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Blog Experiments
Blog Policies

The Wow Factor, The Openness, The Developers

Environment, …
October 3, 2008

It strikes me that the recent set of comments made to my post on “Google’s G1

Phone: “Innovation For Tech Heads” have wider applicability to the networked
development environment.

To summarise some of the issues which were highlighted in the original Guardian
review which I cited and have been expanded on in John Naughton’s Google’s
Android could smash iPhone’s locked gateway” article published in Sunday’s
Observer (28 September 2008):

The Wow factor: Yes, the iPhone clearly wins with its ‘wow’ factor, As the
Guardian review admitted the Android phone lacks the “wow factor of the
Apple device“.

The usability: The iPhone, like many Apple devices, also has its strengths
in its ease-of-use. As Paul Walk has commented “I want a device which
‘just works’“.

The openness of the application environment: As John Naugton describes

in his Google’s Android could smash iPhone’s locked gateway article, a
strength of the Android device there’s “a row brewing inside Apple’s cosily
walled garden“. It seems that “developers are beginning to resent what
they see as the company’s dictatorial attitude”. As one commentator puts
it: ‘Trying to discern ahead of time [and of development expenditures]
what Apple will or won’t accept has become close to impossible, not only
because Apple isn’t talking about it, but also because it won’t let anyone
else talk about it. All apps store dealings with developers are covered by a
non-disclosure agreement“‘.

The potential for power users: Now the geeks will argue that the iPhone’s
walled-garden is a non-issue as it’s possible to ‘jail-break’ the device to
allow the installation of applications which may not be available via the
Apple store. However this approach is clearly not one which the majority of
users would be happy with, and conflicts with the need for a device which
‘just works’.

The hardware environment: The iPhone, like Macintosh hardware, is only

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manufactured by Apple. The Andoid phone, in comparison, can be made by

any manufacturer. This competition should help to bring down prices, which
will be benefical to the consumer (as Stuart Smith pointed out to make use
of a ‘free’ iPhone “you are still looking about £810 over 18 months“). So
much for social inclusion and widening participation!

Now as Mike Ellis argues “most users couldn’t give a stuff about the closed
nature of their devices, applications OR data. Facebook, iPods, iPhone, any
gaming console - the list goes on. These all seem to be pretty popular, however
much us IT types continue to shout about the dangers of closedness.” And I
think he’s right - the IT development community tends to focus on the backend
development processes and policies which are not necessarily of great concern
to the majority of users. But even if we accept John Naughton’s premise that
‘Google’s Android could smash iPhone’s locked gateway’ we need to emphasise
the importance of word ‘could‘. It was not so long ago when people argued that
Google’s Open Social widget environment would blow away the closed
development environment provided by Facebook. But that, I would argue,
hasn’t happened (and, indeed, Scott Wilson wrote a blog post back in November
2007 in which he described why he was singularly unimpressed by Open
Social). Let’s be honest and recognise that both the iPhone and Facebook are
very popular with large numbers of users - and let’s acknowledge that the
development community can learn from the popularity of these closed

And let’s remember the point Mike Ellis made when he said “I find it sad when
developers seem to think that any real users actually *care* about what’s
under the hood “. But why do I think that Mike isn’t just referring to the
mobile phone debate when he makes this point?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets | Edit
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iPres2008 Preservation Conference Gets Featured

In The Guardian
October 2, 2008

It was good to read the article in The Guardian Editorial page yesterday (1
October 2008) on the iPRES 2008 Conference on digital preservation which was
held at The British Library on 29-30th September. As the article states “If all
goes well, we will have the capacity to preserve as many of our memories,
personal and national, as we want“.

The issues of how and what we should be preserving on our Web sites happened
to be the content of the paper I presented at the conference on Monday. The
paper on “Preservation of Web Resources: The JISC PoWR Project” is
available online and the slides of the talk (in which I focus primarily on
preservation within a Web 2.0 environment) are also available and are
embedded below.

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There is also a video recording of the talk available (I haven’t yet been able to
upload the video to Google Video, I’m afraid).

As well as this paper, which described the work of the JISC-funded PoWR
project, I’m pleased to add that two of my colleagues (Alex Ball and Manjula
Patel) also wrote papers which were presented at this conference.

I should also add that Chris Rusbridge provided a comprehensive report on the
conference. I was pleased to read Chris’s comments on my talk which he
described as “a very entertaining talk, and well worth looking up“. He went on
to describe me as ”not a preservationist, but is a full-blown technogeek
discussing the roles of the latest Web 2.0 technologies on his blog, in his role
as UK Web Focus“. And this technogeek was particularly pleased to read that
the JISC PoWR “project achieved a strong level of interaction through its
several workshops“.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit
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Library 2.0 at the University of Wolverhampton

October 1, 2008

Guest Blog Post

The guest blog slot provides an opportunity to include some different voices and
views on the UK Web Focus, which can provide a fresh insight in the various
topics covered in this blog.

I’m therefore pleased to welcome this guest blog post from Jo Alcock, Academic
Information Assistant for the Harrison Learning Centre at the University of
Wolverhampton - although perhaps better known in some circles as Joeyanne
Libraryanne for her Joeyanne Libraryanne blog. In her post Jo describes a
variety of ways in which Web 2.0 services are being used and goes on to

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highlight some of the challenges which this approach entails. I should also add
that Jo is a contributor to the paper on Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and
Benefits to Maximise the Dividends which I’ll be presenting at the Bridging
Worlds 2008 Conference.

Setting the Scene

I work at the University of Wolverhampton which has a large proportion of
part-time students (some schools are up to 70% part-time). The University is also
geographically spread across the region with five campuses in total. This means
students do not always come into Learning Centres and often use the closest
geographical centre rather than their subject specific centre. We have recently
adopted a University-wide Blended Learning strategy to support the changing
nature of our students, and the Learning and Information Services department
are developing ways to support students from wherever they choose to study.
This includes obvious things like e-journals and e-books, as well as virtual
reference support and Web 2.0/Library 2.0 initiatives to support students online.

Current Initiatives

We currently have five subject blogs (the School of Computing and IT Blog,
School of Applied Sciences Blog, School of Engineering and the Built
Environment Blog, School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Languages Blog
and the Wolverhampton Business School Blog to support students and staff of
particular academic schools, along with an University of Wolverhampton
Electronic Resources Blog for updates to services. We also have a number of
project related blogs and internal communication blogs.

Social Networking

The Learning Centres have a Facebook Page which was established at the end
of last year. The page includes links to relevant parts of our Web site, our
aggregated RSS feeds (from our blogs) and search applications. One of the most
useful features of the page are sending updates to “fans” - another way of letting
users know about our services and reaching them where they already are (a
quick scan of any communal PCs show numerous Facebook users!).


We have started exploring wikis and although we do not currently have a

departmental wiki we have a number of small scale wikis for sharing

Online calendars

I’ve included this as although it’s not usually included in general “Library 2.0″
initiatives, it’s something that we’ve found really useful. We have been using
Google Calendar (see the University of Wolverhampton InfoBites Calendar) to
manage our events for a few months now and it’s so much easier than updating
numerous places when the timetable changes or a new event is added. Now we
just update the calendar on Google and the changes are reflected wherever the
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calendar is embedded. Users can also subscribe to the calendar or add single
events to their own calendar. We’ve also recently used it as a shared calendar
for scheduling purposes for our busy induction weeks.

There have been a number of barriers to the Library 2.0 developments, some
which may have been exclusive to us but many that I imagine are shared with
other libraries.

External Hosting and Software

Many of the Web 2.0 products we use are external products, often hosted
externally. This has immediate issues when it comes to reliability and stability.
Services change over time, which is often a positive thing but may mean that
your service no longer functions in the same way you wanted it to. You may find
that it suffers “downtime” whilst the software is being upgraded or simply
because the servers are not reliable. You may even find that the service ends
completely without warning.

This can be a big issue for institutions, and understandably so. An alternative
option whilst still utilising the technologies is to use open source software but
host it internally therefore passing control back to the institution. Examples of
this are using the blogging software (rather than their hosted
service at and the MediaWiki software for wikis. This way, the
institution can update when it wants to (and also therefore not when it doesn’t
want to!) and also has greater flexibility with the functionality and style of the

Staff Awareness

Another issue has been lack of awareness and uncertainty about the
technologies utilised. Quite often, I have found that people are pleasantly
surprised when they realise how easy it actually is to use. I understand that some
of the software is bewildering at first experience though, and getting over that
stage if you are uncertain about the fundamentals of the technology (for
example, what on earth is a wiki or a blog?!) can be a big hurdle. Something that
I think is now being recognised by the profession is that more time needs to be
allocated for keeping staff up-to-date and providing training or even just time
during work to explore the technologies.

Culture Change

This is something I am particularly aware of, probably because I am part of the

so-called “net generation”. I like to share experiences and work collaboratively,
but I know this can be quite a culture change to many who are used to working
in isolation and keeping their work to themselves. When you have a shared
calendar for example, or a shared blog, it can take some getting used to. Clear
definition of roles and expectations from the beginning can help alleviate this.

User Needs and Experience

This is one of the main issues for me - although I am a keen user of many new
technologies and use a lot in my own life, I only want to adopt them at work if

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they make sense from a user point of view - whether this is other staff when we
are thinking about a shared resource like a wiki, or our community when it is a
development for users.

Over the summer we have thought a lot about the future of the blogs; whether to
merge the subject blogs or keep them separate, and what the actual purpose of
each blog is. There are many issues around merging the blogs - such as whether
to include all subjects (not all currently have a blog) and the logistics of
subscribing to your subject only. The main issue for me was to look at it from a
user point of view. With many subjects all on one blog, you can use categories to
create separate RSS feeds for each subject. This initially seemed like a feasible
way of merging the blogs whilst still allowing users to subscribe to only their
subject. However, from examining our blog stats, most of our users subscribe by
e-mail, suggesting that many of them do not currently use RSS feeds. I
considered having a guide on the blog and holding training sessions, but in the
end decided it was too much to expect of our users and would likely put them
off subscribing if it was too confusing.

Ultimately, we are here for our users and if something doesn’t make sense or
isn’t of use to them, there is little point us investing time in it. For example, if
Facebook fell dramatically in popularity, it would make no sense to continue to
develop our Facebook page and we should instead concentrate our efforts on
whatever else our users are familiar with.

This is a fundamental part of the Web 2.0 philosophy for me; have a go - if it
works, great, if it doesn’t, there’s no big loss. I like to invest a small amount of
time trying something and assess whether or not it is worth pursuing after you’ve
given it a chance. If it isn’t or the barriers are too great, just scrap it or try
something else.

How about you? What barriers have you experienced with Library 2.0
Initiatives and how do you overcome them? Please share your thoughts in the

Jo Alcock, University of Wolverhampton

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog ·Tags: Guest-post | Edit
1 Comment »

Institutional Repositories and the Costs Of Doing

It Right
September 29, 2008

There’s an interesting discussion taking place on the JISC-Repositories JISCMail

list, following a post from Jenny Delasalle who asked:

Do any of you know how long it takes you to process a single item, before
it is available as a live record in your repository? Please can you share
that information with the list?

Jenny provided details of her experiences:

Here at Warwick it takes at least 2 hours to process a single item. We are

adding to our repository at a rate of about 15 items per week.
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I’m desperate to try to speed this up as we are receiving items faster

than we can process them.

My colleague Pete Cliff somewhat tentatively suggested “why not put the items
in the repository with minimal metadata“.

Pete and others seemed to feel that such compromises may be needed “in the
current climate where quantity seems to have more impact than quality“. But
this is where I would disagree. This argument seems to be simply a cry for more
resources in an area of interest to those making such a plea. But people will
always be asking for more resources for their areas of interest - and, as there will
always be limited resources, others will argue that their areas are more worthy of
being allocated more resources. And it strikes me as being somewhat
disingenuous to have developed an approach which is known to be resource-
intensive and then to make a plea for additional resources in order for the
particular approach to be effective. A more honest approach would have been to
develop a solution which was better suited for the available resources.

This was an argument I made last week in my talk on “Web Accessibility 3.0:
Learning From The Past, Planning For The Future“. As I described in my talk
(and note a 30 minute video of the talk is available). I pointed out that evidence
suggests that Web accessibility policies based on conformance with WCAG AA
have clearly failed, except in a small number of cases. And rather than calling
for additional resources to be allocated to changing this we need to acknowledge
that this won’t happen, and to explore alternative approaches.

And it is interesting to note that apprarent lack of interest on the

JISC-Repositiories list in discussing the accessibility of resources in the
repositories rather than the metadata requirements for aiding resource discover.
Indeed when this topic was discussed a couple of year’s ago Les Carr, with a
openness which I appreciated, argued that:

If accessibility is currently out of reach for journal articles, then it is

another potential hindrance for OA. I think that if you go for OA first (get
the literature online, change researchers’ working practices and
expectations so that maximum dissemination is the normal state of affairs)
THEN people will find they have a good reason to start to adapt their
information dissemination behaviours towards better accessibility.

Here Les is arguing that the costs of providing accessibility resources in

Institutional Repositories is too great, and can act as a barrier to maximising
open access to institutional research activities. I would very much agree with
Les that we need to argue priorities - as opposed to simply asking that someone
(our institutions, the government - it’s never clear who) should give us more
money to do the many good things we would like to do in our institutions.

In the case of Institutional Repositories we then have competing pressures for

resources for metadata creation and management and for enhancing the
accessibility of the resources. In this context It should be noted that the WCAG
2.0 guidelines have reached the status of Candidate Recommendation, and that
WAI Web site states quite clearly “We encourage you to start using WCAG
2.0 now“. And note that, unlike the WCAG 1.0 guidelines, WCAG 2.0 is format
neutral. So you can provide resources on your Web site in a variety of formats,
but such resources need to conform with the guidelines if it is your institutional
policy to do so.

So shouldn’t institutions who have made public commitment to comply with

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WCAG guidelines ensure that this applies to content in their institutional

repositories, even if this will require a redeployment of effort from other
activities, such as metadata creation?

Or, alternatively, you may feel that complying with a set of rules, such as
WCAG, without doing the cost-benefit analysis or exploring other approaches to
achieving the intended goals is mis-guided. In which case perhaps Pete’s
suggestion that you might wish to consider “put[ting] the items in the repository
with minimal metadata” might actually be a sensible approach rather than an
unfortunate compromise? And in response to Philip Hunter’s comment that
“achieving interoperability through dumbing-down the metadata has a strange
attractiveness in a world not overly crazy for quality” perhaps we should be
arguing that “achieving interoperability and accessibility through labour-
intensive manual efforts is a perverse solution in a public sector environment
in which should be demonstrating that we can provide cost effective solutions“?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, Repositories | Edit
1 Comment »

Launch of UKOLN’s Resources for the Culture

Heritage Sector
September 26, 2008

Resources For The Cultural Heritage Sector

I’m pleased to report that an area of the UKOLN Web site dedicated to the
cultural heritage sector has now been launched.

Historical Context
UKOLN has had close links with the cultural heritage sector for many years -
when I joined UKOLN back in 1996 UKOLN was funded by BLRIC (British
Library Research and Innovation Centre) together with the JISC. Over time this
funding body changed, initially to the LIC (Library and Information
Commission) and then, as the library, museums and archives sectors moved
more closely linked, by Resource which was subsequently renamed MLA
(Museums, Libraries and Archives Council).

Engagement With The Sector

UKOLN is perhaps uniquely placed to exploit its close links with the higher and
further education communities, libraries (both academic and public) and
museums and archives. Over the past couple of years I have become very
actively involved in supporting the museums sector, having been a program
committee member, speaker, workshop facilitator and chair at the Museums and
the Web conferences in 2007 and 2008 and a speaker at UK Museums on the
Web conferences in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

But perhaps more significant to the broader cultural heritage sector are the
workshops we have been running which have attracted participants from across
a range of museums, libraries and archives. This has included workshops held on
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behalf of MLA London and MLA Yorkshire and CyMAL (the Welsh equivalent
of MLA). We have also run workshops for the Society of Archives in 2007 and
2008, with a workshop for the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions to be
held in November.

Many of these workshops focus on ways in which Web 2.0 can provide benefits
to the cultural heritage sector, although a rather wider perspective on the digital
landscape is often provided, covering additional areas such as the preservation
of digital resources.

Changing Political Context

The importance for UKOLN (which is a JISC Innovation Centre) to engage in
this way with the cultural heritage sector was highlighted in 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 described (and I
commented upon recently) “The age of the quiescent library or information
manager or service is dead“.

The editorial went 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“.

I think it is clear from these comments that significant changes will be needed
within the cultural heritage sector. And indeed Roy Clare has commented on the
failures of previous national initiatives to deliver compelling user-focussed
services. As reported in a post on the MCG JISCmail list: “Roy Clare
highlighted the NOF Digitise project as an example of where we went wrong in
assuming that mass digitisation and online publishing of collections would be

The political and funding changes (it seems public sector money is now being
used to fund the 2012 Olympics) are taking place at a time in which Web 2.0
approaches are steadily gaining momentum, with smaller organisations (and
indeed organisations) now being able provide services which previously would
have required significant amounts of funding.

The need to ensure that “engaging” digital services are provided by cultural
heritage organisations underpins the workshops we have been providing. It also
reflects the strategic thinking of various national bodies, including the National
Library of Wales which in its Shaping the future: The Library’s strategy
2008-2009 to 2010-201 document (PDF format) states that:

We propose … Taking advantage of new online technology, including the

construction of Web 2.0 services, to develop progressive ways of
interacting with users. It is expected that the Library itself will provide only
some specific services on its website. Instead, the intention is to promote
and facilitate the use of the collections by external users, in accordance
with specific guidelines.

A review of the uses of Web 2.0 services by the National Library of Wales was
given in a talk by Paul Bevan at the first Sharing Made Simple: An Introduction

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to the Social Web workshop - and I’m pleased to say that Paul describes this
work as a co-author of an invited paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks
and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” which I’ll be presenting at the Bridging
Worlds 2008 conference in Singapore in a few weeks time.

UKOLN is well-positioned to identify such examples of best practices, make the

examples available to wider audiences, encourage debate and use such case
studies in the development of more general models for the sector. In this respect
our links with the higher education sector is particularly valuable, as higher
eductaional institutions seem to be better positioned to make early use of
innoovative new technologies and has a healthy tradition of encouraging open
debate on the merits of such innovation.

Resources For The Sector

The new area of the UKOLN Web site provides access to a variety of resources
on a range of issues of particular relevance to the cultural heritage sector, and
brings together information previously distributed across the UKOLN Web site.

As well as providing access to the events we’ll be running another important

area of the Web site is the IntroBytes area, which provides access to a range of
briefing document we have produced, sometimes in conjunction with
practitioners from the cultural heritage sector. These documents are used at
many of the event we run, which helps to ensure that we receive feedbackon the
content of the documents. It should also be noted that the documents are
available under a Creative Commons licence, which permits their reuse for
non-commercial purposes. This licence was chosen in order to ensure that the
resources can be embedded for use within organisation in the cultureal heritage
sector (and beyond).

We have received positive feedback on our results, as can be seen from
comments provided at the recent workshops for CyMAL (which was given a
rating of 5.35 out of a maximum score of 6) and MLA Yorkshire.

In order to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our work for the cultural heritage
sector we are now running workshops on a cost-recovery basis for the wider
sector. This has included workshops for the voluntary sector and CyMAL with
additional workshops already scheduled for CyMAL and ASVA.

If anyone would be interested in organising a workshop along the lines

described, feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Google’s G1 Phone: “Innovation For Tech Heads”

September 25, 2008

Yesterday’s Guardian (24 September 2008) contains an article on the release of

the Google G1 phone. An accompanying review, entitled “Innovation For Tech

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Heads” describes how the technology is “as good if not in some cases better”
than the iPhone, and mentions G1’s strengths in its camera and download speed.
Most importantly, though, the article describes how “The real difference
between the two devices … is likely to come from the openness of Google’s
operating system, Android, which allows tech-heads to design ‘widgets’ for the
phone.” The article does concede that the phone lacks the “wow factor of the
Apple device“.

Now I’m sure that most readers of this blog will understand the benefits
provided by openness and the dangers of being locked into a proprietary system
- whether this is Facebook, Microsoft or Apple’s iPhone. Some readers with a
pragmatic view of the world may have bought an iPhone as at the time there
wasn’t an equivalent open system. But now that the G1 device is available,
which provides, unlike the iPhone, an open environment for accessing widgets,
that argument is no longer valid. So we’ll soon be seeing those iPhone users who
have strong beliefs in open systems and have criticised the closed nature of
various Web 2.0 services seeking to move their contract, won’t we? And this
should include many of the people I follow on Twitter who necame very excited
when they purchsed their iPhone.

Is this a likely scenario? Isn’t it the case that IT professionals and policies
makers can be impressed by the ‘wow’ factor - this isn’t restricted young people
who we sometimes accuse of being impressed by the latest ‘fad’. And don’t we
all have to make judgements about openness, cost, functionality and, indeed,
personal preferences. So if the iPhone, G1 or whatever other new device comes
along and provides a valuable personal learning environment, personal research
environment, personal work environment and personal social environment for
the owner of the device, then shouldn’t we accept that?

And if we accept that argument for the device that we have in our hand, then
doesn’t it also apply to the equivalent service which we have accept via our
fingertips- whether this is our preferred social networking environment or
aggregation tool? Or to put it another way, when should openness trump
personal preferences?

(Disclaimer I’m the owner of a Nokia N95 with a short battery life!)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets ·Tags: G1, iPhone | Edit

Web 2.0 In Troubled Economic Times

September 24, 2008

How should institutions response in their uses of Web 2.0 services at a time of a
global recession? In response to a recent post CodeGorilla pointed out that at a
number of participants at the Repository Fringe event had felt that use of
services such as Flickr and Google should be avoided because such companies
were not as well-established as many Universities.

I feel the views that were reported were rather disingenuous, not so much
because not all Universities have been in existence for several centuries (BCU is
very new University) but because the services Universities provide will change
and evolve over time (when I worked at the University of technology,
Loughborough - as it was known at the time - the Computer Centre provided a
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data preparation service which was shut down many years ago). And as I
pointed out last year, “Universities, Not Facebook, May Be Facing Collapse” -
indeed when I attended a JISC CETIS conference a couple of years ago doubts
were expressed by senior academics as to whether high educational institutions
in their current form will exist in 20 years time.

This is, of course, just speculation, as was my post in which I pointed out that
standards-making organisations, such as W3C, which are funded by
memberships fees, with significant contributions being paid by commercial IT
vendors and user organisations, may similarly be affected by the recession.

But what scenarios might we envisage happening? And what plans should our
institutions be developing in case the worst case scenarios occur? Let me give
my thoughts:

Externally-hosted Web 2.0 providers: What if the services provided by

Google, Yahoo, etc. prove uneconomic and the services are shut down or
the terms and conditions changed, with perhaps free-to-use services
becoming subscription services?

Our institutions: What if the economic downturn affects the sustainability

of the IT services provided within our institutions?

Our national services: What if the national services provided for our
communities are similarly adversely affected, with users preferring the
services provided by the global services?

Our information providers: What if the services provided by individuals

within our institution, who use Slideshare, Flickr,, etc. aren’t
sustainable because the individuals may face redundancy, early retirement,

Our funding organisations: What if our funding bodies have less funds
available, and are forced to stop or reduce the level of funding provided to
national or institutional services?

Our user communities: What if our users expectations or interests change?

How should we respond to such dangers, given that we can’t predict which
dangers, if any, will materialise? My suggestion is that we should be embracing
diversity, rather than searching for a single solution which we hope will be
resilient to an economic downturn. So we should avoid any exclusive deals
(some time ago I heard that one institution had signed an exclusive deal with a
VoIP provider which seems to mean that the institution had to ban use of Skye).
And we should ensure that our data can be easily reused by other services. And
we should ensure that we have data migration strategies - and that we test the
data migration to ensure that it works in the way we might expect. And finally
we should ensure that we have new media literacy strategy in place so that
members of our organisation, including senior managers and not just the users of
our services, have an understanding of the risks associated with the services we
may be using - with an understanding that the risks will also apply to the
in-house and licensed services and applications and not just the services
provided on the ‘cloud’.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

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What Can Web 2.0 Offer To The

IAMIC Community?
September 22, 2008

Last week I gave an invited presentation on “What Can Web 2.0 Offer To The
IAMIC Community?” at the annual IAMIC (International Association of Music
Information Centres) conference.

I gave my talk on Thursday 11th September, immediately after Nick Poole, CEO
of the Collections Trust gave the opening talk of the day on “Technology and
the Future: the Crystal Ball“. In his talk Nick described how the Web of the
future will be a world in which organisational Web sites are likely to be little
used and will have a low profile - rather organisations will make their
information available in the places users visit. This may be a tool used by the
individual (similar to the PLEs - Personal Learning Environments - or PREs -
Personal Research Environment - which are of such interest in the educational
sector) or the popular services users visit (perhaps Flickr for photographs,
YouTube for videos or the popular social networks).

Following Nick’s presentation my talk described how national Music

Information Centres could make use of Web 2.0 and the Social Web to support
their organisational aims and to support the IAMIC member organisations,
located at over 40 countries worldwide.

When I prepared my talk I had come across a number of examples of use of

Web 2.0 by the national centres. The CMC (Contemporary Music Centre,
Ireland) were making use of YouTube to provide easy access to video clips of
interviews with contemporary composers (as illustrated) and were also making

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use of iTunes in a similar fashion. It was interesting to note that CMC managed
the resources on their own organisational Web site in addition to providing
access via popular video and music sharing sites. It was pleasing to see this
approach to the management of resources complemented by use of a diversity of
access mechanisms. It seems that the vision of the future which Nick described
has already arrived, in some places at least.

There were, however, some instances of failures within the IAMIC community; I
was told over coffee of the problems with the international IAMIC Web site
(which had been unavailable for quite some time) and of attempts to provide
cross-searching across the European sites which seems to have been closed
down after live up to its promises.

But the
conference participants did seem to be prepared to learn from such mistakes
and there did appear to be a willingness to engage with new developments
including the social Web. I provided an example of the potential of Twitter by
posting a tweet asking for “examples of Web 2.0 music services for talk I’m
about to give to IAMIC members“. Responses I received a few minutes after my
post included several from Pete Johnston on “,“,
“For sharing own works, MySpace (obv),,, + prob loads more“, “Internet Archive also has lots of “2.0″-ness”
and “Plus zillions of music weblogs, many sharing mp3s, aggregators like Hype
Machine” together with a note that we “Mustn’t forget MusicBrainz“.
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I also received several other responses within a few minutes of my initial post
from several other of my Twitter followers including suggestions from
marydeeo, t1mmyb, MintyVanilla, MrJ1197, georgeroberts, ianibbo,
gavinmitchel and egrommet, as illustrated.

Perhaps in response to my question “what can Web 2.0 offer to the IAMIC
community?” one answer might be Twitter. Rather than the perhaps
time-consuming process of evaluating social networking tools, maybe a simple
approach would be for a group of professionals with a similar set of interests to
simple write the occasional 140 character summary about what they’re doing
and ask the occassional question. This works for me, I’m pleased to say.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit
No Comments »

Web Accessibility 3.0

September 19, 2008

I previously mentioned a joint paper on “Redefining Accessibility for a Web 2.0

World” which has been accepted for the ADDW08 conference to be held at the
University of York on 22-24th September 2008. David Sloan, the lead author for
the paper, will present this paper.

In addition to this paper Liddy Nevile and myself have had a paper on “Web
Accessibility 3.0: Learning From The Past, Planning For The Future” also
accepted at the ADDW08 conference. This paper describes three scenarios: it
explores the limitations of a vision for Web accessibility based on use of the
WAI approach to provide “universal accessibility” and then describes the
limitations of the “holistic approach to Web accessibility” developed initially by
myself, Lawrie Phipps and David Sloan. The paper describes how these
approaches focus on, in the first scenario, on the accessibility of individual
resources and, in the second scenario, on institutional approaches to enhancing
the accessibility of the purposes of the Web services. However neither of these
approaches seems to have much relevance to the accessibility of the globally
popular Web 2.0 services. And if we are serious about Web accessibility we
should be looking at the accessibility of the global World Wide Web, and not
just individual resources or the resources managed within our institutions.

But how should be go about addressing such large-scale challenges? In the paper
we suggest that we should be exploring how the relationships between resources
might help to provide users with access to related resources and how
personalisation approaches might provide users with access to resources which
are accessible to the individual user, rather than being universally accessible.
The vision, Liddy and I feel, can be regarded as an implementation of the
W3C’s vision for the Semantic Web. But we also argue the need to have the
scepticism which failed to be applied to WAI’s model for Web accessibility.

The slides which will be presented at the conference are available on Slideshare
and are embedded below.

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And as we argued the need for a critical approach to proposals for Web
accessibility (which we have taken in the past to the limitations of the WAI
model and the WCAG guidelines) we invite your comments on our paper and
this presentation.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility ·Tags: addw08 | Edit

Killed By Complexity
September 16, 2008

“If this is the death of Wall Street as we know it, the tombstone will read: killed
by complexity” it was suggested on the front page of the Guardian today
(Tuesday 16 September 2008). A similar question might be asked about the
roadmap for a number of Web developments. Is Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for
the Semantic Web over-complex? Are the metadata standards which are being
developed too complex to be used by many software developers? The abstract
for a panel session at WWW 2005 suggested that “It has been estimated that all
of the Web Services specifications and proposals (“WS-*”) weigh in at several
thousand pages by now”. And one of the many objections to ISO’s decision to
standardise the OOXML file format was that, at 6,000 pages, it was too complex
for developers in small organisations to implement.

So now’s the time for more lightweight approaches, it could be argued.

Not so, comes the counter-argument. We will need to have comprehensive,

well-grounded and unambiguous standards and specifications in order to build
robust services.

The current uncertainties in the financial markets of course provide more than
just a analogy - they are also giving rise to uncertainties in the IT sector. This is
often used as an argument to point out dangers of the dependencies on
externally-hosted Web 2.0 services, as my colleague Paul Walk pointed out
recently. But as I mentioned last year in a post entitled “Universities, Not

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Facebook, May Be Facing Collapse“, universities themselves are not immune to

the financial difficulties which the banks and airline sectors are currently facing.

But into such discussions we should also add the financial stability of the
standards-making organisations. Organisations which have government backing
may be able to weather the storm, but what about those member consortiums
whose sustainability is dependent on the financial backing of the commercial
sector. And as the W3C is one such organisation, can we be confident that the
development and maintenance of complex standards will be sustainable in the
long run. In light of suggestion in a recent interview with Ian Hickson, editor of
the HTML 5 standard, that the standard is unlikely to be a “Proposed
Recommendation in 2022″, should we not now be asking the difficult questions
regarding the sustainability of such standards which seem to have a long
gestation period before they can be regarded as stable.

Or am I being unduly pessimistic? Might not any current financial uncertainties

be a mere blip, and perhaps will not affect standardisation development
processes along the lines I’ve hinted at? Or will a legacy of George W Bush’s
economic mis-management (or Tony Blair’s if you are of a different political
hue) be the failure of the HTML 5 standard to achieve its proposed
recommendation status by 2022?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards | Edit

Serious Thinking at Bathcamp08

September 14, 2008

On Saturday (13 September 2008) I attended my first Barcamp - the

Bathcamp08 event held at Invention Studios in Bath. I was present at the
conception of this event, in a cafe in Montreal where Mike Ellis floated the idea
and explored possible themes with myself, Mia Ridge and Frankie Roberto on
the day after the end of the Museums and the Web 2008 conference. It was
initially suggested that the Barcamp should have a focus on the role of IT and
the Web in cultural heritage organisations. However during the planning for the
event is seems that this suggestion was dropped and the event didn’t have a
particular single theme to it. What it did have, though, was a lot of enthusiasm
and friendly vibes across a more diverse set of participants than I normally
encounter, with free-lance software developers, people working in small Web
development companies and from Web design and marketing agencies,
developers from large companies as well as a handful from the academic and
cultural heritage sectors.

As the attendees were mostly very active users of various Web 2.0 technologies
and services much of the discussions, comments and reflections of the event
took place on Twitter using the ‘bathcamp08′ tag, with photos being uploaded to
Flickr and slides to Slideshare using this tag and other resources, including blog
posts about the event, should be available using this tag. There is also a
Bathcamp08 Pageflakes page which aggregates the various RSS feeds associated
with the event. And finally I should mention that there are a number of video
recordings of the event available, including MIke Ellis’s introduction to

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With so many other comments about the event likely to be published soon I’ll
not attempt to summarise the event, except to thank Mike Ellis (in particular)
and the other organisers of the event (including Tim Beadle, Frankie Roberto,
Matt Jukes and Mike’s Eduserv colleagues) for ensuring the event was such a

The Barcamp rules expect first-timers to participate actively at the event, and
not just be passive lurkers. I had floated the idea of a double-act with Dave
Briggs (whom I’ve not met but have had a couple of Twitter conversations with)
on the use of Web 2.0 in public sector organisations, with a focus on the barriers
rather than the potential barriers. However Dave couldn’t make the event, which
meant some last minute updating of my slides for my 40 minute session, which I
decided to call “Web 2.0: Time For Serious Thinking!” - a reference to a talk
Mike Ellis and myself gave at the Museums and the Web 2007 conference on
“Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing”.

My slides are available on Slideshare and are also embedded below.

As the Bathcamp was an informal and friendly event I had the opportunity to be
sceptical about our previous paper, using the example of the enthusiastic Web
2.0 developer (which I called an ‘Ellis‘) who has a valuable role to play in the
early stages of a new technology in getting the involvement of other developers
and early adopters. However once the initial period of excitement has died
down, there’s a need for the more serious thinking to take place. This will
include the need to address the various barriers to the use of Web 2.0 which I
have encountered in recent workshop, including, most recently, the Sharing
Made Simple: An Introduction to the Social Web workshop I facilitated for
organisations in the cultural heritage sector in Wales. As documented on the
event wikithe barriers for museums, libraries and archives include:

Corporate Depts (eg IT, Corporate Image etc)- need to get political
partners on board to apply pressure via SMT

Need for Higher Level Education- fear of impacts of negative return from
Web 2.0 - “it’s chaos”. Especially at SnrManager level. Need for realistic
risk management.

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Computer Literacy (public) - would we be excluding a generation who

don’t use this tech but visual content can be more appealing to those with
poor literacy.

Training/ Staff Knowledge - How do we get people’s knowledge and skills

up to scratch?

Time - How do we resource this work? Who has the time?

Evaluation- how do you evaluate this work as being worthwhile? How do

we get our paymasters to say that these are OK in terms of our KPIs?

Legislation & Procedures - DDA, DPA etc

Sustainability - of Software and activity. How do you work with services

with which you have no SLA? How do you make sure this continues in the
long term? Who might support us?

Choosing Software - how do we select the right product?

Duplication of Effort (eg. with Corporate Website) - is this a waste of

time? Will it be contradictory?

Getting People to Use It - If we build it, will they come? What’s a ‘good’
level to judge ourselves against?

Abuse & Bad Publicity - How do we deal with this? What if it all goes
wrong and gets in the papers? Could I lose my job?

Cost - Who pays? How?

Anyone have any suggestions as to how these barriers can be addressed? Or

even comments as to whether these barriers are real?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: bathcamp08 | Edit
1 Comment »

On the Videos from the Repository Fringe 2008

September 10, 2008

On the The thoughts of a Code Gorilla blog a post on Videos from Repository
Fringe 2008 provides a link to a number of videos of talks given at the
Repository Fringe held recently in Edinburgh. The blog is written by a software
developed who has been “identified as “a free thinker” by JISC“.

The post states that the videos “will be made available via a Streaming Server
at some point, however this is a microsoft-specific platform, so
non-windows/non-Internet Explorer users struggle to access the data“. In order
to maximise the access to the videos Code Gorilla has “uploaded them to google

As I mentioned in post on the Open Standards and the JISC IErecently at one
stage there was a fairly hard line view that open standards must be adopted in
order to provide device independence - in the case of multimedia, W3C’s SMIL
standard wold seem to be particularly relevant for synching audio, video and

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other resources such as presentation files. However as we see in this example,

the vision that we had several years ago has failed to have any significant
impact, as instead it is the popular services such as Google Video and YouTube
which are being used to deliver such resources, as well as providing additional
functionality, such as user comments and the ability to embedded the resources
in other pages, as illustrated below.

It is also interesting to note that this also provides a good example of a pragmatic
approach to the accessibility of such resources. At one stage, when the SENDA
legislation was being deployed, there was a feeling in some circles that
institutions would need to remove videos from their services unless they could
provide full captioning. We now, however, widely accept the view that we need
to take ‘reasonable measures’ to provide accessible alternatives - and that
removing resources does not improve their accessibility.

So my congratulations to the ‘free thinker’ who has so clearly demonstrated that

the naive views that we used to have can, in circumstances such as this, be
ignored in order to maximise benefits to the user and provide cost-effective

It is appropriate to embed this video of Dorothea Salo’s keynote talk at the

Repository Fringe 2008, with her comments that “idealism isn’t enough” and
“programmers are moving towards flexibility”.

And finally I should add that at the end of this video clip (45 minutes in)
Dorothy mentions the impacts that both Paul Walk and Andy Powell are having
in questioning some of the assumptions which have been made in the past
regarding the technical approaches taken to institutional repositories.

We do need more ‘free thinkers’, I feel.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, standards | Edit
No Comments »

Are Institutional Portals and VLEs Really

“Creepy Treehouses”?
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September 9, 2008

I first came across the term “creepy treehouse” during Ewan McIntosh’s
plenary talk on “Unleashing the Tribe” at the IWMW 2008 event. Alan Cann
mentioned it again in a recent comment on one of my blog posts, suggesting, I
think, that the University of Bristol’s MyBristol portal is an example of a ‘creep
treehouse” which we should avoid building.

The term, according to a post on the Technagogy blog, was coined by Chris Lott.
The Flexknowlogy blog has sought to provide a definition. It seems that ’creepy
treehouse’ can have the following meanings:

n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention
of luring in kids.

n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which

participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally
formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or

n. Any system or environment that repulses a target user due to it’s

closeness to or representation of an oppressive or overbearing institution.

n. A situation in which an authority figure or an institutional power forces

those below him/her into social or quasi-social situations.

Alan Cann commented that he felt that the University of Bristol’s MyBristol
portal “Feels more like a creepy treehouse to me. Why not just facilitate users
using public tools so that they’re not tied to UBris?” Following the doubts I
expressed Alan responded:
n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which
participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally
formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or

I rest my case.

It would seem, from this definition, that institutions which are developing
services to support their students are building creepy treehouses. After all
whether it’s a locally developed portal, an open source VLE or a licensed
product, these institutional services are created or operating in a managed
(controlled, if you will) environment in which participants (the students) are
encouraged to use through the incentives of having a quality service to use, with
the support of staff and one’s peers in order to enrich the student’s learning and
maximise their potential (otr help them get a good degree, if you’d prefer the
reward to be described more bluntly).

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong in institutions doing this.

I do object to use of the term ‘lured’ in this metaphor, though.

And I do think that it is ironic that the institution’s are regarded as creating the
creepy environment by “mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed
environments”. And those pre-existing open or naturally formed environments

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would appear to be those social network and social sharing services owned by
those bastions of open and democratic educational values - Google, Yahoo,
Facebook, Microsoft, …

Now as readers of this blog will know I’m a regular user myself of many of these
Social Web services. And I have found that such services can provide better
services than those hosted by my institution. But if my institution does start to
provide services which can compete with the externally-hosted services then I
would have no problem in using them - especially if this means I no longer have
to concern myself over changes in conditions or the sustainability of the service
provider, which is something I need to be aware of in my use of the externally
hosted services, as I recently commented on in my experiences of the Sqirl

And I’m also aware of the complex issues relating to use of social services to
support learning. But these complexities aren’t restricted to engagement with
students - they are also relevant in other business and professional contexts.

It seems to me that the creepy treehouse metaphor related to the ownership and
provision of the services is flawed for a variety of reasons. And it’s also a
metaphor which doesn’t really work in a UK context, I feel - I never had a
treehouse when I was young and nobody I knew did either. And thinking about
it, the only treehouse which means anything to me is Bart’s in The Simpsons.
Let’s chop down the creepy treehouse metaphor and address the real issues.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: creepy treehouse | Edit

On the Demise of the Free Twitter SMS Service

September 8, 2008

Imagine the following conversation:

“Where are you going?”

“Down to the High Street. I’ve just received a message saying that
there’s a guy giving away free £20 notes. Are you coming?”
“No. And you shouldn’t.”
“Why ever not?”
“It’s clearly not sustainable in the long run”
“Look, he’s clearly not got a sustainable business model.”
“And don’t try and tell me that he might be bought out by Google or
Microsoft. You know that’s unlikely to happen. You can’t base
your decisions on such speculative thinking.”
“Oh no.” Shuffles back to office.
“Where are you going?”
“Back to work”
“I’m pleased that I managed to persuade you not to be tempted by
someone with such clearly flawed and ill conceived idea.”
“**** ***! All the money’s gone - and I missed out, thanks to you.
And my friends picked up about £1,000.”

This came to mind after I received a email from Biz Stone on the 14 August
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2008 saying that:

Beginning today, Twitter is no longer delivering outbound SMS over

our UK number. If you enjoy receiving updates from Twitter via
+44 762 480 1423, we are recommending that you explore some
suggested alternatives.

The message went on to explain the the delivery of Twitter messages (Tweets)
via SMS would continue in the US, Canada and India, as Twitter had negotiated
business deal with the mobile phone provers in those countries. They hadn’t
been able to negotiate a deal in the UK, unfortunately, As the email described
“Even with a limit of 250 messages received per week, it could cost Twitter
about $1,000 per user, per year to send SMS outside of Canada, India, or the

Now when I wrote a post on Use of Twitter to Support IWMW Events in which
I described how we used Twitter at the IWMW 2008 event to deliver SMS
messages to participants for free using Twitter as the delivery mechanisms and
then, a few weeks later, you heard that this service had been withdrawn did you
think that that clearly demonstrates that organisations shouldn’t make use of free
services with questiopnale sustainability models? Or did you think: “That’s an
opportunity not to be missed. Let’s use it while it’s still going.“?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter | Edit
1 Comment »

September 6, 2008

I’ve found it useful in the past to

write about significant landmarks on this blog in order to provide some data
which other bloggers may find useful in drawing parallels. And such factual data
may also be useful in the various blog workshops which myself and colleagues
have been running, including a workshop on “Using Blogs Effectively Within
Your Library” which my colleagues Marieke Guy and Ann Chapman will be
running at the ILI 2008 conference next month.

So I thought I would document the date at which the blog had reached 100,000
page views. This happened on Saturday 6th September 2008, 1 year and 10
months after the blog was launched.

Months and Years

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep


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Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep

2007 2,528 3,055 4,059 4,387 4,321 4,389 5,876 4,063 4,18

2008 4,713 5,350 4,522 5,414 5,025 4,856 6,388 6,314 1,45

As can be seen the busiest month was November 2007, and this was primarily
due to the popularity of a blog post on UK Universities On Facebook. This has
been the third most popular post, following the post on The ‘Cities Visited’
Facebook Application and, in scond place, one on TokBox - A Useful Video-
Conferencing Tool Or Something Sinister?.

It’s also pleasing to note that after an extended period of stability the numbers of
visits to the blog has started to increase again over the past two months, as is
shown in the following graph.

Of course, we still need to remember that there are lies, dammed lies and blog

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog | Edit
1 Comment »

The George Bush and Microsoft Parallels

September 5, 2008

Back in May 2008 I published a blog post entitled George Bush IS President
And Microsoft’s Office Open XML Format IS An ISO Standard which described
how Microsoft’s Open Office XML (OOXML) had been approved as an ISO
standard. However in the period between first writing the post and then
publishing it South Africa, Brazil, India and Venezuela lodged appeals against
this decision claiming that the voting process was marred by irregularities. So
until ISO had addressed these appeals we could say that OOXML was not an
ISO standard. However as described in an article on OOXML Gets Final Nod
After Standards Body Rejects Appeals ISO has now has formally rejected these

The analogy I drew with George W Bush was even more appropriate than I had
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anticipated - just as there were doubts over the legitimacy of Bush’s first
election victory which were eventually rejected, so the appeals against the
legitimacy over the standardisation of OOXML have been rejected, with
OOXML now becoming an official ISO standard. I suspect many readers of this
blog would have preferred it if neither of these decisions had happened, but they

Whether this is the end of the matter is not yet clear: a article on CONSEGI
2008 Declaration — Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues
published on the Grocklaw site describes how South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela,
Ecuador, Paraguay and Cuba have signed and sent an open letter to ISO
condemning this decision. Further information about the standardisation process
is available in a Wikipedia article on Standardization of Office Open XML.

But although the standardisation process may have been flawed with, no doubt,
political skullduggery going on, the technical merits of the standards
questionable and the likelihood that the standard will actually be implemented
by vendors questioned by some, we now, I would say, have to accept that it is an
ISO standard. But as I’ve argued for other reasons recently, we should in any
case be questioning the significance and merits of open standards much more
questioningly than we have done in the past, when slogans such as
‘interoperability though open standards’ seem to have been used to stifle
discussions and debates on the extent to which open standards actually deliver
their stated goals.

It was also pleasing to read Ross Gardler, manager of the JISC OSS Watch
service’s comment on my recent post in which suggests that “it is possible to
diverge from [open] standards without enforcing locking. This is a huge
advantage when it takes so long for standards to be specified and agreed by
committees and standards bodies” - he could, of course, have added caveats
regarding the political nature of standardisation processes.

I therefore welcome Ross’s statement that “OSS Watch would be happy to

explore these ideas further. Just what are the advantages and disadvantages of
formalised standards against open implementations of data formats?” And
over the next few weeks I will publish a number of posts in which I’ll invite
discussions on standards issues.

For this post, however, I’d welcome comments specifically on the OOXML
standardisation process and the implications of ISO’s decision. My view is that
it’s a good thing when proprietary formats become standardised (as has also
happened recently with the standardisation of Adobe’s PDF format which was
announced on 2 July 2008) as this can be beneficial for, for example, long term
preservation. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that the format will be
appropriate in many circumstances - we do need to decouple the view that
because an open standard is available in a particular area that it should
necessarily be deployed, I feel.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards ·Tags: OOXML | Edit

Open Standards and the JISC IE

September 4, 2008

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The Ariadne article on Lost in the JISC Information Environment has generated
some interesting discussions, including my colleague Paul Walk’s post in which
he suggests that all models are wrong, but some are useful and Andy’ Powell’s
post entitled Lost in the JISC Information Environment?.

I’ll leave the discussions on the technical architecture to others, but thought I’d
pick up on Andy’s comment that:

.. the technical standards certainly were intended to be prescriptive. I can

remember discussions in UKOLN about the relative merits of such an
approach vs. a more ad hoc, open-ended and experimental one but I
argued at the time that we wouldn’t build a coherent environment if we
just let people do whatever the hell they wanted. Maybe I was wrong?

Myself, Andy, Pete Johnston and Paul Miller were the ones who had those long
discussions about the role of open standards and the JISC Information
Environment (IE). I was the person, who had been introduced to standards
through my involvement with the Web from its early days, who was the most
adamant on the need to use open standards, where open meant the standard had
been ratified by a trusted neutral standards organisation, such as the W3C. I was
therefore never in favour of standards and protocols which weren’t open in this
sense, including Adobe’s PDF or Sun’s Java. On the other hand, I was always
fairly relaxed about the technologies used to implement the services, not being
too concerned if licensed software was felt to provide advantages over open
source alternatives, for example.

It was Paul Miller who suggested than my stance on open standards was too
inflexible, suggesting that there was a spectrum to openness, rather than a fixed
binary divide. As a result of Paul’s comments and subsequent discussions in
UKOLN I wrote a briefing document which suggested that rather than seeking a
formal definition of open standards, we needed a more flexible approach based
on an understanding of the characteristics of open standards. And the need for
such flexibility became even more apparent when the success of RSS had to be
balanced against the lack of formal standardisation of RSS (both 1.0 and 2.0).

And in retrospect many of the W3C standards which I had felt should form the
basis of the JISC IE have clearly failed to have any significant impact in the
market place - compare, for example, the success of Macromedia’s Flash (SWF)
format with the niche role that W3C’s SMIL format has.

Just as the open source debate seems to have matured (and I think that the JISC
OSS Watch service has helped to move that debate from the polarised opinions
we were seeing several years ago) we still need, I feel, to have a much more
sophisticated understanding of the role open standards have to play in
development activities. And, as with the decisions institutions (and individuals)
have to make regarding their use of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services, so
funders, developers and project managers will need to give more thought to the
risks as well as the promised benefits of use of open standards.

I’ve written, in conjunction with staff from CETIS, OSS Watch and the AHDS, a
number of peer-reviewed papers on this topics ( Openness in Higher Education:
Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access, Addressing The Limitations Of
Open Standards, A Contextual Framework For Standards, A Standards
Framework For Digital Library Programmes and Ideology Or Pragmatism?
Open Standards And Cultural Heritage Web Sites). I suspect it is time to revisit
this topic.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards | Edit

Over Ten Years Of Accessibility Work

September 2, 2008

David Sloan and myself have had a paper on “Reflections on the Development
of a Holistic Approach to Web Accessibility” (initially entitled “Redefining
Accessibility for a Web 2.0 World“) accepted for the ADDW08 (Accessible
Design in the Digital World) conference which will be held at the University of
York on 23-24th September 2008. The paper reviews our work in Web
accessibility from the early days of promoting the WAI model and use
of WCAG guidelines through to our realisation of the limitations of this
approach, initially in the content of e-learning accessibility and then more wider
concerns. This work led to the development of alternative approaches
to enhancing the accessibility of Web resources which were published in eight
peer-reviewed papers (not included the two papers which have been accepted
for the ADDW08 conference).

I order to collate the historical data for the paper I created a Dipity time line of
my involvement in accessibility work since attending the WAI launch meeting in
July 1997. This is illustrated below.

I found the timeline very useful in giving me a bigger picture of my work in this
area and provides me with fresh insights which I was unaware of from just
looking at my lists of papers and presentations. In particular I can spot several

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different phases in my work which are summarised in the table below.

Date Phase Comments

The first few year were based on learning more
about the WAI approach to Web accessibility,
including the WCAG, ATAG and UAAG guidelines.
1997-1999 Naivity
Advice was provided based of this approach. During
this time I was also a member of the DISinHE
Steering Group.
The timeline indicates little activity in this period.
Perhaps there was little new to say, as the view then
was that WCAG conformance was all that Web
developers need concern themselves with. In this
2000-2001 Silence
case, best practices would primarily be a training
issue to be carried out by bodies such as Netskills,
rather than a development/innovative activity which
is a key aspect of UKOLN’s work.
During 2002 a number of automated accessibility
surveys were carried out in order to gather evidence
of institutional adoption of WCAG guidelines. The
findings showed low levels of conformance, and as
Evidence- further manual testing would be needed in order to
gathering provide proof of conformance with the WCAG
guidelines, it was starting to become clear that the
WCAG approach was failing to have impact
amongst practitioners, despite its clear political
Panel sessions on “Web Site Accessibility: Too
Difficult To Implement?” at the ILI 2003 conference
Debating and ”Web Accessibility: Will WCAG 2.0 Better
2003 alternative Meet Today’s Challenges?” at the WWW 2003
approaches conference and a debate on “Web accessibility is
difficult to implement” provide opportunities to raise
doubts over the effectiveness of the WAI approach.
Lawrie Phipps (then at TechDis) and I discuss
alternative approaches for e-learning accessibility
and, together with Elaine Swift (then an e-learning
developer at the University of Bath) have a paper on
Alternative Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning
approaches Accessibility published in the Canadian Journal of
2004- for e-learning Learning and Technology. These ideas are further
accesibility developed for a prize-winning paper on
published “Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning
Accessibility” presented at the ALT-C 2005
conference and a paper on “Holistic Approaches to
E-Learning Accessibility” published in the ALT-J
journal in 2006.
A paper on “Forcing Standardization or
Alternative AccommodatingDiversity? A Framework for
approaches to Applying the WCAG in the Real World” was
Web presented at the W4A 2005 conference. This paper
accessibility was co-authored by myself, Lawrie Phipps and
framework David Sloan, who have been the main driving force
published behind this work. Further papers which further

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developed our holistic framework for accessibility

and applied the approach beyond e-learning
accessibility were published at the W4A 2006
(”Contextual Web Accessibility - Maximizing the
Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines“), W4A
2007 (”Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and
Processes“) and W4A 2008 (”One World, One Web
… But Great Diversity“) conferences.
From 2006 to date the alternative approaches to
Web accessibility have been disseminated to
UKOLN’s core communities, including the UK’s
higher and further education communities, the
library, museum and the public sector organisations.
This work has included taking part in a panel session
on “Web and Access” at the “e-Access’06
Conference“, chairing a Public Sector Conference
on Accessibility, helping to organise the
Accessibility Summit II, giving a talk on “The
Accessible Web” at the “Web Adept: Museums and
approaches to
the Web 2007 conference”, facilitating a session on
2006- Web
“What Does Accessibility Mean To The Blogging
Community?” at the conference,
facilitating a professional forum on “Accessibility
2.0: A Holistic And User-Centred Approach To Web
Accessibility” at the Museums and the Web 2007
conference, giving an online interview on “Web
Accessibility” in an Access to Experts interview
organised by CHIN, contributing a chapter on
“Accessibility in the Future for book on “Web
Accessibility: Practical Advice for the Library and
Information Professional” as well as writing a series
of posts on accessibility on this blog.

The timeline has helped me to gain a better understanding of my work in Web

accessibility over the past decade and how this work, led initially by myself
and Lawrie Phipps and later supported by David Sloan) has been furthered
developed and refined by ever-growing numbers of accessibility practitioners
and researchers in the UK and Australia. So I would like to take this opportunity
to thank the co-authors of my peer-reviewed papers for their contribution to this
work: in order of date of publication these are: Lawrie Phipps, Elaine Swift,
David Sloan, Helen Petrie, Fraser Hamilton, Caro Howell, Liddy Nevile, Ann
Chapman, Andy Heath, Stephen Brown, Jane Seale, Patrick Lauke, Simon Ball,
EA Draffan and Sotiris Fanou, not forgetting Stuart Smith, although the
publication of that paper has been delayed.

What lies ahead, I wonder? The release of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines should
provide an opportunity for institutions to rethink their approaches to Web
accessibility as these guidelines remove some of the more flawed of the
WCAG1.0 checkpoints and are, I’m pleased to say, format-agnostic. But what
of the implications of the popularity of many Social Web and Web 2.0 services?
And can the Semantic Web finally start to provide useful benefits to the user
community, including accessibility benefits? These are some of the questions
which Liddy Nevile and myself will be raising in our paper on “Web
Accessibility 3.0: Learning From The Past, Planning For The Future” which
will also be presented at the ADDW08 conference. More of that work in a later

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility | Edit
1 Comment »

Guest Post: You’ve Got A Friend

September 1, 2008

It has been a while since I have a guest post published on the UK Web Focus
blog. But as I am very keen on encouraging a debate on the role of Web 2.0
within our institutions I would like to welcome Hannah Hiles as a guest blogger.

Hannah Hiles has been Media & PR Officer for Keele University in
Staffordshire since August 2006. Previously she was Keele’s Alumni Officer and
before joining the University she was a journalist at The Sentinel newspaper in
Stoke-on-Trent. Her views are her own and not necessarily those of Keele

Keele University has been exploring the potential for communications and
connections that can be found in Web 2.0 technologies.

In just 16 months of using Facebook as a corporate tool we have developed a

thriving community with links spanning the globe; it has revolutionised the way
we run some events, reconnected us with dozens of “lost” alumni and provided a
platform where we can interact with prospective students in their own domain.

The Keele University alumni LinkedIn group in particular provides networking

opportunities for our professional graduates while at the same time allowing us
to learn more about their careers and tailor our services to their needs.

And all this for just the cost of my time – we have no fancy paid-for online
community platforms here.

We first started using Facebook in January 2007. One of our graduates had
created a group called Keele Alumni and we thought we should get in there with
our own official group, so Keele Society (
/group.php?gid=2224498996) was born. We didn’t go through any committees
or get approval from anyone; we just recognised the potential and seized the
opportunity, little knowing how quickly Facebook would grow within just a few

We soon added our official Keele University Page (

/pages/Keele-United-Kingdom/Keele-University/19097243336), as well as the
Keele-network only Love:Keele group (
/group.php?gid=9189098385&ref=ts to help me find student case studies.

One of the most exciting uses of Facebook for me has been the creation of
groups aimed at prospective students. Keele 2008 (
/group.php?gid=7459213335) and Keele University 2009
( have proved a
lifeline for applicants wanting to get the lowdown on Keele from the people who
know and love it best – the current students.

A team of volunteers from among our Student Academic Representatives

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(StARs) check the group regularly and answer any questions. Other keen
students, including Students’ Union sabbatical officers, also participate. I
monitor what is being said and give an official University response when
necessary but usually allow the students to take the lead.

A major part of Keele University’s appeal is its friendly atmosphere, so I try to

reflect that through my communication style. Our Twitter updates
( are a mixture of news stories with web-links
and general observations about what is happening on campus spoken in the
“voice” of the University. I’m still very new to Twitter and I don’t think I have
fully grasped the possibilities of its use, but it’s another opportunity for
communication with prospective students, current staff and students and alumni
to be explored.

The University recognises Web 2.0 as an important area for growth, so much so
that developing Keele’s e-communications strategy has now been formally built
into my job description.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Guest-post ·Tags: Guest-post | Edit

Blog Day 2008

August 31, 2008

A tweet from joeyanne alerted

me that today is Blog Day 2008. As I only found out about this at 6.30 pm
today I will have to be brief in my list of blogs that I find interesting.

The instructions for contributing to Blog Day are:

1. Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting

2. Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending them as part of BlogDay
3. Write a short description of the Blogs and place a link to the
recommended Blogs
4. Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31st)

My blogs, which may not necessarily be new to many readers of this blog, I’m
afraid are:

1. The Ed Techie blog by Martin Weller, Professor of Educational

Technology at the Open University - and someone I have had valuable
Twitter discussions with.
2. The unspun Electronic Museum blog, in which Mike Ellis argues
passionately for the adoption of light weight Web 2.0 approaches within
the museum community.
3. The Digital Curation blog in which Chris Rusbridge, in particular, provides

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a remarkably refreshing insights into preservation issues, even going as far

to ask whether the “‘Digital Preservation’ term [should be] considered
4. The JISC Access Management Team blog, probably the liveliest of the
blogs published by JISC programme managers.
5. I mentioned Tony Hirst’s Ouseful blog in a previous list of my favourite
blogs, but as that referred to an old version of the blog I feel I’m allowed
to mention this blog again, which Tony uses to write copious summaries of
his prolific development activities.

And as today is Blog Day I thought this would provide an opportunity to launch
the first of a series of brief video blog posts entitled Video blog 1: Why I Blog
which I am publishing in order to support a workshop on “Using Blogs
Effectively Within Your Library” which my colleagues Marieke Guy and Ann
Chapman will be facilitating at the ILI 2008 conference.

If you are a blogger and want to give the reasons why you blog why not sign up
to Seesmic and respond to my post, explaining why you blog. You never know,
you might get mentioned when Marieke and Ann run the workshop. There’s a
marketing opportunity for you, especially if you are a blogging librarian.

Technorati tag: BlogDay2008

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog | Edit

The Final JISC PoWR Workshop

August 29, 2008

The final workshop organised by the JISC-funded Preservation of Web

Resources (PoWR) will take place at the University of Manchester on Friday
12th September 2008.

Now you may think that preservation is a pretty dull topic, compared with the
exciting developments that are taking place in a Web 2.0 environment. And if
that’s what you think, then you’re not alone. As Alison Wildish, head of Web
Services at the University of Bath described on the Web Services team blog:

We were asked by our colleagues at UKOLN (who organised the event) to

deliver a brief talk detailing our approach to preserving web resources at
the University. Our initial reaction was that we had little to say. Lizzie’s
remit lies with the paper records and I am responsible for managing our
website - ensuring it meets the needs of our users. Neither of us felt web
preservation was something we had expertise in nor the time (and for me
the inclination) to fully explore this.

And you can even listen to Alison and Lizzie Richmond (University of Bath
records manager, archivist and FOI coordinator) expand on this by viewing the
Slidecast of the talk they gave at the first JISC PoWR workshop:

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If you listen to the end of the Slidecast you’ll hear Alison and Lizzie describing
how they discovered in the course of the discussions reasons why Web
preservation is a topic which needs to be treated seriously.

But how should one go about Web preservation? What should you preserve?
What should one discard? What are the implications of use of Web 2.0 on
preservation policies? Whose responsibility is this? What are the costs associated
with preservation? And what are the costs and associated risks of not developing
and implementing a preservation policy for your Web resources? And how does
one ensure that an institutional preservation policy is sustainable and embedded
withn the institution?

These are some of the topics which have been raised on the JISC PoWR blog
and will be discussed at the workshop. But hurry up and book you place, as the
deadline for bookings is Friday 5th September. And note that the workshop is
free to attend for members of the higher and further education community.

And finally I should point out that the case study given by Alison Wildish and
Lizzie Richard has been saved from being trapped in the non-interoperable
world of the past, accessible only to Doctor Who (and even then only on a good
day) by recording the talk and synching the recording with the slides and hosting
this on Slideshare. You see, preservation can be enhanced through use of Web
2.0 services. Digital preservation can be cool - even though, arguably, it may kill
the odd polar bear

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0, preservation | Edit
No Comments »

Defining An “Amplified Conference”

August 28, 2008

The term ‘amplified conference’ was, I believe coined in a blog post by Lorcan
Dempsey in which he observed that ” It is interesting to watch how more
conferences are amplifying their effect through a variety of network tools and

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collateral communication“.

It will be noted that Lorcan didn’t seek to define what he meant by the term, but
was merely observing a pattern of uses of networked technologies at events
being made, in Lorcan’s example, at a number of JISC events, although such
uses predate this as I described in a paper on “Using Networked Technologies
To Support Conferences” published in June 2005.

But we don’t seem to have an agreed definition of the term. And this can be
problematic, especially if we decide that we want to host an ‘amplified

So I thought I’d set the ball rolling by describing what I mean by an amplified

The term amplified conference describes a conference or similar event in which

the talks and discussions at the conference are ‘amplified’ through use of
networked technologies in order to extend the reach of the conference

The term is not a prescriptive one, but rather describes a pattern of behaviors
which initially took place at IT and Web-oriented conferences once WiFi
networks started to become available at conference venues and delegates started
to bring with them networked devices such as laptops and, more recently, PDAs
and mobile phones.

We can observe a number of ways in which conferences can be amplified

through use of networked technologies:

Amplification of the audiences’ voice: Prior to the availability of real time

chat technologies at events (whether use of IRC, Twitter, instant messaging
clients, etc.) it was only feasible to discuss talks with immediate neighbours,
and even then this may be considered rude.

Amplification of the speaker’s talk: The availability of video and audio-

conferencing technologies make it possible for a speaker to be heard by an
audience which isn’t physically present at the conference. Although use of
video technologies has been available to support conferences for some time,
this has normally been expensive and require use of dedicated video-
conferencing tecnologies. However the availability of of lightweight
desktop tools make it much easier to deploy such technologies, without
even, requiring the involvement of conference organisers.

Amplification across time: Video and audio technologies can also be used
to allow a speaker’s talk to be made available after the event, with use of
podcasting or videocasting technologies allowing the talks to be easily
syndicated to mobile devices as well as accessed on desktop computers.

Amplification of the speaker’s slides: The popularity of global repository

services for slides, such as Slideshare, enable the slies used by a speaker to
be more easily found, embedded on other Web sites and commented upon,
in ways that were not possible when the slides, if made available at all, were
only available on a conference Web site.

Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies,

such as Twitter, are being used not only as a discussion channel for
conference participants but also as a way of providing real-time feedback to
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a speaker during a talk. We are also now seeing dedicated microblogging

technologies, such as Coveritlive and Scribblelive, being developed which
aim to provide more sophisticated ‘back channels’ for use at conferences.

Amplification of a conference’s collective memory: The popularity of

digital cameras and the photographic capabilities of many mobile phones is
leading to many photographs being taken at conferences. With such
photographs often being uploaded to popular photographic sharing services,
such as Flickr, and such collections being made more easy to discovered
through agreed use of tags, we are seeing amplification of the memories of
an event though the sharing of such resources. The ability of such
photographic resources to be ‘mashed up’ with, say, accompanying music,
can similarly help to enrich such collective experiences (such as the
Animoto clips of IWMW 2007 and UKOLN’s Exploiting The Potential Of
Blogs and Social Networks Workshop).

Amplification of the learning: The ability to be able to follow links to

resources and discuss the points made by a speaker during a talk can enrich
the learning which takes place at an event, as described by Shabajee’s
article on “‘Hot’ or Not? Welcome to real-time peer review” published in
the Times Higher Educational Supplement in May 2003.

Long term amplification of conference outputs: The availability in a

digital format of conference resources, including ‘official’ resources such
as slides, video and audio recordings, etc. which have been made by the
conference organisers with the approval of speakers, together with more
nebulous resources such as archives of conference back channels, and
photographs and unofficial recordings taken at the event may help to
provide a more authentic record of an event, which could potentially
provide a valuable historical record.

Well that’s my initial attempt at trying to define what I understand by the term
‘amplified conference’. I should add that in this post I’m not discussing any of
the limitations of amplified conferences (which I’ve commented on previously).
My final comment is to point out that I actually organise ‘amplified workshops’
and ‘amplified seminars’ but neither of these terms seem to have the resonance
of ‘amplified conference’. So I suspect we should probably stick with this term
to refer to a range of events.

Does this definition work for you?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, Web2.0 | Edit

MyBristol Toolbar
August 27, 2008

I was alerted to the MyBristol portal via a tweet from Mike Ellis who
commented on the URIs it uses:

woa - check out the beautiful friendly url’s on UPortal…


Now I’d agree that

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is a rather ‘uncool URI’. But I was more interested in the MyBristol portal
service itself and, in particular, the portal toolbar which is available for the
FireFox browser:

The Add Newsfeed option “allows you to maintain a personalised set of

newsfeeds“. Wouldn’t it be great if every institutions provided a service like
this, which allowed your news feeds and your bookmarks to be stored in a
managed environment - if it would also allow such data to be seamlessly stored
on your preferred external service as well (perhaps or Diigo for your
bookmarks and Google Reader or Netvibes for your news feeds).

I feel that the ability to store such resources on a remote service is needed in
order to gain the ‘network effect’ that popular remote services can provide. But
I’d also like to have a managed local copy, so I wouldn’t have to worry if the
remote service went down, its performance was unreliable or if I was concerned
about the privacy implications of storing sensitive information remotely. And I’d
like such services to work transparently so I wouldn;t have to worry about
managing plugins myself.

Are such approaches being developed?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Squirl: When Web 2.0 Services Break

August 25, 2008

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I have previously described that when you

make use of third party Web 2.0 services you need to acknowledge the possible
risks: yes, if you use Google Docs there are risks if Google goes out of business
or the Google service is down. I have been willing to take such risks, especially
with well-established and well-used services such as Google portfolio of services
and other services such as and Slideshare.

But what about less well-known services? What happens if such services do
break? After all, as my colleague Paul Walk has recently pointed out and “there
is a growing, commonly-held belief that we are about to enter a global
recession” and as “venture capital can become harder to find in a period of
economic down-turn” Paul asks “is this a good moment for HEIs to begin a
brave experiment with outsourcing services to remote companies?” .

An example of a Web 2.0 service which has become broken happened to me

recently. In January 2007 I came across the Squirl service. I wanted to explore a
number of Web 2.0 services, so I used Squirl to keep a record of the books I was
reading. The service has links to Amazon, so I simply need to type in the title of
the book, select the appropriate version and it will store a description of the
book, including an image of the cover.

That was fine until and by February 2008 Squirl was keeping a record of 42

But when I finished reading the next book, I found that the link to Amazon had
stopped working. I thought no more of it (it wasn’t a mission critical service,
after all) but went back to several times afterwards, after reading more books.

Eventually I went to the Squirl groups and discovered a series of messages

complaining about the service, as illustrated. And unfortunately there has been
no response to any of the messages from anyone working for Squirl. It was also
unfortunate, I felt, that Squirl didn’t provide a blog about their service, which I
could add to my RSS reader and use various RSS filtering tools to help spot any

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worrying announcements or concerns raised by the users.

I can still create entries manually (although this does not pull in the images from
Amazon). But as the service was still working apart from retrieval of the
metadata from Amazon I wasn’t too concerned, especially as I had checked that
there was a data export function when I signed up for the service. But when I
tried to export my data as a CSV file I got the following error message:

Sorry, we screwed up.

An email has been sent to somebody at squirl, and we’ll try and fix the
problem as soon as possible. You might be able to find what you were
looking for with the search engine above.

If the problem persists, please contact

And rest assured, somebody is going to get a permanent letter in their file
for this. I mean, heads will roll.

I first saw this error message back in February, I think, and I’m still getting the
same message in August :-( Even worse, when I send an email message to the
address given above I find that the email address no longer exists.

Fortunately as the service provides an RSS feed of my data I have been able to
retrieve my data. But this experience has helped to identify a number of
approaches which one should take to help minimise such risks in the future. I
think ideally the steps would be:

Find out details about who is providing the service. Is it well-funded? Is it

likely to, for example, be sustainable through the current troubled
economic times?
Does the service allow the data to be exported? Can the data be exported
in a rich format, allowing the service to be recreated without too much
Check the data export functionality and import into a new service.
Possibly replicate the data in a complementary service (note this is
something I do with this blog).

In addition to these points related to the service and the data I would also look to
see if the service provides announcements and discussions using blogs rather
than, as in this case, forum software as I add feeds from the third party services I
use to my blog reader which allows me to periodically check for any untoward
discussions in a single place.

It might be felt that having to implement such processes for any Web 2.0 service
could be very time-consuming. But, of course, across a community we are likely
to find uses of such services being made by others. So perhaps what we need is
to make use of social networks to share our experiences, and have mechanisms
in place to alert others to any possible problems (and I’m alerting other Squirl
users of problems with the service 6 months after I first spotted them).

Of course, in order to ensure that we have our risk assessment processes in place
we will also need an audit of the services we use. That’s a topic I’ll discuss in a
future post.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Squirl | Edit

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What Is JISC?
August 22, 2008

I recently noticed a referrer link to this blog coming from the Web
site. I’ve not visited this site before so I thought I’d visit and use the service to
find an answer to a question. The question I thought I’d ask was “What is
JISC?” And, as shown below, I found that “The Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC) supports United Kingdom post-16 and higher education and
research by providing leadership in the use of ICT (Information and
Communications Technology) in support of learning, teaching, research and
administration. JISC is funded by all the UK post-16 and higher education
funding councils.“.

This answer is taken from the JISC entry in Wikipedia. Similar results are found
by asking questions such as “What is UKOLN?” and “What is Bath
University?” as well as for more general questions such as “What is research”
although for questions such as “What is education?” the answers are drawn
from a variety of sources, with the Wikipedia definition to be found after results
from sources such as The American Heritage Dictionary, Roget’s II: The New
Thesaurus, Third Edition and the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

What are the implications of this? The first, unsurprisingly, is that if information
about your organisation or your areas of interest are available in Wikipedia, then

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the Creative Commons licence which is assigned to the material will help to
ensure that this information is surfaced in multiple locations.

And perhaps more subtly, if you don’t use Wikiepdia, or you require that your
students don’t use Wikipedia, you may find that you are inadvertently using
information held by Wikipedia and made available via others services such as
Wikipedia. In the search for JISC the top entry was clearly labelled as coming
from Wikipedia, but in the example of “What is education?” the first set of
references came from more traditional sources of information, and if you scroll
down you may miss the citation details for the entry from Wikipedia.

My view is that providing information about your organisation of the topics you
care about in Wikipedia will help to maximise awareness of and an interest such
information. And failing to provide such information on the grounds that people
shouldn’t use Wikipedia is mistaken. But if you do make use of Wikipedia you
should be careful to provide an objective and encylopedia-like definition and
avoid the trap of the entry sounding like an advertisement:

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: jisc, wikipedia | Edit

The ILI Tenth Anniversary

August 21, 2008

The Internet Librarian International Conference

Is Ten
This year sees the 10th anniversary of the Internet Librarian International (ILI)
conference. This year’s event, ILI 2008, will be held at Novotel London West,
London, UK on 16-17th October 2008. And, unfortunately, it will be the first ILI
conference I won’t be able to attend. I have spoken at all of the ILI conferences
and have also been a member of the programme committee and chaired sessions
for a number of years.

My Involvement In ILI Conferences

Details of all of my talks at ILI are available on the UKOLN Web site. In light of

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the forthcoming anniversary I thought it would be interesting to produce a

timeline of my involvement with the conference. I used the Dipity software to
produce the timeline of my involvement in the ILI conference series, as
illustrated below (and I should add that an embedded version of this is available
on the UKOLN Web site, which also provides access to a locally managed copy
of the data, so that potentially the service can be recreated if the Dipity service
is not sustainable).

The conference has been of particular relevance to UKOLN, as it has provided

an opportunity to actively engage with the communities served by both of our
core funders: the academic libraries and the JISC development community
together with those working in public libraries. Producing this timeline has
provided a useful opportunity to observe and reflect the topics which have been
of interest to these communities over this time.

Talks On Web Standards

My first talk was entitled “New Standards on the Web” and I described
emerging new Web standards, including a range of XML standards (XLink and
XPointer) and RDF. Looking back at the presentation (and the references to
related work such as Eric Miller slide’s on support for RDF in Netscape) I can
see how naive I as in my expectation that the emerging new W3C standards
would be quickly deployed in a mainstream service environment. I gave another
talk on standards at ILI 2003 entitled “HTML Is Dead! A Web Standards
Update” in which I avoided the complexities of Semantic Web standards and
focussed on data formats including SVG and SMIL. Again I was soon able to
appreciate that the market place had little interest in these standards, although
my comments on the importance of and XML and CSS, for example, were
appropriate and timely. The final talk I gave related to Web standards was given
at ILI 2005 and was entitled “Facing The Challenges Of A Standards-Based
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Approach To Web Development“. Here I reflected on the failure of various

Web standards to gain acceptance in the marketplace and described the
‘contextual approach to use of open standards’ which I had been involved in
developed for the JISC to help avoid repeating the costly mistakes made in the
past when open standards (e.g. Coloured Book software) had continued to be
advocated even after their failures had been widely acknowledged.

Web Accessibility

A talk on “Benchmarking Of Library Web Sites” given at ILI 2002 included a

description of use of automated Web accessibility testing tools. The following
year, at ILI 2003, I took part in a Web accessibility panel session entitled “Web
Site Accessibility: Too Difficult To Implement?” and this time I gave one of my
first presentations in which I argued that the traditional approaches to providing
accessible Web resources, based on implementation of WCAG guidelines, was
flawed. Two years later the joint UKOLN/Techdis holistic approach to Web
accessibility had been developed and at ILI 2005 I was able to run a half day
workshop with Lawrie Phipps on “A Holistic Approach To Web Usability,
Accessibility And Interoperability“.

Best Practices For Publishing E-Journals

ILI conferences have provided a dissemination opportunity for various projects I

have been involved in. I gave a talk on “Electronic Magazines: Issues in
Implementation” at ILI 2000 which described the EU-funded Exploit
Interactive e-journal. The following year, at ILI 2001, Marieke Guy and myself
ran a half-day workshop session on “Publishing Web Magazines, e-Journals &
Webzines“, the first of four workshop sessions I have facilitated at ILI

Other Areas

Other topics which I’ve covered at ILI conferences have included advertising on
Web sites (at ILI 2001), new devices on the Web (ILI 2002) and quality
assurance for Web sites (a half day workshop at ILI 2004).

Web 2.0

Since ILI 2004 the main focus of my involvement at ILI has been related to
Web 2.0. The first talk was entitled “Beyond E-mail! Wikis, Blogs and Social
Networking Software“, with a talk on “The Sceptics View Of New
Technologies” being given in a panel session at the ILI 2004 event.

A talk on “Email Must Die!” at ILI 2005 described the benefits of various
Web-based collaborative and communications tools, and, at the same event I
continued to argue the need to adopt a critical approach to the new technologies
with a talk on “Folksonomies - The Sceptics View“.

I was invited to chair a session on Wikis at ILI 2006 and, due to the late
unavailability of one of the invited speakers, also gave a brief talk on
“Reflections On Personal Experiences In Using Wikis“. My main talk that year
was on “Web 2.0 and Library 2.0: Addressing Institutional Barriers“.

Finally at ILI 2007 Kara Jones and myself ran a masterclass on “Using Blogs
Effectively Within Your Library” and I gave a talk on “The Blogging Librarian:

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Avoiding Institutional Inertia“.

Returning To ILI 2008

I had intended to participate at the ILI 2008 conference, but as I have been
invited to present a paper at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference, I will
unfortunately not be able to attend. I will be there in spirit, though with my
colleagues Marieke Guy and Ann Chapman this year facilitating the half-day
blogging workshop.

I would like to take this opportunity to give my thanks to everyone who has
helped to make the ILI conference series such a great success, especially the
conference organisers (including Marydee Ojala, Jane Dysart, Nancy Garman,
David Raitt, Bill Spence, Jean Mulligan) and the people I’ve met at ILI (too
numerous to mention, but I should include Michael Stephens, Mary Peterson,
Frank Cervone, Karen Blakeman, Phil Bradley, Darlene Fichter and Peter
Scott). All my best wish to everyone at ILI 2008 - and all the best for the next
10 years.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: ili, ili2008 | Edit

The Markmail Service

August 18, 2008

In a recent tweet Matt Jukes alerted me to the MarkMail service. As Matt forms
part of my trusted “interesting Web applications alerting services” I went to the
Web site. What I found was a search interface across over 4,300 mailing lists. A
search for ‘ukoln’ provided me with not only various posts containing this string,
but also details of the person who made the post, the lists posted to and also, as
shown, a graph of the numbers of posts over time.

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Initially I felt that the graph supported my view that email is dying, but a search
for a more general term, “web”, showed me that this was clearly an
inappropriate conclusion to make based on this evidence.

But perhaps of more relevance is the main point that Matt made in his tweet:

just discovered be cool if jiscmail lists were

searchable here as well..

Yes it would be great if JISCMail exposed its mail archives to third party
indexing services such as MarkMail. But to do that (or rather to do that
effectively) would require the JISCMail mail archives to provide ‘cool’
application-independent and persistent URIs (which they don’t currently do) and
allow robot software to access the resources. Doing this will, of course, require
the service to commit resources to develop work and make changes in policies.
A popular and large scale service, such as JISCMail, would only be in a position
to do this if they could see tangible benefits to their user communities. I hope the
example of the MarkMail service illustrates the potential benefits of opening up
one’sdata to third party services. I have to admit that I find the JISCMail search
interface so poor that I seldom use it. Exposing the data to other services
(whether MarkMail, Google or whatever) would enhance access to data
available in the JISCMail Web archives, without JISCMail having to wait for the
underlying Listserv software to conform with fundamental Web architectural
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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: Markmail | Edit

Fahrenheit 451
August 15, 2008

I recently attended the JISC’s Innovation Forum. One of the most interesting of
the plenary talks was given by HEFCE’s John Selby. In his talk John praised the
work of the JISC and the JISC Services, but went on to warn of troubled
financial times ahead for the educational sector. The glory days of the past 10
years are over, he predicted.

This was probably not unexpected. What did surprise me, however, was the
figures John quoted which put the carbon cost to the environment on par with
the cost of flying - both at 2%.

This generated much debate at the forum, and, later on at the conference meal
and in the bar. Although people questioned the accuracy of these figures, and
wanted to know how these figures were obtained, there was an awareness that
the carbon cost of IT is an issue which the IT secure needs to address. I should
add that I subsequently came across details of a forthcoming Government Goes
Green conference in which Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister, BERR was quoted
as saying that

”ICT is now responsible for around 2% of global CO2 emissions. The

public sector, with annual IT spending of £14bn, has an important role to
play in reducing this two percent. An increased focus on sustainable
procurement and efficient use of IT products are two key areas that it
needs to work on and I am very pleased to see a conference dedicated on

At the JISC Innovation Forumdinner I found myself sitting next to colleagues

from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). I suggested, partly in jest, that although
there was a clear need for continued development of networked services which
are popular with the users, we had to ask ourselves where the costs of preserving
digital resources could be justified. If, as we learnt from Alison Wildish’s recent
presentation at the first JISC PoWR workshop, those involved in Web
development activities tend to focus on the pressing needs of their user
communities and find it difficult to justify diverting scarce resources to
preserving resources which are no longer of significant interest to the institution,
why don’t we stop pushing the notion of digital preservation. And not only will
this allow the development community to focus their efforts on responding to
pressing user needs - but removing archived files from hard disk drives could
result in significant savings in energy.

This approach would then both help the users and help save the planet
As I’ve said this was intended as a joke, over our conference meal. But we
realised that their may be benefits for the digital preservation community in
making such suggestions. After all, preservation is widely considered as worthy
but dull. If digital preservation was regarded as something radical, might it have
a greater appeal to developers? Could those involved in digital preservation
work - harvesting old Web sites and even implementing OAIS models - find
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themselves repositioned as members of an underground radical movement,

secretly preserving digital artefacts for a society which regards such activities as
unacceptable. Fahrenheit 451 for the 21st century, perhaps.

The following
day when I suggested this, I was told that there have been discussions about
strategies for digital preservation which acknowledge that there are
environmental factors which need to be addressed. It seems that there have been
proposals that such preservation activities should be based in places such as
Greenland and Alaska where the low temperatures may reduce the need for
consuming energy to keep the disk drives running at acceptable temperatures.

Now scientists may point out that running large scale server farms in locations
near glaciers and the ice cap may increase the rate at which they melt. But the
ideas which were bounced around at the event did make me wonder whether
centralisation of networked services (e.g. running applications hosted by Google
or Yahoo or running our applications on Amazon’s S3 and EC2 servers) would
be more beneficial to the environment than all of our institutions running our
own local servers.

And perhaps such discussion might be useful in a teaching context. Does data
curation, for example, conflict with environmental protection? If so, should we
forget it? Or could this approach result in deletion of the very data that could
save the planet

What do you think?

And if you’d like to take part in a viral marketing campaign which seeks to make
digital preservation interesting by suggesting that it might be responsible for
global warming, feel free to make use of the post which has been produced. And
note that a Creative Commons zero licence (currently in beta) has been assigned

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to this resource, so you don’t need to cite the original source. Let’s be part of an
underground movement

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in preservation | Edit

Usage Statistics for the IWMW 2008 Live

Video Stream
August 14, 2008

The first live streaming of talks at a IWMW event took place at IWMW 2006,
when we experimented with an in-house streaming service and use of the Access
Grid. The following year live streaming of the plenary talks was provided by
staff at the University of York, and recordings of most of the talks were
subsequently made available on Google Video.

On both occasions the numbers of people watching the live streaming video was
low, with the maximum numbers of viewers being less than 20 at each of the
events. Despite the low numbers we felt the service was valuable as it provided
us with an opportunity to gain experience of not only various streaming
technologies but also, and more importantly, the non-technical aspects of live
streaming at events such as privacy, copyright, accessibility, etc.

This year’s IWMW 2008 event was held in the King’s Conference Centre at the
University of Aberdeen. I was not the only delegate who was impressed by the
King’s Auditorium - as one person commented on the event evaluation form
“Conference hall had great facilities and microphones meant that you could
hear delegates questions“.

The venue also had an excellent AV facilities, and we were pleased that, once
again, we were able to stream the plenary talks. The quality of the video was
excellent, as you can see if you watch any of the videos of the talks.

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But perhaps the most noteworthy

aspect of the live streaming was the numbers of people who watching the talks.
As can be seen from the accompanying diagram there were 160 people watching
the videos on the final day of the event. As IWMW 2008 attracted 180
participants, with a number of them having to leave before the event finished I
suspect we can say that there were more remote people watching Ewan
McIntosh’s closing plenary talk on “Unleashing the Tribe” that there were in
the King’s Auditorium. When I mentioned this to my director, Liz Lyon, she
wondered whether we will soon reach a ‘tipping point’ in which live streaming
of talks at large conferences in the digital library environment will be expected
as a mainstream offering.

For that to happen, though, there will be a need to establish the business case for
providing the streaming service, ensure that it is easy to use and ensure that the
risks are being addressed.

The business case is interesting. Who should pay for the costs of providing a
video streaming service for an event? Should the costs be taken from the
participants who attend the event? Or should remote viewers who wish to access
the video stream have to pay? Or perhaps event organisers should be looking for
commercial sponsorship to cover the costs (although in light of the current
economic turbulence, now is probably not a good time to suggest this). I
wonder, though, whether the costs be covered by the host institution. Once the
AV equipment has been installed, can the support costs be included i the rental
of the facilities - just as we are now starting to expect access to WiFi network
being provided as standard.

Once the business case has been sorted, there will be a need to ensure that the
service is easy to use (back at IWMW 2006 people wishing to view the
streaming video service needed to install “Real Player and the Xiph Player
Plugin or Windows Media Player with the illiminable Ogg Directshow Filters
for Speex, Vorbis, Theora and FLAC, with Linux users needing MPlayer with
Ogg Theora“). Nowadays users shouldn’t need to concern themselves with
details of the technologies, as use of Flash seems to provide the interface to
streaming services (although there may be issues about versions of Flash).
However I suspect there will be a need to provide a back channel, to enable the
remote participants to discuss the talks. There will also be a need for the remote
participants to join in discussions with the local audience, especially if a WiFi
network is available. There will be a need, therefore, to ensure that the back
channel is not tightly coupled to the video streaming service.

Finally there will be a need to address the risks. This will include addressing
issues such as privacy, copyright and data protection. In addition there will be a
need to consider the quality of service and reliability of the streaming service,
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especially if the costs in providing the service have been made transparent.

And the more I think about such issues the more I wonder whether live
streaming at conferences has reached a tipping point. Might it simply be too
much effort to provide on a regular basis?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 | Edit

Revisiting Development Of Facebook Applications

August 13, 2008

I recently commented that I was pleased to see that the JISC-funded EDINA
service was engaging with a number of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services in
order to “improve engagement with their user communities”. In my post I made
an observation on the release of a Facebook application (one which provides
access to the Suncat service). I was pleased to see that EDINA are willing to
explore the potential of Facebook for providing a platform for accessing their
service - in some circles Facebook is regarded as unacceptable, perhaps because
of concerns over data lock-in and privacy concerns, but also on what might be
regarded as ‘ideological grounds’. My view is that if such applications can
deliver useful services to the users in a cost-effective manner, then that will
probably be acceptable.

In response to my post Nicola Osborne, a developer at EDINA, commented:

If anyone has comments on the search app or features that should be

added we’d be very keen to hear them as the gradual migration over to the
new version of Facebook seems like a good time to reassess how our app is
working and could be improved and expanded (it’s very basic at the

Nicola’s comment is very timely as I think there is a need for a debate on

exactly what it is we (developers and users) might expect from the development
of such Facebook applications. We will also need to consider the resource
implications in developing such applications and the longer term maintenance
and support costs.

The Facebook page for the Suncat page is shown below. It should be noticed
that as well as the search interface itself (shown at the bottom of the image) the
page also provides information about the service, allows users to become ‘fans’
of the application, provides a ‘minifeed’ of information about the application
and has a ‘wall’ which provides a forum for user comments. What this would
seem to provide is an open environment for discussions about an application and
mechanisms for potentially for making contact with fans of the application.

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If we look at the Copac Facebook application page developed by the

JISC-funded MIMAS service we can see a related approach. Here we can see
how the application can be added to (embedded within) other Facebook pages. I
can also see my Facebook friends who have added this application. And as, in
this case, the people shown are people whose views on digital library
applications I trust this can potentially help me in deciding whether to install the
application. And if, for example, my Facebook page is updated with a message
saying that 50 of my friends have installed the Copac or Suncat application I’m
likely to wonder what I’m missing. And if I install the application this may
influence my Facebook friends. So the viral marketing aspect has the potential
to enhance usage of a service which is made available in Facebook.

But if you actually use either of these application you will find that the
experience is rather disappointing. Once you’ve entered a serach term and
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pressed submit you then leave the Facebook environment and are taken to the
Suncat or Copac service. You do not have the seamless environment within
Facebook you might expect. And your use of of the service does not have any
’social’ context - if you have installed the application you are not informed of
the numbers of your friends who have searched for a particular item. And you
might be relieved at this, as you may not want your friends to see what you have
been searching for. But if this is the case, if searching isn’t actually a social
activity, what then is the point of providing the service within a social
networking environment such as Facebook?

The answer to this question may be that the marketing aspects that social
networks can provide is regarded as beneficial to the organisation developing the
service. And as we have seen with popular applications such as Firefox large
numbers of users are sometimes willing to associate themselves with an
application (and I’ve just noticed that the Twitter application page in Facebook
has 10,106 fans). So perhaps a decision to develop a Facebook application
would be one made by the marketing group for a service. Or perhaps there is an
expectation that a thriving support service can be developed within popular
social networking environments, in which case the decision would be made by
those involved in providing the support infrastructure for a service.

But perhaps, based on the experiences I’ve had, we shouldn’t expect too much
in terms of the functionality which a Facebook application can provide. Is this a
limitation of Facebook as a platform, or is it simply that, as Nicola has said about
the Suncat application, the service is still very basic at present and EDINA are
still exploring how the application might be developed? Or might Facebook
applications have a useful role to play, but only in certain application areas.
Earlier this year Seb Chan, on the blog described the Artshare Facebook
application, developed by the Brooklyn Museum (one of the pioneers in a
number of uses of Web 2.0 services). As Seb described:

“This allows you to add selected objects from museum collections to your
Facebook profile. These object images then link to your museum’s
collection records, the idea being that people can effectively ‘friend’
objects in your collection, promote them for you on their profiles, and
drive traffic back to your website.“

Are the benefits, then, in providing access to objects which can, in some way,
drive traffic back to your service? Or could Facebook provide an environment
for games which provide educational benefits (Scrabulous for remedial English
teaching, perhaps?) But are there any significant benefits to be gained, apart
from the marketing aspects, from providing search interface to services from
within Facebook?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook, Web2.0 ·Tags: Copac, Suncat | Edit

EDINA And Web 2.0

August 11, 2008

I was recently reading the EDINA Newsletter. EDINA, a JISC-funded national

datacentre based at the University of Edinburgh, has announced its strategic plan
for 2008-2011(PDF) and amongst its priorities are “improving engagement with
our user communities” and “appropriate use of Web 2.0 social media and
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collaboration tools“.

It seems that EDINA has already started implementing these plans, as the
newsletter also describes the EDINA Digimap blog which has been launched as
a way of “exploring alternatives to email for distributing information about
the service“. It is interesting to note that the blog is hosted on Blogspot. This
strikes me as a sensible - rather than having to find technical expertise in-house
to install and maintain blog software EDINA are using a well-established and
mature externally-hosted service. It was also interesting to note that they are
using Blogspot rather than WordPress. I suspect that, after lagging behind a few
years ago, Blogspot may have caught up with WordPress in its functionality and

The newsletter also mentioned that the Suncat service (the Serials Union
Catalogue for the UK research community) now has a “search application that
anyone on Facebook can easily add to their profile, enabling them to search
for journals held in over 60 UK research libraries” - and if you have a
Facebook account you may wish to try the application.

Externally-hosted blogs and Facebook applications - it does seem that EDINA is

embracing Web 2.0. And reading the strategic plan for 2008-2011 (PDF format)
it seems this decision was made in order to enhance accessibility of its services.
The plan describes how “EDINA recognises the growing user-base arising from
delivery of service to a widening client community and integration with other
environments, especially those using mobile technologies. In addition, the
growth in popularity of Web 2.0 social media and collaboration tools is
important for the support of learning and research activity.” I was also pleased
to read that although EDINA is committed to improving the utility and usability
of its services for “the full range of its users, including those with disabilities”
EDINA has acknowledged that

“adopting too conservative an approach risks disenfranchising many users

and therefore EDINA will evaluate how its services can be presented and
personalised to address changing information-seeking and user practices,
including access through devices other than computer screens, such as
PDAs and mobile phones.“

It is good to see a national JISC service such as EDINA embracing Web 2.0 and
making a commitment to enhancing the accessibility of its services by providing
personalised services and supporting a variety of devices (and it is noticeable
that no reference is made in the plan to achieving such accessibility be simply
mandating WAI-compliance).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility ·Tags: EDINA | Edit

Citizen 2.0, Strike 2.0, David Cameron 2.0 and

Coldplay 2.0
August 8, 2008

Last week’s New Statesman magazine (4th August 2008) had a special
supplement entitled “Citizen 2.0″. As described in a blog post by Aleks Krotoski,
Technology Correspondent of the Guardian and chair of the event this was a

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summary of a roundtable discussion on “Privacy, security and civil liberties in a

digital society”.

The main article in the Work supplement of Saturday’s Guardian (5th August
2008) was entitled “Strike 2.0” and described how strike actions in the 21st
century are beginning to make use of social networking services.

The Guardian also published a leader column on 16th July 2008 which was
entitled “David Cameron 2.0“.

And a review of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” album
published in The Observer on 8 June 2008 described how “After three
best-selling works which the piano-rock four-piece now consider a trilogy
concluded, Coldplay declared themselves ready for Coldplay 2.0“.

The 2.0 meme is now established in mainstream journalism, it seems - well,

perhaps only left-of-centre publications, although I haven’t read the Telegraph
or the Mail for some time :-).

I wonder if the style guides for these publications has been updated to define
how this term should be used? I am comfortable will use of the term in this way,
just as I am when I hear terms such as ‘library 2.0‘, ‘e-learning 2.0‘, ‘research
2.0‘, ‘enterprise 2.0‘ and ‘government 2.0‘ . And I am pleased that the Web
industry has had an impact on the language which now seems to be becoming
accepted within the mainstream media,

An earlier attempt by the Web community to describe a new generation of

technologies was the suffix NG, which was used, for example, to describe
HTTP-NG. I have to admit that I’m please that coining of this term by fans of
Star Trek failed to take off.

In the political sphere we have seen the term ‘New’ being used to describe the
different approach which was taken by the Labout party in the mid 1990s. We
subsequently saw the term ‘modern’ and ‘moderniser’ being used to describe the
response being made by the Conservative party. Now although I suspect many
readers won’t describe themselves as fans of ‘New Labour’ or the modernised
Conservative party it should be acknowledged that these terms were widely used
and understood, even if they did not have a rigourous definition.

And for me it’s just the same with Web 2.0, e-learning 2.0, Library 2.0, etc.
Let’s get over debates about these broad terms and instead discuss the issues.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit
No Comments »

IWMW 2008 Bar Camps

August 7, 2008

The main change to the IWMW 2008 timetable this year was the introduction of
a barcamp session. As described on the IWMW 2008 Web site:

Wikipedia defines BarCamp as an international network of user generated

conferences, open, participatory workshop events, whose content is
provided by participants. A BarCamp is typically one or two full days held
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at a weekend attended by people with an interest in technology. The day is

split into a number of sessions typically of around 30 minutes each.
Depending on the number of participants, size of venue, etc. there may be
several sessions running simultaneously.

For the IWMW 2008 event we still had the conventional plenary talks and
parallel sessions which had been planned in advance. But in addition:

A board [was] provided at IWMW 2008 for people to post up ideas for
slots, rooms will then be allocated. Screen projectors will be available in
rooms for people to use. During the 45 minute allocated slot there will be
time for up to 18 sessions and each session will be 20 minutes long.

This innovation was introduced by my colleague and IWMW 2008 co-chair

Marieke Guy, with suggestions from Michael Nolan, Edge Hill University, who
shared his experiences of barcamps: “One of the best presentations I’ve seen
was titled “stuff I know” and was a guy drawing shapes, arrows and random
words on a flip chart while telling us what we should know…“.

And having just had my first glance at the IWMW 2008 feedback forms it seems
that the Barcamp idea was a great success.

The Overall views for the event included the comments “Bar camp was an
excellent idea that should be utilised more in the future” and “Bit disappointed
by the main session but the parallel/barcamp sessions were much better“.

Comments on the Most Valuable Aspects of the Event included

“Barcamp and discussion with others and seeing how successfully people have
implemented successful change over the last year“, “Barcamp sessions“,
“Barcamp” and “Barcamp”
We were also keen to get feedback on Aspects Which Could Be Improved.
Even the responses to this question were all positive about the barcamps: “Bar
camps a bit rushed. The session were not too long but changeover times took
too much out of 20 mins, More barcamp stuff please-lets build stuff!“,
“Barcamps not long enough” and “Not enough time left between barcamp
sessions to get from one room to the next“.

The Barcamp Topics

The barcamps were clearly a success. But what topics were covered? A list of
the topics is provided on the IWMW 2008 Web site and is also given below.
And note that a page has been created on the IWMW 2008 Ning social network
which will enable the barcamp facilitators (and, indeed, the participants) to
provide a summary of the session, notes on the discussions and links to relevant

Session1: Wednesday 23rd July 2008 from 14.15-14.35

1. Sex, Lies and Microsites [see Ning page]

2. So What Is A Good Open Source CMS? [see Ning page]
3. Stuff You Need To Know About iTunesU [see Ning page]
4. How Can A WCMS Save £3.4 Million In 12 Months? [see Ning page]
5. Tenish 5-Minute Ways To Improve Your Website [see Ning page]
6. Web Analytics Guiding Web Development [see Ning page]
7. Web 2.0 In Student Activism: What We Can Learn From Anonymous [see
Ning page]

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8. How Qualified Do You Have To Be To Manage A Website? [see Ning


Session 2: Wednesday 23rd July 2008 from 14.40-15.00

1. Canadian View On Life, Dearth and Social Software [see Ning page]
2. DIY CMS - Building A Low Budget System, Getting People To ‘Buy-In’
[see Ning page]
3. Immediacy WCMS In Action [see Ning page]
4. T4 CMS / Sitestat / Redesign / Rambling Q&A / Discussion [see Ning
5. Barriers To Making Things Work On Second Life [see Ning page]
6. Simple Scriptaculuous [see Ning page]
7. Forum: Feedback on Nedstat [see Ning page]
8. Migrating Into A CMS - What Is Your Experience? [see Ning page]
9. Live@EDU [see Ning page]

Of course, as the barcamps were fairly informal and may have been provided on
an ad hoc basis, there is no requirement for the facilitators to provide such
resources, but I think it is useful to have a record of the sessions which were
held and to provide an opportunity for those who may wish to have a summary
of the session to do so, without myself or Marieke acting as a bottleneck to the
creation of such resources.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 ·Tags: barcamp | Edit

The ‘Chat’ Infrastructure At IWMW 2008

August 5, 2008

The First Use Of Realtime Chat An IWMW Event

The IWMW 2005 event held at the University of Manchester on 6-8th July 2005
was the first time that a WiFi network was used at UKOLN’s IWMW annual
event. I had attended the EUNIS 2005 conference a few week’s prior to this and
presented a paper on Using Networked Technologies To Support
Conferences. This paper described the potential benefits which networked
applications could provide to what Lorcan Dempsey subsequently described as
Amplified Conferences. As described in that paper we ensured that we described
the technologies which would be available at the IWMW 2005 event and
provided an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) covering use of the technologies.

I think there were less than 20 participants who made use of the event ‘chat’
infrastructure, which was provided by IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and those
taking part were mainly Web managers ho had a very technical focus, as can be
seen from the IRC archives. The nature of the discussions changed, however, on
the second day of the event, the 7th July 2005 or, as it became known 7/7 - a
date that (fortunately) is not as globally significant as 9/11 but, especially for
those with London connections, a date which will be associated with the London

It was a very surreal experience following a message on the IRC channel about

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was was initially reported as a train crash on the London Underground, and the
subsequent discussion.

Jul 07 10:08:02 <Tim>explosion on london underground. entire network

Jul 07 10:09:04 <–DavidBailey has quit (Quit: CGI:IRC (EOF))
Jul 07 10:10:06 <JeremySpellerUCL>explosion where?
Jul 07 10:10:15 <Tim>liverpool street
Jul 07 10:10:35 <JeremySpellerUCL>Grief
Jul 07 10:10:40 <Tim>metropolitan line, two trains collided, several
Jul 07 10:10:58 <Stuart_Steele_Aston>Tthe bbc site is grinding?
Jul 07 10:11:02 <JMHarmer>bbc news site not responding - u saw the news
report? prrsumably everyone else is trying to now.

The launch of a WiFi-enabled IWMW event will be one that will be

remembered for a long time by those who took part in the discussions on that

The ‘Back Channel’ At IWMW 2008

Moving forward to IWMW 2008 we knew that many of the participants would
expect a real time communications infrastructure to be provided, as this has
been the norm at IWMW and many other UKOLN events since 2005. And as
we were video streaming the plenary talks we expected to have remote
participants joining in the discussions, too.

Over time the terms used to refer this technology has developed. Use of the term
‘chat’ has decreased, in part due to its derogatory connotations but also due to a
move away from IRC to move native Web-based communications technologies.
I have heard the term ‘back channel’ being used, and this term works when it is
used if (as was the case with Ewan McIntosh, the final plenary speaker at
IWMW 2008) it is used to provide realtime feedback to a speaker. But more
commonly the realtime communications technology is used by the audience
(both those physically present, those watching a video stream and also, in some
cases, those who may only have access to an audio stream or are viewing the
PowerPoint slides). The term ‘micro blog’ has also been used (indeed this is how
I described the service on the IWMW 2008 Web site) but that suggests a official
commentary on an event, rather than the discussion forum which was how the
service was actually used). I don’t think there is yet a widely agreed term to
describe this, so for now I’ll use the term ‘back channel’.

Since IWMW 2007 Twitter has become very popular in certain circles, and most
IWMW 2008 participants will have heard of it, even if they weren’t Twitter
users. However we decided not to suggest use of Twitter as the event back
channel, as, when I’ve tried this previously, I’ve found it is too intrusive those
who follow me on Twitter who aren’t at the event or aren’t interested in the

There was a need for a tool, I felt, similar to Twitter, but which was less
intrusive. I had some experience of Coveritlive (at events such as the
eFoundations Symposia - although I haven’t been able to find the archive of the
discussions). However I found a number of niggles with that software, including
the need to (normally) approve comments. In response to a tweet for
alternative suggestions I decided to make use of Scribbeitlive.

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This did have some advantage, but also some weaknesses. As Andy Powell
commented on the eFoundations blog:

My feeling is that ScribbleLive makes better use of screen real-estate. On

the other hand, Coveritlive has better bells and whistles and more
facilities around moderation (which can be good or bad depending on
what you want to do). In particular (and somewhat surprisingly),
Coveritlive handles embedded URLs much better than ScribbleLive.
Overall, my preference is slightly twoards Coveritlive - though I could be
swayed either way.

In response to Andy’s post Matt Jukes and Phil Wilson suggested that neither
tool was ideal for the job. I would agree with this - I think we will see much
development in this area, not only in enhancing the usability of the tools but also
in allowing the data to be more easily integrated with other tools. I would like,
for example, to be able to have tools to allow me to export the data to other
environments (I have migrated the content to the IWMW 2008 Web site, but I
had to do that manually). It would also be useful to be able to link comments
with particular presneter’s slides or the video - without having the disucssion
having to be tightly-coupled with the multimedia experience (as seems to be the
case with, for example, the Elluminate service).

Another comment Andy made was “the importance of having someone in the
venue dedicated to supporting remote participants “. Again I would agree with
this. This was an area I had responsibility for - but found that I was not able to
do this at the start of the second afternoon due to difficulties in connecting to the
WiFi network. I also found myself failing to support the remote participants
during Ewan McInitosh’s talk because I found it so interesting! But if we do
need dedicated support for remote participants there will clearly be a cost in
providing this support. Does this mean we should start to charge remote
participants, I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 | Edit

Why Don’t Members of Institutional Web Teams

Blog More?
August 4, 2008

On the second day of the IWMW 2008 event Michael Nolan made the comment
“If people are saying we need to communicate what we’re doing better, why do
so few Web Services depts have a blog?” on the event’s live blog.

Shortly after getting back from the event Michael, a Web developer at Edge Hill
University sent a message to the website-info-mgt JISCMail list in which he
raised this issue with a wider audience:

At the risk of opening myself up to (probably deserved) flaming and

accusations of blatant self promotion, I’ve posted to the Edge Hill Web
Services blog questioning why so few other university web teams have a

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Comments and feedback welcome!

This led to a discussion on the list - and also responses to Michael’s blog post on
the Edge Hill University Web Service’s team blog.

On the mailing list various reasons were suggested for the lack of blogs by
members of Web teams :

I find it hard keeping up with blogging - reading and writing, [because]

I’m too damn busy with other projects.
… our workload is so great that this sort of activity tends to sink to the
bottom of the list.
Does anyone think that such blogs would add any value over and above
resources such as this list? … So, to turn the question on its head, who
thinks that they could benefit from reading another web team’s blog?
If every one of us blogged about our work, it would be very hard to sort
out the chaff.

Other replied arguing the benefits of blogging suggesting the benefits of the ‘long
tail’ (an obscure blog post on the intricacies of XSLT coding is likely to be of
interest to perhaps small numbers of others) and how use of filtering tools should
help such nuggets to be found by interested parties. Janet McNight at the
University of Oxford also suggested that:

I think there’s a feeling that a ‘blog’ has to involve sustained pieces of

writing, well-crafted prose, etc; when really all it needs to be is “I was
wrestling with [some problem] and found [some neat
solution]: [lines of code, config, whatever]” — or “we’ve been looking
into [some new technology] and these are a few of the thoughts we’ve had
so far”.

I would very much agree with Janet’s comment. I feel there is a need to regard a
blog as a communication rather than a publication medium. After all, many
members of Web team who may be reluctant to blog are willing to make use of
email lists for advice on often obscure problems - and, ironically, mailing lists
tend not to have the richer structure content and software tools which can help
people to filter out content which is of no interest and find the material which is.

The comments on Michael Nolan’s blog were, perhaps unsurprisingly, somewhat

critical of the failures of institutional Web teams to embrace blogging (Michael
has found only 4-5 examples of such blogs). Matt Machell, for example,
commented that:

it often surprises me how insular the HE web development world is. It

seems to talk to itself, but not to the wider web professional community

Alison Wildish responded on both the Edge Hill blog and the website-info-mgt
mailing list with some considered views on the matter. She identified some of the
barriers to blogging (and note that I will link to her comments on the blog as this
is both easier to read, more navigable and has more easily cited URIs than the
JISCMail archive) but she still felt that “there aren’t enough of us [blogging]
for people to see the real value - yet! If more of us used blogs then we’d be able
to gain a real picture of the work going on across all Universities“. Alison
went on to list the benefits University of Bath Web Services blog are providing.

But although I would agree with Alison’s views I think there are dangers in
forcing people or teams to blog (I should hasten to add that I’m not suggesting

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that Alison is saying this). I still feel there is a need to discuss the benefits and to
gain a better understanding of best practices - and the associated dangers. And I
did wonder whether, as many members of institutional Web teams are happy to
contribute to mailing lists whether an email blog service, such as Posterous,
might provide a lightweight approach to blogging - with this service you simplky
send an email to create a blog post, which, of course, has the ‘cool uris’ and
usable RSS feeds which JISCMailo lists fail to provide.

But if an email blog tool is still to heavyweight, perhaps another approach might
be microblogging. We are, after all, seeing such conversational use of Twitter
being used to discuss the pros and cons of team blogging, with the advantage
that posts have to be kept to the limit of 140 characters - in this case, as partly
illustrated, Michael Nolan raised the issue on Twitter initially, Paul Walk
suggested some of the possible difficulties, Mike Ellis, with tongue in cheek,
questioned whether Web managers had anything to say and Michael Nolan
delivered the punch line
In the screen shot shown above there are six tweets, ~ 6*140 bytes and three
twitterers discussing the issue (there are only 5 active blogs, reasons why this
may be, a challenge to the reasons and a witty riposte). Short and sweet
But more seriously I think there are roles for a diversity of communications tools
including email lists, blogs and micro-blogging tools: each will have its own
strengths and weaknesses, but we need to experiment and gain experiences in
order to find out what the strengths may be. And to revisit Michael’s original
reflection on the need for members of Web teams “to communicate what we’re
doing better” can it be really suggested that email lists are sufficient?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog | Edit

Popular IWMW 2008 Presentations

July 31, 2008

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We encouraged presenters and workshop facilitators at IWMW 2008 to make

their slides available on Slideshare using the IWMW2008 tag. And I’m pleased
to say that not only have a number of the slides have been uploaded, but that
they getting large numbers of views.

The most watched slide is Ewan McIntosh’s Unleasing The Tribe closing
keynote talk. However the figures are somewhat misleading, as the slides were
uploaded a month ago, after Ewan gave a similar talk at a conference in Ireland.
Discounting this the most popular slides and from the workshop session on
“Mind Mapping for Effective Content Management” given by Gareth Saunders
and Stephen Evans (University of St Andrews) following by Michael Nolan’s
slides on “Stuff What we’re doing at Edge Hill University“.

I am pleased that the resources which were delivered to about 20-30 people at
each of the two sessions I’ve mentioned have been shared with, and used by, a
much larger community. Let’s do more of this, I say.

And if you are wondering why Gareth and Stephen’s slides are so popular, why
now view them for yourself, or read Gareth’s blog post about his session.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 ·Tags: Slideshare | Edit

Use of Twitter to Support IWMW Events

July 30, 2008

Twitter has been used at a number of events recently, often as a discussion

channel for participants and, on occasions when a live video stream is available,
as a channel to facilitate discussions and questions with remote participants.

However there are potential problems with use of Twitter in this way. If, for
example, only a small number of one’s Twitter followers are at the event (or
interested in the event) the tweets can be annoying - as I found when I used
Twitter to comment on a conference I was attending in Taiwan back in April.

There are other micro-blogging tools which may be better suited for use at
events, which I’ll comment on in a forthcoming post. In this post I’d like to
comment on the approach taken to use of Twitter to support the recent IWMW
2008 event.

For this event an ‘official’ IWMW Twitter account was set up. This was
intended to provide a channel for the event organisers to deliver messages to
participants who chose to follow the IWMW Twitter account. A particular
benefit of use of Twitter is that you can configure your Twitter account so that
posted from selected Twitter accounts can be delivered as SMS text messages to
your mobile phone free-of-charge.

The need for a communications channel for event organisers first occurred to me
several years ago, when travel was being disrupted by floods. I asked
participants at an event I was attended if they would be willing to give details of
their mobile phone number to an organiser of an event, for use in emergencies.
The majority indicated that they would be happy with this and we became aware
of the need to have the mobile phone numbers of speakers at our events when a
bus failed to turn up to take delegates (including one of the speakers) to the

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lecture theatre at IWMW 2004.

So we updated our IWMW booking form back in 2005 in order to record mobile
phone numbers. The event organisers had this data available on a spreadsheet,
but this could only be used to contact individuals - we didn’t have the backend
processes to send bulk text messages to the delegates, and we were not keen on
spending additional time and effort on evaluating and deploying software to
allow us to do this. But as the middle day of the IWMW 2006 event took place
on the 7/7 (the day of the London bombings) we felt this was something we
would need to explore at some point.

After gaining experience in use of Twitter over the past year it struck me that
this might provide a communications channel between the IWMW event
organisers and the participants. And as the participants simply need to sign up
for a free Twitter account and can then choose to have posts delivered to their
mobile phone it avoids the need for us to store and manage the mobile phone
numbers and to establish a service for sending text messages. Perhaps best of
all, the users are in control of whether or not they wish to receive text messages.

was used to send a small number of posts. One of these was sent (automatically,
using the Easy Tweets service which can be used to schedule posts) at 12.30, at
the start of the event, reminding people to send their mobile phones to silent

And we did have one example which demonstrated the potential benefits of this
service - I was handed a set of keys belonging to one of the delegates. I sent a
message out on Twitter and within a few minutes someone came up to me telling
me that he had misplaced his keys. A great example of the benefits of Twitter?
Well, not quite, as he wasn’t using Twitter and he came to see me as I was one
of the conference organisers
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It should also be noted that if Twitter followers sent a message to the IWMW
account this could also be delivered to a mobile phone, thus providing a 2-way
SMS communications link, without the need to divulge a mobile phone number
to conference delegates or organisers - the trusted party, in this case, is Twitter.

Twitter, it seems to me, has great potential in the support of events. Prior to
encouraging its use we created a page describing Twitter and how it could be
used. I guess one issue we will need to address is what would happen if Twitter
was unavailable during an event? This has been happening a lot recently, and
some may argue that you shouldn’t rely on third party services which have
proven reliability problems. I don’t agree with this - I regard this use of Twitter
as a value-added service and if Twitter is not available we will use the
communication channels we used previously. But what do you think?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter, Web2.0, iwmw2008 | Edit

Social Networks Can Be Just For Christmas

July 29, 2008

Due to one of the speaker’s not being able to attend, we had to find, at the last
moment, a couple of speakers to take part in the opening session at IWMW
2008. I was pleased that Claire Gibbons, University of Bradford and Mike Ellis,
Eduserv, were able to provide brief presentations which helped to engage with
the IWMW 2008 theme of The Great Debate.

I videoed Claire’s talk, in which she described why the University of Bradford
had set up a social network using Ning. I have previously commented on
institutional use of Ning, including Bradford’s service, but it was good to hear
why this social network was established (to support newly arrived students) and
how it is envisaged that the social network is expected to have an impact only
during the first term of the new academic year. Such social networks, according
to Claire, don’t always have to have long term sustainability - and maybe a
social network can be for just until Christmas.

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Please note that this video is available on YouTube (and further details of
Claire’s talk are available on the IWMW 2008 Web site).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking, iwmw2008 | Edit

IWMW 2008 Innovation Competition

July 28, 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.

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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

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
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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 by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 ·Tags: iwmw2008 | Edit
1 Comment »

Would You Like To Contribute To A Paper On

Library 2.0?
July 27, 2008

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been invited to present a paper at the “Bridging
Worlds 2008” conference, to be held in Singapore on 16-17th October 2008. I’ll
be writing the paper over the next 6 weeks and have started thinking about the
structure and things I want to say. But having recently heard Cameron Neylon
give a talk on “Science in the You Tube Age” at IWMW 2008 I am reflecting on
his summary of various open approaches which are being taken by scientific
researches, which included a description of an open process for pulling together
and submitting a bid to a funding body.

Could this approach be used for my paper, I wonder? The title of the paper,
which is a slight rewording of the topic I was invited to talk about, is “Library
2.0: Reaping the Scholarly and Cultural Heritage Dividends“. The paper will
cover the benefits of Web 2.0 in a Library context, but will also address the
possible risks and outline approaches for addressing such risks and ensuring that
organisations maximise the potential benefits of Web 2.0 technologies and

Would you be interested in contributing ideas to the paper, or perhaps being a

co-author? I appreciate there will be issues to clarify, such as IPR, but I would
like to further explore the approaches to openness which Cemeron described. If
you are interested either add your name, interests and contact details on the
Google docs page, send me an email or add a comment to this blog post.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit
1 Comment »

Ewan Mcintosh’s Talk At IWMW 2008

July 25, 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

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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 by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: iwmw2008 | Edit

Slideshare? Why Don’t We Video Our Talks?

July 24, 2008

My RSS reader (Feedreader) recently delivered to me a post on the

eFoundations blog in which Pete Johnston mentioned that a “nice overview of
RDFa and its potential applications, mostly here looking at Javascript
client-side stuff” was available as an hour-long video clip on YouTube.

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The video was, I believe, of a researcher who was giving a talk at a conference.
He had a message he wished to communicate (of the value of RDFa) and, as he
wished to maximise the impact of his message, was apparently willing for a
video of his talk to be taken and subsequently made freely available.

In a recent post I described how Slideshare can help to maximise the impact of a
researcher’s ideas, and Andy Powell has described how Slideshare was helping
him to reach a large audience for one of his recent talks on Web 2.0 and
repositories. Andy suggested that recording an audio commentary to accompany
the slides would be even better, but acknowledged that he probably didn’t have
the time to do this.

But seeing the above video clip, makes me wonder whether we should be
encouraging videoing of talks, rather than the audio. And rather than attempting
to do this for oneself or expecting the organiser of an event to provide a videoing
service, perhaps all that’s needed is a colleague in the audience with a
lightweight video device. And a blog post from Matt Jukes alerted me recently to
the Flip F260N-UK Video Ultra Series Digital Camcorder, available from
Amazon for about £100.

The approach I’d like to take the next time I give a talk (or if I find a speaker
who’d be willing to be recorded) would be for the friendly face in the audience
to video the talk, and also to have a laptop with the slides with a screen
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recording application (such as Camtasia or Jing) running. The video can record
the speaker (which would be advanced by the helper) and the audio, which
would then be in sync with the slides.

Of course the speaker would need to agree to this (and I feel should have the
option to veto subsequent reuse of the recording if things go wrong). But as we
found at last year’s IWMW 2007 event, many plenary speakers are happy for
their talks to be recorded. And providing access to both an audio commentary of
he slides and a video of the speaker might provide a richer experience for the
audience. Or is this just using the technologies for their own sake?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

International study of the use of Web

2.0 technologies
July 21, 2008

I’m involved in a short-term international study of the use of Web 2.0

technologies in teaching, learning, support and administration. This study is
collecting evidence, in the form of case studies, of the use of Web 2.0 in higher
education in the UK, Australia, USA, South Africa and the Netherlands. This
study, which is being coordinated by Tom Franklin, will be informed by an
online questionnaire which is now available.

If you have been using Web 2.0 in these areas I would be very grateful if you
would complete the survey. It should take around 20 - 30 minutes to complete
the survey. If you leave your email address you will be sent the draft report for
comment and final report.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

July 20, 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.

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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

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 by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: iwmw2008 | Edit
1 Comment »

Institutional Use of Ning

July 18, 2008

A post by Lorcan Dempsey cited Tony’s Hirst’s comments on use of the Ning
social network at the University of Wales, Newport and the University of

Michael Webb, Head of IT and Media Services at the University of Wales,

Newport was responsible for helping to establish one of the first institutional
strategy embracing use of Web 2.0 in the UK, as he described in a talk on

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“Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy” which he gave at the IWMW 2006 event (a
video of his talk is also available).

AJ Cann responded to Tony Hist’s post by saying:

AARRRGHHH! Bad idea! These sites are just ghettos waiting to happen.
Do they think that students joining the institution don’t already use social
networks? Do they think they can compete with MySpace/Facebook?

He could be right - but we won’t know unless we start to gather evidence on the
ways in which social networks may be in higher education.

And I have to say that I’m impressed with the approaches which are being taken
at Newport. As Michael describes on his blog they first identified the purposes
for the service (”The brief was to create a social place for students coming to
the University to meet online before they join the University, and to be able to
contact the student mentors“), they considered the legal implications of Ning’s
terms and conditions (”we retain ownership of content. Hosting locating is
ambiguous, but is the data isn’t that precious.“) and were willing to ‘address the
constraints’ provided by the service (the use of adverts, the costs for additional
storage space, the lack of single sign-on and the loss of institutional branding in
the site’s URL).

In return Newport have gained an opportunity to evaluate the potential of a

social networking environment for new students at little cost to the institution:

If we had created the site ourselves it would have taken months. If we had
bought in software it would have still taken weeks. This took days. And no
worrying about upgrades, downtime etc. What have we lost? We can’t
control the development of the service - our users probably don’t
understand this, and have already started suggesting functionality

I welcome this development - and I am particularly pleased that Michael is being

so open in describing the reasons for this decision, the possible risks and how the
institution has responded to the risks.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking ·Tags: Ning | Edit

Using Searchcube
July 15, 2008

One of the unexpected benefits of having a blog was to find that, via the
incoming links to my blog posts, I would be alerted to developments likely to be
of interest to me - after all, if a blogger has linked to one of my blog posts, I’m
likely to find what they are writing about of interest.

It was via a referrer link from the Dougmuse blog that I spotted a post entitled
“Bored with your search engine? Try searchcube“. I’ve previously described the
SearchMe Visual Service which provides a 3D gallery style display of search
results, so I was likely to be interested in how search results can be displayed on
a 3D cube. This service is provided by Searchcube which “is a graphical search
engine that presents search results in a compact, visual format“. It “uses the

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Google AJAX Search API. It displays the first thirty-two (32) results for each of
websites, videos and images“. It requires support for JavaScript and Flash
version 9 or above.

I’ve experimented with the service for a search for ‘iwmw’. The interface is
illustrated below (although to get a better idea of how this service works you
need to try it - it’s fun, for example, to see how the images on the cube are

But is this ‘presentational fluff’? After an initial exploration of the interface, is

this likely to be the type of search interface that people who be likely to use?
And even if it does have a role to play, what are the limitations of this service?

As I suggest in my post on the SearchMe service, although I personally would be

unlikely to use a 3D style interface for general search queries, I could see a role
for this type of interface in other contexts. If, for example, I wished to get a feel
for the first page of Google results for a particular search term, this might be
useful (and remember that most users are likely to only look at the first page of
search results). And perhaps this type of 3D interface may provide accessibility
benefits to users who find it difficult to make use of textual interfaces to search.

But even as a possible interface for niche applications there are some limitations
to this tool. The service requires use of Flash and even though Flash support is
available for many browsers SearchCube does not provide a URI for the
searches - and even the help page doesn’t have a URI associated with it. But are
these insurmountable barriers?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: searchcube | Edit

Nudge: Improving Decisions About RSS Usage

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July 13, 2008

The ‘Nudge’ Phenomenum

Saturday’s Guardian has an article on ‘Nudge’, an idea developed by US
economist Richard Thaler and other behavioural economists who “want to
highlight the best option, while still leaving all the bad ones open“. This
approach can be applied to social and economic areas such as healthy eating and
pension schemes, but rather than the state mandating solutions which aim to
bring about positive benefits to society or to individuals, people are made aware
of the benefits of the preferred option, but are left free to make their own
decisions. An example of this approach which David Cameron is exploring in the
Conservative party return to power is a proposal that electricity bills should
contain details of whether you are using more or less energy than other
households in the area. This subtle use of peer pressure is felt to encourage
households to use energy more efficiently.

WebWatch Surveys
This has similarities with approach I’ve taken over the past ten years or so. A
project called “WebWatch” ran a number of automated benchmarking surveys
across a number of Web communities in 1998-9. After the funding had ceased
the approach continued for a number of years, providing, for example,
documented evidence of conformance with WCAG guidelines for institutional
home pages based on use of an automated checking tool. The approach was not
intended to act as a league table, but to observe patterns across the community,
identify and learn from best practices and also to discuss the limitations of the
survey methodology (in this case it led me to a much better understanding of the
flaws in the WAI model for addressing accessibility issues).

Survey of RSS Usage on Scottish University Home

With the forthcoming IWMW 2008 taking place in the University of Aberdeen
on 22-24thJuly 2008 it is timely to revisit the WebWatch approach across the
Scottish higher educational sector, this time to monitor takeup of RSS which are
embedded on institutional home pages.

The approach taken has been to visit Scottish institutes of higher education
(based on the table provided on the Scottish Web Folk blog) using the FireFox
browser. The RSS Panel extension will detect any embedded links to RSS files
and the numbers of RSS links recorded.

The Findings
The findings are given in the following table.

No. of
Institution RSS Thumbnail Comments RSS Feed

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No autodetect, but
University manual link to RSS
1 0 Events feed
of Aberdeen news feed on
home page

No autodetect, but
University manual link to RSS
2 0 News feed
of Abertay news feed on
home page

3 Bell College 0

4 0
of Dundee

5 of 0

6 College of 0

news feeds, one of
News -
University current news and
7 2 University in
of Glasgow one of an archive
the news
of news items
dating back to
October 2007

8 Caledonian 0

Manual link to
RSS page,
Heriot-Watt containing links to News -
8 0
University two RSS feeds, Events
together with help

9 0

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(Thumbnail not

10 of the West 0
of Scotland

11 0

Two RSS feeds,

one of current News -
12 Gordon 2
news and one of Events

13 Academy of 0
Music and
News and
events -
Crop issues
Seven RSS feeds this week -
on news and Farm
events, farm diversification
diversification, -
crop issues this Research
week, research funding bids
funding bids (internal only)
14 Agricultural 6
(internal use only), -
student Student
recruitment news, recruitment
undergraduate and news -
postgraduate Undergraduate
courses and and
training courses postgraduate
courses -

Two RSS feeds,

one of current News -
15 of St. 2
news and one of Events

16 0
of Stirling

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RSS feed of press
17 of 1 Press releases

18 Millennium 0

19 of the West 0
of Scotland

It is perhaps disappointing to find that several Scottish institutions do not appear
to be providing RSS feeds which can be found from the home page. A number of
them do provide a feed, which is displayed using one of the conventional orange
RSS icons to indicate its role, but do not provide an autodetect mechanism,
which can enable software to process the RSS file in some way. An example of
how the Intenrnet Explorer browser provides access to RSS feeds which have
been autodetected is shown below.

The mechanism for providing such auto-detection is use of a single <meta> tag
for each RSS feed. In the case of Robert Gordon University they used the

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml”

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href=”” title=”RGU News

RSS Feed”>
<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml”
href=”” title=”RGU
Events RSS Feed”>

Why, I wonder, aren’t all the institutions which have an RSS feed doing
likewise? After all this approach can not only benefit end users, it also allows
other automated tools, such as indexing robots, to find the feeds - and I suspect
most institutions will want their news feeds and details of their events to be

Perhaps the reason for not doing this is a lack of awareness - in which case I
hope that this post has addressed that issue. But it may be that changes to the
content of the home page have to be approved by a committee - and suggestions
for “inclusion of an autodetect link for RSS feeds” might be regarded as
technobabble. In which case show them the business benefits and show how
other institutions are using this.

My final comment on the findings of this survey is to note how the Scottish
Agricultural College (SAC) have included links to seven RSS feeds, including
not only the conventional lists of news and events but also various other feeds
for content which is directly related to their agricultural interests. Here SAC is
making use of RSS as a syndication service in addition to an alerting service.

An image showing how these feeds can be displ;ayed using the RSS Panel tool in
FireFox. I should hasten to add that on arriving at a page which has
autodetectable RSS feeds the panel is displayed as a small transparent floating
window - you need to open up the window in order to display the feeds as

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How usable this particular tool may be for processing more than one or two
feeds may be open to question - I tend to just have one or two RSS feeds on my
various Web sites, and have a dedicated RSS page which provides access to a
full range of feeds. But I do think that the approach taken by the Scottish
Agricultural College, of providing a number of structured resources (using RSS)
is one to be welcomed. And I wonder why the Scottish Agricultural College
seems to be ahead of the game. The talk I gave on Web 2.0: The Potential Of
RSS and Location Based Services in Edinburgh in September 2006 didn’t have
anything to do with this, did it?

The thumbnails of the institutional home pages were created by the Thumbshots
thumbnails service.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in rss | Edit

Web Accessibility and Information Literacy Books

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July 11, 2008

I’m pleased to report that two books which

I’ve contributed to have been published this year. I’ve previously mentioned
Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0, by Peter Godwin and Jo Parker
(published by Facet Publishing and also available from Amazon). In addition
Web Accessibility: Practical Advice for the Library and Information
Professional by Jenny Craven, which is also published by Facet Publishing and
available from Amazon, also contains a chapter by me.

My contributions to these two publications reflect various posts I’m published in

this blog - a chapter which introduces Web 2.0 technologies is given in the
Information Literacy book (this book, incidentally has been reviewed on the
Joeyanne Libraryanne blog) and a description of the limitations of WAI’s
approach to Web accessibility with a description of the holistic approach to Web
accessibility concludes the Web Accessibility book. So rather than revisiting
these topics, let me give some thoughts on the statistics on the sales of these
book available on the Amazon Web site.

The ranking for Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0 on 10 July 2008 is: Sales Rank: 405,869 in Books

and for Web Accessibility: Practical Advice for the Library and Information
Professional on the same date: Sales Rank: 370,249 in Books

My colleague Emma Tonkin brought to my attention an article on Inside the

Amazon Sales Rank. This in turn links to another article on page on Amazon
Sales Rank For Books which contains a couple of embedded YouTube videos
which expand on the discussions. It seems that the Amazon sales ranks reflect
the following numbers of sales:

Ranking Sales per day

1 3,000
10 650
100 100
1,000 13
10,000 2.2 (11 copies every 5 days)
100,000 0.2 (1 copy every 5 days)

This table has been produced by publishers who correlated their sales figures
with the Amazon ranking figures. But it occurs to me that with Amazon
publishing these figures in a consistent fashion on their Web site it should be
possible to automate the harvesting of such data, and perhaps carry out trend
analyses. And for scholarly publications available from Amazon might an
institution find it valuable to aggregate data for books published by staff from
the institution? Or maybe it will just be the individual authors who would like to
receive an alert when their publication rises up the Amazon ranking table?
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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Amazon | Edit
No Comments »

Fragmentation, Ghettoisation and Polarisation

or Diversification?
July 10, 2008

In response to my recent post on “The Open University’s Portfolio Of Web 2.0

Services” Stuart Smith described how “It’s really interesting how polarising the
lowcost, easy development web 2.0 stuff is becoming“.

Stuart went on to comment that “Another problem I can forsee is ghettoisation.

I am thinking about those who don’t have access to the technology, or don’t
want to communicate this way, or can’t e.g. because of disability.” in response
to a more recent post on “Experiments With Seesmic”.

Is this really the case? Are the Web 2.0 services I’ve been posting about
responsible for fragmenting discussions within small ghettoised communities,
resulting in polarised opinions across the community?

Is the answer to this ‘yes’? And, if so, is this answer to be welcomed?

Rather than regarding the developments as ghettoising communities, I would

argue that we are seeing a diversification which allows communities to make
use of technologies at their own rate. And this is to be welcomed over the
McDonaldisation of the digital environment in which we all use the same
software, either at an institutional, regional or international level.

But we shouldn’t gloss over the issues which Stuart rightly raises.

Fragmentation of discussions and content is happening. But this is nothing new -

fragmentation happened back in the early 1990s, when there were tensions
between those who were continuing to provide, use and promote their in-house
Campus Wide Information Systems (remember CWISs?), Gopher services and
Web services. It was only over time that the market leader was identified and
became accepted. And even then the institutional Web service was regarded
initially as a tool for the marketing department - it took another couple of years
before the Web became accepted as a legitimate mechanism for the support of
teaching and learning.

The thing that is new within the Web 2.0 context is that the fragmentation of
discussions and content across the diverse range of Web 2.0 services can be
aggregated. In part this is happening by the marketplace responding to the need
for aggregation services, with tools such as Friendfeed allowing content to be
aggregated from RSS feeds of blog posts, bookmarks, Flickr photo,
Twitter tweets, etc.

And as well as the technical developments social services, such as Twitter, are
allowing communities to share expertise, knowledge and links. For me Twitter is
becoming my personalised agent, by which useful information can be quickly
gathered by a group of context-aware agents (my Twitter followers) respond to
my requests - and I respond by doing likewise.

In his response to my blog post Stuart went on to point out that “I can think of a
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number of people who don’t want to be on Facebook, for example, but are
feeling increasingly left out“. Here, I feel, is where we need to ensure that
when use of made of social networking tools for work or formal study purposes,
the social networks are used as one of several ways of accessing the resources.
A blog post I wrote back in July 2007 on MyNewport - MyLearning Essentials
for Facebook provided an example of this approach. As described by Mchael

MyLearning Essentials is the VLE/portal used by our staff and student,

including course material, news, blogs, forums, library access etc.
MyNewport is a Facebook application that allows students to access to
MyLearning Essentials resources from Facebook.

In this example staff and student can choose whether to use the managed
in-house MyLearning Essentials or the MyNewport Facebook application to
access the same resources. What is needed are institutional policies which
ensure that students aren’t required to use social networking services such as
Facebook in order to access required resources, coupled with new media literacy
strategies which will ensure that users of such services are aware of the potential
downsides (the privacy issues, for example) and are aware of how such issues
can be managed (i.e. knowledge of how to change privacy settings).

I also feel that supporting a diversity of services which the end user may prefer
to use can also address the accessibility challenges. If a user is uncomfortable
with a text-based interface to communication tools, perhaps a video interface
might provide a alternative which the user will prefer. So rather than forcing
everyone to use the same interface (”we will only deal with email”) the
organisation may wish to provide a range of channels. This approach can also
enhance accessibility by regarding the user not as a disabled user but as a user
with a particular set of preferences. The challenge, then, is to ensure that an
appropriate level of response is provided to the various channels. Let’s say yes
to the diversification - but let’s also ensure that we address the management and
support challenges, as well, of course, the sustainability of the services (which
has been discussed in a number of other posts on this blog).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

“How the Google generation thinks differently”

July 9, 2008

I was pleased to receive an email message this morning from Gill Smith, the
Communications Officer here at the University of Bath. Gill’s ‘finely-tuned
antenna‘ (a daily Google alert for news articles on “University of Bath” OR
“Bath University” had alerted her to an article published on today’s Times (as an
aside I should say how pleased I am that staff in our Corporate Communications
department seem to be routinely making use of RSS).

Although I disagree with the title of the article - “How the Google generation
thinks differently” - I am pleased with the second part of the byline:
“Digital-age kids process information differently from parents. Our writer
admits misjudging how her son was learning“.

The article describes the background to the story, which was published in the
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Women’s section (I mention this to make clarify that the article aims to give the
perspective of a concerned parent rather than a scholarly article). In brief,
Catherine O’Brien, the mother of a 15 year old boy is concerned that her son is
spending a lot of time on the Internet, partly listening to music and chatting to
friends and also doing his homework. As a journalist she spotted the opportunity
for an article, which was based on reading the literature and talking to a number
of experts in the field.

In our telephone interview I argued that (a) teenagers doing new things that
parents didn’t really understand is nothing new and (b) the way teenagers use
Google is not very different from how the parents do - whether we’re
professional in academia or in the press. And, indeed, Catherine admits in her

Google has been my godsend as a writer. Research that once required

hours of trawling through reports and cuttings, and days of fielding calls
to source experts, can be done in a few clicks of a mouse.

It seems that my advice that she should encourage her son to make use of the
Internet, but to ensure that she advises him on best practices has been taken:

I recovered quickly enough from my hissy fit and returned my son’s laptop
the next evening. The proof of the pudding would be in his results, I
decided, and now that they have come in, I have to concede that the social
networking/internet surfing/revision combo threw up no surprises. From
the pleasing to the mediocre, his grades were predictable.

I’m pleased that the 15 minute phone interview had such a positive impact in the
O’Brien household. And it’s even more pleasing that this may be read by the
hundreds of thousands of readers of The Times


After I published this post I bought a hard copy of The Times and found that the
article (page 10 in the Times2 section) had the title “Why I confiscated my
son’s computer (then gave it back)“: a much more appropriate title, in my
view, although the same byline is used.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Dipity Timeline Of IWMW Events

July 8, 2008

For the Innovation Competition at the IWMW 2007 event I created a timeline of
IWMW events using MIT’s SImile software. This software is being used to drive
a number of timeline displays, such as the example created by Frankie Roberto
at the recent Mashed Museum 08 event.

The Simile software is not, however, all that easy for a non-developer to use. So
I was pleased to recently come across the Web-based Dipity service for creating
and visualising timelines. I used this to create a timeline of IWMW events,
which can be accessed on the Dipity Web site. It has also been embedded on
the UKOLN Web site. An image of the interface is shown below.
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In addition to providing a timeline of the annual event from 1997-2008 I also

included photos from Flickr which had been tagged with ‘iwmw2008′. And as
the service allows not only uploads from various popular Web 2.0 services
(Flickr, YouTube, etc.) but also from any RSS feed I realised that I could also
add the news feed for IWMW 2008 and details of the plenary talks, which is
also available as an RSS file.

The timeline of the IWMW 2008 News provides a visual display of the
public announcements such as when the Web site was set up, the call for
speakers announced, the event opened for bookings, etc. The display of the
timetable for the plenary talks can provide a similar overview - but in this case
the times are not necessarily accurate, due to the complexities of time zones (I
haven’t yet established whether this is a limitation of the Dipity service or the
data I use).

More importantly, though, is the danger of data lock-in when using a service
such as this, together with the question of the sustainability of the Dipity
company -especially as a Crunchbase article on Dipity fails to provide any
evidence of investment in the company.

The approach I have taken is to steer clear of making significant use of the data
entry form for the service - and initially I thought that it wasn’t possible to
export data added to the system, although I subsequently discovered an RSS
feed for my timeline - although this does not appear to be documented. As a
general principle, however, I would be concerned if my data is locked into an

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application,and lost if the service failed to be sustainable or if I wanted to

migrate my data to an alternative service.

However as Dipity allows data to be imported from RSS feeds I am able to have
my managed RSS feeds as the master source for my data, thus reducing the risks
of data loss to any minor tweaks I may make to the data within the Dipity

So if you regard Dipity as a visualisation tool for data which is managed

elsewhere, I would suggest that the service can provide a very useful way of
displaying data.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Dipity | Edit
1 Comment »

Experiments With Seesmic

July 7, 2008

I recently met Alan Cann and he mentioned to me how he has been exploring
the potential of the Seesmic video micro-blogging service in a learning context.
This renewed my interest in the Seesmic service - so I have started to evaluable
its potential to support the forthcoming IWMW 2008 event.

My intention is to post a number of short video clips prior to the event which
will describe some of the things that will be taking place at the event. I will also
be inviting video responses from the IWMW 2008 delegates and others who
have an interest in the event. I’ve created a page on the IWMW 2008 Web site
in which the Seesmic video posts are embedded. The first video post (illustrated
below) provides an introduction to the event, and further posts are planned
which will describe the IWMW 2008 bar camp, the innovation competition, the
IWMW 2008 social network, the plenary talks, workshop sessions and the social
activities planned for our time in Aberdeen.

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But what about the limitations of the services and the risks which use of the tool
may entail? After all, I’ve previously suggested that when making use of new
tools we need to be honest about potential risks.

The first point to make is that, although Seesmic video clips can be embedded in
other Web sites, it does not seem to be possible to export the video clips. And
from a user’s perspective we have no evidence that there will be an interest in
this type of service by the intended target audience. Creating the video posts
might possibly be a waste of time.

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But despite such concerns, I will be

continuing to create the video posts. Even if the video clips are not currently
exportable, this could change (after all the Slideshare service did not intially
allow uploaded PowerPoint files to be downloaded from the service, but a
download option was subsequently added to the service). And even though it
cannot be guaranteed that an export function will be provided in the future I still
feel it is worth evaluating a service such as this in order to gain experiences
which could be transferred to other services.

And it is very interesting to read on Rafe Needleham’s blog that Twirl will be
providing support for Seesmic video posts. As can be seen from the
accompanying screenshot, the textual display of ‘tweets’ can be complemented
by an accompanying video. And with many laptops having cameras bundled in
with them and many mobile phones now also providing video facilities, perhaps
this is the next stage in the development of the communications infrastructure of
what is often refererd to as Web 2.0.

I should conclude by saying that following my first few Seesmic blog posts I
have received a number of interesting replies. In particular it was suggested that
there is a need to ensure that any responses to an inital video post are kept on
topic - unlike text it is not easy to quickly skim a video post. I have therefore
created a general Seesmic video post which I’m happy to be used for general
responses - I’ll keep any responses to the IWMW 2008 video posts to their
stated purpose.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Seesmic, twhirl | Edit

The Open University’s Portfolio Of Web

2.0 Services
July 3, 2008

I’ve commented recently on the Open University’s use of Facebook (they have
more ‘fans’ than any other university).

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And it seems the Open University is proactive in making corporate use of several
other Web 2.0 services.

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As can be seen from the accompanying screen shot the Open University are
making use of iTunes University, YouTube and Twitter

Their use page describes how they are using these services - and encourages
interested parties to make use of this content.

The Open University describes how it is the first UK university to have a

dedicated page on YouTube, and they have stated that they’ll be making
available a much greater range of their video materials available on the service.

And I wonder if they’re also the first UK university to have an official Twitter

I don’t think, though, that they’re the first to make use their institutional
podcasts available on iTunes - indeed, as I posted about recently, the University
of Bath won a European award for the quality of its podcasts, which are
available for downloading from iTunes as well as from the University’ of Bath’s
podcast page.

And finally, as well as their commitment to use of third party Web 2.0 services
the Open University is also taking a high profile with its OpenLearn service
which provides access to free learning resources.

I recently commented on how ‘Edupunks’ are challenging institutional inertia

and conservatism by engaging with light-weight development. Is the Open
University embracing an ‘edupunk’ approach in its use service, I wonder? And if
so, does this mean that Tony Hirst, whose OUseful blog has often challenged
conservatism in the Open University, is now being embraced by the

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Open University | Edit

WordPress has Gears (and my Glass is Half Full)

July 2, 2008

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WordPress have just announced the availability of WordPress Gears:

Gears? It is a browser extension like Flash or QuickTime/Media Player.

However Gears works with the browser to enhance web based
applications. It can create local database and file storage, and run
JavaScript in the background to update them without slowing down the

Gears has been in the making for over a year and is well known among the
web developers. Currently it supports Firefox versions 2 & 3 and Internet
Explorer versions 6 & 7. Safari 3 support is coming soon.

On it is used to store all images and other web page

components from the admin area to the user’s PC, speeding up access and
reducing unnecessary web traffic.

The speed increase is most noticeable when Internet is slow or on high

latency and makes everybody’s blogging experience more enjoyable.

We’re now starting to see the development of a numbers of tools which

will reduce the bandwidth requirements for using a networked application and/or
allow Web-based applications to be usable offline (e.g. Google Gears).

I’m pleased with the variety of developments which are taking place behind the
scenes on the Web site which hosts this blog. In January 2008,
for example, there was an announcement on the WordPress blog that an
interface which provides access statistics for syndicated accesses to blog posts
had been relaunched and a week later there was an announcement of
enhancements to the interface to the Akismet spam filter. Indeed if you look at
the blog archive for 2008 you will see a whole host of
developments which have been made, many to the hosted blog environment.

This is an example of the ‘always beta’ nature of many Web 2.0 services. But
not everybody likes this. Stuart Smith, for example, has commented recently on
my blog that:

Part of the problem is the eternal beta syndrome that dominates the world
of web apps. It means nothing is ever finished or entirely taken
responsibility for.

It’s true that an ‘eternal beta’ approach could be used to deploy new
developments which have not been adequately tested, to the detriment of the
end user. But to me the response to this criticism is to say that ongoing
enhancements to services need to be carefully managed and mechanisms are
needed to allow users to quickly and easily provide their feedback. In the case
of the blog, the announcement are made on their
developments blog, are brought to the attention of blog authors in their
administrators interface and they encourage feedback - which they do receive.

When the WordPress open source software is installed locally to provide a blog
service, such ongoing developments do not happen. And this, I find, somewhat
irritating when I use the JISC PoWR blogwhich is hosted by the JISC on their
JISC Involve blog hosting service- the blog software is somewhat dated, and
hasn’t benefitted from the developments I’m used to on the UK Web Focus

Perhaps the differences between my perspectives and Stuart’s are based on

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particular experiences we may have had. On the other hand perhaps this reflects
an individual mindset - do you see software development as bringing about
improvements, or are developments more likely to be to disrupt well-established
working practices? Or to put it another way, is the glass half full or half empty?
I’m pleased to say that blog is half full :-) (But WordPress
shouldn’t get too complacent - if the quality deteriorates, I can always take my
custom elsewhere).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog ·Tags: Wordpress | Edit

UK Web Focus Blog Shortlisted for Web 2.0 and

Business Blogs Award
July 2, 2008

I’m pleased to report that the UK Web Focus blog has been
shorlisted in the Web 2.0 and Business category of the Computer Weekly IT
Blog Awards 08 competition.

The full list of the nominated blogs in this category are:

Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus: Reflections on the Web and Web 2.0
Roo Reynolds - What’s Next?, “UK-based Metaverse Evangelist, blogger
and geek”
Eightbar from Hursley Park
DRM blog by CapGemini’s Jude Umeh, from BCS, by Jonathan Hopkins and covers Web 2.0, technology
and marketing from Broadsight
TechCrunch UK
Blending the Mix: A look at the new world and new marketing and all it
Paul Downey: Whatfettle, marras?
User Pathways by James Kelway

I’d like to invite readers of this blog to have a look at the shortlisted
nomintations - and vote for the blog you think is best.

I should add that Mia Ridge’s Open Objects blog is also shortlisted, in the
Programming and Technical category. And seeing as how Mia wrote a post on
Sunday on Responsibility to users? I think her blog would be a worthy winner (in
interest of transparency I should add that I know Mia and we went out drinking
at the Museums and and Web 2008 conference!)

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And finally I’ll mention that a Seesmic video post about the blog nomination is
also available. Free to watch thde video (it only lasts for 52 seconds) - and I’d
invite comments and feedback.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: computer-weekly, cw08 | Edit

We Can Be Right And Wrong!

July 1, 2008

There has recently been a series of blog posts which have reflected on the
differing views on and approaches to use of Web 2.0 within our institutions.

Initially I gave a talk on What If We’re Wrong? in which I described the

legitimate concerns that have been raised related to Web 2.0 (privacy concerns,
dangers that services may not be sustainable; etc.). I argued the need to listen to
such concerns, refine the ways in which Web 2.0 services may be deployed and
developed risk assessment and risk managements strategies.

Martin Weller responded with a post on Web 2.0 - Even If We’re Wrong,
We’re Right. Martin argued that even if, for example, some Web 2.0 services
aren’t sustainable or if services suffer from performance problems (as is
currently the case with Twitter) we can’t expect that we can go back to the
previous environment of brochure-ware Web sites and disenfranchising users
from the creation of content..

I then asked What If We’re Right? and asked what would be the implications
of adopting an over-cautious approach to Web 2.0 in which we found that others
(our competitors, perhaps) were successfully exploiting Web 2.0, while we were
wasting time and resources in developing small-scale conservative alternatives -
which we can’t even guarantee will be used by out user communities. (And I
should add that I was pleased that this post was picked up by Michael Stephens
on the Tame The Web blog).

Owen Stephens joined in the debate with his post on Even If We’re Right
We’re Wrong in which he cited evidence from a number of JISC-funded reports
on the use of the Social Web by students - and in particular the negative
reactions from students if use of social networking services was imposed on

The final scenario, it seems to me, is to suggest that We Can Be Right And
Wrong! This approach would build on evidence such as that described by
Owen but rather than responding with a blunt approach to concerns (”students
don’t like use of social networks being imposed on them - so we’ll have nothing
to do with social networks“) a more sophisticated approach would be adopted
(”as the students do seem to find social networks useful and appear to welcome
the availability of advice and support, but on their terms, we’ll (a) not ban the
tools; (b) provide mechanisms - such as RSS feeds - whereby support can be
provided and (c) we’ll ensure our institution provides a new media literacy
policy“). And, of course, there still remains the opportunity to make use of
social networks in other areas, such as by the research community and
engagement with one’s peers (this latter use case is the one I found most useful).

The approach of taking a number of different scenarios and exploring the

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implications of those scenarios was something I came across at a JISC workshop

some time ago (JISC had funded consultants to develop and deliver a series
of scenario planning workshops). And I think that many of those involved in
Web 2.0 development are willing to explore a broad range of issues. The danger
is, I feel, those who may be sceptical of a Web 2.0 approach who aren’t willing
to explore the implications if they are wrong. And I have come across people
and organisations who seem to have been ignoring the developments we have
seen over the past few years.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

The Mashed Museum Event

June 30, 2008

I recently attended the Mashed Museum event, organised by Mike Ellis

(Eduserv) which was held on the day prior to the UK Museums and the Web
2008 conference. Further information on the event is available on the
MashedMuseum wiki. Frankie Roberto has already written a blog post on his use
of Freebase (for providing structured access to collections data from the Science
Museum) and the Simile timeline service for visualising the data. However the
most comprehensive summary of the day I’ve found is available on the blog which gives an excellent overview of several of the
developments, together with a more in depth summary of a development which
made use of Twitter, Google Maps, Google earth.

My effort was much simpler - it involved use of the PicLens tool to produce a
3D visualisation of museum objects along similar lines to the 3D visualisation of
the history of the University of Bath home page. However rather than focussing
on technical development (not a strength of mine) my main interest was in ways
in which development activities which take place at mashup events can be
shared with a wider community and become embedded within the organisation.
And so my visualisation included details of why such a service would be
valuable to an organisation (a 3D visualisation may be more engaging than a
static 2D Web page and could help to engage new audiences), business models
to help to ensure the sustainability of such services (you could have occasional
advertisements including in the 3D gallery) and concluded by summarising
possible barriers (e.g. accessibility issues) and how those barriers may be
addressed. In addition brief technical details were provided for those who might
want to know how to implement this type of interface for their own service.

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I did wonder, though, whether such supporting materials would be needed -

aren’t software developers typically self-reliant and capable of working out for
themselves how to make use of the lightweight development environments
which were used during the event? I was therefore reassured when Michael
Twidale raised the issue of the difficulties which can be encountered when using
tools such as Yahoo Pipes, which aren’t well-documented and fail to provide
much assistance if the software fails to work. And several other people at the
event agreed with Michael’s thoughts, which I recorded as a video clip.

Shouldn’t we encourage software developers to record screencasts of their

development work, I wonder, explaining why they make decisions which may
not be obvious to others, and perhaps even swearing when things go wrong -
after all, learning from the mistakes made by other can be a particular valuable
way of avoiding making similar mistakes ourselves.

And haven written the above post, I’ve just received an email from Mike Ellis
announcing a 12 minute video clip which summarises the day’s event including
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snippets from many of the developers at the event. Not only has he edited the
various clips he took during the day, he’s also added music which he’d
composed - very impressive stuff!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in mashups ·Tags: ukmw08 | Edit

Come Into My Twitterverse

June 27, 2008

Some time ago I published a post entitled “Come Into My World” in which I
described a Facebook application which could be used to visualise the links
between your Facebook contacts. Recently, via a post on the Twitter Apps blog,
I discovered a similar application, TweetWheel, which can be used to visualise
the relationships between one’s Twitter followers - on, indeed, any Twitter user.

As can be seen in the accompanying image (or by viewing the live data) Matt
Jukes is connected to many others of my Twitter followers, whereas the JISC
Twitter ID is linked to only one of my followers and the Dulwichonline and
RareEdge IDs are not being followed by any of my contacts.

Unlike Facebook, relationships in Twitter are, by default, open for everyone to

view meaning anyone can make use of this tool, even if they don’t have a
Twitter ID. I think that this is another tool which can be useful in helping to
provide users with a visualisation of how they, or others, are using Twitter.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Filed in Twitter | Edit


When W3C Web Pages Break

June 26, 2008

I was looking at a page on the W3C Web site recently to update my knowledge
of the SVG specification and SVG tools. I noticed a link at the bottom of the
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) page to an RSS feed for the page, and, as a fan
of RSS syndication, thought it might be worth adding this feed to my RSS
viewer. However when I clicked on the link, rather than seeing the RSS feed and
having the option to add this to my preferred RSS reader, an error message was

Now validating this RSS feed with the RSS validator on the W3C Web site
informs me of an error with the feed:

This feed does not validate.

line 227, column 87: Undefined named entity: reg (5 occurrences) [help]
... ability as well as the Internet Explorer® Plugin and

This feed does not validate.

It seems that either W3C’s workflow process has failed to removed the
registered trademark character for the term “Internet Explorer®” or the RSS
schema has failed to included a declaration for this character entity.

No big deal, you may think - and, as the page isdisplayed in the FireFox
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browser, this is surely another failure of Internet Explorer to follow Web


But if you view the page in Opera you get an XML parser error message:

And here, I think, both Internet Explorer and Opera seem to be obeying the
requirement that user agents aren’t expected to render non-compliant pages.

And this hard line approach has been promoted as a vision of the future of the
Web by the W3C. It has been argued that mandating rigourous compliance with
specs would help to maximise interoperabilty.

This may be true - but at what cost. As someone who studied engineering at
University I am aware of the benefits of a fail-safe approach to design, so that if
one small component fails it doesn’t mean that the building will collapse. But in
this case one small component (the trademark character entity) which hasn’t
been properly defined, has led to a total failure for the page to be rendered in
two browsers.

Don’t we need Web resources to be designed so they’ll fail gracefully and will
be tolerant if humans make mistakes or, as it seems is the case here, there are
failures in the workflow?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards ·Tags: SVG | Edit

Government Web Sites MUST Be WCAG

AA Compliant!

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June 25, 2008

I commented previously on the Public consultation on Delivering Inclusive

Websites (TG102) which proposed that “all government websites must meet
Level Double-A of the W3C guidelines by December 20082009“. It seems that
this proposal has now been implemented. Some may feel that this is to be
welcomed, but as I have argued previously, mandating use of a dated set of Web
accessibility guidelines which have been shown to be flawed will, I believe, be
counter-productive. And judging by an article by Julie Howell (formerly of the
RNIB and currently Director of Accessibility at Fortune Cookie and chair of the
British Standards Institution’s committee on web accessibility) entitled Web
Accessibility. Life In the Post-Guideline Age I don’t think I’m alone in my

The updated Chapter 2.4 to the Guidelines for UK Government Websites

document is now available as a document on Delivering inclusive websites (MS
Word format; a PDF version but no HTML and HTML versions are also
available) states that:

The Delivering inclusive websites document (issued on 12 June 2008) states


1. The minimum level of accessibility for all Government websites is Level

Double-A of the W3C guidelines. Any new site approved by the Cabinet
Sub-Committee on Public Engagement and the Delivery of Service
(DA(PED)) must conform to these guidelines from the point of
publication. All new websites must conform to these guidelines from the
point of publication.
2. Continuing standalone sites must achieve this level of accessibility by
December 2008. Websites which fail to meet the mandated level of
conformance shall be subject to the withdrawal process for
domain names, as set out in Naming and Registering Websites (TG101).

3. Websites owned by central government departments must be Double-A

conformant by December 2009. This includes websites due to converge
on Directgov or BusinessLink, unless convergence is scheduled before
this date.

That’s right - if Government Web sites don’t achieve WCAG AA compliance by

December 2009, their domain name may be withdrawn. That’s bound to
enhance the accessibility of the service, isn’t it?

I wondered about the accessibility of the 10 Downing Street Web site. Putting
this through a HTML validator I find mutiple validation errors. And as HTML
compliance is mandatory (in WCAG 1.0), this means that the Web site fails to
pass the Government minimum standards for accessibility. And if this is still the
case in December, the No 10 Downing Street Web site will be forced to shut
down - with processes for shutting down Government Web sites have already
been documented (in MS Word and PDF formats).

Coincidentally (or
perhaps not) the
accessibility auditing

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company SiteMorse have

just published a Website
Survey June 2008 - UK
Central Government
report. This survey (based
on SiteMorse’s
automated accessibility
checking tool) reports
that only 11.3% of the
government Web sites
surveyed pass the WCAG
AA tests which their
automated software can
detect! A table showing
the rankings of
Government Web sites for a range of criteria including accessibility is available
on the SiteMorse Web site and the Top 11 Web sites, which comply with
WCAG AA according to the automated test are shown (there is one other Web
site , labelled as ‘London Councils’ which passes the automated accessibility
compliance test).

Will we see a drastic pruning of the Central Government Web sites which aren’t
included in the table at the start of the 2009? Or will we see vast amounts of
tax-payer’s money being spend on ensuring that the Web sites manage to pass
the automated tests? Or perhaps we’ll simply see a withdrawal of the services.

What we can’t say is that the Web sites which fail the automated tests are
necessarily inaccessible to people with disabilities. And we also can’t say that
the Web sites which pass the automated tests are necessarily accessible to
people with disabilities. This approach is all about passing artificial benchmarks,
not addressing the needs of citizens with disabilities.

An unfortunate aspect of this new policy is that when the JISC TechDis Service
together with UKOLN organised the Accessibility Summit II event on A
User-Focussed Approach to Web Accessibility we ensured that as well as
inviting accessibility researchers and representatives form the disability
community (including Kevin Carey founder of HumanITy and Robin
Christoperson, head of Accessibility Services, AbilityNet) we also invited a
representative form the central Government. The participants at the meeting
agreed on the need “to call on the public sector to rethink policy and guidelines
on accessibility of the web to people with a disability“. As David Sloan,
Research Assistant at the School of Computing at the University of Dundee and
co-founder of the summit reported in a article published in the E-Government
Bulletin “the meeting unanimously agreed the WCAG were inadequate“.

What is to be done? The cynic, disillusioned by the current Government, might

relish the embarrassment Gordon Brown and his Cabinet colleagues may face
when the implications of this decision become more widely known. And we can
expect opposition Shadow Cabinet Ministers and papers such as the Daily Mail
using this as an opportunity to undermine the Government, with initial questions
of “Will the minister explain why almost 90% of Government Web sites can’t be
accessed by people with disabilities?” to be followed by “Will the minister give
the costs of changing Government Web sites to comply with WCAG
accessibility standards which are now obsolete?” or “Will the minister explain
why the Government has caved in to European demands to implement a set of
politically-correct guidelines which researchers have shown to be flawed?”“.

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And if the Government does carry out its promise to shut down non-compliance
Web sites: “Why has the Government shut down its Web sites? This is political
correctness gone mad“.

But to take satisfaction in such embarrassment is to miss the point.

Implementation of this policy is likely to result in a deterioration of the quality of
Government services to all:-)

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility | Edit

What If We’re Right?

June 23, 2008

Back in April I gave an online presentation to the JISC-Emerge community

entitled What If We’re Wrong? in which I described some of the concerns which
have been expressed related to use of Web 2.0 servies (e.g. sustainability of the
service, privacy issues, etc.) and suggested some approaches for dealing with
concerns (e.g. risk assessment and risk management strategies.

Following some Twitter discussions Martin Weller wrote a post entitled Web 2.0
- even if we’re wrong, we’re right in which he argued that even if some services
aren’t sustainable, we won’t go back to the way thiungs were and we can’t
unlearn our experiences and expectations.

As I described in my response “Even If We’re Wrong, We’re Right” Martin’s

post gave me a fresh insight into these issues. But what, I wonder, are the
implications if we’re right? Perhaps it’s now timely to ask ourselves:

What if externally-hosted services do turn out to be sustainable?

What if technologies such as AJAX, coupled with ARIA support, provide
usable and accessible services and define the type of user experiences
which our users will expect in the services they use?
What if an’edupunk‘ approach succeeds in implmenting change, leaving
behind the more formal approaches to IT development?

Now many of the pragmatic Web 2.0 users and developers are addressing the
potential problems they could face with their risk strategies. But are the Web 2.0
sceptics assessing the risks hat they may be wrong? What about the risks that
students will abandon institutional services (as, it seems, they are starting to do
with email)? What about:

The risks that graduates will find it difficult to get jobs if they have little
experience of popular Web 2.0 technologies, having spent 3 years using
elearning tools which aren’t known outside the HE/FE environment?
The institutions which fail to attract new students, researchers or staff as
they aren’t making use of popular social networking services?
The researchers who continue to work just small groups, using email and
accessing papers on institutional repositories but don’t follow discussions
which their peers are having in the blogosphere?
And finally what about the risks that IT development programmes ignore
the benefits of lightweight solutions, preferring to develop more
sophisticated services which aim to solve every possible contingency - and
then nobody uses the service as it’s too complex for most?

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The question needs to be asked: what if we’re right?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

RSS Training For Remote Workers (And

Remote Users)
June 20, 2008

We have a number of remote workers at UKOLN, with staff based in the south
west, south east and north of England and Scotland. We are making increasing
use of networked technologies to support the remote workers - with a workshop
session on “Embracing Web 2.0 Technologies to Grease the Wheels of Team
Cohesion” being given by my colleague Marieke Guy together with Andy
Ramsden, head of the e-learning unit at the University of Bath at this year’s
IWMW 2008 event.

When preparing for a recent training course on “An Introduction To RSS

Readers: Google Reader and Netvibes” I thought this would provide a useful
opportunity to explore the potential of screencasting, which is described in
Wikipedia as “digital recording of computer screen output“. In my case I used
the Camtasia software to record the screen display together with my
accompanying audio description of what I was doing. I had also created an
accompanying PowerPoint presentation which acted as my script. I had intended
to also sync the sound with the PowerPoint slides to create a Slidecast on the
Slideshare service, but didn’t get round to doing this, this time.

Initially I had intended to make this available just for colleagues at UKOLN (the
remote workers and office-based workers who couldn’t attend the session). But
it strikes me that the screencast may be useful to others - and, indeed, a
colleague of mine commented that “I found it useful to have the seminar
available in this version (I was on holiday on the day of the seminar). As a
remote worker, I would welcome similar initiatives for future seminars.” So
although it isn’t as polished as a professionally made video I thought I would
share it with readers of this blog.

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A question I would have is should we encourage the production and sharing of

such screencasts more widely? Would you be willing to do this for training
sessions you may give? And, if you’ve watched it, how useful have you found
this screencast?

Note: via Phil Bradley’s blog I came across a post on Common Craft and Google
Reader which provides “a new short video just over a minute long
demonstrating Google Reader“. [This note added on 1 Sep 2008].

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0, rss | Edit
1 Comment »

How Plenary Speakers Are Maximising

Their Impact
June 18, 2008

Last year I happened to notice that David De Roure’s has updated his Facebook
status to say that he’d achieved a ‘deci-goble rating‘ on Slideshare. I managed
to correctly interpret this to mean that one of David’s slides which he had
uploaded to Slideshare was a tenth as popular as Professor Carole Goble’s. The
particular presentation which had proved so popular for Carole was her keynote
talk on The Seven Deadly Sins of Bioinformaticswhich she presented at the 15th
Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology
(ISMB 2007) in Vienna, July 2007.

Carole’s slides are publicly available on Slideshare and are embedded below. By
7 JulyJuly 2008 the slides had been viewed 8,617 times and downloaded over
500 times. David De Roure’s most popular slides, a keynote talk given at the
IEEE e-Science Conference, Bangalore in December 2007, have been viewed
2,613 times with 140 downloads.

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Shouldn’t researchers be making greater use of Slideshare, I wonder, in order to

maximise the impact of their research? And an additional benefit of doing this is
that the materials will also be available for use by students as well as the
researcher community. Indeed conferences such as the W4A 2008 Conference
are now making speaker’s slides available on Slideshare, thus, as might be
expected for a conference on accessibility, enhancing access to materials used at
the conference.

The sceptics might argue that there is no guarantee that the Slideshare service
will continue to be available over a long time span, or that there can be no
guarantees of the reliability of the service. But these are somewhat disingenuous
arguments, I feel. The 7,000+ downloads suggests a large numbers of readers
who were sufficiently motivated to access and view the slides - and I think it is
questionable as to whether there would be this number of accesses if the slides
weren’t available on a popular service such as Slideshare. And if Slideshare were
to disappear tomorrow (unlikely, I know), those users would have still gained
benefits from the resource while it was available. The sustainability of the
company question is one that we should be asking about our own services as
well as the externally-hosted ones - will our resources disappear from view when
a new CMS is installed, for example. And in the case of Slideshare, the recently
announcement that “SlideShare Secures $3M for Embeddable Presentations”
should be regarded as good news.

My own most popular slide available on Slideshare, “Introduction To Facebook:

Opportunities and Challenges For The Institution“, has been viewed over 4,800
times in 9 months - not as popular as Carole’s, but worth almost two De Roures
in its impact
There will be a variety of legitimate reasons why researchers may chose not to
make their slides available in this way - and I acknowledge that for some,
perhaps many, speakers, the slides may act as a visual cue rather than a resource
which is useful in isolation. But as Lorcan Dempsey said on his blog a few days
ago about a presentation on “Web 2.0 and repositories - have we got our
repository architecture right?” given recently by Andy Powell: “I find
Slideshare a good place to look for pointers when I am wondering about
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current issues. Presentations are often elliptical, but are also current”.: And in
a post on the eFoundations blog in which Andy announced the availability of the
slides on Slideshare Andy commented: “with around 1000 Slideshare views in
the first couple of days (presumably thanks to a blog entry by Lorcan
Dempseyand it being ‘featured’ by the Slideshare team) I guess that most
people who want to see it will have done so already: “. (And note that numbers
of views are now almost 2,000).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: Slideshare | Edit

Places Still Available on “Preservation of Web

Resources” Workshop
June 17, 2008

I’ve previously mentioned the JISC Preservation of Web Resources

(JISC-PoWR) project which is being provided by UKOLN and ULCC. The
project has established a blog and will be running its first workshop, entitled
Preservation of Web Resources: Making a Start, on Friday 27th June 2008 at
Senate House, London.

The workshop is aimed staff in the higher and further education sector with
responsibilities for the preservation of institutional Web resources. The
workshop will introduce the concept of Web preservation, and discuss the
technological, institutional and legal challenges the preservation of Web
resources presents. One aspect of Web site preservation might be keeping a
history of changes to your institution’s home page. Do you have a digital record
of the changes? And do you have a record of why significant changes were
made and when? I have been working with colleagues in the University of Bath
on ways in which we might address this particular issue. The following video
clip, which is available on YouTube, illustrates some of the issues (although if
the display is too small you might prefer to view the original resource):

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There are still a number of places available on the workshop - which is free to
attend for those in the higher and further education sector. But please sign up
promptly if you are interested. The timetable is given below:

10:00 - 10:30 Registration and coffee

10:30 - 12:45 Morning Sessions:

Presentation: Preservation of Web Resources Part I

Breakout session: What are the Barriers to Web Resource Preservation?
Presentation: Challenges for Web Resource Preservation
Presentation: Legal issues

12:45 - 13:45 Lunch

13:45 - 16:00 Afternoon Sessions:

Presentation: Bath University Case Study

Breakout session: Preservation Scenarios
Presentation: Preservation of Web Resources Part II

16:00 End

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in preservation | Edit
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Revisiting UK University Pages On Facebook

June 16, 2008

Back in November 2007 I wrote a post on UK Universities On Facebook, shortly

after Facebook had announced that organisations could have a presence on their
social networking service. I commented that a search for organisations
containing the word ‘university’ revealed a total of 76 hits which included, in
alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: Aston, Cardiff, Kent and the
University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Now, over 6 months later, what is the position of UK University pages on

Facebook? Well on 15th June 2008 there were over 500 hits for a search for
organisations containing the word ‘university’ (the exact numbers aren’t
provided). This will include details of University departments and student clubs
and societies, so the exact numbers will probably be confusing. What is
interesting to observe is the numbers of fans of each University, which is used to
order the search results. The Open University Facebook page is the top of all
University pages, with 7,539 fans (with the University of Michigan way behind
in second place with 5,313 fans (up from a count of 2,874 a month ago). The
other most popular UK Universities are Aston University (2,976 fans), Royal
Holloway (1,765), Aberystwyth University (1,655 fans), University of Central
Lancashire (1,475 fans), Keele University (1,420 fans), Cardiff University
(1,357 fans) and the University of Surrey (1,166 fans).

There seems to be a fairly consistent pattern of usage being taken to these pages.
As can be seen form the accompanying image, institutions seem to be providing
a series of useful links to the main areas of the institutional Web site on the right
hand menu. The main body of the content is typically addresses and contacts
details, together with news feeds which are automatically embedded using an

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Facebook RSS reader application.

In addition to this information which is either very brief or is dynamically

embedded from other sources, there are wall posts and other messages which
may need to be monitored and responded to. So there are resource implications
in having a presence in Facebook. But there are also benefits as well, and the
Open University and Aston University, for example, seem to be doing well from
the stake they have claimed.

In addition to possible concerns over the costs of managing the resources and
dialogue, people have expressed concerns over data lock-in and the licence
conditions associated with use of Facebook. I would argue that if you manage
your data in an open environment which is external to Facebook (e.g. your own
institutional RSS feed or use of Flickr or YouTube for access to photographs and
videos) then the data lock-in issue should not be of concern. And, as I’ve
suggested previously, surely we should be encouraging third parties to make use
of our marketing materials. And if they can make money out of the materials,
then this can help to ensure the viability of their service.

Finally we should remember that our institutions

have a well-established tradition of making use
of delivery channels which are not interoperable
- the physical world of magazines, newsletters
and bill-board advertisements.

Indeed when I was in Taiwan recently I came

across a poster advertising Northumbria
University. My reaction was to applaud
Northumbria for getting its message across to
where potential students were, rather than to
criticise them for their use of a non-interoperable
dead tree delivery mechanism. We need to
remember that interoperability isn’t always
everything. Ask the marketing people - I suspect
they’ll confirm this.

And some news just in. On 12thJune 2008 the Techcrunch blog reported that
Facebook [Is] No Longer The Second Largest Social Network- but rather than
declining in popularity as some predicted (or perhaps hoped), Facebook has now
overtaken MySpace in popularity, as the accompanying image shows.

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Perhaps the popularity of the Open University page in Facebook isn’t so

surprising considering the large numbers of Facebook users there are. Now that
we have evidence of the large numbers of users and have seen patterns of usage
from the early adopters, what reasons can there be for institutions not to engage
with Facebook- whether this is simply creating a page containing RSS feeds and
a set of links back to the institutional Web site or creating a Facebook
application such as the Open University’s Course Profile app (initially described
by Tony Hirst as a ’skunkwork’ project, but now, it seems, becoming
mainstream)? And remember the need to factor in not only the resource
implications of doing this, but also the missed opportunity costs of not doing so.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook ·Tags: Open University | Edit

The SearchMe Visual Service

June 13, 2008

A recent Tweet from Tony Hirst alerted me to the Searchme Visual Search
service. An example of use of this service searching for “UKWebFocus“ is
illustrated below.

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As the name suggests this service provides a visually-oriented approach to

searching and, rather than attempting to describe this service I suggest you try it.

I suspect that an initial response from some information professionals would be

to highlight the limitations of such an interface, pointing out the difficulties of
more advanced searching. However I feel that this would be to overlook the
potential of this type of interface to provide browsing functionality. And this,
indeed, was the use case made by Tony Hirst:

@briankelly would like a wayback machine browser for home pages over
time. would look neat? Any libraries for it?

I met Tony at the recent CRIG DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) Metadata
Barcamp held at the University of Bath. Over lunch I mentioned UKOLN’s
JISC-PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) project and described my interest
in ways of exploiting content held in the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.
I suggested that a generic screen-scraping interface to the service would be
useful - and when I returned to the Barcamp later that afternoon Tony
demonstrated the first version of the software And the following day Tony
had started to explore ways of providing a richer user interface to such data. A
browse interface such as that used by Search Me Visual could potentially
provide a very engaging way of visualising the changes to an organisation’s
home page, I would think. And wouldn’t it be great if this could be demonstrated
at the JISC-PoWR’s opening workshop on 25 June 2008. Has anyone come
across any tools which could do this?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0, preservation ·Tags: searchme, searchmevisual | Edit

RSS For Events

June 12, 2008

Over the past few years UKOLN has made use of RSS to support its annual
Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series. Initially RSS was
used to provide access to news about the event, allowing delegates to be alerted
to updates about the event without needing to visit the Web site, thus allowing
users the choice of avoiding the intrusiveness of email.

But as more applications and Web-based services became available which

exploited RSS, we started to appreciate the wider ranges of potential uses for
RSS. Since 2006 we have used RSS to syndicate structured data for the event,
including, as can be seen for this year’s event, lists of the plenary talks,
workshops sessions, speakers and workshop facilitators. This frees the data from
the constraints of the event’s Web site allowing the data to be accessed by users
in more varied ways including the user’s preferred RSS reader, PDAs, mobile
phones and even, using an RSS iPod Reader, having this data conveniently
available on a iPod.

More recently
we have made
use of
RSS data to
enable the
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locations of the
IWMW events
to be displayed
on a map. This
then led to a
RSS feed of the
host institution
for plenary
speakers at all
twelve of the
IWMW events
(including this
year’s event, to
be held at the
University of
Aberdeen on
22-24 July
2008). This
provides the
organisers with a management tool which can help to visualise the participation
at the event on a geographical basis – have we, for example, provided
opportunities for plenary speakers from throughout the UK? I’m pleased to say
that we do seem to have a broad representation throughout the UK, will speakers
from as far north as Aberdeen, as far south as Southampton, as far east as
Norwich and as far west as Belfast. In addition, if you zoom out from the UK
you will discover that there have been a number of speakers from overseas
including the Republic of Ireland and Australia.

In a recent post on RSS For Your Project Web Site I cited Stephen Downdes’
comment that failing to provide RSS is unsocial. But a couple of people posted
comments and argued that RSS only has a role to play in specific cases. I
disagree, as I feel that providing RSS feeds for structured data can allow the data
to be used in interesting, and perhaps unexpected ways. Let’s make much more
use of RSS generally, I would say. But how else can it be used to enhance
events, I wonder? And are there any developers reading this post who might be
in a position to submit an entry to the IWMW 2008 Innovation Competition
which makes use of this data?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in rss | Edit

whois++ and IAFA templates

June 10, 2008

SCA Home Nations Forum

I recently facilitated a series of breakout sessions on Standards at the SCA Home
Nations Forums, held in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff. The aim of the sessions
was to discuss the approaches which are being taken to the use of standards by
SCA partners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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The first event included a plenary talk on “The Standards Dilemma” given by
Alastair Dunning, JISC, and I’ve embedded his slides in my blog post.

Alistair’s blog post about the first event, entitled “Digital Standards: Going
beyond Stalin“, summarised some of the difficulties which have been
experienced in seeking to deploy open standards in digital library development

eLib Standards Document

These concerns were reflected in the breakout sessions at the three events. And
when I was preparing the breakout session I though it would be useful to review
my involvement in standards work, which date back to my contribution to the
eLib Standards document, published in February 1996.

In that document I was fascinated to discover some of the open standards which
we thought would lead to interoperability for eLib projects. The document
mentioned the Open Document Architecture (ODA) standard but went on to
(correctly) predict that “It is unclear what future there is for the ODA
standard” and stated that “It is not recommended for use in the eLib

Rather than using ODA, the standards document “anticipated that SGML will
be a key standard for eLib“. The document “encouraged [projects] to work
together to agree or, where necessary, develop document type definitions“.
Although SGML was used by a number of projects (such as, I think, project
which used the TEI DTD) SGML did not have a significant role to play for many
of the eLib projects until a simplified version of SGML, XML, became available.
The exception to that generalisation was HTML. My contribution to the eLib
standards document was to write: “Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) is
simply a DTD which prescribes formats for presentation and display.
Hypertext documents in the World Wide Web are written in HTML. eLib
projects will make heavy use of HTML and should use HTML 2 and HTML 3
when it is stable. Netscape and other vendor-specific extensions are

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It was in the area of standards identifiers, metadata and searching in which the
recommendations are most interesting. The document (correctly) stated that
“eLib projects should be able to supply a URL for public services” - although in
retrospect we should have said “a static and stable URL”. But the above
sentence then went on to say the “… and be prepared to adopt URNs when they
are stabilised“. The URN (Uniform Resource Name) was envisaged as “a
persistent object identifier, assigned by a ‘publisher’ or some authorising
agent“. Now today, 12 years later, project Web sites still have a URL for their
resources, with other approaches to identifiers (such as DOIs) only being used in
specialised areas, such as providing identifiers for journal articles or, in projects
such as E-Bank, molecules.

Regarding metadata standards, the document stated:

Relevant standards for resource description:US-MARC, IAFA, TEI


although it immediately added the caveat that “This is an area in which there is
still much research and development and where it is premature to suggest one
preferred approach“.

The document also suggested that the WHOIS++ cross-search protocol could
have an important role to play for searching metadata held in the IAFA
templates. Indeed the e-Lib-funded ROADS open source software, which
underpinned several of the eLib Subject-Based Information Gateways (such as
SOSIG and OMNI), was based on this approach.

I feel there is much which can be learnt by reviewing the experiences of digital
library programmes such as eLib - indeed eLib projects were themselves
expected to be open in reviewing their experiences, both positive and negative.
Looking at the standards document with the benefit of 12 years of hindsight we
can smile at its naivety. But we should also ask why certain standards, which
failed to gain acceptance, were encouraged in the first place? An answer,
perhaps, is to be found in the interests of the contributors to the standards
document. Anne Mumford (a former colleague of my when I worked at
Loughborough University) was actively involved in the development of the
CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) standard, so it’s perhaps not surprising that
this standard was included in the standards document.

What have we learnt since 1996? Do we ensure that we have more disinterested
processes for recommendations? A recent Tweet from Owen Stephens, related
to a TechWatch report on “Metadata for digital libraries: state of the art and
future directions” suggested that this is not the case: “[I] was surprised how
pro-METS [the report] was until I noted “Richard Gartner is [...] is a member
of the editorial board for the METS“. Which current exciting new standard will
turn out to be tomorrow’s whois++ I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards | Edit

Anarchy In The UK

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June 9, 2008

I was never into punk when I was at University (I went to see Queen when I was
at Leeds University) but I can appreciate how it changed the music scene. So I
was interested to see the recent buzz on Twitter and in the blogosphere over the
term ‘edupunk’. Mike Caulfield likes the term because “it captures the cultural
revulsion many of us feel with the appropriation of the Learning 2.0 movement
by corporations such as Blackboard“. And I feel that Tony Hirst encapsulates
the edupunk approach which “favors technical accessibility over grand design”
from his comments on the CRIG DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) Metadata
Barcamp :

A couple of things to note: JISC apparently likes to fund SOAP powered

webservices. Whilst these might conceivably make sense for complicated
web service transcations, they’re probably overkill in our sector most of
the time (a sigh went up from the developers whenever a SOAP interface
was mentioned).

REST, it seems, is the punk response to the pompous stadium rock of SOAP and
the Web Services stack. And in a post on Changing Expectations: Educational
PublishingTony published a video clip giving his contribution to the EDupunk

Now David Harrison recently comented in response to my post on From

Disruptive To Innovative Technologies:

I think it was me that raised the question at the event in the context of
“Can you imagine going to your Vice-Chancellor and saying … I want to
introduce and support some disruptive technologies into our

It’s clearly even less likely that institutional policy makers will find the term
‘edupunk’ appealing. But just as punk transformed the music scene, and the
wider cultural environment perhaps edupunk will have a similar impact on the
educational system.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: edupunk | Edit


A Quarter of a Million and Counting

June 8, 2008

This blog has now

attracted over a
quarter of a million
spam comments.
Fortunately the vast
majority are stopped
by the Akismet spam
filter, which is
provided on the blog

But it’s quite clear

that without the spam
filter it would be a
very time-consuming
task for me to
manually delete spam
comments. And if I didn’t do this the effectiveness of the blog as a forum for
discussions would be severely reduced.

I could change the blog settings and require comments to require approval
before they are published - but this would also be time-consuming for me.

Or comments could be restricted to registered users - but this would add a

barrier to those who wished to comment, especially those who aren’t regular
visits to the blog.

I could also disable comments on posts after a certain period of time, which
should reduce the amount of spam comment - but just because a post was made
some time ago doesn’t mean that comments would not be useful.

I’m happy with the policy of allowing comments , complemented by use of

Akismet to automatically capture spam (although, I should add, sometimes
Akismet traps legitimate comments). But if you’re setting up a blog and are
thinking about your policy on comments you’ll need to bear in mind the need to
manage spam comments. And remember that Akismet is licensed software -
although Akismet state that “We love non-profits. We have half-off and free
pricing for registered non-profits, please see the link above.”.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog ·Tags: Akimset | Edit
1 Comment »

Revisiting iSoton
June 6, 2008

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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.

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

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:

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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 by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: iwmw2008 | Edit

Preservation of Web Resources: Making a Start

June 4, 2008

My colleague Marieke Guy together with the JISC-PoWR project partners at

ULCC have announced details of a workshop on “Preservation of Web
Resources: Making a Start” - this one-day workshop will take place on Friday
27th June 2008 at the Senate House Library, University of London.

The JISC-PoWR project runs until the end of September 2008 and will run three
workshops which will aim to identify best practices for preserving Web sites.
The key deliverable of the project will be a handbook which will document the
challenges to be addressed in Web site preservation in a number of areas which
will include key institutional Web services (e.g. the prospectus), project Web
sites (which have clear termination dates) and, a particular challenge for the
project, the preservation issues associated with use of Web 2.0 services.

The first workshop will be free to attend (although there will be a penalty for
non-shows), with the second workshop being held as part of the IWMW 2008
event at the University of Aberdeen on 23rd July.

Please sign up now if you would like to attend. And I’d you can’t make it but
have an interest in the preservation of Web resource, why not subscribe to the
JISC-PoWR blog - and, rather than being a passive reader, join in the
discussions. Topics we’d be interested in hearing about include (a) how
institutions are currently addressing the preservation of key institutional
Web-based services (such as the prospectus); (b) the approaches you may be
taken to short-term project Web sites (whether JISC-funded or institutionally-
funded and (c) your views on the preservation of data and services provided by
externally-hosted Web 2.0 services.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, preservation | Edit
No Comments »

Innovation Competition at IWMW 2008

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June 3, 2008

The Innovation Competition was introduced at the Institutional Web

Management Workshop 2007, held at the University of York. This provided an
opportunity for developers (and, it should be added, non-developers) to submit
examples of lightweight examples of innovation which provided valuable
services to a user community and/or were, in some way, ‘cool’, provoking a
reaction of “Wow, we should be doing that” to IWMW 2007 participants.

The competition, which was sponsored by Amazon, was a great success, with
four prize-winners receiving Amazon vouchers:

Sebastian Rahtz’s Alternative Course Discovery using Calendars and

Maps (first place)
Michael Nolan’s How To Find Us and Hi From Edge Hill (second place)
Paul Walk’s Community Focus Mashup (equal third)
Mike Ellis Mashed Museums Directory (equal third)

This year we will be repeating the Innovation Competition. This time, rather
than relying on a commercial sponsor, the Universities of Aberdeen and Bath
and Edge Hill University are the sponsors. These three institutions have
recognised the potential benefits of opening up their data and APIs to the
community, and invite members of the community to demonstrate what can be
done with their RSS and Atom feeds, their XCRI data, their microformats, their
OpenSearch APIs and other data on their Web site.

And although we welcome submissions based on data from the sponsoring

institutions, we also invite other submissions as well (perhaps use of multimedia
or Second Life). One change we have made from last year’s competition,
however, is that we would not expect submissions to be based on mainstream
institutional development work. You may choose, however, to submit a proposal
which brings together content from a number of institutions, perhaps on a
regional basis or using data provided by organisations outside the HE/FE sector.

Further details are provided on the IWMW 2008 Web site. There will be prizes
for the winning submissions and, depending on the numbers of submissions, we
may even, as we did last year, also provide prizes to runner’s-up or for special
categories (the funniest submissions and perhaps even submissions created
during the event).

We look forward to receiving your submissions.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 | Edit

Can You Be Sued For Not Upgrading

Your Browsers?
June 2, 2008

A blog post on the Justin Thorp’s Oatmeal blog informs me that “all the major
browsers are now doing something to support [WAI-ARIA]“. And I quickly find
that the Paciello Group confirms IE 8’s support for ARIA: their blog posts
describes the Microsoft’s announcement that “Internet Explorer 8 uses ARIA

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role, state, and property information to communicate with assistive

technologies” as “amazing news in terms of WAI ARIA implementation!“.

And, as might be expected, the Firefox browser also supports ARIA

(Accessibility Rich Internet Applications) - W3C WAI’s guideline for ensuring
that richly interactive Web services which make use of technologies such as
JavaScript to enhance their accessibility, usability and functionality can be used
by a variety of client devices, including assistive technologies.

The support for ARIA by mainstream browsers is clearly good news and, with
the WCAG 2.0 guidelines now available as a Candidate Recommendation, it is
now timely for institutions to begin planning how they will respond to these
pleasing developments - especially for those in the educational sector who
should be in the process of planning upgrades to their technlcal environment and
corresponding policies, training, etc. during the summer vacation.

The simple response would be to suggest that institutions should migrate to the
latest version of Firefox during the summer vacation (and note that the Firefox 3
Candidate Release was announced a few days ago). However when I suggested
last year that Firefox was the researchers’ favourite application both Mark
Sammons and Phil Wilson pointed out the difficulties of managing Firefox across
the enterprise. And Mark has recently posted that the situation does not appear
to have progressed significantly since then - indeed Mark, creator of the Firefox
ADM enterprise administration tool in a post on The Firefox Enterprise Issue
Hits the Media has argued that “ the real problem with Firefox in the enterprise: Mozilla“.

But if Mark is correct and organisations are likely to find it difficult to manage
the deployment and maintenance of Firefox across the enterprise at least IE 8
(and, also, I should add, Opera) are available which have support for the ARIA

We also know that institutions have regarded support for WAI WCAG
guidelines as important with many institutions making policy statements
regarding their support for the guidelines. But as WAI have also regarded the
WCAG guidelines as just one of a set of guidelines which need to be
implemented in order to ensure that resources are widely accessible, surely it is
clear that institutions should also be supporting the UAAG guidelines and ensure
that the browsers deployed across the organisation support these guidelines. And
surely that means upgrading to the latest version of IE, Firefox or, possibly,

Or to put it another way, if you fail to do this is your institution likely to be in

breach of accessibility legislation which requires organisations to take
reasonable measures to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t discriminated
against unfairly?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility ·Tags: ARIA | Edit

From Disruptive To Innovative Technologies

May 30, 2008

In a report on the recent eFoundations Symposium Ale Fernandez has given his
thoughts on the discussions which took place on the symposium back channel in

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which there seemed to be agreement that the term ‘disruptive technologies’ was
increasingly counter-productive and proposed use of the term ‘innovative
technologies’: “it surfaced that I wasn’t the only one who thought a more
positive terminology (like “Emerging Technologies”) would be more conducive
to positive adoption on campus or even just to an understanding of the real
strengths and limitations of these tools“.

This sounds sensible to me as we are now finding that the disruptive aspects of
Web 2.0 are now becoming better understood and institutions are now
developing ways of makes use of the technologies and cultural changes in their
planning. The disruptive aspects of Web 2.0 are I feel, the Social Web and the
‘network as the platform‘, with technologies such as AJAX being accepted as
simply an welcome development which can provide more usable services and
application areas such as blogs and wikis are now being deployed to support the
teaching, learning and research functions within the institution.

In his talk at the Symposium Chris Adie outlined the need to take a risk
management approach - and went on to point our the risks of doing nothing.
Guidelines on the risks of using externally-hosted services are being written, and
I’m aware of the Guidelines for Using External Services produced by the
University of Edinburgh and the Checklist for assessing third-party IT services,
produced by the University of Oxford. These documents are to be welcomed -
and it is particularly pleasing that the documents are publicly available and not
hidden on the institutional Intranet.

And despite grumbles from some quarters about the ‘noise’ on the back channel,
useful additional resources were shared by people who may not have been
physically present at the event. Ale Fernandez reminded us of the BBC
guidelines on Personal use of Social Networking and other third party websites.
And via Twitter (another very useful channel which brings to my attention
resources relevant to my interests) David Harrison alerted me (and his other
Twitter followers) of Roo Reynolds’ post on Policing vs Guidelines which
described the approaches to use of social networks taken at IBM. In response to
the question “How do you police use of social software in the workplace?” Roo

The answer, which might surprise you, is that you don’t, You can’t. You
physically can’t monitor, review and approve everything all your
employees are doing. Instead, you need to use trust.

Our sector can learn from the approaches which are being taken by the BBC and
IBM. And, as we have a well-established tradition of sharing, I feel we are
well-placed to collaborate on the development of such guidelines and shares
experiences in the deployment of such guidelines. Would anyone like to start?
Has any institutions published similar guidelines? Or does anyone have any
suggestions on what the guidelines should cover?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: efsym2008 | Edit

IWMW and Innovation

May 28, 2008
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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:

Use of RSS for news alerts related to the event.

Exploitation of WiFi networks at events.
Official workshop bloggers.
Use of SMIL to provide a synchronised multimedia version of one of the
plenary talks.
A series of podcasts, published in advance of the workshop.

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

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

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

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

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George Bush IS President And Microsoft’s Office

Open XML Format IS An ISO Standard
May 27, 2008

On 2nd April 2008 the IT Week magazine described how “Microsoft’s Office
Open XML document format standard has been approved as an ISO standard”
in an article entitled “OOXML gets the nod as an ISO standard“.

Everyone who has been critical of Microsoft for continuing to promote its
proprietary Office format should be pleased with this news, one might think.
And indeed an editorial comment in the same issue of IT Week a piece entitled
“Microsoft wins format standards” suggested that the “ISO vote endorsing
OOXML ends vicious committee wrangling“. But the article admitted that the
“decision means that there are now two ISO document standards“. And further
“Supporters of the rival Open Document Format claimed OOXML is not truly
open because it was not designed by an open process“. In addition they also
suspect “Microsoft will find ways to retain control“.

Rowan WIlson on the JISC OSS Watch blog elaborated on these concerns: “the
perception that OOXML is in itself an inadequate standard which has
triumphed through Microsoft’s expertise at lobbying ISO member bodies for
their votes“; “the standard is itself is incredibly long and complex - over six
thousand pages” and “Microsoft’s patent non-enforcement promise that
accompanies [the standard]“. Similar concerns are described in a Wikipedia
entry on OOXML.

But do such criticisms mean that we should not make use of OOXML? I would
say not. If you believe in open standards, then you should be prepared to accept
standards which have been ratified by a formal standards body. Just as when
George W Bush first became president, despite the concerns regarding the
voting process and allegations of corruption in certain states, the Democratic
party was prepared at accept this decision.

The criticism that “there are now two ISO document standards” misses the point
that duplicated standards are not unusual, as the joke “the great thing about
standards is that there are so many to choose” illustrates. Indeed, readers of this
blog will probably be familiar with the RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 - not two versions of
the same standard, but two different standards - RDF Site Summary and Really
Simple Syndication Standard (to say nothing of its original name Rich Site
Summary). The battles which have taken place over this popular syndication
format seem to be typical of the standardisation process in the IT sector. So we
should not be surprised to read of dissent in the document format area.

I suspect that a lot of criticism of the standard is really aimed at seeking to

persuade organisations that they shouldn’t be using Microsoft Office products.
But that, I feel, is a different argument. Rather I’ll leave the final comment to
Richard Boulderstone, the chief technology officer at the British Library who
has welcomed OOXML’s approval as an ISO standard, as the establishment of
an open well-defined OOXML standards will ensure documents can be viewed
through future applications: “We think hundreds of years in the future, by which
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point this standard won’t be supported anymore. But we’ll be able to create an
application to views these documents as they’re based on an open format.
Under the closed proprietary format previously used by Microsoft we couldn’t
do that.“. Amen to that.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards | Edit

RSS For Your Project Web Site

May 23, 2008

Stephen Downes has recently suggestedthat use of RSS and blogs “should be
basic and fundamental information, and in my view, projects without this sort
of informational support are just being anti-social.” I think Stephen’s right -
although, as a Brit, I’d probably be more circumspect (perhaps along the lines of
a Sir Humphrey Appleby “Is really it wise not to have a RSS feed“). Stephen’s
direct North American approach is to be applauded, I feel.

And Stephen linked to a blog post on RSS injects edu with accuracy, freshness,
and cool stuffwhich gives an example of how RSS can be used.

My own use of RSS to enhance access to project deliverables was for the
JISC-funbded QA Focus project. In this case RSS filesprovided for the project’s
key deliverables including briefing documents, case studies, papers and
presentations. In addition OPML fileswere also created which enabled the RSS
files to be integrated in a variety of ways.

Stephen’s right - if you’re not doing this you are “just being anti-social“.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in rss | Edit

Preserving The Past Can Help The Future

May 21, 2008

Many of the posts featured in this blog describe innovative tools and
applications which aim to provide a more effective work or study environment
for users. However there can be a danger that an emphasis on new and
innovative services can mean a failure to manage legacy services which can
result in a loss of our experiences, history and culture.

This can be particularly true in the Web environment. I first became aware of
the scale of the problem when I monitored the Web sites which had been set up
for projects funded by the EU’s Telematics For Libraries programme. As I
described in an article on WebWatching Telematics For Libraries Project Web
Sites published in the Exploit Interactive e-journal in October 2000 of the 65
projects which had Web sites, a total of 23 of the Web sites has disappeared
when I carried out the survey. And a recent check shows that at least 39 of the
Web sites have gone. Our digital history, the associated learning and the
investment (from EU taxpayers) is being lost!

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Or is it? Is this assertion just being alarmist? Might not the information have
been migrated to a more manageable environment? And perhaps some of the
projects are now available, possibly under new names, as sustainable services?

There’s a clear need for these issues to be addressed and for advice to be
provided - both to organisation as responsible for managing their own Web
services and to funding bodies which commission development work which will
involve the development of Web sites.

JISC have recognised the need to provide such advice. They issued a recent call
for an ITT on “The Preservation of Web Resources Workshops and Handbook”
and I’m pleased to report that a joint bid by UKOLN and ULCC was successful.
The project, which had its launch meeting on 1 May 2008, will run three
workshops which will aim to gain a better understanding of the challenges to be
faced in Web site preservation, identify examples of best practices and provide a
set of recommendations to policy makers, content providers and developers.
This will be documented in a handbook which should be available after
September 2008.

Although the project is only funded for 5 months it will seek to provide advice
not only on conventional institutional Web sites, but also on use of third party
Web 2.0 services - the potential benefits of such services are well-understood,
but there needs to be a better understanding of the risks associated with their use
and how institutions should assess such risks and use such assessments to inform

The project team

members themselves
are using a variety of
Web 2.0 tools to
support their work.
As well as
(beyond email) to
support the work of
the distributed team
members a blog is
also being used to
disseminate information about the project and to solicit feedback and encourage
discussion and debate. The JISC-PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) blog
(illustrated) is hosted on the JISC Involve blog service.

The team would like to welcome those with an interest in Web site preservation
to join the blog and contribute to the discussions.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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1 Comment »

Data Portability Battles Go Beyond The Individual

And The Large Corporations
May 19, 2008

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Josie Fraser has given her views on the recent squabbles over data portability
standards for social networks. She has observed that the language of ‘the data
wars’ and ‘guns blazing’ can be characterised as “boys clubs and bun fights”. As
Josie describes:

“The last couple of weeks has seen MySpace, Facebook and Google make
announcements about their variously not-that-portable data portability
initiatives. MySpace announced the Data Availability Project, Facebook
announced Facebook Connect, Google announced FriendConnect, and
Facebook then announced FriendConnectwouldn’t be welcome in the
Facebook valley.“

I would agree with Josie’s comments on the “general agreement that the new
initiatives have more to do with Empire building than with empowering users“.
Josie goes on to suggest that, rather than the current focus on applications and
widgets to facilitate sharing “users should be the ones controlling and
determining their data“.

While I would be in broad agreement with that sentiment, I think the individual’s
perspective is only a part (albeit an important part) of the role that social
networking software (SNS) can provide. Many of us make use of social
networking tools to support our professional activities. This gives rise to
interesting issues over ownership (I try to make use of a Creative Commons
licence when I use SNS to ensure that others - including my organisation - can
reuse my content). But what happens to the content which I may have hosted on
a social networking services if I’m knocked down by a bus, leave my
organisation or fall out with by boss? Do I have the right to ‘control’ and
‘determine’ what happens to this data?

An approach I have taken when I make use of SNS to provide access to my data
is to keep a master copy in a managed environment (the UKOLN Web site) -
with Slideshare, for example, the title slide and the metadata give a link back to
the managed copy of the slides. But in other cases (such as my use of
I’ve not done this.

One answer to such concerns would be to avoid use of social networking

services, and make use of managed services hosted within the organisation. But
this, I feel, has many disadvantages and is not an approach I would recommend.
But what approaches, then, should the professional academic or researcher take
to manage data or behalf not only of the individual but also the organisation?

In 2006 UKOLN made use of a range of externally hosted services to support its
IWMW 2006 event. The use of a variety of third party services was
complemented with a risk assessment statement which summarised the services
which were being used, justified their use and outlined potential risks and how
such risks would be addressed.

I feel that it is now timely to build on this approach to risk assessement and to
begin to address the risks associated with use of social networking tools in a
work capacity. As I suggested in a recent JISC Emerge online conference,
perhaps we should start by providing a personal audit of the social networking
tools we use at work and document the risks that our organisations and our
colleagues could face if we chose to exercise our individual rights to delete such
data! And once we’ve got a better picture of the risks we can start to address
the risk management issues.

What do you think?

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Sites Which ‘Rip Off’ Marketing Videos

May 16, 2008

A few months ago there was an email message sent to a national list from a
member of a UK University institutional Web management team who
complained that “We’ve come across an outfit calling themselves Unitour who
have ripped one of our marketing videos“. The message went on to add that the
institution had requested that the video was removed from the site - and it seems
that this has been done. The Web site in question is Unitour and they do indeed
have a video tour guide of UK Universities - from which it does seem possible to
opt out of.

But how should an institution go about ensuring that its marketing videos aren’t
ripped off’? Well my suggestion may be regarded as rather radical in some
circles - I’d suggest that you provide a Creative Commons licence for such
videos and encourage people to reuse it. After all, we are talking about
marketing materials. And if you are concerned that organisations may be
‘ripping off’ your bandwidth, why not make the video available from YouTube
or Google Video - so that your institution doesn’t even have to provide
additional bandwidth when potential students view the video.

Is this really a radical proposal, I wonder? Shouldn’t this be an approach which

all universities use as part of their institutional marketing?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

IWMW 2008 Now Open For Bookings

May 15, 2008

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2008 ) will be

held at the University of Aberdeen on 22-24th July. The theme of this year’s
event is “The Great Debate” and during the 3 days participants will have the
opportunity to listen to a number of plenary talks which describe various
examples of innovation and best practices which are taking place across the
community. But more importantly the participants will be encouraged to
contribute to a debate on the future of the institutional Web services - active
participation in the parallel workshop sessions, discussion groups and during the
social activities will be encouraged!

The event opens with a session on A Vision For The Future which features a
talk by Cameron Neylon on “Science in the You Tube Age: How Web Based
Tools are Enabling Open Research Practice” followed by one on “Web 2.0 and
Brand: Theory and Practice” by Helen Aspell. And this year, for the first time,
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as well as opening with two high profile talks, the event will conclude with a talk
on “Unleashing the Tribe” by Ewan McIntosh, a speaker of international
renown who will be known to many through his edu.blogs blog.

The timetable for the event is available, together with details of the plenary talk
and the 16 parallel sessions. The Web site is now open for bookings - and we
encourage early bookings as the places on the parallel sessions will be allocated
on a first come first served basis. Regular updates on the event will be provided
on an RSS feed. This information will also be available on the IWMW 2008
news page.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in iwmw2008 | Edit
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How Rude! Use Of WiFi Networks At Conferences

May 12, 2008

The Debate
A blog post on “Making Connections 2.0” by Martin Weller alerted me to the
discussions which have been taken place following a recent conference at the
annual internal Open University conference. As Martin describes on his Ed
Techie blog one of his colleagues, Doug Clow, who was live-blogging the
conference “was told by three different people in separate sessions to stop as
his typing was offputting“. The pros and cons of use of a WIFi network during a
conference have been further discussed by Doug Clow himself and by Niall

A Framework For Use Of Networked

I have to say that I don’t find such debates surprising - indeed I wrote about this
in a paper on “Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences” (I wish
I had Lorcan Dempsey’s skills in coining snappy names - nowadays we would
refer to ‘amplified events’) which I gave at the EUNIS 2005 conference way
back in June 2005. The paper described some early experiments in exploitation
of iFi networks, including my first experiment at a one-day joint
UKOLN/UCISA event on “Beyond Email - Strategies For Collaborative
Working In The 21st Century” in November 2004. But as the paper describes,
rather than just providing access to the WiFi network and leaving the delegates
to make use of it as they see fit, an Acceptable Use Policy was produced which
was based on the general principle that “Use of mobile device and networked
technologies to support the aims of the workshop with be encouraged” but
which alerted the participants to their responsibilities: “The use of mobile device
and networked technologies should not be disruptive to other delegates,
infringe rights of privacy or breach copyright or cause degradation to the
network which would aversely affect others“.

The paper went on to suggest that, rather than imposing a single-minded

approach to policies regarding use of WiFi networks at events, there was a need
for a framework for the development of an Acceptable Use Policy which would

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reflect the expectations of the users and take into account the potential diversity
of views. The paper suggested the need for such a framework to address policy,
technical, legal, social and organisational issues.

Implementing This Approach

This approach was implemented the following year at the Institutional Web
Management Workshop 2005(IWMW 2005) held at the University of
Manchester on 6-8thJuly 2005. An AUPwas produced, together with details of
networked applications which users might find useful during the event and an
optional talk was held shortly before the opening of the event which provided
details of how to connect to the WiFi network and use the applications.

But perhaps the most important approach taken was the evaluation of the
technologies by the event participants. The evaluation form asked three
questions: “I found use of the networked applications enriched the event“, “I
found use of the networked applications distracting or disruptive to the event”
and “I would encourage use of networked applications at future events“. A
summary of the responses is given below.

Q1: I found use of the networked applications enriched the event

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

6 14 11 3 1

Q2: I found use of the networked applications distracting or disruptive to

the event

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

2 8 16 5 4

Q3: I would encourage use of networked applications at future events

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

10 16 5 2 1

In addition the following comments were made:

Use of the technologies:

People need to follow the guidelines and TURN OFF laptop sounds
Need to be more inclusive - can you find a sponsor next year who will
give us/lend us a wireless PDA or laptop?
Firewalls made it difficult
Tables for laptops and be better equipped rooms with more powerpoints
It seemed a little ‘gimmicky’ and I am not sure their use added
real value/benefit to the workshop. Also the noise of people tapping
their keyboard can be irritating!

General issues:

Please give bigger headlines about this in joining instructions

There’s a risk of it becoming too distracting
Some people may have been distracted by the availability of WiFi, but it’s

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up to each person to discipline themselves

IRC fun & thought provoking - allowing comment without disruption -
could even reduce whispering!
I was sitting in ‘geek’ corner so it was disruptive, the clicking & beeping
was a but much at times - but a very useful evil .. .and I could have moved
so it can’t have been that bad!
Made it too easy to ignore presentations but makes it even more important
for presenters to be interesting!
Non-users may feel under-privileged
Useful for sharing info but can be used negatively for ‘bitching’ about
Very distracting in seminars
A negative effect if people abuse it e.g. surf the Web. Beneficial if people
take notes.
Lots of people spent the session surfing the Web or checking their email -
I found this distractive. Facilitators did not often refer to the Wiki.

It is interesting to note that although some of the problems and potential
problems of use of networked technologies had been commented on by the
participants, a majority (of 26 to 3) felt that use of networked technologies
should be encouraged at future events. This indicates, I feel, that there is an
awareness that potential problems can be addressed.

Subsequent IWMW events have made further use of networked technologies,

and the numbers of participants with laptops has been growing steadily, will, I
think, now over 50% of the audience bringing along and using their laptops.

We’ve explored (and will continue to explore) various ways of addressing the
dangers. When I run workshop sessions, for example, I make it clear that laptops
should only be used for purposes relevant to the session (e.g. keeping notes,
discussions with others, checking relevant resources, etc.) and I try and joke
about other uses (”I must be boring if your email is more interesting than this

I’d also like to explore ways of making use of space at events - perhaps the
geeks could go to other side of the lecture theatre (when the power sockets are
to be found) leaving the other side to those who prefer pen and paper.

Simply suggesting that it’s rude to make use of laptops at conferences - with the
implied suggestion that such use should be banned - is, I feel, inappropriate.
Why, after all, are WiFinetworks being installed in lecture theatres? But to raise
concerns is appropriate - and we do need to explore ways in which we can seek
to satisfy both the twitterers, live bloggers and Web surfers and those who don’t
partake. In part this is being helped by the posts from Martin Weller, Doug Clow
and others who are explaining why they do this and the benefits this can
provide. But in addition event organisers, event chairs, facilitators, etc. need to
explore ways of developing best practices for maximising the benefits of the
technologies nut just for the early adopters and enthusiasts but for, if not all,
then for many.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

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Twitter Saves Lives! The Backlash Must be Due

May 9, 2008

The front page of yesterday’s Technology Guardian (which I still normally refer
to as the Online Guardian) had a very positive article on Making The Most Of
Twitter which opened with:

An American student is arrested in Egypt, and manages to send a brief text

with a single word - “ARRESTED” - which is picked up around the world,
and leads quickly to his release, helped by a lawyer hired by his university
back in the US. In Britain, the prime minister’s office decides people should
be able to find out what their premier is doing; as of today, more than 2,000
people do. …People fleeing from fires in California say where they are’ that
proves more useful and timely than official government information.

The common factor? Twitter, the free (at present) service which lets you
send a 140-character message, or “tweet”, to a site where anyone can read

Such views reflect those of Martin Weller who, in a post on Turning to Twitter
in a crisis related a story on Jim Groom’s blog which described:

how a group of people at a presentation at the University of Richmond were

suddenly told to turn off the lights and be quiet as a suspicious character
with a gun had been spotted on campus. After the initial moment of fright,
he relates how a number of them turned to Twitter, and how this turned out
to be both soothing and useful

And I’ve remembered that last week a tweet from Josie Fraser pointed to a CNN
article which was featured in the opening sentence of the Guardian article
(where Josie leads, the Guardian follows!).

A great time for those early adopters of Twitter, with our commitment to initially
puzzled colleagues now being vindicated in the mass media one might thing. It’s
perhaps reminiscent of the excitement we felt in May 1997, perhaps the last time
we felt the people were, at last, being empowered. But why do I feel that the
dreaded Boris moment is lurking around the corner?

But what can we expect in the backlash. I suspect journalist have already been
asked to dig for a story on the negative side of Twitter. I think we can expect the
CEO of a large company (other head of the CBI would be even better) to
provide figures on the amount of productivty lost due to Twitter. And, on a
personal level, expect the tabloids to cover stories of the teenager who tweeted
that their parents were away, and found a large horde descending on the place
and vandalising the home (and I know that story was first used with MySpace as
the guilty service - but we should expect such stories to be endlessly recycled).

Has anyone spotted the backlash in the press yet? And what other stories can we

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter | Edit

“Even If We’re Wrong, We’re Right”

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May 8, 2008

It can be a real thrill when you see someone give a fresh insight into your
thinking, and that happened to me recently. The background was a talk on
“What If We’re Wrong? Developing A Sustainable Approach to the Use of Web
2.0” which I gave at an online JISC Emerge event recently. I tweeted that I was
giving the talk and Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the
Open University, responded expressing an interest in my talk. As it wasn’t
possible for Martin to attend that online event, a few days later I pointed Martin
in the direction of a Slidecast of a talk on “Exploiting The Social Aspects Of
Web 2.0 In HE Institutions” which I gave the following day, and subsequently
synched the slides with the audio of the talk.

The gist of my talk was the need for fans of Web 2.0 approaches to listen to
concerns which may be raised and to seek ways of addressing such concerns.
And in the talk I explored some of the legitimate concerns and suggested some
possible solutions. But when Martin sent me a Twitter message saying that “even
if we’re wrong we’ll still be better placed to understand what comes next than
non-engagers” I felt he’d got the wrong end of the stick.

However in a post on Web 2.0 - even if we’re wrong, we’re right Martin
explained his thinking:

Which brings me on to my even if we’re wrong, we’re right argument. Sure

things won’t be the utopian vision of free services, open education and
democratisation that some talk of, but whatever comes after the current
trends will build on top of them. Just as web 2.0 built on what had
happened in the first wave of web development. And the people who got it,
the founders and the visionaries weren’t people who had dismissed the web
and insisted it would go away. They were people who engaged with it, and
could see how to take it forward. So, whatever comes after web 2.0 (don’t
say web 3.0), the people best placed to understand it and adapt to it will be
those who have immersed themselves in the current technological climate,
and not those who have sat waiting for it to fail so they can say ‘told you

These views were reiterated on the Scott O’Raw blog in a post entitled Will It
Never End? who made the point that:

It doesn’t really matter that individual technologies will live, die, evolve,
or be stunning success stories. I wholly expect that the version of
WordPress I am using to write this post (or even WordPress itself) will be
considered an anathema in the years to come. The key is to embrace not
only the technology itself but the process of changing technology with a
view to how it can help us all learn more and share in that learning.

My approach had been to seek to minimise risks and perhaps to be rather

cautious. Martin and Scott are suggesting that we are now in a position to
acknowledge that although there may be risks, in many cases we have already
gained positive benefits over those who aren’t willing to engage. And I think
there is a lot of truth in this. If, for example, Twitter were to fold (and I can’t see
how it has a sustainable business model) or the recent performance problems
which have affected Slideshare were to make the service unusable, I would still
feel that I have gained tangible benefits during the time I’ve been used the
services. After all, that IBM mainframe technology wasn’t sustainable in the
long term, and neither was MS Windows 3.0 - but we did use them when they

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were around, and in using them we gained a better understanding of how IT

could be used in our organisations. Does anyone seriously think that if one or
two current Web 2.0 services fail that we will go back to a world of CMSs
systems managing static information content for reading by a passive user
community? Now who’s not being realistic?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

How Blogs Can Help Museums To Engage With

Their Users
May 5, 2008

In a recent blog post on the Cultural Interpretation & Creative Education blog
Bridget McKenzie summarised the MLA and HLF views on 21st C Curation
which were presented at a seminar given at UCL on 30th April 2008.

Carole Souter, CEO of the HLF informed the audience that “‘We’re getting
tough with people” and went on to say that “If you tell us that 200,000 more
people are going to look at your website because of it, well, so what? How do
you know they have really been engaged?“. The importance of user engagement
was echoed by Roy Clare, CEO of MLA. In a comment on a project funded by
the NOF-digitise programme he asked: “How they [the users] would engage
with it?“.

I am really pleased that such views are being expressed so clearly by senior
managers of public sector bodies. In the past I’ve been concerned an an
emphasis on blunt usage statistics. But now the emphasis in the museums sector
is on the quality of the user experience and user engagement. And, as Bridget
observed, Carole Souter’s “suggestion was that if you are going to include
digitisation into an HLF bid, it would have to involve people in specific
thematic projects of local interest“.

If funding will only be available for digitisation projects which enable users to
actively engage with the digitised content, then this, to me, seems to be sending
strong signals that a Web 2.0 approach should be taken.

And one approach to enable users to be able to engage with the content is
through the provision of blogs as, in a UK context, Ingrid Beazley demonstrated
at the Museums and the Web 2008 conference with a session entitled “Reach
new audiences, increase numbers of visitors, and become a major part of the
local community by using online social networking sites and blogs“. As
described in her abstract Dulwich Picture Gallery has “experienced marked
successes with our user driven, dialogue friendly Facebook and Flickr sites”
and “there is considerable buzz around our plans for 2008, including the
launch of our online magazine blog with which we are building a Gallery
associated community“.

But how should museums go about establishing and sustaining their blogs - and
also exploiting the potential of social networking services? Well I’m pleased to
say that this is a topic I will be talking about at the Museum Heritage 2008 show
at London Olympia on Wednesday 7th May 2008. If any readers of this blog
from the museum’s sector are planning to attend this event, I’d love to chat with
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you. But if you can’t attend, then my slides are available on Slideshare - and are
also embedded in this blog post.

Your feedback is welcome.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog, Events | Edit

A Wonderful Discovery
May 2, 2008

I’ve come across a great idea for improving the efficiency of businesses. The
idea is based on the notion of what in the UK has been called ‘tea breaks’ - and
it seems that businesses in the US are using a similar idea but call it a ‘coffee

The idea is that the workplace pays people to have informal chats. ‘That’s crazy’
I hear the sceptics say. ‘There’s no sustainable business model’. But the research
suggests that during the ‘tea breaks’ employees not only discuss the television
programmes they watched the previous night and their plans for the weekend,
but also work-related topics. And the informal nature of tea breaks allows
people from different parts of the workplace to engage in the discussions. This
provides the justification to managers who wish to ensure that any new ideas
provide a return on investment. And the latest research (which is still being
evaluated) suggests that staff who are particularly active keen in tea breaks have
also started to participate in social activities outside office hours. Typically a
social networking environment is used, which are sometimes referred to as
‘pubs’, although ‘wine bars’ are sometimes used in metropolitan areas. And
managers will be pleased to learn that the discussions which take place in these
social environments sometimes relates to work activities - in these cases the
organisation gains benefits for zero investment! What a brilliant idea!!

OK, so we don’t quite see tea breaks and out-of-hours meetings quite in these
terms. But people do ask what benefits social networks tools such as Twitter can

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provide. In my case, Twitter provides a similar function to the coffee break - but
rather than providing a forum for a mixture of informal and work-related chats
with work colleagues, it enables me to have such discussions with a wider group.
This typically starts off with people I work closely with, but then extends to
people I’ve met at conferences and sometimes people I may not have met but
have some connection with.

A good example of this is Bryan Kennedy. I met Brian at the Museums and the
Web 2007 conference a year ago. We discovered a shared interest in Twitter
and have been following each other since then. This has enabled me to have a
low-key insight into what Brian was doing at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
And when Brian started twittering about this year’s Museums and the Web
conference our informal connections through Twitter enabled us to reestablish
contact at the conference more easily than people I’d met a year ago and hadn’t
had the opportunity to follow what they were doing,

What’s the business case for Twitter? Look at your organisation’s business case
for tea breaks, and that may help you to understand. Now I wonder if, in ther
future, staff will have a legal entitlement to a social network break?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter | Edit

Is Accessibility 2.0 Becoming Mainstream?

May 1, 2008

In May 2007 I presented a paper entitled “Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and
Processes” at the W4A 2007 conference. This paper reflected discussions which
took place at a professional forum on “Accessibility 2.0: A Holistic And
User-Centred Approach To Web Accessibility” which took place at the
Museums and the Web 2007 conference.

Yesterday Frankie Roberto, a Web developer at the Science Museum, emailed

me with details of a recent conference entitled “Accessibility 2.0: a million
flowers bloom“. Now the use of the 2.0 meme to refer to a renewed
and user-focussed approach is nothing new, so we shouldn’t be surprised at
seeing the ‘Accessibility 2.0′ term being coined by independent bodies. But what
was pleased was to see that the ideas and approaches which Lawrie Phipps and
myself first described in a paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For
E-Learning Accessibility” back in 2004 being reflected by those more directly
involved in accessibility support and advocacy.

The Accessibility 2.0 conference was described as “the first ever conference
focussing on web accessibility in a Web 2.0 world. By Web 2.0 we mean rich
web applications which allow users to create content by writing blogs,
uploading videos or commenting on other user’ content and creating
networks.“. The conference Web site went on to say that “The title of the
conference was inspired by T.V. Raman, a Google Research Scientist, to
describe the current wave of creativity and innovation brought about by the
development of web applications“.

The introduction to the conference was given by Robin Christopherson of

AbilityNet. I’ve met Robin on a number of occasions and Robin participated at
the Accessibility Summit II hosted by the JISC TechDis service for which I was
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one of the event co-facilitators and speakers. A report on the meeting was
published in the E-Government Bulletin. The participants at the meeting
“call[ed] for change in the way web accessibility is advocated particularly in
local and central government, education and the museum and cultural
sectors.“ Although we have not managed to organise a follow-up meeting, I feel
the “Accessibility 2.0: a million flowers bloom” conference has reflected the
views and approaches expressed at the summit and brought those ideas out to a
wider community.

The blog post about the conference which Frankie referred me to was entitled
“Open Data“. In the blog post, written by Jeremy Keith, a Web developer living
and working in Brighton, England, Jeremy expands on the talk he gave at the
conference. Jeremy drew parallels with approaches which can address long term
access to resources. He commented “Open formats are better than closed
formats” whilst acknowledging that the ”terms “open” and “closed” are fairly
nebulous“. Jeremy went even further by admitting that “Standardization doesn’t
necessarily lead to qualitatively better formats. Quite the opposite in fact. The
standardization process, by its very nature, involves compromise“. He goes on
to support the simplicity of HTML, but, in response to the diversity provided by
a Web 2.0 environment “instead of battling against the anarchic nature of the
Web, go with it” and “embrace flexibility in your attitude towards

Jeremy argues that in today’s Web 2.0 world, users are now making use of
publishing services (he himself mentions Flickr, Twitter, Pownce and Magnolia).
In a world in which users may read and write in equal measures “accessibility
guidelines that deal with Web content just don’t cut it any more“.

I very much welcome this contribution to the debate and, indeed, the image of
Accessibility 2.0 reflecting a renewed approach to accessibility in which we
encourage ‘a million flowers to bloom’. And it’s great to see this approach being
advocated by those actively involved in the accessibility arena, such as
organisations like Abilitynet, which hosted the conference. But how, I wonder,
should we address the conservatism we’re likely to face within the institutions
which have adopted an approach to Web accessibility which is based on simple
conformance with checklists which simply cover the Web content? And what
about the Web developers and content creators who, possibly for a period of
almost 10 years, have prided themselves on implementing such guidelines? How
should we change this culture?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, Web2.0 | Edit
1 Comment »

The Rise and Fall of Apache?

April 25, 2008

The Data
It can difficult to know how to respond when the evidence fails to support one’s
beliefs. What then, should one make of the recent figures from Netcraft’s March
2008 Web Server Survey which show that figures for usage of the Apache Web
server software peaked in 2005 and the decline since then has been matched
with a corresponding rise in use of Microsoft’s Web server software?
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Using The Data To Unearth Preconceived Ideas

I used this image, incidentally, in an online presentation yesterday, but without
the companies’ names being displayed. In response to my question “Which
company do you think seems to be in decline?” the answers suggested included
Facebook, Twitter and Blackboard - all companies which various participants in
the conference had negative views on.

In professions such as politics or in the commercial sector we might expect
inconvenient data to be conveniently ignored (says me cynically!). In higher
education, however, we pride ourselves on developing theories to fit the facts
and not finding facts to fit our beliefs (says me in a rather arrogant fashion!). Or
do we? I can’t help but feel that in IT we have a whole series of beliefs and find
it difficult to know how to respond when the evidence challenges such beliefs.
Indeed I’ve commented on this previously: we haven’t embraced the open
source FireFox browser to the extent which had been expected when the
browser was released; conformance with the WAI accessibility guidelines
doesn’t necessarily bring about universal accessibility and open standards
sometimes don’t work. The IT profession needs, in my opinion, to be more
sceptical about its beliefs and to gather evidence to demonstrate, or refute, such

Returning To The Data

But what, I wonder, can we make of the growth in Microsoft’s Web server
software? And, perhaps more intriguingly, what should we make of Google’s
entry into the chart in July 2007?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web Server ·Tags: Netcraft | Edit

One World, One Web … But Great Diversity

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April 23, 2008

Yesterday I presented a paper on “One World, One Web … But Great

Diversity” at the W4A 2008 conference which was being held in Beijing. After
the presentation and responding to the questions I received I went to the
Claverton rooms at the University of Bath for coffee with my colleagues.

For the first time I presented a peer-reviewed paper which I had previously
recorded and made available on my Web site and also via Google Video. The 22
minute long video was played at the conference and I was available to respond
to questions via a Skype connection with the conference chair, David Sloan.

This was a very valuable learning experience. My previous use of video to give a
presentation was at the UCISA 2008 Management Conference, where Andy
Powell was available to complement my introduction with his live participation
at the conference. On both occasions I’ve found that my talk has sounded ‘flat’
without the feedback one gets from presenting to a live audience. Perhaps the
next time I do this I should record a talk I give to a live local audience. But at
least I saved an estimated 2.9 tonnes of carbon emissions and was able to get
back to pressing items of work after the presentation.

The paper build on previous papers on accessibility, and explored how the
holistic approach to Web accessibility we have developed previously can be
applied in a Web 2.0 context. The paper arguing the need for a user-centred
approach to Web accessibility, rather the the resource-centred approach which
is the underlying basis for the accessibility guidelines developed by WAI.

Your comments are welcomed.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility | Edit

The Guardian’s “Libraries of the

Future” Supplement

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April 22, 2008

Lorcan Dempsey has picked on on a post in the eFoundation’s blog about the
“Libraries of the Future” Supplement in today’s Guardian. And it’s good to have
the article in the supplement available online.

The thing I find interesting about the first page is how the JISC-funded report on
Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future is being interpretted.
The introduction to the supplement begins with a statement that the report
“found young people lacking in critical and analytical skills“. And the main
article on the first page entitled “Information alert” has the byline “A recent
survey shows many students from the so-called ‘Google generation’ lack the
basic skills needed for online research“.

What are we to make of this? Clearly we (the information professionals, the

institutions, the policy makers) need to take action to address the deficiencies of
our students.

But if you read on you’ll find that the report says “From undergraduates to
professors, people exhibit a strong tendency towards shallow, horizontal,
flicking behaviour in digital libraries. Factors specific to the individual,
personality and background are much more significant than generation.“.

Now this presents a very different picture, I feel. Indeed that headline to the
supplement could equally have read “the report has found that researchers,
academics and lecturing staff are lacking in critical and analytical skills“.

But does surfing of Web sites and an emphasis on Google for searching
necessarily demonstrate a lack of critical and analytic skills? I myself use Google
many times a day. Recently I used it to find hotels prior to travelling to
conferences in Taiwan and Montreal. I used Google to find hotel bookings sites
and Google maps to find hotels close to the conference venue. And, for my first
trip, once I’d found a possible hotel I used the Google Taiwan search engine to
find other ways of accessing the information - and discovered I could get the
hotel for a cheaper rate using a local company rather than the US-based Web
site. Before booking the hotel I, of course, checked that a secure connection was
being used.

We should all be developing skills in using search engines such as Google and in
interpretting the results we find, as the vast majority of us will turn to the Web to
support our social activities, personal finances, etc. And to suggest that a quality,
peer-reviewed and safe environment will solve all of our needs is clearly wrong.

The Guardian supplement includes article on “Quiet revolution” (a heading

based on a library cliche suggests Phil Bradley) Dame Lynne Brindley, chief
executive of the British Library says regarding your scholars ”Their ease with
computers and technology hides the reality of their information literacy skills:
lacking analytical, effective search strategies, they rely on simple solutions for
their study needs - parking their critical faculties.“

I would agree with this. Rather than focussing on the building of alternative
services, there’s a need to develop and implement new media literacy strategies
- and the new services that we will be building shouldn’t be regarded as
providing alternatives, but providing complementing services aimed, perhaps, at
niche areas. And let’s remember the growing body of evidence which suggest
that users seem to prefer simple search interfaces - a recent post by Jennifer
Trant comments on this from the perspective of searching museums’ collections.
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It is also important to remember that new media literacy

strategies need to address the professors, researchers and policy
makers and not just the students. And this provides me with a
timely opportunity to mention a book on “Information Literacy
Meets Library 2.0” edited by Peter Godwin and Jo Parker. I
should add that I contributed a chapter to this book (on Web 2.0
Tools). However the hard work was down to Peter and Jo, and
the fellow contributors who provided a range of case studies
illustrating a wide variety of approaches to information literacy
which are being taken using Web 2.0 tools.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in information literacy | Edit

Should We “Leave Search To Google?”

April 21, 2008

When I chaired the session on Search at the Museums and the Web 2008
conference the discussion, as I described in a recent post, turned to lightweight
approaches to federated searching. During the session I received a Twitter
comment on my feedback channel (intermingled with the football scores!)
asking “is it more useful to develop compelling browse interfaces & leave
search to Google?” The response at the time seemed to be that although Google
might have a role to play in the future, its role at present is limited (in a
museums’ context) due to the complexities of typical collections management
Web interfaces: the valuable data is part of the ‘deep Web’ which search
engines such as Google find difficult to index.

But just a few day’s ago, via a comment made by Nate Solas on his blog post
about the Search session, I discovered that Google have announced their
intention to index the deep Web:

This experiment is part of Google’s broader effort to increase its coverage

of the web. In fact, HTML forms have long been thought to be the gateway
to large volumes of data beyond the normal scope of search engines. The
terms Deep Web, Hidden Web, or Invisible Web have been used
collectively to refer to such content that has so far been invisible to search
engine users. By crawling using HTML forms (and abiding by robots.txt),
we are able to lead search engine users to documents that would otherwise
not be easily found in search engines, and provide webmasters and users
alike with a better and more comprehensive search experience.

Mia Ridge has commented on the implications of this announcement:

You’re probably already well indexed if you have a browsable interface

that leads to every single one of your collection records and images and
whatever; but if you’ve got any content that was hidden behind a search
form (and I know we have some in older sites), this could give it much
greater visibility.

In light of Google’s announcement it is timely, I would think, to revisit the

question “It is it more useful to develop compelling browse interfaces & leave
search to Google?” Imagine the quality of services we could provide if we
redirect resources from replicating search algorithms which have already been
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developed (”standing on the shoulders of giants”).

And let’s remember (a) the evidence which suggests that users prefer simple
search interfaces and (b) the costs of attempting to compete with Google in the
search area - let’s not forget that, despite their riches, Microsoft haven’t been
able to compete successfully. Is it likely that search technologies developed by
tax-payers’ money will succeed where Microsoft have failed?

PS I should probably add that I’m not the first to suggest this idea. The
OpenDOAR team, in particular have deployed a search interface using Google
across institutional repository services. Many congratulations to the team at the
University of Nottingham for evaluating this lightweight approach.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in search ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit

Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card

April 17, 2008

The Background
I was talking to Gwen van der Velden, head of the Director of Learning and
Teaching Enhancement at the University of Bath recently. We spoke about the
evaluation of Twitter that Andy Ramsden is currently engaged in with his
colleagues in the e-learning unit. Gwen asked me for my views of how Twitter
could be used and, in light of my recent trips to conferences, I described it as an
‘interactive business card’. When you go to a conference you’ll often exchange
business cards with people you meet. But when you get back to work you’ll
probably find (well I do anyway!) that you can’t remember whose card it was or
what you have intended to get back to them about - and if this has happened to
you before, you might have decided to scribble a note on the card; so now you
have the additional task of deciphering the scrawl written late at night in the bar
after the conference reception!

Exploring The Analogy

Exchanging Twitter IDs enables you to receive an informal stream of
information which can help you to develop a better context for any follow-up
activities. And if you decide you are not interested, you can remove the Twitter
address from the people you follow - the equivalent, perhaps, of tearing up a
business card.

I noticed a good example of this when I returned home after my chat with Gwen
and read a tweet from ‘homebrewer’ which said:

@briankelly It’s free for reuse, but I haven’t put a license on it yet:

This was in response to a tweet from me after I spotted thistweet from


Dusting off my Google Analytics talk for this afternoon - should have kept
my presentation notes from last time… about 6 hours ago from web
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I had asked:

@homebreweris your Google ANl;ytics talk avilable online? And is there a

CC licence for reuse

This to me provided a good example of the benefits of swapping Twitter IDs at

conferences and the benefits of micro-blogging your work activities. Now the
business card analogy is meant to refer to just one use case for twittering which
works for me. Does it for you? And how might you apply this use case?

Applying The Analogy

How about creating a Twitter account before you go to a conference which you
pass on to people you connect with? Then use the account during the conference
to summarise your thoughts on the talks and provide some brief reflections when
you return to work. This can then provide an ‘in’ for the contacts you’ve made -
and there’s no need to sustain the micro-blogging or to worry about micro-
blogging the minutae of your daily activities.

Why not give it a try - what’s there to lose?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter | Edit
1 Comment »

Facebook Or Twitter - Or Facebook And Twitter

April 15, 2008

In the opening plenary talk on Hands On The Internetat the Museums and the
Web 2008 conference Michael Geist mentioned the popularity of Facebook in
Canada - apparently Canada has the highest per capita Facebook usage in the
world. And, as described in a blog post on the talk by arkrausehardie Michael
described the “enormous pressure a sort of flash-mob FaceBook group can
bring to bare (sic!) on public policy such as the recent group started by Geist
on copyright issues in Canada, now with more than 40,000 members“.

The interest in the potential of Facebook for engaging with a museum’s user
community was described in a number of papers at the conference. For example
Shelley Bernstein’s paper on “Where Do We Go From Here? Continuing with
Web 2.0 at Brooklyn Museum” described the ArtShare Facebook application
they had developed to “share works of art from Museums around the world“.
And a paper by Brian Kelly and colleagues at the Canada Science and
Technology Museum on “Social Presence: New Value For Museums And
Networked Audiences“ described “specific experiments with social media,
including a detailed analysis of a Facebook group used by the Canada Science
and Technology Museum Corporation’s Membership Program“. In addition the
paper described “two theoretical models – the “Innovation Radar” and genre
analysis – to help analyze the nature of the opportunities for innovation, and to
develop a better understanding of the distinctive characteristics of alternate
communication channels“.

And yet in some circle such use of Facebook is being derided with comments
such as “It’s a closed garden“, “Its popularity is on the wane” or “Twitter is a
better development environment” being made. I have to say that I find that such

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comments tend to miss the point. A recent post on “The Becoming

Uninteresting Complex - Facebook versus Twitter” commented on the “pretty
irrational questionings like “is Twitter replacing Facebook?“, Twitter doesn’t
allow socialization. It simply allow instant interactions“.

And as can be seen from a SIteanalytics snapshot which compares usage of

Facebook and Twitter, it you want to make inappropriate comparisons, it’s
Twitter which fares badly.

Making these points, I should add that we shouldn’t explore the potential of
Facebook uncritically. But the early adopters do acknowledge some of the
concerns which need to be recognised. Dawson et al have commented that
“There are, however, a variety of potential pitfalls with social networking sites.
One concern is whether such sites are a fad or flash in the pan“. The paper
goes on to add “Issues of privacy are another important factor. Users of social
networking sites appear to be willing to live with great compromises in their
privacy. However, even these broad boundaries have been tested a number of
times. Facebook, for example, has risked alienating its users in controversies
such as the introduction of the news feed in 2006 (boyd, 2006a), and the more
recent introduction of the “Beacon” in 2007 (Hirsh, 2007).“

So let’s be realistic and continue the experimentation and debate. But let’s also
be critical of our preferred environments. And although I’m a happy user of
Twitter and participated in its use at MW2008, looking at the hashtag data for
the mw2008 tagI would acknowledge that it was used primarily by a small group
who knew each other - and indeed went out drinking together. Twitter can be
useful for some - but it’s not necessarily the killer application for everybody.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, Facebook, Social Networking, Twitter ·Tags: Facebook,
mw2007, Twitter | Edit

The Search Session At MW 2008

April 14, 2008

On the final day of the Museums and the Web 2008 conference (Saturday !) I
chaired a session on Search. There were only two papers presented at this
session - and as the session was scheduled to last from 11.00-12.30 both of the

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speakers were happy for the session to provide an opportunity for general
discussions after the papers had been presented.

Terry Makewell ’s paper was entitled “The National Museums Online Learning
Project Federated Collections Search: Searching Across Museum And Gallery
Collections In An Integrated Fashion“. As described in a blog post by Nate
Solas, the paper described the approaches to federated search being taken by 9
partner organisations in the UK. The two search technologies described were
OAI/PMH and Opensearch - and a decision was made to use Opensearch, due to
its simplicity, the short timescales and the limited technical expertise and
resources available by some of the partners.

Following Terry’s talk Johan Møhlenfeldt Jensen, Museum of Copenhagen,

Denmark presented a paper on “Approaches To Presentation Of Cultural
Heritage Information In The ALM-Area In Denmark And Scandinavia“. This
paper complemented Terry’s paper nicely, and highlighted some of the
challenges posed by federated search including the differing cultures across the
archives, libraries and museums domains and the differing cultures across the
Scandinavian countries.

The discussions afterwards focussed on whether a simple approach to federated

search would be sufficient. Mike Ellis asked Terry whether used of Google
search technologies, such as Google Coop, had been considered. It seems it had,
but ruled out due to the complexities posed by use of session IDs on some of the
collections. In a subsequent tweeton the Twitter back-channel Mike pointed out
his experimentation with Google Coop across a number of museums - and this
was briefly tested by the two speakers after the session had concluded (as an
aside I should note that this was the only relevant Tweet received during the
session - however Terry and I were also interested in the football scores which I
receive on my Twitter account, including the flurry of goals conceded by Derby
County!) .

The discussion on simplicity versus sophistication led to discussions on the user

experience. Following a question on evidence of use of advanced search
capabilities, data from an Australian example showed that a very low percentage
of users (1%, I think) accessed an advance search capability - and, indeed, most
users submitted only a single search term! I pointed out that the importance of
simple interfaces was likely to grow as use of mobile devices became more
popular - a comment that was particularly pertinent to the MW 2008
conference, as the WiFi access problems conference delegates had experienced
the previous day were apparently due to the large numbers of network users who
were using an iPhone or Nokia N95.

There was a feeling, I think, that federated search may, in the future, be
provided by mainstream commodity products - and, indeed, as collections
management tools evolve and start to provide static URIs, the benefits of
solutions such as Google Coop may become even more apparent.

Will there, I wonder, be a session on federated search at future MW conferences

or will this area be, like institutional search, be addressed by mainstream

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit

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Reflecting On Openness and the Semantic Web

April 12, 2008

The printed copy of the proceedings of the Museums and the Web 2008
conference divides the papers into four sections: Institutions, User Participation,
Web Space and Reflecting. The concluding section, on Reflecting, contains only
two papers: one on Semantic Dissonance: Do We Need (And Do We
Understand) The Semantics Web? by Ross Parry (University of Leicester), Nick
Poole (The Collections Trust) and Jon Pratty (Culture 24) and my paper on
What Does Openness Mean To The Museum Community?, co-authored by Mike
Ellis (Eduserv) and Ross Gardler (JISC OSS Watch), which I’ve posted about

It is pleasing that the two papers which reflect on the challenges and
opportunities posed by recent Web developments have been written by a
combination of researchers and practitioners based in the UK.

Ross Parry’s paper is based on a series of workshops funded by the AHRC

which were held at various locations in the UK during 2006 and 2007. The paper
describes discussions which have taken place recently in the UK in which it has
been suggested that “museum data with good URIs, consistent metadata and
simple tagging are seen to provide a vitally stable infrastructure on which to

To this list I would add the importance of providing data which is free from
restrictive licence conditions and which is exposed for reuse by other
applications which can exploit the rich semantic data.

But stable URIs, consistent metadata, simple tagging, open data and machine
interfaces - isn’t this what Web 2.0 is about? From one perspective, people may
regard Web 2.0 as shorthand for referring to blog, wiki and RSS applications.
But Tim O’Reilly’s original Web 2.0 diagram makes it clear that Web 2.0 is
broader than this.

In a chapter entitled ‘‘If it quacks like a duck…’ - developments in search

technologies‘ in a recent Becta Research Report on Emerging Technologies for
Learning Volume 3 (2008) (PDF version of chapter) my colleague Emma Tonkin
argues that:

By “semantic”, Berners-Lee means nothing more than “machine

processable”. The choice of nomenclature is a primary cause of confusion
on both sides of the debate. It is unfortunate that the effort was not named
“the machine processable web” instead.

I think Emma is right: the term Semantic Web has caused much confusion. But if
the Semantic Web is really a machine processable Web in which clean URIs can
help to provide programatic access to structured data, then isn’t this very close
to what Web 2.0 may be considered to be about?

And can you claim to be in favour of the Semantic Web if you are critical of the
architectural aspects of Web 2.0? Or, to put it another way, isn’t engagement
with Web 2.0 a needed stepping stone towards the Semantic Web? And won’t
we find that those who come out with reasons for not engaging with Web 2.0,
will come out with a similar set of reasons for not engaging with the Semantic

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Semantic Web, Web2.0, openness ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit

What Does Openness Mean To Your Community?

April 9, 2008

Myself, Mike Ellis (Eduserv) and Ross Gardler (JISC OSS Watch) are the
co-authors of a paper on “What Does Openness Mean To The Museum
Community?” which has been accepted for the Museums and the Web 2008
conference. And I’m pleased that David Bearman (conference co-chair)
response when he read the paper was that it should be discussed in a
Professional Forum at the conference. Indeed David’s comment on the paper
was “it sounds like it could be the most amazing session at MW this year”
The paper suggests that openness can include open standards, open source, open
APIs, open access and an open culture (i.e. a willingess to encourage
user-generated content). But the paper also acknowledges that there is a
downside to each of these aspects. Some of these concerns were raised by Nick
Poole, Chief Executive of the MDA in a thread on “The speculative aspect of
using Web 2″ on the MCG JISCMail list. Nick commented:

… ‘how can you be so naïve’? Low cost of entry? We were

promised that with Open Source Software and it turned out to be
no cheaper. Reaching audiences while we sleep? They told us
Z39.50 and interoperability would solve that and we’re still not
there. Content Management will make everyone a publisher? You
just try and get a username and password out of the Council IT

I’m pleased that Nick raised such concerns. He’s right when he suggests that the
potential benefits of both open source and open standards have been
over-hyped. And, similarly, the benefits of Web 2.0 can also be exaggerated.
But my response to the concerns raised by Nick are to argue that we need to
develop more sophisticated ways of engaging with these aspects of openness -
and just because policy makers appear to feel that simply mandating use of open
standards and open source software will be sufficient to deliver their benefits,
doesn’t mean we are faced with the binary choice of accepting or rejecting such
views. Rather we need to engage in discussions and debate on ways in which
real benefits can be realised.

I’ve been involved in working collaboratively with others in developing models

for exploiting the potential of open standards and open source software. At the
Museums and the Web 2.007 conference I presented a paper on Addressing
The Limitations Of Open Standards, co-authored with my colleague Marieke
Guy and Alastair Dunning (then of AHDS). These ideas were further developed
and extended to include open source and an open access in a paper on
Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open
Access co-authored by Scott Wilson (JISC CETIS) and Randy Metcalfe (then of
JISC OSS Watch).

But there’s a need to build on these approaches and to develop approaches for
exploiting other aspects of openness. And such approaches need to recognise the
dangers and difficulties. But just because there are difficulties, doesn’t mean we
should reject openness - rather it means we need to continue having the debate,

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whether it’s on mailing list such as the MCG list, on this blog or at the
professional forum at the Museums and The Web 2008 conference. So I’ll ask
here the questions w’ll be discussing in a few day’s time: what does openness
mean to your community, what are the benefits it can provide, what are
difficulties which are likely to be faced and, most importantly, how do you feel
such difficulties should be overcome.

Your feedback is warmly welcomed.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in openness, standards ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit

Micro-blogging At Events
April 8, 2008

I can recall attending the UCISA 2004 conference and listening to a speaker
describing the problems caused by providing free laser printing services to
student. It seems students made heavy use of the service and this caused
particular problems at the end of term: the print queues would be full, so
students would resubmit jobs, compounding the problems.

But this is nothing new, I felt. I wanted to chat with my former manager at
Loughborough University and ask him if we hadn’t addressed this problem back
in the late 1980s. But he was near the front of the lecture theatre and I was near
the back. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if we could exploit the WiFi networks
which were starting to appear, and have such discussions during a talk - this
could help to improve the quality of the questions I felt.

Since then I have explored various ways of providing chat channels at events. At
the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2005 held at the University of
Manchester we made use of an IRC channel - on which the small numbers of
IRC users heard about the 7/7 London bombings prior to the rest of the
audience: the logs of the IRC chat makes interesting reading from a historical
Jul 07 11:09:30 <SebastianRahtz>scary stuff with
bombs. not impossible mchester next? …
Jul 07 11:19:54 <AndrewSavory>Sebastian: Swindon and
Brighton rail stations shut
Jul 07 11:19:59 <EmTonkin>oh
Jul 07 11:20:00 <AndrewSavory>all central london bus
services stopped

Various chat tools were used at subsequent events, including Jabber and the
Gabbly service. But since last year the term ‘micro-blogging’ has come into
vogue and I’ve an interest in exploring the potential of Twitter in a conference
setting, especially as I’ve been making regular use of Twitter for some time now.

Recent Experiments
My initial experiments took place when I attended the NDAP 2008 conference
in Taiwan. However my use of Twitter (sometimes summarising individual

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slides) caused problems for my Twitter ‘followers’, some of whom commented

that their Twitter client was full of my photos of my portrait when they logged
on in the morning and others found that having my Tweets being delivered on
their mobile phone resulted in a continual stream of SMS alerts.

Following a suggestion from James Clay, I then tried the Jaiku service. I’d tried
this before, but this time I installed a dedicated Jaiku client and, with some help
from James, set up the #ndap2008 channel which was dedicated to the
conference. However, despite its richness as a micro-blogging and aggregation
tool, Jaiku hasn’t really taken off - and as the most important aspect of a social
networking tool is the social network, I reluctantly decided that Jaiku wouldn’t
be the tool to use.

The Social Dimension Of Micro-Blogging At

The fact that the numbers of posts (tweets) I sent on the first day of he NDAP
2008 conference irritated a couple of my Twitter followers is a good indicator of
the social aspect of micro-blogging. And although I’ve concluded that it’s not
the best tool for summarising individual points for a series of talks I have found
that it can provide social benefits. After the conference had finished and on my
last night in Taipei I tweeted that I was about to head off for a meal. A few
minutes later I received a phone call from Casey Bisson, a fellow speaker at the
conference. He’d spotted my tweet and suggested we go out for a meal. Which
we did, and found a German restaurant where we found sausages and dark
German beer made a refreshing change from the Chinese meals we’d been

And then arriving at Montreal I tweeted a few minutes after arriving at the hotel
that I was about to go out for a meal. A few minutes later I received a series of
suggestions for how I should spend my time in Montreal:

And a few minutes later another Twitterer pointed out a post on the conference
forum aimed at “Beer Geeks in Montreal“:

From this I’ve learnt about the serendipitous benefits Twitter can provide. If I
say where I am and what I’d like to do, people are willing to help And this, of
course, fits in nicely with the social aspect of conferences - it’s not all about
listening to talks.

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Micro-Blogs At The Museums and The Web

These reflections are very relevant to the Museums and the Web 2008
conference I am currently attending. Mike Ellis (with whom I am running two
sessions at the conference) is providing the technical infrastructure for
aggregating blog posts, Flickr feeds, etc. related to the conference. Mike is
currently finalising these technologies, which includes an aggregation of posts on
the home page and, something I’ve not seen before,
a timeline of Twitter posts with the #mw2008 tag.

It is really interesting to see how the use of networked technologies at events is

evolving. Initially we were using self-containing instant messaging tools, but
we’re now using tools, such as Twitter, which, when used in conjunction with
RSS feeds and agreed tags (#mw2008 in this case) allows the content to be
reused in a variety of different ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how this
experiment works.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit

UKOLN 30th Anniversary Celebrations

April 7, 2008

I’ve just written a post about my participation at the Museums and the Web
2008 conference. Although I’m pleased to be so actively involved in this
conference, I do regret the fact that the conference coincides with the UKOLN
30th Anniversary celebrations which will be taking place at the British Library
Conference Centre on Thursday 10th April 2008.

As my colleague Paul Walk has written, the event features talks from senior
figures in the Library, Higher Education and Cultural Heritage sectors. I will be
sorry to miss the opportunity to meet up with the speakers and participants at the
event. I would particularly have liked to chat to Lorcan Dempsey, who
appointed me to the post of UK Web Focus back in 1996. And I should
acknowledge Cliff Lynch’s dedication - Cliff will be giving a talk on Reflections
on Museums and the Web 2008 here in Montreal on Saturday 12 April, just two
days after speaking at the UKOLN event. Unfortunately as I am running
sessions on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday it hasn’t been possible for me to
participate at both events - although I hope that a short video clip giving my
reflections of my time at UKOLN will be played at the event.
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My best wishes to everyone at the anniversary event, and all those others I’ve
met during my eleven years at UKOLN who have helped to make my role at
UKOLN so stimulating and enjoyable.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: ukoln30 | Edit
1 Comment »

Museums and the Web 2008 Conference

April 7, 2008

It was over 19 months ago when Jennifer Trant invited me to join the
programme committee for the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference. As
myself and colleagues at UKOLN were looking to engage more with the
museums sector, I welcomed this opportunity. And as I like to engage fully with
such activities, I found myself at last year’s conference presenting one paper (on
Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards), running a professional forum
with Professor Stephen Brown on Accessibility 2.0: A holistic and user-centred
approach to Web accessibility) and contributing to a paper by Mike Ellis on
Web 2.0: How to stop thinking and start doing: Addressing organisational
barriers. In addition I chaired a session at the conference. And while I was at the
event I blogged about the conference.

Jennifer, together with David Bearman, have succeeded in getting their money’s
worth out of me again this year I’m in Montreal this week for the this year’s
Museums and the Web 2008 Conference. And this year I’ll be running a
half-day Blogging workshop, with Mike Ellis (the workshop, I’ve just noticed, is
fully subscribed), running a professional forum, again with Mike Ellis, on What
Does Openness Mean To The Museum Community? and again chairing a
session, this year on Search - which is being held on Saturday morning!

It’s going to be a busy week, I can tell. And as I seem to have left the snow
behind in England, and am enjoying the sunshine here in Montreal

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: mw2008 | Edit
1 Comment »

Have I Got News For You

April 4, 2008

I’m sure many readers of this blog will be familiar with the Have I Got News For
You TV programme. So I’d like to make my contribution. Which is the odd one
out for the following: UMIST, AHDS, Lotus and Yahoo!?

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For those unfamilar with this BBC programme, the convention is that the first
responses are expected to be humourus, before attempting an answer. And note
that there isn’t a single answer to the question.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

IWR Information Professional of The Year 2007

Article in Panlibus
April 3, 2008

I’m pleased to report that a two-page feature article

which describes my work activities on best practices
for exploiting Web 2.0 has been published in Talis’s
Panlibus Newsletter (Issue 8, Spring 2008). Many
thanks to the editorial team, Ceri McCall and
Harpeet Kaur Dhillon, for their support - and I’m
particularly pleased with the layout of the article,
which includes a photograph of myself receiving the
IWR award and the cartoon which was drawn the
following day.

I must admit that I am a fan of the Talis newsletter (I

should probably disclose that I know both of Talis’s
Technology Evangelists: Paul Miller, who used to work at UKOLN, and Ian
Davis). Although it is perhaps surprising that there doesn’t appear to be an
online version of the newsletter available. Correction a PDF version is available.
The article is on pages 6-7.

The current issue (which runs to 26 pages) includes feature articles from Chris
Banks, the Librarian at the University of Aberdeen (on the future of the library)
and Christopher West, Director of Library and Information Services at Swansea.
As always, Paul Miller has written an excellent article entitled “Unlock the
power of shared data” - and for those with an interest in open data I’d
recommend subscribing to his Panlibus and Nodalities blog.

But the article I found of most interest was written by Dame Lynne Brindley. In
her article in developments in The British Library Lynne reporting that her
organisation is “adapting to the ‘wiki’ view and the ‘beta’ mindset of the digital
world and engaging more with the needs of the ‘Millenials’. … We are
encouraging a more participative approach through co-created experiences,
user-created content, remixing services and social networking spaces. We have
established Facebook groups, posted relevant videos on YouTube and are
experimenting with he possibilities offered by Second Life and MySpace“.

UKOLN is hosting its 30th anniversary event at the British Library next week,
with Dame Lynne Brindley as one of the guest speakers. I’m very pleased that
the work of myself and my colleagues at UKOLN is so closely aligned with the
thinking at The British Library. My only regret is that I won’t be able to attend
the event as I’ll be participating at the Museums and the Web 2008 conference
next week.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Filed in Web2.0 | Edit


Are Social Networks Accessible?

April 2, 2008

Are social networking services such as Facebook accessible to people with

disabilities? As suggested by the title the ZDNet article on Social networking:
Not as inclusive as you might think would indicate that they’re not.

The article initially suggests that “social networks have created a level playing
field for internet users — regardless of their physical disabilities” with a
description of a user, Simon Stevens, with cerebral palsy who ” is a highly
successful entrepreneur and consultant, and finds time to run a successful
nightclub”. The article goes on to say:

Stevens is highly active in Second Life, and also uses Facebook,

YouTube and LinkedIn. Social networks are a vital business and
social tool, he says. “Sometimes, it’s difficult for people with
impairments to physically meet or get to places, and the internet
makes that much easier,” he says. Added to which, social networks
present entrepreneurs with a golden business opportunity. “There
are 10 million users on Second Life and Facebook — that’s a big
potential market and it’s ideally suited to campaigning,” he says.

Good news for users with disabilities, it would seem. But the article then goes on
to suggest that social networks have barriers to users with disabilities: “Most
mainstream social networks don’t offer a simplified audio or “text only”
version of their pages” and “… the biggest challenge for users is something
that might at first seem very small: Captcha. … many disabled users have to
rely on friends and family to complete Captcha forms on their behalf, and
those without anyone to help them are often locked out of the networks

The article goes on to suggest that “A lack of accessibility is driving many

disabled web users to create their own, alternative social-networking
platforms” and argues that “Sites need to tighten up the privacy and control
settings and make them easier for people to understand“.

So social networking services fail to be accessible, then? And we should

therefore stop using them, it might appear? I would disagree. The comment that
“Most mainstream social networks don’t offer a simplified audio or “text only”
version of their pages” clearly fails to appreciate that o comply with the WCAG
accessibility guidelines you shouldn’t be providing text only version of pages!

And when the article suggests that “A lack of accessibility is driving many
disabled web users to create their own, alternative social-networking
platforms” is this really the case - or are disability organisations simply following
the crowds in setting up social networking services just like so many other
organisations? And Disaboom, which provides “disabled people with a secure,
accessible online community” ironically fails to comply with WCAG 1.0

What evidence is there that disabled users are failing to use the mainstream
social networks? Facebook has a number of groups for users with disabilities

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including “Blind Students on Facebook” and “Deaf all around the world” and a
blog post on “The Gift Shop is Now Open .. for Everybody” by a Facebook
developer states that:

Most Facebook pages adhere to the guidelines which make the site
accessible to the blind community. Recently, however, we received
reports from a few devoted users that not all of our features were
up to snuff. So, this week we launched a screen-reader accessible
version of the Gift Shop . It’s currently linked off the help page,
though later this week we’ll be incorporating it more tightly with
the original Gift Shop.

Well they would say that, you might suggest. But a blog post entitled Myspace
and facebook, Comparative published in August 2007 the author concluded that
“I have found myspace to be completely inapproachable and seemingly
uncaring of their visually impaired users. Facebook were prompt and their
content is completely accessible“. OK, the methodology may be flawed and this
is only one report - but at least it is based on user testing rather than compliance
with guidelines.

The one area I haven’t covered is the barriers impose by CAPTCHA when
registering to signup with social networks. The RNIB has reported on the
accessibility issues associated with CAPCHA and concluded:

It really seems to me that there is no catch all accessible

alternative to CAPTCHA that can be secured from spammers. As
we’ve seen some sites make efforts to incorporate an audio
CAPTCHA but this isn’t sufficient, even if a logic question were
thrown into the mix, (putting aside the fact that this places a lot of
development work on the website owner to provide all three

The article goes on to say that “it certainly seems that website owners are
choosing security over accessibility“. Possibly true, but lets not forget that the
ZDNet article argued that “Sites need to tighten up the privacy and control
settings“. And if automated bots succeed in signing up to social networking
services due to the lack of CAPTCHA barriers, users with disabilities will be
particularly inconvenienced by the spam which is bound to follow.

A post entitled “Thanks, Facebook!” on the American Foundation for the

Blind’s blog indicated that Facebook does seem to be addressing the CAPTCH
problem and concluded:

For now, we want to thank Jeff and Facebook for making

accessibility a priority. As Michelle said after the meeting, “I
really liked what he said about Facebook really being accessible
for everyone who wants to use it, because, of course he’s right, but
I don’t think other people are always as considerate.”

Clearly much more research on the accessibility of social networking services is

needed - but let’s remember that disabled students are students too, and will be
likely to want to make use the same social networking services as their friends.
Let’s not assume that new services are bound to be inaccessible! And let’s apply
the same level of criticisms to the other services we make use of too - it would
be ironic if systems procured or developed for use within institutions were even
more inaccessible than social networking services. And sadly I have heard
stories of enterprise systems within universities which only worked with Internet

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility | Edit

Disappearing Public Sector Web Sites

March 31, 2008

I recently used the Intute service to see what records it held about UKOLN’s
activities. I found a record about the ‘Crossroads West Midlands service which
UKOLN provided technical advice on the design of the collection description

This is the website of ‘Crossroads West Midlands’, a Resource

funded project that is working to develop online access to the
collections of libraries, museums and archives in the West
Midlands (including universities and local authorities as well as
private institutions). The Crossroads website is currently a
prototype, testing a database built upon the RSLP collection level
description database, covering the collections relating to the
potteries industry of North Staffordshire.

The record provides additional information about the service which reminded
me about the meetings I attended several years ago about this project. I was
interested to see what the Crossroads West Midlands service now looks like, so I
followed the link to the address - and, rather
than a service providing access to a database of cultural heritage resources in the
West Midlands, I found a page full of links to services such as golf, gambling,
estate agents, motor insurance, etc.

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Clearly at some point the domain name for the original service had lapsed and
was purchased by a company which used it to host advertisments and links to
companies which would be willing to advertise in this way (or possibly
companies wishing to enhance their search engine ranking may have procured
the services of a Search Engine Optimisation service and might not be aware of
the approaches taken.)

I was interested in the history of the Web site. Using the Internet Archive I
discovered that the Web site was first archived on 26 September 2002. At this
point the information in the archive contained details about the project. The
service itself was first launched around February 2003. And the service
disappeared to be replaced by an advertsiment site at some point between
December 2005 and April 2006.

What happened? Did project funding run out? Did key staff leave? Or was there
a blunder, with nobody receiving the email requesting renewal of the domain

Whatever the reason, this West Midlands Crossroads service has disappeared for
sight. Is this inevitable? Well back in 1999 I was the project manager for the
Exploit Interactive e-journal- an EU-funded project which ran until 2000. Once
the funding had finished we had to decide what would happen with the domain
name. We agreed to continue paying for the domain for at least 3 years after the
project funding had ceased and would try to keep the domain for a period of 10
years. This policy was informed by a survey I carried out of project Web site
funded by the EU-funded Telematics for Libraries programme. As I described in
an article published in Exploit Interactive in October 2000 23 Web site had
disappeared of the 103 projects funded.

We are seeing a disappearance of cultural resource and EU-funded projects from

the digital environment. And this may well get worse, if the UK Government’s
policy of centralising its Web sites, which will result in 551 Web sites being
closed down, is not managed properly. Will we, for example, find that the
Drugdrive Web site at suddenly becomes a site used
for selling drugs?

What is to be done? The good news is that the Government does seem to be
handling its redirects properly - the Drugdrive Web site, for example, is
redirected to

Well done, the UK Government. But what about the rest of us? Are we
managing the closure of Web sites? And are we assessing the risks of failing to
do this? After all, if a government Web site on protection of children from
dangers on the Internet became available and was bought by a pornography site,
we could well see a government minister being forced to resign

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in preservation | Edit

Come Into My World

March 28, 2008

Back in December 2007 Lorcan Dempsey wrote a blog post about the Nexus

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Facebook application, which provides a visualisation of your friends in

Facebook. The highest density of his friends were his professional colleagues
followed by “mostly UK friends (and the most highly connected nodes are
people who work or worked at UKOLN“.

This seemed interesting so I installed the Nexus application and captured a

screenshot of the representation of collections of my friends and contacts. As
with Lorcan, the highest density represents professional colleagues across the
UK Web management community. The second largest cluster, shown on the
bottom right of the image, are mt rapper sword dancing and folkie friends.

It’s possible to interactive with the data, exploring who knows who and explore
what the links are.

The concluding remark Lorcan made on his blog post was “Not sure it means
much, but it was interesting to play with for a while ….“.

I agree with Lorcan that it’s fun to play with. But can it be used in any
meaningful fashion? I’m inclined to think that it may have some potential in the
support of information literacy.

Could this tool be used by students to explore the relationships across their
groups of friends. Perhaps one could suggest that the students write a Daily Mail
style expose´ based on the premise that “It’s 2028 and Carl Marks is the new
leader of the Labour Party. Our Social Networking History Correspondent has
managed to unearth the shocking details of what Carl got up to as a student.
Read pages 1-5 for the shocking truth“. Or, in the interests of balance, write a

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article for the New Marxism Today on “On the day Prince William ascends to
the throne we describe his student lifestyle“.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit

It’s Not New Labour vs Old Labour, It’s Cato And

Cicero (typos fixed)
March 25, 2008

I’ve previously suggested that there’s a need for political realism in the debates
over ownership of social networks and the general direction of Web 2.0. And
I’ve suggested that Old Labour is dead, and any expectations that the
government will start nationalising services is being naive.

Well, I got that wrong didn’t I! However lefties in the US and Canada will
probably be disappointed that the Government’s nationalisation of Northern
Rock doesn’t herald a return to socialist principles - indeed even the Daily Mail
acknowledges that nationalisation “is extremely rare and embarrassing for

I think my mistake was in attempting to use political analogies which are still too
relevant to many and capable of being reinterpretted in different ways.

So I was really pleased to read Martin Weller’s post on Downes vs Wiley - Cato
and Cicero revisited on his Edtechie blog. As Martin describes:

Cato and Cicero both believed passionately in the same higher

level goal, ie the establishment of the Roman Republic. Yet they
frequently clashed about what was the best way to achieve it. In the
same way I think Stephen (Downes) and David (Wiley both believe
passionately in the overall aim of open education, but have
differing views as to how it should be realised.

Cato was the purist, unbending and uncompromising. Cicero was

the pragmatist, willing to compromise and work with a range of
people to advance the republic. Cato often thought Cicero
compromised too much, thus rendering his beliefs invalid. Cicero
was often infuriated that Cato wouldn’t compromise and through
this played in to the hands of the anti-republicans.

In his post Martin was suggesting that Stephen Downes’ objections to the Cape
Town Declaration were based on the declaration’s inclusion of commercial
entities, with Stephen arguing that “… the internet is already awash with really
vile and intrusive commercial activity, do we have to export it too? We have
the opportunity to do something really special in the world; why do we have to
carve into every declaration of principle a paean to Things As They Are (and
Those Who Profit From Them)?“.

Now I have to admit that, although my knowledge of Cicero and Cato is limited
to having read Imperium, I have (mostly) taken a pragmatic approach to life
generally and IT development in particular.

This struck me today when I read an article in CILIP Update about the inclusion
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of advertising leaflet in books borrowed from libraries and then returned home
to find that my new passport had arrived - and a leaflet from a local estate agent
was included in the letter (together with one from the NHS inviting me to join
the NHS Organ Donor Register).

Now I personally don’t have any great concerns about the inclusion of adverts in
library books or with my passport. Indeed if the income this generates can
improve the quality of their services, then I would suggest that this is a good

These particular issues, of course, aren’t about technologies. And neither,

fundamentally, are the issues about ownership of social networks and use of
commercially-provided services in the provision of educational and cultural
heritage services (although I do acknowledge that the nature of IT can add extra
complexities to the debate).

We need to recognise that the debates on the specifics of Facebook’s ownership,

Bill Gates plans for Microsoft’s future role in Internet services and Rupert
Murdoch’s plans for his media empire will only go so far. The Catos (Catoers,
Catoists?) followers of Cato will need to convince the followers of Cicero that
there vision have a realistic chance of being implemented, otherwise the debates
are doomed to be endlessly repeated.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

How I (Inadvertently) Helped A Microsoft

Patent Claim
March 23, 2008

I was recently using Google Scholar to try and find out more about the impact of
my peer-reviewed publications. Initially I was looking at papers published since
2004, but I then thought it would be interesting to see how far back the citation
data might go.

So I used Google Scholar to find out about links to my paper on The Evolution
of Web Protocols which was published in the Journal of Documentation in 1999
(Vol. 55, No. 1 January 1999, pp. 71-81).

I discovered two citations to this paper: one in course material for a course on
Organization of Information written by the School of Library and Information
Studies at The University of Alabama and, much more interestingly, one in a US
Patent claim! The title of the patent is “System and method for discovering
information about web resources ”. And, as can be seen from the Google Patent
Search, the patent was filed in February 2002 and issued in August 2007, with
the assignee being Microsoft Corporation!

The first part of the patent states that the claim is based on:

A computer-implemented method for identifying metadata about a

first resource identified by a first Uniform Resource Identifier
(“URI”), the method comprising:

issuing a request for the first resource identified by the first

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receiving a response document from the first URI;

parsing the response document received in response to the

issued request, wherein the response document includes a
second URI for accessing a second resource, wherein the
response document includes an indication that metadata about
the first resource exists on the second resource, wherein the
indication indicates a metadata format;

generating a request to retrieve the metadata from the second

resource, wherein the generated request is formatted to support
the metadata format identified by the indication; and

retrieving the metadata from the second resource.

The patent goes on to describe how this will be implemented:

The computer-implemented method of claim 1, wherein the

response document comprises an HTML document and the
indication comprises a LINK tag.

Yes, the patent is based on use of the HTML LINK tag to link to a metadata

As my colleague Pete Cliff has pointed out to me;

OAI-ORE says you can include a resource map (which describes

the agreggation of resources that make up (for example) a
document - an article in the form of a Web page that includes
images say)
<link rel=”resourcemap” href=”

The resource map is metadata. Does this mean that doing this now
will require paying a fee to Microsoft?

How can this patent claim have been granted? And why was my paper cited in
the patent?

Looking back at my paper I find that I stated that:

Metadata can be described as the missing architectural component

of the web.

I went on to say that:

Work in this area included Netscape’s proposal on “Meta Content

Framework Using XML” [32] which provides a specification for
describing information structures (metadata) for collections of
networked information using XML and Microsoft’s “Web
Collections using XML” [33] proposal for providing a metadata
framework which can be used for a variety of applications, such as
sitemaps, distributed authoring and content labelling.

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Both of these proposals recognised the importance of XML for

representing the syntax of the metadata. The proposals, together
with other related work, led to the development of RDF, the
Resource Description Framework, which provides a framework for
metadata giving interoperability between applications that
exchange machine-readable information on the Web [34].

At the time of writing (July 1998) work in developing RDF is still

at an early stage. However RDF does seem to provide a
mechanism for pulling together the various related metadata
components and adding a new architectural component to the Web.

It seems the patent claim cites my work as evidence that use of the <LINK> tag
to embed metadata was not envisaged back in 1998. However my paper was
never intended to do provide a complete description of the architecture of Web.
And I am sure that there will be examples of use of the <LINK> tag for this
purpose prior to the submission of this patent in 2002.

My paper clearly has had an impact which I hadn’t expected! However rather
than flaming me for helping Microsoft to patent use of metadata in Web pages
I’d much rather the readers of this blog provided examples of prior art and
suggested ways in which nthis patent can be overturned.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: patent | Edit
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PLE 1.0 and PLE 2.0

March 21, 2008

The Debates
Martin Weller has recently commented on his Ed Techie blog that there has
been a lot of discussion about PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) recently,
and the relationships between PLEs, VLEs, TLEs (Teacher Learner
Environment) and DPLEs (Default PLEs). Andy Powell has also discussed
PLEs and PREs (Personal Research Environment) is a recent post on P vs. P in
a user-centric world: the first of three posts he has written prior to our joint
UCISA presentation.

PLE 1.0
This made me think about what I understand by the term PLE. And I realised
that my first experience of a PLE was in primary school in the 1960s - back then
a PLE was a Pen Learning Environment! And I was around at the time of
several technological innovations as well as different ways in which the Pen
Learning Environment (which in this post I’ll refer to as PLE 1.0) was used to
support my learning. When I started at school I have vague recollections of
using a ’scratch pen’ which we dipped in the ink well on our desk. However this
was soon made obsolescent by the ‘biro’ technology. But when I passed my
11-plus and went to grammar school I remember one teacher who didn’t
approve of ‘biro; technology and insisted that all of his homework had to be
submitted using a fountain pen. But such technological luddism wasn’t

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sustainable, and I think that only happened in my first year. By the time I was a
teenager I was free to use a biro.

The initial focus of control was clearly on the technology itself. But I have only
recently realised the different pedagogical approaches which accompanying
PLE 1.0. In some classes the PLE was used to write down what the teacher had
written on the blackboard. However other teachers (or did this reflect other
disciplines) the inefficiencies of the teacher having to write on the blackboard
were removed, and we had to copy directly from our text books.

It was only later on the the teachers seemed to lose interest in controlling the
technologies used and allowed me, the learner, the flexibility to make notes as I

PLE 2.0
What can PLE 2.0, the Personal Learning Environment, learn from my
experiences in the 1960s and 70s? I think our institutions are still focusing too
much on the technologies themselves and ways in which the technologies should
be used - scratch pens, biros and fountain pen debates revisited. And there
seems to be a tendency to be seek the best solution and make that the norm for
all students - a Parker pen for all! But what we learnt from our writing
instruments was the advantages to be gained when the technology became
invisible, and we were free to make our own choices. (but when, I wonder, did
personalised pens become prevalent?)

The ideal PLE (to drop the versioning I introduced in this post) should surely
follow the pen in becoming technologically invisible, and just something that the
learner uses to support their tasks? And, perhaps more importantly, the
institution’s response should be to provide the flexibility needed to support this

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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NDAP 2008 Conference

March 18, 2008

I’m pleased to report that this week I am participating in the NDAP 2008
conference which is being held in Taipei, Taiwan.

NDAP (National Digital Archives Program) was launched in 2002 with the
objective of promoting and coordinating content digitization and preservation at
leading museums, archives, universities, research institutes, and other content
holders in Taiwan. The NDAP International Conference aims t0 provide a forum
to encourage and facilitate interaction, collaboration, and dialogue among
specialists in digital archives from different countries.

There’s a good programme which starts today with an opening talk on “Digital
Preservation: Where are we now? Where are we going?” by Deanna B.
Marcum, Library of Congress, USA. I’m also looking forward to this afternoon’s
Creative Commons/IPR Session. Tomorrow sees sessions on Digital
Preservation, Biodiversity and Archives. The Museum 2.0 session on Thursday

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morning will give me an opportunity to catch up with Jennifer Trant and

Sebastian Chan and in the afternoon I’ll be speaking in the Library 2.0 session.

I’m not sure what the network access will be like at the conference but I’ll try
and publish reports on the sessions.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: ndap2008 | Edit
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Revisiting Web Usage Metrics

March 17, 2008

I recently wrote a post on The UK Government and Web Metrics in which I

described potential ambiguities in reporting on the usage of Government Web
sites. In a comment on the post Phil Wilson oberved that

This extract from Hansard only really tells me one thing: there
isn’t a government-wide standardised hit-tracking/visitor analysis

That’s true - and the temptation would be to recommend the adoption of an

industry standard, such as that provided by ABCE. As this page says:

The ABC international standards working party (IFABC,

International Federation of Audit Bureaux,
has developed a set of rules and definitions that are the effective
world-wide standard for Web audits. Definitions and rules specific
to the internet industry in the UK and Ireland are controlled and
developed by JICWEBS, the Joint Industry Committee for Web
Standards. ALL current Industry agreed metrics are listed below
(in alphabetical order):

Great, we have a standard which can be used for measuring Web usage.

The problem is, what if the content of a Web site is syndicated? What if users
don’t visit the Web site to read the information, but expect the information to
come to them, via their preferred RSS reader?

This struck me when I viewed the usage statistics for my initial post on The UK
Government and Web Metrics. At one stage all I could view via the
administrators interface on the service was the overall hits on
pages on my blog. But some time ago WordPress provided a display of
syndicated accesses to blog posts, as can be seen in the image.

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Now what would I report on the day the post was published if I was making use
of the ABCE’s standard for Web site usage? Less than 40 page views on the day
the post was published, and a drop in views after that. The statistics showing the
much higher syndicated views of the post would fail to be reported.

OK, so the usage data is flawed - but everyone knows that. The danger, of
course, if usage data becomes competitive, with services failing to be funded if
the usage levels as recorded by Web site visits doesn’t reach acceptable levels.
And what will providing RSS feeds to services do - it may provide a richer and
more personalised ervice for the end user, but the Web usage figures as reported
by tools which comply with the ABCE standard will drop.

Here’s an example of how use of an agreed international can potentially result in

a failure to develop richer service for the user community. Now I’m not saying
that we shouldn’t have an agreed baseline for usage statistics. Rather the Web
site usage needs to be analysed in conjunction with an understanding of
alternative ways in which users may access the data. And I don’t know if
there’s a standard available for this.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in rss | Edit

Final Score: 250 to 3 Victory for IT Services 2.0!

March 14, 2008

On Wednesday night Martin Weller and I were simultanaously sharing (via

Twitter) the joy of a fightback, the tensions of extra time and the final failure of
both our teams in the penalty shoot-out.

On Thursday morning, however, whil I travelled to London for a meeting Andy

Powell spoke at the UCISA 2008 Management Conference, Following my video
presentation Andy gave his contribution to the talk on “Digital Natives Run by
Digital Immigrants: IT Services are Dead, Long Live IT Services 2.0!“. How
slides are available on Slidshare:

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And as Andy described to a live Twitter audience (which I only caught up with
later that day) there was a debate at the conference on “this house belives (sic)
that University IT services should block access to social networking sites“.

Andy reflected on the debate:

odd debate here… some people taking the motion very seriously…
others treating it as a joke - hard to judge if people are seriously

it’s a serious motion - though obviously positioned intentionally to

stir up debate - but yes, basically it is daft

sanity prevails… only 3 out of about 250 IT Services directors

voted in favour of blocking student use of social networks

Good news then It seems IT Service managers overwhelmingly recognise that

they can’t stop users accessing social networking services. But how was our
talke received? Michael Webb has been blogging from the conference. He gave
his views on my video presentation:

Anyway, morning themes were about Web 2.0/Social networking,

starting with Brian Kelly from UKOLN and Andy Powell from
EduServ – talking about IT Services 2.0. Brian wasn’t actually
their though, and instead had pre-recorded his presentation. I find
this pretty fascinating – I’ve had loads of discussions with people
about why we don’t do this more often (we do actually do this for
our IT induction), but it’s the first time I’ve experienced it as an
audience member. So did it work? Somewhat against my
expectations (Brian is a very engaging presenter in person) it
worked fine (even with the low production values and a phone
ringing half way through!).

And then went on to briefly summarise the content of my talk:

What about the content? Essentially the premise was that IT

Services have evolved before, and can do so again, into IT

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Services 2.0 where we embrace, support, and educate users about

the possibilities of externally hosted Web 20 services.

Michael’s thoughts on the views expressed by myself and Andy:

So where does that leave us? The common theme between Brian
and Andrew’s talks were they were both saying we need to
understand risks. Some of the risks, in my opinion (and, I think,
Brian’s) aren’t that great – service reliability for example – how
often is Google or Facebook down? Privacy of data across
national borders though is a really challenging issue, and perhaps
one of the most obvious stumbling blocks to wholeheartedly
embracing some externally hosted technologies on an institutional

There’s another significant issue though – we don’t really have

any control of this do we? Our work and home life and identities
are becoming increasingly blurred – we can’t ban people from
using Facebook to support learning. So how much user education
are we actually responsible for, both from a moral and legal
perspective? It’s something we all need to give more thought to.

Later on at the conference there were “two supplier presentations – one from
Google, and one from Microsoft, both promoting their free, web based
email/productivity/web 2.0 suites.” Michael made an interesting comment on
the tensions between the views of Myself and Andy that IT Services should
move towards playing an enabling role rather than the provider of IT Services
and encouraging Microsoft or Google to provide core IT services:

Second issue, and I need to reflect on this a little more, is that

doesn’t this go against the IT Services 2.0 philosophy? We’d still
be imposing a single tool set on our students (albeit an outsourced
one) rather than educating our users to pick the best tools for any
given activity. Maybe that’s an impractical aim - remember back
to Sir Alan Langlands plea to keep things simple for academics?
Don’t know – my instinct is that this sort of approach is still a very
IT Services 1.0 things. Sure, Google Apps (say) may be a great tool
set for a certain group of users for a given activity, but maybe
another group or activity would work better with Elgg or
WetPaint? I think this gets right to the heart of the IT Services 2.0
dilemma – how much technical diversity can our user base sustain?
Or am I missing the point?

Now I don’t feel that making use of Google Apps should prevent ue of Elgg or
WetPaint - unless your institution has foolishly agreed to a contract which
requires the institution to only allow a single provider of a service on campus
(and I’ve heard this has happened with VoIP, which means institutions are
contractually obliged to ban Skype from the campus :-()

But how use of Google and Microsoft externally-provided services relate to a

vision of small pieces loosely connected vision is an interesting question!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

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The UK Government and Web Metrics

March 12, 2008

Spotted recently on Hansard (25 Feb 2008):

Departmental ICT

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation,

Universities and Skills how many hits the (a) most popular website
and (b) least popular website run by his Department has received
since 1 January. [162286]

Mr. Lammy:The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

corporate website was launched on 28 June 2007, following the
machinery of Government changes and creation of the new
Department. The numbers of hits for the most and least popular
websites that come under the DIUS remit are as follows:

Website Number of hits( 1)

from 1 January 2007
to 25 October 2007
The Intellectual Property Office 236,301,690
Technology Strategy Board (2)
Please note that a ‘hit’ is simply a successful request to the web
server from a visitor’s browser for any type of file, whether an
image, HTML page, or any other type. A single web page can
cause many hits, one for each image included on the page. (2)
Figures are form page views from 1 July 2007 to 25 October 2007
as hits are not measured for this site.

Now what is worse, I wonder? The fact that Norman Baker, Lib Dem MP for
Lewis is asking about the popularity of UK Government Web sites based on
such simplistic criteria or the Government’s response which compares ‘hits’ with
‘page views’? Even worse is that the official response is so defensive about
having to provide figures on ‘page views’ (which is a legitimate measure on Web
site usage) as data on hits (which reflects the Web site design and not the
popularity of the Web site) are not measured.

Even worse is that the response compares a Web site domain (
with a Web site area (

And the latter Web page is not longer available - although I suspect that it refers

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a Government Web page which no

longer exists isn’t particularly popular!

But what worries me most about such absurdities are the implications of the
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Government’s increasing preoccupation with such (flawed) measures of impact

and the responses which might be expected from the Government critics. I
could easily envisage a Daily Mail leader article being critical of a drop in the
numbers of ‘hits’ to Government Web sites, ignoring the realities of
technological enhancements which may mean that although the numbers of hits
or page views go down, the user may actually be getting a much more valuable
and useful experience (e.g. the data being surfaced in other areas).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

My Talk At The UCISA 2008 Conference

March 10, 2008

I mentioned previously my talk on “Digital Natives Run by Digital Immigrants:

IT Services Are Dead – Long Live IT Services 2.0!” which I’ve been invited to
present at the UCISA 2008 Management Conference. In my post I described the
background to this talk and invited feedback on the slides which, together with
an audio track, is available on Slideshare.

I was particularly struck by the comments made by Martin Weller:

Hi Brian - I have finally shed all institutional services - it’s

marvellously liberating. And this is just the basic stuff - I have also
evolved a PLE/PWE (for want of a better term). IT services simply
can’t compete - just look at the email - my mailbox was full at the
OU. With GMail I am using 1%. That’s an order of magnitude
difference. And the same applies with every tool you care to
mention in lots of different ways - design, usability, robustness (the
idea that IT services hosted tools are less robust doesn’t stand up).

Martin provide further information on how he sold his soul to Google on his own
blog. The suggestion that I’ve made previously that IT Services need to
transform themselves to take into account the Web 2.0 environment is clearly
demonstrated by Martin’s actions.

As I have another meeting which clashes with the UCISA conference I won’t be
able to give my talk in person. However a video presentation of the talk is
available in various formats, including this one which is hosted on the Zentation

IT Services Are Dead – Long

Live IT Services 2.0!
Talk on IT Services Are Dead –
Long Live IT Services 2.0!

Andy Powell will be co-presenting at the UCISA Conference - and Andy will be
physically present :-) Andy has already posted some of his thoughts on what
he’ll be saying. In his post, entitled P vs. P in a user-centric world, Andy
focusses on the “move towards user-centricity … and in particular the use of
the word ‘personal’ in both Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and

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Personal Research Environment (PRE)“.

Martin Weller provides a good example on how individuals are beginning to

select their own preferred set of IT tools, and no longer feel constrained by the
tools provided by the institution. But is this the start of an inevitable trend or
will it be limited to small numbers who are highly skilled in use of IT? What
about the pitfalls? And how should IT Services respond?

Time permitting, Andy Powell with address comments made on this blog and on
his eFoundations blog at the UCISA conference. Here’s an opportunity to make
your voice heard.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: ucisa-2008 | Edit

Top of the Pods, Podpickers

March 7, 2008

Which UK University has the most popular podcast? This question occurred to
me recently after visiting a page on the JISC Web site in order to subscribe to
JISC podcasts. Following the link launched iTunes and allowed me to subscribe
to the podcast, so that new podcasts are downloaded automatically.

I noticed the search option in iTunes and thought I’d search for University
podcasts. The most popular podcasts came from Vanderbilt University but in
third place was Oxford University. And listening to the start of the current
podcast I discovered the title was “Podcasts from Medieval English lectures”. So
much for the dumbing down of the iTunes generation! Who’d have thought that
all of those young students with their white ear pieces were catching up on
Chaucer - perhaps “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”!”

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In second and third places for UK universities were the universities of Edinburgh
and, I’m pleased to say, Bath. The University of Bath not only has the kudos of
a top three place in iTunes popularity, the public lecture podcasts at my host
institution recently won a European award for its podcast series. As the press
release announced “its podcasts had from November 2006 to September 2007
been seen (sic) 188,000 times“. The press release went on to say that “Our
podcasts are popular enough to get us featured in the top 50 podcast originator
on i-Tunes in the “Science and Medicine” section, ahead of any other
university in the world.“

I think this is a great example of an institution successfully engaging with a

popular Web 2.0 services (ITunes) in order to maximise its impact. My
congratulations to the Audio Visual and Web Services teams at the University of

But apart from Oxford, Edinburgh and Bath, where are the other UK
universities? There don’t appear to be any in the top 50 places in iTunes,
although I did spot Aberdeen in about the 68th position followed by a cluster of
the universities of Swansea, Westminster and Cambridge. Are UK Universities
missing out, I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: podcast | Edit

Workshop On Risk Management

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March 5, 2008

The JISC OSS Watch service are running a workshop on “Risk Management in
Open Source Procurement” which Ross Gardler describes in a blog post on the
OSS Watch Team blog.

The background to this event, which will be held in Oxford on 18 March 2008, is
described in an article on open source in HE and FE published in the October
2007 edition of JISC Inform in which Ross suggested that:

There is often a lack of understanding about how best to consider

OSS as part of institutional IT procurement and development
activities. Ross Gardler, manager of the HE and FE advisory service
for open source software, believes such issues can be explained by
difficulties surrounding evaluation techniques.

‘There often isn’t an established marketing department that will

take you out for lunch and smooth talk you about the potential
benefits, like there is with a commercial provider,’ he says.

I can recall that about 10 years ago there seemed to be a feeling that having
source code available under an open source software licence was sufficient to
guarantee sustainability of software. But you just have to look at example such
as the ROADS software which drove a number of what are now know as the
Intute hubs. Looking at the graveyard of many open source software projects
which fail to be sustainable in the long term, you’ll find an area for ROADS. We
do need to do the risk analysis and risk management.

So I’m pleased to see that OSS Watch are running a workshop which will cover
the risks associated with procurement of open source software. In his blog post
Ross goes on to describe how the OSS Watch service “provide[s] one-to-one
consultancy services to help people understand how to evaluate open source
and open source providers using frameworks such as the Business Readiness
Rating and the Open Source Maturity Model.” The workshop will provide an
opportunity for OSS Watch to share their expertise with a wider community.

Of course, there’s not risks risks aren’t only associated with open source
software - there are risks associated with use of proprietary software. And also,
it needs to be said, use of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services - as we saw
recently with the recent downtime of the Amazon S3 service which affected
other services including Twitter.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t use externally hosted Web 2.0
service - or, indeed, open source software. Similarly the recent crash of the
Northern Rock Bank doesn’t mean that we should withdraw our savings and
stuff the cash under our mattresses!

I suspect that a workshop on “Risk Management and Web 2.0″ would be

popular. I’ve posted previously on Your Views On Externally-Hosted Web 2.0
Services back in September 2007. But, apart from the risk assessment document
which have been produced at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, have
any other institutions published anything in this area?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

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IT Services Are Dead – Long Live IT Services 2.0!

March 3, 2008

Back in March 2004 I was pleased to be invited to give a talk at the UCISA
Mangament Conference on “What Can Internet Technologies Offer?“ in which
I introduced a raft of collaborative and communications technologies which are
now referred to as Web 2.0 to about 350 senior managers in IT Service
departments. Two years later I was invited back and I gave a talk on “IT
Services: Help Or Hindrance? ” in which I argued that IT Services needed to
actively engage in providing access to services such as blogs and wikis,
otherwise there would be a danger that central services would be marginalised.

I’m pleased to say that IT Service directors seem to like my talks as I’ve been
invited back again this year to speak at the UCISA 2008 Management
Conference. The title of this year’s talk is Digital Natives Run by Digital
Immigrants: IT Services are Dead, Long Live IT Services 2.0!” and the talk will
be given on 13 March 2008. Unfortunately I have another meeting already
arranged for that date - but rather than this being a problem I regard it as a
useful opportunity to make use of another set of technologies and approaches to
presenting. So I have prepared the initial draft of my slides, and have made it
available as a Slidecast (i.e. with an accompanying audio track) on Slideshare.

This 15 minute presentation only provides a high-level view of my thoughts on

why IT Service departments need to engage with use of third party services. But
I’m pleased to say that Andy Powell will be a co-presenter and will be attending
in person. Andy will be giving his views on the implications of Web 2.0 on IT
Service departments, and will be able to respond to questions form the

But rather than my talk simply being presented on the day, in the spirit of
openness which I write about recently in the context of open science, I would
like to invite comments on my talk in advance of the conference, which Andy
may be able to integrate in his presentation. And, as an article on Technology
Populism: Risks & Rewards points out, there can be risks to the organisation
when users circumvent IT Service departments.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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The Demise of Netscape Navigator

March 1, 2008

An article entitled In praise of … Netscape Navigator announced that

today (Saturday, 1 March 2008) sees the official end of support for the
Netscape Navigator Web browser.

The “In praise of” column does indeed praise Netscape for “opening the web,
[and] pav[ing] the way for everything from Google to Wikipedia“.

What the column doesn’t say is the that the browser went from strength to
strength after it was launched by ignoring standards bodies and introducing
several new proprietary HTML extensions which infuriated HTML standards
groups when they were released. As an article in Wikipedia describes:

Through the late 1990s, Netscape made sure that Navigator

remained the technical leader among web browsers. Important new
features included cookies, frames, and JavaScript (in version 2.0).
Although those and other innovations eventually became open
standards of the W3C and ECMA and were emulated by other
browsers, they were often viewed as controversial. Netscape,
according to critics, was more interested in bending the web to its
own de facto “standards” (bypassing standards committees and
thus marginalizing the commercial competition) than it was in
fixing bugs in its products. Consumer rights advocates were
particularly critical of cookies and of commercial web sites using
them to invade individual privacy.

But why is the Guardian praising Netscape, if the company behaved in this
fashion? Well I think the Guardian was right when it says that “Everyone from
secretaries to salesmen started logging on” thanks to the initial success an
popularity of the browser. But let’s not rewrite history and suggest that this was
due to the software vendor supporting old standards - rather, and ironically, its
success was due to flouting the standisation processes and forcing innovations
(which, in some cases, subsequently became standardised) through seeking to
position itself as the dominant vendor in the marketplace.

Of course, although they were the dominant

player for a short period, this did not last,
with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser
eventually finding itself as the world’s most
widely-used browser, despite the appeal
which FireFox has to its admirers.

Strange how things turn out.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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PLEs Please Me
February 29, 2008

AJ Cann recently described his experiences of “teaching” PLEs (his quotes). In

his post he described how his discussions with his peers in the elearning
community began with a ‘tweet’.

And his colleagues (or should that, in the context of Twitter, be his ‘followers’)
asked him to share his experiences. Alan then went on to explain that he felt

I should start by saying that I don’t believe you can “teach”

someone how to build a personal learning environment, any more
than you can teach them “wisdom” - it’s an experiential,
contextual thing.

From previous discussions I’ve had with AJ I know that he is a fan on use of
PLEs to support learning, as opposed to the more monolithic VLE approach -
and, in a way, the question of whether the VLE is open source or not is a bit of a
red herring. But although PLEs may please AJ, how confident can we be that it
is the PLEs which helped with the “clear winners with the students, notably the
Google suite.” Might not the enthusiasms shown by the students simply reflect
his own enthusiasms.

AJ will, of course, be aware of such factors (and I should declare that I am a

member of an advisory group for AJ Cann’s Leicester PLE project which is
“Using Web 2.0 to Cultivate Information Literacy via Construction of Personal
Learning Environments“). But if we are honest we (the blog readers and those
engaged with Web 2.0) will be aware that there with be large scale chunky
proprietary and unfashionable enterprise systems which are crying out “Love me
do” - and the supporters of such systems will, indeed, be happy to use the
systems - and there are also likely to be happy users of such systems, too. Indeed
I can remember the first time I attended the ALT-C conference -I attended the
technical standards where I heard about developments using an SOA
approaches, the e-Framework and Web 2.0 developments, but in the other
strands other academics and e-learning support staff were presenting about the
quality of the learning and user satisfaction for services delivered by Blackboard
and Web CT.

I guess we do need to be honest about how our enthusiasms, whether it’s for
Web 2.0, open source, social networks, Twitter or whatever, may help to
enthuse others but the indifference shown by the majority may be invisible to us.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

Open Science, Open Seminars

February 28, 2008

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Open Science
One of the ways in which myself and my colleagues in UKOLN keep up-to-date
with new developments across our communities is through the UKOLN seminar
programme. The speakers tend to be those who are working in areas related to
our interests and have something new to say.

The most recent seminar was given by Cameron Neylon, of STFC Rutherford
Appleton Laboratory and School of Chemistry, University of Southampton. The
title of Cameron’s talk was “A Beginner’s Guide to Open Science: Not for
beginners but by beginners“. Cameron described his involvement in various
aspects of ‘openness’ within the context of scientific research. Further
information on his work is available from his Science In the Open blog - and he
also contributes to the Openwetware blog, as you can see from his thoughts on
his visit at UKOLN. He described how Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and
wikis are being used by the scientific research community, not only for making
notes and sharing ideas, etc. using blogs and wikis in ways which will be familiar
with readers of this blog, but also what I would describe as ’semantic blogging’ -
use of templates to allow structured information (e.g. names of objects,
processes, etc) to be used in ways which allowed for rich use with the blog/wiki
environment and reuse in other contexts. For example in the Sortase Cloning
example, the data in the table in not created using a table editor (which can lead
to errors being introduced) - rather a template will ensure that the data is valid.
In addition the data is integrated with other relevant areas of the blog.
Effectively the blog is being used as a structured scientific content management

Cameron also described OpenWetWare - “an effort to promote the sharing of

information, know-how, and wisdom among researchers and groups who are
working in biology & biological engineering” which runs on the MediaWiki
software. Another example Cameron provided of use a a wiki within this
community was UsefulChem, which this in this case uses the externally-hosted
Wikispaces service.

As well as illustrated how blogs and wikis are being used by the scientific
research community, Cameron also described how he is embracing the Web 2.0
philosophy of openness. In a post on “The OPEN Research Network Proposal -
update and reflections” Cameron described an open process for submitting a
proposal for a research grant. The proposal was written using Google Docs and
the final version, prior to its migration to an in-house application for producing
the PDF in a format required by the research council, is freely available for
viewing. - and, if you are interesting, you can compare this with the version
which was submitted(PDF file) to the funding council.

Use of blogs, wikis and open development - some great example of how Web 2.0
is being used by the research community. And, as I discovered when Googling
for further information on Cameron Neylon’s work, it doesn’t stop there. A
number of given by Cameron and others involved in open Science
activities have been videoed, screencasted or recorded. For example a talk by
Jean-Claude Bradley on “Open Notebook Science: Putting the Information
User in Control through Transparency” is available as a screencast using the
Google Video playerand several talks are available as podcasts through iTunes,
as illustrated below.

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Open Seminars
This latter example reflects some of my current activities. Cameron kindly gave
me permission to video his talk and, as an experiment, I have uploaded the first
10 minutes of the talk (which is all I took) to YouTube.

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I’m aware of the limitations of this particular video: I didn’t have my tripod to
hand, for example and there is visual clutter - bottles of mineral water - in front
of the speaker (although perhaps this could provide an for a sponsorship deal
:-). And there are clearly resource implications in recording seminars on a
systematic basis (provided, of course, that speakers would be willing for their
talks to be made publicly available). In this case, however, (using my Casio
Exlim EX-Z1080 camera) I simply needed to take the recording and plug the
camera into my PC. I was then asked which application I wished to use.
selecting the YouTube uploader, I simply needed to fill in a few fields and press
the upload button. Simplicity itself - and it was pleasing to receive an unsolicited
email from a colleague saying “Thanks Brian, that was useful to get a feel for
the seminar since I missed it yesterday“.

I think it was particularly appropriate that a seminar on Open Science provided

an opportunity for this initial experiment in opening up access to the talk to a
wider audience. But what do you feel about this? Is the light weight approach
adequate? Is the 10 minute clip sufficient or does the lack of the full talk
frustrate you? From the point of view of the speaker and the main audience
(colleagues at UKOLN and other participants from the University) would such
openness tend to stifle open discussion and debate? And, finally, can we, if we
are thinking about making greater use of video recordings, really justify the
additional time and effort this make take?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in openness | Edit

Doodle Is Simplicity Itself

February 27, 2008

Paul Walk’s blog post on Get off of my cloud acknowledged that even clever
techies sometimes value simplicity over the complexity often found in richly
functional and distributed systems., In Paul’s case he was praising the ease of
use and convenience of an iPhone over, say, the additional functions provided
by a Nokia N95 or the inconvenience of carrying multiple devices.

I feel that this is a valid position in many cases. And, coincidentally I have just
discovered a very simple Web-based tool for organising meetings.

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With Doodle (address, incidentally) you simply select dates and
times and email the people you wish to invite. The service will then send an
email with the URI of a page containing the available dates. And, as can be seen
in the image, once the data has been entered you can see the preferred slots.

OK, there’s no authentication, updating dates can’t be done and security is

through obscurity. In addition the data can’t be output in formats such as RSS or
iCal. But sometimes we need to remember that we don’t always need such
richness. And yes, who knows whether this service is sustainable. And, perhaps,
like Facebook (according to some), is is a front for an extreme right wing
organisation. But, for arranging a date for a practice and a rapper dancing crawl
prior to the national rapper sword dancing competition, I am willing to take a
risk and avoid the confusions of arranging such events on email or, even worse,
via text messages. Why not give it a try?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: doodle | Edit
No Comments »

Firefox Use In UK Is Near The Bottom Of

The League
February 26, 2008

Via a post on Seb Schmoller’s blog I came across an XiTi Monitor article which
gives statistical data on usage of FireFox across Europe.

The news isn’t good for use supporters of the open source Web browser, with
usage in the UK in December 2007 at 17.2%, with only Ukraine and the
Netherlands below. The top three countries which make use of FireFox are
Finland (45.4%), Slovenia (44.6%) and Poland (42.4%).

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I must admit I find these figures disappointing and also somewhat surprising.
Last year I wrote a post entitled FireFox - The Researchers Favourite
Application? in which I was confident the the clear superiority of FireFox over
its competitors would lead to much greater use of FireFox as a platform, with
increased use of FireFox plugins. Mark Sammons, however, responded by
arguing that “Firefox is not Enterprise-ready enough to be considered for
migration from IE” and Phil Wilson agreed with Mark’s comment: “I’m glad
Mark wrote that comment because it’s exactly what I was going to write when I
read your post Brian“.

The evidence, it seems, backs up Mark and Phil’s views - for whatever reasons,
FireFox isn’t the success many of us would have hoped for within the UK. Sad,
but true.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in browser | Edit

Is Southampton Setting A New Standard For

Institutional Web Sites?

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February 22, 2008

Is the University of Southampton setting a new challenge for other institutions

with their new iSoton service, I wonder? Or is this merely an attempt to be
stylish by bolting on a variety of Web 2.0 features? What will the users make of
it, I wonder? And what about accessibility, interoperability, compliance with
standards and the other issues which the providers of Web services tend to

I came across iSoton via an RSS alert from Lorcan Dempsey blog. In his
post Lorcan expressed a particular interest in the four (out of six) panels which
provided content from Web 2.0 services:

The other four are more interesting. One displays the University’s
wikipedia entry. One displays photos from Flickr (I am not sure
how they are being selected: is it more than the ‘university of
southampton’ tag?). One displays videos from Youtube (again, I am
not sure if these are any videos which show up on a ‘university of
southampton’ search or if some other selection criteria apply).
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I would agree with Lorcan’s comment that “this seems like a sketch for what
one might do, rather than the fully worked through presence. For example, why
not display the full tag cloud which gives richer access to the
Southampton pages?“.

However I suspect that “The site is designed by Precedent, ’specialists in

strategic thinking, digital communications and brand communications’” will be
regarded with concern be some of the more traditional Web developers who
have been sceptical of Web 2.0 style interfaces. And it’s true that the page does
contain HTML errors - but these seem to be minor problems, such as unescaped
ampersands, which could easily be fixed. And, shock, horror, passing the page
through the WAVE automated accessibility testing tool reveals that “WAVE has
detected no accessibility errors“.

I’ve criticised reliance on automated accessibility tools previously - and here’s a

good example which demonstrates the need for user testing on the accessibility
and usability of the page.

Is this, then, setting new directions for University Web sites? I don’t know, and
I’m sure that further examination of the site is likely to reveal some problems -
but it is good to see something new happening in the design and functionality of
University Web sites. And it would be good to get some feedback from those
involved in commissioning and developing this Web site, and, even more
importantly, feedback from users of the Web site. A potentially interesting talk
at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, perhaps?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

GCSEs Revisited
February 21, 2008

It always pleasing when a blog post achieves its aim, and even more so when this
happens so quickly. So it was good to read AJ Cann’s post in which he describes
how he spent 3 minutes using the Google Custom Search Engine (GCSE) to
provide an alternative to his institutional search engine. As he titled his post “It
was all Brian Kelly’s fault“!

Revisiting my original post it would seem that there are a number of ways in
which GCSE is being used:

For personal uses (e.g. searching one’s favourite music sites).

For professional purposes e.g. searching across Web 2.0 sites or edublogs.
On institutional Web sites, such as the JISC example which searches
across the JISC and JISC Service Web sites.
Across consortia sites (thanks to Dave Flanders for this).
And, in AJ’s case, as an alternative to an institutional search facility.

In this latter case, AJ is clearly unhappy with the local search engine service
(ht://Dig): “I can’t stand the inadequate institutional search tools I’ve been
forced to use for a decade” - and decided it was worth spending “less than 30
seconds” to set up an alternative! And this approach reflects AJ’s interests in
Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). He now has a Personal Search Engine.

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Now if setting up GSCE across a range of Web sites is so easy and can be done
by individuals without the need for institutional commitment. in what other ways
could the software be used?

As we’ve recently discussed institutional repositories and various people have

aired their concerns on the approaches being taken, it seems to me that the
GCSE could have a role to play in providing an alternative way of searching

And this approach has already been taken on the OpenDOAR Search Repository
Contents service and the Search ROAR Content With Google service.

This approach fits in nicely with Rachel Heery’s comment that “I don’t really
see that there is conflict between encouraging more content going into
institutional repositories and ambitions to provide more Web 2.0 type services
on top of aggregated IR content. Surely these things go together?“. We have
the managed content in the repository and are providing users with a choice in
the selection of a search interface.

It’s good to see that happening. But can’t we do even more. We could, for
example, use the two ways of searching for gaining evidence of the preferences
users may have for searching. And perhaps rather than exposing new users of
repositories to the rich functionality of the repository’s search interface,
shouldn’t we acknowledge that many users will prefer the simplicity of a Google
search, and provide the GCSE interface as better focussed alternative to the
global Google search tool, with the option of pointing the users in the direction
of the richer service if they find that this search interface is not good enough.

This approach would have the added advantage of not requiring the expenses
associated with in-house software development. Indeed could it not be argued
public-sector organisations should have a responsibility to make use of relevant
freely-available services, at least in prototyping or providing a service for
making comparisons even if it isn’t envisaged that the service will be used in a
final production role?

Of course the danger may be that the users decide that they are happy with
Google. And we wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Repositories ·Tags: GCSE | Edit

IT Services - Set Your Documentation Free!

February 20, 2008

Back in 2005 I presented a paper entitled “Let’s Free IT Support Materials!” at

the EUNIS 2005 conference, an annual conference aimed at IT support
departments throughout Europe. In the paper I argued that IT Service
departments should be making their documentation and other support materials
available under a Creative Commons licence for reuse by the wider community.
I pointed out that the UK had a well-established tradition of collaboration,
through organisations such as UCISA, and, in the area of document sharing, had
already set up a national archive of Computing Service documentation.

This was initially established in the late 1980s/early 1990s based on a centralised

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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.
Although this required little effort from participating institutions, the service
failed to be sustainable due to the technical expertise require to provide and
maintain the indexing across the distributed archives. And since the search
interface points to a script on Mailbase, despite the message saying
“Unfortunately the search facility is currently unavailable. We hope to rectify
this shortly” I suspect this hasn’t worked since Mailbase was replaced by
JISCMail in November 2000.

But now the indexing capabilities can be provided easily, using third party
services such as the Google Custom Search Engine (GCSE). Is it really easy, you
may wonder? Well the interface is shown below. and, as can be seen, setting up
the search engine requires little more than entering the URLs to be indexing and
then copying the code to be embedded on a Web page. Easy :-) And the search
engine is easy to use from a user perspective. Why not give it a try. You might
even wish to embed the search interface into your own page.

Now you might be suspicious: it’s too easy; there’s no metadata; it’s not open
source; etc. My response - am I bovvered? Computing should be easy - I
remember the excitement I felt when I discovered the Apple Macintosh in the
1980s and Paul Walk has been making similar comments about his iPhone.
Ease-of-use and simplicity are to be applauded, I would argue.

And, as I discovered from my Twitter friends recently, a number of colleagues

have been using the Google Custom Search Engine for some time:
Pete Johnston for searching music sites he frequents, Mile Ellis for his search
across museum collections and Phil Bradley for searching across 35 Web 2.0
sites. And thanks to Matt Jukes for pointing out the use of this approach on the
JISC Web site and the How Do I? example from the Open University, which is
described in a blog post by Tony Hirst. And edubloggers may find Stephen
Downes Edublogs search of interest: this searches across no fewer than 456 blog

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But how might my experiment be scaled up to a service, in order to deliver the

original aims of this service, only about 15 years late
Perhaps the UCISA TLIG group could take responsibility for developing this
prototype and seeing if there are are barriers to it being deployed into service.
But there might also be an interest from a institution which could see benefits of
such a search facility across a region (Scotland, perhaps?).

Or maybe individuals would be motivated to do this. And as it is possible for me

to open up the management interface to pothers, I would be happy to respond
with anyone who may be interested.

And as I’ll be giving a talk at the UCISA Management Conference on 13th

March 2008, that would be an opportunity for me to name-check anyone who
would be willing to investigate further

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: UCISA | Edit

Distributed Discussions On Repositories

February 19, 2008

The Repositories Debate

Andy Powell recently wrote a post on the eFoundations blog about his opening
plenary talk at the VALA 2008 conference.

His post generated interesting discussions and debate amongst those involved in
repository activities in the UK and the wider community. Paul Miller was in
agreement with Andy’s comments in his post on the Panlibus blog entitled
“Andy Powell is Spot On” with Paul feeling that “Our current approach,
fundamentally, is totally, completely, utterly wrong, isn’t it?”.

Over on his blog my colleague Paul Walk has given his thoughts on Andy’s post
expressing agreement in several areas but disagreeing with Andy’s view that “we
need to focus on building and/or using global scholarly social networks based
on global repository services“. Paul (W) responds by asking “Why can’t we
“focus on building and/or using global scholarly social networks” (which I
support) based on institutional repository services? We don’t have a problem
with institutional web sites do we? Or institutional library OPACs?”. My
former colleague Rachel Heery has responded in a similar vein to Paul in a
response to Andy’s post: “I don’t really see that there is conflict between
encouraging more content going into institutional repositories and ambitions
to provide more Web 2.0 type services on top of aggregated IR content. Surely
these things go together?“.

Meanwhile over on his Overdue Ideas blog Owen Stephens gives his thoughts
from the perspective of a practitioner involved in setting up the Spir@l
institutional repository at Imperial College with a wittily-titled post
“R.I.Positories“. Owen concludes “we need is a system that helps us
administer the workflow around the delivery of digital objects in a corporate
environment, but that is invisible to those not involved in the administration -

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and that’s what I want out of a ‘repository’ - so, for me, the Repository is dead,
long live the repository“.

And a few minutes ago I noticed a pop-up alert informing me of a blog post
entitled “RESTful Repositories?“. An intriguing title, I thought, so I viewed the
post and came across Stu Weibel’s contribution which suggested that “One way
to think about repositories is as the bookshelves of the digital library“. Stu
went on to point out that “We don’t ask scholars, having just published an
article or book, to ‘go to the library to find the most appropriate place for it…
and don’t come back until you do!’“ This sounds reasonable to me - there’s a
need for the physical library and the infrastructure that is associated with it, but
the researchers don’t need to know how it works. This might be an approach to
be taken with institutional repositories - so let’s not scare them off with the ins
and outs of the metadata schemas.

Engaging With A Distributed Debate

There’s clearly an interesting debate taking place around the approaches which
should be taken to maximising access to the UK’s research papers. But if you
have an interest in institutional repositories how do you find out where the
debate is taking place and how do you participate?

I have had discussions with colleagues who feel that such debates should be
centralised and should use a ubiquitous communications channel - namely email.
From this perspective the debate about institutional repositories within the UK
higher education community should take place on the JISC-Repositories
JISCMail list. However I feel that this will result in the debate being
marginalised to those with a particularly strong interest in repositories, will tend
to focus on the nitty-gritty details which email tends to encourage and, in the
case of JISCMail, the debate will be trapped within the JISCMail Web site, not
only because the JISCMail archives are not exposed to search engines such as
Google, but also because of the ‘uncool’ URIs for messages in the archive.

And, of course, email discussions fragment, in any case, and I suspect the
Australian participants at the VALA 2008 conference will be having their own
discussions about repositories on their own mailing lists.

An alternative view is that the debate with take place via scholarly articles
published in peer-reviewed journals. This may be the case in many areas of
research, but man in the digital library community would be frustrated by the
lengthy timescales that process would entail.

Like it or not, the debate is taking place using a variety of communications tools,
including the blogosphere.

So, if you wish to engage with such discussions, how do you find out what is
happening? In my case my RSS reader (Feedreader) will automatically inform
me of new posts for the blogs I’ve subscribed to. This includes the eFoundations
blog, although in the case of Andy’s post I was alerted to its publication a couple
of hours after it had been published via a tweet on Twitter.

The distributed nature of such debates has benefit, such as allowing the
discussions to be brought to the attention of different communities. When doing
this, there is an expectation that bloggers will link to the original post. And if
blogs allow trackbacks, it will be possible to follow links from an original post to
blogs which have commented on it.

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Returning to Andy’s original post, Paul Walk noticed that the eFoundation’s
blog hadn’t included a trackback to Paul’s post. This is probably a technical
glitch - but this incident made me think about the importance of trackbacks in
the integration of distributed discussions. Owen Stephen’s R.I.P.ositories post
included a link to a post on The importance of being open the eFoundation blog
dating back to October 2006. But comments to such old posts are disabled - I
assume to minimise the effort in deleting spam comments. But this is breaking
the linkages to related discussions. How, then, should we balance the benefits of
allowing such tracebacks versus the maintenance costs of managing misuse? Or
do you disagree with blogs being used for this type of discussion and debate?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog, Repositories | Edit

TwitPic, Twitterwhere, Twitterfoo

February 18, 2008

On Sunday 10th February 2008 infobunny twittered “TwitPic: TwitPic lets you
easily add photos to your Tweets. Upload to TwitPic, add you..“.

Twitpic was new to me so I Googled it and discovered that the killerstartups blog
gave a somewhat politically incorrect description of how a photographic
microblogging extension to Twitter might be used:

Yes, Twitter is unstoppable. And it’s currently amassing an army of

Twitter related apps that’ll ensure its reign for a good amount of
time. The latest recruit is TwitPic, an application that allows you
to post photos and images to your Twitter stream. Now daily
ramblings can have an added visual element instead of just the
usual plain stream of text. Say you’ve just had the worst blind date
ever, but you managed snap a pic of the twit. Now you can go home
and post your grievances along with a visual aid to demonstrate
your dating woes. TwitPic works from your PC. All you have to do
is log in to your Twitter and upload the image or photo you want,
then post it. TwitPic is absolutely free.

Via Techcrunch I found that the service was launched in November 2007 but the
service seems to only now becoming discussed on the blogosphere and in
Twitterland. Worth further investigation, I felt, so I created my fist twitpic. And
I quickly received a response from Noah Everett, the TwitPic developer who
directed me to a page which described why he had developed the service:
“TwitPic was born out of my need to be able to share & comment on photos
easily with twitter. I developed it over a weekend, from concept to working site.
As always I’m open to feature suggestions“.

Blogowogo, however, points out that:

An obvious disadvantage to Twitpic is that you have to be in front

of your computer to post your images. Contrast this with other
services such as VisualTwitter and MobyPicture, which allow you
to upload an image from your mobile device. Seeing as Twitter
really shines as an on-the-go social network, this limitation might

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be devastating.

Hmm - so there are other services available which build on Twitter which I
wasn’t aware of. Indeed the day before discovering Twitpic Brian Suda
mentioned the Twitterwhere service which is described on as
“a service that makes tracking Tweets from any location“.

Rather than discussing how such services might be used (a topic I raised
recently) I would make the observation that the development of these services is
based on lightweight services and open APIs. The approach isn’t one of
developing a richly sophisticated service or use of data standards which will
cover every contingency. Is this approach one we should be adopting more
generally, I wonder? And I’ll leave it to others to suggest how Twitpic,
Twitterwhere, Twitterfoo and Twitterbar (too late, that’s already gone) might be
used to deliver real benefits.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: twitpic | Edit

Losing My Religion
February 15, 2008

I discovered the Web in December 1992 and, after Christmas, helped to set up
the institutional Web site at the University of Leeds. Later that month I met
Robert Cailliau, a colleague of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, when Robert was in Leeds
visit relatives. Robert gave me the background to the developments of the Web
and it was around that time I subscribed to the www-talk mailing list. This was
the start of my belief in a Web based on standards developed by an open
community. And I can remember the controversy caused when NCSA, in their
development of the Mosaic browser, broke with the consensus in the format of
the IMG tag. Marc Andreessen made a proposal which generated debate.
However Marc chose to ignore Tim’s suggestions:

Tim Berners-Lee writes:

> Let the IMG tag be INCLUDE and let it refer to an arbitrary
> type. Or EMBED if INCLUDE sounds like a cpp include which
> will expect to provide SGML source code to be parsed inline —
> what was intended.
We’re not prepared to support INCLUDE/EMBED at this point; it
raises a
number of nasty issues that are quite separate from the idea of
inlined images.

What happened was that Mosaic was released to universal acclaim. But later,
when the lack of extensibility of the IMG tag became apparent, the Netscape
browser was released and introduced a more effective way of embedding
content other than images, using the EMBED tag. And Marc promoted
supported support for this proprietary tag over the limited IMG tag as a killer
feature of Netscape. Similar tactics which Microsoft have been guilty of over
the years.

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It’s not just Microsoft, you have to be wary of software vendors in general as
they all have vested interests in proprietary lock-in, has been my belief over the
years. Stick with the W3C, I’ve felt. They are independent of vendors and will
be best positioned to provide open standards which everyone can use, I’ve
argued over the years.

But over time I’ve begun to question the wisdom of this view. I raised this issue
last June in a post entitled “Are W3C Crazy?” in which I picked up on a
comment made by Phil Wilson, a Web developer based at the University of
Bath. Phil told me, based on his attendance at the XTech 2007 conference that:

There seemed to be a couple of big fat W3C elephants in the room.

The first was that the w3c are doing stuff for use in five or ten
years’ time whereas most of the other talks are about things you
can do today or next year, which makes them seem like

The other is that they really didn’t seem that happy that HTML5
was going ahead, and what the hell was wrong with XHTML2

It must be nice to work in a standards organisation where

everything you do meets some Platonic Idea of perfection.

Are W3C working in a purist world in which everything needs to meet a Platonic
idea of perfection? Others, including long standing Web standards
evangelists, seem to be raising similar concerns. Molly (of, a
well-known author of dozens of books on Web standards) is the latest to raise
her concerns. In a post on “From Web Standards Diva to Web Standards
Devo“ she makes a startling suggestion:

I’m going to design my new site with frames, tables, spacer gifs,
lots of flash embedded into framed pages via iframes. I’m going to
use non-semantic, presentational HTML, table based layouts, and
lots of inline CSS.

The frightening issue is that I can build such a site so it will

validate, pass at least WCAG priority 1 accessibility and have
effective SEO.

However she goes on to say:

The mere fact that I can actually do all that and be in compliance
with specs should help clarify my point, I hope. It’s not the specs
that define Web Standards. We are talking about best practices.
We use the term “standards” fast and loose, and for an industry
that is so interested in semantics, I find it endlessly ironic that we
have chosen such a piss poor description to define a certain level
of professional practices.

This post is a follow-up from one on “Web Standards Aren’t” which, as with
many of Molly’s posts, succeeds in generating much debate, including
contributions from some of the leading lights in Web standards development

I met Molly at the W4A 2005 conference when I gave a paper on “Forcing

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Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying the

WCAG in the Real World“. This was my radical paper in which I suggested, to a
room full of Web accessibility experts, that Web accessibility wasn’t about
conforming with a technical set of universal standards, but in identifying best
practices which would support users in the particular tasks they were engaged in.
Molly, who I didn’t know at the time, supported various comments I made at the
conference, which led to various late night drinking sessions at the conference
(but I won’t go into that!)

And now Molly is taking the debate even further. and other leading
standards-based developers are raising similar concerns, such as Andy Clark’s
post dated 11 February 2008 on “transcending the web of today” in which he

Transcending is about moving away from outdated notions, for

example that a design should look the same in all browsers. It is
about designing the best possible visual experience for people
using the best browsers (and then considering what happens for
people using outdated technologies). This is the opposite of
progressive enhancement where a designer would design for the
most common, lowest common denominator browser (even it is the
least capable), and then add extra visual decoration to reward
people who use more modern software. Transcending about
designing the best for the best.

If leading lights such as Molly and Andy (who have both published books on
Web standards, given many prresentations on this topic and beern active in
W3C working groups) are questioning the W3C vision, we should pay heed.
Have W3C lost the authority they once had? Have the dangers posed by
software vendors leading the development of standards simply been replaced by
the dangers of a group of researchers and purists who are happy to develop
sophisticated solutions which may fail to gain acceptance in the marketplace?

It’s not longer just a question of passively accepting the vision of the standards
developers, I’m afraid. And if you don’t believe me, tell me -do you think the
future lies in W3C’s XHTML 2 standard (July 2006 draft) or W3C’s HTML 5
standard (hmm, latest draft came out on 11 February 2008)? If there’s a schism
within W3C and W3C Consortium Members such as Microsoft, Sun, Opera and
Google, which sect will you follow? Or do you feel the need to avoid the
religious wars and join the agnostics?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in standards | Edit

The Oxford vs Cambridge Race

February 13, 2008

No, not the boat race - which has the most popular Web site, Oxford or
Cambridge University? We don’t know, has been the traditional view. The data
is only available on the institution’s Web server and there’s no point in making
such data publicly available.

But this isn’t quite true. If you go to the Alexa traffic ranking service you can
view traffic data for public Web sites - and you can compare the traffic data
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across a range of Web sites.

So who has the most popular Web site? Well if you visit the comparison page
you’ll find the answer is …

too close to call

Now the obvious response when discussing Web site statistics and making
comparisons with one’s peers is to point out the limitations of the methodology -
unless, of course, your Web site is on top In this case we might discuss the
limitations of Web traffic metrics (caching, etc.) and point out that an
organisation’s Web site isn’t the organisation and need not reflect the quality of
the institution’s teaching and research. But we need to remember that the people
who have an interest in such figures are typically civil servants and policy
makers - they’re like the so-called ‘Google generation’ - they don’t explore
issues deeply and will dismissive of explanations of the limitations of such
The rest of us will be aware of such limitations. And we’ll also know when such
league tables are inappropriate in many contexts and not just within the Web
environment. or example the New Stateman magazine on the 21 January 2007
has an article entitled “It’s wrong to publish league tables” in which Peter Wilby
argues that “News scores tell parents nothing about schools“. The next thing
we’ll hear will be suggestions that football should be judged on a single metric
such as the number of points obtained during the season - we know that this is
more of a indication of the bank balance of your team’s Russian, American or
Thai billionaire and factors such as the number of African players your team
may have who may disappear in January and the quality of the players and their
countries (an inverse relation as, if they’re too good, they’ve stay away for
longer period) :-).

Even so, it can be fun using the Alexa service to make comparisons with your
peers. And, of most interest to me, when did usage traffic stop growing? And
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what has been happening since 2006? Have all the users of university Web sites
moved to Facebook or even Second Life? Joking apart, there are some
interesting questions to ask. Why has Web usage traffic been in decline since
February 2006?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

Boycott of the Premier League

February 11, 2008

“Supporters threaten boycott of Permier League spnsors over foreign fixture

plans” read a headline on the front page of the Guardian’s Sport section on
Monday 11th Febuary 2008.

I can sympathise with those views, but if I wanted to support such a boycott
where would I go? Well a search for “boycott premier league” in Facebook
BOYCOTT” which was set up on 9th February and already has 242 members.

Last August the BBC described how Facebook had been used to force the
HSBC to make a U-turn on its plans to introduce student charges, a story which
was picked up my many newspapers and bloggers.

Is, then, Facebook turning out to be the channel for mass protests, with only the
hardline marxists arguing for a more politically correct channel? OK, a tongue-
in-cheek suggestion - but where else would you go to set up a mass campaign? I
have discovered the Football Supporter’s Federation petition, but only through
the Facebook group.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit

IT Service Blogs
February 10, 2008

In a post last month entitled UCISA Award for UK Web Focus Blog I mentioned
that I’ll be giving a talk on blogging at a UCISA workshop an Innovation and
Communication which will take place on Thursday 14th February 2008.

I’m currently finalising my slides - which, incidentally, are available on the

event’s Wetpaint wiki. On a discussion on the wiki Sue Cunningham asked:
“One of the reasons people in our dept don’t want to start blogging is that they
don’t think they would keep it up. Do you find it takes a lot of your time - is it
difficult to post on a regular basis?“

I would suggest that (a) blogs can be used to replace or complement existing
communications channels and provide greater functionality (b) IT Services need
to give greater priority to engaging with their users, otherwise the users will stop
using their services and (c) we don’t have to work in isolation and sharing

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experiences and resources, such as blog policies, scripts, etc. and discussing best
practices will benefit the wider community and is something that UCISA is good

My questions then:

What IT Services blogs are available (I’m aware of the Tech Services blog
at Edge Hill University, Michael Webb’s at Newport and John Dale’s at
Warwick) ?
What experiences and best practices can be shared. Have any IT Service
departments produced guidelines on the scope of their blogs, avoiding
problems, dealing with spam comments, etc.?

The current version of my slides is available below (although this may be


Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog, Events | Edit

Baggy Trousers
February 8, 2008

Yesterday in a post on Is That A Pistol In Your Pocket? I wondered what type

of mobile devices we would be carrying on our person in 5 years time. James
Clay “wonder[ed] if the devices will get bigger rather than smaller?” as the
screen size is a factor for viewing images and watching movies and Mike Ellis
suggested that “we’ll probably laugh at the number of devices we carry now“.

Paul Walk has admitted to a change in his views over the years:

I had a long running argument with a previous boss where he

argued that we just needed all our gadgets integrated into one
device, while I argued for smaller, focussed gadgets which could
inter-operate with something like Bluetooth. The other day I

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bought an iPhone. He was right. I was wrong. I’m happy

A very interesting comment. In a technical environment I suspect James, Mike,

Paul and myself see the advantages of the coupling of dedicated devices (as with
networked applications) which could be coupled - and I suspect that was our
view when we purchased HiFi separates rather than a music centre when we
were younger. (For example I still have my NAD amplifier, Dual turntable,
Technics casstee player and Vision loudspeakers).

But Paul, who is a Mac fan, has changed his views. I can see the advantages of
the single system (and I now listen to my music on my Sony combined DVD/CD
player). But in other respects I prefer the flexibility of buying new devices as
they come available and upgrading them as needed (I suspect a GPS device may
be next).

But how will I carry all of these devices? I suspect I’ll be wearing baggy trousers
in the future. Paul, on the other hand, may be wearing the tight-fitting Star Trek
uniforms which, in the 1960s, we predicted would be the norm in the 21st
century. Madness? Perhaps, but it’s interesting to speculate on how mobile
devices and pervasive networks may affect what we wear.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets | Edit

Is That A Pistol In Your Pocket?

February 7, 2008

Mae West asked “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see
me?” Last night when I went out rapper sword dancing around the pubs in
Bath the bulges in my pocket were due to my Casio Ex-Z1080 digital camera,
Nokia N95 phone and iPod MP3 player.

It struck me that the processing power, storage capacity and

functionality that these devices would have been in the realm of
science fiction when I was younger (Star Trek comes to mind). I
was carrying around in my pocket a iPod which has an 80 hard
disk drive, a camera with a 2Gb SD card and a mobile phone
with a 512 Mb micro SD card. All three devices play videos,
display photos and play music, the phone and the camera are
content capture devices which can be used for taking photos and
recording video and sound. In addition, as Phil Wilson has described recently,
the Nokia N95 phone is also has WiFi, GPS support and provides a Podcast
client and can be used to watch TV and listen to the radio (if you are prepared to
pay the network charges).

When, I wonder, were the processing power, storage and functionality of such
devices only available on expensive, state-of-the-art desktop computers? And
what will the bulges in our pockets be capable of providing in 5 years time? Any

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets | Edit

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Thoughts on Goowy
February 4, 2008

Yes, there’s another integrated Web-based environment for providing access to

email. calendar, instant messaging, etc, as well as having a widget environment
which provides extensibility. The service is called Goowy.

I have just been notified of this service via a tweet from Techcrunch which has
just announced that “AOL Acquires Goowy” (in this
case I find that Twitter does provide a useful alerting service, which has
similarities to RSS alerts).

The news here was the acquisition of the service by AOL. The Techcrunch
article went on to say “On Monday AOL will announce the acquisition of San
Diego-based Goowy, a startup founded in late 2004 and which launched,
incidentally, in my living room in late 2006“.

I’d not heard of Goowy, but via a quick look at the online demonstration and
reading a Techcrunch article from 2005 I find that Goowy provides a
Flash-based interface to popular communication technologies (email and instant
mesaging), file store management (1 Gb filestore available for free), games and,
well that’s about it. I had to stifle a yawn - and not just because it’s 5 am and,
following a recent long-haul flight I am both wide awake and feeling tired.

But is there anything which can be learnt from Goowy? From my point of view I
found it interesting that Goowy’s instant messaging capabilities are based on
providing an interface to MS Messenger and AOL Messenger. It’s good, I feel,
that they haven’t released yet another instant messaging service. But about 4
years ago I must admit that I felt that by now an open solution to instant
messaging, based on the Jabber open environment, would be widely deployed.
But no, it seems that Jabber is still finding it difficult to break out of its niche
ghetto and interoperability is based on companies supporting the major players
rather than interoperability through open standards.

And from Googling for information about Goowy I found a Techcrunch

company profile which reviewed the company in 2005 and a more recent
Crunchbase profile of the company. But the most intriguing company profile
was provided by the Web2.0list service. This provides a mashup of user statistics
data provided by and with both graphs showing a
decline in numbers from the start of the recording period.

Goowy is not for me, I’ve decided. But the information provided by Crunchbase
and Web2.0list can, I feel, be useful in helping to inform decisions on making
use of Web 2.0 services.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: goowy | Edit
1 Comment »

IWMW 2007 - Call For Proposals

January 28, 2008

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2008) will be

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held at the University of Aberdeen on 22-24th July 2008.

The theme of this year’s event is “The Great Debate“. The event will provide an
opportunity for members of the institutional Web management community to
engage in discussions regarding the future of institutional Web services,
particularly in a Web 2.0 environment. Can externally hosted services, as some
suggest, replace some of the services currently provided in-house or is such
out-sourcing dangerous for institutions, placing a reliance on unproven
technologies and unsustainable business models?

As well as the lively debates on the role of Web 2.0, the IWMW 2008 event will
also provide an opportunity to reflect on the formative years of the institutional
Web management community and to discuss how the community sees itself
developing during its teenage years.

The call for speakers and workshop facilitators for IWMW 2008 is now open.
We encourage submissions which will contribute to the debates of the future of
our Web services, including plenary talks (perhaps providing institutional case
studies which describe changing approaches to the provision of Web services)
and workshop sessions which provide an opportunity for more interactive and
participative activities. And, as always, we also welcome proposals on other
topics which may be of interest to or relevant to members of institutional Web
management teams and facilitate sharing of best practices.

Details of the call are available on the IWMW 2008 Web site. Note that the
deadline for submissions is 29th February 2008.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, iwmw2008 | Edit
1 Comment »

Who Should Own The Social Networks?

January 23, 2008

“With friends like these …”

The Guardian recently featured an article entitled With friends like these …
which Josie Fraser described as “a blistering critique of Facebook“. The article
not only laid into Facebook but also social networks and communications
technologies more generally. And, as can be seen from the concluding
paragraph: “I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to
connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology.
It’s free, it’s easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing
information: it’s called talking.” the author also seems to want to reject a whole
raft of technologies including the telephone and letter-writing!

Josie has written a critique of the article entitled Facebook: Neo-con social
experiment? in which she responds to each of the points Tom Hodgkinson made
in his article. I would very much agree with Joan Vinall-Cox’s comment:
“Thanks so much for your rebuttal of Hodgkinson’s points“.

Rather than revisiting this particular debate, however, I would like to pick up on
a point made by Frances Bell in her post on Tom Hodgkinson’s rant on (or
should I say about?) Facebook. Frances commented that she “found Tom’s
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article to be quite informative in parts but tiresomely Luddite in other part“.

Frances main point was that the issue that needs to be debated was the
ownership of social networks and the related privacy issues. She picked up on
the comment that “By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your
personal data transferred to and processed in the United States .. [which may
be shared] with other companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies“.

I feel that, along with Josie and Frances, social networks can be beneficial to our
social, work and learning activities. And I would agree that there is a need to
address these issues of ownership. Indeed I feel that this topics should be
included as one of the topics in my recent call for a Web 2.0 debate.

Who should own the social networks?

So who should own the social networks which large numbers of our society are
now using? Currently the popular social networks, such as Facebook and
MySpace are commercial services with, put simply, a remit to make money for
the owners. And it is this commercial aspect which is causing concerns for many
in the educational and wider public sector - and not just those who have doubts
concerning the benefits of social networks, but also those who feel social
networks can be beneficial to society in a variety of ways.

But if we have concerns that such services may be owned by large companies
(such as, in MySpace’s case, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp or, with Facebook,
part ownership by Microsoft) or the uncertainties or private ownership (with
Tom Hodgkinson’s article pointing out the links the venture capitalists have with
the Republican party and the CIA), who should own the social networks? And as
a follow-up, how realistic may such hopes be and how would a transition from
private ownership actually occur?

The initial response may be that the government should own social networks.
But (a) is this really desirable and (b) is it realistic? I would suggest that if social
networks were provided by a government agency that the concerns over links
with security forces would be of greater concern than they are at present. And
can we really envisage, in the UK, a Gordon Brown government nationalising
social networks? It’s not going to happen, is it?

Perhaps our organisations should run social networks for the employees? But
surely an important aspect of social networks are the communications with
people outside one’s host institution? And the notion that JISC could provide a
social network for the higher and further education community could be difficult
in working with groups outside that community and would probably fail to
address the informal aspects of social networks which, it has to be admitted,
have proved popular (although I’ve not played Scrabulous on Facebook, I know
many people who have).

And we also have to ask ourselves whether the user community would actually
be willing to use social networks which are provided by our organisations. How
easy, for example, might it be to be critical of the organisation if the organisation
owns the communications channels and is responsible for the rules and policing
such rules?

The OCLC report on Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our Networked World,
which I posted about recently, provided some interesting data which suggested
that end users aren’t as concerned about privacy as we professionals think they
should be (no surprise there) but, more surprisingly, they seem to be more

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willing to make their personal data available on commercial services (they

understand that such data is needed to provide the services they find useful and,
perhaps, younger people are more accepting of capitalist motivations than those
of us who remember when the word ’socialism’ was used at Labour Party
conferences and can complete the phrase “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, …”).

The need for realism

It’s nice to be in opposition - all you need to do is to complain about things and
suggested uncosted solutions, with no need to develop deployment strategies.
But I think we need away from our comfort zone.

In particular we need to ask how social networks will be funded - such issues are
raised in the context of commercial services, with some people suggesting that
Facebook isn’t economically sustainable in the long term. But, if they’re not
provided by the commercial sector, how would they be funded? And this
question has particular relevance in light of the announcement made shortly
before Christmas that Curverider were closing the Eduspace social networking
service as ”Running a community takes a lot of time and hard work, which we
have no longer been able to give EduSpaces, and in that light, it seems both
unfair and unwise to keep the site going” (although subsequently a Canadian
not for profit company has announced that it will now host the service).

Calling for the government funding (which really means calling for extra taxes)
is unlikely not only for political reasons, but also in light of the recent shocks in
the global financial markets, as described on the BBC News site:

… huge declines in shares across Asia and Europe on Monday,

with London’s benchmark FTSE 100 suffering its biggest one day
fall since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, gripped by
fears of a US recession.

To revisit the questions which I feel need to be answered:

Who should own the social networks?

Should ownership of social networks be any different from other software
services we use in our institutions (including VLEs such as Blackboard,
Web 2.0 services such as Flickr or blogging services such as Edublogs
How should a transition to a change of ownership take place?
How realistic is the transition strategy?
How do you know what this is what the users actually want?
How will social networking services be funded under alternative
ownership resources? And if the answer is increased taxes, how will you
get that past the Daily Mail readership which seem to be influential in
informing policy discussions for both the Labour and Conservative

And if you manage to solve this issue, perhaps you could suggest how we could
reclaim our football teams from ownership of billionaires from the US, Russia
and Thailand whilst, of course, still ensuring that you team gets into the
Champions League (local self-made billionaires are probably acceptable).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking | Edit

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Is Pownce The Answer?

January 22, 2008

In the recent discussion about Twitter there was a feeling, from some, that it
wasn’t well-suited for discussions. Indeed Andy Powell commented:

i think you are right to question whether using Twitter for

one-to-one or few-to-few conversations is the right approach. i
(eventually) stopped Twittering on Friday cos it felt like we were
mis-using it.

And yet a few minutes ago I smiled at the following comments from Andy, Paul
Miller and Pete Johnston:

andypowe11 The moment i wake up / before i put on my makeup / i

tweet a little tweet for you … about 1 hour agofrom im

paulmiller @andypowe11 - makeup? about 1 hour ago from iTweet

in reply to andypowe11

PeteJ @paulmiller: Company dress code about 1 hour agofrom im

in reply to PaulMiller

PeteJ @paulmiller: (senior staff) about 1 hour agofrom im in reply

to PaulMiller

Brilliant! I have to admit, I enjoy Pete’s witticisms. But if on Twitter you follow
Pete or Paul but not Andy, you’ll miss the context and just get the two of them
talking about make-up with the reference ot the Aretha Franklin song.

The pithy one-liners are useful, I feel, but I’m not convinced that Twitter is the
best tool for this.

But also on today’s Twitter feed I received an announcement from TechCrunch

saying that Pownce is now open to subscription, after a closed testing period.
The Pownce About me page states that:

Pownce is a way to send stuff to your friends. What kind of stuff?

You can send just about anything: music, photos, messages, links,
events, and more. You can do it all on our web site, or install our
lightweight desktop software that lets you get out of the browser.

Now isn’t our requirement to send stuff (witticisms, jokes and useful snippets of
information)? Time for experimentation, I think. And it might be useful to
subscribe quickly - before your preferred user id is taken.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter ·Tags: Pownce | Edit

Twitter Friday
January 21, 2008

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The Background
Friday turned out to be a day of experimentation with Twitter for myself and
some of my Twitter friends including Andy Powell, Pete Johnston, Paul Miller,
Owen Stephens and Josie Fraser.

Friday actually began with an email discussion with fellow members of the
Internet Librarian International advisory group over the theme for the
conference. I expressed some reservations that the suggestions, which focussed
on tangible benefits and return on investment, although important, could detract
from the needs for experimentation and intangible benefits. I feel these points
were accepted, and the conference organisers will shortly be announcing details
of this year’s conference.

In contrast, the discussions held on the Twitter micro-blogging service appeared

to cast me in an alternative role in which I argued the need for guidelines on best
practices to support use of Twitter. In response I received tweets (Twitter posts)
along the lines of “The day we have best practice for Twitter will be the day I
stop using it!” and “Global order is …boring. And massively unhelpful,
sometimes“. So is it time to start developing guidelines or is it too early and will
such attempts stifle innovation?

I feel that there are some

areas in which mistakes
can easily be made and
everyone would benefit
from understanding the
problems and solutions.
One good example
comes from Owen
Stephens’ recent
experiences in trying to
integrate his Facebook
statuses with his Tweeter posts. As Owen describes on his blog “What I actually
wanted was to allow Twitter to update Facebook AND Facebook to update
Twitter“. As can be seen from the image, this had an unfortunate side-effect - if
you try and do this in both direction, you get a loop.

Architectural Issues
That was a simple and easily understood and easily resolved problem. But on
Friday the Twitter discussions led to aspects of the Twitter architecture which
may be more difficult to resolve. Although a tweet may be a very simple
resource, based on up to 140 characters, possibly including a hyperlink, tweets
may have dependencies now only on the Twitter service, but also on the service
used to provide the short force of URLs which are often needed to keep to the
140 character limit. So an individual tweet may have a dependency on two
services, and if the TinyURL service is not as sustainable as Twitter in the long
run, it may not be possible to resolve the hyperlinks. A problem, then, if future
generations feel that Twitter records provide useful information on the topics we
are talking about today. This is an area of concern which has already been
identified in the blogging community, with one blogger having posted on URL
Shorteners List and Why It’s a Mistake for Twitter.

And as we look at the different ways in which Twitter can be used, we can spot

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other limitations in its architecture. Most tweets I have encountered use the service but the client I use, Twitteroo, uses the Rurl service:
multiple dependencies on URL resolutions, then.

Such concerns may be legitimate, but they are not specific to Twitter: these
issues simply reflect the complexities of a Web 2.0 environment. Perhaps of
greater interest to the majority of Twitter users and potential users are the ways
in which Twitter is being used.

Twitter Usage
Andy Powell recently drew attention to his Twitter followers in a tweet which
pointed out that the emerging usage pattern amongst his Twitter friendswas
infringing the Twitter Ten Commandments. In particular I think it’s fair to say
that we were using Twitter like a private chat room. As I have 80 followers and
follow 38 others (Andy has 92 followers and is following 120, Pete has 21
followers and is following 24, Paul has 186 followers and is following 182, Josie
has 227 followers and is following 128 and Twitter newcomer Owen Stephens
has 9 followers and is following 10 others) I would question the value of our use
of Twitter for public messaging especially when most of the followers are likely
to see only half of the conversation or when the messages are based on in-jokes.

I do feel that we need to start to discuss the patterns of usage, why Twitter fans
find it so useful and to be able to identify potential problem which may lead to
Twitter failing to be sustainable in the long term. But I also realise that it is very
early days for Twitter and attempting to mandate particular ways of working
may stifle innovation. And there’s a denager that focussing on Twitter’s
potential in a work capacity could lead to missing out on the informal banter,
jokes and discussions which can improve the quality of the work place - for
example, the tweet I’ve just received from my colleague Paul Walk “off to
Nottingham. No.1 Son is concerned that I don’t run into that old Sheriff….”
made me smile.

I feel that the compromise position is to document experiences and encourage

debate - as this post aims to do. I also feel that it would be useful to explore
ways in which Twitter can support our professional activities.

One area in which Twitter experimentation is taking place is to support

conferences. Indeed Robert HC has blogged about JISC’s plans to use Twitter to
support their conference. As he describes “so that we don’t all feel mega stupid
about it, the Comms team is slowly turning into Twitterers (sigh) - with the
fabulous results of us now knowing if we’re sitting on trains, waiting for
offspring or having slugs creep under our kitchen doors - no doubt this will all
be a prelude to something more useful and productive and we are just getting
used to how it works…“

I think encouraging members of the organisation to use Twitter in this way is

useful. It can help to gain an understanding of the issues and also of the things
that can go wrong, prior to more formal use. From my experimentation, for
example, I know that delivery of tweets via SMS can cause problems if there’s a
lively Twitter discussion. On Friday evening, for example, I received an influx of
35 text messages - too many!

But perhaps delivery of tweets to conference delegates via SMS can be a

useful application for Twitter. In previous IWMW events we have invited
delegates to provide their mobile phone numbers on the booking form, for use in

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case of emergencies (this decision was made after the London bombings on 7/7,
which took place midway through the IWMW 2005 event). Might Twitter have
a role to play as the delivery channel, I wonder? And could this be used for
other purposes (e.g. notification of changes to the programme). And I think it
would be fun, after the welcoming talk which asked everyone to set their mobile
phones to silent mode, to send a tweet to check that everyone has done so

Your Thoughts
I’ve given some suggestions for use of Twitter in one particular context. And
I’ve suggested that Twitter users need to reflect on the strengths and weakness
of Twitter, but that we need to have an open debate before rolling out rules for
use of Twitter - and, like others, I would be worried if organisations required
editorial approval before tweets could be sent.

But we need to have the discussions. What are your thoughts?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter | Edit

Facebook Is So Last Year

January 17, 2008

The Guardian’s Predictions For 2008

Facebook is so last year. It’s official - it was in the Guardian. It was back in May
(2007) when John Kirriemuir picked up on the buzz which Facebook was
generating, with his post Facebook: Social Networking grows up? describing how

“there is now a social networking site that: (1) is based around

people and their real social networks’ (2) looks quite good’ (3)
isn’t full of inane people spouting inane conversation’ (4) is very
easy to use and configure’ (5) has a growing number of add-ons,
some with potential educational uses and (6) is expanding in terms
of who is using it“.

Well with the possible exception of (3) I feel John’s predictions for Facebook
were true. But Facebook is now suffering from over-exposure - there are now
tutorials on use of Facebook in a library context, which illustrates how
mainstream Facebook has become. The cool guys are becoming excited by a
number of emerging technologies. But what are they?

The Cool New Services For 2008

The Guardian suggests Twitter will be big in 2008. I recently echoed this
sentiment and I’ve also noticed that JISC are making use of Twitter and intend
to use it to support the JISC 2008 conference (but note that other micro-blogging
tools such as Jaiku have their fans).

Dopplr, which is also mentioned in the Guardian article, is another service I’ve
been using for some time, to record details of my trips and to share this
information with my contacts.
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Excluding Web sites aimed at kids, the other service mentioned in the Guardian
article is I’ve not yet got an account for this service, but a
Techcrunch article describes how this video-like Twitter service service: “Users
can upload video directly from their webcam and post it to a personal page like
with Twitter. They can also grab content from other sites such as YouTube by
copying a video’s url and placing it in their stream. Additionally, videos that
users create can be automatically linked to in twitter (potentially other
platforms) and uploaded to YouTube.“

Whither Facebook?
So there are several new services to excite the early adopters. But what does this
mean for Facebook? Will it face a gradual, or even sudden, demise? I would
suggest that this will not be the case. Rather, like Microsoft’s operating system,
office suite and Web browser, it will be a part of the infrastructure, widely used
by many and having a significant role to play within organisations. But it will not
be sexy. And, just like Microsoft products, it will have flaws (the annoying email
messages which some Facebook apps send out seems to have parallels with
Microsoft’s little-lamented dancing paper clip) - such flaws do not necessarily
lead to a downturn in a product’s usage.

So the early adopters will be excited by the new generation of micro-blogging

and multi-media blogging tools. But when people start to question Twitter’s
financial viability and the mass media start to speculate on how it can be
misused (being used by paedophiles, perhaps) or the services which make it easy
to share travel information are used by burglars to target their house-breaking
activities, it will be time for the early adopters to move on to the next generation
of tools.

Or to put it another way, when the early adopters begin to distance themselves
from a tool, this may be when it has progressed on the Gartner curve from the
early adopters to mainstream usage. And, for me, the mainstream usage of
services is something to be welcome.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

UCISA Award for UK Web Focus Blog

January 16, 2008

I’m pleased to report that the UK Web Focus blog was awarded a prize by
UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association). This blog
will feature as a case study which will appear in a forthcoming UCISA
Innovation and Communication best practice guide to be published by the
Communications, Liaison and Information Working Group of TLIG (the UCISA
Teaching Learning and Information Group).

As well as the publication, UCISA is also organising an Innovation and

Communication event which will feature the selected case studies. The event,
which will be held on 14 February 2008 at the Coventry TechnoCentre, will also
include presentations on A Blended Communication Approach (Nici Cooper,
University of Wolverhampton), Hi Applicant Community website(Alison
Wildish, Edge Hill University - but now based at Bath University), IT
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Communications (Derek Norris, University of the West of England) and The

Teaching and Learning Network (Phil Riding, UCL) .

I am particularly interested in the potential of blogs for staff in IT Service

departments to both engage with their user communities and for communicating
with their peers in IT Service departments in other institutions. The early
adopters in IT Service departments include blogs from several senior managers
(Michael Webb, University of Wales, Newport, John Dale, University of
Warwick and, more recently, Chris Sexton, Sheffield University) with Mark
Sammons (whose In-Cider Knowledge blog was established in 2004, and has
migrated to WordPress recently) providing the perspective from a member of IT
Services support staff.

Last May I published a post on The First IT Services Blog? which suggested that
the Core Services departtment at Edge Hill Univrersity might be the best IT
Service department to have launched a blogging service. But are there now more
IT Service departments who are making use of blogs to reach out to their users?
And have blog policies and Web practices been established? I’d welcome
feedback which I can make use of when I give my talk at the UCISA event.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog, Events | Edit

Is Second Life Accessible?

January 14, 2008

Is Second Life accessible to users with disabilities? If your views on

accessibility are based on compliance with guidelines (especially WAI’s Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines) and you feel that all digital resources must be
universally accessible to everyone, you may feel that an inherently graphical and
interactive environment such as Second Life is unlikely to be accessible.

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If you share such views I would strongly recommend that you watch the
Wheeling in Second Life video clip which is available on YouTube (or, if you
cannot access YouTube on the Tips or DotSub services).

This video clip shows a user with cerebral palsy, Judith, using Second Life with a
headwand. As Judith explains (which you can read on the transcript):

“I’ve got a wheelchair in Second Life also. You can choose

whether you want to be in a chair or not. You can have crutches,
you can have whatever disability you have in real life in Second

In response to the question “Do you think that this will be a really useful tool
for people who are unable to get around, who have problems of mobility in real
life?” Judith feels that “Yes, because you can have friends without having to go
out and physically find them“.

Should institutions really be developing policies which prevent use of services

such as Second Life on grounds of inaccessibility? And who will explain the
reasons for such decisions to users such as Judith?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility | Edit

Standards For Data Portability

January 11, 2008

In a recent post on Should Personal Data In Facebook Be Exportable I pointed

out the potential dangers of allowing data to be exported out of an environment
in which access control can be managed. I have previously suggested that in 30
years time potential new leaders of political parties will have their Facebook
entries trawled by the tabloid press - I didn’t expect this to happen quite so
quickly, but an Australian news site has the headline Benazir Bhutto’s son
targeted on Facebook and the Guardian newspaper recently discussed the ethics
of using data published on Facebook to support a news story.

It is quite clear to me that the ‘data must be free and open’ line is too simplistic.
And we are not in a position in which it is a simple question of social networking
service providers supporting open standards. There are many important issues of
gathering requirements, exploring use cases, discussing and arguing solutions,
etc. which we now have a need to address. And these aren’t just issues for
services such as Facebook to address - institutions be facing similar questions,
especially if they provide social networking services (such as Elgg) within their

So it is good to hear that there are a number of new initiatives which have been
announced recently. There is the Data Portability group which, as announced on
Techcrunch, Facebook, Google and Plaxo have joined recently. And, via a
comment on my blog, I discovered John Breslin’s blog, in which he recently
posted on, web standards, SIOC and FOAF. FOAF I’m
familiar with, but SIOC is new to me. SIOC (Semantically-Interlinked Online
Communities Project, but also the Gaelic word for frost - there’s a convoluted
explanation on the SICOC Web site) does seem interested and there a SIOC

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tutorial has been accepted for the WWW2008 conference.

John’s post concludes:

It’d be great if we can get some of the people to

come to the WebCamp workshop on Social Network Portability in Cork
in March.

I do feel there is a pressing need for institutions to engage in the development of

approaches for data portability. The relevant open standards aren’t available yet
and, as many have argued, we will face difficulties in the future if we continue
to grow large-scale walled gardens. Are there any readers of this blog who are
planning on attending this event?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking ·Tags: SIOC | Edit
1 Comment »

Tower of WS-Babel
January 8, 2008

You know where you are with standards, right?

But who remembers OSI Networking Protocols? And whatever happened to



happening to Web Service standards? There was a panel session at a WWW

conference a few years ago entitled “Web Services Considered Harmful”

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which argued that Web Service standards were too complex to be successful.

Interestingly in a recent post on Not a unicorn, nor Switzerland neither by my

colleague Paul Walk he mentions that in Rail 2.0 “Significantly, the
ActiveResource plugin which drops a full ReST framework into Rails is in,
while the ActiveWebService functionality to support SOAP is out“.

Will then, the Web Services stack be the next attempt at standardisation which
fails by striving too hard to be too clever, eventually succumbing to a babble of
conflicting opinions of the next steps?

The accompanying image is available on Flickr. Is is taken from a set of images

entitled The Web is Agreement. It was put together on behalf of Osmosoft for a
BT Open Source Awareness Event to promote discussion on Open Source and

Towers of WS-Babel by psd, Some Rights Reserved

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web Services | Edit
1 Comment »

Should Personal Data In Facebook

Be Exportable?
January 7, 2008

On 2nd January 2008 I described various recent improvements to Facebook. I

also pointed out that the research community has been developing tools for
exporting data from Facebook for use in other applications. However my post
added a note of caution:

Has the problem of data being trapped within Facebook now been
solved? I don’t think so - remember that this is an experimental
prototype … Perhaps more interestingly, though, are the ethics of
exporting personal data to other applications. The data I have
received from my friends (their photos, contact details, interests,
etc.) has only been made available once we have mutually
accepted friendship invitations.

Coincidentally the next day the blogosphere was full of discussions on this very
topic, following an announcement (made initially on Twitter) that Robert Scoble
had been banned from Facebook for using a scraping tool for exporting data
from his Facebook account (”I got kicked off of Facebook because I was
running a naughty script trying to get my friends info off of Facebook“).

Paul Miller and Nick Carr (”Scoble: freedom fighter or data thief?“) were
amongst many bloggers who expressed their views on this incident in the
immediate aftermath of this announcement.

My view if that it would be a mistake to portray this incident as a freedom

fighter taking on the big evil corporate monster. I would also question the
automatic assumption that people may have that they should be able to get out
and reuse data they can access in networked services. I feel that the nature of
social networking services needs us to rethink assumptions which may have

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been valid in self-contained systems.

For example my email address and work details are freely available (on my Web
site, my email signature, my business card, etc.) However I took a deliberate
decision not to publish my Skype and my MSN IDs and my mobile phone
number in order to avoid both dangers of misuse (spam) and inappropriate use
(being contacted out of work hours or being inundated with messages).

But sometimes it would be useful to provide such information to others, but in a

managed fashion. I do this from time to time, giving out my mobile phone
number when I’m organising events (and am speaking at an event) so that
conact can be made in case of problems, In such cases there may be an implied
understanding that the information is provided only on a short term basis.
However such understandings which may be reached by humans will not
necessarily be the case in the networked world.

On Facebook when I befriend an individual this provides us with a mechanism

for sharing information, which will include contact details as well as a wide
range of other information. But, whilst this information is managed in a
Facebook environment I maintain control over this information, and can change
the access conditions or even, by defriending people, withdraw access to my
data. And this is an important aspect of effective social networks.

Circumventing such access control is therefore problematic, I feel. And this was
the reason why I did not publish the FOAF file containing details of my
Facebook friends.

Of course there are dangers of data lock-in if data cannot be exported from
systems. And if Facebook goes out of business there will be a lot of annoyed
individuals if they cannot lose functionality and services they find useful.

It needs to be acknowledged that there does need to be a debate on how we

should best proceed in addressing such tensions. But this debate does need to be
informed by an understanding of the diversity of requirements.

I was very pleased, therefore, to see a news item in Facebook from Dan Brickley
about a WebCamp: SocialNetworkPortability event to be held in Cork on 2nd
March 2008. The event will look at “abstract approaches for social network
portability”, “authentication methods for cross-SNS usage” and “giving
permission for profile discovery on different social networks”.

These are some of the important issues which need to be thrashed out. And
Robert Scoble’s approach of simply running a screenscraper to extract personal
data ignores these important issues. So Facebook should be applauded, IMHO,
for stopping Robert from infringing Facebooks’ terms and conditions. And note
that there is a Facebook aplication - Friendscsv- which allows contact details to
be exported from Facebook. Aparently:

This application has been created in accordance with the terms and
condition outlined in the Facebook Terms of Use (May 24, 2007),
Facebook Privacy Policy (Sept 12, 2007), and the Facebook
Platform Terms of Service and Platform Documentation (July 25,
2007). The data exported from your cadre of friends is obtained in
accordance with their Privacy Settings and does not contain any
contact information.

That sounds good. But:

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By using this application, you consent to allow the developers to

create a basic entry for you on, a site they also own and
maintain. Your use of this application represents your consent to the
privacy policies laid out on The developers of this
application do not store any information (encrypted or otherwise)
about your friends.

So a company (Bigsight) has already been set up which allows your contact data
to be exported, provided the data is also uploaded to their social network. Now
Bigsight is currently in beta and, according to their directory, there are only nine
people from London registered.

But if a Facebook friend of mine uses this tool, will I find my personal details
held on this service? Is this something to be welcomed? Or, to revisit the title of
this post, should personal data in Facebook be exportable?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook ·Tags: Bigsight | Edit

When Web Sites Go Down

January 4, 2008

A colleague of mine has just alerted me to the fact that the University of
Southampton Web site is down for scheduled maintenance from 2-4th January
2008. She had noticed this as she regularly visits the Web site to access the wide
range of resources it provides on institutional repositories (note added on 4 Jan
2008 - the Web site is now available, ahead of schedule!).

That’s no big deal, you may

think, servers do need
maintenance and the first
few days after the
Christmas break is probably
the best time,with students
still away and many
researchers likely to take an
additional few days holiday.

I’d be in broad agreement

with such sentiments (I
used to work in IT Services,
after all, and I’m aware of
the complexities of
managing IT systems). But
have our expectations
changed, I wonder? And
rather than taking time off
at this time of year, what if
users have imminent
deadline for papers and
need to access such
services? And who are the
users of the University of

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Southampton Web site - no longer just staff and students at Southampton, I

would argue’ rather at prestigious institutions such as the University of
Southampton there is likely to be a significant national (and indeed international)
user community.

But how should we establish what reasonable practices may be in addressing

user expectations of a 24×7 service availability, but without the business models
to fund such requirements. Perhaps the debate can be helped by initially
monitoring best practices within the community and making comparisons with
other communities.

In this respect the Netcraft service can be useful, as it provides automated

analyses on public Web services, including profiles on Web server software
usage and server uptime data.

As can be seen from the graph, the main Web server at Southampton University
has had an average uptime (based on a 90-day moving average) of 405 days.
And this data compare very favourably with Sun’s data for which the equivalent
figure is 34 days.

I suspect the University of Southampton will have a high rating with the UK HE
sector for its server uptime. But, of course, that will probably not be appreciated
by the user who tries to access the site on day 406 to gather data for a paper
which needs to be submitted by day 407!

Is it possible (or, rather, realistic) to improve the server availability for

institutional services? Should we be replicating our servers (or our data)? Should
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we outsource the management of our services to companies such as Amazon, as

an international company such as Amazon (with their data hosting S3 service)
may be better positioned to provide 24×7x365 availability?

But before responding to such questions I feel that institutions may need to ask
themselves to whom they should be accountable. If institutional Web sites are
now providing significant services to a global audience, how can we ensure that
that global community is being provided with acceptable levels of service? After
all, we ask these questions of externally-hosted Web services. But don’t we all
act as externally hosted Web services to others outside our institution?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have server uptime data across all our institutions?
And if the data for sector compares favourably with the commercial sector, then
we will have something to be pleased with. And if the comparison is
unfavourable, then this should help to inform our planning - and provide
objective data to inform discussions on the relevance to our sector on services
such as Amazon S3.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

Will Twitter Be Big In 2008?

January 3, 2008

Something IS Going On With Facebook! I said back in May 2007, in response to

a comment made by John Kirriemuir, after he received a sudden influx of
Facebook befriending messages. That was my first inkling that what had
previously been a rather dull academic network might become the major talking
point of 2007.

The post came back to me yesterday after I received a similar influx of people
who have have chosen to follow me on the Twitter microblogging tool. And a
Techcrunch article published on 2nd January 2007 suggested that “Twitter has
the potential of breaking into the mainstream this year“.

The Techcrunch article described the Twitter Stats service which provides
graphs showing an individual’s use of Twitter. This is likely to be only of interest
to regular Twitter users. Of more interest are the range of other Twitter
applications which have been developed over the past year and the excitement
which Twitter seems to be generating.

I normally use the Twitter Web site, but I have also used the Twitteroo client
(illustrated) and have configured Facebook so that my Facebook status is
updated by Twitter posts.

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But what’s new with Twitter? Looking at Techcrunch articles about Twitter it
seems that the review of 2008: Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without
includes Twitter as one of the new indispensable tools released in 2007. Another
review of the year suggests that “Omnipresence was another big theme in 2007
with Twitter brining (sic) always on, always available communication to the
masses … perhaps overall we’re all the richer for the networking Twitter

The uncertainties regarding the benefits of Twitter were acknowledged in a post

on Can You Spare The Odd Pea For A Good Cause? “The benefits of Twitter
may still be subject to heated debate amongst TechCrunch commenter’s, but
very few would doubt that Twitter has created new relationships and taken
social networking to new (and perhaps different) levels.” The post refers to a
cause that’s hot on Twitter (Frozen Pea Friday): a Breast Cancer Awareness and
fundraising day in support of well regarded blogger Susan Reynolds. Although in
this case Twitter is being used by someone with a clear interest in use of Web
2.0, the way in which microblogging can be used hints at its potential for a wider

A Wikipedia article provides further background information about Twitter but

the Twitter-fan wiki provides a more comprehensive list of Twitter applications
and ideas for how Twitter could be used. I have started to think about the
potential for Hashtags to aggregate microblog posts at an (amplified) event. I
was also interested to see how Brooklyn Museum is making its blog available via
Twitter. And software developers might be interested in use of Twitter by

Now what other interesting applications for Twitter might there be? And do you
feel that it will take off in 2008?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Twitter ·Tags: Twitter | Edit

Facebook Is Getting Better

January 2, 2008

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Whisper it, but has anybody noticed the various developments to Facebook
which seems to be making it a better environment to work in?

There have been developments to the user interface, such as the Facebook status
no longer has to start with “Brian is …” and messages delivered via email now
contain the contents of the message, and not just the URI you have to go to in
order to read the message. Simple developments, but much welcomed by many
Facebook users, I suspect.

It is also pleasing to see serious service providers providing access to their

services through Facebook - just before Christmas, for example, Lorcan
Dempsey commented on the availability of the Worldcat application for
Facebook, which is illustrated below.

The research community is also engaging with Facebook. I have recently joined
the Facebook: Academic Research group which describes itself as “A group for
anyone conducting (or interested in) academic research into Facebook. This
includes sociologists, computer scientists, psychologists, information scientists,
computer scientists, educators, philosophers, etc.“

I also noticed recently that several of my friends had joined The Semantic Web -
Benefits, Education & Outreachgroup. I must admit that I was very pleased to
see the pragmatic approach which is being taken by many of the Semantic Web
evangelists in this group. One message addressed the question “Why create a
facebook group to discuss the semantic web?“ by suggesting ”for the same
reason tv shows are advertised on radio and tv schedules are listed in
newspapers and magazines. You have to reach out to people where they are if
you want to bring them somewhere new.“

In this group a thread on Getting FaceBook to open up provided a link to the

Facebook Foaf Generator software which has been written by Mathew Rowe, a
PhD student at Sheffield University. The Foaf Generator is “a tool that
generates a Foaf file from your Facebook profile, compiled from the
information that Facebook has stored about you. It also includes details about
your friends, along with geographical placement of your current location or

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who has
written a

FOAF back in 2004 I was intrigued by the possibility of making my Facebook

data available as a FOAF file and then using a FOAF application to view the
data. So I installed the application and created a FOAF file of my Facebook
contacts. I explored several FOAF viewers before deciding that the Tabulator
widget for the Opera Web browser seemed to provide the richest interface, and
a screen shot of this is shown.

What, then, does this show? Well it does seem to be possible to extract data
from Facebook and make it available for use by other applications.

Has the problem of data being trapped within Facebook now been solved? I
don’t think so - remember that this is an experimental prototype developed by a
PhD student, so there can be no guarantee of the quality of the service or that it
will be available on a long term basis. And one simple experiment isn’t enough
to explore how sophisticated (or not) the data export capabilities are. Perhaps
more interestingly, though, are the ethics of exporting personal data to other
applications. The data I have received from my friends (their photos, contact
details, interests, etc.) has only been made available once we have mutually
accepted friendship invitations. Wouldn’t making a FOAF file of such data
openly available infringe the implied privacy settings? Or to put it another way,
although Facebook may be improving, could it become too open?

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook ·Tags: Facebook | Edit

A Call for a Web 2.0 Policy Debate

December 22, 2007

A brief interview with me has just been published on the JISC Web site with the
title ‘Information Professional of the Year’ calls for Web 2.0 policy debate. The
article reflects many of the discussions which have taken place on this blog
during the year:

There are divergences in opinion within the sector over the most
appropriate development and deployment strategies for Web 2.0,’
he claims. ‘Some argue that higher educational institutions should
be installing Web 2.0 services locally whilst others would argue that
externally-hosted services can be used to support institutional
requirements, with this providing benefits of scale and
acknowledges that such services will, in any case, be used by people
in their social activities.’

My call for a policy debate on these issues is clearly very timely in light of the
demise of the Eduspaces social networking environment, its subsequent rebirth
and the lively discussions taking place about the migration of the Eduspaces
environment and the sustainability of the community.

I will be revisiting these issues in the new year. But until then I’d like to wish
everyone a Happy Christmas - with the exception of readers in the US, to whom
I pass on my seasonal greetings

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
December 21, 2007

For many of us it’s easy to find ‘friends’ on Facebook. Once you’ve got started
and added a few friends it can often be easy to find other people you know. And
the more links you have the easier it is to grow your network.

But how many of us have actively ‘defriended’ someone on Facebook? (And,

incidentally, is this a word? The answer, it seems, is yes - see below). In real life
we may lose touch with our friends, or chose not to have contact with them. But
we probably haven’t publicly said ‘I’m not friends with you anymore ’since we
were at school.

What is the etiquette, then, of pruning one’s list of Facebook friends? If we

defriend someone, is this displayed on our respective News Feeds pages? And
will this cause intrigue? And what happens if others then start to defriend the
same person? Will they lose face?

Well I took the plunge recently, when I defriended someone for the first time.

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This was someone I had messaged, asking if she was the person I’d know when
in Newcastle. It turns out that she wasn’t - but, as her message was ambiguous, I
needed to befriended her to verify this. As we didn’t know each other, I
defriended her - and felt slightly guilty as she only had one other Facebook
friend. But at least this action wasn’t displayed on my page.

I do think we will need to start to defriend our Facebook friends. It would be

helpful if there was a Facebook application which could help manage one’s
friends, perhaps in some automated way. But we will still need to grasp the
nettle and let go at some stage.

Perhaps we need a Letting Go Of Your Facebook Friends day?

PS A Google search for defriend revealed several definitions, including this one
from the Enclopedia Dramatica:

To “defriend” is to remove someone from your LiveJournal’s

Friends list; it is tantamount to “throwing down the gauntlet” and
declaring one’s friendship at an end. Unsurprisingly, many people
consider defriending a severe blow to their pride and reputation,
and thus the act of defriending tends to stir up a lot of Internet

and this one from the Urban Dictionary (which demonstrates that the term
pre-dates the popularity of Facebook):

1. To remove someone from your livejournal friends list.

2. the act of removing a friend on your Myspace friend’s list.
3. defriend smbd v , transitive de + friend; cf. befriend - to break off
friendly relations (with smbd)

I should add that, as Andy Powell has observed recently, the Urban Dictionary
has also defined the term Facebook limbo to refer to “the electronic space
between accepting and rejecting a facebook friendship“. Is it worse to be
rejected or to be ignored, I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook, Social Networking | Edit
No Comments »

New Open Data Licence - a Milestone for Sharing

Data on the Internet
December 17, 2007

Myself, Scott Wilson and Randy Metcalfe co-authored a paper on “Openness in

Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” which Scott
presented at the ELPUB 2007 conference. The paper described the potential
benefits of use of open standards and open source software and an open
approach which characterises much of the Web 2.0 environment.

We were aware when writing the paper, though, that there was a gap related to
open data. I’m pleased to report that this gap is now being addressed with the
launch by Talis and Creative Commons of a new open data licence, which the
press release describes as “a milestone for sharing data on the Internet”.

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I was aware of Talis’s work in this area when I attended a session on Open Data
at the WWW 2007 conference, which I wrote about some time ago. One of the
questions I asked at the conference related to the governance of Talis’s
Community Licence. I was assured that Talis aimed to get it established as an
open licence governed by a trusted neutral provider and this was confirmed in a
post by Paul Miller in September 2007. And now the results of that work is
openly available.

Talis’s press release is given below.

Talis and Creative Commons are delighted to announce the release

of the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and
Licence, the first output of a successful partnership with the Science
Commons project of Creative Commons. Creative Commons is
well known for its advocacy and licensing work in the arena of
‘creative works’ such as songs, images, and copyrightable text.

In developing the Public Domain Dedication and Licence, Talis

secured the efforts of Jordan Hatcher and Dr. Charlotte Waelde,
asking them to build upon the principles of the earlier Talis
Community Licence in ways that ensured its fitness for international
purpose whilst aligning it more closely to the phrasing of Creative
Commons’ overarching protocol.

Talis Technology Evangelist Dr. Paul Miller commented, “At Talis

we’ve been arguing for a more permissive culture around use and
reuse of data for a very long time. Working with our partners at
Creative Commons and elsewhere we now have a clear framework
upon which to build, and in our Public Domain Dedication and
Licence we have the very first licence to conform to that new
Science Commons Open Access Data Protocol. With this
announcement we provide a tool to those who already understand
the value of unlocking their data. We can also use discussion of this
first tool to carry a wider set of messages to those who remain
unaware of the importance of data licensing to their own activities.”

The legal environment within which data exist is radically different

to that for creative works, and although there have been attempts to
apply existing Creative Commons licenses to data, the legal validity
of those efforts is questionable. In Europe we have Directive
96/9/EC of the European Parliament, and its various expressions in
the laws of member states to define the so-called Database Right.
These protections do not apply in jurisdictions such as the United
States. A different approach is therefore required if we are to
facilitate the widespread availability of data upon which the
emerging Semantic Web will depend.

John Wilbanks, Creative Commons’ Vice President responsible for

the Science Commons project, commented “For a commercial
organisation such as Talis, with a heritage in the business of creating
and managing data, to recognise the importance of the ‘freedom to
integrate’ says much about changing attitudes to the ownership and
use of data. That they went beyond this recognition and did
something about it with their licensing and advocacy work says
much about them and the team with which they collaborated. The
Open Data Commons Licence is the fruit of that collaboration. Both
CC0 and the ODCL offer a sound legal basis upon which creators
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can follow Talis’ example and recognise that there is far more to be
gained by enabling access to data than by continuing to lock it
away. Uniquely built for data, the Open Data Commons Licence
approach furthermore implements the norms of data sharing for
scientific data, providing the guidance for scientists to act as good
citizens without exposing them to lawsuits and lawyers.”

Jordan Hatcher, who completed the redrafting effort, commented,

“Building an open data licence for the community is very much a
collaborative process and we need everyone’s input to make the
licence be the best it can be — including meeting everyone’s needs
for open data. The project’s goal is to produce an easy to
understand licence and that means having it user tested just like
software. In the end, the Open Data Commons licence will provide
a workable and easy to use solution for data integration that will
take care of the relevant rights over data and databases.”

The Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence is

available for use from today. We are working with the
Cambridge-based Open Knowledge Foundation in the expectation
that they can take on the support and development of this and
related licenses in the future, ensuring true community ownership of
the licensing cornerstone upon which so much data will come to

The Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence is

available for download from, along
with the first set of documented Community Norms.

Many congratulations to Talis for this work. Now that the licence is available,
let’s start making use of it and share our data as well as our text, images and

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in openness | Edit

The Demise of Eduspaces

December 16, 2007

I have just received the following email:

Subject: Important EduSpaces news

Hi All,

We would like to inform all users of EduSpaces that we will be

shutting down the service on Jan 10th, 2008.

We have provided a mechanism for you to export all your blog

posts in either an RSS format or HTML. To do this, go to your blog
and select the submenu option you require. For those of you with
files, you might want to download those as well.

Thank you to everyone who has supported EduSpaces over the last

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three years.

So on 16th December I received notification that any content hosted on

EduSpaces will be unavailable early in the New Year. Not much time to do
anything, is it? And most unfortunate for anyone who is taken an extended break
over Christmas.

But at least they aren’t in breach of their terms and conditions:

We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any
reason, without notice at any time.
We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the
alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify
you via an appropriate method. What is a ‘material change’ is at our
We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any

And Frances Bell (”Anyway thanks to elgg bunch, Eduspaces was nice while it
lasted“) and Josie Fraser (”huge thanks to the whole Eduspaces team for the
massive contribution and commitment they’ve made to demonstrating what’s
possible, and to moving the discussion forward so much in terms of technology,
and web 2.0/social technologies for education“) have both expressed their
gratitude to the EduSpaces team.

But what does this tell us about the sustainability of such services? And what
lessons can be learnt?

Was their policy on openness (”We claim no intellectual property rights over
any material you provide to the EduSpaces service“) a contributory factor to
the difficulties Eduspaces seem to have in finding funding to provide a
sustainable service? In a recent post on The open source misconception Ben
Werdmuner commented on the unrealistic expectations that people may have
about services driven by open source software such as Eduspaces: “... software
is not developed by magical elves. It doesn’t appear like water, for free. People
have to put time and hard work into creating it.” He went on to add that “Elgg
in particular has no funding beyond Curverider, despite a common
misconception that it’s the recipient of public grants or affiliations.“

So did those of us who signed up to the service (including myself) fail in our
responsibilities to our communities by not expressing concerns over the
bluntness of the statement that “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the
EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time“? And as the
service was relaunched on 8 October 2007 as “the world’s largest social
network for education and educational technology” users of the service might
be surprised at the sudden demise of the service.

And what will happen after the service is shut down on 10th January? Will the
domain name become available, and likely to be taken over by a domain
squatting agency or a porn company? This would be rather embarrassing for
people, such as Salvor at Brighton) who has links to what is currently legitimate
posts about their elearning activities. (Of course, a clever porn company would
ensure that blog RSS feeds continue to be served, but delivering information
about Russians teenagers seeking western husbands rather than reflections of
elearning strategies!).

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I’ve just discovered that I am not along in having such concerns. Mandy
Honeyman has commented that “I used eduspaces as my portfolio for my
teacher training and so it is quite extensive if not necessarily public. I have
downloaded via the html option, but what a mess! I guess I could install my own
elgg just for me, but I’m about to move hosting so that’s not really an option. I
guess I could install elgg on the server at school, but that’s windows, so that’s
not an option either. This is a pain.“

Or are such criticisms unfair - maybe we just have to accept that such services,
which we do not pay for, will come and go and we need to spend more time and
effort in planning for the demise of such services. And I think it is true to say
that EduSpaces played a valuable role in introducing the benefits of edublogging
and social networks to educational technologists around the world. For that, we
should express our gratitude to the EduSpaces development team.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking ·Tags: eduspaces | Edit

Me, Myself, I
December 14, 2007

The OCLC report on ‘Sharing, Privacy and Trust In Our

Networked World’, which I wrote about recently, introduces the
report with a quotation from the Time “Person of the Year:
You” article, published a year ago on 13 December 2006.

Web 2.0 services, such as YouTube and Flickr, enable the

individual to be active creators of content, rather than passive
consumers as has been the case in the Web 1.0 world - which
can be good for the citizen and good for the student.

And in a report on the recent Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin conference, the Secret
Plans and Clever Tricks blog Chris May reported that “Social == Me First.
Social tools are primarily organised around self-interest, not altruistic
participation in a community. Community, where it emerges, is a side-effect of
the tools.“.

But how do we reconcile the tensions between the power which many Web 2.0
tools provide each of us as self-interested individuals (now that I can blog,
upload pictures and videos so easily) and the requirements of the institution
where individuals work or study? How, for example, can the institution
safeguard its reputation if individuals can create content without being validated
by editorial processes which have been the norm in the past? How are copyright
misuses to be addressed? And what about the legal challenges such as data
protection, defamation, compliance with accessibility legislation, etc.?

From my point of view I have been observing the pragmatic approaches which
are being taken by people such as Michael Stephens on his Tame The Web blog
(in particular with his Ray Of Light video) and John Dale at the University of
Warwick, with his comments on the potential of YouTube and his willingness to
write posts beyond his work-related activities.

I think the approaches being taken by individuals is helping to set patterns of

acceptable use of such technologies, which now bodies such as Intute are using

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(as can be seen from this recent blog post).

Nothing new, perhaps - individuals were deep-linking to Web resources whilst

the lawyers were still wondering about the legality of such actions. But I think,
or I should say, I hope, that it is individuals who can be instrumental in setting in
motion changes to outdated legislation. Who knows, we might even be able to
rip our CDs and listen to our music collection on our iPods within infringing
copyright legislation at some point (the Gower Report recommends this, but the
required legislation has not yet been enacted)? However I should add that
IANAL - and this post should not be construed as legal advice, or to reflect the
views of anyone apart from myself.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit
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Will The UK Government Shut Down The Queen’s

Web Site?
December 13, 2007

In a post on All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG AA Compliant I

recently warned of the dangers that the UK Government’s blunt instrument of
mandating that all UK government Web sites must comply with WCAG AA
accessibility guidelines could be counter-productive as the current WCAG 1.0
guidelines are widely felt to be out-of-date and government departments which
seek to comply with the guidelines may well result in Web design patterns which
are now widely felt to enhance the effectiveness of Web sites but which infringe
guidelines released back in 1998 being discarded.

I recently viewed the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy (don’t ask) and
spotted a visible <FONT> tag preceding a news item about the Queen’s speeches
in Uganda.

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Surely the Queen’s Web site isn’t using <FONT> tags, I thought? The Queen
can’t possibly have employed a self-taught Web coder who hasn’t updated their
skills in over five years? But looking at the source code and validating the page
my worst fears came true: 36 HTML errors, no DOCTYPE, spacer GIFs,
unclosed <FONT> tags (as I had spotted), <IMG> tags with no ALT attributes, a
mixture of XHTML and HTML elements, …

Now this page clearly fails to comply with the UK Government proposed
accessibility requirements. What, then, will happen if these proposals are
accepted and the Queen fails to correct the errors by next year’s deadline? Will
the Government attempt to shut down Her Majesty’s Web site? Will the
Government take the Queen to court? But won’t “Regina vs Regina ” lead to a
constitutional crisis? Will this lead to the demise of the monarchy and the
establishment of a republic? Or will such a vindictive move by pedantic civil
servants lead to a backlash, with the possibility of the Tower for the more
extreme of the ‘accessibility standardistas‘?

More seriously the British Monarchy Web site probably does provide a good
example of a service (perhaps not quite a public-sector service, though) which
would be improved by simply following the WCAG guidelines. So maybe my
concerns would only apply to those Web sites which are seeking to be more
interactive and user-focussed than the brochureware approach which the British
Monarchy site provides.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, HTML | Edit

Remember PeopleAggregator?
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December 13, 2007

The flurry of posts about OpenSocial (from Michael Nolan, Andy Powell, Tony
Hirst, Scott Wilson and George Roberts amongst those whose blogs I regularly
read) reminded me about PeopleAggregator, the open social networking service
I subscribed to a few months ago.

PeopleAggregator was developed by Marc Cantor, who set up the company

which developed Macromedia Flash - and “says he’s paying penance today for
the role he played in locking users into Macromedia Flash“. As described in a
TechCrunch article “PeopleAggregator is all about using open standards to
prevent lock-in in one of the most important sectors of the new web - online
social networking” and it will “share information with other services through
common identity standards for our profiles and through APIs (application
programming interfaces) for our writing, multimedia and contacts.“.

PeopleAggregator would seem, therefore, to fit in with Ross Gardler’s beliefs

that Communities can’t flourish in walled gardens. I would agree that the ability
to get data out of services is important - although I also feel there’s a need to
explore successful services in order to see what can be learnt from their success.

So in the summer I joined PeopleAggregator - expecting to find this service

being widely blogged about as an alternative to Facebook. But there has seemed
to be little interest in the service - and revisiting it I find that a search for groups
containing “web” shows 5 groups, the most popular, web3ers (on what’s beyond
Web 2.0) having just 8 members.

Why the lack of interest in PeopleAggregator (software which is available for

downloading, enabling institutions to set up their own social networking
environment)? And why, in contrast, is their such interest with Google’s
announcement about their OpenSocial APIs and the companies, including
Myspace and LinkedIn, who are supporting this initiative? Is this because we
love Google and MySpace’s commitment to openness - or perhaps because, on
this occasion, they are the underdogs (but underdogs with a chance of success)?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Social Networking ·Tags: PeopleAggregator | Edit
1 Comment »

OCLC Symposium At Online Information 2007

December 11, 2007

On the second day of the Online Information 2007 conference I attended the
OCLC Symposium on Who’s Watching Your Space? The symposium provided
OCLC an opportunity for OCLC to unveil their report on Sharing, Privacy and
Trust in Our Networked World which I’ve commented upon recently.

The session began with a talk by John Naughton, journalist and academic at the
Open University. I enjoy reading John’s regular column in the Observer and
many years ago I read his book on A Brief History of The Future. So I was
looking forward to hearing him speak for the first time, but was very
disappointed by what I felt were his cynical views on social networks. It’s
over-hyped and journalists always love to joy in with the over-hyping of popular
trends, John argued, and there are no sustainable business model. His comments
reminded me of the various comments people were making about the Web in
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1993 and 1994, and the scepticism people such as Jon Maber (original software
developer of the Bodington VLE at Leeds University) faced when the idea of
delivering teaching and learning services on the Web. It struck me that if
journalists are guilty of over-hyping trends they also enjoy following this up with
the doubts (”you build ‘em up, you known ‘em down”). I did raise this in the
questions, but, as Tom Roper reported, John didn’t really answer me questions.
But possibly, as Tony Hirst suggested to me during the drinks reception, I read
too much into John’s critical remarks and as Tom described in his report on the
symposium “He (John) thought there might be possibilities for harnessing
social networking in education, in corporate organisations and in libraries“. (I
suspect I was slightly annoyed that the explorations of the potential and best
practices for making use of social networks in education context, which is being
carried out by pioneers such as Tony Hirst and David White, and addressed in
the recent UKOLN workshop on Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and Social
Networks seem to be invisible to John).

The second speaker was given by Matt Brown of Nature Network. Matt
described the various services which Nature have developed, such as Connotea.
Now I’d be the first to congratulate Nature on the pioneering work on such tools
and their early commitment to RSS - but this talk provided nothing new for me,
and I was beginning to wonder whether I should have stayed at the Online
Information Conference, possibly attending the session on Folksonomies vs
Ontologies or Service Innovation - Tools and Resources for Library Users.

However Cathy de Rosa’s highlights from the Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our
online world report did make the session worth while, by providing
much-needed evidence on the changing online environment, together with some
surprises. The statistics that use of a wide range of online services (e.g. Web
sites, social networks, instant messaging) has gown since their last survey was
expected, but the decline in visits to library Web sites will, perhaps, have
surprised people in the audience who might have expected a report
commissioned by a library organisation to describe successes in the library
domain. However if that statistic may have surprise some, the discrepancy
between the (US) librarians’ views of their strengths and the users’ perceptions
was probably shocking - librarians, it seems, place a high regard on their
approaches to protecting the privacy of library users; the users, however, don’t
feel that this is the case and also don’t feel that privacy is such an important

As Tom Roper commented “There’s lots in the report” for people to digest. And
there will be a need to explore the validity of the findings (Tom pointed out that
“the samples used seem a little small“) and the relevance in a UK context (I
suggested to Rosa that she should make use of the SCONUL organisation next
time to try to get a representative sample from the UK academic library sector).
But at least we now have data and interpretations of the data to forward the

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, Social Networking ·Tags: OnlineInfo2007 | Edit
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Online Information 2007 Gets Web 2.0

December 10, 2007

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Last week I attended the Online Information 2007 conference. I’ve participated
in the conference previously - in 1998 when I participated in a panel on
Enabling The User In the Quest For Quality and in 2002 when I gave a talk
on Approaches to the Preservation of Web Sites. However I always felt that,
as the conference had such a strong emphasis on areas such as knowledge
management, Intranets and commercial solutions, the event did not reflect my
main areas of interests and so wasn’t the most effective dissemination channel
for me.

This year, however, I was invited to moderate a session on Library 2.0: Fact or
Fiction. And as the conference theme this year was Applying Web 2.0:
Innovation, Impact and Implementation. I thought it would provide a useful
opportunity to see how this particular conference and its target audience, which
includes many from the commercial sector as well as librarians and information
professionals in the higher education community, were responding to the
opportunities and challenges posed by Web 2.0.

What I discovered was a conference which is now embracing Web 2.0. I should
have been alerted to this change when I was information that an Online
Information 2007 Facebook group had been set up in advance of the conference
and significant numbers joined this group (474 at present). The Facebook group
seemed to provide the main forum for discussion prior to the event, in particular
people who couldn’t attend the event asking for details of the conference
bloggers (the tag OnlineInfo2007 was used as the official tag and a number of
bloggers gave details of their blog on the Facebook discussion forum during the

Opening Plenary Talk By Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales, chairman of Wikipedia, opened the conference with a talk on
Web 2.0 in action:free culture and community on the move. I’d not heard
Jimmy speak before, but I have to admit that I found his talk inspiring and very
closely aligned with my views on openness and user engagement. And it seems I
was not the only one, with a number of delegates raising their hands when asked
if they had edited content in Wikipedia. Jimmy began his talk with a quotation
from the Britannica editor Charles van Doren, who argued that the
‘encyclopaedia should be radical‘. This vision, Jimmy Wales suggested, has
until recently, been lost. The success of Wikipedia has been due to a return to
the radicalism, with Wikipedia being based on the notion of openness in the
GNU sense: it is free to copy, modify and distribute.

Jimmy’s new passion is Wikia, a free Wiki hosting service which aims to support
the development of communities with shared interests. The example he gave was
for communities built about shared interested in The Muppets! A trivial
example, perhaps, but the Muppets Wikia site is found in Google’s first page of
results and currently has 15,749 articles. How should we respond to such
apparent indications of success, I wonder? I did look for information on Rapper
Sword dancing in Wikia - no significant results, but I did discover the Morris
Dancing Wiki, which was created in April 2007. Should the morris dancing
community in the UK, where the morris dancing tradition originated, engage
with this open community or leave it to morris dancers in the new world to
appropriate our cultural traditions? Or, on the other hand, is Wikia just a fad
which is unlikely to gain the sustainability that online services provided in a
more traditional way (e.g. through funding from cultural heritage funding
bodies)? We don’t know the answer to that question - but Wiki is definitely a

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service I’ll be paying closer attention to in the future.

Jimmy’s final comment, as described in the IWR blog, related to the notion of
trust and wikis, with a comparison with a real world example: when building a
restaurant you don’t worry that the steak knives customers will be using are
potentially dangerous, and such customers need to be in a walled garden to
minimise potential risks to others.

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction?

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction? was the title of the session I chaired, immediately
following the opening plenary talk. Stephen Abram gave the opening plenary
talk in this slot on Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0: Preparing for the
2.0 World. This talk was pretty much a repeat of his opening plenary talk at the
ILI 2007 conference, although, unfortunately, he only had 30 minutes for this
talk, rather than the 45 minutes he had at ILI 2007 (and even then he had to race
through his presentation at a rate of knots). Stephen argued that the world has
changed and the library community needs to embrace such changes (or get out,
and stop trying to prevent the inevitable). Although the content of his talk was
very familiar to me I was pleased that he mentioned the human aspect:
“Librarian 2.0 is the guru of the information age” Stephen wrote in the
accompanying paper. He concluded “It is essential that we start preparing to
become Librarian 2.0 now. The Web 2.0 movement is laying the groundwork
for exponential business growth and another major shift in the way our users
live, work and play. We have the ability, insight and knowledge to influence the
creation of this new dynamic - and to guarantee the future of our profession -
Librarian 2.0 - now.”

The two other talks in this session (Lars Eriksson on Mina - a
library web site of the future and Philippa Levy on Web 2.0 and the
Information Commons: a learning and teaching perspective) then provided
examples of how the library and education professions is engaging with Stephen
Abram’s vision: Lars’s talk described a Library 2.0 service which is being
developed in Sweden and Philippa stepped outside the online world to describe
the Information Commons, a “brand new, innovative building that combines IT
resources, library facilities and a variety of study spaces to support a wide
range of independent and collaborative learning experiences in a 24/7
environment.” This focus on the physical environment complemented Lars’s
talk nicely, I felt.

Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction? The feeling from this session was most definitely
that it was a fact.

Other Sessions
I was pleased to discover a similar positive approach to Web 2.0 in several of
the other sessions I attended. After lunch I attended a session on Tools,
Technologies and Costs of Web 2.0, with talks by Karen Blakeman and and
Andre Bonvanie. Karen’s talk was familiar to me, as we have both spoken at a
number of events recently. If you are interested in the contents of her talk I
suggest you read the post on How Do You Start Your Day? on the InfoToday
blog. Andre’s talk on RSS: The Glue for Enterprise 2.0 gave a more business-
oriented presentation in which he described how RSS was the key technical
component for Enterprise 2.0.

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The 2.0 meme continued in the final session of the first day on Web 2.0 In
Action. I was particularly interested to hear that the promised benefits of
Knowledge Management (KM) had failed to deliver, and that the Knowledge
Management community is now exploring the potential of Web 2.0 within the
organisation - and we heard that KM 1.0 is dead; long live KM 2.0!

These ideas were discussed further in the first two talk on Calling all social
media doubters:wiki@Vodafone keeps employees on the same page (use of
Web 2.0 technologies by Vodafone) and It’s more than technology: how ERM
(Environmental Resources Management) has embraced Web 2.0 to address
environmental issues (whose content is described in the title). Jane Dysart has
described these talks, together with the final talk in the session which provided
top 5 tips for finding time for Web 2.0.

Big business seems to be finally getting Web 2.0 - and this is a couple of years
after the higher education community started to discuss these issues. There were
a number of interesting talks on the human side of Web 2.0 and much discussion
on these issues during the conference. The most interesting comment I heard
was that well-qualified final year students and recent graduates are now
expecting to make use of Web 2.0 technologies such as social networks in their
first job, arguing that these technologies have helped them in their degrees and
they would expect to be able to exploit these technologies and the social
networks they have developed, in their professional lives.

Now does this mean that graduates who have not had the opportunity to develop
their social networks and to develop their skills in using such technologies will
be at a disadvantage?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: OnlineInfo2007 | Edit
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The Way We Were

December 7, 2007

Can you remember what your institution’s home page looked like when the
service was first launched? And how did it evolve over time? Did you take
advantage of frames when they were first released? Did you then exploit
client-side technologies such as Java, JavaScript and Flash (and perhaps even
ActiveX control)? And how long did they last before you realised the downside
of such technologies?

And did changes to the home page not only reflect changes in technologies, but
also the department which had responsibility for the home page? Did the home
page have a visual makeover when the marketing department took

More importantly, though, do you have a record of how the home page looked,
and documented descriptions of the reasons for the changes? This could be a
valuable part of your organisation’s digital history and it would be unfortunate if
such information were lost.

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If strikes me that one of the lessons we should have learnt from our experiences
with organisational Web sites is the need for such record-keeping. And these
lessons should be applied to the approaches we are taking in a Web 2.0
environment, as we (as seems to be the case) set up institutional presences in
Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc.

How should we go about doing this? Should we take screen shots of the interface
when substantive changes are made? Or perhaps at fixed intervals (monthly,
perhaps)? And can we automated the process? Or should such data be a standard
item in Web team reports?

Or rather than capturing the screen interface, should we not be harvesting the
HTML pages? And how easy will this be if the pages are dependent on the
installation of particular applications?

Has anybody started to address such issues?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

CRIG Teleconference Chats On ‘Repositories And

Other Services’
December 6, 2007

I recently took part in one of a series of teleconference chats organised by the

JISC-funded CRIG (Common Repository Interfaces Working Group) project.

The project organised a day of tele-conferences on 8th November 2007. The aim
of the day was to facilitate a “discussion between members on how repositories
might be improved (bluesky thinking)“. A recording of the discussions is
available from the DigRep wiki. In addition, the project team created a series of
mindmaps which helped to visualise the topics covered in the seven areas
covered during the day.

I took part on the final discussion of the day which looked at other services
which may interface with repositories, with a particular focus on the role of
externally-hosted Web 2.0 services. The mindmap for this session is shown

(Click for larger display).

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The discussions revolved around the in-house development vs. use of Web 2.0
services which are a recurring topic of discussion. I did, however, find that the
visualisation of the discussions provided me with the opportunity to revisit these
issues from a different perspective. I’ll have to have another look at
mindmapping tools, I think. And reading Mike Ellis’s post on Good web apps:
Back of postage stamp… it would seem that MindMeister should be the first tool
for me to look at.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Repositories ·Tags: CRIG, Repositories | Edit
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IWR Information Professional of the Year Award

December 5, 2007

I am pleased to report that yesterday, at

the end of the first day of the Online
Information 2007 conference, I received
an award for the Information World
Review (IWR) Information Professional
of the Year
Prior to presenting the award Timothy
Rinda, American Psychological
Association said:

“When I judge the IWR American

Psychological Association Awards I look for someone who is, to my
mind, the model IWR reader.

That is someone who is really pushing the boundaries of

information, of technology and developing the role of an
information professional into something really exciting.

For the 2007 award, I can see that my fellow judges on the panel
did the same thing and it is with great pleasure to announce a
winner who in his working life , lives to push the boundaries of
information and has been involved in researching WiFi, Skype,
podcasts and video streaming as information delivery methods. He
is also author of one of the most popular blogs in the sector. His is
of course Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus of UKOLN.“

Many thanks to Timothy for his kind words and the judges for selecting me as
the winner of this prestigious award. But more importantly I would like to thank
all of the people I have met over this past year at the many events I have spoken
at and, of course, the online contacts I have made via this blog, on discussions
lists and social networks such as Facebook, for sharing my enthuisiasm in
building a richer and better online environment.

And now the pub awaits …

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

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The Opening Up Of Facebook

December 3, 2007

Opening Up The Data

Via the Are there 100,000 people for open data in Facebook? group on
Facebook I found the statement that “We already know that Mark Zuckerberg
has committed Facebook to opening up its data“. The group description links to
an article in Macworld entitled “Web 2.0: Facebook wants to make members’
data portable” which begins with the announcement that “Facebook wants to
make the data its members enter into the social network’s profiles portable, so
that they can move that data to other online services if they want, the
company’s CEO said Wednesday“.

Opening Up Development
Back in March 2007 I wrote a post on Dapper - Web Mashup Development For
All? which described how the Dapper Web-based can open up the development
of Web-based applications. I recently discovered a FireFox extension called
DapperFox which makes Dapper even easier to use.

More importantly I have just been alerted to a Dapper post which announces
that the Dapper Facebook AppMaker Now Open to Public: “What this will
allow you to do is take ANY Dapp and turn it into a fully independent Facebook
app. Use your own header, footer, background styling — really make it yours
— and with absolutely no programming“.

So now, it would appear, development of Facebook applications is opening up

to, perhaps not the masses, but those with lightweight development skills or
interests. And by taking data from public Web sites and making it available
within a Facebook environment, you are not locking the data within Facebook,
as the original data source is still available on the Web.

Enhancing Its Services

Facebook started off as a social networking environment. But as I wrote on 9
November Facebook now allows entries for organisations to be created within
Facebook. And now, less than a month later, the Open University’s Facebook
page shows that the oprganisation now has over 2,000 fans and what appears to
be the start of a thriving discussion forum.

Phil Bradley recently provided a series of posts on a JIBS conference on Is

library 2.0 a trivial pursuit?. One of his post described a talk on The British
Library in Facebook. The British Library (BL) “sees the use of social
networking sites as a way of getting out there, providing information in situations
and places where people are”. They have set up a number of Facebook groups,
including groups which support the exhibitions they are running and the BL’s
business and SME support services, as well as a BL organisational pages and
groups for internal use.


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It’s here; it’s popular; it’s still developing; authoring tools are being developed;
it’s getting more open. Can any organisation seriously argue that they shouldn’t
be considering how Facebook can be used to support organisational aims? And
shouldn’t those involved in IT development also be looking at what can be learnt
from Facebook’s successes? And shouldn’t the Semantic Web purists
acknowledge the views which Paul Miller sums up with his comment on the
Nodalities blog:

“The noble vision of the Semantic Web is just that; a noble - and
long term - vision. The years of seeking perfect answers to
perfectly formed questions - a practice of which too many in the
Semantic Web community are guilty - have not helped to move us
nearly as far forward as we should have come. The over-reliance
upon complex and impractically all-encompassing ontologies have
bogged us down, and invited ridicule.”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit

The Long And Winding Road

November 30, 2007

I was recently an invited speaker at Intute’s first Staff Conference, which was
described in a blog post on Intute’s newly launched blog service. The title of my
talk was “What If Web 2.0 Really Does Change Everything?“. Before exploring
the challenges which the range of externally hosted Web 2.0 service would pose
to a JISC-funded service such as Intute I took the opportunity to revisit the early
days of Intute, when, in the days of the eLib programe the services were known
as Subject Based Information Gateways (SBIGs), before becoming known as the
RDN (Resource Discovery Network) prior to their current name.

What, I asked, was the key to Intute’s success? Was it, I wondered:

ROADS: the open source software which formed the basis of services
such as SOSIG in the early days?
The lightweight whois++ distributed searching protocol supported by
ROADS, which would allow users to cross-search across the various SBIG
The MySQL database, which formed the core data management tool for
ssome of the services?
The PostGres database, another open source relational database
management system, which provided richer functionality than MySQL?
The distributed approach to development and hosting, which enabled a
diversity of technical approaches to take place?

From today’s perspective, we can see that the only technical component of the
Intute service from the list given above which is still critical is the MySQL
database. ROADS is now festering on SourceForge and the whois++ protocol
seems to have dropped off the radar screen, having been superceded by the
SRU/SRW cross-searching protocols which were designed for a Web
environment. And the distributed development and hosting approach has been
replaced by a centralised service, hosted at MIMAS.

At the conference I argued that the success of Intute wasn’t due to the initial
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technical choices. Rather it was due to the effectiveness of their outreach

activities, with staff from SOSIG, EEVL, OMNI and the other hubs regularly
appearing at conferences, giving seminars, running training sessions and writing
articles for many publications.

There was, however, one piece of technical innovation which has shown itself to
be sustainable, which was described in a short paper on “RDN-Include:
Re-branding Remote Resources” by myself, Pete Cliff and Andy Powell
published in May 2001 in the WWW 10 Conference Poster Proceedings.
RDN-include allowed the RDN service to be embedded in third party Web
pages. The initial development made use of a CGI script which needed to be
installed on the institution’s server. However we realised that there was always
likely to be a SysAdmin barrier (”no third party script to be allowed on my
server”) so a lightweight JavaScript alternative was also developed, RDNi-lite.
And, as described in a post on Integrate Intute content on the Intute blog, this
service is still being provided, although under a new name and using, I believe,
rewritten software.

A focus on users? A lightweight approach to embedding content? This sounds

pretty much like Web 2.0 to me. As I said in my talk, I think the success of
Intute was due to the Web 2.0-style approach they took, before the term was

But in the light of what we now know, how might Intute have developed? We
can see that the distributed approach taken initially wasn’t sustainable, and the
emphasis on cross-searching would have been misplaced in a more centralised
model. Looking at The History of Yahoo! it strikes me that, in an alternative
universe Intute could have been the Yahoo! of the planet.

We thought we were at the start of a long and straight Roman road in the days of
eLib. Looking back, we can see that it was a long and winding road, and
occasionally we’ll realise that we’ve been heading in the wrong direction and
retrace our tracks. If we were starting all over again, which way would we go?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in jisc ·Tags: eLib, Intute, RDN, ROADS | Edit

Transliteracy And Amplified Events

November 29, 2007

In Matt Matchel’s report on the Eclectic Dreams blog entitled “Liveblogging :

Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks” he described the event as

A day of talks on the use of blogging in education, with live Second

Life feed, web-cam and blog chatter… How very trans-literate!

“Very transliterate!” What does Matt mean?

Wikipedia cites the PART research group in its definition of transliteracy as

The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms,

tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting,
print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

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At the event the plenary speakers were happy for their talks to be streamed live
on the Internet and for the talks to also be made available in Second Life;
several of the participants used the event wiki to keep notes during the session; a
number of people took photographs and video clips during the event, which
were uploaded to various photographic sharing services and there were a
number of live bloggers at the event, some of whom also updated their Facebook
status to inform their Facebook contacts that they were blogging.

And as well as being comfortable in making use of the digital technologies, the
participants took part in the discussions and socialising.

It’s good to see that the ‘transliterates’ can include the digital migrants

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: blogs-social-networks-workshop-2007, transliteracy | Edit

Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and

Social Networks
November 27, 2007

The Event
The UKOLN workshop on “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and Social
Networks” took place yesterday at Austin Court, Birmingham.

This event was initially meant to be held in March 2007, with the title
“Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs“. However as we discovered a clash with
the UCISA annual conference, we decided to postpone the event until
November. And by the time we got around to selecting the talks it had become
clear that it was the area of social networks which was exciting (and terrifying)
many people. Providing a wider focus for the event proved popular with the
event being fully-subscribed with 100 participants, rather than the 60-70 we had
originally planned for.

The Talks
The talks at the event provided a narrative which outlined the variety of
approaches which institutions are taking in provision of and/or use of blogs and
social network services. After my initial introduction to the workshop Stephen
Clarke (University of Birmingham) gave the opening plenary talk on Blogging In
A Managed Environment in which he described the benefits which can be
gained by supporting student learning though use of a managed application
environment (which, at the University of Birmingham, is Web CT). Melissa
Highton (University of Leeds) focussed on supporting the teachers in her talk on
Leedsfeed: a Blogging Service based on the Open Source Elgg Application,
again through use of an in-house application.

In contrast Alison Wildish (Edge Hill University) suggested that institutions need
to Put Yourself Out There- and at her institution this means recognising that
students (and potential students) will use services such as Facebook, and so the
institution needs to respond to this by making its information available in such
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It was appropriate that Alison’s talk

was followed by Tom Milburn,
Vice-President, Education at the
University of Bath Students Union.
In his talk on The Student
Perspective. Tom gave a valuable
insight into ways in which students
at the University of Bath are setting
up Facebook groups which can
“provide students with the support
of their cohort in a structured
environment, … provide constant
support that is not bound by office
hours and … ease pressure on staff
with older students helping to
‘teach’ younger students.” Tom
also described the pro-active
approach being taken by the
students Union in advising students
of the potential dangers which may
be posed by social networks. In
particular he described the Facebook flyers (adverts displayed in Facebook)
which were made available to students in the University of Bath Facebook
network. Interestingly Tom concluded that effective use of social networks “will
depend on how much effort staff put in and the culture of students on various
courses“. At the University of Bath it would seem that students may welcome
staff supporting their use of Facebook.

After lunch there were two talks given the institutional IT Services perspective.
Stuart Lee (University of Oxford) described The Hidden Dangers of Social
Networks: You can log-on but you cannot hide. Interestingly the slides (which I
had uploaded to Slideshare prior to the event) had been commented upon by
Grainne Conole and AJCann, with the suggestion that IT services were scared of
these dangers - although Stuart’s intentions (which he described in his responses
to these comments) was to discharge the responsibility of a service department
“to point out hidden pitfalls in some systems that users need to be aware of“.

In the final talk David Harrison (University of Cardiff) described how the
University of Cardiff is seeking to respond to Disruptive Technology and its
Implications for University Information Services. David described how his
work in this area began as “a response to a presentation from Brian Kelly and
John Heaps at an earlier UKOLN Workshop” (Initiatives & Innovation:
Managing Disruptive Technologies, a joint UKOLN/CETIS/UCISA workshop
held in February 2006). An initial draft of a briefing paper was written in early
2007 for comment within UCISA Executive, and part 1 of the briefing paper is
now available. David’s concluding remarks included:

Users need protecting against their own foolishness - thus EDUCATION is

the most important thing
Institutions should begin to trust their staff and students more but be also
prepared to use existing disciplinary codes where the trust is betrayed
Must embrace and engage – to do otherwise would be counter-productive
and make us look foolish – consider the concept of enablement
Should consider a partnership rather than service provider role and be

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The Participants’ Perspectives

As with many of UKOLN’s recent events we encouraged participants to make
use of the WiFi network to enhance their learning at the event, to make use of a
wiki for keeping notes of the discussion groups and to share their blog posts,
photographs, etc. related to the event.

Chris Sexton, who kindly helped out in in the final summing up session, was very
productive during the day, with posts of the morning session (part 1) , morning
session (part 2) and afternoon session. Matt Machell, on his Eclectic Dreams
Blog also provided useful summaries of the morning and afternoon sessions. If
there are any further blog posts about the event which I’ve missed, please let me
know and I’ll include details here (note I came across reports on the Digital
Narratives blog, the DMU PatherFinder blog and Helen Newham’s blog after
publishing this report).

I should also add that a Wetpaint wiki site was used to support the event. The
notes from the discussion groups may be of particular interest, both to the
workshop participants and to those who could attend.

The Remote Participants

UKOLN has been evaluating a variety of tools recently which can be use to
‘amplify’ the discussions and outputs of the events we run. Plenary talks at the
IWMW 2007 event were streamed. At this event we went one step further,
providing not only a video stream but also streaming the video into Second Life.
I would like to thank Andy Powell, Eduserv Foundation for managing these
video streams, and Veodia for making their streaming service available for us to
evaluate during the event. We did have some hiccups with the service - due, we
think, to the limited bandwidth for streaming out of the venue. However this was
a valuable experiment, I feel. Andy has also provided some slides which review
his experiences (and, after this post was initially published, gave his Reflections
on a DIY streaming experience).

What Next?
In a recent post on When Two Tribes Go To War I described the tensions
between two communities of developers: those who believe that The VLE/LMS
is dead and those who are engaged in providing a secure managed VLE
environment. At this event we came across two communities in a slightly
different guise: the IT service providers who feel that their institution should be
managing its IT provision and those who feel that institutions cannot compete
with the popularity of many commercially provided solutions. The good news, is
there was very much a willingness to discuss the pros and cons of both positions,
and an awareness that each side has its own weaknesses. There’s still a lot of
mileage in this debate, I feel.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog, Events, Social Networking ·Tags: blogs-social-networks-
workshop-2007 | Edit
1 Comment »

When Two Tribes Go To War

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November 22, 2007

Hostilities Commence
Niall Sclater, Director of the OU VLE Programme at the Open University
recently pointed out that the Slideshare service was down, using this as an
“attempt to inject some reality into the VLEs v Small Pieces debate“. His
colleague at the Open University, Tony Hirst responded with a post entitled “An
error has occurred whilst accessing this site” in which Tony, with “beautifully
sweet irony“, alerted Niall to the fact that the OU’s Intranet was also down.

Similar differences of opinion are taking place at the University of Leeds. My

former colleague Nigel Bruce send me a wall-to-wall post on Facebook some
time ago in which he expressed the view that “Personally I don’t see the point
in ISS (the IT Services department) running blogging servers unless we want to
automatically create and populate groups based on modules. Why not just
encourage people to sign up for an account with WordPress? It’s better than
anything we could offer. Much better than Elgg. This area is moving so fast no
Uni computing services can hope to compete or keep up.“

But Melissa Highton, a colleague of Nigel’s will give a talk on Monday at

UKOLN’s “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs And Social Networks” workshop
on Leedsfeeds: a Blogging Service based on the Open Source Elgg
Application in which she will describe the benefits of running a local open
source blogging service (Elgg) to support the aims of the institution and members
of the institution.

Two tribes with, it would appear, fundamentally differing perspectives - but not,
I hope, about to go to war.

Two Tribes Meet At The CETIS Conference

Myself and my colleague Paul Walk had been invited by CETIS to facilitate a
half-day session on Responding to Change and Institutional Challenges at the
conference on Beyond Standards - Holistic Approaches to Educational
Technology and Interoperability. In our planning for the session it struck me that
the tensions between the views held by Tony Hirst and those of Niall Sclater
would provide a useful way of exploring the institutional challenges of the Web
2.0 characteristics such as ‘the network as the platform and commercial
providers of services.

I must admit, though, that I hadn’t expected both Tony and Niall to attend the
session! This was an opportunity not to be missed, and so the session provided
an opportunity to explore the tensions openly articulated by two of the

Peace In Our Time?

Niall Sclater has already written about the session in a post entitled VLEs v Web
2.0: is consensus breaking out? As Niall summarises in his post:

I suspect Brian Kelly took great

pleasure in attempting to pitch
Tony Hirst against me in a session

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at the JISC CETIS Conference

yesterday (photo: Mark Power).
Brian had spotted that I had been
promoting the benefits of
institutional VLEs while Tony is
pushing the boundaries in the use
of Web 2.0 software for learning…
After the session I caught up with Tony over a pint and we looked
at whether there is any common ground in our thinking and, not
surprisingly, there’s plenty (though Tony may now deny it!).

It was pleasing to see such mutual understanding being reaching - and Paul and
myself can congratulate ourselves on the counselling work we carried out
More seriously, though, participants at the session did actively engage in
exploring the ‘gaps’ between the commercial and institutional provision of
services (which I wrote about recently). And I have to admit that my previous
thoughts that the gap needed to me addressing my policies, risk assessment,
managing expectations, etc. have been modified as a result of the discussions at
the session, and I now wonder whether it might be better to sometimes leave
such gaps unfilled. For as ‘Webdunc’ recently commented “To oversimplify; I
don’t think I’ve ever heard of a policy for what to do when you pass a
peer/colleague/superior/lecturer/student in the street - why do we need one for
online social behaviour?“.

Conclusions From The Session

Facilitators of the workshop session had been asked to summarise the
conclusions in a single sentence. I must admit that I’m not convinced how useful
this is - although I would acknowledge that it can provide a useful exercise for
the participants in seeking consensus.

However when articulating the sentence it tends to appear bland. I feel this is the
case with ours: “We need to think beyond the institution, beyond the sector,
beyond the UK and beyond the short period spent in the institution - but we
need to think carefully, widely and deeply.“

But although the conclusions may appear bland, I think they reflect the
sentiments expressed by Oleg Liber, Director of JISC CETIS, and Sarah Porter,
Head of Development, JISC, in the opening presentations at the conference.

And, finally it is possible, I feel, to enhance the impact of this sentence.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: cetis-2007-conference, cetis-2007-conference-
institutional-challenges | Edit

The Gaps Between The Owned And The

Externally-Hosted Services
November 21, 2007

Scott Wilson (JISC CETIS) and Andy Powell (Eduserv Foundation) has recently
published a couple of interesting posts on their blogs. which reflects my areas of

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Scott’s post on PLEs and the institution contains an image which depicts his
thoughts on “the set of connections between what an institution offers and what
individuals manage“.

I tend to agree with this vision which acknowledges that MySpace, Facebook,
Slideshare, etc. will have a role to play in the services which are used to support
institutional activities, but there will be a for the institution to “provide a
coordination space“.

It’s the gaps in Scott’s diagram which particularly interest me. As well as the
technical aspects of the coordination space (which could include automated
dumps of data held elsewhere, bulk uploads of metadata, etc.) there are also the
implied questions associated with this space: Do we trust the services? Can we
compete with them? Do we compete on all fronts or select the appropriate
areas? What are our institutional liabilities if things go wrong? What are the risks
to the individuals and what responsibilities do we have to safeguard the interests
of the individuals in our institutions?

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Some of these issues were touched on by Andy Powell in his recent report on
Eduserv’s OpenID event entitled OpenID - every student should have one. Andy
argued that

“the management of our online identities is increasingly a

user-centric and lifelong activity - it doesn’t start and stop at the
system-induced transition points of our lives (going to school -
leaving school, going to uni - leaving uni, getting a job - leaving a
job, etc.). In consequence, there is a danger of us offering a poor
fit to our user’s requirements if the approaches to identity
management that we adopt are too rooted within particular sectors
or phases of sectors.“

Andy identifies that there is a time dimension to the issue of the services
institutions should be providing. Those of us who have been working in IT
support or development within educational institution for some time with have
been brought up with the view that it is an institutional responsibility to provide
a quality, safe managed IT environment for members of the institution. But now
we are starting to find that individuals will have their own digital identities when
arriving at the institution, together with their own preferred applications (email,
photo repositories, social networks, etc.) And this will not only apply to students
arriving at our institutions, but also visitors, part time staff, staff on short term
contracts, etc.

The spaces in Scott’s diagram is starting to look very interesting, I think.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Thoughts On Animoto
November 20, 2007

The Tool - Animoto

Andy Powell introduced me to Animoto, after he produced a video clip for
UKOLN’s “Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks” workshop.
Shortly afterwards he wrote a blog post about the Web-based tool for easily
creating multimedia video clips by simply uploading photographs and letting the
software do the donkey work.

Andy had previously commented (in the context of providing a live video
streaming for the workshop) that his aim was “to demonstrate the possibilities
for video-streaming live meetings using cheap or free equipment and services.“

The Experiment
Andy’s interest reflects mine which, in brief, are to explore:

Free or low-costs solutions for organisations with limited budgets or

technical expertise (this is particularly relevant to many public libraries,
museums and archives, which are an important part of the communities
UKOLN serves).

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The appeal of successful Web 2.0 services.

How the successes of such services can be applied to in-house
development work.
Whether such services can be used in a service environment.

Animoto, “a web application that automatically generates professionally

produced videos using patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence
technology and high-end motion design“, was therefore worthy of investigation,
as 30-second video clips can be created for free and just $30 per year for an “All
access unlimited pass”.

My initial

experiment was to produce a video clip entitled “Memories Of IWMW 2007“,

making use of photographs of UKOLN’s IWMW 2007 event (on Flickr with the
‘iwmw2007′ tag) held at the University of York in July 2007. Upload the
photographs, select the backing music and publish. Simple!

My next experiment, based on Andy’s idea for the video preview of the Blogs
workshop, was to make use of images contained in the speakers slides. Slightly
more time-consuming, but nothing too difficult.

The third experiment was to create a video clip using some of the key slides
prepared by the plenary speakers. The JPEG images were created by saving the
slides as images from within PowerPoint.

And my final experiment was to take the key slides from my Introduction talk,
and turn them into a 30 sector video clip.

As one might expect, the Animoto video clips can be embedded in Web pages,
as illustrated.

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What’s The Point?

The more cynical reader - or perhaps the reader who has actually viewed the
video clips and listened to the cheesy background music - might be asking what
the fuss is about! After all, ever since Microsoft released PowerPoint 1.0 it has
been possible to easily create visual presentations, and the accompanying clip
arts, clip music and wizards have often led to cliched presentations.

This is very true and, if Animoto takes off, I would expect such cheesy
presentations to me the norm in the early days. However good presentations can
be created using tools such as PowerPoint, Open Presents, etc, if you have the
appropriate expertise and knowledge. And this takes experimentation.

So I’d encourage experimentation and the sharing of failures and successes. Two
ideas which spring to mind:

Video clips summarising the highlights of an event such as IWMW 2007,

using photos from Flickr, the presentations and perhaps music created by
the participants.
Using the 30 second video clip to reduce a presentation to its bare
essentials, for the ‘elevator pitch’. After all Michael Nolan on the Echge
Hill University blog recently mentioned Pecha Kucha: “20 slides; 20
seconds per slide. You don’t have time to bore the audience.” Rather than
wasting 6 minutes 40 seconds of your life, why not save over 6 minutes?

If such experimentation reveals that there’s nothing to be gained from such

approaches, at least we’ve saved time being wasted in software development.
Although it may be that limitations we encounter may be addressed in the
commercial version of the service (perahps $30 per year might be worth the
investment) or in new services which may be released in the future (the interface
implies that a number of new features are due to be released).

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: animoto | Edit
1 Comment »

The History Of The Web Backwards

November 19, 2007

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The “History of the World Backwards” comedy was launched on BBC 4 on 30

October 2007. The joke is based on time being reversed: “Today’s opener sees
Nelson Mandela enter prison as a sweet-natured Spice Girls fan, but emerge
from a long incarceration as a terrorist bent on the armed overthrow of the

How might this apply to the history of the World Wide Web, from its global
success in 2007, through to its sad demise in the early 1990s? And what are the
lomger term implications for its demise? Here are my thoughts. What are your
views? And if anyone fancies writing their own blog post in this style, I’d suggest
using the tag “ history-of-web-backwards” (or, indeed, history-of-foo-
backwards, if your main passion is in ‘foo’).

The global pervasiveness of the World Wide Web in 2007 appeared to guarantee
its long term success. Sadly the sceptics who argued that the Web was just a
mere fad proved to be correct, with a steady demise over a period of ten years,
leading to its complete disappearance by 1990.The WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which
were due to be released in 2008, were expected to bring about the
much-promised dream of universal success to Web resources, exploiting the
potential of much richer (and usable and accessible) user interfaces based on
Ajax, Flash and related technologies, whose popularity had been successfully
demonstrated in a series of global experiments provided though the benevolence
of companies such as Google and Yahoo!

Sadly political changes in the UK led to the release of a government mandate

which banned such technologies, in an effort by a socialist government to
prevent the decline in use of public services. The lead taken by the UK
government was followed throughout the rest of Europe with European
legislation being enacted which suppressed any technological innovations which
had not been approved by the the sinister-sounding WAI organisation. The EU
also funded the development of an automated robot which would report on
deviations from approved practices (the naming and shaming robot).

Although these moves were initiated by the goverment, the side effects
destabilised the commercial sector. Facebook, an incredibly successful social
networking service in 2007, lost users from this peak and, despite the mass
demonstration, coordinated on the THEY ARE TRYING TO SHUT DOWN
1.6 million users in November 2007) the uncertainty ultimately led to
Facebook’s demise. The writing was on the wall when Microsoft’s withdrew its
investment in the company in 2007. Facebook’s response was to return to its
roots in the US, but failed to sustain its momentum across US universities,
eventually choosing to provide a niche service at Harvard University. Even this
proved not to be sustainable and, in despair, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s
founders, chose to go to university in order to try and find an alternative career.

What nobody had expected, though, was the growth of the anti-globalist
movement supported by left and right wing militant organisations. Google,
Yahoo! and Microsoft were found to be funded (using a possibly illegal
manoeuvre known as ‘tax breaks’ ) by the US government, and where suspected
of passing on secret data on an organisation known as Al Quaida (a terrorist
organisation in the twenty first century who, to the astonishment of many,
eventually received significant investment from the US government to help
expand the US’s plans to open up a marketplace in Afghanistan). In contrast the
right wing groups campaigned that social networks were leading to a breakdown
of the family as a social unit.

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Despite Rupert Murdoch’s investment in MySpace (which proved to be a

financial disaster) these combined pressures led to the demise of all of the social
networking services. A mass campaign of disobedience by young people (who
called themselves the ‘Hoodies’) resulted, with the protesters taking to the
streets. This failed, however, and, in a remarkable consumer revolt, household
throughout the country cancelled their broadband subscriptions. The demise of
the broadband industry had predicted side-effects, bringing to an end plans to
invest in high definition TV and digital TV. On a personal level, although critical
of his invention many felt that the UK government was being rather unfair in
ceremonially stripping Tim Berners-Lee of his knighthood.

By 2000 the majority of users had abandoned their interest not only in social
networks but other networked services. The Web eventually retreated to the
walled ivory towers of academia. There was a renewed spirit of camaraderie
within this group, who felt they were keeping alive the original vision of the
Web, based on notions of user generated content and trusting the user. However
the conservatives were in the ascendancy, and institutions responded by
investing large sums of money in Content Management Systems (a phrase which
caused so much consternation that the term ‘CMS’ had to be used as a
euphemism). Organisations then mandated use of CMSs - which so disillusioned
those involved who were working on the Web (”they’re forcing every page to
look the same; it’s a Stalinist nightmare world we’re now living in“) that, by
1995 only a handful of stalwarts were still employed in the profession.

By 1994 the writing was on the wall, and everyone knew the the Web would
soon cease to exist. The W3C was formally wound up as a company and had
vacated its US offices at MIT. The decision to delete all W3C documents did
take many by surprise - although AltaVista did make a valiant attempt to index
the few documents which remained on the Web.

Not all was gloom, though. CERN made a discussion in 1994 to host the final
international WWW conference - an event so significant that it became known
as the ‘Woodstock of the 1990s’.

By 1990 there was little interest in the Web. A small group did try to revive
some aspects of the Web by developing Gopher. But this was simply a strictly
hierarchical distributed menu system and - without even having any social
networking capabilities - its short life span was inevitable.

Life in the 1980s is certainly much simpler. But is this a better life? Or would
people in the 1980s wish to return the the more vibrant and connected
environment which was the norm in 2007? Possibly - but someone called
Douglas Adams has just released a trilogy of five books (although the last two
are no longer in print) which is shortly to be made into a radio series. And
Douglas argues for a return to the simplicity of our live as apes - and is
wondering whether the move from the ocean, 20 million years ago was, in
retrospect, a mistake

Please note that this parody of the BBC programme is meant to provide mild
amusement. I do not wish to imply that the current UK government is socialist.
The WWW conference in 2004 was, however, described as the Woodstock of the
1990s. I will leave it to the readers to determine for themselves examples based
on fact and those provided for comic effect.
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)
Filed in General ·Tags: satire history-of-web-backwards | Edit
1 Comment »

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Don’t Look Back In Anger

November 16, 2007

In a post on Putting an official stamp on things Grainne Conole, professor of

e-learning at the Open University responses to my post on UK Universities On
Facebook, and reminisces about the problems she’d encountered in the early
days of the Web:

The powers that be in the institution began to get wind of this

‘Internet’ thing; suddenly it began to appear on senior
management’s agenda. One of the deans apparently was
particularly concerned that ‘some academics even had pictures of
their cats on their web sites!’ – guess who?

And once the powers that be had set up their working groups and established
institutional policies, their decisions didn’t meet with Grainne’s approval:

what followed was a period of stagnation and the creation of over

centralized, bureaucratic, institutional web presences, with
policies and procedures and dos and don’ts as long as your arm.

But rather than getting despondent that we’ll be sharing a ‘groundhog day’
moment, I feel that we can learn from the past.

My thoughts on this:

The institutional Web team should have a remit which covers the
institution’s presence ‘out there’ in the wild west of the Web, and not just
manage its own Web service.
The policies should be focussed on the needs of the user communities,
which will include the needs of the institution.
The policies should not be driven by technical issues.
It should be acknowledged that there may be risks in managing presences
‘out there’ - the service may not be sustainable, for example.
The risk assessment should include the risks of not doing anything and the
risks of being left behind.
There will be times when a light-weight ‘just do it’ approach will be

This would probably then lead to an institution initially claiming an

organisational page on Facebook (possibly two, covering the ‘University of
x’and ‘X University’ variants) but not necessarily publishing it immediately. This
can then be followed by discussions over the purpose of the service. There
should then be experimentation to identify Facebook applications which will
enable content to be embedded from a managed source (note at present it seems
only a small number of Facebook applications can be embedded on an
organisational page). Finally mechanisms and responsibilities for monitoring
user-generated content will need to be established.

Does this make sense? Or would this approach simply repeat the ‘over
centralized, bureaucratic’ procedures which upset Grainne and others in the
past? My approach has been to set up a Facebook page for the social group I am
involved with (Northgate Rapper) in order to gain experience. The aims of this
service (besides gained experiences for professional purposes)?

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To provide a prescence on Facebook for people who may be interested in

Northgate Rapper and rapper sword dancing.
To allow people who see us to have an easily found location up upload
photos and videos (”go to Facebook and search for ‘Northgate Rapper’.
Then upload the video, and any comments you may have).
To keep a record of where we’ve danced.
To make it easy for other dancers to edit the page.

The template I’ve used for the page (Clubs) isn’t ideal, as it is aimed at clubs as
a venue rather than a social group. But at least I’ve created a page with little

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit
1 Comment »

Open Development And Amplified Events

November 15, 2007

Open Development
Ross Gardler, Manager of the JISC OSS Watch service, visited UKOLN
yesterday to give a seminar on open development. Although OSS Watch’s main
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interest is in the application of this methodology within open source software

development, as Ross made clear open development can also be applied in other
contexts, including the development of content and in learning contexts. Ross
has recently commented on the application of an open development approach by
the JISC-funed WepPA project.

I am very much in favour of the approaches which Ross described, and

personally have been making much of the materials I have developed available
with a Creative Commons licence for a couple of years. I have also participated
in Wikipedia, creating a number of entries and helping to improve the quality of
content created by others. This very much fits in with Ross’s views on open
development, I think.

Open Development and Amplified Events

UKOLN has been taking a similar approach to the exploitation of networked
technologies at events over the past few years. Lorcan Dempsey coined the term
“Amplified Conference” to describe events in which the content and the
discussions aren’t restricted to the closed community of participants who are
physically present at the event, but can be freely accessed by all. A paper on
“Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences“ presented at the
EUNIS 2005 conference described our initial work in this area, which was
subsequently followed up by a series of briefing papers which provide advice on
best practices for doing this.

Open Development and UKOLN’s “Exploiting The

Potential Of Blogs and Social Networks”
The UKOLN workshop on “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and Social
Networks” will take place in Birmingham on Monday 26th November 2007.
Although the workshop is fully subscribed, with about 100 participants, we
intend to allow remote participants to access the workshop materials and, we
hope, either view a live video stream of the plenary talks or event view the video
stream within Second Life.

The live video stream and use of Second Life service will be provided by Andy
Powell, Eduserv Foundation (sponsors of the workshop). Andy has described the
plans for the technological infrastructure which will be used to make the talks
available to a remote audience, so I won’t repeat this here. What is worth
commenting upon from Andy’s post is the openness about the potential
problems we may experience: “Sounds complex? Probably. Do-able? I
think/hope so. It’ll be interesting to see how things work out.” But rather than
having a low profile experiment with a closed group of friends, the approach
Andy and myself are taking is to be open about this experiment (on both our
blogs and on a number of mailing lists), which we hope will maximise the
learning of the potential benefits of this approach, but perhaps also more useful,
the problems we may encounter and the things we might do differently things
next time.

As well as the technical challenges which Andy will be addressing, there are also
various non-technical issues which I have been focussing on. I have been in
contact with all of the speakers informing them of our plans and getting their

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agreement to be streamed to a live audience (additional pressure on them, but

I’m pleased to say that they are all willing). We have produced an Acceptable
Use Policy document for the event, intended for participants who plan to make
use of their laptop (or other networked device) during the workshop. And Andy
and myself and currently discussing the best ways of providing real time chat
during the talks. This can be used to support the remote audience, for example to
inform them of the slide which is being displayed. But should we have separate
channels for the various media - would the video streaming audience be
interested in the Second Life discussions “nice avatar“)?

And, of course, as well as the work which Andy and I (and my colleagues in
UKOLN’s events team) are involved in, this open approach encourages input
from potential participants and others who may have taken part in similar
amplified events. Such open development also involves shared responsibilities
(for example, we would expect remote participants to try out the various tools in
advance of the event and to take responsibility for fixing any local configuration
problems) and sharing the risks (being supportive if not everything works as
planned). But the open source development approach of ‘release early, release
often’ in order to maximise the feedback can also be provide benefits in many
other areas.

We welcome your thoughts.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, openness | Edit

Managers Are Invading The Workers’

Social Spaces
November 14, 2007

Which of the following reports is true:

A recent report has shown that workers at many organisations are

concerned about being ‘befriended’ by their mangers - who then
have access to their Facebook details. “I was sacked“, said one
anonymous ex-worker at a large organisation “for arriving late at
work. It was due to transport problems. But my manager spotted
that I’d been out drinking the previous night, and had updated my
Facebook status when I got back from the night club. He used this
as the reason for sacking me. I had been out with my mates - what’s
wrong with that? But I would have arrived at work on time if the
bus wasn’t late.“

The director of the CBI expressed concerns that workers had been
‘befriending’ their managers on the Facebook social network. “It
would be churlish to refuse a request to be a friend of someone
who works for me” said one manager. “But I hadn’t realised that he
would see my status which said I had been out of the office playing
golf one afternoon. He doesn’t seem to realise that business deals
with our clients is often done on the golf course. This has
undermined my credibility.“

“Teacher attacks students in online

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satanic ritual” reports our education

correspondent. “I introduced the
children to Facebook as part of their
Information Literacy course” Ms X.
told us, close to tears. “We started off poking each other, and then
moving on to tickling and hugging. Then someone installed the
Vampire application and bit me. I, of course, responded in the
same way. And now I’ve been suspended“. The head teacher
informed us that, following complaints from the parents of one of
the children affected by the incident, he had no alternative but to
suspend the teacher (34), who cannot be named for legal reasons
“We have zero-tolerance to cyber-bullying at this school.” (Note
that we have published a photograph of Ms X’s vampire, but have
removed the name of the victim).

Get out of MySpace screams a headline in the Guardian, an extreme

liberal British newspaper (which had been the focus of vehement
attacks during the last US election for its misguided attempts to
undermine a democratically held election by a seditious media
organisation based in a foreign country). The article goes on to say
“a research exercise carried out by the Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC), called the Learner Experience Project, has just
revealed, amazingly, that students want to be left alone. Their
message to the trendy academics is: ‘Get out of MySpace!’“

The Get out of MySpace! post on the Kinda Learning Stuff blog cited the last
example and commented that “there needs to be an increasing degree of
contextual sensitivity by users and a subtlety in their development / use before
they become really effective“.

Tony Hirst’s post on Helping Students Make More of Facebook Without

Stealing Control describes the software development activities he has been
involved in which attempts to exploit the benefits of Facebook, whilst avoiding
’stealing control’.

As the Kinda Learning Stuff blog suggests, Tony’s approaches to software

development needs to be complemented by addressing issues such as
information literacy, user education, negotiations and discussions and the
development of acceptable patterns of behaviour in our online social spaces.
And we need to realise that the potential tensions between students and staff and
not peculiar to the educational community, but will be reflected in any social
grouping in which there are hierarchical and power relationships.

We need to have a much more sophisticated response to the cry to “Get out of
MySpace” - whether this comes from the workers, the bosses, the students or,
indeed, the academics - than abandoning these social spaces or setting up
alternative social spaces without any guarantee that these will be successful.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook, Social Networking | Edit

The Power Of Information Report Also Wants To

Avoid Duplication Of Services

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November 13, 2007

A response on his blog by Matt Jukes (of JISC, but currently on secondment to
HEFCE) reminded me that, in my post on The Power Of Information report, I
should have mentioned that, as well as encouraging reuse of government data,
the report also recommends:

Working with existing user-generated sites rather than creating anything

new ones.
Researching what user-generated sites exist in the space and where there
is duplication terminating or modifying the government versions.
Encourage civil servants to become active in these communities.

These recommendations, which have been endorsed by the government, would

appear to reflect the conclusions of the OCLC report on Sharing, Privacy and
Trust In Our Networked World, which I blogged about recently.

So one part of UK government doesn’t want to compete with existing social

networking services and the OCLC report suggests that libraries should seek to
engage with existing services, rather than developing their own. And a post by
Matt Jukes blog entitled More eGov ramblings cites a report from Richard
MacManus at the Read/WriteWeb blog which is “pretty damning of the
‘one-stop portal’ concept (i.e. Directgov!) and supportive of the idea of
reusable information supporting ‘mash-ups’ and the like through the use of
web services (very similar to the Power of Information report)“.

Is anyone listening, I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit
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Briefing Document on Facebook: Opportunities

and Challenges
November 12, 2007

UKOLN is running a one-day workshop on “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs

And Social Networks” which will be held in Birmingham on 26th November
2007. The event is now fully subscribed. However we will be making the various
materials for the event freely available to those who could not attend.

A series of briefing documents will be provided in the delegate pack. This will
include a document on “Facebook: Opportunities and Challenges” (written,
incidentally, before it was possible to create organisational pages in Facebook).

The contents of this document are included below. Comments are welcomed -
but please note that the documented is formatted as an A5 briefing document
and it is not possible to add any additional content unless stuff is removed.

I’d alway invite people who have already produced documents, course
materials, etc. related to use of Facebook to share it. Note that a Slidecast (slides
plus audio) I produced some time ago is available on Slideshare, and there is a
Facebook group on Slideshare which provides access to other slides on this
topic. Feel free to add URLs to comments to this post.

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About This Document

This document was produced for the UKOLN workshop on “Exploiting The
Potential Of Blogs And Social Networks” held in Birmingham on 26th
November 2007.

The document summarises the opportunities which Facebook can provide,

together with the challenges to be addressed in order for such opportunities to be

Why The Interest In Facebook?

Facebook has generated much interest over recent months. Much of the interest
has arisen since Facebook announced the Facebook Platform [1] which enabled
third party developers to build applications which could be used within the
Facebook environment.

Since Facebook was developed initially to support students it is not surprising

that student usage has proved so popular. This interest has also spread to other
sectors within institutions, with researchers and members of staff beginning to
explore Facebook possibilities.

What Can Be Done Within Facebook?

Social networks can provide a range of benefits to members of an organisation:

Connections with Peers:

The main function of Facebook is to provide connections between people
with similar interests. (The term ‘friends’ is used to describe such
relationships, but it should be noted that this does not have to imply a
relationship based on friendship – a more appropriate term might be
‘contacts’.) Friends can then send messages to each other (either closed
messages or open for others to read).
Facebook users can set up discussion group areas, which can be used by
people with interests in the topic of the group. Creation of details of
events, which allows users to sign up to, is another popular use of
Sharing Resources:
Many of the popular Facebook applications are used for sharing resources.
Some of these replicate (or provide an interface to) popular social sharing
services (such as Flickr and YouTube) while other applications provide
services such as sharing interests in films, books, etc.
An environment for other applications:
The opening of the Facebook Platform has allowed developers to provide
access to a range of applications. Newport University, for example,
provide access to their MyNewport portal [2] from within Facebook.

Many reservations about use of Facebook within an institutional context have

been expressed. These include:

Privacy: There are real concerns related to users’ privacy. This will
include both short term issues (embarrassing photos being uploaded) and

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longer term issues (reuse of content in many years time).

Ownership: The Facebook terms and conditions allow Facebook to
exploit content for commercial purposes.
Misuse of social space: Users may not wish to share their social space
with other colleagues, especially when there may be hierarchical
Liability: Who will be liable if illegal content or copyrighted materials are
uploaded to Facebook? Who is liable if the service is not accessible to
users with disabilities?
Sustainability and Interoperability: How sustainable is the service? Can
it provide mission-critical services? Can data be exported for reuse in
other systems?

Institutional Responses To Such Challenges

How should institutions respond to the potential opportunities provided by
Facebook and the challenges which its use may entail? The two extreme
positions would be to either embrace Facebook, encouraging its use by members
of the institution and porting services to the environment or to ban its use,
possibly by blocking access by the institutions firewall. A middle group might be
to develop policies based on:

Risk assessment and risk management:

analysing potential dangers and making plans for such contingencies. Note
that the risk assessment should also include the risks of doing nothing.
User education:
developing information literacy / staff development plans to ensure users
are aware of the implications of use of Facebook, and the techniques for
managing the environment (e.g. privacy settings).
Data management:
Developing mechanisms for managing data associated with Facebook.
This might include use of Facebook applications which provide alternative
interfaces for data import/export, exploring harvesting tools or engaging in
negotiations with the Facebook owners.

1. Major Facebook Announcement Thursday: Facebook Platform,
Mashable, 21 May 2007, <>
2. MyLearning Essentials for Facebook, Michael Webb’s Blog, 11 July

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit
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UK Universities On Facebook
November 9, 2007

Via a blog post on Michael Stephen’s Tame The Web blog I discovered that
organisations can now have a presence in Facebook, which had previously been
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restricted to individuals.

So which have been the first UK Universities to stake their claim in Facebook? A
Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed (on
Friday 9 November 2007) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical
order, the following UK Universities: Aston, Cardiff, Kent and the University of
Central Lancashire (UCLan).

This raises lost of interesting issues: who set up these pages?; was approval
sought?; will there be battles over the ownership of the pages?; what trends will
we see over how these pages look and the embedded applications they will
provide?; how popular will they be?; will the look-and-feel and history of these
pages be preserved?; etc.

It’s just like 1993 and 1994 all over again. Have we learnt from our experiences
when we first set up our first organisational Web sites, or are we doomed to
repeat the mistakes - and perhaps, as a indication of progress, discover new
mistakes that we can make?

And this time, unlike the early 1990s, will it be the marketing people who are
keen to establish a presence in this popular social networking service with the
techies warning about the dangers of data lockin and lack of interoperability?

In order to ensure that a record of what one of the first UK University pages in
Facebook looked like shortly after this service was launched, here is a screen
image of the most active of these pages: the University of Central Lancashire, on
9 November 2007.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook ·Tags: Facebook | Edit

Hey, Hey, We’re … In The Charts Again!

November 9, 2007

The Background
I was asked recently to advise a colleague at the University of Bath on how to
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raise the Google ranking of some Web pages. “Should I go to an SEO

company?” was the question I was asked. A similar question was asked recently
on the JISCMail website-info mgt list: “Can anyone recommend a training
provider for Search Engine Optimisation and / or Search Engine advertising

My response to such questions has always been that there is no silver bullet to
getting into the first page of Google search results - if there were, the bad guys
(the porn companies, for example, or the estate agents) would exploit such
techniques. Rather, I suggested, you should follow well-established best
practices for Web sites - have a static URI, ensure that it is persistent, that the
page complies with HTML standards, that content is given as text and not in
images and encourage people to link to it. These simple techniques can help to
ensure that your pages are Google-friendly.

Getting Into The Top Google Hits

When I sent the email I remembered that I’d recently given a talk, and
subsequently discovered that the title of the talk was near the the top of the
Google search results. Revisiting the search query, I found that pages related to
my talk at the Inspiring The iGeneration event on Web 2.0 for young people on
“We’re The Young Generation And We’ve Got Something To Say” now occupy
the top four places.

The title of this talk, incidentally, I used after Ian Watson reminded me in March
that I’d used this song title as a metaphor for young people providing
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user-generated content at the AUKML conference last year.

So it is possible to get your pages into the top set of results in Google without
paying a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) company a lot of money. But what
relevance does this have to the organisation which wants to market its services:
for example a university which wants to promote its courses (for a search of ‘top
university Computer Science degree’) or facilities (’conference facilities in
beautiful city’) ahead of its rivals (the University of Bath provided an excellent
location for the IWMW 2006 event, but the University of York, another
beautiful city, did likewise for IWMW 2007. I’m sure Bath would like to be
ahead of its rival in the search engines).

My findings were based on a series of words which would be in wide use on the
Web (music sites, song lyrics, etc.) This then is similar to ‘conference facilities in
beautiful city’ - which has 1,940,000 results, led by the Universities of
Cambridge and Edinburgh.

The Web sites I used which were found in the top four results where the page on
the UKOLN Web site (HTML page and PowerPoint presentation), a post on this
blog (hosted on and the slides for the talk, which were hosted on The UKOLN Web site I can understand (it has been in existence
since about 1993, I think, and has static and relatively stable URI. The
prominence of the two Web 2.0 services I found very interesting. Although they
haven’t been around as long, they both provide clean URIs and both services are
popular and are likely to have many inbound links to them - which will enhance
their Google ranking.

So what would my advice be to the conference office? Create some slides about
the conference facilities you provide and upload them to Slideshare, making sure
that you provide metadata containing the words you might expect people to
search for and add a link back to your Web site. In addition set up a blog,
perhaps providing updates about the events you are organising. And if you want
to enhance the Google ranking, ensure that you use a popular blogging services
(such as WordPress or Blogger) - as hosting it on your own site is unlikely to
boost the Google ranking.

Of course, as well as this advice being relevant to the business sectors of our
institutions, the approaches I’ve described can also be used to help project Web
sites to be more easily found. It’s interesting, I feel, that the approaches to
making your content more easy to find in a Google world rely on hosting your
content on a variety of popular sites, rather than hosting the content centrally -
especially on a Web site which is not widely linked to from other sites.

Ethical Issues
Is this a desirable approach, some may wonder? Is it ethical? Could the success
with “We’re The Young Generation” be regarded as spam for people who are
searching for information about the Monkees’ song? That’s for you to decide (in
this case I would argue that we shouldn’t resort to using unambiguous factual
titles for our content, as this would be boring).

And if I were evil I would suggest that it would be an interesting experiment to

see if you could replace Edinburgh and Cambridge in the top Google places for a

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search for ‘conference facilities in beautiful city‘ ith your own city. But, as I
know people in both of these prestigious institutions, I couldn’t possibly
encourage people to take part in such an interesting experiment …

And if you are seriously concerned about such ethical issues, perhaps you should
pay an SEO company to do the job for you - the money they get will help to ease
the guilt they may feel.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: seo | Edit

Facebook Fears - It’s Nothing New

November 8, 2007

Alison Wildish has recently written a post on “Fear of Facebook?” in which she
comments on a recent article in The Independent entitled “Networking sites:
Professors - keep out“. Alison says that

The article highlighted a number of perceived issues with

University staff getting involved in social networks. However I
tend to disagree with the majority of them!

I’ll not repeat her arguments, which I tend to agree with (and are supported in a
post by Tony Keen). My take is that this is nothing new - IT developers have
repeatedly had to respond to successful developments which have challenged
their own development activities or beliefs in how successful software should be
developed. I’d suggest that in the UK HE sector this may go back to the 1960s,
when the view of the development of a successful IT environment was based on
a political policy of buying British - with UK Universities being required, if my
understanding is correct, to purchase ICL mainframe systems (this was, of
course, before ICL became a Japanese company, being bought out by Fujitsu).
In the late 1970s I studied at Newcastle University, where they were pleased at
having procured an IBM mainframe which ran the MTS (Michigan Terminal
System) operating system.

In the Web environment, I can recall demonstrating the Web to a number of IT

development groups in 1993 when I worked at Leeds University. Rather than
the look of excitement which I normally got at that time, on two occasions the
response was more like fear - I subsequently discovered that the developers
were, independently, working on distributed information systems, and realised
that their software couldn’t hope to compete with the Web.

When I moved to Newcastle University in 1995 I came across another research

group which was also involved in developing reliable secure distributed
systems (Arjuna). Dave Ingham, who presented a couple of papers at WWW
conferences, told me back then that his research group would never have
released the Web, as it was fundamentally flawed: links broke when objects
were moved, the user interface was very chunky, there was, back then, no
client-side scripting, etc. However Dave and his colleagues also realised that,
despite its limitations, the Web was a success and wouldn’t go away. They
therefore adopted their research ideas to work in a Web context - and where so
successful that the company they subsequently set up was eventually bought out
by HP.

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I think we’re revisiting a similar set of fears that popular Web 2.0 services (not
just Facebook) are challenging IT development plans. However rather than
simply asserting limitations and implying that these are the overriding factors
(with the “Web links are easily broken” argument being updated with various
concerns over privacy, rights and interoperability) I feel that we need to engage
with successful widely used services. Perhaps we might find that just as the Web
does suffer from broken links but users are prepared to accept this, users may be
willing to accept certain limitations which may shock the purist developer.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook | Edit

Why We Should All Use Externally-Hosted

Web Services
November 6, 2007

There may be an argument that in higher education we have no need to make

use of externally hosted Web services, such as blogs, wikis, photographic
sharing sites, etc. as institutions will typically have IT services departments with
expertise in installing and supporting enterprise systems. And we also have a
wide range of JISC services which can provide access to applications on a
national basis, including services such as JISCMail which are used by all
institutions, as well as more niche services aimed at the research community.

However. although this view was probably true ten years ago, I feel that it
ignores a significant change to the IT landscape over the past few years: the use
of networked services outside of a work context and use by large numbers of
people who aren’t members of the HE community. I suspect a large number of
users of in-house IT services will also be likely to make use of IT services for
social purposes - such as storing personal photographs and sharing them with
friends and family. In such cases it may not be possible to make use of an
institutional service. So we, as individuals, will need to learn how to use such
services and evaluate the risks of such services. It is not only institutions which
will need to safeguard access to teaching and learning and research resources -
individual members of the institutions, staff and students, will need to safeguard
their precious digital assets.

I also feel that we can also expect to see lecturers who use such services for
personal use to explore the potential of such services in teaching. Indeed
shouldn’t institutions be pro-active in this, in order to ensure that students (and
staff) are experienced in such risk management issues when they leave the

Is this how institutions see things? Or do they focus on just providing a safe,
managed, secure IT environment? And if the latter approach is taken, how can
we expect staff and students to react when they leave the nest? After all, we no
longer expect to me in the same jobs for life.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

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OCLC report on ‘Sharing, Privacy and Trust In

Our Networked World’
November 5, 2007

I recently received a copy of the OCLC report on

“Sharing, Privacy and Trust In Our Networked World“.
This is a report which I would recommend to everyone with
an interest in the Web 2.0 world, in particular those who
welcome evidence of the views of users of social
networking services and discussions of the implications of
such views.

The report is available on the OCLC Web site (in PDF

format). I should point out that the report is very large
(about 250 pages, I think) with many colour graphics. I should also add that I
received a hard copy of the report as I contributed to the report, being one of
only two UK contributors (the other being Andy Powell from the Eduserv
Foundation) who gave their views on issues related to sharing, privacy and trust.

The report is based on a survey of 6,545 participants carried out between 7th
December 2006 and 7th February 2007. The participants were from the US (a
total of 1,801), Canada (921), UK (970), France (821), Germany (846) and
Japan (804). An additional survey of 4,000 US library directors was also carried
out, with 382 replies from library directors from academic, public, community
college, school and special libraries being received. Interviews with selected
information professionals (including myself and Andy) were also carried out. All
in all, an impressive survey which helped to shape a fascinating report.

I will not attempt to repeat all of the issues raised in the report, you’ll be pleased
to hear. Some particular issues of note are worth commenting upon, however.
There seems to be a discrepancy between the views of library directors
concerning privacy issues and the general user community: librarians have real
concerns about privacy, and are less likely to make use of social networks for
relationship buildings and for fun. Ironically general users “do not rate most
library services as very private” even though “the majority do not read library
privacy policies.” Most users do, however, “feel commercial sites keep their
personal information secure” but only “about half think library Web sites keep
their personal information secure“. The nature of trust of commercial social
network services is also increasing with use.

These findings do surprise me. I had expected libraries to be the trusted

organisations, with users having concerns regarding potential misuse of data held
by commercial services. It seems that my views may perhaps reflect my personal
prejudices, and that, as someone who is an information professional and who has
spent his working life in the public sector, my views do not reflect those of the
general public. Are public libraries (especially in the US) regarded as being too
closely aligned with the government, with concerns over government snooping
reflecting on the attitudes users have to making their personal data available in a
library context? And do the reservations over use of personal data by academic
libraries reflect concerns by staff and students over the relationships between
the organisation and the individual?

Such issues informed the conclusions of the report. The section on “Open The
Doors” felt that “the library brand must go from institutional to personal“. The
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authors felt that the views they held a few years ago, which “conceived a social
library as a library of traditional services enhanced by a set of social tools -
wikis, blogs, mashups, and podcasts” were mistaken, and their views “after
living with the data, struggling with the findings, listening to the experts .. is
[now] quite different“.
It would be a mistake, the report concludes, “to create a checklist of social
tools for librarians to learn or to generate a ‘top ten’ list of services to
implement on the current library Web site“. They argued that “The social Web
is not being build by augmenting traditional Web sites with new tools.“

They now feel that institutions should “Open the library doors, invite mass
participation and relax the rules“. The dangers were acknowledged (”It will be
messy“) but the rewards where felt to be worth it: “mass participation and a
little chaos often create exciting venues for collaboration, creativity,
community building and transformation“.

The authors of the report invite feedback on the OCLC Web site. I too would
welcome comments. In particular, how relevant is this vision within a UK
context? And what are the implications for current plans for library development

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 ·Tags: oclc | Edit

Guest Blog Post: Blogging Masterclass at ILI

2007: A Perspective
November 4, 2007

In the second guest blog post of the month Eddie Byrne gives his thoughts on
the Blog Masterclass facilitated recently by myself and Kara Jones.

Eddie Byrne is Senior Librarian with Dublin City Public Libraries with
responsibility for Web Services. A graduate of University College Dublin School
of Library and Information Studies, he has worked for many years in the public
library sector. From 2000-2002 he served as Metadata Project Co-ordinator for
the Irish public service.

Eddie’s review of the workshop, in which he describes the promotional video for
the event, the structure of the workshop and the workshop materials, may be of
particular interest to those who work in public libraries, museums and archives,
as UKOLN is in the process of developing a series of events and briefing
documents to support this community. It is particularly pleasing to receive this
evidence of the success of the event.

Having flown into London on the morning of Sunday, 7th October, the scene was
now a familiar one for me, as I made my way from Heathrow to the Copthorne
Tara Hotel in Kensington for the 9th Internet Librarian International 2007
conference. Familiar, as this was my third appearance on the trot at the
conference, and familiar also as when I first came to London way back in the
last century (!) having left school, I headed for my first ‘real’ job (read ’summer
job’) and, where do you think it was, yes, in the Copthorne Tara Hotel in
Kensington of course! Now the less said about that the better, let’s just say I was

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starting at the bottom! Three days there and I cracked! Peculiarly enough, my
visits to the Copthorne Tara have on each occasion since also been of approx.
three days duration. But those visits have been much more satisfying, let me
add! I was attending the afternoon masterclass entitled ‘Using Blogs Effectively
Within Your Library‘ and being given by Brian Kelly (UKOLN) and Kara Jones
(University of Bath). Brian of course I was familiar with from last year, and from
following his blog; Kara was new to me, but her ‘performance’ in selling the
course to me on a VCasmo multimedia announcement was, let me add, a
determining factor! This class appealed to me largely because the blurb in the
programme included the words ‘practical’ and ’sustainable’, and was also going
to talk about ‘real user experiences’. Kara also mentioned in the VCasmo
announcement others crucial elements such as ‘good practices‘ and ‘things that
work and things that don’t‘. I was sold!

The first thing I must say is that the class had an agreeable format, with Kara
and Brian interchanging in order to keep us attentive and on our toes (or rather
the edge of our seats, seats were provided)! I also welcomed the multiple
handouts distributed during the class - it saved one having to take copious notes,
thereby freeing one up to do some ‘active’ listening and actually participate.
Simple but invaluable. Kara also introduced a little technological gizmo that
allowed her to poll participants to get their input at various points, fun and
functional at the same time.

We involved ourselves in a number of exercises; one to identify possible blog

uses and the benefits to be accrued, another to identify potential barriers, those
we thought could be easily addressed, and those that presented greater
challenges. The fruits of our labour were posted to the class wiki (in real time!),
so I won’t reproduce them here, they can be seen over on the WetPaint wiki.
Also, in this context, Kara’s presentation entitled “Why Have a Blog?” was
particularly good in covering all the angles.

It is worth saying at this point that what I found of particular value was Kara’s
and Brian’s use of the Web as a delivery platform and as a means of networking
with potential participants prior to the conference. The social network platfom
‘Ning’ was used in this context in order to illicit user experiences that would
contribute to the substance of the class. Some of the presentations were
available on ‘Slideshare’ prior to the conference and others on ‘Google Presents’
immediately afterwards; making presentations available in this manner can be of
great advantage to participants preparing in advance or reviewing material

Many other topics were of course covered in the masterclass: blog basics; the
technical issues in setting up and maintaining a blog (hosting, software, look and
feel); launching and monitoring your blog (marketing, statistics); evaluation
(role, policies, feedback); and more besides. What is of particular value in a
workshop or masterclass such as this is that you are required to do some critical
thinking, and you also get the invaluable perspective of others, those working in
different areas, and therefore bringing a different perspective, as well as those
who have tried something, been there, done that. I found it interesting to note
that, despite the participants working in diverse areas and coming from different
backgrounds, there was a commonality in terms of issues, concerns, perceived
opportunities, and most of all a shared enthusiasm for using a tool that facilitates
communication, user participation, user engagement, collaboration, and resource

If I can refer to that word ‘practical’ again, this class was that. From forcing us

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to ask ourselves the ‘why’ of doing it, the ‘how’ to doing it, to the ‘watch out’
while doing it. I particularly liked Brian’s suggestion of having a documented
blog policy - I think it becomes so much easier for you, your organisation and
your users if you have it down on paper (remember paper?). It clarifies so much.
Stating the purpose and scope of your organisation’s blog, the intended
audience, policy on comments and third party use. I also welcomed the focus on
demonstrating value, using evidence to justify the setting up of a blog in the first
place: analysing your blog statistics and seeking feedback, asking the user for
their views on the blog and how it may better serve them. Brian recently
involved himself in such an exercise on his blog, and the results make interesting
reading. He provided a handout with those too!

The suggestion was put forward during the class that one should experiment with
blogs for particular events or occasions. That to do so gave a taste of the
strengths and opportunities of blogs. I would go further. They are more than just
experimental, a one-off event of note, or a particular programme with a
short-term lifespan, are ideal candidates of themselves for blogs in my
estimation; they are relatively easy and quick to set up, involve little in the way
of overheads, and are as easily de-activated should you want to when the event
is over (I favour leaving the blog visible as a testament to the event and as a
permanent record). And there is always a high profile event around the corner
that merits its own blog. I indeed make widespread use of them in my library
service. And whereas they do help inform and guide you in implementing other
blogs in your organisation, their existence is no less important than that
permanent presence you desire with your ‘lead’ blog. Is it contradictory to say
that the temporary blog is here to stay?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Guest-post ·Tags: ili2007 | Edit

Guest Blog Post: The ILI 2007 Blog Masterclass

November 2, 2007

The Month’s Guest Blog Post

The guest blog spot for November provides an opportunity to hear from
participants at an event I have participated at recently. We start with Pernille
Helholm’s reflections on the half day Blogging Masterclass facilitated by myself
and Kara Jones.

About Me
I work at a large company within the medical device industry in Copenhagen,
Denmark. I am a (solo) librarian, information specialist and furthermore I attend
The Master of Library and Information Science programme at The Danish
School of librarianship.

At work my tasks are providing competitor surveillance, scientific searches,

patent searches, supplying our users with all kind of information in the form of
journal, books, web pages, etc. and to guide them through the various systems.

Furthermore (and very important!) I have to develop the library services all the

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time. I also have a blog at

The Guest Blog Post

Last year at Internet Librarian International 2006 I discovered a new world of
social software, new and easy ways of communicating, the concept of sharing
and some great new aspects of librarianship. So this year I signed up for the
ILI2007 conference without hesitation. It was obvious to me, that I should
attend the pre-conference Masterclass on Using Blogs Effectively within Your
Organisation facilitated by Brian Kelly and Kara Jones.

During the past year I had explored many of the new social software tools and
with the help of blogs, RSS, and online friends I constantly discovered new
possibilities! And from all those tools I really find that blogging can be a very
useful tool in an organisation like the one I work for.

I can see that it would be an excellent way for people within the organisation to
share ideas, look for solutions to old and new problems, generate and
administrate new ideas that lead to innovation.

Therefore, I decided that my goals for this masterclass were to bring home ideas
and inspiration about blogging and share it with my organisation.

But how, where and when do I begin? Brian and Kara’s masterclass was right on
target for finding answers to my questions. And I am happy to say, it was an
absolute highlight at the conference for me. I have made a list of things that I
particularly liked:

The practical angle and down to earth approach.

Our hosts talked about their personal experiences with blogging, which
made it easy to relate to.
They managed to involve the attendants with “voting” and group
The handouts! Very practical and condensed format. Not just copies of the
slides! Useful!
The laughs and the relaxed, personal attitude of the speakers.
The many good points they had to convince management and co-workers.
The wiki that Kara updated with our input.
That sometimes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to beg for

I can find very few points for improvement, other than that it was much too
short. I think that a full day with hands-on training would be very suitable. And
for the next time I think it would be better to sit in an U-shape to improve
interaction between the participants. I went back to my hotel with many
thoughts in mind and I found that this Masterclass did give me answers to my
questions of how, where and when to begin, plus a lot more! What I learned at
the Masterclass has given me inspiration to start as soon as I get back to work

As I already described, I believe that blogging will be great for the company. But
now I can put words and action to my thoughts. And I think the right way to
start will be to get rid of my old one-way-information-intranet-web page and
replace it with a blog. I decided, not to wait for permission from our IT

Practically, I will install a WordPress blog on an in-house server, so that I can

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keep the - often confidential - information between the walls of the company. I
can use the features of a blog to share news otherwise distributed by mail and I
can make additional pages for other content. After the initial launch of the blog,
this will provide a great opportunity to start teaching my users about RSS in
order to receive the library news on their desktop!

In a way you could call it a pilot project for internal blogging. It is going to be a
great showcase for my users, and I am so sure that it will make a lot of people
interested in blogging as a tool for the company!

And if anyone from the management or other sceptics will ask “What’s the big
deal about blogging?” or “Why do we need one?” or “What’s wrong with
e-mail?”, I will know what to answer!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Guest-post ·Tags: ili2007 | Edit
1 Comment »

The First Year Of The UK Web Focus Blog

November 1, 2007

A Look Back
The UK Web Focus blog was set up on 1st November 2006. After its first year
in operation I feel it would be appropriate to document some of the statistics,
especially as I have previously promised to use this blog to
document such quantitative data, for use by others.


The blog’s Web site saw a steady growth in usage until March 2007, when usage
stabilised at around 4,200 user visits per month, with a peak in July, due, I
suspect, to visits from participants at the IWMW 2007 event.

I had previously noted a higher than expected takeup of the blog’s RSS feed.
Unfortunately some time ago WordPress stopped providing access to the RSS
feed statistics. This means that I am unable to provide any more detailed usage

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figures for the blog.

The blog is also aggregated in several locations, including the My Blog Log
service, JISC OSS Watch’s Planet Aggregator and the JISC Emerge Web site.

The MyBlogLog service seems to be successful in providing access to, I suspect,

a US audience, with 1,048 page views by 650 readers in the week of 23-28th
October 2007.


There have been 264 posts during the year, with 1,045 comments. This average
of about 4 comments per post seems to have been fairly consistent throughout
the year (although, as Pete Johnston commented recently, this can be a slightly
contentious metric for indicating engagement, potentially leading to accusations
that typos are created deliberately in order to generate responses!).

A total of 32 tags have been used to categorise the posts. I have to admit that
looking at the tags reminds me that the content covered in blog posts probably
doesn’t reflect my original intentions, which I thought would provide more posts
on technical digital library issues. However, in order to make the most effective
use of the time I have spend on the blog, I have used the blog to reflect my other
work activities. As this year has seen a focus on supporting the museums,
libraries and archives community, I have given a priority to reflecting their main
areas of interest. And I’ve been pleased to see that the blog has been warmly
appreciated within this sector, and has been successful in having an impact on
the plans made by such organisations.

Looking To The Future

A user survey of the blog was carried out recently and a summary of the
responses has been provided. After a year of blogging and, on reflecting on the
various feedback I’ve received, it seems to me that I’ll need to give some
thought to perhaps creating a new blog, in order to address the diverse user
community which UKOLN serves. I will also need to give some thought to the
implications of the implications of this blog being aggregated elsewhere: at one
stage I removed the blog from the JISC Emerge Web site, but restored it after
complaints from members of the JISC Emerge community. How should, for
example, one reconcile the tensions between providing views which some
members of a community may find useful and being part of a bearded group of
middle-aged blog spammers
The other area I plan on devoting more time to in the forthcoming year are ways
of measuring the impact of Web 2.0 services such as blogs, moving beyond the
usage statistics and user evaluation.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog | Edit

The Power Of Information

October 30, 2007

I attended a meeting recently at which a civil servant introduced a report which

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he was summarising as ‘exciting’. I had to stifle a yawn, thinking that what might
be exciting for a civil servant would probably be very dull and boring. But I was
wrong - the report on “The Power Of Information” is of much interest to those
of us (and I include many readers of this blog) with an interest in promoting
open access to information.

The report (which is available as a PDF document - 280 KB, 57 pages) was
commissioned by the government and published in June 2007, as described on
the Cabinet Office Web site.

The background to the report is an awareness of the popularity of Web 2.0,

especially those which provide user generated content and how such
technologies, coupled by a more open agenda, can enable information provided
by government bodies to be reused in various interesting ways (Paul Walk
recently commented on the phrase “The coolest thing to do with your data will
be thought of by someone else“).

The government’s response to the review (which is available as a PDF document

- 610 KB, 20 pages) was very encouraging, broadly agreeing with all of the

Although this report is aimed at information produced by central government

bodies (i.e. information covered by Crown Copyright) my view is that the
publication of the report and its acceptance should be welcomed by those in the
educational and cultural heritage sectors. The report can help to move the
debate within these sectors on the reuse of data and encourage experimentation
and sharing, rather than the conservatism we have seen in the past, with worries
about loss of IPR and potential (though perhaps seldom realised) income-
generation possibilities.

A report worth reading, I feel.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in openness | Edit

The UK’s Newest University

October 23, 2007

What is the UK’s newest university? I thought that it was probably Edge Hill
University. But I recently discovered that the University of Central England is
now BCU - Birmingham City University. I’m assuming this is the UK’s newest

What are the implications of changing the domain name for a well-established
Web site ( to something new (
Do you lose your ‘Google juice‘ and have to start all over again in regaining
your Google ranking? Or are there techniques you can use which will ensure that
links to your old site will be transferred, not only to provide a seamless transition
for users but also ensure that automated tools, such as indexing software, will
migrate your site’s ranking data, and not treat this as an attempt to masquerade a
porn site as a legitimate site.

Anthony Colebourne has described his experiences in a post to the web-support

JISCMail list, which summarised what happended when the Victoria University

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of Manchester and UMIST changed their domain names from

and to and The University of
Manchester was formed. However as this JISCMail list seems to require a
JISCMail username and password I will include his comments here:

We begin with a new site running in parallel

with the old sites. The old sites informed visitors of the change and
provided a hyper link to the new site. Very quickly our new site rose
up the results listings (without any special effort on our part) to a
point where we were competing with ourselves.

Some of our sub domains had setup Aliases of old domains to new
ones. However many search engines saw the 2 domains as separate
sites. So again these site were competing with themselves for
position in search listings and also confusing our users too.

1) The longer domain achieved higher ranking in most cases,

possibly this was due to the more relevant keyword in the domain
‘manchester’ as opposed to ‘man’ plus the new site was ‘better’!

2) Our local GSA also indexed everything twice, using up paid for
page limits.

3) Our marketing people preferred that the domain in the users

address bar to change (i.e. Apache Redirect preferred over Alias).

We configured old addresses to issue Redirect Permanent (301).

Firstly for individual sections as we were able, then for everything

We formally merged in Oct 2004, we took down our old sites home
pages and redirected them in June 2005. We currently still receive
around 500K hits a month to the old domains that get redirected to
our new site. We are monitoring usage of the old domains and are
not consider removing the redirects until usage drops significantly.

Completely closing down our old domains is a huge task, when you
begin to consider non web uses of DNS (email, desktop / server host
names etc) and the dependences. It will be many years before our
old domains are completely decommissioned. However to the
outside world we are now

These comments are, I feel, very valuable. But what is missing is the
implications of a domain name change in a Web 2.0 environment. What will it
mean if third party services are used to annotated page on your Web site? What
will happen if you have embedded third party content in your Web site, and
authenticated based on the URI of the page embedding the content is used?
Similarly what will happen to data kept by Web statistics counters?

Answers to these questions will be of interest to many readers, I think. It strikes

me that the BCU change may provide a valuable opportunity for research on the
implications of changes to a domain name and advice on best practices. An
interesting student project, perhaps?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: bcu | Edit

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Another One Bites The Dust

October 21, 2007

I recently suggested that the English secretly prefer being failures, as we enjoy
complaining about our failures and belittling the vulgarities of those who are
successful, and that, while this is particularly true in the sporting field, in IT and
Web development we find it easier to criticise successful services rather than to
exploit their successes.

And on a day in which England have once again failed to build on their previous
success, having been beaten by South Africa in the Rugby Union World Cup
final, I think it is timely to revisit successful Web services - and to draw some
parallels with world champion sporting teams - and one loser.

Apache is an obvious example of a successful Web application.

Apache must therefore be the Brazil of Web software: it’s the
people’s champion and the favourite of the neutrals.

Microsoft, in contrast, has to be (from an English perspective, at

least) Germany: dull, methodical, lacking in flair, but you just know
that you mustn’t write them off, as they often do well.

As for Facebook, well this has been a real surprise over the past
few years. Nobody expected it to do so well, but, in its own way, it
has its admirers. But is its current success likely to be sustainable?
Or, just like England’s rugby union team, will it fade away when
we thought success was guaranteed?

Please note that if this post is appropriate, please read the post on We Are The
Champions! And if you have received this post in a blog aggregator or via email
delivery and you find the master copy does not exist, that is because it has been

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit
No Comments »

We Are The Champions

October 20, 2007

I recently suggested that the English secretly prefer being failures, as we enjoy
complaining about our failures and belittling the vulgarities of those who are
successful, and that, while this is particularly true in the sporting field, in IT and
Web development we find it easier to criticise successful services rather than to
exploit their successes.

But on a day in which England have, against all the odds, succeeded in beating
South Africa to become the Rugby Union World Cup champions, I think it is
timely to revisit the successful Web services - and to draw some parallels with

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world champion sporting teams.

Apache is an obvious example. And Apache must be the Brazil of

Web software: it’s the people’s champion and the favourite of the

Microsoft, in contrast, has to be (from an English perspective, at

least) Germany: dull, methodical, lacking in flair, but you just know
that you mustn’t write them off, as they often do well.

As for Facebook, well this has been a real surprise over the past
few years. Nobody expected it to do so well, but, in its own way, it
has its admirers. Just like England’s rugby union team, I would
suggest. And it is appropriate the England should be the holders of
the Webb Ellis trophy

Please note that if this post is appropriate, please read the post on Another One
Bites The Dust! And if you have received this post in a blog aggregator or via
email delivery and you find the master copy does not exist, that is because it has
been deleted.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit

Should Open Content Be Open For

Commercial Exploitation
October 19, 2007

I suspect many of my peers who make their content available under a Creative
Commons licence have, like me, chosen an Attribution, Non-commercial
ShareAlike licence, which permits the content to be reused for non-commercial
purposes provided acknowledgements are given and the same rights are applied
to the derived materials.

But should I be taking a more liberal approach, I wonder? Should I permit

commercial exploitation of the content? This, after all, has been the approach
taken in the open source world, which provides an environment for
commercially-viable software vendors to thrive. From a macro-economic
perspective, this approach should stimulate the economy and from a political
perspective this would reflect the current political climes, in which the public
and private sector aim to work together for the benefit of all (no cynical
comments, please).

Is it time to move to an Attribution ShareA Like licence? I’m beginning to think

that this is desirable - I have suggested previously that allowing government-
funded data (such as OS mapping data) to be made available for commercial
exploitation by others would be beneficial to society; it strikes me that I’m being
hypocritical if I fail to allow my resources to be reused in a similar fashion.

What do you think?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General | Edit
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My Facebook Friends Do My Work For Me

October 17, 2007

Last week I wrote about my preparation for a talk on What Can Mashups
Offer? I was preparing for the JISC RSC 3.0 annual conference and invited
readers to provide examples. I was pleased to receive a response from James
Clay about the use of Yahoo Pipes at the ALT-C conference and, via the JISC
Emerge manifestation of the blog post, further comments from Paul Mayes.

On Sunday I was finalising

my slides, and updated my
Facebook status, inviting my
Facebook friends to provide
examples which I could use.

I received several examples later that evening, and by Monday lunchtime I had
included examples in my slides from Jane Stevenson (showing how the Archives
Hub uses Google Maps to show the locations of contributors to the Archives
Hub service), Paul Hollins, CETIS (on mashups in Second Life), Mike
McConnell (on outreach services to potential students at Aberdeen University)
and several examples from Tony Hirst, Open University. In addition Mark Van
Harmelin suggested Scott Wilson’s XCRI mashup examples, but I didn’t have a
URI to hand when I finished producing my slides. And, for the sake of
completeness, I should add that Sebastian Rahtz, University of Oxford, also
provided - via email - a number of examples of the prize-winning mashups he
developed for the IWMW 2007 innovation competition.

The various examples I used in the talk are bookmarked in del.icio.usand, thanks
to another tool provided by Tony Hirst, a slideshow of these mashups is also
available (as Tony described, a mashup of the mashups).

So thanks to my Facebook friends for providing these examples. And for me,
I’ve realised what a potentially valuable tool the Facebook status can be - a
simple request can result in useful feedback, without the intrusive aspect often
suffered by those who complain of email overload. And unlike more open
communications tools, I’m inviting feedback from a selected group of my
friends, colleagues and contacts on Facebook. Perhaps, in some cases, the most
effective social network isn’t the open network but the trusted network?

And, as promised in my previous post about my mashups talk, my slides are

available, with a Creative Commons licence.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook, mashups | Edit

Using Facebook To Promote Events

October 16, 2007

UKOLN organises many workshops, conferences and other types of events. We

also speak at and support events organised by others, including our funders
(JISC and MLA) and fellow services, such as CETIS, MIMAS, EDINA and OSS

How should we most effectively promote our events, so that we maximise the
audiences at the events and attract new audiences, whilst minimising the
aggravation caused by event spamming. Organisers acknowledge this problem
and try to defuse criticisms with the prefix “Apologies for multiple postings” -
but there is still a need to ensure that people don’t complain that they never
knew an event of interest to them was being held.

I seemed to have erred on the over-cautious side by failing to announce the

one-day workshop on “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs And Social
Networks” as widely as I should have done, with at least one speaker informing
me that he hadn’t seen the event announced anywhere. I’ve tried to remedy this
by some further announcements to email lists, and have kept a record on the
event’s news page.

But what can be done beyond email announcements, in a Web 2.0 world? In this
case, I have created an event in Facebook which provides details about the
workshop (as illustrated below). I have send an invitation to a small group of my
Facebook contacts (avoiding the temptation to spam my Facebook friends who
will have no interest in the event). The intention being that my Facebook
contacts who I’ve not notified will see that I’ve created this event and, if it’s of
interest to them or their colleagues, will then register.

Viral marketing, without the intrusiveness of email, I hope. Anyway, that’s the

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purpose of this experiment - and your comments are welcome.

And for those of you who have read this far, the one-day workshop will be held
at Austin Court, Birmingham on 26th October 2007. The workshop will provide a
number of case studies which will describe a variety of ways in which
institutions are providing blogs and making use of social networking services,
including use of WebCT, Elgg and Facebook. The vent will also provide an
insight into the student’s perspective of such tools and then review the
challenges institutions will face in providing such services.

Further details, including access to the online booking form is available at

The cost of this 1-day workshop is £85 which includes lunch, coffee, workshop
materials and access to the WiFi network.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events ·Tags: Facebook | Edit
1 Comment »

We’re The Young Generation

October 15, 2007

On Wednesday 10th October 2007 I attended the “Inspiring the iGeneration

Web 2.0, teenagers and libraries” event which was held at the Wolverhampton
Science Park.

My Opening Talk
I gave the opening talk entitled ” We’re The Young Generation, And We’ve
Got Something To Say” which provided an overview of Web 2.0 and outlined
why social networking software, such as Facebook, are providing so popular,
and the challenges which such popularity is posing. (The title of the talk

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referring, of course, to the popular hit by The Monkeys in the 1960s, which aims
to provide an alternative cultural reference to social networks to “Dedicated
Follower Of Fashion” which was picked up by Wikipedia).

It was pleasing to receive an email after the conference saying:

“I very much enjoyed the conference yesterday. The first session

from Brian Kelly was exceptionally good. It was thought
provoking. A much better start to the day than cornflakes!!.“

although of course the subtext could have been “better than cornflakes - but not
as good as a full English breakfast”

Other Talks
The other talks at the events described a variety of approaches which are being
taken by public libraries and related organisations in making use of Web 2.0
services to engage with young people. Interestingly, a Web 2.0 service which
was mentioned by a number of the speakers was WetPaint - a wiki service I’ve
been using for a year of so (including using it to support the Masterclass on
‘Using Blogs Effectively Within Your Library’ at ILI 2007).

A common problem which was raised throughout the day was how to manage
inappropriate content for young people. This ranged from obvious problematic
content (pornography, Viagra spam, happy slappy videos, etc.) to more
contentious areas, such as mainstream advertisements. There were clear
differences in opinions expressed, from those who argue that happy-slapping is a
problem that society needs to address, and it is a mistake to overprotect children
to those who feel that public sector Web sites must ensure that they provide
appropriate materials. This debate will continue …

The final comment I would make about the event is to applaud Paul Mayes,
Teesside University for being willing to experiment with innovative Web 2.0
services at the event. Paul could not attend the event, so he videoed his talk
ahead of the meeting. After this was shown, Paul and I made use of the TokBox
video chat service (which I’ve commented on recently). Although there were

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some technical glitches, I felt the event benefits from Paul’s willingness to
experiment, which was clearly appropriate for this particular event, with its
focus on the willingness to experiment which many young people will have.

And thanks to Dave Pattern for the photographs he took of the event, including
one which shows me (on stage) having a video chat with Paul using ToxBox.
Now what is the metadata for this photo? Which is the real me and which is just

And if only I had produced a video of my talk at the ILI 2007 conference I
would have avoided passing on my cold to Dave Pattern, Kara Jones and others
- which Dave not only blogged about but also informed the world via his
Facebook status:

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, Web2.0 ·Tags: tokbox | Edit
1 Comment »

All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG

AA Compliant
October 14, 2007

The UK Government has published a Public consultation on Delivering Inclusive

Websites document (TG102). This document (available in MS Word and PDF
formats) states that all government Web sites must comply with the WCAG AA
guidelines by December 2008. And failure to comply will result in the
withdrawal of the domain.

Great, you may think. At last the Government is doing something positive for
people with disabilities.
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I would disagree - I think this is a flawed approach for several reasons:

The WCAG 1.0 guidelines are widely acknowledged to be out-of-date and

inappropriate for the technical environment and ways in which the Web is
used today. And this is not just what I think. Michael Cooper, who works
for WAI (who produce the WCAG guidelines) admitted this is a paper he
presented at the W4A 2007 conference. As I described in my report on
the conference Michael write:

However, we recognize that standards are slow, and

technology evolves quickly in the commercial
marketplace. Innovation brings new customers and
solidifies relationships with existing customers; Web
2.0 innovations also bring new types of professionals to
the field, ones who care about the new dynamic
medium. As technologies prove themselves,
standardizing brings in the universality of the benefit,
but necessarily follows this innovation. Therefore, this
paper acknowledges and respects Web 2.0, discussing
the issues and real world solutions.

The WCAG 1.0 guidelines are flawed and ambiguous, as described in a

paper on “Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A
Framework for Applying the WCAG in the Real World“. For example a
strict interpretation of the priority 2 guideline which states “… use the
latest versions [of W3C technologies] when supported” would mean that
a WCAG AA conformant HTML 4 Web site would be degraded to
WCAG A conformance overnight when XHTML 1.0 was officially
released! There are similar flaws when one considers use of GIF (a widely
used, but proprietary graphical format) and PNG (an open and rich, but
comparatively rarely-used W3C graphical format). Use of a closed
graphical format such as GIF would appear to break the WCAG priority 2
guideline which requires Web developers to “Use W3C technologies when
they are available and appropriate for a task“. But is there any evidence
that use of GIF rather than PNG is a significant accessibility barrier?
It is unclear whether proprietary file formats such as MS Word and
PowerPoint and Adobe PDF can be hosted on a government Web site.
The document implies they can, provided the file formats are used in an
accessible way. But doesn’t this conflict with the WCAG guideline given
above? And if Word, PowerPoint and PDF formats can be used, what
other proprietary formats can be used? Would a Flash-only Web site be
permitted, prpvided accessible Flash was used?
Although the document supports use of both automated testing tools and
manual testing, I fear that time pressures will result in priority being given
to automated testing, perhaps based on the EU-funded automated
accessibility checking tool, the limitations of which I wrote about recently.
The conservatism often found in the public sector will stifle initiative and
innovation, even when this could provide more accessible services to
people with disabilities.
The difficulties of ensuring that user-generated content complies with
WCAG AA guidelines (e.g. ensuring the abbreviations and acronyms are
marked up when first used in a page) will discourage government bodies
from providing services which seek to actively engage UK citizens.
The requirement seems to ignore the benefits that can be provided within
a particular context. A Web site featuring an anti-drugs campaign aimed at
youths in the inner city may be more effective if it uses language likely to

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be understood by the target audience. But the danger is that such an

approach would not be allowed, as the language would not be universally
The failure to address change control in the policy. When, for example,
the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are released which, based on the current draft,
are more tolerant of proprietary formats, JavaScript and invalid HTML
pages, how are Web site owners supposed to respond?

I fear the underlying rationale to this approach is based on the checklist

approach which the government seems over-enamoured with. Sadly the
requirements to comply with benchmark targets seems inevitably to lead to a
fixation with addressing the targets themselves, and a failure to address the
underlying issues. As I write the broadsheets are arguing that failures in hygiene
standards are due to the NHS’s requirements to satisfy (and monitor) benchmark
figures rather tackling the hygiene issues.

After a series of useful government services are withdrawn because of the

concerns that they may break dated guidelines, I predict a government minister
will face the wrath of Jeremy Paxman - and Jeremy will be able to make use of
an anti-EU argument, as the consultation document does admit that “In 2002,
the European Parliament set the minimum level of accessibility for all public
sector websites at Level Double-A“. A good question for Jeremy will be “Do
you have any evidence that compliance with these dated guidleines brinks any
benefits to people with disabilities? “

It seems that political expediency (a Brown government seeking to make a

statement, perhaps) has failed to acknowledge the limitations of the checklist
approach. And this despite participation from the COI at the “Accessibility
Summit II: A User-Focussed Approach to Web Accessibility” in November
2007. As described in a report on the event Kevin Carey, Vice-Chair of the
Royal National Institute of the Blind and director of digital inclusion charity
HumanITy argued that “At the moment the government is following highly
specific [WCAG] points. Some work, some don’t“.

Sadly it seems that the recommendations of this group have been ignored. At
least we’re not the only ones concerned about this new. In a comment on a post
on New UK government web accessibility consultation on the Blether blo, Karls
states that:

I’ve been reading this document today and I agree with Jack - it
needs to lose the checklist mentality, extend the deadline (I
understand that the author probably had to put some date there) and
get every website tested by our friends at RNIB / AbilityNet / Shaw
Trust / Nomensa using some kind of joined-up (consistent) testing
scheme. I might have missed a few other big players out there but
the point I really want to make is I don’t want to see sites
get sucked in by snakeoil salesmen.

Your thoughts?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility ·Tags: Accessibility, WCAG | Edit

On Thunderbird

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October 12, 2007

“Thunderbirds aren’t go” was the initial ungrammatical idea for the title of this
post, based on an article in Thursday’s Online Guardian which asked “What
future has the Thunderbird email program got?” in light of the departure of the
two paid programmers who were working on the project (and discussed on the
Guardian technology blog).

I installed Thunderbird a couple of year’s ago with high hopes, as it comes from
the same stable as Firefox. I quickly became disillusioned, though, partly
because I didn’t like the interface and partly because of various bugs or
limitations I encountered, but primarily because of its lack of support for a
calendering tool. I soon went back to Outlook, which I use to synch with my
PDA and mobile phone.

I had been told that a calendering tool which would complement Thunderbird
was on its way - but the Guardian article also mentioned that this product
(Sunbird) has been discontinued. This feature has, sadly, been shown to be

Has Thunderbird shown itself to be a fad, without even being fashionable (in
mainstream circles)? I think this would be an inappropriate response. As Ross
Gardler pointed out recently, it can be counter productive to dismiss applications
using phrases such as ‘it’s merely fashionable’ or ‘it’s just a passing fad’. Rather,
some deeper thinking is needed - and maybe software which fails to become
fashionable but works for particular groups in niche areas can have a role to

Or perhaps, as Ryan Paul suggests, Thunderbird still has potential to fly despite
developers leaving the nest. And interestingly the article suggested that
Thunderbird’s focus simple on email might be a barrier and pointed out that the
developers “had the team for developing … a stand-alone desktop e-mail
application. But we didn’t have the complete set of people to address both that
and the larger issues. Without some new impetus, Thunderbird would continue
in a status quo pattern.” Thunderbird with a means of integrating with Facebook
- now that would be an application I’d like to try out - and could leave Outlook
in the dust.

Speculation, open to discussion, I feel. What is less open to dispute is that the
success of the FireFox browser has not been replicated in the email
environment. And we do need to have decision making and selection criteria
which recognises that success in one area does not necessarily guarantee success
in another. Time to update the QA Focus document on “Top Tips For
Selecting Open Source Software“.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in General ·Tags: Sunbird, Thunderbird | Edit

The Techshare 2007 Conference (2)

October 10, 2007

I mentioned previously my talk on “Beyond Compliance - A Holistic Approach

to Web Accessibility” which I gave at the Techshare 2007 conference.

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My talk was in complete contrast to the preceding talk on “EuraCERT“. This

talk described the development of a European certification scheme for Web
accessibility, which is based on the development of automated software which
checks the compliance of a Web site with WCAG 1.0 guidelines.

This approach seems to be based on the “Unified Web Evaluation

Methodology”. This is available in HTML and as a PDF document (152 pages).
The document contains hundreds of descriptions of tests of HTML pages;
passing such tests, it would seem, will ensure the Web site can be certified as
complying with the accessibility guidelines. An example is: Test 12.3_HTML_15

This test is targeted to check whether the table rows need grouping.

Applicability criteria: Select the following combination of


table[not(thead) or not(tfoot) or

Test procedure: Do the table rows need grouping?

Confidence level: Medium.
User testing procedures: Not Available.

The speaker described the WCAG 1.0 guidelines as “the bible”. During the
questions I said that if this is the case, I must be a heretic It seems that a
European certificate is being developed based on a set of guidelines which are
known to be flawed and are being replaced. And this is to say nothing of the
issue of the purpose of the Web site which I described previously.

I have to say that I feel that accessibility is primarily about people, and that the
emphasis being placed by techies on just the resource is counter-productive.

What do others things?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, Events ·Tags: Techshare-2007 | Edit

The Techshare 2007 Conference (1)

October 9, 2007

Last week I attended the first day of the Techshare 2007 conference.

I gave a talk on Beyond Compliance - A Holistic Approach to Web

Accessibility, which reviewed the work on Web accessibility policies which has
been published at the W4A 2005, W4A 2006 and W4A 2007 conferences. This
work has described the limitations of the WAI approach to Web accessibility,
with the flaws in the WCAG 1.0 guidelines becoming increasingly apparent over
the years. In addition we (my co-authors have included Professors Helen Petrie
and Stephen Brown, Lawrie Phipps, David Sloan, Patrick Lauke and Simon
Ball) have argued that there’s a need to address the context of use - and that the
approaches taken to ensure accessibility of informational resources are not
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necessarily relevant in cases in which the Web is used to deliver learning,

provide access to a cultural experience, enable a user to assert their identity or
simply, to have fun. Examples I’ve used to illustrate this include include
surrealist paintings (how do you make a Salvador Dali painting understandable,
for example) and my favourite sports headline “Super Cali Go Ballistic, Celtic
were Atrocious’ - which brings a smile to many people’s faces, but not if Mary
Poppins hasn’t been part of your cultural upbringing - in short, it’s not
universally accessible.

At the conference I described such ‘edge cases’ and explained why these
needed to be considered (to avoid, as I’ve heard has happened, resources being
removed from Web sites as they can’t be made accessible to everyone). I
described the approaches we’ve developed, based on a holistic approach to
accessibility, a stakeholder model and a tangram metaphor for describing the

I was pleased at the response I received to the talk: despite it being the final talk
of the day, several people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for the talk
and described how useful they felt this user-focussed (as opposed to a checklist)
approach was. I was especially pleased that a couple of people from the RNIB
felt that this approach echoes their thinking.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Accessibility, Events ·Tags: Techshare, Techshare-2007 | Edit
No Comments »

Results of the Evaluation of the UK Web

Focus blog
October 7, 2007

On 23 August 2007 I announced the launch of an evaluation of the UK Web

Focus blog. The results of the evaluation, which was open for a period of four
weeks, are now available. The evaluation, which made use of the
SurveyMonkey software, have two main purposes: 1) to gain a better

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understanding of the tools used to read the blog (the platform and applications
and 2) to gain feedback on the content of the blog, the publishing frequency and
the length of postings. And in order to maximise the numbers of responses a
follow-up request for feedback was posted on 11 September, in case readers
may have missed the initial post, which was sent during the holiday season.

O f the 30 completed responses, I was pleased to read that 38.% used aUK Web
Focus › Create New Post — WordPress Web-based RSS reader and 20.5% using
a desktop RSS reader, with a similar percentage (20.5%) visiting the main blog
Web site and 10.5% reading the blog posts via an aggregator, such as the JISC
Emerge Elgg community Web site or JISC OSS Watch’s Planet aggregation

The most popular operating system environment was, unsurprisingly, MS

Windows (64.1%), followed by Apple Macintosh (25.6%) and Unix (10.3%).
Nobody admitted to reading the blog using a mobile device (whether wearing
pyjamas or not )

Just over half (53.8%) of the respondents have given comments on the blog - it
was pleasing that those who hadn’t were willing to give reasons why (”Worried
about looking like I’m stating the obvious, I always feel I should have
something new and original to offer“, “As of writing this, I’m not part of the
blogosphere myself yet. Anonymous or dummy commenting doesn’t feel right”
and “I haven’t commented (yet) because I haven’t felt I had anything
sufficiently new/original to contribute“). Interestingly one person felt that blogs
are not an appropriate medium for discussion: “I try not to make comments in
blogs that require a response. For me blogs are for dissemination, they do not
work well for discussion. I comment if I feel I can add something to the
observation being made. If I want a discussion I will bring it up on a more
appropriate location.“.

The comments on the content of the blog were very pleasing for me:

Invariably relevant and thought provoking. Informed opinion that is not

Entries and variety very interesting.
Excellent, I can’t remember reading anything that I thought was a waste
of my time.
Informative and thought-provoking — it’s good to read a blog about ‘web
2.0′ that manages to raise interesting questions rather than being dogmatic
about the ‘right’ way to do things.
marvellous - timely, detailed, open, and invitingly humble!

Many thanks for those comments (he says, humbly

The question on the frequency of publication of the posts, again, seemed to
indicate that readers were happy:

beats expectations - at least daily, sometimes twice - always somehow

As I understand Brian’s workload and the diverse calls on his time, I am
amazed he has time to produce as much as he does. I am happy with
frequency at present, much more would be too much.
Amazing: don’t know how you do it. Short ones are easy, but a considered
article I find a lot of work to make relevant and to avoid complete
pratfalls (small pratfalls are acceptable in blogging, I think!)
Ideal. Frequent enough to keep interested but not so frequent that it
becomes a chore to keep up
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although there were some divergences of opinion:

I wish postings were somewhat more frequent. Perhaps it should be a

more central feature of Web Focus dissemination?
I think there are too many postings-I often ignore them because I simply
don’t have time to read through such lengthy and frequent posts.
Sometimes difficult to keep up with all articles! But I would prefer too
many rather than not enough.

The comments on the length of the posts also seemed to show that the current
approach is working:

Almost perfect. It is quite easy to get the gist of a post and decide whether
to read in full.
Good - enough detail usually to make it worthwhile. The writing style is
good - waffle free.
as long as they need to be in order to give appropriate detail - so just right
- and effort made to embed examples very helpful
Works well for your blog - other blogs work better with shorter news
snippets but yours requires longer discussion to get point across
I find the postings quite detailed - longer than several of the blogs I read,
but the use of diagrams and screenshots etc breaks this up and prevents it
from being an arduous read
Shorter would be less useful (I think.)

I also invited readers to give other comments and suggestions. These included:

This blog is well written and presents ideas and technologies in a very
clear way. It makes good use of links for finding our more. But it does not
overwhelm either. A nice balancing act!
keep up the great service - perhaps even take on a network of distributed
apprentices to propagate subtleties of ethos which may otherwise be
overlooked as a legitimate set of “higher” skills - professional or otherwise
In general, I appreciate the blog and find it useful when I have time to
read it! Thank you also for taking the time to survey your readers.
Currently, your blog is one of the Top 5 that I follow regularly Two of
them are in English - the other one is Lorcan Dempsey’s
I think it’s great to have the range of info you have and to report back on
events you have attended.

This feedback has been very useful to me, so thanks to eveyone who responded.

The main issues and suggestions which a number of respondents raised which I
should respond were the technical level and intended audence for the posts and
problems in reading some of the posts, due, for example, to problems in
rendering images. It seems that some readers welcome the advice given to those
new to blogging and Web 2.0, but other, more experienced readers, would prefer
more technically-focussed posts. I am wondering, in light of the feedback we
are receiving from our funders and our discussions with the museums, libraries
and archives community, whether to set up a blog, perhaps focussing on
blogging and mainstream use of Web 2.0 services, aimed at mainstream
members of that community, who may be making the first steps with Web 2.0. I
will float this idea at the Blogging Masterclass and with others in the Library
sector I’ll be seeing on Monday and Tuesday at the ILI 2007 conference.

But I’d most particularly welcome feedback on this from readers of this blog.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Fashions In Internet Technologies

October 5, 2007

The Apache server software saw steady growth in its use from its launch. But I
never heard anyone criticise Web server administrators for being fashionable, or
doom merchants predicting that the growth would come to an end and,
therefore, there is little point in using the software.

And yet such arguments are being made when other software, such as Facebook,
becomes popular. Why is this, I wonder? In part, I think this is because services
such as Facebook don’t fit in with the ideology of the ‘chattering classes’ - it’s
not, open source, for example. And, unlike Apache, there is a lot of money
associated with Facebook, with large companies (such as Microsoft and Google)
looking to invest in the company. Such rampant capitalism again doesn’t fit in
with certain ideological perspectives. In contrast, plucky underdogs, like Twitter
and Jaiku are to be admired, even thought (or perhaps because) they seem not
to have gone beyond the boundaries of the geeks and early adopters.

I also feel that some people like to distance themselves from the vulgarities of
profit and success. We’re British, after all; let’s leave the Americans and the
Australians to boast about their successes, while we pride ourselves on heroic
(or less than heroic) failures!

My view is that, whilst we may wish to reflect our national characteristics in the
sporting arena (and I’m writing this in advance of this weekend’s Rugby World
Cup games) as professionals we should base our judgments on evidence, rather
than beliefs and, if the evidence shows that our beliefs aren’t working, then we
may need to modify our beliefs, rather than ignore the evidence.

On the other hand, maybe Apache is starting to become unfashionable; after all
as a recent Netcraft survey reported “its market share [is] declining closer to
the 50% mark, as Microsoft … gained over 3 million hostnames“.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Using Your WiFi Network Whilst In

Your Pyjamas
October 4, 2007

You have a WiFi network at home. You also have a mobile device which
supports WIFi - perhaps a PDA or a mobile phone? How can you exploit these
two technologies before you’ve set off to work?

I have started to get into the habit of, after getting up, switching on my mobile
phone and refreshing the RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to. As I don’t intend to use
my mobile for serious blog reading activities, I have subscribed to the RSS feeds

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for the comments for this blog. This enables me to spot if there any comments I
need to respond to while I’m on this bus into work.

Am I unusual in using my network while I’m still in my pyjamas?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets | Edit

What Can Mashups Offer?

October 3, 2007

I have been invited to give a talk on mashups at the annual conference for JISC
Regional Support Centres (RSCs). To support my talk I have written a briefing
document giving An Introduction To Mashups. I would welcome feedback on
this document (the master copy of which is an A5 printed document, which
provides a mechanism for keeping the content brief and to the point). Also note
that a Creative Commons licence is available for this document, so feel free to
reuse the content (and I hope anyone who may wish to use this document will be
motivated to provide feedback).

In addition to the document I am also interested in examples of mashups,

primarily in educational contexts to help RSCs to succeed in their mission: to
stimulate and support innovation in learning.

I will, of course, make the materials I produce available under a Creative

Commons licence.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in mashups | Edit

The Blogging Librarian: Pragmatic, Connected

and Visible
October 1, 2007

In a guest blog post for November Michael Stephens gives his thoughts on the
Blogging Librarian. Michael is well-known to many in the library 2.0 world
through his Tame The Web blog and his participation at the Internet Librarian
International (ILI) conferences.

As the fall conference season gets into high gear, groups of librarians and
information professionals will gather in conference centres and hotels all over
the world to discuss issues and trends that offer challenges and opportunities for
library services. Sadly, this year I can’t attend one of my favorite conferences:
Internet Librarian International in London, England. Librarians from all over the
world journey to London to exchange ideas, insights and, simply, talk.

I’ve attended ILI the past few years, serving on the advisory committee as well
as presenting and teaching workshops, including on dedicated to blogging in
2005. I was happy to see Brian Kelly and Kara Jones are carrying that discussion
forward with two sessions:

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Using Blogs Effectively Within Your Library and

The Blogging Librarian: Avoiding Institutional Inertia

I look forward to reading blog coverage of their presentations.

Thinking about these presentations causes me to reflect on the history of the

tool. In 2004, Merriam Webster online announced the most-searched word of
the year was blog and noted that one of the most talked about online innovations
of Web 2.0 was the use of blog software to create easily updated, content-rich
Web sites.

The early definition the site provided offers insight into blogs’ genesis as a
personal journaling tool:

Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an
online personal journal with reflections, comments and often
hyperlinks provided by the writer.

From personal journaling onward, we can trace the evolution of blogging from
“what I had for lunch” blogs to the adoption of the tool for businesses,
organizations, and of course, librarians and libraries. In 2007, the thriving
biblioblogosphere includes multiple library blogs as well as hundreds of
individuals sharing their voices via personal, professionally focused blogs.

This summer, I completed my doctoral dissertation looking at those personal,

professionally focused blogs. The research question centered around the
motivations for librarians to write blogs. Based on the works of some library
philosophers, I created and sought to prove my “Pragmatic Biblioblogger
Model.” The model describes librarians who author a professionally focused
blog beyond the scope of their job to find, share, and offer advice to others in
the LIS profession. Constantly scanning via the tools of continuous computing,
the pragmatic biblioblogger seeks to redesign library services in an era of
enhanced technology. These librarians open comments and engage with other
librarian bloggers to discuss and examine events, new technologies, and the LIS
profession within a community they have created with a common goal:
improving libraries.

I was pleased that my study yielded support for the model. As a participant,
observer and examiner of the bibliobogosphere, I’ve seen a lot of changes,
discourse and dissension - all of which add to the evolving nature of the medium
within our profession.

When librarians blog for their institutions, it may seem that the mission is
different, but it many ways it is most similar. Library weblogs, in all shapes and
sizes from Ann Arbor District Library’s multiple blog presence to the smallest of
the small “one person library” blog hosted at, sharing news and
information is usually the number one goal. Pair this with what blogs do so well -
enable conversation via commenting, librarians can now connect with their users
online the way we have done across the desk for years.

These connections are playing out in some interesting ways in 2007: I’ve noticed
the advent of administrator’s blogs, the extension of the blogging platform in
some new and innovative ways, and the use of the tool as an educational vehicle
for library staff to experience social software.

What was once the realm of the techie librarian in the basement of the library
has moved to cadres of blogging librarians for individual libraries (such as my

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former library, the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, Indiana,
USA) on up to the actual involvement of administrators and directors. Look no
further than Darien Library in Darien, Connecticut, USA for an example of a
director’s blog.

There are definitely benefits to administrative blogging. It might be the library is

about to launch a new initiative or fund raising campaign. The use of a blog as a
communication mechanism to deliver transparent news and plans seems like a
good fit. Properly marketed and utilized - key for an such project - the blog can
be a visible means to connect users to library policy-makers. It would also set a
good example for others in the library who may not want to participate.
Top-down buy-in is so important for technology projects and organizational
shifts to occur - and the voice of the director, shared openly and honestly, is a
step in a good direction. Human discourse from the top might be very welcome
in many libraries, internally and externally. Open comments would allow
discussion. This also makes the library and staff visible on the Web.

Other library use blogs and more blog-like social tools as a clearinghouse of all
manner of online content and links to multimedia offerings as well. Check out
Allen County Public Library’s 2.0 clearinghouse to see this in action or take a
look at Pierce County’s round up of their 2.0 tools with this post at Flickr.

Finally, no project has added more blogs to the Biblioblogosphere than Helene
Blower’s Learning 2.0 course, used by libraries all over the world. As a means to
acclimate staff to what blogs and other tools can do, there’s nothing better than
actually doing it. Librarians and staff explore, play and report on their
experiences via their blogs. Who knows how many may continue after the
course is done - and how many may become vibrant voices within the

Are you curious? If you’re attending ILI be sure to check out the blog
presentations - there’s still so much to discuss about this transformative tool.
And please have a cup of tea for me as you enjoy the sessions, networking
breaks and evening meals. ! If you’re reading from afar, explore on your own
what’s happening online with blogs and other social tools. we truly are in the
middle of an ongoing shift in libraries, where anyone can participate.

I am also very interested to hear what UK and other countries are doing with
administrative blogs, 2.0 portals and Learning 2.0. Please share your comments
here or email me.

Michael Stephens

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Guest-post ·Tags: blog library | Edit

Speculation on Microsoft Investment in Facebook

September 29, 2007

A Techcrunch article on Microsoft May Invest in Facebook At $10 Billion

Valuation was published on 24 September 2007.

James Brown on the RIN Team blog has provided some interesting thoughtson
the reasons why Microsoft are willing to invest $300-$500 million for a 5% stake

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in the company - which would place a valuation on the company of $10 billion.

I was interested in one of the statistics James provided: Facebook has 42 million
active users and, in comparison, Spain has a population of 45 million. Is
Facebook really, as some have suggested, really a passing fad. Perhaps Spain is,
as well And I wonder if, on 4 April 1975, anyone would have predicted the
growth in Microsoft and when it stopped being dismissed as a fad?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook ·Tags: Facebook | Edit

The RSCs In Scotland NewsFeed Blog

September 28, 2007

Via a Technorati search for JISC I came across the RSC NewsFeed
Blog provided by the JISC RSC Scotland North & East and RSC Scotland South
& West services. This was launched on 28 August 2007 and since then then
have been many postings, providing useful snippets of information, many of
which describe various Web 2.0 services relevant to the teaching applications.

I noticed that all of the posts were published on just three dates: 29 August, 11
September and 25 September. I then realised that the blog is published as a
newsletter, with issue 3 having been released recently.

I think this can be a useful approach to providing a blogging service, although I

do wonder whether the sudden publication of multiple posts might act as a
barrier to engaging readers in discussion via the blog comments (and the service
does allow comments to be published). But on the other hand, it does strike me
as a more environmentally friendly solution that the printed newsletter and much
more easier to use and repurposable than simply published a PDF version of a
paper newsletter.

I’ve added this to my bookmarks of resources I’ll be using in the half
day masterclass on “Using Blogs Effectively Within Your Library” which Kara
Jones and myself will be running on 7th October 2007.

Does anyone else have example of blogs being used to provide access to

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Blog | Edit

A New Search Interface for HERO

September 26, 2007

I have been reading the September issue of the HERO Headlines magazine,
which provides “the latest news from HERO Ltd, the company behind the UK’s
official online gateway to higher education and research opportunities“.

An article in the magazine describes the release of a search tool which can be
added to Internet Explorer and Firefox browser to enable the Web

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site to be searched directly from the browser, without first having to go to the
HERO Web site. Use of this search facility to search for articles about UKOLN
is shown in the diagram.

At one stage there was a tendency in various Web development circles that
browser-specific enhancements should be avoided, as they don’t necessarily
provide universal solutions (in this case, users of the Opera browser may feel
disenfranchised). I don’t go along with this argument - I feel that this provides a
richer and easier-to-use solution for many users, whilst still allowing users of
more specialist browsers (or old versions of Internet Explorer or Firefox) to
search the Web site in the traditional way.

Congratulations to HERO for this development. Now how many institutions are
configuring their browsers with similar search interfaces for their institutional
Web site, I wonder?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in browser, search | Edit

The Future As Today, But More So

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September 20, 2007

My Background
When I was young we didn’t have a TV and it wasn’t until I was 7 or so that my
family caught up, and I discovered why my school friends were so excited about
Doctor Who. And at that time we didn’t have a telephone, so when my parents
wanted to ring their friends, it involved a trip to the public telephone kiosk
opposite our house, until we got a phone installed (which, of course, was initially
was on a shared party line). But we never had a family car.

In more recent years I can recall being dismissive of yuppies and business men
and their very large mobile phones.

Nowadays, of course, the TV, the landline, the car and the mobile phone are
mainstream consumer products, and households without them are in a minority.

And I find myself in a position in which I’m no longer Star Trek Communicator
behind the times, but am an early adopter of various
examples of the current generation of technological
innovations. I was an early adopter of digital TV (when
Freeview was known as OnDigital) and I now have an
iPod and a Nokia N95 mobile phone, which can be use
as a digital camera, a video camera, a sound recorder, a
music player, a GPS device, a radio, a TV, and, last but
not least, a telephone. Truly, it seems, Star Trek
technology has arrived as a consumer product (well,
the Star Trek communicator at least).

So just as, as a child, I eventually caught up with my

peers with their 405 line black and white TV, I think
we’ll see the devices I am currently using becoming ubiquitous in a few years
time, as the prices come down, features become even richer, interfaces simpler
and, hopefully, battery life improved.

Envisaging the Future

Envisaging the future as the same as today, with the general population catching
up with the early adopters, what might we predict? Let’s look at some of
the things that I can do today and extrapolate their use (and the implication of
such usage patterns) in a wider context: perhaps at school, at college and by the
general public.

The first point to make is that capturing content is easy, at least for sound and
video. I’ve heard that recording/videoing lectures in Universities in the US is
common (or at least in prestigous Universities in California). So rather than
“can I borrow your notes for this morning’s lecture; I slept in” the updated
version may be “beam me this morning’s lecture“.

But we should remember that the old slogan that “content is king” is no longer
necessarily true. Rather it could be argued that “communications, not content, is
king“. Many of us, myself included, were surprised by the takeup of SMS text
messaging, which, despite the poor user interface, has become incredibly
popular, in the UK at least, and this takeup is reflected in the popularity of
instant messenger applications such as MSN Messenger.

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Applying this approach within the content of more sophisticated mobile devices,
we might see a growth in micro-blogging (as exemplified by Twitter) and
podcasting / videocasting from one’s mobile phone. Indeed we can envisage how
a voice message left while using a phone could easily be syndicated and
accessed via a variety of platforms, in a manner similar to podcasting, without
needing to be encumbered with the microphones and PC equipment which is
normally associated with the creation of podcasts.

And anything you can do with sound can also be applied to video, with the
mobile phone acting as the camcorder. But rather than paying expensive rates
using 3G technologies, a WiFi network with enable videocasting / videoblogging
to be affordable - and even free in environments in which the user has access to
an organisational WiFi network, such as is the case in many universities.

So the content creation side of things is getting easier - and the services for
accessing such resources is not longer restricted to the desktop, with, for
example, Twitter, Jaiku and Facebook all providing access from mobile devices
to their services.

The popularity of Facebook will also lead to changing expectations regarding use
of applications. We are finding with Facebook that users are treating
applications as disposable: they are easy to install and, if you don’t find them of
use, you thow away, like an unwanted toy. And this click-to-install, click-
to-remove approach to applications is becoming the norm for mobile
applications too.

We seem to be rapidly moving towards both a blended environment (content

can be both captured and viewed on a variety of platforms - and I’m conscious
that I haven’t mentioned games machines) and a disposable environment, in
which the application is no longer the important aspect. In this environment, we
will find that the technology vanishes - with many users having little interest in
the technological features for applications used on a daily basis; rather many
people will make their purchasing decisions based on other factors, such as how
cool it looks (and maybe David Beckham is still the style guru).

And we shouldn’t be concerned at such developments. After all, we no longer

regard the television or telephone as ‘technology’ and, for many, interest in
purchasing hifi separates has disappeared, with the choice between buying a
Sony or Philip HiFi system at Dixons being based on marketing and aesthetic
considerations. Rather software developers should pat themselves on the back
and say “job done” (except in niche areas and in the necessary back office
functions which, like keeping the London sewerage system flowing, will still be
needed but will be largely invisible).

Will This Happen?

Will the future pan out like this? Probably not! Indeed, when I speculated a few
years ago (July 2004) that the Netgem iPlayer (a digital TV box I use at home)
will be a forerunner of Internet access via the TV, I was clearly wrong (or at
least very premature in such speculations!)

And the notion that software development will not continue to grow in
importance will clearly be regarded as heresy by many readers of this blog (and
has been predicted on many occassions previously, not least when The Last One
application was released for the Commodore Pet in the early 1980s, if my
memory is correct).

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And the notion that the future will be a simple extrapolation of currents trends
has also been shown to be false (the streets of London are not covered in horse
shit as was predicted in the nineteenth century).

But, on the other hand, the blacksmith and related occupations have (almost)
disappeared once the new technology of the internal combustion engine became

And, since I first started writing this post I have come across an update to the
Nokia 95 article in Wikipedia which describes the Nokia N95 8GB device
(increased memory and longer battery life) and read Apple’s announcement
about the iPod Touch device which has WiFi support.

So maybe the future is closer to realisation that I’m expecting. Although I’m
sure that the future won’t be a linear progression based on what we have today.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Gadgets, General | Edit

Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and

Social Networks
September 20, 2007

In November 2006 UKOLN ran a day’s workshop on Exploiting The Potential

Of Wikis which was held at Austin Court, Birmingham. The feedback for the
event was very positive, with positive comments made not just about the content
of the workshop but also the venue.

This year, on 26th November 2007, we will be running a similar workshop on

Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs And Social Networks. The event will have
a similar format to last year’s workshop, with four institutional case studies in
the morning, following by two talks which address the challenges which
institutions will need to address after lunch. The talks will inform the group
discussion sessions which will aim to identify the various issues which will need
to be addressed (technical, legal, social, etc.) and ways in which institutions can
exploit the potential of blogs and social networks whilst minimising associated

I’m pleased to say that the institutional cases studies will illustrate the diversity
of approaches which are being taken across the higher education sector, ranging
from use of blogging services in a managed VLE (WebCT), use of an open
source solution (Elgg) and use of social networking services such as Facebook.
In addition to the talks giving the views of the institution, I’m pleased to say that
we’ll also be hearing about the students’ perspective, with a talk by Tom
Milburn, Vice President Education at Bath University Students’ Union.

The online booking form for the event is now available. The workshop fee,
which includes workshop materials, lunch and coffee and access to the WiFi
network, is £85. The closing date for bookings is Friday 26th October 2007 - but
note that at last year’s event the workshop was fully subscribed two weeks
before the closing date, so we would advise early booking.

Technorati Tags: blogs-social-networks-workshop-2007

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Events, Social Networking | Edit

TokBox - A Useful Video-Conferencing Tool Or

Something Sinister?
September 19, 2007

The TokBox Video Chat Tool

The TokBox instant video chat tool was reviewed by TechCrunch in August
2007. As with several of the Web 2.0 services I’ve mentioned on this blog,
Tokbox is very easy to set up and use: simply register for a (free) account and,
assuming you have a Webcam and microphone available, that’s about it. You
can simply invite your friends to visit your area on the ToxBox Web site and
they can then have a video chat with you, as illustrated below (in which I’m
chatting to my colleague Paul Walk).

As is the norm for many Web 2.0 services, TokBox can be embedded in other
Web pages or blogs. And ToxBox makes use of tagging for identification of
users (I’ve used the ‘ukoln’ tag to identify myself).

It also seems that ToxBox can support more than two users (the icon in the top
right window shows the number of users).

The Hidden Dangers

Last week when I started to evaluate TokBox I used it with a number of
colleagues in. On one Later on Paul came into my office, telling me that he had
been watching me and it was obvious that I was unaware that Paul had
connected to my ToxBox account and was viewing the video and listening to me
talking to myself!

I had expected to approve anyone who wished to view my video feed, so I was
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surprised when this happened - although I realised that I would have missed a
sound alert as I had turned down the sound on my loudspeaker.

Should we be worried about the privacy implications of TokBox? My view is
that this is an educational issue and, once we understand how the application
works, we will use it in ways which reflect our particular requirements (indeed,
one person commented on the TechCrunch article that TokBox is “going to
force me to blog in something other than my pajamas.”).

Although many video chat tools are available (including Skype) TokBox is
interesting as it requires no software to be installed locally. Rather the
integration with the Web browser is carried out using Flash. For me I think it
could be a useful ‘just-in-case’ or ‘just-in-time’ communications tool, rather than
something that I’ll use on a regular basis.I was also interested to read that a
TokBox application for Facebook is now available.

I was also interested to read a post on the Advercation blog which is

“aggregating as many people’s TokBoxes as possible on one page” - an
experiment which has some interesting possibilities. I have to admit that it
reminds me of University Challenge, but I’m worried that, as a number of people
have already commented, its killer use may be for the porn market :-(.

Technorati Tags: TokBox

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

The ‘Me Too’ Web 2.0 Applications

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September 17, 2007

A few day’s ago I notice that Phil Bradley had updated his Twitter status with
the comment “playing around with It’s really good… music
videos galore!“.

As I trust Phil’s views on Web 2.0 applications I had a look at Trooker. Sure
enough, it’s another easy-to-use Web 2.0 service which provides access to video
clips from services such as YouTube, allows comments to be provided, the video
clips to be embedded in blogs and Web pages, etc.

I know think that we are in now an era of plenty, with many Web 2.0 services
providing similar approaches in the provision of access to multimedia resources,
sharing resources, blogging, etc. (as an example compare Jaiku and Yappd).
And I think this richness is to be appreciated - it is helping to demonstrate that
there is a need for such services, and the variety of services available provides
the user with choice, with features which are providing popular helping to open
up the marketplace (who, for example, predicted the popularity of micro-

Of course in a time when the harvest is bountiful, we need to make plans for the
winter. For me, this involves ensuring that the data associated which such
applications can be managed - and the approaches to the management can
include hosting it locally or depositing it with a third-party service, having a
just-in-time approach to data management (migrating the data if the licence
conditions change) or even having a ‘am I bovvered?’ approach, which regards
the data as playing a peripheral role to the needs of the service. This might be
regarded as heretical in some circles but, to be honest, I’ve never bothered
recording my phone calls, and just because I could record my Skype calls
doesn’t mean I will.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Web2.0 | Edit

Your Views On Externally-Hosted Web

2.0 Services
September 14, 2007

I have found the My Questions Facebook application useful in getting focussed

responses to questions I’ve raised. In the past few months I’ve asked for
comments on Skype (most find it useful with only one person feeling it should be
banned) and how institutions should respond to Facebook (almost everybody
feels we should engage with it in some fashion, whilst being aware of possible
dangers, and only one dissenting view from someone who feels it’s a fad).

My question for this month is:

Externally-hosted blogs, wikis, etc: (a) valuable solution for

institutions which can save effort and resources; (b) to be avoided,
as institutions need to be able to manage and tweak their own
services or (c) an alternative view (please describe)?

I’ve already found that asking this question has proved valuable, as Chris Adie

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has included a link to a document on Guidelines for Using External Services

produced by the University of Edinburgh. Barry Cornelius, incidentally used the
JISCMail mailing list to inform me of a document on Checklist for assessing
third-party IT services which addresses similar issues and some time ago I wrote
a QA Focus briefing document on Risk Assessment For Use Of Third Party Web
2.0 Services.

What are your thoughts? If you can keep your responses down to 255
characters, you might wish to respond in Facebook; those who prefer to waffle
on for longer than this may wish to respond to this blog post

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

Filed in Facebook, Web2.0 | Edit

Amplified Conferences
September 13, 2007

Matt Jukes, in a post about the JISC Services Skills Day, used the term
“Amplified Conference” to describe the approach to be taken to the event. This
term, which was coined by Lorcan Dempsey, describes a conference which
exploits networked technologies to enable the topics addressed at a conference
to be heard and influence a larger audience than would normally be the case.

As I mentioned in a trip report, the JISC Services Day exploited the (excellent)
network facilities at Said Business Business School by having a dedicated
blogger, who produced a blog post in realtime for all of the plenary talks, and a
tag for the event (’skillsday2007‘) which would enable the data created by users
of other Web 2.0 tools - other bloggers, Flickr users (Stuart Yeates used this tag
for the photographs he took on the day), people, like myself, who used to bookmark relevant resources, etc. - to be found and reused. And,
incidentally, a photograph Stuart took of me managed to attract the attention of
one person, with the comment “what a great portrait! full of life and twinkle.
He looks like a good regaler.” (I’ll treat that as a complement!)

In retrospect, however, it struck me that the approach taken merely amplified

the voice of the speakers, by providing a transcipt of their talks. What we didn’t
get was an amplification of the views of the participants at the event, or, indeed,
the views of people who were unable to attend the event.

At UKOLN we have been organising Amplified Events for some time. The
technologies we have used include:

Blogs: As with the JISC Services Skills day we have been lucky to have
had a skilled writer (Owen Stephens) who has been comfortable enough
with blogging technologies to provide real time blog reports which, as can
been seen from the examples at UKOLN’s IWMW 2005 and IWMW
2006 events (and the UCISA 2004 and UCISA 2007 conferences) are
readable and comprehesive, providing an excellent example of how to
amplfiy talks at conferences.
Skype: On a couple of occassions we have had remote participanmts who
have listened in to an event using Skype (with Skype’s chat facility being
used as a back channel, which allowed a local mentor to support the
remote particpant).
Wikis: At IWMW 2006 and IWMW 2007 we made use of MediaWiki
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followed by WetPaint to support the brreakout groups. As can be seen

from an example from IWMW 2007, this amplified the report of the
discussion sessions which took place (moving away from the tyranny of
the closed and non-interoperable world of flip charts!)
Chat facilities: I feel that a chat facility provide the most democrat tool
for amplifying an event, as it can be decoupled from plenary talks and
discussion groups, allowing all participants an equal voice. The Gabbly
service was used to provide a chat service at IWMW 2007, although other
tools, such as IRC, have been used at other events.
Podcasting and
Recording a
talk or videoing
a presentation
can allow the
content to be
amplified in a
time dimension,
to complement
the geo-spatial
provided by the
other tools I’ve
mentioned. I
should add that
the benefits of this approach were brought home to me at the JISC CETIS
Conference 2006, when, in the closing plenary talk on Blended Learning:
Pragmatic Innovation, Jim Farmer (from the Center for Scholarly Systems
Architecture, Georgetown University, USA) mentioned me in his list of
people in the UK who had influenced his thinking. It turned out that Jim
was referring to the recordings of the plenary talks for a joint
UCISA/UKOLN/CETIS workshop on Initiatives & Innovation: Managing
Disruptive Technologies event on I organised in February 2006. It seems
that Jim listened to the recordings of the talks by Oleg Liber, Robert
Sherrat and John Dale (but not my talk as I was unable to record my talk
while simultaneously speaking!) during on long journey and cited the work
described by these three speakers at various events and meetings over in
the US.

I think it is important to acknowledge that use of such technologires is not for

everyone (as Matt Jukes recently mentioned, although he has several gadgets he
enjoys using, at events he prefers to use a pen and paper for his notetaking. And
not all events would be supportive of participants typing away at their keyboards
while speakers are talking. We recognised this at IWMW 2005 (when we
initially encouraged exploitation of the WiFi network at a UKOLN event) and
ensured that we asked the participants for their feedback on this experiment. For
this community the feedback was very supportive and we have built on this
approach since then, although we still encourage feedback and seek to address
the concerns of those who do find it distracting to be sat next toi people who are
typing away during a presentation (perhaps we should have a quiet corner at
such events, or perhaps a training course on how to type quietly! )

And note that UKOLN has published various briefing papers on the exploitation
of WiFi networks at events, including ones on Exploiting Networked
Applications At Events (briefing 106), Guidelines For Exploiting WiFi
Networks At Events (briefing 107), Guide To The Use Of Wikis At Events

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(briefing 104) and Use Of Social Tagging Services At Events (briefing 105).
These all have Creative Commons licences, so feel free to reuse the contents of
the documents provided acknowledgements are given to UKOLN.

Technorati Tags: skillsday2007

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting and All That

September 12, 2007

The Event
On Wednesday 5 September 2007 I attended a JISC Skills Update day on
Exploiting Communication Channels which was held at Said Business School,
Oxford. The event was very successful, as was clearly shown form the
evaluation form for the event: the venue was particularly well-appreciated (over
75% of those who completed the online evaluation form thought that Said
College was an excellent venue) and over 95% felt that the similar events should
be held in the future.

Other comments which were made included “This event was excellent and has
provided us with lots of ideas for the future“, “I found the day excellent -
especially from the pov of networking face to face so another event like this
would be useful! Really interesting to find the different models of use of web2.0
tools emerging” and “I found the day very informative and came back with
many practical ideas for further investigation and discussion for
implementation within our service“.

The main focus of the event was on the potential role of Web 2.0 technologies
(and Second Life) to support the communications infrastructure provided by
JISC Service organisations - although the role of more well-established
approaches (including email and both print and online newsletters) were also

It was pleasing that there seemed to be such a high level of interest in making
greater use of technologies such as blogs and wikis within this particular
community. Indeed several Web 2.0 technologies were used on the day itself,
with live blogging of the talks and a scalable tag provided for the event
(skillsday2007) which enabled resources related to the event to be easily found
via Technorati.

The issues that were raised during the questions seemed to be on “how?” (the
best practices) rather than “why?” and there were some interesting questions
raised about the different approaches to blogging taken by CETIS (blogs
provided by individual CETIS SIG coordinators) and OSS Watch (individuals
posting on a team blog).

These are areas of interest to be (i.e. the broad question of deployment strategies
for Web 2.0 technologies for national services) and will be something I will
revisit in the near future.

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My Talk
I was pleased that my talk on “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting and All That” was
highlighted in the comments (”I thought Brian’s presentation was excellent!“)
and appeared to be the most highly rated of the plenary talks with over 80%
either agreeing or strongly agreeing. Note that, unfortunately the survey form
was poorly designed and it wasn’t stated what they were agreeing with! But as
one person commented “I hope that choosing “Strongly Agree” is interpreted
as meaning I found the presentation strongly relevant and interesting (as I’m
not sure from the wording of the questionnaire)” This is the interpretation I’ve
taken too!

In my talk I described my personal experiences in using blogs, wikis, multimedia

and social networks. The slides are available on Slideshare and are embedded in
this post (in suitably configured browsers and if you are viewing the original

In addition I created a brief (2 minute) video clip which is available on YouTube

explaining why I use blogs, wikis and social networks. Again the video clip is
embedded in this post.

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The video clip represents the initial experiment in use of my mobile phone for
taking videos. I’m aware of some technical limitations (e.g. the lighting) - but I
thought it would be useful to document the initial attempt.

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Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Reminder of the UK Web Focus Evaluation

September 11, 2007

As announced on 23rd August 2007, an evaluation of the UK Web Focus blog is

currently being carried out, using the SurveyMonkey software.

The comments received so far have been very useful in helping me to gain a
better understanding of the reader community and the infrastructure which is
being used for reading this blog. I have also received useful feedback on the
aspects of the blog which readers find useful - and areas in which improvements
can be made.

The UK Web Focus has its first birthday on 1 November 2007. I am currently
thinking about changes I could make which can enhance the service, so I would
very much welcome feedback from readers who have not yet completed the
(brief) evaluation.

The evaluation form will be live until 22nd September.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Butler Group Report: Rich Web Applications

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September 10, 2007

Summary of the Report

I was recently invited to evaluate a Butler Group Report on “Rich Web
Applications”. I was impressed by the quality of this report, which is very timely
for those organisations which may be considering the development or Rich Web
Applications (RWA) or Rich Internet Applications (RIA). And higher
educational organisations which are involved in software development should, I
feel, have a strong interest in this area, whether this is in applications which run
within a Web browser (Google Maps providing a good example of a RWA) and
Internet applications which do not require a Web browser (Google Earth is a
good example of a RIA).

This 267 page report suggests that RIA will provide the default approach to
application development in the near future, with this approach currently in the
transition from being used by the early adopters through to mainstream

Of particular interesting to those actively involved in JISC development

strategies, including the JISC E-Framework, is the view that RWA and Web 2.0
ideas are being transferred to Enterprise Web 2.0. Similarly the report’s
suggestion that importance of Software as a Service (SaaS) will be boosted by
RWA is very closely aligned with the JISC’s Information Environment, and the
well-established tradition of providing networked-based services for the
academic sector.

The report provides a useful overview of the different approaches to the

development of RWA, ranging from Ajax toolkits and widget libraries and use of
browser plugins (such as Adobe’s Flash player, Java applets and Microsoft
Silverlight) and RIA development environments including Java or .NET.

The report then provides an overview of the main development environments,

suggesting that the Adobe Flex and Nexaweb platform are early leaders in the
field, with Microsoft’s Rich User Experience (which seems to be a generic name
which refers to Microsoft’s .NET Framework and Silverlight run-time browser
plugin) and Sun’s Visual Web Pack and Netbeans IDE also worthy of

Implications for the Sector

If the report is correct in its views on the importance of Rich Web Applications
(and I suspect it is) then IT Service departments and other groups within our
institutions which are involved in serious software development activities will
need to make some significant decisions about the technical routes they should
adopt. This report should help technical managers who will be involved in such
decision-making processes.

But I also feel that others involved in the provision and support of Web services
need to have a better understanding of the implications in a growth in use of
Rich Web Applications. At present I suspect many well-established institutional
Web teams will have a development culture which is based on the notion of the
Web as an informational resource, with policies based on the notion of a
page-based service. But Rich Web Applications aren’t based a page metaphor. I
suspect that we will find that existing policies and guidelines are likely to be

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irrelevant - but there may be battles to be fought before an appreciation of the

richer Web environment is widely accepted. And one likely battlefield is likely
to be the widely-held belief that JavaScript and/or browser plugins (which are
required in order to deploy RWAs) cannot be deployed on Web sites which
seek to be accessible.

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus)

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Guest Blog Post: The Eternal Beta

September 6, 2007

Today’s guest blog post was written by Phil Wilson, who works in the Web
Services Team at the University of Bath. Phil ran a workshop session at the
IWMW 2007 event on “The Eternal Beta - Can it Work in an Institution?”
in which he addressed the question of whether the Web 2.0 development
phhilisophy of ‘always beta’ was applicable with the educational sector:

Google’s famous for it, Flickr’s moved to Gamma, Moo are on an

eternal 1.0 - yet still in institutions we plod on with a tired,
slow-moving and opaque process for developing and enhancing
applications. From our closed support lines to official notices on
unread websites and applications mysteriously changing in front of a
user’s very eyes we look staid and tedious. But it doesn’t have to be
like that, we could be fast faced and interactive - but at what cost?
Continuity? Uptime?

I could ramble on about this for thousands of words, but I’ll try and keep it brief
(for me):

you take too long rolling out software

you don’t do enough unit testing or user testing

One of the leading ideas of eternal beta is small improvements all the time. It’s
the preferred model for developing Web 2.0 applications (just look at Google,
Yahoo, Microsoft and about a billion Silicon Valley startups). The essence is that
if you’ve changed something small and you’re waiting for the next milestone
before you release, you’re crazy - just deliver it. If it turns out to be wrong or
broken in some way, you can just change it again.

There are a couple of things people typically reply with:

One of the big fears that it hasn’t been user-tested enough. Well, in institutions
we’ve got thousands of technically-minded members - staff and students alike;
what do you think the odds are on being able to make, say, twenty of them beta
testers? (It’s critical to get testers from outside your team; your team are
effectively the alpha testers) I mean, you’ve probably got bloggers, Facebook
group founders and tech contacts everywhere. See who you can find to test your
apps - it doesn’t have to be the same people for all of them, and make it worth
their while either by delivering a better application to them than everyone else,
or maybe some mark of kudos i