UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for Jul, 2007

The Innovation Competition At IWMW 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Jul 2007

One of the new aspects of this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2007) was, appropriately enough, the Innovation Competition. The aims of the innovation competition were to provide an opportunity for workshop participants (and the wider community) to have an opportunity to experiment with lightweight development activities. The key criteria on which submissions were judged were (a) being user-focussed, (b) being lightweight and (c) being ‘cool’. Although many of the submissions were examples of ‘mashups’ it should be noted that the competition did not actually require submissions to be based on software development – real world innovations (a song-and-dance routine, perhaps) could have been submitted.

The best submissions were selected by Jeff Barr, Amazon, Scott Wilson, CETIS and Stephen Emmott, LSE – with the audience deciding who the winner was. The audience selected (by an overwhelming majority) Sebastian Rahtz, Oxford University Computing Service, as the winner of the competition for his Alternative course discovery using calendars and maps. This entry allows people who want to attend Oxford University continuing education and computing service courses to find what they want using Google calendar or Google Maps (illustrated) as well as the usual methods.

Winning Entry to IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition

In second place was Michael Nolan, Edge Hill University who submitted three entries, with the Hi from Edge Hill and How To Find Us submissions being particularly appreciated by the judges.

The Community Focus Mashup submission by my colleague Paul Walk and the Mashed Museum Directory by Mike Ellis were also felt to have noteworthy features by the judges.

All four of these submissions have been awarded Amazon gift vouchers (and many thanks to Jeff Barr and Amazon for donating the prizes for the competition).

The evaluation forms for the IWMW 2007 event confirm the success of the Innovation Competition, as can be seen from the following comments:

Innovation competition – great idea. Would be good to also showcase 1-innovative thing from University websites each year. Let’s take a look at what we’re all doing. Can we get speakers from Flickr, Facebook, Google? Inspire us!!!

Innovation competition – good idea but wish I had more time to do stuff!

Innovation comp great idea

Innovation comp worked very well, a serious but firm look at technology

And if anybody would like to watch the summary of the final session at IWMW 2007 in which a summary of the submissions was given, then a video recording of the session is available.

Posted in iwmw2007 | Leave a Comment »

JISC Capital Circular 2/07: Call for Proposals

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Jul 2007

The JISC Capital Circular 2/07: Call for Proposals was announced on Friday 27th July 2007. This circular invites institutions to submit funding proposals for projects in the following areas:

  • Enterprise architectures
  • e-infrastructure
  • Users and innovation

Proposals may be submitted by HE institutions funded via HEFCE and HEFCW, and by FE institutions in England that teach HE to more than 400 FTEs.

Further information is available at at:

The “Circular 02/07 appendix F: Next Generation Technologies and Practices call” MS Word document in particular includes a variety of issues which relate to the topics which have been addressed, including the role of standards in emergent technologies, accessibility, risk assessment, etc.

I’ll discuss some of these issues in more depths in forthcoming posts over the next few weeks and months.

Posted in jisc | 2 Comments »

Experiments With Zentation

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 Jul 2007

I recently came across a reference to the Zentation service, which describes itself as the place “where video and PowerPoint meet on the Web“. This seems to be a relatively new service, which was featured in a Techcrunch article on 28th July 2007.

As the Techcrunch article describes “Using Zentation is simple. Users upload their video to Google Video, log into Zentation and copy and paste the URL of the Google video, then upload a PowerPoint file. The final step involves using the “ZenSync” tool to provide precise start timings for each graphic in the presentation“.

I’ve tried this with a recording of Michael Webb’s talk on “Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy” at the IWMW 2006 event. We has videod this talk and my colleague Marieke Guy uploaded it recently to Google Video. It was very easy to upload the PowerPoint slides to Zentation and then to sync the video with the corresponding slides, as illustrated.

Zentation service

What I find particularly interesting with this application is that it separates the streaming of the video (provided by Google Videos) from the synchronisation with the PowerPoint slides. It should also be noted that, as with many of these services, the interface can be embedded within Web pages.

I’m not the only person to be impressed with initial experimentation – a post published last week entitled “More than one way to share your presentations” on the blog summarises a talk given to a meeting of the National Congress on Science Education on the basics of online communication which concluded that “Zentation appears to be the best tool“.

I’ll be experimenting further with Zentation for the videos of the plenary talks at the recent IWMW 2007 event.

Technorati Tags:

Posted in Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Blogging Librarians

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 Jul 2007

Way back in December 2006 I asked Where Are The Blogging UK Librarians? There were a number of replies to the post and, since, then, I’ve touched on a number of issues related to the use of blogs within a library context.

And I’m please to announce that myself and my colleague Kara Jones (who works in the Library here at the University of Bath) have had a proposal accepted to facilitate a half-day workshop (or ‘masterclass’ in the official parlance) at the ILI 2007 conference.

I think the blogging UK librarians  are to be found in many more places than when I first asked  my question. So the issues Kara and I would like to address in our workshop include how are blogs being used; what strategies were used to get blogs deployed within the organisation (did you encounter any barriers and, if so, how did you overcome them?); what is the technical architecture for your blog (what software do you use and is it hosted externally or installed locally); how is you blog managed; do you have any metrics to demonstrate (or perhaps justify) the success of your blog and what advice would you give to others who are just starting on this path?

Note that the resources we will develop for the workshop will have a Creative Commons licence to allow their reuse by others.

Thoughts, comments, etc. will be appreciated.  You can add comments to this blog post. Alternatively, as part of an evaluation of the Ning social networking environment, Kara and I have set up a “Using Blog Effectively In Your Organisation” discussion area within the Library 2.0 area of Ning.  Feel free to the discussions in that environment.

Technorai tags: ili2007

Posted in Blog, library2.0 | 3 Comments »

“Your WordPress Is In My Facebook”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Jul 2007

As announced last week on the WordPress blog, a WordPress application is now available which allows WordPress to be embedded within Facebook (and thanks to my colleague Nitin Parmar for giving me details of the Photo Matt announcement).

Wordpress Application In Facebook

The application can be primarily regarded as an interface to WordPress embedded within Facebook, although one aspect of the integration with the Facebook’s social network is the ability to see WordPress blogs provided by your friends (as illustrated).

Although it could well be argued that this provides little benefit for users (especially experienced users) it could also be argued that users may welcome the way in which their popular application can be integrated within a common environment. And many of the 135 responses (to date) to the initial announcement seem to be very positive, with the application getting a four-star rating from the FaceReviews Web site.

My view is that we need to gain evidence of whether this approach will appeal to users – and the best way of gathering evidence is to carry out the experiments.

Posted in Facebook | 6 Comments »

Contingency Plans for Disasters

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Jul 2007

IWMW 2007 slideIn the conclusions of the IWMW 2007 event I described how UKOLN will be seeking to enhance its processes for managing our events in order to enable us to response to disasters.

The first time I started to consider how technologies could be used to address problems at events was at IWMW 2004 when a bus which was meant to take delegates from their accommodation went missing before everyone had been transported. One of the plenary speakers was included in those left some distance from the venue, but fortunately as he had the mobile phone number of our event organiser, we were able to be informed of the situation and change the running order for the event.

This incident led us to add a field on the workshop booking form to allow participants at the event the following year to include details of their mobile phone number. And as that second day of the event (which was held at the University of Manchester) coincided with the London bombings on 7/7 this brought home to us the need to explore contingency plans in case of disasters, and not just inconveniences.

Location of participants at IWMW 2007Various Web 2.0 technologies (such as mashups), the wide variety of communication tools and the increasing sophistication of various mobile devices is now making it more feasible to be able to inform participants at events of possible problems and to react more quickly. This was very much in my mind when I started to prepare my conclusions for the IWMW 2007 event.

My current thinking is that for future events we should seek to:

  • Invite participants to provide mobile phone numbers to enable us to contact them in case of last minute emergencies.
  • Have mechanisms in place for bulk sending of text messages (for example using JANET’s new JANET txt service).
  • Provide location maps of where delegates will be travelling from in order for us to make plans in case or disasters such as the current flooding over large areas of the south of England (the location of participants at IWMW 2007 is illustrated).
  • Integrate content from services such as the BBC weather and travel pages and appropriate train services into our event pages (especially for events which may attract overseas participants who may not be aware of these services).

As someone who attended the JISC Digitisation conference in Cardiff on 19-20th July 2007 I am very much aware of the problems and uncertainties that can happen (in my case, I was fortunate in being able to return home after the conference had finished – but I did meet speak to several participants at Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads stations who didn’t know where they’d be spending the night).

Has anyone other suggestions on how technological innovations may be used to in case of such problems?

Posted in General, iwmw2007 | 4 Comments »

Talk on “Globalisation of Social Networks”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 Jul 2007

I attended the JISC Digitisation Conference held at St David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff on 19-20 July 2007.

On Friday I was the facilitator and speaker at a session on “Transforming the Users Experiences – How Can Institutions Develop Innovative and Affordable Tools to Engage Increasingly Sophisticated Audiences“. I introduced the session by making use of a scenario planning approach (which I learnt about from a JISC Users and Innovation event some time ago) based on a scenario in which Web 2.0 wins, and users and institutions are making incresing use of externally-provided services. The title of my talk was “Globalisation 0f Social Networks” and the slides are available on Slideshare.

Following my talk Adrian Arthur, Head of Web Services at the British Library, described the importance of Web 2.0 to the British Library (it is mentioned in the British Library’s strategic vision document, for example, and it enables them to make best use of scarce resources). Adrian then provided some example of services provided by the British Library which make use of Web 2.0 services such as Google Maps.

The third speaker was Alistair Russell, developer on the MSpace project, based at the University of Southampton. Alistair reminded us of the popularity of easy-to-use Web 2.0 services such as YouTube, and also highlighted the relevance of simple Web 2.0 development tools such as Yahoo! Pipes and Popfly. Alistair suggested that the next development after Web 2.0 would be the integration of much richly structured resources with the popularity of the Web 2.0 approach. He speculated that Web 2.0 + the Semantic Web could lead to Web 3.0.

There appeared to be little dissent from the audience from the views given by he speakers. In my conclusions I suggested that the next steps should be to address the issues of risk assessment and risk management and embracing openness which I described in a poster which is included in a recent post on Just Do It – But How?

I should also add that I was pleased to note that the conference made use of a Wiki prior to the event (to allow participants to give their contact details and summarise their interests and to sign up for the parallel sessions) and that a blog was used during the event to keep notes of the various sessions and to invite feedback from both conference delegates and others who weren’t physically present. In addition the various talks were recorded and a Podacst will be provided shortly. Perhaps the one thing that seemed to be missing was a tag to enable the photos and blog entries provided by participants to be easily integrated with the main conference blog.

So the conference was a success – but the journey home was a nightmare, due to severe flooding in the south of England. I managed to get back home – but I did spot various people at Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads stations wondering whether to book a hotel for the night, or try to get a taxi or rent a car back to Oxford, London and Birmingham. I hope the conference blog manages to capture some of the stories about the journeys home.

Posted in Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

A Backup Copy Of This Blog

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Jul 2007

Casey Leaver has raised an interesting issue on her blog on the University of Warwick blog service:

In the middle of August I will be leaving Warwick (to be the new Corporate Communications Manager at the Open University). … But, given that I will have to migrate my blog, where is the best place to go?

Blog migration is likely to be important not just for departing staff and students who make use of a blog service hosted at their institution, but also potentially users, such as myself, who use an externally hosted blog. What will I do if, for example, WordPress change the licence conditions for their hosted blog service?

John Dale suggested the Vox service – especially as it provides control over access to blog posts which appears to be a valuable aspect of the Warwick blog service. And as John is someone whose opinions I value I thought it would be worth trying out Vox.

So I signed up for the (free) service, selected a look-and-feel and (after first temporarily changing the number of RSS feeds served from the default of 10 to 200 so that all of my postings could be accessed) used Vox’s import option to import all of the posts. And, within 10 minutes, I had a functioning backup copy of this blog, as illustrated :-)

UK Web Focus blog on Vox

As a backup of my main blog I could have restricted access to the Vox blog. However it occurs to me that the copy could provide a testbed for various blog experiments. So the blog is available at the address (although I reserve the right to change the access conditions).

Initial Technorati statistics for Vox blog

An initial experiment is to revisit the experiments with Technorati I carried out shortly after I launched this blog. And, as can be seen when the blog was created it was ranked as number 3,485,803. This was interesting in itself, as Technorati claims that there are over 70 million blogs. Why did my new blog appear in the top 4 million blogs, I wonder? And even more perplexing was that two days later it was rated at number 7,702,784.

I also noticed that when I claimed the Vox blog in Technorati that I now have to be able to demonstrate that I do actually own the blog (either my signing in to the blog or my adding code to the blog). This addresses a limitation that Paul Walk mentioned to me recently when he discovered that his original blog had been claimed by someone else, and Paul need to track down and contact the person in order to be able to access statistics about his own blog.

I have also registered the Vox blog with the Blotter service. This should provide a graph showing how the Technorati ratings for the blog change over time. As the blog is intended as a backup copy I would expect (hope) that links are made to the master WordPress copy, so there should be no reasons for the Technorati rating to fluctuate greatly. It will be interesting to see if this is the case. (Also note that currently the Blotter service does not display any image; instead it gives the message “Exception: Exception Message: Technorati returned no results for this blog”; it is rather unfortunate that a display of a broken image is given.)

I have noticed that comments made on the blog have not been imported to the Vox service. In addition I have also noticed that internal links in the blog (i.e. links I have made in my posts to other posts) link to the original WordPress blog. And images are also hosted on the WordPress blog.

So the 10 minutes I spent importing the blog (less time than it took to write this post!) did not provide a service which will be fully functional if the WordPress blog is deleted. However the process has been useful in making me aware of various issues which I hadn’t considered previously. And, of course, there are lots of other issues which I’ll still need to explore – such as how to keep the backup Vox blog up-to-date as I continue to wrote new postings on the blog (if, indeed, I choose to do this).

The Vox blog service also allows greater freedom in adding widgets to the sidebar than the service – so this will enable me to carry out various blog experiments that I can’t do on the master copy of my blog.

And while I experiment with using Vox as a backup for my WordPress blog I notice that Casey Leaver has moved her blog from the Warwick service to (and she has successfully migrated her blog comments too).

Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »

Video Streaming of Plenary Talks at IWMW 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jul 2007

The IWMW 2007 event has now started.  It seems that the live video streaming of today’s plenary talks was successful. If anyone would like to see the plenary talks for tomorrow (Tuesday) feel free to go to the link to details about the video streaming.

Posted in iwmw2007 | 2 Comments »

Three Innovation Submissions from Edge Hill University

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jul 2007

Michael Nolan, Edge Hill University has (to date!)  submitted three entries to the IWMW 2007 innovation competition. And not only does he does this development work he also has a blog and contributes to the Web Services team blog at Edge Hill University.

Michael first submission is a “How To Find Us” service which uses Google Maps to locate the various campuses at Edge Hill University.

His second submission builds on the experiences gained with the first submission. The example integrates with the backend user system to allow users to store their own location using the Google Geocoder to help them find their location more easily.

The third submission enhances the services provided to support the IWMW 2007  event by aggregating the various RSS feeds associated with the event.

Michael’s first two submissions illustrate, I feel, the type of service which all our institutions  would benefit from exploring. We all need to provide location services for our institutions – and Michael is happy to share his development experiences and the 20 lines of code he used. And we will all be looking at ways in which we can engage our users more actively with our services, so the potential benefits of his second example may be worth exploring.

And I very much appreciate the RSS aggregation service Michael has developed.  This may well form the basis of a service for the IWMW 2008 event.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.).

Posted in Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

MyNewport – MyLearning Essentials for Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jul 2007

Andy Powell commented on a blog post on Facebook and the Institutional Web I published recently which he followed up in a post on Facebook application growth which described some of the reservations he had concerning certain types of developments using the Facebook platform. Similar reservations were expressed in Paul Walk’s post on Playing in the sandpit, while the novelty lasts and Paul Miller explored the issues of The Platform and the Web – what can Facebook and Talis tell us? in Talis’s Nodalities blog, which highlighted the dangers of use of a closed platform.

Whilst agreeing with many of these points, I still feel that we can’t ignore technologies which appear to be successful (let’s not ignore Microsoft Windows, for example). So I very much welcomed “MyNewport – MyLearning Essentials for Facebook” – Michael Webb’s submission to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition.

MyNewport is the VLE/portal used by staff and students at Newport College, which includes access to course material, news, blogs, forums, library access etc. MyNewport is a Facebook application that allows students to access to MyLearning Essentials resources from Facebook. In effect this allows students to start creating their own personal learning environment in a platform other than the one provided by the University. Newport College have targeted Facebook at the moment as it’s the fastest growing community, but if the users like the idea but want to work in another environment then that is fine – as applications can be created applications for them as well.

Apparently it took about a day and half from conception of the idea and joining the Facebook developer community on 10th July to launching it as a viable application for our students to use (or comment on) on the 11th July. It was straight forward as the college’s VLE is built from components that can easily be repurposed and uses open standards such as RSS to allow information to be passed to the Facebook application.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

MyNewport - available on Facebook

(Click image to see full size version)

Posted in Facebook, iwmw2007 | 4 Comments »

Whack A Speaker!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Jul 2007

Not all of the submissions to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition have a serious intent. The “Whack A Speaker” game developed by Dan Wiggle, University of York demonstrates how easy it may be to create Web applications these days (this example apparently took around 30 seconds to put together!).  This example makes use of the Microsoft Popfly service which Dan feels is “an impressive drag-and-drop mashup builder”. And I have to admit that I l like this unexpected submission to the competition, which is wonderfully politically uncorrect. <joke>Perhaps this example can only be beaten by a YouTube video featuring a “Happy Speaker Slapping” video.</joke>

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Posted in iwmw2007 | Leave a Comment »

Debate Making Use of a YouTube Mashup

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Jul 2007

Not all of the entries to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition consist of mashups of text and images from various sources. Graham Attwell, a member of the JISC Emerge project team, has created a mashup of two video clips (the JISC cartoon about the E-Framework and a talk given by Graham at the ALT-C 2006 conference)  which allows users to see the argument for approaches to development of e-learning services from two different viewpoints – that of institutional management as epitomized by JISC and the learners viewpoint as explained by Graham Attwell.  This, I feel, provides an interesting example of scholarly debate which makes use of YouTube.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)
YouTube video mashup

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A Searchable Repository Map

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Jul 2007

Last month Andy Powell, on the eFoundations blog, asked whether the digital library development community was heading in the right direction in its approaches to digital repositories. Andy suggested that the “environment is changing, largely because of Web 2.0“. In a response my colleague Rachel Heery suggested that “there is potential for institutions to push out their repository content to other services that have a more up to minute Web interface“.

A submission to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition from Stuart Lewis, University of Wales Aberystwyth provides a response to this discussion, providing a Web 2.0 style interface to data gathered using the OAI-PMH protocol from the RAOR and OpenDOAR services, mashed up with Google Maps.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Google Maps Mashup of Repositories

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Mashed Museum Directory

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Jul 2007

The entry to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition submitted by Mike Ellis provides a great example of innovation that is taking place in the museums sector. The Mashed Museum Directory entry, which mashes up data from several sources, is based on work which initially took place at the UK Museums on the Web mashup day facilitated recently by Mike. Mike has recently given a summary of this update.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Mashed Up Museum Directory

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A Data-Driven Interface To A Conference Web Site

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Jul 2007

Paul Shabajee (ILRT/HP Labs) has submitted an entry to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition which is intended to demonstrate a data-driven Web site for an event (the event in question being the UK Museums and the Web Conferences held in 2006 and 2007) using a tool by the Simile project called Exhibit.

Paul’s motivation in producing this was simply to play with Exhibit and see how it works and how easy it was. Paul chose the UK Museums on the Web conference data simply because he was attending the event later that week.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)
Data0driuevn interface to UKMW 2006 and 2007 conferences

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Use of Yahoo Pipes with IWMW 2007 RSS Feeds

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Jul 2007

The third submission to the IWMW 2007 Innovation Competition was also from a colleague at UKOLN. As I’ve commented previously Julie Allison made use of the software to process various RSS feeds associated with the IWMW 2007 event.

As I’ve described Julie’s submission previously, I’ll not repeat it. What I would say, though, is that the description of Julie’s work clearly inspired one reader, with AJCann (a frequent contributor to this blog) subsequently announcing that he is a Pipes Virgin No More. For me this is a good example of one of the aims of the competition – encouraging others that it may be worth ‘just trying it’.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Posted in iwmw2007, rss | 1 Comment »

IWMW 2007: Delegates and their Tags

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Jul 2007

My colleague Paul Walk has submitted an entry to the IWMW 2007 innovation competition. As Paul has described in his blog this example takes the locations of the host institutions of the participants and displays them in a Google Map. This is a very mainstream use of Google Maps (indeed a variety of maps of the location of previous IWMW events and the location of the speakers and facilitators at recent events are available on the UKOLN Web site). The value-added approach taken by Paul is to integrate this with a cloud map of the topics which the delegates are using in their blog posts, bookmarks, Flickr photos, etc., based on the data which a number of the delegates provided when they registered.

Paul used this exercise as an opportunity to gain expertise in use of Ruby and in the various APIs provided by the various Web 2.0 services. The data he used was then made available so that it could be used by others. And this also helped us to think about the data capture and work flow processes we may wish to enhance to support future events.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions tothe Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Innovation competition submission by Paul Walk, UKOLN

Posted in iwmw2007 | 1 Comment »

A Timeline For All IWMW Events

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jul 2007

In response to a post in which I announced that Data Available For IWMW 2007 Competition I received a comment from Tim Beadle (a Web developer in Bath) who suggested I look at Timeline from MIT. So I did and started to put together a timeline of IWMW events. However after the 30 minutes I allocated to this task I found that after I’d added my data the script wouldn’t run. I then sought help on the web-support JISCMail list and Owen Stevens not only quickly spotted the problem (an error in the dates) but also enhanced the interface.

A good example of collaborative work, I feel, and an example of use of a lightweight technology. I suspect there will be growing interest in use of timeline interfaces. Whether the Simile Timeline software is the tool to use is uncertain (there are problems with integrating the data with the JavaScript software, I feel). However at least we now have something which enables us to engage with our user community – and explore whether this is an approach which may be of interest or not.

Further information on this submission is available on the Submissions page of the IWMW 2007 Web site.

(Note this post is one of a series which describes submissions to the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event, to be held at the University of York on 16-18 July 2007. Further information about the series of posts is available in a post published previously.)

Use of the SImile Timeline software for IWMW events

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Submissions to the IWMW 2007 Competition

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jul 2007

I have commented previously that one of the innovations at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2007) is the innovation competition.

The aim of the innovation competition is to provide an environment for participants (and other interested parties) to provide examples of lightweight innovations which may be of interest to workshop participants. We hope this will provide an opportunity for those who submit examples to benefit from the staff development his may provide and the feedback which may be received. We also hope that the examples which are provided will provide a context to stimulate discussion about the relevance of such work within an institutional context. Will the examples be sustainable, for example, and will they scale up to large scale usage? And what about the implications of copyright, data protection, etc.?

I’m pleased to say that, to date, we have received eleven submissions. In order to gain feedback from a wide audience and open up the discussions I will be posting a series of articles will a brief summary of the submissions and invite your comments.

Note also that we are still accepted submissions, so if you have something to contribute, please view the submission template and provide the relevant details (I suggest as a comment to this post in the master UK Web Focus blog). Please, though, do not simply submit an example of work you have already completed – this is unlikely to pass the “cool’ criteria! You should also note that the title is “innovation competition”. You do not necessarily have to submit a mashup, or even an IT solution. A witty solution, a joke, etc. might work – how about, for example, a pastiche of last year’s social event (featuring your’s truly).

Posted in iwmw2007 | 5 Comments »

Clever Spam Comment

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jul 2007

There have been over 22,000 spam comments which have been submitted to this blog since it was launched in November 2006. Most have been filtered automatically by the Akismet spam filter, but a small number do get through and require me to delete them manually. This is normally not a problem, as they can be spotted easily. However yesterday I noticed a comment which appeared to be legitimate – it mentioned Roddy MacLeod (a regular contributor to the blog) and appeared to give acknowledgments to some references which had been provided). However closer inspection revealed that the reference to Roddy was spurious and the submitter’s details included a link advertising Toyota cars.

I assume this is a clever form of automated spam ( taking the name details of someone who has commented previously and using this in a message containing some bland comments). Sadly it seems that even closer inspection of comments will be needed in future :-(

Spam comment sent to blog

Posted in Blog, Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

Transliteracy – Breaking Down Barriers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jul 2007

On Tuesday (10 July 2007) I was a co-faciliator of an ‘unconference’ session at a JISC Emerge meeting which aimed at helping to consolidate the Emerge community of practice.

Until a few weeks ago the term ‘unconference’ was new to me – indeed, as I joked at the event, I thought myself and Graham Atwell, my co-facilitator, had been invited to facilitate a UN-style conference, acting as peace-keepers between warring projects :-) Fortunately this turned out not to me the case. Wikipedia was my friend and helped to provide a definition of an unconference: “An unconference is a conference where the content of the sessions is driven and created by the participants, generally day-by-day during the course of the event, rather than by a single organizer, or small group of organizers, in advance.

So Graham and I had to prepare for an event driven by the participants and not by ourselves. The approach we took was to prepare for a number of ways of stimulating discussion, if this was needed. However on the day it turned out that this was not needed as two interesting discussions took place in our two sessions: one on transliteracy and one on the ethical aspects of use of social networks (a topic I’ll revisit in the future).

Professor Sue Thomas of De Montford University introduced the ‘transliteracy’ topic. Again looking at Wikipedia I find the definition of Transliteracy given as “The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.“. (This has been taken from the PART (Production and Research in Transliteracy) Group Web site).

Although the term was new to me, it struck a cord chord with many of my interests, such as papers I’ve written on blended / holistic accessibility, in which myself and my co-authors have argued that, in the context of e-learning accessibility, the important aspect is the accessibility of the learning outcomes, rather than the accessibility of the digital resources.

I was thinking some more about transliteracy when I came across a recent blog post on “Battle lines” on the SINTO blog. This post suggests there’s a “battle raging for the hearts and minds of the library profession” between the “the Webbed [advocates] featuring General Phil Bradley and Karen Blakeman” who march under the slogan “Just do it” and “the web sceptics gathered around Field Marshall Tim Coates. Their battle cry is ‘Libraries are synonymous with books and reading. They always have been and they always will be’.

I would agree with the SINTO comment that “On reflection however, I feel that this image of a direct conflict is misleading. On the whole the webbed are not anti-book … Similarly the web sceptics are not all anti-computer“.

It is possible to engage with both the analogue and digital worlds – and anyone who has seen my collection of books, LPs and CDs will know that I am comfortable in living in both of these universes :-)

And this holistic approach reflects many aspects of our lives, I feel. For example, when I travel I might walk, take the bus, car, train or fly. I do not class myself as a ‘driver’ to the exclusion of other forms of transport. Many of us will have a broad view of issues – although in the context of this example, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson would be an exception. And maybe the are times or contexts in which we will take a narrowly focussed approach to issues. As someone who has worked in IT for many tears years :-) I am familiar with 7-layer models and the benefits of clear separation of functions when developing software. But don’t we now need to take a more holistic approach to development work, I wonder? And what are the implications of this?

I’m now pleased at having participated in the Unconference session and that Sue introduced me to ‘transliteracy’ – without the unconference, I suspect I would not have had the opportunity to hear this term and discuss its implications.

And returning to the tensions discussed in the SINTO blog post, perhaps the transliteracy community can give their thoughts on the arguments of the”Web 2.0: Just do it” and”Libraries are about books and reading (just read it?)” camps.

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How Large Is Your Facebook Network?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Jul 2007

How large is the Facebook network at your institution? The network at the University of Bath has 10,199 members (on 7 July 2007). This sounds impressive, but the numbers aren’t as large as those for the University of Leeds (26,944). Manchester (25,644) , Nottingham (24,021), Sheffield (19,939), or, up in Scotland, Edinburgh with 21,396 members.

These figures are impressive as members need to opt-in (unlike, say, the numbers of users who may be automatically registered for in-house applications such as email or Blackboard).

On the other hand these figures don’t provide any indication of the active numbers of users. And the figures will be inflated as, unlike registrations for in-house services, members will not be removed once they leave the institution.

So how might be go about benchmarking use of Facebook, in order to monitor trends, which can help institutions to identify whether Facebook might be an appropriate platform to support learning activities and communications with students – and also to make comparisons with the take-up of similar in-house and national services (such as JANET’s forthcoming national Collaborate project)?

An initial stab might be to get the statistics available on Facebook on the size of the networks in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. A technical approach might be to write a screenscraper to gather these statistics (assuming they are not available via an API), but a collaborative approach might be to engage the community in finding their own statistics and documenting the figures in a wiki (or, more appropriately, perhaps) in a shared Google Spreadsheet file).

But how do we get an indication for whether the networks are actually being used? Perhaps we could look at figures for the numbers of new groups which are set up, the numbers of posting to groups, the numbers of applications installed and the size of personal networks. But how easy if it to get such statistics? We need to find out if such information is available via Facebook APIs.

An alternative approach would be to interview students. But if we do this we’ll need to remember that the findings may not necessarily be valid across the sector – Facebook seems to be popular in some institutions but not others. And it might be interesting to explore the reasons why this may be. The University for Warwick, which provides a blogging service for all its students, has 15,637 users on its Facebook network. Are these two services in competition with each other, I wonder, or do they provide complementary functionality? Or perhaps the popularity differs across different departments?

Other, tangential, approaches might be to look at the size of popular cross-institutional networks, such as them The Great Facebook Race – British network, which currently has 52,497 members, or to look at the number of Facebook page impressions, which according to an article on Opening Up Facebook Registration Fuels 89% Jump in Traffic published on 8 July 2007:

In terms of pages viewed, the number of pages of content viewed at in May 2007 increased to 15.8 billion, up 143% versus May 2006 and 121% versus September. An average visit to the site lasted 186 minutes in May 2007, a 35% increase versus the same month last year.

Some interesting research possibilities, I think. And also valuable data which is needed before institutions start to make significant decisions about use of Facebook or deployment of alternative services in-house.

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Posted in Facebook | 8 Comments »

Universities, Not Facebook, May Be Facing Collapse

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Jul 2007

When I wrote my post on Facebook WILL Die I never expected to read a headline article on the front page of the Guardian which gave a Secret List of Universities Facing Collapse. But that was the headline of Saturday’s Guardian (7 July 2007).

The article listed almost 50 institutions which are “at risk of financial failure” – although HEFCE responded by saying that the information was out-of-date and many of the institutions have taken action to address their financial difficulties.

But it does make me realise that we must not take the sustainability of educational institutions for granted. And if a university did go under, or, in the face of severe financial difficulties, departments were closed and staff left, how might this affect the intellectual property and networked services housed within the institution? Might not outsourcing the management of IT services, such as an institutional blogging service, be an appropriate strategy for an institution on the list?

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Posted in Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Facebook WILL Die!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 Jul 2007

Yes, you heard it here first – Facebook will die! This may be in a year’s time; perhaps we learn that Facebook is a money-laundering operation for the Mafia. Or it may be discovered that many of the Facebook groups and photo-sharing services are used for pornography. Or maybe the Facebook owners get bored or decide that social networks are unhealthy for society and so shut it down (after all Stanley Kubric chose to ban showings of Clockwork Orange in the 1970s after accusations that it was responsible for copycat violence).

Or maybe Facebook dies after MySpace responds to the threat to its core business which Facebook is providing by opening up its APIs and succeeds in regaining lost ground.

Or maybe Bebo will surprise everyone by trumping Facebook I’ve heard people say that it is growing in popularity and maybe institutions will find that the large numbers of registered Facebook users include many dormant accounts as users move away from a service which becomes increasingly institutionalised.
And maybe it takes 10, 20, 50, … years for Facebook to die.

Should this worry us? And how should we respond to such scenarios, even if some of them are pretty unlikely?

My view is that we do need to carry out such risk assessment. But we also need to take a similar approach to the things we do normally including in-house developments or developments work funded by public sector bodies.

Let’s acknowledge the risks that in-house development work could potentially not be sustainable if the project developer leaves. Similarly project funded work may result in software which may be left to rot on SourceForge. And even services provided by the government may not be sustainable, not because the government will go out of business, but because of government reorganisation (as we’ve seen recently following Gordon Brown’s move to number 10 and subsequent changes to his Cabinet).

Yes, services will rise and fall. And we have to have mechanisms in place to cater for this. But let’s remember that this can also happen to the services we develop and may care about today. And we have seen this recently in the UK HE sector, following the AHRB’s decision to cease funding the AHDS and the JISC’s response that it cannot afford to fund AHDS on its own.

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Just Do It – But How?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Jul 2007

I recently posted about the call to “Just do it” made by Lynne Brindley in her opening plenary talk at the Umbrella 2007 conference; a rallying cry which has been echoed by others.

In his blog post about the conference (and echoed in his trip report) Pete Smith asks “How useful is ‘just do it’ as advice?” The answer to that question is simple: it’s not useful advice, because it’s not intended as advice! Rather this rallying cry is meant to indicate that the debate has moved on and we should now be asking how we deploy technologies such as blogs and wikis, how we syndicate our content, how we go about engaging with user-generated content and how we address the broad issues of openness – and not whether we should. And must definitely not “we can’t do this because Web 2.0 is just a marketing term”. I feel we are at a stage which has many similarities to the position in 1993-4 when there was a realisation in the university sector that Gopher wouldn’t make it and the answer to the question of whether to use a home-grown campus wide information system, Gopher technologies or the Web was “It’s the Web.  Just do it!”

As Pete suggests, the question we need to address is “how?”. And, of course, this question will need to encompass the intended purpose, the scope, the legal issues and questions about sustainability and business questions.

And these are issues UKOLN has started to address.  And I’ve summarised some of the bigger questions in the poster shown below which I’ll be displaying at a JISC Emerge meeting on Tuesday.  I’ll follow up on the issues highlighted in the poster in future posts – and look forward for comments, questions and criticisms.


Posted in Web2.0 | 9 Comments »

The ‘Just Do It’ Meme

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Jul 2007

Mike Ellis, in a recent guest blog post, urged us to ‘go forth and mash’. Mike informed us that ‘Anyone who’s had the misfortune to hear me speak will know that I’m a big fan of a “just do it” attitude to Web development’. And, indeed, Mike and I were co-authors of a paper on Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers which expanded on this notion of ‘doing it’.

At the recent Umbrella 2007 conference, Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, in the opening plenary talk also urged us to ‘just go and do’. Or, as Pandora’s Blog described it Lynne “spoke of the need to engage with the Net generation using Web 2.0 technologies – If they don’t come to us, we should go to them on their terms, in their spaces“.

And I’ve just noticed a post by Peter Murray-Rust who, back in May 2007, told us that the chemical semantic web has arrived! just do it NOW.

The infrastructure and the standards are in place, lightweight tools are available and the early adopters have demonstrated the concepts – it’s now now for the rest of us to just do it.

Posted in Web2.0 | 13 Comments »

Clarifying The Openness Of Slides

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Jul 2007

At the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2007 we’ll be encouraging the speakers and workshop facilitators to maximise access to their resources by providing a Creative Commons licence for their slides and other related resources.

But how should the speakers go about this? The approach I have taken is to include a Creative Commons logo on the title slide and also on the handout page. In addition for the past few years I have included the location of the PowerPoint file on the title slide and also on the handout page. This is illustrated in the image.

PowerPoint title slide

This approach enables anyone who wishes to reuse the content to easily find the master source. In addition it allows the slides to be downloaded during a presentation, if a network is available. This can provide accessibility benefits if a user cannot read the slides for whatever reason.

I also use the title slide to give a summary of the Acceptable Use Policy which will apply to the talk I give (I normally give permission for the talk to be recorded, for example).

The slide also contains hyperlinks to various resources, which can be followed if the slides have been downloaded. For the title slide this normally included a link to a tag which bookmarks resources mentioned in the presentation, together with clarifications of the Creative Commons licence (which normally states that not all images may be covered by the Creative Commons licence).

Feel free to make use of this approach if you think it might be helpful to you and users of your slides.

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Posted in General, iwmw2007 | 5 Comments »

From The DNER To Web 2.0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Jul 2007

Original DNER diagramMy former colleague Andy Powell was one of the key developers of what was originally known as the DNER (Distributed National Electronic Resource) and was later rebranded as the JISC Information Environment (IE). Andy produced a diagram of the IE architecture, an early version of which is illustrated.

This diagram (and subsequent versions which further developed the initial model) illustrate how JISC’s development strategy recognised the importance of the network as a platform for providing access to services across the higher and further education communities.

I was involved in some of the early discussion about the JISC IE. And the following diagram (taken from a talk on The Web In The 21st Century given at the JUSW 2001 workshop on 4-5th September 2001 at Loughborough University) gives my interpretation of how the JISC IE might develop.

DNER Diagram

It should be noted that in this diagram I floated the idea that the JISC IE could be enhanced to include access to application services and not just middleware services such as authentication. It is interesting that my vision was for access to lightweight services such as spell-checks and bookmarking services. The idea came to me after reflecting on services such as HaL’s Web-based HTML validation service which was announced way back in 1994 and was subsequently mirrored on the (now defunct) national HENSA mirror service. It struck me back then that this concept (based on simple REST interface) could be applied more widely.

Back then I didn’t envisage that it would be possible to deploy networked versions of full-scale applications such as a word processor. But this is now available, as the Google Docs service (and many other competitors) clearly illustrate.

I also did not foresee that the service we use within the higher and further education communities could be provided by the commercial sector. But, and many other social book marking services, also clearly demonstrate that the model of networked access to bookmarking services, which I suggested in my diagram, can be deployed on a global scale.

On reflection I think the vision for the JISC Information Environment, which was devised and developed by UKOLN and JISC colleagues including Andy Powell (who now works for the Eduserv Foundation) and Liz Lyon (UKOLN) and Rachel Bruce (JISC), can be seen as an architecture which has strong connections with Web 2.0. The JISC IE vision, however, probably missed out on the importance of social networking and user generated content and, indeed, generating interest which will encourage users to adopt new technologies (indeed, as Andy Powell commented recentlyOne of the … problems with the JISC IE diagram is that it was largely technology driven“). But the initial technical architecture that was devised (especially syndication using lightweight technologies such as RSS) seems to have been validated by the success of Web 2.0.

Posted in General, jisc, Web2.0 | 3 Comments »

Web Owner vs. Web User Tensions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Jul 2007

My colleague Marieke Guy has organised a panel session entitled “Dealing with the Commercial World: Saviour or Satan?” at the IWMW 2007 event. The abstract for the session begins “With the introduction of variable fees Universities have entered what education secretary Ruth Kelly called “a new era”. Financial departments have had to find more creative ways to meet the sector’s growing competitive demands and those working within universities have had to take a more business-like, customer-focused approach to many aspects of their work as they compete for students.

The aim of the panel session is to address the tensions which often seem to occur within the higher education sector when dealing with commercial companies.

Marieke has asked me to take part in the panel. My view is that the commercial vs. non-commercial software is no longer a major philosophical debate: we are all New Labour in our thinking, these days. And the open source debate is primarily about fitness for purpose, rather than open source ideology.

User-Owner / Commercial-Non-commercial axesMore interesting, I feel, is the owner versus user dimension. I’ve tried to illustrate this in the accompanying diagram, where I suggest there may be four sectors of interest:

A: An emphasis on the service owner, using non-commercial tools. The extremes of the sector may represent the view of the ‘open source fundamentalist‘.

B: An emphasis on the service owner, using commercial tools. The extremes of the sector represent the view of the ‘vendor fundamentalist‘.

C: An emphasis on the user, using non-commercial tools. This is where the user-focussed open source developer would like to be positioned

D: An emphasis on the user, using commercial tools. This may be the sector in which an organisation which makes use of commercial products sees itself.

However rather than reducing these sectors to such simple divisions, of more interest might be to explore the tensions between organisations will a user focus and those which take a more managerial approach.

Quality content: Members of institutional Web management teams have always prided themselves on developing systems and deploying software which can ensure that the content on the Web site conforms with a variety of rules.

Quality experience: However we are starting to find that some institutions are now emphasising the importance of providing a quality experience for its users, and, providing the content is not illegal, give less of an emphasis on the quality of the content.

Compliance with accessibility rules: Institutions may have policies which state that all corporate pages will comply with WCAG AA guidelines for Web accessibility. They may feel that this policy will ensure that they will not be sued under accessibility legislation.

User-focussed approach to accessibility: However some institutions may feel that WCAG guidelines are dated and, in some areas, inappropriate and will be willing to infringe the guidelines if this can enhance the accessibility and usability for their target audience.

Mandation of use of open standards: Institutions may insist that Web services comply strictly with HTML and CSS standards.

Pragmatic approach to use of open standards: Other institutions may prefer to use Web services which comply with HTML and CSS standards, but may be willing to drop this requirement if the service can provide a useful function for the institution.

Bans based on ideology: In a recent discussion on the web-support JISCMail list there was a suggestion that HTML email should not be allowed as it is often used for marketing purposes.

Providing flexibility: In a response to the discussion on use of HTML in email others argues that (a) marketing is an acceptable activity and (b) it is desirable to allow end users choice on how they wish their email to be delivered.

ANdrew Aird's slide - IWMW 2002Of course the situation is much more complex than pictured here, and there are many cases in which strict compliance with rules may need to be enforced. But the boundaries are shifting, I feel. Much of the talks and discussions at previous IWMW events, for example, have covered areas in which Web management teams would like greater managerial control (with Andrew Aird famously suggesting back in 2002 that “Web Team has ultimate say-so. No buts“).

There’s a need for the Web management community to rethink its values and the approaches we have traditionally taken. We’re not living in the 20th century any more, after all!

Posted in iwmw2007, Web2.0 | 5 Comments »

Guest Post: Go Forth and Mash!

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 1 Jul 2007

A regular guest blog post at the start of every month aims to provide an fresh insight into issues which are covered in the UK Web Focus blog.

The month’s guest blog post comes from Mike Ellis, who posts on the Electronic Museum blog. Mike was also the lead author of a paper on Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers presented at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference, which I contributed to.

Recently, Ross Parry from the University of Leicester Museum Studies Department asked me to help put together a “mashup” day as part of the Museums Computer Group conference. I was delighted to be involved. Anyone who’s had the misfortune to hear me speak will know that I’m a big fan of a “just do it” attitude to Web development. We spent a day producing some interesting stuff which made us all think in new ways. We purposely ignored the constraints; we didn’t think about the politics. These are debates which happen quite enough elsewhere across our sector. In this session, we just wanted to do, to be naive, to see what we could come up with, with only 6-7 hours of focussed development time. Some people will claim that we were just playing, and to a certain extent that’s true – but R&D time for anyone working in this field should be rigorously defended. Furthermore, I believe that you can only produce great Web applications with two key approaches:

  1. by providing frameworks and project structures which are wholly driven by – and tested with – your users.
  2. by challenging what you’re doing, and have done before, with left-field, iterative, Darwinist style build and testing.

Often, these approaches are used in isolation to each other. The first is often seen as process-heavy; the second as belonging to the institution mavericks. I take the line that actually they complement each other beautifully. On the one hand, if you don’t listen to what your users want; if you don’t understand exactly who they are, you’ll never, ever achieve anything of any use. On the other, if you fail to innovate or to challenge the erstwhile status quo, you’ll never find better, cheaper, more innovative ways of doing things: you fail to embrace the whole point of technology.

The Web itself is a huge user-centred experiment – a sprawling, evolutionary, grungy mess. It has no vision, no roadmap, no sustainability plan, no overall purpose, no governing body. And that’s what makes it such an interesting, dynamic ecosystem.

Mashups echo this wilderness, and by that very fact, they’re immensely challenging:

  • They’re challenging for IT types because they’ve spent their entire careers building and encouraging systems which are stable, known, specified and tested.
  • They’re challenging for academic types because they are based on new paradigms of authority.
  • They’re challenging for people who sell stuff because they define a model of shared ownership which at first seems at odds with any concept of profit.

For many others, “mashing” simply isn’t a way of thinking which is familiar. And that’s difficult, too.

At the same time, the mashup approach give you unprecedented access to a limitless pool of data, services and ideas. It is liberating to work in this way. It is also (reasonably) easy, and usually free. You can read more about what we did, and why I think mashups are important over on Slideshare.

I’m really excited to see that UKOLN are hosting a similar opportunity the at IWMW 2007 event (and gutted that I’m on holiday when it’s on..). The museum and HE sectors have many similar traits. On the plus side we have brains, content and ideas. On the minus, we’re famous for our “Institutional Treacle”. The more we can do to challenge the latter and do justice to the former by JUST DOING, the better. Go forth and mash!

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