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November 28, 2008

SWORD Facebook application & "social deposit"

Last week, Stuart Lewis of Aberystwyth University announced the availability of his Facebook repository deposit application, which makes use of the SWORD AtomPub profile. Stuart's post appeared just a day before a post by Les Carr in which he includes a presentation on "leveraging" the value of items once they are in a repository, by providing "feeds" of various flavours and/or supporting the embedding of deposited items in other externally-created items.

Stuart describes the SWORD Facebook application as enabling what he calls "social deposit":

Being able to deposit from within a site such as Facebook would enable what I’m going to call the Social Deposit. What does a social deposit look like? Well, it has the following characteristics:

  • It takes place within a social networking type site such as Facebook.
  • The deposit is performed by the author of a work, not a third party.
  • Once the deposit has taken place, messages and updates are provided stating that the user has performed the deposit.
  • Friends and colleagues of the depositor will see that a deposit has taken place, and can read what has been deposited if they want to.
  • Friends and colleagues of the depositor can comment on the deposit.

So the social deposit takes place within the online social surroundings of a depositor, rather than from within a repository. By doing so, the depositor can leverage the power of their social networks so that their friends and colleagues can be informed about the deposit.

It occurred to me it would be interesting to compare the approach Stuart has taken in the SWORD Facebook app with the approach taken in "deposit" tools typically used with - highly "social" - "repositories" like Flickr (e.g. the Flickr Uploadr client) or the approach sometimes used with weblogs (e.g. blogging clients like Windows Live Writer).

The actions of posting images to my Flickr collection or posting entries to my weblog are both "deposit" actions to my "repositories". As a result of that "deposit", the availability of my newly deposited resources - my images, my weblog posts - is "notified" - either through some mechanism internal to the target system, or (as Les's presentation illustrates) through approaches based on feeds "out of" the repository - to members of my various "social network(s)":

  • my "internal-to-Flickr" network of Flickr contacts;
  • the network of people who aren't my Flickr contact but subscribe to my personal Flickr feed, or to tag-based or group-based Flickr feeds I add to;
  • the network of people who subscribe to my weblog feed, or to one of my pull-my-stuff-together aggregation feeds.

And so on....

The point I wanted to highlight here is - as Stuart notes above - that the "social" aspect isn't directly associated with the "deposit" action: the Flickr uploader (AFAIK) doesn't interact with my Flickr contact list to ping my contacts; Windows Live Writer doesn't know anything about who out there in the blogosphere has subscribed to my weblog. Using these tools, deposit itself is an "individual" rather than a "social" action, if you like. Rather, the social aspect is supported from the "output"/"publication" features of the repository.

In contrast, if I understand Stuart's description of the Facebook deposit app correctly, the "social" dimension here is based on the context of the "deposit" action. Here, the "deposit" tool - Stuart's Fb app - is "socially aware", in the sense that it, rather than the target repository, is responsible for creating notifications in a feed - and the readership of that feed is shaped by the context of the deposit action rather than by the context of "publication": it's my network of Fb friends who see the notifications, not my network of Flickr contacts.

Though of course it may be that the repository I target using the Fb deposit app also enables all the sort of personal-/tag-/group-based output feed functionality I describe above for the Flickr/weblog cases. And I may well take my personal repository feed and "pipe it in to" a social network service - if I still bothered with Facebook (I don't, but that's another story!), I might be using a Flickr Fb app or a weblog app to add notifications to my Fb news feed! So these scenarios aren't exclusive, by any means.

I'm not sure I have any real conclusions here, tbh, and just to be clear, I certainly don't mean to sound negative about the development. Quite the contrary, it provides a very vivid example of how the different aspects of repository use can straddle different application contexts and how the SWORD protocol can be deployed within those different contexts. I think it also provides an illustration of Paul Walk's point about separating out some of our repository concerns (though I note that Paul's model does see the "source repository" as a provider of feeds).

It's certainly worth exploring the different dimensions of the "sociality" of the two approaches.I guess I'm arguing that (to me) "social deposit" isn't a substitute for the socialness that comes with the sort of "output" features Les describes - but it may well turn out to be a useful complement.

Je ne ReLIVE rien

I don't suppose that the title of this post comes close to meaning anything in reality!  What it means in the very personal virtual world of InsideMyHead is, "I didn't go to the ReLIVE conference at the OU last week but I wish I had" :-).  Why?  Because it looks to have been a great success. Certainly if Roo Reynold's excellent final keynote, a summing up of what happened over the two days, is anything to go by.

Having watched Roo's summing up, I tweeted that every conference needs one of these kinds of closing talks - particularly so where you are trying to amplify the event to people who are not attending in person.  Cliff Lynch often performs a very effective similar function at digital library events.

InsideMyHead didn't feature of course, not least because the orientation experience is so poor that absolutely no-one makes it through :-).  No surprises that, based on the little that I saw, it looks like Second Life predominated.  Despite a couple of recent calls to knock our obsession(?) with Second Life on the head (here and here), it remains (quite rightly in my humble opinion) the primary focus of our attention as far as the use of MUVEs to support learning is concerned.

There is only one point at which I take mild exception to Roo's talk.  Towards the end he shows an image of the in-world venue that the OU had created for the event and says something like, "there was a virtual backchannel for this event... but this wasn't it", referring instead to the widespread use of Twitter made by conference delegates.  Well, I can't argue with that - I wasn't there after all.  What I would say though is that, as a partial remote attendee, I would have much preferred for the talks to have been streamed in-world (rather than on the Web) so that those of us wanting to take part remotely could have used in-world chat as our own back-channel.  Twitter probably worked very well as the back-channel for those delegates "in the room" (though I have a strong personal dislike for the use of Twitter as a live-blogging channel because it lacks any sensible filtering mechanism and there is wittering (sorry, I mean twittering) that I simply do not want to listen to in large volumes :-).

Of course, Second Life wouldn't have worked well as a back-channel for those people in the room, not least since having lots of people trying to run Second Life over a wireless network is pretty much doomed to failure, but also because if you are immersed in a RL conference, then trying also to become immersed in a virtual world probably isn't very helpful.

So there's a problem... Second Life would have worked better (IMHO) for those of who were remote but Twitter (or something similar) worked better for those in the room.  What we needed was some kind of bridge between the two - allowing conversations to happen across all the participants.

This wouldn't be hard to do technically (there are a number of Twitter repeaters available in Second Life, including one that I built some time ago) but there are probably organisational and cultural issues to address.

Anyway... this is more "thinking out loud" than complaining or anything.  My gut feeling is that hybrid physical/virtual meetings are going to feature significantly in our future and that thinking about how best to facilitate them is best done sooner rather than later.

November 14, 2008

On sharing...

Great post from Scott Leslie on EdTechPost, Planning to share versus just sharing, about why institutional approaches to sharing so often fail.  The post is primarily about initiatives around sharing learning content but my suspicion is that it applies much more widely and (I think) endorses a lot of the things I've been saying about needing to understand, and play to, the real social networks that researchers use when we are thinking about repositories.

Here are a couple of quotes:

...grow your network by sharing, not planning to share or deciding who to share with; the tech doesn’t determine the sharing - if you want to share, you will; weave your network by sharing what you can, and they will share what they can - people won’t share [without a lot of added incentives] stuff that’s not easy or compelling for them to share. Create virtuous cycles that amplify network effects. Given the right ’set,’ simple tech is all they need to get started.

Talking about traditional institutional approaches to sharing, he says:

In my experience, a ton of time goes into defining ahead of time what is to be shared. Often with little thought to whether it’s actually something that is easy for them to share. And always, because its done ahead of time, with the assumption that it will be value, not because someone is asking for it, right then, with a burning need. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but my experience over a decade consulting and working on these kinds of projects is that I’m not. Someone always thinks that defining these terms ahead of time is a good idea. And my experience is that you then get people not sharing very much, because to do so takes extra effort, and that what does get shared doesn’t actually get used, because despite what they said while they were sitting in the requirements gathering sessions, they didn’t actually know what the compelling need was, it just sounded like a good idea at the time.

Furthermore:

The institutional approach, in my experience, is driven by people who will end up not being the ones doing the actual sharing nor producing what is to be shared. They might have the need, but they are acting on behalf of some larger entity.

And:

...much time goes into finding the right single “platform” to collaborate in (and somehow it always ends up to blame - too clunky, too this, too that.) And because typically the needs for the platform have been defined by the collective’s/collaboration’s needs, and not each of the individual users/institutions, what results is a central “bucket” that people are reluctant to contribute to, that is secondary to their ‘normal’ workflow, and that results in at least some of the motivation (of getting some credit, because even those of us who give things away still like to enjoy some recognition) being diminshed. And again, in my experience, in not a whole lot of sharing going on.

Is this stuff ringing any repository bells for people?

Two drafts from DCMI

Last week DCMI announced the publication of a couple of working drafts.

One is a slightly updated version of the Interoperability Levels for Dublin Core Metadata document that I've mentioned already in some previous posts.

The second is a document co-authored by Karen Coyle and Tom Baker, titled Guidelines for Dublin Core Application Profiles.

I think the work done in the area of DCAPs over the last couple of years, particularly the "Singapore Framework" and the Description Set Profile model, is very important for DCMI, as it (albeit somewhat belatedly!) seeks to clarify what the term "DC Application Profile" really means.

The new draft is intended as a "user guide" to complement the more formal documents: it seeks to explain more fully the nature of the components which make up a DCAP, and describe what is involved in creating those components.

As I think some of the current discussion of the draft on the dc-general Jiscmail list illustrates, like other such "primer" documents, it faces the tension between on the one hand, trying to present some occasionally subtle and complex concepts to a (relatively) broad audience, who approach it from varying perspectives and degrees of experience, and on the other maintaining a level of precision and consistency with some of the more "specialised" sources which it references and builds upon. And I don't envy the authors the challenge of trying to maintain that balance!

I think one of the challenges DCMI faces is the preconception that developing a DC Application Profile is, or should be, "easy". In some cases, yes, it is relatively easy, but it really depends on the sort of functionality one is trying to support with the metadata: relatively simple levels of function can be provided using relatively simple metadata based on a relatively simple DCAP - though even in that case, I'd suggest that the process of arriving at "simplicity" isn't necessarily "easy".

But the DCAP concept supports arbitrary levels of complexity, and as one seeks to provide richer functionality, the requirement for "richer" metadata - more extensive descriptions of a wider range of resources and the relationships between them - typically increases too. As many have realised "Simple Dublin Core" can only get you so far, however much you might try to bend it and stretch it. In the general case, I don't think creating a Dublin Core Application Profile is an "easy" task at all. Or at least it's no more so than, say, designing a relational database schema is: it does require some specialised skills and a grounding in some concepts which may not be familiar to all. So the audience for this document is, I think, still a fairly specialised one. And that's OK.

Which is not to say that DCMI doesn't need to explain those concepts as clearly as possible. And I think the current draft is a very good step towards doing that.

November 13, 2008

OpenID market research

Brian Kissel (of JanRain) has a nice set of slides on Slideshare, OpenID Foundation Market Research Report from IIWb 2008,summarising the market drivers, technology enablers and business benefits of OpenID, then listing some of the challenges currently being faced and the initiatives underway in response.

I've been meaning to write up some of this stuff here but these slides capture the issues very succinctly so I won't bother :-)

The user experience of OpenID continues to be one of the major barriers to more widespread take up, something that has been discussed here before.  What I think is interesting, at least in comparison to what I suggest are a very similar set of usability issues for Shibboleth (as adopted by the UK Access Management Federation), is how openly the usability problems are being discussed and how significant the resources are (e.g. including a contribution from the likes of Google and Yahoo) that appear to be being put into solving them.  This is where the adoption of mainstream technologies (such as OpenID), as opposed to education-specific technologies, can bring real benefits for the education community.

November 10, 2008

define:digital identity

I recently had need of a one line definition for 'digital identity' (as part of writing some blurb for a forthcoming (invitation-only I'm afraid) workshop with our newly funded 'identity' projects).

My usual course of action in such situations is to type "define:whatever" into Google and/or to go to the appropriate Wikipedia page (though more often than not both approaches lead to the same definition in any case).

In this case however, I felt a little let down.  Wikipedia currently defines 'digital identity' as follows:

Digital identity refers to the aspect of digital technology that is concerned with the mediation of people's experience of their own identity and the identity of other people and things. Digital identity also has another common usage as the digital representation of a set of claims made by one digital subject about itself or another digital subject.

Perhaps it's just me, but I find that opening sentence somewhat less clear and helpful than it might be.  "Concerned with the mediation..." - what's that all about?

Well... to cut a long story short, I spent some time looking around at alternative definitions, including those used in some of the proposals we received in response to this year's grant call, and came up with the following:

Digital identity is the online representation of an individual within a community, as adopted by that individual and/or projected by others.  An individual may have multiple digital identities in multiple communities.

I appreciate that this isn't technically one sentence but it is short and sweet - and reasonably easily understood.  I'd welcome comments about it.

As Pete pointed out in a comment on one of my previous posts, Steve Warburton of the Rhizome project has quite a nice set of slides exploring the issues of digital identity in the context of learning, teaching and research:

I particularly like the opening quote from Cole Camplese:

"As I try (and leave) more and more environments I am depositing small identity artifacts that I can no longer track and I am feeling like I am fracturing my identity more and more along the way.”

My suspicion is that most of us feel a bit like that! And, as Steve says on slide 8:

  • digital identities are performed across a variety of electronic spaces
  • we are in effect, curators of the self
  • leveraging a number of differing services
  • comprised of structured (transactional) and unstructured data
  • resulting in the creation of distributed, proliferating digital selves

To try and illustrate this I've added a short case-study about my own 'fractured' digital identity to the wiki that the projects are using to gather scenarios in advance of the workshop. The remainder of this blog entry contains a slightly updated version of my case-study.  It is by no means complete.  I wanted to try writing it all down partly because in a recent radio interview for Emerging Mondays I was asked a direct question about what I thought my own digital identity was and I didn't really have a sensible answer (not that this case-study is necessarily a sensible answer either).

The text below follows the formatting used in the wiki.

Situation

What was the setting in which this case study occurred?

  • Prior to the 'Web 2.0' age I was reasonably successful at focusing the bulk of my digital identity at a reasonably small number (3 or 4) Web 'home' pages. (There was other stuff of course - like every email I've ever sent to a public list - which was more distributed but I'll ignore that for now.) A Google search for 'Andy Powell' still returns two of these (both on UKOLN servers) as 3rd and 4th hit -  coming after the guitarist of Wishbone Ash (my long-term Google nemesis).
  • This was achieved in part simply because of the high ranking of UKOLN pages, but also thru a reasonably consistent approach to linking back to my UKOLN home page from email footers, other web pages, open source software README files, and so on.
  • Since the advent of Web 2.0, my digital identity has become dispersed across a large number of sites - Facebook, Flickr, Typepad, Blogger, Hotmail, GMail, andypowe11.net, Animoto, Slideshare, Del.icio.us, the Eduserv web site, LinkedIn, Plaxo, FriendFeed, YouTube, Yahoo Pipes, Ning, … I could probably go on and on.  (Note that not all of these offer public profiles and that for some of them I contribute under several accounts).
  • I take reasonable care to name myself consistently within these services as 'andypowe11' (note the use of digit '1's rather than letter 'l's) but that name is not always available (e.g. Google) or appropriate (e.g. Facebook and Eduserv). In any case, some of the material is hosted on joint work-related 'eduserv' or 'eduservfoundation' accounts within these services - with hindsight this was probably not a sensible approach to take but I'm now stuck with it.
  • The choice of name (using digit 1's reather than letter l's) has resulted in a reasonably unique name, but can also lead to some confusion, e.g. where people mis-read it as 'andypowell' (with letter l's) - it is certainly not an intuitive search term for people to use when looking for me.  It is also not used totally consistently, for the reasons outlined above.
  • I have 3 primary email addresses ([email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]).
  • My public relationships with other people are mostly embedded into the sites listed above (using their internal friending mechanisms) - particularly Facebook, Twitter, Second Life.
  • Facebook is probably the biggest of these. It contains both personal and work relationships. In the main, other services contain mainly work-related relationship details.  Note that the ultra-simplistic use of 'friend' as the only available relationship type in these services doesn't capture any of the more subtle aspects of my relationships with other poeple in any case.  Note also that one of the things that has changed significantly over the last few years is that I have a much stronger 'personal' presence on the Web.  Before about 5 years ago, my only visibility on the Web was professional.  There is an ongoing tension around exposing my professional life to my personal friends and my personal life to professional colleagues.  Whilst this isn't a major problem or headache for me, I am conscious that there is now much more cross-over than there ever used to be.
  • I also have an alter-ego, in the form of Art Fossett (my Second Life avatar), who appears both in-world and on the Web (via the ArtsPlace SL blog and a Flickr account for example) and in email ([email protected]).
  • I am the developer of Second Friends, a Facebook application that allows people to share parts of their Facebook, Second Life and Twitter accounts (in relatively limited ways). This is the major point at which I draw together my two primary digital identities - though in general I make no secret that Andy Powell and Art Fossett are one and the same.
  • As Andy Powell, I blog at eFoundations, which I author jointly with a colleague (Pete Johnston) at Eduserv - i.e. this blog isn't all my own work. I also maintain a personal blog (intermittently) at a7eleven.
  • I have at least 3 OpenIDs (as Andy Powell - and others as Art Fossett) of which my preferred one currently is http://claimid.com/andypowell. ClaimID have a nice 'verified' option, allowing readers to verify that I own the things I say I own (at least in the context of trusting what the ClaimID site says about me).
  • The content of many of these fragmented parts of my digital identity(ies) is quite fragile - in the sense that it resides at external Web 2.0 services over which I have little or no control and which are probably less persistent than I am.
  • All in all, it's a confusing picture.

Task

What was the problem to be solved, or the intended effect?

  • I would like to consolidate my Web presence as far as possible, at (or around) andypowe11.net (and [email protected]).
  • Note that this will not be completely possible (or desirable) - my Eduserv work related material will always reside at (or around) the Eduserv Web site for example and will always be associated with my [email protected] email address (as its most visible Eduserv unique id).
  • I also have something of an identity crisis around Art Fossett - specifically concerning how closely the digital identities of Andy Powell and Art Fossett should be related.

Actions

What was done to fulfil the task?

  • Aggregating blog, Flickr, Twitter and other content at http://andypowe11.net/ is reasonably easy to do, and I have an ongoing (lightly resourced) activity to do this (based on a combination of Yahoo Pipes and PHP scripting primarily).
  • I still need to resolve the issue of whether material associated with Art Fossett should be included in this aggregation.
  • Note that I have to dis-aggregate my contributions to the eFoundations blog before aggregating them with my other stuff (so as not to confuse stuff that is written by my co-author). This is done with a Yahoo Pipe based on a 'dc:creator=PowellAndy' tag which is auto-inserted into the Typepad RSS feed from the blog.
  • I don't currently aggregate stuff from Slideshare and YouTube, though ultimately I would like to - again, much of this material has been made available under a single 'eduserv' account - so I will have to disaggregate it before adding it to my own stuff. Again, this will be done based on the same tag.
  • I would also like to transfer the Google-juice that is associated with my 'old' personal pages at UKOLN to my new Web presence. Technically, this can be done by asking my old employer to issue a 301 (Moved permanently) from the old URL to http://andypowe11.net/. Whether UKOLN would be willing to do this is another matter - my guess is that they might be willing to do so for my old personal page (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/~lisap/) but not for my more formal old work page (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/ukoln/staff/a.powell/).  I haven't got round to asking yet.
  • I want to increase the machine-readability of the information held at http://andypowe11.net/ using micro-formats (hCard) and related technologies.
  • I plan to move my OpenID to andypowe11.net using delegation to ClaimID.

Results

  • No results to date - other than a minimal but growing presence at http://andypowe11.net/.

Lessons Learned

  • Think carefully before pushing content into external web 2.0 services using a shared account because disaggregating content back out may be difficult.
  • Think carefully about where you build up Google-juice because moving it around may be outside of your control.
  • Using external tools is fine, but whenever possible host the resulting content at a domain name under your control.  For example, using Wordpress or Blogger and hosting the resulting blog at efoundations.com or artfossett.net is much better than using Wordpress, Blogger or TypePad and hosting the resulting content under wordpress.com, blogspot.com or typepad.com.  Why?  Because the result should be more persistent (or if it isn't, it is at least your own fault).
  • Stuff on the Web is messy and it's probably going to get messier... get used to it.

Of course... I could have made all this up and it is actually someone else that creates all this stuff!

November 07, 2008

Some (more) thoughts on repositories

I attended a meeting of the JISC Repositories and Preservation Advisory Group (RPAG) in London a couple of weeks ago.  Part of my reason for attending was to respond (semi-formally) to the proposals being put forward by Rachel Heery in her update to the original Repositories Roadmap that we jointly authored back in April 2006.

It would be unfair (and inappropriate) for me to share any of the detail in my comments since the update isn't yet public (and I suppose may never be made so).  So other than saying that I think that, generally speaking, the update is a step in the right direction, what I want to do here is rehearse the points I made which are applicable to the repositories landscape as I see it more generally.  To be honest, I only had 5 minutes in which to make my comments in the meeting, so there wasn't a lot of room for detail in any case!

Broadly speaking, I think three points are worth making.  (With the exception of the first, these will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog.)

Metrics

There may well be some disagreement about this but it seems to me that the collection of material we are trying to put into institutional repositories of scholarly research publications is a reasonably well understood and measurable corpus.  It strikes me as odd therefore that the metrics we tend to use to measure progress in this space are very general and uninformative.  Numbers of institutions with a repository for example - or numbers of papers with full text.  We set targets for ourselves like, "a high percentage of newly published UK scholarly output [will be] made available on an open access basis" (a direct quote from the original roadmap).  We don't set targets like, "80% of newly published UK peer-reviewed research papers will be made available on an open access basis" - a more useful and concrete objective.

As a result, we have little or no real way of knowing if are actually making significant progress towards our goals.  We get a vague feel for what is happening but it is difficult to determine if we are really succeeding.

Clearly, I am ignoring learning object repositories and repositories of research data here because those areas are significantly harder, probably impossible, to measure in percentage terms.  In passing, I suggest that the issues around learning object repositories, certainly the softer issues like what motivates people to deposit, are so totally different from those around research repositories that it makes no sense to consider them in the same space anyway.

Even if the total number of published UK peer-reviewed research papers is indeed hard to determine, it seems to me that we ought to be able to reach some kind of suitable agreement about how we would estimate it for the purposes of repository metrics.  Or we could base our measurements on some agreed sub-set of all scholarly output - the peer-reviewed research papers submitted to the current RAE (or forthcoming REF) for example.

A glass half empty view of the world says that by giving ourselves concrete objectives we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Maybe... though I prefer the glass half full view that we are setting ourselves up for success.  Whatever... failure isn't really failure - it's just a convenient way of partitioning off those activities that aren't worth pursuing (for whatever reason) so that other things can be focused on more fully.  Without concrete metrics it is much harder to make those kinds of decisions.

The other issue around metrics is that if the goal is open access (which I think it is), as opposed to full repositories (which are just a means to an end) then our metrics should be couched in terms of that goal.  (Note that, for me at least, open access implies both good management and long-term preservation and that repositories are only one way of achieving that).

The bottom-line question is, "what does success in the repository space actually look like?".  My worry is that we are scared of the answers.  Perhaps the real problem here is that 'failure' isn't an option?

Executive summary: our success metrics around research publications should be based on a percentage of the newly published peer-reviewed literature (or some suitable subset thereof) being made available on an open access basis (irrespective of how that is achieved).

Emphasis on individuals

Across the board we are seeing a growing emphasis on the individual, on user-centricity and on personalisation (in its widest sense).  Personal Learning Environments, Personal Research Environments and the suite of 'open stack' standards around OpenID are good examples of this trend.  Yet in the repository space we still tend to focus most on institutional wants and needs.  I've characterised this in the past in terms of us needing to acknowledge and play to the real-world social networks adopted by researchers.  As long as our emphasis remains on the institution we are unlikely to bring much change to individual research practice.

Executive summary: we need to put the needs of individuals before the needs of institutions in terms of how we think about reaching open access nirvana.

Fit with the Web

I written and spoken a lot about this in the past and don't want to simply rehash old arguments.  That said, I think three things are worth emphasising:

Concentration

Global discipline-based repositories are more successful at attracting content than institutional repositories.  I can say that with only minimal fear of contradiction because our metrics are so poor - see above :-).  This is no surprise.  It's exactly what I'd expect to see.  Successful services on the Web tend to be globally concentrated (as that term is defined by Lorcan Dempsey) because social networks tend not to follow regional or organisational boundaries any more.

Executive summary: we need to work out how to take advantage of global concentration more fully in the repository space.

Web architecture

Take three guiding documents - the Web Architecture itself, REST, and the principles of linked data.  Apply liberally to the content you have at hand - repository content in our case.  Sit back and relax. 

Executive summary: we need to treat repositories more like Web sites and less like repositories.

Resource discovery

On the Web, the discovery of textual material is based on full-text indexing and link analysis.  In repositories, it is based on metadata and pre-Web forms of citation.  One approach works, the other doesn't.  (Hint: I no longer believe in metadata as it is currently used in repositories).  Why the difference?  Because repositories of research publications are library-centric and the library world is paper-centric - oh, and there's the minor issue of a few hundred years of inertia to overcome.  That's the only explanation I can give anyway.  (And yes, since you ask... I was part of the recent movement that got us into this mess!). 

Executive summary: we need to 1) make sure that repository content is exposed to mainstream Web search engines in Web-friendly formats and 2) make academic citation more Web-friendly so that people can discovery repository content using everyday tools like Google.

Simple huh?!  No, thought not...

I realise that most of what I say above has been written (by me) on previous occasions in this blog.  I also strongly suspect that variants of this blog entry will continue to appear here for some time to come.

November 06, 2008

Web Development Conference 2008 sponsorship

I'm very pleased to announce that we are sponsoring, and will hopefully be attending, the Web Development Conference being held at the Watershed in Bristol next week:

The Web Developers Conference is an event designed for students of the Web Design degree course at the University of West England.

The BSc (Hons) in Web Design is a course intended to give students all the skills they need to build applications on the web. It has everything from building databases to designing user interfaces, from back end programming to carrying out usability testing. The teaching team intend for students leaving the course to be able to join in the Web 2.0 world as anything they want, from designer through to developer.

The conference is the chance for new and current students to meet people from the Industry. Stories are told, tricks shared and maybe even the chance for students to get those all important industry placements.

We agreed to the sponsorship a while back but it kind of got forgotten about (my fault, not their's) so there's been a bit of a frantic last minute exchange of cheques and so on.  We are sponsoring primarily because it looks like an interesting event run by a local university but obviously, if any students happen to read this and are interested in working for a local educational charity, particularly in the area of Web development, we'd be more than happy to talk to you.

Note that the conference is sold out, so if you haven't got a place, you've missed your chance. Sorry about that!

November 03, 2008

2008 grants - social networking and online identity

We have been very slow in bring you news of our grant funding for 2008.  Sorry about that.  The delay is basically down to getting all of the projects fully signed off by all parties.  Anyway, enough of the excuses...

...we are very pleased to be supporting three projects this year, representing, in total, over £200,000 of project funding.  The projects, conducted by University of Edinburgh, King's College London, and University of Reading, all focus on issues associated with social networking and digital identity.

Assisting the W3C in opening social networking data
This two-year project, undertaken by Harry Halpin at the University of Edinburgh, aims to explore the power and utility of royalty-free standards for extensible open social data. This project will help investigate and generate work proposals for opening social data at the Web's foremost standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Rhizome: exploring strands of online identity in learning, teaching and research
A fourteen month project, led by Dr Steven Warburton of King's College London. The project will use narrative inquiry and scenario mapping to explore the key technical and social elements that impact on the construction of online identities. The work will build a framework for understanding the tools, literacies, and practices needed to create and manage individuals' digital self-representations.
This is me
An eight month project, led by Shirley Williams of the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading, will investigate how individuals can be made more aware of their digital identity and how such identities can be developed and enhanced. The project will produce a set of Web-based resources designed to be of use both within the University of Reading and by the wider UK HE community.

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