UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for June, 2011

Potential for Scoop.it at Events

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 30 June 2011

Alan Cann is a fan of Scoop.it. In a post on “Scoop.it masterclass” he described how he has “written about Scoop.it several times recently, but [is]still getting blank looks from lots of folks” and so went on to explain that “Curation, it’s all about curation. What is curation? Adding value to information“. In a subsequent post Alan reported that “The Scoop.it saga continues” and admits that, although he is a fan, “What I still haven’t figured out is how to use Scoop.it for education, beyond the informal contexts that I’m already using it for“.

I have also been exploring Scoop.it. I am thinking about the potential the service may have curating content related to an event, as opposed to subject areas such as “The latest news about microbiology” and “Annals of Botany: Plant Science Research” which have been the focus of Alan’s curation activities.

I have therefore set up a Scoot.it topic on “IWMW 2011 (Institutional Web Management“, UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (which this year takes place at the University of Reading on 26-27 July).

The page currently contains content published by event organisers, primarily on the IWMW 2011 blog. The blog has been set up to highlight the key aspects of the event (the plenary talks and the parallel sessions) in advance of the event. We hope that this will provide evidence of the relevance of the event for those who are involved in the important task of managing institutional Web services and convince managers that, at a time when funding is tight,£250 for a two-day event (which includes accommodation) is a bargain for the professional development and networking opportunity which the event provides (especially in comparison with similar events for those involved in Web management activities).

I suspect, however, that the Scoop.it page should become more interesting as more varied content is published about the event (ideally with the #iwmw11 event hashtag so that such content can be easily discovered) by those intending to attend the event or have an interest in the topics which will be addressed at the workshop.

Our intention is to update the IWMW 2011 Scoop.it page on a weekly basis over the next few weeks and then see if we can update it more frequently during the event itself. I should add that although the official programme for the event has been finalised in light of various recent announcements (such as the Cookie legislation and the requirement for Universities to publish data related to the services they provide) we are exploring ways in which such topics may be address at the event.

If you do have an interest in either the topics which may be published on Scoop.it or, indeed, the opportunities which Scoop.it may provide, we invite you to follow our Scoop.it page. And if you’d like to read some more about this service, which, perhaps surprisingly, was developed in France, you may wish to read the guest post on the TechCrunch Europe blog by Guillaume Decugis, CEO of the company behind Scoop.it who explainsWhy this could be the moment for the curators“.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Social Analytics for Russell Group University Twitter Accounts

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 28 June 2011

“Students to get best-buy facts”

On a day on which the main headline on the BBC News Web site announces the Government’s Competition Plan For Universities which “could bring more competition between universities and greater powers for students” it would seem timely to publish a survey which makes use of a number of social media analytic tools to explore how Russell Group Universities are making use of their institutional Twitter accounts and to invite discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of such approaches. After all if, as described in an accompanying articleStudents [are] to get best-buy facts“, shouldn’t the facts about Universities’ online presence also be provided – especially if you believe in openness and transparency?

Background

A survey of Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities was published back in January 2011. This survey provided a snapshot of institutional use of Twitter across the twenty Russell Group Universities based on the statistics provided on Twitter account profile pages (numbers of followers, numbers of tweets, etc.). The survey was warmly received by those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts or with an interest in activities in this area, with Mario Creatura expressing the view that the survey provided an “excellent gathering of data in an area that quite honestly is chock full of confusing stats“.

The interest in gathering further evidence of the value of Social Web services continues to grow. A recent study, for example, sought to answer the question “What’s the ROI with advertising on Facebook?” and concluded that “1 Facebook fan = 20 additional visits to your website“. But what approaches can institutions take to gain a better understanding of institutional use of Twitter?

Use of Social Analytic Services

In a recent post entitled Analysing influence .. the personal reputational hamsterwheel Lorcan Dempsey highlighted three social media analytic services. The post described how it has been suggested that the “Klout score will become a new way of measuring people and their influence online“. In addition to Klout, (which according to Crunchbase “allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph“) Lorcan’s post also referenced PeerIndex (which according to Crunchbase “identifies and ranks experts in business and finance based on their digital footprints“) and Twitalyser (described in a Mashable article as “provid[ing] detailed metrics on things like impact, engagement, clout and velocity for individual Twitter accounts“) .

Although Lorcan’s blog post addressed the relevance of such service for helping to understand personal reputation I felt it would be useful to gain a better understanding of how these service work by using them to analyse institutional Twitter accounts. I have therefore used the Klout, Peerindex and Twitalyzer social media analytic tools to analyse the twenty Russell Group University Twitter accounts. The table below summarises the findings of the survey which was carried out on Thursday 23 June 2011. It should also be noted that the table contains live links to the services which will enable the current findings to be displayed (and also for any errors to be easily detected and reported).

Ref.
No.
Institution /
Twitter Account
Klout Peerindex Twitteralyzer
Score Network
influence
Amplification
Probability
True
Reach
Description Score Activity Audience Authority Impact Percentile Type Full
Metrics
1 University of Birmingham:
@unibirmingham
55 61 34 3K Thought
Leader
19 31 70 4 3.3% 88.6 Everyday
user
View
2 University of Bristol:
@bristoluni
49 54 28 2K Specialist 16 16 68 0 1.7% 75.2 Everyday
user
View
3 University of Cambridge:
@cambridge_uni
56 63 39 7K Thought
Leader
29 38 0 37 5.4% 94.6 Everyday
user
View
4 Cardiff University:
@cardiffuni
48 52 26 3K Specialist 43 47 76 33 0.8% 57.1 Everyday
user
View
5 University of Edinburgh:
@uniofedinburgh
52 60 35 2K Thought
Leader
14 6 69 0 1.7% 75.2 Everyday
user
View
6 University of Glasgow:
@glasgowuni
51 58 29 3K Specialist 40 47 78 28 1.1% 65.1 Everyday
user
View
7 Imperial College:
@imperialcollege
51 57 30 3K Specialist 39 24 74 24 2.8% 85.7 Everyday
user
View
8 King’s College London:
@kingscollegelon
46 53 26 1K Networker 16 19 53 4 1.3% 69.1 Everyday
user
View
9 University of Leeds:
@universityleeds
51 59 32 2K Specialist 23 37 62 12 1.8% 76.4 Everyday
user
View
10 University of Liverpool:
@livuni
43 48 21 2K Networker 2 40 0 0 1.4% 70.9 Everyday
user
View
11 LSE:
@LSENews
39 48 18 797 Networker 33 43 0 43 0.4% 38.8 Everyday
user
View
12 University of Manchester:
@UniofManc
14 10 10 46 Feeder 27 ? ? ? ?%      ?  - View
13 Newcastle University:
No official account found
14 University of Nottingham:
@uniofnottingham
51 57 30 2K Specialist 41 41 65 33 1.9% 77.6 Everyday
user
View
15 University of Oxford:
@uniofoxford
58 65 37 8K Specialist 58 44 83 52 2.7% 85.1 Everyday
user
View
16 Queen’s University Belfast:
@queensubelfast
41 48 23 779 Specialist 11 0 53 0 0.7% 53.6 Everyday
user
View
17 University of Sheffield:
@sheffielduni
54 59 36 3K Networker 41 44 73 37 2.9% 86.4 Everyday
user
View
18 University of Southampton:
@southamptonnews
46 55 27 1K Networker 46 46 57 44 0.9% 60.1 Everyday
user
View
19 University College London:
@uclnews
54 63 39 2K Specialist 62 68 71 59 2% 78.7 Everyday
user
View
20 University of Warwick:
@warwickuni
53 58 31 3K Thought
Leader
52 42 77 45 1.2% 67.3 Everyday
user
View

Please note that you will need to sign in to Klout in order to view the findings.

Russell Group Universities Peerindex group and two Klout groups (since there is a limit of ten entries these are split into Russell Group Universities (1 of 2) and Russell Group Universities (2 of 2) ) have been set up) which should enable comparisons to be made across the institutions based on the particular social media analytic service elected.

It should be noted that since the original survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities accounts for the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester have been identified. The University of Liverpool account (@livuni) seems to have replaced an older @liverpooluni account which was never used (although it did have over 2.000 followers). The University of Manchester account (@UniofManc) was set up on 14 March 2011 and there have been insufficient numbers of tweets for the PeerIndex and Twitteralyzer services to provide meaningful reports.

About the Social Media Analytic Metrics

In Klout:

The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1-100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence.

Network Influence is the influence level of your engaged audience. Capturing the attention of influencers is no easy task, and those who are able to do so are typically creating spectacular content.

Amplification Probability is the likelihood that your content will be acted upon. The ability to create content that compels others to respond and high-velocity content that spreads into networks beyond your own is a key component of influence.

The True Reach does not appear to be defined.

PeerIndex is built up of three components: authority, activity and audience score (all three are normalised ranks out of 100):

Authority is the measure of trust; how much can you rely on that person’s recommendations and opinion on a given topic. The authority is calculated from eight benchmark topics for every profile: AME (arts, media and entertainment); TEC ( technology and internet); SCI (science and environment); MED (health and medical); LIF leisure and lifestyle); SPO (sports); POL news, politics and society) and BIZ (finance, business and economics). These are used to generate the overall authority score as well as produce the PeerIndex Footprint diagram.

The authority is a relative positioning against everyone else in each benchmark topic. The rank is a normalised measure against all the other authorities in the topic area.

Note that the PeerIndex findings for the University of Oxford are illustrated with a comparison being made with the the Peerindex findings for the University of Cambridge. The analysis suggests that both institutions have a broadly similar ‘fingerprint’ but Oxford tends to focus on news, politics and society whilst Cambridge on technology and Internet.

Audience is indication of an individual’s reach. It is not simply determined by the number of people who follow you, but instead generate from the number of people who listen and are receptive to what you are saying.
Being followed by large number of spam accounts, bots, inactive accounts will reduce an audience score. The audience takes into account the relative size of the audience to the size of the audiences for the rest of community.

Activity is the measure of how much you do that is related to the topic area. Being to active and people will stop listening to you and if you are too inactive people will never know to listen to you. The Activity Score takes into account this behaviour. Like the other scores Activity Score is done relative to the community. If you are part of a community that has lots of activity your level of activity will need to be higher to achieve the same relative score as in a topic that has a lot less activity.

Realness is a metric that indicates the likelihood that the profile is of a real person, rather than a spambot or Twitter feed. A score above 50 means Peerindex thinks this account is of a real person; a score below 50 means it is less likely to be a real person. When Peerindex comes across a new profile, it gives it a score of 50. Initially, Peerindex doesn’t have the information to make any determination. As more information is gathered Peerindex modifies the number accordingly. Peerindex looks at a range of information to generate realness such as whether the profile is claimed and been linked to Facebook or LinkedIn. Peerindex is continually adding new signals to the realness calculations to improve it. The calculations are modified by the realness metric in order to penalise non-real people. Claiming a profile will boost the authority, audience and activity scores and consequently the PeerIndex as well.

Note that before the PeerIndex scores are displayed that are normalized. This means every number in PeerIndex is based on a scale of 1 to 100, showing relative positions. An aggressive normalization calculation is used which helps to discriminate between top authorities. The benefit is that you can more easily understand who the top authorities are. The trade-off is that many users end up with seemingly lower scores. Here’s an example: If you are in the top 20% by authority in a topic like climate change, it means you have higher authority than 80% of other people who we measure within this topic. Your normalized authority score for this topic will be in the range of 55 to 65 (that is, significantly lower than 80). Remember, however, that a score of 60 puts you higher that 80% of people we track in that topic. A score of 65, means you rank higher than 95% of the people we track. PeerIndex focuses on tracking the top people on a specific topic, not just anyone.

In Twitalyzer the Impact measure is a combination of the following factors:

  • The number of followers a user has.
  • The number of unique references and citations of the user in Twitter.
  • The frequency at which the user is uniquely retweeted.
  • The frequency at which the user is uniquely retweeting other people.
  • The relative frequency at which the user posts updates.
  • Twitalyzer’s “Impact Percentile” score provides insight into the relative rank of the individual within the service’s dataset. A ranking in the 69.8th percentile means that the user’s Twitalyzer Impact score is higher than 69.8 percent of the hundreds of thousands of active Twitter accounts the service is tracking.
  • Twitalyzer’s user profiles report 30-day trailing averages for Impact to help visualize how the user’s Impact trends over a longer period of time. This mitigates out weekends, vacations, etc.

Thoughts on Openness of Social Media Analytics Data

We are starting to see a stream of social media analytic services being developed, together with companies offering to analyse institutional use of social media and advise on best practices. There is a danger, I feel, of unnecessary duplications of such analyses being carried out, with funds which could be used to enhance the teaching and learning and research services provided by institutions being used to pay for unnecessary consultancy work. Whilst there maybe legitimate justifications for such consultancy, I feel that factual data which is gathered should be made openly available. In addition I feel that there is a need for open discussion on how social media analytic findings should be interpreted and used.

Issues for the “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact” Workshop

On 11 July I am facilitating a one-day workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact” which will be held at the Open University. The workshop aims to ensure that the participants:

  • Have a better appreciation of the importance of the need to gather and interpret evidence.
  • Understand how metrics can be used to demonstrate the value and ROI of services.
  • Have seen examples of how institutions are gathering and using evidence.
  • We aware of limitations of such approaches.
  • Have discussed ways in which such approaches can be used across the sector.
Some questions which I hope will be addressed at the workshop (which, incidentally, is now fully subscribed, indicating the interest across the sector in this area) include:
  • Do existing social media analytic services, such as those described above, have a role to play in helping to gain a better understanding of how social media services are being used to support institutional goals?
  • Can such  existing social media analytic service be used to help identify personal professional reputation?
  • Should the higher education sector be developing its own social media analytic tools in order to ensure that the specific requirements of higher education institutions are being addressed?
  • What are the dangers and limitations of seeking to analyse and make use of social media metrics and how should such concerns be addressed?

If you have any answers to these questions, or general comments or queries you would like to raise feel free to add a comment to this post.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter, Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Government to Force Universities to Publish Data – Hurrah?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 26 June 2011

Earlier today in an article entitled “Universities forced to publish new data” the Daily Telegraph described how “Universities are to be forced to publish a range of new information – including how many hours’ lectures and tutorials students receive – as part of a sweeping set of reforms due to be announced this week“.

I was alerted to this new by a tweet from @karenblakeman which led to a subsequent discussion as to whether Universities should be concerned about the implications of the forthcoming announcement or should welcome the opportunity to embrace openness in order to demonstrate the diversity of services provided by the university sector.

I suspect there will be suspicious that this decision is being taken to provide an opportunity to bring into question the value for money provided by the institutions currently involved in providing higher education. But this would perhaps be a rather hypocritical position to be taken by those who heralded the commitment to open data taken by the Labour Government in spring 2010 and featured in articles such as “Gordon Brown launches big shift to open gov data and broadband but where’s the detail?“. We now seem to be seeing the detail – and it applies to the University sector and not just, for example, opening up ordnance survey data in order to allow developers to provide a rich set of mashups.

We are also seeing arguments about the diversity of the services provided across the HE sector, with one person commenting in response to the Daily Telegraph article:

What is absolutely vital to know is the student-staff ratio (SSR) by department. The average SSR for a whole university is usually all that is currently available and is quite meaningless. My business school has an SSR of 30:1 (and this is a Russell Group university); other departments more favoured by the university centre have SSRs of 12:1 and still boast of offering tutorials

Whilst it is indisputably true that there is much diversity across he University sector – and also within individual institutions themselves – it could also be pointed out that the same argument could have been made (and, indeed, was made) when the Daily Telegraph first broke the story about the MPs expenses claims and developers, such as Tony Hirst, subsequently provided analyses of the data once the data had been released.

Surely if you believe that public sector organisations, in particular, should be open and transparent in areas which don’t conflict with data protection issues then should beliefs shouldn’t change if a new government is elected? And such openness shouldn’t just relate to institutional data related to the student experience – as I’ve suggested in recent posts it should also apply to the data about the contents of institutional repositories and the services provided by academic libraries.

I particularly enjoyed the talk on”The Good (and Bad) News About Open Data” by Chris Taggart of openlylocal.com, “a prototype/proof-of-concept for opening up local authority data … [where] everything is open data, free for reuse by all (including commercially)“.

In making this argument I am revisiting this talk, which was given at the Online Information 2010 conference, in which Chris described how openlylocal.com aims to provide “a prototype/proof-of-concept for opening up local authority data … [where] everything is open data, free for reuse by all (including commercially)“. Chris’s presentation he described the potential benefits which openness can provide and listed concerns which are frequently mentioned and responses to such concerns. Rather than trying to apply Chris’s approaches in the content of the government’s forthcoming announcement I will simply link to Chris’s presentation which is available on Slideshare and embedded below.

So if the following arguments are being used to maintain the status quo, remember that increasing numbers of councils have already found their own ways of addressing concerns such as:

  • People & organisations see it as a threat (and it is if you are wedded to the status quo, or an intermediary that doesn’t add anything)
  • The data is messy e.g. tied up in PDFs, Word documents, or arbitrary web pages
  • The data is bad
  • The data is complex
  • The data is proprietary
  • The data contains personal info
  • The data will expose incompetence
  • The tools are poor and data literacy in the community is low

Chris Gutteridge has already welcomed the news in his response to the Daily Telegraph’s article: “Yay. The UK government has some amazing people working in the field of open data. The UK commitment to Open Data with Open standards is something to be proud of. If they help advise on the standard then it’ll be good.”

HEFCE have already announced that from September 2012 they will be providing Key Information Sets (KIS) which are “comparable sets of standardised information about undergraduate courses … designed to meet the information needs of prospective students and will be published ‘in context’ on the web-sites of universities and colleges“.

The KIS will contain areas of information that students have identified as useful including student satisfaction; course information; employment and salary data; accommodation costs; financial information, such as fees and students’ union information. A mockup of the KIS output is available (Adobe PDF 432K) or (MS Word 1.3 Mb) and is illustrated in this post.

If the exercise in collating this data from Universities results in the provision of access to the data in PDF format we will, I feel, have lost a valuable opportunity to take a significant move in providing open access to data in an accessible, open, structured, linkable and reusable form.

My view is that we should be looking at the lead which has been taken by the University of Southampton and the information they provide on Open Data from UK Academic Institutions – with the discussions focussing on well-understood technical arguments around open data and Linked Data. But David Kernohan, in a post entitled “The bubble of openness?” has recently asked “Is openness (in the form of open access to knowledge, and the open sharing of distilled knowledge) a contemporary bubble, destined to collapse as universities and industries seek to tighten their budgets?“. Meanwhile in a post entitled “The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online” provides details of a session to be held at the ALT-C conference will examine the paradoxes of giving and receiving online in education in a changing economic climate, pointing out that “Ownership in the age of openness calls for clarity about mutual expectations between learners, communities and ourselves“.

Perhaps the benefits of openness do need to be questioned after all. But are the concerns related to the use and access to open Educational Resources (OERs) relevant to discussions about the openness of data about the institution and the student experience?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in openness | 2 Comments »

What Twitter Tells Us About The #DevCSI #a11yhack Event

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 June 2011

The DevCSI #a11yhack Event

On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended the DevCSI’s Accessibility Hackdays – A11y hackspace which was described as “A two day workshop bringing accessibility (a11y) users, experts and developers together to hack on ideas, prototypes and mashups, while exploring the challenges in providing usable accessibility“.

Unfortunately I arrived late on Tuesday and so didn’t have an opportunity to join in the discussions which aimed to identify development areas related to accessibility ( for which the Twitter tag “#a11y” is often used).   So yesterday I used the development time as an opportunity to identify existing Twitter applications which might be used to support the event.

In response to my colleague’s Mahendra Mahey’s invitation for participants to describe the problem space prior to summarising the development activities which had taken place I stated that:

UKOLN’s DevCSI work has a focus on the building of communities. There have been community activities over 2 days.  But what evidence do we have of community engagement; sharing and the sustainability of such communities and how do we enable participants to understand, interpret and curate their own communities?

I then demonstrated a number of applications and summarised how the applications can help to address the problems described above.

What Twitter Told us About The Event

TwapperKeeper and Summarizr

I began my mentioning the TwapperKeeper archive for the #a11yhack hashtag which I created on the train on Tuesday afternoon after I noticed that the archive hadn’t been set up.  I then showed the output from the Summarizr analysis service for the #a11yhack tag and pointed out that @maccymacx was the top Twitterer and was also mentioned or replied to the most. As she tweeted shortly afterwards@briankelly preso: #twitterstreamgraphs shows that I’m top of most #a11yhack twitter ratings, should I be worried? :S“. Note I also pointed out that there were only two geo-located tweets, one from Birmingham and one from London.  Such low levels of usage has been recorded for many of the Summarizr summaries I had examined, indicated that Twitter is not currently being used to geo-locate tweets.

Graph of folk recently tweeting q=a11yhack

After the demonstration related to the Twitter volume I then demonstrated Tony Hirst’s Web based tool which provided a visualisation of the connections between people who tweeted with the #a11yhack tag (though note I found that I had to enter the hashtag into the search box).

As Tony described in a blog post entitled OUseful.info: Using Protovis to Visualise Connections Between People Tweeting a Particular Term this service was developed in April in order to “publish a service that lets folk generate their own network visualisations”. In his post Tony described how “the app demonstrates whether folk recently tweeting a particular term or hashtag all know each other, or whther the discussion going on around the term/tag is taking place outside of an echo chamber“.

Twitter StreamGraph

After discussed how the service described above helped to gain a better understanding of the connections between people using the event’s hashtag I demonstrated the Twitter StreamGraph timeline for the #a11yhack hashtag.

From this we could clearly see that the peak time for the tweeting had been at about 11am yesterday morning, with a second peak after we had returned from lunch.  Perhaps most interesting, however, are the much smaller visualisations of a small number of tweets at 2am (just before the hackers were heading off to bed) and at about 7am (when they were getting ready to start hacking on the final day).  I think this demonstrates that such DevCSI events do have a requirement for network access at unexpected times of the day!

Using Gephi To Map Twitter Networks

In a recent post Tony Hirst described A Map of My Twitter Follower Network.  The production of the map requires some manual intervention so it was not possible to be able to provide a live demonstration of Twitter networks related to, say, the @devcsi account.  However I suggested that since the DevCSI had an important role to play in supporting the development of communities that it might be useful exercise to see the develop of Twitter communities around the various topics areas which have been addressed at DevCSI events.

Realtime Display of #a11yhack Tweets

I concluded by demonstrating the Revisit realtime display of #a11yhack tweets (which is illustrated).

A point of showing this display was to demonstrate how a wide range of visualisations of Twitter streams can be provided, which can allow users to choose an interface which reflects their personal preferences, rather than expecting every Web-based interface to be universally accessible to all users – as some felt to be the case in the early years in the development of accessible Web sites.

Conclusions

Shortly after the DevCSI event was over Sandi Wassmer, the invited keynote speaker at the event, in giving her thanks to the event organisers picked up on how the DevCSI #a11yhack event had appeared to have fulfilled its purpose:

Thanks to  @mahendra_mahey  @SteveALee  @devcsi for enabling collaboration, innovation & creativity to flourish at #a11yhack.

An example of the collaboration, innovation and creativity was seen when, following Bruce Lawson’s   demonstration of webVTT in his invited talk on HTML5, Scott Wilson of the JISC-funded CETIS service developed a W3C widget to generate WebVTT (the Web Video Text Track file format that is under development for solving time-aligned text challenges for video.). Bruce, who was only present at the event on this first day, was alerted to this development on Twitter and shared the news across his Twitter community, as illustrated in the above image.

Further summaries about the event should be published shortly on the DevCSI blog. I’d like to conclude by echoing Sandi’s comments on how the DevCSI event helps to support collaboration, innovation and creativity and to give thanks to my colleague Mahendra Mahey, the DevCSI project manager for his willingness to take risks in providing the environment which supports the rapid development environment we saw over the last couple of days and Steve Lee, the co-facilitaor of the event, and wish Steve well in his new venture with the  OpenDirective, spin-off company from the JISC OSS Watch service.

Posted in Accessibility, Events | 4 Comments »

Institutional Strategies for the Mobile Web

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 June 2011

Time Spent On Mobile Apps Has Surpassed Web Browsing

An article in the Guardian technology blog informs readers that “App usage outstripping desktop and mobile web says Flurry” which contains the summary:  “Mobile analytics firm claims its data shows people are spending 81 minutes a day using apps“.

An article published in TechCrunch headlined “Flurry: Time Spent On Mobile Apps Has Surpassed Web Browsing” provides further commentary on this story which is based on a report published in the US on Monday 20 June:

Mobile app analytics firm Flurry is releasing a new report today comparing the daily engagement of smartphone users on mobile apps vs. web browsing on the PC. For web analytics, Flurry used data from comScore and Alexa and for mobile application usage, the startup used its own analytics, which now counts 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. Flurry says that this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity. While this is an imperfect methodology, it does point to the rise of mobile apps in our lives.

Although this story is based on evidence gathered in the US, and the report highlights the growth in usage in areas such as gaming and social networking there is, I feel, a need to reflect on the implications on growth of mobile usage on the approaches taken to the provision of online services within the higher education sector.

Implications for Institutions

Mark Power recently published a Mobile Web Apps briefing paper (PDF format) which he described on the CETIS blog. Some of the top tips taken from the paper will be published shortly in the JISC inform publication (issue 31), including the advice that:

  • There is no such thing as the Mobile Web. Design for the usual Internet and then make your site adaptable for mobile devices for example decreasing the screen size  using CSS media queries and then scaling up for larger devices like tablets and PCs by progressively enhancing access for larger audiences.
  • Start using HTML5.  No more pondering on whether it’s ready or not – it is and is already supported by modern mobile browsers. If incorporating media, you can be looking to use the <video> & <audio> elements supported by native browser instead of Flash.

Such advice on the importance of open native Web standards reflects the position being taken by the W3C who are promoting the Open Web Platform as a collection of Web standards which can be used to implement Web-based services which should run on all platforms.

But despite the rhetoric based around the benefits of developing a service or an application once using open standards so that it can run across multiple platforms without the expense of having to port to other platforms, as discussed above, the evidence suggests that end users seem to prefer dedicated apps on mobile platforms.

From a personal perspective I am aware that on my iPod Touch I am using a number of dedicated apps which will may only be available for Apple’s iOS operating system.  run  For example I have recently discussed the Smartr personalised Twitter content aggregation tool which I now use on a daily basis and I also use Blipfoto to publish photographs from my iPod Touch which, again, seems to be only available for Apple mobile devices.

Institutional Plans For Mobile Access

Are institutions seeking to develop services based on use of Open Web Platform standards or are dedicated apps felt to provide more immediate benefits?  Are particular Mobile Web development environments being used or are CMSes, VLEs, etc. being used which provide mobile-friendly outputs? And is their a demand for an event which will enable policy issues and/or technical issues related to the provision of Mobile Web services across the sector?

In order to provide answers to these questions a survey on “Institutional Use of the Mobile Web” has been set up by staff at UKOLN and CETIS, the JISC-funded Innovation Support Centres> The survey aims to identify institutional plans for exploiting the Mobile Web to deliver institutional services. The findings will be published at the end of July so we would encourage those involved in the planning or provision of mobile services to complete the survey with details or your plans – or, indeed, the mobile services you may be currently providing.

Posted in Evidence, Mobile | 4 Comments »

Update on the IWMW 2011 Event

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 21 June 2011

The fifteenth in UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series, IWMW 2011, will be held at the University of Reading on 26-27 July.  The programme is available and bookings are open.  Note that this year the event has been changed from a 3 day to a 2 day format in order to reduce the time participants will have to spend away from their office and to ensure that the event is affordable (but as we’re starting in the morning rather than after lunch and finishing in the afternoon rather than at lunch time we have reduced the amount of content by only a small amount).  The cost this year has been reduced to £250 which includes one night’s accommodation or only £200 if no accommodation is required.  We feel this is a very affordable event especially in comparison with similar events aimed at those with responsibilities in providing large-scale institutional Web services.

Note that, once again we are hosting a blog to accompany the event. The IWMW 2011 blog was launched on 8 June and so far posts include summaries of the plenary talks and workshop session on best practices for use of Social Web services and the importance of gathering quantitative evidence of the value of institutional Web services together with guest blog posts from the facilitators of parallel sessions on Birds of a Feather: The Others, Working with Third Parties and Open data; a little goes a long Way.

Also note that an IWMW 2011 Lanyrd page has been set up which currently has details for the speakers and workshop facilitators, but we’d welcome delegates and others who may like to track the event to add their details to this page.

If you’d like to attend this year’s event we suggest that you book your place quickly – over two-thirds of the places have already been booked and some of the more popular parallel sessions are almost full.

Posted in Events | Leave a Comment »

Evidence For The #UniWeek Campaign

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 June 2011

The #UniWeek Twitter Marathon

Last Monday (13 June) I received an email from a colleague at the University of Bath which informed me that:

This week is Universities Week, aimed at showing the importance of Universities to the wider community. On Thursday (subsequently changed to Friday) there will be a ’24 hour Twitter marathon’ in which Universities from across the UK are taking part. The aim is to tweet about the research, work or volunteering you are doing and how it impacts on people outside the University.

The message had been sent to a Bath Connected Researchers group which had been established recently and which included a session about Twitter which provided an opportunity for Bath researchers to learn about Twitter and how it could be used to engage with fellow researchers and promote the benefits of one’s research.  The national Universities Week campaign, a national campaign demonstrating the benefits of universities within UK society which wascoordinated by Universities UK, the representative body for all UK universities, working closely with a range higher education institutions and organisations, including the University Marketing Forum, the National Union of Students, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Research Councils UK, UCAS, the University Alliance and GuildHE” provided an ideal opportunity for the ‘connected researchers’, PR and marketing people and others at Bath University to support this campaign and inform the wider community of their various activities.

But now that the Twitter marathon is over, how successful was it? What can be learnt from an analysis of how the Twitter users who chose to include the #Uniweek in their tweets? And how well did we do at the University of Bath in encouraging staff and students to use the #UniofBath tag on the day?

Looking at the Evidence

When I heard of the #UniWeek campaign and the associated Twitter marathon the first thing I did was to check that a TwapperKeeper archive had been set of for the hashtag. I was slightly surprised to find that an archive hadn’t been created so, looking at the creation date stamp on Wed Jun 15 15:00:02 GMT 2011 I created the #Uniweek archive. (I should point out that although the  TwapperKeeper service is a commercial service developed in the US development work to the service was funded by the JISC and managed by UKOLN last year and members of the JISC sector have preferential access to the service). At the time of writing (Friday 16 June 2011 at 17.10) the archive contains 1,356 tweets – but it should be noted that the archive does not contain tweets posted before 3 pm on Wednesday and so will have missed many of tweets posted on the first three days of the campaign.

Although the archive provides access to tweets contained the #UniWeek in order to attempt to gain an insight into how Twitter was used there is a need to make use of a Twitter archive analysis tool. The Summarizr was developed by Andy Powell of Eduserv (and a former colleague of mine at UKOLN) which provides a summary of hashtags which have been archived by TwapperKeeper.

If you view the Summarizr statistics for the #UniWeek tag you will get the latest figures from the creation date of the TwapperKeeper archive.  However since this the numbers are liable to grow over time I have used an analysis of the tweets on 17-18  June 2011 for the figures below (although note that the accompanying images were captured at on Friday 16 June at 17.35):

Total tweets: 1183
Total twitterers: 376
Total hashtags tweeted: 107
Total URLs tweeted: 346

The top 10 Twitterers were:

  1. ImperialBiz (40)
  2. imperialcollege (38)
  3. Mark_L_Russell (31)
  4. briankelly (30)
  5. UniversitiesUK (27)
  6. BradfordUni (24)
  7. nrparmar (20)
  8. cendeathsociety (20)
  9. UoW (17)
  10. rockbloke (17)

Interestingly although the Imperial College, in two guises, appears to have engaged most with the campaign from an institutional perspective, myself and Nitin Parmar work on the same corridor 20 metres from each other, Mark Russell is also based at the University of Bath and the @cendeathsociety account is used by the Centre for Death and Society (CDAS),  the “UK’s only centre devoted to the study and research of social aspects of death, dying and the dead body” – a department based at the University of Bath. From this we might conclude that the campaign only seemed to have had significant engagement from Imperial College and the Universities of Bath and Bradford.  This seems to be confirmed by the accompanying histogram which shows that 61% (300) of the Twitter users only used the hashtag once.

What Twitter accounts were mentioned in the tweets, perhaps in a Twitter discussion or when referring to another Twitter account?  The top ten @ replies and/or mentions are listed below:

  1.  imperialcollege (55)
  2. UniversitiesUK (39)
  3. ImperialBiz (26)
  4. GdnHigherEd (25)
  5. UniofBath (24)
  6. timeshighered (21)
  7. csctbath (19)
  8. VC_UEL (17)
  9. briankelly (14)
  10. JISC (14)

It is unsurprising that @UniversitiesUK, which led the campaign, was referred to frequently.  The @JISC and @timeshighered featuring prominently and, as expected, the official accounts for @UniofBath, @imperialcollege and @BradfordUni were also listed in the top 10 as was the @VC_UEL account used by Professor Patrick McGhee, the Vice-Chancellor at the University of East London.

The top ten hashtags contained in the archive confirm the Imperial College and the University of Bath as the institutions which were used the national campaign as an opportunity to highlight their institutional activities:

uniweek (1159), impcol (401), uniofbath (303), lovehe (46), impcoll (21), britphil (16), newcastleuni (16), ff (15), winchester (12), altlc (10) and panopto (7).

Finally in summarising the statistics, where did the Twitterers tweet from?  In a post on Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities I observed in a survey of institutional use of Twitter by the Russell Group Universities that there seems to be no use of geo-located tweets and suggested that “The location of the host institution should be provided, in text and as geo-located metadata, in order for tweets to be available to location-aware services“. The final figures for 17-18 June were 43 geo-located tweets (~3% of the total number of tweets) of which 30 were from Bath, 11 from London and one from Newport and one from what appears to be the front room of someone’s house in Sutton Coldfield! [Note the accompany image shows the totals taken at 17.36 on Friday 17 June].

Discussion

Recent posts published on this blog have summarised surveys of Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities and Institutional Use of Twitter by the 1994 Group of UK Universities. This post provides complementary survey on use of Twitter to support a campaign which attracted tweets from both institutional, departmental and individual accounts.

I suspect we will see greater use of Twitter to support campaign in the future, especially in light of the current political turmoil and discontent over government funding changes across the public sector in particular. There will therefore be a need to reflect on the effectiveness of previous campaigns and to be able to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Looking at some of the tweets posted on Saturday it seems that the institutions which engaged with the campaign found that it provided an opportunity to highlight some of the benefits of higher education:

@JawanzaIpyanaRT @nusuk: Social impact of universities worth over £1.31 billion, says new report. Read more at http://t.co/hBRx2CU #uniweek

@UniversitiesUKRT @nulibrs: @BeaconNE: 24hrs marathon was a great idea, really enjoyed reading your tweets. Amazing how much *stuff* goes on! #NewcastleUni #UniWeek

@proddesignRT @GoldsmithsUOL: Goldsmiths’ Mike Michael and Bill Gaver explain about their £1m research to help cut the demand for energy http://ow.ly/5keT8 #UniWeek

It should also be noted that the tweets listed above are retweets which enable the messages to be read not only by the initial audience but also by followers of the retweeting account – this potential for virality provides advantages over publishing pithy summaries of HE activities on Web sites.

Some final thoughts:

  • I wonder whether there will be subsequent analysis of the content of the tweets in order to identify if there were any key messages being made which might be worth following up?
  • Although the campaign provided an opportunity for individuals to highlight areas of particular interest there may be dangers that a stream of tweets will prove irritating to those following the account (especially if they have not mastered techniques for filtering tweets based on, for example, hashtags).
  • Geo-locating tweets from institutional accounts (for whom there should not be concerns regarding personal privacy) may be beneficial in identifying regional take-up of such campaigns – for example it would be time-consuming to try to determine how take-up of the campaign compared across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Although evidence is available on the most popular links which have been tweeted it would be even more useful if evidence could be gathered on numbers of links clicked.  I suspect a well-planned commercial campaign from a large multi-national would ensure that tracking systems were used. Although the term ‘tracking’ may appear intrusive in reality many short links used on Twitter provide such tracking capabilities as standard. For example the statistics on use of the link http://bitly.com/tzOFe which goes to the University of Bath home page can be obtained by appending a + to the URL: http://bitly.com/tzOFe+

And what of use of the #UniofBath hashtag?  View the Summarizr page and judge for yourself! But note that if you want the statistics for a specified period you should read the post of Conventions For Metrics For Event-Related Tweets – and here’s an analysis of the tweets on 17-18  June 2011.

Posted in Evidence | 2 Comments »

Reflections on UKOLN’s Activities at #UniofBath During #UniWeek

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 17 June 2011

Universities Week What's the Big Idea? 13-19 June 2011 This week is Universities Week - a national campaign demonstrating the benefits of universities in Britain. The theme for Friday is “Big Ideas for the Future“.  Today there will be a ’24-hour Twitter marathon’ in which universities from across the UK are taking part. The aim is to “tweet about the research, work or volunteering you are doing and how it impacts on people outside the University“.

The University of Bath is supporting this campaign and those of us who use Twitter have been encouraged to join using the hashtags #UniWeek and #UniofBath.

Since not everyone is aware that UKOLN is based at the University of Bath, it struck me that this campaign provides an opportunity to highlight UKOLN’s role in supporting innovation and research across the Higher Education sector.

There is of course an official summary about UKOLN but to explain briefly, UKOLN’s work is to advise on policy and practice in areas of Higher Education which support research, study and teaching, such as digital libraries, metadata and resource discovery, distributed library and information systems, research information management, Web preservation, etc. It provides network information services including the Ariadne magazine and also runs workshops and conferences.

UKOLN is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the Higher and Further Education Funding Councils, as well as by project funding from the JISC and the European Union. UKOLN also receives support from the University of Bath where it is based. More details on UKOLN activities can be found on the UKOLN Web site.  UKOLN aims to inform practice and influence policy in the areas of: digital libraries, metadata and resource discovery, distributed library and information systems, bibliographic management, and web technologies. It provides network information services, including the Ariadne magazine, and runs workshops and conferences.

UKOLN began life in 1977 when the British Library funded the University of Bath Programme of Catalogue Research. A celebration of UKOLN’s 30 years of work took place in the British Library in 2008 and a timeline of our activities was produced for the event which is illustrated below.

Looking at some of the activities mentioned in the timeline, we can see some examples of how UKOLN has helped to “inform practice and influence policy“:

  • The Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series was launched in 1997 and has been held annually ever since. This year’s event takes place at the University of Reading on 26-27 July.  The IWMW event helps to support the work and professional development of university Web managers and developers. Since 1995 the event has exploited event amplification technologies in order to maximise the impact of events such as conferences by providing video and other information and communication services over the Web to people who cannot be there in person.
  • UKOLN contributed a great deal to the development of better ways to make whole collections of resources more accessible to students and academics through its  Collection Description Focus work.
  • UKOLN is a major partner in the Digital Curation Centre which was established in March 2000. The DDC helps universities to realise and meet the challenge of managing academic data so that it remains accessible and understandable for many decades to come. The aim is not only to save information but also money for a long time into the future. UKOLN’s work as part of the DCC has included the production of the International Journal of Digital Curation and organisation of the International Digital Curation Conference: “an annual highlight in the digital curator’s calendar, providing an opportunity to get together with like-minded data practitioners to discuss policy and practice“. This year’s conference, incidentally, takes place in Bristol in December (and there’s still over a month before the closing date for submission of papers).

Some of many other achievements I might include:

  • The influential consultative report by Dr Liz Lyon, Director of UKOLN, Open Science at Web-Scale: Optimising Participation and Predictive Potential – Consultative Report which reviews the evidence and opinion surrounding data-intensive Open Science and considers the radical effect it will have on the way research is conducted.
  • UKOLN’s DevCSI work to support software developers and other HE professionals to help  “realise their full potential, by creating the conditions for them to be able to learn, network effectively, share ideas, collaborate and innovate creating a ‘community’ of developers in the learning provider sector which is greater than the sum of its parts“.
  • In another initiative to save digital information from disappearing – a very serious issue for all organisations – UKOLN led the JISC-funded  JISC PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) project which provided universities and other institutions with guidelines on how best to preserve the resources they hold on the Web.
  • Our remote-working champion, Marieke Guy, has sought to develop best practice for UKOLN colleagues who work away from the University of Bath campus.  The open approach Marieke has taken for this work includes the use of her Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog which was instrumental in her winning the national Remote Worker Award.

One of the themes Universities Week is looking at is how “innovative research currently underway in university communities will bring great change within the next 20 years“. During its 30+ years – and during my 15 years since I moved to UKOLN – we have seen tremendous changes in the ways in which networked technologies have altered teaching and learning activities, the research community, and work in the wider sector. I feel that such innovation is likely to continue – current economic pressures will create even more demand for improvements in working practice across the Higher Education sector. My colleagues and I at UKOLN look forward to supporting such innovation further, both here at the University of Bath and across the wider Higher Education community.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Just Embed Objects; Add Links To Source Too!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 16 June 2011

I’m a great fan of the JISC’s Access Management blog. Nicole Harris is the main contributor to the blog and Nicole’s interests in issues related to access management (a topic many may find rather dry and boring) help to engage readers beyond techies who may have interests in the intracies of Shibboleth and related access management technologies.

When I updated my RSS Reader this morning and opened my JISC folder I noticed that there were several unread posts which had been published a few weeks ago. I looked at the post on “Early Findings for Shibboleth Futures” which told me that Nicole’s “slides are available below, and might be of interest!“. In my RSS reader, however, there was just a blank space.  Not a problem, I thought, I can view it in the Safari browser.  But, as can be seen in the accompanying image, nothing was displayed in the Web browser either.

The problem is that the embedded slideshow was hosted on Slideshare and the embedding technology uses Flash which is not support on my iPod Touch or other Apple devices such as iPhones or iPads.  Some may respond “You should use an Android device” to which my response could be that I do own an Android phone but prefer the usability of my iPod Touch.  But rather than getting drawn into such platform wars there is a very simple solution to embedding Slideshare resources in blog posts whilst allowing the slides still to be viewed by users of Apple’s mobile devices.

A post published on this blog recently on Metrics for Understanding Personal and Institutional Use of the Social Web also contained an embedded Slideshare presentation. As can be seen when viewing the blog post on an iPod Touch a blank screen was displayed where the embedded Flash object would be displayed on a typical desktop PC.  However the post contained a link to the resource hosted on Slideshare. Clicking on the link took me to a mobile-friendly version of the resource which made use of HTML5 so that the slides could be viewed on device which don’t support Flash, as illustrated below.

My advice to people who wish to embed objects (which might include other types of images and videos and not just Slideshare resources) is:

  • Include a direct link to the host which is provided in the HTML of your page.
  • Use linking phrases of the form “The slides for the talk are available slides for the talk are available on Slideshare ” rather than “The slides for the talk are available on Slideshare” since the latter more clearly links directly to the resource rather than the Slideshare home page which is implied on the latter example.
  • Avoid links such as “Click here to view the slides” as this is bad practice from an accessibility perspective.
And if you are interested in the contents of the slides Nicole Harris used at the recent TNC2011 meeting in which she spoke about the creation of the Shibboleth Consortium and presented some early findings from the Shibboleth Futures Survey her slides are available on Slideshare and are embedded below :-)

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

A Pilot Survey of File Formats in Institutional Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 14 June 2011

Background

A recent post provided A Pilot Survey of the Numbers of Full-Text Items in Institutional Repositories. The survey made use of the advanced search functionality of ePrints repository software in order to gather data on the numbers of full-text items. Unfortunately it was found that most repositories had not configured the software to provide such information. Whilst exploring the advanced search features it was noticed that it was possible to provide searches based on file formats. This would appear to provide an answer to the question of formats used for depositing items in repositories and how, for example, this relates to preservation policies.

Survey Across Russell Group University Repositories

Testing Approach

In order to test the approach the advanced search facility for the ECS repository at the University of Southampton was used. The figure for the total number of items used the same search option as described in the previous post. Details of the number of HTML items, PDF or Postscript items, other formats and the total number of formats were obtained and links to the findings included so that the current status can be obtained (which also had the advantage of documenting the search parameters used). The findings are given in the following table.

Ref. No. Institutional Repository Details Total
in IR
Total
Full-text
HTML PDF/
Postscript
MS Word Other
formats
All formats Policy
A InstitutionECS, University of Southampton
Repository used
: eprint Repository
Summary
: Uses ePrints.
15,545  8,452 385 7,738 311  7,778  8,453  Policy details

It should be noted that there are differences between the total number of full-text items and the total of all formats. I am assuming that the number of full-text items will be equal to or less than the total number of items in a repository but the total number of items could be larger if there are multiple formats for a single item.

It should be noted that in this survey a link is provided to the policy statement for the repository which has been taken from the ROARMap summary of IR policies. In this example the implementation of the following policy statement might be demonstrated by the evidence presented:

It is our policy to maximise the visibility, usage and impact of our research output by maximising online access to it for all would-be users and researchers worldwide. 

Survey

Once again a survey of the institutional repositories for Russell Group Universities was carried out. The results are given in the following table, which this time includes a link to the IR policies. The table below gives the results of the findings. Note that the results were gathered using the public advanced search interface where this was available. If information on the numbers of full-text items becomes available I will update this post and annotate accordingly.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ref.
No.
Institutional Repository Details Total
in IR
Total
Full-text
HTML PDF/
Postscript
MS Word Other
formats
All formats Policy
1 Institution: University of Birmingham
Repository used: eprint Repository
Summary: Three entries. Uses ePrints.
   415 Policy details
2 Institution: University of Bristol
Summary: One entry. Uses DSpace
 Not available
3 Institution: University of Cambridge
Summary: Four entries. Uses DSpace.
 Not available
4 Institution: Cardiff University
Summary: 1 entry. Uses ePrints.
Repository used: ORCA
 4,562  1  67  2 32 72  Not available
5 Institution: University of Edinburgh
Summary: Three entries. Uses DSpace.
 Policy details
6 Institution: University of Glasgow
Summary: Three entries. Uses ePrints.
Repository used: Enlighten
 40,803  494 2,914 93  11 3,508  Policy details
7 Institution: Imperial College
Repository used: Spiral
Summary: Type not known.
Not
known
 Not available
8 Institution: King’s College London
Repository used: Department of
Computer Science E-Repository

Summary: One entry. Uses ePrints.
    999  Not available
9 Institution: University of Leeds
Repository used: White Rose Research Online
Summary
: Uses ePrints. Shared by
Leeds, Sheffield and York.
  8,013  Not available
10 Institution: University of Liverpool
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Research Archive
   698    641  1   615 138   0  642  Not available
11 Institution: LSE
Summary: 2 entries.
Repository used: LSE Research Online
 26,044  4,534  Not available
12 Institution: University of Manchester
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: eScholar [See Note below]
138,708 94,561 2  4,502   77  128 7,166 Policy details
13 Newcastle University
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Newcastle Eprints
Not
known
 Not available
14 Institution: University of Nottingham
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Nottingham Eprints
   781 Policy details
15 Institution: University of Oxford
Summary: Five entries
Repository used
: ORA
Not
known
Not available
16 Institution: Queen’s University Belfast
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Queen’s Papers
on Europeanisation & ConWEB
Not
determined
Not available
17 Institution: University of Sheffield
Repository used: White Rose Research Online
Summary: See entry for Leeds.
   8,013  Not available
18 Institution: University of Southampton
Summary: 11 entries.
Repository used: eprints.soton
  60,438   86 10,962  652 9,550 11,872  Policy details
19 Institution: University College London
Summary: 1 entry
Repository used: UCL Discovery
  30,904 Policy details
20 Institution: University of Warwick
Summary: 3 entries
Repository used: WRAP
   1,633 Not available
TOTAL 322,011

NOTE: The entry for the University of Manchester was updated on 15 June 2011, the day after the post was published, using information provided in a comment to the post. Since this information was gathered in a different way to the other findings (which used the ePrints advanced search function) the findings may not be directly comparable.

It should also be noted that:

  • The total number of full-text items listed in column 3 is taken from the findings for the ‘Full Text Status’ search. If this option is not available the entry is left blank.
  • The totals listed in columns 3-7 is taken from the findings for the “Format” search option with column 6 including both PDF and Postscript options.
  • The ‘Other formats’ totals listed in column 8 is taken from the findings for the “Format” search option using the options not included in columns 3-7. Note that this includes MS PowerPoint and Excel and various image, video, audio, XML and archive formats.
  • The totals listed in column 9 is taken from the findings for the “Format” search option with all format options selected.
  • The link to the policy page in column 10 is taken from entries provided in the ROARMap summary of IR policies. If no information is provided the entry is listed as “Not available”.

Comments

It seems that information on the file formats of items stored in institutional repositories is not easily obtained from using the advanced search option in ePrints software. From the previous survey we found that only IRs hosted at Liverpool and LSE of the 20 Russell Group Universities provided information on the numbers of full-text items. From this survey we find that Liverpool also provides information on the file formats used, but LSE does not. However Cardiff, Glasgow and Southampton Universities do provide information on the file formats used, so a better picture across this sector can be obtained.

It is clear that PDF/PostScript is the most popular format used for depositing items with very little evidence that HTML items are deposited. This will be disappointing for those who feel that the structure and ease of reuse provided by HTML should outweigh the convenience provided by PDF. Similarly the low usage of MS Word will be of concern to those who feel that the master format of a resource should be deposited rather than a lossy format such as PDF – although since PDF has been standardised by ISO it could be argued that depositing items in an open standard format reflects best practices.

In some respects the details of the widely-used formats is lost in the ‘Other formats’ column. This includes various multimedia formats, but also archive formats: ZIP, TGZ and BZ2. Perhaps we may find that there are large numbers of ZIP archives containing MS Word, PDF and HTML versions of resources.

I feel there is a need for further data mining in order to understand the patterns of usage which are emerging across institutional repositories, how such patterns relate to policies (including access and preservation policies) and the implementation difficulties which depositers may experience in uploading items to their institutional repository. The danger is that we may develop an improved format (Scholarly HTML, perhaps) but fail to understand the current barriers to depositing full-text items.

Conclusions

A comment to my post which argued that Numbers Matter: Let’s Provide Open Access to Usage Data and Not Just Research Papers suggested that the term ‘Paradata’ would be appropriate to use. As described on Wikipediathe paradata of a survey are data about the process by which the survey data were collected” or alternatively “administrative data about the survey“. The term has been used in a CETIS Wiki page on “Generating Paradata from MediaWiki” which refers to a NSDL Community Network page which proposes how the term can be applied in the context of educational resources and suggests that paradata can provide opportunities to “explicates usage patterns and inferred utility of resources“.

Repository managers have a clear need to understand usage patterns and how their resources can be reused. Since repositories are also closely linked with the open access agenda it would seem to be self evident that repository ‘paradata’ should be published openly - after all, if repository managers are promoting the benefits of open access to research publications to their researchers their arguments will be undermined  if they fail to publish data under their control, where there should be no complexities of copyright ownership claimed by publishers.

It seems that there repositories which use DSpace do not provide advanced search capabilities similar to those available in ePrints. Perhaps this might be a reason for the lack of data from such repositories. But for those who are lucky enough to be using ePrints, what reasons can there be for not providing a full range of statistics?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Repositories | 9 Comments »

Is Smartr Getting Smarter or Am I Getting Dumber?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 June 2011

Reviewing Smartr

20110611-164658.jpgBack in February in a post entitled Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper I described the Smartr personalised Twitter-based personalised newspaper service for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

This is an application which I now use on a daily basis to view the contents of the links posted by my Twitter community. It has also provided the motivation for me to make greater use of Twitter lists – the lists I have created recently include JISC Services, UKOLN colleagues, IWMW 2011 speakers and attendees at a forthcoming UKOLN workshop on Impact, Metrics and Social Web.

The accompanying image shows the content of links to resources which have been tweeted by accounts on my JISC Twitter list. As might be expected this provides content which reflects the interests of the particular service and is often content published by the service. It does occur to me that JISC Programme Managers who wish to keep informed of project developments may find it particularly useful to use Smartr in conjunction with a Twitter list of their project Twitter accounts.  However in addition to providing a simple means of getting relevant content to a iPhone/iPad environment I have to admit that my initial use of this application when I am  on the bus in the morning is to view the contents tweeted by all of the people I follow on Twitter, as this can provide serendipitous benefits which are not provided when following official accounts.

Smartr Developments

Recently I updated the app to Smartr 2.0 and started to notice that various people had started to follow me on Smartr, perhaps having read the blog post and a followup post published last month which described how Ariadne Is Getting Smartr.

When someone starts to follow you on Smartr, as with many other social apps, you get an email which provides brief information about how the person is using the service.

As can be seen from the accompanying screenshot of a recent email I received Dave has 182 followers, 134 sources and 5,208 stories. You can also see the stories which Dave has recent read which seem to indicate that he has an interest in road racing – this isn’t of particular interest to me so I decided not to follow Dave.

But the links to stories (which I prefer to refer to as articles) which Dave has recently read, as opposed to links he has recently posted, shows an aspect of Smartr which I hadn’t been aware of when I first started using the application – and whether this is because I was using version 1 or because I wasn’t following anyone within the Smartr app (as opposed to on Twitter) I don’t know.

Is seems that when someone follows you on Smartr they can see the articles you have recently read. What might be revealed in my case?

It seems that the articles I have recently read within Smartr include a post which described how World IPv6 Day went mostly smoothly, with a few surprises, another which asked What impact are your resources making and one on Posterous, From SaaS to PaaS Using an API.

So the 19 Smartr users who are following me can see note only the articles I have posted on Twitter but also the articles I have read (and the time I read them). Is this:

  • A great example of sharing resources across one’s community which exemplifies the benefits of adopting a culture of openness?
  • A privacy intrusion which should cause concerns?

What are your thoughts?

Discussion

If you visit the Smartr Web site you will see an image of Smartr running on an iPhone with a link to the iTunes store which enables you to download the app. There are links to articles about Smartr but no obvious FAQ. There is, however, a prominent Smartr byline: “See what your friends are reading on Twitter and Facebook” which perhaps suggests that you are making your reading habits publicly available.  But this aspect wasn’t mentioned in the Mashable article when Smartr was first released.  There is not just a lack of an FAQ on the Smartr Web site, there is also no information provided about release dates and the functionality of the two versions of the software which have been released to date.

Smart does have a user forum which is hosted on the Uservoice Web site.  I published a comment on the forum in which I suggested that there was a need for documentation on the functionality provided by the service and the associated privacy issues.  Temo Chalasani, the founder of the company behind Smartr, responded and asked me what documentation I feel is required. Here are my suggestions for an FAQ:

  • When was Smartr first released?
  • What subsequent versions of Smartr have been published and what additional functionality has been provided?
  • What are the privacy implications of using Smartr?
  • Can I read the contents of articles posted by my Twitter followers without others being able to see what I have read and when?
  • Can I block others from following me on Smartr as I can do on Twitter?

Will I Still Use Smartr?

Smartr does raise some interesting privacy issues – and since this is a dedicated app rather than a Web service  the use of cookies is not an issue, so recent EU legislation in which the requirement for users to opt-in to accepting cookies is irrelevant. Here are some scenarios which may concern some users:

  • The parent who follows their children on Smartr in order to see what links the child has been following.
  • The child who follows their parents on Smartr!
  • The manager who follows members of staff to see what inappropriate articles are being read during work time.
  • The journalist who follows politicians and celebrities in order to write articles about their reading habits.

It should be noted that although it is possible for the parents, children or mangers to view the links which may be being posted, Smartr provides something different – the ability to see links posted by others which are being read.

Despite such concerns, I intend to continue to make use of Smartr as I find it such a useful service even though  I am aware that I could follow a link to a Web site which I would normally be embarrassed to be seen reading. But for me the important thing is user education so that users are made aware of possible risks.  I would therefore encourage Smartr to highlight possible risks.  The question though is “Am I being smart or dumb in using this tool?”

Posted in Twitter, Web2.0 | 17 Comments »

Numbers Matter: Let’s Provide Open Access to Usage Data and Not Just Research Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 9 June 2011

Numbers matter. Or, as the JISC-funded report on Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources put it in its list of recommendations: “The media and the public are influenced by numbers and metrics“.

An example of how the media makes use of numbers in its reports can be seen by the recent story on Apple’s series of announcements at the WWDC event. Despite there being no new iPhone or iPad announced the media picked up on the statistics which Steve Jobs presented to highlight his view of the importance of various Apple developments with the BBC effectively providing an advertisment for the company:

Sales of 25 million iPads in just 14 months. 200 million iOS devices in total. 15 billion songs downloaded since 2003. 130 million books. 14 billion apps downloaded from a store that now runs to 425,000 apps.

Note how the figures are nicely rounded: 25 million iPads and not 24,987,974; 130 million books and not 131,087,459.  Similarly there are no caveats about the difficulties in gathering accurate figures.   There is simply a clear understanding from the private sector that such such approaches can be valuable in marketing activities to help ensure the growth and sustainability of the company – and the JISC report recommends that development work in the higher education sector learns from these approaches.

This is a reason why I feel we should be more willing to gather and use statistics related to the services we develop within the sector. Unfortunately, as described in a recent post on A Pilot Survey of the Numbers of Full-Text Items in Institutional Repositories it seems that we can’t provide a summary of the form:

UK repositories grew by xxxx  in just 14 months. yyy items in total. zzz full text items downloaded since 2003.

because, although we have such data and it is under our control, we do not make it available. There will be reasons for this: the complexity of the data; the difficulties in interpretting the data and, perhaps most importantly, the fears that the data will be used against the host institution or those directly involved in providing the service.

Yet data about institutional use of Social Web services is, in many case, freely available, as has been shown in recent posts on
Institutional Use of Twitter by the 1994 Group of UK Universities, Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities, Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities and How is the UK HE Sector Using YouTube?.

UKOLN is hosting a one-day workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact” which will be held at the Open University on 11 July (and a few spaces are still available) which will seek to explore ways in which metrics related to use of Social Web services can be related to value.  Since the event is being hosted at the Open University it would seem appropriate to provide the following summary of the institution’s usage of popular services:

Open University’s
Social Network

Presence
Metric Comments
Facebook Likes
46,192
Twitter Followers Tweets
13,274 3,058
YouTube Channel Views Total Upload Views Subscribers
390,313 515,581 4,004 3 other channels available
iTunes No statistics readily available

The statistics for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are easily obtained – although I am not aware of a way of automating the gathering of such statistics across all UK University presences which would be helpful if we wished to provide a national picture of how UK Universities are using these services.  I do suspect, however, that institutions may well be employing Social Media consultants to provide advice on strategies for making use of such social media services, which will include an audit of findings for peer institutions.  It would therefore be cost-effective for the sector if such information were to be gathered and published centrally so that money is not being used to replicate such activities unnecessarily.

It should be noted that it does not appear possible to obtain statistics from the iTunes service so in this case we are reliant on the information published by the Open University, such as the press release which announced in November 2009 that “The 10 millionth Open University track on iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store (www.itunes.com), was downloaded this week, making the OU a top provider of free university content on iTunes U. The Open University launched its first piece of educational content on iTunes U in June 2008 and now has an average of 375,000 downloads a week.” The press release went on to add that “Tracks from the OU’s 260 collections are consistently in the Top Twenty downloads and this week one in four of the top 100 downloads on iTunes U is from The Open University“.

But whilst the Open University clearly benefits from such marketing, the sector itself is failing to demonstrate how collectively we are making use of innovative IT developments – whether in the area of social media, institutional repositories or in other areas –  to support its teaching and learning and research activities.

The concerns mentioned previously (such as “the information could  be used against us”)  can lead to the sector facing a form of the prisoner’s dilemma, whereby people (or organisations) fail to collaborate even if it is their interest to do so.

A danger for the sector is that if we fail to provide (and exploit) evidence of our services, others may make use of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in order to gather such information and use it against the sector, as the Daily Telegraph did in an article entitled “Universities spending millions on websites which students rate as inadequate” which I described in a blog post last year year.

In a plenary session at UKOLN’s IWMW 2011 event to be held at the University of Reading on 26-27 July Amber Thomas, a JISC Programme Manger will give a talk on “Marketing and Other Dirty Words“. The talk will seek answers to the questions “How [Web services] can have maximum impact? How can they be effectively presented to aid in marketing and recruitment, and to increase engagement with the world outside the university? This session will bring together key messages from marketing, social media around content, usage tracking and strategy, with ideas for how we can present our intellectual assets online to get maximum effect.

The JISC-funded report on Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources which I described at the beginning of this post described how:

Being able to demonstrate your impact numerically can be a means of convincing others to visit your resource, and thus increase the resource’s future impact. For instance, the amount of traffic and size of iTunesU featured prominently in early press reports.

I agree. But let’s not just do this on an institutional basis, let’s open up access to our usage data so that the value of use of IT across the higher education sector can be demonstrated.  And let’s ensure that usage data for in-house services is made available (ideally in an open and easily reusable format) so that we won’t be reliant solely on usage data which is provide by commercial services (with uncertainties as to whether such data will continue to be provided for free)  - so that there won’t be a need for FOI requests for such data.

Posted in Evidence, openness | 12 Comments »

A Pilot Survey of the Numbers of Full-Text Items in Institutional Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 6 June 2011

Background

A recent post on How Do We Measure the Effectiveness of Institutional Repositories? sought to address the question of “What makes a good repository?” which was raised on the JISC-Repositories JISCMail list. The post outlined possible metrics which could be used for identifying the effectiveness of institutional repositories based on the intended purposes of a repository. In the post I suggested that if the purpose of a repository was to ensure the long-term preservation of resources, then there was a need to measure the number of full-text items in the repository – after all if the full text of a paper is not available the repository won’t be doing a very good job in the preservation of such resources!

The interest in this topic was revisited yesterday in a Twitter discussion which began with the suggestion from @PaulWalk that “I’ve thought we should use RepUK to measure actual persistence in repositories“‘. But in order to measure the persistence of of the actual resource we need to be able to differentiate between the persistence of the full-text item and the resource itself and not just the persistency of the URI of the item. How might one do this?

Initial Experimentation

Following a discussion with Les Carr at the JISC 2011 conference I discovered that the ePrints advanced search interface can be used to retrieve information on both the numbers of items containing the full text and those that do not. In order to see if this approach could be used I looked at UKOLN’s items in Opus, the University of Bath’s institutional repository. From this I found that there were a total of 344 items, of which 146 full text items were available (including published and confidential items) and 198 are metadata-only items. We can see that 42% of the items contain the full-text.

In order to see if this this use of ePrint’s advanced search could be used in a similar fashion for another repository I looked at the ECS ePrint Repository at the University of Southampton. This time I found that out of a total of 974 15,532  items the departmental repository contained 861 8,429 items with the full text and 113 7.093 metadata-only items – this time 54.3% of items contain the full-text.

But are these initial findings typical across the sector?

Survey Across Russell Group University Repositories

We might expect the 20 research-intensive Russell Group Universities to be playing a leading role in use of institutional repositories, with either institutional mandates (in the case of Southampton University) or institutional research culture helping to ensure that significant numbers of full-text items are deposited. But is this really the case? In order to investigate whether the approach described could be applied more widely the survey was carried out across Russell Group Universities.

Using the list of repositories taken from the OpenDOAR directory I found that 3 of the Russell group Universities seem to use the DSpace repository software and the advanced search functional in DSpace does not appear to allow searching to be restricted to full-text and metadata-only records.

Subsequent investigation of the advanced search capabilities of the remaining 17 institutions showed that only two seemed to provide the advanced search function which I used on the University of Bath and ECS, University of Southampton repositories. However there is a RESTful interface to the search and so the search parameters used to search the University of Bath repository was used across the other ePrint repositories. The following searches were carried out:

Query 1: Total Number of Items

http://eprint.domain/cgi/search/quicksearch?screen=Public%3A%3AEPrintSearch&basic_merge=ALL&basic=web&full_text_status=public&full_text_status=restricted&full_text_status=none&groups_merge=ALL&satisfyall=ALL&order=-date%2Fcreators_name%2Ftitle&_action_search=Search

Query 2: Full text deposited (but access may be restricted)

http://eprint.domain/cgi/search/quicksearch?screen=Public%3A%3AEPrintSearch&basic_merge=ALL&basic=web&full_text_status=public&full_text_status=restricted&groups_merge=ALL&satisfyall=ALL&order=-date%2Fcreators_name%2Ftitle&_action_search=Search

Query 3: No full text available:

http://eprint.domai/cgi/search/quicksearch?screen=Public%3A%3AEPrintSearch&basic_merge=ALL&basic=web&full_text_status=none&groups_merge=ALL&satisfyall=ALL&order=-date%2Fcreators_name%2Ftitle&_action_search=Search

It was intended to use the survey methodology across the Russell Group universities which host an institutional repository based on the ePrints software. However it was not possible to get valid results for most of the repositories and it was subsequently discovered that this is an optional feature for ePrints repositories.

Rather than abandon this work I have decided to publish this post in order to encourage institutions which host an ePrints repository to implement this feature since I feel it would be beneficial to the repository community if we had a better picture of how institutions are using repositories to host full-text items.

The table below gives the results of the two test cases (from Bath and Southampton) together with details of the total number of items in the other repositories. If information on the numbers of full-text items becomes available I will update this post and annotate accordingly. [Note there was an error in the figures for the ECS repository. This has now been corrected in the table below.]

Ref. No. Institutional Repository Details Query 1: Total Nos. of Items Query 2: Total Nos. of Full text Items Query 3: Total Nos.
of Metadata-Only items
Percentage of Full-Text Items
A InstitutionUniversity of Bath
Repository used
: Opus Repository
Summary
: Uses ePrints.
20,210 1,387 18,823 6.86%
B InstitutionECS, University of Southampton
Repository used
: eprint Repository
Summary
: Uses ePrints.
974 15,532 861 8,439 113  7,093  11.6% 54.3%
TOTAL 21,184  35,742 2,248 9,826 18,936 25,916  10.6% 27.4%

The table below gives the results of the findings for what seems to be the main repository from Russell Group Universities. Note that the results were gathered using the public advanced search interface where this was available. If information on the numbers of full-text items becomes available I will update this post and annotate accordingly.

Ref. No. Institutional Repository Details Query 1: Total Nos.
of Items
Query 2: Total Nos. of
Full text Items
Query 3: Total Nos.
of Metadata-Only
items
Percentage of
Full-Text Items
1 Institution: University of Birmingham
Repository used: eprint Repository
Summary: Three entries. Uses ePrints.
411
2 Institution: University of Bristol
Summary: One entry. Uses DSpace
3 Institution: University of Cambridge
Summary: Four entries. Uses DSpace.
4 Institution: Cardiff University
Summary: 1 entry. Uses ePrints.
Repository used: ORCA
4,562
5 Institution: University of Edinburgh
Summary: Three entries. Uses DSpace.
6 Institution: University of Glasgow
Summary: Three entries. Uses ePrints.
Repository used: Enlighten
40,803
7 Institution: Imperial College
Repository used: Spiral
Summary: Type not known.
Not determined
8 Institution: King’s College London
Repository used: Department of
Computer Science E-Repository

Summary: One entry. Uses ePrints.
999
9 Institution: University of Leeds
Repository used: White Rose Research Online
Summary
: Uses ePrints. Shared by
Leeds, Sheffield and York.
8,013
10 Institution: University of Liverpool
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Research Archive
698 641 57 93%
11 Institution: LSE
Summary: 2 entries.
Repository used: LSE Research Online
26,044 4,534 21,510 17.4%
12 Institution: University of Manchester
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: MMS
Not determined
13 Newcastle University
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Newcastle Eprints
Not determined
14 Institution: University of Nottingham
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Nottingham Eprints
781
15 Institution: University of Oxford
Summary: Five entries
Repository used
: ORA
Not determined
16 Institution: Queen’s University Belfast
Summary: One entry.
Repository used: Queen’s Papers
on Europeanisation & ConWEB
Not determined
17 Institution: University of Sheffield
Repository used: White Rose Research Online
Summary: See entry for Leeds.
8,013
18 Institution: University of Southampton
Summary: 11 entries.
Repository used: eprints.soton
60,438
19 Institution: University College London
Summary: 1 entry
Repository used: UCL Discovery
30,904
20 Institution: University of Warwick
Summary: 3 entries
Repository used: WRAP
1,633
TOTAL 183,299 5,175  21,567

At the time of writing we have to say that we do not know how many of the 183,299 items contain the full-text. All we can say is that there are at least 5,175 full-text items (or only 2.8%) – and this is based on the assumption that a full-text item represents the content of the metadata item, rather than for example, a PowerPoint slide used in the presentation of a paper.

An Opportunity for Developers

I should also like to point out that, as described on the DevCSI blog, the deadline for the Developer Challenge at Open Repositories 2011 (Austin, Texas) is Thursday 9 June. A CrowdVine page for the developer challenge describes how the Challenge is to “Show us the future of repositories“. Since “Remote presentations would be considered in exceptional circumstances” it strikes me that there might be an opportunity to submit an entry based on an analysis of the percentage of full-text items in repositories, but this would probably have to be done using an alternative approach. A suggestion for anyone who wold like to submit an based on this idea could be:

The future of repositories is to preserve the full text of research papers for future generations. We can see how well we are doing in implementing this vision which shows that xx% of repositories across the y sector already contain full-text items :-)

Or, if the results are disappointing:

The future of repositories is a gloomy one as only y% of repositories across the z sector contain full text items :-(

Alternatively we might conclude that new development is not required for those running ePrint repositories:

The future of repositories is reliant on the provision of evidence which can be used to policies and so ePrints repository managers should configure their services to provide the evidence describes in this post!

Is that an unreasonable suggestion?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Repositories | 14 Comments »

Schema.org, Google +1 and Facebook Like and Send

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 3 June 2011

Schema.org

Yesterday I came across a stream of tweets about schema.org. A post on the official Google blog  was the initial post I saw: Introducing schema.org: Search engines come together for a richer web. This was followed by Yahoo’s post “Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data“. Not to be left out on the Bing blog Microsoft provided a similar post “Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects“.

But what is schema.org?  The home page summarises what this collaborative approach to structured data s about:

This site provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines including Bing, Google and Yahoo! rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.

Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data. Many applications, especially search engines, can benefit greatly from direct access to this structured data. On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. Markup can also enable new tools and applications that make use of the structure.

A shared markup vocabulary makes easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get the maximum benefit for their efforts. So, in the spirit of sitemaps.org, Bing, Google and Yahoo! have come together to provide a shared collection of schemas that webmasters can use.

The endorsement for deployment of structured semantic HTML markup from the main search engine vendors would appear to suggest that this approach will succeed whereas initial approaches, such as microformats, did not live up to their promise.  The question will be how quickly CMS vendors respond or whether in-house development will provide an opportunity for rapid deployment of the schema.org vocabularies.  Of course there will also be a need for organisations to monitor the benefits in order to ensure that this provides additional benefits over other SEO techniques.

Google +1

We have seen other developments this week, in particular the promotion of the Google+1 recommendation system.  This was initially highlighted in a post on which announced that Social Search goes global in a post published on the Google Social Web blog in April with the announcement that “Social Search is rolling out globally in 19 languages and should be available in the coming week“. A few ago more information was revealed on how Google +1 can be used to:

publicly show what you like, agree with, or recommend on the web. The +1 button can appear in a variety of places, both on Google and on sites across the web. For example, you might see a +1 button for a Google search result, Google ad, or next to an article you’re reading on your favorite news site. Your +1’s and your social connections also help improve the content you see in Google Search.

The Google Webmaster Central Blog goes on to add that:

We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site.

Hmm, so as well as providing semantic markup from schema.org it should also be possible to use Google’s social networks to provide recommendations.

Facebook Like and Send

As described on the Read Write Blog just over a month ago Facebook announced that in addition to the ‘Like’ button which enables recommendations to be made available within the Facebook environment a Send button can be used so that “Facebook users will be able to share content with specific groups of friends, rather than everyone on their friends list, giving them the precision sharing tool they’ve needed all along“.

Discussion

google is the most powerful standardization organization. A dictatorial one for that matter

Discussions on Twitter on the implications of the schema.org announcements have already started with @hvdsompel suggesting that “schema.org is yet another illustration that google is the most powerful standardization organization. A dictatorial one for that matter“.

My view is that microformats provided an opportunity for a community-led inititiative which dates back to 2005. As I described in a trip report about the WWW 2005 conference published in Ariadne in July 2005:

I should mention ‘microformats’ or, as it is also (confusingly) termed the ‘lowercase semantic web’. Microformats have been described as ‘a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards … designed for humans first and machines second

The following year IWMW 2006 featured a workshop session on “Exposing yourself on the Web with Microformats!” which explored ways in which richer semantics for content held on institutional Web sites could be exposed.  But in reality, apart from a few Firefox plugins such as Operator and Tails Export, there was little ongoing interest in microformats.

This is a reasons why I find the schemas.org announcement particularly exciting – and the coordinated posts from Yahoo and Microsoft in addition to Google will help to address concerns that this is an attempt by Google to enforce a company-specific solution on the Web.

But where does this leave RDFa?  As explained in a page about the schemas.org data model: “Our use of Microdata maps easily into RDFa 1.1. In fact, all of Schema.org can be used with the RDFa 1.1 syntax as is” although the page concludes with the warning that “Microdata does not have analogs for RDFa features such as CURIES, Turtles, Chaining, Typed vs Plain literals, etc.“.

“Why the Button War? Because Content is Social Currency”

The discussions and arguments about the underlying structure of semantic markup on HTML resources will focus on the different approaches (microformats, RDFa and the schemas.org support for the microdata approach) and, as we have seen, the issues about ownership of the approaches.  It should be pointed out, however, that microdata is part of HTML5 and the HTML5 Microdata draft was published on the W3C Web site on Wednesday 1 June 2011. So whilst the editor of the draft is based at Google it should be acknowedged that many W3C standards have been developed by those working in commercial companies and that this can help to ensure that standards are deployed and gain acceptance in the marketplace.

But in addition to the discussions about approaches to exploiting microdata consideration will also have to be given to ways in which content can be exposed to the social web in order for individuals to share their recommendations across theirs networks.  We have already seen the how the popularity of the ‘Like’ button has led to the release of the ‘Send’ button, which is based on Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol, which has been described as “A Meaningful First Step to a True Semantic Web”.  But what of Google +1? And what of the user experience with a seemingly ever-growing array of buttons which can be used to promote Web resources across social web environments including not only Facebook and Google but also microblogging environments such as Twitter?

In a post entitled “Why the Button War? Because Content is Social Currency [10 Links]” Tac Anderson describes how buttons (whether a Facebook ‘Like’, a Twitter Retweet, the rating button at the bottom of this post or whatever) provide a  ‘point of transaction’ where one says “Yes I associate myself with this piece of content” .  Tac argues that “As a publisher buttons are invaluable as a way to make you content shareable, raise awareness, drive engagement and ultimately increase visits and regular readers“.

Whilst the focus of the post seems to be the more general commercial and social uses of the Web, the need to make “content shareable, raise awareness, drive engagement and ultimately increase visits and regular readers” is also true for those of us working across the higher education sector, whether in teaching and learning, research or marketing areas.

I can’t help that feel that resource discovery is getting very interesting – and I’d welcome comments on how we feel that our sector should respond.

Posted in HTML | 3 Comments »

Metrics and the Social Web Workshop: Booking Opens

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 1 June 2011

UKOLN is organising a one-day workshop entitled “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for Their Use and Impact” which will be held at the Open University in Milton Keynes on Monday 11 July 2011.  The workshop will explore ways in which metrics related to the use of Social Web services can be employed in order to provide evidence of how the services are being use, make comparisons with their peers and enable trends to be identified.

Attendance at the workshop is free for those working in the higher/further education sector.  Bookings should be made using the online Eventbrite booking system.

Posted in Events, Evidence | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »