other plenary talks have now been processed in a similar fashion. This technology prototype does require a HTML5 browser which can display MP4 videos (such as Safari, Chrome or IE with the Chrome Frame).  If you do not have access to such browsers the accompanying image illustrates how the service works.  The Twitter stream is synchronised with the video and displayed as a caption overlaying the video, as shown.  The full Twitter stream for the period is displayed beneath the video. A search box allows the user to search the Twitter stream. In the image shown I have searching for “validation” and the hits are immediately displayed. Clicking on one of the hits will display the appropriate point in the video.

If you have access to one of these browsers you can gain a better understanding of the capabilities of the service by viewing the following captioned videos:

Note that in the session on “Doing the day job” the talk on “Replacement CMS – Getting it right and getting the buy-in” has a captioned video and a very brief captioned video of the talk on “StudentNET Portal” is also available but due to technical problems a video of the talk was not  produced.

Building on Twapper Keeper

The Twitter captioning service processes the Twitter archive provided by the Twapper Keeper twitter archiving service.  Recently developments to Twapper Keeper have been funded by the JISC (and I am the project manager for this work).  I was particularly pleased with this example which illustrates the benefits that can be gained by providing APIs to a service (such as Twapper Keeper) which can then be exploited by other applications (such as the Twitter captioning service).  This approach allows John O’Brien, the TwapperKeeper developer to focus on backend developments (e.g. migrating the authentication to OAuth)  whilst Martin Hawksey, developer of Twitter captioning service, can focus on enhancements to the end user service (such as the search function).

Advice to Others

If you are thinking of doing something similar for your event here are some suggestions.

Creating the Twitter Stream

  • Create a Twapper Keeper archive for your event hashtag.
  • Consider providing an official event Twitterer who can ensure that the key points in the talks are recorded.
  • Provide clear ways of identifying the start and end of the talks. For example we used the hashtag #P1 for the first plenary talk.  Tweeting “#P1 #start of talk by Chris Sexton” and “#P1 #end of talk by Chris Sexton” enables the start and end of the talks to be easily identified, and this syntax is also understandable by people reading the Twitter stream.

Synchronising the Video and the Twitter Stream

  • The service uses GMT so if BST is in operation (as was the case during the IWMW 2010 event) you will need to bear this in mind when providing the time of the start and finish of the talks.
  • You can fine-tune the time to ensure that you include the official tweets which provide the time stamps.

What Next?

In a recent blog post on “The Backchannel” Chris Sexton described how she valued the way in which twitter could be used to provide feedback when she gives talks at events such as IWMW 2010. Chris added that “You do wonder sometimes, what you’ve said to provoke this, halfway through the talk:  ‘Odd feeling. In one moment inspired. Then, deflated’ “.  Chris need wonder no longer: she can simply search for “Odd feeling” and then skip back to see what she said which perhaps provoked that remark (although, of course, the remark may have been made in response to another tweet, a comment received  via email or even a real world event).

But what else could be done to make this service even better? Some suggestions from me:

  • Search across a group of related captionsed videos (e.g. all videos from IWMW 2010).
  • A RESTful interface, so I can provide a URL for the portion in the video when a user tweeted “Odd feeling“.
  • Support for legacy browsers, so that captioned videos with search capabilities can be provided in a much greater range of videos (although I recognise that this problem is due to the complexities of video codexes and browser support and can’t be fixed by the Twitter captioning service!) .

I wonder how achievable these suggestions are?And do others have additional suggestions?

Posted in Events, Twitter | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

The Big Society and Web Professionals

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 July 2010

On Monday 19 July David Cameron announced the launch of Tories Big Society plan.  As described on the BBC Web site the aim is to give “individuals and communities more control over their destinies“.

The following day on the website-info-mgt JISCMail list Mike Nolan, head of Web Services at Edge Hill University, announced that he was Looking for a higher ed web expert!. Mike described how he was inspired by a talk given by Paul Boag on “No Money, No Matter” at IWMW 2010 and was  “interested in doing exactly that so I’m looking for someone to come to Edge Hill and do some free consultancy! In return they’ll get as much coffee as they can drink, a sandwich from the SCR and – if they want – I’ll return the favour and “consult” for their HEI.” Mike added that he had given further thoughts on the Edge Hill Web team blog.

It strikes we that the approaches suggested by Paul Boag and picked up by Mike Nolan are very appropriate for today’s political and economic climate.  I also feel that the application of ‘Big Society’ approaches in a Web context shouldn’t be disregarded by those who feel antipathy towards the approaches being taken by the government towards those working in the public sector – after all we have sought to work together as a community even when Margaret Thatcher was telling us that there was ‘no such thing as society’.

So when I recently suggested that if Web teams regularly blogged about their recent activities or their plans for new work and made this content openly available, using a simple search technology such as Google Custom Search Engine  would enable this to be regarded as a shared resource for the community. And when speakers and facilitators are sharing their experiences (and pain, judging by the talks on Content Management Systems in the final day on IWMW 2010!) this again reflects the culture of sharing which is so strong within our sector.

So let’s give the “individuals [in Web teams] and communities more control over their destinies” by giving each other the free consultancy which Mike suggests. But remember that there will be many different ways in which we can support each other in these ‘turbulent times’.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

750 Posts and Counting

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 21 July 2010

Statistics for this Blog

The post on Further Reflections on IWMW 2010: Innovation and Sustainability was the 750th blog post published on this blog since it was launched on 1 November 2006. This provides a useful opportunity to reflect and to provide an update on the statistics I summarised following the 500th post.

According to timeanddate.com there have been 3 years, 8 months and 18 days since the blog was launched which is equivalent to 1356 days or 193 weeks (and less usefully 117,158,400 seconds,1,952,640 minutes and 32,544 hours) – doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun! So this means there 3.88 posts published per week.

During that time there have been just over 264,000 views according to the WordPress administrator’s interface – though I have no idea what this means in terms of views when the content is syndicated to other places. This seems to indicate an average of 350 views per post. There have also been 3,474 comments – although this does include trackbacks and comments I may have made as well as the comments provided by visitors to the blog.

An MS Word copy of the content of the blog posts has been created. This document is over 800 pages long,  although the size of the document is affected by the embedded images which are displayed at a larger size than used on the blog itself and the images are mostly not aligned alongside the text as they are normally in the posts.  However this figure indicates an average of about 4 pages per week.

The blog is currently listed in the top 50 technology blogs in Wikio at number 48 in this list. The blog also has a Technorati authority of 502 and a ranking of 43,325 of the 1,190,726 it has indexed.

Reflections

The blog has provided me with an opportunity to “think out loud” about the implications of new Web developments and to reflect on the digital landscape and my work in helping to shape the ways in which networked technologies are being used. I have also found that the disciple of writing blog posts is beneficial for me in helping me to remember ideas and embed things I’ve learnt. The open I’ve tried to take on this blog has helped me through the feedback I have received and, I hope, allows others to benefit from my posts. The discipline of writing regularly has also helped me to improve my writing ands productivity which, I feel, is reflected in the improved quality of my peer reviewed papers which I’ve published over the past few years (14 peer-reviewed paper and three contributions to books since the blog was launched).

Reuse

Myself and my colleague Marieke Guy have had a paper on “Approaches To Archiving Professional Blogs Hosted In The Cloud” accepted at the iPres2010 conference. The paper describes ways in which the contents of blogs hosted in The Cloud, such as this blog and Marieke’s Rambling of a Remote Worker blog, can be managed so that content is not lost if the hosting agency is not sustainable or if the author changes jobs or is, err, not sustainable!  Such issues span both policy and technical issues.  The policy for this blog (and for Marieke’s) states that “A copy of the contents of the blog will be made available to UKOLN (my host organisation) if I leave UKOLN. Note that this may not include the full content if there are complications concerning their party content (e.g. guest blog posts, embedded objects, etc.),  technical difficulties in exporting data, etc.)“. In addition occasional copies of the contents of this blog have been exported  to a copy of this blog which is hosted on the UKOLN Intranet. As well as providing a backup, this copy can also be used for testing purposes. I have an interest in different user interface and search technologies can be used to enhance access to the large amount of information contained in the blog and the copy allows experimentation to be carried out without making unnecessary changes which may distract readers of the live blog.  In addition colleagues at UKOLN may have an interest in exploring large how Linked Data can enhance access to such data sources, so we may also explore Linked Data plugins for WordPress blogs such as Triplify and SIOC.

Posted in Blog | 1 Comment »

Further Reflections on IWMW 2010: Innovation and Sustainability

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 July 2010

I’d like to followup on my “Initial Reflections on IWMW 2010” with some further thoughts, focussing this time on the innovative aspects of the event and the sustainability challenges.

Supporting Innovation

One of the aims of the IWMW series of events is to “ensure that institutions are well-positioned to exploit innovative developments which can enhance their services“. We seek to achieve this goal by (a) providing a forum for JISC-funded development activities to describe their activities and receive feedback from a key stake-holder community; (b) providing updates on significant new technical developments which will have an impact on institutional Web services and (c)  encouraging innovative developments centred around the event itself.

Damian Steer’s plenary talk on “Mobile Web and Campus Assistant” provided a good example of how the visibility of, in this case, a six month project  funded by the JISC at part of its Rapid Innovation programme, can be raised across the sector.

In addition there were a number of workshop sessions based on JISC-funded work which provided an opportunity for more in-depth discussions, including sessions on RDFa from Theory to Practice, Location Based Services Without the Cocoa, Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web, WordPress beyond Blogging, Course advertising and XCRI and Engagement, Impact, Value: Measuring and Maximising Impact Using the Social Web.

Geo-located tweets for the #iwmw10 tagAs well as the talks various examples of innovation were demonstrated at the event itself.  The JISC-funded developments to the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service have resulted in a number of developments to the service, the most recent of which have been developments to the RSS feeds from the service such as the inclusion of geo-location information. As described previously the Summarizr service, developed by Andy Powell at Eduserv, has exploited these recent developments and you can see how Twitter users had configured their clients to provide geo-location information for approximately 9% of the tweets.

Another example of a Twitter application which illustrates rapid development which took place around the event was the Twitter Buzzword Bingo application developed by Rich Pitkin.  This succeeded in its intention of providing some fun for the final session, with a tune being played whenever one of the event buzzwords was mentioned in a tweet. In order to add some level of interest to the game we negotiated a small prize (initially £10 for the person tweeting the final buzzword, to which Headscape and Statistics into Decisions agreed, during the game, to also donate an additional £20 to a charity).  As we had expected the 16 buzzwords (which myself, Marieke Guy and Kirsty Pitkin had selected) were spotted during normal Twittering activity in the final session – until only two buzzwords remained.  This triggered a flurry of random tweets containing a whole range of words associated with the event.  In order to ensure we had a winner before the event finished I initially gave a clue (“something to do with money”) and finally had to reveal the final buzzword (“economy’) which Adrian Tribe was quickest to retweet. Many thanks to Rich Pitkin for developing the game and to Headscape and Statistics into Decisions for their sponsorship.

Another game which was developed for the event was the QR quiz. As described by Mike Ellis, the developer, in the final session the PullTag game provided an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding  of how QR codes work and make use of QR scanning software on their mobile phones in a fun and collaborative way.  It was appropriate that the team which won (the NERCs) very much worked in a collaborative fashion. Amazon vouchers will be sent to members of the winning team.

Information about Sheffield University and IWMW eventsThe final example of innovative development came from Thom Bunting, a colleague of mine at UKOLN.  Thom had taken the RSS feeds of the structured information (speaker biographies and session abstracts) for the 14 years of IWMW events and made this available as a Linked Data resource.  A particular feature of this demonstrator was the use of DBpedia to extract information about the host institution for the speakers and facilitators over the 14 years.  From DBpedia we could find, for example, groups which institutions were members of  (e.g. Association of Commonwealth Universities, Russell Group, etc.), information about students numbers, etc.  Linking this information with details of speakers and workshop facilitators can help to provide a valuable understanding of institutional involvement in the IWMW events and could potentially be used if an FOI request were to be submitted.

Addressing Sustainability Challenges

Maximising the Benefits of the Learning

How do we ensure that institutional Web teams are best-positioned to support their institutional objectives at a time of cuts?  The need to ensure that members of Web teams are aware of new developments which can enrich their services in a cost-effective way will be critical and a well-established national event such as IWMW should have an important role in supporting such objectives.

The event amplification also helps to ensure that such benefits can be gained not only by those physically present at the events but also those who are participating remotely.  These benefits are enhanced not only by the streaming videos of the talks and the Twitter back channel but also by the availability of slides on the IWMW 2010 Slideshare group. In addition the blog posts about the talks and the interviews with a number of the speakers and facilitators on the IWMW 2010 blog also helps participants to gain a deeper understanding of the contents of the sessions.

Maximise benefits of the event by the event amplification (described previously) and ensuring the resources can be accessed after the event. This includes summaries of the talks and workshop sessions on the blog, videos interviews with speakers and facilitators and provision of access to the slides provided by the speakers and workshop facilitators.

Providing a Cost-Effective Solution For the Sector

Does the event provide a cost-effective solution for building capacity across the sector? It is interesting to make comparisons with similar events in other parts of the public sector. The Building Perfect Council Websites ’10 event, for example, costs £225+VAT for a one-day event in comparison with the £350 for the 3-day IWMW 2010 event which included 2 night’s accommodation.

Meanwhile over in the US the HigherEdWeb conference, “the national conference for all higher education Web professionals—from programmers to marketers to designers to all team members in-between—who want to explore the unique Web issues facing colleges and universities”  costs $650 (although an early bird discount is also available). This main conference runs over three days although, unlike recent IWMW events, it includes the morning session of the first day. There is also a day of workshops which are held on the opening day – a Sunday! – which cost an additional $120 for one workshop or $200 for two.  Also note that the fee does not cover the accommodation, with discounted accommodation currently available at $119 per night.

The 2010 Eduweb Conference, which takes place in Chicago on 26-28 July, has a similar pricing structure – $695 registration fee (though down to $550 or $595 for early subscribers) though again with an additional fee of $250 for attendance at workshop sessions. Once again the event runs for 3 days with the workshops being held on the opening morning. Again one should note that the fee does not cover accommodation, with a rate or $179 + tax per night being quoted.

Engaging With the Commercial Sector

For a number of years the IWMW event has benefitted from sponsorship from commercial suppliers who have helped to support the costs of running the event. This year, once again Jadu and TerminalFour helped to support the infrastructure costs, with their sponsorship covering the costs of the  conference drinks reception and bags and badges and lanyards respectively. Statistics into Decisions (SiD) are a new sponsor for the event and they supported the costs of the sponsored places for five participants who did not have institutional funding to attend. Eduserv, a not-for-profit organisation based in Bath once again provided support for the event through their sponsorship of the pre-dinner drinks. Finally I should thank Site Confidence, a web performance testing company donated a prize of use of their software which was won by Helen Sargan of the University of Cambridge.

Final Words

Interview with Martin HamiltonI think it would be appropriate to leave the final words of my reflections on IWMW 2010 to Martin Hamilton, a first-time at an IWMW 2010.  As he describes in a video interviewI’ve gotten tens of thousands of pounds worth of free consultancy” from various discussions during his 3 days in Sheffield.

It would be fascinating to explore the financial benefits to the sector which have been gained by the event if Martin’s experiences are shared by others! I wonder how one would determine the return on investment the sector gains from the event?

Do you have any comments to make on the sustainability aspects of the event or suggestions as to how to measure the ROI?

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Initial Reflections on IWMW 2010

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 16 July 2010

You guys did a great job with #iwmw10 – my first & really enjoyed it!

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2010, is now over – and, judging by the Twitter comments from, for example, @andyowen (given above), @Davie_T and @lborouniweb it seems that I am not alone in feeling that it was a great event. A summary of the event will be published in the Ariadne ejournal and there will be further posts on the IWMW 2010 blog.  But here I’d like to give my initial reflection on the event.  I will give some further reflections shortly.

Before the Event

We had identified that due to cutbacks potential participants may find it difficult to receive permission to attend the event. In order to address this concern we set up the IWMW 2010 blog which was launched on 18 May.

In the last week of May and first week of June we published a series of posts summarising the topics which would be covered including Economic Challenges, Mobile Web, Social Web, HTML 5 and Linked Data as well as mainstream Web management issues. These were summarised in a post entitled “IWMW 2010: An Event for Newcomers and Oldtimers” which provided various reasons which potential participants could use when seeking permission to attend from their managers/budget holders.

We were aware that some people had already been told that there was no money for them to attend. In order to address this we were successful in obtaining funding from Statistics into Decisions which covered most of the cost for 5 people to attend. The recipients of these sponsored places were expected to support the running of the event and, in particular, help Kirsty Pitkin, our official live Twitterer and blogger, by reporting on some of the talks and workshops session for the blog as well as providing video interviews with a number of the participants.

I feel this approach was successful in keeping the numbers up to a reasonable level – there were 174 participants which, although down from last year’s record of 197 was only slightly down on the attendance figures for the previous 4 years. It was also pleasing that there were a large number of new attendees at the event and I feel that the use of a diversity of communications channels helped to reach out to these new people. I also suspect that the event’s theme – The Web In Turbulent Times – also resonated with the concerns of those working in institutional Web management teams.

The Talks

The Opening Session

I gave the opening welcome talk (which is also summarised on the IWMW 2010 blog) in which I described the economic and political context to the event and the implications for HE and Web managers. I also described how the JISC provided a good example of a centralised shared service which can help to avoid unnecessary duplication across the sector and funded the development of advice and best practices as well as innovative developments which can be beneficial across the UK higher and further education sector. An example of such JISC-funded activities is the JISC PoWR Guide to Web Preservation which was officially announced the launched at the event. The Guide was distributed in the delegate packs and is also available on the JISCPress service – a good example of software developed through JISC-funded rapid innovation funding which provides the users for viewers to comment and annotate documents which may previously have been available only as a PDF document. As I mentioned in my talk, at a time of cuts UK HEIs should be willing to exploit the benefits of many of such services, tools and advice which are provided for use across the sector.

In the opening plenary session Chris Sexton’s talk on The Web in Turbulent Times echoed my comments on the economic challenges, although Chris argued that those who feel we are facing a time of economic uncertainties are mistaken – there is no uncertainty: we will face large scale cuts :-( Chris’s honesty in acknowledging that difficulties which we face was appreciated by many and we were also, I feel, reassured by some of the positive comments made in Chris’s talk, in [particular her concluding remarks that “It would be tempting in this climate to cut back on innovation, but failure to innovate carries a greater risk“. A more comprehensive summary of the talk is available on the IWMW 2010 blog, which also provides access to the slides. In addition a video of Chris’s talk is available on the University of Sheffield Web site.

Plenary Talks From The Commercial Sector

For me the two highlights of the plenary talks were given by the two speakers from the commercial sector.  Ranjit Sidu from Statistics into Decisions (who funded the sponsored places) gave a talk on “‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams. As described by Linda Bewley (who, appropriately, benefitted from of the sponsored places) in her report on the talk on the IMW 2010 blogRanjit raised the question of whether web teams can take lessons from the for-profit sector in order to stop what they are doing becoming a vague proposition to those who set budgets“. I have to admit that this suggestion initially struck me as a typical suggestion from someone in the commercial sector who is critical of the public sector.  But Ranjit went on to point out that “even in these challenging times, the one area that has been resilient to large expenditure cuts are internet and web services“. The challenge for Web teams is to demonstrate the financial benefits which can be provided by use of Web services. Ranjit demonstrated how Web managers could provide detailed and contextual reporting to show a clear return on investment: “On a university site, using the example of the number of international visitors who downloaded an application form, Ranjit calculated that the cost per application based on 1000 downloads and 50 successful applications would be just £0.06, and would generate revenue of £40,400 a year“. Comments were made which suggested that Ranjit’s approaches were too simplistic -but for me, and for many others, I think, Ranjit demonstrated how an approach which we may have previously felt uncomfortable in using can have value to use.

Ranjit’s talk was really stimulating and enjoyable. As Paul Boag went to the podium I said to him “Follow that” – and he did, with another both challenging and stimulating talk.  Once again the highlights of the talk on “No Money? No Matter – Improve Your Website With Next To No Cash”  have been summarised by Linda Bewley with a more detailed summary of the points made in Paul’s talk available on Owen Stephen’s blog.  As Owen described Paul was   very up beat about the opportunities which the cuts are providing those working in Web teams. In particular he identified two big opportunities:

  • Opportunity to simplify - Universities have more legacy (in their websites) than anyone else on the web
  • Opportunity to approach things differently

Paul provided a range of approaches which he felt that Web teams could adopt -and helpfully published a blog post on his Boagworld blog which summarised these suggestions in a 48 minute video rehearsal of his talk.

Other Plenary Talks

There were other plenary talks but, as I said on the concluding session, we are providing summaries of all of the plenary talks on the IWMW 2010 blog with the aim of minimising the time needed by delegates in writing their own trip reports.  So if you want to read more about the talks you can read the reports on the talks on “Are web managers still needed when everyone is a web ‘expert’?“, “HTML5 (and friends)“, “Mobile Web and Campus Assistant“, “It’s all gone horribly wrong: disaster communication in a crisis” and “Doing the Day Job” on the IWMW 2010 and Owen Stephen’s Meanboyfriend blogs.

The Event Amplification

Supporting the Remote Audience

We had stated that we would treat the remote participants as “first class citizens”. The University of Sheffield AV team did a great job of providing the live streaming video of the talks (although the video stream was lost for about 40 minutes on the final day). As she did last year Kirsty Pitkin provided the live Twitter summary of the talks and again did an excellent job; I would recommend her without hesitation for other events.

Kirsty also organising a bar camp session for the remote audience and, as she described in the review of the session, succeeded in attracted about 20 participants with about 7 being actively involved.

Kirsty used the Coveritlive software to facilitate the barcamp. The software was used in conjunction with Twitter with the #iwmw10 tweets being fed into Coveritlive environment.

I must admit that I initially wondered whether any benefits would be gained from setting up a (free) Coveritlive session but in the end Kirsty demonstrated that there were benefits to be gained from use of a diversity of back channel tools.

We still have to analyse the statistics of the numbers of views on the video stream but I understand that there were around 80 people watching the video. We would welcome feedback on the value of the provision of the video stream and the subsequent access to the videos.

Miquel Duran, a Chemistry of Professor at the University of Girona has already written a blog post giving his thoughts. “Not easy to follow remotely” was the headline of the post with his concerns focussing on the lack of the personal contact: “a workshop remotely lacks something important: personal interaction with participants“. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that remark, but to me the question is “if you can’t attend an event, due to lack of funding, for example, how useful do you think event amplification is?

Another view from abroad was given by Ann Priestley, a UK citizen who is now working in Denmark.  In a post entitled “#iwmw10 follow-up (1): eavesdropping on the conversation” Ann agreed that “Remote attendance looks set to play an increasing role in higher education events, with details of remote access starting to appear on non-technical conferences as well as those targeted at IT aware audiences“. It was pleasing to read that Ann appreciated the work UKOLN and the University of Sheffield had put in to the event amplification:  “it’s not just about putting up a video stream – the IWMW conference organisers made a big effort to make it is easy as possible for remote participants to engage and feel welcome“. But Ann agreed with the comment made by Miquel: “One thing which gets mentioned a lot is how difficult it is to maintain concentration in the face of competing demands - it’s not the same as taking time out from the day job

There is clearly the need for much more evaluation of the experiences of remote audiences at amplified events.

Enhancing Discussions Amongst The Participants

When I created the Amplified Conferences page on Wikipedia I described how such event amplification can enhance discussions by participants who are physically present at an event as well as for those attending remotely.

Twitter hashtag usageAt the event we found that Twitter played a significant role for conversations about the various talks and sessions.  According to the statistics provided by the Summarizr service developed by Andy Powell, Eduserv to data there have been a total of 3,352 tweets posted from 315 Twitter IDs.  As might be expected the majority (386) came from the official iwmwlive Twitter account. The other prolific Twitterers in the top ten were PlanetClaire (136),  spellerlive (124), mariekeguy (108),  patrick_h_lauke (103),  webpackets (85),  ostephens (84),  kammer (71),  briankelly (70) and  m1ke_ellis (67). It was interesting to note that 80% (2761) of the tweets were made by 20% (65) of the Twitterers and that the top 10 Twitterers account for 35% of the tweets.  I wonder if we might regard an 80% level as an indication of a benchmark of active Twitter engagement, in which case this suggests that there were 65 active Twitters, about 37% of those present at the event.

Summarizr also provides details of the ten most popular hashtags used.  The recommendation that a session hashtag was used to identify the specific sessions was widely adopted. As can be seen session #P8 provided the most debate. In part this was because several talks in the session but in addition, as described in a blog post on the “Reaction to SharePoint from web professionals in UK higher education” posted yesterday by James Lappin, one of the speakers in the session,  there was a lot of heated – and negative – comments about the Microsoft Sharepoint technology which was discussed in the session.  It was also interesting to note that the #remote tag appeared to work as a way of communicating with the remote audience.

Twitter statistics for geo-located tweets (Europe map)Of course there was also Twitter activity from the remote audience. Thanks to developments to the Summarizr service which Andy Powell implement in the few days prior to the event we are now able to see a map of geo-located tweets. There have been 331 geo-located tweets which represents ~9% of the total number of tweets.  I must admit that I was surprised to see such a high proportion of geo-located tweets in light of my expected concerns regarding the privacy implications and the less than obvious ways in which geo-location of tweets is initially authorised and then the different ways in which Twitter clients allow such information to be sent.  I should also add that in my case I only geo-located a small number of my tweets, such as the first tweet when I arrived at the venue.

In will be noticed from the image that there were 328 tweets from the UK and 3 from Spain.

You can also zoom in on the map so it is possible to see the various areas around Sheffield from which the tweets were posted (subject, of course, to the accuracy of the geo-location technology used). A map showing the locations of tweets from the north/midlands is given below, showing that there were 252 tweets from around Sheffield itself.

Geo-location details of tweets from the north of England

It should be noted that the statistics related to the use of Twitter should be treated with caution  – for example the Twitter buzzword bingo game which was played during the final session will have skewed the statistics.

Your Views

These are my initial thoughts on the event and the event amplification. I will be writing some further summaries but for now I’d welcome your comments.

Posted in Events | 3 Comments »

Revisiting Web Team Blogs

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 July 2010

Where are the University Web Team Blogs?

Last August I asked If Not Too Large, Are University Web Teams Poor Communicators?. The background to the question was a post on “Blogging web teams” published by Mike Nolan almost two years ago on the Edge Hill University Web team blog in a post on  in which he pointed out that  “Blogging web teams are rare. I suspect you could count them on one hand“.

Reasons Why Web Team Should Blog

Mike’s post identified a number of benefits to be gained by the provision of blogs by those involved in providing large-scale institutional Web services:

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

The reasons he gave a year ago are even more valid today, especially in light of the recent announcements of large-scale cuts across the public sector.   So I would build on Mike’s summary of reasons why Web teams should be blogging with the following additional reasons which are particularly relevant to the Web in turbulent times:

Effective communications within your institution:  If you are failing to communicate with the large numbers of people within your institution who have an interest in the running and ongoing development of your Web services will they be supportive of your department when it is time to decide where cuts should fall?

Practicing what you preach: With the ever-growing relevance of Web 2.0 and the Social Web in supporting learning and teaching and research activities it would not be unreasonable for institutions to expect that central support services should have practical experiences of the  tools, such as blogs, which will be  used across the institution.  The ways in which blogs can easily create RSS feeds of the content, which can be used in a variety of other applications (including mobile devices) also provide an example of  content reuse which should be central to a Web teams approaches to the provision of Web-based services.

Personal development:  At a time in which we might expect cuts, downsizing and even redundancies it will be important for members of Web teams to enhance their skills,

Networking with peers:  The Web management community has had a longstanding tradition of sharing and collaboration ever since the establishment of the web-support and website-info-mgt mailing lists.  But although the use of such mailing lists has shown significant decline over the past 5 years there does not seem to have been a take-up of blogs across the community which could prove valuable in the development of a knowledge base to inform discussions across the sector.

There was some discussion following Mike’s post on possible reasons for the failure of Web teams to exploit the potential of blogs. But now, two years on from the initial discussions, the lack of blogs describing the work of University Web teams is still very noticeable.

Web Team Blogs as a Shared National Resource

What could be gained if members of the Web management community were to engage in blogging activities?  At this year’s IWMW 2010 event there are over 170 participants gathered at the University of Sheffield.  If every individual agree to write one post per month there would be over 2,000 posts described their work by this time next year.  If you include members of institutional Web teams who aren’t attending IWMW 2010 it would not be unreasonable to expect 3-4 posts per month from team members, which may include HTML and CSS experts, designers, user interface experts, information architects, software developers, user support staff and managers and policy makers.  If all Web teams across the 166 UK HEI institutions were to write four posts per months we would then have over 7,500 blog posts!

This could potentially be a really valuable resource, not just for the individual institutions but for the entire community.

I have used the Google Custom Search Engine to provide a search across the handful of University Web teams blogs which I know about.

To illustrate the potential value of such a resource across the community imagine  you are involved in work in one of the following areas:

There has been a failure, I feel, in regarding the Web team blog as another chore with marginal benefits. But rather than viewing the blog in isolation I feel that contributing to a Web team blog should be regarded as contributing to a national shared resource for the community.  And if you write a post, you may well find that  your post attracts comments, suggestions and new insights (this happens to me a lot on this blog).

Conclusions

Isn’t it time the Web community acknowledges that following the steady demise of JISCMail lists as a valuable resource for the community that providing a team blog and ensuring that it is part of a national index can be valuable both to the team and the community? If US Universities can provide a listing of blogs from their sector the smaller and more focussed community we have in the UK should be able to do even better, I would argue.

Posted in Blog | 8 Comments »

Guide to Web Preservation Launched

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 July 2010

Here’s a press release about the launch of a JISC-funded Guide to Web Preservation which will be announced during the opening talk at the IWMW 2010 event later today.

The press release isn’t written in my normal conversation style but in discussions with my colleagues who worked on the JISC PoWR project in did occur to me that when a project makes a deliverable available this should be accompanied by a brief press release.  Whether the press release will be picked up by the media may be uncertain, but surely the process of reflecting on the importance of the project’s deliverables and summarising the benefits to the end users is a valuable exercise in itself? What’s your view on this suggestion?


Guide to Web Preservation to be launched at the opening session of a national event for University Web managers

At a time of cuts across the educational sector there is an urgent need to ensure that valuable teaching and learning and research Web-based resources are not lost.

Advice on how Web managers can minimise the risks of loss of such digital resources is provided in a Guide to Web Preservation which will be launched at a national event for University Web managers to be held at the University of Sheffield on 12 July.

The Guide to Web Preservation has been published by the JISC-funded Preservation of Web Resources (JISC PoWR) project which was provided by UKOLN (a national centre of expertise in digital information management) and ULCC (the University of London Computer Centre).

The Guide provides advice not only on the management of resources held on University Web sites but also in best practices when externally-hosted services are used to provide access to resources.

The Guide can be purchased from the Lulu print-on-demand service for £2.82 (plus p&p). An online version of the guide  is available from the JISC PoWR blog. In addition a commentable version is hosted on the JISCPress service.

Members of the JISC-PoWR team from UKOLN and ULCC, together with Susan Farrell, a consultant who edited the Guide, have published a series of video clips which describe the resource and further digital preservation work which the services are involved in.

Brian Kelly, the JISC PoWR project director described the Guide as “Focussed and pragmatic, explaining the importance of Web preservation and providing members of University Web teams with advice on what to do“.

In a video summary of the work Brian has described how the project team, based in Bath and London, made use of a number of Web 2.0 technologies, including blogs and resource-sharing services to support their work. “Since many Universities are using Cloud Services to deliver resources it was important that we made use of such services in order to gain experiences of preservation strategies for content on externally-hosted services.

The Guide will be launched at the opening of UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2010) which will be held at the University of Sheffield on 12-14 July.

Posted in Web2.0 | Leave a Comment »

How Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 8 July 2010

In a recent post on Having An Impact Through Wikipedia I suggested that it would be useful if JISC-funded synthesis reports, for example reports on emerging new standards, used Wikipedia as a means of enhancing access to such work. In the post I pointed out that “I can’t find usage statistics for the page [but] I suspect that the article [on Amplified Conference which I created] will have been read my more people than have read my various peer-reviewed papers, blog posts, etc.” In response to a request for examples of tools which provide usage statistics for Wikipedia articles Martin Greaney suggested thatIt’s quite basic, but the tool at http://stats.grok.se/ might give you enough of an idea of the traffic to certain articles in Wikipedia“.

As Lorcan Dempsey suggested in a tweetThe Wikipedia article traffic stats site mentioned in your comments is quite interesting. wonder how reliable is“. I agree and thought I would explore what the statistics tell us about Wikipedia entries for a number of areas related to Web, metadata and related standards of interest to the JISC development community.

My survey was carried out on 6 July 2010. The following table provides a link to the relevant Wikipedia article, the data the article was created (with a link to the original page for the article), my comments on the article and the usage statistics for October 2009 and June 2010 (two dates chosen to observe any significant variations).

Page Created Summary (subjective comments) Stats: Oct 2009 Stats: Jun 2010
Linked Data May 2007 Multiple concerns have been identified with this article. 5,423 8,102
HTML Jul 2001 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 147,357 143,386
XML Sep 2001 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 159,749 126,599
XSLT Feb/Jun 2002 Appears to be a very thorough and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 7,160 18,938
RSS Sep 2002 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes a very brief info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 7,160 (gaps) 18,938
AJAX (programming) Mar 2005 Appears factually correct . 98,629 90,300
SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) Sep 2004 Appears to be a very thorough and comprehensive article. 4,421 2,942
Z39.50 Oct 2004 Brief article which has been flagged as in need of improvements. 3,960 2,592
Search/Retrieve Web Service Feb 2004 Very little information provided. 506 462
Dublin Core Oct 2001 Appears factually correct though citations need improving. 7,013 7,501
METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard) Sep 2006 Appears factually correct though citations need improving. 7,236 4,573
MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema) Aug 2006 Appears to be a reasonable although succinct summary. 546 583

Extrapolating from the usage statistics for the two dates it would seem that popular articles such as HTML and XML have an annual number of views of around 1,750,000 and 1,720,000 whilst an article on a less well-known standard such as METS has an annual number of views of around 70,0000. It is perhaps surprising, in light of the high viewing figures for METS that the annual viewing figures for MODS is around 6,700. Perhaps this is due to the name clash between the METS acronym and the Mets name used to refer to the New York Mets. However there isn’t, as far as I am aware, such scope for confusion with names such as HTML, XML, SAML, etc.

What conclusion might we draw from such statistics? I would suggest that if I had an interest in ensuring that users had a good understanding of what Dublin Core is about and had access to the key sources of information then contributing to the Dublin Core Wikipedia page would be a good way of achieving that goal – after all the estimated viewing figures of around 87,000 surely can’t be ignored.

Now Matt Jukes pointed out the potential difficulties of getting content into Wikipedia. But that is a question of ‘How we go about contributing to Wikipedia?‘ rather than ‘Should we?

Can we accept that the answer to the second question should be ‘Yes‘ so that we can explore ways of addressing the first question?

Posted in standards, Wikipedia | 11 Comments »

File Formats For Papers In Your Institutional Repository

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 7 July 2010

File Formats I Have Used to Deposit Items in the Bath Institutional Repository

What file formats should you use to deposit papers in your institutional repository?  Although I recently suggested that RSS could have a role to play in allowing the contents of a repository to be syndicated in other environments  that post didn’t address the question of the preferred file format(s) for mainstream resources such as peer-reviewed papers.

For my papers in the University of Bath Opus repository I initially normally deposited the original MS Word and the PDF version which is normally submitted to the journal or conference: the MS Word file is the original source material which is needed for preservation purposes and the PDF file is the open standard version which should be more resilient to software changes than the MS Word format.

What I hadn’t done, though, was to deposit a HTML version of my papers, despite that fact that I normally create such files.  I think I suspected that uploading HTML files into a repository might be somewhat complicated so when I uploaded my papers I omitted the HTML versions of the papers.

Problems With PDFs

PDF cover page for a paper in the Opus repositoryHowever when I recently viewed the repository copy of the PDF version of my paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” I discovered that such papers have a cover page appended as shown.

Having recently being a co-facilitator on a series of workshop on “Maximising the Effectiveness of Your Online Resources” I am well aware of best practices to help ensure that valuable resources can be easily discovered by search engines. And although papers in the repository do have a ‘cool URI’ prefixing the content of all papers in the repository with the same words (“University of Bath Open Online Publications Store” followed by “http://opus.bath.ac.uk/” and “This version is made available in accordance with publisher policies. Please cite only the published version using the citation below.” goes against best practices for Search Engine Optimisation.

The cover page isn’t the only concern I have with use of PDFs in institutional repositories.  Despite PDF being an ISO standard not all PDF creation programs will necessarily create PDF which conform with the standard, with papers containing mathematical formula or scientific notation being particularly prone to failing to embed the fonts needed to provide a resources suitable for long-term preservation.  I also suspect that, although it is possible to create accessible PDFs, I suspect that many PDF files stored in repositories will fail to conform with PDF accessibility guidelines.

Providing HTML Versions of Papers

In light of these reservations I have decided to provide a HTML version of my recent papers in the University of Bath institutional repository. So my paper on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” (for which the publisher’s embargo has recently expired) is available in HTML as well as PDF formats.

As I suspected, however, depositing the HTML version of the paper was slightly tricky.  I uploaded the paper using the Upload for URL option and this initial attempt resulted in the page’s navigational elements are search interface being embedded in the page.  And since the upload mechanism only uploads files which are ‘beneath’ the paper in the underlying directory structure the page’s style sheet was not included.  In short, the page looked a mess.

Since the HTML files I have created contain the contents of the paper separately from the page’s navigational elements it was not too difficult to create a very simple HTML file which I included (with the citation details appended at the end of the paper) in the resource which is available in the repository. As can be seen the contents are available even if the page is not visually appealing.

There are, of course, resource implications in creating HTML versions of papers. However it will be interesting to see if providing content which is more easily found in Google provides benefits in enhancing access to papers which are provided in HTML format  - and since resource discovery is one of the main aims of a repository it might be argued that resources should be provided to ensure that HTML versions of papers are made accessible.

But What About Richer XML Formats?

The purist might argue that whilst HTML is an open and Web-native resource is may not be rich enough for use with peer-reviewed papers. I have some sympathies which such views. Anthony Leonard has described how we should go about “Fixing academic literature with HTML5 and the semantic web“. I would agree that there’s a need to explore how HTML5 can be used in the context of institutional repositories.

But mightn’t there be another XML format we should consider? How about an open format which is widely supported and deployed and which, for many authors, will not require any changes to their authoring environment? The format is OOXML – an ECMA standard which has also been standardised as an International Standard (ISO/IEC 29500). However not all open standards are equally open and as this standard is based on Microsoft’s format for their office applications, as Wikipedia describes “the ISO standardization of Office Open XML was controversial and embittered“.

In light of this discussion, what format(s) would you recommend for use with institutional repositories?

Posted in Repositories | 12 Comments »

Geo-locating Your Event Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 6 July 2010

A recent article in the Metro (published on 30 June 2010) described “London’s Twitterscape” and included a visualisation of the location of tweets posted in London.  The article was based on research being carried out at UCL and – as can be seen – this works shows the density of tweets around London.

The idea of one’s tweets providing details of one’s location may cause concern and there are clearly issues of privacy and personal protection to be considered – so I’d advise against tweeting “Slightly drunk & on my on waiting for last train home at xxx station“.

On the other hand there may be occasions when geo-locating Twitter posts may have advantages.  At next week’s IWMW 2010 event, which will be held at the University of Sheffield on 12-14 July, we will again be making use of Twitter to support the event amplification to a remote audience. But when we analyse the event tweets, or people view individual tweets,it is not normally possible to identify if the tweet has been posted by someone who is at (or near) the near or located hundreds if not thousands of miles away.  A knowledge of the location of those joining in the discussions centred about the event hashtag can help to identify the extent of the event amplification and assist the planning of provision and support for future amplified events.

A simple approach to helping to identify the location of those tweeting would be to encourage participants to geo-locate their tweets.  I suspect that not many Twitter users currently geo-locate their tweets. This might be for a number of reasons, such as the concerns over privacy and security which I have already mentioned. But in addition users may not know how to switch on geo-location of tweets on their Twitter client on their mobile device (or, indeed, if their preferred client supports this feature).

Following a recent request on Twitter I discovered that geo-location of tweets is possible on Gravity on a Nokia N97 and Űbertwitter on the Blackberry (and the accuracy settings are configurable for some variable levels of privacy). In addition TweetDeck and the official mobile Twitter client also support geo-location and I suspect many other mobile Twitter clients will also do so.

Interface for geo-location of tweets using TweetdeckThe user interface for geo-locating tweets using Tweetdesk is illustrated. In addition the interface for TweetDeck on an Apple Macintosh is shown below.

If you are attending IWMW 2010 and intend to tweet during the event this will provide an opportunity for you to test the geo-location potential of Twitter.  And since you are away from home on work business you should not be divulging personal information, such as the location of your home.

If you are intending to participate in the #iwmw10 discussions as a remote participant it would be useful for the event organisers to be able to easily find out details about the geographical distribution of the remote participants.  After all there are resource implications in providing a live video stream and support the remote audience and, in light of cuts, we may need to be able to provide evidence that such expenditure can be justified.

If you are participating from home, though, you may wish to consider whether you are prepared to share such location information publicly.

Does this use case seem reasonable? And how do you feel about publicising your location in a machine-readable format when you are attending events, either physically or remotely?

Tweetdeck on Apple Mac

Posted in Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Amplified Events: Plans for #IWMW10

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 July 2010

Amplified Events

UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2010) starts a week today, with the welcome talk being given at 13:30 on Monday 12 July.  Way back in July 2005 we exploited a WiFi network at this event for the first time (with the discussion on the IRC back channel being used by about 18 or the participants who had brought a laptop centred on the London 7/7 bombings which occurred on the second day of the IWMW 2005 event).  Since then we have made use of WiFi networks to support the annual event, which is a good example of an ‘amplified conference’ to use the term initially coined in July 2007 by Lorcan Dempsey and described in Wikipedia (although I wish Lorcan had used the term ‘amplified events’ as not all events are conferences!).

I am aware that interest in amplified conferences has grown since such early experiments with, for example, The IX Girona Seminar, amplified conference, which takes place today, showing that the interest in such approaches has gone beyond the IT and Web sector and is now being embraced by the scientific research community.  For those who have an interest here are my thoughts on best practices for engaging with amplified events from the perspective of the event organisers and the local and remote audience, based on our planning for the amplification of IWMW 2010.

The Organiser’s Perspective

Our approaches to the amplification of the IWMW 2010 are based on, as in recent years, live video-streaming of the plenary talks, the Twitter back channel (using the #iwmw10 event tag) and use of Slideshare for access to the speakers slides.

We have made the speakers aware that we intend to stream their talks and ensured that they are happy with this. We have also told the speakers that we intend to make the videos of the talks available after the event, but we do allow speakers to request that the video of their talk is not published if they change their mind after the event.

As we did for the first time at IWMW 2009 we will. be using an official event live blogger who will use the iwmwlive Twitter account to provide a summary of the plenary talks.  The blogger will also provide summaries of the talks on the IWMW 2010 blog which should be published shortly after the talks have been given.

We will try to ensure that the slides used by the plenary speakers (and, if possible, facilitators of the workshop sessions) are published on Slideshare under the IWMW 2010 event group.  If the speakers are Slideshare users they may choose to upload the slides themselves, and should then add them to the IWMW 2010 event so they can easily be found.  If speakers ado not have a Slideshare account we will do this on their behalf. The availability of the slides on Slideshare is designed particularly to facilitate viewing by the remote audience. In addition the slides will be able to be embedded in other blogs, Web sites, etc.

A WiFi network will be available for use by the local delegates. We will need to check for access to the network is obtained and if there are likely to be any problems with non-standard devices (I wonder if anyone will bring along an iPad?)

The Speakers

The amplification of the event will enable the speakers to reach out to a (much?) bigger audience than would be the case otherwise.  However we are aware of possible dangers that this could be regarded as too intimidating or that talks will become too bland,  with speakers unwilling to be too honest about any problems they have experienced when, for example, they describe institutional case studies.

The Local Audience

We expect significant numbers of participants to be using a networked device during the event and also during the talks.  Based on the experiences of previous years we feel that many participants appreciate the benefits which can be gained from active participation in the discussions around the plenary talks.  Last year we introduced a ‘quiet zone‘ (located in the balcony of the auditorium) for those who wished to avoid the possible distraction associated with people tapping away on their keyboards (although this may be a temporary concern as mobile devices should not be noisy). This year, however, there does not appear to be an obvious place for such a quiet are, so we will have to make a decision on how we handle this on the Monday morning, before the event starts.

We will encourage  participants who intend to make use of networked devices during the event to familiarise themselves with the technologies in advance of the event in order to gain the most from the technologies and to be able to use focus attention of the talks rather than the  technologies themselves.

Participants should also try to install relevant applications in advance  as this will help to minimise the bandwidth demands on the WiFi.

The main application we would recommend is a Twitter client – my preferred application is TweetDeck which I use on both my desktop PC and my iPod Touch.

As described in a blog post on the IWMW 2010 blog we will also be providing an opportunity for participants to explore the potential of  social location based sharing services during their 3 days in Sheffield. If you would like to evaluate the potential of such services we recommend that you sign up for Gowalla and/or Foursquare and install the software on you mobile device. I intend to geo-locate the main venues we will be using at the event (the registration area, the  main auditorium, the rooms for the parallel session, the accommodation and maybe even some of the pubs) so when you arrive at the event you should be able to see who else is around.

The Remote Audience

Once again we will be providing an official blogger who will be responsible for tweeting during the plenary talks (on the iwmwlive account) and summarising the talks in blog posts published shortly after the talks have been given.

The remote audience may find it useful  to keep up-to-date with discussions on Twitter by following the #iwmw10 event hashtag and following the iwmwlive Twitter feed. The speakers’ slides will be uploaded to Slideshare and should be linked in from the abstracts (e.g. see the abstract for Susan Farrell’s talk on “Are web managers still needed when everyone is a web ‘expert’?“. Also note that all of the ten  plenary talks and 19 parallel sessions have been allocated a hashtag of the form #P0-P9 and #A1-#A10 and #B1-B9 so if you wish to refer to Susan’s talk rather than having to use the long title of the talk or her name you can simple say “Listening to Susan Farrell’s’s #P2 talk at #iwmw10“.

We intend to provide a public display of the #IWMW10 tweets  at the start and the end of the event and, perhaps, during breaks but we don’t intend to do this during the speaker’s talks. The remote audience should be aware that their tweets may be publicly visible during the event.

We would also encourage those participating in the Twitter discussions to geo-locate where they are tweeting from for reasons which are described below.  Note, however, that you should consider the privacy and security issues associated with doing this – you may not, for example, wish to provide geo-location information about you home if you are working from home.

What’s the Business Case? What About the Evidence?

At a time of cutbacks in the public sector we need to be able to demonstrate the value of the work we do.  We could potentially be asked to provide an answer to the question “What is the value provided by amplifying the event?” and even “What is the return on investment in doing this, in concrete money terms?“.

I would argue that amplified events can provide cost saving to sector through efficiencies and sharing and may also provide environmental benefits. But whilst I am aware of the benefits of the discussions which can take place on Twitter around amplified events and can point out how speakers can benefit from the ways in which video-streaming can enhance awareness of, and one would hope, take-up of the ideas they are talking about, this is not evidence.

In order to gain evidence of the remote participation at #IWMW10 we intend to analyse the logs of the live video stream.   We would also  like to analyse the locations of those involved in Twitter discussions, so we would invite participants (but those located remotely and those in the auditorium) to geo-locate their tweets.  In the final session we intend to provide a map showing the locations of the Twitter community. This will provide some evidence of the numbers of remote participants and their locations which can help to inform decision-making for event amplification at future events, as the 20-40% cuts we read about over the weekend start to bite.

In addition to such evidence we also need feedback, comments and stories. So if you have found the amplification of the event useful please let us know.  We will be providing an opportunity for feedback on the IWMW 2010 blog.

I’m looking forward to chatting to many people who won’t be in Sheffield next week :-)

Posted in Events | 4 Comments »

Having An Impact Through Wikipedia

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 2 July 2010

Re-Discovering Amplified Events

A recent tweet from Miquel Duran (a University professor, researcher in quantum chemistry, fostering communication of science 2.0 and university 2.0) alerted me to a blog post on The ‘Amplified Conference’.

As this is a particular area of interest to me I read the post and thought “yes, I agree” with its summary of the benefits of an amplified event :

  • Amplification of the audiences’ voice: Audience members through the use of such social media technologies (such as Twitter) can create online discourse during the sessions in real-time
  • Amplification of the speaker’s talk: Widespread and inexpensive video and audio-conferencing technologies
  • Amplification across time: With low-cost technologies, presentations are often made available after the event, with use of podcasting or videocasting technologies
  • Amplification of the speaker’s slides: With social media lightweight technologies, (such as Slideshare) entire presentations can simply be uploaded, shared, and embedded on other Web sites and commented upon
  • Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies (such as Twitter) are being used not only as for discourse and knowledge exchange among conference participants
  • Amplification of collective memory: With the widespread availability of inexpensive digital cameras, photographs are often uploaded to popular photographic sharing services
  • Amplification of the learning: With the Web resources and social media technologies, following links to resources and discourse about the points made by a speaker during a talk propagates the learning which takes place at an event.
  • Amplification of the historical conference record: The ‘official’ digital resources such as slides, video and audio recordings which have been made by the conference organizers

I then thought that the words sounded familiar and, on rereading the Amplified Conference page on Wikipedia, I realised that I was reading words I had coined when I created the Wikipedia page in on 30 August 2008!

The blog post mentioned above linked to a previous post on Amplified Conferences in the Social Media World written by the author for Suite101.com. I found it interesting to compare the examples provided in the post with my Wikipedia article. I had written, for example,

Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies, such as Twitter, are being used not only as a discussion channel for conference participants but also as a way of providing real-time feedback to a speaker during a talk. We are also now seeing dedicated microblogging technologies, such as Coveritlive and Scribblelive, being developed which aim to provide more sophisticated ‘back channels’ for use at conferences.

Amplification of a conference’s collective memory: The popularity of digital cameras and the photographic capabilities of many mobile phones is leading to many photographs being taken at conferences. With such photographs often being uploaded to popular photographic sharing services, such as Flickr, and such collections being made more easy to discovered through agreed use of tags, we are seeing amplification of the memories of an event though the sharing of such resources. The ability of such photographic resources to be ‘mashed up’ with, say, accompanying music, can similarly help to enrich such collective experiences.

The Suite101.com article had nicely summarised. It was perhaps surprising that the article hadn’t provided a link to the Wikipedia article which, I would assume, was a source resource – but this isn’t something which particularly concerns me. Indeed I did wonder that if Suite101.com has a policy that one shouldn’t cite Wikipedia entries (as may be the case in higher education) whether the author would be in a position to cite the resource? I have to admit that when I wrote the article I only cited Lorcan Dempsey’s original (brief) blog post and an article published by Paul Shabajee in the Times Higher Educational Supplement – the main body of the text was content I created in Wikipedia and had not published elsewhere (which perhaps I shouldn’t have done?).

Maximising Impact Using Wikipedia

Despite my uncertainty as to whether I should have first published an article described amplified conference which I could then cite (although I would then not have a neutral point of view!) discovering the reference to Amplified Conferences has made me appreciate the impact which an article in Wikipedia can have. Although I can’t find usage statistics for the page I suspect that the article will have been read my more people than have read my various peer-reviewed papers, blog posts, etc. (Can anyone suggest on ways in which this claim could be validated?)

I have previously suggested that Wikipedia should be used more widely across the higher education sector. Shouldn’t, where appropriate, the outputs of JISC-funded reports be included in Wikipedia articles? As an example consider the JISC-funded report on MODS: Metadata Object Description Schema [PDF]. This report, written in 2003, was commissioned by the JISC and is now hidden on the JISC Web site. meanwhile there is a brief entry on MODS in Wikipedia which, I would have thought, would have benefitted if the information provided if the JISC report had been included.

The JISC report does state that the copyright is held by JISC. This is a barrier to providing content in Wikipedia, which must be made available under a Creative Commons licence. But as JISC seek to be proactive in encouraging take-up of their deliverables under open access licences, I suspect this is not a fundamental barrier on allowing such content to be made available in a popular environment such as Wikipedia.

And with the growing interest in DBpedia (the Linked Data representation of Info boxes in Wikipedia entries) providing content in Wikipedia may also allow such content to be integrated in Linked Data applications.

Whilst I feel it would be inappropriate to mandate that the content of reports commissioned through public funding should be made available on Wikipedia, I do feel that this should be encouraged. What’s your view?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Web2.0, Wikipedia, Wikis | 11 Comments »

Paper on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” now available

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 1 July 2010

A paper  on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” is now available from the University of Bath Opus repository (in HTML and PDF formats). This paper, which was co-authored by Liddy Nevile, David Sloan, Sotiris Fanou, Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod, was published in Disability and Rehability: Assistive Technology (Vol. 4, Issue 4).

As I described last yearUnfortunately, due to copyright restriction, access to this version is embargoed until next year“. I’m pleased to announce that the paper is, at last, available.

As described by David Sloan:

This paper focuses on ways to strike a balance between a policy that limits the chances of unjustified accessibility barriers being introduced in web design while also providing enough flexibility to allow the web in a way that provides the best possible user experience for disabled people by acknowledging and supporting the diversity of and the occasional conflicts between the needs of different groups.

As described in a recent post such considerations have been accepted in the draft Web Accessibility – Code of Practice. I would like to be able to say that our paper had been influential in the development of the BSI Code of Practice. However since the paper has been embargoed the influence of the ideas described in the paper will be limited and as is it costs £33 to order a copy of the paper from the publisher this will have provided an additional barrier – although the post on “From Web Accessibility To Web Adaptability”: A Summary” at least provided a publicly-available review of the ideas described in the paper.

I would conclude that the strict copyright embargo which the publishers placed on this paper has acted as a barrier which to the take-up of the ideas in the paper. I normally try to avoid submitting papers to publishers which have such restrictions but in this case it was an invited paper based on a paper on “Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes” which was presented at the W4A 2007 conference – the opportunity to build on our ideas and have additional input from two new co-authors to the paper was really something I felt would be foolish to turn down. But although I am willing to accept such real-world compromises this doesn’t mean that I agree with the publisher’s approaches – and I will try and avoid such restrictions in the future.

Posted in Accessibility, Papers | 1 Comment »