Jun 212018

Today I am at the Digital Scotland 2018 Conference in Glasgow – if you are along do give me a wave (you’ll find me easily from the glare of my mirrored protractor brooch!). i’ll be liveblogging today, with the usual caveats that I welcome any additions, corrections, etc.

Introduction by Conference ChairAlisdair Gunn, Director, Framewire, & BIMA Scotland Council Member.
Good morning and thanks for coming today to the inaugeral Digital Scotland conference. I’m Alistair Gunn and I’m honoured to be your chair today. Today’s conference brings together suppliers, local and national government, and technologists together. At the beginning of 2017 the Scottish Government published the Digital Scotland strategy, and each of us play a role in delivering that strategy which aims for inclusive economic growth, and to make Scotland one of the world’s leading digital nations. We really encourage tweeting and sharing of today’s conference, using #digitalscotland. The event is also being livestreamed by ProductForge. Due to overwhelming interest today I can also announce that the Digital Scotland event will run again next year.
Keynote: ‘Harnessing technology for the benefit of society’
Chris Yiu, Senior Policy Fellow for Technology, The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
I wanted to kick off with a birds eye view of technology and policy themes as we see them at the Institute. So, first I want to start with some numbers. Martha Lane Foxes doteveryone charity surveyed people across the UK: 50% said “the internet has made life a lot better for people like me. But only 12% (one in ten) said “the internet has had a very positive impact on society”. So, something has gone very wrong. What I’d like to talk about today is what those issues might be, and what we might do as policy makers.
Some of the questions here are issues like surveillance – whether we are being monitored, if there will be another data breach. But that can be countered with rights. Manipulation – are my apps, are the tools I use manipulating me. Or will we use technology for wellbeing, for making lives better. Polarisation – fake news, polarised political views. But technology also has the potential to build and enable community. Stagnation vs Prosperity; Automation or Meaningful work and life; Indifference or Fairness; Excess – e.g. bitcoin’s environmental impact vs sustainability; and vulnerability vs security. None of these questions are easily answered but we face them every day, and we have to think about how policy makers and politics address those questions.
Right now politics is no longer left or right. And you can also think about the world against Politics mapped against Tech. We can visualised this as a grid from False Nostalgia; Incremental progress; Exponential progress; and Tech nationalism (moving clockwise from bottom left). We mainly focus on that nostalgia for a pre-tech world adn incremental progress. We should be focusing on the other side of this graph – China a leading on that Tech nationalism area. But the real world concerns is about affordable good quality healthcare, education, social change, and those are unchanging concerns in many ways, we need those to shape our use of technology.
We also have increasing AI possibilities. As a hobby I make a list of exciting AI examples (see deepindex.org). At first these were fun silly things, but now it is supply chain management, risk management, predictive analysis in insurance, diagnostic medicine tools that outperform human specialists. Some see this as a threat to jobs. I think this is about freeing up human time for more important interactions. This stuff is real, the opportunity is there. And actually where you see this technology now is everyday in AirBnB, in Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, Uber… And these companies do powerful things with AI which raise all sorts of policy channels. Rules, laws and regulations are frequently pre internet, whilst these companies have new business models, new ways of working. No matter what you think of these companies they are delivering services to huge numbers of people, many of whom are satisfied with that experience. Amazon for instance is one of the most loved companies on the planet, transforming the highstreet – with shops closing… But also the customer experience is light years ahead, and it would be good to see more shops doing that which is where service design comes in.
On service design… I try to book an appointment at my family doctor. Maybe once I’d have written a letter, then I could go in in person, or call… As we get further along, maybe I can book online without that telephone queue wait. Sounds good, and it sounds achievable… But those apps and the technology that pervades our lives has changed the rules…. And if you haven’t seen it you should read Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders where he says “customers are perfectly discontent”… As user experience becomes better, perfect user experience is also racing away… So nevermind that online booking of appointment – maybe I want to videocall my doctor right now. And this is hugely important. My experience as a consumer looks one way, my experience as a citizen lags behind. Maybe there was always a lag but the wider that gap in experience is, the less appealing and sustainable participation in society. That’s a threat to transactional stuff – moves to private schools or healthcase – but more importantly ceasing to try to make your voice heard…
But I think there are things we can do:
1. A structured dialogue between the change makers and the policy makers
2. A better approach to regulation that is built around the reality of the internet – that means root and branch reform that is built on internet as the norm. That’s harder to do today – it’s a reserved issue. But it’s also a global issue.
3. An ambitious policy platform that gives people hope about the future – be bold enough to see the potential to make a radical difference to the stuff that matters. That needs focus – we can’t do everything – and really requires work across sectors with government and local authorities working with private and third sectors.
I’m going to leave that here and will be around to engage in the conversation throughout the day. Thank you.
Digital Transformation Panel
Join us for a conversation on how digital is transforming Scotland, and what more needs to be done to fulfil the potential of our communities and the nation.Featuring:
  • Alistair Gunn (AG), Chair of session
  • Colin Cook (CC), Director, Digital, The Scottish Government; 
  • Martyn Wallace (MW), Chief Digital Officer, ‎The Digital Office Scottish Local Government; 
  • Polly Purvis (PP), Chief Executive, ScotlandIS; 
  • Cat Leaver (CL), Project Director, Brand Scotland.
CC: Chris was absolutely right in an aspirational way – we really want to be ambitious and transformational. And no-one in Government thinks that transformational change is possible on our own, government has to work together with other sectors with common programmes and pieces of work. Equally important as that is that government doesn’t think that the public sector can be working alone here, and see the value of working with private sector. We work in different ways with the private sector, and CivTech is a part of that, but there is more to do that. We have more than achieved our targets on broadband rollout, we have key programmes on identity management, and we have more to do and are looking forward to what can come out of the discussions today.
MW: Echoing what Colin said, we are facing all kinds of challenges in the public sector. I came from the private sector and thought I knew the public sector, but its so much more complex – the things we do every day saving lives, facing challenges, we have technical and HR skills to address as well as cultural shifts that need to be there. I was at an event on Friday asking if we were tinkering or whether we are transforming. I think in many ways we are still tinkering but we need to be transforming… We have more pilots than RyanAir – we need to be more agile, iterate… We shouldn’t have these big media-covered collapses if we do that. And we need public understanding that we can’t do what we used to as we just don’t have the finances to do it. Sometimes you don’t need a doctor – you need a GP, or an information source, and that saves money in the system. We have to have a balanced approach – investing but also changing the conversation at the top. There is great collaboration across Scottish and local government. We need common data standards and interoperability to get this right – otherwise we are handing over public money to service integrators that we can ill afford.
PP: We represent everyone – from Microsoft, CGI, SkyScanner, to small companies and everything in between. We work closely with government both to help them but also to hold their feet to the fire. We need to really focus on the opportunities that technology provide. There are such bright futures possible here, but we have to get more people involved and engaged. That is a really serious challenge. Lifelong learning has to be for all of us all the time to make this work.
AG: This is part of why agile, service design, and actually you could almost drop the private and public sector labels… It’s all one sector in some ways. But as Martin said, we need to communicate what we do here in Scotland.
CL: I am about to take that journey from private to public sector, like Martyn has. Brand Scotland is about telling our stories, helping those outside of Scotland understand our assets here, our stories, and highlighting innovation, the private sector successes here, the public sector achievements.
AG: I saw a TEDx talk where the speaker spoke of innovation, noting that the public sector is one of the best innovators, and funds universities to innovate too. Looking forward, Colin, what are the sorts of things you are thinking about. We have the Digital Strategy in place. What’s next? Should there be another strategy?
CC: We love a strategy! But that’s not the critical thing. Picking up on what Cat said, we need a clear articulation of the type of digital nation that we want to be in Scotland. We are starting to recognise that and build on that. And actually there are particular aspects of Scotland wanting inclusive growth – broadband is very important to ensuring no one gets left behind. Standards is important, common approaches to online identity is important. We have new powers – social security, employability, etc. which allows us to make changes in what we do, and there is a lot of opportunity. Going back to what Chris said, these are platforms and small changes but the real change will happen where all conferences, all influencers are thinking about digital first. We are seeing that starting to happen and I’m confident that that’s where we are going.
AG: And it’s starting to think about the services side of things… There is strong presence with the health sector – what engagement do you see there?
CL: We ran a youth event alongside the big conference on digital health in Glasgow recently. We had wondered if the youth would engage in the health innovation side of things but there were 600 young people connecting with digital health, and they particularly reflected those shifting expectations and familiarity with digital experiences that Chris talked about.
MW: “Digital” isn’t coming… It’s here in your phones, it’s the self-checkout at the supermarket… It is transforming day to day life already. Service design is crucial here, we promote and adopt in digital local government. We can’t run things as we did in the past – I want to access healthcare through my Alexa, my connected home… I want feedback. That’s proper transformation… Being kept alive and being looked after is crucial for people and to do that in practicce transformation just is digital, it doesn’t need that special label anymore.
AG: Are we missing a skills gap here, a training requirement?
PP: In this room we are on the same page. We have digital skills and enthusiasm but so much of Scotland is not there yet. Some of our agricultural companies and farms know they will lose labour in the future – they are starting to automate with robots. There will be jobs in the future… Young people understand that… But we all need those skills, that understanding of AI, robotics, IoT. We need to understand and upskill… But our school system is so focused on skills education for childhood through universities… But we need more there, we need skills development throughout life to allow us to embrace technology and future opportunities.
MW: I wanted to say that SCVO do have a Digital Participation Charter – look at it, sign up. But it’s not basic skills anymore, its needed skills. We as an organisation need to address this, we need skills development, we need to ensure we are ready for the future, we need to have conversations with staff. The basic most needed skills are a great place to start and build on.
AG: We know that the private sector creates services and products… Do we see that flow between sectors. It is exciting to be in the public sector – big digital transformation projects. Are there things that the public sector can be talking to the private sector about.
CC: I’ve been in the public sector for 16 years. I think my learning now is as great as it has ever been in my personal career – you learn from the sector, from the market… Yes there is a lot we can learn from. As we approach digital transformation we want to encourage co-location, we want to encourage skills transfer – we see change but we see changes in the companies working with us. That’s a hugely inspirational place to be. We all struggle to attract and retain the talent we need but we really need that, we need people to bring in their skills and expertise.
AG: We are seeing products coming out for companies to work on… CivTech is good – how does that scale?
MW: At the launch of a programme in London there was a lot of discussion of learning from the lead of Scottish public sector. We have truly innovative companies in Scotland, how do we engage with that? CivTech’s one of the best examples of that we’ve seen.
AG: How does Scotland do benchmarking internationally in this space?
CL: Surveys show we aren’t known for innovation and technology – lots of whisky, golf and salmon (I’m over simplifying that) – so there is a lot of work to do to tell those stories, and we all need to get involved in that.
Q1 – Janet Roberts, EDINA) I would be interested to know how the inclusion agenda runs through your work. My organisation runs the Digimaps for Schools service promoting digital skills and critical thinking with young people. We are heavily involved in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and wanted to ask you about how Scotland makes our strong inclusion ambitions happen.
A1 – PP) We have to be so careful in this room – we talk jargon that is inaccessible to many. City Deal has huge possibility but also talks about data science, AI… and those won’t be familiar terms for many. So how do we make sure that the City Deal reaches that 21% of people in the City Region living in poverty – mainly in more rural places? How do we make that work relevant to everybody and bring them into these opportunities so there is real local benefit. There are no easy answer there but it’s so important.
A1 – MW) People talk about digital by default – that’s exclusionary – so we talk about digital first. We know there are connectivity challenges. We can push on 5G. We have some local authorities looking at poverty levels, connectivity, and look at how they can ensure communities do have access to the internet. You have to iterate and work on this – you can’t wait until everyone is online, but you have to be aware that not everyone is or will want to engage online.
A1 – CC) We have relaunched the national performance framework which talks about opportunities for all and inclusive development. That doesn’t mean you don’t invest in centres of excellence – like Edinburgh – but it means spreading that knowledge and expertise more widely. The City Region Deal in Edinburgh is a great example of that work to ensure development is inclusive.
A1 – CL) We did workshops with Turning Point, with former homeless people… They were asking what data is, how they can have email – needed for job applications and systems – when they have no access to computers. So we really do need to ensure we don’t leave anyone out of this.
Q2) How do we make free wifi available across Scotland, including rural communities, so that vulnerable people, poorer communities, etc. have access to the internet to be able to participate here.
A2 – MW) Scotland has real challenges around connectivity – we have hills and valleys here that make it complex; small rural communities have few users and have high costs and low return on investment. 5G has great potential but actually it uses lower bandwidth so you need more masts, more backhaul. But we do have shared masts across Scotland where O2/Vodafone boxes are on every mast to enable emergency services connectivity. But you can get 99% of coverage but… I live in a rural community myself and know the challenge there. And we have to work in partnership and in new ways…
A2 – CC) We do have close working with companies – and that’s fairly unique to Scotland. We are working on City Superfast Broadband, and there are 5G announcements today, so it is also always improving.

Across the day there are three sessions running in parallel for each of these Masterclasses, so for all of these sessions I’ll be blogging from the ones I’ve signed up for. For this session that’s The Economy…

SESSION 1: THE ECONOMY: Supporting growth in the digital sector


  • Polly Purvis (PP), Chief Executive, ScotlandIS; 
  • Colin Cook (CC), Director, Digital, The Scottish Government;
  • Melinda Matthews Clarkson (MMC), Chief Executive, CodeClan; 
  • Maggie Morrison (MM), Vice President, Public Sector, CGI.
    Chaired by: Alisdair Gunn (AG), Director, Framewire & BIMA Scotland Council Member.

MMC: My background is twenty years in software and computer programming – my first application was instant messaging on a mainframe. I run CodeClan, and we are the only certified digital skills and code academy in the country. I am a huge cheerleader for change and I am so excited about what Scotland can and will become.

MM: I’ve over 35 years of experience in IT, starting out in a company working on Telex and Modems but since then have worked with many of the leading multinationals. I spent 14 years at Cisco and HP before joining CGI. My career in tech allowed me to work at the leading edge and travel the world. I worked for companies that still thrive, but also a cluster of tech companies that no longer exist. The pace of change is huge and what keeps me awake at night is ensuring that young people are ready for this, that we are ready for this, that we learn and relearn all the time. It was great to read in The Scotsman that technology adds £3.9B to the Scottish economy, but the pace of change is fast and we have to be ready for that.

AG: Does Scotland have the company base to be competitive?

MM: The scale of start ups in Scotland is increadible – something like 30% of the UK tech start ups come out of Scotland. But we need to get much better at exports – to be more like Ireland at that. As part of the work we do for Glasgow Council we have 52,000 tablets to all Glasgow Schools. Primary 1-6 will have a shared device, above that they will have a personal device. For children in Glasgow that should position them well to explore these devices, to understand what they can do. Educating parents in digital, in the future economy, we have to do all of this.

AG: Melinda, what’s your experience of working with companies?

MMC: The people who engage with us become the biggest fans. There just aren’t enough engaging. And that means communicating what a graduade of CodeClan actually looks like. It’s not (just) a barista training in 16 weeks, so many come in from tech and other sectors with a growth mindset, a really open mind to expand and develop their skills. When people do take on CodeClan graduates they are overwhelmed by the learning potential there. In Scotland there is such innovation and creativity, but there isn’t that culture of competitiveness – and that is where Silicon Valley benefits. That helps you keep up with expectations as they change, so we need some culture change.

AG: What about using

PP: The first thing I want to say is that Britain is a huge tech market so sometimes growth can be Britain, not just internationally. The figures on Scottish tech actually underplays the contribution.  Tech contributes £6B to the Scottish economy. Many of our companies do work internationally, but there is more to do. And we really need to get skills of ecommerce out to other sectors – the death of the highstreet is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. We need to encourage that. And it is concerning that ecommerce is nowhere in our curriculum in schools and education. That could add hugely. We have some fantastic ingrediants, we just need to build on them… Not every company has an online presence, that’s part of the problem. It’s not about Scotland… Debenhams, House of Fraser, they wouldn’t be in the mess they are in if they’d sorted their ecommerce. It’s a wider problem.

MM: We’ve talked goods and products, but also there is huge opportunity for other types of offers. Y Combinator takes tech businesses (often without a product) through an incubator, time in Silicon Valley, and AirBnB came out of that. We talk too much here about products and goods.

PP: One of the challenges here is that it’s hard to scale services. Products do scale fast… But where I agree with Maggie is that platforms do scale fast. Skyscanner is a product company and a platform company.

MM: It’s not either/or… But it’s “and”. We don’t focus enough or recognise the possibility of non-product offerings.

AG: How do we persuade people that being a backend enabler, a B2B company that helps other companies, is a good thing? We talked about CivTech earlier – how do we scale services out of that to a global thing?

CC: Scaling comes with the challenge of how you keep fast growing and large scale businesses in Scotland, so that the scaling benefits the economy here. We do try to scale services in different ways, we want to scale the CivTech concept in fact.


Q1) I wanted to ask about the missing middle. With CivTech… For the public sector how do we procure without “being brought by one of the big boys” being the answer?

A1 – MM) Deals above a certain size have a public benefit threshold. And for big contracts with councils we have a requirement for 25% of work to be undertaken by local businesses, and they have to be paid in 10 days. CGI’s policy it to pay them (not acquire them). That forces multinationals to make sure that 25% of that work comes from local providers – it’s not perfect but it’s the best solution from the public sector so far.

A1 – PP) We have worked with Scottish Government and things are improving. But many of our companies are health organisations but they almost always sell south of the border first, it’s too slow to get into the Scottish market.

A1 – CC) We need to talk earlier in the process before formal procurement. We need new approaches to partnering, some about sharing risk… Some issues are addressed by CivTech, some are addressed elsewhere.

SESSION 2: PUBLIC SERVICES: Designing services around users

  • Cat Macaulay (CM), Head of User Research and Services Design, The Scottish Government;
  • Leah Lockhart (LL), Engagement Consultant;
  • Clare Hillis (CH), Head of Public Sector, Vodafone (chairing)
  • Paul Duffy (PD), Co – Director for IT and Telecommunications, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

CH: I’m delighted to be here today to share some of our experiences of designing public sector services for users. We have with us today Cat Macaulay from Scottish Government, Leah Lockhard, engagement consultant and Paul Duffy from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

PD: I’m here to represent health and digital really, and improving health and patient care. We look are services across health and social care in Belfast and Northern Ireland. We have too little money and too much expected of us so service design and improvement is crucial to deliver patient care.

CM: I am head of a new department in Scottish Government. We have two big ambitions: to build and manage UCD – user research, content, interaction etc. designers across Scotland; and to be fantastic at designing in inclusive processes that are genuinely centred on the citizen – not only citizens who can read, or see, or hear, or have great mobility etc.

LL: I sit at the intersection of technology, academia, design and art and creative work. Generally I help people understand how to engage people, how to use the internet to engage with people. I’m working with SEPA at the moment on a user research and service design and, breaking news, I’ll be moving with Snook very soon.

CH: I wanted to ask you, Cat, about working with users not neccassarily saying what the challenge is.

CM: Most of the time when service design fails, we are solving the wrong problem. Typically we do things like: the paper form doesn’t work so we digitise the form and wonder why that didn’t work. In Scotland citizens have to drive services and drive policies – so we have to engage people much earlier in the process, and that matters particularly in the digital world where we have to be agile. We can’t put a problem on the back of an envelope, build a huge business case, go to procurement, and then wonder why it doesn’t work for citizens five years later… We need to get away from that.

PD: We don’t want to apply “digital” as the label. We want service improvements where digital is just part of the solution to that. Too often we’ve looked at solutions, and changing working processes to meet the app we’ve brought. That doesn’t work. What you need is for the people who will be changing to help imagine what could work better, how we can improve what we do. So we look at a problem, we look at how we can solve that and where digital does that… The first digital tools will always be the hardest to get in place. What do we mean when we talk about this? Are we going to invest? Are we going to do the hard work to embed it and make it work? If we don’t, if we think digital is done to you, and that it will fix problems alone, then it fails.

LL: I think that change in power dynamics are important. We need to change how we engage… Chris talked earlier about the risk of people opting out because we aren’t being relevant to them.

CH: When you do this, are there challenges around what citizens want and what you can do.

CM: Service design isn’t about asking people what they want. It’s about understanding what we need within the realm of what is possible. We do currently tend to ask people what they want, when we should be asking what they need and how that can drive what we do. The benefit of that approach is that it enables a more mature conversation with citizens.

CH: What has worked best in identifying the right solutions.

PD: Far too many projects start without defining the problem. You have to define the problem. Then identify the ideal solution, and iterate and review that. If you want to fail a digital project, start with unclear objectives! We have actually designed an onboarding process – physicians aren’t managers, they aren’t usually experienced with budgets. I try to avoid pilots, proof of concepts… So our projects are tightly constrained and aim to do something intentionally… We may not always achieve that to time or budget but that constraint is important.

LL: I’ve been through a world of pain when I haven’t properly explained what I do with services, with organisations… So that they understand what we do, so that service design and user research becomes the norm.

Q1) I work for a company that builds products… I wonder how we achieve early access when engaging with authorities and organisations…

A1 – CM) We’ve done lots of work recently to push hard on having users engaged in products throughout the process. We engage users as early as possible in the project, to understand what we should be looking at, getting users to help me understand that we are thinking along the right time… We do research, we want collaborative sense making – compare, contrast, and the differences are where interesting stuff emerges. We currently have over 2000 people on our social care panel, and ways to reach service users for instance.

Q2) Quite often we tend to go to champions or representatives… How do we consult a representative range of citizens.

A2 – CM) We have a bug bear in the public sector about representativeness – this isn’t a thing in the private sector. You will never have a representative of all users. Sometimes you will have lots of people, sometimes it is smaller groups. You will rarely be statistically representative. What you can do is to triangulate, to understand that information in context, to ensure validity of what we do. And this isn’t a science, design is not a science. You need co-design, engagement, and mixed methods.

A2 – LL) You have to be comfortable – and it’s hard for public services to take this on board right now – that this goes on all the time. You don’t then stop, you stay engaged.

Q3) So is this a choice between doing something agile now and long planned projects?

A3) These aren’t separate things. The advantage of agile is that you are rapidly iterating and trying things out. Working on some 3 year project where you are locked away working on a problem isn’t how the private sector works, that agile process is part of those projects.

A3 – PD) If you do agile you need the budget holder engaged – every meeting costs money so you have to stay constrained, you have to actually end up with something. You need to understand how many iterations are appropriate for a given budget. We are currently working on trauma management… Digital can provide a level of non-repudiation and ownership that paper and pager systems don’t allow… But people aren’t stupid so you get resistance, you will have hidden agendas here… And you have to accommodate that in your project budget. But we are about ready to roll that out… Once it’s out there, change is made, and then this service improvement can be applied to other areas. The change has to be owned by the people who will live with that working practice.

Q3) One of the challenges we have is that if your user research shows what you know, then management is reluctant to invest in this work. How we get management buy in for this sort of work?

A3 – CM) Relentless Resilience! We have to change. Our service design has reflected organisations not citizen needs. It’s a cultural change. We build culture change into our organisation but we also have to acknowledge that we don’t know the perfect solution yet. Anyone who says you can apply service design to public services is mad. This is really hard. It’s not the same as designing the experience in a coffee shop here, it’s about “ok, someone fell down the stairs and broke her leg this morning, she’s a single mum of two and one of her kids is in a bit of trouble in school, and she’s behind on her rent”. This isn’t easy stuff to fix.

A3 – PD) It’s about doing this process right, being agile, showing the benefit of working in this way to improve services.

A3 – CM) One way to pick this up is our quality process, and standards. We have to hang in there, its hard.

SESSION 3: HEALTH: Technology enabled health and social care in Scotland

  • Michelle Brogan (MB), Home and Mobile Health Monitoring lead, NHS24; 
  • Hazel Archer (HA), Video Conference and Attend Anywhere Lead, NHS24; 
  • Liza McLean (LM), Head of eHealth Strategy and Policy, Scottish Government.
LM: Welcome to this session. I have responsibility for eHealth Strategy and Policy in Scottish Government. The context for this session is Scotland’s Digital Health and Social Care Strategy. As you’ll know, digital disruption is here. Health and Social Care has not, yet, taken full advantage of digital technology. When looking at putting together this strategy I was reminded of Dr Marion Lennon (Strathclyde University) had done on the Delivering Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale (dallas), particularly around public and consumer readiness, health provider readiness, and key issues around practically putting this into proactive. We have six domains to take forward – do look at the strategy online – but I’m really excited to hear about projects that are already taking place.
MB: I’m here with my colleague Hazel Archer. We are working on technology enabled care programme in Scotland, and our work to date. Then we’ll talk about two examples of video consulting, and of home and mobile health monitoring. Then we’ll have some reflections on key learning.
This TEC (Tech Enabled Care) programme has been working over 3 years with 31 partnerships, 10 of the 14 health boards, and we work on a grants basis to help health boards to transform their services. At the heart of our programme are work strands in: home and mobile health monitoring; video conferencing; digital platforms; expansion of telecare (inc analogue to digital telecare); improvement and support. This isn’t about technology, it’s about transformational change in Scotland. So those areas of work don’t stand alone, it’s about leadership, service redesign, problem solving, etc.
In terms of how many people are using TEC services, we have about 73k people benefitting and are set to have 80k by the end of the project. Our achievements include launch of Attend Anywhere Video Consultation. We have a new National Service Model to support local implementation of Home and Mobile Health Monitoring and largest sale up of blood pressure monitoring in the UK. We are delivering a proof of concept and business case for NHS. And our work has been recognised across Scotland.
Telecare enables a good level of support, in the home, for vulnerable older people who are often live alone. By 2025 analogue phone lines will switch to digital, we need to be ready for that so we have a big piece of work led by Martyn Wallace to make sure we can do this. We also have a role out of cCBT – community based CBT services through a tool called “Beating the Blues” which aims to reach 100% of the population, having started with 10% of people reached by these technology.
We had a review of the TEC programme published in 2018 which has helped us to review what we do.
AH: We developed a video conference suite established across the NHS – we estimate that it saves £5m per year in saved travel. But we’ve not really had that connection to the home. Why do we want to do this? Well lets look at an individual living in the Highlands who is doing home dialysis. They need to be visited daily – thats a 6 hour round trip so that nurse will only see one patient in a day. And Highlands and Islands NHS, travel for patients costs them 5% of their entire budget. So, we’ve tried to do video conferencing in the home for a long time. Right now you can do this through browser tools… This is really a workflow change. Normal NHS workflow includes wait times and flexibility. Video conferencing expects on time delivery but that isn’t real life, so it’s how you you shape that new workflow…
So we have a system (http://www.sctt.org.uk/attendanywhere/) and anyone can go in and start a call – no login or checking, no download etc. There are logins for clinicians that limit what they can access and see, but also limits them to seeing patients with the appropriate conditions. We began roll out in 2016, first patient was 2017. We are now up to almost 600 consultations. User feedback has been really positive – finding this easy to use, and 98% of people said they would “use it again”. And success comes down significantly to what you choose to do – this isn’t the right solution for all issues (e.g. you can’t do an ultrasound over the internet).
Our busiest clinic is Grampian Gastro – one of the biggest challenges for IBS patients is travel. And this is a service that is mostly talking. It works really well. In the Western Isles a Respiratory clinic was involving a specialist flying up for the day, telecare works brilliantly here and saves two days of travel. The latest Western Isles clinic is for hand surgery – again that saves huge travel money.
We also have NHS Near Me (www.sctt.org.uk/attendanywhere/NHSNearMe) which is about the service model around these tools.
MB: I want to quickly talk about another exemplar here. It’s not technology, it’s wrap around service model that adds value; it’s about simple well designed technology. So, health and mobile isn’t that new but we were in “pilot-itis”. The rise in smartphones, increased adoption, and positive interest from health providers have all made big changes. We want better health, better care and better value – remote care at a distance. So we are using home enabled healthcare to really help us get early risk alerts (e.g. diabetic blood levels). One of the cases for change here include the fact that measuring blood pressure is the third commonest reason for attending primary care appointments – 1.2 million appointments And that’s set to double by 2030. In addition measurements in surgery are less accurate compared to home monitoring. Meanwhile 60% of patients don’t take their blood pressure medications regularly/when they should. So we wanted a sustainable TEC enabled model to support automated monitoring, alerts and interventions. The system we use is SMS based but enables real time monitoring by GPs, as well as allowing feedback, interventions, advice, etc. back from the healthcare provider. This is being rolled out to people with initial diagnosis/high reading, through to those with long term issues.
20 out of the 14 health boards use HMHM “simple telehealth” SMS solution integrating into routine care. There is a national blue print digitally enabled pathway for hypertension. Currently reaching 5200 people, will scale to 10,000. This is really scaling up. And the benefits include saving up to 40% of appointments, high level of satisfaction, convenience, treatment compliance, improved blood pressure control and appropriate use of medication.
In summary we hope we’ve demonstrated that TEC is here and happening, delivering real impacts but we need more time, leadership and support for key areas. It’s about designing a new care model, not so much about the technology. It’s iterative scale up informed by data evaluation. We’ve worked strategically to use a “once for Scotland” approach – with standard approaches. But we also need to understand what implementation strategies work best for the future. And we are committed to long term service improvement.
CivTech®update: Alexander Holt, Head of CivTech, The Scottish Government.
CivTech is part of the Digital Directorate in the Scottish Goverment. We want to drive change and innovation that makes people’s lives better. We want to create products and services that make real change. Procurement can be slow – months or years to do and roll out. And that can easily go wrong. Technology moves so quickly… See e.g. the work CENSIS are doing in this very building. The challenge is: how do you procure something that you don’t know exists?
CivTech reframes the whole space.. We look for challenges, and we put those into an ecosystem, there’s a selection process, and an accelerator and one company per challenge gets 20k, then can go on to get 200k. And maybe it also goes global.
An example project here: we worked with SEPA who wanted to improve flood monitoring. Gary came up with a solution using bumper sensors and GPS, and it’s getting rolled out across Scotland. We worked with Transport Scotland and they found a way that driving over potholes could detect and report them – that’s being rolled out. Lumera Health looked at triaging around dermatology in Glasgow. Dogfish mobile helped Stirling Council pull data from multiple services into one platform.
So, we’ve run this twice and we’ve just launched CivTech 3.0 where challenges include illegal trading, social isolation, standards in rented housing, the circular economy around the reuse of medical products, staff satisfaction, young people and their digital footprint with young people at the core of that challenge… There is a real spectrum here.
The lesson learned here is that we don’t labour away on solutions no one needs. You start with the client, the problem and the market. And the benefits of this process is cross-pollination, and this ecosystem of delivering services. We have a workshop programme of 40 workshops over 4 months covering product, business and personal development. And the feedback is that half of these are as useful for the public sector as they are for the private sector. We talk about entrepreneurial government – it’s about skills and transformation of the public sector in a deep immersive experience. It’s a collaboration with everyone.
What is the impact here? Well it’s the roll out of solutions. It’s Stirling Council making 1.5m in cost avoidance. It’s 16/1 8 companies still in operation; 1.5 m in subsequent contracts. There is real economic benefit here. And the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution backs this approach – and it’s getting international interest. But I want to come back to something Chris said earlier about delivery and process…
We start with user need, that needs to be met by a public sector organisation, theres an idea and citizens and innovation centres and academia feeding in. Then that product needs to be developed further by public sector organisations… They need investment, and that needs scale, potentially going global. That leads to productivity and trust. Why should this come from Digital Directorate? Well it’s about our policies on procurement, citizen engagement and service design, academic collaboration, business support, reuse, buying and build. We see this as Civtechnomics.
It’s about moving from sandbox to widespread adoption. So a lesson we learnt here is the idea of adopting a 3 to 1 procurement approach – why not do that in other procurement. If you know of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs then send them our way – applications close on 2nd July. So that’s us: driving daring and innovation in the public sector.
State of the Tech Nation:Gerard Grech, Chief Executive, Tech Nation.
I think Alexander couldn’t have set this up better. I’m going to give you a lot of stats on UK tech right now, and in relation to Europe. Digital Innovation is changing, and it’s changing fast. Tech Nation is a private company that is publicly backed and privately backed, and we’ve worked with 50 companies who have collectively raised $7Bn in 50 months, at all growth stages. We’ve seen what it takes to move from someone in a garage, through to listing on the stock market. As a company with technical and business skills. These companies are growing so quickly – we see companies going from 5 people to 500 or 2000 people in a year. It’s about ambition and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, has to be ready for that.
So I’m going to start by talking about how innovation is evolving globally. Innovation is open, it’s not linear anymore. There is process… But the more open you are to it, the more succesful you are… But people like to control, this doesn’t feel natural… Even in the UK companies can set up and a few years later be worth a few billion. There are four key drivers of a tech ecosystem – and Scotland has a lot of competition here. (1) You need the talent – without that you will not get investment. That could be hobbiests, that could be people who’ve just been made redundant; (2) You need the ideas of where to disrupt, where the opportunities are; (3) It’s about the infrastructure – what universities do with graduates and what you do with drop outs. Drop outs matter, we stigmatise it, but universities are not the place for everyone, especially if you are a genius. I was in Norwich the other week chatting to a 19 year old who had dropped out of university but they’d understood how to support him, and he had a great network, and his company had benefitted from pivoting four times already, flexing to opportunities and this was in Norwich – the end of the train line;  (4) You need finance – and I know the financial conduct authority enables useful experimental space for FinTech that is being replicated elsewhere.
Each year we publish the most comprehensive research on UK Tecg, using data from partners and 3400+ survey responses (80% outside London). All the data is open at data.world. Find it at TechNation.io. For instance you can find data on popular programming languages broken down by city through the data we have from GitHub.
The UK’s digital tech sector grew 2.6 times faster than the rest of the economy in 2017. Digital tech turnover increased from £170Bn in 2016 to £184 Bn, we are seeing stagging growth in jobs and a new start up every 50 seconds in th e UK. In 2017 UK VC investment exceeded Germany, France and Sweden combined (and even the Rest of Europe). And investment doubled from ~£4bn to just under £8Bn.
There is, globally, a race for tech talent and that continues, London ranks 3rd in latest tech startup ecosystem rankings. Talent is a global race so Scotland aren’t competing with London, they are competing with Austin Texas, or LA… The UK accounts for 13 of Europes Unicorns, with a combined value of about $13 Bn – about 37% of European value. The UK is Europe’s second biggest source of capital in Europe. Many UK tech unicorns are driven through algorithmic control, attracting specialist high paying jobs. When we look at pay levels, the more tech skills you have, the more those jobs pay.
The top 400 UK meetups (Glasgow is a top 10 meet up city with 12,000 members) highlight emerging trends: and they are AI and Blockchain are quickly taking centre stage – and Edinburgh and Glasgow are at the forefront here, especially after the announcement of the new Blockchain incubator at Edinburgh University.
UK tech communities value quality of life, proximity to universities… Women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in digital tech companies. We just launched a new initiative with JP Morgan to increase the number of female tech founders.
The Scottish tech sector is growing quickly with £3.9Bn value to the economy. And different cities face different challenges – for instance in Cambridge the top challenge is Brexit.  Read more in the full report.
Innovation to drive growth for all – Professor Charlie Jeffrey, Vice Principal, Edinburgh University.
In a nutshell the City Region Deal is 6 local authorities, business, universities, and college developing plan for investment in economic growth support by: 2 governments; 20 July 2017 Heads of Terms signed. We have positioned innovation as the driver of economic growth in the region, and a significant theme is that this is inclusive – that growth is for all, including affordable housing, transport infrastructure, and skills – which is where we are particularly concerned.
Edinburgh has a comparative advantage for Data Innovation as an ecosystem through the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics – one of the best in the world and has been for some time. After Informatics’ devastating fire – a sensitive topic here in Glasgow right now but something good came out of this – it was reshaped, they rethought what they do and could do and recognising the skills and talents of those coming through Informatics – there is a real talent flow. And Informatics Ventures came out of this. Then, secondly we have sophisticated tech business incubator/adoption/funding system: the UK’s biggest incubator CodeBase, DataLab, and Engage Invest Exploit. And thirdly we have strong government backing. Scottish Enterprise investment in the School of Informatics – £270 M and further contribution taking it a half billion of investment in skills.
Since 2005 we’ve seen the growth of new unicorns, new start ups, incubators, and R&D capability in Edinburgh of big tech players including Microsoft, Disney research etc. We want to replicate and scale. And we want to become the Data Capital of Europe, and things like the Weyra incubator for Blockchain are a part of that huge interest. That’s all very good but that work we are talking about is disruptive – for places, for employment, for demographics. Gerard talked about the lack of women in tech, we need to address that kind of inequality – how can education ensure girls make the subject choices to take them into those careers for instance. We think of this as data citizens, data workers, and data professionals.
The skills part of City Deal is an 8 year programme. How can we ensure that the 121,000 school leavers over that time come out with better skills than they otherwise would? We think so. For instance the newly build Newbattle High School, in one of the poorest parts of Midlothian, is working with us closely to ensure the currciulum builds data and tech in across the board. Its a pilot but if it works – and we think it will – we can scale it. We are working with colleges on building data skills into the curriculum and alternative routes such as apprenticeships. We have models like “data ambassadors” – how can we scale these ideas, this building of data skills to hard to reach groups? And how can we drive adoption of data technologies – we are working with DataLab and Interface here. Small businesses are weak in adaptation to the data economy – they won’t be tech business but their productivity could be enhanced by engagement with data. Can we do something here? Yes, we think we can.
We are coming up to the announcement of the final details of City Deal. My first meeting was in 2015. We’ve had a lot of meetings with government, local authorities, private companies, etc. We have built relationships and are ready to truly work collaboratively.
Why are we talking about Edinburgh and South East Scotland? Well there was a territorial opportunity, but all of these ideas are applicable nationally or internationally. None of this is bound by the geography of this deal. There is an international capability here.
Questions and discussion
Alistair Gunn (AG): Tech Nation are national… Charlie it was good to hear that the opportunities that are not bounded. Gerard do you want to talk about these changes recently and the bigger changes.
GG: When you talk to big companies like GE, you ask “how do you look at the world” they’d say “talent hubs” – they’d say San Francisco, New York, London, Chennai… That these are hubs of talent and technology. But projects cannot be geographically bound – opportunities may be in Bangalore or Chennai… You have to make a city as welcoming as possible and have to combine UK talent with talent from across the world. And the technologies and skills may not be in your locality – that may be in China. Skyscanner are passionate about bringing that mindset in from across the world.
AG: I’ve seen that accellerators are starting to measure success not by number of start ups but by number of international companies attracted.
AH: It depends on your aims. We wanted public services being done in a different way. The physical space was extremely important – bringing civil servants out of their day to day location and into a new space that enabled culture change, co-locating at CodeBase, bringing our companies in. This wasn’t some weekend course – this is a six month immersive experience. And that’s why Sepa change their procurement process. You see real change. The government of the twenty first century is very different. You have places like Dubai opening their services, if we don’t we’ll be left behind. Charlie talked about that collaboration across sectors – that will create talent, improve services, and attract investment opportunities.
AG: You talked about Data Lab, coming out of a University and thinking with a service design perspective… That’s building talent…
CJ: Talking of boundaries… Perhaps the biggest boundary is between Edinburgh and Glasgow. We are so close together yet we tend to look in different directions… We should be thinking about collaboration in that frame. The FinTech sector is across both cities for instance, if we have capabilities we should collaborate to realise all those potential benefits.
AG: And that’s a good place to finish I think, that need to think internationally and compete globally.
SESSION 4: INFRASTRUCTURE:  Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN), Masterclass by Capita


  • Mike MacDonald (MM), Head of Digital & Innovation, Capita, 
  • Toni Gribben (TG), Scotland Manager, Cisco
  • Anne Moises (AM)
MM: I get to look at all the cool and new stuff that happens on the SWAN network. A quick recap on SWAN: SWAN was born out o f the McClelland Report in 2011 that recommended shared services and SWAN has saved Scottish Government about £30m. We have 6000 sites across 50 organisations providing bandwidth up to 10 Gbps. We have 250 unbundled exchanges providing cost effective connectivity closer to customers across the length and breadth of Scotland. It’s a huge network which includes local authorities, NHS Scotland, SQA, Forestry Commission, etc.

We have been running 4 years, and we have choices to make – to further connect Scotland, further reduce cost, be technology focused and connected or; to align to digital strategy and connect the technology with that strategy. That latter path is the interesting one for us to take now.

The Scottish Government digital strategy for scotland talks abuot the new digital economy, digital public services, skills, connectivity, cyber security, data and innovation, participation. We have connectivity but we’ve also helped be a cornerstone customer to help push out fibre to new locations and we are happy to do that. We have that top level strategy, but there are also sectorial strategies in Scotland with different needs – so we need to address those differing but related strategic needs. When you look at these, when you look at highly varied technology adoption levels, how do we cater to all of those needs.

We’ve focused on areas with real potential impact: smart healthcare, digital education, data based outcomes, health and social care integration. And we are looking analytics – offering stuff like Titration on a Software As A Service basis at a more affordable level. We see lots of IoT on SWAN, and its all about the data and insights you derive from that. But we have question marks here… About what you need.

The way we want to bring this together is in the SWAN Marketplace. This is bringing together SMEs right up to big multinationals. We are in conversation with Procurement Scotland so we can see how we provide opportunities for SMEs to sell their services and products through the SWAN marketplace. For instance Ajenta came out of the Janet network, as any-to-any teleconferencing. You can bridge connections across legacy conferencing kit through to Skype for Business. They also own the “Push Doctor” as well – and they are actively looking to make that available through us. We are doing a formal launch of vscene 2.0 with these folk next week – do come along.

We see a lot of interest in IoT. We talk about Smart City, Town, Community… We like to think about Smart Scotland. I’ll talk about some examples here. In the highlands they have a big challenge around water. Local authorities have to test the water every month for temperature. That’s usually one person in a van taking measurements. So we’ve put sensors in place to enable that testing to take place more efficiently. And we’ve also put a gateway in place in Angus for use by SEPA.

AM: I am absolutely delighted to be here to make an announcement. We are announcing a proposal – still to be formally agreed by the SWAN management board – for Phase 1 of the IoT enablement of SWAN, for int the region of 50 LoRaWAN Gateways, courtesy of CISCO. Expanding on our pilots, and we are starting from the outside in, from the more rural areas of Scotland, rather than starting in the easier to do cities. We will be learning and developing and scaling up. This is back to the origins of SWAN – as a starting point for innovation, and more than a network. Coverage is being driven by Public Sector IoT projects, and is conjunction with Public Sector customers, CENSIS, Innovation Partners and SMEs to stimulate the market. This is funded from SWAN Innovation Fund. And, once confirmed, it will begin roll out in the summer. There is an accompanying press release – just now.

TG: I am country manager for CISCO in Scotland. We are based in San Jose and we offer software services worth around $50Bn. We pride ourselves on delivering innovation. I’m going to describe LoRaWAN, some case studies, and an additional ask before you leave. CISCO sees IoT as the combination of people, process, information and things. Less than 1% of connectable “things” are connected to the internet. By 2020 estimates vary between there being 15Bn and 50Bn connected things by 2020. That’s a huge opportunity for all of us in this room.

Our previous chief executive was a visionary around IoT, and from that we lead the development of LoRaWAN – Long Range Wide Area Network – connectivity. Never has it been more prevalent that we are connected. We use blue tooth, 3G, 4G and increasingly 5G. The beauty of LoRaWAN is that it takes only low energy and a low data rate to connect to the network. Sensors can give you 5 years worth of power. You implement it once, then leave for 5 years. It’s low cost, runs on unlicensed spectrum, and one gateway can handle up to 10k devices. It’s hugely exciting for all of us.

In terms of use cases… There are 12 listed here and 10 are in place now already: water and gas metering, street lighting, smart building, smart parking, tracking, leak detection and irrigation, water level and flood management, fault management, smoke detectors, smart energy and fast demand response, waste management, traffic management. These represent huge cost savings in waste management and water management for instance. But this takes culture and process change and you need to be open to that.

SESSION 5: SKILLS: A digitally skilled nation

  • Donald McLaughlin (DM), Technology Sector Business Leader and Chair of Scotland’s Digital Technologies Skills Group; 
  • Kirsten Urquhart (KU), Digital & Smart-Tech Director, Young Scot;
  • Joshua Ryan-Saha (JRS), Skills Manager, The Data Lab.
  • Chaired by: Melinda Matthews Clarkson (MMC), Chief Executive, CodeClan.
MM: We are here to talk about skills, so it’s a chance to go wild with all those questions you’ve been building up.
JRS: I am the Skills Manager at Data Lab, developing data skills across Scotland.
KU: I work at Young Scot and, whilst you might be familiar with our discount card, we also engage directly with young people involving them in skills, service design, etc.
DM: The Digital Technologies Skills Group and we work with various organisations – including CodeClan.
MM: Every session I’ve been in has a skills dimension. We have 1200 unfilled roles in Scotland with a tech dimension… How do we address that? How do we boost GDP through skills development. Lets start with young people.
KU: For us working with young people, we try to talk about digital as not being the end point – not just coding, digital, cyber, but instead digital as an element in arts, creativity, transport. How do we focus on problem solving, creativity and softer skills that ready them for that work. A gendered element comes in here as well, in terms of understanding what tech skills are.
MM: Is there any job that doesn’t involve digital skills?
DM: Absolutely not. Those 12800 unfilled jobs are specifically in tech but that demand is growing, and exists outside the tech sector. To make Scotland economially successgul we need to bring the tech sector to life, to reinforce the appeal of these careers, the creative and problem solving aspects.
JRS: We face real challenges here: we face Brexit so need home grown talent if access to the European talent pool reduces. And we need tech skills across professions, including hardcore coding skills. We have to address head on the sheer quantity of computing teachers – there is a third of what was there 5 years ago, and that wasn’t enough then. So how can we increase that, and make those roles attractive.
DM: And doing that doens’t event address those skills across the board – all teachers should be digitally skilled so that is part of inspiring young people across the board.
JRS: Creative sector is really interesting – Scotland has a competitive advantage in games and that’s cretive and digital.
MM: There are jobs and opportunities… So why don’t we have those skills?
KU: I think it’s a confidence thing for many people. We talked about softer skills… We need to change the language a bit, we need to upskill, we need to bolster that confidence…
MM: That goes to the gender issue.
DM: The tech sector has an 80:20 split between male and female workers. There is some bias and unconcious bias about what the tech sector is, what the work looks like. We need more role models in tech and digital – careers, job satisfaction. And we need metaskills – not just coding but computational thinking, creative thinking, ability to work in teams… If we focus on that… Half of the jobs people will do in 20 years haven’t been invented yet – we need broader reusable skills. And I think that will help bring women into the sector.
MM: How do we change that image – marketing or?
JRS: In Scotland we have Swift, we have GirlGeekScotland, we see great stuff everyday. There are specific things we can do too. At Heriot Watt we’ve created a two year data science conversion course – normally for that sort of MSc you need computing background so this course gets you up to speed and then focuses in. In the Met Police they intervened to improve the diversity of police officers, looking critically at every stage – we should do that with colleges, universities etc. Charlie Jeffreys spoke about making Edinburgh the Data Capital of Europe and I think we should make it the best place for women to work in tech – having leaders like you Melinda, or like our CEO Gillian, really helps.
DM: Having those visible role models will help generate excitement in the sector.
KU: I think we have to work with parents and carers around removing stigmas around less traditional learner journeys – not always taking a university route. Apprenticeships and internships can be great for young people to get into this.
MM: Graduates from CodeClan won’t have “5 year” skills, what can we do for next level skills…
DM: I think rather than saying 5 years or 10 years coding skills, we look at diversity – of gender, of age but also of background – into the workplace, To be sustainable we need to think differently about the talent pool. And we need the talent pool to be much more flexible and prepared for industry.
JRS: We have to think about how we support learning and training continuously. Everything changes so quickly – all the predictions see the ability to learn as the key skill for the future. We may also need more risk in hiring. We need more support for training… And i think Scotland is in a great place to do this.
MM: When we look at all the universities training… We have 1000 graduates per year… But we have 12800 empty roles. I think we need marketing and localised examples that show tech is fun and exciting to work on… Who would you pick as a role model?
KU: For me it has to be achievable. So I think it would be young people who’ve come through our programme and had great outcomes from Modern Apprenticeships.
DM: In some ways the best role models are the less known people. Apprenticeships can be brilliant to see the skills pipeline coming through. We need young women role models – not neccassarily CEOs but those working in the sector with great careers.
KU: I think that role models who are women with families, young children etc. would be really helpful as so many role models right now are quite different.
Q1) What do you think about traditional degree programmes as they are structured?
A1 – JRS) I think we’ve seen real lack of investment by the private sector in their own staff and skills. We need apprenticeships. We need in-work training. And there need to be a variety of models – e.g. training for those returning to work after having children. There needs to be more investment by the public and private sector.
A1 – KU) That model would work for us as a small charity – the space to train and develop skills.
A1 – DM) There needs a rebalancing of HE and FE and skills and lifelong learning. I think all universities and colleges funding should be conditional on supporting lifelong learning.
A1 – MM) Scotland has the most amazing funding model for higher education. I would change it around so that its free if you are studying degrees that Scotland truly needs. Anyone can study, but you go for free if you are fulfilling a real skills challenge. Invest in the skills you need to grow…
A1 – JRS) I can see that we do need as many people trained up in software engineering etc. as possible. But actually in data science we need people with social sciences and creative backgrounds… We need to incentivise technical skills but we don’t want to penalise subjects with a real impact on working and ethically.
A1 – MM) Maybe that’s about embedding digital skills in social science degrees?
A1 – JRS) Actually in Edinburgh University and Edinburgh Napier University will be doing that under that City Region Deal actually.
Q2) My daughter had almost no computing teaching – she had computing classes in year 1 and 2 but when it came to options it wasn’t even there. And data understanding and analysis wasn’t there across the curriculum. I spoke to computing teachers about what was actually happening in class – no social media as RM won’t allow that, they had students breaking through firewalls… These people will be working for Google and Amazon, etc. they should be encouraged to break through firewalls!
A2 – MM) Social isolation is a real risk and actually social media and community are a key part of educating people with the useful digital skills, especially older people.
Q3) Why isn’t there excitement about data analysis? It’s hard to explain, it’s hard to do., it’s boring.. And those salaries shown earlier aren’t representative.
A3 – JRS) I don’t think it’s boring at all – it’s problem solving and making real change! Those salaries are what we see graduates of data science MScs attracting.
A3 – MM) Data based decision making is key across sectors, even if it’s backing up gut feelings.
A3 – JRS) We need more data literacy across the board, but gut feeling and decisions do come into it… And we have to bride that human and data literacy.

As a final note on this session I’d remind readers of our Digital Footprint MOOC, a free self-led online course which covers managing your digital footprint and encourages critical thinking about social media, privacy and personal data. You can find it on Coursera here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/digital-footprint.

And with that we are (slightly abruptly) done for the day. Thanks to the organisers for a stimulating day of discussion and networking. 


Aug 022017

As we reach the end of the academic year, and I begin gearing up for the delightful chaos of the Edinburgh Fringe and my show, Is Your Online Reputation Hurting You?, I thought this would be a good time to look back on a busy recent few months of talks and projects (inspired partly by Lorna Campbell’s post along the same lines!).

This year the Managing Your Digital Footprint work has been continuing at a pace…

We began the year with funding from the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme for a new project, led by Prof. Sian Bayne: “A Live Pulse”: Yik Yak for Teaching, Learning and Research at Edinburgh. Sian, Louise Connelly (PI for the original Digital Footprint research), and I have been working with the School of Informatics and a small team of fantastic undergraduate student research associates to look at Yik Yak and anonymity online. Yik Yak closed down this spring which has made this even more interesting as a cutting edge research project. You can find out more on the project blog – including my recent post on addressing ethics of research in anonymous social media spaces; student RA Lilinaz’s excellent post giving her take on the project; and Sian’s fantastic keynote from#CALRG2017, giving an overview of the challenges and emerging findings from this work. Expect more presentations and publications to follow over the coming months.

Over the last year or so Louise Connelly and I have been busy developing a Digital Footprint MOOC building on our previous research, training and best practice work and share this with the world. We designed a three week MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that runs on a rolling basis on Coursera – a new session kicks off every month. The course launched this April and we were delighted to see it get some fantastic participant feedback and some fantastic press coverage (including a really positive experience of being interviewed by The Sun).

The MOOC has been going well and building interest in the consultancy and training work around our Digital Footprint research. Last year I received ISG Innovation Fund support to pilot this service and the last few months have included great opportunities to share research-informed expertise and best practices through commissioned and invited presentations and sessions including those for Abertay University, University of Stirling/Peer Review Project Academic Publishing Routes to Success event, Edinburgh Napier University, Asthma UK’s Patient Involvement Fair, CILIPS Annual Conference, CIGS Web 2.0 & Metadata seminar, and ReCon 2017. You can find more details of all of these, and other presentations and workshops on the Presentations & Publications page.

In June an unexpected short notice invitation came my way to do a mini version of my Digital Footprint Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas show as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I’ve always attended EIFF films but also spent years reviewing films there so it was lovely to perform as part of the official programme, working with our brilliant CODI compare Susan Morrison and my fellow mini-CODI performer, mental health specialist Professor Steven Lawrie. We had a really engaged audience with loads of questions – an excellent way to try out ideas ahead of this August’s show.

Also in June, Louise and I were absolutely delighted to find out that our article (in Vol. 11, No. 1, October 2015) for ALISS Quarterly, the journal of the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences, had been awarded Best Article of the Year. Huge thanks to the lovely folks at ALISS – this was lovely recognition for our article, which can read in full in the ALISS Quarterly archive.

In July I attended the European Conference on Social Media (#ecsm17) in Vilnius, Lithuania. In addition to co-chairing the Education Mini Track with the lovely Stephania Manca (Italian National Research Council), I was also there to present Louise and my Digital Footprint paper, “Exploring Risk, Privacy and the Impact of Social Media Usage with Undergraduates“, and to present a case study of the EDINA Digital Footprint consultancy and training service for the Social Media in Practice Excellence Awards 2017. I am delighted to say that our service was awarded 2nd place in those awards!

Social Media in Practice Excellence Award 2017 - 2nd place - certificate

My Social Media in Practice Excellence Award 2017 2nd place certificate (still awaiting a frame).

You can read more about the awards – and my fab fellow finalists Adam and Lisa – in this EDINA news piece.

On my way back from Lithuania I had another exciting stop to make at the Palace of Westminster. The lovely folk at the Parliamentary Digital Service invited me to give a talk, “If I Googled you, what would I find? Managing your digital footprint” for their Cyber Security Week which is open to members, peers, and parliamentary staff. I’ll have a longer post on that presentation coming very soon here. For now I’d like to thank Salim and the PDS team for the invitation and an excellent experience.

The digital flyer for my CODI 2017 show - huge thanks to the CODI interns for creating this.

The digital flyer for my CODI 2017 show (click to view a larger version) – huge thanks to the CODI interns for creating this.

The final big Digital Footprint project of the year is my forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe show, Is Your Online Reputation Hurting You? (book tickets here!). This year the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas has a new venue – the New Town Theatre – and two strands of events: afternoon shows; and “Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas by Candlelight”. It’s a fantastic programme across the Fringe and I’m delighted to be part of the latter strand with a thrilling but challengingly competitive Friday night slot during peak fringe! However, that evening slot also means we can address some edgier questions so I will be talking about how an online reputation can contribute to fun, scary, weird, interesting experiences, risks, and opportunities – and what you can do about it.

QR code for CODI17 Facebook Event

Help spread the word about my CODI show by tweeting with #codi17 or sharing the associated Facebook event.

To promote the show I will be doing a live Q&A on YouTube on Saturday 5th August 2017, 10am. Please do add your questions via Twitter (#codi17digifoot) or via this anonymous survey and/or tune in on Saturday (the video below will be available on the day and after the event).

So, that’s been the Digital Footprint work this spring/summer… What else is there to share?

Well, throughout this year I’ve been working on a number of EDINA’s ISG Innovation Fund projects…

The Reference Rot in Theses: a HiberActive Pilot project has been looking at how to develop the fantastic prior work undertaken during the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Hiberlink project (a collaboration between EDINA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics), which investigated “reference rot” (where URLs cease to work) and “content drift” (where URLs work but the content changes over time) in scientific scholarly publishing.

For our follow up work the focus has shifted to web citations – websites, reports, etc. – something which has become a far more visible challenge for many web users since January. I’ve been managing this project, working with developer, design and user experience colleagues to develop a practical solution around the needs of PhD students, shaped by advice from Library and University Collections colleagues.

If you are familiar with the Memento standard, and/or follow Herbert von de Sompel and Martin Klein’s work you’ll be well aware of how widespread the challenge of web citations changing over time can be, and the seriousness of the implications. The Internet Archive might be preserving all the (non-R-rated) gifs from Geocities but without preserving government reports, ephemeral content, social media etc. we would be missing a great deal of the cultural record and, in terms of where our project comes in, crucial resources and artefacts in many modern scholarly works. If you are new the issue of web archiving I would recommend a browse of my notes from the IIPC Web Archiving Week 2017 and papers from the co-located RESAW 2017 conference.

A huge part of the HiberActive project has been working with five postgraduate student interns to undertake interviews and usability work with PhD students across the University. My personal and huge thanks to Clarissa, Juliet, Irene, Luke and Shiva!

Still from the HiberActive gif featuring Library Cat.

A preview of the HiberActive gif featuring Library Cat.

You can see the results of this work at our demo site, http://hiberactive.edina.ac.uk/, and we would love your feedback on what we’ve done. You’ll find an introductory page on the project as well as three tools for archiving websites and obtaining the appropriate information to cite – hence adopting the name one our interviewees suggested, Site2Cite. We are particularly excited to have a tool which enables you to upload a Word or PDF document, have all URLs detected, and which then returns a list of URLs and the archived citable versions (as a csv file).

Now that the project is complete, we are looking at what the next steps may be so if you’d find these tools useful for your own publications or teaching materials, we’d love to hear from you.  I’ll also be presenting this work at Repository Fringe 2017 later this week so, if you are there, I’ll see you in the 10×10 session on Thursday!

To bring the HiberActive to life our students suggested something fun and my colleague Jackie created a fun and informative gif featuring Library Cat, Edinburgh’s world famous sociable on-campus feline. Library Cat has also popped up in another EDINA ISG Innovation-Funded project, Pixel This, which my colleagues James Reid and Tom Armitage have been working on. This project has been exploring how Pixel Sticks could be used around the University. To try them out properly I joined the team for fun photography night in George Square with Pixel Stick loaded with images of notable University of Edinburgh figures. One of my photos from that night, featuring the ghostly image of the much missed Library Cat (1.0) went a wee bit viral over on Facebook:

James Reid and I have also been experimenting with Tango-capable phone handsets in the (admittedly daftly named) Strictly Come Tango project. Tango creates impressive 3D scans of rooms and objects and we have been keen to find out what one might do with that data, how it could be used in buildings and georeferenced spaces. This was a small exploratory project but you can see a wee video on what we’ve been up to here.

In addition to these projects I’ve also been busy with continuing involvement in the Edinburgh Cityscope project, which I sit on the steering group for. Cityscope provided one of our busiest events for this spring’s excellent Data Festread more about EDINA’s participation in this new exciting event around big data, data analytics and data driven innovation, here.

I have also been working on two rather awesome Edinburgh-centric projects. Curious Edinburgh officially launched for Android, and released an updated iOS app, for this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival in April. The app includes History of Science; Medicine; Geosciences; Physics; and a brand new Biotechnology tours that led you explore Edinburgh’s fantastic scientific legacy. The current PTAS-funded project is led by Dr Niki Vermeulen (Science, Technology & Innovation Studies), with tours written by Dr Bill Jenkins, and will see the app used in teaching around 600 undergraduate students this autumn. If you are curious about the app (pun entirely intended!), visiting Edinburgh – or just want to take a long distance virtual tour – do download the app, rate and review it, and let us know what you think!

Image of the Curious Edinburgh History of Biotechnology and Genetics Tour.

A preview of the new Curious Edinburgh History of Biotechnology and Genetics Tour.

The other Edinburgh project which has been progressing at a pace this year is LitLong: Word on the Street, an AHRC-funded project which builds on the prior LitLong project to develop new ways to engage with Edinburgh’s rich literary heritage. Edinburgh was the first city in the world to be awarded UNESCO City of Literature status (in 2008) and there are huge resources to draw upon. Prof. James Loxley (English Literature) is leading this project, which will be showcased in some fun and interesting ways at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August. Keep an eye on litlong.org for updates or follow @litlong.

And finally… Regular readers here will be aware that I’m Convener for eLearning@ed (though my term is up and I’ll be passing the role onto a successor later this year – nominations welcomed!), a community of learning technologists and academic and support staff working with technologies in teaching and learning contexts. We held our big annual conference, eLearning@ed 2017: Playful Learning this June and I was invited to write about it on the ALTC Blog. You can explore a preview and click through to my full article below.

Playful Learning: the eLearning@ed Conference 2017

Phew! So, it has been a rather busy few months for me, which is why you may have seen slightly fewer blog posts and tweets from me of late…

In terms of the months ahead there are some exciting things brewing… But I’d also love to hear any ideas you may have for possible collaborations as my EDINA colleagues and I are always interested to work on new projects, develop joint proposals, and work in new innovative areas. Do get in touch!

And in the meantime, remember to book those tickets for my CODI 2017 show if you can make it along on 11th August!

Jun 142017

Following on from Day One of IIPC/RESAW I’m at the British Library for a connected Web Archiving Week 2017 event: Digital Conversations @BL, Web Archives: truth, lies and politics in the 21st century. This is a panel session chaired by Elaine Glaser (EG) with Jane Winters (JW), Valerie Schafer (VS), Jefferson Bailey (JB) and Andrew Jackson (AJ). 

As usual, this is a liveblog so corrections, additions, etc. are welcomed. 

EG: Really excited to be chairing this session. I’ll let everyone speak for a few minutes, then ask some questions, then open it out…

JB: I thought I’d talk a bit about our archiving strategy at Internet Archive. We don’t archive the whole of the internet, but we aim to collect a lot of it. The approach is multi-pronged: to take entire web domains in shallow but broad strategy; to work with other libraries and archives to focus on particular subjects or areas or collections; and then to work with researchers who are mining or scraping the web, but not neccassarily having preservation strategies. So, when we talk about political archiving or web archiving, it’s about getting as much as possible, with different volumes and frequencies. I think we know we can’t collect everything but important things frequently, less important things less frequently. And we work with national governments, with national libraries…

The other thing I wanted to raise in

T.R. Shellenberg who was an important archivist at the National Archive in the US. He had an idea about archival strategies: that there is a primary documentation strategy, and a secondary straetgy. The primary for a government and agencies to do for their own use, the secondary for futur euse in unknown ways… And including documentary and evidencey material (the latter being how and why things are done). Those evidencery elements becomes much more meaningful on the web, that has eerged and become more meaningful in the context of our current political environment.

AJ: My role is to build a Web Archive for the United Kingdom. So I want to ask a question that comes out of this… “Can a web archive lie?”. Even putting to one side that it isn’t possible to archive the whole web.. There is confusion because we can’t get every version of everything we capture… Then there are biases from our work. We choose all UK sites, but some are captured more than others… And our team isn’t as diverse as it could be. And what we collect is also constrained by technology capability. And we are limited by time issues… We don’t normally know when material is created… The crawler often finds things only when they become popular… So the academic paper is picked up after a BBC News item – they are out of order. We would like to use more structured data, such as Twitter which has clear publication date…

But can the archive lie? Well material is much easier than print to make an untraceable change. As digital is increasingly predominant we need to be aware that our archive could he hacked… So we have to protect for that, evidence that we haven’t been hacked… And we have to build systems that are secure and can maintain that trust. Libraries will have to take care of each other.

JW: The Oxford Dictionary word of the year in 2016 was “post truth” whilst the Australian dictionary went for “Fake News”. Fake News for them is either disinformation on websites for political purposes, or commercial benefit. Mirrium Webster went for “surreal” – their most searched for work. It feels like we live in very strange times… There aren’t calls for resignation where there once were… Hasn’t it always been thus though… ? For all the good citizens who point out the errors of a fake image circulated on Twitter, for many the truth never catches the lie. Fakes, lies and forgeries have helped change human history…

But modern fake news is different to that which existed before. Firstly there is the speed of fake news… Mainstream media only counteracts or addresses this. Some newspapers and websites do public corrections, but that isn’t the norm. Once publishing took time and means. Social media has made it much easier to self-publish. One can create, but also one can check accuracy and integrity – reverse image searching to see when a photo has been photoshopped or shows events of two things before…

And we have politicians making claims that they believe can be deleted and disappear from our memory… We have web archives – on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Referendum NHS pledge claim is archived and lasts long beyond the bus – which was brought by Greenpeace and repainted. The archives have also been capturing political parties websites throughout our endless election cycle… The DUP website crashed after announcement of the election results because of demands… But the archive copy was available throughout. Also a rumour that a hacker was creating an irish language version of the DUP website… But that wasn’t a new story, it was from 2011… And again the archive shows that, and archive of news websites do that.

Social Networks Responses to Terrorist Attacks in France – Valerie Schafer. 

Before 9/11 we had some digital archives of terrorist materials on the web. But this event challenged archivists and researchers. Charlie Hebdo, Paris Bataclan and Nice attacks are archived… People can search at the BNF to explore these archives, to provide users a way to see what has been said. And at the INA you can also explore the archive, including Titter archives. You can search, see keywords, explore timelines crossing key hashtags… And you can search for images… including the emoji’s used in discussion of Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan.

We also have Archive-It collections for Charlie Hebdo. This raises some questions of what should and should not be collected… We did not normally collected news papers and audio visual sites, but decided to in this case as we faced a special event. But we still face challenges – it is easiest to collect data from Twitter than from Facebook. But it is free to collect Twitter data in real time, but the archived/older data is charged for so you have to capture it in the moment. And there are limits on API collection… INA captured more than 12 Million tweets for Charlie Hebdo, for instance, it is very complete but not exhaustive.

We continue to collect for #jesuischarlie and #bataclan… They continually used and added to, in similar or related attacks, etc. There is a time for exploring and reflecting on this data, and space for critics too….

But we also see that content gets deleted… It is hard to find fake news on social media, unless you are looking for it… Looking for #fakenews just won’t cut it… So, we had a study on fake news… And we recommend that authorities are cautious about material they share. But also there is a need for cross checking – the kinds of projects with Facebook and Twitter. Web archives are full of fake news, but also full of others’ attempts to correct and check fake news as well…

EG: I wanted to go back in time to the idea of the term “fake news”… In order to understand from what “Fake News” actually is, we have to understand how it differs from previous lies and mistruths… I’m from outside the web world… We are often looking at tactics to fight fire with fire, to use an unfortunate metaphor…  How new is it? And who is to blame and why?

JW: Talking about it as a web problem, or a social media issue isn’t right. It’s about humans making decisions to critique or not that content. But it is about algorithmic sharing and visibility of that information.

JB: I agree. What is new is the way media is produced, disseminated and consumed – those have technological underpinnings. And they have been disruptive of publication and interpretation in a web world.

EG: Shouldn’t we be talking about a culture not just technology… It’s not just the “vessel”… Isn’t the dissemination have more of a role than perhaps we are suggesting…

AJ: When you build a social network or any digital space you build in different affordances… So that Facebook and Twitter is different. And you can create automated accounts, with Twitter especially offering an affordance for robots etc which allows you to give the impression of a movement. There are ways to change those affordances, but there will also always be fake news and issues…

EG: There are degrees of agency in fake news.. from bots to deliberate posts…

JW: I think there is also the aspect of performing your popularity – creating content for likes and shares, regardless of whether what you share is true or not.

VS: I know terrorism is different… But any tweet sharing fake news you get 4 retweets denying… You have more tweets denying than sharing fake news…

AJ: One wonders about the filter bubble impact here… Facebook encourges inward looking discussion… Social media has helped like minded people find each other, and perhaps they can be clipped off more easily from the wider discussion…

VS: I think also what is interested is the game between social media and traditional media…You have questions and relationship there…

EG: All the internet can do is reflect the crooked timber of reality… We know that people have confirmation bias, we are quite tolerant of untruths, to be less tolerant of information that contradicts our perceptions, even if untrue.You have people and the net being equally tolerant of lies and mistruths… But isn’t there another factor here… The people demonised as gatekeepers… By putting in place structures of authority – which were journalism and academics… Their resources are reduced now… So what role do you see for those traditional gatekeepers…

VS: These gatekeepers are no more the traditional gatekeepers that they were…. They work in 24 hour news cycles and have to work to that. In France they are trying to rethink that role, there were a lot of questions about this… Whether that’s about how you react to changing events, and what happens during election…. People thinking about that…

JB: There is an authority and responsibiity for media still, but has the web changed that? Looking back its suprising now how few organisations controlled most of the media… But is that that different now?

EG: I still think you are being too easy on the internet… We’ve had investigate journalism by Carrell Cadwalladar and others on Cambridge Analytica and others who deliberately manipulate reality… You talked about witness testimony in relation to terrorism… Isn’t there an immediacy and authenticity challenge there… Donald Trump’s tweets… They are transparant but not accountable… Haven’t we created a problem that we are now trying to fix?

AJ: Yes. But there are two things going on… It seems to be that people care less about lying… People see Trump lying, and they don’t care, and media organisations don’t care as long as advertising money comes in… A parallel for that in social media – the flow of content and ads takes priority over truth. There is an economic driver common to both mediums that is warping that…

JW: There is an aspect of unpopularity aspect too… a (nameless) newspaper here that shares content to generate “I can’t believe this!” and then sharing and generating advertising income… But on a positive note, there is scope and appetite for strong investigative journalism… and that is facilitated by the web and digital methods…

VS: Citizens do use different media and cross media… Colleagues are working on how TV is used… And different channels, to compare… Mainstream and social media are strongly crossed together…

EG: I did want to talk about temporal element… Twitter exists in the moment, making it easy to make people accountable… Do you see Twitter doing what newspapers did?

AJ: Yes… A substrate…

JB: It’s amazing how much of the web is archived… With “Save Page Now” we see all kinds of things archived – including pages that exposed the whole Russian downing a Ukrainian plane… Citizen action, spotting the need to capture data whilst it is still there and that happens all the time…

EG: I am still sceptical about citizen journalism… It’s a small group of narrow demographics people, it’s time consuming… Perhaps there is still a need for journalist roles… We did talk about filter bubbles… We hear about newspapers and media as biased… But isn’t the issue that communities of misinformation are not penetrated by the other side, but by the truth…

JW: I think bias in newspapers is quite interesting and different to unacknowledged bias… Most papers are explicit in their perspective… So you know what you will get…

AJ: I think so, but bias can be quite subtle… Different perspectives on a common issue allows comparison… But other stories only appear in one type of paper… That selection case is harder to compare…

EG: This really is a key point… There is a difference between facts and truth, and explicitly framed interpretation or commentary… Those things are different… That’s where I wonder about web archives… When I look at Wikipedia… It’s almost better to go to a source with an explicit bias where I can see a take on something, unlike Wikipedia which tries to focus on fact. Talking about politicians lying misses the point… It should be about a specific rhetorical position… That definition of truth comes up when we think of the role of the archive… How do you deal with that slightly differing definition of what truth is…

JB: I talked about different complimentary collecting strategy… The Archivist as a thing has some political power in deciding what goes in the historical record… The volume of the web does undercut that power in a way that I think is good – archives have historically been about the rich and the powerful… So making archives non-exclusive somewhat addresses that… But there will be fake news in the archive…

JW: But that’s great! Archives aren’t about collecting truth. Things will be in there that are not true, partially true, or factual… It’s for researchers to sort that out lately…

VS: Your comment on Wikipedia… They do try to be factual, neutral… But not truth… And to have a good balance of power… For us as researchers we can be surprised by the neutral point of view… Fortunately the web archive does capture a mixture of opinions…

EG: Yeah, so that captures what people believed at a point of time – true or not… So I would like to talk about the archive itself… Do you see your role as being successors to journalists… Or as being able to harvest the world’s record in a different way…

JB: I am an archivist with that training and background, as are a lot of people working on web archives and interesting spaces. Certainly historic preservation drives a lot of collecting aspects… But also engineering and technological aspects. So it’s poeple interested in archiving, preservation, but also technology… And software engineers interested in web archiving.

AJ: I’m a physicist but I’m now running web archives. And for us it’s an extension of the legal deposit role… Anything made public on the web should go into the legal deposit… That’s the theory, in practice there are questions of scope, and where we expend quality assurance energy. That’s the source of possible collection bias. And I want tools to support archivists… And also to prompt for challenging bias – if we can recognise that taking place.

JW: There are also questions of what you foreground in Special Collections. There are decisions being made about collections that will be archived and catalogued more deeply…

VS: In BNF my colleagues are work in an area with a tradition, with legal deposit responsibility… There are politics of heritage and what it should be. I think that is the case for many places where that activity sits with other archivists and librarians.

EG: You do have this huge responsibility to curate the record of human history… How do you match the top down requirements with the bottom up nature of the web as we now talk about i.t.

JW: One way is to have others come in to your department to curate particular collections…

JB: We do have special collections – people can choose their own, public suggestions, feeds from researchers, all sorts of projects to get the tools in place for building web archives for their own communities… I think for the sake of longevity and use going forward, the curated collections will probably have more value… Even if they seem more narrow now.

VS: Also interesting that archives did not select bottom-up curation. In Switzerland they went top down – there are a variety of approaches across Europe.

JW: We heard about the 1916 Easter Rising archive earlier, which was through public nominations… Which is really interesting…

AJ: And social media can help us – by seeing links and hashtags. We looked at this 4-5 years ago everyone linked to the BBC, but now we have more fake news sites etc…

VS: We do have this question of what should be archived… We see capture of the vernacular web – kitten or unicorn gifs etc… !

EG: I have a dystopian scenario in my head… Could you see a time years from now when newspapers are dead, public broadcasters are more or less dead… And we have flotsom and jetsom… We have all this data out there… And kinds of data who use all this social media data… Can you reassure me?

AJ: No…

JW: I think academics are always ready to pick holes in things, I hope that that continues…

JB: I think more interesting is the idea that there may not be a web… Apps, walled gardens… Facebook is pretty hard to web archive – they make it intentionally more challenging than it should be. There are lots of communication tools that disappeared… So I worry more about loss of a web that allows the positive affordances of participation and engagement…

EG: There is the issue of privatising and sequestering the web… I am becoming increasingly aware of the importance of organisations – like the BL and Internet Archive… Those roles did used to be taken on by publicly appointed organisations and bodies… How are they impacted by commercial privatisation… And how those roles are changing… How do you envisage that public sphere of collecting…

JW: For me more money for organisations like the British Library is important. Trust is crucial, and I trust that they will continue to do that in a trustworthy way. Commercial entities cannot be trusted to protect our cultural heritage…

AJ: A lot of people know what we do with physical material, but are surprised by our digital work. We have to advocate for ourselves. We are also constrained by the legal framework we operate within, and we have to challenge that over time…

JB: It’s super exciting to see libraries and archives recognised for their responsibility and trust… But that also puts them at higher risk by those who they hold accountable, and being recognised as bastions of accountability makes them more vulnerable.

VS: Recently we had 20th birthday of the Internet Archive, and 10 years of the French internet archiving… This is all so fast moving… People are more and more aware of web archiving… We will see new developments, ways to make things open… How to find and search and explore the archive more easily…

EG: The question then is how we access this data… The new masters of the universe will be those emerging gatekeepers who can explore the data… What is the role between them and the public’s ability to access data…

VS: It is not easy to explain everything around web archives but people will demand access…

JW: There are different levels of access… Most people will be able to access what they want. But there is also a great deal of expertise in organisations – it isn’t just commercial data work. And working with the Alan Turing Institute and cutting edge research helps here…

EG: One of the founders of the internet, Vint Cerf, says that “if you want to keep your treasured family pictures, print them out”. Are we overly optimistic about the permanence of the record.

AJ: We believe we have the skills and capabilities to maintain most if not all of it over time… There is an aspect of benign neglect… But if you are active about your digital archive you could have a copy in every continent… Digital allows you to protect content from different types of risk… I’m confident that the library can do this as part of it’s mission.


Q1) Coming back to fake news and journalists… There is a changing role between the web as a communications media, and web archiving… Web archives are about documenting this stuff for journalists for research as a source, they don’t build the discussion… They are not the journalism itself.

Q2) I wanted to come back to the idea of the Filter Bubble, in the sense that it mediates the experience of the web now… It is important to capture that in some way, but how do we archive that… And changes from one year to the next?

Q3) It’s kind of ironic to have nostalgia about journalism and traditional media as gatekeepers, in a country where Rupert Murdoch is traditionally that gatekeeper. Global funding for web archiving is tens of millions; the budget for the web is tens of billions… The challenges are getting harder – right now you can use robots.txt but we have DRM coming and that will make it illegal to archive the web – and the budgets have to increase to match that to keep archives doing their job.

AJ: To respond to Q3… Under the legislation it will not be illegal for us to archive that data… But it will make it more expensive and difficult to do, especially at scale. So your point stands, even with that. In terms of the Filter Bubble, they are out of our scope, but we know they are important… It would be good to partner with an organisation where the modern experience of media is explicitly part of it’s role.

JW: I think that idea of the data not being the only thing that matters is important. Ethnography is important for understanding that context around all that other stuff…  To help you with supplementary research. On the expense side, it is increasingly important to demonstrate the value of that archiving… Need to think in terms of financial return to digital and creative economies, which is why researchers have to engage with this.

VS: Regarding the first two questions… Archives reflect reality, so there will be lies there… Of course web archives must be crossed and compared with other archives… And contextualisation matters, the digital environment in which the web was living… Contextualisation of web environment is important… And with terrorist archive we tried to document the process of how we selected content, and archive that too for future researchers to have in mind and understand what is there and why…

JB: I was interested in the first question, this idea of what happens and preserving the conversation… That timeline was sometimes decades before but is now weeks or days or less… In terms of experience websites are now personalised and our ability to capture that is impossible on a broad question. So we need to capture that experience, and the emergent personlisation… The web wasn’t public before, as ARPAnet, then it became public, but it seems to be ebbing a bit…

JW: With a longer term view… I wonder if the open stuff which is easier to archive may survive beyond the gated stuff that traditionally was more likely to survive.

Q4) Today we are 24 years into advertising on the web. We take ad-driven models as a given, and we see fake news as a consequence of that… So, my question is, Minitel was a large system that ran on a different model… Are there different ways to change the revenue model to change fake or true news and how it is shared…

Q5) Teresa May has been outspoken on fake news and wants a crackdown… The way I interpret that is censorship and banning of sites she does not like… Jefferson said that he’s been archiving sites that she won’t like… What will you do if she asks you to delete parts of your archive…

JB: In the US?!

Q6) Do you think we have sufficient web literacy amongst policy makers, researchers and citizens?

JW: On that last question… Absolutely not. I do feel sorry for politicians who have to appear on the news to answer questions but… Some of the responses and comments, especially on encryption and cybersecurity have been shocking. It should matter, but it doesn’t seem to matter enough yet… 

JB: We have a tactic of “geopolitical redundancy” to ensure our collections are shielded from political endangerment by making copies – which is easy to do – and locate them in different political and geographical contexts. 

AJ: We can suppress content by access. But not deletion. We don’t do that… 

EG: Is there a further risk of data manipulation… Of Trump and Farage and data… a covert threat… 

AJ: We do have to understand and learn how to cope with potential attack… Any one domain is a single point of failure… so we need to share metadata, content where possible… But web archives are fortunate to have the strong social framework to build that on… 

Q7) Going back to that idea of what kinds of responsibilities we have to enable a broader range of people to engage in a rich way with the digital archive… 

Q8) I was thinking about questions in context, and trust in content in the archive… And realising that web archives are fairly young… Generally researchers are close to the resource they are studying… Can we imagine projects in 50-100 years time where we are more separate from what we should be trusting in the archive… 

Q9) My perspective comes from building a web archive for European institutions… And can the archive live… Do we need legal notice on the archive, disclaimers, our method… How do we ensure people do not misinterpret what we do. How do we make the process of archiving more transparent. 

JB: That question of who has resources to access web archives is important. It is a responsibility of institutions like ours… To ensure even small collections can be accessed, that researchers and citizens are empowered with skills to query the archive, and things like APIs to enable that too… The other question on evidencing curatorial decisions – we are notoriously poor at that historically… But there is a lot of technological mystery there that we should demystify for users… All sorts of complexity there… The web archiving needs to work on that provenance information over the next few years… 

AJ: We do try to record this but as Jefferson said much of this is computational and algorithmic… So we maybe need to describe that better for wider audiences… That’s a bigger issue anyway, that understanding of algorithmic process. At the British Library we are fortunate to have capacity for text mining our own archives… We will be doing more than that… It will be small at first… But as it’s hard to bring data to the queries, we must bring queries to the archive. 

JW: I think it is so hard to think ahead to the long term… You’ll never pre-empt all usage… You just have to do the best that you can. 

VS: You won’t collect everything, every time… The web archive is not an exact mirror… It is “reborn digital heritage”… We have to document everything, but we can try to give some digital literacy to students so they have a way to access the web archive and engage with it… 

EG: Time is up, Thank you our panellists for this fantastic session. 

Jun 062017

Today I am at the CILIPS Conference 2017: Strategies for Success. I’ll be talking about our Digital Footprint work and Digital Footprint MOOC (#DFMOOC). Meanwhile back in Edinburgh my colleagues Louise Connelly (PI for our Digital Footprint research) and Sian Bayne (PI for our Yik Yak research) are at the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme Forum 2017 talking about our “A Live Pulse”: YikYak for understanding teaching, learning and assessment at Edinburgh research project. So, lots of exciting digital footprint stuff afoot!

I’ll be liveblogging the sessions I’m sitting in today here, as usual corrections, additions, etc. always welcome. You’ll see the programme below becoming 

We have opened with the efficient and productive CILIPS AGM. Now, a welcome from the CILIPS President, Liz McGettigan, reflecting on the last year for libraries in Scotland. She is also presenting the student awards to Adam Dombovari (in absentia) and Laura Anne MacNeil. She is also announcing the inauguration of a new CILIPS award Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year Award – nomination information coming soon on the website – the first award will be given out at the Autumn Gathering.

Keynote One – The Road to Copyright Literacy: a journey towards library empowerment Dr. Jane Secker, Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London and Chris Morrison, Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer, University of Kent

Jane: We are going to take you on the road to copyright literacy… And we have on our tour shirts – these are Copyright exception shirts… They are a parody Guns and Roses tour shirts…

Now, we want to ask you: How does copyright make you feel? [cue some voting] Mostly confused…

Chris: When we’ve done this across the country people have said it made them warm and fuzzy, very happy, but also worried, anxious or confused and faintly cautious…

Jane: Now Copyright get Chris and I really excited… But what gets us even more excited… Star Wars! When they were working on the prequels to star wars, George Lucas’ advice to the young film makers was “Don’t be Afraid”…

Chris: Fear leads to a fight or flight. That’s not what you need… you need to work through it calmly and diligently…

Jane: So lets take this back a bit…

Chris: I was a musician, so I thought what job can I do around music… So I started working at PRS – who handle performing rights for music… Then moved onto the British Library working on copyright…  Music turns out to be less glamorous than I expected, libraries turned out to much more glamorous than I expected! My life changed, I moved to Kent and now work at University of Kent as Copyright Officer, and they are brilliant in supporting me to do things like this!

Jane: I went to Aberystwyth, worked with old newspapers – out of copyright so really it wasn’t my thing… I works at the National History Museum…. Then at the British Library… When I moved to UCL to work on digitising lecture materials and course materials copyright became my thing, researching this area… Then onto LSE, working with staff on training, working with academics around copyright literacy… And just recently I moved to University of London in a lectureship role, again educating people on Copyright.

Chris: Now, in 2014 we finally saw some reforms to Copyright Law following the Hargreaves Review…

Jane: When that review came out in 2011 I needed a speaker, someone mentioned Chris… And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship really… A few years later I was at a conference in Dubrovnic and heard about a concept called “Copyright Literacy” and I wanted to run some research around that – 600 of you completed that, and actually research on copyright literacy took place across 14 countries..

Chris: Out of that work we started looking at resources, including designing Copyright: the board game (CC licensed) which helps you to work out

Jane: Chris and I are part of the Universities UK Copyright and licensing group. We also have a book out: Copyright and e-learning: a guide for practitioners (second edition). One thing that came out of our first research was librarians being nervous and concerned about copyright… We wanted to do more in this area… So we decided to do some work on phenomenography and Copyright as an experience, as a phenomenon, to enable us to understand appropriate educational interventions.

Chris: We categorised the experiences in various ways:

  • category 1: copyright is a problem
  • category 2: copyright is complicated and shifting
  • category 3: copyright is a known entitute requiring coherant messages
  • category 4: copyright is an opportunity for negotiation, collaboration and co-costructuion and understanding…

Jane: Copyright is a problem… The idea of copyright as an imposition… and not well aligned to goals of librarianship, of making material available to people…

In category 2 it’s about copyright as complicated, shifting, changing… “for non-copyright queries the answer is yes, or no, or a series of instructions but for copyright questions it’s maybe, or maybe, or maybe…”

Chris: In category 3 it’s about behaviour change, compliance, avoiding getting into trouble with publishers or the law.

The fourth category is about copyright as an opportunity… It can be about being assertive. When you look at what you share or publish… It can be easy to make sweeping assumptions… So you have to have conversations to reach a shared understanding of copyright… It’s best practice in the industry… And it’s important to also bring that to the profession…

And now that the one minute silence for London is observed… It’s Jane and Chris’ Don’t be Afraid Quiz Time… I won’t blog this as it is fast paced and there are prizes at stake! However… I have learned that HG Wells’ work only came out of copyright this year… 

Jane: So, what does this all mean?

Chris: What would the world be like without copyright literacy?

Jane: It would be a sad world… But why… Without copyright people don’t want to share things, people don’t know how to advise people… We can end up being risk averse – playing it safe and saying no… There are works in the public domain – if we don’t know what we can and can’t do, we see a reduction in what is available. And actually for libraries that would increase costs – rights holders will happily sell you licenses that you may not need – you may be able to use works under copyright exceptions…

Chris: So, we’ve been trying to find ways of bridging the gaps… It’s clearly a complex subject in a complex environment… We want to connect the practitioners to the activists. Some of us are really aware but there is  a gap, people working in the profession but not focused on copyright. There is also the concept of creators and consumers, and copyright enables that… But the realities of that distinction is unclear… Automatic copyright can be useful but also challenging.. And then we have rightsholders and libraries, and the need to work together to address barriers… There is also a thing about legal language, and the idea that copyright can only be explained in legal jargon, but there are ways to communicate it in a clearer way…

We have been doing work on the role of the copyright officer – and are analysing data from a survey on this…

Jane: To come back to copyright literacy, and critical copyright literacy… We have traditionally focused on training, and one day training events… I think we need to think differently. I spent some time with Prof. John Naughton in Cambridge.. He’d use the example of “think about your children at school and sex eductaion… Do they need education, or do they need training?!”.

There is balance between training and approach.. We want to develop people to think individually and find their own answers.. It’s about avoiding binary questions and become comfortable with uncertainty. There is no one way to Google, or one way to explore a catalogue, and there isn’t just one answer in copyright.

Chris: To put this into practice Jane and I have been setting up groups and get togethers in our local and London and South East f0r communities of practice around copyright.

Jane: And that’s also about rethinking copyright education for librarians… Bridging the gap between a one dat course and a PG Diploma in Copyright law, focusing on what librarians need to know about copyright, focusing on the copyright queries we work with. And we have to talk to library schools about the copyright education young professionals are getting during their qualification…

So, that leads us to the point I wanted to make: Copyright literacy is a journey not a destination (“Morrison and Secker (with apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson)”). And you have to be comfortable with all that uncertainty.

So, some take aways…

Chris: Copyright is about knowledge, money and power. It is also about privelges, in all meanings of that word.

Jane: Copyright literacy means sharing and working as a community.

Chris: Librarians! Copyright belongs to you, own it! Indeed it belongs to everyone – not lawyers, but everyone.

Jane: Our next tour stop is Manchester! Join us! Now, we don’t expect you to love copyright. We want you to not be afraid, confused, baffled, but to see it as an exciting opportunity, and something that as a librarian you have some special priveleges…

Find out more at: https://copyrightliteracy.org or on Twitter: @UKCopyrightLit


Q1: When I was a copyright librarian the question was “will I be sued”… ?

A1, Chris: It does come up when I speak to copyright officers. Copyright is civil not criminal law. Your organisation is often where responsibility lies. But rarely does anything go to court, usually it is demands for money, you pay it or deal with it in a process to make your case… That process is crucial as it makes it an efficient and helpful process.

A1, Jane: That does seem to be a major fear for people… Not many actual court cases though…

A1, Chris: There are very few.Though one in Australia on photocopying, few recently though… There’s not a lot of money in suing libraries… But there is a risk to be managed, and libraries need to show they are doing the right thing…

A fab opening session from Chris and Jane – not a surprise (the fun factor – always some copyright surprises and learning!) based on previous experience of their talks and workshops but delightful nonetheless… 

Parallel Session 1: Overcoming disability and barriers: Using assistive Technologies in libraries A joint presentation from

  • Craig Mill – CALL Scotland and Edinburgh Libraries award winning Visually Impaired People Project
  • Jim McKenzie – Lifelong Learning Library Development Leader – Disability Support,
  • Paul McCloskey – Lifelong Learning Strategic Development Officer (Libraries) and
  • Lindsay MacLeod – Project Volunteer

Craig Mill: I am from CALL Scotland one of the things we do is to provide an equipment pool for schools and children, so that they can be tried out. For instance we provide Augmentative and Alternative Communications devices and tools – traditionally these were hugely expensive but there are now inexpensive iPad apps that do much of this.

We also have learning resources, many of them supported by funding from NHS Scotland.

We also provide Books for All, which includes texts prepared to be accessible for those with additional support needs… Students can search for books, download them, and use them on their own devices. These are curriculum books, they are provided as PDF in a variety of formats, including large print for visually impaired students… You can magnify, adapt, and you can use preferences to alter document colours for high contrast, you can activate read out loud… You can customise to meet childrens needs. Lots of our Scottish Government funding goes towards the Books for All database.

We also have adapted digital assessments. When you have the SQA physical past paper, you can also now use this service to download and use digital past papers. Again these are a PDF type format with answer boxes. The pupil can go in, type in answers… And you have annotation tools… Including notes/sticky notes… These can be reduce costs by thousands for scribes… Can just have a student with a laptop and headphones now…

We also have Scottish voices… Traditionally they have been quite mechanical… We have a collection of Scottish synthetic voices: Heather; Stuart; Caitilin (gaelic). We have students using these in Scotland in schools, colleges, HE. And if you have a computer voice, you need something to read that…

We also have a tool called “WordTalk” that sits in Word. It just sits there and reads back to you as you type, it’s a free text-t0-speech plugin.

As well as that we have lots of information on assistive technologies. We are asked a lot about supporting pupils with dyslexia. So we now have quite a comprehensive resource on writing, reading, some case studies as well… e.g. Hamish uses OneNote, Notability, iPads… Some really useful stuff here.

And under our downloads section, if you are looking for resources, you’ll find the posters and leaflets – which we’ve become popular for. The most popular by far is our iPad Apps for Learners with Dyslexia resource.

Finally, my colleague Allan recently wrote a blog article on scanning pens and reading pens. These are now much much more accurate than they used to be. He wrote a comparison of the reading pens. In England there is an “exam pen” in exams… But it doesn’t have dictionaries etc. built in. Whereas the C-Pen reader has lots of features added in, including dictionaries… They are the market leaders. Allan compared these with apps that do similar things.

Paul, Jim and Lindsay

Paul: I’ll talk about how our work ties to local and national priorities. Then Jim will talk about the project, and Lindsay will give his experiences as a user.

Our message today is about helping visually impaired people to be empowered to be self-sufficient, with technology enabling access to information. Over 180k people in Scotland are effected by a significant level of sight loss. And the aging population and rise of diabetes mean that this is expected to double in Scotland in the next 10 years.

Blind and partially sighted people can feel isolated. In work on users needs, in their own words, they gave their priorities. VIP supports three of these:

  • That I can access information, making most of opportunity that technology can bring.
  • That I have someone to talk to.
  • That I have the support that I need.

And VIP helps support citizen engagement, community participation and participation in the library.

Jim: We can purchase equipment, but we also provide expertise and the time to get people set up. Four years ago Apple was leading the way with technologies… Setting it up wasn’t the easiest in the world. We had an existing resource centre that people used regularly. We had new users… We wanted to get new users engaged – posters in the library wouldn’t cut it. So we went out… To the RNIB Cafe, where we set up an audio book group, we talked to the eye hospital, we talked to guide dogs, we talked to the thriving macular degeneration group in Edinburgh. We concentrated on these groups and worked hard to develop those relationships.

We thought hard about location. We had 28 libraries, we set up in 10. We looked at safety in crossings and roads. We looked at the location of bus stops – we started a group in one location but no-one came as the bus was too far, crossings weren’t good. We also looked at facilities, and we looked at staffing. We gave some training in what we were offering. We got them to set up a patron, show them how to use wifi – if they could do that, it would be fine. Not all apps are accessible, but many are. There are podcasts. There is the RNIB Tech Talk podcast. Apple has Blind Vis, a group for those with visual impairment. There are apps for VO – Voice Over – to get you used to the interface.

Things we have to guard against included not spreading ourselves too thin – hence 10 not 28 libraries. We have used volunteers and champions. And we had to stay up to date, technology changes really really quickly. We get asked about books and newspapers. One group were asked what they really missed – one guy missed poker… Surprisingly hard to find an accessible app. We eventually found one – Theta Poker (where money is not involved) and I actually recommend it as an app designed for a visually impaired person.

It can be challenging to find and keep great volunteers, but when you find a great one it makes all the difference… On which note, over to Lindsey…

Lindsey: My personal involvement was back in 2014, through an introduction by the RNIB to Jim and what he was doing. I wanted to bring my experience in econtent into volunteering, and the Edinburgh Libraries were doing exactly the kind of things I wanted to do… When you are blind or visually impaired there are fewer choices but the Apple products are really great – not an advert, others are available!

I was really impressed by the groups I met… But the speed of progress is variable. The demographics of blind and partially sighted people tends towards older people and it takes longer to learn later in life, so we work with that. There were differences between blind and partially sighted people. The latter group can try to grasp onto what they are used to doing – and have to be convinced that with a blank screen they are still getting the functionality. That was a learning curve for me but I’ve had a great mentor. Abilities vary… And people’s familiarity with technology varies – the swiping idea can take many back to year zero though.

With these groups we do ask what they want from these devices. Some want to make a change. Some want just emails or audiobooks… But they learn there is virtually no limit to what they can do with an electronic device. The learning is not a linear classroom approach – given the mixture of abilities. So it’s more like a learning spiral, revisiting basic techniques, ensuring they understand what devices can do.

The local library environment is largely great. There is privacy. The staff are very welcoming. And ease of access is important – it’s daunting to navigate a new city without a guide. Libraries should be a universal space, and the things we learn require face to face interraction. Group feedback is essential, to tailor to needs, and to know when to revisit things and refresh them.

As a volunteer this has been a hugely rewarding experience, and I thank the libraries for that.

Paul: I hope Jim and Lindsey have given you an idea of the service. Right now we are looking at evaluating the programme, using RNIB and Online Today. We are also working with them to reach a wider group. We are seeing growth in volunteer, and we are seeing growth in capacity as important. Having a dialogue with our service users has been crucial, for instance deaf-blind families. The reinforcement and training have to continue, be refreshed, almost continually refresh the project, in order to reach a point of sustainability. It’s also brilliant that many who came to use for support are now leading the classes…

Traditionally people with visual impairment have been behind with technology, but with this project that is no longer the case. We’ll be running Six Steps courses over the next few months – see http://www.readingsight.org.uk/ I’m going to conclude with a video of Christine Morris – probably our best speaker of the bunch but sadly she couldn’t come along today!

Chris: I became partially sighted then blind and because of that didn’t do much and didn’t feel as able to leave the house… Then I got an iPhone… I went to the City Library and was shown by Jim how to use it… I then moved to using the Craigmillar library… At a certain point a number of us moved to iPads… It was a big jump but we all made steady progress… It was quite challenging as new people kept joining the group, but volunteers came in to help… Then I couldn’t make the same journey… I now go to the Stockbridge Library – much closer to home – and go regularly.

The technology has changed my life. I can now use email to stay in touch with friends across the world, I can listen to music, listen to the radio, I can download podcasts – The Archers, From Our Own Corespondant, and Inside Radio. And if you have a little sight you can use the camera, and the iPlayer – not useful for me… But I gather I can now record it with audio descriptions so I will try that!

Jim tried to make it that we didn’t just use the technology for practical things, but for fun things too… games and whatnot. I really like doing crosswords – I still do the Daily Telegraph crossword every day with my husband but I can’t do it on my own. But Jim showed me a crossword app I can use on the iPad on my own.

I think it’s so useful for people like me, who would otherwise be quite isolated. It has been a lifeline and I hope to go on and do much more with the technology!


Comment: It’s great to hear first hand from a service user.

Paul: We presented to the COSLA judges a year ago. We had Chrissy and she was great – I’m sure that’s why we won! She highlighted things that seem small but can be a big challenge – like the crossword puzzle.

Chair: Some of you may be aware that a digital strategy piece of work has taken place, with a survey. One question on assistive technology only 11% of libraries claim to have assistive technology… But that may be about understanding definitions… So we will come back to that…

And now it’s networking lunch and exhibition time… 

Parallel Sessions 2: Spotlight on research – Papers on: Linked Data

Opening Scotland’s library content to the world (Dr. Diane Pennington, University of Strathclyde)

Thanks for coming to hear about linked data right after lunch! I will give an overview of Linked Data for those of you who may not be sure what it is…

So, a quick note on the evolution of the web (1989-now). We started with Web 1.0, hand-coded HTML pages, accessible and reliable, but not interactive; then web 2.0 with Facebook and Twittter, everyone can post, share and respond without extensive technical knowledge. Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web is about new ways to imagine and combine information on the web…

When Tim Berners Lee outlined the Semantic Web in terms of using URIs as names for things – so Strathclyde’s name on the semantic web is http://www.strath.ac.uk/ for instance.

When someone looks up a name, provide useful [RDF] information. Think grammatically here in terms of understanding relationships in a structured way. And we can include links to other URIs so that people can discover new things.

Anyone that uses Google is using Linked Data. When you see that panel – the Knowledge Graph – that is based on linked data from wikipedia, YouTube, etc.

So that’s the based of linked data, open data..

In 2015 the Scottish Government published an Open Data Strategy. They want any public service creating non-personal, non0commercially sensitive data to share it as linked data. ANd then the Scottish Government’s “Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world: A Digital Strategy for Scotland” (2017) this is further reinforced. And there is an official Scottish Government open linked data statistics page.

But this isn’t all where it should be… And what about libraries implementing linked data… Why should we do it? Well because peoplw can more easily find library resources on the web – through Google not (only) through our catalogue; more cerative applications based on library metadata; opportunities for cataloguing innovation and efficiency.

Back to Tim Berners Lee’s star rating of linked data… We are a long way from 5*s now.

So I have been doing a survey of Scotland’s Linked Open Data, with over 120 responses… A lot more people know what “linked data” means, rather than “semantic web” – a very related term. When I asked what it means, they knew it was about resource sharing, linking, availability and connectedness…  When it came to what “semantic web” means themes were around improved web searching, more structured online data for better organisation… But many of the definitions were not really correct…

When we asked if libraries had implemented, or were planning to implement any linked data… Not on the whole, which is unfortunate. Some concerns and limitations was about licensing constraints – permission needed from database providers to link. Teach practitioners what linked data can concretely achieve… Lack of knowledge – decisions made further up the chain? Potential loss of control of data. Concern that digitisation is linked to monetisation… And what to link to…

Despite that wider set of government strategy priorities, and NLS actions in this direction, there remain barriers to implementation… Lack of awareness, lack of time…

This is ongoing research, and I’ll be publishing the survey analysis at some point. I will be looking at Scottish library websites. I also want to do interviews around those plans/lack of plans… I also want to increase awareness among the ILS community around linked data and semantic web to potentially increase uptake..

Towards an information literacy strategy for Scotland (Dr. John Crawford)

Brief background here. I directed the Scottish Information Literacy Project (2004-2010). We built up a great network of contacts and collaborators. After I retired we shifted to the Right Information Community of Practice, founded in 2012. We communicate by blogging, email and twitter with meetings twice a year.

We bring together a diverse range of library sectors and representatives from education and skills bodies…

We have done various things… Including activism. In 2014 the Royal Society of Edinburgh report on Spreading the benefits of digital participation interim report came out… And we submitted a lengthly response which duly ended up in the final report. It outlined the role of libraries, and of information and digital skills… And the need for those skills to be embedded throughout the lifespan. These are all good, but hard to do.

We managed to meet with the minister in June 2015, we focused on democratic renewal for a better informed society. There was a further conference in 2016. We were able to improve links with other relevant bodies. The minister wanted a focus on “digital literacy” rather than “information literacy” which means she wouldn’t give us money…

But we live in a different world now. Many opportunities to vote and, in some cases in Scotland,  that included 16 and 17 year olds, bringing information literacy to a new group in a new way. After the referendum there was an increased interest from young people in politics and engaging in that type of debate.

Another area here is “health literacy”… This is tough information to get our heads round, and it matters greatly. 43% of English working-age adults will struggle to understand instructions to calculate a childhood paracetamol dose… That’s very basic and crucial literacy…

One of the things I tried to do when chairing the information literacy project was try to focus on particular innovation area – including Konstantina Martzoukou’s work with refugees that was presented this morning for instance. That was supported by an information literacy organisation… And connected information literacy to background policy documents…

Bill Johnston chairs the Older Person’s Alliance looking at older people and literacy around good health, pensions, recreation, etc. Lauren Smith is working on political engagement of young people, and the role of school librarians in political information literacy with young people. And we have making it easy – a health literacy policy for Scotland.

How do we evaluate services like this? And what kind of performance indicator can we use? It needs to be precise, and be a genuine indicator of success. I had a look at the literature… And it kept coming back to a special issue of Library Trends that I co-edited around 2011. Particularly work by Andrew Whitworth, which included “information literacy policy documents should be about information literacy and not something else” – sounds obvious but often they are actually about something else, e.g. IT skills. He also stated that such policy documents should have some sort of government support and relevance. They should be fully cross-sector. They should be informed and preferably led by the professional bodies of the countries concerned, and should be collaborative across organisation.

The other paper was by Woody, where he presented his “ten commandments” which included: patience and perseverance; find an in-house champion; link to the 21st century; resistance to change; don’t bite off more than you can choose, etc.

Whitworth’s criteria, particularly that one of information literacy being muddled with the digital agenda, have proved quite thorny. From Woody’s work the issue of champions has been partly addressed by attracting support from professional bodies, other professions and activities. Aiming for the top has been more problematic. Linking information literacy to specific long standing goals and reforms have been key to our activities. We’ve done our best to pilot test and experiment objectively deliberate on that.

If you want further reading I will recommend that 2011 issue of Library Trends, 60 (2). Strategic policy making issues in information literacy, in Library and information research, 40 (123), 2016 which includes articles by Lauren Smith and Bill Johnstone.


Q1 – me) I was part of the RSE Inquiry Committee and we did have a lot of discussion about the relationship between digital literacy and information literacy – in a way it is all information literacy and we were aware of that, but also keen to focus on the specific challenges and issues around digital in that report. But I’d agree that information literacy is the fundamental set of skills.

A1 – John) It took so long for CIIPS to be interested in information literacy is the predominent skill set. IT skils and digital literacy skills, do naturally lead onto information literacy. I think we failed to make our case a number of years ago, and should have done.

Q2) Why wouldn’t the minister fund information literacy?

A2  John) If you speak to a government minister you have to look to those around and behind them… Civil servants do have an agenda of their own, and they do present that to the government ministers.. They have successfully presented the digital literacy agenda to ministers… Something that was encouraging was that the minister – Fiona Hyslop – did connect the idea of digital literacy to wider information literacy.

Q3) What is the kind of potential for linked data in libraries?

A3) Say all of our libraries in scotland shared catalogue records in linked open data, then it would also appear, not just videos and that type of content, when someone searches Google for e.g. “Loch Lomand”.

Comment 4) I work for the Scottish Government civil service. I would say it is a bit more positive now, with the digital strategy launched this year. It has taken us a while to make that link between information literacy and digital literacy. Slow progress but it is happening…

Q5) For small public libraries what is the first small step we should take?

A5) I would say what is the unique thing in your library, and focus on that, the quick wins… and make it available as linked open data.

Q6) How do we prioritise linked data over other issues when we are strapped for resources and have many priorities?

A6) Partly its about accountability, findability, transparancy to those that pay for our libraries through taxes, council tax, etc. A public accountability approach can be helpful.

Parallel Session 3: If I googled you – what would I find? Managing your digital footprint Nicola Osborne, Digital Education Manager, EDINA 3.15-3.35pm Refreshments and exhibition

Slides from my session will be available on my presentations and publications page shortly… 

Keynote 2 – Securing the future: where next for our community in 2018 and beyond? Nick Poole, Chief Executive, CILIP

This has been such a good event, it always has such a good buzz, and it is such a privilege to be part of. I’m talking about securing the future, but it’s not about us securing the future for ourselves, we’re securing the next generation’s right to learn, to be informed.

Two years ago there was a presentation here from IFLA about Sustainable Development Goals. These are th ebigger context for the work all of us are doing. Whatever the outcome of 8th June it will be a fresh start for your daily work, to make sure there is opportunity for these people.

We are living in a future that is transformative, and we are the people to make that happen, whether we realise it yet or not. We are a powerful community of information professionals. We are not just librarians, we are information managers, we are data professionals, we are knowledge managers. And it is so important that we are united in our values, and so excited about where we go next as a community.

CILIP members are embedded across the spectrum of public sector, private sector, third sector, all types of organisation. There are over 60,000 of us. And the CIBR estimates that 100,000 jobs for knowledge professionals in the coming years.

So you may have seen Securing the Future, our action plan 2016-2020. Our goal stated there is to “put library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society”. We want talented, creative library and information professionals everywhere. To should about what we do. We have three connected goals around being stronger and more inclusive as an organisation.

We have come a long way together as the four CILIP regions. A lot of what we speak about, our campaigns, are about delivering real, measurable change in the opportuniities for and status of librarians and information professionals.

I just wanted to pause to thank everyone for the fantastically effective #LibrariesMatter advocacy campaigns. When you win here, it benefits the wider community across the UK, it is media coverage and impact and meaningful stories of how we make a difference that I can take to government to explain what we do, that we can do these things too.

I really admire that in Scotland you have a little big of swagger and confidence about your libraries and where you are going, and we want to learn from it. And it makes a difference. In the local elections every single party made an above the line commitment to libraries.

And that has led into a national school library strategy for Scotland by the deputy First Minister for Scotland. We know that is words, but it can make a real impact, it is happening, it is hard to go back on. And I can take that back to UK government and make the case for England too .

As you may know we have been working with Chris Riddell (@chrisriddell50) to build our arguement about the huge importance of libraries and schools for literacy, for early years.

We have just launched, after announcement of the election, the #factsmatter campaign, calling on all parties to use evidence based campaigning. Most have signed up, though one – I won’t name them – said “that sounds like a trap!”

Facts DO matter. We shouldn’t tolerate fake facts, fake new, in our politics. Big Issue founder John Bird has advocated for us and continues to do that. We have celebrities and public figures backing this.

We have the “A Million Decisions” campaign demonstrating how librarians make a difference to healthcare, the lives and money saved because of knowledge and information. Coming to the NHS England commitment to libraries. We are absolutely delighted that there is a sister campaign – “A Right Decision” – in Scotland with NHS Scotland.

We are starting to look at how we develop a skilled workforce for the future. We do see retirements and redundancy, but we also see a huge influx of new entries to the profession. We have to develop skills, to ensure transferable information skills. I want young kids to say “I want to be a librarian” and for their parents to be proud of that!

So, we have to develop solutions and routes into the profession that opens us out…

Some announcements here. In our event in July in Manchester we will be launching a sector-wide Ethics Review. We will also launch a Public Library Skills Strategy for England, partnering with the Society of Chief Librarians. And that’s all about opening up the pathways.

Finally, how do we become a bigger, better, more inclusive professional association. Right now we represented about 15% of the sector. Other professional associations represent more like 23%. So to do that we need to make membership more accessible, more affordable, and make sure we champion equality, diversity, and truly represent the sector.

We will build our member networks, we will work on new standards, communities, and publications. And we will continue to build partnerships with organisations and companies that help us achieve our goals.

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, says “When librarians get together, something great happens”. We know that, we believe that.

And we aren’t securing the future for ourselves but for that new generation, for those that need us to be there.

Thank you to all at CILIPS, and here’s to CILIP and CILIPS working together to make the difference to 2018.


Q1) You said information skills are at the heart of a democratic society… Isn’t it the case that CILIP has been a bit of a latecomer to information literacy. You and I were on the board in 2011 when we were asked to endorse the Alexandra Proclamation, which had been published 5 years previously… We are catching up but … We’ve had a Scottish and a Welsh Information Literacy project, when will there be a CILIP-led Information Literacy.

A1) Great question. We had three asks of political parties: to support public and school libraries; to acknowledge that the future is data driven; and that we need to have a workforce with information literacy skills to prepare them for the world. I think information literacy will have impact when there is an article in Tesco magazine. Facts Matter has been a really good opportunity to do that. And we need to build something after the election.

Comment) I think that whole campaign is spot on, and it’s great that that has tied into something so current and bigger than the sector, and created new opportunities.

A2) I’d like to say it was long plotted… Honestly I was on an ebay shop doing badges and decided it was the right slogan. Two organisations came to us on the back of the campaign, including the Royal Statistical Society, as they saw real opportunities to work together to build an information literate population.

President’s closing remarks – Liz McGettigan

I won’t go into huge detail but I have to thank Kathy and Sean for making such a brilliant seamless event. Thank you our sponsors, and Alex and our AV team who have been spot on. Most of all thank you to all our speakers, you have inspired us all. There have been fabulous presentations across such useful areas over the last two days. We have been impressed with projects on working with refugees, working with health information, such a range. When people say “libraries are just about books”, think back on all these amazing projects you are all delivering out there! I never cease to be amazed by what you are doing. I hope you go home inspired and galvanised. And it’s not about Sean, Kathy, Nick and I, it’s about all of you advocating for what you do, getting out and talking to media. So get out there!

Apr 092017
Digital Footprint MOOC logo

Last Monday we launched the new Digital Footprint MOOC, a free three week online course (running on Coursera) led by myself and Louise Connelly (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies). The course builds upon our work on the Managing Your Digital Footprints research project, campaign and also draws on some of the work I’ve been doing in piloting a Digital Footprint training and consultancy service at EDINA.

It has been a really interesting and demanding process working with the University of Edinburgh MOOCs team to create this course, particularly focusing in on the most essential parts of our Digital Footprints work. Our intention for this MOOC is to provide an introduction to the issues and equip participants with appropriate skills and understanding to manage their own digital tracks and traces. Most of all we wanted to provide a space for reflection and for participants to think deeply about what their digital footprint means to them and how they want to manage it in the future. We don’t have a prescriptive stance – Louise and I manage our own digital footprints quite differently but both of us see huge value in public online presence – but we do think that understanding and considering your online presence and the meaning of the traces you leave behind online is an essential modern life skill and want to contribute something to that wider understanding and debate.

Since MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are courses which people tend to take in their own time for pleasure and interest but also as part of their CPD and personal development so that fit of format and digital footprint skills and reflection seemed like a good fit, along with some of the theory and emerging trends from our research work. We also think the course has potential to be used in supporting digital literacy programmes and activities, and those looking for skills for transitioning into and out of education, and in developing their careers. On that note we were delighted to see the All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education‘s 2017 event programme running last week – their website, created to support digital skills in Ireland, is a great complementary resource to our course which we made a (small) contribution to during their development phase.

Over the last week it has been wonderful to see our participants engaging with the Digital Footprint course, sharing their reflections on the #DFMOOC hashtag, and really starting to think about what their digital footprint means for them. From the discussion so far the concept of the “Uncontainable Self” (Barbour & Marshall 2012) seems to have struck a particular chord for many of our participants, which is perhaps not surprising given the degree to which our digital tracks and traces can propagate through others posts, tags, listings, etc. whether or not we are sharing content ourselves.

When we were building the MOOC we were keen to reflect the fact that our own work sits in a context of, and benefits from, the work of many researchers and social media experts both in our own local context and the wider field. We were delighted to be able to include guest contributors including Karen Gregory (University of Edinburgh), Rachel Buchanan (University of Newcastle, Australia), Lilian Edwards (Strathclyde University), Ben Marder (University of Edinburgh), and David Brake (author of Sharing Our Lives Online).

The usefulness of making these connections across disciplines and across the wider debate on digital identity seems particularly pertinent given recent developments that emphasise how fast things are changing around us, and how our own agency in managing our digital footprints and digital identities is being challenged by policy, commercial and social factors. Those notable recent developments include…

On 28th March the US Government voted to remove restrictions on the sale of data by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), potentially allowing them to sell an incredibly rich picture of browsing, search, behavioural and intimate details without further consultation (you can read the full measure here). This came as the UK Government mooted the banning of encryption technologies – essential for private messaging, financial transactions, access management and authentication – claiming that terror threats justified such a wide ranging loss of privacy. Whilst that does not seem likely to come to fruition given the economic and practical implications of such a measure, we do already have the  Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in place which requires web and communications companies to retain full records of activity for 12 months and allows police and security forces significant powers to access and collect personal communications data and records in bulk.

On 30th March, a group of influential privacy researchers, including danah boyd and Kate Crawford, published Ten simple rules for responsible big data research in PLoSOne. The article/manifesto is an accessible and well argued guide to the core issues in responsible big data research. In many ways it summarises the core issues highlight in the excellent (but much more academic and comprehensive) AoIR ethics guidance. The PLoSOne article is notably directed to academia as well as industry and government, since big data research is at least as much a part of commercial activity (particularly social media and data driven start ups, see e.g. Uber’s recent attention for profiling and manipulating drivers) as traditional academic research contexts. Whilst academic research does usually build ethical approval processes (albeit conducted with varying degrees of digital savvy) and peer review into research processes, industry is not typically structured in that way and often not held to the same standards particularly around privacy and boundary crossing (see, e.g. Michael Zimmers work on both academic and commercial use of Facebook data).

The Ten simple rules… are also particularly timely given the current discussion of Cambridge Analytica and it’s role in the 2016 US Election, and the UK’s EU Referendum. An article published in Das Magazin in December 2016, and a subsequent English language version published on Vice’s Motherboard have been widely circulated on social media over recent weeks. These articles suggest that the company’s large scale psychometrics analysis of social media data essentially handed victory to Trump and the Leave/Brexit campaigns, which naturally raises personal data and privacy concerns as well as influence, regulation and governance issues. There remains some skepticism about just how influential this work was… I tend to agree with Aleks Krotoski (social psychologist and host of BBC’s The Digital Human) who – speaking with Pat Kane at an Edinburgh Science Festival event last night on digital identity and authenticity – commented that she thought the Cambridge Analytica work was probably a mix of significant hyperbole but also some genuine impact.

These developments focus attention on access, use and reuse of personal data and personal tracks and traces, and that is something we we hope our MOOC participants will have opportunity to pause and reflect on as they think about what they leave behind online when they share, tag, delete, and particularly when they consider terms and conditions, privacy settings and how they curate what is available and to whom.

So, the Digital Footprint course is launched and open to anyone in the world to join for free (although Coursera will also prompt you with the – very optional – possibility of paying a small fee for a certificate), and we are just starting to get a sense of how our videos and content are being received. We’ll be sharing more highlights from the course, retweeting interesting comments, etc. throughout this run (which began on Monday 3rd April), but also future runs since this is an “on demand” MOOC which will run regularly every four weeks. If you do decide to take a look then I would love to hear your comments and feedback – join the conversation on #DFMOOC, or leave a comment here or email me.

And if you’d like to find out more about our digital footprint consultancy, or would be interested in working with the digital footprints research team on future work, do also get in touch. Although I’ve been working in this space for a while this whole area of privacy, identity and our social spaces seems to continue to grow in interest, relevance, and importance in our day to day (digital) lives.


Dec 052016
Image credit: Brian Slater

This is a very wee blog post/aside to share the video of my TEDxYouth@Manchester talk, “What do your digital footprints say about you?”:

You can read more on the whole experience of being part of this event in my blog post from late November.

It would appear that my first TEDx, much like my first Bright Club, was rather short and sweet (safely within my potential 14 minutes). I hope you enjoy it and I would recommend catching up with my fellow speakers’ talks:

Kat Arney

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Ben Smith

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VV Brown

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Ben Garrod

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I gather that the videos of the incredible teenage speakers and performers will follow soon.


Nov 212016
The band Cassia play at TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016.

Last Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of being part of the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016, which had the theme of “Identity. I had been invited along to speak about our Managing Your Digital Footprint work, and my #CODI2016 Fringe show, If I Googled You, What Would I Find? The event was quite extraordinary and I wanted to share some thoughts on the day itself, as well as some reflections on my experience of preparing a TEDx talk.

TEDxYouth@Manchester is in it’s 8th year, and is based at Fallibroome Academy, a secondary school with a specialism in performing arts (see, for instance, their elaborate and impressive trailer video for the school). And Fallibroome was apparently the first school in the world to host a TEDxYouth event. Like other TEDx events the schedule mixes invited talks, talks from youth speakers, and recorded items – in today’s case that included a TED talk, a range of short films, music videos and a quite amazing set of videos of primary school kids responding to questions on identity (beautifully edited by the Fallibroome team and featuring children from schools in the area).

In my own talk – the second of the day – I asked the audience to consider the question of what their digital footprints say about them. And what they want them to say about them. My intention was to trigger reflection and thought, to make the audience in the room – and on the livestream – think about what they share, what they share about others and,hopefully, what else they do online – their privacy settings, their choices..

My fellow invited speakers were a lovely and diverse bunch:

Kat Arney, a geneticist, science writer, musician, and author. She was there to talk about identity from a genetic perspective, drawing on her fantastic new book “Herding Hemingway’s Cats” (my bedtime reading this week). Kat’s main message – a really important one – is that genes don’t predetermine your identity, and that any understanding of there being a “Gene for… x”, i.e. the “Gene for Cancer”, a “Gay Gene”, a gene for whatever… is misleading at best. Things are much more complicated and unpredictable than that. As part of her talk she spoke about gene “wobbles” – a new concept to me – which describes the unexpected and rule-defying behaviour of genes in the real world vs our expectations based on the theory, drawing on work on nematode worms. It was a really interesting start to the day and I highly recommend checking out both Kat’s book, and the The Naked Scientists’ Naked Gentics podcast.

Ben Smith, spoke about his own very personal story and how that led to the 401 Challenge, in which he ran 401 marathons in 401 days. Ben spoke brilliantly and bravely on his experience of bullying, of struggling with his sexuality, and the personal crises and suicide attempts that led to him finding his own sense of self and identity, and happiness, through his passion for running in his late 20s/early 30s. Ben’s talk was even more powerful as it was preceded by an extraordinary video (see below) of the poem “To This Day” by performance poet Shane Koyczan on the impact of bullying and the strength in overcoming it.

VV Brown, singer, songwriter, producer and ethical fashion entrepreneur, gave a lovely presentation on identity and black hair. She gave a personal and serious take on issues of identity and appropriation which have been explored (from another angle) in Chris Rock’s Good Hair (2009). As well as the rich culture of black hairdressing and hugely problematic nature of hair relaxants, weaves, and hair care regimes (including some extreme acids) that are focused on pressuring black women to meet an unobtainable and undesirable white hair ideal. She also spoke from her experience of the modelling industry and it’s incapability of dealing with black hair, whilst simultaneously happily engaging in cultural appropriation, braiding corn rows into white celebrities hair. V.V. followed up her talk with a live performance, of “Shift” (see video below), a song which she explained was inspired by the gay rights movement, and particularly black gay men in New York expressing themselves and their sexuality.

The final invited speaker was Ben Garrod, a Teaching Fellow in evolutionary biology at Anglia Ruskin University as well as a science communicator and broadcaster who has worked with David Attenborough and is on the Board of Trustees for the Jane Goodall Institute. Ben spoke about the power of the individual in a community, bringing in the idea of identity amongst animals, that the uniqueness of the chimps he worked with as part of Jane Goodall’s team. He also had us all join in a Pant-hoot – an escalating group chimp call, to illustrate the power of both the individual and the community.

In amongst the speakers were a range of videos – lovely selections that I gather (and believe) a student team spent months selecting from a huge amount of TED content. However, the main strand of the programme were a group of student presentations and performances which were quite extraordinary.

Highlights for me included Imogen Walsh, who spoke about the fluidity of gender and explained the importance of choice, the many forms of non-binary or genderqueer identity, the use of pronouns like they and Mx and the importance of not singling people out, or questioning them, for buying non gender-conforming, their choice of bathroom, etc. Because, well, why is it anyone else’s business?

Sophie Baxter talked about being a gay teen witnessing the global response to the Pulse nightclub shooting and the fear and reassurance that wider public response to this had provided. She also highlighted the importance of having an LGBT community since for most LGBT young people their own immediate biological/adoptive family may not, no matter how supportive, have a shared experience to draw upon, to understand challenges or concerns faced.

Maddie Travers and Nina Holland-Jones described a visit to Auschwitz (they had actually landed the night before the event) reflecting on what that experience of visiting the site had meant to them, and what it said about identity. They particularly focused on the pain and horror of stripping individual identity, treating camp prisoners (and victims) as a group that denied their individuality at the same time as privileging some individuals for special skills and contributions that extended their life and made them useful to the Nazi regime.

Sam Amey, Nicola Smith and Ellena Wilson talked about attending the London International Youth Science Festival student science conference, of seeing inspiring new science and the excitement of that – watching as a real geek and science fan it was lovely to see their enthusiasm and to hear them state that they “identify as scientists” (that phrasing a recurrent theme and seems to be the 2016 way for youth to define themselves I think).

Meanwhile performances included an absolutely haunting violin piece, Nigun by Bloch, performed by Ewan Kilpatrick (see a video of his playing here). As brilliant as Ewan’s playing was, musically the show was stolen by two precocious young composers, both of whom had the confidence of successful 40 year olds at the peak of their career, backed up by musical skills that made that confidence seem entirely appropriately founded. Ignacio Mana Mesas described his composition process and showed some of his film score (and acting) work, before playing a piece of his own composition; Tammas Slater (you can hear his prize winning work in this BBC Radio 3 clip) meanwhile showed some unexpected comic sparkle, showing off his skills before creating a composition in real time! And the event finished with a lively and charming set of tracks performed by school alumnae and up and coming band Cassia.

All of the youth contributions were incredible. The enthusiasm, competence and confidence of these kids – and of their peers who respectfully engaged and listened throughout the day – was heartening. The future seems pretty safe if this is what the future is looking like – a very lovely thing to be reminded in these strange political times.

Preparing a TEDx talk – a rather different speaking proposition

For me the invitation to give a TEDx talk was really exciting. I have mixed feelings about the brilliantly engaging but often too slick TED format, at the same time as recognising the power that the brand and reputation for the high quality speakers can have.

I regularly give talks and presentations, but distilling ideas of digital identity into 14 minutes whilst keeping them clear, engaging, meeting the speaker rules felt challenging. Doing that in a way that would have some sort of longevity seemed like a tougher ask as things move quickly in internet research, in social media, and in social practices online, so I wanted to make sure my talk focused on those aspects of our work that are solid and long-lived concepts – ideas that would have usefulness even if Facebook disappeared tomorrow (who knows, fake news may just make that a possibility), or SnapChat immediately lost all interest, or some new game-changing space appears tomorrow. This issue of being timely but not immediately out of date is also something we face in creating Digital Footprint MOOC content at the moment.

As an intellectual challenge developing my TEDx talk was useful for finding another way to think about my own presentation and writing skills, in much the same way that taking on the 8 minute format of Bright Club has been, or the 50 ish minute format of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, or indeed teaching 2+ hour seminars for the MSc in Science Communication & Public Engagement for the three years I led a module on that programme. It is always useful to rethink your topic, to think about fitting a totally different dynamic or house style, and to imagine a different audience and their needs and interests. In this case the audience was 16-18 year olds, who are a little younger than my usual audience, but who I felt sure would have lots of interest in my topic, and plenty of questions to ask (as there were in the separate panel event later in the day at Fallibroome).

There are some particular curiosities about the TED/TEDx format versus other speaking and presentations and I thought I’d share some key things I spent time thinking about. You never know, if you find yourself invited to do a TEDx (or if you are very high flying, a TED) these should help a wee bit:

  1. Managing the format

Because I have mixed feelings about the TED format, since it can be brilliant, but also too easy to parody (as in this brilliant faux talk), I was very aware of wanting to live up to the invitation and the expectations for this event, without giving a talk that wouldn’t meet my own personal speaking style or presentation tastes. I think I did manage that in the end but it required some watching of former videos to get my head around what I both did and did not want to do. That included looking back at previous TEDxYouth@Manchester events (to get a sense of space, scale, speaker set up and local expectations), as well as wider TED videos.

I did read the TED/TEDx speaker guidance and largely followed it although, since I do a lot of talks and know what works for me, I chose to write and create slides in parallel with the visuals helping me develop my story (rather than writing first, then doing slides as the guidance suggests). I also didn’t practice my talk nearly as often as either the TED instructions or the local organisers suggest – not out of arrogance but knowing that practicing a few times to myself works well, practising a lot gets me bored of the content and sets up unhelpful memorisations of errors, developing ideas, etc.

I do hugely appreciate that TED/TEDx insist on copyright cleared images. My slides were mostly images I had taken myself but I found a lovely image of yarn under CC-BY on Flickr which was included (and credited) too. Although as I began work on the talk I did start by thinking hard about whether or not to use slides… TED is a format associated with innovative slides (they were the original cheerleaders for Prezi), but at the same time the fact that talks are videoed means much of the power comes from close ups of the speaker, of capturing the connection between speaker and the live audience, and of building connection with the livestream and video audience. With all of that in mind I wanted to keep my slides simple, lively, and rather stylish. I think I managed that but see what you think of my slides [PDF].

  1. Which audience?

Normally when I write a talk, presentation, workshop, etc. I think about tailoring the content to the context and to my audience. I find that is a key part of ensuring I meet my audience’s needs, but it also makes the talk looks, well, kind of cute and clever. Tailoring a talk for a particular moment in time, a specific event or day, and a particular audience means you can make timely and specific references, you can connect to talks and content elsewhere in the day, you can adapt and adlib to meet the interests and mood that you see, and you can show you have understood the context of your audience. Essentially all that tailoring helps you connect more immediately and builds a real bond.

But for TEDx is the audience the 500+ people in the room? Our audience on Wednesday were mainly between 16 and 18, but there were other audience members who had been invited or just signed up to attend (you can find all upcoming TEDx events on their website and most offer tickets for those that are interested). It was a packed venue, but they are probably the smallest audience who will see my performance…

The video being during the event captured goes on the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016 Playlist on the TEDxYouth YouTube channel and on the TEDx YouTube channel. All of the videos are also submitted to TED so, if your video looks great to the folk  there you could also end up featured on the core TED website, with much wider visibility. Now, I certainly wouldn’t suggest I am counting on having a huge global audience, but those channels all attract a much wider audience than was sitting in the hall. So, where do you pitch the talk?

For my talk I decided to strike a balance between issues that are most pertinent to developing identity, to managing challenges that we know from our research are particularly relevant and difficult for young people – ad which these students may face now or when they go to university. But I also pitched the talk to have relevance more widely, focusing less on cyber bullying, or teen dynamics, and more about changing contexts and the control one can choose to take of ones own digital footprint and social media content, something particularly pertinent to young people but relevant to us all.

  1. When Is it for?

Just as streaming distorts your sense of audience, it also challenges time. The livestream is watching on the day – that’s easy. But the recorded video could stick around for years, and will have a lifespan long beyond the day. With my fast moving area that was a challenge – do I make my talk timely or do I make it general? What points of connection and moments of humour are potentially missed by giving that talk a longer lifespan? I was giving a talk just after Trump’s election and in the midst of the social media bubble discussion – there are easy jokes there, things to bring my audience on board – but they might distance viewers at another time, and date rapidly. And maybe those references wouldn’t be universal enough for a wider audience beyond the UK…

In the end I tried to again balance general and specific advice. But I did that knowing that many of those in the physical audience would also be attending a separate panel event later in the day which would allow many more opportunities to talk about very contemporary questions, and to address sensitive questions that might (and did) arise. In fact in that panel session we took questions on mental health, about how parental postings and video (including some of those made for this event) might impact on their child’s digital footprint, and on whether not being on social media was a disadvantage in life. Those at the panel session also weren’t being streamed or captured in any way, which allowed for frank discussion building on an intense and complex day.

  1. What’s the main take away?

The thing that took me the longest time was thinking about the “take away” I wanted to leave the audience with. That was partly because I wanted my talk to have impact, to feel energising and hopefully somewhat inspiring, but also because the whole idea of TED is “Ideas worth sharing”, which means a TED(x) talk has to have at its core a real idea, something specific and memorable to take from those 14 minutes, something that has impact.

I did have to think of a title far in advance of the event and settled on “What do you digital footprints say about you?”. I picked that as it brought together some of my #CODI16 show’s ideas, and some of the questions I knew I wanted to raise in my talk. But what would I do with that idea? I could have taken the Digital Footprint thing in a more specific direction – something I might do in a longer workshop or training session – picking on particularly poor or good practices and zoning in on good or bad posts. But that isn’t big picture stuff. I had to think about analogy, about examples, about getting the audience to understand the longevity of impact a social media post might have…

After a lot of thinking, testing out of ideas in conversation with my partner and some of my colleagues, I had some vague concepts and then I found my best ideas came – contrary to the TED guidance – from trying to select images to help me form my narrative. An image I had taken at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival earlier this year of an artwork created from a web of strung yarn proved the perfect visual analogy for the complexity involved in taking back an unintended, regretted, or ill-thought-through social media post. It’s an idea I have explained before but actually trying to think about getting the idea across quickly in 1 minute of my 14 minute talk really helped me identify that image as vivid effective shorthand. And from that I found my preceding image and, from that, the flow and the look and feel of the story I wanted to tell. It’s not always the obvious (or simple) things that get you to a place of simplicity and clarity.

Finally I went back to my title and thought about whether my talk did speak to that idea, what else I should raise, and how I would really get my audience to feel engaged and ready to listen, and to really reflect on their own practice, quickly. In the end I settled on a single slide with that title, that question, at it’s heart. I made that the first stepping stone on my path through the talk, building in a pause that was intended to get the audience listening and thinking about their own digital identity. You’d have to ask the audience whether that worked or not but the quality of questions and comments later in the day certainly suggested they had taken in some of what I said and asked.

  1. Logistics

As a speaker there are some logistical aspects that are easy to deal with once you’ve done it a first time: travel, accommodation, etc. There are venue details that you either ask about – filming, photography, mics, etc. or you can find out in advance. Looking at previous years’ videos helped a lot: I would get a screen behind me for slides, there would be a set (build by students no less) and clear speaker zone on stage (the infamous red carpet/dot), I’d have a head mic (a first for me, but essentially a glamorous radio mic, which I am used to) and there would be a remote for my slides. It also looked likely I’d have a clock counting down although, in the end, that wasn’t working during my talk (a reminder, again, that I need a new watch with classic stand up comedy/speaker-friendly vibrating alarm). On the day there was a sound check (very helpful) and also an extremely professional and exceptionally helpful team of technicians – staff, students and Siemens interns – to get us wired up and recorded. The organisers also gave us plenty of advance notice of filming and photography.

I have been on the periphery of TEDx events before: Edinburgh University has held several events and I know how much work has gone into these; I attended a TEDxGlasgow hosted by STV a few years back and, again, was struck buy the organisation required. For TEDxYouth@Manchester I was invited to speak earlier in the year – late August/early September – so I had several months to prepare. The organisers tell me that sometimes they invite speakers as much as 6 to 12 months ahead of the event – as soon as the event finishes their team begin their search for next years’s invitees…

As the organising team spend all year planning a slick event – and Fallibroome Academy really did do an incredibly well organised and slick job – they expect slick and well organised speakers. I think all of us invited speakers, each of us with a lot of experience of talks and performance, experienced more coordination, more contact and more clarity on expectation, format, etc. than at any previous speaking event.

That level of detail is always useful as a a speaker but it can also be intimidating – although that is useful for focusing your thoughts too. There were conference calls in September and October to share developing presentation thoughts, to finalise titles, and to hear a little about each others talks. That last aspect was very helpful – I knew little of the detail of the other talks until the event itself, but I had a broad idea of the topic and angle of each speaker which meant I could ensure minimal overlap, and maximum impact as I understood how my talk fitted in to the wider context.

All credit to Peter Rubery and the Fallibroome team for their work here. They curated a brilliant selection of videos and some phenomenal live performances and short talks from students to create a coherent programme with appropriate and clever segues that added to the power of the presentations, the talks, and took us on something of a powerful emotional rollercoaster. All of us invited speakers felt it was a speaking engagement like we’d never had before and it really was an intense and impactful day. And, as Ben G said, for some students the talks they gave today will be life changing, sharing something very personally on a pretty high profile stage, owning their personal experience and reflections in a really empowering way.

In conclusion then, this was really a wonderful experience and a usefully challenging format to work in. I will update this post or add a new post with the videos of the talks as soon as they are available – you can then judge for yourself how I did. However, if you get the chance to take part in a TEDx event, particularly a TEDxYouth event I would recommend it. I would also encourage you to keep an eye on the TEDxYouth@Manchester YouTube channel for those exceptional student presentations!

Aug 102016
Nicola Osborne presenting the Digital Footprint poster at ECSM2016

It has been a while since I’ve posted something other than a liveblog here but it has been a busy summer so it seems like a good time to share some updates…

A Growing Digital Footprint

Last September I was awarded some University of Edinburgh IS Innovation Fund support to develop a pilot training and consultancy service to build upon the approaches and findings of our recent PTAS-funded Managing Your Digital Footprint research project.

During that University of Edinburgh-wide research and parallel awareness-raising campaign we (my colleague – and Digital Footprint research project PI – Louise Connelly of IAD/Vet School, myself, and colleagues across the University) sought to inform students of the importance of digital tracks and traces in general, particularly around employment and “eProfessionalism”. This included best practice advice around use of social media, personal safety and information security choices, and thoughtful approaches to digital identity and online presences. Throughout the project we were approached by organisations outside of the University for similar training, advice, and consulting around social media best practices and that is how the idea for this pilot service began to take shape.

Over the last few months I have been busy developing the pilot, which has involved getting out and about delivering social media training sessions for clients including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (with Jennifer Jones); for the British HIV Association (BHIVA) with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) (also with Jennifer Jones); developing a “Making an Impact with your Blog” Know How session for the lovely members of Culture Republic; leading a public engagement session for the very international gang at EuroStemCell, and an “Engaging with the Real World” session for the inspiring postgrads attending the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School 2016. I have also been commissioned by colleagues in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to create an Impact of Social Media session and accompanying resources (the latter of which will continue to develop over time). You can find resources and information from most of these sessions over on my presentations and publications page.

These have been really interesting opportunities and I’m excited to see how this work progresses. If you do have an interest in social media best practice, including advice for your organisation’s social media practice, developing your online profile, or managing your digital footprint, please do get in touch and/or pass on my contact details. I am in the process of writing up the pilot and looking at ways myself and my colleagues can share our expertise and advice in this area.

Adventures in MOOCs and Yik Yak

So, what next?

Well, the Managing Your Digital Footprint team have joined up with colleagues in the Language Technology Group in the School of Informatics for a new project looking at Yik Yak. You can read more about the project, “A Live Pulse: Yik Yak for Understanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Edinburgh“, on the Digital Education Research Centre website. We are really excited to explore Yik Yak’s use in more depth as it is one of a range of “anonymous” social networking spaces that appear to be emerging as important alternative spaces for discussion as mainstream social media spaces lose favour/become too well inhabited by extended families, older contacts, etc.

Our core Managing Your Digital Footprint research also continues… I presented a paper, co-written with Louise Connelly, at the European Conference on Social Media 2016 this July on “Students’ Digital Footprints: curation of online presences, privacy and peer support”. This summer we also hosted visiting scholar Rachel Buchanan of University of Newcastle, Australia who has been leading some very interesting work into digital footprints across Australia. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Rachel in the future – watch this space!

And, more exciting news: my lovely colleague Louise Connelly (University of Edinburgh Vet School) and I have been developing a Digital Footprint MOOC which will go live later this year. The MOOC will complement our ongoing University of Edinburgh service (run by IAD) and external consultancy word (led by us in EDINA) and You can find out much more about that in this poster, presented at the European Conference on Social Media 2016, earlier this month…

Preview of Digital Footprint MOOC Poster

Alternatively, you could join me for my Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 show….

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 - If I Googled You, What Would I Find? Poster

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas runs throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but every performance is different! Each day academics and researchers share their work by proposing a dangerous idea, a provocative question, or a challenge, and the audience are invited to respond, discuss, ask difficult questions, etc. It’s a really fun show to see and to be part of – I’ve now been fortunate enough to be involved each year since it started in 2013. You can see a short video on #codi2016 here:

In this year’s show I’ll be talking about some of those core ideas around managing your digital footprint, understanding your online tracks and traces, and reflecting on the type of identity you want to portray online. You can find out more about my show, If I Googled You What Would I Find, in my recent “25 Days of CODI” blog post:

25 Days of CoDI: Day 18

You’ll also find a short promo film for the series of data, identity, and surveillance shows at #codi2016 here:

So… A very busy summer of social media, digital footprints, and exciting new opportunities. Do look out for more news on the MOOC, the YikYak work and the Digital Footprint Training and Consultancy service over the coming weeks and months. And, if you are in Edinburgh this summer, I hope to see you on the 21st at the Stand in the Square!