UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Twitter For JISC Bid Writers And Web Developers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Feb 2009

Twitter and Bid Writers

On Tuesday (3rd February 2009) Grainne Conole send off a Twitter post:

just about to do presentation at OU on how t get JISC dosh – any tweet suggestions to throw into the pot??? use #JISCBIDS

In response she received a fluffy of useful suggestions, which Lorna Campbell has helpfully summarised:

Advice ranged from the obvious:

Make sure you read the call. sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at how many bidders don’t!

We’ve all done it – it’s simply not fun, and risky, sending proposal on deadline day. Get into mindset of deadline is week before.

Provide *all* info asked for – such a shame to mark down a bid because it didn’t include risk assessment for example

10 page limit means 10 page limit. Do not put your budget on page 11.

Read the circular. Then read it again. Then do what it asks.

To the astute:

Don’t underbid to be competitive if this means your project will run out of money before the end.

Your background/intro section is too long. Ditch half of it and write a really good use case scenario instead.

Make it clear what funding your proposal would do for the wider community.

To the obscure:

A project with an acronym that alludes to bodily functions or sexual practises will (almost) always remain an unfunded project.

What a wonderful example of how people involved in writing JISC proposals, those who have been involved in bid-writing previously, potential  markers and JISC programme managers themselves are willing to share their thoughts and suggestions. And, of course, such sharing is good for everyone – better submissions should be prepared which makes it easier for the markers and JISC and the wider community should benefit from the project deliverables.

Twitter and Web Developers

I recently received an email from the manager of an institutional Web development team who asked

Do you know of any universities which have implemented some kind of iGoogle like home page for their students and  staff?  Something which lets users customise the data sources and layout and presentation of their start page, and which supports both internal gadgets – my courses, my marks, my timetable, etc. – and external ones; my Twitter, my Facebook, my news feed, etc.  It seems like something  someone must have done already somewhere, but who?  Any pointers very welcome.

The University of Southampton’s iSoton service (which I wrote about a while ago) came to  mind initially, but that wasn’t quite what was wanted. Not being able to come up with any other suggestions (and not wanting to give a negative reply and look stupid!) I turned to my Twitter community and asked:

Any universities provide an iGoogle-style page for staff / students with personalised links to remote (e.g. delicious) & internal stuff ?

Responses appeared immediately:

Response  1:
my old university did. both for staff and students. various boxes showing your inbox, exam timetable etc.

Response 2:
do you have an example? Would this be as a personalised or general portal? Interesting idea.

Response 3:
OU has a couple of iGoogle widgets….?

Response 4:
Is iSotton ( the kind of thing you mean?

Response 5:
check out – jisc funded igoogle project. (must record I’ve used twitter as a dissemination tool now)

Response 6:
we have some delicious links in our toolbox and looking are a few other things … what about you guys

Response 7:
is it still the case that iGoogle pages don’t have unique urls? (So publishing them to the world is problematic.)

Response 8:
Sussex do. it’s called SPLASH

Response 9:
See also the PADDLE project both SPLASH and PADDLE are part of

Response 10:
iGoogle/NetVibes/etc examples

And it seems that these responses where of use to the person with the initial query as he commented “Brian, that’s fantastic; thanks for your help” :-)


The UK HE’s development community has a well-established tradition of sharing, as can be seen by the popularity of (initially) the Mailbase mailing list service, which was replaced by the JISCMail. But as technologies develop well-established tools get replaced by new, and often more flexible alternatives. I think we are now seeing this with Twitter. But what of the Twitter sceptics, the ones who invite us to:

Imagine a world in which Twitter did not exist (give it a couple of years…) would you really invent a constantly-updated trivia machine as the best way of communicating with [your] audiences?

Is Twitter a trivia machine? Yes, it can be. But then again, so can email. And did you stop using email when those first Viagra posts appeared in your inbox?

11 Responses to “Twitter For JISC Bid Writers And Web Developers”

  1. Hi Brian,

    Interesting set of links to iGoogle-like sites. I’d dispute whether iSoton meets the requirements of a website that “lets users customise the data sources and layout and presentation of their start page, and which supports both internal gadgets […] and external ones”, because it fails on a number of criteria:

    1. It isn’t customisable in any way.

    2. It doesn’t support any internal gadgets; the podcast tab and the virtual tour tab are effectively static lists of links that are chosen by our communications office.

    3. It doesn’t really support any external gadgets; the Wikipedia tab displays a static snapshot of the UoS page (so avoiding any potential embarrassment when the WP UoS page is inevitably defaced), the Flickr tab shows a set of photos that have been chosen to show the university in a good light (it used to be a live feed, but there was a bit of hoo-hah over unsuitable images last year and editorial control was swiftly asserted), and the tab show bookmarks created by the comms office (rather than bookmarks by other people about UoS).

    iSoton is primarily billed as a marketing tool, although I’m not quite sure to whom. It doesn’t so much live the Web 2.0 mashup dream, as adopt a cargo cult approach to it.

    We do have an internal portal – – which allows some limited customisation of internal information (it lets you select which pre-chosen groups of links you wish to display), but there’s a high degree of centralised control (the comms office has ultimate control over every user’s home view of the portal), there’s no integration of external resources, and internal information is linked to, rather than displayed in the portal itself (if you want to see your timetables, you leave the portal and go to aother service).


  2. Hi Nick – yes, I’d agree, iSoton is letting all users see what others are saying about the institution, not letting Southampton users chose their preferred feeds.

  3. I don’t even think that it’s that – it’s only letting users see what *selected* others are saying about the institution.

    There’s a fundamental conflict here between the adoption of user content-driven Web2.0 services in HEI, and the need for HEIs to control their external images. Do you know of anywhere that’s tried to cut this Gordian Knot other than by asserting editorial oversight over the user-contributed data?

  4. David Kernohan said

    iGoogle like institutional resources… iCaboodle at Hull (David Sowden). The word we are searching for is “portal” :-)

  5. Tweet in haste, repent at leisure…

    Apologies to Nick and others at Southampton. I have to declare only a limited knowledge of the systems there based on the postgrad training we do there. I’d seen people there adding their own RSS feeds to a site and customising the layout (albeit in a limited way and with some difficulty) and thought this was an internal view of iSotton – whereas in fact, as Nick points out, it was Sussed.

    There’s another netvibes example not on the list in Response 10 your post:

    Again though, this is static page aggregating content, not a user-customisable system.

  6. Mike Nolan said

    I missed your tweet yesterday, but not wanting to miss an opportunity to blow our own trumpet, Edge Hill have pretty much exactly what they’re asking about. It’s called GO, and you can read about some of the developments on our blog:

  7. A “fluffy” of useful suggestions … ?

  8. Interesting discussion here. We were trawling through space and came across a comment made about Sussex and our site SPLASH.

    If you want to read more background on the site, our blog is at:

    Our space, since being launched last September 08, has come a long way in terms of its original intended use. The site facilitates the ability to customise your page through adding widgets and has facilities such as:

    1. RSS Feed (any internal/external)
    2. Bus Timetable
    3. Students Union News and newspaper (thebadgeronline)
    4. Brighton Webcams (Shoreham aiport/Marine Parade/Palace Pier)
    5. ebay & FaceBook
    6. Latest Jobs
    7. University Radio
    8. Youtube/Flickr

    The widgets are held within both the ‘Profile’ page, (see mine at: and the ‘Dashboard’ area. The Dashboard being the users private area, whereby a Profile, similarly to FaceBook, can either be private or public facing.

    The system has a blogging function and a messaging service, that allows users to contact each other within SPLASH. There is added functionality in that our users can also contact each other within their course, year or through their student representatives.

    This is possible because SPLASH pools information directly form our internal Virtual Learning Environment, (Study Direct) that is utilised across many Academic Schools and departments here at the University.

    How does this work? Well, dependant on whether you are added as a Student or member of Staff into Study Direct, (a course/module, Academic School, Representative) – as soon as you sign into SPLASH, we have a ‘Courses’ area that gives you direct access to all of your fellow students on the same course or year as yourself.

    This then gives you the power to add individuals as contacts and then blog or message directly to them. You also have power over selecting who sees what widgets that you display on your profile page. This can be particularly helpful in the case of an Academic that chooses to show specific information only to a group of students or an entire year group.

    There are lots more functions within the site, but I think pictures speak louder than words.

    My flickr account showing some bits of the site is at:



    Have an RSS feed of my blogs at SPLASH:

    Have an RSS feed of the technical blog:

    We are finding lots of interesting things happening since we launched and are working collaboratively with a number of Academic departments and Postgraduate communities within the University to improve communications and provide a ground whereby students and staff can exchange information on a singular platform, both for academic and personal purposes.

    If you would like to find out more about what we have done, then please feel free to contact me on: h.d.yousif at OR

    Project Developer ~ SPLASH
    University of Sussex

  9. […] Twitter for JISC bid-writers and web developers […]

  10. […] writing and marking of proposals in JISC’s recent 12/08 call, including discussion of how Twitter can help you prepare a bid and how it was used (and perhaps abused) during the marking process. Andy Powell has vented his […]

  11. […] a year ago I described use of Twitter For JISC Bid Writers And Web Developers In this example Grainne Conole asked “just about to do presentation at OU on how t get JISC […]

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