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Archive for August 16th, 2010

Sharing Discussions of a JISCPress Meeting

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 16 August 2010

Meeting With The JISCPress Team

Joss Winn and Alex Bilbie from the  University of Lincoln and Tony Hirst from the  Open University recently visited UKOLN  for a meeting with myself and colleagues at UKOLN about the JISC-funded JISCPress project. If you have not heard of JISCPress here is a brief summary:

The JISCPress project has developed a successful demonstrator platform for the discussion, deliberation, annotation and dissemination of documents, using the well-known WordPress blogging software. In particular, the digress.it plugin is now in use by a wide range of organisations, including Cornell University, the New York Public Library, WriteToReply and JISC. It is also being used by HEIs to support Teaching and Learning.

At UKOLN we have made use of the JISCPress for a number of reports we have either written or have close involvement with:

The meeting provided an opportunity for us to gain a better understanding of the software and how it is being used in order to explore the possibilities of making greater use of this software for providing what is becoming known in UK Government circle as  ‘commentable documents‘.

Issues Discussed

The main issues I raised during the meeting were:

Document processing: How long does it take to take a document (which might typically be provided in MS Word or PDF format)  and make it available via the JISCPress service?

Types of feedback and comments:  Is it envisaged that JISCPress is used to receive comments while a document is being developed, or to allow users to give comments and ask questions after a completed document has been published?

How to maximise user engagement: If you make a document available using JISCPress can you expect users to come and give comments or do you need to be proactive?

Naming conventions: There seems to be some confusion between the various names which are being used, such as JISCPress, WriteToReply, CommentPress and digress.it.  How can such confusions be addressed?

Target audience : Who is the software/service aimed at?

I received useful answers to these questions:

  • It can take a couple of hours to process a report, which involved copying and pasting the contents of the report into WordPress – and this time can be longer if the report containing complicated tables or large numbers of images. However if you wish to ensure that readers of your document can provided comments and feedback then  this effort may be needed.
  • JISCPress can be used to enable comments to be made at various stages in a document’s lifecycle.   So rather than attempting to define how JISCPress should be used it is probably better to observe the different ways it is being used.
  • There will be a need to continually encourage users to provide feedback.
  • There is some confusion between the name of the project, the software and various instantiations of the software. I think this can be summarised as JISCPress is the name of the project (which is described on the project blog) and the name of the hosting service which hosts commentable documents for the JISC; WriteToReply is the name of the hosting service for UK Government commentable documents; CommentPress is the name of a WordPress plugin which has been used to support the service and digress.it is both the name of an enhanced WordPress plugin and a generic hosting service for commentable documents.
  • The digress.it software is an open source plugin for WordPress.  Institutions which wish to provide a service for hosting their own commentable documents may wish to use the software.

I hope this is an accurate reflection of the responses I received at the meeting – but if not I am sure Joss, Tony or Alex will respond :-)

Publishing a Summary of the Meeting

I have to admit that I would not have published this summary of the meeting if I had not been alerted to the blog posts published shortly after Joss Winn and Tony Hirst had returned to their office.

Tony reflected “On the Different Roles Documents and Comments May Take in a Commentable Document” and suggested that “there are at least three different roles we might expect a commentable document to play in a open discussion context … (1) draft document … ; (2) consultation document … and (3)  guidance document

Meanwhile Joss’s asked “Who are our users?” and identified “three type[s] of user and therefore three areas of documentation that need to be developed:  (1) Site administrators; (2) Document Authors and (3) Document Readers/Commenters“.  Joss went on to address ways in which the project deliverables could be sustained:

I think that is a really useful summary. But I would add one additional suggestion: encouraging community discussion about the project’s work (and not just a community site for hosting documents  or developer community engagement in enhancing the open source plugin).

It struck me that in publishing their notes of the meeting in a public forum (their blogs) Tony and Joss have played a useful role in enhancing awareness of the project and facilitating further discussion – which, thanks to their posts,  I am participating in (and a tweet about their work should help to raise awareness even further).

As a general point I would ask: shouldn’t projects be doing more in sharing notes of project meetings in this way, rather than simply sending summaries to project mailing lists as I suspect may be the norm.

And having learnt about the need to be pro-active in encourage feedback on  commentable documents I’ll remind people of the documents UKOLN has made available on JISCPress:

Your feedback would be most welcome :-)

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