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Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 July 2014

Two International Conferences: SAOIM 2014 and ELAG 2014

Let's predict the future In June I gave talks and facilitated workshop sessions at two international conferences: SAOIM 2014, the 12th Biennial Southern African Online Information Meeting which was held in Pretoria on 3-6 June and ELAG 2014, the annual European Library Automation Group Conference which was held at the University of Bath on 10-13 June.

Predicting and Planning for the Future

The theme of the SAOIM 2014 conference was “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?“. This theme reflected my participation at the two events: at the SAOIM conference I gave a plenary talk on “Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future” and facilitated a half-day workshop on “Let’s Predict the Future!” and at the ELAG conference I facilitated a workshop on “Preparing For The Future” which was split into two 90 minute sessions held on two days.

The sessions were based on my involvement in the Jisc Observatory and the papers on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” and “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” which summarised the approaches developed by Cetis and UKOLN. Following the cessation of Jisc funding for this work the methodology is being shared with organisations who wish to make use of systematic approaches to help detect technological developments of importance to organisational planning processes.

The workshop has been refined since it was delivered at the ILI 2013 conference last October, at a staff development session at the University of York in July 2013 and at the UKSG 2013 conference in April 2013. In the updated version of the workshop once ‘Delphi’ processes for identifying technological developments have been used workshop participants then make use of an ‘action brief statement’ and a risk and opportunities framework for proposing ways in which the organisation may wish to further investigate the technological developments which have been identified. The action brief statement was developed by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones for the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the risk and opportunities framework was first described in a paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and subsequently further developed to address legal risks in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“.

Reflections on SAOIM 2014

The SAOIM conference theme of “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?” was addressed by invited plenary talks and workshop sessions delivered by myself and Joe Murphy (@libraryfuture), Director of Library Futures and librarian and technology trend analyst at Innovative Interfaces. Joe gave the opening keynote talk at the conference on “Technical Analysis & Inspiration Points for Library Futures” and facilitated a workshop session on “Directions and destinations“.

Our sessions complemented each other nicely, with Joe providing exercises in getting the 60+ libraries attended his half-day workshop session to be willing to consider the implications of technological developments, including developments such as the jet pack! Although Joe was not proposing this as a likely development, it provided a useful means of getting the participants to think beyond the current technical environment.

In my session I asked the 60+ workshop participants to work in groups to identify technological developments which they feel will be important in the short term and medium term. A Google Doc containing a summary of their conclusions is available. In the workshop I then went on to provide a methodology for making a business case fro investigating the technological developments further.

Other Sessions at SAOIM 2014

"Consent that must be obtained"The programme for the SAOIM 2014 conference is available (in PDF format) and many of the slides are also available. The talk which I found of particular interest was on Online Privacy and Data Protection (see slides in MS Powerpint format).

It seems that South Africa will shortly be introducing a Protection Of Personal Information (PPI and also known as POPI) Bill which is based on the privacy requirements which EU countries have enshrined in legislation. The bill is based on eight main principles. Of particular interest was the slide which described consent which must be obtained:

žConsent that must be obtained

Before the data controller will be entitled to collect, use or process any personal information, it must obtain the prior written consent from the data subject to do so

  • Consent requirement = key feature of PPI Bill
  • Without consent no data that might have been collected may be used in any manner
  • Unlawful usage can result in huge fines & possibility of imprisonment

Although such legal requirements may not seem unreasonable the speaker went on to provide examples of the implications of the legislation:

  • You wish to provide a personalised recommendation service based on books library patrons have borrowed. You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!
  • You wish to send an email to a library patron whose books are overdue and is accruing fines.  You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!

Based on the interpretation of the law provided by the speaker it would appear that the legislation could make it difficult for services such as academic libraries to carry out existing services and develop new services unless, perhaps, they update their terms and conditions to allow them to make use of personal data. In light of the uncertainties of the implications and how organisations should respond there may well be new consultancy opportunities for the South African legal profession!

I found this session of particular interest as it highlighted potential legal barriers to the development of useful services for users and the need to understand ways in which such barriers can be addressed, whether in ensuring that terms and conditions provide sufficient flexibility to cater for a changing legal environment or, alternatively, for organisations to be willing to take risks. In the case of the PPI legislation since the person who feels their personal information is being used without their consent has to make a complaint to the appropriate authorities it seems to me that the student will the overdue books who receives a reminder will be unlikely to make a complain that they haven’t given explicit permission to receive such alerts!

Next Steps in Supporting Organisations in Predicting and Planning for the Future

The feedback from the two workshops was very positive. In light of this we will be looking to include further workshops as part of the Cetis consultancy offering. If you have an interest in this please get in touch.

 

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Forecasting Long Term Future Events, Conditions and Developments in Technology

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 December 2013

The Jisc has recently announced a job vacancy for a Futurologist. The details provided on the Jisc web site are worth publishing in full:

This role will forecast long term future events, conditions, or developments in technology and analytics that will allow Jisc to plan, present and develop innovation in support of research, education and skills.

They will develop a vision and generate high-quality intelligence to inform Jisc long-range strategic planning that creates/meets the needs of our customers and their customers.

The prime purpose is to track developments across the whole field of technology, analytics and society as they come over the horizon, figuring out where it is all going next, and how that will affect our customers.

Another crucial aspect will be to carry out blue sky thinking and develop an understanding of how macro trends impact technological evolution through a demonstrated ability to data mine socioeconomic, technological, geopolitical and cultural trends for meaningful insights. It necessitates the collaboration with horizon scanning and research and development organisations that are looking to create and set trends in digital management, for example (but not limited to) commercial organisations, sector thought leaders (such as Educause and CNI), research funders including the European Commission and the US National Science Foundation, and independent organisations such as the Mellon and Wellcome Foundations.

Jisc Observatory paperThis is of interest to me as it builds on the Jisc Observatory work which was led  by Cetis and UKOLN. Although the Jisc Observatory was closed following the cessation of Jisc funding for Cetis and UKOLN, we did ensure that the methodology used by the team was documented so that the approaches could be used by others within the sector. A paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” by myself and Paul Hollins (available in MS Word and PDF formats) which described Jisc Observatory activities was presented at the Umbrella 2013 conference.

The abstract for the paper describes how:

The paper outlines how the processes can be applied in a local context to ensure that institutions are able to gather evidence in a systematic way and understand and address the limitations of evidence-gathering processes. The paper describes use of open processes for interpreting the evidence and suggests possible implications of the horizon-scanning activities for policy-making and informing operational practices.

The paper concludes by encouraging take-up of open approaches in gathering and interpretation of evidence used to inform policy-making in an institutional context. 

These open processes were used in a number of events organised by Cetis and UKOLN staff, including workshop sessions at the Cetis 2013 and IWMW 2012 events. In addition a workshop on Preparing For The Future: Helping Libraries Respond to Changing Technological, Economic and Political Change was provided at a staff development event for library staff at the University of York. More recently together with Tony Hirst I facilitated a day-long workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications at the ILI 2013 conference.

These events sought to engage participants in exercises in identifying emerging technologies and practices of relevance, prioritising their perceived importance and identifying appropriate responses to the implications of such innovations.

Whilst the Jisc Futurologist will be working with the European Commission, the US National Science Foundation and independent organisations such as the Mellon and Wellcome Foundations, it does seem to me that there will be a need for innovation planning at institutional and departmental levels, especially for those working in library, IT services, elearning and research support departments. I’d therefore be interested to hear from people who may be interested in hosting innovation sessions within their institution. As an example of the type of workshop which could be organised, the abstract for the workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications is given below.

Despite the uncertainties faced by librarians and information professionals, technology continues to develop at breakneck speed, offering many new opportunities for the sector. At the same time, technological developments can be distracting and may result in wasted time and effort (remember the excitement provided by Second Life?!).

This workshop session will help participants identify potentially relevant technological developments by learning about and making use of ‘Delphic’ processes. The workshop also provides insight into processes for spotting ‘weak signals’ which may indicate early use of technologies which could be important in the future.

But having identified potentially important technological developments, organisations need to decide how to respond. What will be the impact on existing technologies? What are the strategic implications and what are the implications for staff within the organisation?

The interactive workshop session will provide opportunities to address the challenges in understanding the implications of technological developments and making appropriate organisational interventions.

A report on the workshop is available. If this is of interest, please get in touch.


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What Have You Noticed Recently?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 October 2013

Techniques For Detecting Trends

Last week Tony Hirst and I facilitated a 1-day workshop at the ILI 2013 conferences which described approaches for detecting trends which could be used to help institutions exploit emerging technologies in a timely fashion, whilst minimising risks of investing significant resources in technologies, such as Second Life, which subsequently fail to live up to their hype.

Whilst I described methodologies which were used by UKOLN and CETIS in providing the JISC Observatory service Tony Hirst used a couple of techniques which were new to me. In particular I was impressed by the power of the seemingly simple question “What have you noticed recently?

What have you noticed recently?

This question was particularly useful at the workshop we facilitated as, as described in the report on the session, there were 21 participants from 11 countries and 6 continents: it can be particularly useful to observe differences when travelling, particularly if it leads to the question “Why don’t we do that?“, even more so if it results in decisions being made to implement the thing that you noticed.

I gave some thought to the question Tony posed during the workshop session and afterwards.  I think there may be a temptation to be competitive in responding to the question and try to suggest something particularly unusual which you feel others mightn’t suggest.  In my list I’ve therefore suggested a range of observations I’ve made recently. some of which may not be particularly innovative, but did catch my eye. In addition to describing the things I’ve observed I’ll also give some thoughts about the potential implications.

Getglue badgeBadges for gaming, social media, … I recently described by reaction on being awarded a number of badges for completing various activities on a MOOC. But I’ve now started to notice several other services which aware badges. A few weeks ago I noticed Michael Stephens’ Facebook page contained a badge he had received from GetGlue. I’ve not hear of this before. According to Wikipedia GetGlue is “a social networking website for television fans. Users “check into” the shows, movies and sports that they consume using a website, a mobile website, or a device-specific application“. The article goes on to inform us that

in January 2010, GetGlue reported 1.3 million check-ins. In January 2011, the service accumulated nearly 10 times that figure with 12.1 million check-ins and ratings. On February 27, 2011, GetGlue saw over 31,000 check-ins at the Oscars. In June 2011, the record for Most Check-Ins to a TV show was broken during the premiere of True Blood Season 4 on HBO. … During the 2013 Super Bowl, GetGlue had more than 200,000 check-ins and 400,000-plus total activities (likes, replies, votes, etc.). In addition, 15% of all Pepsi mentions on Twitter during the halftime show came from GetGlue.

A must-have app, clearly! And so I subscribed to the service and received my first badge, “Yeah, First Check-in” (as illustrated). My thoughts: being awarded badges for sitting in front of the TV? I’m sure my parents warned me of the dangers of that when I was young (“you’ll get square eyes!“)  Perhaps advocates of badges need to consider risks that they become perceived as rewarding unproductive behaviours. Or, if you gain many badges for watching TV programmes , playing social games and checking in to place you visit when you’re young, might you have become disillusioned with them when you arrive at university and are encouraged to spend time gaining badges for visiting the library and checking books out?

Digital activities in bed: At the Future Technologies workshop at ILI I asked the question “Who has made use of a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” The answer, it seems, are those from the UK and Scandinavia.  I first asked this question in March 2012 and, in a post entitled “Twitterers Do It In Bed!” described the responses I received when I asked this question on Twitter. Some of the responses I received are illustrated. I’ve repeated this question at a number of events since then and it seems that significant numbers of people at events I speak at do use mobile devices for work-related purposes. What are the implications? If you fail to provide tweets about your work, your papers, your ideas, you may miss out on an opportunity to engage with an audience.

WiFi on buses: First Bus company now provide free WiFi on their buses in Bath. As I no longer travel up and down the hill every day to Bath University I don’t know if the universities buses also have WiFi. But will we start to see significantly greater use being made of networked mobile devices on public transport, going beyond reading books on Kindles (or Kindle-like devices) and sending text messages?

Payments on my phone: A couple of weeks ago I receive an email from the Guardian with two weeks of vouchers for the Guardian and the Observer. For the first time I handed over my phone to the newsagent in order for the barcode on the coupon to be scanned. I wonder how soon it will be before I regularly use my phone for payments? I wonder about the trust issues of handing a phone to a shopkeepers (or will NFC be the killer app for mobile payments?) And how soon before we start read article highlights the privacy concerns over such payment mechanisms? After all I assume my voucher had been personalised so they will know who I am and where I shop.

Many thanks to Tony Hirst for suggesting this technique. Now over to you: what have you noticed recently?

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Update for September 2013

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 September 2013

Back in August in a post entitled Wanted For The ODI! I provided a response to a challenge to “use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research [ at the Open Data Institute], Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading“. Tom read this post and the follow-up posts on What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers?Supporting Open Data and Open Content and Wanted By The ODI: Conclusions and I was invited to submit a CV. I was then interview for the post of Community Engagement Manager at the Open Data Institute.  I enjoyed the interview (one of only two job interviews I had had in the past 17 years). However a week after the interview I received an email which informed me that “You have an impressive track record of grassroots initiatives and community building and are well grounded in the web scene with a healthy critical eye” but went on to say “However,  we are specifically looking for more emphasis on open data particularly outside of the HE sector so we ultimately have shortlisted candidates who have a greater breath and depth of experience in the areas we are looking for for this role“.

The comments were fair and so I’m continuing to look for new opportunities.

I’ve already described my participation in the LinkedUp project’s booksprint. In addition I have taken the opportunity to participate in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.  This is giving me the opportunity to gain experience of a MOOC as well as the subject area of the MOOC (how the social web can be used to transform libraries)  being of interest to me.

ILI 2013 workshop summaryThe future for libraries is very relevant to a workshop myself and Tony Hirst are facilitating at ILI 2013, the Internet Librarian International conference which will be held in London on 15-16 October.  The workshop on “Future Technologies and Their Applications” will take place on 14 October.  As suggested by the title, the workshop will address the impact of new technologies on the role of libraries and will explore ways of predicting new technologies and preparing for their impact. Clearly the social web is one technological area of relevance to libraries, and the MOOC is providing an opportunity to explore this area in more detail.

I’ve been using the blog provided for the MOOC participants to explore some of the darker aspects of the ‘hyperlinked library’ which Michael Stephens, one of the MOOC facilitators has described as:

an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations.

But does the vision for the hyperlinked library describe A Privatised Future?; will it focus on services for the self-motivated middle classes?; are we too over-confident in the assumptions hyperlinked library evangelists are making “because we’re right!“; are we helping to build a dystopian future? or will we find that in the future everyone’s A librarian! - so there’s no need for general purpose librarians?

Devils advocate badgeI’ve received a Devil’s Advocate badge for these posts (together, with, I suspect, my post on The Pros and Cons of MOOC Badges) for having “demonstrated a willingness and ability to challenge ideas and inspire fruitful out-of-the-box thinking“.

These posts addressed concerns which I have. or which, although they may not be of concern to me, do reflect legitimate concerns which others have.

I’d welcome feedback on these scenarios and the issues which I’ve described. And if you know of any work opportunities which can make the most of my strengths and expertise, please get in touch.

Posted in jiscobs, library2.0 | 2 Comments »

The Importance of a Data-driven Infrastructure

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 September 2012

The Importance of Data

This year has been a great year for sport, especially in London. But as well as the success of the London Olympics and the Paralympics we have also seen a growth in interest in data, which has gone beyond ‘data scientists’ and is now of mainstream interest.

We saw early examples of general interest in data when the MPs’ expenses scandal surfaced in the Daily Telegraph back in 2009. However the availability of the expenses data on the Guardian platform generated new life for this story and saw a widening of interest particularly amongst developers with an interest in politics. We saw an example of this in Tony Hirst’s series of posts in which, as summarised in a post on My Guardian OpenPlatform API’n’Data Hacks’n’Mashups Roundup, he provided a number of visualisations of expenses claims.

The MPs’ expenses story raised interest in data journalism – and it is interesting to note that the Data driven journalism entry in Wikipedia was created as recently as 4 October 2010 . However this year’s summer of sport seems to have generated interest in data from the general public, beyond those who read the broadsheets.

According to a post on the Twitter published on 10 August 2012 there were “more than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics over the past 16 days“. The popularity of Twitter during the Olympics Games provided much content which could be analysed (there were over 80,000 tweets per minute when Usain Bolt won the 100m). But beyond Twitter there was also interest in analysis of data associated with the athletes’ performance and their achievements, as recorded by the medals they won.

In the higher education sector there has been an awareness of the importance of analysis of data for some time. Back in December 2011 in a post on “My Predictions for 2012” highlighted the following as an area of increasing relevance for the sector:

Learning and Knowledge Analytics ….

The ubiquity of mobile devices coupled with greater use of social applications as part of a developing cultural of open practices will lead to an awareness of the importance of learning and knowledge analytics. Just as in the sporting arena we have seen huge developments in using analytic tools to understand and maximise sporting performances, we will see similar approaches being taken to understand and maximise intellectual performance, in both teaching and learning and research areas.

We have seen a number of examples of development work in the area of learning analytics taking place this year. As can be seen for this list, staff at CETIS have been active in sharing their thoughts on developments in the area of learning analytics. Of particular interest were Sheila MacNeill’s post in which she asked Learning Analytics, where do you stand? (which generated a lively discussion); Making Sense of “Analytics” (which linked to a document on “Making Sense of Analytics: a framework for thinking about analytics“); Sheila’s 5 things from LAK12 (in which she highlighted five areas that resonate with me over the 4 days of the LAK12 conference) and herself-explanatory list of Some useful resources around learning analytics .

The Importance of a Data-driven Infrastructure

But beyond the uses which can be made of data, there will also be a need for institutions to address the issue of how they manage such data. The approaches needed in Preparing for Data-driven Infrastructure have been summarised in a JISC Observatory TechWatch report of the same name.

The background to the report is the need for institutions to manage their data more effectively and provide greater transparency for institutional business processes, ranging from institutional data such as that being provided in Key Information Sets (KIS), the detailed reporting required for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) through to Learning Analytics as described above.

The report highlights approaches which institutions can take in responding to these strategic drivers, including the needs for greater transparency in business processes, in order to adopt a more data-centric approach. The report includes a description of data-centric architectures; an overview of tools and technologies including APIs, Linked Data and NoSQL together with a review of architectural approaches which institutions will need to consider.

The report, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence, was commissioned by the JISC Observatory team and written by Max Hammond, a consultant who has worked widely across the higher education and research sectors.

We welcome feedback on the report which can be provided on the JISC Observatory Web site.


Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] – [SocialMention] – [WhosTalkin]

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Who’s Using OpenStack or Amazon CDN? Ways of Detecting Early Indications of Uses of New Technologies

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 August 2012

Is OpenStack Cloud Computing Rocket Science? asked Mark Hinkle on the Socialized Software blog

On Monday 20 August 2012 I saw a tweet from Joss Winn which provided a link to a blog post about a survey  of OpenStack in academia. From the OpenStack Web site we find that “OpenStack is a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists producing the ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds“.

The launch of OpenStack in 2010 was accompanied by a certain amount of excitement in the blogosphere, with a post entitled Is OpenStack Cloud Computing Rocket Science? announcing that:

Today Rackspace has thrown their hat in the ring with their new OpenStack initiative in collaboration with NASA — as in rocket scientists, smartest guys in the world. Unlike Amazon’s EC2 which preaches open APIs, Rackspace is working to develop an open source platform that compliments their hosted cloud offering.

before going on to describe how:

The goal of OpenStack is to allow any organization to create and offer cloud computing capabilities using open source software running on standard hardware.

Joss’s methodology for finding about more about use of OpenStack was to use Google to search for uses in US Universities, using the Google search string site:edu “openstack”; in the UK educational sector using the search string site:ac.uk “openstack” and in the Australian using the search string site:edu.au “openstack”.

The most interesting results Joss found were:

  • MIT’s Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory seem to be active in running their own cloud. 768 cores and 3TB of RAM. Not bad!
  • Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science also have their own cloud. They seem to have two installations running at the moment, one being deployed via Puppet.
  • The University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (part of the School of Engineering) have a research group that are “interested in extending OpenStack as a platform for academic research in cloud computing.”
  • The University of Alabama’s College of Engineering are running OpenStack on their HPC cluster.
  • The Engineering Task Force, part of the UK’s e-science programme, undertook an evaluation of OpenStack last year. It’s a year old now and things have moved on, but it’s still worth a read. They conclude that OpenStack “is a mature, well-backed software for implementing an Infrastructure as a Service Cloud. The set of features and multicomponent architecture allows many different deployment scenarios to be developed addressing differing needs for scale, availability and reliability.”
  • St Andrews have a research group that uses OpenStack. They aim “to become an international centre of excellence for research and teaching in cloud computing and will provide advice and information to businesses interested in using cloud-based services.” It’s good to see opensck being integrated into teaching and they’ve also run some related HackDays, too.
  • The University of Surrey’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences have an OpenStack cloud that’s also used in undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, as well as supporting research projects. Surrey’s setup and objectives seem to be similar to what we currently have in mind for Lincoln.
  • Australia’s nationally funded NeCTAR service offer cloud computing facilities that are accessible to researchers across the country.
  • Eduserv are also considering whether to offer OpenStack as part of their cloud computing service. One nice thing about this, compared to other commercial offerings, is that it would run on the JANET backbone.
  • Methodology, search for term restricted in academic domain in UK, US and Australia.

On the same day I saw a message on the JISCMail Web-support list from Caleb Racey, Systems architecture Manager at Newcastle University who asked “Is anyone using a content delivery network (CDN) like Amazon cloud front http://aws.amazon.com/cloudfront/ for their main university website?“.  Might we use the same approach which Joss used, I wondered?  Unlike Joss’s case, in which he was searching for a single word which is not in common usage in normal usage, Caleb’s needed to search for a combination of commons words (“amazon”, “content”, “delivery” and “network” which may also be referred to by an abbreviation (“CDN”) – this will probably be more to search, with the need to remove false hits. I’ll there leave it to Caleb to determine whether the search results for “Amazon CDN” provide useful results from US Universities, UK Universities and Australian Universities.

Google Insights search for ‘Amazon CDN’

Google Insights search for ‘Openstack’

But in addition to such searches for education institutions which host content containing such search strings it struck me that it would also be useful to visualise trends of searches for such terms, in order to identify the extent of the growth of interest in, in this case, Openstack and Amazon Content Delivery Networks. The first image shown below gives the trends for a Google search for “Openstack” and the second for a search of “Amazon CDN”.

In both examples we can see when searches begin: in early 2010 for ‘Openstack’ and early 2008 for ‘Amazon CDN’. The first search also highlights news stories which generated particular spikes (although these are now clearly visible in the screenshot):

A Rackspace Launches OpenStack-based Private Cloud Software — Enables Businesses to Install, Test and Run Private Clouds in Minutes
B Rackspace debuts OpenStack cloud servers
C First ARM Technology-Powered Cloud Debuts on OpenStack(R)
D Cisco + OpenFlow + OpenStack = ONE software-defined network
E Mirantis Joins Dell Partner Program for OpenStack-Powered Cloud Solution
F Nebula Elected to New OpenStack Leadership Positions
G Rackspace Soon to Partner With Developers of Private OpenStack Distros

It does seem to me that use of Google Insights could be a useful tool to identify growth in interest in new technologies and can complement the search approaches taken by Joss Winn. However both Joss Winn and Caleb Racey employed another useful technique for helping to find evidence of take-up of new technologies: asking people! In Joss’s case he used Twitter and his blog whereas Caleb used a mailing list. I also hope that this post helps Joss and Caleb in finding further examples of uses of Open Stack and Amazon CDN. Feel free to give any further links as a comment on this post – I’ll alert Joss and Caleb to any appropriate responses.

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Searches for ‘Olympics’ are Popular! But What Other Trends are There?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 August 2012

 

A Four Year Cycle For Searches for ‘Olympics’ and ‘World Cup’

You will be unsurprised to hear that Google searches for ‘Olympics’ have peaked recently:-) As shown using the Google Insights tool to search for ‘Olympics’ we can spot a four-year cycle for such searches together with a slightly smaller peak two years before the Olympics which probably corresponds to the Winter Olympics.

The trends also help to identify a number of recent peaks which include:

A: Olympics: Rowers win Britain’s first gold at Olympics
B: Opening ceremony of the London
C: Olympics: London 2012 torch lit in Olympia
D: London Olympics to open with Duran Duran
E: 100 days to the London Olympics
F: Assad regime not welcome at Olympics
G: Queen to open 2012 Olympics

A similar search for “World Cup” again shows a clear 4-year cycle. But might the Google Insights tool help us to gain a better insight into trends for technological developments and help to provide indications of significant developments?

Helping to Spot Trends

The JISC Observatory provides a scanning function to detect early indications of technological developments which may have a significant impact on the higher education sector. How useful might Google Insights be for detecting or confirming trends? In order to see an answer to this question the Google Insights was used to analyse trends for several of the developments listed in the post giving My Predictions for 2012 together with a number of other developments which have generated interest recently.

The Google Insights search for “tablet computers” trend for shows a clear decline in interest until the beginning of 2010 – which coincided with speculation of the announcement of Apple’s first iPad Tablet. However the sharp decline in searches since the start of 2012 might suggest that Tablet computers have passed their peak which would seem surprising. Looking more closely at the trends we saw a similar decline in the early part of 2010 and 2011 which perhaps suggested that the peaks in December are due to Christmas shoppers. It will be interesting to observe how searches for the term development over the rest of the year. Perhaps the lesson for this example is that trend analyses may well be significantly affected by consumer patterns.

Google Insights trends for searches for ‘tablet computers’

The second prediction I made for 2012 was that we would see a growth in a variety of “open practices” within the sector. However this term has not gained widespread acceptable with Google Insights picking up on use of this term when the British Lions announced public access to their practice sessions. The lesson for this example is that it may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of a general expression which may have a particular meaning in a higher education context. This might also be the case for a search for ‘open access’ which shows no growth in recent years, even when the trend analysis is restricted to the UK.

Google Insights trends for searches for “learning analytics”

Although the term ‘open access‘ may be used in a number of contexts, “learning analytics” probably has a more specific meaning which is directly relevant to the higher education sector. A search for this term suggests that that public interest began in September 2010 with a significant growth taking place in January 2012, which coincided with the announcement that Blackboard Opens Field Trial for Learning Analytics Solution.

Google Insights search for “mobile web”

The trends for ‘mobile web’ is probably unsurprising, with an increase in the number of searches starting to grow in June 2010 and a sharp growth beginning in May 2012.

Google Insights trends for searches for “Big Data”

The trends for searches for “Big data” show that there has been a steady growth since 2010. It was interesting that these two common words do not appear to have been used outside of their technical usage described in Wikipedia asdata sets so large and complex that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools“.

Discussion

The reflections on use of Google Insights to detect trends has helped to identify things to consider in using the service to gain a better insight into technological developments:

  • Trend analyses for IT used by consumers may be significantly affected by consumer purchasing patterns.
  • It may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of an expression which may have a general meaning in addition to a specific meaning when used in a higher educational context.
  • It may be useful to look for trends in the UK if these may differ from global trends.

Finally if we look at the trends for searches for “Semantic Web” and “Linked Data” which are illustrated below we might conclude that Semantic Web has passed its prime but Linked Data in importance. Whilst some might argue that this is the case, another view is that the names given to IT developments and how they are marketed is important, in addition to the underlying value the developments may themselves have. Might Linked Data be being perceived as important because, in comparison with the Semantic Web, it is being actively marketed and promoted?

Google Insights search for “Semantic Web”

Google Insights search for “Linked Data”


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, jiscobs | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Is Blekko’s Traffic Really Going Through The Roof? Will It Challenge Google?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 April 2012

A tweet from @philbradley alerted me to an article on Searchengineland.com which announced Blekko’s Traffic Is Up Almost 400 Percent; Here Are The CEO’s Five Reasons Why. Phil was enthusiastic in his tweet: #Blekko traffic goes through the roof – for good reason. Try it out! 

The reason for the Searchengineland.com’s headline seems self-evidence from an image showing the growth in traffic for Blekko.com since January which, to provide a comparison, is contrasted with traffic for the duckduckgo.com search engine. As described in the article:

According to comScore’s numbers, Blekko is now getting about triple the traffic of fellow underdog search engine DuckDuckGo

Blekko’s CEO seems to have provided a significant contribution to the article, and is quoted as including the following reasons for Blekko’s popularity:

  1. Improved index quality.
  2. Dissatisfaction with Google.

Are we seeing an example of weak signals of a significant change in the search engine marketplace? And if this is the case, should institutions be making plans for changes in working practices?

Using Alexa to compare the daily traffic for Blekko, Duckduckgo and Google we see a different picture: or perhaps it is difficult to see the story, because the traffic for Blekko and Duckduckgo fails to move above the x-axis, with a percentage traffic close to zero. It order to see a comparison of the traffic rank, there is a need to display this information on a logarithmic scale, as shown below.

Although there is a need to monitor indications of new developments, there is also a need to avoid over-hyping something new. I think there was a similar over-reaction when Yahoo sold the Delicious.com social bookmarking service, with some of the teething problems encountered in the migration of the service to new ownership leading to people migrating, perhaps prematurely, to new services. Perhaps a more appropriate headline for the Searchengineland.com article (which appears to have been based on a press release) would be “One Little Used Search Engine Used More Than A Rival“.

However one interesting aspect of the story was the suggestion of user dissatisfaction with Google. Yesterday the BBC featured an article which described how Google tackles temporary Gmail access failure which began “Google says it is looking into why thousands of users have been unable to access their Gmail accounts“. The thousands of Gmail users were apparently less than 2% of Gmail’s user base. But closer to home, yesterday Tony Hirst tweeted about how his OUseful.info blog had seemingly disappeared from Google, and he was no longer receiving the large amount of traffic which Google sends to him blog. As a prolific blogger (who has an entry in Wikipedia) Tony described his experiences in a post entitled So Google is No Longer OUseful.info’s Friend…? Use Bing.com instead… But today a Google search for “Tony Hirst blog” now seems to be working. Another minor glitch, it seems, which is quickly fixed.

I can’t help but feel that the more significant issues surrounding Google aren’t to do with performance and reliability issues: after all we have no evidence that Bing, Blekko or Duckduckgo will provide a reliable service if they had the volume of traffic which Google has and, as described last year in a post which asked Time to Move to GMail? local email service can also be unreliable. For me the more significant stories which we have seen in the past few days which may have an impact on Google’ longer-term relevance are to do with legal disputes with the BBC News describing:

and Google’s battles with Facebook and Apple being highlighted in the Guardian:

Posted in Evidence, jiscobs | 4 Comments »

Further Reflections on My Predictions for 2012

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 January 2012

“Massively Scalable Sensemaking Analytics”

A recent post outlined My Predictions for 2012. However rather than just posting some idle speculations on technological developments which I feel will have an impact across the higher education sector this year, I also pointed out that there was a need  at a later date to be able to identify ways of gauging whether the predictions were accurate or not.

This suggestion followed on from a recent post in which I described “The Need for an Evidence-based Approach to Demonstrating Value“.  This post was highlighted by Stephen Downes who introduced me to “people like Rudolf Carnap [who] used to talk about ‘the requirement of total evidence’ and the ‘principle of indifference’” and went on to add that “These are as valid today as when they wrote it“. These two post inspired further discussion by Keith Lyons in a post on Probability and Sensemaking on the Clyde Street blog who cited a post on massively scalable sensemaking analytics which has links to other posts in this area including:

Sensemaking Systems Must be Expert Counting SystemsData Finds DataContext AccumulationSequence Neutrality and Information Colocation to new techniques to harness the Big Data/New Physics phenomenon.

This provides another take on my suggestion of the importance of Collective Intelligence. I’m therefore pleased to have been alerted to further relevant posts in this area. Indeed I can repeat the final two paragraphs in Keith’s posts as they are equally applicable to me:

It is fascinating that two early morning links can open up such a rich vein of discovery. At the moment I am particularly interested in how records can be used to inform decision making and what constitutes necessary and sufficient evidence to transform performance.

I have a lot of New Year reading to do!

But in addition to the analysis of big data in order to help make sense of future trends, it can also be useful to explore what other experts are predicting.

16 Predictions for Mobile in 2012

In my list of predictions I made uncontroversial comments regarding the growth in ownership of tablet computers. My interest was  not in tablet computers per se but in the implications of increased opportunities for content creation and curation, as well as content consumption which such devices would seem to provide.

On the GigaOm blog Kevin C. Tofel provides his more detailed predictions on development in mobile computing. Here are my thoughts on the implications of some of Kevin’s predictions:

Wearable computing becomes the next mobile frontier: Even more opportunities for content consumption, creation and curation. And, as explained in a post which described how “It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Fact That You Did It” favouriting a tweet or +1ing a post can be useful and valuable activities.

A jump in wireless home broadband adoption: More opportunities for online access in the home environment.

Windows Phone usage grows, but slower than expected: There will continue to be a diversity in devices, operating systems and applications, so it will be important to provide device- and application-specific services.

Windows tablets in 2012 will sell like Android tablets did in 2011. There will continue to be a diversity in devices, operating systems and applications, so it will be important to provide device- and application-specific services.

Research In Motion will no longer exist as we know it today: Some platforms will fail, so it can help to minimise the risks by minimising developments of platform-specific services.

Nokia uses Symbian as a backup plan (but doesn’t call it Symbian): See above.

The patent wars worsen: Sigh :-( The W3C will seek to avoid standards which are encumbered by patents, but the devices themselves, their networking connective, etc. may be covered by patents which could, as we have seen recently in the case in which Dutch court blocks Galaxy phones in parts of Europe | ZDNet UK, can lead to devices not being allowed to be sold. Best avoid developing device specific services, then!

Apple’s next iPhone will be the iPhone 4GS: When will 4G arrive in the UK, I wonder?

There will be an iPad Pro available in 2012: Ooh, so we should develop apps for the iPad, should we?

Android’s momentum will continue thanks to Android 4.0: Oh, and the Android?

Hybrid apps with HTML5 will be the norm: Maybe not!

Predictions from the BBC

The BBC News blog has a post entitled Mind-reading, tablets and TV are tech picks for 2012 in which a panel of experts “look ahead to the technologies that will change the way we live and work in 2012 and beyond“.

Mt predictions of the continuing growth in importance of tablet computers and social networks, including Facebook, are echoed by Robert Scoble who points out “in terms of the businesses I follow – start-ups – they’re all building into Facebook’s Open Graph technology” and adds “I think business is going to have to have a Facebook Open Graph strategy next year. Even if we’re ignoring it because it’s too freaky on the privacy side, they’re going to have to at least consider it.“.

I suspect that universities will be amongst those businesses which will be exploring how to make greater use of Facebook. As Scoble pointed out “I visited Yahoo recently and they said they’re seeing 600% more visits from Facebook because of it” – with an increasingly competitive market place across higher education I suspect we will be seeing even greater use being made of Facebook during 2012 and, as mentioned above, there will be a need to consider “the requirement of total evidence” and the “principle of indifference“.

But in addition to Facebook as an application environment, Scoble’s comment reminded me of the importance of Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol.  I wonder whether it will be possible to gather evidence of Facebook’s success by monitoring the growth of the social graph rather than simply the numbers of Facebook users.

The continuing importance of social networks was also the key message given by Tim Barker of Salesforce.com. Barker felt that:

The big one is the social enterprise revolution.

It’s the idea that you can see the power shifting from companies to consumers. There are more than 1.7 billion people on social networks now; Facebook is the size the entire internet was in 2004.

It’s really defining the way that consumers and customers interact with companies and what they expect from them.

Such issues are equally relevant for the university sector, in part because the increasing costs of going to university will mean that future intakes of students will see themselves regarding themselves as customers who are paying a lot of money for the ‘product’ they are buying. In addition something that both staff and students have in common is that we are all consumers when we leave our ivory towers and go into town for the January sales!

We may not like such terminology and be concerned about how the future seems to be arriving, but remember “the requirement of total evidence” and the “principle of indifference“.  On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn’t be so fatalistic about the future.  But if we do wish to build an alternative reality we will still need to gather the evidence.

Posted in Facebook, jiscobs, Social Web | Leave a Comment »

Should Higher Education Welcome Frictionless Sharing?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 January 2012

Frictionless Sharing and The Guardian Facebook App

I recently described developments which suggest the potential for Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More). The post pointed out that links Facebook and Twitter seem to becoming more embedded within services, such as bibliographic services, in order to make it easier for researchers to share papers of interest across their professional network. Recently Martin Belam (@currybet) tweeted “Frictionless sharing – exploring the changes to Facebook” – a piece I’ve written for FUMSI magazine http://bit.ly/z930Wc and his article explored other developments we are seeing which can make sharing of resources even easier than clicking on a Like or Tweet button. Martin is the Lead User Experience & Information Architect for the Guardian Web site and blogs about UX/IA, digital media & journalism on currybet.net. He is also a contributing editor for the FUMSI online magazine. His opening paragraph, in an article aimed at information professionals, suggests that he feels that Facebook can bring benefits to this sector:

As 2012 begins, Facebook remains one of the amazing growth stories of the internet. Some argue that an eventual flotation will mark the high tide of a second internet bubble, whilst others are awe of the fact that a website that started in a college dorm has grown to have nearly one billion members

The main focus of his article are the recent technical developments which make sharing of resources transparent:

One of the biggest changes for content providers is “frictionless sharing”. In the past, users had to actively share content by pressing a “Like” button on a website, or “Like”-ing a Facebook page, or including a URL in their status update. Facebook is changing this. They have opened up what they call their “Open Graph”, which allows apps and publishers to automatically insert “actions” into a user’s Facebook timeline. And, in plain English, that means that for some sites or apps, simply listening to a song or reading an article is enough to see it posted to your Facebook activity stream without you lifting so much as a mouse-finger.

At the time of writing only a handful of applications have been launched which take advantage of the feature, including those by Yahoo!, Spotify, the Guardian, Independent and the Washington Post’s “Social Reader” app. That is sure to change in 2012, but the roll-out of further apps seems tied into Facebook launching “Timeline” – a new way for users to view their profile pages.

As an example of what is meant by frictionless sharing a screenshot of my Facebook news updates showing the Guardian articles I read using the Guardian’s Facebook app is shown. As can be seen the articles I read included ones on “Sherlock: BBC will no remove nude scenes” and “A Thatcher state funeral would be bound to lead to protests“. Note that the links I have provided go directly to the Guardian Web site so you can follow the links in the knowledge that your interest in nudity and right wing politicians will not be disclosed to your liberal colleagues :-)

This provides an interesting example of the risks of sharing the articles you read, without having to manually select an article of interest and consciously share it, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious or whatever, across your network. And this is a reason why some people, including people in my network whose opinions I respect, have concerns over this development. On the other hand, the Guardian Facebook app does seem to be popular. It seems I was not alone in reading the article on how “Footage of nude dominatrix shown before 9pm watershed have prompted more than 100 complaints” and the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail in expressing their outrage whilst including the ‘shocking’ images in their web site.

But the 8,995 people who viewed the article shortly after it had been published was beaten by the 11,686 people who read the article on how Pale octopus, hairy-chested yeti crab and other new species found (warning the first link is to the Guardian Facebook app).

So how popular is the Guardian Facebook app? A post which suggested that We Can’t Ignore Facebook described how the Guardian Facebook app was launched on 22 September 2011. Statistics for a number of the Guardian sections collated on 14 January 2012, just over three months after the app’s launch, are given below.

Section Like this Talking about this
Main 242,326 13,593
Society 13,451      862
Technology 16,662   1,053
Data 3,486      100
Football 14,820      888
Sport 905       68
Culture 38,261   3,699

These figures seem to suggest the popularity of the Guardian Facebook app although, as ever, care must be taken in interpretting figures. In particular I do not know if these figures may include use of a pre-frictionless sharing app. In addition this single set of figures doesn’t provide any comparisons with views of the Guardian Web site or shown trends.

But returning to the recent FUMSI article Martin Belam provided some suggestions aimed at information professionals

Think again about Facebook metadata
Facebook’s Open Graph is a metadata standard for marking up your web content. It sits quietly in the HEAD of your HTML, and replicates many fields that you might be familiar with from metadata standards like Dublin Core. The fact that anyone can access it via a web request allows Facebook to say the standard is “open”, although they tightly control the spec themselves. To take advantage of the new frictionless sharing, even if you don’t build an app yourself, making that metadata available is going to be a requirement to have your content display properly within the many social reading experiences that are sure to be developed.

Think again about audit trails
“Frictionless sharing” changes the nature of our digital audit trails on Facebook. From a competitive intelligence point of view, it is great news, because potentially seeing what someone from a particular company is reading about and watching can give you clues as to where their work may be heading. It also means being careful not to leave audit trails yourself if you want the research you are doing to be kept “under the radar”.

Discussion

The ‘Frictionless Sharing’ Term

Martin Belam’s article generated some interesting Twitter debate on the day it was published. I spotted the initial tweet from @currybet and shortly afterwards read @ppetej’s comment that:

Much as I loathe the whole ghastly “frictionless sharing” thing, some useful thoughts/pointers by @currybettinyurl.com/6rvnqx7

and @mweller’s response:

@ppetej frictionless sharing is interesting I think for academics – it certainly shaped the way I wrote my last book

I curated the discussion on Storify since I felt it raised several interesting issues, in particular in taking the discussion about frictionless sharing beyond one particular instance (Facebook, which tends to focus concerns on other aspects of Facebook’s activities) into the more general issues of frictionless sharing in an educational context. Indeed, as Pete Johnston pointed out, a post on Martin Weller’s The Ed Techie blog published back in 2008 described The cost of sharing in which Martin made the point that “The ‘cost’ of sharing has collapsed, but institutions don’t know this“. Martin went on to point out that:

Clay Shirky argues that the cost of organisation has disappeared, and I believe this is because sharing is easy, frictionless. If I come across something I share it via Google shared items, Twitter, my blog, etc. If I want to share I stick it up on Slideshare, my blog, YouTube. There is a small cost in terms of effort to me to do the sharing, and zero cost in anyone wanting to know what I share. Sharing is just an RSS feed away.

Hmm, so back in November 2008 Martin Weller stated that “sharing is easy, frictionless“. Can anyone find an early reference to use of this term in this context? In a post on Sharing Learning Resources: shifting perspectives on process and product Amber Thomas used the term to describe activities taking place in the 1990s: “For example, the late 90s to early 2000s emphasised the benefits of collaborative resource development. Later on, some advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) brought to the fore the concept of content as by-product, exhaust, frictionless sharing” but was not using the term at the time. I wonder if the Sharing article in Wikipedia should include a reference to ‘frictionless sharing’ and whether Martins’ blog post would be an appropriate reference for an early citing of the term in the context of sharing resources on social networking services?

Whenever the term first originated (and on Twitter Martin Weller suggested that “around the time of the dot com bubble ppl talked about the frictionless economy“) by December 2011 the ReadWriteWeb was predicting a Top Trends of 2011: Frictionless Sharing. This article illustrated frictionless sharing initially by Facebook are doing but also sharing music and news items.

But what of the potential for frictionless sharing in higher education?

Martin Weller feels that such approaches are already becoming embedded in some of his working practices, in particular: “frictionless sharing is interesting I think for academics – it certainly shaped the way I wrote my last book“. In My Predictions for 2012 I suggested that we will see an increase in the amount and types of ‘open practices’ including not only the well-established areas of open access and open educational resources, but also open approaches to being recorded and videoed. But such areas are still related to the creation of content. Frictionless sharing is interesting as it relates to openness in a more passive content: openness about what you may be reading (and as well as Faceboook, apps such as GoodReads allow one to share information on what you are reading).

Tony Hirst explored these ideas in a post published in October 2010 entitled in which he asked Could Librarians Be Influential Friends? And Who Owns Your Search Persona? when he asked “: if librarians become Facebook friends of their patrons, and start “Liking” high quality resources they find on the web, might they start influencing the results that are presented to their patrons on particular searches?“. Tony referred to this post last week when he revisited the potential role of librarians in supporting sharing of resources in a post in which he asked Invisible Library Support – Now You Can’t Afford Not to be Socials? His comment that:

The idea here was that you could start to make invisible frictionless recommendations by influencing the search engine results returned to your patrons (the results aren’t invisible because your profile picture may appear by the result showing that you recommend it. They’re frictionless in the sense that having made the original recommendation, you no longer have to do any work in trying to bring it to the attention of your patron – the search engines take care of that for you (okay, I know that’s a simplistic view;-). [Hmm.. how about referring to it as recommendation mode support?]

was particularly interesting in that Tony seems to have changed from using ‘invisible’ to ‘frictionless’ during the course of writing the post.

The Challenges

In some respects pragmatic advice regarding privacy issues and uncertainties as to how such data could subsequently be used would suggest that you should avoid the risks associated with frictionless sharing. Indeed, I made this point in a post in which I asked Is Smartr Getting Smarter or Am I Getting Dumber? following the Smartr app’s unannounced release of frictionless sharing for reading Twitter links read by members of one’s Smartr network.

But as the evidence of the Guardian app seems to suggest, people may be willing to share their interests in a passive fashion, and benefit from ways in which members of their networks reciprocate.

I guess the questions to be answered are:

  • What other types of frictionless sharing are there?
  • What benefits can frictionless sharing provide?
  • What are the risks in frictionless sharing?
  • Will the benefits outweigh the risks?

But before we can start to discuss these questions we perhaps need to define the terms. So what is ‘frictionless sharing‘? On this occasion Google currently seems to suggest that the term relates primarily to a recent Facebook developments, but I’m interested in the generic meaning of this term.  And perhaps we can use the Wikipedia entry for Frictionless sharing to agree on a definition.

Posted in Facebook, jiscobs, Social Networking | 12 Comments »

The Mobile-Only App Anti-Pattern: “You Can’t Serve Two Masters”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 January 2012

We don’t even have a website

Will your app be available only from a mobile device?

In the anti-pattern Wikipedia article we learn that “In software engineering, an anti-pattern (or antipattern) is a pattern that may be commonly used but is ineffective and/or counterproductive in practice”. Reading the GigaOM article on “Whip myself–and Path–into fighting shape“, which is the ninth in a series of 12 tech leaders’ resolutions for 2012, I fear that we may be seeing the development of a mobile-only app anti-pattern.

In the article David Morin, co-founder of the Path social media sharing service, describes how:

I think 2012 will truly be the year of mobile Internet” and goes on add that “I mean, it’s so big. I get the GigaOM Pro reports on mobile, and I see these numbers: The amount of mobile display inventory, the fact that Apple’s paid out $2 billion to app developers, there are something like one million Android phones being activated daily. It goes on and on. The industry as a whole hasn’t come around to realizing how big mobile is just yet. But I think this will be the year where we focus on building companies that solely address the post-PC era.

I’d agree with that analysis.  My concern, though, is the author’s vision for Path (and Flipboard): “I think Path and Flipboard and a few others are leading the way. We don’t even have a website.”  He goes on to expand on this:

Products you build for the Web, which people access with a big screen and a keyboard and mouse while sitting at a desk, need to be completely different than what you build for a mobile device. You can’t just hire one mobile developer and take the interface you’ve built on the web and cram it onto a mobile device.

And then concludes:

It makes me think of something that Steve Jobs said: You can’t serve two masters. Well, the Bible said it first, but I think it applies to product design as well. You can’t serve both the Web and mobile with the same product. You have to choose.

It’s actually not quite true that “We don’t even have a website“. There is a Web site about the Path app, as illustrated, which has a handful of pages.  However there isn’t a Web interface for users of the app – so if you want to use the “smart journal … to share life with the one you love” you’ll have to install the app on your iPhone  or Android device (although you can, as I have done, also use an iPod Touch).

Beyond the Mobile Web vs Mobile App Debate

Much of the recent debate has focussed on whether one should develop for the Mobile Web, which through use of appropriate style sheets and other techniques, aims to ensure that the same content can be provided to both desktop computers and mobile devices, or develop Mobile App, which may exploit specific features of particular mobile devices and be more easily marketed and made available through mobile vendor’s apps stores and market places.

Source: Worklight

A Google search for “Mobile Web vs Mobile App Debate” highlights several articles including one which explains how Mobile Web App vs. Native App? It’s Complicated, This article recommends a “must-read article” on The fight gets technical: mobile apps vs. mobile sites which includes the accompanying image which graphically depicts some of the pros and cons of the different approaches to mobile development.

In the JISC CETIS briefing paper on Mobile Web Apps: A Briefing Mark Power makes the case for a universal approach to development which will ensure that access can be provided to both desktop and mobile users: “A viable, alternative approach is developing Mobile Apps using open web technologies and standards; technologies that continue to improve performance and offer more powerful functionality – as is now being talked about quite a bit on the topic of HTML5“.

There is, however, a recognition that mobile app development may provide benefits for users of the supported mobile developments. However the service provider is likely to find such development and subsequent maintenance costly and time-consuming and, at a time in which funding is being cut it would appear sensible to develop a platform- and application-independent approach through making use of W3C’ standards, such as HTML5, CSS and the related Open Web Platform standards.

However the anti-pattern described above take another approach to the issue of minimising development and maintenance costs: develop for the mobile device only and ignore the Web browser and the desktop computer!

I find this a worrying approach. However, as I described above, I have installed the Path app on two of my mobile devices. So rather than writing a post which simply reiterates the benefits of “open standards”, “device independence” and “universal access” I think there’s a need to understand the pros and cons of the approach taken by David Morin and welcome the clear and unambiguous statement he has made on why he feels this approach is best for his company:

The one big lesson I’ve learned from the past year is that every entrepreneur goes through really hard times — periods of time where people don’t believe in what you’re doing, or the numbers don’t look good. Entrepreneurs always have a vision: You wouldn’t have started a company if you didn’t. But the first implementation may not be getting you all the way there.

Find the users who see your vision and talk to them. Find out why they love the product and what they’re trying to do with it. Often, they’re trying to do something that you haven’t designed it for. You need to unlock that potential. Take away the things that don’t matter, and unlock the stuff that does — remove the complexity. That’s what will make it catch on with everyone.

I do wonder whether we will see institutions developing their own apps across a range of areas and whether we will find that the apps will not provide functionality for those without the appropriate mobile device. It would be useful to monitor such developments, particularly if the anti-pattern I have described turns out to be a successful pattern for mobile development.

As a footnote to this post I should mention the The State of the Mobile Web in Higher Education (2012) survey is currently open. The results of last year’s survey are available on the collegewebeditor.com blog. It will be interesting to see how institutional approaches to the mobile web have developed over the past year – and if institutions are considering developing mobile-only applications.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to James Burke (@deburca) for his tweet which alerted me to this article.

Posted in jiscobs, Mobile | 1 Comment »

My Predictions for 2012

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 December 2011

Predictions for 2012

How will the technology environment develop during 2012? I’m willing to set myself up for a fall my outlining my predictions for 2012 :-)

Tablet Computers …

After a couple of years in which use of smart phones, whether based on Apple’s iOS or Goole’s Android operating system), became mainstream for many when away from the office, 2012 will see use of Tablets becoming mainstream, with the competition provided by vendors of Android continue to bring the prices for those reluctant to pay a premium for an iPad.

Once the new term starts we’ll see increased numbers of students who received a Tablet PC for Christmas making use of them, not only for watching videos and listening to music in their accommodation, but also in lectures. As well as note-taking the devices, together with smart phones, will be used for recording lectures. In some cases this will lead to concerns regarding ownership and privacy infringements but students will argue that they are paying for their education and they should be entitled to time-shift their lecturers. Since it will be difficult to prevent students from making such recordings lecturers will start to encourage such practices and will seek to develop an understanding of when comments made during lecturers and tutorials should be treated as ‘off-the-record’.

Open Practices …

Such lecturers will be providing one example of an ‘open practice’. Such encouragement of recording or broadcasting lecturers will become the norm in several research areas, with organisers of research conferences acknowledging that they will need to provide an event amplification infrastructure (including free WiFi for participants, an event hashtag, live streaming or recording of key talks) in order to satisfy the expectations of those who are active in participation in research events.

Such open practices will complement more well-established examples of openness including open access and open content, such as open educational resources. We’ll see much greater use of Creative Commons licences, especially licence which minimise barriers to reuse.

Social Applications …

Social applications will become ubiquitous, although the term may be rebranded in order to avoid the barrier to use faced by those who regard the term ‘social’ as meaning ‘personal’ or ‘trivial’. Just as Web 2.0 became rebranded as the Social Web and the Semantic Web as Linked Data, we shall see such applications being marked as collaborative or interactive services.

Social networking services will continue to grow in importance across the higher education sector. However the view that the popularity of such services will be dependent on conformance with a particular set of development (open source and distributed) or ownership criteria (must not be owned by a successful multi-national company) will be seen to be of little significance. Rather than a growth in services such as identi.ca or Diaspora, we will see Facebook continue to develop (with its use by organisations helped by mandatory legal requirements regarding conformance with EU privacy legislation described in a post on 45 Privacy Changes Facebook Will Make To Comply With Data Protection Law). In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will continue to be of importance across the sector.

Learning and Knowledge Analytics ….

The ubiquity of mobile devices coupled with greater use of social applications as part of a developing cultural of open practices will lead to an awareness of the importance of learning and knowledge analytics. Just as in the sporting arena we have seen huge developments in using analytic tools to understand and maximise sporting performances, we will see similar approaches being taken to understand and maximise intellectual performance, in both teaching and learning and research areas.

Collective Intelligence

Just as the combination of developments will help us to have a better understanding of intellectual performance, so too will these development help to in the growth of Collective Intelligence, described in Wikipedia as the “shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in bacteria, animals, humans and computer networks“. The driving forces behind Collective Intelligence will be the global players which have access to large volumes of data and the computational resources (processing power and storage) to analyse the data.

How Will I Know If I’m Right?

In a way it is easy to make predictions. A greater challenge is being able to demonstrate that such predictions have come true. How might we go about deciding, in December 2012, whether these predictions reflect reality?

Monitoring Trends

There will be statistics which can help support the predictions. For example a few days ago Glyn Moody tweeted that:

Google announces 3.7m #Android activations over the Christmas weekend - http://tnw.co/sjAZEd impressive

But there are a range of other indicators which can help to spot trends which may be applicable.

A Google Trend comparison of the terms ‘tablet computer’ and ‘smartphone’ currently show the greater popularity of the latter term although there was a peak in searches for ‘tablet computer’ after the news (labelled F in the screenshot) that “India launches $35 tablet computer“.

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia articles may also have a role to play. For example we can compare the entries for tablet computer and collective intelligence between January and December 2011 which might help to provide a better understanding of how the Wikipedia community is describing these terms. Similarly looking for the usage statistics for these two entries shows 40,567 visits in January and 73,181 in November 2011 for the entry for tablet computer and 10,711 visits in January and 11,126 in November 2011 for the entry for collective intelligence.

In addition to the content coverage and usage statistics for Wikipedia articles, the creation of an article may also indicate that the term has become significant. It is interesting to note that there is currently no entry for ‘open practice’. Will this have changed by this time next year, I wonder?

Snapshots of Social Network Usage

I have previously provided snapshots of institutional use of Facebook from November 2007 up to January 2011, together with similar surveys of institutional use of services such as Twitter, YouTube and iTunes. It would be interesting to capture early examples of institutional uses of Google+, identi.ca and Diaspora. However I am currently unaware of such institutional uses. Until I discover some examples I will provide a personal summary of my uses of these services.

Service Nos. of posts Nos. of followers Nos. I follow
Google+ 12 170 476
Diaspora   1    5    5
identi.ca   5  10   9

This data was gathered on 29 December 2011. It will be interesting to see how this compares with the data for the end of 2012. Of course the above table only indicates the extent of my interest and engagement with the services. I have documented these figures so I will be able to benchmark any changes on my usage of these services over the year.

Institutional Trends

It will be interesting to see examples of institutional trends, perhaps by observing topics presented at conferences and also by reading about new developments. One useful source of new developments is Chris Sexton’s From a Distance blog. Chris, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield, has recently published a post entitled Tablet News in which she describes how:

Today sees the publication of our newsletter, myCiCSnews, which can be downloaded as a pdf from here. There’s articles on learning technologies, research on the campus compute cloud, information security, and many more.
For the first time we’ve made it available in a tablet version, which works really well on iPads and other tablets, and includes embedded video etc.

The Flip Side

The flip side of the growth in use of new services and in discussions about the benefits of such services is the criticisms of such developments.

Criticism and scepticism can take several forms. We can probably remember when mobile phones were large and expensive and, together with the yuppies and businessmen who could afford such devices, were the butt of jokes on comedy sketches.

Mike Ellis has provided his take on the development of online reputation tools such as Klout in his Klunt parody which he announced on Twitter back in September.

We are unlikely to see this example in the Daily Mail but I think we can expect middle England to express outrage at some of the developments I’ve described in this post.

We have already come across examples of the way in which Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry phones have been used to organise illegal events or promote riots. I wonder if the Android tablet will be next in line to race the wrath of the Daily Mail?

Or perhaps the success will be indicated by the backlash. Might we find that the move towards open practices beyond the early adopters will be met by opposition from those who point out the legal risks of such practices, with examples of such risks becoming widely tweeted and retweeted?

Revisiting Predictions

On 29 December 2010 I asked Will #Quora Be Big In 2011? It is difficult to provide an answer to that question. Looking at the Wikipedia article for Quora I find that others also felt that the service would be significant:

Quora has been praised by several publications such as New York TimesUSA TodayTime Magazine and The Daily Telegraph.[28][29][30][31]

According to Robert Scoble, Quora succeeded in combining attributes of TwitterFacebookGoogle Wave and various websites that employ a system of users voting content up.[32] Scoble later criticized Quora, however, saying that it was a “horrid service for blogging,” and while it was a decent question and answer website, it was not substantially better than competing sites.[33] The Daily Telegraph of the United Kingdom has predicted that Quora will go on to become larger than Twitter in the future.[31][34] Quora, along with Airbnb and Dropbox, has been named among the next generation of multibillion dollar start-ups by the New York Times.[35]

Quora itself hosts a question which asks How fast is Quora growing on a weekly basis? What are the growth metrics? However the responses fail to give a clear answer to this question.

I intend to revisit this post in December 2012. I’d welcome suggestions on additional ways in which it will be possible to detect if predictions have become true. I’d also welcome comments on the predictions I’ve outlined in this post.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in General, jiscobs | 8 Comments »

What’s On The Technology Horizon? Implications for Librarians

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 September 2011

JISC Observatory’s Horizon Scan

As described on the JISC Observatory blog the JISC Observatory is a “JISC-funded initiative to systematise the way in which the JISC anticipates and responds to projected future trends and scenarios in the context of the use of technology in Higher & Further Education, and Research in the UK“.

The JISC Observatory is the first major collaboration between Cetis and UKOLN in their role as JISC Innovation Support Centres. A recent post on the JISC Observatory blog described how the JISC Observatory team commissioned a study by the New Media Consortium (NMC).  The report was launched during the ALT-C 2011 conference. The report, “Technology Outlook: UK Higher Education” is now available on the NMC Web site (in PDF format, 24 pages). This report is part of the NMC’s series of widely-read Horizon Reports which provide a series on annual reports in technology trends which date back to 2004.

The Technology Outlook report explores the impact of emerging technologies on teaching, learning, research or information management in UK tertiary education over the next five years, as identified by the Horizon.JISC advisory board: a group of experts comprised of an international body of knowledgeable individuals, all highly regarded in their fields representing a range of diverse perspectives across the learning sector. The methodology taken  by the Horizon.JISC advisory board is described on the Horizon Project | JISC Observatory Wiki. The work includes monitoring appropriate press clippings, identifying key trends, discussing and then refining the trends and critical challenges before a voting process to seek consensus.

Implications for Librarians

Next month I will be speaking at the Internet Library International ILI 2011 conference. The conference takes place in London on 27-28 October 2011 and I’ll be talking with Åke Nygren, Stockholm Public Libraries in the opening session of the Technology Developments and Trends track on the topic on “What’s on the Technology Horizon?

Rather than having to come up with my own thoughts on new technological developments relevant to the library sector, I will be summarising some of  the predictions which have been made in the Technology Outlook report and, in the  15 minutes available to me, discuss the implications of these developments for information professions. In addition to summarising the key predicted developments I’d like to provide examples of early adopters within the sector.  If you have been involved in development work in the areas listed below feel free to let me know, either in a comment on this blog or my email, and I’ll see if I can include the example in my presentation.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One year or less:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Mobiles
  • Tablet Computing
  • Open Content

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two-three years

  • Learning Analytics
  • Semantic Applications
  • New Scholarship
  • Semantic Applications

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four-five years

  • Augmented Reality
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Telepresence
  • Smart Objects

And whilst I’m happy to hear about libraries which may be nmaking use of mobile devices and tablets or using Cloud Services, I’d be much more interested to hear of library uses of Augmented Reality, Collective Intelligence, Telepresence or Smart Objects!

Posted in Events, jiscobs | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Moves Away From XML to JSON?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 November 2010

Although in the past I have described standards developed by the W3C which have failed to set the marketplace alight I have always regarded XML as a successful example of a W3C standard.  Part of its initial success was its simplicity – I recall hearing the story of when XML 1.0 was first published, with a copy of the spec being thrown into the audience to much laughter. The reason for the audience’s response? The 10 page (?) spec fluttered gently towards the audience but the SGML specification, for which XML provided a lightweight and Web-friendly alternative, would have crushed people sitting in the first few rows!   I don’t know whether this story is actually true but it provided a vivid way of communicating the simplicity of the standard which, it was felt, would be important in ensuring the standard would gain momentum and widespread adoption.

But where are we now, 12 years after the XML 1.0 specification was published? Has XML been successful in providing a universal markup language for use in not only a variety of document formats but also in protocols?

The answer to this question is, I feel, no longer as clear as it used to be.  In a post on the Digital Bazaaar blog entitled Web Services: JSON vs XML Manu Sporny, Digital Bazaar’s Founder and CEO, makes the case for the ‘inherent simplicity of JSON, arguing that:

XML is more complex than necessary for Web Services. By default, XML requires you to use complex features that many Web Services do not need to be successful.

The context to discussions in the blogosphere over XML vs JSON is the news that Twitter and Foursquare have recently removed XML support from their Web APIs and now support only JSON.  James Clark, in a post on XML vs the Web, appears somewhat ambivalent about this debate (“my reaction to JSON is a combination of ‘Yay’ and ‘Sigh‘”) but goes on to list many advantages of JSON over XML in a Web context:

… for important use cases JSON is dramatically better than XML. In particular, JSON shines as a programming language-independent representation of typical programming language data structures.  This is an incredibly important use case and it would be hard to overstate how appallingly bad XML is for this.

The post concludes:

So what’s the way forward? I think the Web community has spoken, and it’s clear that what it wants is HTML5, JavaScript and JSON. XML isn’t going away but I see it being less and less a Web technology; it won’t be something that you send over the wire on the public Web, but just one of many technologies that are used on the server to manage and generate what you do send over the wire.

The debate continues on both of these blogs.  But rather than engaging in the finer points of the debates of the merits of these two approaches I feel it is important to be aware of decisions which have already been taken.   And as Manu Sporny has pointed out:

Twitter and Foursquare had already spent the development effort to build out their XML Web Services, people weren’t using them, so they decided to remove them.

Meanwhile in a post on Deprecating XML Norman Walsh responds with the comment “Meh” -though he more helpfully expands in this reaction by concluding:

I’ll continue to model the full and rich complexity of data that crosses my path with XML, and bring a broad arsenal of powerful tools to bear when I need to process it, easily and efficiently extracting value from all of its richness. I’ll send JSON to the browser when it’s convenient and I’ll map the the output of JSON web APIs into XML when it’s convenient.

Is this a pragmatic approach which would be shared by developers in the JISC community, I wonder? Indeed on Twitter Tony Hirst has just askedCould a move to json make Linked Data more palatable to developers?” and encouraged the #jiscri and #devcsi communities to read a draft document on “JSON-LD – Linked Data Expression in JSON“.

Posted in jiscobs, standards, W3C | 9 Comments »

HTML and RDFa Analysis of Welsh University Home Pages

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 November 2010

Surveying Communities

A year ago I published a survey of RSS Feeds For Welsh University Web Sites which reported on auto-discoverable RSS feeds available on the home page of 12 Welsh Universities.  This survey was carried out over a small community in order to identify patterns and best practices for the provision of RSS feeds which could inform discussions across the wider community.

Trends in Use of HTML and RDFa

As described in previous analysis of usage of RSS feeds on Scottish University home pages such surveys can help to understand the extent to which emerging new standards and best practices are being deployed within the sector and, if usage is low, in understanding the reasons and exploring ways in which barriers can be addressed.

With the growing interest in HTML5 and RDFa it will be useful to explore whether such formats are being used on institutional home pages.

An initial small-scale survey across Welsh University home pages has been carried out in order to provide some initial findings which can be used to inform discussions and further work in this area.

The Findings

The findings, based on a survey carried out on 21 October 2010, are given in the following table. Note that the HTML analysis was carried out using the W3C HTML validator. The RDFa analysis was carried out using Google’s Rich Snippets testing tool since it is felt that the benefits for searching which use of RDFa is felt to provide will be exploited initially to enhance the visibility of structured information to Google.

Institution Analysis Findings
1 Aberystwyth University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Transitional
RDFa Analysis None found
2 Bangor University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Transitional (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
3 Cardiff University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Strict (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
4 Glamorgan University HTML Analysis HTML5 (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
5 Glyndŵr University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Transitional (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
6 Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Strict (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
7 Swansea University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Transitional
RDFa Analysis None found
8 Swansea Metropolitan University HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Transitional (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
9 Trinity University College HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Strict (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
10 University of Wales Institute, Cardiff HTML Analysis XHTML 1.0 Strict (with errors)
RDFa Analysis None found
11 University of Wales, Newport HTML Analysis HTML 4.01 Transitional (with errors)

Discussion

Only one of the eleven Welsh institutions is currently making use of HTML5 on the institutional home page and none of them are using RDFa which can be detected by Google’s Rich Snippets testing tool.

The lack of use of RDFa, together with previous analyses of use of auto-detectable RSS feeds, would appear to indicate that University home pages are currently failing to provide machine-processable data which could be used to raise the visibility of institutional Web sites on search engines such as Google.

It is unclear whether this is due to a lack of awareness of the potential benefits which RDFa could provide, an awareness that potential benefits may not be realised due to search engines, such as Google, not currently processing RDFa from arbitrary Web sites, the difficulties in embedding RDFa due to limitations of existing CMSs, policy decisions relating to changes of such high profile pages, the provision of structured information in other ways or other reasons.

It would be useful to receive feedback from those involved in managing their  institution’s home page – and also if anyone is using RDFa (or related approaches) and does feel that they are gaining benefits.

Posted in Evidence, HTML, jiscobs, standards | 3 Comments »

Eight Updated HTML5 Drafts and the ‘Open Web Platform’

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 November 2010

Eight Updated HTML5 Drafts

Last week the W3C announced “Eight HTML5 Drafts Updated”.  The HTML Working Group has published eight documents all of which were released on 19 October 2010:

Meanwhile on the W3C blog Philippe Le Hégaret has published a post on “HTML5: The jewel in the Open Web Platform” in which he describes how he has been “inspired by the enthusiasm for the suite of technical standards that make up what W3C calls the ‘Open Web Platform’“.

The ‘Open Web Platform’

The term ‘Open Web Platform’ seems strange, especially coming from a W3C employee. After all, has the Web always been based on an open platform since it was first launched, with open standards and open source client and server tools?

Philippe Le Hégaret goes on to say that Open Web Platform is “HTML5, a game-changing suite of tools that incorporates SVG, CSS and other standards that are in various stages of development and implementation by the community at W3C”.

Philippe described these ideas in a video on “The Next Open Web Platform” published in January 2010. From the transcript is seems that W3C are endorsing the characterisations of  “Web 1.0,  which provided a “very passive user experience“,  followed by “Web 2.0″ which provided “a more interactive user experience“.

The W3C, it seems, have announced that they are now “pushing the web in two areas, which are orthogonals. One is the Web of Data, that we refer to, of course, the Semantic Web, cloud computings that we are also interested in and mash-ups, data integration in general. And the other one is the Web of Interaction“.

Discussion

Whilst the W3C have always been prolific in publishing technical standards they have, I feel, been relatively unsuccessful in marketing their vision. It was the commercial sector which coined the term ‘Web 2.0′ – a term which had many detractors in the developer community, who showed their distaste by describing it as “a mere marketing term“.

Web 2.0 is marketing term – and a very successful marketing term, which also spun off other 2.0 memes.  So I find it interesting to observe that the W3C are now pro-active in the marketing of their new technical vision, centred around HTML5 and other presentational standards under the term ‘Open Web Platform’.

And alongside the ‘Open Web Platform W3C are continuing to promote what  they continue to describe as the ‘Semantic Web’.  But will this turn out to be a positive brand?  Over time we have seen the lower case semantic web, the pragmatic Semantic Web,  the Web of Data and Linked Data being used as a marketing term (with various degrees of technical characterisations).    But will the variety of terms which have been used result in confusion?  Looking at a Google Trend comparison of the terms “Semantic Web” and “Open Web Platform” we see a decrease in searches for “Semantic Web” since 2004, whilst there is not yet sufficient data to show the trends for the “Open Web Platform“.

Whilst I, like Philippe Le Hégaret, am also an enthusiast for the ‘Open Web Platform’ (who, after all, could fail to support a vision of an open Web?)  there is still a need to appreciate concerns and limitations and understand benefits before making decisions on significant uses of the standards which comprise the Open Web Platform. I will be exploring such issues in future posts – and welcome comments from others with an interest in this area.

Posted in jiscobs, standards, W3C | 2 Comments »

Release of MathML v3 as a W3C Standard

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 October 2010

On 21 October 2010 the W3C made an announcement about an “important standard for making mathematics on the Web more accessible and international, especially for early mathematics education“. The press release described how “MathML 3 is the third version of a standard supported in a wide variety of applications including Web pages, e-books, equation editors, publishing systems, screen readers (that read aloud the information on a page) and braille displays, ink input devices, e-learning and computational software.”

But what about support from browser vendors?  The press release went on to describe how “MathML 3 is part of W3C’s Open Web Platform, which includes HTML5, CSS, and SVG. Browser vendors will add MathML 3 support as they expand their support for HTML5. Firefox and Camino already support MathML 2 natively, and Safari/WebKit nightly builds continue to improve. Opera supports the MathML for CSS profile of MathML 3. Internet Explorer users can install a freely-available MathPlayer plug-in. In addition, JavaScript software such as MathJax enables MathML display in most browsers without native support.

Does it work? In order to investigate I installed the Firemath extension for FireFox and the MathPlayer plugin for Internet Explorer.  I then viewed the MathML Browser Test (Presentation Markup) page using FireFox (v 4.0), Chrome, Internet Explorer (v 8) and Opera (v 10.61). The results shown using Internet Explorer version 8 are shown below, with the first and second columns containing an image of how the markup has been rendered in TeXShop and FireFox with STIK Beta Fonts and the third column showing how the markup is rendered in the browser the user is using.

A quick glance at the display on all four browsers shows that the support seems pretty good [Note following a commented I received I have noticed that the page isn’t rendered in Chrome) – added 2 November 2010].  However it would take a  mathematician to ensure that the renderings of mathematical formula are acceptable.

It should also be noted that MathML 3 is part of HTML5. This means that embedding maths in Web documents should become easier, with direct import from HTML to mathematics software and vice versa.

In order to encourage takeup the W3C Math home page provides links to “A Gentle Introduction to MathML” and “MathML: Presenting and Capturing Mathematics for the Web” tutorials with “The MathML Handbook” available for purchase.

The W3C have provided a “MathML software list” together with a “MathML 3 Implementation Testing Results Summary” – which, it should be noted, has not not been updated since July 2010.

I think this announcement is of interest in the context of institutional planning for migration of document formats to richer and more open environments provided by HTML5 and associated standards such as MathML, CSS 3. etc.

Will we start to see documents containing MathML markup being uploaded to institutional repositories, I wonder? And should this format be preferred to PDFs for scientific papers containing mathematical markup?

Posted in jiscobs, standards, W3C | Tagged: | 8 Comments »