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JISC Funding to Enhance Access to UK University Web Sites

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 October 2011

Yesterday’s blog post asked “Are University Web Sites In Decline?“. Although some anecdotal evidence suggests that in a number of cases this may not be the case, it is also true that there is increasing competition for ‘eyeballs’, with many organisations being prepared to invest resources for search engine optimisation and related techniques in order to maximise traffic to Web sites.

The JISC is looking to enhance the visibility of Web sites within the .ac.uk domain. JISC  inviting those working in the provision of institutional Web sites  to consider bidding for participation in a community of projects that will enhance your .ac.uk web site to make Web site resources more easily found. These projects will innovate around the “JISCLINKU” Toolkit  product which is currently under development which will help to exploit the benefits provided by a variety of linking and related strategies. Funded projects will beta test and advance the JISCLINKU Toolkit and help make it ready for use across the wider sector for the start of the next academic year (2012-13).  A key institutional driver for this work will be raising the visibility of institutional Web sites to attract the intake of new fee-paying students.

Bids are due by noon on the 21st November 2011. The successful projects would be expected to start in as part of the community work in February 2012.

The official call is available on the JISC web site which includes bidding template and marking criteria. In addition a shortened (un-official) version is at the link below so you can easily get an overview of what will be expected of prospective projects: http://code.google.com/p/jisclinku/wiki/CallForProjects

If there are further questions, ideas or intentions for how you can be part of this innovative community of project please contact David F. Flanders (JISC Programme Manager), d.flanders@jisc.ac.uk / mob: 07891 50 1194 / skype: david.flanders

Posted in IWMC | Leave a Comment »

Are University Web Sites in Decline?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 October 2011

Are Web Sites In Decline?

Are organisational Web sites in decline? Earlier this year an article suggested that this was the case for an number of well-known companies, such as Coca Cola (“Coca Cola’s website traffic is down more than 40% in just 12 months“). The article cited a study by Webtrends published in March 2011 which revealed that static or declining website traffic is affecting the majority of Fortune 100 web sites, with 68% experiencing negative growth over the past 12 months with a 24% average decrease in unique visitors.

Are we seeing similar trends across University Web sites?

Analysis of Usage Trends for Russell Group Universities

A recent tweet from Martin Hawskey suggested that Google’s Double Click Ad Planner service could be useful in providing usage statistics for University Web sites. This tool has been used to provide a graph of estimated usage of the twenty Russell Group Universities for a period of slightly over a year, from March 2010 to August 2011. The findings are displayed in the following table.

Institution /
Double Click Stats
Graph  Additional Statistics
1 University of Birmingham -
Stats for Birmingham
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
390K
Unique visitors (users)
260K
Reach
0.0%
Page views
9.1M
Total visits
920K
Avg visits per cookie
2.4
Avg time on site
13:00
2 University of Bristol -
Stats for Bristol
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
160K
Unique visitors (users)
110K
Page views
1.1M
Total visits
270K
Avg visits per cookie
1.6
Avg time on site
6:00
3 University of Cambridge-Stats for Cambridge  
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
1.3M
Unique visitors (users)
1M
Reach
0.1%
Page views
19M
Total visits
2.4M
Avg visits per cookie
1.8
Avg time on site
10:50
4 Cardiff University -
Stats for Cardiff
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
220K
Unique visitors (users)
150K
Page views
3.9M
Total visits
570K
Avg visits per cookie
2.6
Avg time on site
7:50
5 University of Edinburgh -
Stats for Edinburgh
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
680K
Unique visitors (users)
520K
Page views
13M
Total visits
1.4M
Avg visits per cookie
2.1
Avg time on site
10:50
6 University of Glasgow -
Stats for Glasgow
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
420K
Unique visitors (users)
300K
Page views
6.8M
Total visits
900K
Avg visits per cookie
2.1
Avg time on site
10:40
7 Imperial College -
Stats for Imperial College
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
200K
Unique visitors (users)>
140K
Page views
2.4M
Total visits
310K
Avg visits per cookie
1.6
Avg time on site
8:00
8 King’s College London -
Stats for King’s College London
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
1.3M
Unique visitors (users)
1M
Page views
19M
Total visits
2.4M
Avg visits per cookie
1.8
Avg time on site
10:50
9 University of Leeds -
Stats for Leeds
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
580K
Unique visitors (users)
390K
Page views
15M
Total visits
1.5M
Avg visits per cookie
2.5
Avg time on site
11:40
10 University of Liverpool -
Stats for Liverpool
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
350K
Unique visitors (users)
240K
Reach
0.0%
Page views
8.9M
Total visits
1.1M
Avg visits per cookie
3
Avg time on site
11:50
11 LSE -
Stats for LSE
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
470K
Unique visitors (users)
350K
Page views
5.6M
Total visits
860K
Avg visits per cookie
1.8
Avg time on site
9:40
12 University of Manchester -
Stats for Manchester
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
610K
Unique visitors (users)
430K
Page views
14M
Total visits
1.6M
Avg visits per cookie
2.6
Avg time on site
11:40
13 Newcastle University -
Stats for Newcastle
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
390K
Unique visitors (users)
260K
Page views
6.2M
Total visits
1M
Avg visits per cookie
2.6
Avg time on site
9:50
14 University of Nottingham -
Stats for Nottingham
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
470K
Unique visitors (users)
320K
Page views
13M
Total visits
1.4M
Avg visits per cookie
3.1
Avg time on site
13:00
15 University of Oxford -
Stats for Oxford
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
1.5M
Unique visitors (users)
1.1M
Page views
21M
Total visits
2.7M
Avg visits per cookie
1.9
Avg time on site
9:50
16 Queen’s University Belfast -
Stats for Queen’s University Belfast
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
220K
Unique visitors (users)
140K
Page views
6.7M
Total visits
770K
Avg visits per cookie
3.5
Avg time on site
13:00
17 University of Sheffield -
Stats for Sheffield
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
470K
Unique visitors (users)
320K
Reach
0.0%
Page views
7.4M
Total visits
1.1M
Avg visits per cookie
2.3
Avg time on site
8:00
18 University of Southampton -
Stats for Southampton
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
430K
Unique visitors (users)
290K
Reach
0.0%
Page views
6.6M
Total visits
910K
Avg visits per cookie
2.1
Avg time on site
8:50
19 University College London -
Stats for University College London
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
830K
Unique visitors (users)
560K
Page views
9.9M
Total visits
1.6M
Avg visits per cookie
1.9
Avg time on site
8:40
20 University of Warwick -
Stats for Warwick
 
Unique visitors (estimated cookies)
430K
Unique visitors (users)
320K
Page views
6.8M
Total visits
980K
Avg visits per cookie
2.3
Avg time on site
7:50

It should be noted that, as described on an Ad Planner help pageinformation from a variety of sources including anonymized, aggregated Google Toolbar data from users who have opted in to enhanced features, publisher opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in external consumer panel data, and other third-party market research“.

Using Google Trends To Make Comparisons

In order to see if the findings were reproducible using other tools the Google Trends service was also used. The findings are depicted below, with trends since late 2008 being shown in groups of five institutions.

Trends across Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Edinburgh and Southampton

Trends across Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Imperial College

Trends across KCL, Leeds, Liverpool, LSE and Manchester

Trends across Newcastle, Nottingham, Queen’s University Belfast, Sheffield and Warwick

It can be seen from these comparisons that similar trends are taking place across all twenty Russell Group Universities, with the possible exception of Warwick University, which did not see a drop in usage in 2009, although after this its usage patterns followed that of the other institutions.

It should be noted that the Google Trends site does give the warning that  “several approximations are used when computing these results” and gives the warning that “All traffic statistics are estimates“. The site goes on to add that “The data Trends produces may contain inaccuracies for a number of reasons, including data-sampling issues and a variety of approximations that are used to compute results” and gives the warning that “you probably wouldn’t want to write your Ph.D. dissertation based on the information provided by Trends“!  So perhaps it would be inappropriate to make policy decisions based on this data. But if no addition data is available, how else can be make evidence-based policy decisions?  And as described in a post on “University Web Sites Cost Money!” we know that the Daily Telegraph has a record of publishing an article entitled “Universities spending millions on websites which students rate as inadequate“ based on flawed interpretation of statistics gathered using Freedom of Information requests.  Unless and until universities are willing to openly publish Web site usage statistics we need to be prepared to accept that alternative metrics may well be used.

University adoption of social mediaSummary

Whilst the evidence is suggesting that we are seeing a slight decrease in the amount of traffic to institutional Web sites for Russell Group Universities, there is additional evidence which suggests that the same group of twenty UK Universities are seeing increased activity across the institutions’ Facebook sites.

As summarised in a recent post entitled Is It Time To Ditch Facebook, When There’s Half a Million Fans Across Russell Group Universities?   “in a period of nine months we have seen an increase in the number of ‘likes’ for the twenty UK Russell Group Universities of over 274,000 users or almost 100% with the largest increase, of over 155,000 occurring at the University of Oxford“. The post goes on to describe how are “seeing a huge increase in the number of Facebook ‘likes’ with all of the institutions seeing a growth of between 33% and 345%“.

The findings from the declining usage of institutional Web sites could be used to question the importance of those working in institutional Web teams. However the evidence from Facebook suggests that certain services initially provided on institutional Web sites seem to have migrated to popular social web services – and clearly there will be a need to manage the content and interactions with potential students wherever such interactions take place. For example a couple of day ago a post on Mashable described 7 Ways Universities Are Using Facebook as a Marketing Tool which included providing virtual tours; demonstrating pride in the institution; marketing ‘shwag‘; supporting alumni activities; sharing departmental; content; reaching out to potential students and exploiting geo-location services – all activities which will require institutional support.

The importance of social web across higher education has also been identified in an infograph which was launched in August 2011 in a post entitled “How colleges and universities have embraced social media” on the US-based Schools.com service (and embedded in this post).

This article suggests that the US higher education system seemed initially reluctant to embrace social media:

Universities are often at the forefront of intellectual thought, but they have been known to lag behind the rest of society when it comes to learning and adopting new technologies. Such has certainly been the case with social media technologies. In fact, so reluctant were universities to adopt social media on campus that in 2007, only about half of colleges reported social media usage.

but have recently recognised the benefits which can be gained:

According to a recent report from the University of Massachusetts, however, colleges have finally caught on; in 2011, 100% of universities are using at least one form of social media–and they are reporting that it’s now an important and successful piece of their outreach efforts. Check out the below infographic to learn more about how colleges have been slowly going social.

The Mashable blog is in agreement with these views of the current importance of social media to US Universities. A post entitled 6 Best Practices for Universities Embracing Social Media suggests that:

For universities, deciding to use social media is a no-brainer. The 18- to 24-year-old college student demographic is all over the social web, and its younger counterpart (the high school crowd) is equally immersed.

and goes on to describe how:

Already, many schools have leveraged social media in a big way. In fact, a recent study showed that an astounding 100% of universities have a social media presence. From luring in potential new students with admissions blogs and creative use of location-based services like SCVNGR, to keeping alumni engaged via dynamic, content-rich Facebook and Ning communities, to informing students about campus offerings through Twitter feeds and YouTube videos, it’s clear that universities recognize the importance of social media.

But in addition to the popularity of Social Web sites, another possible reason for the lack of growth in usage of institutional Web site may be a consequence of the difficulties in navigating such sites on mobile devices. In the US a Read/Write Web article informs use that “7% of U.S. [is] Web Traffic From Handheld Devices“. How many institutional Web sites provide easy-to-use interfaces on mobile devices, I wonder?

Implications

There is a danger that the evidence of decline in traffic to institutional Web sites could be used to justify cuts in levels of funding for institutional Web teams.  However additional evidence suggests that users may be simply making use of alternative sources of information and interactions or may be using mobile devices which may provide cumbersome experiences when accessing sites which have not been configured to provide optimal interfaces when using small screens, no mouse interface and other characteristics of mobile devices.

I think it would therefore be a mistake to argue that there is a decrease in interest in or relevance of online services which may initially have been provided on institutional Web sites. Rather I feel we are seeing a move towards a variety of cloud-based services.  The high-profile services may include Facebook together with social media sharing services such as YouTube and iTunes (for which usage across Russell Group universities has been documented in posts on How is the UK HE Sector Using YouTube? and What are UK Universities doing with iTunes U?). But in addition we are also seeing policy and funding decisions being made by funding bodies such as HEFCE which will see a move towards cloud-based services which will be more closely-aligned with the requirements of the UK’s higher education sector, with the migration of the Jorum service from a project to a service role providing a good example of how key online services traditional hosted within the institutional may be more cost-effective if hosted externally but developed with the needs on institutions in mind.

How should the evidence, such as the examples I’ve listed in this post, be used to inform institutional policies, I wonder? And might there be a need to make changes to existing Web team structures, if responsibilities for managing institutional Web sites are separate from managing content and interactions hosted outside the institution?

Posted in Evidence, IWMC | 15 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 »

New Opportunities for the Institutional Web Management Community

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 July 2011

IWMW 2011: Responding to Change

Warm weather at IWMW11 so one parallel session took place outside

The IWMW 2011 event, the fifteenth in this annual series of event aimed at members of institutional Web teams, took place at the University of Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday, 26-27 July.  At the IWMW 2010 event the theme was “The Web in Turbulent Times” and we addressed the implications of the financial crisis and the expected changes in funding for higher education for those working in the sector and in institutional Web teams in particular.  This year’s theme was “Responding to Change“: we acknowledged that we were living in radically changed environment and needed to be able to respond to such changes rather than wishing for a return to the past.

One aspect of how the sector could respond to changes which was addressed at the event was to help gain a better shared understanding of the institutional Web management Community of Practice, which I described in a recent post.

According to Wikipedia a Community of Practice (CoP) is:

a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and / or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally.

CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.

The institutional Web management CoP has both an online presence (through mailing lists such as the web-support and website-info-mgt JISCMail lists) as well as a real world presence through, for example, the annual IWMW event.  But at the event we sought answers to a number of questions:

  • Is there still a need for a institutional Web management CoP – after all there isn’t (although I could be proven wrong!) a whiteboard CoP? This question was touched on at last year’s event when Susan Farrell asked “Are web managers still needed when everyone is a web ‘expert’?“.
  • How will political and funding changes to the sector affect the  institutional Web management CoP? Might we find that a more competitive environment and the moves towards the provision of privatised higher education providers result in a community which is much less willing to share, help, advise and support one’s peers?
  • Is there a need to revisit the online tools which can help to support the community, especially in light of the significant decline in use of the JISCMail lists within the sector?
In her plenary talk in the opening session at IWMW 2011 Amber Thomas of the JISC spoke about  Marketing and Other Dirty Words.  Amber suggest that there is now a need for those involved in the development and support of online services to go beyond their comfort zone (which revolves around concepts such as “open access“, “academic autonomy“, “public good” and “language of values“) and engage with the dirty words of  “impact“, “brand“, “metrics“, “marketing” and “language of the market“.  Amber argued that the need to move beyond one’s comfort zone would also be the  case for other grouping within institutions, including researchers, teaching and and learning staff, marketing people, community outreach and engagement people, etc.  Many people within the institution will be looking to those with IT and online skills (including expertise beyond use of services hosted in the institution) for advice and support. There should also be opportunities for those working in institutional Web management teams to demonstrate their value to core institutional services.  After the doom and gloom  which we saw in the opening session of last year’s event it was good to see that this year’s event began with such optimism. But how might institutional Web teams engage with this new environment, especially when there are existing services will still need to be provided with, in some cases, downsizing of Web teams having already taken place or restructuring process being in place?

The Web Management Community: Beyond IWMW and JISCMail Lists

These issues were addressed in a session I facilitated entitled The Web Management Community: Beyond IWMW and JISCMail Lists.  It seems there was a strong feeling that the benefits of being a member of a community which existed in the early days of the Web (getting help and advice; sharing concerns; learning from others; etc.) were still feel to be beneficial – there clearly isn’t a feeling that the provision of institutional Web services is now a mature technology with little to be learnt from others.  There was a minority view that the greater competition across the sector would result in a reluctance to share success stories – however others felt that the competition would take places in other areas, with a feeling that we would continue to see sharing of best practices for providing the online infrastructure which is now so important across the sector.

LinkedIn

Although there may have been some disagreements on the extent of collaboration and sharing there was agreement that there is a need to explore online tools which can be used to support community activities which are aligned to personal (and institutional) needs.  In discussing various online tools which may have a role to play we discovered that most people in the session have a LinkedIn profile. But in addition to LinkedIn’s use for hosting CVs (and concerns over uncertainties regarding jobs seemed to be a reason for joining LinkedIn)  the services also hosted many online groups which can support professional activities.  I pointed out a number of existing Web-related groups such as the Web 2.0 for Higher Education group.  However such existing groups will tend to have a US focus and topics of particular interest to our community (such as UK cookie legislation, Web accessibility and BS 8879 and the requirement of UK HEIs to provide KIS data) would have little or no meaning to existing US members.  Should, therefore, we set up a UK-focusssed LinkedIn group?

That question was answered not by making a recommendation that we set up a working group to evaluate the potential of LinkedIn to the sector. Instead Stephen Ashurst, Senior Multimedia Designer at Loughborough University, simply created the UK HE Web Professionals group. As can be seen there are now 26 members. There are also some additional benefits which this service provides which are not available in JISCMail lists such as the improved user interface, display of connections, etc. Whether this group becomes sustainable and provides a useful service for the community remains to be seen, but I personally do appreciate this grassroots initiative from someone who is using LinkedIn groups to support activities in other areas.

Twitter

Following on from discussions about LinkedIn the group went on to discuss the role of Twitter.  Some people in the session regard Twitter as part of the portfolio of  tools they use to support their community engagement whilst others admitted (in response to my leading question) to not ‘getting’ Twitter. There is an action on people to write a post on the relevance of Twitter to the sceptic which I will publish shortly.  In the meantime I have created a Twitter list for the institutional Web management community called iwmc. I will be happy to add anyone who regards themselves as part of the institutional Web management community (which will include those who have attended IWMW events, are members of relevant JISCMai lists or have general involvement in managing institutional Web services in a UK University or related service) to this list. The simplest way to be added will be to publish a tweet with the hashtag #iwmc. I’ll search for such tweets and add people to this list – and will include in my blog post details of the potential benefits of such Twitter lists.

Google+

Inevitably there was also interest in the potential of Google+ to support the Web management community of practice.

It seems that I am not alone in being both very interested in the potential of Google’s latest development in the social Web sphere whilst also being uncertain as to whether it will be a success (unlike Google Wave and Google Buzz) and, if so, how it can be used.

There was a feeling that Web managers could regard the release of Google+ and the undoubted interest it has generated as an opportunity for hands-on evaluation in order to be able to be seen as an authoritative source within the local institution for the various grouping who are likely to be interested in making use of Google+.

It seems many of us are grouping our Google+ contacts into friends/family and professional.  I, too, have Friends and Families Circles and have also created Circles for JISC and UKOLN contacts, Gurus (typically US experts who will have large numbers of followers), Overseas contacts (will this morph into a non-English language Circle, I wonder) and an initial subject-based circle for those who have a strong interest in accessibility interests.   I have also created a Circle for those who I regard as part of an institutional Web management community. Currently there are only non people in this Circle, but I will be looking to include more in order to see if it can provide ways of both managing this network in ways which can’t be done easily using Twitter as well as providing richer functionality.

This morning I came across a link to a post on Google+ Implications for University Recruitment which described how organisational profile in Google+ “should be back in the next few months (with analytics), and universities need to be ready this time (compared to most campus’ delayed foray into other popular social media)“. Let’s use this opportunity to gain expertise in Google+ so that we are prepared to advertise not only those involved in student recruitment but also in research and development activities, for example. We have an opportunity demonstrate that the advantages of centralisation which the government are proposing can be achieved by collaborative working across the sector.

New (and Renewed) Approaches to Collaborations

The concluding session at IWMW 2011 provided an opportunity to highlight some of UKOLN’s activities for the sector and also to hear examples of how the sector has been working collaboratively and plans for renewed areas of work.

Institutional Web Team Blog Aggregator

UKOLN’s Institutional Web Team Blog Aggregator was formally launched in this session. This Drupal-based service harvests blogs provided by institutional Web teams (or by individuals who working institutional Web teams) based on a list of such blogs originally gathered by Mike Nolan of Edge Hill University (unfortunately when we used this list we failed to include the Edge Hill Web Service blog itself, so apologies to Mike and his team for having failed to harvest his team’s posts). We have now added the Edge Hill Web Services blog to our list.

We will shortly be looking to set up a small group which can advise on future developments to this service (policies on blogs to be harvested; categories to be auto-classified; developments to the UI: etc.).  If you wish to submit your blog for inclusion in the blog aggregator,  a submission form is available from the blog’s home page, as illustrated.

Semantic Web Demonstrator

Two of the blogs included in the blog aggregator are written by IWMW stalwarts who joined in the final session.  Chris Gutteridge made a compelling case for embracing open semantic data not by talking about the underling technologies but in providing a live demonstration of a couple of services has has deployed at the University of Southampton. Chris showed how the catering manager is now a content provider on the Semantic Web by simply updating details of food available at various outlets on campus using a simple Google spreadsheet. Whereas the backend processing of this data (XLST transformations, RDF triples, etc.) may be of interest to developers, the main stakeholders (the content providers in the Catering Service and the student who wishes to see a campus map of the cheapest place to buy a bar of Kit Kat on campus) simply see a compelling user service.  I think Chris providing a great way of promoting the benefits of the Semantic Web – by showing tangible benefits to the end user (why didn’t we thing of that approach before!)

Incidentally Chris mentioned that he had been inspired to set up a Web team blog after attending an IWMW event a few years ago and hearing, from Mike Nolan, I think, of the benefits to be gained from blogging. The University of Southampton ECS Web Team blog is currently the main  provider of posts related to Semantic Web and Linked Data developments. I’m really pleased that the ECS Web team is willing to share its expertise in this areas. I suspect that Chris and his colleagues will be looking forward to reading posts form other institutions who may be deployed Linked Data services – and with the blog aggegrator’s auto-categorisation feature and RSS export capability people with a n interest in this area will be able to subscribe to the Linked Data and Semantic Web channel.

Community Activities

Just before the IWMW 2011 took place Claire Gibbons, manager of the Web Team and Marketing Team published her first blog post of the year. As she described in the post she left IWMW 2010 “all refreshed and guns ablazing for blogging“. However she shortly afterwards acquired responsibility for managing the Marketing Team in addition to the Web Team and pressure of work meant she was unable to find the time to blog. And yet in her post Claire managed to summarise recent activities of the Web team and outline new areas of work her teams will be addressing in the near future.  This is valuable content – and if all 168 participants at IWMW 2011 had written a page each since last year we would have a valuable community resource which services such as the blog aggegrator could provide access to.  A page a year is clearly achievable.  Might it be possible for all attendees to write a page a month, I wonder?  That would provide over 2,000 items which could cover what Web teams have achieved and developments which are being planned.  As with many social networking services, the blog aggregator will improve as the numbers of contributor grow.  Let’s hope Claire’s post inspires others to  blog, even if infrequently.

In her post Claire described how:

There must be many activities that we are all doing, usually the boring stuff, whereby sharing ideas and resources would benefit us all. Two things spring to mind – the social media policy and the recent review to Privacy Policies that the cookies law brought about.

Claire repeated this in the closing session and invited others who have interests in these two areas to get in touch with her.  I’m looking forward to seeing how such grass-roots plans for collaboration develop.

Scottish Web Folk Regional Group

Duncan Ireland, University of Strathclyde, described how he, too, had been inspired to do something differently after attending his first IWMW event. In his case there was a realisation that there need to be more than an annual event which led to the establishment of the Scottish Web Folk Group, which has a JISCMail list and a regular meeting.  This could provide a framework for use by other regional activities – and Duncan argued that distance shouldn’t be a barrier since Web team members from the University of Aberdeen, for example, are will to spend four hours travelling since they feel there are tangible benefits to be gained from meeting with one’s peers.

IWMW 2012

The IWMW concluded by discussing next year’s event.  We can no longer automatically assume that activities which are highly regarded will necessarily continue. However we were able to report that an IWMW 2012 event has been included in our work proposals for next year and we feel that we have gathered evidence of the value and impact of the event and its importance in supporting JISC’s activities and interests.

We will shortly be starting discussions for a venue for next year’s event.  In addition we are aware that many people felt that two days were too short to ensure effective networking takes place. A show of hands in the final session made it clear that a majority would prefer a return to the three day format we have used for every year apart from the first event.  We will shortly be analysing the evaluation forms in order to gather a more complete picture which will help us to inform our planning for next year.

To conclude, I feel we can say that there is an institutional Web management community which is willing to engage and collaborate. As I said in the title of this post, there are “New Opportunities for the Institutional Web Management Community” :-)

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IWMW 2007 – Call for Proposals

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 January 2007

My colleague Marieke Guy has announced the call for proposals for talks, workshop sessions and other suggestions for this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2007) which will be held at the University of York on 16-18th July.

I established the IWMW series of workshops back in 1997 and last year, when Marieke took over responsibility as the workshop chair, it celebrated its 10th anniversary. Last year workshop was successful in attracting the largest ever audience (with almost 200 participants) and, judging by the workshop evaluation, probably the most successful event.

The theme for this year’s event is “Next steps for the Web management community”. The event will explore how we can build on the successes of the first ten years of the institutional Web management community. An innovation that has been introduced this year is the call for proposals for working group session based on collaborative working in areas of interest to the Web management community which may have started prior to the workshop or for which the event aims to provide a starting point for collaborative working which will continue afterwards.

Proposals for talks, workshop and working group sessions should be sent to Marieke by 26th February.

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Reflections On 2006 – IWMW 2006

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 December 2006

This year the tenth in the series of UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshops was held here at the University of Bath. This was also the year in which I stepped down as chair of the Programme Committee and handed responsibility to my colleague Marieke Guy. The event, which took place on 14-16 June 2006 was also the largest we’ve held and, judging by the comments and scores on the evaluation forms, the best ever! Read the rest of this entry »

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Reflections on 2006 – Events

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 December 2006

This, my tenth year at UKOLN, has been the busiest year ever for giving presentations, with a total of 42 presentations given at conferences, seminars and workshops – I was invited to give another talk recently, but, like all fans of Douglas Adams, I knew when it was a good time to stop :-). Read the rest of this entry »

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IWMC

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 December 2006

UKOLN has hosted the Institutional Web Management Workshop every year since 1997, with this year’s event being the tenth in the series.

At the workshop a number of participants commented that they felt themselves to be a member of the Institutional Web management community, with the event providing the main focal point for the community, with the web-support and website-info-mgt JISCMail lists providing additional mechanisms for community sharing and collaboration.

The IWMW 2006 event highlighted the importance of Web 2.0 to the community. Since the workshop a range of presentations and events have been held throughout the country. And on 1 November 29006 2006 (my tenth anniversary at UKOLN) this Blog was set up. The Blog has not been announced on mailing list in order to gain experience in Blogging and the time and effort needed to Blog in a sustainable fashion. However it is now timely for an official launch of the Blog, which has been announced on the web-support JISCMail list.

The Blog will cover areas related to the Web, especially areas of interest to our key communities (the higher and further education and cultural heritage sectors, the digital library development and research communities and the institutional Web management community).

In order to support the institutional Web management community, a well-established and thriving community of practice, posts on this Blog which are likely to be of interest to the community will be tagged with the ‘IWMC’ tag.

I would encourage members of the community who are setting up Blogs with similar roles to use the same tag, to help in finding and sharing posts.

I would also invite Bloggers from the IWMC community to contact me (using email or by commenting on this posting) with details of their Blog.

Posted in IWMC | 4 Comments »

Christmas Quiz II

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 December 2006

Another quiz for Christmas.

The current version of HTML is XHTML 1.1. What is the next version likely to be:

XHTML 1.2 XHTML 2 HTML 5

Feel free to add your comments.

Posted in IWMC, standards | 4 Comments »

Christmas Quiz

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 December 2006

A quiz for Christmas.

Which of the following are open standards:

Flash     PDF     RSS 1.0     RSS 2.0     MS Word

As a follow-up, give reasons why the opposite of what you said may be true.

Please use the comments box for your thoughts.

Posted in General, IWMC, standards | 11 Comments »

Cool FireFox Extensions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 December 2006

I recently gave a talk on “Web 2.0: Implications For The Publisher” at a meeting organised by ALPSP. A fellow speaker was Terry Hulbert of IOPP. During lunch Terry and I discussed how we both enjoy seeing slides and demonstrations from fellow speakers who are advanced users of FireFox, as this can provide an opportunity to learn about cool new FireFox extensions. Terry noticed two of my extensions that he’d not come across. A few days after the meeting I received an email from Terry saying:

Downloaded the Blogger Web Comments and RSS Panel Firefox plug-ins – they rock !”

Terry’s right – these are my favourite FireFox extensions. They are illustrated below.

FireFox screen shot, showing RSS Panel and Google Blog Comments tools.

The RSS Panel Greasemonkey script (on the left) appears if a Web page contains an (autodiscovery) link to an RSS page. Initially it appears as a floating window simply containing the title of the RSS feed. On opening the window access to all of the RSS links is available, as illustrated.

The Google Web Comments extension provides an interface to Google’s Blog Search service. If a blog entry has links to a page you are viewing (or pages below it) an indication of this is displayed in the bottom right hand corner of the browser status bar. Clicking on the icon results in the title of the posting appearing, as illustrated. It was using the tools that I came across David Rothman’s comments about a recent talk of mine.

The FireFox extension that Terry uses which I hadn’t come across was
Colorful Tabs – which I must get round to installing.

You’ve now heard about our cool FireFox extensions – what are yours?

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Star Gazing Conference 2006

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 November 2006

How should an institution seek to address deployment strategies for Web 2.0? One approach would be to hold a high-profile event, with talks from some of the early adopters of Web 2.0 technologies and senior managers in the institution, external speakers to provide insights from outsiders (who will have a disinterested view of local power struggles and political intrigue!) and, if you are feeling brave, perhaps including views from the student contingent. And as well as talking about Web 2.0 technologies, you might even seek to embed the technologies in the event, with remote participants, chat facilities and perhaps even a Podcast.

Sounds good, but difficult to achieve in practice? This is what the University of Edinburgh did recently, with myself as one of the external speakers. Read on for my thoughts on an excellent event, which I would encourage other institutions to emulate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reporting back from discussion groups

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 November 2006

Over the past two years at venues with WiFi networks I’ve tried to make use of Wikis to support note-taking in discussion groups. This means that the discussions and recommendations can be disseminated across all participants and with the wider community – no need for the participants to frantically scribble down notes, or for my to take home flip charts, knowing that I’ll never get around to freeing the notes from the non-interoperable real world and transferring them to a digital environment.

However the feedback from several events shows that the final report back session seldom seems to work. The criticism seems to have been applied to last year’s CETIS conference, as this year the required the workshop session facilitators to sum up the discussion groups deliberations in one sentence or a single image, cartoon or equivalent.

This seemed to work well – and the notes are always available for browsing on the conference Wiki. I’ve suggested to my colleague Marieke Guy that we take a similar approach at IWMW 2007. Anyone reading this posting who plans on attending next year’s institutional Web management might like to give some thoughts on ways of summarising discussions in an informative, amusing or innovative way (a poem, a lyric, a movie tie-in, a mash-up, a video clip, …). Who knows, we may even provide a prize.

Posted in Events, IWMC, Wikis | 1 Comment »

Risk Assessment For Use Of Third Party Web 2.0 Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 November 2006

This posting contains the content of the “Risk Assessment For Use Of Third Party Web 2.0 Services” QA Focus briefing document. It has been posted here in order to explore the use of a Blog to receive feedback on a document, as described in my previous posting on “Blogs – Suitable For Reports“.

The briefing document was the initial attempt at providing advice for organisations considering making use of third party Web sites. I’d like to build on this initial work, so comments on the advice, suggestions on other approaches and details of any experiences people have had working in this area would be welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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Slideshare.net – a repository for slides

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 November 2006

I’ve recently been evaluating the Slideshare service. Andy Powell has recently commented on Slideshare, pointing out its ease-of-use, community-based approach and trusting the users (in contrast with digital repository services developed in the UK). Andy’s comments have been picked up by Stephen Downes, who has added some of his slides to Slideshare.

I’ve also been uploading a number of my slides. I’ve also embedded some of the slides into pages on my Web site (as has Lorcan Dempsey, another of my former colleagues).

So what are the benefits of this? Is it just the latest Web 2.0 fad, or does it have the provide to provide real benefits?

As an prolific PowerPoint presenter (having given about 250 presentations in my ten years at UKOLN) I am very interested in exploring if it do anything useful for me. My thoughts so far (after a couple of weeks of using Slideshare):

  • It’s good for finding slides on the same topic as yours. It can help my find new & interesting stuff – but I can also find myself sometimes surprised by the simple approach by companies from whom I’d expect a more sophisticated understanding (NOTE after pointing out the flaws in this presentation, I subsequently discovered that the presentation had been removed – BK, 28022007). To be fair, though, in this case I don’t have the context of how this slide was used or the target audience.
  • The comments feature seems to have real potential. I’ve already started to receive a few comments, and I’ve notice how this feature can also be used as a teaching aid.
  • It’s good to get greater exposure to my slides. As Paul Miller has said, get the data out to where the users are; don’t wait for the users to come to you.
  • The statistics feature is also useful.
  • As I described recently Slideshare can be used to quickly upload slides for use on-the-fly at events (in my case, when chairing a session at a Wiki workshop I had 2 minutes before the start of a talk to upload the speaker’s slides, to enable a remote user to view the slides while listening to the speaker over Skype. No time for FTPing and VPNing – but no problem in clicking the upload button and stating the URL when my introduction to the speaker was over).

As mentioned, I have also embedded the slides on pages on my Web site. I’m not convinced that I’ll want to do this on a regular basis, but it does demonstrate the potential – and perhaps those who may have reservations about being seen to make use of a third party service might appreciate this feature.

Perhaps the most important benefit of services such as Slideshare for those involved in Web development work is to gain a better understanding of the positive (and negative) aspects of such services, and to feed this into local development work. So I’d recommend use of Slideshare by anyone involved in developing institutional repositories – if you are going to develop similar services in-house, you’ll need to be able to compete with such services, otherwise you may find your users have no interest i using your service.

Anyone else using Slideshare – or have any thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses?

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