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September 30, 2008

Internet - the next 10 years

As part of their 10 year celebrations Google have a series of posts looking at how the Internet might change over the next 10 years.  The series includes posts by Vint Cerf, Chad Hurley and others.  From washing machines to world health, boiled frogs to the ubiquity of video, mobile technology, the democratization of data, cloud computing and social networks, there's a lot of breadth here.

Me?  I struggle to predict the next 10 days, so I'm happy to read about how others see the longer term.  One thing is clear... we'll collectively fit significantly more technological change into the next 10 years than we did into the last.  On that basis, I suspect that all of this is very much finger in the air type stuff anyway.

Open Science

Via Richard Akerman on Science Library Pad I note that a presentation made to a British Library Board awayday (on 23rd Sept), The Future of Research (Science and Technology), by Carole Goble is now available on Slideshare:

The presentation looks at the way in which scientific and technology-related research is changing, particularly thru the use of the Web to support open, data-driven research - essentially enabling a more immediate, transparent and repeatable approach to science.

The ideas around open science are interesting.  Coincidentally, a few Eduserv bods met with Cameron Neylon yesterday and he talked us thru some of the work going on around blog-driven open labbooks and the like.  Good stuff.  Whatever one thinks about the success or otherwise of institutional repositories as an agent of change in scholarly communication there seems little doubt that the 'open' movement is where things are headed because it is such a strong enabler of collaboration and communication.

Slide 24 of the presentation above introduces the notion that open "methods are scientific commodities".  Obvious really, but something I hadn't really thought about.  I note that there seem to be some potential overlaps here with the approaches to sharing pedagogy between lecturers/teachers enabled by standards such as Learning Design - "pedagogies as learning commodities" perhaps? - though I remain somewhat worried about how complex these kinds of things can get in terms of mark-up languages.

The presentation ends with some thoughts about the impact that this new user-centric (scientist-centric) world of personal research environments has on libraries:

  • We don’t come to the library, it comes to us.
  • We don’t use just one library or one source.
  • We don’t use just one tool!
  • Library services embedded in our toolkits, workbenches, browsers, authoring tools.

I find the closing scenario (slide 67) somewhat contrived:

Prior to leaving home Paul, a Manchester graduate student, syncs his iPhone with the latest papers, delivered overnight by the library via a news syndication feed. On the bus he reviews the stream, selecting a paper close to his interest in HIV-1 proteases. The data shows apparent anomalies with his own work, and the method, an automated script, looks suspect. Being on-line he notices that a colleague in Madrid has also discovered the same paper through a blog discussion and they Instant Message, annotating the results together. By the time the bus stops he has recomputed the results, proven the anomaly, made a rebuttal in the form of a pubcast to the Journal Editor, sent it to the journal and annotated the article with a comment and the pubcast. [Based on an original idea by Phil Bourne]

If nothing else, it is missing any reference to Twitter (see the MarsPhoenix Twitter feed for example) and Second Life! :-).  That said, there is no doubt that the times they are a'changing.

My advice?  You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone :-)

September 26, 2008

Losing it

I spent much of yesterday in what felt like a time warp - sorry, I can't think of a nicer way of putting it.

I was at the JISC Services Skills event, Illuminating Event Management, a day that was intended to "explore all aspects of Event Management, from traditional 'Dressing a Stand' through to new and novel methods such as using web 2.0 to enhance your event".  Unfortunately, on the day, the event felt far more "traditional" than "novel" - since when did a 'skills' day involve listening to presentations that wouldn't have been out of place 10 years ago?

I'm not being critical of the organisers here - on paper they looked to have pulled together an interesting set of sessions covering event management, getting the most from your conference stand, the use of online conferencing tools, the impact of Web 2.0 and Second Life and so on.  No... it was just the way the day panned out I think, in part because the scheduled speaker on Web 2.0 (Matt Jukes) was unable to attend.  As a result, the day lacked some of the balance that it might otherwise have had.

You can get a feel for the day by reading my live-blog for the event on eFoundations LiveWire - but note that I was pretty despondent by the end and not typing much :-(  Look, I know it's important to label the vegetarian options correctly at lunchtime - 't was ever thus - and I accept that we don't always do it successfully at our Eduserv events (despite having a vegetarian on the team) but did we really need that level of information from a 'skills' day?  JISC is supposed to be about innovation... right?

Where was the stuff about the amplified conference?  About using tags successfully?  About streaming options?  About Flickr and Crowdvine and blogging and live-blogging and Slideshare and ... oh, you get the picture.  I'd expect these things to be at the forefront of every event manager's thinking these days?  In our sector at least.  This stuff isn't that cutting edge after all... look at this paper by Brian Kelly et al. from 2005.

Instead, the closest we got to the Web during the first presentation were some URLs for venue searches (very useful BTW) and a suggestion that you need to get all your presenters to sign a bit of paper saying they are happy for you to put their slides on the Web (as PDF - OMG!).  I was desperate to do a James Clay - leaping up with my iPhone streaming live to qik.com to ask the speaker if she'd like me to ask her to sign a bit of paper.  This stuff is out there - get used to it.  In many cases, it's not even happening over our networks anymore.

Grace Porter of the JISC was up second.  She spoke about her event manager's toolkit - essentially a wiki (to which people in the community are invited to contribute).  This was more like it!  Good stuff. I've always thought that there was space for a social network of some kind for event managers - sharing reviews about venues, information about streaming providers, sample budget templates and the like.  This sounds spot on to me and I'll certainly try and get the guys here involved.  Grace also talked about making events greener, again a useful and timely contribution.

Then there was a talk about getting the most out of your conference exhibition stand.  My innovative side wondered if we'd hear something about using an ARG to get people to your stand.  Maybe something about Moo cards at the very least.  Alas, no - just advice about dress codes, setting 'new contact' targets for staff on the stand and remembering to shower before turning up!  Hmmm...

Accessibility seemed to feature very highly in the day - I'm not quite sure why?  Not that I have anything against accessibility you understand.  But two presentations, one about 'accessible email'  - surely that was over the top (even just as a way to demonstrate some remote presentation software)?

Then in the afternoon we had presentations about using online conferencing systems - particularly focussing on Elluminate and Wimba.  This was much more on target (for me at least) and it was interesting to see the tools in action.

Is it just me that hates the use of Java in systems like this?  I know these tools are now the accepted norm but I find Java applications pretty much unbearable!  I tried to construct a question around this in terms of accessibility but all I got back was assurance that they were fully accessible (whatever that means).  I didn't make myself clear enough.  Accessibility is about inclusion - it's a social thing more than a technical thing.  Java applications aren't inclusive because they're bloody horrible.  I guess it's just a personal thing...

So what else did I learn?

That Networkshop attendees don't like people typing on their laptops while they are listening to presentations - at least not according to the evaluation forms.  Hmmm... all that proves is that luddites are at least as loud on evaluation forms as evangelists.  The reality is probably somewhere in the middle?  And if the loudness of typing really is a problem, how about putting all your mains sockets in one area of the auditorium, thus naturally pulling all the live-bloggers together in one place and letting everyone else sleep peacefully.

Oh... and that delegates to virtual conferences can sometimes be stupid enough to want to tell you their dietary requirements! Lol.

So, there was some stuff I found useful and some stuff I didn't and for some reason I allowed the latter the get the better of me.  The straw that broke the camel's back (for me) was a question from the audience about whether the DPA allows JISC services to keep lists of email addresses to which spam about future events can be emailled.  I kinda lost it at that point... pointing out that spamming people by email might not be the best approach to sharing information about events, even if it turns out the be legal. 

My comments where misplaced and I probably went too far.  Everyone uses email and there are target audiences for whom it is the only option.  In my defence, I'd say that my interjection did at least cause a nice bit of discussion.  When I started with, "I probably live on a different planet to everyone else, but ..." about 80% of the room nodded cheerfully!  And when the next questioner referred to me as "passionate", everyone in the room knew that what he really meant was, "why did you just completely lose it, you *@#%ing idiot"! :-)

On balance and after some reflection, I think it was a useful day for me.  It's good to be reminded that we don't all live in a world where blogging and live-blogging and Twitter and Slideshare and the rest are the norm - in fact, for many people, they are not even on the horizon.  This is a shame... and part of the JISC's role is to encourage people to think about these things.  I'm absolutely sure they will continue to do so.  But I guess they also have to be mindful of where people actually are.

Oh, and I nearly forgot...  I was at the event to give a talk about Second Life and how it can be used for events.  I was up last.  What can I tell you?  Getting wound up and pissing off the majority of the audience just before your own presentation probably doesn't feature in most 'presentation skills' good-practice guides but I think I got away with it.  I did the whole session in-world, with a virtual audience as well as the real audience.

I'll blog the details of my session separately, probably over on ArtsPlace SL, but suffice to say that this is a much more stressful way of giving a presentation than usual, since you have two sets of people and the technology to worry about.  In many ways, it is a whole new way of giving a presentation - one that I think will grow in popularity and one that I hope I'm getting a bit better at each time I do it (but I'll have to let the two audiences be the judge of that).

If I offended anyone yesterday I apologise - I think it's better to be honest and upfront about stuff even if it can be painful at times.  I also know that I'm at one end of a spectrum and other people are, rightly, elsewhere.  If you want to respond to this post, positively or negatively, please do so - and I'm happy to be called an idiot, because I know I act like one some of the time.  Yesterday being a case in point.

September 25, 2008

How to write: Journalism

Today's UK Guardian has a supplement about journalism (part of a week-long "How to write" series) which includes a couple of things that might be of interest.

Firstly, Michael White (who writes the Guardian Politics Blog) has a short piece on how to write a blog which includes:

So a blogger must be careful with facts, even bad spelling can shatter the illusion of authority. He/she must be prepared to defend every fact and opinion - or apologise. Brevity is best, it always is. Beware the conceit (into which I fall) that the infinity of the blogosphere gives you the right to prattle on.

Above all, a blogger must have a thick skin. It's tough out there, but also fun. Among the hooligans there are clever, decent people who simply want to tell you things you didn't know.

Secondly, there is a useful-looking writer's checklist which, although targetted at budding journalists, probably contains a lot of useful reminders for common or garden bloggers as well.

September 24, 2008

Tutorial at DC-2008

The slides from the tutorial I gave at the DC-2008 conference on Monday are now available on Slideshare and embedded below.

I think it went OK. Although I've done presentations like this a few times now, I still don't feel I've quite found the ideal way of presenting the material, and however hard I try to build things up gradually, I always hit a point where I introduce a lot of detail over the course of four or five slides.

Laws of identity - the short version

Kim Cameron's laws of identity have attained a kind of "stone tablet" status in the identity world since their introduction in 2006 but the document in which they first appeared is not necessarily one that everyone is going to read. The appearance of a short version a while back, picking out the essential points of the original into six brief statements, might therefore be of interest - especially for those of you that prefer a "back of the fag packet" kind of approach (<cough>twitterers</cough>).

I repeat their new brevity in full here:

People using computers should be in control of giving out information about themselves, just as they are in the physical world.

The minimum information needed for the purpose at hand should be released, and only to those who need it. Details should be retained no longer than necessary.

It should NOT be possible to automatically link up everything we do in all aspects of how we use the Internet. A single identifier that stitches everything up would have many unintended consequences.

We need choice in terms of who provides our identity information in different contexts.

The system must be built so we can understand how it works, make rational decisions and protect ourselves.

Devices through which we employ identity should offer people the same kinds of identity controls - just as car makers offer similar controls so we can all drive safely.

Good stuff. These make a lot of sense to me. I have a very slight wording issue with the second one, which following on from the first (" people ... should be in control") might be better re-phrased in terms of our expectation of services (rather than as a direct command to the user). Something like:

Systems should only require the minimum information needed for the purpose at hand and that information should only be shared with those who need it. Details should be retained no longer than necessary.

The car analogy in the last point is interesting. When I drive a hire car I sometimes find myself wiping the windscreen when I really mean to indicate or flash the headlights but I never find myself hitting the brakes when I mean to hit the accelerator or reverse gear when I mean 5th gear. So, yes, the important things are consistent enough across different car manufacturers that we can drive safely whatever car we get into (even given fairly major differences like left vs. right-hand drive for example).

The usability and security of the identity system overall is similarly bound up in people's understanding of it and the consistency of the user-experience across different parts of the system. On that basis, I think the last two points of the six are quite tightly coupled. Without such an understanding, issues like phishing become much more of a potential threat. There is a slight danger that the last point will discourage innovation in the identity space but, on balance, I think that is a risk worth taking.

September 22, 2008

A copyright toolkit for the education sector

Eduserv is hosting an event to mark the launch of a new online resource, the Copyright Toolkit, that is intended to help people deal with copyright issues when using third-party multimedia in learning environments.

Understanding copyright when using multimedia on the Web and in VLEs: a copyright toolkit for the education sector
Tuesday 4th November, 10:00 – 12:30
The Watershed, Bristol

The program for this event will include some workshop activities on copyright issues, demonstrations of the Copyright Toolkit and a question and answer session.

The event is free to all attendees. For more information and to register, please visit the event Web site.

Aimed at lecturers, librarians, sound and vision technicians and those who negotiate for the use of third-party copyright resources, the Copyright Toolkit features background information about copyright law and a set of interactive exercises to help you understand the key points. It is particularly useful to those who have to publish multimedia resources on the Web and/or in Virtual Learning Environments.

If you advise on or deal with the IPR issues around things like music for podcasts and/or images/videos for Web sites or VLEs, the toolkit is there to help.

Development of the Copyright Toolkit is undertaken by Copy-Right Consultants and funded by Eduserv.

September 19, 2008

Bathcamp

A belated, and very short, post to say that we sponsored Bathcamp (a barcamp, in Bath) last weekend and it appears to have been a very successful event by all accounts.  Well done to colleagues in Eduserv and elsewhere who took on the organisation for the event and apologies that for personal reasons I couldn't attend for more than about 10 minutes :-(.

September 18, 2008

Worlds apart together

Sometimes things just seem to come together in odd ways!

Take this afternoon for example...

On the one hand, the jisc-repositories mailing list came briefly to life with a discussion about the legality of storing images of people without having explicitly gained their permission.  A variety of viewpoints came forth, both for and against, which I would broadly categorise (very unfairly!) as common sense vs. legal sense.

Meanwhile, at almost exactly the same time in another corner of the universe, James Clay was waiving his mobile phone/video camera around indiscriminately during question time at the MoLeNET conference, broadcasting all and sundry live to qik.com and challenging (in quite an "in your face" way) the assembled panel to comment on the impact of mobile technology on the delivery of learning in FE. 

The sound isn't brilliant throughout, but it's worth watching.

I don't know what point I'm making here other than to note the obvious - that nothing is straight-forward and that the 'net continues to change, and change us, in quite fundamental ways.

Residents and visitors

My dislike of the terms 'Google generation', 'digital native' and 'digital immigrant' is on record so I was interested to see (via Twitter) Dave White, writing at TALL Blog, proposing an alternative to the latter pair, Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’.

I like the notion of 'residents' and 'visitors' much better:

The resident is an individual who lives a percentage of their life online. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. These are people who have an persona online which they regularly maintain.

...

The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises. They may book a holiday or research a specific subject. They may choose to use a voice chat tool if they have friends or family abroad. Often the Visitor puts aside a specific time to go online rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain their presence at any point during the day.

It seems to me that this is a much better characterisation of what is going on than the somewhat pejorative, often ageist, use that is made of 'immigrant' and 'native'.  What distibuishes people's use of the Web (and technology more generally) is their attitude, not their age demographic.

ARGs are the new black - discuss

Writing at Museum 2.0, Nina Simon describes the use of an alternate reality game at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), An ARG at the Smithsonian: Games, Collections, and Ghosts.  I can't comment further in any detail since I'm not really into this kind of stuff but one of the things I sensed at ALT-C 2008 was a distinct and growing interest in ARGs as a learning tool - are we in the early part of another hype curve here?

Interesting to see museums playing in this space - are any UK museums doing this?

September 17, 2008

DC-2008

Next week I'll be attending the DC-2008 conference of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative in Berlin.

I'll be attending the meeting of the Usage Board over the weekend (cue my usual grumbles about weekend meetings: if I'm not paying full attention on Saturday afternoon, it's because I'm following the football scores on the BBC site, OK?); I'm giving a tutorial on Monday (I'm pretty nervous about that, but at least it'll be over with early in the week); and I think that's about it for things with my name on them, but I'll no doubt be chipping in in various working group meetings after that. It's difficult to predict the "burning issues", but I get the feeling that the (perennial?) tensions between quite "informal" approaches and approaches based on RDF or the DCMI Abstract Model will feature, and I'd like to think that the draft note on "levels of interoperability" that I mentioned a while ago - and that is still very much a work in progress, I hasten to add - will help shed some light on the underlying questions here.

I'm quite excited about visting Berlin. I haven't been before, and it's a city I've wanted to see for ages. Like Manhattan or Paris, it's one of those places I half feel I know already from having seen it in films, but I know the reality of seeing a place for the first time is always quite different. I love German beer, and some of my favourite music in recent years seems to have come from Berlin. I had initially planned to travel overland, but the revisions to the Eurostar timetable following the recent fire have kinda scuppered that, so I caved in and got a flight this week :-( (But I'm still getting the train home!)

Thoughts on ALT-C 2008

A few brief reflections on ALT-C 2008, which took place last week.

Overall, I thought it was a good event.  Hot water in my halls of residence rooms would have been an added bonus but that's a whole other story that I won't bother you with here.

I particularly enjoyed the various F-ALT sessions (the unofficial ALT-C Fringe), which were much better than I expected.  Actually, I don't know why I say that, since I didn't really know what to expect, but whatever... it seemed to me that those sessions were the main place in the conference where there was any real debate (at least from what I saw).  Good stuff and well done to the F-ALT organisers.  I hope we see better engagement between the fringe and the main conference next year because this is something that has the potential to bring real value to all conference delegates.

I also enjoyed the conference keynotes, though I think all three were somewhat guilty of not sufficiently tailoring their material to the target audience and conference themes.  I also suspect that my willingness to just sit back and accept the keynotes at face value, particularly the one by Itiel Dror, shows what little depth of knowledge I have in the 'learning' space - I know there were people in the audience who wanted to challenge his 'cognitive psychologist' take on learning as we understand it.

I live-blogged all three, as well as some of the other sessions I attended:

I should say that I live-blog primarily as a way of keeping my own notes of the sessions I attend - it's largely a personal thing.  But it's nice when I get a few followers watching my live note taking, especially when they chip in with useful comments and questions that I can pass on to the speakers, as happened particularly well with the "identity theft in VLEs" session.

I should also mention the ALT-C 2008 social network which was delivered using Crowdvine and which was, by all accounts, very successful.  Having been involved with a few different approaches to this kind of thing, I think Crowdvine offers a range of functionality that is hard to beat.  At the time of writing, over 440 of the conference's 500+ delegates had signed up to Crowdvine!  This is a very big proportion, certainly in my experience.  But it's not just about the number of sign-ups... it's the fact that Crowdvine was actively used to manage people's schedules, engage in debates (before, during and after the conference) and make contacts that is important.  I think it would be really interesting to do some post-conference analysis (both quantitative and qualitative) about how Crowdvine was really used - not that I'm offering to do it you understand.  The findings would be interesting when thinking about future events.

The conference dinner was also a triumph... it was an inspired choice to ask local FE students to both cater for us and serve the meal, and in my opinion it resulted in by far the best conference meal I've had for a long time.  Not that the conference meal makes or breaks a conference - but it's a nice bonus when things work out well :-).  Thinking about it now, it seems to me that more academic/education conferences should take kind of approach - certainly if this particular meal was anything to go by - not just in terms of the meal, but also for other aspects of the event.  How about asking media students to use a variety of new media to make their own record of a conference for example.  These are win-win situations it seems to me.

Finally, the slides from my sponsor's session are now available on Slideshare:

As I mentioned previously, the point of the talk was to think out loud about the way in which the availability of notionally low-cost or free Web 2.0 services (services in the cloud) impacts on our thinking about service delivery, both within institutions and in community-based service providers such as Eduserv.  What is it that we (institutions and service providers 'within' the community) can offer that external providers can't (sustainability, commitment to preservation of resources, adherence to UK law, and so on)?  What do they offer that we don't, or that we find it difficult to offer?  I'm thinking particularly of the user-experience here! :-) How do we make our service offerings compelling in an environment where 'free' is also 'easy'?

In the event, I spent most time talking about Eduserv - which is not necessarily a bad thing since I don't think we are a well understood organisation - and there was some discussion at the end which was helpful (to me at least).  But I'm not sure that I really got to the nub of the issue.

This is a theme that I would certainly like to return to.  The Future of Technology in Education (FOTE2008) event being held in London on October 3rd will be one opportunity.  It's now sold out but I'll live-blog if at all possible (i.e. wireless network permitting) - see you there.

Virtual World Watch

Our series of snapshots looking at the uptake of Second Life within UK HE and FE continue, now in the slightly revised guise of Virtual World Watch. The intention is to broaden the scope of the work, in particular looking at the use of alternatives to Second Life such as OpenSim and Project Wonderland.

Are you in a UK university or college and developing, teaching or learning in a virtual world such as Second Life? VWW would love to hear about it. This is also a way of publicising to the world - and especially to academics, developers and teachers using virtual worlds - about what you are doing.

September 08, 2008

Both sides, now - are we builders or users of services in the cloud?

"I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all"
(Joni Mitchell – Both sides, now)

As an educational charity with a mission to "realise the benefits of ICT for learners and researchers", Eduserv must constantly ask itself how to make the best of its available resources for the benefit of the community.

What kinds of services should we be offering? What maximises our impact?

The answers lie in the expectations, needs and desires of the education community itself. But in an environment where the "cloud" offers us an increasing array of apparently very high quality, very low cost services, those answers are not necessarily easy to come by.

These issues affect not just Eduserv, but funding bodies, institutions and individuals in the community.

For those of you at ALT-C 2008, I'll be thinking about this stuff out loud in our sponsor's session - Wednesday, 11.00am in the Conference Auditorium 1. You are very welcome to come and help me shape my thoughts.

September 03, 2008

Proposed XML format for DC description sets

DCMI announced yesterday the availability for public comment of the document Expressing Dublin Core description sets using XML (DC-DS-XML). (Disclaimer: Andy and I are co-authors of the document!) This document, a DCMI Proposed Recommendation, describes an XML format called "DC-DS-XML" which supports the serialization of a "description set", the information structure defined by the DCMI Abstract Model. A note providing some further information on the background to the development of the specification, and its relationship to other specifications, was also published.

It's important to note that, in the terms of the document Interoperability levels for Dublin Core metadata which I mentioned a while ago, the DC-DS-XML format is intended to support what that document calls "level 3 interoperability", based on the creation/exchange of records structured as DC description sets. The DC-DS-XML format explicitly addresses a fairly minimal set of requirements, and does not seek to address the additional requirements of "level 4" in that document; in particular it does not concern itself with the implementation of the sorts of structural constraints which might be expressed in a Description Set Profile.

Also, the aim is not to promote DC-DS-XML as "the one and only" XML format for Dublin Core metadata - or even "the one and only" DCMI-owned XML format for Dublin Core metadata. The DCMI Architecture Forum continues to gather requirements for other formats, particularly requirements arising from the use of Description Set Profiles - i.e. from "level 4" in the Interoperability Levels document. The relationship between the checking of the structural constraints specified by a DSP and validation using XML schema technologies of various hues will be a factor to consider here. This is likely to be one of the topics for discussion at the f2f meeting of the DCMI Architecture Forum, to be held on Thursday 25 September at the DC-2008 conference in Berlin in a couple of weeks.

The DC-DS-XML format is based on a "TRiX-like" approach, by which I mean that it makes the structure of the description set explicit in the syntax in a similar fashion to the way the TRiX XML format makes explicit the structure of the RDF graph. Just as TRiX uses XML element names and XML attribute names corresponding to the names of the components of the RDF graph (<graph>, <triple>, <typedLiteral datatype="..."> etc), so DC-DS-XML uses XML element names and XML attribute names corresponding to the names of the components of the description set (<descriptionSet>, <description>, <statement>, <valueString sesURI="..."> etc). In DC-DS-XML, the various URIs in the description set model are represented as XML attribute values, and literals are represented as XML element content.

A GRDDL Namespace Transformation is provided, in the form of an XSLT stylesheet, following the mapping from a description set to an RDF graph described by the DCMI Recommendation Expressing DC metadata using RDF. This means that any instance of the DC-DS-XML format can be translated into an RDF/XML document, and a GRDDL-aware application can automatically extract an RDF graph corresponding to the description set encoded in a DC-DS-XML instance.

A W3C XML Schema for the DC-DS-XML format is provided. A (rather more drafty!) RELAX NG schema is also available.

Comments on the new document are welcome, and should be sent to the DC-Architecture Jiscmail mailing list.

September 02, 2008

ALT-C, Crowdvine and (social) tagging

The Crowdvine social network for next week's ALT-C Conference is now available and delegates are signing up apace.

One of the interesting things about Crowdvine is it's use of social tagging (solicited through a conference-specific set of profile questions) to show delegates' various areas of interest, expertise, etc.  The idea is to help people get in touch with each other and, like any tagging system, it works as well as the tags it is built on.

For a community like ALT-C, the approach to tagging, and the resulting tags, makes for quite an interesting case study.  Here's a couple of examples...

1) '(e-)learning' - As a human reader, I understand where this tag is coming from.  It's trying to tell me that the tagger is interested in both learning and e-learning without needing to create two tags.  Brilliant... if saving bits was the point of the exercise! :-)  Unfortunately, it completely fails as a tag because clicking on it shows that no-one else is using it - everyone else uses one or more of 'learning', 'e-learning' and 'elearning'.  Which brings me nicely to my second example...

2) 'elearning' vs. 'e-learning' - Both are in use.  Clicking on the tags (at the time of writing) shows 18 people interested in 'e-learning' and 9 people in 'elearning' (there may be some cross-over).  I'll go out on a limb and suggest that all these people are actually interested in the same thing!  One is therefore tempted to ask why the 9 people chose to use the less popular tag?  Actually, I can guess the answer so please don't tell me - whilst I accept that such action is completely understandable, it is also non-optimal.

There are probably other examples.

The point is that social tagging is a social activity, so you have to look at what other people are doing to get the most out of - not just when you first assign your tags, but subsequently as the community grows. 

Hyphens may well offend your tagging sensibilities but if that's what most other people are choosing, it pays to go with the crowd.

Geek 2.0

Brian Kelly has a post on the mainstreaming of the "2.0" label, Citizen 2.0, Strike 2.0, David Cameron 2.0 and Coldplay 2.0.

A while back I made the mistake of explaining to my youngest son, Stan, that Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 were "the next generation" of the Web and libraries respectively.  As a result, he now regularly refers to me as "Geek 2.0".  Lol.

I've tried explaining to him that, as my son, he is really Geek 2.0 - but somehow that just makes it worse! :-)

I'm desperate for at least one of my children to be into technology at more than the user level but the two older ones (Daisy and Wilf in case you are interested) have both let me down badly so Stan is my last hope.  Ah well... such is life I suppose.

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