UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for Dec, 2006

New look-and-feel for 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Dec 2006

I’d changed the WordPress theme to Andreas09 – which provides a 3-column layout, with sidebar widgets on the left and right of the main body.

Hope you like it – I think it gives more flexibility to exploit sidebar widgets.

Happy New Year.



Posted in Blog, General | 3 Comments »

7 Predictions For 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Dec 2006

My predictions for the forthcoming year:

  1. Location, location, location: We will see much greater use of location-based services. Why? Google Maps mashups are becoming more ubiquitous, due to the ease of use, and consumers are buying hardware which can exploit such information, such as GPS devices, mobile phones with GPS (or alternative) support for locations, etc. We are seeing a number of small-scale experiments (I have been geo-locating my events this year, and Northumbria University has recently announced a UK University locator service). This year we’ll see such experiments moving to services.
  2. Web 2 services come and go, but become ubiquitous: there will be some great new Web 2.0 services – and we’ll start to make use of ones which the early adopters are already using (PageFlakes, anyone?). But others will fail to avoid the ‘chasm’ in the Gartner hype curve for new technologies. However we will develop better models for evaluating and deploying Web 2.0 services, and the sustainable services will become widely deployed. And the endless debates about the ‘Web 2.0’ term will diminish.
  3. W3C wars will continue: We’ll hear more about the battles within W3C in areas such as XHTML 2.0 and HTML 5, Web Services, the Semantic Web and WCAG 2.0. Stripping away the technical debate, we’ll realise that the arguments are between the idealists (“we’ll throw away HTML and start again and get it right”) and the pragmatists (“HTML won’t go away; we need to improve it incrementally”).
  4. We’ll discover that we are a Community of Practice: The term “community of practice” will become more widely used and after an initial period of unease with this phrase (similar to last year’s criticisms of ‘Web 2.0’) the UK Web development community, especially those who attend the Institutional Web Management Workshops or engage in debate on the mailing lists) will realise that it has been a community of practice for several years and will exploit a wider range of social networking tools to build on the strengths of the community.
  5. Use of existing services vs developing new services: There will be a split in the development community between those who feel there’s a need to develop new tools and services and those who argue that it is better to make use of existing tools and services. It may take some time before a hybrid approach is developed.
  6. We become more flexible about IPR: We’ll discover that copyright holders start to realise that user-generated content which makes use of copyrighted materials can actually be beneficial to the copyright holder (by exposing their materials to new audiences and by providing new business models, for example). We will start to deploy less rigid policies – and discover that this makes it easier to get services off the ground and attract audiences – with Creative Commons licences providing a valuable starting point.
  7. Management of user IDs for Web 2.0 services will be a major challenge: As staff and students leave their institutions they will realise that many of the Web 2.0 services for which an email address provides the authentication, cannot be managed after the institutional email address is withdrawn. This will be recognised as a major challenge which will need to be addressed.

Any comments on these predictions?

Posted in General, Web2.0 | 6 Comments »

Blog of the Day

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Dec 2006

It was nice to see that this Blog was featured as the number 1 in WordPress’s list of Blogs of The Day for growing blogs:

Blog of the Day

I don’t think this with drive much traffic to the blog, but at least one person noticed this and visited my blog.

Posted in Blog, General | Leave a Comment »

It’s About Giving, Not Taking

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Dec 2006

A colleague came in to my office yesterday clutching a book (“Wiki A New Wave in Web Collaboration“) she had just received which, she informed me, had a contribution from me. Rather than a brief mention I was surprised to find that it included an 8 page article on “Experiences of Using a Wiki for Note-taking at a Workshop“. I had to search for this title before finding that this was an article I’d written which had been published in Ariadne (Issue 42, January 2005). I then recalled that over a year ago we had received a request from someone in Indian working for ICFAI (Institute of Chartered Financial Analysis of India) for permission to include this article in a book he was editing. I was happy to give my permission – and was very pleased to receive a copy of the book just before Christmas.

Having a article published in a book produced in India reminded me that back in January 1995 I sent out an announcement about a handbook on “Running A WWW Service” which I had written and which was mirrored in the US, Sweden,Turkey and Slovenia (not Singapore, as I mistakenly announced, misinterpretting the .si country code). The handbook was also, at one stage, included in the SuSE Linux distribution pack.

I’ve always has an open attitude regarding materials I’ve written, and, for the past year, my slides have contained a Creative Commons logo. In June 2005 I gave a talk at the EUNIS 2005 conference on “Let’s Free IT Support Materials!” in which I argued for support services in our institutions should be pro-active in allowing documents produced for internal use available for re-use by others.

Three days before Christmas it is timely to repeat this proposal. Remember, openness is about giving, not taking.

Merry Christmas


Posted in openness, publications | 2 Comments »

Christmas Quiz II – An Answer

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Dec 2006

In the Christmas Quiz II posting I asked the question:

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

There were two responses to this question which I will discuss in more detail:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in HTML | 2 Comments »

Blog Tag: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Brian Kelly

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Dec 2006

Phil Bradley’s Blog describes how he has joined in the Blogtagging game and has Blog tagged me: he has posted 5 interesting facts about himself, and invited 5 people he knows to do likewise. It sounds like a pyramid chain but, rather than predicting ill-fortune on those who break the chain, I take a positive view that this can be useful in building a community by getting to know each other better (we normally have to wait for the social events at IWMW events to do this, so this is a useful approach in the run up to Christmas). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in General | 3 Comments »

The Trouble With Wikis

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Dec 2006

UKOLN hosted a workshop on “Exploring The Potential Of Wikis” in Birmingham on 3 November 2006. A summary of the workshop evaluation is now available; the comments on the workshop, the talks and the discussion groups give an indication of the interest there is in the institutional provision of Wikis.

However as usage of Wiki software grows, some of the limitations become more apparent. Here are some of the issues which I have identified, which may not have been discussed at the workshop:

  • Navigibility: What does a Home button mean on a Wiki? Is it the home of the Wiki service (which could be a service for the entire institution)? Is it the home for an individual, who may have multiple sub-Wikis? Or is it the home page for a sub-Wiki area?
  • URI structure: Remember when institutions provided guidelines on URI naming conventions, such as UKOLN’s URI Naming Conventions For Your Project Web Site briefing document? Such guidelines addressed issues such as having a consistent approach to the capitalisation of words in URIs and conventions for separating words in URIs (with a ‘-‘ often being preferred to an ‘_’ or a space). With Wikis you may find that the Wiki software imposes a URI structure, which may conflict with institutional guidelines.
  • Web site structure: A hierarchical URI structure can be useful for defining self-contained areas of a Web site. This structure can be exploited by tools such as off-line browsers. However the flat structure which many Wikis provide means that such benefits may be lost.
  • Standards: Do Wikis ensure that Web sites comply with HTML and CSS standards? A danger is that some may not.
  • Accessibility: Do Wikis allow authors to provide the structure and tagging needed to ensure that people with disabilities can access content held in Wikis using assistive technologies?
  • Device independence: Are Wikis which provide a rich user experience to authors and readers through use of AJAX technologies usable on platforms such as the Apple Macintosh? One Macintosh users at the workshop reported that the workshop’s WetPaint Wiki required use of a (non-existent) right mouse button in order to edit pages on the Wiki.

Are these show-stoppers? Should we put on hold our plans to deploy Wiki software until such issues have been addressed? Are there other significant problems with Wikis? Or can such limitations be outweighed by the benefits which Wikis can provide?

Posted in Events, Wikis | 2 Comments »

Reflections On 2006 – Accessibility

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Dec 2006

Whither WCAG 2.0?

It had been expected that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines would be released by W3C WAI this year, to replace WCAG 1.0 which came out way back in 1999. However the reviewing process for WCAG 2.0 seems to have slowed down (if not stopped) due, I suspect, to the huge influx of comments received after Joe Clark published his “To Hell With WCAG 2.0” article published in May on A List Apart. Joe’s posting generated much debate from commentators such as The Pickards, Stephen Downes, Joe Dolson and contributors to Accessify Forum as well as follow up articles and discussions on Joe’s own Blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Accessibility | 1 Comment »

Christmas Quiz – An Answer

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Dec 2006

In my Christmas Quiz posting I asked which of the following are open standards:

Flash PDF RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0 MS Word

Before giving my thoughts on this, I will comment on the responses.

Your Responses

James Brown felt that “first, my definition of an open standard: publicly available and able to be implemented such that two or more different uses of the standard will be compatible and accessible.” He then went on to apply that rule to the examples I gave and felt that each of them had characteristics of openness but not completely so.

Phil Wilson felt gave his “definition of an open standard: publicly available and able to be implemented such that two or more different uses of the standard will be compatible and accessible.

Ravis Reddick thinks that “Flash itself isn’t the standard, it’s the official authoring tool and general brand name for the technology. Other authoring tools can author ‘Flash’; the export format is various version of Shockwave Flash. I think this can now be authored in an open way using an intermediary format

Kevin Ashley’s view is that “Flash, PDF and more recent versions of MS Word are all open in the sense that the file format is published, and it is possible to create tools to read/render content in those formats using nothing except the published standards.” He went on to add that “All of them are not open in the sense that new versions of the formats can be created at the whim of the company that owns them.” Although he is “not so worried about that; if I don’t like PDF 1.7 because of some new license twist, I won’t use it. All the stuff I already have in PDF 1.x (x“.

And finally Steve Nisbett feels that “PDF, FLASH and MS may well be seen as ’standard’ – available all over the place, but they are certain not Open.

My Views

I can recall back in 1993-4 having similar discussions about open standards. Back then I can recall arguing that a system such as the Web because of the:

  • Open standards.
  • Client software was available on a variety of platforms.
  • Service software was available on a variety of platforms.

There were a number of other bullet points (which I have forgotten) but I do recall that my definition was used in a response to other systems which were competing with the Web (and in my opinion where inferior to the Web). These included such as the Guide hypertext system, developed at the University of Kent and Microcosm, an “Open Hypermedia Environment for Information Integration” developed by Professor Wendy Hall and colleagues at the University of Southampton. As these products were being pushed in 1992/3 as potential alternatives to the Web (and came from well-established Computer Science departments with good reputations for the quality of their research) I came up with my definition of openness, which I gave at a day’s workshop on Hypertext Systems On Unix Platforms at the University of Kent back in 1993 (it was originally intended, I think, as a promotional events for Guide, and I was the token person describing at alternative approach!) However my definition of openness was clearly not an open definition – it was intended to embrace my preferred solution, at the expense of the competitors. I’m aware that others take a similar approach (which all too often seems to resolve to “an open standard is one that Microsoft have no involvement in, no matter how proprietary it may be!”).

The respondents to this quiz take a more honest approach, I’m pleased to find.

So what are my thoughts?

The examples I used were taken from a presentation of a paper on A Contextual Framework For Standards which I gave at the “Workshop on E-Government: Barriers and Opportunities” which was held in Edinburgh in May 2006. The opening speaker at the workshop was Ivan Herman of the W3C (and currently the lead of the W34C’s Semantic Web activity). In his presentation Ivan cited an EU definition of openness:

  • The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization
  • The standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge
  • The intellectual property of the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis
  • No constraints on the re-use of the standard.

Shortly after Ivan’s talk I delivered my slides, and, as can be seen, I asked the audience (which included not only Ivan Herman, but also Steve Bratt, CEO of W3C) which of the following were open standards:

XHTML    Flash     PDF     Java     RSS 1.0     RSS 2.0     MS Word

There was universal agreement that XHTML was an open standard and Flash, PDF, Java and MS Word weren’t. But there was ambivalence over both versions of RSS – it may be based on XML – but there are uncertainties over the governance of the standards. As Phil Wilson commented:

RSS 2.0 is published but there is a strict copyright on the usage of the term, and no-one apart from Dave Winer may make changes to it (“Someone has to have the last word, and when it comes to the RSS 2.0 roadmap, that’s me”, “I am banging the gavel”).

Related concerns have been raised over the future development of RSS 1.0. I would argue, therefore, that RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 fail the EU’s definition according to the “will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization” – neither seems to being adequately maintained.

Tavis Reddick mentioned that “The question isn’t clear about what is the standard: the interface, the file format, the information model…? I took it to mean something like the data binding format.

It should be noted that the EU’s definition of a open standards relates to the openness and the governance of the standard itself – it is silent on issues such as the openness of tools to support its usage.

What does this mean to policy makers, developers, funders and users with digital library development programmes? One response is “nothing, this is just splitting hairs”. But if our mantra is “Interoperability through open standards” then surely we need to have an agreed understanding and definition of ‘open standards’? Oleg Liber, Director of CETIS touched on this issue in his talk at the recent JISC-CETIS Conference. His slides reviewed CETIS historical involvement with educational technology standards:

  • 1998-1999: Educational technology interoperability standards?
  • 2000-2005: Educational technology interoperability standards!
  • 2006-2011: Educational technology? Interoperability? Standards?

From the certainties we held at the start of the new century, we are now beginning to challenge some of our basic assumptions.

“Interoperability? Standards?” or “Interoperability! Standards!”? What is your view?

Merry Christmas


Posted in standards | Leave a Comment »

Reflections On 2006 – Standards

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Dec 2006

This year has seen UKOLN building on its work on ways in which standards can be used to support digital library development programmes. In the past a simplistic approach had been taken, which assumed that standards developed by trusted standards bodies (W3C, IETF, ISO, etc.) would become widely accepted within the market place. This approach, however, has failed in the past (Coloured Book software anyone?) and we currently are seeing a wide range of debates over standards across the Web development community (Web Services Considered Harmful; RSS vs RSS vs Atom debates; the Semantic Web vs the lower case semantic web and microformats and, more recently, a radical vision for the future based on XHTML 2.0 vs an evolutionary development towards HTML 5.0 – as described in Molly Holzschlag’s Blog) .

UKOLN’s contribution to the debate has been the development of a contextual three-layered approach, based on a neutral standards catalogue (containing details of standards, their governance; their maturity and a risk assessment) together with policy layers for selecting relevant standards and for managing non-compliance with the policies. This approach, which has been designed to provide a level of flexibility which is needed in a rapidly changing technical environment is supported by an advocacy strategy (which promotes the benefits of open standards) and an iterative feedback and development approach (in order to learn from patterns of best practices).

We have sought to develop our ideas and gain feedback by papers which have been submitted to a number of peer-reviewed conferences. In May a paper on A Contextual Framework For Standards was presented at the “Workshop on E-Government: Barriers and Opportunities” which was co-located with the International World Wide Web Conference held in Edinburgh.

My colleague Marieke Guy has been engaged in implementing the system which is based on our contextual model. It was pleasing when Marieke and I met with members of the eReSS project to discover that they had taken a similar approach in the area of e-science standards.

This contextual approach has been designed to be usable by the wider community. The information provided in the standards catalogue has a Creative Commons licence associated with the entries, so there should be no legal barriers to the reuse of the content. This will enable developers, policy makers, managers, etc. within institutions to make use of the resources to support institutional development activities. More importantly from a JISC perspective, the approach can be used by JISC’s partners in the Strategic E-Content Alliance (SEA). The SEA is an alliance of bodies such as JISC, MLA. BBC and Becta, which aims to provide seamless access for the public to a wide range of scholarly, cultural and educational resource. The contextual approach to the selection and use of open standards is particularly relevance in this content as, though the bodies will seek agreement where possible on relevant standards, there will be areas in which organisational or political considerations may outweigh technical factors.

Next year will see UKOLN continuing to build on this work – and we are particularly pleased that a paper on Addressing the Limitations of Open Standards has been accepted at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference.

Posted in standards | 1 Comment »

Reflections On 2006 – IWMW 2006

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Dec 2006

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

Posted in Events, IWMC | Leave a Comment »

Reflections on 2006 – Events

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Dec 2006

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

Posted in Events, IWMC | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Dec 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in IWMC | 4 Comments »


Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Dec 2006

I recently attended a joint JISC/UKOLN/CETIS awayday meeting. One of the issues which arose in the discussion group I participated in was the boundaries between personal services, institutional services and national services.

Scott Wilson (CETIS) suggested the acronym PING (personal, institutional, national and global).

In response I proposed PONG (personal, organisational, national and global).

An alternative would be DING and DONG (distributed institutional/organisational, national and global).

The PING PONG debate will, no doubt, be bounced between UKOLN and CETIS.

(Note UKOLN has its Christmas lunch yesterday, and I have probably been reading too many Christmas cracker jokes and puns).

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Christmas Quiz II

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Dec 2006

Another quiz for Christmas.

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


Feel free to add your comments.

Posted in IWMC, standards | 4 Comments »

Accessibility and Institutional Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Dec 2006

There has been some discussion on the JISC-Repositories JISCMail list (under the confusing subject line of “PLoS business models, global village”) on the issue of file formats for depositing scholarly papers. Some people (including myself) feel that open formats such as XHTML should be the preferred format; others feel that the effort required in creating XHTML can be a barrier to populating digital repositories, and that use of PDF can provide a simple low-effort solution, especially if authors are expected to take responsibility for uploading their papers to an institutional repository.

An issue I raised was the accessibility of resources in digital repositories. There are well established guidelines developed by WAI which can help to ensure that HTML content can be accessible to people with disabilities. Myself and others have argued that the guidelines and the WAI model is flawed, but many of the guidelines are helpful and institutions should seek to implement them (indeed there are legal requirements to ensure that services do not discriminate against people with disabilities).

WCAG 1 has the following requirements:
3.2 Create documents that validate to published formal grammars. [Priority 2]
11.1 Use W3C technologies when they are available and appropriate for a task and use the latest versions when supported. [Priority 2]
11.4 If, after best efforts, you cannot create an accessible page, provide a link to an alternative page that uses W3C technologies, is accessible, has equivalent information (or functionality), and is updated as often as the inaccessible (original) page. [Priority 1].

This seems to be pretty unfriendly towards PDFs, I would argue. WCAG 2.0 (which is in draft form) is, however, neutral regarding file formats – a development I welcome (although the guidelines still have their limitations). However the guidelines still require that content is accessible; and as well as the requirement in the guidelines, there are also legal and ethical requirements to address such issues.

Proprietary formats such as PDF can be made accessible. However I am uncertain as to how alternative text for images and providing structure to PDF documents will happen in a distributed workflow environment.

Rather than dwelling on this (technical) issue, I would like to focus on the policy issues, which should be independent of particular file formats. UK legislation requirements organisations to take reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against unfairly. One could argue that it would be unreasonable to expect hundreds in not thousands of legacy resources to have accessibility metadata and document structures applied to them, if this could be demonstrated to be an expensive exercise of only very limited potential benefit. However if we seek to explore what may be regarded as ‘unreasonable’ we then need to define ‘reasonable’ actions which institutions providing institutional repositories would be expected to take.

One approach would be for the institution to ensure that it provides appropriate training and staff development for authors who are expected to upload documents to repositories. Linked to this may be tools which can flag problem areas to the authors, as documents are being prepared for uploading. There may then be auditing tools which can alert institutions to potential problems.

Related to policies to support the authors, are policies which address specific problems which users with disabilities may have. Clearly many scientific papers (containing formulae, for example) may be difficult to be processed by traditional assistive technologies. Perhaps this is where there is a need for just-in-time accessibility (as opposed to the traditional just-in case approach) or blended accessibility (real world alternatives to digital accessibility barriers).

Posted in Accessibility, Repositories | 9 Comments »

Christmas Quiz

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Dec 2006

A quiz for Christmas.

Which of the following are open standards:

Flash     PDF     RSS 1.0     RSS 2.0     MS Word

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

Please use the comments box for your thoughts.

Posted in General, IWMC, standards | 11 Comments »

LibraryThing Hits The Limit

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Dec 2006

A LibraryThing Blog posting informs me that recently their database contained 8,388,608 records – apparently this is half of 224, the largest number you can store in three bytes. It’s also the limit for MySQL’s “signed medium integer” (111111111111111111111111).  They have now rebuilt the database – and won’t hit another barrier until they hold information on 8.4 billion books!

This is clearly a ‘cool’ service (it was also recently featured on Slashdot) . How did they succeed in being so popular?  What lessons can the JISC development community learn from the popularity of the service?  Any suggestions?

Posted in Web2.0 | 3 Comments »

Cool FireFox Extensions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Dec 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in IWMC, Web2.0 | Leave a Comment »

It’s Cool to be Cool!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Dec 2006

“Have you seen LibraryThing – it’s cool!”. “I agree. And I’ve written a cool XSLT script to take data from my OPAC and upload it to LibraryThing – and also to” “That’s cool!” (see footnote).

A common response to hearing discussions such as this is to be dismissive – “It’s just geeks being clever. We need to adopt a user-focused approach to development, and we must deploy formal user needs analysis. And we should be dispassionate about the services we’re developing – so the ‘cool’ word is banned! ”

Although there is a need to take a user-focused approach to development, I would argue that there’s also a need to encourage a ‘cool’ approach to development, especially at a time of rapid technological development that we are currently seeing.

One reason for this is to build on the work of the early developers and bridge the ‘chasm’ in the Gartner hype curve.

Gartner hype curve, showing the 'chasm'

For developers to be pleased with their work and wish to share their successes with others is, I would argue, an approach to be encouraged. And if the vocabulary includes the word, ‘cool’ then that’s fine by me.

There is also a need to have a better understanding of the positive aspects of the term ‘cool’ in development circles. At the international World Wide Web conferences which I have attended, the word cool is often used to refer to development work based on simple and elegant implementations of new standards and technologies elegant; the emphasis in this community does not normally focus on fashionable user interfaces.

However I would argue that development of ‘cool user interfaces’ should also be encouraged. Andy Powell has commented on the differences between and JORUM – and I would argue that Slideshare’s cool interface has contributed to its popularity.

There is, however, a danger to being cool. Cool can be used to refer to innovation for its own sake or fashionable user interface features which may result in degraded experiences for some. Let our mantra be “Let’s do cool cool stuff and avoid the bad cool development”. If you’re a manager and you hear your developers talking about cool applications, grill them to find out which meaning of cool they are using – if they are good developers, you may learn something; and if they’re not you will need to make use of your management skills.


See Dave Pattern’s blog entry about how he integrated data from the Library OPAC with LibraryThing and – and the first comment :-).

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Where are the Blogging UK Librarians?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Dec 2006

I have given a number of Web 2.0 presentations to the library and information professional communities recently. It has been pleasing to note that responses to hearing about technologies such as Blogs and Wikis and Web 2.0 approaches such as trust and the importance of user-generated content has been very positive. The attitude seems to be “I can appreciate possible benefits, but I’m not sure what to do next”.

In terms of Blogging, a good approach would be to observe what one’s colleagues are doing, identify types of usage and examples of best practice and, if this fits in with local needs, to seek to emulate the best practices.

But where are the Blogging librarians in the UK? I recently heard about the Northampton University Library Blog (called Shush!), which is illustrated.

Northampton University Library Blog

This is based on a WordPress Blog, which seems to be hosted locally. There are several contributors to the Blog (including HeatherD, Miggie, Chris, Fionna and Phil). Some observations on this Blog:

  • Not many comments from the user community seem to have been posted yet, although there was clearly one satisfied user:

thanks for the support in using the harvard system it was useful and helpped me well i am beginning to understand it now and will put it into practices as much as i can

thanx alot

  • Only two categories for posts have been used: Current Assignments and General.
  • The WordPress widgets used in the sidebar are Archives (which date back to December 2005, although the Blog seems to have been actively used since September 2006); Categories; Events; Useful Links and Meta.

I am also aware of Univ of Bath Library Science News (which only covers the Faculty of Science). And quick Googling finds:

At this early stage in the development of library Blogs it does seem to be that it would be very timely to survey the approaches which are being taken to providing Blogs and to observe patterns of usage. A useful project for a Library and Information Science student perhaps?

If you provide a Library blog within the UK community, or are aware of links to such resources, perhaps you could provide details in a comment to this posting.

Posted in Blog | 17 Comments »

Being Blogged At An Event

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Dec 2006

On Friday 1st December 2006 I gave a talk on “Web 2.0: An Introduction” at a seminar organised by the CILIP UCRG (Yorkshire and Humberside Region). As I’ve been doing for the past couple of years my opening slide gave explicit permission for attendees to exploit networked application during my talk – for example, to Blog my talk, to discuss the talk with others using chat software or to record or broadcast my talk. PowerPoint Title slide.

I was pleased when Sheila Webber, during her talk on Blogs and Blogging in Libraries, brought up her Blog page which showed that she had Blogged my talk. More accurately, I should probably say that I was pleased but slightly apprehensive! Sheila, however, said nothing in her Blog for me to be apprehensive about – but it did make me wonder about the etiquette of Blogging at events, and how possible conflicts should be addressed. From one point of view, if a WiFi network is available during an event, an attendee with a laptop or PDA would be inclined to make use of it to make notes, to follow up examples given during a talk, etc. To make notes on a Blog is, surely, not fundamentally different from making notes in MS Word. But I suspect from a legal perspective there may be differences. More importantly, though, is whether there will be felt to be differences from a cultural perspective. How will lecturers feel about students Blogging their talk? Will this become a frowned-upon activity, similar to using a mobile phone at an event?

I think I will continue to explicitly encourage openness by stating my views on the title slide of my talks. Is this something others seek to emulate, or am I in a minority?

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