UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Posts Tagged ‘iwmw2008’

IWMW 2008 Innovation Competition

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 Jul 2008

The Innovation Competition held at this year’s IWMW 2008 event probably differentiates itself from other mashup events, hackfests, etc. in welcoming not only examples of technical innovations, but also submissions which do not require technical expertise. So it was pleasing that the most popular submission was the IWMW theme song, performed by Debbie Nicholson (University of Essex), Claire Gibbons (University of Bradford), Miles Banbery (University of Kent) and David White (Sheffield Hallam University), which received 117 votes on the electronic voting system (and is available on YouTube).

However although this submission (entitled A collaborative cross-institutional user-generated interactive mashup thing) may have been a clear crowd-pleaser a number of the more technical submissions could have more significant impact on the sector.

The Live Train Departures info submission by Dawn Petherick, University of Birmingham gathered 92 votes for, I think, two main reasons: it is user-focussed (we all have an interest in knowing when the trains we are planning to catch will arrive) and Debbie stated that the code used to develop this service can be freely used by others. I am sure, incidentally, that Debbie’s comment that it was her birthday did not influence the voting :-) An image of the interface within the University of Birmingham portal is shown. You can also view the full portal page, a more complete view of train information, and a diagram of the technical architecture of the service.

The first submission to the contest, Mashing Points of Interest for your Institutionreceived 87 votes. This submission, by David Mackland, University of Abertay display points of interest on a Google map without the need for any HTML or coding knowledge and allows the management of multiple maps for various audiences from a single source. This submission was popular with Mike McConnell, one of the local organisers for IWMW 2008, as he had used the service to support the IWMW 2008 event – a clear example of a mashup service developed for the use of one institution which provided a valuable service to another.

Tony Hirst’s submission: Steps towards a media release tracking/effectiveness dashboard widget received 84 votes. As Tony has described in his blog post, this application uses Yahoo Pipes and the Yahoo Search term extractor to explore the impact of institutional press releases, with a visualisation of the output being provided using a Dipty timeline. And in response to a question from Paul Walk, this demonstrator only took about a couple of hours to produce (the additional time taken in cleaning the data and learning the tools traditional doesn’t count in a developer’s man month :-)

Finally I should mention Mike Ellis’s StudentViews submission which received 72 votes. The Studentviews application is based on the premise that students (in fact most users) aren’t likely to be particularly interested in “the corporate, preened and sanitised view of an HE institution. Instead, peer viewpoints, reviews, alumni pictures, video and Facebook comments are likely to be the first port of call for most freshers when considering which HE institution to apply for.” The StudentViews application aimed to mash HE data with Flickr pictures of the institution and surrounding area within a quick, intuitive interface. Because the build involves the gathering of institution data which should be freely and easily available to all, this data will also be exposed via a simple Web API. However Mike’s plans were thwarted by the University of Aberdeen firewall which restricted access to devices on the WiFi network. But Mike did successfully build a very simple “API” which lets you query institution name (see example) with queryable RSS output. In addition Mike also produced a KML file of locations of UK HEIs (for use with the Google Earth application), a simple IM (Instant messaging) application for accessing institutional information and finally a Google Custom Search Engine which spiders all 190 UK HE sites.

Posted in iwmw2008 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ewan Mcintosh’s Talk At IWMW 2008

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Jul 2008

I’ve now back at work after a very tiring (not helped by train delays from Birmingham airport last night) but also very enjoyable IWMW 2008 event at the University of Aberdeen.

Myself and my fellow co-chair of IWMW 2008 read though the evaluation forms for the event on the plane last night.  We agree with the overwhelming positive comments which were made for Ewan Mcintosh’s plenary talk which closed this year’s event.  For those who weren’t at the event or had to leave early, a version of the talk Ewan gave at a conference in May 2008 is available on Slideshare, and is embedded (with audio commentary) below.

We will see if we can get a video of Ewan’s (longer) talk given at IWMW 2008, which will be embedded in the IWMW 2008 Web site.  [Note a streaming version of the talk is now available – added on 26 July 2008.]

I will be writing further posts about the IWMW 2008 event, but I felt it would be worth giving a speedy comments on Ewan’s talk as those who were stimulated by his talk may wish to sow their appreciating by voting for his blog in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2008 . And note that as Ewan’s blog has been shortlisted in the Public sector IT blogs category, the UK Web Focus blog, which has been shortlisted for the Web 2.0 and business blogs category, is (fortunately) not a competitor to me :-)   But hurry – as the deadline for votes in 31 July 2008.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Jul 2008

JISC and Innovation

I recently attended the JISC Innovation Forum 2008, held at the University of Keele on 15-16thJuly 2008. Several blog posts about the event have already been published includes one’s by Paul Walk, Owen Stephens and Chris Rusbridge.  Rather than repeating such reports, I feel it is appropriate to mention Sarah Porter’s introduction to the event. Sarah, Head of Innovation Group at the JISC, described what JISC meant by ‘innovation’. She provided a description of the term which she obtained from Wikipedia (dated 17 July 2008):

Innovation is typically understood as the successful introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services.

The emphasis which JISC is placing on innovation clearly reflects developments to the UK Government’s policy initiatives in this area, in particular the establishment of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, DIUS.

MLA and Innovation

Elspeth Hyams’ editorial in the CILIP Update magazine (June 2008, Vol. 7, No. 6) has the byline “In This Climate, You Have To Innovate“.  As Elspeth describes, the need to innovate applies equally to the information sector: “The age of the quiescent library or information manager or service is dead“. The editorial goes on to describe the MLA’s action plan for public libraries and reports on the MLA’s Chief Executive, Roy Clare, calls for “radical action on structure, far-sighted leadership vision and more public Private Partnerships“. The editorial concludes with the warning that “It’s not just a challenge for the academic schools, but for all of us” but also suggests that “we should use tough times as a golden opportunity to focus on the strategy – and upgrade and refresh our skills“.

UKOLN and Innovation

As UKOLN is funded by both the JISC (we are a JISC Innovation Centre) and the MLA, there is a need for us to respond to these clearly-stated policy directions.  So I’m pleased to report that we helped to provide staff in museums, libraries and archives in the London region with an opportunity to “upgrade and refresh [their] skills” with the most recent  Web 2.0 and Social Networks workshop aimed at the cultural heritage sector. And next week we’ll be running the twelfth of the annual Institutional Web Management Workshops (IWMW 2008),  in which we will be providing further examples of innovation which we hope will be both new and useful for members of the higher and further education communities including our explorations of use of Twitter by event organisers,  use of video blogging, a live video stream of the plenary talks, the establishment of a Ning social network for the event and the innovation competition

Regular readers will be aware that such technologies have been discussed for some time now. But their use at events and within institutions is still, I feel, fairly unusual and so can be regarded as new. Whether they will be regarded as useful can only be judged by trying things out and receiving feedback.

Posted in Web2.0 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Revisiting iSoton

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Jun 2008

In February 2008 I asked the question “Is Southampton Setting A New Standard For Institutional Web Sites?“. There was subsequently a lively discussion about the iSoton service, with Helen Aspell, Head of Digital Marketing at the University of Southampton and the person who led this collaborative project, describing the background to this work.

But in addition to the main iSoton page, which provides access to information about the University of Southampton held on Web 2.0 services including Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia, it is also work noting the approach taken to the provision of a search interface for resources at the University of Southampton. The search page is illustrated below.

University of Southampton search page

It is interesting to observe the single search box used for searching (on the top row) publications, people and experts and (on the bottom row) the main University of Southampton Web site and all Web sites at the University of Southampton.

And although the Search publications option allows you to refine a search or start an advanced search, this isn’t the case with the other searches.

Does this, I wonder, reflect the evidence that very few users ever make use of the advanced search capabilities? Or is this a worrying trend, a dumbing down of search for what should be typically an intelligent group of users?

I have to say that I’m looking forward to hearing Helen give a talk about the iSoton service at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2008). Alison Widish, head of Web Services at the University of Bath recently commented on a presentation by Helen at the CASE 2008 conference: “I eagerly awaited Helen’s talk and I wasn’t disappointed“. Alison went on to say:

Overall I was really impressed with Southampton not just with the website (which I find visually appealing and easy to use) but with the way the University LIVE their brand. It’s incredibly important to know who you are as an Institution and to provide an experience which reflects that… and it’s great to see this being carried across to the web.

Lots of food for thought!

And as this year’s theme for IWMW 2008 is “The Great Debate” I’m sure Helen’s talk on the first day of the event will help to contribute to the discussions on future directions for both the institutional Web site and institutional approaches to search. But if you can’t make it to Aberdeen, feel free to engage in the debate here.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

IWMW and Innovation

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2008

UKOLN is now one of JISC’s Innovations Centres. But how does UKOLN participate in innovation? An approach we have taken during my time at UKOLN has been to make use of our annual Institutional Web Management Workshops (the IWMW series of events which have been running since 1997) to deploy a variety of innovative approaches. Doing this at a popular annual event (which is often fully-subscribed, attracting from 150-200 participants from throughout the HE sector) can help to maximise awareness of and, potentially, the impact of such innovation.

A number of examples of innovations were made available for the IWMW 2005 event, held at the University of Manchester:

The use of RSS for news alerts has become embedded at subsequent IWMW events, as has pro-active use of the venue’s WiFi network. At IWMW 2006 we introduced use of wikis to support note-taking and sharing at the discussion group sessions – again an approach which has become standard at IWMW events. IWMW 2006 was also the year in which tagging (using the IWMW2006) tag became popular, allowing bookmarks and photographs to be easily pulled together. And our initial experiments with the use of social networking services to support an event began that year, with the establishment of a Frappr community.

As might be expected innovation does not always necessarily lead to the deployment of a sustainable service. At IWMW 2006 we also tested use of a chatbot and provided access to a remote audience for a number of the plenary talks using the Access Grid. And as well as the ACcess Grid we also had a live Web stream of the plenary talks, with Michael Webb’s talk on Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy subsequently being made available on Google Video. We also experimented with another approach to use of a chat facility at the event – this year using the Gabbly service, instead of an IRC service we had used at IWMW 2005.

At last year’s event, IWMW 2007, we continued to provide an RSS feed (not only of news, but also syndication of the key content areas of the Web site – details of the sessions and the speakers) and a wiki service. And in addition we launched IWMW’s first innovation competition– which provided the participants with an opportunity to demonstrate to their peers examples of their approaches to innovation. Again the plenary talks were streamed on the Web and this time all of the talks were subsequently made available on Google Video.

We have evaluated the innovations – and we’re pleased to see that other services, such as JISC with its use of Crowdvine at this year’s JISC 2008 conference on Enabling Innovation, are now beginning to implement similar ideas.

But what do you feel we should do next? Should we seek to consolidate on these experiments? Or, alternatively, are there other areas in which the community would encourage UKOLN to continue innovation – so that if we encounter problems, institutions will benefit from knowing what not to do :-)

Posted in iwmw2008, Web2.0 | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »