If You Don’t Like REF, What Are You Gonna Do About It?

I have to admit that I’m still not totally sure that I know what digital scholarship is all about, or its relationship to celebrity blogging, so I thought I’d try to consider it in terms of what it means for ‘outreach’.

[Antescript – there are a lot of “I”s in this post… sorry about that…]

When I started out as an academic at the OU ten or so years ago, I fell into the whole schools outreach thing, delivering hands-on robotics related activities all over the place (including a trip to Japan with a group of Blue Peter competition winners, a blagged film preview, the occasional public engagement grant and so on…). This naturally led into the idea of ‘in-reach’, helping programme the first few RoboFesta-UK meetings for robotics educators and interested parties in schools, HE, and industry, running the Creative Robotics Research Network for a couple of years, and convening a couple of workshops at SGAI (one on public engagement around intelligent robotics, the other on ethical issues in intelligent robotics research).

These moves towards trying to engage peers rather than populace (for want of a much better phrase) was informed in part by one of the most rewarding programmes of activity I have ever been involved with – the NESTA Crucible. Part of the reading I did around the Crucible weekends was a Demos report on ‘upstream’ engagement (See-through Science). This report, and the related discussions we had around it, plotted the evolution of science outreach and communication activities from ideas relating to the public understanding of science, to public engagement with science, and thence ‘upstream’ engagement with policy formation. (I also learned a truism of public consultation exercises – that they are organised in order to find the best way of telling folk what you’ve already decided upon…;-)

So what has this to do with digital scholarship? Well, if the digital scholar is to trad academic, what is digital outreach as to trad outreach? Can we plot a similar evolution in the communication activities of digital academics, from telling folk what’s good for them though our blogging activities, through trying to engage them in conversation (or at least, trying to get them to spread our crude attempts at video making as viral warez), to engaging with policy makers on twitter and via gov departmental blogs?

I have no idea…

Because really this whole post is a badly contrived attempt to plug the WriteToReply republication of the Research Excellence Framework consultation document.

If the thought of reading the whole thing puts you off, we’ve published a Quick Start Guide you can find the area of the consultation that particularly appeals to you, and just comment on that: Research Excellence Framework consultation: Quick Start Guide

As with every other WriteToReply republication, each paragraph has a unique URI that you can link to from a commentary on your own website; you can also comment directly on individual paragraphs, as well as subscribe to comment feeds on a per section or per commenter basis (see here for more details, including information on how you can use the republication to formulate your own official response to the consultation).

So go on, what are you waiting for…?!

PS Hmmm, stumbling across Martin’s What would ALT-REF look like? just now, I wonder: should we set up a “Fake REF” wiki, a bit like the Fake Digital Britain Report we hosted earlier this year?!;-)

PPS it seems as if University of Leicester Library is already pre-empting part of the outcome: Job Ad: Bibliometrician (bibliometrics feature quite strongly in the consultation).

Watching YouTube Videos on Boxee via DeliTV

One of the easiest ways to get started with DeliTV is to use it to watch video feed subscription from YouTube.

With DeliTV, you can bookmark the following sorts of Youtube content and then view it in a DeliTV Channel:

Bookmarked YouTube page Resulting DeliTV subscription
User homepage/channel
e.g Teachers’ TV channel
Guardian Newspaper
Recently uploaded videos for that user
Playlist page e.g T151: 3D Geo-World Demos Playlist feed
Video page e.g The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version) Single video
[NEW] Search results page e.g Search for “formula one” Search results containing 20 most relevant videos

Here is the example channel bookmarked to a demo DeliTV channel guide: delitv_ytdemo:

(You can of course grab a copy of any of these bookmarks into your own delicious account.)

We can now bookmark this channel guide so that it appears in a DeliTV multiplex. In the following example, I’m bookmarking it to my main delitv feed, and also to the boxeetest5 multiplex.

Here’s the result in my boxeetest5 feed:


And here’s a view of the delitv_ytdemo channel guide:

DeliTV channel guide

This is what the bookmarked user/channel produces – the recent uploads listing for that user/channel:

DeliTV - Youtube user/channel recent upoads

And here’s the playlist guide:

DeliTV - Youtube playlist feed

Remember, with DeliTV you don’t need to bookmark the actual Youtbe feed – just bookmark the user/channel, playlist or video page to Delicious, and DeliTV will do the rest for you…

To learn how to subscribe to your own DeliTV channel, see Deli TV – Personally Programmed Social Television Channels on Boxee: Prototype

PS a new feature, currently in testing, lets you bookmark a search results page. Whilst it is possible to generate searches for playlist or users/channels as well as videos, DeliTV currently returns just the 20 most relevant Youtube videos when a Youtube search results page is bookamarked.

Implicit Analytics…

Okay, call me paranoid, but with Google buying recaptcha (e.g. Teaching computers to read: Google acquires reCAPTCHA, By Acquiring ReCaptcha, Google Acquired a Crowd Computer Along the Way ), the Goog got another way of seeing how much traffic a particular web page is getting, and potentially yet another way of tracking how identifiable people move across websites…

Now I don’t know if the various Google properties and services share traffic information, or reconcile user cookie IDs to piece to together as much as they can about where you’re visiting on the web, but if I was to have a paranoid moment, I’d start to think about how many websites don’t have one of the following associated with them:

There are other ways for Google to find out what you’re up to of course…

  • Google Reader – so the Goog can see what fed powered content you’ve been looking at – and clicking through on
  • Google search (and all the other Google search properties) – you think Google doesn’t pay attention to which links you click through to? (see Google Web History for what Google might have learned about you from that source if you you have a Google account.)
  • Google Toolbar – this can track you wherever you go…
  • Google Chrome – and presumably, so can this… ( this is a paranoid fantasy, right?!;-)
  • Google Latitude, and ‘My Location’ services on mobile phones: it’s not just your web locations the Goog is tracking; and you have all seen The bright side of sitting in traffic: Crowdsourcing road congestion data , right?;-)
  • not strictly tracking, but it still helps Google build up a picture of you: Google social graph API (See also: Time to Get Scared, People?);
  • [added] Google Calendar – so the Goog gets clues as to where you are in time and space in one fell swoop… (Doesn’t Gmail also scan emails for calendar info that it can helpfully add to Google Calendar? Which means it can glean some of this info from your email, too..?)

But then again, I suppose my ISP could record the URL of every page I visit if it wanted to…?

PS here’s another thought – ReCaptchas are often used on sign up pages… so if there’s a ReCaptcha cookie with a user identifier in it, you can see keep track of what services a particular individual is signing up to… maybe…?! (paranoiiiiaaaaaa… heh heh ;-)

Towards Vendor Certification on the Open Web? Google Training Resources

Earlier this year, Google opened up a Google Apps Authorised Reseller programme (announcement) that encourages third parties to support, and sell, Google’s online applications.

For some time, I’ve been suggesting that there may be an opportunity for HE to start innovating in the area of open web and cloud app vendor certified training schemes (e.g. Google/Yahoo/Amazon Certified Professionals…) in the guise of IT professional development courses. (We already do something similar in the OU in the form of our “Cisco course”: T216 Cisco networking (CCNA), which wraps CIsco’s training materials with an additional layer of academic support and assessment; and the course TT381 Open Source Development Tools, which focusses on how to use CVS and LAMP stack. T320 Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice looks at web services and APIs, I think, though I’m not sure of the extent to which it actually does (or should) provide ‘training’ in how to use actual third party APIs? )

So for example, I don’t find it too hard to imagine that we might rejig our web certificate courses to include an element of formal appraisal of how to use javascript frameworks such as JQuery, or YUI, or webservices from Amazon or PayPal, finessing the creation of vendor or foundation recognised ‘vendor qualifications’ along the way…

With Google just announcing that they are going to launch a “dedicated Google cloud for government customers in the US” (Google Apps and Government) I thought it might be timely to do a quick survey of the training materials that Google already provides, to see whether there was enough already in place for us to produce a quick wrapper and get a course launched.

Here’s what I found:

There are also various API libraries that don’t (yet) have training associated with them; e.g. Google visualisation API, (see a list of all the available Google Developer “products” here: Google Code: Site Directory), as well as things like the Google Code University.

For web-based, hands-on activities, these playgrounds could be really useful:

  • Google Code Playground – an interactive playspace for tinkering with Google APIs
  • KML Interactive Sampler – mess around with KML code and see how Google Earth treats it. (I notice that the Google Earth API is also available in the Google Code Playground… so maybe this sampler is deprecated?)

Google code playground http://code.google.com/apis/ajax/playground/

For more general user interface and javascript training, I’ve always found Yahoo to be pretty good… For example, there are plenty of resources on the Yahoo User Interface libraries site, and I’ve always thought that the Yahoo Design Patterns site would be a great resource for teaching web design. (There’s also the YUI Theater, which I’ve dipped in to from time to time…)

Just by the by, on the UI design front, the flickr Design Patterns collection is worth a look, as is UI Patterns; and Product Planner is a handy resource if you want to get into the right state of mind for thinking about user flows through a website.

PS as this post has largely turned into a round-up of Google stuff, it’s probably also worth adding these in: Google Research publications and Google Talks.

PPS if you like the interactive Google code editor, you might also like:

So My Boxee “Delicious TV” Hack Gets a Trademark Infringement Warning

So it seems that the naming of my delicious/Boxee TV hack infringes a Trademark…

All Art Media, Inc.
161 Fort Road
South Portland, ME 04106

7 September 2009

OUseful.info, The Blog

Attention: Tony Hirst

RE:	Trademark Infringement

Dear Mr. Hirst:

[All Art Media, Inc. ] (the “Company”) owns and operates [Delicious TV].
The Company also owns trademarks associated with its business - find a
sample at DeliciousTV.com - [registered with the United States Patent and
Trademark Office with the registration number “U.S. Reg. No. 3,069,320,” 
(“Trademark”) registered on March 14, 2006.

It has come to our attention that your blog and websites, OUseful.info,
The Blog and Programmableweb.com, has been using our Trademark or a very
similar mark (“Infringing Trademark”) in association with the marketing,
sale, distribution or identification of its products and/or services, and
is thus trading on the name, goodwill and reputation earned by the
Company.  It is possible that you were unaware of this conflict and we
believe it is in our mutual interest to bring it to your attention and
resolve it.

Our Trademark provides us with certain proprietary rights, including the
right to monitor and restrict the unauthorized use of our Trademark, or
confusingly similar trademarks, in association with non-Company products
or services. We must exercise this right to protect the value of both our
Trademark and of our business. Our Trademark signifies the high quality of
products and services offered by the Company and indicates to our
customers and to the consuming public that all of our goods and/or
services come from a single source. As such, it contributes substantially
to the goodwill and value of the Company. Federal law supports our
position that confusingly similar trademarks may cause undesirable
confusion in the public. This confusion may in this instance cause
material and irreparable harm to our Trademark by eroding the distinct
association among our Trademark, our products and services, and the
Company. Your actions constitute trademark infringement and unfair
competition under both state and federal law, including the Lanham Act,
(15 U.S.C. §§ 1051-1127). Remedies for such infringement can include
payment of actual and treble damages, recovery of profits, reimbursement
of attorney’s fees, and may also include injunctions against your further
use of the Infringing Trademark and the seizure of infringing materials.

We respectfully request that you immediately discontinue any and all use
of the Infringing Trademark in association with the marketing, sale,
distribution, or identification of your products or services. Please
respond to us in writing by email within fourteen (14) calendar days
indicating that you will cease and desist from any and all further use of
our Trademark, the Infringing Trademark, or any confusingly similar
trademark. We hope this issue can be resolved civilly and that we can
avoid pursuing any further legal remedies.

This letter is not intended to be a full statement of the facts in this
matter, nor is it a waiver of our rights and remedies, whether at law or
equity, all of which are expressly reserved.


Elizabeth Carson
161 Fort Road
South Portland, ME 04106

Executive Producer
Delicious TV's Totally Vegetarian

Now, as far as the ProgrammablWeb goes, I don’t think I was registered/logged in when I submitted the hack, which means I can’t change any of the details there. But is it my responsiblity to now go round the web trying to clean up all mentions of Deli TV? If you have posted anything about, you know, that hack, please modify it along the lines of, I dunno, “Deli TV”.

Ho hum… Anyway – Deli TV, then? Or the “The DeliBox?”…? Which do you prefer?

Browser Use In Higher Education – A Brake on Innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I set up a quick poll to try to get a feel for what sort of browsers were being used as the default browser on computers in UK universities. I provided a little bit of rationale in a post on the IWMW blog (What’s the default browser on your network?) but the main reason was to get a feel for what sorts of browser any #jiscri apps might have to contend with if we wanted our JISCRI project apps to ever get used in that default user context (which is the point, right?!;-)

Anyway, here are the results, such as they are:

Hmmm…. (See also this Quirks Mode post on why “IE6 will continue to exist when IE7 has all but disappeared”.)

After a bit of consultation with @josswinn, I’ve popped up a more elaborate questionnaire here: JISCRI “What do we have to cope with browser wise” survey, so if you’ve a couple of minutes to spare, we’d appreciate you filling it in… (or not – what do I care?!;-)

If you want to create your own reports of the data, feel free (for a quick how to on that, see: Creating Your Own Results Charts for Surveys Created with Google Forms)

PS note that this is not an ‘official’ JISCRI survey, nor is it posted as part of a JISCRI project. I just thought it might be useful, that’s all… ;-)