In Passing, Quick Comments On An OER Powered Digital Scholarship Resource Site

digitalscholarship.ac.uk is a new OER powered resource site intended to support the use of digital tools in academic study. Resources are both tagged and organised into a series of learning topics:

(I’m not sure how the tags relate to the learning topics? That’s one for my to do list…;-)

Some really quick observations that struck me about the pages used to describe resources that are linked to from the site:

  1. I couldn’t immediately work out where the link to the resource actually was (it’s the dark blue backgrounded area top left, the sort of colour that for me gets pushed in to the background of a page and completely ignored, or the “open link in new window” link); I expected the value of the “Type of Media” attribute (eg “PDF download” in the above case) to be the link to the resource, rather than just a metadata statement.
  2. What on earth is going on with the crumb trail… [ 1 ] [ 2 ] etc to me represents page numbers of a kind (eg first page of results, second page of results) not depth in some weird hierarchy, as seems to be the case in this site?
  3. The comment captcha asks you “What is the code in the image?” Erm, code???? Do I have to decipher the captcha characters somehow (some Captchas offer a simple some for you to calculate, for example)? Erm… What do I do? What do I do??!?!!?
  4. I got a bit confused at first that the page was just using redirects rather than direct links to resources – the “Visit and rate this resource” link is a redirect that loads the target resource into a frame topped by a comment bar. (I didn’t spot, at first, that the ‘open in new window’ link points directly to the resource. And, erm, why would I open in a new window? New tab, maybe, though typically I choose to that via a right-click contextual menu action if I don’t want a page to load in the current tab?

The “Visit and Rate” link adds a topbar view over the actual resource page:

The “Add a comment” call to action (again, deep blue background which pushed it away from my attention) opens a comment page in a new tab… I think I’d have preferred this to open within the context of the top bar, so that I could refer directly to the resource within the context of the same tab whilst actually making a comment?

One final comment – and something I’ll try to get round to at some point: how do the resources look as a graph…?;-) It would be great if all the resources were available as data via an OPML feed, with one item per resource and also metadata describing the tags and Learning Topics identified, and then we could map how tags related to Learning Topics and maybe try to learn something from that. As a data file listing the resources doesn’t seem to be available, a scrape is probably called for… Here’s a recipe I’ll maybe try out at some point:

– scrape the tagcloud page for: tags and individual tag page URL; learning topic page URLs
– for each tag page and learning topic page, grab the URLs to resource pages, deduping along the way; this should grab us links to all resource pages, include pathological ones that have a tag but no topic, or a topic but no tag;
– for each resource page, scrape everything ;-)
– and finally: play with the data… maybe do a few graphs, maybe generate a custom search engine over the resources (or add it to my UK HEI Library Community CSE [about] etc etc)

PS Martin Weller has blogged a short note about the process used to identify OERs included in the site here: Two OER sites for researchers.