UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Posts Tagged ‘#wantedbytheODI’

Wanted By The ODI: Conclusions

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 August 2013

On Monday I described how the ODI (Open Data Institute) had advertised a post for a Community Engagement Manager. The job advert described how:

This isn’t a normal job; we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19 August please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

Quite a challenge! But it does seem appropriate that an application for a post at the Open Data Institute should be published in an open fashion. This approach also helped the Open Data Institute to raise its visibility: I expect potential applicants will have been demonstrating their expertise in engaging with audiences in a variety of ways –  have there been any high-profile ‘flashmobs’ over the past few days, I wonder? I had intended to demonstrate my suitability for their job by publishing a series of blog posts containing infographics which would illustrate various aspects of my work. However as I am currently on holiday in Northumberland I decided that visits to castles would take priority! So instead this final post (which I hope won’t be penalised for missing the 12 noon deadline!) provides a summary of the reasons why I feel I am well-suited for the post together with an accompanying poster display which is embedded in this post and is also available on Slideshare:

A commitment to open practices:
I started to make use of Creative Commons licences for the JISC-funded QA Focus project shortly before Creative Commons licences were formally recognised in UK legislation. I have used a Creative Commons licence for posts on this blog and for the slides I use in my presentations. I also ensure that my research papers are openly available with a Creative Commons licence from the University of Bath repository. I also make use of open practices in my work, such as this blog which acts as an ‘open notebook’ in which I share my ideas and invite feedback and discussion.
A pro-active approach to sharing and engagement:
I have been pro-active in sharing my experiences across a wide audience, including Web practitioners in UK Universities, the cultural sector in the UK together with the wider research community. As can be seen from the accompanying timeline I have been involved in such open practices for a significant period.
An experienced speaker:
I am an experienced speaker: I have given a total of 429 presentations between November 1996 and July 2013.
An experienced event organiser:
I am an experienced event organiser, having established the annual IWMW event seventeen years ago.
A willingness to evaluate new tools, techniques and services:
I am willing to evaluate new tools and services in order to be able to exploit potential benefits of innovative practices. An example has been the use of event amplification technologies at IWMW since 2005 (which was described in a paper entitled “Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences” presented at the EUNIS 2005 conference.
An experienced writer:
I have written over 60 peer-reviewed or invited papers at local, national and international events. I have also published over 1,200 posts on this blog.
Strong professional networks:
I have strong professional networks on services such as Twitter and LinkedIn as well as across the Web accessibility research community and the educational technology community.
Knowledgeable of the importance of metrics (and their limitations):
I am aware of the importance of metrics associated with use of social media, but am also aware that metrics can be ‘gamed’ and will often need to be used in conjunction with complementary sources of evidence.

I should add that an advantage of publishing an open application for a job is that other organisations can also see what I have to offer. If my skills and expertise are of interest to you please get in touch. After all, I may not get the job – or if I do, I might still be interested in other options!

open practices timeline

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Supporting Open Data and Open Content

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 August 2013

Following on from a couple of posts last week which summarised reasons why I may be  and an explanation of What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers? in today’s post I summarise some of the ways in which I have made use of open content and encouraged others to do likewise.

IWMW event and open dataDuring my 16 years at UKOLN I have given over 400 talks throughout the UK and Europe, as well as in North America, Australia and Asia. I have made many of the slides available with Creative Commons licences as well as using services such as Slideshare which permit reuse, downloading, modifications and embedding.

But in addition to a personal commitment to openness I have also sought to ensure that others in the higher education sector are aware of the potential benefits of open practices.

The annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series has provided an opportunity to make use of open practices and ensure that those with responsibilities for managing institutional Web services in UK universities are aware of moves towards openness.

The IWMW 2013 event, for example, opened with a keynote talk on “Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER” which was given by Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. This was followed by Doug Belshaw’s talk on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. In addition to such keynote talks, workshop sessions on “Open Up: Open Data in the Public Sector” and “Save Money and Make Things Better with Linked Open Data” provided an opportunity for participants to explore issues about data and openness in more detail.

iwmw speaker mapBut in addition to the talks and workshop sessions which address various aspects of openness, information about the 17 years of IWMW events has been made available as open data, This has included information on the location of the IWMW events, details of the plenary talks and workshop sessions and biographical details of the speakers and facilitators.

This information has been provided in RSS format, a lightweight and extensible syndication format which has proved suitable for this task.

The extensibility of RSS has enabled geo-located information to be provided.  In addition to the location of the IWMW events themselves, the biographical information includes the location of the host institution of the speakers and workshop facilitators.

Use of open data in this way has enabled maps to be provided, as illustrated, showing the extent of active participation at 17 years of events from across the sector. It should be noted that this work focussed on the creation of the data and associated data modelling, rather than the use of an application. The initial applications which provided location maps of the data have subsequently been superceded by Google Maps which provides a more robust service. The data could potentially be used for other purposes, such as providing estimates of the carbon costs of speakers and facilitators in travelling from their host institution to the IWMW event.

The data modelling led to an awareness of the importance of definition of the data items and the need for documentation – it was decided to provide geo-location information for the speakers’ host institution (and not, for example, where they live) and this information was primarily provided only for people who were based in universities and not for consultants of those  working for the commercial sector.

It does seem to me that given the importance of events as a channel for sharing ideas there would be benefits from providing open data associated with events themselves, which can build on access access to the talks given at events. The Lanyrd service can be used to provide information about speakers at events, as can be seen from my Lanyrd profile. I’d be interested to hear of further examples of the ways in which open event data is being used, especially examples of the aggregation of event data.

Posted in Events, openness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 August 2013

Open data posterIn a post entitled Wanted For The ODI! which I published yesterday I described the Open Data Institute’s (ODI) Community Engagement Manager post. 

Tom Heath, the Head of Research at the ODI explained how he wanted potential applicants for the post to “demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience” in order to support “collaborative projects [which] will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses“.

But what is open data and why the interest in open data?  There is a need, I feel, to be able to provide answers to these questions to those who may not be currently engaged in work involving use of open data.

A definition of the term ‘open data’ is available from Wikipedia: “Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control”. This is a useful definition as Wikipedia is a popular reference source for people looking to find definitions of new concepts – indeed there have been 32,739 views of this article in the last 90 days.

But although this definition states that “certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish” it does not explain why data should be freely available. In the area of open source software, Richard Stallman has argued that  software should be “free as in speech” rather “than free as in beer“. I don’t agree with this view; rather I feel that open source software can provide business benefits by enabling others to view, use and adapt software.

I take the same view for open data. In the case of data provided by, analysed by and commented on by researchers there can be benefits in making the data open so that other researchers can validate the data and verify the analyses made of the data.

But is this also the case for institutional data? And what barriers might institutions put in place which restricts the use of others to “use and republish [data] as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control“. A significant barrier will be concerns that the provision of open data will result in the loss of revenue streams for the institution. Often such issues are raised within the context of commercial organisations which may make money from data, such as publishers who licence researcher’s data, usage data, etc. But it would be a mistake to regard such barriers as being imposed only by the commercial sector.  Back in December 2010 in a post entitled “Impact, Openness and Libraries” I described how:

SCONUL [the UK academic library organisation] has been collecting and publishing statistics from university libraries for over twelve years, with the aim of providing sound information on which policy decisions can be based.

I went on to point out that:

The SCONUL data is not publicly available. It seems that the SCONUL Annual Library Statistics is published yearly – and copies cost £80.

and added that:

Perhaps more importantly in today’s climes, the closed nature of the report and the underlying data (which is closed by its price, closed by being available only to member organisations and closed by being available in PDF format) is how perceptions of secrecy goes against  expectations that public sector organisation should be open and transparent.

One approach to obtaining access to such closed data is to submit a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request. Shortly after I published by blog post, following discussions at the ILI conference Tony Hirst submitted an FOI request:

Please could you supply me with a copy of the annual statistical report made to SCONUL from the University of Bath Library for the period 2008-9

which provided access to the SCONUL data for one institution although, being in PDF format it was not well-suited for further analysis.

This example illustrates, I feel, some of the difficulties which will need to be addressed in enhancing the availability of open data in the public sector. And whilst there are technical challenges (the formats used; the metadata which describes the data sources and the workflow processes for providing access to the data) ; resourcing issues (who pays for the additional work needed); skills issues (do organisations have the technical expertise and systems needed to provide open data) and business model issues (will there be sufficient interest by others in consuming open data to justify the costs) there is also the need to consider some of the underlying political considerations regarding the growth in interest in open content. In 2005 Bill Gates described free culture advocates as a “modern-day sort of communists”. But from today’s political and economic environment might not the pressures on public sector bodies to provide open data about their activities be regarded as a neo-conservative plot aimed at the privatisation of the public sector be providing opportunities for the commercial sector to exploit business intelligence? And are we seeing examples of this in the moves from open educational resources to MOOCS, in which learning analytics seems to be becoming a valuable digital commodity?

I’d welcome responses to these concerns!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Wanted For The ODI!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 August 2013

Wanted for the ODIA recent tweet from Matt Jukes alerted me to a job opportunity:

Great job at the Open Data Institute -Community Engagement Manager bit.ly/13wIFg2 – apart from @tommyh as a line manager ;)

The job description began:

In this role you’ll be instrumental in strengthening the ODI’s relationship with the open data community, from developers to policy makers, researchers and executives. You’ll be based at the ODI’s offices in Shoreditch, at the heart of the London startup scene, but connected to the latest developments in open data across Europe and beyond.

and went on to describe how:

Reporting to the Head of Research, the main focus of your efforts will be managing the dissemination and outreach activities of EU-funded research projects. These collaborative projects will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses. The ability of these projects to reach and engage their target audiences will be central to their success, giving you a prime opportunity to demonstrate and develop your community engagement skills.

This job is of interest to me, in light of my belief in open practices and in use of open data, especially to inform policy decisions and practices.  However the most intriguing aspect is given in the final paragraph:

This isn’t a normal job so we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19th August 2013 please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

My challenge, then, is to make Tom aware of the value I could provide for this role in creative ways which demonstrate my passion for open data!

As I am away on holiday this week, up in the “desolate north” of England I will have to be creative in communicating with Tom – perhaps I should get myself a whippet while I’m in the north east and attach a postcard to it in an attempt to provide a creative alternative to sending tweets to Tom!

But in case I find that the Internet does extend as far as Northumberland  I’ll respond to Tom my publishing an open CV on this blog – an appropriate response for a job at the Open Data Institute, I feel.

But in case Tom isn’t listening, you could help by tweeting links to my post with the #wantedbytheODI tag. And if you have any further evidence to support the accusation that I have been making data and other content freely available please leave details in the comments field. Sheriff Tom Heath would like to know more!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 4 Comments »