IWMW 2011 blog » Martin Hamilton http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011 Supporting UKOLN's IWMW 2011 event Fri, 20 Apr 2012 08:43:04 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.1.4 My #iwmw11 Takeaway http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/08/01/my-iwmw11-takeaway/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/08/01/my-iwmw11-takeaway/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2011 21:53:32 +0000 Martin Hamilton http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=309 Continue reading ]]>

I thought it would be interesting and fun to make my plenary session at IWMW11 a bit more interactive than simply me standing up and waffling in front of a bunch of slides. Here’s a few words about what I did and how I did it, plus some feedback from the interactive parts of the talk, and a few observations about this year’s IWMW event.

What’s with those slides?

In the interest of open standards and interoperability I’ll also just take the opportunity to note that my slides are an HTML5 document. This works very nicely in Chrome, Safari and Firefox but has problems with Internet Explorer. In fact, on the lectern PC at IWMW (running IE7) it rendered as a blank screen… I would have expected IE9 to work OK, and this leads me to suspect that my HTML is a bit, well, suspect.

I’ve found that my presentation style has increasingly been shifting from tools like PowerPoint (and Prezi) to showcasing web material. The upshot of this has been that a typical presentation from me has often consisted of me running through a series of browser tabs to illustrate some general point or demonstrate some new facility. Like many of you reading this I came across the html5rocks.com site, and thought “hey, this could be quite a nice way of adding a bit of structure”. It also has the added attraction of packaging up my collection of hyperlinks into a vaguely coherent whole.

If the idea of writing your presentation in HTML makes you think back to the likes of LaTeX (or even SliTeX), then don’t despair – it’s not that hard. For example, here is some HTML:

And here is the end result:

I have to apologise in advance for my choice of styles etc – deep down inside I’m a Web 1.0 kind of guy. It’s actually over 18 years since I put up my first web server, which is in some ways quite an alarming thought.

Interaction via Twitter

When you are speaking in front of a group of 168 people as at IWMW, it’s difficult to have a dialogue. This is something I do occasionally when speaking at conferences and workshops, and I have a great deal of sympathy for University lecturers trying to work with groups of as many as 250 students on a routine basis.

Like many people, at Loughborough we have been experimenting with technology like the excellent voting handsets from Turning Point. Whilst the voting handsets are pretty neat, I suspect that the most tractable approach to engaging with large groups is through the technology that everyone already carries around with them, smartphones in particular.

In the IWMW context it was clear that the vast majority of delegates were using Twitter already. Delegates typically had one or two Internet capable devices on their persons – in some cases significantly more! So, I thought it would be interesting to experiment with a polling approach with results embedded live on my slides, and using Twitter to share the URL of the poll site. Several such services exist, and TwtPoll seemed particularly well suited for my purposes.

To ensure that there would be something for people to see when I initially ran through my slides (and to avoid the embarrassment of a poll with no responses) I publicised the polls before the day of the talk. As Twitter aficionados will know, a carefully chosen hash tag can be helpful to stimulate a dialgue both before and after an event, and this was invaluable for the “amplified” event I organized earlier this year, the Google Apps for Education UK User Group (guug11).

So here’s the result of my first TwtPoll. This asked people whether their organization had a Web 2.0 policy:

In the IWMW context it was particularly interesting to me that some attendees didn’t know the answer to this question, and some were “rigorously enforcing” theirs. I followed this up, only to discover that rigorous enforcement in practice meant sitting down for a cup of tea with the person who had transgressed – not quite the Spanish Inquisition that I had pictured.

Should I be disappointed that only 28 out of 168 delegates (17%) bothered to vote? I don’t think so – that’s a whole lot more engagement than we would have had otherwise, and the nuanced results would be difficult to gauge from a simple show of hands. More importantly, it also stimulated some discussion and broke up what might otherwise have been a much duller presentation!

I also asked people who curated their institutional presence on Twitter, Facebook etc – and in particular what would happen if someone replied to an institutional Tweet. Here are the results from that poll:

Again I was particularly interested in the outlying cases, although it was notable that all the respondents indicated that they had some form of institutional presence on Twitter. In the current climate of “downsizing” and in some cases redundancies, I wondered how many institutions had a single person in the invidious position of having to handle any queries that might come in from parents, prospective students, and so on. It’s easy to see how this could cause problems (holidays, sick leave etc), and that “me” could quickly turn into “nobody”.

Leading by Example

In my IWMW talk I presented some examples of areas where we have working to gather examples of good/best practice of Web 2.0 at Loughborough. This will include a range of services, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. My aim is that this work will also take in institutional use, use by departments and research groups, and personal use – e.g. by academics to promote their research and teaching activities.

We are hoping to capture both examples of tricks and techniques that have worked for people, and the lessons that they have learned from the experience. I expect that there will be a mixture of positive and negative feedback. Here are a few indicative examples, some more prosaic than others:

  • Don’t make “friends” with all your students on Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter replies are public!
  • Decide whether you are using the service in a personal capacity (e.g. my blog at martinh.net) or an institutional capacity – very relevant now that we have institutional Live@edu and Google Apps accounts
  • Know where you stand regarding Intellectual Property rights to any material that you would like to share openly on the Internet
  • Be sure to check the provenance of any Internet sourced material that you would like to use in your teaching – e.g. Creative Commons licensed content and Open Educational Resources from JorumOpen and Xpert are of particular interest here
  • Budget for “freemium” type services, and anticipate future expenditure – e.g. Ning subscription model
  • Have an exit strategy in the event that the site or service you plan to use ceases to trade, e.g. downloading SCORM objects from myUdutu

As we trial Google Apps for staff at Loughborough, the distinction between personal use of the service and an institutionally supported version of the service is very interesting to me. Picking up the earlier example, our staff users are now able to use all 60-odd “consumer” Google services including Blogger and Picasa with their institutional identities. This is exceedingly convenient, however an individual (say) blogging in a personal capacity might well prefer to use a service that wasn’t too closely tied to any one institution.

This is a topic that I’ll return to as we gather feedback from staff on their use of Google Apps – check out the Google Apps section of my blog, or come to my talk at ALT-C 2011 to hear more.


I’m also pleased that our student portal site, my.Lboro, has been well received by students, with some 600 users since we soft launched earlier this Summer. my.Lboro aims to pull together a range of information relevant to students in their everyday existence at Loughborough that was previously hard to find or even inaccessible online.

We are starting from something of a “green field” because Loughborough’s previous portal work has been quite limited in scale and quite domain focused. As a byproduct, we have been able to take advantage of the best of Web 2.0 technologies. Here’s what the my.Lboro site looks like, for anyone who’s interested (click to enlarge):

A lot of what we are doing with this site is actually driven by RSS – as we progress in our implementation of the Terminal Four Site Manager CMS, each of the University’s departments, research groups, support services etc has the opportunity to curate its own RSS feeds. A few of the existing feeds (including general student notices, Students Union News and Events, Library and IT Services news) are gathered together on the my.Lboro site to form a default set of newsfeeds for students:

I expect that over time we will end up with a range of widgets that display individual RSS feeds in slightly different ways, so that there is some opportunity for differentiation. Here is an early example of another RSS powered widget that we have developed to highlight Professional Development training courses. This one will be particularly relevant as we come to trial my.Lboro with staff later this year:

We have also developed widgets using the APIs provided by third party services including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google – you may have noticed the Google Docs widget on the full size screen dump above. Here’s a sample of the sort of output you will see via our Twitter widget:

If this interests you, keep an eye on my blog for further updates on my.Lboro.

“The Takeaway”

So far, so good – but what did I personally take away from IWMW11?

I have a particular interest in digital literacy (and would note in passing that JISC are starting up a major new activity in this area), and I find it interesting to consider the extent to which technologies that technologists take for granted have permeated into institutional culture. As I said at the start of my talk, my intuition is that most institutions are still feeling their way with “Web 2.0″, and that this is par for the course for any technology that is only a few years old.

I’m also fascinated to see the extent to which the neophiles and early adopters amongst us take up a new technology. In my talk I quote Bill Gross, one of the Twitterati, noting that in a month he has acquired as many Google+ followers as he did in four years on Twitter. Are these people all early adopters? Would they have jumped onto any new bandwagon?

In the context I asked IWMW delegates about their use of Google+, with the results shown below. As Sid quickly spotted, this emphasis also helped to make my talk seem bang up to date! This poll had the best response rate, with 38 votes out of 168 (23%), and people clearly valued the ability to share in a granular way. Interestingly, when I repeated this poll on Google+ there was a tie between question E (apprecation of sharing granularity) and F (“but I mostly post public stuff anyway”), so we may be deceiving ourselves to an extent.

Where Google+ is concerned, neophytes might not have been aware that “Circles” are for personal use only – i.e. you can’t create an “IWMW” Circle which other people are then able to use. I hope that Google’s new found emphasis on social features means that they are able to provide enough glue to link Google Groups with Google+ as a sharing destination. We’ll see what happens about that…

Alarmingly, my prediction that Google+ Hangouts would turn into ChatRoulette has already been validated by PlusRoulette.

Outside of my own immediate interests I was very taken by Brian Kelly’s demonstration of Bambuser as a way of very cheaply amplifying an event by live streaming using ordinary consumer grade mobile phone technology. See below for a demo produced using Brian’s Android phone, which we passed around the room as he talked. I particularly liked the way that the Bambuser video was live streamed, but also available to view after the event. Very nice!

At Loughborough we have a full strength lecture capture system (“ReVIEW”, based on Echo360), and have also been active participants in the Steeple community, which is working with the Opencast Matterhorn project to develop an open source lecture capture system. I’ve often thought that it would be interesting to complement this by encouraging students to record their own take on lectures, and Bambuser makes this sort of thing laughably simple. Caveat emptor, though, and do be sure to check out the sound quality on this recording…

If I had to pick one other highlight from a very exciting and diverse programme, it would be the contributions from Chris Gutteridge and Dave Challis on open data. This is of particular interest to me because of our JISC Kit-Catalogue project, which is developing a system that institutions can use to catalogue and provide an open data feed of their equipment and facilities.

Kit-Catalogue is part of the JISC Greening ICT initiative, although something of an unusual project – the more typical activities are around data centre power and cooling, power management in PC labs, and suchlike. There has been quite a bit of interest both nationally and internationally in Kit-Catalogue, and from some of our strategic partners – who we already share facilities and equipment with. It will be very exciting to see the new possibilities that emerge as a byproduct of this awareness raising, and whether we are able to save money by sharing facilities on (say) a local or regional basis.

I have to leave the last word to Chris, though, and his excellent exposition on finding cookies at the University of Southampton via the Grinder software – and note that I’m not talking about the EU Directive on Cookies here!

PS You’ll need to skip 35 minutes into the video


http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/08/01/my-iwmw11-takeaway/feed/ 2
Embedding Web 2.0 http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/06/30/embedding-web-2-0/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/06/30/embedding-web-2-0/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2011 08:30:52 +0000 Martin Hamilton http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=185 Continue reading ]]>

I’ll be talking at IWMW 2011 about institutional attitudes to “Web 2.0″, i.e. social media, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.

As I’ve written before (about the iPad), the key question is: Are you progressive, or regressive?

At Loughborough we are trying to take a progressive approach to Web 2.0 – taking in the feedback from an earlier crowdsourcing exercise.

Come along to my session at IWMW 2011 (or read on :-) for more…

Isn’t this a bit old hat?

If you’re a Web Manager, Learning Technologist, or all round neophile, then you may feel that Web 2.0 has already been done to death. “Enough of that already” – time to move on to the Semantic Web, Linked/Open Data etc.

However, our institutions are still coming to terms with concepts like the Read-Write Web, and the implications of setting up institutional Facebook and Twitter presences. (And just who _is_ going to reply to all those Tweets from new students asking for advice in the first couple of weeks of term?)

Here’s an example that crystallizes a lot of this for me. As an IWMW delegate you are expected to be familiar with all of the new stuff that’s coming up. Would you encourage people to use PeerIndex (below left) or Klout (below right) – or both? And which of the two will still be around in a year’s time?

[Obviously I prefer PeerIndex, because it gives me a higher score - even if the numbers are in a smaller font ;-]

So, that’s a slightly unfair example – as an IWMW delegate you will need to use and understand both in order that you can make a sensible recommendation should someone ask you for a perspective. However, I know from talking to members of my institution that people _typically_ do not have the time or inclination to check out every new website, app, etc.

At Loughborough we’ve been experimenting with a best practice guide for Web 2.0, using a “traffic lights” style approach, which is the mysterious Wired/Hired/Fired graphic at the top of this post:

  • Wired – new and shiny, the upcoming thing
  • Hired – mainstream, a safe bet
  • Fired – moribund, future uncertain or being withdrawn

[See, I tricked you into reading this far to find out what that was all about!]

Need to Know

Our best practice guide (still under development) features a case study for each featured site or service, with quotes from users at Loughborough and a “What you need to know” section that discusses any wrinkles or nuances that people should bear in mind.

Consider, for example, Facebook – the image below shows our induction page for students joining the new History cohort at Loughborough in Autumn 2011.

We’ve had really good results from this exercise, but of course there are a few things about Facebook that we need to warn any budding social networkers about – not least of which is that lecturers should think carefully before “friending” all of their students, given the poor granularity of Facebook sharing settings.

Another good example is our JISC and HEA funded Second Life Virtual Printing Press, as shown below:

The feedback we have had from this project has been excellent, but at the same time we need to make people aware of the financial outlay involved in developing for Second Life, of potential alternatives such as OpenSim, and the implications of building models that use large numbers of prims.

Impact of BYO Computing

We have also found from our analytics work that students and staff members now have quite radically different IT environments. The Google Analytics chart below (stats for the last month) shows 35% of our student users running Chrome, 21% running Firefox, 10% running Safari – and just 32% running Internet Explorer. As you may have guessed, Internet Explorer is our standard “corporate” browser. The University runs around 1,000 student PC workstations, all supplied with IE only. Hence the true figure for IE users (on their own equipment) will be much lower than the 32% shown here. For completeness, I’ll note that virtually all of the 10% of Safari users were on Macs.

It follows that web related developments (and particularly those intended for students) need to be thoroughly tested in a heterogenous environment. The growth in use of Chrome is particularly interesting given the browser’s powerful sync capabilities, and the ability to deploy centrally using Microsoft’s system management framework. Student experience is a key driver for us at Loughborough, and if Chrome’s momentum continues to build then I expect that we will roll it out as an optional alternative browser within the next twelve months. The same is unlikely to be true of Firefox, at least for the moment.

The chart below clearly shows that over half of the traffic to the site hosting our Analytics script is from laptops. However, once all of the different “laptop resolution” figures are aggregated, we get a figure closer to 75% for laptop use.

Again there are some significant implications for us in terms of web design – just how much scrolling should someone be expected to do, and is the common denominator 768 or 800 pixels screen height? And more broadly in terms of IT Strategy (we are doing some work with JISC right now field testing their Strategic ICT Toolkit) – what is the point of laptop/tablet ownership where central provision no longer adds value to the student experience?

The points I’ve highlighted above could be quite significant in terms of a third party website or bought-in service. Imagine the embarrassment if your institution bought into (say) a hosted VLE that only worked on Internet Explorer, or was effectively unusable due to assumptions about screen dimensions.

Wrap Up

I’ll pull out some vignettes from our guidance below, but this is really just to get a bit of a debate going. Please feel free to comment on this blog post or tweet me (@martin_hamilton) if you have any feedback on it, and I’ll try to work your comments into my talk. I’ll also aim to make my session at IWMW quite an interactive one, so please do come prepared with anecdotes, statistics, bouquets and brickbats!



  • Registration is typically required in order to contribute – although it’s often possible to authenticate yourself using your Facebook or Twitter credentials
  • Care must be taken to delineate the truly personal, e.g. by creating a separate account for “official” use of a service, and adjusting sharing permissions appropriately
  • This is the Internet’s frontier – very little is guaranteed and change is constant
  • It’s essential that you have a “Plan B” should a service you are using no longer be available, or change materially – e.g. backup copies of your work
  • Some services, such as Google Apps for Education, come with an SLA and support arrangements
  • …whereas others do not inherently provide even a backup capability


http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/06/30/embedding-web-2-0/feed/ 3