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Archive for August, 2011

Case Study: Opening Access to a Closed and Unused Mailing List

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 August 2011

The Value of List Archives

A recent post on Policies on Unused JISCMail Lists highlighted the potential value of JISCMail lists which are no longer active but which host content which may provide historical insights into digital library developments. As is suggested by the recent JISC ITT for an Analysis of the Value and Benefits of Text Mining and Text Analytics in UK FE and HE  data mining tools have developed in sophistication since the JISCMail service was launched in 2000. It  may well now be timely to perform data mining work on our email archives – particularly as recent email messages have been sent to owners of unused lists inviting them to delete archives without mentioning the implications of such actions.  The current importance of JISCMail as an archive rather than as a communications tool is also suggested by the JISCMail statistics which show that the majority of lists (5,840) have no recent posts (and this number is steadily increasing), 1,583 have between 1 and 10 posts, 707  have between 11 and 100 and only 114  have over 100 posts.

However, as was discussed in the comments on the recent post, it is unclear whether closed lists which are no longer in use can be made open. Does the 30 year rule which, according to Wikipedia, states that “Public records ….other than those to which members of the public have had access before their transfer …., shall not be available for public inspection until they have been in existence for [thirty] years or such other period….as the Lord Chancellor may,…. for the time being prescribe as respects any particular class of public records” apply to JISCMail lists? But as Chris Rusbridge has pointed out Section 7 of the JISCMail Acceptable Use Policy states that:

Messages sent to a JISCMail list will normally be archived, and these archives can then be retrieved by any member of that same list. These archives may also (at the discretion of the listowner) be made publicly available on the web, and thus be available to anyone. … 

Archives or collections of the messages sent to a JISCMail list may not be made publicly available at another site unless the listowner has granted explicit permission, and the list members have been informed.

It would therefore appear that as listowner I can make the LIS-ELIB-MANAGERS archive available (and also make the archive available elsewhere) provided I inform the list members.  However although the FAQ suggests that the decision for opening access to a closed list resides with the list owner, the list owner will need to make a decision as to whether it is appropriate for a list to be made open. Clearly there may be lists which contains confidential, sensitive, embarrassing or even potential illegal content which should not be made available.  In addition, as described in a JISCMail page on Copyright:

 When you send a message to a JISCMail list, you retain your copyright in that message. You also retain your moral right to be identified as the author of the work, and your moral right against derogatory treatment.

The extent to which your message is made available across the internet will depend on the level of access that has been decided by the listowner.

What processes should be taken to decide whether or not to open up a closed list archive?  This post describes the processes which are being taken for the LIS-ELIB-MANAGERS archive.

Processes For Informing List Members

Auditing The List

The LIS-ELIB-MANAGERS list currently has 26 members. A message was sent to the list in order to see how many of the email addresses were still valid. There were 11 bounced messages but only four people replied to a request to respond to a message sent to the list. It does not seem to be possible to find out how many people in total have subscribed to a list. For data protection reasons when users leave JISCMail, their name and email address are removed from the JISCMail database. However the ownership of email messages relates to list members who have posted to a list and not to those who have only lurked on a list.   It therefore would seem feasible to explore information about the numbers of people who have posted to the list and the number of messages they have posted.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy way of getting reports on the numbers of people who have posted to a JISCMail list or the number of messages they have posted. I therefore used the advanced search function to search for the numbers of messages posted for each year.

 Year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 TOTAL
Nos.
of posts
147 113 209 46 29 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 546

It would be useful if information on the numbers of messages posted by list members could be obtained. However this does not seem to be provided.  I therefore looked at the list archives in order to find the email address of people who had posted to the list and searched for this email address in order to see the total number of messages posted from the email address.  I did this for 30 users, including those whose names were familiar to me and whom I felt were likely to have posted significant numbers of messages to the list.  The details are given below.

In addition I skimmed through some of the messages in order to gain a feel for the issues being discussed and to see if there appeared to be any sensitive topics been discussed or flame wars breaking out.  As can be seen from the list of subjects which are illustrated, there doesn’t appear to be any sensitive issues being routinely discussed. However subsequently I came across one post which contained personal information about a member of the community which I feel should be deleted if the list archives are to be made open.

Name Nos. of posts
1 Chris Rusbridge 119 [118+1]
2 Elizabeth Graham 50
3 John Kirriemuir 29 [16 (UKOLN), 6 (ILRT) + 7 (OMNI)]
4 Kelly Russell 24 [13 + 8 + 3]
5 Rosemary Russell 14
6 Janine Packard 13
7 Catherine Edwards 13
8 John Paschoud 12
9 Verity Brack 11
10 Brian Kelly 11 [10+1]
11 Astrid Wissenburg 8
12 Tony Gill 8
13 Stephen Smith 8
14 Jill Foster 7
15 Philip Hunter 6
16 Dee Wood 6
17 Lorcan Dempsey 5 [4+1]
18 Hugh Brailsford 5
19 Kay Flatten 5
20 Bruce Royan 5
21 Roddy Macleod 4
22 Ioanna Dandolos 4
23 Stephen Pinfield 4
24 John Kelleher 4
25 Liora Rolfe Stubbs 3
26 Tom Wilson 3
27 Nicky Ferguson 3
28 Isabel Stark 3
28 Hazel Gott 2
30 Anne Ramsden 2
TOTAL
391

In the above table it should be noted that one person (John Kirriemuir) posted from three different organisational addresses. In addition four others posted from different variants of the same email address (e.g. foo@ukoln.ac.uk and foo@ukoln.bath.ac.uk).

This table does not include everyone who has posted and also does not necessarily include information on those who have posted significant numbers of messages, since there are 155 messages not attributed to a sender.   However we seem to have listed the most active participants, including those who worked for the eLib programme team and those who worked at UKOLN who hosted the eLib programme Web site and were actively involved in the design of the eLib programme.    Having skimmed through the list archives, especially for the most active period in 1996-1998, it seems that many of the remaining posts will have been from a long tail of people posting informational messages about their projects, events, publications, etc.

Policy and Processes for Changing Access to the List Archives

Following this audit I have been in touch with Chris Rusbridge and Lorcan Dempsey in order to solicit feedback on the following proposed policy and implementation processes:

Information on the audit of the lis-elib-managers JISCMail list will be published and promoted to those who were active in the eLib community in order to solicit their views on opening access to the lis-elib-managers-archives.

Current and previous list members will be informed that the list owner and others involved in managing the list when it was being actively used feel that the list had been made closed in order that the list helped to address a particular audience and wanted to minimise distractions.

Posts which are discovered which contain personal information which we feel may be inappropriate to be published openly will be deleted.

Individuals who have posted to the list who may have concerns regarding issues related to confidentiality, legality and related issues for their posts can request further information about their posts.

If there are no specific concerns raised after a period of a month the list archives will be made open. This policy on openness will allow the archives to be published elsewhere, such as on the Markmail.org service. If concerns are raised these will be discussed by Brian Kelly, Chris Rusbridge and Lorcan Dempsey.

Rachel Bruce and Neil Grindley from the JISC who will have interests in preservation policies will be informed of the proposed change in status of the list and the processed which have been used prior to this change.

In brief the process for opening up access to the mailing list archive which may be applicable for other lists consists of:

  • Auditing the archive in order to identify the numbers of people who have posted messages and the numbers of messages that have been posted.
  • Identifying the reasons why the list was set up as a closed list.
  • Gaining an understanding of possible risks in opening up access to list archives.
  • Formulating a policy decision with key stakeholders.
  • Communicating the policy and gathering feedback.
  • Analysing the feedback and reviewing any changes to the proposed policy.
  • Implementing the policy.

Conclusions

This post began by the value which text mining tools can potentially provide by exploring the contents of email archives.  It is important to note that such text mining need not be carried out by the organisation hosting the archives; indeed there may be advantages in allowing an email distribution service to focus on the challenges in delivering large volumes of email for the higher education sector and allowing other organisations with expertise in data mining to provide this service.

The proposed changes to the policy will also allow the content to be reused elsewhere, such as the Markmail.org service.  As can be seen, this contains a large amount of content about JISC (1,235 messages from the 8,371 lists it currently indexes).  However this does not include lists which are hosted by JISCMail, due to the JISCMail policy which prohibits archives from being hosted elsewhere, without the permission of the list owner.  I hope that this post has outlined one way in which a closed list can be made open and such openness exploited by enabling a service which can demonstrably add value to be allowed to make use of the valuable archives provided by the JISCMail service.

Is this an appropriate approach?  I’d welcome your feedback.


Posted in preservation | 4 Comments »

Guest Post: Lend Me Your Ears Dear University Web Managers!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 August 2011

This is a guest blog post by David F. Flanders (JISC Programme Manager responsible for persistent identifiers) and Joss Winn (Project Manager of the ‘Linking You Toolkit’). They ask for your opinions on some potential future work that JISC would like to take forward on behalf of the sector.

Lend Me Your Ears Dear University Web Managers!

JISC is considering future opportunities for innovation funding in collaboration with University Web Service departments who have responsibility for managing the .ac.uk pages of their institutional website. We’d like to make sure that what we are proposing would be of value to the sector and is interesting enough for several of you to consider bidding. Please make your opinion known using the #lncneu  hashtag on Twitter or by adding a comment to this post.

The ‘Linking You’ Project

The University of Lincoln undertook a four month project for JISC called “Linking You“, which surveyed 40 different websites across the .ac.uk domain (ten from each university group) and compared the similarities between the URLs of those websites.  The project found there was a lot of inconsistency in the representation of information for graduates and undergraduates.  However, there were also good conventions that have emerged across the sector and out of all this, the ‘Linking You’ project proposed a common set of URL syntaxes that could be used in principle across multiple corporate institutional websites. Before you get upset and think that we are suggesting you change your current URL structures, you should know that we are not suggesting anything of the sort!  Rather we are suggesting that via a transparent mapping exercise (using 303 or 301 redirects) you can mint all the suggested URLs that the ‘Linking You’ project proposes and then link them to the actual URLs that have grown up as part of your organic system. For example if you use:

http://www.foo.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses

You could follow the ‘linking you’ recommendations and mint a new URL that points to the above URL using HTTP code 303 or 301 to:

http://www.foo.ac.uk/courses/
In short, you’re just mapping what we hope will become a common URI structure to your current link architecture, which means you can continue to change and add more links to your architecture (as the organisation changes) and you would just continue to redirect the ‘common’ link as recommend by ‘linking you’ to the underlying link. This process need not affect the design or apparent structure of your website.

Ten Benefits to Institutions

Why should you mint the suggested set of ‘linking you’ URLs for your institution?  We recognise this work of minting and maintaining the redirects would be ‘yet another thing to deal with’ across your complex and growing .ac.uk websites, however we think there is potential value (both in time savings and value add) we could all communally benefit from in considering these URL conventions. Below we list reasons why we think will result if we can get multiple institutions to start adopting this syntax and vocabulary and some simply suggestions for ways of achieving these benefits:

  1. Better SEO: As a sector we can go to Google and say, “Hi we are the University sector and we think you should give priority to these URLs when people are searching for things like courses.”
  2. Management of robot.txt files: If a group of Universities started adopting these URL syntaxes, we could save time and money by generating a common robot.txt for all of us so to use so we don’t have to each write a robot.tx file, this would also make doing analytics across the sector enhanced as we could understand patters of clicking across all .ac.uk websites.
  3. A simple mapping tool: An apache mod_rewrite (or IIS, nginx, etc. equivalent) tool that will do most of this work for you that could be written once and support many!
  4. Improve discovery: Clear human-readable URLs are now integral to browser search and lookup technology and becoming essential if you want to enable ease by a student experiencing your website.
  5. Predictable, consistent, aggregations: It will be easier to build tools on behalf of the entire sector because people will know where to go for the data. See the below reasons (nos. 6, 7 and 8) for immediate experimentation JISC is already undertaking and just think what else could be leveraged if we could bring our data together:
  6. Provision  of  a course catalogue: As many of you know JISC is actively encouraging universities to create XCRI feeds for their courses.  If everyone producing an XCRI feed put it at the following URL http://www.foo.ac.uk/courses/xcri/ we’d lay the groundwork for persistent, structured course data that developers (many of them students) could use to build new and engaging apps and websites that we could all benefit from.
  7. Provision of news feed aggregators: If we all knew where all the corporate news feeds were e.g. http://foo.ac.uk/news/rss we could create a UK University News Aggregation Service where the sector could have their news published on demand, let alone text mining goodness and other filters for highlight key news developments across all higher and further education institutions.
  8. A sector wide directory: Common information such as institutional policies, contact information, news, about, events, etc. could be aggregated into a searchable directory; useful to both the public and HEI data geeks.
  9. Managing your assets: Your .ac.uk addresses can be understood as your ‘virtual real estate’. Adopting a well-formed, widely understood and persistent ‘portfolio’ of core web addresses will help University Web Managers manage these increasingly valuable assets.
  10. Use ‘Cool URLs’: Simple, stable, manageable URLs make sense. They are recommended by the WC3, to make Web Managers’ lives easier and keep users happy, too.

Those are some of the reasons we can think of and we think there are many more if even a little imagination is implied. We’re convinced that if we all worked together as University Web Managers across the UK sector we could achieve more than the sum of our parts by producing this URL structure for each institution.

Feedback

What kind of idea do you think you could achieve by adopting the ‘Linking You’ toolkit?  We’re thinking of funding several short projects to review and standardise the toolkit, put it into practice and then write up the case studies for the sector on how it worked for you and what value you see in doing this work. Are you interested? What are your thoughts on all of this?

Posted in Guest-post, IWMC | 4 Comments »

Rediscovering Auto-Discoverable RSS Feeds

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 August 2011

Supporting the Scientific Communications Sector

I came across a good example of rapid innovation on Twitter last night.  A few days ago Jo Brodie (@JoBrodie) a science information officer and Diabetes UK & Public Engagement Co-ordinator,  tweeted that she was:

Seriously drooling at LSHTM’s website. They have RSS feeds for each category of job vacancy. I love them. https://jobs.lshtm.ac.uk/RSS/

As I’ve an interest in ways in which RSS feeds can be used beyond simply news updates I asked:

@JoBrodie You seen @psychemedia posts & tools about autodiscoverable RSS feeds for UK Unis: bit.ly/oBIvF2 Note we need autodiscovery

It turns out that Jo was unaware of the benefits of auto-discoverable RSS feeds.  However Tony Hirst responded by pointing out that he had similar interests in aggregating structured information provided as RSS feeds in similar areas:

@briankelly @JoBrodie just been trying to tweak a pipe to search for eg jobs, recruitment, vacancies etc but pipes not cloning properly

Tony went on to add that:

@JoBrodie autodiscovery is not magic – it’s based on the publisher of a page publishing a link to a feed: bit.ly/qETqtG

but expressed his frustrations at the lack of support for auto-discoverable feeds:

failing to understand why the majority of medical/science charity/org websites fail to syndicate jobs and news feeds via rss…

which led to the following discussion:

Jo Brodie: @psychemedia YES! High fives etc. However many are small charities who have a job opening as a rare event with a press release ;)

Tony Hirst: @JoBrodie rss can make their data flow though – and the point about job ads is that orgs want them to be seen?

Tony Hirst: @JoBrodie all the more reason to syndicate the ads – who’s going to look at a page regularly that only updates once a year?

Tony Hirst: @JoBrodie in contrast, it costs nothing to retain a feed subscription

Despite such difficulties earlier this morning Tony has announced how he had taken a set of links listed in a post on Where London science communicators might work and used this to provide a Scraped and autodetected feeds resource of organisations working in the UK scientific communications community.

How is UK HE Doing?

I’ve described how a developer can make use of a feed of structured information across a community which can be used to provide benefits across the sector.  As Tony put it, people looking for jobs aren’t going to continually revisit a job’s page which is updated infrequently, but aggregating job information across a sector can provide a continually updated resource which should be worth revisiting.

Jo had commented that “many [of the Web sites] are small charities who have a job opening as a rare event with a press release ;)“.  The situation is clearly different for UK University Web sites who will have well-established Web teams and good levels of technical expertise. But are UK Universities making use of auto-discoverable RSS feeds?  In a recent post on Autodiscoverable Feeds and UK HEIs (Again…) Tony pointed out a wide range of possible uses for autodiscoverable RSS feeds:

As ever, most universities don’t seem to be supporting autodiscoverable feeds (neither are many councils…), so here are a few thoughts about what feeds you might link to, and why…

news feeds: the canonical example. News feeds can be used to pipe news around various university websites, and also syndicate content to any local press or hyperlocal news sites. If every UK HEI published a news feed that was autodiscoverable as such, it would be trivial to set up a UK universities aggregated newswire.

research announcements: I was told that one reason for putting out press releases was simply to build up an institutional memory/archive of notable events. Many universities run research newsletters that remark on awarded grants. How about a “funded research” feed from each university detailing grant awards and other research funding. Again, at a national level, this could be aggregated to provide a research funding newswire, as well as contribtuing data to local archives of research funding success.

jobs: if every UK HEI published a jobs/vacancies RSS feed, it would trivial to build an aggregator and let people roll their own versions of jobs.ac.uk.

events: universities contribute a lot to local culture through public talks and exhibitions. Make it easy for the local press and hyperlocal news sites to syndicate this info, and add events to their own aggregated “what’s on” calendars. (And as well as RSS, give ‘em an iCal feed for your events.)

YouTube uploads: you might was well add an autodiscoverable feed to your university’s recent uploads on YouTube. If nothing else, it contributes an informal ownership link to the web for folk who care about things like that.

your university Twitter feed: if you’ve got one. I noticed Glasgow Caledonian linked to their Twitter feed through an autodiscoverable link on their university homepage.

tenders: there’s a whole load of work going on in gov at the moment regarding transparency as it relates to procurement and tendering. So why not get open with your procurement and tendering data, and increase the chances of SMEs finding out what you’re tendering around. If the applications have to go through a particular process, no problem: link to the appropriate landing page in each feed item.

energy data: releasing this data may well become a requirement in the not so far off future, so why not get ahead of the game, e.g. as Lincoln are starting to do (Lincoln U energy data)? If everyone was publishing energy data feeds, I’m sure DevCSI hackday folk would quickly roll together something like the aggregating service built by college student @issyl0 out of a Rewired State hack that pulls together UK gov department energy data: GovSpark

XCRI-CAP course marketing data feeds: JISC is giving away shed loads of cash to support this, so pull your finger out and get the thing published.

location data: got a KML feed yet? If not, why not? e.g. Innovations in Campus Mapping

Tony’s assertion that “most universities don’t seem to be supporting autodiscoverable feeds” is supported by the evidence from his UK HE Feed Autodiscovery app which trawls through UK HEI home pages. This currently reports that only ~38% of UK University home pages have auto-discoverable RSS feeds.

Getting Feedback

Why are the majority of UK Universities failing to add a single element in the University home page for each RSS feed they would like to make auto-discoverable?  In order to find an answer to  this I have created a SurveyMonkey form in which I am inviting those who manage institutional Web sites to  help provide a better understanding of the reasons for the low usage. I hope this will help to identify barriers and  ways in which such barriers can be addressed in order that the vision  of discovery of a whole set of useful resources across the sector which Tony has described can be implemented.

To summarise this post in a more Twitter-friendly format:

Why don’t more Unis provide auto-discoverable RSS feeds? Give your reasons at  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/auto-discoverable-rss-feeds

Posted in rss | 1 Comment »

Was I Wrong About Android?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 August 2011

Problems With Android Phones

Over two years ago I wrote a post entitled This Year’s Technology That Has Blown Me Away. In the post I described how Bathcamp participants were invited to … identify “the one technology that has blown you away more than any other in the last year, and [describe] why“. The challenge was in three minutes or less to “tell us about your chosen technology: why it has changed your life, the way you work or ways in which it has improved the world“.

I took an ironical approach and described my frustrations with my HTC Magic Android phone. Although I was excited when I first purchased the phone in June 2009 I quickly became disillusioned with its poor usability, as also did Tony Hirst who commented “A few weeks ago, I got my first “real” mobile phone, an HTC Magic (don’t ask; suffice to say, I wish I’d got an iPhone:-(

A few months later, in November 2009, I wrote a post on Signals from CETIS09 and was rather sceptical about Bill Thompson’s enthusiasm for the Android operating system:

I have (fairly rapidly) gone through a period of excitement over my open source (Android) mobile phone (the camera application kept crashing on me a few days before the CETIS conference) and so felt Bill’s belief that the benefits of an open source environment would inevitably (within about 2 years, Bill suggested to me) deliver a better tool that the closed environment of today’s market leader, the iPhone.

I found myself agreeing with Mike Ellis’s post on Quality, functionality and openness which he wrote in May 2010 in which he told his readers:

I wanted to love Android. I wanted to embrace openness, turn my back on Apple’s rejection of free markets, join the crowd of developers shouting about this new paradigm.

I can’t.

Mike’s post generated an interesting discussion including comments from developers who felt they should prefer using an open source platform on their mobile phone but acknowledged Android’s limitation. As Richard Osbaldeston put it:

A long winded way of saying the Android phone felt like it’d been designed by a search engine company rather than one that’d spent the better part of 30 years making desirable, innovative consumer electronics and software?

This reflected my experiences of having used two Android phones and an iPod Touch. On occasions I ended up using the tethering capability on my Android phone to create a WiFi hot spot so that I could use my iPod Touch to access online resources rather than access them directly from my Android device!

Have Things Changed?

Having a blog can be valuable in providing a record of one’s views in the past and, potentially, in being able to demonstrate one’s foresightedness.  On the other hand old blog posts can also be embarrassing if your prediction for the future proves to be wrong!  So having acquired my third Android phone a few weeks ago  am I still in agreement with Mike Ellis regarding the undeniable ease-of-use of the iPhone or should I tell Bill Thompson that he was right and, two years after his predication, the Android phone has caught up with – and perhaps even surpassed, the iPhone?

The HTC Sensation

imageI recently intended to change my mobile contract from my current £20/month to a £10/month deal which provided the same amount of data but with less free minutes and text messages as I tend not to use much of my existing monthly allowance. However I found myself being offered a deal on the  HTC Sensation which meant I continued on my existing contract and , as I signed up for an additional deal, I didn’t have to pay anything for the phone :-)

The phone itself is a delight.  As described on the HTC Web site the phone is large (4.96″ x 2.57″) with a 4.3″ touch screen display. It is also powerful with a 1.2 GHz dual core CPU and 768 MB of RAM and 1Gb of phone memory.  I’ve added a 32 Gb microSD card and have been taking photos and videos of the recent Sidmouth and Bath Folk Festivals and of a recent evening visit to the Roman Baths.

The phone is running the Android 2.3.3 operating system and the HTC Sense 3.0 GUI. This has provided various tweaks (including support for Flash) which, in conjunction with the increase in processing power and storage capacity over my previous HTC phones, makes the phone a delight to use. I’ve also noticed that the increased size of the screen makes my iPod Touch screen look tiny.

I’ve had the phone for about a month now and I’m now embedded it in my daily working practices. I’ve subscribed to the Guardian and the Observer on the Kindle app which I now read on the bus travelling to work.  I’ve also purchased a couple of additional chargers which I use in the office and when travelling as the battery life of the phone is one if its weak points.  I also bought a portable battery pack so that I’ll be able to recharge the device if no power supply is available.

The phone does have some weaknesses, however.  I’ve not yet found an RSS reader which is as good as the Netnewswire app I’ve used on the iPod Touch and the lack of consistency in the user interface of the applications I’ve used compared with the iPod Touch can be irritating.  In addition the phone has crashed on me: after installing an application launcher which appeared to have conflicts with the HTC Sense GUI I was forced to open up the phone and remove the battery before the phone would reboot.  This reminded me of the days when the MS Windows operating system would crash. But, just as that no longer happens, I suspect that once I’ve installed  a stable set of applications on the phone this problem will disappear.

Conclusions

Was Bill Thomson right, has the Android phone surpassed the iPhone?  I think he may be right, but not because of the superiority of the Android operating system.  Rather, for me the improvements in the phone are due to the speed of the CPU, the increased size of the phone’s memory and the size of the screen.  The availability of the Android operating systems on multiple devices will have driven the competition, as can be seen by the comparisons between the HTC Sensation and the Galaxy S2.  In addition to the improvements in the hardware I also like the phone since it was free, unlike the hundreds of pounds I would have to pay if I wanted an iPhone on a similar contract.

In many respects it seems that Android’s battles with the iPhone have parallels with Microsoft’s battles with Apple in the desktop market  over the past 20 years or so: while Apple have continued with a policy of lock-in to their hardware, the Android operating system can be used on multiple platforms – subject, sadly, to ongoing patent disputes).

But will I look in envy when colleagues get the iPhone 5 later this year, I wonder?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Gadgets, Mobile | 4 Comments »

Providing an Amplified Event Service

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 August 2011

Greening Events II

For several year’s we have explored ways in which a range of technologies can be used to enhance discussions at an event and maximise the impact of events by providing what has become known as amplified or hybrid events. Back in 2005 we made use of an IRC channel to enhance discussions at the IWMW 2005 event (which was notable for alerting the small numbers of people who brought along a laptop to news of the London bombings).  Over the years we have explored use of wiki technologies and social networking services. However as the technologies mature and we have an opportunity to reflect on our experiences and the feedback we have received we are now better positioned to provide advice on best practices for providing an amplified event as a service, as opposed to an experiment.

Our interest in providing such advice is based on our involvement with the JISC-funded Greening Events II project. This project is led by ILRT, University of Bristol who host the Greening Events II blog. Our involvement in this work is to develop:

An Events Planning Toolkit to help event organisers think through what type of event they need to hold (physical, virtual or hybrid) and then to provide assistance in the form of guidelines and technology tools with each stage in the process to enable them to reduce the negative sustainability impacts of their event.

Our experiences in running a wide range of amplified events over the years will inform our development of the toolkit.  Some initial thoughts, based on our recent provision of the amplification of the IWMW 2011 event and summarised in the posts on the Evaluation of UKOLN’s IWMW 2011 Event and Reflections on Technologies Used at IWMW 2011, is given below.

Amplified Event Planning

As part of the planning processes for an amplified event we suggest use of the following template.

Purpose(s): Document the intended purpose(s) of the event amplification. This should also include a summary of the main beneficiaries (which could be the local audience, remote participants, speakers, etc.).

Technologies Used: Describe the technologies which will be used to support the purposes described above

Resources: Describe the additional resources which will be needed to provide the event amplification.

Risk assessment: Provide a risk assessment associated with the provision of the event amplification service.

Evaluation: Describe how you will evaluate the effectiveness of the event amplification.

Metrics: Describe the metrics you intent to collect in order to provide quantitative evidence of use of (and possibly value of) the event amplification.

Example of Use of this Template

An example of use of the template is provided in the documentation of the event amplification for the IWMW 2011 event.  A summary is given below.

Purpose of the Event Amplification at IWMW 2011:

Enhancing discussions at event
Based on event amplification at previous IWMW events we are aware that participants make use of an online back-channel to discuss the contents of the sessions as well as communicate with other participants and the event organisers.
Engaging with remote participants
Based on event amplification at previous IWMW events we are aware that there are people with an interest in the topics being discussed at the event who will be willing to view the talks remotely and discuss the issues raised.
Maximise the impact of the ideas and resources
We wish to ensure that the ideas and experiences shared by the speakers and workshop participants are made available as widely as possible.
Enabling resources to be accessed after event
Based on an analysis of usage of slides used at previous events after the event is over we are aware that there is a demand to access speakers’ slides after the event is over.
Support community-building
Based on experiences at previous events we are aware that participants value the opportunities for participants to expand their community of practice.

Technologies Used

Twitter
A Twitter event hashtag was used to support an event back-channel. In addition a Twapper Keeper archive of the tweets was used to provide an archive of the tweets so that we could analyse the content to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the event as well provide evidence of the usage of Twitter through use of the related Summarizr service.
Adobe Connect
The Adobe Connect service was used to provide a live video stream of the plenary talks.
Vimeo
The Vimeo service was used to host videos of the plenary talks and interviews.
Slideshare
The Slideshare service was used to provide access to slides from the plenary talks and workshop sessions after the event was over.

Resources

Event Amplifier
A dedicated event amplifier had responsibility for providing a Twitter summary of the plenary talks, publishing summaries of the plenary talks and carrying out and publishing interviews on the event blog.
Event Video Streamer
A dedicated video streamer had responsibility for providing the live video stream of the plenary talks and publishing the videos of the talks and the video interviews.
Event Organisers
The event organisers had responsibilities for monitoring the Twitter and video-streaming channels and responding to comments and queries.
Sponsorship
The licensed Adobe Connect service was sponsored by Collaborate.

Evaluation

Monitoring of Twitter, Shhmooze and video streaming systems
Monitoring of the various online channels enabled the event organisers to respond to any concerns which were raised. In addition an archive of the channels will enable the content to be analysed.
Evaluation form
An online evaluation form provided feedback on the event and of the provision of the event amplification.

Metrics

Twitter statistics
Usage of the Twitter event hashtag was provided by the Summarizr service and has been summarized in a post on Reflections on Technologies Used at IWMW 2011.
Video-streaming statistics
A record of use of the Adobe Connect video streaming was kept and is available on the IWMW 2011 Web site.

Conclusions

The feedback we have received from remote participants at a variety of UKOLN’s amplified events has demonstrated the level of interest in participation in events remotely.  We hope that the guidance which we will be developing will be beneficial to both those involved in organising events and those who are looking to participate in events remotely.  We welcome feedback on the initial set of advice provided in this blog post.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Policies on Unused JISCMail Lists

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 August 2011

Last week I received an email from JISCMail which invited me to state whether an unused mailing list should be retained or deleted:

Lists: LIS-ELIB-MANAGERS

Your JISCMail list(s) have not been used for over 3 years. Please email to helpline@jiscmail.ac.uk to confirm whether the list should now be deleted or retained. If you choose deletion, let us know if you would like a zipped copy of the archives for your records.

Back in January 2010 I wrote a post on Decommissioning / Mothballing Mailing Lists in which I discussed policies and processes for decommissioning and mothballing lists:

How should a list owner go about deleting unused lists? And aren’t there dangers that deleting the contents of lists which may have been used to influence the research process or provide possibly valuable historical insights on the content area covered by the list would be regarded as a mistake by future generations?

Following the subsequent discussions I decided on the policy for unused lists which I owned: I disabled postings to the lists and updated the list description accordingly. For example the DNER-TECH list now states:

List to discuss technical issues relating to the establishment of the Distributed National Electronic Resource. These issues should particularly relate to inter-operability matters. Other topics may be introduced later. THIS LIST IS NOW CLOSED.

I have decided not to delete the unused lists as the lists I own tend to have been used to discuss various aspects of early developments of digital library initiatives in the sector and I feel that the issues which were discussed could provide information which may have some value from an historical perspective.  For example ten years ago on the DNER-TECH list there were discussions of “issues related to deploying the Bath Profile, the emerging proposals for ‘Z39.50 Next Generation’ (ZNG), and presentations by a number of UK-based projects with significant experience of deploying Z39.50 applications in a number of domains“. This message can therefore provide evidence of the interest in Z39.50 at that time.

You could, of course, manage the content by requesting a zipped copy of the archive (although note that the Web page on deleting a list, somewhat confusing called Deleting a Group, does not provide any further information, including details of the contents held in a zipped archive – will, for example, this include details of the members of the list?). But this would mean that the original location of the resource being deleted and will make it more difficult for other interested parties to find this information. To be honest I can’t see the point of requesting a zipped copy for most open lists, especially since the existing JISCMail archive provides a rich archive which may be of value and provides an interface (using JISCMail commands) which potentially could support data mining of these resources.  However for closed lists, such as the LIS-ELIB-MANAGERS list which I own, since it would probably be inappropriate to retrospectively provide open access to such archives (will there be a 30 year limit, I wonder, before the general public can see what Chris Rusbridge, Lorcan Dempsey and eLib project managers were discussing on this list?!)

On further reflection it does seem to me that JISC-funded projects should probably have a policy on the management of legacy lists related to the project work.  There is, for example, a requirement for Web sites to be maintained for at least three years after the funding has ceased.   What should the policy be on mailing lists? And what should practices should be implemented once a list archive is felt to be no longer of interest?  I would welcome comments from other list owners on how they are managing any unused lists they own.

Posted in preservation | 9 Comments »

Reflections on Technologies Used at IWMW 2011

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 August 2011

The Need to Reflect on Changes to Working Practices

UKOLN’s annual IWMW event provides a useful opportunity to evaluate new technologies with participants from across the UK HE sector being able to identify successes which may be of valuable for use in their own institutions. In addition there will be a need to reflect on technologies which have failed to live up to their expectation since this will help to minimise others making similar mistakes.  This post provides a summary of our experiences, in part to ensure that the experiences can inform future UKOLN events and, in addition, so that others can learn from our experiences.

Technologies Now Embedded

Twitter

Certain technologies are now embedded at IWMW events.  Twitter, for example, is well-established and is used in conjunction with TwapperKepper which provides an archive of the #iwmw11 tweets. The Summarizr service for the week of 23-29 July shows that there were a total of 1,514 tweets from 185 users. This compares with 3,080 tweets from 282 users for a similar 7-day period for the IWMW 2010 event which probably reflects the reduction in the length of the event from 3 to 2 days.

The number of geo-located tweets has also decreased slightly since last year, with the 100 such tweets representing 6% of the total number of tweets. The Summarizr service, developed by Andy Powell, Eduserv, allows you to zoom in on the location of the tweets. From the map we can see the locations of the main lecture theatre, the halls of residence and the bar, together with the pub I visited on the night before the event.

From the list of  the top 10 tweeted hashtags we can see how the use of a clearly defined hashtag for the plenary talks is being used to associate tweets with a specific talk. We might also speculate whether the number of tweets has a relationship with the interest generated in the talks, as suggested by the evidence that the most highly rated talk was the opening talk on ” OK, we know what you do, so how much is it worth?”  given by Ranjit Sudhu also generated the largest number of tweets:

iwmw11 (1,499 tweets), p1 (79), p6 (74), p4 (63), p5 (60), p2 (50), p3 (47), p9 (43), p8 (35) and  p7 (34).

Note also that a Scoot.it summary of tweets, blog posts and photos about the event was also published.

Slideshare

Slideshare is another mature technology which has been used for the past 5 years at IWMW events.  As mentioned in a post which described Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact Slideshare has proved successful in enhancing access to plenary talks given at the events.  This year we have encouraged facilitators of the parallel sessions to make their slides available in the IWMW 2011 event group.  We have also provided a Slideshare pack of all of the presentations (as illustrated). This resource is available on the IWMW 2011 Web site and can also be embedded elsewhere.

Note that we noticed that the event group for previous years had attract spam comments and spam presentations (which have now been deleted). We will shortly change the access permissions so that no new presentations can be added in order to ensure that this group contains appropriate content.

The IWMW 2011 Blog

For the third year running a blog was used to support the event. The IWMW 2011 blog was launched on 8 June 2011. It was used before the event to promote the event and highlight key features. During the event interviews with speakers and participants were published on the blog and after the event various summaries of the event were published.

For the IWMW 2010 blog we used the BuddyPress plugin to provide social networking capabilities.  However this was little used and we have come to realise that people tend not to make use of a social networking service dedicated to an event; rather they prefer to use existing social networking tools, such as Twitter. We therefore decided not to use BuddyPress this year.

As might be expected the blog attracted the largest number of visits during the event, as can be seen below.

Note that the image also shows the traffic from mobile devices.  On Monday 25 July there were a total of 157 visits, which included 31 from mobile devices (this high proportion probably due to participants being away from their office and therefore using a mobile device).  In total there have been 1,306 visits to date, with 162 from mobile devices. Google Analytics provides the following summary of browser usage: FireFox (38.9%), Chrome (25%);  Safari (30% including 4.3% from mobile device); Internet Explorer (12.9%) and a Mozilla-compatible browser (5.7%).  This year ~10% of the visits to the blog have been from a mobile device.  It will be interesting to see how next year’s statistics will compare with this.

This Year’s Experimentation

Live video streaming

Whilst we have provided live streaming of the plenary talks for a number of years this has normally been provided by the host institution. At this year’s event the host institution did not provide a video streaming service.  We therefore had to select a service for ourselves and take responsibility for delivering the video streaming.

Following a suggestion from the eDevelopments Team in the Division for Lifelong Learning we decided to make use of the Adobe Connect tool. A Summer Update post on the eDevelopments Team blog described how the team are planning to “Us[e] collaborative web-conferencing technology to enhance participation by prospective students from widening participation backgrounds“. We were happy to support the team by carrying out an evaluation and sharing our experiences.

My colleague Marieke Guy has already posted her summary of Event Amplifying With Adobe Connect and concluded “I would thoroughly recommend Adobe Connect for any event amplification, it was slick, fully customisable and easy to use“. I would agree with Marieke. As shown in the accompanying image (click for larger view) the tool provided the integration of the video-streaming, speaker’s slide and Twitter discussions which meant that the remote audience did not have to switch between different applications as has been the case for several of our previous amplified events.  It should also be noted that although the tool does use a Fl;ash interface a dedicated Adobe Connect client for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad devices is also available.

Shhmooze

A recent post described Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop. Following this initial pilot we encouraged participants at IWMW 2011 who had an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to install this app and use it to be able to communicate with other users whilst at the event.

A total of 35 participants used the app at the event.  Whilst I am not aware of any significant use being made of the tool I did receive a message saying that six people couldn’t find their way to the bar on the first evening of the event. This suggested a potentially valuable use for Shhmooze: being able to contact event organisers without having to post publicly (as would be the case with Twitter unless the organisers followed all the participants’ Twitter accounts) or having to divulge mobile phones numbers.

For the IWMW 2011 event I suspect that most participants would be happy to make use of Twitter as a communications channel and so did not feel the need to use Shhmmooze to support their interactions with others at the event.  However for events in which use of Twitter isn’t the norm I do feel that a service such as Shhmooze could have a useful role to play.

Eventstreams

As part of our explorations of services to support the management of the content related to events we made use of the Eventstreamsapp service. This hosted information about the programme and speakers. However the service did not allow us to manage other aspects of the event Web site and from the blog we found that there appears to have been no development work since January. We therefore decided to stop using the service and hosted the content on the main IWMW 2011 Web site which was used in conjunction with the Lanyrd service as described below.

Lanyrd

Following our decision to stop using Eventstreams we decided to make greater use of the Lanyrd site for the IWMW 2011 event.  Lanyrd was launched after the IWMW 2010 event had been held last year.  However we were aware of significant interest in the service and so created a Lanyrd site for IWMW 2010 in order to provide details of the Twitter accounts for speakers at the event which could be linked to other events which the speakers had participated in.  We subsequently updated the Lanyrd site with information about the various session at the event, included embedded videos and slides.

This year we provided the abstracts and timings of the sessions in advance, and included the slides and video recordings when they became available.  It should be noted that our use of Lanyrd should help to enhance exposure to the content provided at the event in ways that would not be the case if the content was hosted only on the IWMW 2011 Web site.

This service is easy to use and does seem to be improving in functionality.  Initially we felt that its strength was in providing social networking capabilities around speakers and participants at events (as can be seen from my Lanyrd profile page). However Lanyrd now seems to have developing into providing a richer hosting environment for event content. It will be interesting to see how the service may have developed by the time IWMW 2012 arrives.

Conclusions

Using new technologies is not without an element of risk.  We therefore publish a risk assessment page for the event which summarises the services used and our assessment of the associated risks.   In addition we hope that these reflections on the use of the services will be beneficial to others who may be considering making use of similar technologies at their events.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Openness and Open Folk Culture

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 August 2011

Open Content in Higher Education

I have been involved in promoting open access to resources for several years. Back in 2005 I presented a paper on Let’s Free IT Support Materials! at the EUNIS 2005 conference in which I suggested that:

Although interest in open access has initially focussed on research publications and datasets and teaching and learning resources, the authors feel that the education community can benefit if IT service departments take a pro-active role in making their support materials (e.g. documents, training materials, etc.) available under licensing conditions such as those available under Creative Commons.

IT service departments are well-placed to take a leading role in opening access to their support materials for several reasons:

  • The IT services community has a culture of collaboration and sharing.
  • Open access to support materials will complement interests in use of and provision of open source software.
  • From an institutional perspective, open access to IT support materials will be less contentious than open access to teaching and learning or research materials.

In addition IT service departments will benefit from the experiences gained through the provision of open access resources, including experiences of open access management tools, training needs, user acceptance, provision of a test bed, etc.

However the perceived difficulties of deploying Creative Commons licences meant that IT Service departments have failed, to the best of my knowledge, to take the leading role I suggested in opening up access to their resources.

Two years later myself, Scott Wilson (CETIS) and Randy Metcalfe (JISC OSS Watch) felt we were in a better position to appreciate the difficulties in embracing openness and presented a paper on  Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access  at the ELPub 2007 conference. In the paper we suggested that the contextual approach to use of open standards (which is illustrated) could be applied to policies and practices for providing open content.

But is such a softly-softly approach, which encourage organisations to take small steps to using Creative Commons licences, the right one to take? Might we be able to learn from other sectors which have had a long-standing tradition on openness and sharing?

Open Folk Culture

Last week I took part in the Sidmouth Folk Week as a dancer (and comic character) for the Newcastle Kingsmen Sword Dancers.  And this week I am having a few days off as a volunteer for the Bath Folk Festival, where I am providing the Bath Folk Facebook page and BathFolkFest Twitter account together with Nicola McNee and also working with Kirsty and Rich Pitkin who are taking videos of the festival which are being published on the Bath Folk Festival YouTube channel.

In our planning for use of social media at the Bath Folk Festival we were conscious of the need to respect the performers rights. During the first Bath Folk Festival Fundraiser concert (which took place on 6 July) all of the acts were recorded and we asked all of the acts if they were happy for us to publish the video on YouTube (where possible we asked in advance, but this was not always possible). All of the acts agreed to this as so we were able to publish the individual performances as well as a 3 minute feature of all of the performers.

At Sidmouth Folk Festival Taffy Thomas, the UK’s first Laureate for Storytelling, ran a number of story-telling workshops. Although I couldn’t attend any of the workshops I did see him perform briefly and was able to take a few photographs, one of which I subsequently uploaded to Flickr and added to Taffy’s Wikipedia page (with an appropriate Creative Commons licence).

I heard that Taffy explained how the story-telling tradition is based on passing on stores for retelling by others. “Take as much as you want; use as little as you need” was, I understand, his advice to other story-tellers, but you should always try to give acknowledgements to the source of your stories.

Isn’t that a wonderful way of describing a Creative Commons attribution licence which formally allows others “to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work; to Remix — to adapt the work; to make commercial use of the work subject to the following condition: Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.

This culture of sharing in order to enrich others’ is deeply embedded in the folk culture with many performers running workshops in which they share their expertise, knowledge, skills and tips.

An example of such willingness to share was see at the Late Night Extra show at Sidmouth when the Kingsmen and Gaorsach (a female rapper team based in Aberdeen – no, the sword tradition isn’t men-only!) put together a show which featured individual dances (a long sword dance from the Kingsmen and reels and jigs from Gaorsach dancers) with a finale of a joint rapper dance featuring a 13-star lock.

Of course being open can also be risky.  Some performers may wish to be able to have a veto on video recordings if things go wrong.  But the folk tradition tends to feel that once a performance has been made it belongs to the public, warts and all.  And if you view the video is the ending, 12 minutes in, a mistake or a feature?

Conclusions

It might be argued that whilst hobbiests may be willing to allow others to record and publish their activities, it will be different for professionals  who will need to consider issues such as business models and sustainability.  But  performers at the Sidmouth Folk Week and the Bath Folk Festival include those who are professional or semi-professional and can see the benefits of having their work promoted by others. If this is the case for folkies, what arguments can be made for those of us working in higher education for not taking similar approaches, and being will for talks at conferences, for example, to be regarded as public property?  I’ll conclude with a mashup of the first Bath Fundraiser concert which illustrates how others (in this case Rich and Kirsty Pitkin, who recorded the concert) can bring added value to such recordings, in this case to The Grey Blues, Katherine Mann & Marick Baxter, Martin Vogwell, Northgate Rapper Sword Dancers, Jumping Rooves, Angel Ridge and the Brian Finnegan Band.

Posted in openness | 4 Comments »

Evaluation of UKOLN’s IWMW 2011 Event

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 August 2011

Feedback on IWMW 2011

UKOLN’s annual institutional Web management workshop, IWMW 2011,  took place at the University 0f Reading on 25-26 July. This year’s event was reduced from three to two days since it was unclear how the economic downturn would affect bookings.  The event attracted 163 bookings, which was only slightly down on last year’s attendance.  The weather was great during the event, but what did the participants gain form their attendance at the event? We have analysed the responses provided on the online evaluation form and a summary is given below.  Note that a more complete summary of the event feedback is available on the IWMW 2011 Web site.

IWMW 2011: Numerical Ratings

The workshop content at the event had an average overall score of 4.02 on a scale of 1 [poor] to 5 [excellent] from the 62 responses we received. This included 19 5s (excellent), 28 4s (very good), 13 3s (good), 2 2s (fair) and 0 1s (poor).

The workshop organisation did even better with an average overall score of 4.16, with  25 5s (excellent), 26 4s (very good), 7 3s (good), 4 2 (fair) and 0 1s (poor).

The highest ranked plenary speaker was Ranjit Sidu with an average score of 4.28, with  17 5s (excellent), 13 4s (very good), 5 3s (good), 1 2 (fair) and 0 1s (poor), followed by Martin Hamilton with an average overall score of 3.94, with  11 5s (excellent), 12 4s (very good), 9 3s (good), 2 2s (fair) and 0 1s (poor).  The workshop conclusions, which included brief presentations from several of the workshop participants was also highly regarded with an average overall score of 3.91, with  12 5s (excellent), 17 4s (very good), 14 3s (good), 1 2s (fair) and 0 1s (poor).

It was interesting to observe that the overall score for the workshop content (4.02)  was beaten by only one of the plenary speakers which I think indicates that the workshop in its entirety (including the parallel sessions, discussions, networking and social events)  is valued more highly than the individual parts.

IWMW 2011: Overall Comments

The responses to the question “Please give your overall views on the workshop” included the following:

  • I thought the programme was the most consistent and coherent of all the ones I have attended, and also probably the most relevant. Much as I’ve enjoyed forays into the unknown (eg FOAF/RDF) in previous years, this was a very practical and useful programme. It was good giving the DevCSI geeks some bigging up as it would appear that they can do useful things ;-)
    The balance of plenaries and parallels worked for me and the timings were good.
    The organisation was faultless as usual.
  • Still a totally essential part of the HE web management calendar. Not only are the talks and sessions really useful and thought provoking, the networking element is so reassuring. It’s fab to discover that everyone is tacking the same issues.
  • It is an essential part of my year and cannot imagine it not running, I thought that there was easily enough content for a 3 day conference. The topics covered were current and key issues that we are grappling with on a daily basis. I felt that the old model allowed a chance to build on the content in workshops and this year felt rushed..
  • I’ve been to the IWMW twice now. On each occasion I found it an excellent opportunity to meet with the people working in same area as myself and learnt a huge amount. Coming from IWMW2011 I have new ideas for improving the way we work and communicate to managers and some great new contacts that should may lead to improving personal development of resources across institutions.
  • This event is brilliant value for money, expecially compared to the eye-wateringly expensive events my colleagues in the Marketing department attend … . My institution benefits hugely from my attending every year, because we are a small HEI and can’t afford: (a) outside consultants to buy in expertise and new thinking, or (b) a big team to cover all the specialist areas related to the web. I especially value being able go the IWMW website to download presentations etc, when I get back.

IWMW 2011: Most Valuable Aspects

The responses to the question “State up to three aspects of the workshop which were most valuable” included the following:

  • informative topics, especially on social media, open data, statistics analysis, SEO
    use of social media: iwmw & iwmwlive twitter and iwmw11 blog are great tools and help in terms of connecting, catching up and following up.
    networking with other university guys, getting to know their situations and problems, and how they deal with them.
  • 1) Opportunity to share my own work and gain invaluable feedback and insight in my parallel session (which is why I haven’t voted on it’s quality!)
    2) Opportunity to meet and connect with others in my field
    3) Opportunity to hear from insightful and interesting speakers – Dave Raggett and Paul Walk were particular highlights for me.
  • 1. The opening and closing sessions were really informative about the general state, direction and interesting developments of universities.
    2. Parallel sessions were very useful.
    3. Evening BBQ (social event) was great for meeting and getting to know people from other universities.
  • Opportunity to network with other web teams
    Ideas on how to best promote my teams good work
    Real examples of best practice
  • 1. The ‘Web cooperative’ session / workshop was really, really useful -lots of shared ideas, and a real toolkit I’m starting to implement already.
    2. The ‘cookie finder’ presentation in the wrap-up: brilliant way to present easily-findable data, but resulting in a really great product for the end-user, eg up-to-date menus and ‘where to buy’ mapping.

IWMW 2011: Aspects Which Could be Improved

The responses to the question “State up to three aspects of the workshop which were disappointing or could be improved” included the following:

  • I preferred the feel of the 3 day event so would like to see it return to that format. I know organisers were keen to take account of the current work / financial climate but for many people, given the location, the event was a 3-day one anyway and to a certain extent, cost is not a deciding factor as long as the event remains under £500 per person. I felt the catering was mediocre, especially the lunch – houmous & dips is not a very bright option with ~150 trying to get fed at once. Wireless access was an issue – this is a conference which will likely see in excess of 200 devices connected; the host institution MUST take account of this to ensure amplification and backchannel activity is as impactful as possible.
  • 1. Not enough time to network – all had to be done on the evening of the conference dinner / BBQ. Please revert back to the 3 day setup for future IWMW’s
    2. No hot water in the accommodation on the Wednesday morning
  • It was a shame that there was nothing on KIS, perhaps in future events there could be sessions left empty to accommodate last minute issues? Alternatively some sort of bar camp-style sessions so that attendees can deliver short sessions themselves?
  • Lecture theatre not designed for attendees with various laptops, tablets and so on – no where to put them but on your laps and lack of power outlets. Given the nature of the conference and the delegates attending then think that the sourcing of a venue which lends itself to these key aspects would be beneficial (increased comfort for delegates leaving them paying full attention to workshops).
  • 1. A reliable Internet connection – there were attempts to interact and encouragement to tweet and, in the end, I had to rely on the 3G on my phone as the wifi just wasn’t stable another (it was stressful!)
    2. It was stated that Universities are often years behind the private sector in terms of our activities but rather than just play catch-up, how about pushing some more leading edge ideas to get us to the front?
    3. 2 hours without a drink is too long – dehydration = reduced capacity to concentrate

IWMW 2011: Additional Comments

The responses to the question “Please give any additional comments on the event including the administration, venue etc.” included the following:

  • Would be good opportunity for attendees to engage in a “festival of blogging”, maybe showcasing things they get up to locally and want to show off. This might even just arise from a commitment to post comments on a series of round up blogposts? eg I pulled together a couple examples of campus maps http://blog.ouseful.info/2011/07/26/innovations-in-campus-mapping/ If folk contributed links to anything innovative they’re doing, with a brief explanation why its innovative, or as same ilk as something covered in the review, it would give Brian a batchload of “”free”” sector survey results for different themes?”
  • I enjoyed the event overall and would happily attend again in a similar role – as facilitator, speaker, or similar. I am not sure I took away enough from the day to attend only to listen and take part in the workshops but, as I have already said, I am not really the core target audience for this event.
    I thought the accommodation was excellent the first night but it was hard to overlook the lack of hot water on day two and that was a shame. I thought it was strange that there was no wifi in such modern halls although I was delighted to have access to proper broadband and this helped me keep up with work in the evenings. I was also able to liveblog thanks to Eduroam. I would have much preferred more comfortable seats in the theatre though – I arrived home with rather bruised knees from the seats in front! I really appreciated the availability of extension cords in the main theatre and thought that all of the amplifyers did a great job of managing the online and remote experience of IWMW.
  • Can we get Tony Hirst to come next year? He is so great. His presentation (at the OU) on the perils of measuring social media was terrific.
  • The (non-eduroam) wifi was useless, had to login a number of times and it kept dropping out. Paid for 3G data on the second day instead.
    I was not impressed that there was no hot water in the Halls.

IWMW 2011: Comments on Topics Covered

The responses to the question “Please give your comments on the range of topics covered” included the following:

  • Every year I wonder what could possibly be covered the next year but you seem to bring together a range of topics and speakers that interest the majority.
  • The range of topics felt well balanced. Not all were high on my priority list, but the discussion around the event balances this very well.”social media (Nicola Osborne’s A7 session) I do not have a chance to attend this session, but her Prezi slides give a lot of information and tips on this topic which I could learn from.
  • Linked data: Christopher and Dave have cleared up all the questions in my mind about this topic. I now have a better understanding on linked data, open data and RDF. Looking forward to practicals.
  • All the plenary speakers were good, I got something out of all of them. I often find it hard to judge how relevant a speaker will be to my role / team (these day’s I’m primarily a designer) from the session title alone, but this year they all exceeded my expectations. There was nothing too techy that I couldn’t follow it, or at least see a practical application for.
  • I think there was some tension between demand for technical/specific content and the very general. However the blend, especially depending on selected parallel sessions, was pretty good and interesting. I don’t feel I am the core target audience for this event though and attend many specialist events in my field so there were some sessions where I know I did not get as much value from the sessions as I could have.

Reflections

The week before the event I wrote a post on The Web Management Community of Practice in which I described how the IWMW 2011 event would provide an opportunity for the Web Management community of practice to consider how it should develop in the future.  A more complete summary of the event feedback is available on the IWMW 2011 Web site which indicates that there is a strong and thriving community who understand the benefits which can be gained from acting collaboratively, sharing experiences and avoiding reinvention of the wheel. A large number of those who responded felt that the event should revert to its three-day format, although a minority preferred the two-day format. Once we’ve had an opportunity to more fully reflect on the feedback we have received we will start to make out plans for IWMW 2012.

I should conclude by saying that at the end of the event myself and Marieke Guy gave out thanks to the speakers, facilitators, session chairs, events team and the local support provided by the University of Reading.  It would be appropriate in this post to give thanks to the participants and especially those who took time to complete the evaluation form.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 3 Comments »