Jul 272011

Good morning from IWMW! I am beginning today’s live blogging  a little late as a problem with he hot water in the accomodation this morning led to a rather belated start. But I have made it into the second half of the first session (happily hour speaker says he cis currentl writing his work up into an academic article) and will be grabbing notes that are definitely a rough draft for now.

Improving Visability (09:00-10:30) – chaired by Mike McConnell, University of Aberdeen

UK University Website Visibility – responding to the quirks of the crawler – Melius Weideman

Examples are being shown of anaysing university webpages by keywors. he programme helps see what you are optimised for, not what you think you are optimised for. NB writing description and metatags is a copywriting issue. One of the top three universities has no description! University of Birmingham has a keyword loaded description written in plain sensible eglish. Discussing he imporatant stuff in HTML. Have a decent title tag – its in the most read area of the site, and that ta is also default favouriting text so you need something striking. This is a marketing opportunity.

NB no one searches for the work homepage. Title tag – best of the lot is Uni of Reading – includes a key feature about the organisation/ Most users are pretty bad at formulating search queries so if you include lots of information – full name of uni really help.

Header tags – also best to follow best practive.

Final score – Liverpool is the best (Martin wins chocolate). Liverpool and Cambridge (top 2) consistent across the board. Edinburgh happily in 11th place. Interestingly Oxford isn’t in th etop 20. Exeter is the losing university.

Academic rankings – Pxford is top. Cambridge is second (same as it’s website results), Interesting to compare…. Edinburgh also in identical position at 11 in same space. Durham, Warwick, Bath all in similar place. Is there a correlation here. But University of Liverpool and Queens University Belfast both appear much higher in web than academic rankings.

You must have something unique that makes you stand out. Rank for your unque feature. None of this stuff will happen automatically. Visibility and Usability is important and you have to push i on the agenda. Look and learn from your competitors websites. Easiest things first – do  the title, metatags, h1, anchor text and manual submission. Then on to the two big one. Canvass inlinks and ave body text rewritten by an expert to be very descriuptive and keyword heavy. Think Tour De France – you win by being consistenty good, not by alwinning everything.



Q1 Jaques… , Uni of Brisol) Title tag – you didn’t mention how you titloe pages on other than homepages. Should you always start with uni names? Or start with page specific stuff?

A1) Remember that the search engine only displays so much – important stuff must be upfront. Users only read so far. Maybe you use uni name plus words after the dash perhaps.  Put uni first if you can.

Q2) David Hawkings, Funnelback: search engines can be adaptive – can lok bad to have los of pages listed with the same name. I would ask about whether the word order shown matches likely searc wuery. Does the title describe the page accurately. Search engines do adapt. Titles can use the titloe, sometimes the search engine may use an H1 or from the open directory or from th etitles in the etc. Search engines have to be clever for their  own benefit.


Embedding Web 2.0 – Martin Hamilton (http://goo.gl/9k7zk/

this may seem retro but universities tend to move relatively slowly so i think it’s still useful.

Quote from Leslie Lamport  a distributed system is one in which the failure of a compter you didn’t even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

Going to talk about framing tools, encouraging others to try these things out. And I have a thesis I am leadimg oo about digital literacy. Another classicquote: William Gisbson – he futures here it’s just not equaally distributed.. Surveys room, tmost on twitter, a good chunk on G+/ We are not typical. Om G+ see chinese video on G+ (ace).  You need an opinion on it as you will be asked.

Web 2.0 is about UGC. It changes the relationship between us as institutioal presences and people. People aren’t used to promoting the institution on their blog for insance. Cons are many – registration with other companies. Some may have service areements, many more ephemmeral. Do you have a web 2.0 policy – twitpoll in use here. Most “no but we are developing one.

When someone responds to institutional tweets who replies… we have a team is a big group but a substantial chunk where it is down to one person.

Things like Peer Index are new their interesting. We will be asked. In erms of nudging  Wired/ired/Fired – so Klout is wired (show of hands show few usin g, even fewer on peer index – just me and Brian it looks like). In terms of Fired it might be something like delicious – in a limbo place.

Institutional web 2.0 guidelines – discuss – trying to et feedbacl on what instiutional policis of guidelines or best practice should have in them. You can add to and edit them. Most of edits from time on CETIS. Not of the length of the G+ manual that;’s hd 120 people editing it. What we are doing at Loughbourough to justiy this approach. History dept decided to have a Facebook page for new course with new staff . Found that this is nice counterpoint to dry academic content on the VLE. People post questions though so it relies on someoe reading and respoding. As it happens this works well for getting students over the induction hump. Trying to pull out these example and case studies. Its a way for people to work more inomallly with their deprtment. Ai,im to build up a portfolio of these case studies.

Whos still on second life – yes it’s me as well. SL historical printing press (funded by JISC). ant to share lessons o this to ensure it carries on being paid for etc. On SL you only get so many prims. An intricate building uses up al the Prims. Prayctical consideration shere.

My.Lboro – portal for students. designed to look a lot like iGoogle or something similar. Made it not about a system but pulling in RSS and API feeds. Brings in Google Docs which are being used at Loughborough. Have Twiter feed.

So we have this stuff that we call web 2.0, social media, etc. We have another poll ere on G+

JISC is funing a whole bunch of projects in universiies and collecges around digial lieracy and hopefully we can see what works and take things forward.

Talking about Ning. Cos is nominal and yet many left. If it’s key then £20/year is very little. This is an interesting digital literacy thing.

Something that works for us is online survesy and questionnaires. They find it easy to engage with. Can send them an email messae or click on a link to the web. We’ve been doing stuff for years but still loks impressive to many. The people we talk to don’t neccassarily know abou the tools we use regularly.

guug11 – Google product suite event. 130 delegates many fom HE. Many using Google or Microsoft route. You need to be up to speed with this stuff. If you look around and say that you don’t know anything about that then you undermine your authority.

Useful to pull tables from Wikipedia, embed in webpage, visualise it, put on map etc. Mash up stuff. Up neophiles try everything but how do we share those skills.

It’s been nicked! site – a place to share stolen stuff.

Post on G+ Dan Gilmour notes that G+ followers in a month as 4 years on Twitter. Internet years are strange things….



Q1 – remote) why discrete policy

A1) ? just needed one?

Q2 – Randhu) Thought it was a bit google centric. Is it helping that Google isn’t the big player in central. Maybe it’s helpful that Twitter and Facebook are separate. Are we happy to put so much into Google.

A2) Yeah, people are building up huge social captial in these sites. LinkedIn in wide use, mailing liss less so. Stephen has already created a UKHE group on LinkedIn. Is it useful to keep communities separae. I put a lo on G+ in as ho topic right now. Don’t know

Q3) comment re: guidelines vs policy and communicating common sense

A3) yes, and as you communicate you need to be ready to support those activiies


Cue a coffee break and on to parallel sessions.

Parallel Session B5 – Southampton Linked Open Data – Chris Gutteridge (assisted by Dave)

Room of about 20 of us, only 2 women. Chris adds that we aren’t too technical today.

At Southampton we have Nigel Shadbolt on the project (technically also Tim Berners Lee) who has been lobbying the VC’s office. They said yes then came back to them for help. Had a meeting with heads of many departments – Chris made sure he was in a clean t-shirt – but they weren’t clear on what was needed. Decided anything on the web already, or a PDF, or anything that could be subject to a PDF. If you work on a project you can be dismissed, if you work for head of finance etc. then you get real response from those you need to work with.

Historically we had to have a website, people didn’t know where to start. Now we need

Sod helping the community with your open data. You can use open data to help your own open data (and then it happens to help the community). It gets your own data back to your own community. In theory the intranet is for this but in practice there can be real barriers to this. One of the most difficult tasks we had was to share a list of all the buildings. They minded very much about naming of buildings as well. They don’t see the value and it is extra work for them.

We aren’t the only university with an open data project. Oxford have a chap called Alex Dutton – Dave Flanders gave him a JISC Code Ninga award (he’s all over the place and really cares) who are doing this. Oxford is a very weird place. An interesting counterpoint to SOuthampton where the structure is quite simple. Also Edinburgh, Open University, Bristol, Lincoln, Muenster in Germany, Tsinghua in China. Chris hasn’t been in touch with all of them but nice blog post following query from Tsinghua – the things done intentionally, the things done pragmatically due to lack of time.

Open Data is about Transparancy and Utility (getting stuff done that’s useful). Transparancy is probably very important but day to day there is little return on investment (though long term strategic benefits). The problems I actually have – not “how much did the university spend on taxes in the last financial year” – but where am I going? How can I get there? Where do I get coffee on the way? Solve problems!

Here is Chris’s design – a mind map around a triple store connected to databases, google docs, excel (via email), RDF direct from application. Push out Map (KML), Spreadsheet (csv), web page, RDF document. Many of the routes to data is from dumps of data not live databases (though trying to get to that) as very difficult to get agreement to do that. Many sources of data are happy to be shared but staff don’t have the time to put it out there. For instance the international contacts for the organisation are shown – Chris will show what he can do, and what he could do if he had more data (like a link for he counry and a code for the country). Whenever we make data available we do it as a webpage and a link to a real person.

Nigel Shadbolt says that if you put data out there other folks will build with it. Maybe. But we can definitely build things for our own institution.

So points of service – includes statues and cash machines. Also can see SPARQL. And can download all of results as a spreadsheet (csv) so that non tech folk can grab easily. The guy who wrote the triple store said “surely they can programme that themseleves – don’t they have perl?”. Well no. That’s why it’s important to make things easy to access. data.soton.ac.uk


  • buildings and places – easy, no data protection
  • points of service
  • menus and prices
  • publications
  • programes and modules
  • bus stops and routes
  • payments over £500 etc.

Physical places are easy. People are tricky. But public phone book is there.

Finance Service (Aggresso, Unit 4) exports data but they need to patch something for us.

Research data – output from telescope or scanner or electron microscopes etc. out of scope for this work. This is a separate project. This is just organisational administrative data.

Data Sources are varied

  • buildings and estates
  • transport office
  • catering – everything is in spreadsheets. Got excited when central IT said hello for this work. They asked for advice and best practice. Took spreadsheets, got it into format wanted, and put in new columns, put on google docs, and they can edit it but if it breaks Chris can fix. And it’s easy to download the spreadsheet. Long term the catering staff want to share daily catering menu – might make my life better. Could be nice page of vegatarian options. Minor but important details of university life.
  • nuffield theatre
  • student helpers
  • finance
  • MUD etc.

Southampton has a fantastic bus system with information on actual time arriving rather than schedule. Republish their data in a better format. Not our core work but really quick and useful and has been useful to very

Crowd sourcing – we don’t do this. It’s an authoritative and approved content. Students cannot contribute. No anonymous contributions allowed. Don’t want nick names for academics or buildings! If someone wants to build their own reviews page or anything else with this data that’s just fine but not on our authoritative pages!

Colin-sourcing – Postgrad who is very very excited and interested. He’s gone through and worked out lat and long for all those building names, drew vertices/footprint. I can accept stuff from him as I can remove access later on if needed “if he goes all broken arrow on me”.

Where next?

  • building energy use – great data but hard to get out
  • research facility equipment
  • recycling data – machines weigh bins, scans chip in bin, we get weekly list. Huge data. Big spreadsheet. Need to find a parser to get that from his email into a system
  • live databases hookups to Banner etc
  • greener transport information

Running student content next semester. To make it fair on new coders or those with no tech stuff. Will have visualisation strands as well.

Other information

  • printers and photocopiers
  • pricelis for on campus businessess
  • workstation clusters ad installed software – so we can tell whats available for use in research or perhaps chargably by public
  • university structure and organograms
  • teaching room availability – have permission to share busy/free times (don’t want to publish who is in it though) and facilities of rooms

Return on Investment

Quote grabbed from Southampton VC. Better though, a super quote from catering department! Can use to persuade your own organisations!

e.g. have codes for catering spaces, opening hours, keywords for search, use colour coding, bold etc for updating folk but our system ignores that. Awesome showing off – how much is yoguht on campus (want to add and which ones are open now)

NB: RDF XSL used to turn data into RDF. Useful but don’t show scared folks how it looks.

The catering site is a good example of using the open data to drive a website.

We were asked to build a map for open days – less for visitors but mainly for staff on desks with questions on names and building numbers. And possibly older building names. Using Colin’s footprint data, and the lat and long data along with the building list you can build fantastic Google Maps and also custom maps of campus with specific highlighted buildings – this latter if very nice. You can also paste that map via an iFrame – getting as much bang for it’s buck.

And Colin has made his own fantastic map of the campus with all buildings, amenities, catering data. Click on a bus stop and it shows when the buses are due! Also produced Accounting and Finance open day map with list of events (generated via data to open data) with all of the relevant buildings, open amenities, and talk locations! Was available on an iPad in the foyer. No one thought this was exciting ahead of time but on the day they were impressing students with the shininess and cleverness. The postgrad wants the software here but happy to share.

Buildings, academics and courses are core fields in these data sets. So picking an academic course from list also links with materials in teaching database.

You note that I haven’t shown you data. You sell data by showing what you can build with the data.

Building sources connects up all known information about a given building – facilities, images, date of construction, occupants. Facilities on site, room numbers etc.

This is not linked data. It’s open data. We mainly link within our own sites – as do most institutions.

Showing amazing Google Earth 3D map, again based on Colin’s work. Ultimately it will be a Team Fortress level chris suspects!

Amazing disabled access surveyors reports had been done at Southampton. Not being properly shared. Can now get full report easily on website called Disabled Go. Real value added (though this data was already available it was hard to find).

Our Task/Discussion – for 10/15 mins:

  • List Two or more datasets
  • What ROI could you give the data providers
  • What cool link could you exploit to do cool stuff

Our group discussed possibilities around calendars and event data; staff profiles and information; module handbook/database – prerequisites etc.  mashed up with timetables.

Decided to focus on module catalogue (with course descriptors) and timetabling information – to allow scheduling for students and planning of what sorts of module could be taken – model their timings. Could also be combined with maps/transport etc. to see what’s realistic. Marketing of courses perhaps. Students could make module choices fit needs and realistic choices. Possible plus points on student retention though ROI for owners on saving time tweaking and changing and managing data. Could also link to closed data set of what modules have been done to filter what modules they could do next.

Chris: yes, exploiting links between open and closed data can be very valuable especially around confidential/personal info. Linked data doesn’t need to be open but you can use RDF to do great internal stuff like business intelligence to look at courses etc. Have a look at the recent post “WTF is the Semantic Web”

The next group around looked at estate data. Library catalogue information, location of books etc. (Chris says: there is a JISC mobile call for libraries at the moment).

Chris: we spoke to people about what they are doing and trying to replicate what they are up to. On data page you can download data on all sources and code used to publish. Edinburgh just started publishing data in same formats, as did Lincoln. Lets us try applying our approach to their data. See http://openorg.ecs.soton.ac.uk/.

Dave: like Schema.org has possibilities

The next group around again were also really interested in estates. Also wondered about errors in the system.

Chris: we had a complaint from comms team about out of date numbers and rather than change the data he added a note about the datasource and where you can make edits so that they are centrally updated in existing processes. In general where complaints come in you can lobby for authority to create and support that data.

The final group talked about calendars and scheduling, lecture and teaching rooms and maps and combining this.

Chris: calendaring is an interesting one. Many different calendars as central system disliked though expensive. WOndering about aggregating this data into one calendar. I think abstractly and that helps build data models, but when you pitch ideas you need to show specific stuff that can be understood.

There we broke for lunch (the prawn skewars were today’s highlight!) and we are back for the afternoon session:

Online Privacy – Dave Raggett, W3C and University of West of England

What is privacy? We can all recognise effecs of its absence: injury or harm – prejudice, domestic abuse or stalking, financial harm, inability to work or travel, fraud; loss of face – embarressment in front of peers; loss of control – things you’d like to keep private but can’t, may not be harmful, e.g. profiling by search engines or adverisers.

Dave has been involved in the web for a very long time. At first privacy was really only about http logs (IP address, time, URL). And then a proposal from Netscape came in to W3C for cookies. Initially this was about shopping carts. Now of course have many many uses. Many uses are beneficial but some are not.

And things get worse… HTML5 has various ways to control local storage. Flash, this ubiquitous plugin, that created undeletable flash cookies (though starting to deal with that). And then there was an idea about a reconstiuted cookies – those you delete but they never go away! Then we have fingerprinting – EFF, 2010 found that “80% of browsers have unique fingerprint” – try it out at http://panopticlick.eff.org/ all based on fonts, plugin etc

Then we have history stealing via CSS and Javascript. Mainly enabled by link colour changing URL. And Web Bugs – unique tracking ids (hidden images, scripts, iframes, etc).

Third parties come in various flavours. we have internal and external third parties. Used for content distribution (e.. akamai), understanding web traffic, and advertising.

Advertising generally seen as good as they enable free websites. People find micropayments models a harder sell as advertising is so successful. No ubiquitous micropayment system which might help offer viable alternaive. iniially ads were based on content but now based on profiling users hrough detailed tracking right across the web via 3rd party cookies on many websites. YOU are the product the website sells to advertisers!

So, for example, the Facebook Like button. Lets people recommend a page, implemented as iframe or script element. Identifies you as a facebook user regardless of where you are on the web. Enables you to be tracked even when you don’t click giving much data to Facebook.

Surveillance on the cheap – “governments have changed to using data brokers for much of their suveillance and buying profile data from advertisors” [missed ref], “nobody cares about online privacy because they’re worried about terrorism ad he economy” – Russell Glass, Bizo. So what do we think? what do our customers think?

“Privacy is not head, but it is deeply misundersood” – danah boyd, Microsoft Researcher. In her PhD study – public by default, private by effort, privacy through codification, group slang etc.

Emergence of browser extensions for privacy – Firefox have addons for privacy for blocking ads and inhibiing cookies – e.g. Adblock, privacy dashboard etc.

Privacy Dashboard was developed by EU PrimeLife prokect (primelife.eu/) – see how websites track you, se per site preferences, e.g. to block 3rd party content or cookies. Information on current site etc – shows what they use, session and lasting cookies, third party sites, 24 lasting external cookies etc. Then preferences for that site. Stores data in LITESQL database in the browser.

Privacy Dashbot – adapation of Dashboard to scan top 100 sites. Mapping out a galaxy/black hole of privacy. shows HUGE interconnectivity between site tracking tools and sites. A power law here.

The advertising industry believes self-regulation is enough. Network Advertising Initiative opt out cookies – but part of online marketing and analytics companies but the terms still show you are being tracked. And it’s not portable to all browsers or devices. Really needs to be regulation.

Do Not Track (DNT) – lots of publicity about this in US at the momennt. HTTP header or DOM property. It does rely on websites honouring users request. What does “do not track” mean exactly? And it’s not set by default – and few enjoy playing with browser settings!

Tracking Protection Lists – Microsoft has a different idea for this but again not enabled by deafault.

European Perspective – Neelie Kroess, European Commission VP for Digital Agenda – quotes around privacy and user control. Under Transparancy, fairness and user control – users must be given clear and comprehensive information on the purposes and retention policy. Must be fair, can’t be one sided agreement to the detriment of user, user must be given means to opt in or out of behavioural tracking. More to come on this.

E-Privacy Directive includes security obligations – a duty to inform subscribers of risks of viruses or malware, prohiniion on listening, tracking etc. And regulations around data retention. Spam – a prohibition of use of email and SMS for marketikng except with prior agreement. Cookies – may only be set if user clear on purpose and allowed to opt out, does this apply to other means of implementing beavioural tracking? Watch this spacE?

Privacy Policies – many website have them, often hard to find and hard for ordinary people to understand, cookie have useful purposes too, policy should state what broad classes of information are used.

Fairness – user shouldn’t be penalized for blocking tracking. If the site is ad-supported is it reasonable to ask users who opt out of effectively targeted ads to pay in some way? can we look forward to online equivelent of loyalty cards?

Privacy Friendly Strong Authenication – increasing use of email addresses as user ids – links personal information across site. Sites nee strong assurances to attributes of identified party buyt not a globally linkable id. User defined personae can help. New crypotographic tecniques for proving user has trusted creditial with given atributes BUT without disclosing users identity (e.g. user is over 18). We need better credentials with robust process. ID cards could be great for this stuff but wildly unpopular with many.

W3C’s role:

  • Initial work on P3P – Platform for Privacy Preferences
  • Involvement in EU PrimeLife project
  • Many workships relted to privacy
  • Policy languages interest group
  • privacy by design for web APIs eg geolocation
  • New Privacy Interest Group etc.
  • New WGs expected on DNT and Protection Lists
  • Implementation work on new technologies – funded through W3C invilvement in EU webinos project

Q1 [me]) primelife we did discuss downstream use of data – what are hey bound by. buy out. should honour existing agreements or alert you to new ones

question of transparancies – clear to ordinary people. EU can suggest things, but up tocountries and companies to work out how best to do it.

Q2) Would international regulation of the internet help with these situations?

A2) Perhaps? The Safe Habour agreement between EU and America allows EU companies to provide services to American systems. Some self-regulatory issues as well. Perhaps something to demonstrate that a site is operating under a particular legal property – a trustmark of location or legal framework. Microsofts tracking protection lists originated that way. Normally as a user how do you judge the trust of the site. Real role for advise and trustmarks here.

Q3, Ben Butchart, EDINA) This EU legislation is good but flawed as will need constant updating with tech. Any law that talk about technical implementations is a strange thing, could it not just be a matter of registering intentions etc.

A3) yes I kind of agree with this. Usually principal based mechanism. Either through member states or case law. Principal based generally better. But you already see the quote, they don’t want to specify tech.

Q4) Sites that did trial a big “do you want cookies” banner saw Google stats fall through the floor, that’s not good for many of us, we want to know about our traffic even if we are concerned about privacy

A4) It’s all about transparancy

Q5) With your Nectar card account it’s transaction based, cookies are about tracking everything rather than transactions

A5) Actually I think the real world is moving towards the web. But maybe a clear indication of why you should opt in and what the benefits are.


The Strategic Developer – Paul Walk, UKOLN

Paul opens with an embaressing picture of Brian Kelly asleep on a train (since this is the last day snoozy post lunch session).

So is I a cost or an investment. IT often regarded as a sunk cost in HEIS but a cpacity for technical innovation is a strategic resource hich needs investment. Outsourcing or moving fully to the cloud runs a risk of being unable to make technological innovation. Many key companies launched in

“successful companies innovate in a down market” [ref?]

Clayton Christonson and the innovators dilemma, see also Scott Anthony

How establish organisations innovate

  • organisational space for innovaion
  • put customer and their important unsatified job to be done at the centre of the innovation equation
  • continually improve and innovate

How do we make the most of the resources we have? Well the DevCSI programme at UKOLN is about building capacity among HE developers, cost effective training, community-based peer support, (developers love training each other!), annual event Dev8D

Stakeholder survey – 495 responsents. 75% agreed that local developers understand local context, 75% can work with and have an understanding of users, 70% local developers are undervalued as evidanced by short term contracts, lack of professional development or career opportunities and poor management. Software vendors selling to managers without good technical input can lead to bad decisions over software purchase – another perk of local developer knowledge.

“barn-raising” Events – mobile web, phone based apps, ebooks, etc

building stuff together – building stuff as free-form R&D doing so in a very open environment. Built an interactive whiteboard with tracing paper, Nintendo Wii and a wooden frame – no great use to this object but huge learning here. Another event we had a 3D printer being demonstrated – a Rap-rap which can manufactor most of another machine like itself.

Building capacity – we taught developers how to pitch ideas for what they are working on to people who may not understand. This came out of another event where developers had real problems discussing their ideas. We put poeple through a media training intensive day of work and there was a really great benefit here.

Managers view: developers come back and can show that it was a really valuable exercise. This is staff development and there is a responsibility for managers to develop their staff. A quote shown from someone who took forward Dev8D work into something to work on with a better mental and physical space made available.

The Power of networks – at one event we ran peer to peer training events where each developer trained others. Ran a lot in parallel over 2 days. Got someone to cost up that training commercially. We think we developed £85k training to the sector over 2 days with the only cost the travel of participants. A great justification for the project. The whole 4 day event was less than that £85k. Huge collaborative development and sharing of expertise going on. Just been funded for the next year and we want to focus on knowledge transfer to non developers (librarains, web managers, researcers). Developers go into a user environment fairly often but vice versa is rare.

Value for money! The elevator pitch here is the idea that there is big value in having local/institutional developer resource. And that resource is backed up by a big community of peers and a well connected community of developers is greated than the sum of it’s parts – and developers can empower users.

I have also been working on the idea of responsive innovation – came out of JISC’s rapid innovation programmes, there was some success in this programme of projects. Responsive innovaion is about agile and embedded development, perpetual beta ideas, iterative develops. And the boring stuff… the gluing together of local services, bespoke interfaces to common platforms – that’s the bread and butter developer work.

Strategic developer – begins with the case of the missing career path! HEIs are lucky, we have an inexhaustable supply of talented typically young individuals. Many institutions exploit that. After 2 or 3 years they leave. Normal sorts of reasons – better job, move on. But problem is that there is little future in the institution or career path. Salary will be a concern and many developers don’t want to manage and make poor managers. There is the postgrad researcher/developer – not neccassarily a long term future there either. So basically the developer can be an academic or a manager. But what happens to the institution? The developers come in with energy and knowledge, they get specialist knowledge but it never migrates up the chain. There is a real opportunity here. There is a strategic role that is missing – a techncial person, perhaps some management responsibility but values for technical experience and understanding. As we start looking at the relationship between local content and remote content/SAAS. Whatever we do here we need senior people with great technical understanding and real clout. And they need to bring local domain experts together. This isn’t entirely fantasy, it is starting to emerge.

Lets go back to beginning of career. Something at Lincoln University is to concentrate on undergraduates – they have a Student as Producer policy that gets the students part of the business of the university, to deliver innovation. Exciting stuff going on there! Much of new University infrastructure designed by undergraduate students!

Web managers and developers – can they work well together?

Well a few years back I was a strategic developer at North London/London Metropolitan University. We had a plan to glue together loads of university systems. All kinds of things are there. From security to library systems. The content management system. The point was that we could see integration was starting to meet the web and nothing else pretty much. Started building stuff that showed the integration – then it was portals so we built a portal. the web was obviously the place to surface this integration. We worked with the web manager a lot. Nowadays That sort of integration is vital. We will see a lot more of in the next few years.

URLs are suddenly more important to developers and good management is going to become very important. Typically this is CMS generated and the web management will have much control over this. The URL is becoming a new sort of currency.

“linking you” – project at Lincoln – suggested an ideal conventional layout for URLs (http://lncn.eu/toolkit) – lovely poster. URI 101 guide, grea discussion etc. as well so have a look.

Open institutional data – Chris Gutteridge and Dave Travis also should be mentioned here

KIS – will become a big deal over the next couple of years. as will mobile (see ILRT project on mobile Campus)

Your local developer might just be a super-hero! get to know them (and cue a pick of Ben Ten character Ultimate Kevin)


Q1 Brian kelly on behalf of Tony Hirst) how can we engage students

A1) at UKOLN we’re working with undergraduates already, especially final year students. The Lincoln project is a great example too. In my old role we used to chat to lecturers in computer science to identify good developers. What’s really interesting in Lincoln is that it’s part of their strategy at all levels – internal funding etc. Using students as part of fabric of what gets done at the institution.

q2) from me: to say more about work to connect devs and non devs.

a2) mashed lib already, bring librarians and devs together – often what was possible with own systems, especiually with dev apis. tony hirst did an early google spreadsheet demo. talkaway was to make librarian more comfortable and understanding space. Opening up discussion.

And with that we have a short comfort break and onto the final session – with a brief presentation of a Kindle prize from sponsors!

IWMW 2011 – Conclusions – Brian Kelly

So, it’s no longer good enough to do what we do well, we have to prove why they are valuable too.  Brian is featuring various comments from blogs that have been going on over the last few days. See the latest contribution on the blog from someone not here in person – have a wee look.

In a session Brian ran yesterday there was discussion of the reduced use of mailing lists in the sector. They set up a UK HE Web Professionals LinkedIn – just about everyone in the session was present there. Discussion about benefits and risks of these spaces. Also there are people who can’t be here for different reasons – like Janet’s new baby! (see image shared on Flickr :). Also people took part who are not here in person. Yesterday afternoon I tweeted and said to Tony Hirst that his autodiscover RSS feed was broken. He fixed it in a completely different way and blogged all about that.

Paul talked about URIs – if you are a software vendor or CMS supplier you have an opportunity to promote the fact that you generate great URIs.

Next up, Millie from the University of Sunderland talking about students blogging their lives at University. I’m going to talk about the approach that we took and why. There was a recruitment process, did professional photoshoot and set up nice blogs and asked them to blog about certain types of content but otherwise it was all handed over to them. We thought this was really important as when we create content about the university it comes from marketing, we wanted something direct from students with a more authentic student experience. We wanted them to blog about social life, academic life, etc. Pictures and posts give a real sense of ordinary student life.

A problem we have with Sunderland at UCAS fairs is that people don’t know where we are, or that we are near the coast. One of our bloggers talked about moving house, being near the beach etc. It’s a casual way to understand the place and the space.

We encouraged students to blog about their passions. Louie loves Japanese cars so Louie went along to the Nissan test track near Sunderland. Shows a side of the city people may not be aware of. In our marketing we talk about engineering links to the company but not this sort of angle.

In terms of impact our bloggers have had comments and questions about student life and sparked new posts. It has made a difference.

Brian again:

Initally we heard about Edgehill student blogging again and they also did this because of a lack of awareness of where Edgehill is based.

Moving to another sort of blog. Brian is launching the Institutional Web Team blog aggregator. This was taken from a post on Mike Nolan’s blog. We set this up with several channels for different topics. And a search interface. These things get more useful the more resources are added to it – contact Brian and/or Marieke to take it forward.

Claire from the University of Bradford – one of the biggest theme for me this year has been the need for institutional web teams to be visible as experts. Social media is a big topic here. It can fall to web or marketing teams. Positioning ourselves as experts is challenging, especially to stay up to date and have an opinion on things. One idea that we’ve have is to run a social media surgery – small informal ways to chat about social media in their work. Both internally and engaging with the public externally. We’d like to get community groups onto campus and help them out. The extension of that with universities in Yorkshire as a network of surgeries. Also looking at revisiting social media work we did a while ago. We set up a space on Ning called Develop Me. Looked a bit like the university pages, designed for people interested in the univiersity to ask informal questions and discuss the university. This was before Facebook.  For us do we now ditch Ning or do Ning and Facebook or just keep Ning? Keeping the community going… we started a North-East web group some years back and we’re going to resurrect that and run a mini version of this. We’re all looking at social media strategies/guidelines and the new cookies/privacy policy updates – to share these docs so they can be reused and useful. And I will blog more.

Duncan from Scottish web managers group – KISS (Keep It Simple Students) – we are keeping running using JISCMAIL (even though no one uses those anymore!). Scottish regional group is very informal, meet every 3-4 months, friday afternoon for a half day, mostly at Strathclyde but use other venues, includes about 25 institutions (aberdeen, st andrews, UHI, York – people seem happy to travel). These are usually pub meet ups, it’s work but friendly and informal. Meetings are on topic issues, have invited experts, ad hoc meetings if required, software or subject specific sub meetings, collaborative work – e.g. shared T4 code dev. JFDI!

Q from Paul Walk) Is there anything that comes out of these meetings that’s sharable, that others can access, can they be in a more amplified state?

A) My colleagues at St Andrews are great at blogging events, especially subject specific events. Phonecalls and IMs tend to follow the group meet ups.

And next up…

Miles Banberry from University of Kent who was at the parallel session about how to raise the profile of web teams in universities. We simultaniously edited a googloe doc. But that collaborative editing was very weird as an experience. So we did things differently and then brought them together. We want to try out these recommendations in our own institutions. Maybe we look at something like IdeaScale for those ideas maybe. Push things together. On regional groups Kent and Essex have been talking about a South East group. May also be a need to bring back the London and South East group.

Chris Gutteridge, Southampton – Quick show off about raising expectations. Our catering manager manages items in a spreadsheet. Also has spreadsheet on opening hours of outlets etc. Colour coding is his thing. He does that. He isn’t text. He is fine with spreadsheets. We pull from this OPEN DATA (shouted with enthusiasm). Now we have data we can build any cookie based service you want! Most users see code and run away. So, lets look at the page for cookies (the tasty foodie sort) generated from that data. And a map of where to get cookies, prices and opening hours. All our catering manager must do is update his spreadsheet, he now wants a button to press rather than an email to trigger updates. Same data makes a new printable menu automatically so whenever prices change they don’t need to spend extra time updating their formatted list of prices. But you could build all of that from a spreadsheet. But this interactive map of campus is even better. Shows everything and shows how to filter for where to buy cookies.

I also want to say one thing. Our blog was inspired by his event and by Tony. Blogs are like open data. If you put something out there that is helpful people should comment – you should comment – to show how worthwhile that is to you. So if someone’s blog is helping you, tell them!

Back to Brian:

Some images of the event. A tweet about a physical attendee back in her room watching the livestream in bed – what will happen in a few years?!

So… Will there be an IWMW 2012. It’s in the draft workplan. We need to say to JISC what the benefits are to the community and JISC’s strategic objectives. We need to gather the evidance for this. Where would it be held? Well let us know if you’re interested though we’re already talking to a few folks. How long should it be? We deliberately made it shorter this year but for more hours across the days. But a few folks said that the community side was perhaps lost in that space. I wonder if an extra day might have been a barrier to coming.

Comment 1) I preferred last year better. And we’ve seen nothing of Reading this year. I don’t think the difference in price would be significant enough.

We did do some additional events on “Day Zero” – a Terminal Four user group meeting and the DevCSI day.

Comment 2) What about more of a hack day type thing, getting developers and non devs together?

Straw poll of audience shows 3 day is doable, a few would prefer 2.

Final comment: there is an online evaluation form.

And some prizes. The book from our first talk today – anyone from Exeter, UCL… no, Reading takes it! With Brian’s comment “don’t just read it, implement it”. And a further comment to our proclaimed best tweet (that one about watching from bed).

Big thank yous to event amplifiers Kirsty and Rich. Thank you’s to the Session Chairs. Also Sponsors. And the Plenary speakers who were fantastic. Thank you’s to AV people. And thank you’s to the workshop facilitators – thank you to everybody who made those sessions work. And Michelle of the events team. And most importantly Brian wants to thank you last years event last year, Marieke, who he forgot to thank last year.


 July 27, 2011  Posted by at 12:31 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  1 Response »
Jul 262011

Today and tomorrow I am at the Institutional Web Managers Workshop taking place a the University of Reading. I’ll be liveblogging so usual caveats apply re: spelling, names etc. I welcome any comments and corrections and will do a tidy up post event.


IWMW is being introduced by Sean ? of University of Reading. Employment in ICT is 300% above average around Reading so you’ve very much picked the right place for your conference.

Context of HE, never experienced such changing times as currently in, now have market place or sort of market place with student choice at heart of the system. What does that mean for you and for university? We have to get better at digital marketing – the web and social media is central to that, reputation is vital, and the way that courses will be delivered will change. That in many ways is your challenge. We live in very challenging times and that is your opportunity. How will

Introduction by Brian Kelly

Brian introduced himself and opened by saying the event had run for 15 years. This year there are several sponsored places and much amplification of the day for those not able to be here in person, and those that want to come back and review videos etc. later on.

Last year we discussed concerns and indeed “the axeman cometh” – one of our colleagues last year blogged about being made redundant shortly after last year’s IWMW.

Technical developments – a quick show of hands shows most attendees have one smartphone, many have two, some of have three, and one has four! (OK, lets be fair that person with four is Ben Butchart, my colleague at EDINA, who is running a parallel session on Augmented Reality and smartphones). This is really an opportunity to experiment. Students will have expectations of smart phone access to courses.

Centralisation – is being discussed this is already happening in Wales.

Demonstrate our value – we do a good job but we need to be able to demonstrate that. And to be ready to respond to competition and privatisation. We need to think politically.

Is this is the end of community? Well perhaps not (see image of Frintr mosaic of Brian’s community) we are used to sharing and being part of communities around events, on mailing lists, in our social networks etc. We do not live in a vaccuum (see image from Tony Hirst of Brian’s network an where there are clusters) – there may be visualisations of communities that we can see in this way.

Innovation – over the next two days we’ll be talking about innovation, having sessions about it. We have the mobile web – there is so much potential in these devices. About half of the audience have switched to mobile devices for consuming information. Today we are trying out Shhmooze to share presence and enable further networking.

Recently UKOLN/CETIS ran a survey looking at approaches to delivering institutional websites to mobiles. Many said they planned to deliver it in the same way as large screen devices. But there was a diversity of approaches from apps to SMS. Is this diversity a strength or should we be more consistent.

Openness – KIS (Key Information Sets) – these are the

Do we need institutional websites anymore? Most Coca Cola visitors go to their Facebook page rather than their website.

Mike  is up to summarize the DevCSI event (#iwmw11hack) that preceded IWMW 2011. One way to engage: integrate estates management data. KIS is another way and we can integrate with other systems. Dave Chaps and Ben O’Steen created a heatmap of student housing with costs. Even just converting data – e.g. catering spreadsheets – and turning it into something more useful, like a website, it adds real value.

Brian: I think this sort of work shows the value of local developers in a way that meets local institutional needs.

Tomorrow in the final session I’ll be asking more of you to get up and share what you have learned. Please contact Brian or Marieke if you are interested.

We know what you do, so what is it worth? – Ranjit Sidhu, Statistics into Decisions (SiD)

This is a follow up to Ranjit’s talk at last year’s IWMW event asking “so what do you do?”. This is as much about mental

tempted by the dark side:

“what if the data shows us in a bad light?” – the data is out there, someone will do this for you (see the recent headlines about the cost of university websites vs. their effectiveness). A vaccuum can be much more dangerous. We need to get ahead of the curve, have information out there so we’re not sitting targets.

“universities have a wider role and simply cannot be measured that easily” – but your role is being scrutinised. We want to value what web teams do so that you have a good way of saying cost | benefit

“I have this data but no one is listening” – this is the one we should be focusing on. It’s not about the data, it’s about delivery of that information as well.

“with so much information and data at our finger tips why is online analysis seen as being so ineffectual?” – to start off with we need to be aware that “web analytics is crap”. And it’s not clear to others what the difference it between the various statistics are. Why should someone away from the web team have to look at the same reports and the same figures. We need to get beyond what we can provide and think about how we should be sharing that with others.

The other thing we’re talking about is automation – people often say “well we send these reports weekly to them…”. That’s spam. If that’s all your doing just stop, these message will not be read and you are creating a negative feeling about your work. We have all this information coming in, we think we need to automate, but we don’t process it properly. Automation can be good but if it’s not processed it’s garbage.

The Quest for Perfection – there is so much data available we want it to be perfect. Just because you don’t have every bit of data doesn’t mean that you cannot find valueable in that data. We need to forecast and create models that show the value of what we do.

We have online information but it is only meaningful if combined with offline information. Offline data by it’s nature is imperfect too. But we can create new models of how to communicate that data. It’s not perfect but it’s good and it will get better.

So, to summarize: the language is arcane, information is automated, it is dislocated from the business, and it’s badly designed – it’s the human factor, design matters. So, here is a dashboard we have created for Strathclyde – make the data fit what you want. This is an international recruitment board, we do a social media board, we have prospective students board. You have to cut that data into useful pieces.

So looking closer – we do top line figures. Total visits, total non EU visits – this connects to pricing policies of universities. We do demographic breakdown of gender, age and interests. And, the crux of the matter, we have pound signs. Try and think about if someone did something offline what would the cost be, how can we show the money we have saves, or use projections of converting accesses to student applications. And ca project income from different countries and an estimation of saved costs in sending out prospectuses. Can also do projections about how improving presences could lead to greater income – helps justify costs of web development.

Going micro and macro. For some universities we are providing information for particular departments and faculties – of real value to those teams. Just making an attractive dashboard to present stats can actually make you money from internal charging.

To know how you compare to others you need to compare your activity to sector statistics. It will give you a sense of where to improve, where your strengths are, where you are particularly different. There are obvious groupings but lots of very different groupings – such as interest in particular international students etc.

Sector stats dashboard now on display – Total visits to a particular website, total uk visits, total internal traffic – most universities see between 41% and 44% of traffic – they are customers but a different type of customer. Prospective visits is generated by looking at traffic to UK universities, and international traffic as a percentage of that. Then you can see the top 10 countries traffic and a board of stats on the average revenue breakdown for the top 4 non-eu countries, calculating potential worth per visit. The one thing universities should not be worried about is traffic. You have huge sites, its the conversion that’s the problem. You can take that cost and compare it to the offline cost of recruitment.

From knowing the value of new visitors you can look to create campaigns and find the costs and benefits of that campaign.

The key thing about these statistics is that this is a good way to get a proper voice, to show the real value of what online does. But you think about what a website must deliver and what the commercial equivalent would cost to run – you are undervalued, this stuff is a good way to get a louder voice about what you do. You can start a conversation that can really show the value of what you do.

We did a sort of mindmap for homepage – a lot of people wanted to know how traffic is going through the homepage [this is data you can find through Google Analytics through entrance and exit routes). You can find where people get lost en route. This visual shows stats that indicate that Baidu is bigger than Bing – what does that mean for your website and how you are developing it?

Also International behaviour differences – they stay longer, they look at a lot of content and they are more likely to be first time visitors – what does that mean for what you are doing with the site – do you have the right calls to action in the right places?

So, do you take up the challenge? You need to get the data so you are ready when asked. You need to start somewhere.


Q1) Nicola Osborne, EDINA [me] IS it fair to compare the costs of paper materials with those of online? It has been a long time since the main route for many information sources has been paper. I just think that you would never send out prospectuses to many of these people, even if in the UK so it’s perhaps not the right comparison.

A1) Yes, it’s fair. You have to justify your costs as a department and you need to map that to costs of offline.

Q1) I agree with the principal but just don’t think you have the comparison quite right on this one.

Q2) conversion factor of paper may be significantly different – paper is more effevtice.

A2) Sure, we can develop those models to become more accurate. Right now that data doesn’t exist.

Q3) Kevin Meers online: can measurement fall through the gaps if you have multiple departmens responsible for different areas of online

A3) Yes, it can and it’s important that you avoid that

Q4) Was interested in what you said about losing students through extra clicks. We have a limited amount of space on the homepage so we can’t link to everything

A4) I don’t have definitive answer but it’s interesting that the top clicks are repeated a stage down the website.

Q5) Matthew Hoskins, University of Leeds – we have focused on UG recruitment, now focusing on PG recruitment and selective recruitment. How do you use top line figures to find quality students, that great research postgrad say? These are really small niche audiences  – how can you use these techniques to reflect that.

A5) Until they do something we don’t know if they are a good or a bad student. The best way to tailor to small niches you need to tailor to

Q6) Brian: If you want a dashboard for your institution what do you do?

A6) We do make money from the institutional dashboard. The sector stats are £50 each – the cost of providing. We have 10 on those stats at the moment but the more institutions we get on there, the better the stats will be.

Marketing and Other Dirty Words – Amber Thomas, Programme Manager, JISC

I want to raise some potential. Others in your institution are working with open data and content and open educational resources. There are a lot of people persuing open ways of working. It’s good but how do we connect what people are doing to what the university is doing and the central university web presences.
The comfort zone is around open access to research, open innovation, open educational research, public good, academic autonomy, public good – the language of values. BUT we also have our dirty words around impact, brand, CBA, synergies, metrics, marketing, KPIs, Business cases – the language of the market. We need to connect these up. There are pragmatists that are already trying to do this.
Cue Prisoner style T-shirt: many have objections to these sorts of languages. People don’t like the idea of comparison to benchmarking. What we can measure is not necessarily what is important. Impact can be far downstream, far in the future, there is a risk of reducing us to the short and near term. Metrics don’t respect the long tail. Formalising social media can institutionalise and de-personalise it. There is a lot of truth there and reasons to be cautious but there are very real costs. This is about staff time. People working in services, academics and we don’t want to waste the time of students.
Buzzword Bingo time! Impact, Marketing, Metrics – others on the agenda will be looking at this in much more detail. Of course there are direct and indirect elements here. Costs are often indirect. Time from IT and the library is often taken for granted in universities. It is hard to measure costs, moving activity from one part of the institution to another
Shift focus to listening and stats side of social media, not just putting stuff out there.
Marketing – translating reputation into value sounds good but it’s hard to prove that.
Impact – a huge hot potato. In digital content and social media it’s a massive issue. In research impact is a massive issue. In learning and teaching impact is a massive issue. The Splashes and Ripples report and the Listening for Impact report both look at what has/can be down to show the impact of work.  Decisions need to be taken on assessing research impact. Institutional Managers are certainly thinking more about how we map the value of the service to the REF. There is also something about the presence of a particular academic or department – big issue and big opportunity. People got  together to look at how we can move to more sophisticated metrics – Beyond Impact.
There are now much clearer models for how web tools and social media impact on the student experience. It’s becoming a lot more about fees, it’s about student satisfaction, and it’s about retaining students as drop outs are expensive. There is role in that to providing model content for students. There is also something here about the KIS data and being aware of how your university will be represented on the wider web. See University College Falmouth openSpace – about how a resource on screenwriting went viral. This is a small institution that made a big impact in their subject area. Not only universities – Amplified Leicester looked at social capital and cohesion and how that can be mapped against the REF.
Marketing: a lot of what we use social media for is marketing anyway – it’s marketing, market intelligence and exchange (learning, scholarship, CRM). It’s worth mentioning in terms of impact – sometimes it’s about measuring our activity, sometimes it’s about measuring the effects of what we’ve done. And social media can also effect Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Who is the social in social media? There are people within the institution (who we have varying levels of control over), we have researchers, teachers, services, students, and those outside the institution. At some recent events I’ve noticed academics are happy to talk about branding (and personal branding) but not yet about marketing.
There is a fear that metrics are so important that it seems they will lead to a decision but it is so much more complicated than that. We have to demystify the role of metrics in that process. They are crude, they are only one aspect, but they are important for making decisions.
The view ahead: options for responding to the new agenda – it’s NOT an option to deny it is happening, to leave it to others or to pay lip service. It is about producing numbers, to produce stories, to deepen our listening approaches, to improve our metircs, to broaden our impact model – to include those outside of academia in particular, and to extend the impact timeframe.
So, I think those languages of values and marketing are bridgale:
  • Profiling academic expertise – often they have an online presence, or several – hard to know the one up to date profile though. Some are very media friendly, few universities have a blog roll, and how many of those academics link to their other materials – their slideshare, their publications etc. There is a real opportunity there around academic profiles.
  • Supporting REF metrics will be important – focus on your internal function as advisors.
  • Enhanced research publications – including data, visualisations etc. This is possible and you can help them make a big splash. Making good PDFs and beyond to good quality engaging research
  • Cross linking open content to open course data – it is linked in the VLE but it loses it’s link to the teaching content. Why not link from the content to the courses? Make richer links and why not use this as taster content to help filter applications.
  • Social Media listening tools – become the centre of expertise in this
  • Web analytics and visualisation – graphics are important and engaging. Visualise all sorts of data, even in the HR system perhaps. Develop that skill.

Think about how you can make the most of how the web works – linking, APIs, feeds, web analytics, data visualisation, stories. There are things you learn about what is tweeted, shared, automatically pulled into dashboards etc that you can make work better. Story telling often comes up around open data – to explain how that data is valuable – skills in telling stories are important.

Think about fees, student recruitment, student satisfaction, impact, the REF, internationalisation.


Q1) Chris Gutteridge, Southampton: we’ve found that open data gets you open web pages, the most valuable bit of it has been webpages from the data that are linked together. That’s been the surprise benefit of this

A1) Lorcan Dempsey has been looking at the role of the library and how it is changing and talking about the inside out library – curating internal resources for the public. There is a huge opportunity for this sort of activity.

Q2) Brian: you said that people in all departments come in and want to get statistics and data and get information like the KIS. You seem to be saying there are opportunities for web teams here, how should this be taken forward.

A2) Thinking of an outside example local councils have been having massive restructures and outsourcing. One of the things that they’ve been doing is social media cafes and surgeries and honing their skills in these spaces. So much depends on your team and where they are based. A general theme there is not about what we provide but about monitoring the use of things outside your control to change.

Quick JISC plug – calls that are out and coming:

  • Activity Data Programme
  • DevSci Programme – visualisation skills very much in that space
  • Call (England and Wales) – opening up course data
  • Call imminent from Open Educational Resources – institutional resources and linking to web presences
  • Call coming out on technology enhanced organisational support
  • Call coming about discovery infrastructure, preservation, research information management, and libraries and mobile technology

With that we broke for lunch (which was yummy!) and are now back for the afternoon sessions:

Using activity data to support your users – Tom Franklin, University of Manchester an Franklin Consulting

What is activity data? Well it’s everything in a log file. The long answer is that it’s every log in, every search, a rich source of data around usage.

We are well behind the game here. Supermarket loyalty cards are all about tracking activity data and get huge value out of that data. Visa have been using activity data for years, they used it to detect fraud and now all the credit card companies do that. Amazon tracks know what you’ve brought and they know what others have brought. Google collects and uses our activity data.

But… this data is only useful if you know who the people you are collection data on are.

So in Student recruitment – what are potential students doing on our website? Where do they go? What are their routes? can you tie schools’ IP addresses to UCAS applications? [should you?] You can use that information to improve the university website, to support candidates while they are on the site? to improve the usability of the site? Certainly to improve student recruitment.

Student retention is incredibly important, very expensive. How can we use data we are already recording to prove success, to improve retention. Purdue university have been doing some work on this. They have a traffic light system for individual students and analysed those students against behaviour generally associated with doing well. They look for worrying patterns, bad patterns, disastrous patterns. By automatically alerting students about how they are doing and what they could do better they are finding that students are doing better.

Demonstrating value – library impact data project – relationship between library use and results; using a variety of data – turnstile activity, library management system, EZProxy service, student record system. The relationship was demonstrated (not causality). See: http://library.hud.ac.uk/blogs/projecs/lidp/. Shows some significant differences. There are all sorts of other questions you can ask. You can see if there is a pattern of borrowing the books that dictates success – timing of borrowing perhaps. You have similar data in your library too!

At Cambridge they are using SAKAI and identifying behaviours of staff and students that are associated with success (or not). A similar piece of work is going on at Leeds Met. But if you can demonstrate that there is an effect then you can encourage staff and students to use the VLE perhaps. see: http://vledata.blogspot.com/.

Research Impact – is about going beyond Google Analytics. How can we increase use of the institutional repository. Help people find the information that they need. There is a project at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales to try and increase the use of materials in the virtual welsh repositories network. They are using an Amazon like approach to encourage people to access more than one paper. People typically go from Google Search or Google Scholar and nab a paper but then do little else. So they are using a combination of a recommender system – people who accessed x also accessed and also similarity based recommendations (project is AEIOU – Aceross Welsh Repository Network). This data can also help us make easier user journeys through a site.

Resource utilisation – can we make that better, more efficient? What resources are being used? By whom? What are the patterns? Can you support users to make better use of resources? Are the subscriptions optimal?

So, it all sounds great and easy… what could go wrong?

Data protection – when you collect personal data you need permission first. Some of it you are required by law to collect but are people consenting? You also have to say why you are collecting data, they must be able to give consent to the uses and sharing of data. With staff and students that’s not so hard to do and you have a duty to support their studies which may be a good enough reason. Sharing data has risks. To connect it up usefully anonomisation may be needed but that can impact on usefulness. There is also a big debate on whether IP address is personal data or not. You can anonomise IP addresses but not perfect. Interesting issues there that you at least need to be aware of.

Licensing – if you are sharing data you need to think about what the license may be, who is to be allowed access to this data. Some of the projects that have anonomised.

One of the things that happened at the beginning of these projects was that searching for this data many found they were not collection and/or not storing that data. How can you improve what you are doing by understanding your users better? There will be some effort in analysing data but determine the costs and the benefits, persuade your boss to fund it. Good luck!


Q1) Ranjit Sidhu, SiD: Looking at Twitter while you were talking there is a lot of focus on privacy here. I wondered if you want to comment on it. I think people get their knickers in a twist for no reason – especially when compared to Amazon etc.

A1) It’s not just me it’s also the Data Commissioner – we should be doing more with this data. People are getting too uptight about privacy. If you are supporting what people want to do then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Q1) Something like an IP address is publicly addressed.

A1) The issue is that we can use the IP as a proxy then we could see lots of people as the same thing – this is one of the challenges with the openurl router as providers see one url/proxy (in a more literal meaning) address. You could see weird unconnected other behaviours.

Q2) Sam Trafford, Edgehill University: did you say something on data on which schools produce good students

A2) No one is doing this yet but it seems like something we could do.

Q2) I think you have huge potential for misuse there – for profiling schools that do not bring in money.

Comment from Amber) From the government open data agenda they are sharing loads of data and lots of ways of modelling it so that it’s sensible rather than being about league tables.

Q3) Brian Kelly, UKOLN: Think I agree with the idea of a risk assessment about making data available. In the context of the cookie legislation the government minister said they were looking for a business friendly

Q4) Amber Thomas, JISC: Is there potential to look at people logging in via Facebook, Twitter, Google logins etc?

One of the audience members from Central School of Speech and Drama is going to make their student portal login able by third party services.

Q5) Ben Butchart, EDINA: I understand that with the OpenID logins for sites like Twitter, the site has to declare what information is giving up and what data will be used as I understand it.

Search Engines versus Instititional Impecuniousness – David Hawking, Funnelback

David has been working in the National University of Australia for 40 years in a variety of roles but recently I’ve had to learn some of Amber’s dirty marketing words. I joined Funnelback which was established in 1999 and we hope to have about 8 members of staff soon.

Who are we? David gives us an overview of the rich history of the UK academic community. But academia is under huge pressures to perform. Fee paying foreign students have become a big focus of the university budgets. These students make a major contribution to economies. They aso increasingly look to force cash contributions from students.

HE Institutions are businesses and there are two fundamentals to running a successful business (a) need to maintain and increase revenue and (b) needs to increase staff productivity (without lowering standards). The need to attract better students, more funding, undertake commercialisation and reduce unnecessary time/costs.

Some examples: London Metropolitan University

If I search for a subject I will get a set of search results related to the courses as a sub section of search results. This is trying to deliver those extra conversion.

Another example: Universite Paul Sabatier

I want to show you search with query suggestions. There are ordinary suggestions from the log but also category suggestions for courses and contact detail info. Can also run javascript that looks up course fees, registrations left etc. from these searches.

A comment already made today: universities are just like an ecommerce site. A user comes in, looks around and leaves the site unsatisfied. There’s nothing worse than a site that gets lots of data from you but gives you nothing more. You want to improve your conversion rate.

There is an opportunity to adapt results or presentation to a visitor’s region based on IP address. Issue: matching careers with courses – people will be searching for courses by job titles.

Those were course finding examples but now I’m going to talk about expertise finding. This project is Australia’s Knowledge Gateway combining 8 universities in the country. All Australian institutions need to opt into the HERDC – this is much like the REF. They are collecting and reporting all that data but it can facilitate discovery of strength, attraction of staff, attraction of graduate students, industrial investment, endowments. How do businesses, potential research students etc. find out who they should contact for more etc.

So here is the Autralia’s Knwoledge Network. This ranks researchers based on activity around their work.

This tool will be rolled out so that each institutions can use this in their own scoped context.

Image and marketing – websites are vital to marketing a university. Search is vital to web experience. Key differences between universities and corporates. Websites may contain critical information but may not confirm to corporate image. Arguably papers shouldn’t be presented only subject to the needs of the corporate image though.

Business Intelligence – what are people searching for on your sites? Are your campaigns working?

Productivity wise – student enquiry handling is always near the top of university search logs: access to course materials, course planning, accomodation, exams, timetable., library etc.

Many universities now make video recordings of lectures – do people want to access lectures by day and time or also by topic or concepts?

Staff efficiency – locating policies and procedures, staff directory, online services, parking permits, leave forms, gathering material for grant proposal, finding collaborators. An issue: new staff and position handocer, search of restricted access material, academic staff are often away from the office.

Tools for the SearchMaster

Tools like autocomplete, alternative suggestions for spelling, synonyms, and query blending. Another common problem is that there may be nothing on our websites – we can help by providing “best bets” of what we think is being sought.

Tune your ranking – established methods for doing this and can make substantial impact. Test sets here that can be used – e.g. accomodation queries, etc. and really increase effectiveness. There are hundreds of websites, millions of pages to track.

A researcher requests “The Emmottiser” which tries to explain for the query what results appear and why. People actually get surprised about lack of traffic even when their page on the library does not include that text at all. This tool helps suggest words to include in your page.

“The accessoriser” the Australian government has required WCAG2 compliane testing and reporting over time can be build into your search. Not all of these things can be reported on automatically.

Search profile – should search look the same for all visitors to the university webpage or should they have differentiated places.

Successful search deployment requires the right ingrediants, the right process, a dash of presentation and tasty presentation.


Q1) Ben Butchart, EDINA: I liked the example of a PhD looking for a researcher or supervisor. I guess a lot of institutions had to sign up to that, was wondering about the politics of that

A1) The Group of 8 are keen to have the credit for setting up that search in the first place. All institutions have to have that data available, all are obliged to make that data available. The Group are also keen to bring in other institutions.

Q2) Dan Watson: how much of this is out of the box, how much of that is customised

A2) Most of that is essentially out of the box… in the coming version (in August).

Q3) With the autocomplete it seems like that was both query selection and answer suggestions

A3) Yes, you need targeted suggestions weighted to the content on the university site. We suggest replacement text if a letter is wrong. We add in results for other areas (e.g. staff info) as possibilities – we’ve had some ideas about how that one box completion could help. But there is a downside of that – may miss out on log information as you may go right to a page rather than a results section. Maybe the speed of access will improve conversion though.

Q4) Please talk dirty about sales and the like. I carried out a survey of search engine usage in Russell Group Universities. Google is the most common option to go for, a mix of others in use. If people like what they see how can they persuade managers etc. to look into this.

A4) Funnelback’s first customer was the National University of Australia but after a while we left the university market alone for a while as Google was there and free. But universities are more interested again in how to tailor search better on their websites. If you look at what you want to achieve from search – business objectives, who the audiences are, high rates of conversion, that’s where we can come in.

Next up we have coffee and then Parallel Sessions – I am giving one of these – in the main theatre of all places – so expect an end to blogging until Day Two!


 July 26, 2011  Posted by at 10:59 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Jul 212011

Today I’ve added a guest post to the blog for the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2011 (#iwmw11) at which I will be presenting / facilitating a parallel session on social media monitoring, metrics and impact next week.

You can read more about my session and offer me your sage thoughts on what you would love to see in that session (whether or not you are actually likely to be along in person) by seeing my post, A7: Listen, Repeat, Learn. There is also a page with the full abstract for the session and you should also be able to find my Prezi there (and on my presentations page) next week.

This year IWMW takes place at Reading University which should make for an interesting trip – I haven’t been back since doing an Insight into Engineering week as a teenager and I believe we’ll be based on exactly the same campus! I suspect this trip I won’t be finding myself in a robotics lab with Professor Kevin Warwick again but you never know…

 July 21, 2011  Posted by at 11:51 am Week In the Life Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
Jul 012011

Today I am again at the FIFTH BLOOMSBURY CONFERENCE ON E-PUBLISHING AND E-PUBLICATIONS, SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE ACADEMY: Enhancing and enabling scholarly communication. I’ll be liveblogging but the usual health warnings apply: expect typos etc. And if you’d like to read about Day One it’s here.

Anthony Watkinson is introducing today by saying that yesterday he didn’t attempt to define “social media” but no-one seems to be worried about that so he’s not going to define it again! And so to our first presentation…

Anthony introduces Jason Hoyt by mentioning that Mendeley was one of the tools mentioned by researchers in the CIBER surveys (see yesterdays notes) on social media. Continue reading »

 July 1, 2011  Posted by at 9:38 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs No Responses »