UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for July, 2011

New Opportunities for the Institutional Web Management Community

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 July 2011

IWMW 2011: Responding to Change

Warm weather at IWMW11 so one parallel session took place outside

The IWMW 2011 event, the fifteenth in this annual series of event aimed at members of institutional Web teams, took place at the University of Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday, 26-27 July.  At the IWMW 2010 event the theme was “The Web in Turbulent Times” and we addressed the implications of the financial crisis and the expected changes in funding for higher education for those working in the sector and in institutional Web teams in particular.  This year’s theme was “Responding to Change“: we acknowledged that we were living in radically changed environment and needed to be able to respond to such changes rather than wishing for a return to the past.

One aspect of how the sector could respond to changes which was addressed at the event was to help gain a better shared understanding of the institutional Web management Community of Practice, which I described in a recent post.

According to Wikipedia a Community of Practice (CoP) is:

a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and / or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally.

CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.

The institutional Web management CoP has both an online presence (through mailing lists such as the web-support and website-info-mgt JISCMail lists) as well as a real world presence through, for example, the annual IWMW event.  But at the event we sought answers to a number of questions:

  • Is there still a need for a institutional Web management CoP – after all there isn’t (although I could be proven wrong!) a whiteboard CoP? This question was touched on at last year’s event when Susan Farrell asked “Are web managers still needed when everyone is a web ‘expert’?“.
  • How will political and funding changes to the sector affect the  institutional Web management CoP? Might we find that a more competitive environment and the moves towards the provision of privatised higher education providers result in a community which is much less willing to share, help, advise and support one’s peers?
  • Is there a need to revisit the online tools which can help to support the community, especially in light of the significant decline in use of the JISCMail lists within the sector?
In her plenary talk in the opening session at IWMW 2011 Amber Thomas of the JISC spoke about  Marketing and Other Dirty Words.  Amber suggest that there is now a need for those involved in the development and support of online services to go beyond their comfort zone (which revolves around concepts such as “open access“, “academic autonomy“, “public good” and “language of values“) and engage with the dirty words of  “impact“, “brand“, “metrics“, “marketing” and “language of the market“.  Amber argued that the need to move beyond one’s comfort zone would also be the  case for other grouping within institutions, including researchers, teaching and and learning staff, marketing people, community outreach and engagement people, etc.  Many people within the institution will be looking to those with IT and online skills (including expertise beyond use of services hosted in the institution) for advice and support. There should also be opportunities for those working in institutional Web management teams to demonstrate their value to core institutional services.  After the doom and gloom  which we saw in the opening session of last year’s event it was good to see that this year’s event began with such optimism. But how might institutional Web teams engage with this new environment, especially when there are existing services will still need to be provided with, in some cases, downsizing of Web teams having already taken place or restructuring process being in place?

The Web Management Community: Beyond IWMW and JISCMail Lists

These issues were addressed in a session I facilitated entitled The Web Management Community: Beyond IWMW and JISCMail Lists.  It seems there was a strong feeling that the benefits of being a member of a community which existed in the early days of the Web (getting help and advice; sharing concerns; learning from others; etc.) were still feel to be beneficial – there clearly isn’t a feeling that the provision of institutional Web services is now a mature technology with little to be learnt from others.  There was a minority view that the greater competition across the sector would result in a reluctance to share success stories – however others felt that the competition would take places in other areas, with a feeling that we would continue to see sharing of best practices for providing the online infrastructure which is now so important across the sector.


Although there may have been some disagreements on the extent of collaboration and sharing there was agreement that there is a need to explore online tools which can be used to support community activities which are aligned to personal (and institutional) needs.  In discussing various online tools which may have a role to play we discovered that most people in the session have a LinkedIn profile. But in addition to LinkedIn’s use for hosting CVs (and concerns over uncertainties regarding jobs seemed to be a reason for joining LinkedIn)  the services also hosted many online groups which can support professional activities.  I pointed out a number of existing Web-related groups such as the Web 2.0 for Higher Education group.  However such existing groups will tend to have a US focus and topics of particular interest to our community (such as UK cookie legislation, Web accessibility and BS 8879 and the requirement of UK HEIs to provide KIS data) would have little or no meaning to existing US members.  Should, therefore, we set up a UK-focusssed LinkedIn group?

That question was answered not by making a recommendation that we set up a working group to evaluate the potential of LinkedIn to the sector. Instead Stephen Ashurst, Senior Multimedia Designer at Loughborough University, simply created the UK HE Web Professionals group. As can be seen there are now 26 members. There are also some additional benefits which this service provides which are not available in JISCMail lists such as the improved user interface, display of connections, etc. Whether this group becomes sustainable and provides a useful service for the community remains to be seen, but I personally do appreciate this grassroots initiative from someone who is using LinkedIn groups to support activities in other areas.


Following on from discussions about LinkedIn the group went on to discuss the role of Twitter.  Some people in the session regard Twitter as part of the portfolio of  tools they use to support their community engagement whilst others admitted (in response to my leading question) to not ‘getting’ Twitter. There is an action on people to write a post on the relevance of Twitter to the sceptic which I will publish shortly.  In the meantime I have created a Twitter list for the institutional Web management community called iwmc. I will be happy to add anyone who regards themselves as part of the institutional Web management community (which will include those who have attended IWMW events, are members of relevant JISCMai lists or have general involvement in managing institutional Web services in a UK University or related service) to this list. The simplest way to be added will be to publish a tweet with the hashtag #iwmc. I’ll search for such tweets and add people to this list – and will include in my blog post details of the potential benefits of such Twitter lists.


Inevitably there was also interest in the potential of Google+ to support the Web management community of practice.

It seems that I am not alone in being both very interested in the potential of Google’s latest development in the social Web sphere whilst also being uncertain as to whether it will be a success (unlike Google Wave and Google Buzz) and, if so, how it can be used.

There was a feeling that Web managers could regard the release of Google+ and the undoubted interest it has generated as an opportunity for hands-on evaluation in order to be able to be seen as an authoritative source within the local institution for the various grouping who are likely to be interested in making use of Google+.

It seems many of us are grouping our Google+ contacts into friends/family and professional.  I, too, have Friends and Families Circles and have also created Circles for JISC and UKOLN contacts, Gurus (typically US experts who will have large numbers of followers), Overseas contacts (will this morph into a non-English language Circle, I wonder) and an initial subject-based circle for those who have a strong interest in accessibility interests.   I have also created a Circle for those who I regard as part of an institutional Web management community. Currently there are only non people in this Circle, but I will be looking to include more in order to see if it can provide ways of both managing this network in ways which can’t be done easily using Twitter as well as providing richer functionality.

This morning I came across a link to a post on Google+ Implications for University Recruitment which described how organisational profile in Google+ “should be back in the next few months (with analytics), and universities need to be ready this time (compared to most campus’ delayed foray into other popular social media)“. Let’s use this opportunity to gain expertise in Google+ so that we are prepared to advertise not only those involved in student recruitment but also in research and development activities, for example. We have an opportunity demonstrate that the advantages of centralisation which the government are proposing can be achieved by collaborative working across the sector.

New (and Renewed) Approaches to Collaborations

The concluding session at IWMW 2011 provided an opportunity to highlight some of UKOLN’s activities for the sector and also to hear examples of how the sector has been working collaboratively and plans for renewed areas of work.

Institutional Web Team Blog Aggregator

UKOLN’s Institutional Web Team Blog Aggregator was formally launched in this session. This Drupal-based service harvests blogs provided by institutional Web teams (or by individuals who working institutional Web teams) based on a list of such blogs originally gathered by Mike Nolan of Edge Hill University (unfortunately when we used this list we failed to include the Edge Hill Web Service blog itself, so apologies to Mike and his team for having failed to harvest his team’s posts). We have now added the Edge Hill Web Services blog to our list.

We will shortly be looking to set up a small group which can advise on future developments to this service (policies on blogs to be harvested; categories to be auto-classified; developments to the UI: etc.).  If you wish to submit your blog for inclusion in the blog aggregator,  a submission form is available from the blog’s home page, as illustrated.

Semantic Web Demonstrator

Two of the blogs included in the blog aggregator are written by IWMW stalwarts who joined in the final session.  Chris Gutteridge made a compelling case for embracing open semantic data not by talking about the underling technologies but in providing a live demonstration of a couple of services has has deployed at the University of Southampton. Chris showed how the catering manager is now a content provider on the Semantic Web by simply updating details of food available at various outlets on campus using a simple Google spreadsheet. Whereas the backend processing of this data (XLST transformations, RDF triples, etc.) may be of interest to developers, the main stakeholders (the content providers in the Catering Service and the student who wishes to see a campus map of the cheapest place to buy a bar of Kit Kat on campus) simply see a compelling user service.  I think Chris providing a great way of promoting the benefits of the Semantic Web – by showing tangible benefits to the end user (why didn’t we thing of that approach before!)

Incidentally Chris mentioned that he had been inspired to set up a Web team blog after attending an IWMW event a few years ago and hearing, from Mike Nolan, I think, of the benefits to be gained from blogging. The University of Southampton ECS Web Team blog is currently the main  provider of posts related to Semantic Web and Linked Data developments. I’m really pleased that the ECS Web team is willing to share its expertise in this areas. I suspect that Chris and his colleagues will be looking forward to reading posts form other institutions who may be deployed Linked Data services – and with the blog aggegrator’s auto-categorisation feature and RSS export capability people with a n interest in this area will be able to subscribe to the Linked Data and Semantic Web channel.

Community Activities

Just before the IWMW 2011 took place Claire Gibbons, manager of the Web Team and Marketing Team published her first blog post of the year. As she described in the post she left IWMW 2010 “all refreshed and guns ablazing for blogging“. However she shortly afterwards acquired responsibility for managing the Marketing Team in addition to the Web Team and pressure of work meant she was unable to find the time to blog. And yet in her post Claire managed to summarise recent activities of the Web team and outline new areas of work her teams will be addressing in the near future.  This is valuable content – and if all 168 participants at IWMW 2011 had written a page each since last year we would have a valuable community resource which services such as the blog aggegrator could provide access to.  A page a year is clearly achievable.  Might it be possible for all attendees to write a page a month, I wonder?  That would provide over 2,000 items which could cover what Web teams have achieved and developments which are being planned.  As with many social networking services, the blog aggregator will improve as the numbers of contributor grow.  Let’s hope Claire’s post inspires others to  blog, even if infrequently.

In her post Claire described how:

There must be many activities that we are all doing, usually the boring stuff, whereby sharing ideas and resources would benefit us all. Two things spring to mind – the social media policy and the recent review to Privacy Policies that the cookies law brought about.

Claire repeated this in the closing session and invited others who have interests in these two areas to get in touch with her.  I’m looking forward to seeing how such grass-roots plans for collaboration develop.

Scottish Web Folk Regional Group

Duncan Ireland, University of Strathclyde, described how he, too, had been inspired to do something differently after attending his first IWMW event. In his case there was a realisation that there need to be more than an annual event which led to the establishment of the Scottish Web Folk Group, which has a JISCMail list and a regular meeting.  This could provide a framework for use by other regional activities – and Duncan argued that distance shouldn’t be a barrier since Web team members from the University of Aberdeen, for example, are will to spend four hours travelling since they feel there are tangible benefits to be gained from meeting with one’s peers.

IWMW 2012

The IWMW concluded by discussing next year’s event.  We can no longer automatically assume that activities which are highly regarded will necessarily continue. However we were able to report that an IWMW 2012 event has been included in our work proposals for next year and we feel that we have gathered evidence of the value and impact of the event and its importance in supporting JISC’s activities and interests.

We will shortly be starting discussions for a venue for next year’s event.  In addition we are aware that many people felt that two days were too short to ensure effective networking takes place. A show of hands in the final session made it clear that a majority would prefer a return to the three day format we have used for every year apart from the first event.  We will shortly be analysing the evaluation forms in order to gather a more complete picture which will help us to inform our planning for next year.

To conclude, I feel we can say that there is an institutional Web management community which is willing to engage and collaborate. As I said in the title of this post, there are “New Opportunities for the Institutional Web Management Community” :-)

Posted in IWMC | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Do We Want Technical Diversity or Harmonisation?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 July 2011

Current Diversity of Approaches to the Mobile Access to Institutional Services

Do we want diversity in the technologies used to provide various institutional Web services or should we be seeking to gain benefits which may be provided by adoption of a small range of technological approaches?

The instinctive answer for some is likely to be a desire to embrace diversity and to encourage ‘a thousand flowers to bloom‘. Others, however, will be concerned that such approaches will be costly and lead to confusions for user communities and will make it difficult to provide a harmonised services once the best approaches become accepted.

Such issues are likely to be revisited in the context of approaches and technologies which will be used to deliver mobile web services.  UKOLN and CETIS recently carried out a survey on Institutional Use of the Mobile Web. Although we are still working on our report on the survey the  findings for the initial question “How is your institutional website(s) delivered to mobile devices?” appear interesting. It seems that the most widely used approach to the provision of access to mobile devices is no different to that taken to provide access to conventional devices.  A significant number are providing a separate site for mobile users whilst similar number have developed stylesheets for their Web styles which are specifically designed for mobile devices.  One institution is providing access to mobile devices using a mobile plugin which is provided by their institutional CMS.

Whilst CETIS’s Mobile Web Apps briefing paper (PDF format) (which is described on the CETIS blog) provides the advice that:

There is no such thing as the Mobile Web. Design for the usual Internet and then make your site adaptable for mobile devices for example decreasing the screen size using CSS media queries and then scaling up for larger devices like tablets and PCs by progressively enhancing access for larger audiences.

in reality it appears that such advice is not currently being widely implemented. There will be understandable reasons why such advice cannot necessarily be easily implemented (there will, for example, be existing technologies in place which cannot easily be updated or replaced and there will be the need to find resources to carry our usability testing on a variety of devices). In addition, as discussed on this blog in the context of the Shhmooze app for Apple’s mobile devices,  there may be business reasons for developing an app for a popular mobile device in order to validate the potential demand for a new service by providing a tool which maximises the usability provided on a specific device before developing device-independent solutions once the demand has been established.

But whilst one can appreciate the current diversity, there will be a need to understand how the landscape may develop in the future.  The comments in the survey describe how, in addition to existing implementation challenges, staff in institutions are still debated longer-term strategic policies.

Revisiting Decisions on Institutional Web Site Search Facilities

Might there be understandable reasons for diversities in the technical directions which institutions across the sector take?  Is there value in welcoming a thousand mobile flowers blooming?  In order to provide a historical context to such discussions I thought I would revisit the ideas which were being discussed regarding the provision of search engine technologies on institutions’ Web sites over ten years ago and look at how institutions are currently providing such services.

In a short paper on Approaches to Indexing in the UK which was delivered at conference on Managing the Digital Future of Libraries hosted in Moscow in 2000 I presented the results of a survey of software used to provide search facilities on institutional Web sites in UK Universities.  As shown in the accompanying table the most widely used indexing tool was the open source ht://Dig solution. The survey shown a wide range of applications were used, with 13 institutions using software which was used by only one or two institutions.   It was also noticeable that no few than fifty higher education institutions in the UK were failing to provide a search facility on their institutional Web site back in July/August 1999.

My recollection of the discussions on the mailing lists back then tended to focus on a variety of factors: ht://Dig was preferred by many as it was an open source solutions, whereas others were happy to use the service provided by the Web server software provided.  I can recall the Ultraseek’s management capabilities where appreciated by institutions hosted multiple Web servers who were  willing to pay the licence fee for this commercial product, whereas Harvest’s distributed indexing was felt to provide a scalable solution which can be used to provide a national indexing across UK University Web sites, known as AC/DC. Only three institutions, however, made use of an externally hosted solution (two used Freefind and one used the public Alta Vista search facility.

A survey of institutional search engines was carried out for the twenty Russell Group Universities in December 2010. As described in the post on Trends For University Web Site Search Engines we found that “15 Russell Groups institutions (75%) use Google to provide their main institutional Web site search facility, with no other search engine being used more than once“.

In this case we can clearly see that arguments for a diversity of solutions based on preferences for open source or bundled solutions, ease of management or the distributed architecture seem no longer to be relevant, with a Google solution now being the preferred option.

Will we see simple arguments for diversity in the ways in which institutions provide support for the Mobile Web until we eventually arrive an approach which is used by most institutions? And whilst it may be dangerous to mandate a preferred solution too soon (after all, the majority of search engines used in 1999 are probably no longer in existence) might there not also be risks in failing to engage with mainstream approaches?

Posted in Web2.0 | 1 Comment »

The Web Management Community of Practice

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 July 2011

Maximising Institutional Webmaster Impact

UKOLN’s IWMW 2011 event takes place at the University of Reading next week.  We’ve always felt that this event should not be constrained to the physical space and time. The event amplification will be provided again this year, with dedicated support providing an official Twitter stream for the remote audience watch the live video stream. In addition we have encouraged speakers and workshop facilitators to summarise their sessions on the IWMW 2011 blog. I was particularly interested in George Munroe’s post on his session on Maximising Institutional Webmaster Impact.

As can be seen from the accompanying slides the focus of George’s session is “how institutional webmasters can be more effective at their work“. As described in the accompanying abstract:

This workshop session will explore how institutional web managers can be most effective at their work by considering a number of areas that influence a webmaster’s effectiveness, including (but not limited to):

  • Users—ensuring empathy with users, conflicting requests, ambitious or difficult users
  • Process—introducing and maintaining disciplines, embracing change methodically
  • Technology—adopting appropriate technology (HTML5, CSS3, RDFa, linked data…)
  • Skills—learning and sharing with others, being aware of what is possible
  • Metrics—for measuring the service, indicators of success
  • Authority—dealing with non technical superiors and making the case for resources

The goal of the session is to compile a maximising institutional webmaster impact (MIWI) checklist that will draw from the experiences and views of those attending. Part of this goal is to ensure that the checklist is informed by the views of practitioners from many institutions and could therefore serve as a commonly accepted cross-institutional guide to webmaster best practice.

The Web Management Community of Practice

I am also running a 90-minute workshop session at IWMW 2011. The title of my session is The Web Management Community: Beyond IWMW and JISCMail Lists and it appears that this session complements George’s nicely. Rather than looking at institutional approaches for maximising a webmaster’s effectiveness, my session will explore ways in which engagement with one’s peers outside the host institution can also maximise one’s effectiveness.

The session will explore the notion of the Web Management Community of Practice (CoP). But what is a Cop? According to Wikipedia a Community of Practice is:

a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and / or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally.

CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.

This definition seems to reflect the approaches which have been taken by the Web management community over the past 15 years or so, with the IWMW series of events having been “created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field” and complemented by, for example, the web-support and website-info-mgt mailing lists which support “the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other“.

But as reported in a recent survey use of the JISCMail lists have dropped significantly over the past five years. Does this signify the decline in the community or has the community migrated to other online environments?

Twitter as a Tool for Supporting Communities of Practice

A post on TWITTER AS A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FOR EDUCATORS published in 2008 pointed out that “communities of practice are not static but subject to evolution” and described how “Membership of a [CoP] is voluntary and a community often grows informally around a need“.  The second part of the post provided examples of ways in which “educators find meaning in their enterprise through twitter and this is linked to their identity in very interesting ways” and concluded “Twitter is the platform of choice for many lifelong learners and, as a community of practice, it presents us with learning opportunities and presents a welcoming way to enter a network“.

A more recent post asked IS TWITTER A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE? Daniel Hooker felt that:

And even though now that Twitter (and many communities of practice within it, including #hcsm/ca/eu) has matured and is being used effectively by so many people, I am growing concerned about its future and about the deep reliance that we have on it for much of our day to day practice. The paradox of social media is that we are currently slave to the tools at our disposal.

But concluded that:

… framing Twitter as a transforming Community of Practice may help to contextualize the position that we are all in as we build and invest our communications strategies on top of tools that are often less interested in freedom of information and communication than we may care to think. Because I believe in the collaborative power of social media, however, I look forward to seeing Twitter and the communities within it transform. And I also look forward to whatever it is that comes next.

Beyond Twitter

Although the potential benefits of Twitter have been discussed for a number of years, there may be other technologies which complement or, perhaps, replace technologies such as Twitter. As Daniel Hooker concluded in his post which was published in March 2011 “I also look forward to whatever it is that comes next“.  Might Google + be that tool?  I think it is too soon to answer that question, especially as, from a personal0 perspective, I am in the phase of adding people to my UKWebFocus Google+ account (for which I have also claimed the shortner and and have yet to see how (and, indeed if)  it will be integrated into my daily working practices – as Twitter is.

It will be interesting to see how the 25 or so participants in this session feel that the Web Management community of practice may develop in the future.  But since the workshop will take place next week I’ve welcome suggestions on ways in which emerging new technologies may be used to support communities in other areas of work.

Posted in General | 3 Comments »

Memolane Timelines (Not Only For WordPress Blogs)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 July 2011

Last week’s news on the blog that “ oEmbed Provider API Now Available” will be appreciated by developers who feel that the WordPress platform provides a rich and interoperable environment not only as a blogging platform but also as a content management system.  The announcement describes how:

oEmbed is a format for allowing an embedded representation of a URL on third-party sites. The simple API allows a website to display embedded content (such as photos or videos) when a user posts a link to that resource, without having to parse the resource directly.

Whilst reading this news earlier today I followed a link to Third Party Applications on the Develop site which currently only lists one application which is “built to work with and enable you to interact with your blog in new ways” – namely Memolane.

I registered with the Memolane service for producing timelines some time ago but the connection with WordPress made me revisit the service. A display of my timeline is illustrated.

I have configured Memolane to include a feed from this blog. In addition to a display of recent blog posts I have also included RSS feeds of areas of work for which several years ago I recognised that RSS could have a significant role to play.  In particular I have included a link to the RSS feeds for my forthcoming  events, previous events (for every year since I started in UKOLN in 1997)  and for my peer-reviews and related papers.

As show in the bottom of the image you can quickly display previous events, so I can find that in the latter part of 2000 I gave a talk on “Externally Hosted Web Services” on 12 October 2000 (well-before the current hype about Cloud Computing!) and a talk on “Approaches To Resource Discovery In The UK HE Community” at the Verity 2000 conference on 30 November 2000.

It seems from this timeline display that life was much more leisurely eleven years ago,  with the record of public engagement suggesting a six week gap between my activities! Of course I will have posted to email lists and written documents, but it is now difficult to see what I was doing back then.

RSS feeds provide a means of keeping a reusable record of activities which can be processed by a variety of applications. This is the reason why I maintain a page of RSS Feeds For UK Web Focus Web Site and provide similar links for the QA Focus project which I was the project director for from 2002-2004.

Despite a number of third party services having withdrawn support for RSS I am still convinced of the benefits of RSS.  Those who make use of WordPress software either as a blogging platform or as a CMS will be able to exploit the feeds provided by the platform and many other services still provide RSS.  The most significant gap in the services I make use of, however, is ePrints which drives our institutional repository service.  Sadly ePrints support for RSS is very limited and so I am forced to maintain my RSS feed for my publications separately :-(  It would be great if ePrints were to support the interoperably provided in a Web 2.0 world by RSS and not just the much smaller Library world based around OAI-PMH.  But, as I asked last year: Is It Too Late To Exploit RSS In Repositories?

Posted in Blog, rss, Web2.0 | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Event Report: Metrics and Social Web Services Workshop

Posted by Kirsty Pitkin on 18 July 2011

In this guest post, event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin reports on the key messages from the recent UKOLNeim workshop – Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact.


In introducing the event, Brian Kelly emphasised that the aims were to explore ways of gathering evidence that can demonstrate the impact of services and to devise appropriate metrics to support the needs of the higher and further eduction sector.

Many people argue that you cannot reduce education to mere numbers, as it is really about the quality of the experience. However, Kelly argued that numbers do matter, citing the recent JISC-funded Impact Report, which found that the public and the media are influenced by metrics. As we have to engage with this wider community, metrics are going to become more relevant.

View the introduction in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Why Impact, ROI and Marketing are No Longer Dirty Words

Amber Thomas, JISC

Amber ThomasThomas mapped out the current landscape, drawing on her own experiences and those of colleagues working in other areas at JISC. She observed a dominant culture of resistance to measurement within education for a number of reasons, including the concern that caring about metrics will mean that only highly cited people or resources will be valued. She noted that the search for an effective impact model is taking place on shifting sands, as issues associated with the value, ownership and control of media channels are being contested, as is the fundamental role of the university within British society.

In discussing impact, Thomas noted that it would be tempting to use the language of markets – with education as a “product” – but stressed that this not how we see ourselves in the education sector. One of the challenges we face is how to represent the accepted narrative of the sector as a nurturer and broker of knowledge, through the use of metrics.

Thomas went on to describe some of the dirty words in this space and the measurements that are associated with them. However, she noted that these measurements can be used for good, as they can help to instigate change. To support this, she provided a model for the role of metrics in decision making, with metrics being one form of evidence, and evidence being only one form of influence on the decision maker.

She concluded by outlining our options for responding to the impact debate: we could deny the impact agenda is important, or we could deepen our understanding and improve our metrics so they work for us and are fit for purpose. The possible directions we could take include developing business intelligence approaches, improving data visualisation techniques and looking for better tools to give us deeper understanding of the metrics. She also stressed that we need to look more closely at the use and expectations of social media in the commercial sector, as we might find we are expecting too much of ourselves.

“I don’t think we can ignore the debate on impact and metrics… what we need to do is engage with the impact debate and use the sort of language that is expected of us to defend the values of the sector a we wish to defend them.”

View the presentation in full at Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Surveying our Landscape from Top to Bottom

Brian Kelly, UKOLN

Brian KellyKelly provided an overview of the surveys he has been carrying out using a variety of analytics tools.

He began with a personal view: discussing the picture of his own Twitter usage provided by the Tweetstats tool, and how this differs from his own memory. He noted that the data did not always correspond with other evidence, emphasising that we cannot always trust the data associated with such tools.

“You need to be a bit skeptical when looking at this data… you can’t always trust all the data that you have.”

From an institutional perspective, he asked: “What can commercial analytics tools tell us about institutional use of Twitter?” He compared the Klout scores of Oxford and Cambridge Universities’ Twitter accounts, showing how visualisations of the numbers can give a much better understanding of what those numbers really mean than the numbers themselves do in isolation.

He continued in this vein by demonstrating Peer Index, which he used to analyse participants of the workshop. He noted that the top seven people are all people he knows and has had a drink with, so asked whether this shows that the gathering is really a self-referential circle? Kelly also noted how easy it can be to gain extra points and questioned whether it is ethical to boost your score in this way. However, he observed that research funding is determined by flawed metrics, and gaming the system is nothing new. So will universities head hunt researchers with valuable social media scores?

Next he looked at Slideshare statistics, using a presentation by Steve Wheeler as a case study. Wheeler made a presentation to 15 people, but his slides were viewed by over 15,000 people on Slideshare. Kelly asked us to consider the relationship between the number of views and the value of this resource. He also examined statistics from the collection of IWMW slides, observing that the commercial speakers had higher view rates, and that the most popular slides were not in corporate look and feel. This evidence could be used to challenge standard marketing perspectives.

Finally, Kelly compared Technorati and Wikio results to demonstrate that four people in the room were in the top 67 English language technology blogs. He pondered whether they should they share their success strategies, or how we could tell the story of this data in different ways.

To conclude, Brian emphasised that he believes this kind of analysis can inform decision making, so it is important to gather the data. However, the data can be flawed, so it is important to question it thoroughly.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Learning From Institutional Approaches

Ranjit Sidhu, SiD

Ranjit SidhuSidhu focussed primarily on the role of pound signs in communicating particular messages and connecting social media metrics to reality in a powerful way.

He began by observing that the data is often vague. The analytics institutions receive look exactly the same as the analytics used by commercial organisations, despite the fact that their needs and objectives differ widely. He attributed this to the dominance of the technology, which has taken control over the information that gets delivered, thus ensuring everyone gets data that is easy to deliver, rather than data that is meaningful to them. Sidhu also observed that universities often fail to break down their data into relevant slices, instead viewing it at such a high level that it cannot usefully be interpreted in financial terms.

In a self-confessed rant, Sidhu emphasised that you have a chance to tell the narrative of your data. Most social media data is openly available, so if you don’t, someone else will and you will no longer have control over that narrative.

“You need to be proactive with your data. If you’re proactive, people don’t sack you.”

Sidhu went on to demonstrate the type of analytics dashboard he creates for universities, discussing the importance design as well as the analysis itself. His dashboard features nine groups of data and only three key themes, which fit onto one A4 sheet and are arranged in an attractive way. He also discussed his methodology when creating these dashboards, which involves finding out what people want to know first, then finding the data to match those requirements. This is the reverse of common practice, where people take the data that is readily available and try to fit that to their requirements.

He explained the need to match up offline experience with online experience to help to generate projections and quantify the savings produced by online tools and social media. He exemplified this by talking us through one of the most powerful statistics he creates: a calculation demonstrating the amount saved by online downloads of prospectuses compared to sending printed versions. This is usually around £500 per month. This takes the online data, combines it with existing data from the comparable offline process, and creates a tangible value.

He extended this to show other types of story we could tell with such data, including the potential value of a website visit from a specific country. Once you have this, you can more effectively demonstrate the monetary value of social media by using referrer strings to show how a visitor from that country reached your site, and therefore make better decisions about how you attract those visitors.

You have to justify your spend. Your justification has to be based on what you are trying to do at that particular time.

View the presentation in full at Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Identity, Scholarship and Metrics

Martin Weller, The Open University

Martin WellerWeller posed many questions and points to ponder, focussing on how academic identity is changing now we are online.

He observed that identity is now distributed across different tools, with a greater tendency to intersect with the personal. There are more layers to consider: where once you had your discipline norms and your institutional norms, now there are more social media norms to observe to create cultural stickiness. You end up with a set of alternative representations of yourself, so your business card is now a much messier thing.

Weller went on to define impact as a change in behaviour, but emphasised that telling the story of impact online is actually very difficult. Your impact may be more about long term presence than an individual post. The metrics we currently use do not necessarily correspond to our traditional notions of academic impact: after all, what do views mean? What do links mean? What do embeds mean? How do they compare to citations?

He put forward the accepted view that blogging and tweeting provide you with an online identity, which drives attention to more traditional outputs. He placed this in the context of a digital academic footprint, which helps tell the story of the impact you are having within your community. Whilst metrics can be useful for this, he warned that they could also be dangerous, with official recognition leading to a gameable system.

He concluded by illustrating a sandwich model explaining why metrics will be increasingly important to what academics do: with top-down pressure from above to demonstrate impact when applying for funding, and bottom-up pressure from individuals asking why their impact via social media doesn’t count. Once you’ve got those two pressures, you have an inevitable situation.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Impact of Open Media at the OU

Andrew Law, The Open University

Andrew LawLaw discussed the activities of the Open University when monitoring the various media channels used to disseminate content and how these metrics have led to real, significant funding decisions.

He observed that several of their online media channels did not necessarily have a very clear strategic remit. However, they found that the data was increasingly asking the question: “What is the purpose of all this activity?” Deeper analysis of this data led to the development of clearer stategies for these channels, based on their core institutional aims.

Law emphasised the importance of having all of the information about the different channels in one place to help dispel the myths that can grow up around particular tools. He used the example of iTunes U, which gets huge amounts of internal PR on campus, whilst channels like OpenLearn and YouTube sit very quietly in the background. However, the reality is very different and he observed that one of the challenges they face is ensuring that the broad story about the performance of all of these channels is well understood by the main stakeholders.

Law expanded on this, noting that whilst the iTunes U download statistics provide a positive story, it does not actually perform well against their KPIs compared to other channels, despite little or no investment in those other channels. He observed that their pedagogical approach to iTunes U – which includes offering multiple, small downloads, with transcripts and audio downloaded separately – can inflate the numbers. He compared this to their YouTube channel, which has received very little investment, but is performing very effectively. He also discussed the OpenLearn story, which has been quietly outstripping other channels against their KPIs – particularly in terms of conversions, because it has a lot of discoverable content. He emphasised that this is a very positive story for the university, which needs to be told and built upon.

By demonstrating these realities, the data has demanded of management a much clearer sense of purpose and strategy. This has led to real investment. The OU has massively increased the amount of money spent on YouTube and OpenLearn, representing a significant change in strategy.

In conclusion, Law did note that, so far, the data has only helped the university, not the end user, so their next steps include mapping journeys between these channels to identify the traffic blockages and better tune the service delivered across the board.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The Script Kiddie’s Perspective

Tony Hirst, The Open University

Tony HirstHirst provided a set of observations and reflections, which ranged from ethical issues about the use of statistics through to practical demonstrations of visualised data.

He began by observing that social media are co-opting channels that were private and making them public, so there is nothing inherently new going on. He quoted Goodhart’s Law, emphasising that, whilst measuring things can be good, once measures are adopted as targets they distort what you are measuring and create systems open to corruption.

Hirst went on to discuss the perils of summary statistics and sampling bias. He emphasised that the way you frame your expectations about the data and the information that can be lost in the processing of that data are both vital considerations if you are to accurately tell the story of that data.

Hirst discussed the role of citations as a traditional measure of scholarly impact and the ways your content can be discovered, and thereby influence through citation. He highlighted three layers of discovery: the media layer, the social layer and the search engine layer, each of which enables your material to be discovered and therefore influence behaviour. He noted that if links come through to your own domain, you can already track how they are reaching your content. What is difficult to track is when there is lots of social media activity, but none of it is coming back to your domain.

Hirst demonstrated some approaches to tracking this type of activity, including the Open University’s Course Profiles Facebook app; Google search results, which are including more personalisation; and social media statistics gleaned through APIs, many of which can be accessed via an authentication route using OAuth.

Hirst concluded by discussing some visualisations of Twitter communities to show how these can provide insight into external perspectives and how we are defined by others in our community.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare


The workshop brought forward a number of concerns, that were often less about the tools and technologies involved, but more about the ethics and pitfalls of formalising the measurement of social media activity. The main concern seemed to be the potential for creating a gameable system, or metrics do not reflect reality in a useful way. Ensuring that the metrics we use are fit for purpose will not be an easy challenge, but the discussions held within this workshop helped to identify some potential routes to improving the value and integrity of social media data.

Posted in Evidence, Guest-post, Impact, Social Networking | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Blog Preservation and Plugins

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 July 2011

Best Practices for Blog Preservation

A paper entitled “Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web” described best practices for exploiting services such as blogs which were hosted in the Cloud. The paper further developed guidelines initially outlined in  a paper on “Approaches To Archiving Professional Blogs Hosted In The Cloud” including advice on managing the closure of a blog:

Monitoring of technologies used: Information on the technologies used to provide the blog including blog plugins, configuration options, themes, etc. can be useful if a blog environment has to be recreated.

It should be noted that advice on managing blog hosted in the Cloud might also need to be applied to blogs hosted within the institution.  As an example we implemented the above recommendation for the IWMW 2010 blog. The final post on the blog was entitled Closing the 2010 blog. In this post we documented how the blog was used (numbers of posts; numbers of contributors; etc.) and the technologies used (the them used and details of WordPress plugins which had been installed). A year later we discovered how useful it was to have provided documentation on the plugins used in the blog.

The blog environment we used to host the IWMW 2010 blog a year ago had to be upgraded. We used this as an opportunity to provide a more robust environment for additional blogs to support IWMW events, including the IWMW 2011 event.

However after the upgrade we discovered that the WordPress plugins had reverted to the defaults, with additional content which had been embedded in the blog, including the video interviews which had been published on the blog, missing from the posts. I now recall that this isn’t the first time this has happened – following a WordPress upgrade on the JISC Inform platform the plugins and the theme used on the JISC PoWR were lost and the environment had to be recreated from memory.

However the final post published last year provided the following record of the plugins which had been installed:

Details of plugins used: Akismet, Buddy Press, BP Disable Activation, Google Analyticator, Lifestream, Lux Vimeo

We subsequently re-installed the Lux Vimeo plugin – but found that the videos failed to re-appear. It seems that loss of the plugin also resulted in losing the embed code, which included the address of the videos.

Fortunately each of the posts also included a direct link to the resource on Vimeo (as illustrated in the screen shot which shows a blog post for which the video has been embedded and one for which it is still missing).  We were therefore able to re-establish the embedded video – although we decided to do this using the Embed Object plugin since this seems to provide richer functionality (and we updated the final post so that we have documented these changes).

The need to include links to remote content in addition to embedding such content was described in a post which advised Don’t Just Embed Objects; Add Links To Source Too! In this case the advice was provided in order to enhance access to content on m0bile devices, in cases in which Flash-based embedding technologies was not supported.   We have now discovered another reasons for providing such links – embedding addressing into plugins way result in the address being lost if the plugin becomes unavailable.

Best Practices for Live Blogs

The advice we had developed for those who make use of blogs stated that when archiving a blog:

Monitoring of technologies used: Information on the technologies used to provide the blog, including blog plugins, configuration options, themes, etc. can be useful if a blog environment has to be recreated.

It seems that such advice should be followed for cases when blogs which will continue to be provided are hosted on a blog platform which may be upgraded.  And since all blog platforms are liable to be upgraded the advice provided for blog preservation purposes would appear to be applicable more generally.  We are therefore applying this advice for the IWMW 2011 blog and the About page for this blog has also been updated accordingly.

Posted in preservation | Leave a Comment »

You Are Not Alone – You Do Not Live In A Vacuum!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 July 2011

Back in April 2011 I attended a Bathcamp Startup night. One of the talks which I found particularly interesting described the Frintr service. However the talk was of interest to me not as an example of best practices for setting up a startup company (the speaker admitted that he had lost money on the business) but in the service itself and the ideas which it generated.

Frintr is an online service which allows you to create an image based on a mosaic portraits taken from portraits of one’s contacts on Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. As an example the accompanying image was created by the service by taking the people I follow on Twitter and creating a mosaic from a portrait which I uploaded.

Of course this probably raise interesting legal issues: Does Frintr have the rights to harvest the images in this way? What if one of the Twitter user wishes to change their image or delete their profile? In addition, as I discovered during the talk, there is also the question of patents for creating images based on mosaics (it seems that there is a patent which covers this technology).

But putting such issues to one side for me this provided an interesting visual way of presenting the ways in which creative work is not done in isolation – we are all influenced by others. In particular I feel that users of Twitter may be influenced by their engagement on the service – I know this is the case for myself as I have described in posts on how A Tweet Takes me to Catalonia and my reflections on 5,000 Tweets On.

The day before the Bathcamp meeting I came across a link to a video of a talk given by Cameron Neylon on “The Gatekeeper is dead. Long live the Gatekeeper“. The slides of this talk are available on Slideshare and I’ve read a report on the talk – but what I found interesting was Cameron’s licence for the talk and the presentation of the talk. Cameron had made the presentation available under a Creative Commons licence and, on the video, described how his ideas were the result of interactions with many other people. I agree with Cameron – I feel that a great deal of the activities which takes place in higher education is based on individual interpretations of existing knowledge rather than the creation of new knowledge.

Last week Tony Hirst published a post entitled A Map of My Twitter Follower Network which provided another visualisation of the way in which online communities are interacting. Tony described how he had created “a map of how the connected component of the graph of how my Twitter followers follow each other; it excludes people who aren’t followed by anyone in the graph (which may include folk who do follow me but who have private accounts)“. Tony concluded by volunteering to spend up to 20 minutes in creating a similar map for a handful of people who were willing to donation to charity such as Ovacome (an idea initially suggested by Martin Hawksey). I thought this was a great idea (the Big Society in action in the blogosphere, perhaps?). Tony has created a visualisation of my Twitter community and provided annotations on his thoughts on the different communities which are depicted.

I think Tony has correctly identified some of the key sectors I have engaged with on Twitter over the years. The Ed-tech, libraries and Info pros sectors should be self-explanatory and will probably be well-represented by readers of this blog. The IWMW sector is shorthand for this involved in the provision of institutional Web services who ware likely to attend UKOLN’s annual IWMW event. The Museums sector reflects involvement with the sector when UKOLN received funding from the MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives council) which finished in April prior to the MLA’s demise. The Spanish community, as Tony suggests, is interesting and is probably based on my trip to Spain last year and the talks I gave in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

There are an increasing number of social media analytic tools being developed and, as Lorcan Dempsey pointed out in a post on “Analysing influence .. the personal reputational hamsterwheel” in which he referred to services such as Klout, Twitalyzer and Peerindexanalysing influence has been a central part of academic life“.

These analytic tools are worthy of further investigation. But there is also a need to step back in order to be able to see the big picture and the relevance of social media for those of us working in higher education. These two images help me to understand the Twitter-friendly sound bite which I might use if I was asked why social media is relevant to higher education: “The relevance of social media in Higher Education? You are not alone – you do not live an a vacuum!“. I think this is a particularly timely message as the fifteenth annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2011, starts on Tuesday 26 July and I’m sure that those who are new to the sector will be pleased to discover that they are not alone.

Posted in openness | 3 Comments »

Beyond Policies For The Mobile Web

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 July 2011

Over 50% Web Traffic to Mobile Devices Predicted

The UKOLN/CETIS survey on Institutional Use of the Mobile Web aims to provide the sector with a better understanding of institutional plans for exploiting the potential of the Mobile Web.  The importance of such institutional planning can be gauged from as Pew Internet report on Smartphone Adoption and Usage released on Monday which found that 35% of US adults own smartphones with 87% of the smartphone owners accessing the Internet or email on their handheld, including two-thirds (68%) who do so on a typical day.

Image from Pew Internet report

As mentioned in the full report  in response to a request to provide a single word that best describes how they feel about their phones 72% of smartphone owners used a positive word (such as “good”, “great”, “excellent” or “convenient”) to describe their phones.

Unlike the PC environment (dominated by MS Windows thought with a significant monitory of Apple Macintosh users) there is more diversity in smartphone platforms, with 35% of smartphone owners having an Android device, 24% owning an iPhone,  a Blackberry, 2% a Windows phone and 2% a Palm device.

In addition, as described in an article published in the Washington Post, it also seems that according to figures provided by Cisco, the Internet network equipment maker, 63% of all Web traffic is currently  from computers and 37% from mobile devices but by 2015 the figures are estimated to be 46% computers and 54% mobile.

Quite clearly institutions will need to do some careful thinking and planning on how they will engage with an environment in which the majority of usage with be from a mobile device (and it may be that usage in the University sector, with the large number of young people who will own mobile devices, could be even greater than these figures taken from a cross-section of the US population.

We therefore encourage those working in the higher education sector (in the UK and beyond) to complete the survey on Institutional Use of the Mobile Web in order to help provide a batter picture of how the sector is responding to this rapidly-changing environment.

Training for Developers

Whilst institutions will be developing their strategies for engaging with the Mobile Web there will also be a need for developers to gain expertise in technical approaches for implementing strategic decisions. If decisions are made to support open standards for mobile applications in order to minimise development costs across a variety of mobile (and desktop) platforms then developing skills in HTML5, CSS and related aspects under the W3C’s Open Web Platform will be desirable.  Yesterday the W3C announced that Registration Opens for W3C Training on Mobile Web and Application Best Practices (starts September).

This online course will last 8 week, from 5 September to 28 October 2011. The course has been developed and taught by the W3C/MobiWebApp team and is based entirely on W3C standards, particularly the Mobile Web Best Practices and Mobile Web Application Best Practices, which aim to ensure that Web content available to as wide an audience as possible. The full price of the course is €195 but we have a limited number of places available at the early bird rate of €145. See the W3C Web site for further details.

Posted in Mobile | 2 Comments »

Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 July 2011

On Monday I facilitated a workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use & Impact ” which was held at the Open University. There were over 30 participants at the workshop with another 20 or so participants watching the live video stream and engaging in discussions on the video streaming channel or using the #ukolneim Twitter hashtag.

A report on the content of the workshop is currently being prepared. In addition the feedback from the remote participants will be analysed and a report published on this blog (the provision of the remote amplification of the workshop was carried out as part of the JISC-funded Greening Event II project which UKOLN together with ILRT, University of Bristol are providing.

The post will summarise one additional area of experimentation which took place at he workshop.  As described in a post on “Plans for “Metrics and Social Web Services” Workshop on Monday” in addition to the provision of the live streaming service we used the event as an opportunity to evaluate the potential of the Shhmooze app.

As described in the post the Shhmooze Web site states that:

Research by Shhmooze shows that 75% of conference delegates find networking to be hard work or ‘a nightmare’!

That’s because it’s really hard to find the right person to talk to within a crowd of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. And, for many people, it’s even harder to strike a conversation out of nowhere with a complete stranger.

Since myself and colleagues at UKOLN organise many events we are always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of our events.  The use of the event amplification provide a means of improving the effectiveness of an event by enabling people who are not present to learn from the talks and engage in the discussions, thus potentially enhancing the event for those who are physically present.  But how might a proximity-based application such as Shhmooze enhance an event for those who are present?

For an answer to that question you just have to see the first message I received from he small number of people who installed the Shhmooze app on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch device and checked in when they arrived at the Open University in Milton Keynes.  The message read:

Help! Four of us stick downstairs – Jenni Lee building.

Yes, it seems that several of the participants had arrived at the venue early and found that they couldn’t get in to the building.  It would be nice to use this as an example of a success story illustrating one possibly benefit for the app – in reality, however, I failed to check posts to the app when I arrived at the building and the first notification I received actually arrived my an SMS text message from one of the four participants who had my mobile phone number. But on reflection I think this shows that if use of an app such as Shhmooze becomes embedded at an event it can have benefits from making contact with event organisers as well as its  stated purpose in supporting networking by event attendees.

I found that the app working in providing an opportunity to establish a useful contact – after Elena Villaespese sent me a ‘wave’ I noticed from her Shhmooze profile that she was a PhD student at the University of Leicester and also affiliated with the Tate Gallery. This provided me with an opportunity to discuss my previous interests in supporting the museum sector and shared contacts in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

It total, however, only size people seemed to have used the application, so it is difficult to get a feel for whether it will have a significant role to play at events. In part the low numbers may be due to the app only being available for mobile Apple devices and the relatively low numbers of users of mobile devices at the workshop in comparison with other events I have attended recently.

It does see to me that it will be worth carrying out further experimentation, with the IWMW 2011 event, which takes place on 26-27 July will provide an ideal opportunity to explore its potential further, and with over 150 participants we should be able to see how well use of the application scales with larger numbers of people checking in.

And whilst I appreciate that those participants who don’t have an Apple device might feel disenfranchised, it is worth noting that the Shhmooze blog has a post entitled We’re hiring, again. Android Developer Needed which indicates that there are plans to make the application available on a large number of platforms.

I previously commented that I felt the Shhmooze marketing material which suggested that the app can help you “find useful, interesting people” was rather cheesy.  From my initial experimentation I rather suggest that the app:

  • Allows you to contact event organisers without having to reveal mobile phones numbers
  • Enables you to chat with fellow participants without having to clutter up your Twitter stream with conference-specific discussions
  • Enables your event-specific engagement to fade away after the event is over

And as was posted to me in a final comment I received just as I ‘waved’ to a couple of Shhmooze users as the event was concluding: “It’s like being poked but more British“.  A very appropriate comment, I felt, especially, as described on their blog, Shhmooze was launched last November at Bizcamp Belfast – it does seem that schmoozing is an Irish thing and more friendly and without the double entendres to be found in Facebook.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

Don’t Go To #ThatLondon in 2012!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 July 2011

Just over a week ago I had a meeting in London and, due to the early start, I went the day before, which had the benefits of getting a cheap train ticket and a night’s accommodation is cheaper than the full-priced return ticket from Bath. Normally that’s the case, but when I used Laterooms (which, as I’ve described previously, I’m a happy user of), I found that the cheapest room available cost about £300! Eventually I managed to find a room for about £80 but it made me wonder why there was a shortage of reasonable-priced hotel accommodation that night (with one colleague from CETIS having to book hotel accommodation well outside the city centre. It seems the reason was the meeting was taking place during the Wimbledon fortnight – which I would probably have realised if I was a tennis fan rather than a football supporter!

I then realised that we would be encountering these difficulties to a much greater extent if we have trips to London, next year, during the Olympics 2012. And although they take place outside of the normal time for meetings and conferences (27 July – 12 August) we’ll need to bear in mind the various associated events, such as the Cultural Olympiad which culminates in the “London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in the UK’s biggest ever festival“, to say nothing of the Rapperlympics, during which “rapper teams from across the globe descend on London to cross swords at the prestigious DERT tournament” of the weekend on 30 March – 1 April (thinks: the Olympic Committee will use anyone misusing the symbol of five interlocking circle -are five interlocking swords permitted?).

It seems then that those of us working in the public sector would be advised to avoided organising meetings and events in London at a time when the city is likely to be even more crowded than normal and venues and accommodation will be expensive.

As I suggested to JISC, this might provide an opportunity to explore ways in which technological solutions may be used to provide alternatives to travel, which may not only be particularly more cost-effective next summer but also provide environmental benefits. Now is the time to be exploring ways in which online meetings and events can become more embedded as alternatives to face-to-face meeting or amplified / hybrid events used to provide interested participants with the flexibility of choosing whether or not to travel (Monday’s workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact“, for example, has about 50 registered participants with another 20 remote participants who will be watching the live video stream).

My initial thoughts were clearly based on use of video-streaming and related technologies. But inevitably we will be travelling to London on business purposes next year. How might we be able to share our experiences of possible problems in a lightweight fashion across the sector? It seems to me that the answer lies in Twitter, if we can agree on a common relevant hashtag.

I was reminded of these ideas yesterday after asking my colleague Paul Walk about a recent trip he had to London. On his way he tweeted:

Off to that London. I don’t regret moving away from London but sometimes I wonder how successfully I did…

Paul has used the expression “that London” on a number of occasions, and I wondered where it came from. Paul and I think we remember it from ‘kitchen sink dramas’ of the late 50s/ early 60s (Saturday Night & Sunday Morning’, perhaps). Last night I tried to discover the origin of the expression. This proved more difficult that I had expected – but it was also provided an interesting exercise in the various approaches to resource discovery which I though would be worth sharing.

I had little joy with a search for “that London” using Google. Initially if discovered “that London is the capital of England“! Using search terms such as “Origin of expression ‘That London’” gave no further insights, so at around midnight I asked by networks on Twitter and Facebook for their suggestions. A couple of people discovered the Harry Enfield “The Scousers go To Londonsketch from YouTube. Might the expression have originated from this popular comedy programme?

Dave Pattern pointed me in the direction of John Popham’s post on the Our Society blog on “What goes on in “That London?” in which he reflected on the differences in approaches to social action between the north and the south and suggested that:

Maybe the old northern adage is true after all, “they do things differently in that London”, but what they do affects us all.

This usage reflects my interpretation of the term with, as discussed on Twitter earlier today “that London” having a somewhat derogatory connotation.

If we wish to agree on a tag so that we can complain about the difficulties of travelling to London next year, the costs of the accommodation and the difficulties of finding something to eat, could we use the #ThatLondon hashtag, so that we avoid having to mint and then popularise a new tag? But perhaps this tag will be used in too many other contexts (I should add that the tag was mentioned in a comment by Paul Webster on John Popham’s post and I have created a TwapperKeeper archive in order to gain a better understanding of its current and future usage). My suggestion:

The #ThatLondon12 hashtag can be used to share experiences of problems and difficulties related to travelling to or being in London during the Olympic 2012 year.

Any takers? Or should we just use #’ThatLondon?

Meanwhile can anyone with better searching skills than I have find evidence of use of the “that London” term which predates Harry Enfield?

Posted in General, Twitter | 3 Comments »

Plans for “Metrics and Social Web Services” Workshop on Monday

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 July 2011

Supporting a Remote Audience

On Monday 11th July I am facilitating a one-day workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use & Impact ” which will be held at the Open University.  There has been a lot of interest in this workshop which I think is indicative in the perceived importance of the need to gather evidence to be able to demonstrate the use, impact and value of online services, with, in this case, a particular focus on Social Web services.

Since there is such interest in the workshop we have decided to attempt to video stream the talks. However we are not in a position to guarantee that we will be able to provide a high quality video streaming service since we will be setting up the infrastructure on the morning of the workshop and will be keeping our fingers crossed that the bandwidth is up to it and there are no firewall problems.

We do intend to record the talks given at the workshop and make these available shortly afterwards.  In addition in order to help to provide a context to the workshop I have pre-recorded an audio presentation of the Welcome slides for the workshop which is available as a slidecast of the talk is available and embedded below.

The talk is also available on YouTube and embedded below (although note that the Moyea PPT to Video conversion tool used to create the video included a watermark which is embedded in the video).

If you feel this workshop is of interest to you please sign up on the Eventbrite booking system as a remote participant so that we can email you details of the video stream.

Evaluating Shhmooze for the Local Audience

I should also add that for those who will be physically present we will be evaluating the Shhmooze app. The Shhmooze marketing material states that:

Research by Shhmooze shows that 75% of conference delegates find networking to be hard work or ‘a nightmare’!

That’s because it’s really hard to find the right person to talk to within a crowd of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. And, for many people, it’s even harder to strike a conversation out of nowhere with a complete stranger.

Shhmooze takes the pain out of networking by making it easy to find the 3 people at the event you really need to talk to! 

and goes on to suggest that event organisers can tailor the following:

But networking’s not always easy. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Shhmooze to bring you a free smartphone app you can use to

  • find useful, interesting people
  • broadcast your professional profile to other event attendees
  • privately contact the people you want to talk with face-to-face

Whilst the marketing rhetoric grates somewhat (how will it ensure that I find useful, interesting people and not useless dull ones?!) I do feel it would be useful to explore the potential of geo-located social apps in the context of events. Perhaps a one-day workshop with 50 participants isn’t the ideal event  but we’d like to evaluate its potential prior to using it at a large event, such as the forthcoming IWMW 2011 event which will have about 150 participants (and note that bookings are due to close on Friday).

If you are attending the workshop please consider installing the app (iPhone/iPod Touch/ iPad only at present) and try and track me down on Monday. I’m sure you are an interesting person and I’ll try and be useful :-)

Posted in Events, Impact | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

What Can We Learn From Download Statistics for Institutional Repositories?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 July 2011

Gathering Quantitative Evidence

I am involved in work on looking at ways in evidence-based approaches can make use of metrics in order to understand best practices and demonstrate impact. A series of surveys have been carried out which have sought to gather quantitative evidence of use of a variety of services and, by publishing the findings on this blog, have encouraged discussions about the approaches.

This work complements the report on Splashes and Ripples: Synthesizing the Evidence on the Impacts of Digital Resources carried out by the Oxford Internet Institute and described on their blog which focussed on “synthesizing the evidence available under the JISC digitisation and eContent programmes to better understand the patterns of usage of digitised collections in research and teaching“.

Although my work has avoided addressing the complexities of metrics for research a recent survey entitled A Pilot Survey of the Numbers of Full-Text Items in Institutional Repositories has sought to profile the institutional repositories hosted by Russell Group Universities in order to have a better understanding of patterns of usage related to deposits of full-text items which would appear to be of importance in a repository is to have a role to play in the digital preservation of research papers.

Surveys of the numbers of downloads of papers from a repository is clearly a flawed approach if one is attempting to determine the quality, impact and value of research. But are there other insights to be gained from examining download statistics for an institutional repository? This latest survey, which is being carried out a few days before a workshop on “Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact“, will seek to understand whether new insights can be gained from a lightweight survey of the most popular downloads from the University of Bath’s Opus institutional repository.

Survey of Downloads

The University of Bath’s institutional repository, which I’ll refer to by the name “Opus”, is, like many UK University repositories, based on the ePrints software. A stats module, IRStats, seems to be provided as standard with ePrints although, as discussed in a previous post, the data which is gathered can by configured by the repository manager.

Opus currently has a total of 136,347 downloads since its launch in 2005. Looking at the histogram of monthly downloads we can see a slow growth for five months after the launch and then a plateau. Zooming in on the graph we can see growth in the numbers of downloads taking place in October/November 2009 and 2010 – and we might reasonably expect a similar pattern to be repeated when the next academic year begins.

But who are the authors of the most downloaded papers and might we be able to discover and techniques which can help to ensure that papers are downloaded ?

Looking at the top ten downloaded authors we find that the conferences proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Non-conventional Materials and Technologies, NOCMAT 2009 is in the top place with 28,449 downloads – an order of magnitude more than the item in second place.

The next most popular item is The use of QR codes in Education: A getting started guide for academics (2,514 downloads) by Andy Ramsden, former head of the e-Learning Unit who used to work in the office down the corridor from me. Andy has two other paper in the top ten, related to his elearning interest in QR codes (1,161 downloads) and Twitter (805 downloads). I am in third place, with my paper on Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends having 1,419 downloads. The other most popular downloaded papers seem to be PhD theses, with the exception of my UKOLN colleague Alex Ball whose project report on Review of the State of the Art of the Digital Curation of Research Data. is in tenth place (with 745 downloads).

Is there a pattern emerging, I wonder, or are these just one-off examples. It would be interesting to see what the evidence from a wider profile of downloads may indicate. Looking at the top ten authors pages we find A. Ramsden has had 7,760 items downloaded; B. Kelly (6,758); A.D Brown (3,323); A. Ball (2,267); S. J. Culley (2,250); S. Deneulin (1,900); S. Abdullah (1,535); E. Dekoninck (1,469); E. W. Elias (1,469); J. Millar (1,439) and L. Jordan (1,161). [Note that the items do not seem to total correctly in all cases so I will omit the links until I’ve tried to resolve this].


As mentioned previously it is important to note that downloads have relevance to quality – it would probably be timely now to point our that the numbers of readers of the News of the World demonstrate that quite clearly! However if we also acknowledge that researchers do have a responsibility to get their message across, then researchers will (should) have an interest in maximising the numbers of (appropriate) readers of their papers – and it is important, I feel, to highlight the need to engage with appropriate readers.

From the survey it seems that the authors who have papers in the top ten institutional downloads are also successful in having other papers also being downloaded in significant numbers. Perhaps having an office on level 5 of the Wessex House building may be a reason for such popularity of the papers! On the other hand it may be that the three of us who shared the same corridor discussed dissemination strategies or perhaps, and more likely, are simply working in an area (related to digital libraries) in which potential readers of our papers are more likely to access digital repositories.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Repositories | 6 Comments »

Request for Proposals For HTML5 Case Studies

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 July 2011

UKOLN has announced a Request for Proposals (RfP) For HTML5 Case Studies.  The proposals for HTML5 case studies and demonstrators should describe best practices and scenarios for making use of HTML5 and related Open Web Platform standards in areas of relevance to those working in the higher and further education sectors.

The proposals should address new features of the emerging HTML5 standard (e.g. canvas; geo-location; local storage; video; form fill; etc.) or related standards which form part of the W3C’s Open Web Platform such as the CSS, DOM, MathML, etc.

Application areas might include, but are not restricted to, benefits to institutional Web site (e.g. SEO benefits or enriched functionality); teaching and learning applications (course lectures delivered via video, audio, etc.; lab notebooks); research applications (e.g. articles, series, journals; books; table of contents; bibliography; citation); multi-channel access; etc.

The proposals should describe how the work was implemented and the ways in which the new functionality was (or could be) implemented in a real-world context of legacy browsers; possible lack of development tools; etc.

Case studies must be made available under a Creative Commons licence and if accompanying code is provided this should be made available under an appropriate Open Source licence.

A sum of £5,000 is available for each accepted submission. The deadline for submissions is Monday 18 July 2011. Accepted proposals must agree to provide final case studies by 16 September 2011.

Further information is available on the UKOLN Web site.

Posted in HTML | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

DevCSI Workshop on Open Data and the Institutional Web

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 July 2011

UKOLN’s DevCSI (Developer Community Supporting Innovation) has recently announced that it will be running a workshop on “Open Data and the Institutional Web” which will take place at the University of Reading on 25-26 July.

This free workshop, which will address ways in which institutional data can be surfaced, used and reused, is aimed at developers, web developers, information specialists, data managers and policy makers who are interested in the provision of open data to support a variety of institutional activities. The event will provide an opportunity to engage in development work related to either institutional data sources of data sources of relevance to institutions.

The value of open access to institutional data has long been promoted by many developers who have explained how open data which is made available in open and structured formats and unencumbered by licence restrictions can help to stimulate innovation. The benefits of such approaches have been demonstrated recently in a variety of hack events which have exploited open data provided by government  departments, local authorities and related organisations.  However despite the advocacy we have seen from developers and others who have argued that those working in the public sector in particular should adopt more open and transparent working practices, there have been difficulties in embracing a more open approaches due to concerns regarding the quality of the data, fears that the data may be misinterpreted, legal concerns such as data protection legislation and the technical difficulties in opening up access to data.

However in its recent White Paper on Higher Education the Government announced that Universities would be expected to publish data related to its activities and various aspects of the student experiences.  In a section entitled “Well-informed students driving teaching excellencethe White Paper states (emphasis mine):

  • We will expect higher education institutions to provide a standard set of information about their courses, and we will make it easier for prospective students to find and compare this information.
  • We encourage higher education institutions to publish anonymised information for prospective and existing students about the teaching qualifications, fellowships and expertise of their teaching staff at all levels.
  • We are asking HEFCE to improve Unistats, so prospective students can make more useful comparisons between subjects at different institutions. From summer 2012, graduate salary information will be added onto Unistats.
  • We will ask the main organisations that hold student data to make detailed data available publicly, including on employment and earnings outcomes, so it can be analysed and presented in a variety of formats to meet the needs of students, parents and advisors.
  • We are asking UCAS and higher education institutions to make available, course by course, new data showing the type and subjects of actual qualifications held by previously successful applicants. This should help young people choose which subjects and qualifications to study at school.

The DevCSI workshop is therefore particularly timely in enabling participants to hear about initiatives which have been taken by the institutions which have taken a lead in providing open access to institutional data as well as providing an opportunity for managers and policy makers to engage with developers in order to understand what developers can do in as short period of time if presented with open data and, ideally, APIs (together with supplies of pizza!)

The DevCSI workshop will begin on the day before the start of IWMW 2011. This will allow those involved in institutional Web management activities who have a particular interest in open data to participate in the workshop.  The workshop will continue on the opening morning of the IWMW 2011 event, with DevCSI participants having the opportunity to continue their development activities whilst those who have signed up for IWMW 2011 can attend the opening two plenary talks at the event or, if the development work is going well,  stay on at the DevCSI session until lunchtime.

Note that since there are only 30 places available for the DevCSI workshop you should book your place soon.  Also note that, in light of this late announcement, we will be keeping bookings for the IWMW 2011 event open for another week, and we have decided to provide day tickets for those who are unable to attend the full 2-day event.

Posted in Events | Leave a Comment »

How Twitter Expertise Helps Your Writing and Dissemination

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 July 2011

The 31st issue of #JISC Inform has just been published.  The editorial describes how the issue features article which “look at how students are taking an active part in their course design and delivery which in turn is increasing their satisfaction levels” and goes on to add that “if you’re reading this edition through your mobile you’ll see that this and JISC Inform issue 30 are now available as mobile versions too“.

But how should one go about developing Web resources which can be used on both desktop PCs and mobile phones?  Answers to that questions have been described in a Mobile Web Apps briefing paper (PDF format) written by Mark Power of CETIS and described in a post on Mark’s blog. But although the 6-page briefing paper has been widely promoted for the developer community (and the comments on the blog post are from developers) there is also a need to be able to communicate best practices to policy makers and managers too.  This audience is likely to require a well-focussed summary rather than the in-depth implementation details.

In order to help ensure that best practices for innovation can become embedded within institutions UKOLN and CETIS, the two JISC Innovation Support Centres, have been exploring opportunities for collaboration, and yesterday we had a meeting in London in order to agree on appropriate areas for further work after the 1 August.

I was pleased that at the meeting I was able to mention that an article published in JISC Inform was the result of joint effort between Mark and myself.  And when I viewed how the article we had submitted had been published I was very pleased with the visual impact with, as shown, the top tips for providing mobile web service being depicted as iPhone apps.

On further reflection I realised that the tips we had provided (which  were summaries of advice provided in the briefing paper) could –  almost – be provided as tweets. For example:

There is no such thing as the Mobile Web 

leaves a further 100 characters to be used.  And whilst

Design for the usual internet and then make your site adaptable for mobile devices for example decreasing the screen size using CSS media queries and then scaling up for larger devices like tablets and PCs by progressively enhancing access for larger audiences.

is the equivalent of two tweets the final tip:

Use the W3C’s Mobile Web checking service: Compare the findings for your service with your peers as illustrated in a UK Web Focus blog post.

comes to exactly 140 characters! You may argue that additional characters will be need to include the link but a slight rewording provides a tweetable summary with the link:

Use the W3C’s Mobile Web checking service. Compare the findings for your service with your peers as illustrated at

This example has made me realise that for those who feel that it is important to disseminate their work and to be able to reach out to policy makers and senior managers who may not be inclined to ready wordy and detailed reports, having skills in being able to communicate succinctly will be value.  Twitter, clearly, can help to hone such skills, so that when presented with an opportunity to write 500 words you should be in a better position to know how to best present your ideas or arguments.

Unfortunately the JISC Inform editor had to omit our final contribution to the article, possibly because it was too wordy.  I’ll therefore conclude with a tweet:

Survey on institutional plans & policies for mobile web still open – see

and remind people, in 135 characters, that: Twitter can be full of trivia, just like the Web. But also like the Web it can be a valuable tool to support institutional activities!

Posted in Mobile, Twitter | 2 Comments »