UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for May, 2011

Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 May 2011

Use of Slideshare at IWMW Events

Last year I wrote a post in which I commented on the popularity of an individual’s slides and speculated on ways in which the 12,000+ views (now 24,400 views!) on Slideshare for Steve Wheeler’s talk on Web 3.0 The way Forward could be related to impact and value. In this post I will discuss the implications of usage statistics for a event’s use of Slideshare over a period of four years.

UKOLN’s annual IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) series has made use of Slideshare for hosting slides since 2006 (note that since Slideshare was launched in October 2006 this means that we uploaded the slides for IWMW 2006 after the event was held).

The slideshows for each year are available in the following Slideshow event groups: IWMW-2006, IWMW-2007, IWMW2008, IWMW2009 and IWMW2010 (note we changed the naming convention in 2008 once Twitter started to gain in popularity). Also note that since not all of the slideshows have been added to the event groups the analysis also made use of the Slideshare tags: IWMW2006, IWMW2007, IWMW2008, IWMW2009 and IWMW10.

The numbers of views for each slide are available on Slideshare. A Google Spreadsheet has been created which summarises the figures. The overall totals are given below.

Year Nos. of views Total nos.
of slides
Nos. of
plenary slides
Nos. of slides from
parallel sessions
2006 48,360 11 11  0 Slides added retrospectively.
Most popular plenary: 10,190 views
2007 44,495  7  5  2 Slides from 2 w/shop sessions included.
Most popular plenary: 21,679 views; w/shop: 9,838 views
2008 94,629 17  8  9 W/shop facilitators encouraged to use Slideshare.
Most popular plenary: 26,005 views; w/shop: 18,369 views
2009 38,877 29 10 19 Most popular plenary: 2,489 views; barcamp: 2,839 views
2010 11,833 18 10  8 Most popular plenary: 1,896 views; w/shop: 1,601 views
 TOTAL 238,259 82 44 38

These figures help to identify changing patterns of usage which I was not previously aware of. It would appear that when Slideshare was first launch we uploaded the slides for the plenary talks (which we had available on the UKOLN Web site). The following year we continued to make the slides available on Slideshare, although I don’t know if this was done in advance or not.  In addition we subsequently noticed that two facilitators of parallel sessions (Phil Wilson, University of Bath and Adrian Stevenson, at the time at the University of Manchester) has uploaded their slides (on University 2.0 and Knowing Me Knowing YouTube) with the event hashtag. Since we were aware that participants at the event where interested in seeing the slides from parallel sessions they were not able to attend in 2008 we encouraged workshop facilitators to make there slides available using the event hashtag. It was possibly around this time that Slideshare ‘groups’ and ‘events’ became available and so we tried to ensure that such slides were also aggregated in this way.

The IWMW 2006 event also marked the first ‘amplified’ IWMW event with a WiFi network available for participants. In addition there was also a limited amount of video streaming at the event (using Access Grid technologies). Since IWMW 2007 we have, I think, live-streamed all of the plenary talks and encouraged the remote audience to participate in discussions.

Slideshare Use at IWMW 2008

In order to make it easy for the remote audience to view the speakers’ slides we have sought to make slides available using Slideshare when the talk is being given. The initial use case, therefore, was primarily for the live remote audience, which peaked at about 170 viewers for Ewan McIntosh’s talk at IWMW 2008 – any additional views may be considered an unexpected bonus.  In this case, since there have been 26,021 views to date, we might regard this as a significant bonus. However this would be misleading since the Slideshare is actually a Slidecast containing an audiostream which had been created for another version of this talk.

Seeing the data on the numbers of views of the various slideshows over the years made me wonder which were the most popular slides and if there were any identifiable patterns for these popular slides.

The table below lists the most popular slides for the plenary sessions and the parallel sessions. With the exception of 2006 the most popular slides have been presented by people outside the higher education sector, although Ewan McIntosh of his presentation at the time worked for LTScotland, a public sector educational body.  Does this suggest that speakers form outside the HE sector are better speakers, provide better slide shows or perhaps have more effective online professional networks – in the case of Ewan McIntosh in particular he attracted a large live audience for the live video stream of his talk and with 9,691 Twitter followers currently would be well positioned to make his professional community aware of this resource (incidentally Jeff Barr also has an extensive Twitter network with 8,333 followers).

The workshop facilitators and barcamp presenters with the largest numbers of views of their slides are, however, from the HE sector. It was interesting to observe that these popular slides seem to have an personalised design, such as the slides used by Adrian Stevenson in his Knowing Me, Knowing YouTube presentation. Might this suggest that a corporate design for slides is off-putting to potential viewers? After all whilst participants at the live presentation have no freedom of choice, those who chose to view slides on Slideshare may be more like to access attractive-looking slides. Alternatively perhaps those who are prepared to challenge organisational branding guidelines may be more likely to have interesting ideas to present? Back in 2009 in a post on The Slideshare Lessons Martin Weller reflected on how over a period of three years through his use of Slideshare he had migrated from use of the OU corporate identity to a personalised style of presentation.

Year Most Popular
Plenary Talk
Metrics Most Popular Parallel Session/ Bar Camp Metrics
Nos. of Views Times Favourited Embeds Nos. of Views Times Favourited Embeds
2006 Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy, Michael Webb, University of Wales, Newport 10,204 37  5
2007 Building Highly Scalable Web Applications, Jeff Barr, Amazon 21,731 38  5 Know Me Knowing YouTube, Adrian Stevenson, University of Manchester 9,853 18   8
2008 Unleashing the Tribe, Ewan McIntosh, LTScotland 26,087 69 53 Mind Mapping for Effective Content Management, Gareth Saunders, St Andrews 18,381 51 20
2009 How the BBC Make Web sites, Michael Smethurst / Matthew Wood, BBC   2,498   4  3 Create a better seach engine than Google, Michael Nolan, Edge Hill University 2,891   0   6
2010 HTML5 and friends, Patrick Lauke, Opera   1,899   8  6 WordPress: Beyond Blogging, Joss Winn, University of Lincoln 1,604   1   6

It was also interesting to note that all of the popular slides have been embedded in other Web pages, blogs, etc.  For me this is an important part of the social sharing provided by Slideshare – it allows the content to be easily reused and discussed elsewhere.  Martin Weller made this point in his post on The Slideshare Lessons when he said: “by sharing good Slideshare presentations you are sharing ideas, and people will react to these. It can be in the form of comments on your blog post which features the presentation, on the Slideshare site itself, or through other social media such as twitter“.   Why, I wonder, are people still hosting their slides in the silo of an institutional Web site when the slides can easily be made available as a social object?


The post has explored some of the implications associated with views of slides hosted in Slideshare. Although the statistics provided in the free version of Slideshare do not provide trend analyses (for richer statistics a Pro account is needed which costs from $19/month) I think we can assume that significant numbers of views take place after the event and such usage patterns can be decoupled from use by a remote audience viewing the slides whilst watching a live video stream of the talks (and, in any case there is no video stream for the parallel workshop sessions).

The slides may be being viewed by attendees at the workshop who wish to review the information at their own pace after having watch ed the live talk. In addition as discussed in a post on “I want to attend all the parallel sessions” participants often wish they could find out more about the parallel sessions which they were not able to attend. We are now seeing more of these materials being made available by the facilitators of these workshop sessions.  Since we now have evidence that such resources are being used we will make greater effort to encourage people to share their slides using the event hashtag and group for this year’s event.

But in addition to the 170-200 people who have attended the event in recent years it is likely that the slides will have been viewed by those who did not attend the event. Use of Slideshare provides a means of sharing the ideas discussed at the event more widely as well as raising the profile of the speakers. In addition this may also help to raise the visibility of the event itself.

The popularity of the slides also seems to challenge the criticisms of PowerPoint as a flawed tool for supporting learning. If this is really the case, then why are so many people choosing to view such slides?

What Next?

The popularity of the slides used at IWMW events may provide an indication of the value of the event itself for providing a forum for sharing of ideas. We will be looking to build on this by encouraging speakers and facilitators to make their slides available and also to suggest that they may wish to share access to these resources within their own professional networks.

The popularity of Ewan McIntosh’s screencast of his talk (which contains an embedded audio) suggests that providing synchronised audio with the slides could provide an even richer resources for use by others (and since my most popular slideshow, which has been seen on 19,501 occasions, is also one of my few screencasts I think this is the case). It would therefore appear desirable to capture the audio for talks – although, even if this provides value to others, it may be questionable as to whether the effort required to synchronise the audio with the slides can be justified.

It would be useful to make comparisons with other IT-focussed events which have also made use of Slideshare over a number of years. I know that the Eduserv Symposium have also used Slideshare event groups for their annual event which are labelled esym09, esym10 and esym11. These symposia last for a day, unlike the IWMW events which have taken place over three days. But although the numbers of slideshows will be less it would be interesting to see if the number of downloads shows a similar pattern.

It would also be interesting to make comparisons with similar events which have chosen not to make use of Slideshare, and perhaps provide access to PDF copies of slides on the event Web site. In light of the failure for such resources to be embedded elsewhere and the lack of a easily obtainable evidence of their reuse, can a decision not to make use of a social sharing resources for slides still be justified?

The statistics presented in this post may, however, be open to questioning. Did users really view all of the slides of did they just look at one or two? And if a slideshow is embedded in a blog will reading the blog without viewing the slides be treated as a view on Slideshare? It may be useful to investigate the statistics provided on the SlideShare PRO acount.


Back in February 2009 Martin Weller asked whether Slideshare is the best OER site?. The evidence Martin presented in the post at the time demonstrated the populairy of the Slideshare site. Martin went on to raise a number of interesting questions:

i) Are people more likely to share stuff through something like Slideshare?

ii) Is the basic unit of sharing (the presentation) at Slideshare, something people understand more than courses and units at OER sites?

iii) Is the comparison fair? Can we consider Slideshare an OER repository of sorts?

iv) Are commercial operations just better at this than educational ones?

v) Are people ‘learning’ from Slideshare? If so, how does it compare with learning from OERs?

I think it is clear that people are willing to share resources on Slideshare and people are also viewing the resources in significant numbers. For me the evidence I have gathered has confirmed my suspicion that Slideshare is established as part of the infrastructure for many events organised with in the HE sector and that its use provides value to the sector.  Can we afford not to use it?

Posted in Events, Evidence | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

How Should UK Universities Respond to EU Cookie Legislation?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 May 2011

Confusions Over Cookie Legislation

The EU’s Privacy and Communications Directive comes into force at midnight tonight (26 May 2011).  This requires user’s consent before using cookies – the text files which are used for various purposes including storing browsing information.

The UK Government’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have provided guidelines on how Web site providers can implement such legislation.  However, as pointed out by the JISC Legal service, differences in interpretation of the legislation by Ministers, the  Internet Advertising Bureau and the ICO have led to uncertainties as to what needs to be done.  The JISC Legal post concludes by highlighting such uncertainties:

This does leave website operators with a tricky decision:

  • make changes to their websites now in order to implement a belt-and-braces, but clumsy, can-we-use-cookies explicit permission each time a user visits;
  • wait until the government’s guidance on interpretation emerges, and take a view then as to whether to implement an explicit each-visit permission question;  or
  • hope that browser suppliers make the necessary changes soon enough such that website operators need do nothing.

Perhaps we should be looking to the ICO to see how it has implemented the legal requirements on its Web site. As can be seen from the following image the ICO’s Web site has introduced a new text area at the top of every page which requires users to click on the accept box.

I think it is clear that this is a very flawed solution. Not only is it very ugly, but it also appears to force users to accept cookies (not the message “You must tick the ‘I accept cookies from this site’ box to accept” was displayed after clicking on the Continue box without selecting the option to confirm acceptance of cookies.

The Guardian has pointed out significant flaws in the legislation on its Technology blog:

One problem sites are wrestling with if the ICO insists on enforcement is a catch-22 where if people choose not to accept cookies, then sites will have to keep asking them if they want to accept cookies – because they will not be able to set a cookie indicating their preference.

What, then, is to be done?

A Year’s Grace

The good news is that the ICO has recognised the complexities in implementing this legislation.  As described on the BBC Web site:

UK websites are being given one year to comply with EU cookie laws, the Information Commissioner’s Office has said.

The UK government also sought to reassure the industry that there would be “no overnight changes”.

This provides the UK higher education sector with an opportunity to develop and implement appropriate and implementable solutions. We are seeing the Government providing indications that is looking to see “business-friendly solutions” being developed. Ed Vaizey, the Communications Minister, has suggested that the EU directive is  “a good example of a well-meaning regulation that will be very difficult to make work in practice“.  Perhaps this is an example of Government policies being in alignment with those working in higher education who wish to continue to make use of Web technologies to deliver a wide range of services.

How should the sector proceed?  I feel it would be a mistake for Universities to work on their own in attempting to implement individual solutions based on institutional interpretations of the EU directive  and trying to second-guess what may be deemed to be acceptable practices.

I am in agreement with those who suggest that the opt-in/opt-out requirement should be provided by the Web browser rather than on every individual Web site. It should be noted that Microsoft’s IE 9 and the latest version of Mozilla’s Firefox offer settings to protect users from services which collect browser data. In addition Google is working at integrating so-called ‘Do Not Track‘ technologies into their Chrome browser.

In addition to such developments to Web browsers it may be appropriate to explore the potential of machine-readable privacy policies such as W3C’s P3P standard which I discussed in a previous post.  Although this standard has seen little usage since it was first published in 2002 the EU legislation might provide the motivating force which can encourage greater take-up.

At UKOLN’s IWMW 2011 event, which will be held at the University of Reading on 26-27 July, Dave Raggett will be giving a plenary talk on Online Privacy in which he will describe his EU-funded Privacy Dashboard work.  The event might also provide an opportunity for those working in Web-management who have a good understanding of the implications of privacy policies on the services they provide to agree on a sector-wide approach which can be deployed in a year’s time.

There is a slot which is currently vacant at the event of the event.  There is therefore an opportunity for a small group of University Web managers using the next two months to develop a proposal on how the sector might implement the cookie legislation in a year’s time.

Some thoughts on what could be addressed:

  • Why cookies are needed and what concerns they raise. A briefing paper explaining these issues to policy-makers and end users.  The briefing should have a Creative Commons licence which can help to demonstrate the efficiency savings being made across the sector by avoiding duplication of such work.
  • Documenting ways in which widely used applications and technologies currently use cookies (e.g. Google Analytics, CMS systems, portals and other personalisation tools, etc.). Documentation of the implications of users opting out of use of cookies in use of these applications
  • What privacy policies should cover and possibly provision  of privacy templates.
  • Policies on preferred browsers and education on use of privacy preferences.
  • Potential of use of machine-readable policies such as P3P.

I welcome your comments and feedback.

Posted in Legal, openness | 14 Comments »

Privacy Settings For UK Russell Group University Home Pages

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 May 2011

On the website-info-mgt JISCMail List Claire Gibbons, Senior Web and Marketing Manager at the University of Bradford today askedHas anyone done anything in particular in response to the changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies for storing information from the ICO?” and went on to add that “We were going to update and add to our privacy policy in terms of what cookies we use and why“.

This email message was quite timely as privacy issues will be featured in a plenary talk at UKOLN’s forthcoming IWMW  2011 workshop which will be held at the University of Reading on 26-27 July with Dave Raggett giving the following talk:

Online Privacy:
This plenary will begin with a report on work on privacy and identity in the EU FP7 PrimeLife project which looks at bringing sustainable privacy and identity management to future networks and services. There will be a demonstration of a Firefox extension that enables you to view website practices and to set personal preferences on a per site basis. This will be followed by an account of what happened to P3P, the current debate around do not track, and some thoughts about where we are headed.

The Firefox extension mentioned in the abstract is known as the ‘Privacy Dashboard’ and is described as “a Firefox add-on designed to help you understand what personal information is being collected by websites, and to provide you with a means to control this on a per website basis“. The output for a typical home page is illustrated.

The dashboard was developed by Dave Raggett with funding from the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for the PrimeLife project, a pan-European research project focusing on bringing sustainable privacy and identity management to future networks and services.

In order to observe patterns of UK Universities practices in online privacy I have used the W3C Privacy Dashboard to analyse the home pages of the twenty UK University Russell Group Web sites. The results are given in the following table.

Ref. No. Institution Cookies External third party Invisible images
Session cookies Lasting cookies External lasting cookies Sites Cookies Lasting cookies
1 University of Birmingham 3 3 0 4 0 2 0
2 University of Bristol 0 0 0 4 0 6 8
3 University of Cambridge 1 3 0 3 1 2 0
4 Cardiff University 1 4 0 0 0 0 0
5 University of Edinburgh 1 4 0 0 0 0 0
6 University of Glasgow 2 3 0 2 1 6 2
7 Imperial College 3 3 0 3 0 2 0
8 King’s College London 3 3 0 3 1 6 0
9 University of Leeds 2 3 0 1 0 0 0
10 University of Liverpool 2 3 0 2 2 3 0
11 LSE 3 0 0 1 0 0 0
12 University of Manchester 3 0 0 1 0 0 0
13 Newcastle University 2 0 0 0 0 0 3
14 University of Nottingham 2 3 0 2 0 5 0
15 University of Oxford 1 5 0 1 0 0 1
16 Queen’s University Belfast 1 3 0 1 0 0 0
17 University of Sheffield 2 3 0 0 1 0 0
18 University of Southampton 1 3 0 3 0 0 0
19 University College London 1 2 7 0 0 0 0
20 University of Warwick 9 6 0 39 2 95 6
TOTAL 43 54 7 70   127 20 

It should be noted that the findings appear to be volatile, with significant differences being found when the findings were checked a few days after the initial survey.

How do these findings compare with other Web sites, including those on other sectors?  It is possible to query the Privacy Dashboard’s  data on Web sites for which data is available, which include Fortune 100 Web site. In addition I have used the tool on the following Web sites:

Ref. No. Institution Cookies External third party Invisible images Additional Comments
Session cookies Lasting cookies External lasting cookies Sites Cookies Lasting cookies
1 W3C  0  0 0 2  0 4 1 P3P Policy
2 Facebook Home page  4 6 0  1 0  0  1
3 Google  0  7  0 0  0  1 0
4 No. 10 Downing Street 1  4  0  8  0 52 1 (Nos. updated after publication)
5 BP 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 P3P Policy
6 Harvard 3 4 1 0 0 0
7 2 3 0 1 0 0 1

I suspect that many Web managers will be following Claire Gibbon’s lead in seeking to understand the implications of the changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies for storing information and reading the ICO’s paper on Changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies for storing information (PDF format).  I hope this survey provides a context to the discussions and that policy makers find the Privacy Dashboard tool useful.  But in addition to ensuring that policy statements regarding use of cookies are adequately documented, might not this also provide an opportunity to implement a machine-readable version of such policy. Is it time for P3P, the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project standard, to make a come-back?

Posted in Evidence, Legal, openness, standards, W3C | Tagged: | 15 Comments »

#OIIimpacts11 and Evidence-Gathering for JISC Reports, Events, etc.

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 May 2011

On Friday I attended a workshop on “Digital Impacts: How to Measure and Understand the Usage and Impact of Digital Content” which was hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute. The event was organised to mark the launch of a report on “Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources” . The abstract for the report describes how:

This report is an effort to begin to synthesize the evidence available under the JISC digitisation and eContent programmes to better understand the patterns of usage of digitised collections in research and teaching, in the UK and beyond. JISC has invested heavily in eContent and digitisation, funding dozens of projects of varying size since 2004. However, until recently, the value of these efforts has been mostly either taken as given, or asserted via anecdote. By drawing on evidence of the various impacts of twelve digitised resources, we can begin to build a base of evidence that moves beyond anecdotal evidence to a more empirically-based understanding on a variety of impacts that have been measured by qualitative and quantitative methods.

At the event a full room with about 100 participants heard Dr. Eric Meyer and his colleague Dr. Kathryn Eccles summarise the main finding of the report and introduce the Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources (TIDSR), with summaries of the case studies being provided by contributors to the report.

As described recently I also spoke at this event and gave a talk on Evidence, Impact, Value: Metrics for Understanding Personal and Institutional Use of the Social Web. In the introduction I explained how my talk would discuss the role of Social Media in enhancing access to not only digital content but also physical resources (such as the workshop itself) and intangible objects (such as the ideas presented at such events).  I explained how I had proposed a Twitter hashtag for the event (“#oiiimpacts11” was chosen) and created a TwapperKeeper archive for tweets related to the event. I then showed the Summarizr statistics which can be used to provide evidence of how Twitter is being used at the event.  Despite the relatively small numbers using Twitter (which does not appear to be widely used by those working in digital humanities) it was interesting to note that there were 23 tweets which provided links to a blog post which announced the launch of the report and a further 14 tweets (split between two URLs)  which linked directly to the report.  In addition the statistics for the URL to the report shows that at the time of writing there have been 79 accesses to the report via the link with  62 access taking place on the day the report was launched.  We can also see the comments made in the tweets which enables us to see the initial announcement (made by the oiioxford Twitter account) and how subsequent tweets commented on the report:

The workshop, and the report, focussed on best practices for synthesing evidence of the impact of digital resources.  It strikes me that there is also a need to share best practices on ways of gathering evidence of the impact  of events and reports. Perhaps part of the process for organising such events should be in planning how social media can be used to both enhance impact and measure the impact. Twitter hashtags and use of links may be useful tools to use – and in addition perhaps, as I suggested recently, making use of Slideshare for speakers slides might also be useful. Indeed looking at the slides used by Ewan McIntosh in his talk on “Unleashing The Tribe: small passionate communities” at UKOLN’s IWMW 2008 event I find that  there have been 25,941 views of the slides and other slideshows used at the event having been viewed by between 2,00 and 21,000 times. Perhaps  there is an opportunity for further examples to be provided in the Analytics section of the
Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources (TIDSR)

Posted in Events, Evidence | Leave a Comment »

Twitter and the #iamspartacus Trend Revisited

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 May 2011

Last night I noticed some discussions about the #superinjunction incident on Twitter. I also spotted renewed use of the #iamspartacus tag – the tag which was described on the What the Trend Web site by this summary:

People are protesting at the upheld conviction of Tweeter, Paul Chambers, who bemoaned his local airport being closed for a week by jokingly saying he was going to blow it up.

A TwapperKeeper archive for the hashtag was created by Martin Hawksey on 12 November 2010 and currently has 2,478 tweets. We can view the Summarizr statistics for the hashtag. However since the hashtag is now being used in a different context it would be useful to see statistics for recent usage. Looking at the TwapperKeeper archive is seems that use of the hashtag in its current context began on 20 May 2011 possibly in a tweet posted by @delvestaxis:

If the injunction footballer is now thinking of suing twitter he could well set off a #iamsparticus trend? @salihughes

We can view the statistics for this hashtag since 20 May 2011 and discover that at the time of writing there have been 621 tweets from 421 Twitter users. We can also see the other hashtags which were included in these tweets: superinjunction (77), xxxx (61), suingtwitter (9), yyyy (7), imogenthomas (7), ctb (7), thatisall (6), streisandeffect (6) and iamsportacus (6) (where xxx and yyy refer to the footballer who was featured on the front page of the Scottish Herald today). There were several research papers about Twitter presented at the WWW 2010 conference, including a paper on #iranElection: quantifying online activism. (PDF format), one on From Obscurity to Prominence in Minutes: Political Speech and Real-Time Search (PDF format) and one on Earthquake Shakes Twitter Users: Real-time Event Detection by Social Sensors (PDF format). I wonder if next year’s conference will feature a paper on political activism and an earthquake in the UK legal system based on this weekend’s Twitter activities?

Posted in Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Metrics for Understanding Personal and Institutional Use of the Social Web

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 May 2011

Tomorrow I am giving an invited presentation on “Metrics for Understanding Personal and Institutional Use of the Social Web” at a workshop 0n “Digital Impacts: How to Measure and Understand the Usage and Impact of Digital Content” which is being organised by the Oxford Internet Institute.

The abstract for the event summarises the need to measure usage and impact of electronic content in order to able to demonstrate a return on the investment in providing such services:

The question of how we can measure and understand the usage and impact of digital content within the education sector is becoming increasingly important. Substantial investment goes into the creation of digital resources for research, teaching and learning and, in the current economic climate, both content creators, publishers as well as funding bodies are being asked to provide evidence of the value of the resources they’ve invested in.

But how do we go about defining value and impact? Which metrics should we adopt to understand usage? When is a digital resource a well used resource?

My contribution to the event will be to explore how Social Media channels can be used to enhance access to not only content – whether digital, physical or less tangible, such as ideas – and ways in which metrics can be used to understand the ways in which the channels are being used and inform the development of appropriate best practices as well as provide indicators of usage and impact.

The slides for the talk are available on Slideshare and are also embedded below.

Posted in Impact | 4 Comments »

A Historical Perspective of the Debate About the Future of Cloud Infrastructure in UK HE

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 May 2011

On Thursday I attended another excellent Eduserv Symposium event. I enjoyed last year’s event on “The Mobile University” – although the Web site itself and the various presentations seem to have disappeared from the original location so I’m reliant on blog posts, such as Mike’ Jones’ Fairly Positive blog to remind me of the details. (Update last year’s Web site was moved so although many report’s on last year’s event will have broken links, the Web site is still available).

This year’s event was on “Virtualisation and the Cloud: Realising the benefits of shared infrastructure” and once again Andy Powell and colleagues did a great job in providing a fascinating series of talks at an excellent venue and, from all accounts, a great experience for the remote audience viewing the live video stream and participating in discussions using the #esym11 Twitter hashtag.

Videos of the talks and the accompanying slides should be available shortly. I’ll not attempt to summarise the talks – if you want to read detailed reports on the talks I suggest you take a look at Chris Sexton’s excellent notes on the opening keynote talk; Kenji Takeda’s talk on research data management; Armando Fox’s closing plenary talk and  her round-up of the other talks. I would add that I found the keynote talks on “Situation normal, everything must change!” given by Simon Wardley and  “Closing keynote: Above the clouds – A view from academia” by Armando Fox which opened and closed the event particularly interesting.

It struck me during the day that the discussions we were hearing about development of Cloud Services for UK higher educational institutions and the question “Do Universities want to be providers or consumers of Cloud Services?” reflected similar issues related to institutional and national provision of services and sectoral development of services versus procurement of services developed elsewhere which have surfaced repeatedly within the sector for several decades.

I raised this issue during the day in the context of procurement policies for mainframe computers during, I think, the 1970s when UK Universities were ‘encouraged’ to purchase ICL mainframes (this was, of course, when ICL was a British computer manufacturer, and before it was purchased by Fujitsu and before it developed the ICL Perq workstation).  I heard stories that some Universities chose to break rank and purchase mainframes from other manufacturers – although reasons for doing this were not only to exploit the benefits of scale provided by embracing the commercial sector but also to  exploit operating system environment developed within an educational environment (by which I mean MTS,  the Michigan Terminal System which I remember using as a research students at Newcastle University in the late 1970s).

The suggestions about development of a small number of solutions within the sector also reminded me of the experiences of the MAC initiative, which sought to harmonise MIS systems around two (or three?) families of solutions.  This was described in an article on “Theory and Practice of the Virtual University” published in Ariadne as “the ill-fated UK University Funding Council ‘MAC’ initiative” (let me add that there doesn’t seem to be an article about the MAC Initiative available in Wikipedia, which I fund unfortunate as it means that it is not easy to unearth details about this activity and learn lessons about what went wrong).

The experiences of mainframe procurement policies during the 1960s and 70s and the MAC Initiative of course took place at a time prior to the importance of networked services and in which policies and sectoral cultures reflected the UK’s environment. During Armando Fox’s reflections on use of Cloud services at UC Berkeley  it struck me that the story he told reflected a US perspective in which national solutions would not be considered in the way that they may be in the UK, with our background of national organisations dating back to the Computer Board and funding regimes and national strategies which have been coordinated by organisations such as the JISC.

I feel that we need to reflect on lessons of IT developments in the past in order that we don’t repeat mistakes which have been made. Looking at the notes of the symposium which Chris Sexton made it does seem to be that there are a number of interesting questions and differing approaches which need to be considered in more detail:

  • Simon Wardley’s opening plenary talk highlighted issues such as risks and benefits and the need for institutions to have “a willingness to adopt new models“.
  • Kenji Takeda from the University of Southampton reported on work at the University of Southampton: “in the short term they included developing an institutional data repository and develop a scaleable business model“.
  • Terence Harmer, from the Belfast eScience Centre (BeSC)  an alternative approach to use of Cloud Services: “The BeSC is entirely self funding, don’t use shared resources within the University infrastructure. They have no internal infrastructure for mail, calendars, chat rooms, and all project shared services have migrated to utility resources. They are in the business of turning internal kit off. Users are not interested in kit, but capabilities. They buy capacity and storage on demand, and play the market.
  • Armando Fox, in the closing plenary talk described how at UC Berkely “they had moved their services to Amazon’s EC2 in 2008, and since then have spent $350,000 on amazon web services. That’s about 1/3 of a PhD student a month. It’s allowed them to carry out many experiments, have large scale storage and carry out cloud programming“.

I think it is clear that The Cloud isn’t the silver bullet which funders may hope will provide a simple way of gaining efficiency gains across the sector.  I am pleased that the Eduserv Symposium helped to identify some of the different approaches which are being developed – even if we didn’t really reach any agreement on what solutions may be most appropriate for the sector.

Posted in Events | Leave a Comment »

Ariadne Is Getting Smartr

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 May 2011

UKOLN’s Ariadne ejournal has been running since it was launched under the JISC’s eLib programme way back in January 1996. The ejournal continues to provide a dissemination channel for project work, innovation and service developments across the UK’s higher and further education sector and the wider community.

It is true to say, however, that there is a need to develop Ariadne further in to exploit the variety of ways in which Web resources can now be accessed (including access on mobile devices) as well as introducing new functionality in response to users’ requests. A recent survey of Ariadne authors and readers has helped us to identify ways in which we can enhance Ariadne. We are currently working on developments to the Ariadne technical architecture and user interface. However we are aware that not all developments need to be done in-house since there are a variety of services which can be exploited in order to improve one’s own services.

Twitter provides a good example of a service which can be used as an alerting mechanisms for the publication of new issues. We are using the ariadne_ukoln account to publish information when a new issue is published and to provide links to the main articles. If you wish to be alerted in this way we suggest you follow the ariadne_ukoln account.

In addition to this Twitter channel itself we are also exploring other services which have been developed around Twitter which can further enhance access to Ariadne articles. In particular we have recently been evaluating the Smartr service. As described previously Smartr can be regarded as a news reader for Twitter on the iPhone (and iPod Touch). I’ve been using Smartr for a month or so on my iPod Touch and use it to access resources which have been linked to in tweets from various JISC services. If the resources are of particular interest I can then save the article on my mobile device to read later, whether on the device or on a desktop PC.

It occurred to me that this could be a useful tool for reading Ariadne articles on a mobile device, which could be implemented prior to the Ariadne redesign and implementation of mobile style sheets. Indeed such an approach might also be helpful in gaining experiences of the user interface which can help to inform the design of the style sheets.

In order to explore Smartr’s potential I set up a Twitter list which just contained the ariadne_ukoln feed. As can be seen, this provides access to tweets from the account. Viewing my Twitter list using Smartr enables me to view the contents of the links which had been included in the tweets, again as illustrated. Also note that in order to ensure that this service delivered relevant content we updated the policy on use of Twitter which now states that the Twitter channel will “concentrate on disseminating edited snippets about newly published articles with occasional further posts on trailing upcoming articles, seeking reviewers, developments to the Ariadne service, etc“.

In response to my post “Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper!” Anthony Leonard suggested that “Flipboard is the future” and went on to add “Personalised newspapers / magazine apps embedded around (university) websites may [be ] the missing link to bringing the long tail of news to those who can’t be bothered with RSS readers or Twitter“. I think he is right to highlight the importance of personalised newspapers but what has intrigued me is how an existing Web environment, such as Ariadne, can be made available to mobile devices through use of Twitter tools.

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

An Opportunity To Investigate Color: a Location-Based Social Photo App

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 May 2011

The Event Amplifier blog has a post entitled “Color and Elastic Networks” which explores the idea of an “elastic network“. The post introduces this term in the context of a new iPhone app called Color.  As is suggested on the blog post despite some critical comments on the Apple app store this app could have a role to play in helping to develop networks in the context of an event. I tried it on Monday night at a small music venue but as there were only two of us who were using the app it didn’t provide any added value.  But if you are attending a larger event and there are significant numbers of people using the app I do wonder whether it could help to engage people by sharing photos in the way that a Twitter event hashtag enables people to share experiences in bursts of 140 characters?

Tomorrow (Thursday, 12 May) I am attending the Eduserv Symposium on “Virtualisation and the Cloud: Realising the benefits of shared infrastructure“. The event hashtag is #esym11 and, based on last year’s experiences (with, according to Summarizr, 1256 tweets from 190 twitterers) we can expert to see a large amount of tweets about the event.  Since many of the attendees are likely to have an iPhone (or iPod Touch) – the Android app has not yet been released – might this provide an opportunity to evaluate the potential of a location-based social photographic sharing app?  Note that if the function of the app is unclear you may wish to  view the accompanying video clip.

Posted in Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

UKOLN’s DevCSI Accessibility Hackdays: #A11y Hackspace

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 May 2011

On 21-22 June 2011 UKOLN’s DevCSI project is organised the #a11y hackspace event, which is described as “A two day workshop bringing developers, accessibility (a11y) users and experts together to hack on ideas, prototypes and mashups, while exploring the challenges in providing usable accessibility“.

It seems to be that this event could provide an ideal opportunity for developers with an interest in accessibility to explore solutions and approaches which could be used in the context of the BS 8878 Code of Practice on Web accessibility (which is summarised on the AbilityNet Web site).

In a post on Web Accessibility, Institutional Repositories and BS 8878 I have previously described how the 16 steps defined in BS 8878 could be applied in the context of defining the accessibility policies and processes for enhancing the accessibility of institutional repositories. One of the steps is to “Assure the Web products accessibility through production (i.e. at all stages)“. I suggested that this could be addressed by use of tools to monitor the extent to which PDFs hosted in institutional repositories are conforming with accessibility guidelines for PDFs. This suggestion was based on a paper on  “Supporting PDF accessibility evaluation: Early results from the FixRep project” which I described in a blog post last year. Might there be an opportunity for developers to build on this initial work, I wonder?

If you have other suggestions which could be addressed at the hackday note that a wiki has been set up. Also note that the event is free to attend and the online booking form is open for bookings.

Posted in Accessibility, Events | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on the Purpose (and Future) of Education

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2011

The #Purposedpsi Event

The time last week I was arriving at the first face-to-face meeting of the Purpos/ed campaign. Purpos/ed describes itself as:

a non-partisan, location-independent organization aiming to kickstart a debate around the question: What’s the purpose of education? With a 3-year plan, a series of campaigns, and a weekly newsletter we aim to empower people to get involved and make a difference in their neighbourhood, area and country.

The launch event, the Purpos/ed Summit for Instigators, was held at Sheffield Hallam University on Saturday 30 April – clearly those who attended the event were passionate about helping to engage in discussions about the future of education – or perhaps they wanted to travel to Sheffield on the previous day to escape the Royal Wedding (I have to admit that in my case both reasons are true!)

Image from Flickr

As can be seen from the list of blog posts, participants at the event seemed to find it stimulating.

The context to the day was summarised by Josie Fraser, chair of the event who described how she “spent Saturday 30 April in Sheffield, at the Purpos/ed Summit for Investigators, along with 50 delegates from across the UK who had given up their Saturday to take part in a day of discussion and action planning aroundPurpos/ed.

Julia Skinner invited readers toPicture a group of like-minded folk, a state-of-the-art university and cupcakes and you have a recipe for a great afternoon of discussion and debate” whilst Doug Belshaw, one of the co-facilitators describedyesterday [as] one of the best days of my life“.

I’ve spend a week reflecting on the event.  Whilst I too found enjoyed  meeting like-minded people and was pleased that the event was so well organised, I couldn’t help but feel that the enthusiasm for engaging in a  debate on how education can be reshaped was, perhaps, somewhat misplaced.  In my 3 minute talk on Education: Addressing the gaps between the fun and the anxieties I suggested that there will always be a need to be anxious about education and that such anxieties will not only be felt by learners but also those who are engaging in learning processes, including teachers, academics, learning support staff and learning organisations themselves.

“The Death of Universities”

Yesterday I came across a tweet which provided a link to a discussion on “Massively Open Online Courses – the Death of Universities?“.

Image from Wikipedia

The title of the discussion reminded me that the Purpos/ed meeting was held at the Conference 21 venue, which overlooks Park Hill Flats. I was told that this is the largest listed building in Europe – and the Wikipedia entry confirms this. Park Hill Flats are, however, currently empty.  Wikipedia describes how “Although initially popular and successful, over time the fabric of the building has decayed somewhat“.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether we may see a similar fate for large buildings to be found in many University campuses.  We have seen investment in higher education during the Labour Government which has some parallels with the investment in public housing in the 1950s and 60s.  However the approaches taken to providing homes weren’t sustainable and whether due to  a lack of further investment to support maintenance or the occupants’ preference for an alternative living environment, we found that such large council housing estates were either demolished (such as Quarry Hill Flats in Leeds) or  mothballed, awaiting further investment as is the case in Sheffield.

Dave Kernohan has contributed to the discussion on Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by arguing that traditional Higher Education models are under attack from two sides: the government cutbacks which we will all be familiar with and, in addition, the views that independent learners are well-positioned to exploit the availability of open educational resources and the wide range of freely available online tools which are also now available  which can be effective in supporting one’s personal learning network.

Dave Kernohan suggested that “we are also seeing an attack based on stuff like Anya Kamenatz’ idea of a DIY U (” – this echoes my “Dazed and Confused After #CETIS10” post in which I also suggested that the “case for radical innovation” associated with the DIY University could result in the dismantling of high educational institutions, rather than reforms and improvements which many of those working in education may be seeking.

If the future of education does lie in  Massively Open Online Courses it seems to me there will be many empty buildings on campuses. Perhaps every University town will be competing to boast that it has the largest listed building in the country? Of course this won’t happen (just as the developers of the high rise buildings knew that their work would also have a long-lasting impact:-) But I do  think that the debate of the Purpose of Education does need to address the negative implications of ideas for the future.

Posted in Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

Using Slideshare as a Tool to Help Identify Impact

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 May 2011

We were recently asked by the JISC to provide evidence of the impact and take-up of the outputs of the JISC PoWR project – with the email acknowledging that “I know this is difficult data to collect and define“.

We were able to provide a number of examples of how the outputs of this work  have been embedded elsewhere (for example the JISC PoWR Guide to Web Preservation is included in the course materials for the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP). But what other approaches can be used to respond to the request we received: “Has anyone written to you about it? Have you got download stats? Do you know if it has been referenced? Has it popped up in courses or training material?

Something we did do was to look at the usage statistics for the slides hosted on Slideshare which were used when a paper on Preservation of Web Resources: The JISC PoWR Project” was presented at the iPres 2008 conference. We found that there had been 1,791 views of the slides, and they had been favourited twice and embedded in five other Web pages. We were also able to follow the links available in Slideshare and find that the slides have been embedded in a blog post on a Dutch blog and favourited by Ingmar Koch, Archiefinspecteur at Provincie Noord-Braban and TondeLooijer at Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC).  Reading the blog post I find, using Google Translate, the comment which precedes the embedding of the slide:

And finally, a presentation from Brian Kelly on-site archiving. (Coincidentally, that is particularly timely now in my own organization, hence my interest). 

Here we have anecdotal evidence of interest in our work in Holland – as well as the Dutch blogger highlighting our work to a Dutch readership we would not otherwise be able to reach.

The paper itself is available in the University of Bath Opus repository and looking at the usage statistics we can see that there have been 58 downloads of the paper.  However the paper can’t be embedded elsewhere and so we can’t find further evidence of how the paper may be being used.

In addition whilst the slides in this case have a  close relationship with the accompanying paper, the majority of the presentations given at JISC PoWR workshops were used on their own, without an accompanying paper for which usage and citation analysis may help to provide a proxy indicator of impact. For example the slides on a talk on “Records Management vs. Web Management: Beyond the Stereotypes” are also hosted on Slideshare – and in this case have been viewed 2,848 times.

If these slides had been hosted only on our Web site we would not have been able to gather such data or follow links.  Should use of Slideshare (or similar services) be mandated in order that evidence can more easily be gathered, I wonder?  Probably not, as this doesn’t fit well with the culture in higher education.  Perhaps, then, the question should be “Isn’t it foolish not to use a service like Slideshare in order to make it easier to provide evidence which might provide indications of successful outreach and embedding of project activities?” I should add that my colleague Marieke Guy and I spent received the request on Wednesday morning and finalised our response shortly after lunch – so suggestions of alternative approaches should be able to be implemented in a couple of hours!

Posted in Evidence | Tagged: | 7 Comments » Another Simple Service For Annotating Content

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 May 2011

I was recently alerted to,  a new Web-based service for annotating public Web sites. In his tweet Pat Lockley observed that this provided “another like tool for #ukoer #oer #ocw remixing“.

I installed the Chrome extension to use this service (a bookmarklet is available for other browsers) and annotated the home page for this blog. As can be seen the service creates a copy of the page on the service with annotations using simple drawings and text tools.

I recently mentioned the service and suggested that although there are obvious copyright concerns in allowing any public Web page to be copied and edited, such an easy-to-use service might be particularly useful in the context of open educational resources (OER) for which licences are available which permits such re-use. It should also be noted that additional annotations can also be added – although it does not appear to be possible to delete annotations, so there will be dangers about graffiti appearing (such as, for example the name of a famous footballer who took out a super-injunction appearing on a BBC news article).

It does strike me, though, that the direct editing of a page which provides does have risks, not least the dangers of  the ease of forging content which provides.  Although is also taking a copy of a page and hosting it one its own servers the annotation approach which the service provides seems to minimise risks of forgery.  Perhaps this is a useful approach for annotating Web-based OER resources?

Posted in openness, Web2.0 | 1 Comment »