UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for August, 2012

MajesticSEO Analysis of Russell Group University Repositories

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 August 2012

Investigation of SEO Rankings of Institutional Repositories

There is a need “to investigate whether links [from popular social media services] are responsible for enhancing SEO rankings of resources hosted in institutional repositories” concluded the paper by myself and Jenny Delasalle which asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?“.

The importance of SEO rankings for surfacing content hosted in institutional repositories can be gauged from the responses to the query I asked on the JISC-Repositories JISCMail list: “Does anyone have any statistics on the proportion of traffic which arrives at institutional repositories from Google?”. I asked a similar question on Twitter and found that mature research repositories seem to get about from 50-80% of their traffic from Google. This aligns with the findings reported by Les Carr for the University of Southampton back in 2006: “the majority of repository use, if I can equate eprint downloads with repository use, is due to external web search engines (64%)“. Indeed since it has been reported that direct downloads of PDFs hosted in repositories may not be reported unless Google Analytics has been configured appropriately such figures may be an underestimate!

In light of the importance of Google in supporting repositories in their mission of making research papers easily accessible to others it will be useful to gain a better understanding of the factors which contribute to supporting the discoverability of the content hosted in institutional repositories.

The survey described in this post reports on summary SEO findings for the 24 Russell Group universities. The aims of the survey are to provide a benchmark for comparisons with surveys which may be carried out in the future, to attempt to identify any interesting usage patterns which may help to enhance the effectiveness of institutional repositories and to identify the highest ranked domains which provide links to institutional repositories.

Survey Using MajesticSEO

The data was collected on 27-28 August 2012 using the MajesticSEO service. Note that the current finding can be obtained by following the link in the final column. The findings can be viewed if you have signed up to the free service.

Table 1: MajesticSEO Findings for Repositories Hosted at Russell Group Universities
Institutional Repository Details Referring
Top Five Domains & Numbers of Links View Results
Repository usedeprint Repository
 116  499  146  16 6,424 4,658 200 82 67
InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Repository used: ROSE
 159  691 144  21 7,871 6,692 273 98 89
Repository usedDspace @ Cambridge
  86 7,339  283  97 33,276 17,241 1,771 449 442
InstitutionCardiff University
Repository usedORCA
   22     58     9    4 1,874 883 250 85 60
InstitutionUniversity of Durham

Repository usedDRO

297 1,281   27   12 5,430 3,020 145 76 45
Repository used: ERA
747  3,943  247  71 14,380 9,845 470 401 296
InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Repository used: ERIC
Note: Repository sub-domain not used. See footnote 2.
198   958  175   18 1,125 1,115 45 43 42
InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Repository usedEnlighten
 4,868 423  62 5,880 5,087 322 178 135
InstitutionImperial College
Repository usedSpiral
 139  702 329  11 3,363 1,883 121 119 65
 37 2,552 2,275 169 160 139
InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Repository usedWhite Rose Research Online
 700 4,847 1,354    2 44 23 13 8 5
Repository usedResearch Archive
 297   147    8 4,057 2,461 97 55 53
Repository usedLSE Research Online
 1,365 9,771  549   80 14,449 11,550 343 262 244

Repository usedeScholar

Note: Repository sub-domain not used. See footnote 3.
 (5)  (29)  – [Link]
InstitutionNewcastle University

Repository usedNewcastle Eprints

 30  215  85    5 6,425 3,929 221 116 87
Repository usedNottingham Eprints
 359 1,594 328   57 5,410 3,856 148 77 66
InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Repository usedORA
 299  1,116  94  35 42,008 39,798
1,437 548 504
Repository used: QMRO
  27  449  350   6 4,722 1,221 259 219 89

: Repository sub-domain not used. See footnote 4.
 (9)  (14)  –  – [Link]
Repository used: DCS Publications Archive

Note: Repository sub-domain not used. See footnote 5.

Note: The University of Sheffield also uses the White Rose repository which is also used by Leeds and York. See the Leeds entry for the statistics.

 (2)   (3)  –  –  [Link]
Repository usedeprints.soton
46,176 33,524 123 4,384 2,568 264 138 89
Repository usedUCL Discovery
 13,978 492   24 16,009 15,633 860 406 250
InstitutionUniversity of Warwick

Repository usedWRAP

 2,476 278    20 9,412 7,601 217 179 122
InstitutionUniversity of York
Repository used: YODL
Note: Repository sub-domain not used. See footnote 6.
Note: The University of Sheffield also uses the White Rose repository which is also used by Leeds and York. See the Leeds entry for the statistics.
 (3)  (5)  –  –  [Link]
Range  14 – 1,369  37 – 46,176  9 – 33,524  2 – 123


  1. The list of repositories is taken from OpenDoar.
  2. The ERIC repository at the University of Exeter is hosted at Since the repository home page is a redirect from it was possible to analyse the SEO rankings and get appropriate results.
  3. The eScholar repository at the University of Manchester is hosted at  Figures for this home page are given but since the domains with incoming links may refer to pages hosted on the domain, these figures are not given in order to avoid skewing the findings.
  4. The Queen’s University Belfast repository is hosted at Figures which are available for this home page are given but since the domains with incoming links may refer to pages hosted on the domain, these figures are not given in order to avoid skewing the findings.
  5. The DCS repository at the University of Sheffield is hosted at Figures which are available for this home page are given but since the domains with incoming links may refer to pages hosted on the domain, these figures are not given in order to avoid skewing the findings.
  6. The YODL repository of the University of York is hosted at Figures which are available for this home page are given but since the domains with incoming links may refer to pages hosted on the domain, these figures are not given in order to avoid skewing the findings.

Table 2 gives the total number of links to the high-ranking domains which are listed in the survey, together with the Alexa ranking for these domains. Note has the highest Alexa ranking and is listed at number 1. Figure 1 shows the significance of links from blog platforms compared with the other most highly-ranked domains.

Figure 1: Histogram of number of incoming links from top domains

Table 2: Nos. of Links from High-Ranking Domains
No. Domains No. of links Alexa Ranking
1 Blogspot  176,625       5
2 WordPress  153,809     21
3 Wikipedia     7,230       8
4 BBC     2,811     36
5 Google    1,447       1
6 Ask       769     46
7 YouTube       460       3
8 Guardian       334    187
9 Reddit       261    143
10       259    259
11 Typepad       250   212
12 CNN      135     43
13 Microsoft       89     26
14 Sourceforge       67    139
15 Ning       42    256
16 Oxford University         5 6,764


In a previous post I suggested that since is so widely used across Russell Group Universities, encouraging researchers to provide links to their papers hosted in their institutional repository would enhance the visibility of papers to Google, especially since LinkedIn has such a high Alexa ranking (it currently is listed at number 13 in the global ranking order).

However it appears that LinkedIn does not appear to have a significant presence according to the findings provided in MajesticSEO (although the free version does only list the top five domains).

Based on the information obtained in the survey it would appear that two blog platforms, and, are primarily responsible for driving traffic to institutional repositories, having both high Alexa rankings together with large numbers of links to the repositories.

Following these two platforms, but a long way behind, we find Wikipedia and the BBC and then, perhaps somewhat confusingly, Google itself (perhaps links from Google Scholar). The presence of media sites such as the BBC, CNN and the Guardian suggest that researchers (or their media advisers) are doing a good job in ensuring that these organisations provide links to original research papers when stories about university research are being covered in the media.

But perhaps the most noticeable findings is that only one University Web site – Oxford’s – is included in the list of the top 5 domains across all of the Russell Group Universities. The low Alexa ranking (6,764) for the Oxford University Web site in comparison with the other sites listed (which have an Alexa ranking ranging from 1 to 259) suggests that links from university Web sites, even prestigious universities such as Oxford, will not have a significant impact on Google search results. It should also be noted that links from the University of Oxford Web site will not provide SEO benefits to the University of Oxford’s repository, which is hosted in the same domain (

Limitations of this Survey

It should be noted that these conclusions are based on just one SEO tool and only a small selection of the findings are available. A more comprehensive survey would make use of the licensed version of the service, and make use of other SEO tools to compare the findings.

In addition Google do not publish the algorithms on which their search results are ranked so there can be no guarantee that the findings provided by SEO tools will relate directly to users experiences of using Google.

In order to relate these findings to the ways users access resources hosted on a repository there will be a need to examine usage statistics for repositories. It would be interesting to see if the downloads for the most popular items show any correlation with links from the services listed above.

Survey Paradata: The findings given in Table 1 were collected on 27-28 August 2012 using the free version of MajesticSEO. The Alexa rankings listed in Table 2 were obtained from the Alexa survey and collected on 28 August 2012. Where the findings from MajesticSEO were incomplete, due to the repository not being hosted on the root of a repository sub-domain this information was recorded and any data collected was not included in further analysis.

Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] – [SocialMention] – [WhosTalkin]

Posted in Evidence, Repositories | 15 Comments »

The Importance of the Opening Paragraph and the Accompanying Image

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 August 2012

My colleague Talat Chaudhri recently published a blog post which asked “Why should universities care about identifiers?” I was aware of the post while Talat was in the process of writing it and was very pleased when I noticed that it had been published.

It was, however, when I spotted the post when it appeared in one of the personalised newspapers I used that I appreciated the skill of Talat’s opening paragraph and the image he used to accompany the post.

The opening paragraph began:

Imagine that you are a senior manager in an institution within the UK Higher Education sector with responsibilities for research: you have read some basic details about unique researcher identifiers and perhaps institutional identifiers. However, it may not be immediately apparent just how important these issues are, which may seem on the face of it to be a relatively superficial and/or trivial organisational matter.

This, I felt, encouraged the reader to read more, and click on the link to the full article. In addition, as can be seen from the accompanying image, an attractive image accompanied the post, which helped to differentiate it from the many other posts on the page.

Sometimes I hear people talk about the importance of attractive PDF designs which aim to encourage reading. A problem with that approach is that there is only one view of the report. As described in a previous post images in blog posts can enhance the user’s experience across a wide range of personalised newspaper services such as Pulse, Flipboard and Zite. This can provide a greater range of dissemination channels to reach the intended audiences, as well as providing the audiences with the flexibility to choose their preferred environment for reading such reports.

But as suggested in the title of this post, blog authors will need to give thought to the opening paragraph for a blog post, and images which can be used to complement the post. In addition, it will probably be useful to summarise a post or a report in a Twitter-friendly fashion. For this report you could use the opening line (which may happen if you use an auto-tweeting service):

Imagine you are a senior manager in an institution within the UK HE sector with responsibilities for research:

Although my preference is for a human-crafted summary, such as the one Talat used to announce the report:

Why should universities care about identifiers? Review on UKOLN’s Technical Foundations blog:

It seems blogs and Twitter are turning us into headline writers as well as picture editors. And if you don’t feel you have the expertise to make your make use of visual imagery the Hubspot Inbound Internet Marketing blog provides some suggestions on six creative ways to make your content more visual.

Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in General, Social Networking | 1 Comment »

Dark Nodes and Dodgy Connections; Dealing With Fake Followers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 August 2012

“It’s About Nodes and Connections”

In a recent post I described how Social Media is About Nodes and Connections and explained “the importance [of] the network effect, with a growth in the number of nodes (the bloggers, the contributors, the Twitter users) leading to a growth in the number of connections (the posts, the comments, the tweets, the retweets) which help in the development of new insights and new ideas“.

But whilst many users of social media, including those working in higher education, are making use of such network effects to support their professional activities in legitimate and ethical ways others are seeking to exploit network effects in ways which may be considered unethical.

Fake and Inactive Connections

An article on such approaches was published on Sunday 26 August 2012 in the Observer. The article asked How many Twitter followers do they really have? and explained that although Lady Gaga has almost 30 million followers on her Twitter account only 29% of these are “good”. The remainder are either fake or inactive accounts. Whilst inactive accounts will be simply those used by people who are lurkers or who may no longer have an interest in using Twitter, a fake account is set up to follow people or send out spam.

The article describes that there is now a market for the sale of Twitter followers. “One kind of software identifies Twitter accounts that include keywords such as football, and “follows” these accounts in the hope they will reciprocate. Other programmes create artificial accounts and sell them by the thousand. On the Fiverr website, 2,000 followers can be bought for $5“. As can be seen and shown in the accompanying image there are clearly several providers of such services.

The Observer article described, “a British start-up company has pledged to root out and expose the phantom, fake and fraudulent followers being used to massage the numbers claimed by celebrities, politicians and the merely insecure within the Twittersphere“. Although at pricing ranging from £25 to £100 per month I can’t imagine there will be many subscribers, I’m pleased that we are seeing public awareness of spam problems and solutions being developed, starting with such auditing tools.

In a research context we are seeing how Scholars Seek Better Ways to Track Impact Online who recognise that “research that used to take months or years to reach readers can now find them almost instantly via blogs and Twitter”. However as Ernesto Priego pointed out on the Guardian’s Higher Education Network’s blog a few days ago for Alt.metrics “‘quality of engagement matters as much as retweets”.

I hope that pressures to maximise ‘impact’ will not lead to researchers buying Twitter followers in the hope that this will increase the numbers of downloads of their papers. But if they do I suspect that this will not be productive – I suspect that we will see developments to alt.metrics tools which will help to identify fake followers. We might also see the development of alt.metrics measures which will provide more sophisticated measures which give high weighting to active engagement on Twitter rather than passive consumption.

What’s a Twitter User To Do?

How should an individual who wishes to use Twitter in an ethical and responsible way respond to the dark side of Twitter?

Clearly one should not buy followers! But what should you do if you see an influx of people who have started to follow you?

Such information is not easily found. On a mobile device the Twitter client now enables you to see not only messages sent to you but also recent actions, which includes tweets you have sent which may have been retweeted or favourited, as well as people who have started following you.

A few nights ago nine people started following me, as illustrated. I have not got into the habit on the bus on the way to work of block the obvious spam followers – in this case @NetEquityLoans and @DrinkTampico.

In order to decide whether Gregg Thorpe was a spam follower or not a trivial amount of further investigation was needed: the Twitter ID @1stplaceranking gave the game away, as did the suspicious Twitter statistics – 2 tweets, 4,681 followers with 5,124 users being followed!

Loreen Deeka also appeared to be a spam account and checking recent tweets confirmed this.

These four accounts were subsequently blocked. As well as applying such approaches regularly I have also used software such as the SocialBro desktop application which gives me a profile of my Twitter environment including suggestions of suspicion followers.

The Observer article made me appreciate that there will be a need for professional users of Twitter, whether individual of corporate, to have a policy on how they deal with misuse of Twitter. I’ve therefore decided to document my current policy (which is liable to change):

  • I will monitor new followers and block obvious spam followers and other followers which I feel are inappropriate.
  • I will use Twitter auditing tools periodically to identify inappropriate followers and block them.

I suspect there will be a need for such policies for institutional Twitter accounts. Are people aware of any which have been published? I’m also interested in the approaches which individuals may take in blocking followers. Or do people chose to take no action?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Twitter | 10 Comments »

Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 August 2012

Where Do Visitors To This Blog Go To?

Where do visitors to this blog go do when they click on a link which published in a blog post? When I looked at the click statistics for the past year I was surprised that the top ten pages, with just one exception, were to the home page of a number of UK Universities: Abertay, Aston, Cambridge, Bangor, Buckingham, Glasgow, ECA, Exeter and Falmouth. I subsequently found that these were the nine of the 26 institutions which had been hyperlinked in a post on Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers published in 2010.

Apart from the links followed from this single post the other top web sites visited in the past year are:,,,, and

What does this evidence tells us? Suggestions for the popularity of these Web sites are given below: I normally provide a link to tweets which I cite. This enables me to find the original source if I wish to make use of it in the future. In addition it will help people reading the post to see the source, see the context and find out more about the Twitter user. It would appear that my decision to do this has proved useful as people do seem to be clicking on links to tweets. This initially appeared to be an anomaly. However I subsequently realised that a post giving Thoughts on Google Scholar Citations published a few days after Google’s announcement that Google Scholar Citations Open To All had proven very popular after I had left a comment linking to the post on Google’s blog post. Scholar It is pleasing to see that links to Opus, the University of bath’s institutional repository, features so highly. These are primarily to copies of my peer-reviewed papers. Interestingly a recent paper by myself and Jenny Delasalle asked Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? Although we feel the answer is “yes” it would appear that this blog also has a significant role to play in enhancing access to such papers. As might be expected there are significant numbers of visits to the Web site for UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web management Workshop, IWMW, since the event is featured on this blog when we issues the call for submissions, when we open the event for bookings, and when we publish reflections on the event. The reason for the significant number of visits to the Computer Weekly Web site is simple: they will have read the post in which I announced that this blog had been short-listed for the Computer Weekly’s IT Blogger of the Year award. Since I was the runner-up I know that large numbers must have followed the link and voted for this blog:-) As might be expected there are significant numbers of visits to the UKOLN Web site which hosts many of the resources for work which I write about on this blog.

Redesign of the Blog’s Sidebar

It should be noted that visitors do not only follow links provided in blog posts; the blog’s sidebars and navigation bar also provide addition content and links to resources.

Sometime ago I came across Markosweb which provides information about Web sites including the UK Web Focus blog. I was particularly interested in the heat map for the blog. As described on the Web site:

Heatmap – An F-shaped principle of how web-pages are read: two horizontal strips and one vertical. Using this principle we’ve suggested where your visitors’ eyes will first be directed to on the main page.

This data can help you in placing the most important site’s blocks in the hottest places. This will help you to increase the site’s traffic and raise profitability.

The left hand sidebar provides information about the blog which I feel is important information. However, as shown in the accompanying image of the heat map for a previous design of the blog, although the blog’s search box is likely to be used by people which wish to search for additional posts, the email subscription sign-up area was a waste of space, as this is something people will only do once, if at all.

In light of the suggestion that the heat map can help be to locate important content I updated the design of the sidebar in March 2012. The blog now has a Featured Paper area beneath the search box (as illustrated) which summarises a paper and provides links to the paper. The featured paper is updated every couple of weeks.

It was not clear to me whether the redesign had any effect on users’ behaviour. Having for the first time analysed the statistics for users clicks it would appear that this redesign has helped to raise the visibility of my papers (it should be noted that the clicks may also have come from links provided in blog posts) .

What Does the Evidence Tell Us?

Myself and Jenny are presenting a talk at the Internet Librarian International (ILI 2012) conference to be held in London on 30-31 October which will try to provide an answer to the question: What does the evidence tell us about institutional repositories? The evidence from analysis of the blog’s statistics tells us that the blog delivers significant traffic to the University of Bath’s repository. Given the significant relationship between this blog and the Opus repository it will be interesting to see if the links from this blog have any impact on the repository’s search engine rankings and the visibility of the repository itself, as well as my papers, for researchers who make use of Google to search for relevant information.

Perhaps my post which asked Can LinkedIn and enhance access to open repositories? which was republished yesterday on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog gave an incomplete view of the importance of social media for researchers seeking to maximise the impact of their work. Maybe it would be a mistake to ignore the importance of researcher’s blog, not just as an open notebook for sharing ideas at an early stage and inviting feedback, but to support the dissemination of existing published work?

Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Repositories | 1 Comment »

Who’s Using OpenStack or Amazon CDN? Ways of Detecting Early Indications of Uses of New Technologies

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 August 2012

Is OpenStack Cloud Computing Rocket Science? asked Mark Hinkle on the Socialized Software blog

On Monday 20 August 2012 I saw a tweet from Joss Winn which provided a link to a blog post about a survey  of OpenStack in academia. From the OpenStack Web site we find that “OpenStack is a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists producing the ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds“.

The launch of OpenStack in 2010 was accompanied by a certain amount of excitement in the blogosphere, with a post entitled Is OpenStack Cloud Computing Rocket Science? announcing that:

Today Rackspace has thrown their hat in the ring with their new OpenStack initiative in collaboration with NASA — as in rocket scientists, smartest guys in the world. Unlike Amazon’s EC2 which preaches open APIs, Rackspace is working to develop an open source platform that compliments their hosted cloud offering.

before going on to describe how:

The goal of OpenStack is to allow any organization to create and offer cloud computing capabilities using open source software running on standard hardware.

Joss’s methodology for finding about more about use of OpenStack was to use Google to search for uses in US Universities, using the Google search string site:edu “openstack”; in the UK educational sector using the search string “openstack” and in the Australian using the search string “openstack”.

The most interesting results Joss found were:

  • MIT’s Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory seem to be active in running their own cloud. 768 cores and 3TB of RAM. Not bad!
  • Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science also have their own cloud. They seem to have two installations running at the moment, one being deployed via Puppet.
  • The University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (part of the School of Engineering) have a research group that are “interested in extending OpenStack as a platform for academic research in cloud computing.”
  • The University of Alabama’s College of Engineering are running OpenStack on their HPC cluster.
  • The Engineering Task Force, part of the UK’s e-science programme, undertook an evaluation of OpenStack last year. It’s a year old now and things have moved on, but it’s still worth a read. They conclude that OpenStack “is a mature, well-backed software for implementing an Infrastructure as a Service Cloud. The set of features and multicomponent architecture allows many different deployment scenarios to be developed addressing differing needs for scale, availability and reliability.”
  • St Andrews have a research group that uses OpenStack. They aim “to become an international centre of excellence for research and teaching in cloud computing and will provide advice and information to businesses interested in using cloud-based services.” It’s good to see opensck being integrated into teaching and they’ve also run some related HackDays, too.
  • The University of Surrey’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences have an OpenStack cloud that’s also used in undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, as well as supporting research projects. Surrey’s setup and objectives seem to be similar to what we currently have in mind for Lincoln.
  • Australia’s nationally funded NeCTAR service offer cloud computing facilities that are accessible to researchers across the country.
  • Eduserv are also considering whether to offer OpenStack as part of their cloud computing service. One nice thing about this, compared to other commercial offerings, is that it would run on the JANET backbone.
  • Methodology, search for term restricted in academic domain in UK, US and Australia.

On the same day I saw a message on the JISCMail Web-support list from Caleb Racey, Systems architecture Manager at Newcastle University who asked “Is anyone using a content delivery network (CDN) like Amazon cloud front for their main university website?“.  Might we use the same approach which Joss used, I wondered?  Unlike Joss’s case, in which he was searching for a single word which is not in common usage in normal usage, Caleb’s needed to search for a combination of commons words (“amazon”, “content”, “delivery” and “network” which may also be referred to by an abbreviation (“CDN”) – this will probably be more to search, with the need to remove false hits. I’ll there leave it to Caleb to determine whether the search results for “Amazon CDN” provide useful results from US Universities, UK Universities and Australian Universities.

Google Insights search for ‘Amazon CDN’

Google Insights search for ‘Openstack’

But in addition to such searches for education institutions which host content containing such search strings it struck me that it would also be useful to visualise trends of searches for such terms, in order to identify the extent of the growth of interest in, in this case, Openstack and Amazon Content Delivery Networks. The first image shown below gives the trends for a Google search for “Openstack” and the second for a search of “Amazon CDN”.

In both examples we can see when searches begin: in early 2010 for ‘Openstack’ and early 2008 for ‘Amazon CDN’. The first search also highlights news stories which generated particular spikes (although these are now clearly visible in the screenshot):

A Rackspace Launches OpenStack-based Private Cloud Software — Enables Businesses to Install, Test and Run Private Clouds in Minutes
B Rackspace debuts OpenStack cloud servers
C First ARM Technology-Powered Cloud Debuts on OpenStack(R)
D Cisco + OpenFlow + OpenStack = ONE software-defined network
E Mirantis Joins Dell Partner Program for OpenStack-Powered Cloud Solution
F Nebula Elected to New OpenStack Leadership Positions
G Rackspace Soon to Partner With Developers of Private OpenStack Distros

It does seem to me that use of Google Insights could be a useful tool to identify growth in interest in new technologies and can complement the search approaches taken by Joss Winn. However both Joss Winn and Caleb Racey employed another useful technique for helping to find evidence of take-up of new technologies: asking people! In Joss’s case he used Twitter and his blog whereas Caleb used a mailing list. I also hope that this post helps Joss and Caleb in finding further examples of uses of Open Stack and Amazon CDN. Feel free to give any further links as a comment on this post – I’ll alert Joss and Caleb to any appropriate responses.

Posted in jiscobs | Leave a Comment »

#uklibchat, #ECRchat, #PhDchat, #Socialchat and Other Tweetchats

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 August 2012


What is a Tweetchat? What Tweetchats are there to support researchers and information professionals? How widely used are they? Are they useful? These are some of the questions I’ve tried to answer in this post – although the answer to the final question will be reliant on responses provided by participants of Tweetchats.


Yesterday I came across an email on the LIS-Profession JISCMail list about a Twitter discussion which is taking place tonight (Tuesday 21 August 2012):

Next Tuesday from 18:30 – 20:30pm #uklibchat will be discussing:

*Outreach and Inclusion*

One of the ways that libraries prove their worth is by the amount of users that they have and, for public libraries especially, it’s about serving the community. Outreach, by its very name, is about reaching out and engaging with people, inspiring them to make more use of the library!

If you are interested in sharing your experience with doing outreach work, discussing ways that libraries can be more socially inclusive, or what outreach means for different library sectors, or anything else related to the topic, do join us!

Everyone is welcome to add their questions to the open discussion agenda: [link

If you have any questions just e-mail us, or contact us on Twitter @uklibchat

As illustrated #uklibchat has an accompanying web site which provides further information about #uklibchat discussions and archives of previous discussions.


The message which alerted me to the #uklibchat was quite timely as on Sunday I came across an interesting discussion using the #ECRchat Twitter hashhag. As a number of people I follow on Twitter were participating in the discussion I was able to learnt that #ECRChat is a discussion environment for Early Career Researchers. Looking at the #ECRChat Web site I found that this provides a weekly topic for discussion with the topic for Thursday 23 August currently being voted on, with the four topics being Social media use for ECRs: (1) pros and cons, and different types for different purposes; (2) Defining success outside of the traditional academic path; (3) Coping with and getting out of the fixed-term contract trap and (4) Getting recognition for work outside of research.

The group was established on 15 July 2012 with the aim of “providing a global weekly discussion for the early career researcher community via Twitter“.


#PhDChat provides another Twitter hashtag which I encounter occasionally on my Twitter stream. From the #PhDChat Web site I learnt that:

In November 2010, a group of UK based research students began to meet together on Wednesday evenings for an hour using the medium of Twitter in order to share their experiences of the doctoral journey. News of the gatherings quickly spread, and the discussions began to encompass postgraduate researchers from around the globe together with a number of people who have completed their doctoral journeys and a number of academics who are involved in supporting postgraduate research. 

Unlike the #uklibchat and #ECRChat Web sites, which use, this Web site uses the PBWorks Wiki tool. The Wiki provides information about the discussion environment, links to archives of previously discussed topics, links to other useful resources and pages which are in preparation.


I came across #Socialchat last night as one person I follow on twitter regularly participates in the discussions. Unusually, perhaps, #Socialchat has a Facebook presence from which I learnt that “#SocialChat is a weekly TwitterChat on Mondays“.

The Facebook page provides a link to the Socialparle Web site which describes how “#SocialChat is a weekly Twitter Chat where we discuss a variety of topics surrounding Social Media Marketing. Every Monday night we put a featured guest on the hot seat and you get to ask questions and contribute to the conversation“. The Web site provides a link to archives of the discussions which date back to February 2011. Looking at the archive of the discussions on the topic of Social Media ROI which took place on 1 August 2011 it seems that Storify is used to record the discussions.

About Tweetchats

Although I was aware of Tweetchats though the tweets with various hashtags on my stream I wasn’t aware of how popular they were. Looking at the Tweetchat Wiki with List of Tweetchats I found the following useful definition of a Tweetchat:

Tweetchats are virtual meetings held on Twitter. They are typically gatherings of Tweeps who share similar interests. Tweetchats often meet at set days and times during the week. They are identified by a hashtag – a word prepended with a pound sign (#). The pound sign makes it easy to identify the tweetchat members as well as the tweets belonging to the particular chat.

together with a directory of a wide range of Tweetchats grouped by Day of the Week, Subject and alphabetically (A – I and J – Z).

You can participate in a Tweetchat using your favourite Twitter client for posting, using the appropriate hashtag and search for tweets with the hashtag to see others’ contributions. Alternatively you can use a dedicated service such as TweetChat (illustrated being used with #ECRchat).

Another relevant service is As illustrated this service provides analytics for Tweetchats. The statistics for the services mentioned in this post summarised below (statistics collated at 08.20 on Tuesday 21 August 2012).

  • Analysis of ECRChat: 67 tweets generated 48,941 impressions, reaching an audience of 30,338 followers within the past 24 hours
  • Analysis of PhDChat: 279 tweets generated 197,757 impressions, reaching an audience of 101,756 followers within the past 24 hours
  • Analysis of UKLibchat: 7 tweets generated 4,335 impressions, reaching an audience of 1,531 followers within the past 24 hours
  • Analysis of Socialchat: 544 tweets generated 4,517,020 impressions, reaching an audience of 1,350,605 followers within the past 24 hours (illustrated)


Sunday’s #ECRChat discussion moved into discussions about non-users of social media in a research context following the link to a post which asked Who are the offline-academics? The subsequent discussions used the #offlineac tag and Lou Woodley has helpfully provided a Storify summary of the discussions. I suggested that it would be useful to have a better understanding of the benefits which online academics, for example, gain from use of social media in order to develop a model of the different reasons for participation. Rather than a broad areas (such as blogging or Twitter) it seemed to me to be useful to understand how a particular aspect of a social media tool is being used and to hear about the benefits which this may provide. Tweetchats, I felt, could provide a useful focus for such analysis. The following survey has been created. I welcome your participation. A summary of the responses will be provided on this blog.

A survey was open from 21 August to 4 September 2012. The survey asked the following questions:

  • Have you participated in a Tweetchat?
  • Please give the name(s) of the Tweetchats.
  • What benefits do you feel Tweetchats have provided, if any?
  • ‘Why have you not participated in a Tweetchat?
  • Would you recommend participation in a Tweetchat to others?
  • Feel free to add other relevant comments.
  • The findings have been published on this blog.
  • Your contact details (e.g. twitter ID or email) if you would like a reply.

A summary of the findings was published on 4 September 2012.

Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Are You a Roundhead or a Cavalier in Your Views on Social Media?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 August 2012

Do We Value Talent or Effort?

The New Statesman (13 August 2012) featured an interesting article on “The Olympic Afterglow” by Ed Smith. As described in a summary of the current issue the article provides a left-of-centre perspective on the Olympic Games:

Team GB could not have won many of its medals without the support of the state. Only a few sports can nurture elite athletes (and their coaches, equipment and nutritionists) in a free market; most require handouts from the taxpayer.

But it was the issues of “talent” and “effort” which I found most interesting. The article explains how:

“Talent” has often been used as a dirty word, replaced by nouns with a clear moral dimension – guts, determination, sacrifice. The message is clear: medals should be earned by an effort of willpower, preferably a triumph over adversity.

The article went on to challenges such views:

Yet the natural human instinct – what viewers feel before they are told what to think – is to thrill to raw talent whenever we see it. Usain Bolt cheerfully admits that Yohan Blake trains much harder. “But I have a talent”, Bolt adds truthfully. And it is his talent that is so wonderful. he is one of the world’s most popular sportsmen because he has not been dulled by the platitudes of professionalism. At the Beijing Olympic in 200m, in the 100 metres final, he stopped trying at 70 metres. In London, he sprinted almost for the full 100 metres. But he never lost his boyish incredulity at his own brilliance. Nor have we.

I suspect it was the New Statesman’s copy deadlines which meant that they didn’t include any references to Usain Bolt’s late night celebration’s after winning the 100 metres, but before competing in the 200 metres and 4×100 metres relay races. This was described in The Telegraph under the headline: Usain Bolt celebrates 100m gold with Swedish women’s handball team with Bolt himself supplying the accompanying photograph.

Roundheads and Cavaliers

The article reminded me of a programme on BBC 4 entitled Roundhead or a Cavalier? Which Are You? which I had been alerted to recently. The BBC Web site provides the following summary of the programme:

In the middle of the 17th century, Britain was devastated by a civil war that divided the nation into two tribes – the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. In this programme, celebrities and historians reveal that modern Britain is still defined by the battle between the two tribes. The Cavaliers represent a Britain of panache, pleasure and individuality. They are confronted by the Roundheads, who stand for modesty, discipline, equality and state intervention.

Updating this to our current environment this could begin:

In the early part of the 21st century, the UK’s higher education sector is mildly agitated by disagreements that are dividing the sector into two tribes 

with those who take up the freedom and opportunities provided by blogs, Twitter and other social media services in encouraging individualistic approaches to their work continuing the Cavalier tradition, but encountering resistance from Roundheads who wish to see a continuation of the modest, disinterested and managed approaches to such activities and are willing to endorse institutional interventions in order to ensure such traditions continue.

This reminded me of my recent paper on “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?“. In my one-minute summary of the paper, available on Vimeo, I described how I responded to our Pro Vice-Chancellor’s question on how I had managed to have the largest number of downloads in the University of Bath by saying “Simple, it’s about the incoming links from LinkedIn and and similar services“. But repository managers don’t appear to be proactive in encouraging researchers to link to papers in open access repositories, unlike commercial publishers who, we have found, do encourage researchers to link to papers hosted behind the publishers’ paywalls. “Why! tell me why?” I asked at the end of the summary.

I think I now understand the reason why. Some people don’t choose to make use of simple solutions to provide professional benefits because of their Roundhead tendencies and feel benefits should only be gained after hard work and discipline. On the other hand I’ll admit to being a Cavalier and am happy to use technologies which work for me, even – no, especially – if they don’t require any hard work. So for me using the social media service which works is the ideal. if you’re a Roundhead you’re more likely to prefer the hard work and disciplined approaches which installing open source software on you own server and the domain you manage.

I’ll also admit to admiring the Cavaliering approach taken by Usain Bolt who won 3 Gold medals in less than 2 minutes of competitive racing at the Olympics (with times for partying between races) to the Roundheads’ hero, Mo Farah, who spent almost an hour winning his 2 gold medals at the Olympics.

What approach do you prefer?  

Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in General, Social Web | 1 Comment »

“Celebrating 10,000 Followers!”: Social Media is About Nodes and Connections

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 August 2012


JISC Celebrates 10,000 Followers

Yesterday a tweet from @jisc announced that their Twitter account had reached 10,000 followers:

NEWS: Celebrating 10,000 followers… and our resources to help engage students through social media: … 

This news provided a useful opportunity for JISC to “showcase some resources that can help you blog, tweet and interact your way to better student retention, marketing and teaching online“. The news item highlighted seven resources which were felt to help institutions in using social media to support their students:

  1. Listen to a podcast (MP3 format) on developing your social media strategy with Steph Gray of Helpful Technology.
  2. Read JISC CETIS’ ideas about using Twitter in the classroom.
  3. Learn how Cardiff Northumbria and Bristol universities use Twitter and Facebook to support international students.
  4. Reflect on how your PhD students are using social media and other new technologies to collaborate and stay up to date using the biggest ever survey of PhD students.
  5. Read a case study on engaging students through blogging.
  6. Download the LSE’s guide to Tweeting for academics.
  7. Compare your university to other universities. Find out which social media networks others are using on the UK Web Focus blog post.

And whilst the @JISC Twitter account provides a valuable channel for JISC to disseminate JISC activities and innovative uses of IT across the higher and further education sector, this is complemented by the work of JISC Programme Managers and other JISC staff who use social media technologies for engaging with the sector in the support of development activities. Remember that the solution which may be described in a glossy PDF report or a polished podcast will be the result of rich interactions, discussions and even disagreements; social media provides an environment for supporting such engagement which, ten years ago, tended to be restricted to mailing lists, meetings and trips to workshops and conferences.

It probably goes without saying that the benefits of social media aren’t restricted to supporting students; LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog, for example, regularly provides examples of how social media can support research activities. A good example is Mellisa Terras’s post which asked The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it? and described how “Melissa Terras took all of her academic research, including papers that have been available online for years, to the web and found that her audience responded with a huge leap in interest in her work“.

Nodes and Connections

In a recent post I described how Social Media? It’s About The Numbers! The post reflected on how the popularity of Twitter for talking about the Olympics indicated a mass take-up of the channel which appears to becoming an ’embedded technology’ – a technology which large numbers of familiar with and comfortable in using for a range of activities. The post went on to explain how for many communication channels achieving a critical mass is important in order to maximise awareness, engagement discussion, feedback and marketing opportunities. JISC clearly appreciate the importance of such numbers, and it is very pleasing to see the significant growth in their followers since the account was established on 10 January 2009.

Yesterday Steve Wheeler in a post on Separation and connection reinforced this view when he described how “We are witnessing a time where a mobile world wide web of connections is proliferating, and in which social mores, human relationships and communication conventions have been irrevocably changed“, supporting this view with the evidence that “Facebook boasts over 845 million subscriptions and this statistics grows each month. What is even more remarkable is that these 845 million user accounts have so far generated over 100 billion connections“. Steve concluded with an optimistic view of the role of social media in education: “I believe we have not even started to scratch the surface of the massive potential of social media and mobile technology to disrupt and transform learning. That’s why it’s so exciting to be an educator in the digital age.

But not everyone, I feel, appreciates the importance of ‘nodes’ and ‘connections’ which are at the heart of successful social web services. As I described in a post entitled It’s About Links; It’s About Connectedness! Cameron Neylon’s opening plenary talk at the Open Repositories OR 2012 conference addressed the importance of such connectivity. As reported in the live blog of Cameron’s talk:

Most of you can remember a time without mobile phones. 20 years ago if I’d shown up and wanted to meet for a drink it would have been difficult or impossible. Email wasn’t useful back then either as so few people had it. When you start with nodes and start joining up the network… for a long time little changes. You just let people communicate in the same way you did before… right up until everyone has access to a mobile phone. or everyone has email. You move from a network that is better connected network to a network that can be traversed in new ways. for chemists THIS IS A Cooperative phase transition. Where the network crystalises out from a solution.

Cameron has kindly shared his slides with me (prior to making a more generic version of the slides publicly available) which has helped me to refresh my memories of his talk and reuse some of the images he provided.

Cameron argued that “Networks qualitatively change our capacity” and depicted this ‘phase transition’ as shown: with only 20% of a community being connected only a limited amount of interaction can take place, but this increases drastically as the numbers of connected nodes grows – and imagine the possibilities as the numbers approach 100%!

Cameron provided some examples of such approaches in scientific research including Galaxy Zoo and the Timothy Gower’s experiment in which Professor Gower asked “is massively collaborative mathematics possible?“. The answer was “yes” with a new combinatorial proof to the density version of the Hales–Jewett theorem being found using “blogs and a wiki to organize an open mathematical collaboration attempting to find a new proof ” after only 7 weeks.

The importance is the network effect, with a growth in the number of nodes (the bloggers, the contributors, the Twitter users) leading to a growth in the number of connections (the posts, the comments, the tweets, the retweets) which help in the development of new insights and new ideas.

Let’s Not Kill The Golden Goose!

A concern which needs to be recognised is that the evidence of the benefits of use of social media will lead to organisations seeking to use the social web in inappropriate ways, leading to a failure to provide the benefits based on the network effect. There are dangers that the benefits of the social web are felt to be its ease-of-use and its virality, but that the tools should be used in a corporate way. Seeking to take the individuality away from use of such tools could lead a reduction in the number of nodes and in the connections which often take place between individuals rather than organisations. Such approaches could kill the golden goose and lead to social networks which people abandon due to the lack of openness and transparency and effectiveness.

One barrier which people sometimes mention are concerns of information overload – and this may have been the reaction when I suggested that people should “imagine the possibilities as the numbers approach 100%!“.

Cameron Neylon addressed this as one of the three key issues in his plenary talk at OR 2012. “Filters block” argued Cameron, “Filters cause friction“. And as there’s not a single right filter for everyone (as we all have different needs, with your rubbish being my valuable resources) we should reject inappropriate supply-side filters and focus, instead, on developing and using client-side filters.

Let’s therefore keep on encouraging new nodes to spring up – new Twitter users (many of whom may have started tweeting during the Olympics) and new bloggers – and avoid developing barriers on the creation of new connections – the tweets, the comments and the posts.

But we need to appreciate that those who may be considering the development of top-down approaches to use of social media are probably doing so because they have legitimate concerns. As described in a paper on Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web there is a need for “a policy framework which seeks to ensure that authors can exploit Cloud Services to engage with their audiences in a professional and authentic manner whilst addressing the concerns of their host institution“. And note that such policies need not be difficult to write.

Posted in Blog, Social Networking, Twitter | 8 Comments » Announces Analytics! But How Should Researchers Interpret the Findings?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 August 2012

Catching up with overnight tweets on a wet morning at the bus stop

At 7.30 am I was waiting in the rain for my bus to work. As normal I was catching up with the tweets I’d received overnight and had downloaded to my iPod Touch before leaving home. One of the tweets which was particularly interesting was from @KeitaBando. I met Keita, Digital Repository Librarian and Coordinator for Scholarly Communication for the My Open Archive service, at the Open Repositories OR 2012 conference recently, following his poster presentation on Current and Future Effects of Social Media-Based Metrics on Open Access and IRs. Keitatweet announced news of relevance to many who attended the OR12 conference: Blog: Announcing @academia Analytics

Since one of the papers I had submitted to the OR 2012 conference asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?” this announcement was of particular interest to me.

The blog post Announcing Analytics described how:

Today we are announcing the release of’s Analytics Dashboard [which] allows academics to view the real-time impact of their research.

The development is based on the changing environment provided by the Web:

Increasingly, the primary consumption experience for scientific content is the web, and yet scientists have not generally been aware of the metrics around this consumption. If you ask a Harvard biology professor with 200 publications how many downloads she experienced in the last 30 days, typically she will not know.’s Analytics Dashboard is changing this. It allows an academic to understand in sophisticated detail how their research is being used by the academic community. It shows them countries that are sending them the most traffic, search engines and other sites that are sending them the most traffic, and overall profile views and document views. 

What does the new service tell me about my papers? It seems that on 11 August 2012 there were 5 views of my items available on and over the last 230 days there had been a total of 9 views of information about my papers and 11 views of my profile on

Since the analytics service “allows academics to view the real-time impact of their research” we can explore the individual visits:

and then no other activities until 22.00 on 11 August when someone from Argentina read information about the paper on Open Metrics for Open Repositories.

Clearly such numbers are underwhelming! This would therefore seem to provide evidence which suggests that the question Jenny Delasalle and myself posed in our paper “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?” would be “No” in the case of

Since the metadata I have uploaded to provides a link to papers hosted on Opus, the University of Bath repository, it will be interested to make comparisons with the numbers of downloads of papers hosted on Opus over a similar period.

Since the Opus service provides statistics on a monthly basis it was not possible to make a direct comparison. However looking for the download statistics for my papers during July 2012 I found that there had been a total of 679 downloads with the top two downloads which, as might be expected, were of my most recent two papers, having been downloaded a total of 184 times.

From these personal experiences we might conclude that is not a significant driver of traffic to my papers and it might therefore be questionable as to whether it is worth creating a profile in the service and adding links to one’s papers. I think it would be a mistake to draw such conclusions, for the following reasons:

  • These experiences may not be replicated by others.
  • I have chosen to replicate my research profile across a number of services, including MendeleyLinkedIn and ResearcherGate as well as I would expect some of these services to be widely used, while others are less-well used.
  • Using a variety of researcher profiling services with links to my papers will enhance the ‘Google juice’ for the papers (and the repository). Use of these services can therefore enhance the discoverability of the papers for people who use Google – and this is likely to be the majority of people!

I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences of Is anybody finding that their pages on the service are being well-used?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Repositories | 1 Comment »

Social Media? It’s About The Numbers!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 August 2012

More than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics over the past 16 days

According to the Twitter blog there were “more than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics over the past 16 days“. The post on went on to inform us that “it was the Spice Girls who stole the night, inspiring more than 116,000 Tweets per minute“. Meanwhile an article on “London 2012, a social media Olympics to remember” posted on the BBC Web site provided a visualisation of how UK-based fans tweeted the Games which is shown below. From this we can see that over there were over 40,000 tweets per hour during the opening ceremony. The web page explained how:

The data was collated by social media sentiment analysts at SoSoLimited in a project commissioned by EDF Energy. They collected tweets from Twitter users who had identified themselves as being from the UK, and monitored posts which mentioned a set of 29 TeamGB-related keywords such as “ennis”, “wiggins” and “London 2012″. The total number of tweets about the Games is far greater than the graph above represents, but SoSoLimited’s data gives a clear picture of Britain’s most exciting Games moments so far.

This doesn’t, however, tell us how many individuals tweeted and how many have started using Twitter during the Olympic Games. It would also be interesting to have a better understanding of the locations used: what proportion were tweeting from the Olympic venues or while watching the games on TV?

It is clear that Twitter has reached the mass market. It should also be clear that the numbers of tweets and of Twitter users are important. This is something to remember when you hear people say “The content is the important thing” or “Content is king“. Clearly the content of the 150 million tweets isn’t the important thing – “Oh no, it’s the Spice Girls :-(” – it is the scale of the communications which is significant.

Of course, we might say that the content is the important thing – and in this case the content is the Olympic Games: the 100 metres sprint, the 5,000 and 1o,000 metres and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and, yes, even the Spice Girls. But if we are talking about communications channels, it tends to be the numbers which are a key feature, rather than the content of the channel.

Many Eyes Make All Bugs Shallow

This sentiment has been articulated by the open source community in Linus’s Law which is summarised as “Many Eyes Make All Bugs Shallow“. As described in a RedHat paper on OPEN SOURCE SECURITY: A LOOK AT THE SECURITY BENEFITS OF SOURCE CODE ACCESS (PDF formata entire section addresses “Strength in Numbers: The Security of “Many Eyeballs” and says:

The security benefits of open source software stem directly from its openness. Known as the “many eyeballs”theory,it explains what we instinctively know to be true – that an operating system or application will be more secure when you can inspect the code, share it with experts and other members of your user community,identify potential problems and create fixes quickly.

In this case the openness arises from open source licences. Similar arguments also apply to research papers and research data which are published under Creative Commons licences, with the argument being that such liberal licence conditions will make it easier for interested parties to read and cite or reuse content of interest.

In the case of social media, the benefits arise from the popularity of the service itself, rather than the openness of the technology delivering the service, as can be seen from the little use which is made of the service which is positioned as an open alternative to Twitter. If you visit my profile you’ll see little activity since I joined in 2008. I suspect this is also true for others who bothered to sign up to the service – but I would like to be proven wrong.

Meanwhile, At Bath Folk Festival

The importance of numbers and metrics for social media extends beyond global events such as the Olympic Games. Last year in a post which argued that We Can’t Ignore Facebook I described use of Facebook and Twitter to promote the Bath Folk Festival. Facebook, it turned out, was much more popular than Twitter and so became the service which was used to promote events and to encourage discussion about the concerts and other events.

The post included a graph showing the growth in use of the Bath Folk Festival Facebook page. Unfortunately at first glance the findings do not appear to be comparable with those obtained last year. I am not yet in a position to answer questions such as:

  • Has Facebook usage grown since last year?
  • There are now 528 Followers of the @bathfolkfest Twitter account. How have the numbers grown since last year? Would it be more effective to use Twitter to promote events for this year’s Bathe Folk Festival and to encourage discussions to take place on Twitter?

I suspect that if I spend sometime looking at the Facebook Insights data for the page and Twitter analytics tools I’d be able to provide a better answer to such questions.

My conclusions from this post:

  • For social networks, numbers do matter
  • There is a need to continually monitor the numbers in order to detect trends which may inform policy decisions.

If you’ve also an interest in the content, I’d recommend the concert featuring Spiers & Boden, Bob & Gill Berry and Jon Hick – which should also feature a surprise rapper sword dancing team.

Posted in Social Networking | 2 Comments »

Searches for ‘Olympics’ are Popular! But What Other Trends are There?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 August 2012


A Four Year Cycle For Searches for ‘Olympics’ and ‘World Cup’

You will be unsurprised to hear that Google searches for ‘Olympics’ have peaked recently:-) As shown using the Google Insights tool to search for ‘Olympics’ we can spot a four-year cycle for such searches together with a slightly smaller peak two years before the Olympics which probably corresponds to the Winter Olympics.

The trends also help to identify a number of recent peaks which include:

A: Olympics: Rowers win Britain’s first gold at Olympics
B: Opening ceremony of the London
C: Olympics: London 2012 torch lit in Olympia
D: London Olympics to open with Duran Duran
E: 100 days to the London Olympics
F: Assad regime not welcome at Olympics
G: Queen to open 2012 Olympics

A similar search for “World Cup” again shows a clear 4-year cycle. But might the Google Insights tool help us to gain a better insight into trends for technological developments and help to provide indications of significant developments?

Helping to Spot Trends

The JISC Observatory provides a scanning function to detect early indications of technological developments which may have a significant impact on the higher education sector. How useful might Google Insights be for detecting or confirming trends? In order to see an answer to this question the Google Insights was used to analyse trends for several of the developments listed in the post giving My Predictions for 2012 together with a number of other developments which have generated interest recently.

The Google Insights search for “tablet computers” trend for shows a clear decline in interest until the beginning of 2010 – which coincided with speculation of the announcement of Apple’s first iPad Tablet. However the sharp decline in searches since the start of 2012 might suggest that Tablet computers have passed their peak which would seem surprising. Looking more closely at the trends we saw a similar decline in the early part of 2010 and 2011 which perhaps suggested that the peaks in December are due to Christmas shoppers. It will be interesting to observe how searches for the term development over the rest of the year. Perhaps the lesson for this example is that trend analyses may well be significantly affected by consumer patterns.

Google Insights trends for searches for ‘tablet computers’

The second prediction I made for 2012 was that we would see a growth in a variety of “open practices” within the sector. However this term has not gained widespread acceptable with Google Insights picking up on use of this term when the British Lions announced public access to their practice sessions. The lesson for this example is that it may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of a general expression which may have a particular meaning in a higher education context. This might also be the case for a search for ‘open access’ which shows no growth in recent years, even when the trend analysis is restricted to the UK.

Google Insights trends for searches for “learning analytics”

Although the term ‘open access‘ may be used in a number of contexts, “learning analytics” probably has a more specific meaning which is directly relevant to the higher education sector. A search for this term suggests that that public interest began in September 2010 with a significant growth taking place in January 2012, which coincided with the announcement that Blackboard Opens Field Trial for Learning Analytics Solution.

Google Insights search for “mobile web”

The trends for ‘mobile web’ is probably unsurprising, with an increase in the number of searches starting to grow in June 2010 and a sharp growth beginning in May 2012.

Google Insights trends for searches for “Big Data”

The trends for searches for “Big data” show that there has been a steady growth since 2010. It was interesting that these two common words do not appear to have been used outside of their technical usage described in Wikipedia asdata sets so large and complex that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools“.


The reflections on use of Google Insights to detect trends has helped to identify things to consider in using the service to gain a better insight into technological developments:

  • Trend analyses for IT used by consumers may be significantly affected by consumer purchasing patterns.
  • It may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of an expression which may have a general meaning in addition to a specific meaning when used in a higher educational context.
  • It may be useful to look for trends in the UK if these may differ from global trends.

Finally if we look at the trends for searches for “Semantic Web” and “Linked Data” which are illustrated below we might conclude that Semantic Web has passed its prime but Linked Data in importance. Whilst some might argue that this is the case, another view is that the names given to IT developments and how they are marketed is important, in addition to the underlying value the developments may themselves have. Might Linked Data be being perceived as important because, in comparison with the Semantic Web, it is being actively marketed and promoted?

Google Insights search for “Semantic Web”

Google Insights search for “Linked Data”

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, jiscobs | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

How I Learnt That “Google Scholar Has New Updates”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 August 2012

“Google Scholar Has New Updates For You”

Yesterday while visiting Google Scholar I noticed an alert which informed me that there were 10 new notifications for me (see image but note that as I have viewed the updates the alert which was displayed in the top right is no longer shown).

I’d not seen this alert before so I followed the link and discovered a set of recommended papers based on my citations. The second recommended paper in this list seemed particularly interesting: a paper on How Well Do Ontario Library Web Sites Meet New Accessibility Requirements?

I viewed the paper (available in PDF and HTML formats) and found that a recent accessibility audit of Library web sites in Ontario and found that, despite legal requirements for web sites to conform with WCAG 2.0 guidelines “an average of 14.75 accessibility problems were found per web page“.

Back in 2002 I published An Accessibility Analysis of UK University Entry Points which found that only 3 University home pages out of 163 conformed with WCAG 1.0 AA guidelines. Two years later a follow-up survey was published which reported that 9 out of 161 home pages conformed with WCAG 10. AA guidelines. Since I was well aware of the importance University Web managers placed on addressing Web accessibility issues, especially since the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) accessibility legislation was enacted in 2002, I regarded this as evidence of the limitations of WCAG guidelines. Around this time our first peer-reviewed paper on Web accessibility, Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility, was published. In 2005 a paper on Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World documented the limitations of WCAG guidelines and the WAI model. A series of accessibility papers followed with the most recent paper, A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First, describing how:

This paper argues that web accessibility is not an intrinsic characteristic of a digital resource but is determined by complex political, social and other contextual factors, as well as technical aspects which are the focus of WAI standardisation activities. It can therefore be inappropriate to develop legislation or focus on metrics only associated with properties of the resource.

It was therefore disheartening to read the paper on Ontario Library Web sites concluding:

Since none of the library web sites examined in this study currently conform to WCAG 2.0, many changes will need to be made before sites can meet the new legal requirements for accessibility. Web accessibility guidelines and standards will need to be incorporated and integrated into the vocabulary, thinking, and processes of web content creators to successfully achieve WCAG 2.0 conformance. Complying with new web accessibility standards will involve a significant change in web development processes.

However the good news is that Google Scholar Updates correctly identified a paper of interest to me.

Learning More About Google Scholar Updates

This morning I spotted a tweet from Glyn Moody which stated:

Moody’s Microblog Daily Digest 120809 – yesterday’s tweets as a single Web page

Since I know that Glyn uses his Twitter account to post links to resources which are likely to be of interest to me (especially related to a variety of open practices) followed the link to Glyn’s most recent tweets. There I spotted a timely tweet:

Wow – Google Scholar “Updates” a big step forward in sifting through the scientific literature – nice

This provided a link to a blog post by Jonathan Eisen, Professor at UC Davis who described his reaction when encountering this new service from Google:

Wow. Completely awesome if it works well. So, well, let’s see if it works well. For me the system recommends the following

Jonathan Eisen went on to share his experiences in identifying the value of the recommendations. After concluding that the first recommendation was of little interest, like me he then looked at another suggestion:

paper number 2 seems a bit closer to my heart: REGEN: Ancestral Genome Reconstruction for Bacteria. And bonus – it is freely available. And so, well, I read over it. And it is definitely related to what I do and I probably would not have seen it without this notification. Cool.


From a post entitled Scholar Updates: Making New Connections posted on the Google Scholar blog it seems that this new service was only released two days ago, on Wednesday 8 August. The post describes how:

We analyze your articles (as identified in your Scholar profile), scan the entire web looking for new articles relevant to your research, and then show you the most relevant articles when you visit Scholar. We determine relevance using a statistical model that incorporates what your work is about, the citation graph between articles, the fact that interests can change over time, and the authors you work with and cite. You don’t need to configure updates or enter any queries. We’ll notify you about new updates by displaying a preview on the homepage and highlighting a bell icon on search results pages.

I therefore seems that researchers can gain value by ensuring that they have a Google Scholar account containing information about their research publications which Google’s sophisticated search algorithms can use to suggest other relevant papers. It’s therefore interesting to note that last week’s Survey of Use of Researcher Profiling Services Across the 24 Russell Group Universities reported that 5,115 users at Russell Group universities have claimed a Google Scholar account, ranging from 77 at the University of Exeter to 580 at UCL.

In addition to the value of Google Scholar Updates it also occurred to me how valuable the links to resources provided by Glyn Moody in his tweets could me, if they were more easily accessed that the daily updates posted on his blog.

Aaron Tay is another person I follow who also provided valuable links to resources using his Twitter account. Back in February 2012 in a post entitled My Trusted Social Librarian I described how I had set up a Twitter list containing just @aarontay. I used this list with the Smartr app to view the content of links which Aaron tweeted. However Smartr is no longer available. In addition such access to Aaron’s links required every individual user to install Smartr or a similar app. Wouldn’t it be useful if there could be a web-based aggregation providing a summary of links which a Twitter user has tweeted? As I described last week, this is what RebelMouse provides. Even better, Aaron also uses RebelMouse. And, as can be seen, 19 hours ago Aaron also tweeted a link to the blog post about the Google Scholar Updates:

RT @figshare: Wow – Google Scholar “Updates” a big step forward in sifting through the scientific literature: by @p …

To conclude, if you use your Twitter account for sharing links, consider using a service such as RebelMouse to make it easier for others to see the content of the links you’ve shared.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in search, Web2.0 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Google Launches Knowledge Graph

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 August 2012


In May 2012 Google announced the launch of Knowledge Graph, a database of more than 500 million real-world people, places and things with 3.5 billion attributes and connections among them. On 8 August it was reported that Google are rolling out the Knowledge Graph globally. The official Google Blog announced that “starting today [Wednesday 8 August], you’ll see Knowledge Graph results across every English-speaking country in the world. If you’re in Australia and search for [chiefs], you’ll get the rugby team—its players, results and history“.

The blog post explains that:

We’ll also use this intelligence to help you find the right result more quickly when your search may have different meanings. For example, if you search for [rio], you might be interested in the Brazilian city, the recent animated movie or the casino in Vegas. Thanks to the Knowledge Graph, we can now give you these different suggestions of real-world entities in the search box as you type:

and goes on to describe how:

the best answer to your question is not always a single entity, but a list or group of connected things. It’s quite challenging to pull these lists automatically from the web. But we’re now beginning to do just that. So when you search for [california lighthouses], [hurricanes in 2008] or [famous female astronomers], we’ll show you a list of these things across the top of the page. And by combining our Knowledge Graph with the collective wisdom of the web, we can even provide more subjective lists like [best action movies of the 2000s] or [things to do in paris]. If you click on an item, you can then explore the result more deeply on the web.

In addition Google have announced a limited trial of a service for searching email and will shortly be rolling out their voice search facility, currently available on Android devices, to iPhones and iPads – clearly responding to Apple’s Siri service.

Although such developments will clearly be of interest to general web users, in an educational context I am particularly interested in the implications of Knowledge Graph for finding research papers, research data, etc. Google’s blog post entitled “Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings” described how the Knowledge Graph “currently contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects. And it’s tuned based on what people search for, and what we find out on the web.” This will include research items, including items held in institutional repositories and may be in a position to exploit the relationships between such items such as citations.

This does seem to be a very interesting development. A video summary which describes how to explore lists and collections with Google search is available on YouTube and is embedded below.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in search | 4 Comments »

Lanyrd Gets Even Better – But Can It Provide The Main Event Web Site?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 August 2012

Updates to Lanyrd

Back in May 2012 I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? On 23 July the Lanyrd blog announced new developments to the Lanyrd social event directory service which means the service is getting even better:

We’re now inviting event organisers to claim their event listings on Lanyrd. Claiming an event is free and claimed events gain access to useful additional features including event descriptions, advanced schedule editing and the ability to embed schedule and speaker information on another website.

Once you have claimed an event you will be able to:

  • Add a description of events. As illustrated, the Lanyrd entry for the IWMW 2012 event has been updated to include brief details of the event together with hypertext links to related resources.
  • Display of grid view of events with multiple sessions, including parallel sessions, as we have done for the timetable for the IWMW 2012 event.
  • Provide access control for editors of the content.
  • Embed ticket sales using Eventbrite.
  • Syndicate content hosted in Lanyrd to other web sites. An example of such syndication can be seen on the page listing the speakers at the IWMW 2012 event.

When I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? I was conscious that one potential barrier to use of the service was the Wikipedia-style approach the service had taken to creating content, which meant that any registered user could update the content. As illustrated below once an event has been claimed you can now restrict edits to approved users.

I have now claimed over 20 events which I set up on Lanyrd and have changed access permissions so that only a number of colleagues at UKOLN can change the content for event which have already taken place although, as shown below, speakers still have the rights to update session information in case there were changes to the sessions which I was unaware of.

Reflections on Lanyrd

Back in May 2012 when I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event? I suggested that creating Lanyrd entries for previous events could be useful for several reasons including:

  • Providing a better understanding of the speakers and facilitators who have contributed to the event over the years.
  • Helping to raise the profile of the speakers and facilitators.
  • Enhancing participants’ memories of the events.
  • Decoupling the content from the host Web site (which provides primarily a HTML view of the content).
  • Avoiding the need for local development.

In light of the recent developments I am now wondering whether Lanyrd could be used to provide the prime entry point for new events. In August 2010 I asked Should Event Web Sites Be The First To Be Outsourced? This post reflected on the decision to host the FAM10 (Federated Access Management) event web site using Google Sites. Nicole Harris, the event organiser, had decided to outsource the IT infrastructure for the event: “we will do all the event management in-house … using Google for booking forms, document management, presentation publication and event information“.

The blog post generated interesting discussions. In response to concerns that use of such third party services meant a loss of control of branding and visual identity for an event web site Martin Hawksey commented that:

Google sites do allow you to create your own custom template so it is easy to add logos change colours. The biggest cost in this area is probably staff time and whilst you might be saving money on hosting, you loose it in time required to set the site up.

Chris Gutteridge highlighted another concern:

Conference websites are part of the academic record and it is very important to maintain at least some of the content. Most conference webmasters don’t even shift the front page to be past-tense once it’s over but part of the design should be how it’s left long term.

Chris is right to raise this concern. Back in 2005 I spoke at the Accessible Design in the Digital World conference. But if I visit the ADDW05 web site I now get a parking domain, as illustrated.

I suspect there will be many conference web sites which are now difficult to find. For example looking at the IW3C2’s list of the international WWW conferences although the web site for the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web still exists, the web site for The Second International WWW Conference is only available via the Internet Archive whilst The Third International WWW Conference no longer appears to exist.

Although there are clearly risks in reliance on third party services for providing web sites it also needs to be recognised that there are also risks in attempting to simply use in-house services.

Many high profile conferences will wish to have their own domain name, so there will be a need to manage ownership of the domain for an extended period – as Chris Gutteridge suggested ten years might be regarded as the minimum period for a registering a conference domain.

But in addition to the management of an event’s domain, there is also the need to consider the risks associated with failing to exploit developments which may not be available if only in-house resources are used.

A compromise approach would be to continue to host content locally but to make use of services, such as Lanyrd to provide value-added functionality which may not be appropriate to provide in-house. This has been the approach taken to support recent IWMW events.

However such considerations do not necessarily mean that an external service can never be used to deliver an event web site. The FAM10 web site continues to be available on Google Site. In this case the issues related to the long-term sustainability of the event web site would be (a) is the service likely to be sustainable; (b) is provider of the service likely to change the terms and conditions; (c) can the content be easily exported; (d) is there a need for the content to be accessible and (e) can the costs in migrating the content be justified?

We can reasonably expect Google to continue and might reasonably expect any changes to the availability and terms and conditions for Google Sites to be notified to users of the service, as they have done for the iGoogle and Google Video services. But what of Lanyrd?

From the Lanyrd entry on Crunchbase we learn that Lanryd was launched on 31 August 2010 and received $1.4M funding. There appear to be only two people listed as being involved with the company: the co-founders Simon Willison and Natalie Downe (both of whom, incidentally, are from the UK and Natalie obtained her degree in Computer Science here at the University of Bath).

Using Lanyrd you can find out about other events speakers have spoken at and their forthcoming events.

Although I am a fan of the service, in light of the apparent lack of additional funding and uncertainty of the service’s business model I do not feel that Lanyrd can currently be used to provide the master source of content for a large-scale event, especially if access to the content for several years after the event is needed.

However I do feel that Lanyrd does have a valuable role to play in providing additional access to the content for an event as well as providing a social dimension to an event though use of the Twitter IDs for speakers and participants at events listed on Lanyrd, as illustrated in the accompanying image.

This social dimension is the Lanyrd’s key feature and this is the reason why I felt useful to create Lanyrd entries for previous IWMW events. But will Lanyrd not only continue to develop additional features which can support the needs of event organisers and participants and, perhaps more importantly, be able to demonstrate that the service will continue to be available for a period of 5 to 10 years?

I’d be interested in others’ views on the role which people feel Lanyrd can play in supporting events.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Eventifier: Aggregating Amplified Event Content

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 August 2012


Aggregating IWMW 2012 Content

After UKOLN’s IWMW 2012 event was over there was a need for various the post-event activities. As described in a recent post the evaluation forms were processed and summaries of the various talks and workshop sessions were sent to plenary speakers and workshop facilitators. In addition to activities which will be required for most events, since IWMW 2012 was an amplified event which sought to exploit a variety of online tools to enhance the discussions and sharing of ideas, there was also a need to provide links to the various services to make it easier for people writing report about the event (such as the Ariadne article about the event which has been published recently) as well as providing an easily-found set of resources for speakers, facilitators, participants and other interested parties.

The Slideshare Presentation Pack widget aggregation of slides from the IWMW 2012 event

The main way of aggregating content is through use of tags. The #iwmw12 tag on Flickr, for example, enables photographs relating to the event taken by the participants to be aggregated. There are currently 851 slides with this tag. These images can also be embedded in other Web pages through use of a Flickr badge.

The #iwmw12 tag was also used on Slideshare to bring together slides used at the event – although in this case it should be noted that since LinkedIn’s purchase of Slideshare, tagging seems to being deprecated and the interface for creating tags and viewing tagged content is not easy to find. Slideshare does, however, enabled tagged slides to be aggregated in a ‘presentation pack‘ which can be embedded elsewhere. A screen shot of the IWMW12 Presentation Pack is illustrated.

Aggregation of event tweets is also importance. For the IWMW 2012 event tweets tagged with the #iwmw12 event hashtag were captured using Martin Hawkesey’s TAGS service. In addition, after the event the Twubs service was used to provide an additional archive of event tweets.

The Lanyrd service was also used to support the event. The IWMW 2012 Lanyrd entry contains details of the various talks and workshop sessions, including the times and abstract. In addition where possible we have embedded the speakers’ slides (if these have been hosted in Slideshare) and video recordings of the plenary talks. Lanyrd also provides a wiki-style approach which enables other users to add coverage of the event and the specific sessions at the event. We are pleased that a number of participants have added on links to additional content, such as blog posts about the event.

These various aggregations are linked to from a Key Resources page on the IWMW 2012 web site.

Eventifier: Aggregating Amplified Event Content

It would be nice if aggregation of content provided on a diverse range of services could be carried out in an automated fashion. Last week I was alerted to a service which appears to provide this functionality: Eventifier.

Eventifier has the strapline: “Smarter way to archive all your event photos, videos, slides, tweets, conversations and much more from the entire Web.

Using Eventifier is simple: you just have to supply an event name and its hashtag and provide an email address. I did this for the IWMW 2012. As can be seen the IWMW 2012 Eventifier archive has archived 11 photos, 14 videos, 34 tweets and 26 slides from 5 contributors.

This is, of course, only a small proportion of the content. After the content had been harvested I received an email notification with the URL of the archive which informed me that:

We have archived the event IWMW here, have a look at

As the event took place a month ago in the mid of July we couldn’t gather much data as twitter dumps the tweets for a hashtag after certain amount of time, nevertheless we have created the event page for both of the events.

This was no unexpected. But what might an Eventifier archive look like for a large event if the tag has been registered in a more timely fashion? Looking at the archive for the 140Edu conference, which has the byline:

The changes in the way we live our lives must create change in the way we teach and learn. The real-time web should create profound changes in the way we think about what, how and why students and teachers can do, create and communicate. The very nature of what we consider “school” should be radically different given the powerful reach of the communicate tools our students have at their disposal. #140edu is dedicated to exploring and expanding that change.

we find the service has archived 225 photos, 16 videos and 5,333 tweets from 1,266 contributors.


The experiences of the 140Edu archive suggest that Eventifier does appear to provide a simple and easy-to-use solution to aggregation of a range of content associated with an amplified event. However it should be pointed out that there can be no guarantee that the service will be sustainable, and it is not clear who provides the service, where it is hosted or whether they have a sustainable business model. Having said that since it can take less than a minute to set up an Eventifier archive, I would argue that there is no harm in doing so and, if the service does prove successful, event organisers can benefit from this type of service.

Of course, some people may argue that third party services have no role to play in the amplification of events, and the functionality needed should be provided by a managed event systems hosted within the institution. My view is that this scenario is not realistic and, in the near future, we will see useful services being developed by small companies. If event organisers wish to exploit such services in the short term they need to accept the risks that the services may not be sustainable together with the need, possibly, to spend some time in aggregating content from across the services. If this is a scenario which you agree with you may find Eventifier provides a useful role in the support of your amplified event.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by the 24 Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 August 2012


In June 2011 a survey was published on Social Analytics for Russell Group University Twitter Accounts. The survey built on a previous survey of Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities published in January 2011. That survey provided a snapshot of institutional use of Twitter across the twenty Russell Group Universities based on the statistics provided on Twitter account profile pages (numbers of followers, numbers of tweets, etc.). The survey was warmly received by those involved in managing institutional Twitter accounts or with an interest in activities in this area, with Mario Creatura expressing the view that the survey provided an “excellent gathering of data in an area that quite honestly is chock full of confusing stats“.

In the week which sees the expansion of the Russell Group Universities from 20 to 24 institutions a series of surveys of use of a variety of social networking services by the Russell Group universities is being carried out in order to provide a benchmark of use of the services across the enlarged group, as well as providing an opportunity for reflection and discussion of the relevance of social media analytics to inform decisions on use of such services.

Use of Social Analytic Services

In May 2011 in a post entitled Analysing influence .. the personal reputational hamsterwheel Lorcan Dempsey highlighted three social media analytic services. The post described how it had been suggested that the “Klout score will become a new way of measuring people and their influence online“. In addition to Klout, (which according to Crunchbase ”allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph“) Lorcan’s post also referenced PeerIndex (which according to Crunchbaseidentifies and ranks experts in business and finance based on their digital footprints“) and Twitalyser (described in a Mashable article“provid[ing] detailed metrics on things like impact, engagement, clout and velocity for individual Twitter accounts“) .

Lorcan’s blog post addressed the relevance of such service for helping to understand personal reputation on Twitter. However these services can also be used to analyse institutional Twitter accounts. I have therefore used the Klout, Peerindex and Twitalyzer social media analytic tools to analyse the 24 Russell Group University Twitter accounts. The table below summarises the findings of the survey which was carried out on Wednesday 1 August 2012. It should also be noted that the table contains live links to the services which will enable the current findings to be displayed (and also for any errors to be easily detected and reported).

Institution /
Twitter Account
No. of
No. of
Klout Peerindex Twitteralyzer
Score Network
Description Score Impact Percentile Type Full
1 University of Birmingham:
3,814 17,373 57 39 11 6K Specialist 97 17.2% 97 Everyday
2 University of Bristol:
2,504 13,195 53 36 17 3K Specialist 90  5.0% 90 Everyday
3 University of Cambridge:
 2,460 37,195 52 34  9 3K Specialist ? 13.1% 96 Everyday
4 Cardiff University:
 1,832 15,919 49 30  7 2K Specialist 58  9.4% 94 Everyday
5 University of Edinburgh:
 2,135 15,077 51 32 10 3K Specialist 54  6.7% 92 Everyday
6 Durham University:
 678   4,205 44 23  6 959 Networker 11 1.8% 72 Everyday
7 University of Exeter:
3,472 11,224 51 33  8 3K Specialist 43 6.6% 92 Everyday
8 University of Glasgow:
1,754 17,990 49 28  6 3K Specialist 43 6.1% 92 Everyday
9 Imperial College:
1,572 14,216 49 30  9 2K Specialist 47 6.1% 92 Everyday
10 King’s College London:
  954   9,299 47 27  8 2K Specialist 34 6.9% 93 Everyday
11 University of Leeds:
2,151 14,284 50 31  7  2K Specialist  42 4.2% 88 Everyday
12 University of Liverpool:
4,105 10,593 48 28  8 2K Specialist 50 4.2% 88 Everyday
13 LSE:
  389   6,177 41 19  6 622 Networker 27 1.5% 69 Everyday
14 University of Manchester:
   33    537 27 10  5 101 Conversation-
27 0.1%   8 Everyday
15 Newcastle University:
  576  2,625 41  19  7 474  Networker  11 2.4% 78  Everyday
16 University of Nottingham:
5,214 12,269 51 57 30 2K Specialist 56 10.3% 95 Everyday
17 University of Oxford:
 1,001 43,975 58 65 37 8K Specialist 49 12.0% 96 Everyday
18 Queen Mary:
 1,668 8,113 49 31 11 2K Thought
23 3.2% 83 Everyday
19 Queen’s University Belfast:
1,222  5,916 41 48 23 779 Specialist 15 2.4% 78 Everyday
20 University of Sheffield:
2,276 17,289 52 34  8 3K Specialist 50 12.9% 96 Everyday
21 University of Southampton:
1,898  8,746 50 32 9 2K Specialist 52  7.3% 93 Everyday
22 University College London:
3,384 10,113 59 30 10 2K Specialist 56 6.4% 92 Everyday
23 University of Warwick:
2,939 15,883 51 32  9 3K Specialist 57 7.1% 93 Everyday
24 University of York:
  946 10,248 49 30  8 2K Specialist 61  4% 87 Everyday
TOTAL 48,977 322,461    

It should be noted that the data provided by PeerIndex has changed since the analysis carried out last year. The values for Activity, Audience and Authority which had been provided previously no longer appear to be available. This information is therefore not available for this survey.

[NOTE: A summary of the meaning of the various rankings was given in the initial survey. Added 3 Aug 2012]

Figure 2: PeerIndex scores for Russell Group universities

Figure 1: Klout scores for new Russell Group universities

The two Klout groups set up last year (Russell Group Universities (1 of 3) and Russell Group Universities (2 of 3) have been renamed and complemented by the Russell Group Universities (3 of 3) group. These groups should enable comparisons to be made across the institutions based on the particular social media analytic service elected. Figure 1 shows the Klout scores for the four new Russell Group universities. Also note that a Russell Group Universities Peerindex group which was set up last year has been updated with details of the institutional Twitter accounts for the four new Russell Group Universities. Figure 2 shows the PeerIndex scores for a selection of the Russell Group universities.


Despite the marketing rhetoric around Twitter analytic tools – with Klout, for example, stating thatKlout is the standard for influence” – as a means of measuring ‘value’ such automated analyses have well-known flaws. As an example, if you prune spam followers from your Twitter account, you apparent influence on Twitter will go down.

In the case of institutional Twitter accounts the numbers of followers, especially for Twitter accounts used to support internal communications, is likely to reflect the size of the institution rather than the influence of the Twitter account.

Despite such caveats Twitter analytic tools can be used if used in conjunction with local knowledge of the aims of the service and the particular approaches taken to using the tool. In addition Twitter analytics may be useful for making comparisons with peer institutions.

It should also be added that since the higher education sector is accustomed to University league tables, with Wikipedia listing the Complete University Guide, the Guardian’s University Guide 2013, and the Sunday Times university league table (accessible by paywall) and the Times Higher Education also providing the World University Rankings, as suggested in a post on Bath is the University of the Year! But What if Online Metrics Were Included? we might expect such university ranking tables in future to include an element related to rankings of a university’s online presence.

The Sunday Times have documented their criteria for their University league tables. Although the details are held behind the Sunday Times Paywall a summary was documented in last year’s blog post and the section categories are given below:

Teaching excellence (250 points); Student satisfaction (+50 to =55 points)Peer assessment (100 points); Research quality (200 points); A-level/Higher points (250 points); Unemployment (200 points); Firsts/2:1s awarded (100) and Dropout rate (+57 to -74 points).

The Klout, PeerIndex and Twitteralyzer services have been developed for analysing personal influence, and the approaches they use may be of interest to those involved in alt.metrics work. As described in a paper on Altmetrics in the Wild: Using Social Media to Explore Scholarly Impact

The online, public nature of [social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Mendeley] exposes and reifies scholarly processes once hidden and ephemeral. Metrics based on this activities could inform broader, faster measures of impact, complementing traditional citation metrics.

However if the current set of popular Twitter analytics tools are not appropriate for developing a better understanding of use of Twitter for research purposes or in an institutional context, might there be a role for in-house development work?  It was therefore very interesting to read Craig Russell’s post on UK Uni Twitter Data API in which he described how “At the start of the month I began collecting data about UK university twitter accounts” and went on to add that “I’ve made this data available through a simple API“.

Rather than pointing out the limitations of social analytics tools such as Klout, might not the sector benefit from developing its own set of tools to help gain a better understanding of how Twitter is being used? And should we not encourage such work to take place in the open, with the data being made available under an open licence and, as Craig has done, open APIs being provided to encourage reuse by others?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 5 Comments »

Over One Million ‘Likes’ of Facebook Pages for the 24 Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 August 2012


On 1 August the 20 Russell Group universities was enlarged from 20 to 24, following the incorporation of Durham and Exeter University, Queen Mary, University of London and the University of York. As described on the Russell Group University Web site “[the] universities are to be found in all four nations and in every major city of the UK. They operate globally, attracting international students and academic staff from many different countries, but also have a strong role and influence within their regional and local community.” But how effective are they in using popular social media services to attract potential students, engage with existing students and staff and with the wider community? In order to provide a benchmark of use of the most popular social networking service a survey of the number of likes for the official institutional Facebook presence has been carried out.

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities

In order to gather evidence of use of Facebook in the higher education sector a survey of Facebook usage, determined by links for institutional pages, have been carried out for the Russell Group universities. This survey follows on from previous surveys carried out in January and September 2011 and May 2012 for the 20 Russell group universities which enabled trends to be detected which can inform discussions and policy decisions on institutional use of Facebook. Note that the data provided in the following table is also available as a Google Spreadsheet.

 Ref. No. Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(May 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Aug 2012)
% increase
since Sep 2011
 1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558  14,182  18,611   20,756    46%
 2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186   7,913  11,480  12,357    56%
 3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
58,392 105,645 153,000 168,000    59%
 4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035  25,945   30,648  31,989     23%
 5 InstitutionDurham University
Fb nameDurham-University/109600695725424
 –   –  10,843    –
 6 InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Fb nameintouniversityofexeter  exeteruni
 –   –    1,765
 7 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb nameUniversityOfEdinburgh
(Page URL changed since first survey)
 12,053   24,507   27,574  112%
 8 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
  1,860   27,149  29,840 1,504%
 9 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490  10,257  16,444  19,020    85%
10 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047   3,587   5,384   7,534   110%
11 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb nameuniversityofleeds
   899   2,143    3,091    243%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb name: livuni
(Page URL change since last survey)
2,811  3,742   4,410   4,655 5,239     40%
13 InstitutionLSE
Fb name: lseps
Page URL changed for this survey)
22,798  32,290 43,716   50,287    56%
14 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967
1,978   4,734   9,356   13,751   190%
15 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb namenewcastleuniversity
    115      693    1,084   840%
16 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameTheUniofNottingham
3,588    9,991  14,692   17,133     71%
17 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
137,395 293,010 541,000 628,000  114%
18 InstitutionQueen Mary, University of London
Fb nameQueen-Mary-University-of-London/107998909223423
 –   –  13,362    –
19 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb nameQueensUniversityBelfast
(Page URL changed for this survey)
5,211   10,063   16,989  226%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  19,308   22,746   83%
21 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  18,062   19,790  209%
22 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346  33,853  37,493  760%
23 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 14,472   15,103    25%
24 InstitutionUniversity of York
Fb nameuniversityofyork
 –   –    11,212    –
TOTAL 287,767 566,691 998,991 1,184,958



Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group Universities in August 2012

There are now over a million ‘likes’ for the institutional presence on Facebook of the 24 Russell Group universities.

A post on this blog previously described a significant increase over  a period of eight months in the number of ‘likes’ for the twenty UK Russell Group Universities, which totalled about 999K in May. The current increase over a period of about ten weeks is primarily due to the additional numbers provided by the four new Russell group universities, which come to a total of over 37K likes.

It should be noted that, as illustrated 67% of the likes are provided by just two institutions: the Facebook pages for the University of Oxford (with 628K likes) and the University of Cambridge (168K likes).

Note that a Google Spreadsheet of these figures, together with the accompanying charts, is available.


In some circles providing evidence of Facebook usage is an activity which  people feel should be avoided, since Facebook is a ‘walled garden’ and has a blatant disregard for individual’s privacy.

In the higher education sector I would argue that we have a need for policy decisions to be informed by evidence. There is therefore a need to gather evidence of use of such services in order to inform decisions on their use and also to learn from their strengths and weaknesses and their popularity, so that such lessons can be used in order to make more effective use of existing services and also to be prepared to use new social media service which could replace or complement today’s popular services. Anyone who would like to see Facebook replaced by Diaspora, say (described in Wikipedia as “a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network that is based upon the free Diaspora software … is not owned by any one person or entity, keeping it safe from corporate take-overs, advertising, and other threats“)  would surely benefit from gaining an understanding of Facebook’s popularity.

From looking at the names of institutional Facebook accounts and the corresponding URLs and the popularity of the accounts it would appear beneficial to have an easily remembered name, to avoid fragmentation of official accounts and  to avoid the need to rename an accounts address.

This might suggest that it would be useful for institutions to claim a meaningful name on social networks which may gain in popularity in the future. As suggested in a post on Institutional Use of Social Media in China this has been an approach which has been adopted by 19 of the first 20 institutions with an official presence on China’s Sina Wēibó social media service.

But at a time in which it is increasingly important to be able to justify the return on investment in using new services, it will be important to document the intended purposes of such new services and the benefits which may be gained. Back in May 2007 in a post entitled Something IS Going On With Facebook! I commented on early signals of growth in interest in Facebook following the launch of the Facebook Platform. A few months later, in November 2007 a post entitled UK Universities On Facebook reported that “a Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed ) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: AstonCardiffKent and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)” – and it is interesting to note that the links to the Facebook pages for these early adopters still work even though the URLs have changed.

The post generated a large number of comments with Patrick Lauke asking:

so, for those unis who have a “page” (with new revised Ts&Cs) on facebook…what are your strategic objectives? key performance indicators? external target audience, or a mix of internal and external?

Looking back it would be interesting to see if an institutional Facebook presence has supported strategic objectives. Would the 24 Russell Group Universities  have regarded having a total of over a million as providing a proxy measure of some objective? On the other hand, might this be regarded as a failure?  We have five years of experience of institutional use of Facebook, which includes a number of snapshots of quantitative evidence. It will be interesting to see how this evidence of the recent past can shape and inform discussions and decisions on use of social media over the next five years.

I should add that following the survey in May  2012 Tom Wright, Digital Engagement Manager at the University of Nottingham, commented:

Interesting to see these stats, but to gauge how successful universities are with Facebook you really need to look at other metrics around engagement, reach, influence, etc. You can have plenty of likes but very little engagement and measuring likes is very much like judging a web page’s success based on simple page view numbers – a very raw measure that doesn’t tell you an awful lot. 

I would agree with these comments, although I should add that since such information is restricted to Facebook page administrators it is not possible to get a picture across a community.  However a follow-up post which provided a Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook was also published in May which contained information about a survey in which Tom and I invited those involved in using Facebook to support institutional activities to provide details of their work. In order to gain a broad picture of Facebook use across the sector this survey is still open.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 4 Comments »

A Survey of Use of Researcher Profiling Services Across the 24 Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 August 2012

Looking Back

Back in March 2012 in a post on Profiling Staff and Researcher Use of Cloud Services Across Russell Group Universities I summarised usage of Academia.eduLinkedInResearcherID and Google Scholar Citations across the 2o Russell Group universities. The post highlighted complementary surveys which had been carried out by Jenny Delasalle, who in Twitter profile describes herself as aResearch support Librarian: interested in bibliometrics, copyright, scholarly communications, and all sorts!” based at the University of Warwick. That connection subsequently led to Jenny and I writing a paper which asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?” which was presented at the Open Repositories 2012 conference, OR 2012.

As described in a one-minute video summary and a 4 minute slidecast, in our paper Jenny and I described personal evidence which suggested that use of LinkedIn and can help to raise the profile of peer-reviewed papers hosted in institutional repositories if links to the papers are provided in these popular services as this may enhance the Google ranking for the institutional repository.

As described on the Russell Group University Web site: “Through their outstanding research and teaching, unrivalled links with businesses and a commitment to civic responsibility, Russell Group universities make an enormous impact on the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the UK“. But to what extent are the Russell Group universities making use of researcher profiling services to enhance access to their research outputs, especially, those hosted in institutional open access repositories?

Updated Survey of Russell Group University Use of Researcher Profiling Services

The methodologies which were used in the previous blog posts and repeated for the findings published in our paper has been used again, this time to provide a benchmark for use of these services across the enlarged collection of Russell Group universities, which was enlarged to 24 institutions on 1 August 2012 following the incorporation of Durham and Exeter University, Queen Mary, University of London and the University of York.

In addition to benchmarking four additional institutions, following Jenny Delasalle’s blog post about ResearchGate the ResearchGate service was also included in the survey.

The findings are given in the following table. Note that the data for the, Google Scholar CitationsResearcherID and ResearchGate services was collected on 25 July 2012.

Ref. No. Institution  Academia LinkedIn LinkedIn ResearcherID Google Scholar
(Followers) (Current) Members Impact Points Publications
1 University of Birmingham     1,210      5,000     5,667            89   131   782  54,959.25 19,515
2 University of Bristol     1,018      4,320     3,477          254   170   641  64,661.22 21,249
3 University of Cambridge     3,020      8,741     7,220          460   330   972 157,728.66 39,713
4 Cardiff University        906      4,287     3,609          468   140
  646  26,620.70   9,596
5 Durham University     1,001      2,620     1,904          148   131   273  13,151.25   1,151
6 University of Exeter        919      3,742     2,735          113    77   269  13,099.47   5,150
7 University of Edinburgh     2,079      7,090     6,123          263   236 1,181  87,934.30 25,918
8 University of Glasgow 1,004      3,802     4,099          293   219    613  59,662.76 20,041
9 Imperial College        798      8,981     6,914          465   362 1,096 105,989.84 30,404
10 King’s College London     1,420      5,994         27          380   174 1,406  60,114.47 18,264
11 University of Leeds     1,657      6,273     6,599          225   164    848  45,132.67 16,944
12 University of Liverpool        866      3,926     4,814          166     91    582  44,800.42 16,475
13 London School of Economics     1,131      8,464     2,075            20     95    191   2,825.73   1,838
14 University of Manchester     2,279      7,601     8,244          305    357 1,113  71,887.98 25,139
15 Newcastle University       906      4,275     3,347          173    143    704  51,783.84 17,307
16 University of Nottingham     1,299      6,269     6,703          355    160    970  56,478.57 20,513
17 University of Oxford     3,842      9,447     9,823          402    405 1,221 159,620.47 38,224
18 Queen Mary       715      3,519
    2,267            20     139    228  15,556.27   5,232
19 Queen’s University Belfast       689      2,317        185
           83       62    479  23,917.28 10,750
20 University of Sheffield     1,082      5,008     5,941           276    174
   823  47,573.65 18,127
21 University of Southampton     1,083      4,935     5,162           287    182    670  37,618.63 16,887
22 University College London     2,776    10,866     7,164           709    580 1,624 138,134.10 35,035
23 University of Warwick     1,143      4,350     3,142           216    119    448  18,142.13   8,098
24 University of York        986      2,824
    2,394           125    474    386  15,808.07   4,841
TOTAL 33,829 134,669 109,634       6,147  5,115  18,166   426,414


It was noted that the figures given in this table for the Google Scholar Citation are an underestimate. This appears to be due to the design of the REST interface to the entries.  The table has been updated with the correct figures.


  • The numbers may be skewed by errors or variants in names of institutions. For example there are 140 people in who are associated with the rather than the domain.
  • The numbers for and ResearcherID were obtained by a search for the institution’s name. However a link to the findings is not available.
  • Searches for ResearcherID were for institution name except for the University of Birmingham which included UK to avoid name clashes.
  • The findings for institutions such as Queen’s University Belfast and King’s College London with apostrophes in the institution’s name may be skewed due to different policies on resolving such names.


It should be noted that the five services covered in this survey are different and it would be inappropriate to make comparisons across the services – in particular although, ResearcherID, Google Scholar Citations and ResearchGate are intended for the research community, LinkedIn  has a wider remit and, understandably, has a larger audience.

In addition, as described in the Notes, there may be flaws or inconsistencies in the way in which the data was gathered and displayed. In particular it seems that the lack of an agreed institutional ID means that users may associate themselves with different variants of their institution, with this seemingly being the case for institutions contains apostrophes, in particular.

The previous survey and subsequent paper suggested that use of popular social media services by researchers could enhance access to the researchers’ research outputs if links to their outputs were provided from the services.  I am still convinced that this is the case but appreciate that further evidence may be needed in order to convince decision-makers that a coordinated approach to providing links to the content of open access repositories would help to maximise access to the resources.  For now, however, this post is intended to provide a benchmark of use of the services on the launch day for the enlarged group of Russell Group Universities.  In addition I would welcome feedback on the survey methodology, especially from the Russell Group Universities who may find that their information is fragmented across several variants of the institution’s name.

I would also, of course, welcome comments in the implications of the findings and their relevance in the context of the 24 institutions referenced in the survey. Researchgate, for example, appears to have information on over 426K papers ranging from 1.8K at LSE to 39K at the University of Cambridge.  What proportion of research papers hosted in institutional repositories does this cover?  And if the numbers appear low for some institutions does this mean that the institutions should seek to take appropriate actions to increase the numbers, or ignore such findings as it may simply demonstrate the  lack of relevance of the services?

Paradata:   As described in  a post on Paradata for Online Surveys blog posts which contain live links to data will include a summary of the survey environment in order to help ensure that survey findings are reproducible, with information on potentially misleading information being highlighted.

The data for the AcademiaLinkedIn,  Google Scholar Citations,  ResearchGate and ResearcherID was collected on 25 July 2012.

The values for Google Scholar Citation for the universities of Birmingham and Newcastle include ‘UK’ in the search field in order to avoid including information from US and Australian universities with the same name.

It should also be noted that I was logged into the services when I gathered the information.

It should also be noted that the low values for LinkedIn followers for King’s College London and Queen’s University Belfast are felt to be due to the apostrophe used in the institution’s names. For example of search (carried out on 31 July 2012) on LinkedIn for King’s College London gives 3,758 hits but a search for Kings College London gives 328 hits.

Posted in Evidence, Web2.0 | 4 Comments »