Odd Thoughts About Digital Scholarship

A couple of weeks ago I did a phone interview for the OU’s DISCO project – OU Digital Scholarship Portal. From what I remember of the call, it rambled over many and varied topics, including possible metrics that might be taken into account when putting together promotion cases that include a demonstration of excellence in digital scholarship (whatever that is…).

Anyway, today I wasted a day – a whole day – updating my CV and writing stuff that seems to be the wrong stuff for an OU promotion case. Ever the reflective sort(?!), here are some observations I came away with:

– Slideshare is my presentation memory; I need to get in the habit of recording the date and event a presentation is for when I upload it to make it easier to list the presentations I’ve given. Alternatively, it might make sense to use a calendar to record the dates and events I’ve spoken at and then use the iCal feed to display the result;

– not writing formal academic papers means I have nothing to cite that t’committee would accept as credible. However, I have given quite a few interviews over the last couple of years to folk writing formal reports, doing research projects, or writing books. I’ve also participated in a few Delphi exercises and attended invitation only workshops and brainstorming sessions, as well as being invited to speak at events folk pay money to attend. Here’s part of what I wrote on this topic in my draft case: I have all but given up on formal academic publishing, in favour of short-form informal blog posts, occasional articles, and interviews for people who are writing long-form pieces (books, reports) which typically offer a greater or more immediate reach than scholarly articles in refereed journals, or benefit from a greater impact or better targeted audience than I could personally reach. The problem? That whilst I regularly participate in interviews and conversations with people writing official reports, books, etc as well as participating in Delphi Exercises[,] I’m not very good at keeping records of these or tracking down citations…

What occurs to me, then, is that I am more interested in direct or immediate communications of ideas as part of an ongoing process of learning and discovery (as part of a conversation, to use that well-worn and increasingly pointless phrase…) rather than archiving ideas for the record. (This also reflects my cynical attitude that the majority of stuff that appears in the formal record is not, to my mind, a contribution to anything other than the bulk of a journal sold for profit…)

If I’m going into the archive, someone else can put me there… But for the promotion case, acknowledgements are the lowest of the low in terms of academic credibility, rivaled only by (pers comm). Which is a shame – because one of the quotes I carry with me (but unfortunately can’t credit because I can’t for the life of me remember who said it, except that it was someone from outside the OU giving a seminar in the OU), that the whole point of being an academic is to have interesting conversations.

Anyway, the reason why I started to write this post is this: if the digital scholarship folks want metrics around how effective a scholar’s online activities are, it may be worth looking at tangible outcomes in the real world – such as invitations (e.g. to speak at seminars and workshops) and acknowledgements (e.g. in books, articles and reports). This conversion from informal online activity to a formal request in physical space is where the “citation” is evidenced.

And as Stephen Downes writes in a recent Half an Hour post:

By sharing my work freely, people around the world are able to see it, and they willingly pay for me to come and speak to them. I do not collect speaker fees, but I do require that they pay my expenses, because otherwise I could not afford to travel to their cities. We both benefit, because I then use these trips to produce work that we share with other people around the world, and the cycle continues.

You might think, it’s not a very good deal for some organization to pay several thousand dollars to fly me to their city. But consider the cost were they to buy books from me instead. They could get maybe 30 or 40 copies of an academic text for the same amount. This way, they get all my content I ever create for free, as many copies as they would ever need. [Paying For Art]

If the point of publishing is to communicate ideas, then presentations count. And if the refereeing process is to guarantee quality, then being given an invitation to speak also reflects reputation brownie points and an element of trust on the part of the person responsible for extending the invitation, even if they are not explicitly evaluating the actual content of a presentation a priori.

As to the benefits accruing to Stephen’s employer: “[t]hey get the reputation from sponsoring my work” as well as influencing whatever he is working on.

I’m not sure what metrics Stephen uses if he goes through an annual staff development/appraisal cycle (I thought I’d read something he’d written on this before, but I can’t find it if he did…?) but it would be interesting to see them…

PS today has been crap day. The only enjoyable part has been this bit – thinking about how I might be able to build a living CV… Paraphrasing Fermat, if I didn’t have to walk the dog just now, I’d have been able to build the neatest little demonstration site for this, which would include parsing the events out of my CV into a spreadsheet, and then using my Maintaining a Google Calendar from a Google Spreadsheet recipe to get them into a calendar;-)

Why I Joined the Facebook Privacy Changes Backlash…

Whenever Facebook rolls out a major change, there’s a backlash… Here’s why I posted recently about how to opt out of Facebook’s new services…

Firstly, I’m quite happy to admit that it might be that you will be benefit from opting in to the Facebook personaliation and behavioural targeting services. If you take the line that better targeted ads are content, and behavioural advertising is one way to achieve that, all well and good. Just bear in mind that your purchasing decisions will be even more directedly influenced ;-)

What does concern me is that part of the attraction of Facebook for many people are its privacy controls. But when they’re too confusing to understand, and potentially misleading, it’s a Bad Thing… (I suppose you could argue that Facebook is innovating in terms of privacy, openness, and data sharing on behalf of its users, but is that a Good Thing?)

If folk think they have set their privacy setting one way, but they operate in another through the myriad interactions of the different settings, users may find that the images and updates they think they are posting into a closed garden, are in fact being made public in other ways, whether by the actions of their friends, applications they have installed, pages they have connected to, or websites they visit.

The Facebook privacy settings also seem to me to suggest various asymmetries. For example, if think I am only sharing videos with friends, then if those friends can also share on content because of the way I have set/not changed the default on another setting, I may be publishing content in a way that was not intended. It seems to me that Facebook is set up to devolve trust to the edge of my network – I publish to the edge of the my network, for example, but the people or pages on the edge of my network can then push the content out further.

So for example, in the case of connecting to pages, Facebook says: “Keep in mind that Facebook Pages you connect to are public. You can control which friends are able to see connections listed on your profile, but you may still show up on Pages you’re connected to. If you don’t want to show up on those Pages, simply disconnect from them by clicking the “Unlike” link in the bottom left column of the Page.”

The privacy settings around how friends can share on content I have shared with them is also confusing – do their privacy settings override mine on content I have published to them?

I’m starting to think (and maybe I’m wrong on this) that the best way of thinking about Facebook is to assume that everything you publish to your Facebook network can be republished by the members of your network under the terms of their privacy conditions. So if I publish a photo that you can see, then I have to assume that you can also publish it under your privacy settings. And so on…

This contrasts with a view of each object having a privacy setting, and that by publishing an object, the publisher controls that setting. So for example, I could publish an object and say it could only be seen by friends of me, and that setting would stick with the object. If you treid to republish it, it could only be repulshed to your friends who are also my friends. My privacy settings would set the scope, or maximum reach, of your republication of it.

Regular readers will know I’ve started looking at ways of visualising Facebook networks using Gephi. What I’m starting to think is that Facebook should offer a visualisation of the furthest reach of a person’s data, videos, images, updates, etc, given their current privacy settings (or preview changes to that reach if they want to test out new privacy settings.

PS re the visualisation thing – something like this, generated from your current settings, would do the job nicely:

Facebook privacy defaults

More at The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook, including a view of just how open things are now…

WordPress Paranoia Prevents Me Warning About Facebook Evilness

So – if you’re on Facebook, here’s a link you should all follow and take action about:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/settings/?tab=privacy&section=applications&field=friends_share

It should look like this:

But WordPress saves it like this:

The WordPress saved version isn’t properly resolved by Facebook, it just goes to:
http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy

It should go to a page that looks like this:

Facebook privacy - what my friends can share about me

Here’s a shortened link that does work: http://bit.ly/bwG9Xe

Follow it, and decide whether you like what you see. You do know who your friends are, don’t you, and you do know who they know? And where they go? And what applications they have installed? Becuase my reading of the above is that they can share information you shared with them to all those people, whether you approve or not? Or maybe I just misunderstand the permissions granted by the above form in the weird and wacky game of Top Trumps that is the Facebook privacy environment. Maybe the permissions you set to only share photos and videos with friends trumps the settings that let friends share your photos and videos with applications and sites they visit. Or maybe they don’t? Does anyone know for certain…?!

This is what mine looks like now:

For more on this, see: Keeping Up with Facebook Privacy Changes (Again)

PS You should probably also consider unchecking this ( http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy&section=applications#!/settings/?tab=privacy&section=applications&field=instant_personalization ):

If you leave it set on Allow, when you visit a site that Facebook is friendly with it might share you data with that partner site for you… bless…

PPS Because Facebook is geting increasingly cavalier with what it lets applications do with you data, I suggest you take a look at the applications you have installed from the Applications page at:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/editapps.php?v=allowed

This page is not easy to find from the under the privacy settings, but can be reached from the Facebook Account menu, under Application Settings.

If you don’t use an app, particularly an external one, I suggest you delete it…

[UPDATE: Why I Joined the Facebook Privacy Changes Backlash…]

Hidden Talents of the Google Streetview Car…

Whilst playing with some Google maps last night, I noticed a new control:

Click it, and the browser throws up a request:

For those of you who haven’t seen this sort of thing before, the latest browsers come complete with location aware browsing. In the case of my browser, “Firefox gathers information about nearby wireless access points and your computer’s IP address. Then Firefox sends this information to the default geolocation service provider, Google Location Services, to get an estimate of your location.”

If you’re using a mobile phone, additional cues ares available, such as a GPS fix if your phone is GPS enabled, and cell tower triangulation, where the phone’s location can be detected not only from the current cell the phone is registered with, but also from the signal strength of surrounding cells.

If you accept the location finding, the new Google map control turns out to be a blue dot control…

You can revoke the location aware privilege by going to the site you granted access to, selecting “Page Info” from the Firefox tools menu, and then tweaking the Location Awareness setting:

Adding location awareness to a web page is trivial (e.g. Where are you? Find out with geolocation in Javascript) and is something I suspect that Facebook will soon have a privacy setting for…;-)

Anyway, in order for wifi network detection to be usable, a service is required that can map a network identifier onto a location. Skyhook Wireless is one provider of this service (I don’t think Google has acquired it – yet…), but Google also appears to be building its own…

There are several ways for Google to do this, of course…. If you have an Android phone, then it’s in principle possible for the phone to reconcile GPS data with cell tower and wifi network identifers and signal strengths. And the Google Streetview car? Well it appears that it doesn’t just collect imagery… On Google Street View Car Logging Wifi Networks: “Google’s roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it’s got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users’ unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.” In the past, of course, there have also been privacy concerns about Google Street View capturing faces and car number plates. (See also: Large-scale Privacy Protection in Google Street View [PDF]).

Ever one to take an idea and run too far with it, I had a little think around what other sorts of “assist” information Google might be able to capture from Street View. So for example, in December last year (2009) it was announced that Google takes another stab at QR codes. Will it work this time?: “Google announced a broad plan to introduce QR code stickers in the windows of over 100,000 local businesses nationwide.” Hmm…so that means if Street View captures the QR code, it can then reconcile that location with your business…

(Street View captured QR-codes also provides a launchpad for augmented reality ads in Google Maps and Google Earth, e.g. by using the QR-code as the augmented reality registration image. See for example Real-Time Ads Coming to Google Street View?.)

Something else that was announced this week – Google Cloud Print, in which printers become accessible, and fax machines can be laid to rest…

Our goal is to build a printing experience that enables any app (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer anywhere in the world.

The Goog will quickly work out where in the world those printers are, of course… (I can’t wait to see a “Printers near me” option appearing in context menus… Err…;-)

(Just in passing, this also caught my eye this week: Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets. In short, digital photocopiers are scanners, with hard drives. So assuming that you know all those stories about sensitive information leaking from organisations via hard drives on scrapped PCs, well, err..? What happened to your last workplace photocopier?)

Okay, enough loose threads there for you to weave into your own nightmare scenario… @andysc suggested this was all getting a bit like Halting State, so I’m going to track that book (which is new to me) down right now…

See also: So What Do You Think You’re Doing, Sonny?

Keeping Up with Facebook Privacy Changes (Again)

Although on a day to day basis I’m a Mac user, every so often I need to dip into the Windows virtual machine on my laptop. This generally fills me with fear and trepidation, because as an infrequent Windows user, whenever I do go over to the dark side I know my internet connection will grind to a halt and I will get regular requests to restart the machine as Windows goes into update mode. In a similar vein, on a day to day basis it’s Twitter that meets my social web needs. But on the rare occasions I go into Facebook, I’m also filled with dread. Why? Because there is frequently a new privacy minefield to negotiate (e.g. Keeping Your Facebook Updates Private).

Over the last few days, there’s been a Facebook developers conference, so I thought it worth checking in to see what new horrors have been released; and here’s what I saw today:

Hmm…

So Facebook makes it easy for website owners to help you “tweet” a link to your Facebook stream… (I wonder, does this also work as a social bookmarking service? Can I browse through the links I’ve Liked?

Ah – according to Deceiving Users with the Facebook Like Button, it appears that “Removing the feed item from your newsfeed does not remove your like — it stays in your profile. You have to click the button again to remove the ‘Like’ relationship.” So it could be used as a social bookmarking service, of a sort. Or at least a Facebook equivalent to “favorited” websites in your browser.

As you might have guessed from the previously linked to post, all may not (yet) be well with the Liked implementation though – because it seems that it’s possible to add a “Like” link on one page that actually Likes a page on another website. Which reminds me a little of phishing

So, what other goodness (?!) does Facebook have in store for us?

Instant personalisation, hmm…? So if I go to Pandora, say, it can trawl my Facebook profile, decide from my Likes and updates that I’m a goth hippy groover, and generate a personalised radio station for me jus’ like that? The oo’s have it… (ooh…, cool… or spooky…?;-)

And guess what, Facebook have thoughtfully opted me in to that service, without me having to do anything, and without even forcing me to notice (I didn’t have to follow the link on the home page to read the new service announcement; and for mobile users, I wonder if any of the Facebook apps tell the users that they’ve been opted in to this new way of giving their personal data to third parties…?)

I think I’ll click here:

I think I’ll untick…

Am I sure…? Err, yes… Confirm.

But what does this mean…?

Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

Hmmm, I think I’ll Learn More… (do you ever get the feeling you’ve ended up in one of those Create Your Own Adventure style games, only for real… Is this Brazil, or a Trial?

Err, right…

I guess this is the one:

What data is shared with instantly personalized partner sites?
When you and your friends visit an instantly personalized site, the partner can use your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and connections. To access any non-public information, the website is required to ask for you or your friend’s explicit permission.

Or is that “When you or your friends visit…”? That is, if my friend visits Pandora and goes for instant personalisation, can Pandora use my friend as a vector to grab my public information? A question that now follows is – can Pandora identify my Facebook identity through some mechanism or other (e.g. Facebook set cookies?) and reconcile that with what it has learned about me from my friends who have opted in to personlisation features. And if so, could it then offer me personalisation services anyway, even though I opted out on Facebook…?

I’m still unticking… because as Facebook adds partners, I probably won’t pick up on it…

So, do I dare walk up the Facebook Privacy tree…? Let’s go up to the Privacy Setting page:

So here’s the Profile Settings control panel:

Hmmm… there’s a link there to Application Settings, which I don’t think appears on the Privacy settings page. Where does it go?

I’m not sure I understand everything in that drop down menu…?

How about the Contact settings?

Search?

Blocking?

Sheesh.. So here are the tabs that I have to work through:

Many of the pages only require setting a simple drop down box (though thinking through the implications, and what relates to what may be comples); but there are also quite a few that offer “Edit Settings…” links, and I suspect that some of those open up into rather more involved dialogues…

I reckon you could easily spend at least 1 week/10 hours of a 10 point short course just looking at Facebook privacy settings, and trying to think through what the implications are…

Which brings to mind the Facebook network visulisation I started working on with Gephi… Could we use visualisation tools to highlight who in your Facebook network can see what given your current privacy settings? Methinks there’s an app in that…

PS popping back in to Facebook just now to delete most of the apps I’m signed up to, I noticed on the “click here” page linked to above the option:

What your friends can share about you
Control what your friends can share about you when using applications and websites

Clicking through to Edit Settings, here’s what I see:

[Since grabbing that screenshot, I’ve unchecked all those boxes…]

I’ll spell out the text for you:

What your friends can share about you through applications and websites

When your friend visits a Facebook-enhanced application or website, they may want to share certain information to make the experience more social. For example, a greeting card application may use your birthday information to prompt your friend to send a card

If your friend uses an application that you do not use, you can control what types of information the application can access. Please note that applications will always be able to access your publicly available information (Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages) and information that is visible to Everyone

So… if i don’t take steps to protect my information, then my friends can give access to my presence, videos, links, photos, videos and photos and tagged in, my birthday, hometown etc etc to third party applications? Does that mean if I have various privacy settings set to share with friends only, they can still share the information on to third parties I did not anticipate seeing the data?

In the following set up, who can see photos and videos of me?

Answers in the comments please… If anyone’s done the experiments to see just how the various previous setting inter-relate, I’d love to see a write-up. I’m also thinking: maybe Facebook should be required to publish a logical model of what’s going on? (Are there logics of privacy? You could probably get somewhere close using epistemic logic?)

(It’s all a bit like writing legislation that says that as yet unspecified powers will be given to a Minister, who may then devolve those powers to others…;-)

PPS a page I didn’t link to/show a screengrab of but should have included is the Applications page (this is not under the privacy settings. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/editapps.php?v=allowed

If you don’t use an app, particularly an external one, I suggest you delete it…

[UPDATE: Why I Joined the Facebook Privacy Changes Backlash…]

Viewing WordPress Posts in Chronological Order

A short and sweet blog post this one… if you want to share a list of posts by tag or category, or the results from a search on a WordPress blog in the order in which they were posted, just add ?orderby=ID&order=ASC to the end of the URL.

Like this:

http://digitalworlds.wordpress.com/category/what-is-a-game/?orderby=ID&order=ASC

What this means is that you can share tagged posts in a chronological view, rather than the default reverse chronological review. Which means your reader can read them in the right order without having to go through any grief…

[UPDATE: as Simon Dickson points out in a comment below, the above actually returns the order in which posts were created. For the order in which they were published, use ?orderby=date&order=ASC]

PS it works for feeds too…

PPS I just added this hack to my blog sidebar too – as a “View these posts in chronological order” link:

:-)

PPPS a whole host of other ordering parameters appear to be available too:

* orderby=author
* orderby=date
* orderby=title
* orderby=modified
* orderby=menu_order Note: Only works with Pages.
* orderby=parent
* orderby=ID
* orderby=rand
* orderby=meta_value Note: A meta_key=keyname must also be present in the query.
* orderby=none – no order (available with Version 2.8)
* orderby=comment_count – (available with Version 2.9)

On wordpess.com blogs at least, the pagination parameters other than order don’t appear to work though? (nopaging=true (i.e. display all corresponding posts), posts_per_page=, paged=)

As Time Goes By, It Makes a World of Diff

Prompted by a DevCSI Developer Focus Group conference call just now, I had a quick look through the list of Bounty competition entries (and the winners to see whether there was any code that that might be fun to play with.

One app that’s quite fun is a simple app by Chris Gutteridge (Wayback/Memento Animation) that animates the history of a website using archived copies of the site from the Wayback Machine. So for example, here’s the animated history of the OU home page

And here are links to the history of the current Labour Party and Conservative Party domains: The animated history of: http://www.labour.org.uk/ and The animated history of: http://www.conservatives.com/.

The app will also animate changes from a MediaWiki wiki as this link demonstrates: Dev8D wiki changes over time.

(I can’t help thinking it needs: a) a pause button, so at least you can scroll up and down a page, if not explore the site; and b) a bookmarklet, to make it easier to get a site into the replayer;-)

The Dev8D pages also suggest a “Web Diff” app was entered in one of the challenges, but I couldn’t see a link to the app anywhere?

Diffs have been on my mind lately in a slightly different context, in particular relating to the changes made to the Digital Economy Bill on the various stages it went through as it passed through the Lords, but here again a developer challenge event turned up the goods, in this case the Rewired State: dotgovlabs held last Saturday and @1jh’s Parliamentary Bill analyser:

So for example, if we compare the Digital Economy Bill as introduced to the Lords:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/001/10001.i-ii.html
and the version that was passed to the Commons:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmbills/089/10089.i-iii.html
here’s what we get:

Luvverly stuff :-)

PS @cogdog beats me to it again in a comment to Reversible, Reverse History and Side-by-Side Storytelling, specifically: “maybe this is like watching Memento backwards?” Which is to say, maybe the Wayback/Memento Animation should have a “play backwards” switch? And of course, this being a Chris Gutteridge production, it has. So for example, going back in time with the JISC home page

(Sob, I have no original ideas any more, and can’t even think of them before other people do, let alone implement them…;-(