UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Facilitating a Wikipedia Editing Session; the #solo13 Experience

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 11 November 2013

The Wikipedia Editing Workshop Session at the SpotOn 2013 Conference

@pixievondust tweet on the Wikipedia workshopThis has been my second extended week of conferences since I started work at Innovation Advocate at Cetis. As described in a post on my Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference on Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 November 2013, I attended the EduWiki 2013 Conference. On last Friday and Saturday, 8 and 9 November I attended SpotOn 2013, the Science, Policy, Outreach and Tools Online conference. The conference provided a further opportunity to engage with use of Wikipedia, but this time as a facilitator of an hour-long Wikipedia editing workshop session. The conference organisers had asked me to ensure that the session was a hands-on session, with participants having the opportunity to create Wikipedia resources rather than listening to speakers talk about the potential of Wikipedia. The workshop session therefore provided me with an opportunity to facilitate a Wikipedia session for the first time. Earlier this year I attended the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day which provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop. This was followed by participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop, which provided my with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts. This time, however, I led the workshop and developed the accompanying materials, but I was fortunate to be supported by Toni Sant, the Education Organiser for Wikimedia UK as well as the Director of Research at the University of Hull’s School of Arts and New Media in Scarborough. I have an interest in expanding the community of Wikipedia editors. There will therefore be a need to expand the community of those who can train others in using Wikipedia. Therefore in this post I will share my experiences of facilitating a workshop.

Reflections on Facilitating the Workshop

The Eliot room used for the Wikipedia workshopOn the Friday I visited the Eliot Room, which we would use for the workshop. As can be seen from the accompanying photograph, the room layout was less than ideal for a hands-on session, in which Toni and myself would wish to mingle with the participants, helping them out with any problems they had. The layout also meant that it would be difficult for participants to share what they were doing with others. Fortunately during the lunch session when I was installing my slides on the room’s PC I met the two facilitators of the #solo13lego session on Making Research Useful: The Consequences of (Bad) Communication. The abstract for this session described how “In this workshop, we’ll be getting hands-on with Lego to explore how good and bad communication can impact on research utility and impact“. The facilitators were happy for the room layout so be changed with chairs being arranged in three circles so that the participants could more easily share what they were doing. As illustrated below. participants were able to follow the slides during the initial presentation but work collaboratively when they signed up for a Wikipedia account and created their user profile.

Wikipedia editing session

Photo by Toni Sant and available under a CC BY-SA licence.

As can be seen from the slides (which are available on Slideshare), only one slide provided reasons why researchers may wish to make use of Wikipedia; as Cameron Neylon had said in the “Wikimedia UK Annual Review 2012-13” (PDF format):

If you’re serious about ensuring public engagement in your research then you need to make damn sure your work can be incorporated into Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the most important engagement channel for your research.

After this, and the introductions for the facilitators and hearing about the level of Wikipedia expertise of the participants we then provided details of the task to be attempted during the session:

You will:

  • Create a Wikipedia account (go to and register!)
  • Create a user profile & add personal details (e.g. name, organisation, interests, …)
  • Add hyperlinks to (a) external Web sites (e.g. your organisation) and (b) Wikipedia articles (e.g. areas of interest)
  • Add simple formatting

We provided the following examples of user profile and suggested that participants could view the source of these profiles and copy markup of interest:

After just over half an hour into the session we found that most of the participants had created their use profile. I have created a Storify summary of the session which provides links to a number of the profiles which had been created:

David Freeborn's user profile

The accompanying screenshot illustrates a user profile which a relatively new Wikipedia user can create in about 30 minutes. The use of Twitter during the session was useful in providing useful feedback on the users’ experiences. In particular @pixievondust commented that:

This is a genuinely useful hands on session, thanks @briankelly! Lets see more unis running workshops like this!

with similar sentiments being echoed by @FunSizeSuze:

This session has done exactly what I hoped it would do – I now have increased confidence in getting involved in all things Wiki.

After we realised that everyone who had attempted to create a user profile had successfully done so the session concluded with discussions on strategies for creating new articles, the fundamental Wikipedia principles and details of other Wikimedia projects beyond the Wikipedia service. The slides used in the session are available on Slideshare and embedded below. In addition a recording of the live stream of the session is available on YouTube and also embedded below. I hope these resources and this description of how the resources were used will be of interest to others, especially those who may wish to train others on how to contribute to Wikipedia.

YouTube video:

Note: The Wikimedia UK web site has a page on the SpotOn London 2013 Wikipedia editing workshop which provides additional information about the workshop session. The following information has been included in this post for the sake of completeness 23 SpotOn conference delegates (10 female and 13 male) attended this session. We were also able to observe that there were 14 postgraduate students, while the rest were academics, researchers, or other non-students. The following attendees created new Wikipedia user accounts during the workshop:

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Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 November 2013

My First Event as Innovation Advocate at Cetis

EduWiki 2013 conference badgeOn Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 November 2013, I attended the EduWiki 2013 Conference. This was the second EduWiki conference organised by Wikimedia UK; EduWiki 2012 was held at the University of Leicester in September 2012.

This was also my first event in my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. As I mentioned in a previous post I only started at Cetis on Monday, so I had little time to become acclimatised to my new role! It was pleasing to receive messages of congratulations st the conference from a number of people at the event who had seen the announcement either on this blog, on my Facebook page or from my LinkedIn profile (incidentally footnote provides some speculation on the metrics for the numbers of responses to the announcement) . It does seem to me that Wikipedia could be of interest to Cetis, as an emerging technological resource which appears to be relevant to teaching and learning. Did the two days I spent at the conference confirm such views?

Thoughts on the EduWiki 2013 Conference

The first day of the Wikipedia conference began with the welcome to the conference being provided by Toni Sant (Wikimedia UK’s Education Organiser) , with the opening remarks on the conference given by Martin Poulter, the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador in a talk entitled “Where’s the Edit Button on this Textbook?“.

Welsh and Other Minority Language Wikipedia Sites

After the introductions, Robin Owain, the Wales Manager for Wikimedia UK gave a talk in Welsh with instant translation for English speakers via headsets. Robin’s talk provided the political and cultural context for the following keynote talk and made the links with Wicipedia, the Welsh language version of Wikipedia. “Wales is a small country. That’s our greatness. “Do the small things” is our motto” explained Robin, who went on to inform the audience that “Wales is the land of open content“. Such approaches to openness and doing small things, but doing them well has led to Wicipedia being the most popular web site in the Welsh language.

Welsh language Wikipedia:  usage statisticsit was pleasing to see that many of the speakers at the conference backed up their assertions with evidence. In Robin’s case we heard about the usage statistics for Wicipedia, as illustrated.

Robin Owain’s talk focussed on Wicipedia, which is unsurprising for the Wales Manager for Wikimedia UK. A wider context was provided by Gareth Morlain (@melynmelyn), the Digital Media Specialist for the Welsh Government. in his keynote talk on “Getting More Welsh Content Online” which highlighted how a public pressure resulted in Amazon changing their policy on providing Welsh language access to Kindle ebooks.

I was fascinated to learn about use of minority languages, such as Catalan, Basque, Galician, Welsh, Breton, Irish, Gaelic and Cornish, on the Web. I was particularly interested to note that Catalan appears to be punching above its weight. Since I have professional contacts in Catalonia I sent a tweet to Miquel Duran, a professor at Girona University, about this. It seems that his son is president of @amicalwikimedia which promotes Catalan Wikipedia. This suggests that small-scale advocacy can have a significant effect on the creation of articles on minority language Wikipedia sites. Since we heard how the number of Wicipedia articles need to grow by 400% for Google to take Welsh language seriously as a search language I hope that Robin Owain and others involved in encouraging take-up of Wicipedia are successful in their advocacy work.

Wikipedia in Higher Education

Although the first morning at the conference provided me with new insights into less well-known aspects of Wikipedia, it was use of Wikipedia in higher education which was of most interest to me. This was the subject of the session after lunch. Of particular interest to me was the talk by Humphrey Southall on “Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles in English Villages“. Humphrey, a Reader in Geography at the University of Portsmouth and Director of the Great Britain Historical GIS, explained the approaches taken in a first year geography course which introduces the students to editing articles on Wikipedia. Rather than focussing on the IT aspects of using Wikipedia, Humphrey explained how the course requirements addressed both the needs to enhance students’ research skills and the need to respect Wikipedia’s culture of neutrality. The abstract for the talk describes how:

Each student on a large first year human geography course at the University of Portsmouth is assigned a different Wikipedia stub article, unedited for at least a year, about an English village. They are required to extend it “to provide a rounded description of the place and … an account of its historical development”. All villages are far from Portsmouth and students are banned from visiting them, so we emphasize that this is an exercise in finding, evaluating, interpreting and citing sources created by others, mainly online. All the villages are Civil Parishes, meaning that modern census data is available for them on the government’s Neighbourhood Statistics site, and historical census data are available on our own site A Vision of Britain through Time. Marks are given for the inclusion of required systematic information (completing the infobox); effective use of sources to create a sense of place; originality in use of sources; quality of layout and illustration; quality of referencing (do hyperlinks work?); engagement with other Wikipedia users (responding to comments!); and adherence to Wikipedia guidelines.

The second day of the conference provided another two interesting talks related to use of Wikipedia in higher education: Lisa Anderson & Nancy Graham provided a librarian’s perspective in a talk on “Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University” and Darren Stephens facilitated a workshop session on “Exploring the Education Program/Courses Extension for UK HEIs“.

Lisa & Nancy’s talk provided a rebuttal of Dave White’s talk which asked “What’s left to teach now that Wikipedia has done everyone’s homework?“. In this talk, which concluded the first day, Dave White proposed a variant on the first rule of the Fight Club. The first rule of Wikipedia in education is: “You don’t talk about Wikipedia and the learning black market“. The reason for this was based on Dave’s research which showed that although students feel that their lecturers don’t approve of use of Wikipedia, in reality they do use Wikipedia and use references obtained for Wikipedia articles – although they don’t necessarily read the references. There is therefore a learning black market based on content from Wikipedia which lectures must not be made aware of!

Lisa & Nancy’s talk described how librarians at Birmingham University appreciate that students will use Wikipedia, and therefore sought to ensure that students are made aware of best practices for using Wikipedia. They ensure their students are made aware of the history pages for Wikipedia articles; how easy it is to edit articles, which includes vandalising articles or adding errors, mistakes or deliberately incorrect or misleading content but also how such changes are normally spotted by Wikipedia volunteers which can remove such content.

I found this a useful talk on how a group of librarians are understanding how their users use Web resources and respond by engaging withe such realities. But Dave White’s evidence of student belief that use of Wikipedia is frowned upon by academics and librarians shows that further work needs to be done. One tweet summarised the talk: “Librarians’ attitudes to Wikipedia are changing @msnancygraham ”. But to what extent does this reflect the reality of how university librarians are informing their students (and staff) of the relevance of Wikipedia, I wonder? As I suggested to Nancy after her talk, perhaps gathering evidence across the sector would be useful for a paper at next year’s LILAC 2014 information literacy conference.

The final session I’ll comment on in this post is Darren Stephens workshop on “Exploring the Education Program/Courses Extension for UK HEIs“. Darren explained that the education extension installed on Wikipedia has had minimal take-up in the UK, with only two universities in England making use of it in the academic year 2012/13. The Education Program extension for MediaWiki adds features to Wikipedia to support classes of students editing articles, including structured Institution and Course pages and feeds of recent activity by students. However as we learnt during the workshop session, the extension is poorly documented and the software has a poor user interface. Comments that the software enabled staff to monitor how their students made use of Wikipedia to complete assignments also led to concerns regarding the privacy implications’ even if the software provides a dashboard which gives a window on publicly available information, there will still be issues regarding potential concerns that students have been required to make information publicly available and also that institutions may have policies which require student activities to be analysed prior to assessment.

Rod Dunican, Director of Global Education at the Wikipedia Foundation had opened the second day with a plenary talk on “Wikipedia in Education: Adventures in Learning“. I was fortunate to spend some time over lunch talking to Rod and hearing more about the Wikipedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Education Program. In my opening remarks in this posts I wondered whether the conference would confirm my feelings of the relevance of Wikipedia for the higher and further education sectors. I’m now convinced of the importance of Wikipedia in open educational practices. There will be a need to be able to provide further evidence of the value of Wikipedia (beyond the usage statistics which several speakers provided) and learn from the successes (and failures) of the early adopters.

I’ll conclude with a few tweets made during the conference.

Kate Fisher showed her enthusiasm for the conference and shared the actions she’ll be taking when she returns to work:

Thanks to @wikimedia for a great conference. Even more motivated to start a monthly Wiki Wednesday met up on our campus

but Terry McAndrew reminded us that there is still much work to do:

Very impressed with all the wikimedia available at but disappointed that HE makes too little use of it for developing

Finally Judith Scammell’s tweet makes me regret having to leave the conference before the final talk:

Thank you Wikimedia UK & spkrs 4 really interesting day fri. Sorry to miss today + musical ending!

I hope a video of the song which concluded the conference will be published!

Appendix: Archives of the Event

Storify summary of the Eduwiki conferenceanyone archiving #eduwiki tweets? Would that be a good idea?asked Simon Knight on the opening day of the conference. Although the question was directed at @wikimediauk I saw the tweet and immediately created a Twubs archive of the #eduwiki tweets. “That’s the power of the crowd – fixed in two minutes flat! #eduwiki” responded @wikimediauk . I agree, one shouldn’t have to wait for employees or officers of an organisation to carry out work which interests bystanders can do. That’ after all, can be regarded as the ‘Wikipedia way’.

In addition to the Twubs archive, I also created Storify archives of the tweets posted on day 1 and day 2 of the conference.

I should add that although I normally use Storify to curate an edited summary of event tweets published in chronological order, with tweets omitted if I feel they are of little value and annotations provided, such as links to speakers slides, in this case due to lack of time I published the full set of tweets in reverse chronological order. I did this shortly after the event was over so that an archive was available in a timely fashion, especially for others who may be wishing to publish a report on the conference. I would also add that the full archive may be of value to others who may wish to create an annotated story (e.g. of talks of particular interest). Again the process of publishing something incomplete which can be enhanced can be regarded as the Wikipedia way.

I was interested to see that I had received 94 ‘likes’ and 43 comments for the Facebook status update, 33 ‘likes’ and 12 comments on a LinkedIn update for my new job but only 16 comments to the original blog post.Might this suggest that Facebook and then LinkedIn are more effective than blog posts in alerting people to information such as a change of job, I wonder?

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Starting A New Job!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 28 October 2013

Cetis home pageI’m really pleased to announce that I’ve got a new job. As announced on the Cetis Web site today I started work at Cetis as an Innovation Advocate (great job title!)

I’m looking forward to working at Cetis. I’ve worked closely with Cetis over the years. Looking at my list of events it seems that I ran workshop sessions or spoke at Cetis conferences in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 and was the organiser of a joint UKOLN/CETIS/UCISA workshop on “Initiatives & Innovation: Managing Disruptive Technologies“. I’ve also written papers with current or former Cetis staff including ones on “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” (with Scott Wilson), “Twitter Archiving Using Twapper Keeper: Technical And Policy Challenges” (with Martin Hawksey) and “A Contextual Framework For Standards“, “A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes” and “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” (with Paul Hollins).

My new role will enable me to build on our previous collaborations and my interests and expertise in areas including standards, accessibility, social media and open practices. In addition I hope that the extensive professional networks I have developed with provide useful in supporting and developing Cetis’s range of activities.

I will be working, as home worker, for four days a week. I’ll be looking forward to renewing my contacts with Jisc as well as making new contacts at Bolton University and across the e-learning community. I will also be looking for additional partnership and funding opportunities – so please get in touch (although I’ve still to finalise my preferred email address).

Since I was made redundant on 31 July I have spent my time improving the house and garden and, in particular, have converted one of the bedrooms into an office. The building work on the house included installation of network points in more of the rooms, so I will have a suitable working environment (although today’s induction at Bolton University will include a session on health and safety, so I will be interested to see if that includes issues of relevance for home workers) . I have also spent time over the summer on a number of professional development activities and some freelance work which has included participation in the Hyperlinked Libraries MOOC, the LinkedUp project booksprint, and facilitation of a day’s workshop on Future Technologies at the ILI 2013 conference. However today my new role as Innovation Advocate, Cetis, University of Bolton begins. I’m looking forward to it!

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Radical Librarians Supporting Staff Who Are Leaving the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 25 October 2013

Last week at the ILI 2013 conference I gave a talk on “Digital Life Beyond The Institution“. The talk was one of two given in a session on “Being smart with technology – creating something from nothing”. In my case the talk addressed the challenges of continuing to work as an information professional after leaving my host institution. I therefore needed to create an IT infrastructure out of nothing, as I know longer had access to the IT environment provided at Bath University.

In the talk I described how institutions appear to focus their training activities on newcomers to the institution, with seemingly little advice and support provided for those who may be leaving, for whatever reasons. The lack of support seems to be complemented with policies which appear to make life difficult for those who are about to leave their host institution. Since I had an interest in policies at the University of Bath, having worked there for almost 17 years, a few months ago I investigated the policies which would be relevant to me and my colleagues at UKOLN, who were about to be made redundant.

As illustrated the account closure policies are brief, stating, for those who leave the University in normal circumstances “Staff leaving the University – the account is closed on or shortly after the date of leave. It is expected the individual will arrange for appropriate data held under their account to be made accessible to others for business continuity“. There is no suggestion that training will be provided for staff who may wish to continue their professional activities after they leave the institution.

Account closure policies at Bath University

In the case of UKOLN staff, our funders agreed that we would have training opportunities and myself and my former colleagues appreciated the value of this. However when I asked for a show of hands during my talks for institutions which provide training in topics such as migrating services and content to Cloud services, only one person (tentatively) put up their hand. I was aware that people may have been reluctant to engage with my questions but felt I should ask a follow-up question: “Who feels that their institution should provide such training for staff (and researchers) who are about to leave the institution?”  there was a flurry of activity as a large proportion of the audience raised their hands.

This response echoed the experience I had when I gave a similar talk entitled “When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution” at the LILAC 2013 conference. It seems that this is an appreciation that this is a gap in the training and support services provided by those who find themselves in this position. This should be of concern as leaving one’s current job is not unusual – in the New Statesman (20-26 September 2013) Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, pointed out that “By 2015, there will be more Briton over 65 than under 15. We cannot afford to discard their expertise.” and went on to add “Studies show that on average each of us will have seven careers, two of which are yet to exist.

To a certain extent adoption of open services can help address licencing barriers to use and reuse of content and d services for members of the university after they leave. Use of open source software can avoid expensive licence costs for software, and use of open educational resources and research papers and research data which have Creative Commons licences means that such content created during one’s period of employment can legitimately be used after one leaves.

Perhaps the reasons for lack of training in this area is due to the legacy of use of licensed services and content, for which ongoing access would not be possible. But might there also be a view that training and development is intended to enhance the productivity of the host institution’s employees, and there is little to be gained by providing training as they are about to leave? I would hope that this is not the case, but I am at a loss to think of other reasons for the acknowledged gap in this area.

As I was preparing the talk I came across details of the Radical Library Camp. I a previous post in which i asked “Do We Want Radical Law-Breaking Librarians?” I commented on the session at the Radical Library Camp on “Professional ethics: copyright is broken, so why am I enforcing it?“. This inspired me to provide a similar manifesto which argued that librarians should ensure that access to training course which provide staff with the skills needed to make effective use of Cloud services are provided for when people are preparing to leave their institution:

Digital life is now primarily in the Cloud, so why are we ignoring this?

We seek to prepare our students with life-long learning skills for working in a digital environment after they graduate.

But members of staff and researchers are only given training in institutionally-approved & support technologies. We fail to provide training and support for staff for their digital life beyond the institution.

And yet everyone will leave the institution (unless they die in the job!)

Professional practices and institutions are in conflict here: on the one hand, I have a duty to my employer to support the needs of the institution; on the other hand, my profession, and the higher education sector, believes in the value of life-long learning.

How can this be resolved? I’m not sure that the digital literacies summary developed by SCONUL and promoted by Jisc, are sufficient, as this focusses only on teaching of digital literacies. Do we need a new, more agile approach that can deal with contemporary need for digital life beyond the institution? And if so, can we find this within existing professional frameworks or do we need to do this for ourselves?

Is this a reasonable request which institutions should be providing? What reasons may there be for the lack of such training? Might there be examples of institutions which are addressing these issues? I’d welcome your thoughts and comments.

Note that the slides I used in the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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What Have You Noticed Recently?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 October 2013

Techniques For Detecting Trends

Last week Tony Hirst and I facilitated a 1-day workshop at the ILI 2013 conferences which described approaches for detecting trends which could be used to help institutions exploit emerging technologies in a timely fashion, whilst minimising risks of investing significant resources in technologies, such as Second Life, which subsequently fail to live up to their hype.

Whilst I described methodologies which were used by UKOLN and CETIS in providing the JISC Observatory service Tony Hirst used a couple of techniques which were new to me. In particular I was impressed by the power of the seemingly simple question “What have you noticed recently?

What have you noticed recently?

This question was particularly useful at the workshop we facilitated as, as described in the report on the session, there were 21 participants from 11 countries and 6 continents: it can be particularly useful to observe differences when travelling, particularly if it leads to the question “Why don’t we do that?“, even more so if it results in decisions being made to implement the thing that you noticed.

I gave some thought to the question Tony posed during the workshop session and afterwards.  I think there may be a temptation to be competitive in responding to the question and try to suggest something particularly unusual which you feel others mightn’t suggest.  In my list I’ve therefore suggested a range of observations I’ve made recently. some of which may not be particularly innovative, but did catch my eye. In addition to describing the things I’ve observed I’ll also give some thoughts about the potential implications.

Getglue badgeBadges for gaming, social media, … I recently described by reaction on being awarded a number of badges for completing various activities on a MOOC. But I’ve now started to notice several other services which aware badges. A few weeks ago I noticed Michael Stephens’ Facebook page contained a badge he had received from GetGlue. I’ve not hear of this before. According to Wikipedia GetGlue is “a social networking website for television fans. Users “check into” the shows, movies and sports that they consume using a website, a mobile website, or a device-specific application“. The article goes on to inform us that

in January 2010, GetGlue reported 1.3 million check-ins. In January 2011, the service accumulated nearly 10 times that figure with 12.1 million check-ins and ratings. On February 27, 2011, GetGlue saw over 31,000 check-ins at the Oscars. In June 2011, the record for Most Check-Ins to a TV show was broken during the premiere of True Blood Season 4 on HBO. … During the 2013 Super Bowl, GetGlue had more than 200,000 check-ins and 400,000-plus total activities (likes, replies, votes, etc.). In addition, 15% of all Pepsi mentions on Twitter during the halftime show came from GetGlue.

A must-have app, clearly! And so I subscribed to the service and received my first badge, “Yeah, First Check-in” (as illustrated). My thoughts: being awarded badges for sitting in front of the TV? I’m sure my parents warned me of the dangers of that when I was young (“you’ll get square eyes!“)  Perhaps advocates of badges need to consider risks that they become perceived as rewarding unproductive behaviours. Or, if you gain many badges for watching TV programmes , playing social games and checking in to place you visit when you’re young, might you have become disillusioned with them when you arrive at university and are encouraged to spend time gaining badges for visiting the library and checking books out?

Digital activities in bed: At the Future Technologies workshop at ILI I asked the question “Who has made use of a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” The answer, it seems, are those from the UK and Scandinavia.  I first asked this question in March 2012 and, in a post entitled “Twitterers Do It In Bed!” described the responses I received when I asked this question on Twitter. Some of the responses I received are illustrated. I’ve repeated this question at a number of events since then and it seems that significant numbers of people at events I speak at do use mobile devices for work-related purposes. What are the implications? If you fail to provide tweets about your work, your papers, your ideas, you may miss out on an opportunity to engage with an audience.

WiFi on buses: First Bus company now provide free WiFi on their buses in Bath. As I no longer travel up and down the hill every day to Bath University I don’t know if the universities buses also have WiFi. But will we start to see significantly greater use being made of networked mobile devices on public transport, going beyond reading books on Kindles (or Kindle-like devices) and sending text messages?

Payments on my phone: A couple of weeks ago I receive an email from the Guardian with two weeks of vouchers for the Guardian and the Observer. For the first time I handed over my phone to the newsagent in order for the barcode on the coupon to be scanned. I wonder how soon it will be before I regularly use my phone for payments? I wonder about the trust issues of handing a phone to a shopkeepers (or will NFC be the killer app for mobile payments?) And how soon before we start read article highlights the privacy concerns over such payment mechanisms? After all I assume my voucher had been personalised so they will know who I am and where I shop.

Many thanks to Tony Hirst for suggesting this technique. Now over to you: what have you noticed recently?

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Do We Want Radical Law-Breaking Librarians?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 21 October 2013

Defending Professionals Which Break the Law in the Public Interest

BBC News ItemOn Friday the BBC News published a story which described how “UK’s top prosecutor defends journalists who break law in public interest“. The story was about the role of journalists in making information publicly available. Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions insisted that it “would be very unhealthy if you had a situation where a journalist felt that they needed to go to their lawyer before they pursued any lead or asked any question“.

As today marks the start of Open Access Week 2013 it is appropriate to ask this question of those working in librarians. Should we encourage radical law-breaking librarians who are willing to break the law or challenges established practices in making information available?

This was an issues address recently at the Radical Library Camp event held in Bradford on 28 September 2013. The following proposal was submitted:

Professional ethics: copyright is broken, so why am I enforcing it?

Copyright law is broken. By criminalising citizens and creators in order to protect the profits of corporations, it harms the people that it should be empowering. Therefore I see it as an ethical imperative to break and/or subvert it; civil disobedience is a necessary part of a functioning democracy.

It is part of my job in a library to uphold and enforce copyright law.

Professional ethics are in conflict here: on the one hand, I have a duty to my employer and society to act in accordance with the law; on the other hand, when that law is wrong, it is unethical to force people to comply with it.

How can this be resolved? I’m not sure that the professional ethics espoused by our current professional organisation, CILIP, are enough to negotiate dilemmas like this. What does this mean? Do we need a new, more agile ethical approach that can deal with contemporary information ethics? And if so, can we find this within existing professional frameworks or do we need a new professional body?

Although I don’t know if the proposal was discussed I felt it would be worth revisiting this topic, in part due to a wish to raise the profile of activities which are taking place during Open Access Week but also as a follow-up to related discussions which took place last week at the ILI 2013 conference.

As I mentioned in a summary of a workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications Workshop Tony Hirst’s story based on his observation that the rules and regulations for the University of Cambridge Library states that “Overcoats, raincoats, and other kinds of outdoor clothing, umbrellas, bags, cases, cameras, photocopying devices, and similar personal belongings shall normally be deposited in the locker-room adjacent to the entrance hall during each visit to the Library” (my emphasis) generated some debate.  Since most mobile phones these days will have cameras and can be used for scanning/photocopying they would appear to be banned from being brought into the library. This may no longer be the case (Tony’s post was published back in December 2009). But the general issue is still valid: “should libraries ban devices which have the capability of copyright infringement from being brought into the library?” I think libraries would be foolish if they tried to ban mobile phones from being brought into libraries; a more reasonable response to problems which mobile phones could cause in libraries would be to require that they are set to silent mode.

But to pose the question in a different way: “should libraries provide training and support for their users to help them maximise the potential of smartphones?” Such training might include use of library-specific applications (QR codes perhaps). But what of use of mobile applications which make use of a smart phone’s camera and OCR capabilities which could be used for copyright infringement?

Are any libraries running courses or providing advice and support in areas which may have the potential for copyright infringement? And in what other areas may we wish to encourage librarians, as journalists may be encouraged to do in some circumstances, to break the law in the public interest or for the benefit of society in general?

Posted in library2.0, openness | 7 Comments »

Twitter Archives for the #ILI2013 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 October 2013

The Value of Twitter Archives for Event Hashtags

Storify summary of the Futures workshop at the ILI 2013 conferenceYesterday I summarised the workshop on Future Technologies which Tony Hirst and myself facilitated at the ILI 2013 conference. But although the post provided details of the talks we gave and the exercises we set, we didn’t provide much information about the discussions which took place. Some of these discussions would have been general, with all 21 participants and 2 facilitators able to listen in and, if desired, participate. However other discussions will have taken place in the small groups and only the summary reports would be shared with the other participants. But in addition other discussions will have taken place virtually, with remote participants involved.

Twitter is the main tool used to support such discussions at conferences. And since such discussions normally take place in an open environment it is then possible to archive the discussions which can help to ensure that interesting issues are not forgotten.

I have therefore created a Storify summary of the discussions which took place during (and after) the workshop. As can be seen from the screenshot when you use Storify to curate tweets, tweets which contain links to an image will have the image embedded within the story. This can hep to provide richer context than would be possible using just the textual content of the tweets.

Looking at the archive I notice than one of the first tweets, in which Tony Hirst asked “does Summon limit access by IP range? Any way to open up offsite access? [Qn from -ws-future ]”  came from a question one of the participants raised during the introductory session. Since neither Tony nor myself knew the answer to this question I suggested that the questions was asked across our professional network. This illustrated the potential value of having an extensive network and the potential value of use of Twitter during an event. I should add that I say ‘potential’ since I don’t think we got an answer to the question!

During the morning session we discussed trends which we may have noticed. I asked for a show of hands for people who had made use of a ‘second screen’ – i.e. using a mobile phone or tablet to discuss a TV programme while watching the programme on the TV.  Following this show of hands @Krolofsson tweeted “Only a third of the workshop crowd do “The second screen” while, f.e. watching TV . I certainly do.”  Although I had asked for the show of hands, I had forgotten the numbers responding. This event tweeting therefore helped in providing a record of evidence gathered during the workshop. This was particularly useful at our workshop as, as described in the summary of the session, the participants “were from no fewer than eleven countries (UK, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, Trinidad and Tobago and Qatar) and six continents (Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australasia and Asia)“: this example provided a vivid example of the diversity of experiences and practices.

Reviewing the archive of the tweets can be useful in helping to identify the aspects of the workshop which people found useful. It was therefore useful to see comments such as “About inventions/improvements/innovations: what’s the difference? And how to measure success or failure? Nice roundup by @briankelly ” and “Another nice quote by @psychemedia at : “The future’s already here – it’s just not evenly distributed” (William Gibson)“.

But perhaps the must useful aspect of this particular archive was the record of the discussions (which involved several people including a number who weren’t physically present at the workshop) which arose from my summary of a observation made by Tony Hirst: “Since a smart phone can act as a scanner/photocopier do we need photocopiers in libraries asks @psychemedia at “. The background to this was an observation Tony made when he was working as part of a Cambridge University Library Arcadia Project Fellowship on “Rapid Innovation in the Library”.  As Tony described in a report on his work (PDF format):

Whilst trying to photograph UL signage for inclusion in this report, I was taken to charge for using a camera (that is, my phone) within the Library. For users of current generation smartphones, an increasing number of camera related applications are now available. From barcode scanners that capture book details and call up bibliographic information or full text search tools using Google Books, to “personal photocopying” and optical character recognition (personal text scanning), maintaining a policy that bars the use of cameras within the UL is likely to act as a brake on patron delivered library innovation (No Cameras in the Library…). Note also that the act of copying is not universally ruled against within the UL – a self-service scanning/photocopier service is already provided, albeit for a fee. The provision of the photocopier service might also be reconsidered in the light of the increasing availability of digital content. For example, if a patron scanned the barcode of an item before copying it, an advisory system might be able to direct the user to a digital version of the resource (this would also help track those items that were being copied).

Tony had discussed this topic in a blog post on “No Cameras in the Library…” which described (n December 2009) how:

One of the things that has got me in trouble a couple of times during my stint as Arcadia Fellow is using my phone as a camera within the confines of University Library (cameras, along with bags, are most definately not allowed inside the Library). As the Library rules puts it:

18. Overcoats, raincoats, and other kinds of outdoor clothing, umbrellas, bags, cases, cameras, photocopying devices, and similar personal belongings shall normally be deposited in the locker-room adjacent to the entrance hall during each visit to the Library.

Which is not to say that photocopying, per se is not allowed in the University Library, because it is… either using self-service machines or via Imaging Services (UL: Photocopying). So the problem is presumably guarding against Library users photographing/photocopying works that they shouldn’t? But from what I can tell, those works are accessible only in the Reading Rooms, so presumably a ban on photograph/copying works in those areas would suffice? (If the books that may not be copied can be taken out of those rooms, then they can easily be copied in the photopcopier room…)

The discussion this story generated, both in the workshop and online, illustrated that there are still diverse views as to whether use of smartphones should be banned from libraries (as they may be used to infringe copyright or, if photos of people are taken, privacy) or encouraged.  It was interesting to see how this discussion continued on Twitter which Owen Stephens described how:

[At] one library I worked an academic came in with 35mm SLR digital camera and tripod to take pictures of an item …
[The] item in question was on loan from BL but could only be used in library with no p/c allowed …
whether this was to do with rights or fragility of item I’m not sure

I would like to revisit the question of acceptable practices covering use of phones in libraries at a later date. The Twitter archive, and the contributions made by participants and the remote users, will be a useful resource for me.

Archives of #ILI2013 Conference Tweets

Storify archive for #ILI2013 tweetsI curated the tweets for the workshop session. This meant I inspected the archives, tried to add them to the archive in a logical structure, included relevant tweets which may not have contained the #ili2013 hashtag and omitted tweets which I felt didn’t any value.

In addition to the archive of the workshop tweets I also used Storify to create a complete archive of the #ILI2013 tweets. Due to the time it can take to curate a large event archive this time I simply accepted all tweets containing the hashtag and published them in reverse chronological order, as illustrated.

I hope this will provide a useful resource for other ILI 2013 speakers, organisers, participants or other interested parties who would like to see the discussions which took place on Twitter.

I should also add that I have also used the Twubs service to create a complementary archive of the tweets, which may provide a useful comparison of the two services.


Posted in Events, Twitter | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

ILI 2013: The Future Technologies and Their Applications Workshop

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 17 October 2013

ILI – My Favourite Library Conference

I am now back home after spending a hugely enjoyable and stimulating three days at the ILI 2013 conference. This was the fifteenth in the annual Internet Librarian International conference series, As I have attended fourteen of the conferences (I had been invited to speak at a conference in the National Library of Singapore for the ILI conference I missed) it’s clear that I am a great fan of the event. This is for a number of reasons; in particular the international flavour of the event provides an opportunity to hear about developments in the library and online information world from a wide sector. It is also a very friendly event, which provides a valuable opportunity to develop and cultivate one’s professional network – as ever, the numbers of people I follow on Twitter has grown over the past few days; who needs business cards when swapping Twitter IDs can provide an ‘interactive business card’ – a suggestion I made back in 2008 which now seems to have become a mainstream approach.

The Future Technologies and Their Applications Workshop

The conference itself took place over two days. However on Monday three full-day workshops took place, on search, Libraries and MOOCs and future technologies. Myself and Tony Hirst facilitated the workshop on “Future Technologies and Their Applications“. As described in the abstract the workshop set out to ensure that participants were made aware of methodologies which could be used to detect new developments and gather evidence which could be used to justify investment n exploring the technologies in more detail and implementing the technologies:

Despite the uncertainties faced by librarians and information professionals, technology continues to develop at breakneck speed, offering many new opportunities for the sector. At the same time, technological developments can be distracting and may result in wasted time and effort (remember the excitement provided by Second Life?!).

This workshop session will help participants identify potentially relevant technological developments by learning about and making use of ‘Delphic’ processes. The workshop also provides insight into processes for spotting ‘weak signals’ which may indicate early use of technologies which could be important in the future.

But having identified potentially important technological developments, organisations need to decide how to respond. What will be the impact on existing technologies? What are the strategic implications and what are the implications for staff within the organisation?

The interactive workshop session will provide opportunities to address the challenges in understanding the implications of technological developments and making appropriate organisational interventions.

We highlighted Second Life as a technology which failed to live up to its expectations and demonstrated the need for more systematic approaches for detecting new technologies which could be embedded, However we also described the need for libraries to be willing to take risks and provided a risks and opportunities framework which could be used to assess risks and minimise or, perhaps, accept such risks.  Part of this framework was to assess the risks of doing nothing, and the missed opportunities this could entail.

A total of 21 participants booked for the workshop. They were from no fewer than eleven countries (UK, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, Trinidad and Tobago and Qatar) and six continents (Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australasia and Asia). This provided some challenges but also opportunities in learning from the differing experiences and challenges which the participants faced.

The Content

In the workshop we made use of processes which I described in a paper on What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future which I presented at the EMTACL (Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries ) conference held in Trondheim a year ago and a paper by myself and Paul Hollins (CETIS) on Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow which I presented at the Umbrella 2013 conference earlier this year. The Delphic processes described in the papers had been previously used by UKOLN and CETIS in our work for the JISC Observatory which, prior to the cessation of its funding was an “initiative to systematise the way in which the JISC anticipates and responds to projected future trends and scenarios in the context of the use of technology in Higher & Further Education in the UK“.

Following use of the Delphic process to identify and prioritise new developments we also used the risks and opportunities framework which has been described in papers on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“.

Tony Hirst also provided some techniques which could be used to identify developments which may be taking place. “What have you noticed around you which may indicate changes which may be significant?”  he asked, which made we reflect on how WiFi in conferences is now starting to “just work”. In addition I subsequently told Tony how I had purchased a discounted copy of The Guardian using an electronic voucher Another technique which Tony suggested was to provide a question for which the answer might be “At the library”. For example during his talk in the Data Librarian session at the ILI conference itself Tony suggested that there could be opportunities for librarians to provide training and support for their users in developing skills in SQL and use of regular expressions. Could “At the library” be an answer to the question a researcher is asked by a colleague: “Where did you learn how to take the data from diverse sources and manipulate them prior to data visualisation?” for someone working in an institution in which library staff are developing new skills and moving into new areas?

The final part of the framework used in the workshop during which participants made a business case for exploring new technologies was an approach I have learnt recently from my participation in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC organized by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones.

In the second assignment on the MOOC participants were asked to make plans for the deployment of emerging technologies using a planning checklist which included completion of the following statement:

Convince ______ that by _______ they will ________ which will ________ because _______.

Have identified key technological developments using the Delphic process the participants, working in three groups, where asked to provide a business case for their area which included the methodology from the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.


How did the workshop go?  Unfortunately I missed the final afternoon of the ILI 2013 conference but Alison McNab tweeted this summary from the final session:

The @Philbradley session on Privacy, #LibraryCamp inspiration & @briankelly workshop on new technology all mentioned as highlights

The evaluation forms provided some useful feedback. We asked participants to summarise things which they would do as a result of the workshop when they return to work. The responses included:

  • Discuss Delphi with our IT development Team
  • Use the Delphic process and Action Brief Model to plan new tech projects as I brainstorm them
  • Discuss within the library if the hierarchy must be kept up for the use of social media and cannot everyone, in the name of the library, use social media with our users
  • Look at the [IFLA and NMC Horizon] Trend reports and Gartner report

We asked participants to List suggestions and recommendations you will make to your colleagues. The responses included:

  • Risk assess new technologies
  • Approaching potential new technologies and looking at evidence, case studies & asking about its application in a library context.
  • Take more risks, share disaster experience
  • The “have you asked the Library?” is quite an eye-opener. It forces one to rethink what they think they are doing.
  • Rethink the role of librarianship, current and future

We asked participants to What aspects of the workshop did you find most useful? The responses included:

  • Discussions and networking. Tony’s “Did you try the Library?” Horizon project Top 10.
  • The Scenario Planning process. Template for proposing tech/service. Loved the two morning presentations.
  • Share disaster experiences within library community, Take risks with new technologies.
  • Discussions with other people. Useful ‘recipes’.
  • The 3 short term and medium term technologies to look for. The Delphic process.
  • The discussions and group sessions. Overview of reports.
  • The international diversity of the participants.
  • I found it most useful to discuss library issues with fellow librarians/participants
  • The personal experience stories from librarians. Planning of new proposals for library.

We asked participants to Summarise aspects of the workshop which could be improved. The responses included:

  • Furniture layout in advance of the workshop
  • Would have liked more focus on emerging technologies (specific ones)
  • Warm up the room :-)
  • I would have preferred more practical examples relevant to the library even if they end up being Second Life.
  • Cooperative parts, participation parts.
  • Less talking, more doing.
  • It would be nice if new technologies had been presented. The only ones mentioned were Google, Wikipedia and Amazon. I already knew about them and did not need to hear about them again.

The general comments included:

  • Well done for working with such a mixed group
  • Loved the interactive Doc notes idea – very helpful for attendees and makes it easier for me to share this info with my colleagues back home.
  • Well-organized. Group work was a but difficult because the group was too international, that means the problems in the different countries are too different.
  • I really enjoyed it!
  • Good workshop! Thanks
  • Liked it a lot!
  • I think it would have been useful if the presenters, at least one, was a librarian. The two presenters did not seem to know about the legal issues concerning library technologies. Several things they said were illegal.


This was the fist time Tony and I had ran this workshop. We were pleased with the workshop and the active participation from the participants. We had said that the structure of the workshop may change in light of the feedback form the participants. This meant that three presentations, on digital badges, amplified events for professional development and hyperlinked libraries, were not given. Instead we responded to requests from a couple of the participants to address the broader issues of the future of libraries.  However these slides, together with all of the resources used in this workshop, have been made available and use of a Creative Commons CC-BY licence means that they can be reused by the participants (and others) in their own institution.

One of the discussion groups commented that the six participants were from six different countries. I suspect that wouldn’t have been the case for workshop sessions at the Internet Librarian conference which is held in the US and attracts primarily a North American audience. Despite the concerns Tony and I had when we first heard of the global diversity of the participants at the session we are pleased with the feedback we received. In retrospect, however, the title of the workshop did not correctly reflect the abstract. Rather than “Future Technologies and Their Applications” we should have called the workshop “Predicting  Future Technologies”.


The slides used in the workshop are available below.  Note that the slides hosted on Slideshare are the latest version. The Authorstream versions are provided as a backup copy.

Code Title Slides
A1 Workshop Introduction [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
B1 Predicting Technology Trends: a Methodology [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
CO Future Doodles [Slideshare]
C1 Amplified Events [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
C2 Digital Badges [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
C3 The Hyperlinked Library [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
D1 Gathering Interests [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
D2 Group Exercises [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
E1 Scenario Planning For Libraries [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]
F1 Review and Next Steps [Slideshare] – [Authorstream]


A1: Workshop Introduction B1: Predicting Technology Trends: a Methodology CO: Future Doodles
C1: Amplified Events (not used) C2: Digital Badges  (not used)  C3: The Hyperlinked Library  (not used)
D1: Gathering Interests D2: Group Exercises
E1: Scenario Planning For Libraries F1: Review and Next Steps

NOTEJeroen de Boer has just published a report on the workshop (and a number of other events). Google Translate has been used to provide an English translation. This describes how “we opted for the development of mobile.  Because my group were mainly employed by university and research libraries was their focus very focused on issues relating to the accessibility of private collections and therefore problems of copyright etc. I said that it is right to look at how external sources very interesting for us including academic, can link to library collections“.

The group included the following summary. They would:

Convince management that by implementing mobile they will exploit Linked Open Data collections which will optimize the library collection in order to attract new and current users because they will keep our library relevant anywhere anytime.

I was pleased to see this approach, developed by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones, being used by others.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [TweetReach] – []

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

“Your SlideShare account has been suspended”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 1 October 2013

Loss of Access to Content Hosted on Slideshare

Slideshare account suspendedOn Wednesday 25 September 2013 I received an email message which informed me that my SlideShare account had been suspended.  The reason given for this was that:

SlideShare activity was flagged as inappropriate by our community. We looked into it and found at least one of your activities (i.e. uploads, comments, follows or favorites) to be in violation of SlideShare’s Terms of Service or Community Guidelines.

To make matters worse:

… your account lisbk has been suspended and marked for deletion.

I received the message at 9.50pm on Wednesday evening. The following morning I contacted the Slideshare Support Desk complaining about the loss of access to my slides (which meant that Web sites which had embedded the content contained a message saying the account had been suspended) and asking for the files to be restored. I received the following automated response:

Thank you for contacting SlideShare. This email is to confirm we have received your inquiry and will respond within one business day.

I failed to receive a reply so yesterday evening I submitted another message to the support desk. Twelve hours later I received a reply

Thank you for contacting us again about this issue. I sincerely apologize for the delay in getting back to you. It looks like the automated system has incorrectly marked your account. I have removed the suspension and your account should be working normally now. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

And now my Slideshare account has been restored. I was pleased when I found that not only had the 148 slidedecks had been restored, but the slides still had the usage statistics and my 315 followers.

Lessons Learnt

I’m pleased that my Slideshare account has been restored with seemingly no data lost. All that seems to have been lost is 5 days access to the 148 slide decks which I have uploaded to the service. But this incident also gives rise to some concerns. Why did this happen? Could it happen again? Did I make a mistake in setting up my Slideshare account almost 7 years ago (my oldest slides, entitled Web 2.0: Addressing Institutional Barriers, were used in a talk given at the ILI 2006 conference and uploaded to Slideshare on 13 October 2006)?

Back in 2008/9 I was the lead author of a paper entitled “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” . The abstract described how:

The paper acknowledges that there are a variety of risks associated with such approaches. The paper describes the different types of risks and outlines a risk assessment and risk management approach which is being developed to minimize the dangers whilst allowing the benefits of Library 2.0 to be realized.

The risks and opportunities frameworkThe risks and opportunities framework was subsequently developed further and later in 2009 in a paper entitled “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” a diagram which depicted the framework was provided, as illustrated.

How might this have been applied in the specific context of use of Slideshare?

Intended use: Slideshare will be used to provide a copy of slides used in significant presentations so that (a) the slides can be embedded in blogs, web pages, etc; (b) comments on the slides can be given; (c) the slides can be accessed using a popular service in order to enhance access to the slides to help maximise the take-up of the ideas provided in the slides and (d) the slides can be ‘favourited’ in order to identify individuals with interests in the content.

Perceived benefits: Use of Slideshare  should help maximise access to the resources and provide commenting facilities which may be useful for reports on the impact of associated work.

Perceived risks: There may be risks that the Slideshare service is not sustainable and data lost. Spam comments may be made which would be time-consuming to delete. It was felt that the risks of loss of data was small since the Slideshare service appeared to be popular and sustainable.

Missed opportunities: Failing to use Slideshare would mean lost opportunities for reaching ou to a large number of users.

Costs: The free version of Slideshare has been used. The only additional costs have been the time taken in uploaded slides to the service and providing the relevant metadata.

Risk minimisation: The risks of data loss have been addressed by ensuring that the master copy of the slides is hosted on the UKOLN Web site.

Evidence base: The slide decks hosted on Slideshare have proved popular, with my three most popular slide decks having been viewed 24,536, 18,211 and 10,172 times. In addition a blog post entitled Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact highlighted the benefits of use of Slideshare for hosting slides for an event. It should be noted, however that a post on Understanding the Limits of Altmetrics: Slideshare Statistics did point out the need to treat these statistics with some caution.

I therefore feel that Slideshare has provided a valuable return on my investment. However just because Slideshare has proved useful in the past does not necessarily mean that this will continue to be true. Back in May 2012 TechCrunch announced that LinkedIn Acquires Professional Content Sharing Platform SlideShare For $119M. A concern might be that following the take-over there has been a lack of investment in the company, with asset-stripping of intellectual property, technical expertise, usage data  or other valuable assets taking place prior to the closure of the service or significant changes in its terms and conditions.

Quantcast stats for SlideshareHowever the usage figures provided by Quantast, available from the Techcrunch page about SlideShare, shows no cause for concerns. So perhaps my experience was a one-off glitch.  However the experience has led me to consider some additional risks which I hadn’t thought about previously:

Service makes mistakes: Although this mistake did not have any significant adverse affect, what would have happened if my account had been unavailable during a large event, such as IWMW events,  during which slides hosted on Slideshare are used during the event amplification?

Vexatious complaints: The automated email I received stated that my Slideshare content “was flagged as inappropriate by our community“. Could people submit anonymous complaints about content hosted on Slideshare, I wonder, leading to accounts being removed with an innocent Slideshare user having to make their case for the content to be be restored?

Contentious content: Slideshare’s Community Guidelines state: “Don’t post content or comments about issues like child exploitation, animal abuse, drug abuse, bomb making etc. They will be removed and your account will get suspended.” But what if a lecturer is giving a talk about, say, drug abuse? The guidelines do not seem to provide any scope for flexibility.

I’d welcome feedback on my experiences. I’d also like to invite Slideshare to respond to  the concerns I’ve raised. As I have said, I’ve been a longstanding fan of the service; I would hope that Slideshare’s support desk will be proactive in responding to concerns.

My Slideshare statisticsNOTE: Shortly after publishing this post I received an email from Slideshare containing a summary of the statistics of use of the service. As illustrated the figures provide an indication of significant levels of outreach for my slides (together with a small number of slides I have published on behalff of others). I hope that I can be reassured that Slideshare will continue to provide benefits for me and that I have my concerns addressed.

Posted in Repositories, Web2.0 | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

Listening to Freshers

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) 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 (UK Web Focus) 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 (UK Web Focus) 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 (UK Web Focus) 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 »

Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 31 August 2013

An Opportunity For Professional Development

It’s now been a month since I was made redundant from UKOLN. Since then I have had two weeks holiday in Northumberland and had a few days at Whitby Folk Festival. In addition I have been exploring new opportunities which has included submitting an application for the post of Community Engagement Manager at the Open Data Institute. After having recharged my batteries I am now looking to enhance my skills and expertise and further develop my professional connections.

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC has therefore arrived at a timely moment for me. As described by Michal Stephens one of the two facilitators of the MOOC the MOOC is based on a course he has taught at San Jose State University which has been adapted to a larger scale. Michael goes on to explain how the concept of “The Hyperlinked Organization” which was described by David Weinberge in The Cluetrain Manifesto could be applied in a library context:

The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.

The MOOC is based on a number of weekly modules which include The Hyperlinked Library Model & Participatory Service; Hyperlinked Library Communities; Engaging Hyperlinked Communities; Planning for Hyperlinked Libraries; Transparency & Privacy; User Experience; Mobile & Geo-social Environments; Creation Culture and Learning & New Literacies; Reflective Practice.

As the MOOC begins on Monday I am not yet in a position to comment on the content on the MOOC. However As I have registered on the MOOC I am in a position to give my initial thoughts on the MOOC environment,

MOOC badgesAfter joined the MOOC I subscribed to a number of discussion fora or, to use the terminology of the MOOC, joined number of tribes. I looked at details of others who have subscribed to the MOOC and sent friendship requests to people I knew and accepted a number of requests which I have received. I then updated my details and uploaded a portrait and created a blog for use on the course.

For each of these actions I was awarded a badge: a Join a Tribe badge; a Send a Friendship Request badge; an Accept a Friendship Request badge and an Update your MOOC avatar badge. I also received an Update your MOOC avatar badge for collecting five badges!

As illustrated, I now have eight badges. It seems that there are still many other badges which I can acquire, including checkpoint badge, master badges, blogging badges, peer review badges, personal learning network badges and À  la carte badges.

Thoughts on Badges

I have to admit that I found this rather cheesy; I felt the system was patronizing me. I found my initial reaction somewhat strange. After all, I had invited Doug Belshaw, Badges & Skills Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, to give a plenary talk at the IWMW 2013 event on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. The Storify summary of the open session at the IWMW 2013 event described how:

Doug Belshaw gave an introduction to the Open Badges infrastructure and how these could be used to communicate a wide range of skills that are not currently communicated by traditional degree certificates.  He explained the different levels to which institutions can integrate Open Badges into their accreditation, and outline how web managers can get involved both with Open Badges and a new web literacy standard.

As I subsequently reported “gauging from the comments on Twitter, an audience which is intrigued by open badges and their potential relevance for both personal use and to support departmental activities“. Indeed I recall suggesting at the event that I should consider whether open badges should be provided for speakers and participants at IWMW events. But having been a fan a few months ago, why was I skeptical when I received my first badges on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC last week?

My skepticism was compounded after I deleted the default blog post which had been created when I set up the blog and received a Post Trasher badge! I felt patronized: “Congratulations, you now know hoe to delete a blog post. Have a badge“. It seems as though the MOOC is awarding badges after every distinct action: registering; updating one’s avatar, joining a group, creating a blog; publishing a post;, etc. There is no notion of quality associated with such badges. But perhaps that is to come, as badges are awarded based on assessment and peer review.

Post on unlocking badgesIs there, then, a point to badges for completion of simple tasks? In a recent post Michael Stephens suggested that “Happiness is unlocking a badge!” and one fellow student responded: “I’ve always been an intrinsically motivated kinda person, but this having little nuggets to ’win’ is stepping it up a notch!”.

So perhaps my cynicism is inappropriate. Alternatively, there may be cultural differences based on nationality, area of work, gender, etc.

The question of differing perspectives and approaches for a global MOOC audience occurred to me after befriending other participants on the MOOC. I responded to friendship requests from the MOOC organisers (one of whom, Michael Stephens, I know) and then befriended a small number of people whom I am in contact with on Twitter. However I have not befriended any ‘strangers’ although I number of people I do not know have befriended me (and I have accepted such requests). Will we see differences in participants willingness to initiate and respond to friendship requests, I wonder. It should be noted that at the time of writing the Google Map of participants’ locations shows only three British and one Irish participants. As can be seen from the map below which shows the location of participants from the northern hemisphere (note bone participant from China is omitted) the MOOC has attracted participants from North America and Europe. Other participants are from Australia and New Zealand, with one participants from South America.

It will be interesting to see if the global audience (although predominantly from the western world)  engages with the online MOOC environment in ways which reflect cultural differences. The map itself may reveal some clues, as participants have been invited to add their own information. Will participants from North America be more willing to provide geo-location information, I wonder? I’d welcome your thoughts.

Map of hyperlinked library MOOC participants




Posted in openness | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

Wanted By The ODI: Conclusions

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 August 2013

On Monday I described how the ODI (Open Data Institute) had advertised a post for a Community Engagement Manager. The job advert described how:

This isn’t a normal job; we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19 August please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

Quite a challenge! But it does seem appropriate that an application for a post at the Open Data Institute should be published in an open fashion. This approach also helped the Open Data Institute to raise its visibility: I expect potential applicants will have been demonstrating their expertise in engaging with audiences in a variety of ways –  have there been any high-profile ‘flashmobs’ over the past few days, I wonder? I had intended to demonstrate my suitability for their job by publishing a series of blog posts containing infographics which would illustrate various aspects of my work. However as I am currently on holiday in Northumberland I decided that visits to castles would take priority! So instead this final post (which I hope won’t be penalised for missing the 12 noon deadline!) provides a summary of the reasons why I feel I am well-suited for the post together with an accompanying poster display which is embedded in this post and is also available on Slideshare:

A commitment to open practices:
I started to make use of Creative Commons licences for the JISC-funded QA Focus project shortly before Creative Commons licences were formally recognised in UK legislation. I have used a Creative Commons licence for posts on this blog and for the slides I use in my presentations. I also ensure that my research papers are openly available with a Creative Commons licence from the University of Bath repository. I also make use of open practices in my work, such as this blog which acts as an ‘open notebook’ in which I share my ideas and invite feedback and discussion.
A pro-active approach to sharing and engagement:
I have been pro-active in sharing my experiences across a wide audience, including Web practitioners in UK Universities, the cultural sector in the UK together with the wider research community. As can be seen from the accompanying timeline I have been involved in such open practices for a significant period.
An experienced speaker:
I am an experienced speaker: I have given a total of 429 presentations between November 1996 and July 2013.
An experienced event organiser:
I am an experienced event organiser, having established the annual IWMW event seventeen years ago.
A willingness to evaluate new tools, techniques and services:
I am willing to evaluate new tools and services in order to be able to exploit potential benefits of innovative practices. An example has been the use of event amplification technologies at IWMW since 2005 (which was described in a paper entitled “Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences” presented at the EUNIS 2005 conference.
An experienced writer:
I have written over 60 peer-reviewed or invited papers at local, national and international events. I have also published over 1,200 posts on this blog.
Strong professional networks:
I have strong professional networks on services such as Twitter and LinkedIn as well as across the Web accessibility research community and the educational technology community.
Knowledgeable of the importance of metrics (and their limitations):
I am aware of the importance of metrics associated with use of social media, but am also aware that metrics can be ‘gamed’ and will often need to be used in conjunction with complementary sources of evidence.

I should add that an advantage of publishing an open application for a job is that other organisations can also see what I have to offer. If my skills and expertise are of interest to you please get in touch. After all, I may not get the job – or if I do, I might still be interested in other options!

open practices timeline

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Supporting Open Data and Open Content

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 August 2013

Following on from a couple of posts last week which summarised reasons why I may be  and an explanation of What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers? in today’s post I summarise some of the ways in which I have made use of open content and encouraged others to do likewise.

IWMW event and open dataDuring my 16 years at UKOLN I have given over 400 talks throughout the UK and Europe, as well as in North America, Australia and Asia. I have made many of the slides available with Creative Commons licences as well as using services such as Slideshare which permit reuse, downloading, modifications and embedding.

But in addition to a personal commitment to openness I have also sought to ensure that others in the higher education sector are aware of the potential benefits of open practices.

The annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series has provided an opportunity to make use of open practices and ensure that those with responsibilities for managing institutional Web services in UK universities are aware of moves towards openness.

The IWMW 2013 event, for example, opened with a keynote talk on “Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER” which was given by Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. This was followed by Doug Belshaw’s talk on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. In addition to such keynote talks, workshop sessions on “Open Up: Open Data in the Public Sector” and “Save Money and Make Things Better with Linked Open Data” provided an opportunity for participants to explore issues about data and openness in more detail.

iwmw speaker mapBut in addition to the talks and workshop sessions which address various aspects of openness, information about the 17 years of IWMW events has been made available as open data, This has included information on the location of the IWMW events, details of the plenary talks and workshop sessions and biographical details of the speakers and facilitators.

This information has been provided in RSS format, a lightweight and extensible syndication format which has proved suitable for this task.

The extensibility of RSS has enabled geo-located information to be provided.  In addition to the location of the IWMW events themselves, the biographical information includes the location of the host institution of the speakers and workshop facilitators.

Use of open data in this way has enabled maps to be provided, as illustrated, showing the extent of active participation at 17 years of events from across the sector. It should be noted that this work focussed on the creation of the data and associated data modelling, rather than the use of an application. The initial applications which provided location maps of the data have subsequently been superceded by Google Maps which provides a more robust service. The data could potentially be used for other purposes, such as providing estimates of the carbon costs of speakers and facilitators in travelling from their host institution to the IWMW event.

The data modelling led to an awareness of the importance of definition of the data items and the need for documentation – it was decided to provide geo-location information for the speakers’ host institution (and not, for example, where they live) and this information was primarily provided only for people who were based in universities and not for consultants of those  working for the commercial sector.

It does seem to me that given the importance of events as a channel for sharing ideas there would be benefits from providing open data associated with events themselves, which can build on access access to the talks given at events. The Lanyrd service can be used to provide information about speakers at events, as can be seen from my Lanyrd profile. I’d be interested to hear of further examples of the ways in which open event data is being used, especially examples of the aggregation of event data.

Posted in Events, openness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 August 2013

Open data posterIn a post entitled Wanted For The ODI! which I published yesterday I described the Open Data Institute’s (ODI) Community Engagement Manager post. 

Tom Heath, the Head of Research at the ODI explained how he wanted potential applicants for the post to “demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience” in order to support “collaborative projects [which] will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses“.

But what is open data and why the interest in open data?  There is a need, I feel, to be able to provide answers to these questions to those who may not be currently engaged in work involving use of open data.

A definition of the term ‘open data’ is available from Wikipedia: “Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control”. This is a useful definition as Wikipedia is a popular reference source for people looking to find definitions of new concepts – indeed there have been 32,739 views of this article in the last 90 days.

But although this definition states that “certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish” it does not explain why data should be freely available. In the area of open source software, Richard Stallman has argued that  software should be “free as in speech” rather “than free as in beer“. I don’t agree with this view; rather I feel that open source software can provide business benefits by enabling others to view, use and adapt software.

I take the same view for open data. In the case of data provided by, analysed by and commented on by researchers there can be benefits in making the data open so that other researchers can validate the data and verify the analyses made of the data.

But is this also the case for institutional data? And what barriers might institutions put in place which restricts the use of others to “use and republish [data] as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control“. A significant barrier will be concerns that the provision of open data will result in the loss of revenue streams for the institution. Often such issues are raised within the context of commercial organisations which may make money from data, such as publishers who licence researcher’s data, usage data, etc. But it would be a mistake to regard such barriers as being imposed only by the commercial sector.  Back in December 2010 in a post entitled “Impact, Openness and Libraries” I described how:

SCONUL [the UK academic library organisation] has been collecting and publishing statistics from university libraries for over twelve years, with the aim of providing sound information on which policy decisions can be based.

I went on to point out that:

The SCONUL data is not publicly available. It seems that the SCONUL Annual Library Statistics is published yearly – and copies cost £80.

and added that:

Perhaps more importantly in today’s climes, the closed nature of the report and the underlying data (which is closed by its price, closed by being available only to member organisations and closed by being available in PDF format) is how perceptions of secrecy goes against  expectations that public sector organisation should be open and transparent.

One approach to obtaining access to such closed data is to submit a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request. Shortly after I published by blog post, following discussions at the ILI conference Tony Hirst submitted an FOI request:

Please could you supply me with a copy of the annual statistical report made to SCONUL from the University of Bath Library for the period 2008-9

which provided access to the SCONUL data for one institution although, being in PDF format it was not well-suited for further analysis.

This example illustrates, I feel, some of the difficulties which will need to be addressed in enhancing the availability of open data in the public sector. And whilst there are technical challenges (the formats used; the metadata which describes the data sources and the workflow processes for providing access to the data) ; resourcing issues (who pays for the additional work needed); skills issues (do organisations have the technical expertise and systems needed to provide open data) and business model issues (will there be sufficient interest by others in consuming open data to justify the costs) there is also the need to consider some of the underlying political considerations regarding the growth in interest in open content. In 2005 Bill Gates described free culture advocates as a “modern-day sort of communists”. But from today’s political and economic environment might not the pressures on public sector bodies to provide open data about their activities be regarded as a neo-conservative plot aimed at the privatisation of the public sector be providing opportunities for the commercial sector to exploit business intelligence? And are we seeing examples of this in the moves from open educational resources to MOOCS, in which learning analytics seems to be becoming a valuable digital commodity?

I’d welcome responses to these concerns!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Wanted For The ODI!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 August 2013

Wanted for the ODIA recent tweet from Matt Jukes alerted me to a job opportunity:

Great job at the Open Data Institute -Community Engagement Manager – apart from @tommyh as a line manager ;)

The job description began:

In this role you’ll be instrumental in strengthening the ODI’s relationship with the open data community, from developers to policy makers, researchers and executives. You’ll be based at the ODI’s offices in Shoreditch, at the heart of the London startup scene, but connected to the latest developments in open data across Europe and beyond.

and went on to describe how:

Reporting to the Head of Research, the main focus of your efforts will be managing the dissemination and outreach activities of EU-funded research projects. These collaborative projects will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses. The ability of these projects to reach and engage their target audiences will be central to their success, giving you a prime opportunity to demonstrate and develop your community engagement skills.

This job is of interest to me, in light of my belief in open practices and in use of open data, especially to inform policy decisions and practices.  However the most intriguing aspect is given in the final paragraph:

This isn’t a normal job so we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19th August 2013 please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

My challenge, then, is to make Tom aware of the value I could provide for this role in creative ways which demonstrate my passion for open data!

As I am away on holiday this week, up in the “desolate north” of England I will have to be creative in communicating with Tom – perhaps I should get myself a whippet while I’m in the north east and attach a postcard to it in an attempt to provide a creative alternative to sending tweets to Tom!

But in case I find that the Internet does extend as far as Northumberland  I’ll respond to Tom my publishing an open CV on this blog – an appropriate response for a job at the Open Data Institute, I feel.

But in case Tom isn’t listening, you could help by tweeting links to my post with the #wantedbytheODI tag. And if you have any further evidence to support the accusation that I have been making data and other content freely available please leave details in the comments field. Sheriff Tom Heath would like to know more!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Rediscovering Missing Conference Web Sites

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 August 2013

Revisiting Lanyrd

lanyrd entry for Brian KellyI’m a big fan of the Lanyrd service. As described in Wikipedia Lanyrd is  “a conference directory website created by Simon Willison and Natalie Downe and launched in 2010“.  In November 2010, shortly after Lanyrd’s launch I described Developments to the Lanyrd Service and gave some Further Thoughts on Lanyrd. In May 2012 I asked Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event?, and then in August 2012 I described how Lanyrd Gets Even Better – But Can It Provide The Main Event Web Site?

Last week a post on the Lanyrd blog entitled Find speakers for your events with Lanyrd’s new speaker directory described further developments to the service:

At Lanyrd, we’re building the definitive database of professional events, conferences, talks and speakers. We want to help organisers run better events, speakers get more exposure and attendees find the events that are right for them.

Our brand new speaker directory provides a powerful new way to explore the 70,000+ speaker profiles already on Lanyrd, and helps organisers connect with new talent to help make their events even better.

Since I am experienced speaker I have a professional interest in making use of Lanyrd’s speaker directory in order to provide an online record of my previous speaking activities which may be useful in finding new opportunities in my post-UKOLN career.

Lanyrd Entries For Past Events

In order to ensure that my Lanyrd speaker profile contained a suitable record of my main speaking appearances I wanted to ensure that details of significant international conferences were included.

Back in October 2008 I presented a paper on “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference which was organised by the National Library of Singapore. This was a particularly memorable conference for me, not only due to the location but also because I had a couple of weeks holiday afterwards, visiting Malaysia and Thailand. In addition the paper, which was subsequently published in a special edition of the Program journal which featured papers from the conference, is also the most downloaded paper by UKON staff hosted in the University of Bath repository. I was therefore keen on ensuring that this event was included n my Lanyrd speaker profile.

Bridging Worlds 2008 Web Site In Internet ArchiveSince there wasn’t a Lanyrd entry for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference I had to create one. As I was a speaker but not an organiser of the event, there is a question as to who should take responsibility for the creation of an entry. However this is addressed in the Lanyrd FAQ:

I’ve noticed anyone can edit an event and add and remove speakers — is that really a good idea?
Lanyrd works a bit like Wikipedia — we keep track of all changes made to an event (we don’t yet expose that information in the UI) and any vandalism can be quickly reverted.

I therefore decided to create a Lanyrd entry for the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference. However although I had details of my session on the UKOLN Web site I found that the conference Web site, which was at, no longer existed. It was therefore not clear how I would recreate details of all of the talks given at the conference. Such information was needed if the Lanyrd entry for the conference was to have a role to play in providing information on thee talks, the speakers and links to information about the conference.

Digital Archeology Using the Internet Archive and Slideshare

My first port of call in looking for the conference programme was the Internet Archive. Fortunately there had been nine captures of the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference homepage, two captures of the programme for the first day and three for the second day. As illustrated there was sufficient information to find the title, times and speaker information for the talks. This information was used to recreate the conference timetable on Lanyrd.

In addition to the Internet Archive I also discovered that there was a Bridgingworlds2008 Slideshare account which contained the slides used for 18 of the talks together with copies of the papers in three cases. Since Slideshare resources can be embedded within Lanyrd I was therefore able to provide access to the slides used for many of the talks.

However the Internet Archive’s copy of the conference Web site only included a couple of the abstracts so I was not able to reproduce this information for all of the talks.

Since several of the speakers were known to me or could easily be found I was able to find their Twitter ID and use this as an identifier in the Bridging Worlds 2008 speaker directory, as illustrated. It should be noted that in a couple of cases, the information for speakers for whom I do not know their Twitter ID is replicated.

Lanyrd Entry for Bridging Worlds 2008 conferenceDiscussion

Although this work began in order to provide an entry in my Lanyrd speaker profile, the demise of the conference Web site led to an interesting exercise in ‘excavating’ Web resources in order to reproduce the past and reproduce the information which was discovered in order to provide a resource which may be of use for others.

It does seem that conference Web sites are regarded as displosable, which can be deleted after the conference is over. This is the case for CILIP’s recent Umbrella 2013 conference, held at the University of Manchester on 2-3 July 2013.

If you visit the CILIP Web site you will find that most of the information about the conference, including the dates and location, has vanished. All that remains are links to the presentations (in PDF format). As shown the links provide speaker information but nothing about the timings, the strand they were in, the room locations, etc. More importantly this information is not interoperable with the Social Web: there is no way of providing associations with the talks and commentary about the talks (such as tweets and blog posts) or for the speakers (e.g. their talks at other events; their connections with other speakers and participants at the event).

Umbrella conferenceIt does seem that Internet archeology will be needed already for this recent conference. There is a Lanyrd entry for the Umbrella 2013 conference. However this currently has very little information, beyond the conference dates and location. Perhaps motivated individual or individuals from the CILIP community might be willing to recreate the conference timetable (which was previously published in a large PDF file) within the Lanyrd environment, enabling additional information, such as the slides, reports on the talks, links to Twitter archives, etc, to be included as part of the conference record.

But shouldn’t conference organisers take a more pro-active approach in ensuring that (a) conference information is replicated beyond the institutional environment to minimise potential that such information due to in-house decisions and (b) conference information can be integrated with other information sources hosted outside the institution? This has been the approach taken for the IWMW series of events. Wouldn’t it be sensible for other organisations, such as CILIP, Jisc and UCISA, to provide information for many years of high-profile events in this fashion? Of is there still a reluctance to make use of third-party services?


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Lest We Forget: The UKOLN (and CETIS) Diaspora

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 1 August 2013

Supporting CETIS Colleagues Formerly at the University of Strathclyde

A few days ago Lorna Campbell published a post in which she described how “The Cetis Memorandum of Understanding has been terminated and all Cetis staff at the university have been made redundant“. Sheila MacNeill posted a similar story in which she described how “my contract (like my colleagues Lorna and Martin) is terminating on Wednesday 31 July“.

As Sheila described “this has nothing to do with the change of funding between Jisc and Cetis, and that Cetis is going to be continuing after 31 July“. But although CETIS, which is primarily based at Bolton University, seem to have been successful in attracting new funding to replace the lost Jisc core funding, Lorna, Sheila and Martin Hawksey have suffered from the decision at the University of Strathclyde to “no longer continue its relationship with Cetis“.

I’ve known Lorna. Sheila and Martin for many years and have always been impressed by the quality of their work and the strong emphasis they place on community engagement and dissemination. I was therefore happy to provide testimonials on the LinkedIn profiles for Lorna Campbell, Sheila MacNeill and Martin Hawksey. But what of my former colleagues from UKOLN?

Supporting the UKOLN Diaspora

UKOLN DiasporaWikipedia defines diaspora as “a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area“.  From the list of former UKOLN staff it seems there have been no fewer than 76 former members of staff, with just five people remaining (and only two working fulltime).

But how will people find former UKOLN employees? Since the UKOLN Web site was set up in the early days of the Web before AltaVista became a popular search engine!)  and has a large amount of content related to management of digital information, the UKOLN Web site has a lot of ‘Google juice’. This may mean that it will be difficult to find information about former UKOLN employees.

In order to ensure that potential new employers or business partners are able to find information about former members of staff the UKOLN Diaspora site has been set up. I

This provides a brief profile page for former UKOLN staff who have chosen to provide their information. The aim will be that a search for, say, “Rosemary Russell UKOLN” or “Natasha Bishop UKOLN” will find their up-to-date information on the UKOLN Diaspora site, rather than the work they were doing at UKOLN ten years ago!

Although aimed initially at staff who have been made redundant, the site will be extended shortly to enable everyone who used to work at UKOLN to provide information on their work at UKOLN, together with their current professional activities and interests.

In addition to widening the scope of the Web site I am currently in discussions with a designer in order to provide a more appealing user interface, which will provide the flexibility needed as the site grows.

If you have worked at UKOLN and would like to provide content on the Web site please get in touch.

Posted in General | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 30 July 2013

Tomorrow is my last day at UKOLN. I’ve enjoyed my time working at the University and living in Bath. In fact I enjoyliving in Bath so much that I’ve decided that I won’t be looking to move away for a full-time job elsewhere. However I will be looking for new opportunities, such as consultancy work or perhaps short-term work elsewhere.

A couple of months ago I noticed that the Open Knowledge Foundation were inviting applicants who wished to apply for jobs to submit a brief video clip summarising reasons why they may be suitable for a job in the organisation. Since I felt that we are likely to see an increase in new approaches to interviewing I organised a session on “Creating a Multimedia CV or Project Summary” at the IWMW 2013 event. The session facilitators were Kirsty and Rich Pitkin who have organised a lot of amplified events for UKOLN and JISC in recent years.

Kirsty and Rich also created a video clip for me in which I summarise the new opportunities I am looking for in 60 seconds. The video clip is available on the Vimeo service and embedded below.

If you feel my skills, expertise and passion can be of use to you, please get in touch.

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Preservation of UKOLN’s Web Resources and Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 29 July 2013

My main work activity this year has been managing the preservation of UKOLN’s Web resources, prior to the cessation of Jisc’s core funding on 31 July and the departure of most of UKOLN staff.

UKOLN Web site in UK Web ArchiveThis work involved:

  • Identifying UKOLN’s Web assets and the owner.
  • Preparing the content so that it was suitable for preservation.
  • Submitting details of the Web resources to the UK Web Archive team.
  • Liaison with the  UK Web Archive team to ensure that the resources had been successfully archived.

The preparation work, which was quite time-consuming to complete, involved switching off functions and technologies which were not suitable for archival (e.g. backend CGI scripts and features which were dependent on specific CMS technologies.

In addition the content of the main entry points for Web sites (and micro sites)  was updated in order to ensure that the page provided information on the purpose of the site; the funders; the UKOLN staff involved; the start and end dates for the work and, where possible, links to the key outputs of the work.

The UK Web Archive team have confirmed that they have successfully harvested the resources  we submitted some time ago. In addition Web sites which were still being updated, such as the UKOLN Web site itself and the IWMW sites, were submitted for archiving more recently.

In addition to this work significant papers and reports have been deposited in Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository. During the initial preparatory work we found that entry points for individuals were not available after they had left the institution, although their items would continue to be hosted in the repository. Since the individual’s name could be an important way of finding such content the repository team agreed that people’s entry point would continue to be available after they left the institution (although this would not be applied retrospectively to UKOLN staff who have left the institution prior to the change in the policy).

In order to make it easier to find items written by UKOLN staff the following table provides links to their list of items and accompanying usage statistics.

Name No. of items Usage statistics URL
Top 20 items Total nos.
of downloads
Alex Ball 69 [View] [View]
Talat Chaudhri   2 [View] [View]
Michael Day 68 [View] [View]
Monica Duke


[View] [View]
Kora Golub


[View] [View]
Marieke Guy


[View] [View]
Brian Kelly


[View] [View]
Liz Lyon


[View] [View]
Mahendra Mahey


[View] [View]
Manjula Patel


[View] [View]
Catherine Pink


[View] [View]
Rosemary Russell


[View] [View]
Stephanie Taylor


[View] [View]
Emma Tonkin


[View] [View]

Table 1: Information on UKOLN Items Deposited in Opus Repository

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Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN (part 5)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 26 July 2013

Overview of This Week’s Posts

This week I’ve been posting my reflections on working at UKOLN over the past 16 years. In the first post I described my early involvement with the Web, dating back to December 1992 and how the approaches I took to promoting take-up of the Web across the sector informed my job as UK Web Focus after I started at UKOLN in 1996.

The second post summarised my outreach activities, and this was followed by a post which reviewed my research activities. Yesterday I summarised my work with UKOLN’s core funders and used the work with standards to illustrate the important role which JISC had in adopted a hands-off approach, leaving the work activities to experts across the community.

Evidence-based Policies and Openness

In today’s post, the final one in the series, I’ll reflect on recent work – gathering evidence in order to inform policy and practice – and how the interpretation of the evidence and the formulation of policies and developments to operational practices should be based on a culture of openness.

My interest in this area dates back to 1997 following a successful bid to BLRIC to develop and use monitoring software to analyse trends in use of the Web across the UK’s higher education and library sectors. In 2001 a paper on “Automated Benchmarking Of Local Government Web Sites” was presented at the EuroWeb 2001 conference which described the work of the WebWatch project.

More recently UKOLN and CETIS were involved with the JISC in providing the JISC Observatory. As described in a paper entitled “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” :

The JISC Observatory provides horizon-scanning of technological developments which may be of relevant for the UK’s higher and further education sectors. The JISC Observatory team has developed systematic processes for the scanning, sense-making and synthesis activities for the work. This paper summarises the JISC Observatory work and related activities carried out by the authors. The paper outlines how the processes can be applied in a local context to ensure that institutions are able to gather evidence in a systematic way and understand and address the limitations of evidence-gathering processes. The paper describes use of open processes for interpreting the evidence and suggests possible implications of the horizon-scanning activities for policy-making and informing operational practices. The paper concludes by encouraging take-up of open approaches in gathering and interpretation of evidence used to inform policy-making in an institutional context.

A series of posts have been published on this blog which have sought to gather evidence of use of various Web technologies across the sector in order to detect trends and encourage discussion on the implication of such trends.

University of Bristol confirm use of Google AppsA few days ago I came across evidence of what may perhaps become a significant trend. It seems that the University of Bristol has recently announced a decision to provide Google Apps. Via a tweet they confirmed that this service will be available for both staff and students.

Other Russell Group universities also  use Google Apps for Education. Back in May 2009 Chris Sexton, IT Services director at the University of Sheffield in a post entitled ”You can be a victim of your own success” summarised local reaction to the decision to provide Google Mail for students at the University of Sheffield:

Formally announced the Google mail for students option last night by sending an email to all staff and students. Replies are split almost 50/50. From students saying this is great news, and from staff saying why can’t we have it!

In addition to these institutions I also understand that the universities and colleges at Cambridge, York, Loughborough, De Montfort , London Metropolitan, Leeds Metropolitan, Queen Mary College, Sheffield Hallam, Westminster,  Brunel, Portsmouth, Keele, Bath Spa, Lincoln, Aston, Ravensbourne, Birbeck, Oxford Brookes, SOAS and the Open University all provide Google Apps for Edu. Note that additional information may be found using a Google search for “google apps


We seem to be seeing the start of what could be a significant trend. And if we were to gather information on institutional use of Microsoft’s Office 365 service it would appear that core office functionality is being migrated to the Cloud. In January 2010 a post entitled Save £1million and Move to the Cloud? summarised experiences at the University of Westminster:

When the University of Westminster asked students what campus email system they wanted, 90% requested Google Apps, which lets colleges and universities provide customized versions of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and other services on their school domain

And yet in a recent discussion I heard two IT developers state strongly that “Google own your data if you use Google Apps“. I had to point out the Google terms and conditions which state:

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate.

There are clearly many issues which need to be addressed if institutions are considering moving key services to the Cloud: reliability, security, performance, privacy, trust, copyright and other legal issues. But such discussions should, I feel, be carried out in an open and objective manner, which can help ensure that erroneous beliefs can be identified.

If brief, the evidence shows that institutions are migrating office functionality to Google (and perhaps Microsoft). The question may no longer be “Should we move to the Cloud?” but “Can we afford to run such services in-house?”  I’d welcome your thoughts on this. I’d also welcome further evidence to inform the discussions – I appreciate that not all institutions I have listed are necessarily using Google Apps for all members of the institution.

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Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN (part 4)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 25 July 2013

Working With Funders

During my time at UKOLN there have been several core funders including BLRIC (British Library Research and Innovation Centre), LIC (Library and Information Commission) , Re:source, the MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives Council) and the JISC. Having joint funding has meant that UKOLN was able to engage with not only the higher and further education sectors but also the wider library community together with, following government reorganisations, the cultural heritage sector.

In recent posts I summarised my involvement in speaking at and organising events and writing a large number of peer-reviewed papers. This work was carried out primarily through UKOLN’s core funding. The work typically sought to address the needs of our communities through the involvement with people working directly within the sector. Such ‘customer’-focussed approaches helped, I feel, to ensure the work was relevant to the sector.

My work which was more directly involved with JISC’s needs began with work in developing documents on open standards of relevance to JISC’s digital library programmes, beginning initially with the eLib programme and followed by the DNER and the JISC Information Environment. This work led to related work for the cultural heritage sector, in particular  providing advice on standards for the NOF (New Opportunities Fund) Digitise programme.

In addition to such core-funded work I was also involved in project-funded activities including the JISC-funded QA Focus and JISC PoWR projects, the BLRIC-funded WebWatch project and the EU-funded Exploit Interactive and Cultivate Interactive ejournals. I was also involved in a number of initiatives driven by JISC such as the eFramework but, as described in Andy Powell’s post “e-Framework – time to stop polishing guys!” the time and effort expended by this international partnership failed to have any significant impact and the eFramework Web site seems to be no longer available although a copy is available in the Internet Archive.

Working With Standards

One area which was of particular interest to both of UKOLN’s core funders was the selection of open standards for use in development programmes which they funded. My initial work in this area involved contributing to a document of the open standards relevant for the eLib programme.  This subsequently led to similar documents being developed for the JISC Information Environment and the NOF-digitise programme.

At that time the funders wanted a list of the open standards which should be mandated for use in their development programmes. However JISC recognised that they did not have a compliance regime in force to address failures of projects to implement the mandated standards. In 2001 JISC announced a call for “the provision of a JISC/DNER national focus for digitisation and quality assurance in the UK“. The document described how the successful bidder would have responsibilities for:

Ensuring adherence of projects to relevant parts of DNER standards and guidelines and reporting on problems in their implementation; incorporating feedback and recommending updates to the guidelines for the community as appropriate

I submitted a successful bid for this work in conjunction with ILRT, University of Bristol. After the first year ILRT withdrew and were replaced by AHDS.  Myself, my colleague Marieke Guy and our colleagues at AHDS developed a quality assurance framework. As described in the final report:

The aim of the QA Focus project was to develop a quality assurance (QA) methodology which would help to ensure that projects funded by JISC digital library programmes were functional, widely accessible and interoperable; to provide support materials to accompany the QA framework and to help to embed the QA methodology in projects’ working practices.

The QA framework is a lightweight framework, based on the provision of technical policies together with systematic procedures for measuring compliance with the policies. The QA Framework is described in a number of the QA Focus briefing documents and the rational for the framework has formed the basis of a number of peer-reviewed papers.

This lightweight framework was described in a briefing document. In brief rather than mandating open standards which must be used across all of JISC’s activities, the framework recommended that projects should document their own policies on open standards (and related areas) and the procedures to ensure that the policies were being implemented. JISC programme managers would have flexibility in prescribing specific open standards if this was felt to be appropriate (for example, a programme designed to investigate the value of the OAI-PMH protocol for harvesting repositories could legitimately mandate use of OAI-PMH, and perhaps even a specific version ).

This approach meant that JISC could request that project reports should be provided in MS Word or PDF formats – both of which were proprietary formats at the time (although they are now both open standards). It also provided the flexibility in avoiding mandating open standards prematurely (e.g. insisting on use of SMIL rather than the proprietary Flash format) or mandating open standards when design patterns may have been more appropriate (e.g. mandating the Web Services standards such as SOAP when RESTful design practices have, in many cases, proved to be more relevant).

Standards paperThis work was carried out over a period of time. In 2003 an initial paper on “Ideology Or Pragmatism? Open Standards And Cultural Heritage Web Sites” by myself and my colleague Marieke Guy, Alastair Dunning (AHDS – the now defunct Arts and Humanities Data Service) and Lawrie Phipps (TechDis) described how:

… despite the widespread acceptance of the importance of open standards, in practice many organisations fail to implement open standards in their provision of access to digital resources. It clearly becomes difficult to mandate use of open standards if it is well-known that compliance is seldom enforced. Rather than abandoning open standards or imposing a stricter regime for ensuring compliance, this paper argues that there is a need to adopt a culture which is supportive of use of open standards but provides flexibility to cater for the difficulties in achieving this.

The next paper published two years later on “A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes” by myself and my UKOLN colleagues Rosemary Russell and Pete Johnston, Paul Hollins (CETIS) and Alastair Dunning and Lawrie Phipps:

describes a layered approach to selection and use of open standards which is being developed for digital library development work within the UK. This approach reflects the diversity of the technical environment, the service provider’s environment, the user requirements and maturity of standards by separating contextual aspects; technical and non-technical policies; the selection of appropriate solutions and the compliance layer. To place the layered approach in a working context, case studies are provided of the types of environments in which the standards framework could be implemented, from an established standards-based service, to a new service in the process of selecting and implementing metadata standards. These examples serve to illustrate the need for such frameworks.

Further papers on “A Contextual Framework For Standards” (by myself, Alastair Dunning, Paul Hollins, Lawrie Phipps and Sebastian Rahtz [OSS Watch])  and “Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards” (by myself, Marieke Guy and Alastair Dunning) and “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” (by myself, Scott Wilson [CETIS] and Randy Metcalfe [OSS Watch]) subsequently developed these ideas and explored how they could be app;lied in a variety of contexts.


Looking at this work it strikes me the value of the expertise provided by colleagues across the sector. The papers I have listed which described the approaches and ensured that the ideas had been subject to peer review work were written by staff at UKOLN (4 individuals), CETIS (1 individual), OSS Watch (2 individuals), TechDis (1 individual and the now-defunct AHDS (2 individuals). JISC programme managers provided value project management support for the initial QA Focus work and gave early feedback on the ideas but did not have intellectual input into the ideas.

In light of the evidence given in this blog post I am somewhat concerned with the new logo which appeared on the redesigned Jisc Web site: “We are the UK’s expert on digital technologies for education and research“. Really? What is the evidence for that assertion? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say “We are successful in designing development programmes and providing project management expertise  to these programmes“? And equally important “We are successful in encouraging the experts in the higher education sector to work together for the benefit of the wider community“. I would be the first to give thanks to the JISC for organising events which enabled me to meet the co-authors I’ve listed above and encouraged such joint working. But “We are the experts”! Who coined that statement, I wonder?

JISC logo


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Posted in General, standards | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN (part 3)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 24 July 2013


google scholar summary of my ciationsIn yesterday’s post I outlined the importance of participation and organisation of events in my role as UK Web Focus at UKOLN. Such activities had been a continuation of my early work in promoting use of the Web, although at a much more intense level. However my research activities was something relatively new as I had published only a handful of peer-reviewed papers before starting at UKOLN in October 1996.

Early Years

A year or so after I arrived at UKOLN I was asked to contribute to a special issue of the Journal of Documentation which included several papers from colleagues at UKOLN. In addition to my paper on “The Evolution Of Web Protocols” following feedback from reviewers I was asked to edit a paper on “How is my web community developing? Monitoring trends in web service provision“.

Staff Development for UKOLN Colleagues, Project Partner and Others

From those beginnings I developed an interest in writing peer-reviewed papers. In the early years I tended to primarily write short papers which were presented as posters at international WWW conferences. However by 2003 my involvement in the JISC-funded QA Focus project led to three papers being accepted for the EUNIS 2003, ichim03 and IADIS 2003 conferences. The ichim03 paper was co-authored with Alastair Dunning (AHDS), Marieke Guy (UKOLN) and Lawrie Phipps (TechDis); the EUNIS 2003 paper with Marieke Guy and Hamish James (AHDS) and the IADIS 2003 paper with Andrew Williamson and Alan Dawson, two researchers from Strathclyde University following a discussion about the work in a pub in Glasgow!

By this time I realised that the value of project work was more likely to be appreciated if papers about the work had been accepted at high-profile conferences. In addition being able to list peer-reviewed papers on one’s CV was valuable for my colleagues at UKOLN, project partners and fellow researchers. I therefore tried to ensure that peer-reviewed papers were written with colleagues for future project work. This approach provded particularly beneficial for my papers on Web accessibility.

The Web Accessibility Series of Peer-reviewed Papers

My most significant work was the publication in 2004 of a paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility” in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology. This paper arose from discussions with Simon Ball of TechDis on 18 June 2003, shortly before we co-facilitated a workshop at Bedford College. “I don’t think the WCAG guidelines work” I said to Simon. “Funnily enough, we’ve reached the same conclusion, especially in the context of e-learning” Simon replied (although I have, of course, paraphrased our conversation.

The following year myself, Lawrie Phipps (then of TechDis) and Elaine Swift, a colleague from the E-learning Unit at the University of Bath, published our first paper in a series which developed and then refined a user-centred approach to addressing Web accessibility. As illustrated above, according to Google Scholar Citations the initial paper has been widely cited.  In 2008 in a paper on “Reflections on the Development of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility” we summarised the development of our approaches. Our most recent work in this areas was published in an article entitled “Bring Your Own Policy: Why Accessibility Standards Need to Be Contextually Sensitive” in the Ariadne ejournal. Along the journey the work which was initiated by myself, Lawrie Phipps and Elaine Swift was supported by a large number of co-authors from accessibility researchers and practitioners. In order of their contributions these were Lawrie Phipps (4 papers), Elaine Swift (1 paper), David Sloan (6 papers), Professor Helen Petrie (3 papers), Fraser Hamilton (2 papers), Caro Howell (1 paper), Ann Chapman (1 paper) Andy Heath (2 papers), Professor Steven Brown (2 papers), Jane Seale (2 papers), Lauke (2 papers), Simon Ball (2 papers), Liddy Nevile (4 papers), Sotis Fanou (2 papers), EA Draffan (1 paper), Stuart Smith (1 paper) Ruth Ellison (1 paper), Lisa Herrod (1 paper), Sarah Lewthwaite (2 papers) and Martyn Cooper (1 paper).

Quality and Impact

The papers I have referred to include a mixture of peer-reviewed papers presented at conferences or published in journals, as well as short papers presented as posters, invited papers at international conferences or papers which were accepted based on peer-reviews of the abstracts.

Author download count in Opus

The papers therefore may be of variable quality, especially in the case of papers from my early years at UKOLN. However evidence of the quality of two of the papers, “Developing Countries; Developing Experiences: Approaches to Accessibility for the Real World” and “Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility” can be seen from the awards they won: the first paper won the John M Slatin award for Best Communications Paper at the W4A 2010 conference and the second won the Best Research Paper Award at ALT-C 2005.

As well as these awards the paper on “Contextual web accessibility – maximizing the benefit of accessibility guidelines” is the most cited paper from the W4A conference series according to Microsoft Academic Search with the paper on “Accessibility 2.0: people, policies and processes” being in fifth place.

As well as these awards, my papers appear to have been widely-read - or at least downloaded! As can be seen if you look at the usage statistics for Opus, the University of Bath repository it seems that I have had the largest number of downloads of my papers – indeed twice as many as the person in second place –my colleague Alex Ball. Many research-led institutions are likely to be interested in the tools and techniques which can be used to enhance the visibility of research papers, in the expectation that such increased visibility may lead to additional citations by other researchers, adoption of the ideas by policy-makers and practitioners and exposure of the ideas to the mass media.

The approaches I have used to enhance the visibility of my research publications have been described in part in a paper which asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?“. In the paper myself and Jenny Delasalle proposed the merit of a pro-active approach to inbound links to one’s papers (which also should provide benefits to other papers hosted in the repository). In addition I facilitated a half-day hands-on workshop session on “Managing Your Research Profile” at an Information Science Pathway’s event held at the University of Edinburgh. This workshop is one I will be looking to run in the future once my consultancy starts so please get in touch if you would like me to facilitate a workshop along these lines at your institution or for your event.

Reflecting on 360 Pages of Research Papers!

Table of contents for my papersOver the past few months whilst preparing the UKOLN Web site for preservation I ensured that my research paper included by ORCID ID, 0000-0001-5875-8744, to claim my authorship and the authorship of my co-authors). I have already summarized the reasons Why I’m Now Embedding ORCID Metadata in PDFs but in addition I realized that I had an opportunity to aggregate my papers into a single document. To my surprise I found that the document containing all of my papers came to 360 pages!

This document is not being made publicly available. However it does occur to me that this might provide an interesting resource of one’s research papers for which subsequent analysis may provide interesting insights. For example “What would a word cloud of the papers look like?” or “Has the writing style changed over time?” I’d welcome other suggestions for analyses of a personal archive of papers.

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Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN (part 2)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 23 July 2013


In yesterday’s blog post I described my early involvement with the Web, prior to joining UKOLN in October 1996. My interests in supporting early adopters, sharing emerging best practices, working at a national level (beyond my host institution) and sharing such best practices across the sector at events and in paper and online publications has underpinned my work at UKOLN over the past 16 years.

Participation at Events

According to the list of the presentations I’ve given during my time at UKOLN I have given a total of 429 talks, with a peak of 44 talks in 2006, when there was much interest across the sector in Web 2.0.

Presentations given in UK from 1996-2013Since I have sought to make use of emerging Web standards and services as well as talk about them, for several years I have provided a geo-located summary of my talks in RSS format which enables the locations to be depicted in services such as Google Maps. The accompanying image shows the locations of talks across the UK.

Zooming out from the locations in the UK illustrates how I have supported UKOLN in achieving a strategic goal in ensuring that “The global visibility of UK digital initiatives is increased“.

Presentations given globally from 1996-2013

  • My talks outside the UK have included:
  • Peer-reviewed papers presented at conferences in the US, Canada,  Italy, Holland, Australia and Japan.
  • Invited papers presented in Norway, Sweden, Greece Spain, Russia, Singapore, and Taiwan.
  • Workshops facilitated in Italy and Belgium.

It may be worrying if I were to analyse the environmental costs of such travel (and since the locations of my talks have been geo-located it might be an interesting exercise to estimate the carbon costs of such travel). However I should add that one invited presentation in a conference given in Australia was based on a pre-recorded video of a talk I had given in London!

Organising Events

Although it is pleasing to have received so many invitations to talk at events, I often prefer having the opportunity to facilitate interactive workshop sessions, as such approaches can be more effective in enhancing learning and ensuring that new approaches become embedded in working practices.

I have particularly enjoyed organising technology-transfer  workshops in Belgium, Italy and Holland. But in the UK my most significant achievement has been the establishment of the Institution Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series. I established this in 1997 and the most recent event, IWMW 2013, was held in the University of Bath a month ago. The event has provided an opportunity for those with responsibilities for managing large-scale institutional Web services to share best practices and keep up-to-date with emerging technological developments as well as being prepared to address the implications of legal and economic changes.

During the IWMW 2013 event I was pleased to hear how important the event is felt to be across the sector and the encouragement I received from  many of the participants for exploring new business models which will enable the event to continue next year. Once my work at UKOLN is over on 31 July I will be developing a business plan for continuation of the event. In the meantime I’d welcome ideas for the sustainability of the event. Feel free to get in touch.

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Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN (part 1)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 July 2013

My Final Full Week at UKOLN

This is my final complete week at UKOLN. As I described in a post entitled “My Redundancy Letter Arrived Today” the cessation of Jisc’s core funding means that myself and the majority of my colleagues will be made redundant on 31 July.

It occurred to me that it would be appropriate for me to publish a series of post which give my reflections on my time at UKOLN.

How Did I Get Here?

I first arrived at UKOLN one hot July day in 1996 when I came for the interview for the post on UK Web Focus. I remember it was hot as I (foolishly) decided to walk up the hill to the University as it didn’t look too far on the map. If you’ve visited Bath University you’ll know that although it isn’t too far from the town centre, the university is located at the top of a steep hill. I would not recommend walking up the hill to a University on a hot day when you are wearing a suit!

But the reason I came to Bath for an interview for the post of UK Web Focus was due to my role in setting up the first institutional Web service at the University of Leeds. As I described in a post entitled “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” the service was launched in January 1993 after a group of researchers organised a demonstration of various Internet technologies such as (I think) Gopher, Veronica, WAIS, Archie and the Viola WWW Hypermedia Browser. Although at the time there was growing interest in the higher education sector in use of Gopher to provide a Campus-Wide Information Service (CWIS) as soon as I saw the Viola application I felt that the future should be based on Web technologies. In retrospect that does not seem to be a particularly difficult conclusions to reach but it took another few years before the Web became accepted as the essential technology for delivering information services. At the time I was worried that Leeds University may have chosen the Betamax on Internet technologies – technical superior to its main rival but in danger of being marginalised by the simplicity of Gopher. During 1993 and 1994 I therefore gave a number of presentations across the sector highlighting the benefits of the Web and why it should be used rather than Gopher (or Guide or Microcosm, two British hypermedia systems which at the time had strong support in the universities of Kent and Southampton).

In a handbook entitled “Running A WWW Service” I described how:

Brian has given presentations about WWW at the universities of Aberdeen, Bangor, Bradford, Kent, Oxford, Sussex and Manchester Metropolitan University. He gave a poster presentation at the first WWW ’94 conference in Geneva and gave a paper on Becoming An Information Provider on the World-Wide Web at the INET 94 / JENC 5 conference in Prague in June 1994. He ran a WWW Tutorial at the Network Service Conference in London in November 1994.

Part of personal archive of 1990s web stuffThe seminar I gave at Oxford University left an impression. A few weeks after I gave the seminar I spoke to a librarian from Oxford University. After telling her about my recent trip there she responded “You’re the person who caused all the fuss!” It seems that my talk had been given shortly after a committee had decided that the University’s home-grown CWIS service was to be replaced by Gopher. My demonstration of the Web led to an influx of academics, researchers and support staff to the Oxford University Computer Services department the following day wanting a Web browser installed on their systems or, in the case of the more perceptive users, wanting to set up a departmental Web server. I understand that the policy decision did not last very long!

Looking at my personal archive from the early-to-mid 1990s it seems that I facilitated a workshop session on “Collaboration Across the World Wide Web” at a UCISA UCSG (Universities and Colleges Software Group)  workshop held at the University of Bradford on 4-5 January 1995. The event was particularly notable as one of the keynote speakers was Lorcan Dempsey, the director of UKOLN who gave a talk on “Towards More Sustainable and Effective Resource Discovery“. This, I believe, was the first time I met Lorcan who subsequently put in a successful bid to JISC to host a UK Web Focus post, the post I took up in October 1996.

Looking Back

Looking back at my involvement with the Web prior to starting work at UKOLN, what lessons did I learn and what approaches did I use during my 16 years at UKOLN? I think I would highlight the following points:

  • Committees and similar decision-making bodies bodies can make wrong decisions!
  • The technical strengths of technologies don’t necessarily mean the technology will become embedded – there is a need to pro-actively engage with early adopters and those who may be willing to become early mainstream adopters.
  • The importance of having a high public profile.
  • Working with national bodies can be an effective way of enhancing the take-up of innovative technologies.
  • Keeping an archive of one’s professional activities can help in understanding the past and seeing its relevance.

In tomorrow’s post I will describe how these approaches were applied during my time at UKOLN.

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Bring Your Own Policy: Why Accessibility Standards Need to Be Contextually Sensitive

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 19 July 2013

Ariadne paper of accessibilityThe final paper which I’ve written during my time at UKOLN has just been published in the Ariadne e-journal. In the article on Bring Your Own Policy: Why Accessibility Standards Need to Be Contextually Sensitive myself, Jonathan Hassell, David Sloan, Dominik Lukeš, E.A. Draffan and Sarah Lewthwaite argue that rather than having a universal standard for Web accessibility, Web accessibility practices and policies need to be sufficiently flexible to cater for the local context.

As described in the editorial:

[The authors] argue for a wider application than just to Web content, and that an alternative strategy could be adopted which would employ measures that are more context-sensitive. The authors point out that little attention has been paid to the principles underlying Global Accessibility Standards and that in non-Western environments may even prove to be counter-productive. They highlight the alternative of more evidence-based standards and examine their disadvantages. Having used the example of simple language to illustrate the difficulties, the authors offer another example in the provision of accessibility support to publicly available video material. They argue that standardisation of the deployment of Web products is more important that the conformance of the products themselves. The authors summarise the aims of BS 8878. They explain the scope of the framework that it adds to WCAG 2.0 and how it encourages Web site designers to think more strategically about all accessibility decisions surrounding their product. They conclude that globalisation is not limited to users: owners of sites do not wish to be constrained in their choice of international suppliers and products, but the latter are by no means standardised globally – but the benefits of an international standard are enormous.

The article follows in an extensive series of peer-reviewed papers which have challenged mainstream approaches to Web accessibility, which typically mandate conformance with WCAG guidelines.

This work began with a paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility” which was published in the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology journal in a special issue on E-Learning Standards – Looking Beyond Learning Objects in 2004.

A paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World” was presented at the W4A 2005 conference. The following year a paper on “Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility” coined the term “holistic accessibility” to describe the approaches we had developed.

Following a series of papers which explored how such approaches can be deployed in various contexts such as learning and cultural heritage an award-winning paper on “Developing Countries; Developing Experiences: Approaches to Accessibility for the Real World” presented at the W4A 2010 conference provided a socio-political context to this work and including examples of digital accessibility and social exclusion including “Aversive Disablism” and “Hierarchies of Impairment“.

Last year a paper on “A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First” presneted at the W4A 2012 conference began with a summary of our work and the implications:

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.

I’m pleased that the final paper has been co-authored by David Sloan, my long-standing co-author is this series of papers; Sarah Lewthwaite, a disability researcher who helped to ensure that our work was grounded in disability work which I had previously been unaware of; Dominik Lukeš, whom I first encountered on Twitter last year who provided an insight into the limitations of mandating guidelines for written English; Jonathan Hassell, lead author of the BS 8878 code of practice which embraces many of the approaches described in our previous work and E. A. Draffan who described how such approaches can be implemented in practice.

But is this our final paper or simply the most recently published paper? In less than two weeks I will be leaving UKOLN and so will no longer be able to rely of the funding provided by JISC to continue this work. However I hope that the loss of JISC funding will not prevent me from continuing further work in this area. Following Jonathan Hassell’s talk on “Stop Trying to Avoid Losing and Start Winning: How BS 8878 Reframes the Accessibility Question” at the recent IWMW 2013 event a show of hands made it clear that there was significant interest in an event on the implementation of BS 8878 in contexts which are of particular relevance to the higher education sector, including support of teaching and learning and research. I have had discussions with Jonathan on ways in which institutions can implement achievable policies and practices for enhancing the accessibility of their digital products. If you would would be interested in hosting a workshop at your institution or have more general questions feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch.

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Jisc Feasibility Study on Digital Repository Infrastructure Solutions for ‘Unsupported’ Digital Assets

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 July 2013

Jisc Feasibility Study on Identifying Digital Repository Infrastructure Solutions for Small-to-medium Digital Projects

Yesterday in a post entitled Linkage: Funding, licensing, managing research data, LTI, Google Analytics cohort analysis and more Martin Hawksey reflected on a Jisc call for a “Feasibility Study on digital repository infrastructure solutions for ‘unsupported’ digital assets“. The call document describes how:

The feasibility study is required to identify sustainable digital repository infrastructure solutions for digital assets from small-to-medium digital projects. These assets may originate from arts organisations, cultural heritage institutions, community groups and small organisations in the area of the arts, cultural heritage, medicine and science etc that may not have access to a sustainable digital repository infrastructure.  

The Jisc has invested large amounts of money on the development of a repository infrastructure for the sector. But what exactly do we mean by an institutional repository and what purposes do they serve? There’s a danger, I feel, in looking for answers to these questions from within the sector – the ‘echo chamber’ may well decide that  institutional repositories can provide the functions required by Jisc funding and, surprise, surprise, they may do that well!

Looking at the ‘institutional repository’ article in Wikipedia we find that:

An institutional repository is an online locus for collecting, preserving, and disseminating – in digital form – the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution.

The article goes on to describe how:

The four main objectives for having an institutional repository are:

  1. to provide open access to institutional research output by self-archiving it;
  2. to create global visibility for an institution’s scholarly research;
  3. to collect content in a single location;
  4. to store and preserve other institutional digital assets, including unpublished or otherwise easily lost (“grey”) literature (e.g., theses or technical reports).

But how does an institutional repository differ from a content management system (CMS)? According to Wikipedia a CMS:

is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment.

The article summarises the main features of a CMS:

The core function and use of content management systems is to present information on websites. CMS features vary widely from system to system. Simple systems showcase a handful of features, while other releases, notably enterprise systems, offer more complex and powerful functions. Most CMS include Web-based publishing, format management, revision control (version control), indexing, search, and retrieval. The CMS increments the version number when new updates are added to an already-existing file. 

Is the distinction clear? Not to me, especially as the list of the features of a CMS goes on to describe how:

A CMS may serve as a central repository containing documents, movies, pictures, phone numbers, scientific data. CMSs can be used for storing, controlling, revising, semantically enriching and publishing documentation.

So perhaps, rather than exploring traditional repository software the feasibility study should explore possible CMS solutions.

The External Repository

Researchgate scoresBut must an institutional repository be hosted within the institution? After all if the point is to “to create global visibility for an institution’s scholarly research” might not that be achieved by using a popular Cloud-based repository service? The ‘Google juice’ which such services can provide will help address the limited Google juice available for institutional services (especially smaller institutions) which will have relatively small numbers of inbound links. Indeed as described in a paper which asked “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?” even prestigious Russell Group universities do not have the Google ranking provided by services which are used globally.

Yesterday I received an email which suggested that such services are already being widely used. The message, from ResearchGate, began:

Brian, we’ve put together stats for thousands of institutions based on ResearchGate members.

Following the link from the email message I found a list of the UK institutions with the highest ResearchGate scores. (as illustrated). The ResearchGate Score incidentallymeasures reputation and impact based on how a researcher’s work is received by their peers. This list shows institutions by the sum of the RG Scores of their individual members using ResearchGate“. But rather than being sidetracked by a discussion about what such scores mean, for me the more relevant question is whether third-party repository services such as ResearchGate and have a role to play for small institutions which do not have the technical expertise to manage a conventional institutional repository service.

The Challenges Facing Small Projects and Unsupported Digital Assets

The development culture in large, well-funded research-led institutions has encouraged the use of in-house solutions, often based on open source software solutions. But in light of funding difficulties in the sector and the growing maturity of Cloud-based solutions it might be relevant, especially for small to medium sized projects, to consider such solutions. Clearly there will be a need to consider the sustainability of such services and possible changes to terms and conditions. But such issues can be addressed. There is also a need to consider the sustainability of in-house solutions – an issue which is very relevant to the services and content provided by UKOLN in light of the significant downsizing the organisation will face in less than two weeks time!

The Invitation to tender document document describes how:

The candidate models and subsequent options/ recommendations will need to take into account the level of digital skills capabilities and capacity of small-to-medium projects. Options will need to be easy to implement for non-specialists            contributors to any potential solution(s).

Ironically the document itself illustrates a lack of skills in best practices for using Microsoft Word. As illustrated below the author of the document created a line feed at the end of each line, rather than using MS Word line wrap for sentences. This will result in ugly line breaks if the font face or size if changed in the document and could cause problems if the document was converted into other formats. I also noticed the MS Word styles had not been used, which means that the document has no logical structure. As well as meaning that automated table of contents could not be provided this can also cause accessibility problems for people who use screen readers.

MS Word for Jisc ITT Document

Put simply, the document itself illustrates the challenges which may well be faced when content creators have limited digital skills capabilities.

I welcome this call as it encourages solutions which are applicable to the real world environment in which content providers may well create content which is not amenable for processing in the ways which the systems designers may have expected.

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Supporting Use of Wikimedia Across the UK Higher Education Sector

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 17 July 2013

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Back in April 2013 the Jisc published a call for a Jisc ‘Wikimedia Ambassador’ residency. In light of my forthcoming redundancy (my last day is two weeks today!) I have been looking for new opportunities to continue working in the sector. This call was therefore of interest, especially in light of my long-standing interest in use of Wikipedia in higher education. I therefore submitted a bid based on:

I was very pleased to receive several letter of support from those who recognised my pro-active approaches to openness, my strong links across the sector, my experience in running events and my knowledge of the higher education sector in general and the Jisc community in particular.

However the bid was not successful. Although the evaluation panel “noted the strength of the proposal in terms of its academic focus and a sound methodology” they felt that “the lead consultant’s track-record as a Wikipedian to be insufficiently evidenced and that the link to the Wikimedia community was not sufficiently strong“. I would not disagree with these comments; although I have created and edited Wikipedia articles over an extended period I have little experience in training others to use Wikipedia.

I subsequently learnt that the successful bid had been submitted by Martin Poulter, University of Bristol. I have known Martin for some time (probably over 10 years) and am very aware of his in-depth expertise on Wikipedia and his active involvement in the Wikimedia UK community. I’m happy to give my congratulations to Martin.

Supporting Sectoral Use of Wikimedia

One of the main constraints which I felt the Jisc call had was its limitation to providing Wikipedia articles related to Jisc-funded activities. As the second paragraph in the call document (MS Word or PDF format) states:

The purpose of the training is to disseminate skills and knowledge leading to improved coverage and accuracy of articles relating to information produced by Jisc funded programmes presented on Wikimedia projects. 

My work as UK Web Focus has been primarily focussed on supporting the higher education sector, rather than working with Jisc projects and programmes (although I was involved in work such as providing a framework for the selection of standards for Jisc programmes, as well as Jisc development activities such as the JISC e-Framework and the JISC Information Environment).

WIkipedia workshop in Oxford

Sphingonet Wikiedia workshop held at the University of Oxford

However after submitting the proposal I realised that I would welcome the opportunity to engage more directly with the sector in encouraging greater take-up of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. I have therefore joined Wikimedia UK and taken part in two recent Wikimedia UK events: the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop and this was followed by participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop (see accompanying photograph), which provided me with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts.

My bid for the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador residency included strong support from a number of institutions who were looking for opportunities to embed expertise in use of Wikipedia within their institution, as well as ensure that relevant information about institutional activities is made available in Wikipedia, in ways which conform with key Wikipedia principles including the need for information to be provided from a Neutral Point of View.

During the summer I will be updating my skills in Wikipedia (and I intend to finish reading a book I purchased recently on How Wikipedia Works And How You Can Be A Part Of It. I then intend to offer a portfolio of training workshops based on the skills and expertise I have gained during my time at UKOLN, including training for a number of Social Web services including Wikipedia. If you have an interest, please get in touch.

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Developing the Repository Manager Community

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 11 July 2013

OR 2013 paperIn a recent post on “SEO Analysis of Institutional Repositories: What’s the Back Story?” I summarised a paper which had been accepted for the Open Repositories 2013 conference. In addition to that paper, which was presented as a poster, a paper on “Developing the Repository Manager Community” was also accepted.

As described in the abstract:

This paper describes activities which have taken place within the UK institutional repository (IR) sector focusing on developing a community of practice through the sharing of experiences and best practice. This includes work done by the UK Council of Research Repositories (UKCoRR) and other bodies, together with informal activities, such as sharing the experience of organising Open Access Week events. The paper also considers future work to be undertaken by UKCoRR to continue developing the community.

Although I had two papers accepted for the conference in light of the costs of travel to Prince Edward Island, the venue for the OR 2013 conference, I did not feel I could justify travelling to the conference three weeks before being made redundant. However Yvonne Budden, my co-author, will be presenting the paper later today.

I feel that the work described in the paper on the growth of an community of practice will become of greater importance in light of changes in the Jisc and their moves away from community-building through the funding of projects in areas such as institutional repositories. There will therefore be a need for bottom-up approaches to sustainable community-building, as described in the paper.

The paper is available in PDF format from the ResearchGate repository. In addition the slides used by Yvonne Budden in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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