UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for September, 2013

Listening to Freshers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 September 2013

Just over a year ago I sent a message to the website-info-mgt JISCMail list in which I commented how I had noticed that “several unis promoted a Freshers Week Twitter tag.  I came across #HelloKent, #UoNFreshers, #HelloBrum, #sussexfreshers, #bcufeshers and (possibly) #imoxfordbrookes“. In light of my observations I subsequently used the Twubs Twitter archiving service to set up archives of tweets for the hashtags #HelloKent, #UoNFreshers, #HelloBrum, #sussexfreshers and #bcufreshers.

Fast forward a year and yesterday I came across a tweet from @Jayconsulting which informed me that:

Freshers advice offered via Twitter | News | Times Higher Education …

The article in the Times Higher, entitled Freshers advice offered via Twitter describes how “The National Union of Students is hosting its first-ever Twitter question and answer sessions, offering first years advice on a range of topics” and went on to explain how “The Freshers Survival support sessions will run until Friday, tackling a different issue each day, with experts dishing out advice to thousands of new undergraduates”.

The changes in the higher education sector from when I was a student in the 1970s are not just about the technology, however. I suspect in those days if the technology had been available there would have been a more political aspects to the discussions, whereas in the twenty-first century we find that “Founder of the financial advice forum, Martin Lewis, will be on hand to offer tips on budgeting (Thursday), while relationship expert Tracey Cox will advise on social life, sex and relationships (Friday)“!

Twubs archive for '#fresherssurvival' tweetsBut how will this week’s tweet chats develop? Will students actively participate in the discussions about budgeting, sex and relationships? Will commercial companies sport the marketing opportunities which use of this hashtag may provide? Or perhaps evangelical Christians Will use modern technology to provide an opportunity to provide a Christian message about sex and relationships.

A year ago in my message on the website-info-mtg list I went on to say that “I’d be interested in hearing how effective it may have been.  Also whether there were any crossovers with other uses of the tags e.g. did #HelloKent attract tourists visiting the garden of England; did #HelloBrum attract traffic from freshers at the other Birmingham universities; etc?

I’ve noticed that last year’s hashtags still seem to be in use, as can be seen from the archive of the #hellokent hashtag, illustrated below.

Twubs archive for the '#hellokent' hashtagIn order to be able to observe use of the #FreshersSurvival hashtag I have recently set up a Twubs archive for the tag. A snapshot of the archive is also illustrated.

Some questions which analysis of such archives over time may help to answer:

  • Is use of Twitter growing, and will such trends help to inform institutional policy decisions on further use of Twitter?
  • Are there any general issues which sentiment analysis of the tweets might detect which may lead to appropriate actions?
  • What success criteria might be established for such use of Twitter?
  • Will it be possible to justify the investment in providing the infrastructure surrounding such use of Twitter (e.g. the experts who respond to discussions and questions) ?
  • Are students aware hat there tweets may be analysed?
  • Should institutions be willing to analyse such Twitter archives?

Any thoughts on these questions or other issues which such informal use of Twitter by students may raise?

Posted in Twitter | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Update for September 2013

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 September 2013

Back in August in a post entitled Wanted For The ODI! I provided a response to a challenge to “use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research [ at the Open Data Institute], Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading“. Tom read this post and the follow-up posts on What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers?Supporting Open Data and Open Content and Wanted By The ODI: Conclusions and I was invited to submit a CV. I was then interview for the post of Community Engagement Manager at the Open Data Institute.  I enjoyed the interview (one of only two job interviews I had had in the past 17 years). However a week after the interview I received an email which informed me that “You have an impressive track record of grassroots initiatives and community building and are well grounded in the web scene with a healthy critical eye” but went on to say “However,  we are specifically looking for more emphasis on open data particularly outside of the HE sector so we ultimately have shortlisted candidates who have a greater breath and depth of experience in the areas we are looking for for this role“.

The comments were fair and so I’m continuing to look for new opportunities.

I’ve already described my participation in the LinkedUp project’s booksprint. In addition I have taken the opportunity to participate in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.  This is giving me the opportunity to gain experience of a MOOC as well as the subject area of the MOOC (how the social web can be used to transform libraries)  being of interest to me.

ILI 2013 workshop summaryThe future for libraries is very relevant to a workshop myself and Tony Hirst are facilitating at ILI 2013, the Internet Librarian International conference which will be held in London on 15-16 October.  The workshop on “Future Technologies and Their Applications” will take place on 14 October.  As suggested by the title, the workshop will address the impact of new technologies on the role of libraries and will explore ways of predicting new technologies and preparing for their impact. Clearly the social web is one technological area of relevance to libraries, and the MOOC is providing an opportunity to explore this area in more detail.

I’ve been using the blog provided for the MOOC participants to explore some of the darker aspects of the ‘hyperlinked library’ which Michael Stephens, one of the MOOC facilitators has described as:

an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations.

But does the vision for the hyperlinked library describe A Privatised Future?; will it focus on services for the self-motivated middle classes?; are we too over-confident in the assumptions hyperlinked library evangelists are making “because we’re right!“; are we helping to build a dystopian future? or will we find that in the future everyone’s A librarian! – so there’s no need for general purpose librarians?

Devils advocate badgeI’ve received a Devil’s Advocate badge for these posts (together, with, I suspect, my post on The Pros and Cons of MOOC Badges) for having “demonstrated a willingness and ability to challenge ideas and inspire fruitful out-of-the-box thinking“.

These posts addressed concerns which I have. or which, although they may not be of concern to me, do reflect legitimate concerns which others have.

I’d welcome feedback on these scenarios and the issues which I’ve described. And if you know of any work opportunities which can make the most of my strengths and expertise, please get in touch.

Posted in jiscobs, library2.0 | 2 Comments »

Providing Online Access Through Advertising

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 September 2013

Last week I attended the openMIC no. 17 event on My Mobile Start-up. The day-long event was held at the Innovation Centre in Bath. It was described as being “all about how to turn those mobile apps, communities and platforms into mobile businesses“. The morning consisted of a series of presentations from providers of the following mobile applications: Hailocab, Yakatak, Samba Mobile, PixelPin and Bardowl .

The presentations were all very interesting, in particular the one form the taxi driver who described the development of Hailocab based on the ideas of three London-based taxi-drivers  which has led to the development of an app for hailing taxis which can be used in 15 cities across Europe, North America and Asia. I was motivated to download the app on  my Android phone in case I need to call a taxi when I’m in London.

The other presentation which was of particular interest to me described Samba Mobile which “allows their users to access mobile data networks through Dongles and Tablet SIM cards for free by viewing targeted video adverts from top brands“. During the presentation Ben Atherton, founder of the company, described the value of advertising but how its main drawback is the failure of conventional advertising to provide adverts which are of direct relevance to the viewer. Ben feels that Samba Mobile service, which enables users to select their areas of interest, will be well-positioned to benefit from such interests in targetted advertising. The company provides free 3G network access for users who watch adverts from subject areas they have chosen.

Samba mobileI decided to invest £5 on a Samba Mobile SIM which I’ve installed in a tablet which I have previously only used online when I’ve had WiFi access. On 8 and 11 September I viewed a few of the video adverts and, as shown, I’ve now earned over 41 Mb of network access.

Coincidentally yesterday I came across a deal advertised on Hot UK Deals for a OVIVO Mobile free monthly allowance increased again up to 150mins/200txts/500MB data for one off payment of £15.00 . The Hot UK Deals Web site describes how:

OVIVO Mobile are a great little firm offering free SIM only contracts in return for a couple of seconds of adverts when you connect to the internet over GPRS. They run over the Vodafone network and they have just increased their monthly free package to 150mins, 200 texts and now 500MB data so it is certainly a viable package for a low to medium user. All you have to do is buy the SIM card for £15 and the rest is free! 

Free data for watching a fee adverts? What’s not to like about this? The Hot UK Deals Web site allows users to vote on offers which are felt to be good value. A negative temperature indicates that the community feel that the deal is poor value, whereas deals which have a rating over 100o are felt to be ‘hot’. This deal has a temperature of 2373o and so is ‘scorching’.

But although this community may value the deal, the people I tend to deal with do not like network services which are supported by advertising. “If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product” is the mantra and those who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is will install ad-blocking tools, pay for services such as (described as a “Developer-friendly Twitter alternative [which] hit 100,000 registered users, 9 months after launch“), use open source alternatives such as or Diaspora. Except that people didn’t use these services to any significant extent and they now seem to have faded away.

Are we seeing further signals of the decline of free services which do not have a sustainable business model and a growth in overt forms of advertising to fund services? After all, ITV was launched in 1955 and has a well-established track record which demonstrates that advertising had fund large organisations. Perhaps Samba Mobile is correct in suggesting that personalised ads may become important. What’s that? I’ve just received an alert telling me that Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is this week’s guest beer at my local. That’s my favourite beer – I’m off!

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Reflections on the LinkedUp Project’s Booksprint

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 September 2013

The Open Education Booksprint

Image from LinkedUp project blog

Image from LinkedUp project blog

On Tuesday I attended an Open Education Booksprint organized by the LinkedUp project and facilitated by my former UKOLN colleague Marieke Guy, who is now working for the Open Knowledge Foundation supporting the LinkedUp project.

As described on the LinkedUp project blog:

The LinkedUp Project will be creating an Open Education Handbook as one of its deliverables. The first step in this process is a one-day booksprint to be held at C4CC, London on Tuesday 3rd September. During the booksprint participants will be involved in group discussions, constructing the table of contents, agreeing on chapter themes, negotiating with others on concepts and hopefully coming up with some agreement on basic definitions!

The EU-funded LinkedUp project is funded by the EU’s FP7 Support Action which promotes the exploitation and adoption of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational organisations and institutions”.  It brief the project “aims to push forward the exploitation of the vast amounts of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational institutions and organizations“.

I’ve an interest in open practices in general. Therefore the open practice of collaboration in the rapid production of a document (a ‘booksprint’) on open education was of interest and motivated me to attend the event in London yesterday.

At the start of the day Marieke introduced the key concepts of a ‘booksprint’. As described on the Booksprint web site:

A Book Sprint brings together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. The books produced are high quality content and are made available immediately at the end of the sprint via print-on-demand services and e-book formats.

The Bookspint Web site goes on to explain that:

There are three important outcomes from Book Sprints:

  1. Producing a book
  2. Sharing knowledge
  3.  Team/community building
Open Education Booksprint

Marieke Guy facilitating the Open Education Booksprint

Marieke explained that as it was not possible to run the booksprint over three days, she would be tweaking the standard format slightly. After Marieke’s introduction to the day (which is summarised in her slides which are hosted on Slideshare and embedded below) and a presentation by Phil Barker (CETIS) which provided a context to open education () and an ice-breaking exercise, we broke into three groups which were challenged to identify the topics and structure for sections in the handbook on open educational resources, pedagogy and data.

Thoughts on Collaborative Authoring

My first experience of the collaborative development of documentation resulted in the development of the UNIRAS Training Materials . This work was coordinated by Ann Mumford, Loughborough University during the mid 1990s as part of her work for ACOCG, the Advisory Group on Computer Graphics. Ann was a colleague of mine at the time. Back then, if memory serves me correctly, as a member of the (IUIC Inter-University Information Committee) I was involved in the development of the Document Sharing Archive. As I described back in February 2008 in a post entitled IT Services – Set Your Documentation Free!

This [the document sharing archive] was initially established in the late 1980s/early 1990s based on a centralised repository of documentation on the HENSA/Micros service at the University of Lancaster. However floundered due to the complexities of network access in pre-Web days and the effort it took to transfer resources to a centralised location. A renewed effort in the mid 1990s provided a Web-based interface to a distributed archive known as the UCISA TLIG Document Sharing Archive.

However the new service failed to gain any momentum. In retrospect I feel this was due to the focus purely on the sharing of existing documentation. The experiences of gained in the development of open source software suggest that a collaborative approach is more likely to result in deliverables which become widely adopted. The OSS Watch service has documented an Community Source Development Model. This document, together with a briefing note on Community Source Vs Open Source explore the background to these approaches and how “community source is often described as a perfect fit with the ethos and values of education and research, traditionally associated with intellectual innovation and the sharing of knowledge among scholars“. The booksprint approaches, which are based on collaboration in the planning and production processes, sharing knowledge and community building, would appear to have similarities with the community source development model. But how successful are such approaches and will a booksprint be guaranteed to deliver a quality deliverable?

Towards the end of Tuesday’s booksprint, the three groups reviewed the progress of their work. Two of the groups, which addressed ‘resources’ and ‘pedagogy’, had produced a significant amount of text but the group I was in, which covered ‘data’, did not have content which could be refined into a finish product. In the subsequent discussions we discovered that the members of the ‘resources’ group mostly knew each other and were able to agree on the structure of their output and the key issues which needed to be addressed. It seemed that the ‘pedagogy’ group quickly agreed that the title was misleading and agreed to rename the section ‘Open Learning and Practice’. Following this agreement the group again were in a position to produce meaningful content. However the members of the ‘data’ group did not have a similar level of shared experiences which led to more time being spent on discussions about the issues related to the role of data in open education. Rather than being in a position to document agreed solutions to these questions instead we spent our time formulating the questions and a structure for providing answers to the questions. We did agree, however, that we would be able to spend some time afterwards in providing a more coherent section on ‘data’.

To conclude, it would seem that a booksprint can be an useful way of collaboratively producing a document if there is broad consensus on the content area (as was the case in the development of the UNIRAS training materials in the 1980s and last year’s OER Book Sprint organised by CETIS). However if the content area is contentious or there is a lack of shared understanding it may be difficult to produce an output in the short period which booksprint normally last.

However these reflections are based on my very limited experiences of booksprints. I’d welcome feedback from others who may have more experience.

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »