UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for December, 2007

A Call for a Web 2.0 Policy Debate

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 December 2007

A brief interview with me has just been published on the JISC Web site with the title ‘Information Professional of the Year’ calls for Web 2.0 policy debate. The article reflects many of the discussions which have taken place on this blog during the year:

There are divergences in opinion within the sector over the most appropriate development and deployment strategies for Web 2.0,’ he claims. ‘Some argue that higher educational institutions should be installing Web 2.0 services locally whilst others would argue that externally-hosted services can be used to support institutional requirements, with this providing benefits of scale and acknowledges that such services will, in any case, be used by people in their social activities.’

My call for a policy debate on these issues is clearly very timely in light of the demise of the Eduspaces social networking environment, its subsequent rebirth and the lively discussions taking place about the migration of the Eduspaces environment and the sustainability of the community.

I will be revisiting these issues in the new year.  But until then I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas  – with the exception of readers in the US, to whom I pass on my seasonal greetings :-)

Posted in Web2.0 | 9 Comments »

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 December 2007

For many of us it’s easy to find ‘friends’ on Facebook. Once you’ve got started and added a few friends it can often be easy to find other people you know. And the more links you have the easier it is to grow your network.

But how many of us have actively ‘defriended’ someone on Facebook? (And, incidentally, is this a word? The answer, it seems, is yes – see below). In real life we may lose touch with our friends, or chose not to have contact with them. But we probably haven’t publicly said ‘I’m not friends with you anymore ‘since we were at school.

What is the etiquette, then, of pruning one’s list of Facebook friends? If we defriend someone, is this displayed on our respective News Feeds pages? And will this cause intrigue? And what happens if others then start to defriend the same person? Will they lose face?

Well I took the plunge recently, when I defriended someone for the first time. This was someone I had messaged, asking if she was the person I’d know when in Newcastle. It turns out that she wasn’t – but, as her message was ambiguous, I needed to befriended her to verify this. As we didn’t know each other, I defriended her – and felt slightly guilty as she only had one other Facebook friend. But at least this action wasn’t displayed on my page.

I do think we will need to start to defriend our Facebook friends. It would be helpful if there was a Facebook application which could help manage one’s friends, perhaps in some automated way. But we will still need to grasp the nettle and let go at some stage.

Perhaps we need a Letting Go Of Your Facebook Friends day?

PS A Google search for defriend revealed several definitions, including this one from the Enclopedia Dramatica:

To “defriend” is to remove someone from your LiveJournal’s Friends list; it is tantamount to “throwing down the gauntlet” and declaring one’s friendship at an end. Unsurprisingly, many people consider defriending a severe blow to their pride and reputation, and thus the act of defriending tends to stir up a lot of Internet drama.

and this one from the Urban Dictionary (which demonstrates that the term pre-dates the popularity of Facebook):

  1. To remove someone from your livejournal friends list.
  2. the act of removing a friend on your Myspace friend’s list. 
  3. defriend smbd v , transitive de + friend; cf. befriend – to break off friendly relations (with smbd)

I should add that, as Andy Powell has observed recently, the Urban Dictionary has also defined the term Facebook limbo to refer to “the electronic space between accepting and rejecting a facebook friendship“. Is it worse to be rejected or to be ignored, I wonder?

Posted in Facebook, Social Networking | Leave a Comment »

New Open Data Licence – a Milestone for Sharing Data on the Internet

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 December 2007

Myself, Scott Wilson and Randy Metcalfe co-authored a paper on “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” which Scott presented at the ELPUB 2007 conference. The paper described the potential benefits of use of open standards and open source software and an open approach which characterises much of the Web 2.0 environment.

We were aware when writing the paper, though, that there was a gap related to open data. I’m pleased to report that this gap is now being addressed with the launch by Talis and Creative Commons of a new open data licence, which the press release describes as “a milestone for sharing data on the Internet”.

I was aware of Talis’s work in this area when I attended a session on Open Data at the WWW 2007 conference, which I wrote about some time ago. One of the questions I asked at the conference related to the governance of Talis’s Community Licence.  I was assured that Talis aimed to get it established as an open licence governed by a trusted neutral provider and this was confirmed in a post by Paul Miller in September 2007.  And now the results of that work is openly available.

Talis’s press release is given below.

Talis and Creative Commons are delighted to announce the release of the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence, the first output of a successful partnership with the Science Commons project of Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is well known for its advocacy and licensing work in the arena of ‘creative works’ such as songs, images, and copyrightable text.

In developing the Public Domain Dedication and Licence, Talis secured the efforts of Jordan Hatcher and Dr. Charlotte Waelde, asking them to build upon the principles of the earlier Talis Community Licence in ways that ensured its fitness for international purpose whilst aligning it more closely to the phrasing of Creative Commons’ overarching protocol.

Talis Technology Evangelist Dr. Paul Miller commented, “At Talis we’ve been arguing for a more permissive culture around use and reuse of data for a very long time. Working with our partners at Creative Commons and elsewhere we now have a clear framework upon which to build, and in our Public Domain Dedication and Licence we have the very first licence to conform to that new Science Commons Open Access Data Protocol. With this announcement we provide a tool to those who already understand the value of unlocking their data. We can also use discussion of this first tool to carry a wider set of messages to those who remain unaware of the importance of data licensing to their own activities.”

The legal environment within which data exist is radically different to that for creative works, and although there have been attempts to apply existing Creative Commons licenses to data, the legal validity of those efforts is questionable. In Europe we have Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament, and its various expressions in the laws of member states to define the so-called Database Right. These protections do not apply in jurisdictions such as the United States. A different approach is therefore required if we are to facilitate the widespread availability of data upon which the emerging Semantic Web will depend.

John Wilbanks, Creative Commons’ Vice President responsible for the Science Commons project, commented “For a commercial organisation such as Talis, with a heritage in the business of creating and managing data, to recognise the importance of the ‘freedom to integrate’ says much about changing attitudes to the ownership and use of data. That they  went beyond this recognition and did something about it with their licensing and advocacy work says much about them and the team with which they collaborated. The Open Data Commons Licence is the fruit of that collaboration. Both CC0 and the ODCL offer a sound legal basis upon which creators can follow Talis’ example and recognise that there is far more to be gained by enabling access to data than by continuing to lock it away. Uniquely built for data, the Open Data Commons Licence approach furthermore implements the norms of data sharing for scientific data, providing the guidance for scientists to act as good citizens without exposing them to lawsuits and lawyers.”

Jordan Hatcher, who completed the redrafting effort, commented, “Building an open data licence for the community is very much a collaborative process and we need everyone’s input to make the licence be the best it can be — including meeting everyone’s needs for open data. The project’s goal is to produce an easy to understand licence and that means having it user tested just like software. In the end, the Open Data Commons licence will provide a workable and easy to use solution for data integration that will take care of the relevant rights over data and databases.”

The Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence is available for use from today. We are working with the Cambridge-based Open Knowledge Foundation in the expectation that they can take on the support and development of this and related licenses in the future, ensuring true community ownership of the licensing cornerstone upon which so much data will come to rely.

The Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence is available for download from,  along with the first set of documented Community Norms.

Many congratulations to Talis for this work.  Now that the licence  is available, let’s start making use of it and share our data as well as our text, images and software.

Posted in openness | 2 Comments »

The Demise of Eduspaces

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 December 2007

I have just received the following email:

Subject: Important EduSpaces news

Hi All,

We would like to inform all users of EduSpaces that we will be shutting down the service on Jan 10th, 2008.

We have provided a mechanism for you to export all your blog posts in either an RSS format or HTML. To do this, go to your blog and select the submenu option you require. For those of you with files, you might want to download those as well.

Thank you to everyone who has supported EduSpaces over the last three years.

So on 16th December I received notification that any content hosted on EduSpaces will be unavailable early in the New Year. Not much time to do anything, is it? And most unfortunate for anyone who is taken an extended break over Christmas.

But at least they aren’t in breach of their terms and conditions:

  • We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time.
  • We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify you via an appropriate method. What is a ‘material change’ is at our discretion
  • We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time.

And Frances Bell (“Anyway thanks to elgg bunch, Eduspaces was nice while it lasted“) and Josie Fraser (“huge thanks to the whole Eduspaces team for the massive contribution and commitment they’ve made to demonstrating what’s possible, and to moving the discussion forward so much in terms of technology, and web 2.0/social technologies for education“) have both expressed their gratitude to the EduSpaces team.

But what does this tell us about the sustainability of such services? And what lessons can be learnt?

Was their policy on openness (“We claim no intellectual property rights over any material you provide to the EduSpaces service“) a contributory factor to the difficulties Eduspaces seem to have in finding funding to provide a sustainable service? In a recent post on The open source misconception Ben Werdmuner commented on the unrealistic expectations that people may have about services driven by open source software such as Eduspaces: “... software is not developed by magical elves. It doesn’t appear like water, for free. People have to put time and hard work into creating it.” He went on to add that “Elgg in particular has no funding beyond Curverider, despite a common misconception that it’s the recipient of public grants or affiliations.

So did those of us who signed up to the service (including myself) fail in our responsibilities to our communities by not expressing concerns over the bluntness of the statement that “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time“? And as the service was relaunched on 8 October 2007 as “the world’s largest social network for education and educational technology” users of the service might be surprised at the sudden demise of the service.

And what will happen after the service is shut down on 10th January? Will the domain name become available, and likely to be taken over by a domain squatting agency or a porn company? This would be rather embarrassing for people, such as Salvor at Brighton) who has links to what is currently legitimate posts about their elearning activities. (Of course, a clever porn company would ensure that blog RSS feeds continue to be served, but delivering information about Russians teenagers seeking western husbands rather than reflections of elearning strategies!).

I’ve just discovered that I am not along in having such concerns.  Mandy Honeyman has commented that “I used eduspaces as my portfolio for my teacher training and so it is quite extensive if not necessarily public. I have downloaded via the html option, but what a mess! I guess I could install my own elgg just for me, but I’m about to move hosting so that’s not really an option. I guess I could install elgg on the server at school, but that’s windows, so that’s not an option either. This is a pain.

Or are such criticisms unfair – maybe we just have to accept that such services, which we do not pay for, will come and go and we need to spend more time and effort in planning for the demise of such services. And I think it is true to say that EduSpaces played a valuable role in introducing the benefits of edublogging and social networks to educational technologists around the world. For that, we should express our gratitude to the EduSpaces development team.

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: | 14 Comments »

Me, Myself, I

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 December 2007

Time The OCLC report on ‘Sharing, Privacy and Trust In Our Networked World’, which I wrote about recently, introduces the report with a quotation from the Time “Person of the Year: You” article, published a year ago on 13 December 2006.

Web 2.0 services, such as YouTube and Flickr, enable the individual to be active creators of content, rather than passive consumers as has been the case in the Web 1.0 world – which can be good for the citizen and good for the student.

And in a report on the recent Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin conference, the Secret Plans and Clever Tricks blog Chris May reported thatSocial == Me First. Social tools are primarily organised around self-interest, not altruistic participation in a community. Community, where it emerges, is a side-effect of the tools.“.

But how do we reconcile the tensions between the power which many Web 2.0 tools provide each of us as self-interested individuals (now that I can blog, upload pictures and videos so easily) and the requirements of the institution where individuals work or study? How, for example, can the institution safeguard its reputation if individuals can create content without being validated by editorial processes which have been the norm in the past? How are copyright misuses to be addressed? And what about the legal challenges such as data protection, defamation, compliance with accessibility legislation, etc.?

From my point of view I have been observing the pragmatic approaches which are being taken by people such as Michael Stephens on his Tame The Web blog (in particular with his Ray Of Light video) and John Dale at the University of Warwick, with his comments on the potential of YouTube and his willingness to write posts beyond his work-related activities.

I think the approaches being taken by individuals is helping to set patterns of acceptable use of such technologies, which now bodies such as Intute are using (as can be seen from this recent blog post).

Nothing new, perhaps – individuals were deep-linking to Web resources whilst the lawyers were still wondering about the legality of such actions. But I think, or I should say, I hope, that it is individuals who can be instrumental in setting in motion changes to outdated legislation. Who knows, we might even be able to rip our CDs and listen to our music collection on our iPods within infringing copyright legislation at some point (the Gower Report recommends this, but the required legislation has not yet been enacted)? However I should add that IANAL – and this post should not be construed as legal advice, or to reflect the views of anyone apart from myself.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Will The UK Government Shut Down The Queen’s Web Site?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 December 2007

In a post on All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG AA Compliant I recently warned of the dangers that the UK Government’s blunt instrument of mandating that all UK government Web sites must comply with WCAG AA accessibility guidelines could be counter-productive as the current WCAG 1.0 guidelines are widely felt to be out-of-date and government departments which seek to comply with the guidelines may well result in Web design patterns which are now widely felt to enhance the effectiveness of Web sites but which infringe guidelines released back in 1998 being discarded.

I recently viewed the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy (don’t ask) and spotted a visible <FONT> tag preceding a news item about the Queen’s speeches in Uganda.

Her Majesty's Web Site

Surely the Queen’s Web site isn’t using <FONT> tags, I thought? The Queen can’t possibly have employed a self-taught Web coder who hasn’t updated their skills in over five years? But looking at the source code and validating the page my worst fears came true: 36 HTML errors, no DOCTYPE, spacer GIFs, unclosed <FONT> tags (as I had spotted), <IMG> tags with no ALT attributes, a mixture of XHTML and HTML elements, …

Now this page clearly fails to comply with the UK Government proposed accessibility requirements. What, then, will happen if these proposals are accepted and the Queen fails to correct the errors by next year’s deadline? Will the Government attempt to shut down Her Majesty’s Web site? Will the Government take the Queen to court? But won’t “Regina vs Regina ” lead to a constitutional crisis? Will this lead to the demise of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic? Or will such a vindictive move by pedantic civil servants lead to a backlash, with the possibility of the Tower for the more extreme of the ‘accessibility standardistas‘?

More seriously the British Monarchy Web site probably does provide a good example of a service (perhaps not quite a public-sector service, though) which would be improved by simply following the WCAG guidelines.  So maybe my concerns would only apply to those Web sites which are seeking to be more interactive and user-focussed than the brochureware approach which the British Monarchy site provides.

Posted in Accessibility, HTML | 4 Comments »

Remember PeopleAggregator?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 December 2007

The flurry of posts about OpenSocial (from Michael Nolan, Andy Powell, Tony Hirst, Scott Wilson and George Roberts amongst those whose blogs I regularly read) reminded me about PeopleAggregator, the open social networking service I subscribed to a few months ago.

PeopleAggregator was developed by Marc Cantor, who set up the company which developed Macromedia Flash – and “says he’s paying penance today for the role he played in locking users into Macromedia Flash“. As described in a TechCrunch articlePeopleAggregator is all about using open standards to prevent lock-in in one of the most important sectors of the new web – online social networking” and it will “share information with other services through common identity standards for our profiles and through APIs (application programming interfaces) for our writing, multimedia and contacts.“.

PeopleAggregator would seem, therefore, to fit in with Ross Gardler’s beliefs that Communities can’t flourish in walled gardens. I would agree that the ability to get data out of services is important – although I also feel there’s a need to explore successful services in order to see what can be learnt from their success.

So in the summer I joined PeopleAggregator – expecting to find this service being widely blogged about as an alternative to Facebook. But there has seemed to be little interest in the service – and revisiting it I find that a search for groups containing “web” shows 5 groups, the most popular, web3ers (on what’s beyond Web 2.0) having just 8 members.

Why the lack of interest in PeopleAggregator (software which is available for downloading, enabling institutions to set up their own social networking environment)? And why, in contrast, is their such interest with Google’s announcement about their OpenSocial APIs and the companies, including Myspace and LinkedIn, who are supporting this initiative? Is this because we love Google and MySpace’s commitment to openness – or perhaps because, on this occasion, they are the underdogs (but underdogs with a chance of success)?

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

OCLC Symposium At Online Information 2007

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 December 2007

On the second day of the Online Information 2007 conference I attended the OCLC Symposium on Who’s Watching Your Space? The symposium provided OCLC an opportunity for OCLC to unveil their report on Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World which I’ve commented upon recently.

The session began with a talk by John Naughton, journalist and academic at the Open University. I enjoy reading John’s regular column in the Observer and many years ago I read his book on A Brief History of The Future. So I was looking forward to hearing him speak for the first time, but was very disappointed by what I felt were his cynical views on social networks. It’s over-hyped and journalists always love to joy in with the over-hyping of popular trends, John argued, and there are no sustainable business model. His comments reminded me of the various comments people were making about the Web in 1993 and 1994, and the scepticism people such as Jon Maber (original software developer of the Bodington VLE at Leeds University) faced when the idea of delivering teaching and learning services on the Web. It struck me that if journalists are guilty of over-hyping trends they also enjoy following this up with the doubts (“you build ’em up, you known ’em down”). I did raise this in the questions, but, as Tom Roper reported, John didn’t really answer me questions. But possibly, as Tony Hirst suggested to me during the drinks reception, I read too much into John’s critical remarks and as Tom described in his report on the symposium “He (John) thought there might be possibilities for harnessing social networking in education, in corporate organisations and in libraries“. (I suspect I was slightly annoyed that the explorations of the potential and best practices for making use of social networks in education context, which is being carried out by pioneers such as Tony Hirst and David White, and addressed in the recent UKOLN workshop on Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and Social Networks seem to be invisible to John).

The second speaker was given by Matt Brown of Nature Network. Matt described the various services which Nature have developed, such as Connotea. Now I’d be the first to congratulate Nature on the pioneering work on such tools and their early commitment to RSS – but this talk provided nothing new for me, and I was beginning to wonder whether I should have stayed at the Online Information Conference, possibly attending the session on Folksonomies vs Ontologies or Service Innovation – Tools and Resources for Library Users.

However Cathy de Rosa’s highlights from the Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our online world report did make the session worth while, by providing much-needed evidence on the changing online environment, together with some surprises. The statistics that use of a wide range of online services (e.g. Web sites, social networks, instant messaging) has gown since their last survey was expected, but the decline in visits to library Web sites will, perhaps, have surprised people in the audience who might have expected a report commissioned by a library organisation to describe successes in the library domain. However if that statistic may have surprise some, the discrepancy between the (US) librarians’ views of their strengths and the users’ perceptions was probably shocking – librarians, it seems, place a high regard on their approaches to protecting the privacy of library users; the users, however, don’t feel that this is the case and also don’t feel that privacy is such an important issue.

As Tom Roper commented “There’s lots in the report” for people to digest. And there will be a need to explore the validity of the findings (Tom pointed out that “the samples used seem a little small“) and the relevance in a UK context (I suggested to Rosa that she should make use of the SCONUL organisation next time to try to get a representative sample from the UK academic library sector). But at least we now have data and interpretations of the data to forward the debate.

Posted in Events, Social Networking | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Online Information 2007 Gets Web 2.0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 December 2007

Last week I attended the Online Information 2007 conference. I’ve participated in the conference previously – in 1998 when I participated in a panel on Enabling The User In the Quest For Quality and in 2002 when I gave a talk on Approaches to the Preservation of Web Sites. However I always felt that, as the conference had such a strong emphasis on areas such as knowledge management, Intranets and commercial solutions, the event did not reflect my main areas of interests and so wasn’t the most effective dissemination channel for me.

This year, however, I was invited to moderate a session on Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction. And as the conference theme this year was Applying Web 2.0: Innovation, Impact and Implementation. I thought it would provide a useful opportunity to see how this particular conference and its target audience, which includes many from the commercial sector as well as librarians and information professionals in the higher education community, were responding to the opportunities and challenges posed by Web 2.0.

What I discovered was a conference which is now embracing Web 2.0. I should have been alerted to this change when I was information that an Online Information 2007 Facebook group had been set up in advance of the conference and significant numbers joined this group (474 at present). The Facebook group seemed to provide the main forum for discussion prior to the event, in particular people who couldn’t attend the event asking for details of the conference bloggers (the tag OnlineInfo2007 was used as the official tag and a number of bloggers gave details of their blog on the Facebook discussion forum during the conference.)

Opening Plenary Talk By Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales, chairman of Wikipedia, opened the conference with a talk on Web 2.0 in action:free culture and community on the move. I’d not heard Jimmy speak before, but I have to admit that I found his talk inspiring and very closely aligned with my views on openness and user engagement. And it seems I was not the only one, with a number of delegates raising their hands when asked if they had edited content in Wikipedia. Jimmy began his talk with a quotation from the Britannica editor Charles van Doren, who argued that the ‘encyclopaedia should be radical‘. This vision, Jimmy Wales suggested, has until recently, been lost. The success of Wikipedia has been due to a return to the radicalism, with Wikipedia being based on the notion of openness in the GNU sense: it is free to copy, modify and distribute.

Jimmy’s new passion is Wikia, a free Wiki hosting service which aims to support the development of communities with shared interests. The example he gave was for communities built about shared interested in The Muppets! A trivial example, perhaps, but the Muppets Wikia site is found in Google’s first page of results and currently has 15,749 articles. How should we respond to such apparent indications of success, I wonder? I did look for information on Rapper Sword dancing in Wikia – no significant results, but I did discover the Morris Dancing Wiki, which was created in April 2007. Should the morris dancing community in the UK, where the morris dancing tradition originated, engage with this open community or leave it to morris dancers in the new world to appropriate our cultural traditions? Or, on the other hand, is Wikia just a fad which is unlikely to gain the sustainability that online services provided in a more traditional way (e.g. through funding from cultural heritage funding bodies)? We don’t know the answer to that question – but Wiki is definitely a service I’ll be paying closer attention to in the future.

Jimmy’s final comment, as described in the IWR blog, related to the notion of trust and wikis, with a comparison with a real world example: when building a restaurant you don’t worry that the steak knives customers will be using are potentially dangerous, and such customers need to be in a walled garden to minimise potential risks to others.

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction?

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction? was the title of the session I chaired, immediately following the opening plenary talk. Stephen Abram gave the opening plenary talk in this slot on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0: Preparing for the 2.0 World. This talk was pretty much a repeat of his opening plenary talk at the ILI 2007 conference, although, unfortunately, he only had 30 minutes for this talk, rather than the 45 minutes he had at ILI 2007 (and even then he had to race through his presentation at a rate of knots). Stephen argued that the world has changed and the library community needs to embrace such changes (or get out, and stop trying to prevent the inevitable). Although the content of his talk was very familiar to me I was pleased that he mentioned the human aspect: “Librarian 2.0 is the guru of the information age” Stephen wrote in the accompanying paper. He concluded “It is essential that we start preparing to become Librarian 2.0 now. The Web 2.0 movement is laying the groundwork for exponential business growth and another major shift in the way our users live, work and play. We have the ability, insight and knowledge to influence the creation of this new dynamic – and to guarantee the future of our profession – Librarian 2.0 – now.”

The two other talks in this session (Lars Eriksson on Mina – a library web site of the future and Philippa Levy on Web 2.0 and the Information Commons: a learning and teaching perspective) then provided examples of how the library and education professions is engaging with Stephen Abram’s vision: Lars’s talk described a Library 2.0 service which is being developed in Sweden and Philippa stepped outside the online world to describe the Information Commons, a “brand new, innovative building that combines IT resources, library facilities and a variety of study spaces to support a wide range of independent and collaborative learning experiences in a 24/7 environment.” This focus on the physical environment complemented Lars’s talk nicely, I felt.

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction? The feeling from this session was most definitely that it was a fact.

Other Sessions

I was pleased to discover a similar positive approach to Web 2.0 in several of the other sessions I attended. After lunch I attended a session on Tools, Technologies and Costs of Web 2.0, with talks by Karen Blakeman and Andre Bonvanie. Karen’s talk was familiar to me, as we have both spoken at a number of events recently. If you are interested in the contents of her talk I suggest you read the post on How Do You Start Your Day? on the InfoToday blog. Andre’s talk on RSS: The Glue for Enterprise 2.0 gave a more business-oriented presentation in which he described how RSS was the key technical component for Enterprise 2.0.

The 2.0 meme continued in the final session of the first day on Web 2.0 In Action. I was particularly interested to hear that the promised benefits of Knowledge Management (KM) had failed to deliver, and that the Knowledge Management community is now exploring the potential of Web 2.0 within the organisation – and we heard that KM 1.0 is dead; long live KM 2.0!

These ideas were discussed further in the first two talk on Calling all social media doubters:wiki@Vodafone keeps employees on the same page (use of Web 2.0 technologies by Vodafone) and It’s more than technology: how ERM (Environmental Resources Management) has embraced Web 2.0 to address environmental issues (whose content is described in the title). Jane Dysart has described these talks, together with the final talk in the session which provided top 5 tips for finding time for Web 2.0.


Big business seems to be finally getting Web 2.0 – and this is a couple of years after the higher education community started to discuss these issues. There were a number of interesting talks on the human side of Web 2.0 and much discussion on these issues during the conference. The most interesting comment I heard was that well-qualified final year students and recent graduates are now expecting to make use of Web 2.0 technologies such as social networks in their first job, arguing that these technologies have helped them in their degrees and they would expect to be able to exploit these technologies and the social networks they have developed, in their professional lives.

Now does this mean that graduates who have not had the opportunity to develop their social networks and to develop their skills in using such technologies will be at a disadvantage?

Posted in Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Way We Were

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 December 2007

Can you remember what your institution’s home page looked like when the service was first launched? And how did it evolve over time? Did you take advantage of frames when they were first released? Did you then exploit client-side technologies such as Java, JavaScript and Flash (and perhaps even ActiveX control)? And how long did they last before you realised the downside of such technologies?

And did changes to the home page not only reflect changes in technologies, but also the department which had responsibility for the home page? Did the home page have a visual makeover when the marketing department took responsibility?

More importantly, though, do you have a record of how the home page looked, and documented descriptions of the reasons for the changes? This could be a valuable part of your organisation’s digital history and it would be unfortunate if such information were lost.

If strikes me that one of the lessons we should have learnt from our experiences with organisational Web sites is the need for such record-keeping. And these lessons should be applied to the approaches we are taking in a Web 2.0 environment, as we (as seems to be the case) set up institutional presences in Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc.

How should we go about doing this? Should we take screen shots of the interface when substantive changes are made? Or perhaps at fixed intervals (monthly, perhaps)? And can we automated the process? Or should such data be a standard item in Web team reports?

Or rather than capturing the screen interface, should we not be harvesting the HTML pages? And how easy will this be if the pages are dependent on the installation of particular applications?

Has anybody started to address such issues?

Posted in General | 6 Comments »

CRIG Teleconference Chats On ‘Repositories And Other Services’

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 December 2007

I recently took part in one of a series of teleconference chats organised by the JISC-funded CRIG (Common Repository Interfaces Working Group) project.

The project organised a day of tele-conferences on 8th November 2007. The aim of the day was to facilitate a “discussion between members on how repositories might be improved (bluesky thinking)“. A recording of the discussions is available from the DigRep wiki. In addition, the project team created a series of mindmaps which helped to visualise the topics covered in the seven areas covered during the day.

I took part on the final discussion of the day which looked at other services which may interface with repositories, with a particular focus on the role of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services. The mindmap for this session is shown below.

Mindmap of discussions
(Click for larger display).

The discussions revolved around the in-house development vs. use of Web 2.0 services which are a recurring topic of discussion. I did, however, find that the visualisation of the discussions provided me with the opportunity to revisit these issues from a different perspective. I’ll have to have another look at mindmapping tools, I think.  And reading Mike Ellis’s post on Good web apps: Back of postage stamp… it would seem that MindMeister should be the first tool for me to look at.

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IWR Information Professional of the Year Award

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 December 2007

Presentation of the IWR Information Professional of the Yar awardI am pleased to report that yesterday, at the end of the first day of the Online Information 2007 conference, I received an award for the Information World Review (IWR) Information Professional of the Year :-)

Prior to presenting the award Timothy Rinda, American Psychological Association  said:

When I judge the IWR American Psychological Association Awards I look for someone who is, to my mind, the model IWR reader.

That is someone who is really pushing the boundaries of information, of technology and developing the role of an information professional into something really exciting.

For the 2007 award, I can see that my fellow judges on the panel did the same thing and it is with great pleasure to announce a winner who in his working life , lives to push the boundaries of information and has been involved in researching WiFi, Skype, podcasts and video streaming as information delivery methods. He is also author of one of the most popular blogs in the sector. His is of course Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus of UKOLN.

Many thanks to Timothy for his kind words and the judges for selecting me as the winner of this prestigious award.  But more importantly I would like to thank all of the people I have met over this past year at the many events I have spoken at and, of course, the online contacts I have made via this blog, on discussions lists and social networks such as Facebook, for sharing my enthuisiasm in building a richer and better online environment.

And now the pub awaits …   

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The Opening Up Of Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 December 2007

Opening Up The Data

Via the Are there 100,000 people for open data in Facebook? group on Facebook I found the statement that “We already know that Mark Zuckerberg has committed Facebook to opening up its data“. The group description links to an article in Macworld entitled “Web 2.0: Facebook wants to make members’ data portable” which begins with the announcement that “Facebook wants to make the data its members enter into the social network’s profiles portable, so that they can move that data to other online services if they want, the company’s CEO said Wednesday“.

Opening Up Development

Back in March 2007 I wrote a post on Dapper – Web Mashup Development For All? which described how the Dapper Web-based can open up the development of Web-based applications. I recently discovered a FireFox extension called DapperFox which makes Dapper even easier to use.

More importantly I have just been alerted to a Dapper post which announces that the Dapper Facebook AppMaker Now Open to Public: “What this will allow you to do is take ANY Dapp and turn it into a fully independent Facebook app. Use your own header, footer, background styling — really make it yours — and with absolutely no programming“.

So now, it would appear, development of Facebook applications is opening up to, perhaps not the masses, but those with lightweight development skills or interests. And by taking data from public Web sites and making it available within a Facebook environment, you are not locking the data within Facebook, as the original data source is still available on the Web.

Enhancing Its Services

Facebook started off as a social networking environment. But as I wrote on 9 November Facebook now allows entries for organisations to be created within Facebook. And now, less than a month later, the Open University’s Facebook page shows that the organisation now has over 2,000 fans and what appears to be the start of a thriving discussion forum.

Phil Bradley recently provided a series of posts on a JIBS conference on Is library 2.0 a trivial pursuit?. One of his post described a talk on The British Library in Facebook. The British Library (BL) “sees the use of social networking sites as a way of getting out there, providing information in situations and places where people are”. They have set up a number of Facebook groups, including groups which support the exhibitions they are running and the BL’s business and SME support services, as well as a BL organisational pages and groups for internal use.


It’s here; it’s popular; it’s still developing; authoring tools are being developed; it’s getting more open. Can any organisation seriously argue that they shouldn’t be considering how Facebook can be used to support organisational aims? And shouldn’t those involved in IT development also be looking at what can be learnt from Facebook’s successes? And shouldn’t the Semantic Web purists acknowledge the views which Paul Miller sums up with his comment on the Nodalities blog:

The noble vision of the Semantic Web is just that; a noble – and long term – vision. The years of seeking perfect answers to perfectly formed questions – a practice of which too many in the Semantic Web community are guilty – have not helped to move us nearly as far forward as we should have come. The over-reliance upon complex and impractically all-encompassing ontologies have bogged us down, and invited ridicule.”

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