Embedding Youtube Videos on the BBC Website

Although I managed to get third party Youtube movies embedded in an online OU course earlier this year, mentioning the use of embedded Youtube resources in our course materials still causes moments of tension in course team meetings (“what about the rights?”, “can we trust the video will stay at that URL?” and so on), so I keep an eye out for the appearance of embedded Youtube movies on other sites that I can use as examples of how other publishers are happy to make use of embedded resources from other sites…

…like this one for example – embedded Youtube music videos on the bbc.co.uk domain:

:-)

Google Insights for Search (on Youtube too…)

It seems that Google opened up a supercharged variant of Google Trends over the last week or two: Google Insights for Search.

One useful feature the new service offers over the original trends service is the ability to compare the relative volumes for the same search term over several different time periods:

It’s also possible to get a breakdown by geography, or, as with Google Trends, compare volumes for different search terms.

Along with search volume trends, you also get insight into the geographical distribution of where searches are originating from (though this sort of view is always subject to interpretation!), and maybe more interestingly, related search terms and “rising searches” – that is, search phrases that have increased in volume over the specified period.

The URLs appear to be hackable/bookmarkable, too, which means that I can also bookmark them in Trendspotting (which I really need to tinker with on the templates front, at least to display inline graphs on the most recent entry, and maybe offer a preview link, too…).

I have to admit I probably wouldnlt have posted about this were it not for the fact that some of the insight views have also appeared on Youtube, at least for personally uploaded videos:

And here are the views…

Viewing by geography:

Relative popularity by geographical region:

How people came to view the movie… (i.e. “discovery”):

And finally, viewer demographics:

It’ll be interesting to see where Google go with their data products; as well as Google Insights for Search (and Google Trends), there’s also Google Analytics, Feedburner (which hasn’t yet been integrated into Blogspot – which is lacking on any stats/data tools, I think?) and Google Webmaster tools.

(There are also tools relating to Adsense/Adwords as well, of course, including this one I just found – a keyword recommender for a given URL: Google Adwords: Keyword Tool.)

And then, of course, there are all the Google visualisation widgets that are starting to appear for Google Spreadsheets, as well as around the Google visualisation API

Olympic Medal Table Map

Every four years, I get blown away by the dedication of people who have spent the previous four years focussed on their Olympic Challenge (I find it hard to focus for more than an hour or two on any one thing!)

Anyway, I was intrigued to see this post on Google Maps Mania yesterday – Olympic Heat Maps – that displayed the Olympics medal table in the form of a heat map, along with several variants (medal tallies normalised against population, or GDP, for example).

The maps were neat, but static – they’d been derived by cutting and pasting a snapshot of a medals table into a Google spreadsheet, and then creating a Heat Map widget using the data…

Hmmm… ;-)

So I had a look round for a ‘live’ data source for the medals table, didn’t find anything obvious, so looked for a widget that might be pulling on a hidden data source somewhere… Whereupon I found a reference to a WordPress Olympic Medal Tally widget

A quick peek at the code shows the widget pulling on a data feed from the 08:08:08 Olympics blog, so I ‘borrowed’ the feed and some of the widget code to produce a simple HTML table containing the ISO country codes that the Google Heat Map widget requires, linked to it from a Google Spreadsheet (Google Spreadsheets Lets You Import Online Data) and created a live Olympic medal table map (top 10).

If you want to use the heat map as an iGoogle widget, here it is: Olympic Medal Table Map Widget.

Searching for Curriculum Development Course Insights

For almost as long as I can remember (?! e.g. Search Powered Predictions), I’ve had the gut feeling that one of the most useful indicators about the courses our students want to study is their search behaviour, both in terms of searches that drive (potential) students to the OU courses and qualifications website from organic search listings, as well as their search behaviour whilst on the OU site, and whilst floundering around within the courses and quals minisite.

A quick skim through our current strategic priorities doc (OU Futures 2008 (internal only), though you can get a flavour from the public site: Open University Strategic Priorities 2007) suggests that there is increased interest in making use of data, for example as demonstrated by the intention to develop a more systematic approach for new curriculum developments, such that the student market, demography and employment sectors are the primary considerations.

So, to give myself something to think about over the next few days/weeks, here’s a marker post about what a “course search insights” tool might offer, inspired in part by the Google Youtube Insights interface.

So, using Youtube Insight as a starting point, let’s see how far we can get…

First off, the atom is not a Youtube video, it’s a course, or to be more exact, a course page on the courses and quals website… Like this page for T320 Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice for example. The ideas are these: what might an “Insight” report look like for a course page such as this, how might it be used to improve the discoverability of the page (and improve appropriate registration conversion rates), and how might search behaviour inform curriculum development?

Firstly, it might be handy to segment the audience reports into four:

  • people hitting the page from an organic search listing;
  • people hitting the page from an internal (OU search engine) search listing;
  • people hitting the page from an ‘organic’ link on a third party site (e.g. a link to the course page from someone’s blog);
  • people hitting the page from an external campaign/adword etc on a search engine;
  • people hitting the page from any other campaign (banner ads etc);
  • the rest…

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just focus on the first two, search related, referrers… (and maybe the third – ‘organic’ external links). What would be good to know, and how might it be useful?

First off, a summary report of the most popular search terms would be handy:

– The terms used in referrers coming from external organic search results give us some insight into the way that the search engines see the page – and may provide clues relating to how to optimise the page so as to ensure we’re getting the traffic we expect from the search engines.

– The terms used within the open.ac.uk search domain presumably come from (potential) students who have gone through at least one micro-conversion, in that they have reached, and stayed in, the OU domain. Given that we can (sometimes) identify whether users are current students (e.g. they may be logged in to the OU domain as a student) or new to the OU, there’s a possibility of segmenting here between the search terms used to find a page by current students, and new prospects.

(Just by the by, I emailed a load of OU course team chairs a month or two ago about what search terms they would expect potential students to use on Google (or on the OU search engine) to find their course page on the courses and quals site. I received exactly zero responses…)

The organic/third party incoming link traffic can also provide useful insight as to how courses are regarded from the insight – an analysis of link text, and maybe keyword analysis of the page containing the link – can provide us with clues about how other people are describing our courses (something which also feeds into the way that the search engines will rank our course pages; inlink/backlink analysis can further extend this approach.). I’m guessing there’s not a lot of backlinking out there yet (except maybe from professional societies?), but if and when we get an affiliate scheme going, this may be one to watch…?

So that’s one batch of stuff we can look at – search terms. What else?

As a distance learning organisation, the OU has a national reach (and strategically, international aspirations), so a course insight tool might also provide useful intelligence about the geographical location of users looking at a particular course. Above average numbers of people reading about a course from a particular geo-locale might provide evidence about the effectiveness of a local campaign, or even identify a local need for a particular course (such as the opening or closure of large employer).

The Youtube Insight reports shows how as the Google monster gets bigger, it knows more and more about us (I’m thinking of the Youtube Insight age demographic/gender report here). So providing insight about the gender split and age range of people viewing a course may be useful (we can find this information out for registered users – incoming users are rather harder to pin down…), and may provide further insight when these figures are compared to the demographics of people actually taking the course, particularly if the demographic of people who view a course on the course catalogue page differs markedly from the demographics of people who take the course…

(Notwithstanding the desire to be an “open” institution, I do sometimes wonder whether we should actually try to pitch different courses at particular demographics, but I’m probably not allowed to say things like that…;-)

As well as looking at search results that (appear) to provide satisfactory hits, it’s also worth looking at the internal searches that don’t get highly relevant results. These searches might indicate weak optimisation of pages – appropriate search terms donlt find appropriate course pages – or they might identify topics or courses that users are looking for that don’t exist in the current OU offerings. Once again, it’s probably worth segmenting these unfulfilled/unsatisfactory courses according to new prospects and current students (and maybe even going further, e.g. by trying to identify the intentions of current students by correlating their course history with their search behaviour, we may gain insight into emerging preferences relating to free choice courses within particular degree programmes).

To sum up… Search data is free, and may provide a degree of ‘at arms length’ insight about potential students before we know anything about them ‘officially’ by virtue of them registering with us, as well as insight relating to emerging interests that might help drive curriculum innovation. By looking at data analysis and insight tools that are already out there, we can start to dream about what course insight tools might look like, that can be used to mine the wealth of free search data that we can collect on a daily basis, and turn it into useful information that can help improve course discovery and conversion, and feed into curriculum development.

Library Analytics (Part 1)

Having had a wonderful time at ILI2007 last year (summary of my talk, according to Brian Kelly – “For most of the people, most of the time, Google’s good enough – get over it…”, though I like to think I was actually talking about the idea of search hubs), I’ve joined forces with Hassan Sheikh from the OU Library on a paper this year’s ILI2008 on the topic of using Google analytics to track user behaviour on the Library website…

First up, it’s probably worth pointing out the unique organisation of the OU, because this impacts on the way the Library website is used.

The OU is a distance learning organisation with tens of thousands active, offsite students; a campus, which is home to teaching academics (course writers), researchers, “academic related” services (software developers, etc.), and administrators; several regional offices; and part-time Associate Lecturers (group tutors), who typically work from home, although they may also work full- or part-time for other educational institutions.

The Library is a “trad” Library, in that it is home to books and a physical journal collection (as well as an OU course materials archive and several other collections) that are typically used by on-campus academics and researchers. The Library has also been quite go-ahead in obtaining online access to journal, ebook, image and reference collections – online access means that these services can be delivered to our student body (whereas the physical collections are used in the main by OU academic and research staff…. I assume…!;-)).

Anyway, to ease myself back into thinking about “Library Analytics”, (I haven’t looked at the Library stats for several months now), here are some warm-up exercises/starting point observations I made, for whatever they’re worth… (i.e. statements of the bleedin’ obvious;-)

Firstly, can we segment users into onsite and offsite users? (I’m pretty sure Hassan was running separate reports for these different gorups, but if he is, I don’t have access to them…)

Even from just the headline report, it appears that a ‘just about significant’ amount of traffic is coming from the intranet.

Just to get my eye in, is this traffic coming from the OU campus at Walton Hall? If we look at the intranet as the traffic source, and segment according to the Network Location of the user (that is, the IP network they’re on), we can see the traffic predominantly local:

By the by, if I’m reading the following report correctly, we can also see that most of the intranet traffic is incoming from the intranet homepage…

And as you might expect, this traffic comes on weekdays…

So here’s a working assumption then (and one that we could probe later for real insight in any principled cases where it doesn’t hold true!): most referrals from the OU intranet occur Monday to Friday, from onsite users, via the intranet homepage.

Secondly, how well is the Library front page working? Whilst not as quick to read as a heat map, the Google Analytics site overlay can provide a quick way way of summarising the most popular links on a page (notwithstanding it’s faults, such as appearing not to disambiguate certain links…)

A quick glimpse suggests the search links need dumping, and more real estate should be given over to the “Journals” and “Databases” links that are currently in the left hand sidebar, and which get 20% and 19% of the click-thrus respectively. Despite the large areas of the screen given over to the image-based navigation, they aren’t pulling much traffic. (That said, if we segment the users it might well be the case that the images in the middle of the page disproportionately attract clicks from certain sorts of user? I don’t think it’s possible to segment this out in the general report, however? For that, I guess we need to define some separate reports that are pre-segmented according to referrer?)

Just chasing the traffic a little more, I wonder if there are a few, popular databases or whether traffic is distributed over all of them equally? The Library databases page is pretty horrible – a long alphabetical list of databases – so can the analytics suggests ways of helping people find the pages they want?

So how are things distributed?

Well – it seems like some databases are more popular than others… but just how true is that observation…?

Let’s do a bit more drilling to see what people are clicking through to from the databases pages… I have to admit that here I start to get a bit confused, because the analytics are giving me two places where databases are being reached from, whereas I can only find one of the paths on the website…

Here’s the one I can find – traffic from:
http://library.open.ac.uk/find/databases/index.cfm:

And here’s what I can’t find on the website – traffic from:
http://library.open.ac.uk/databases/database/:

They both identify the same databases as most popular though, though which databases those are I’ll leave for another day…because as you’ll see in a minute, this might be false popularity…

Why? Well let’s just see where the traffic for one of the most popular databases is coming from over the sample period I’ve been playing with:

Any idea why the traffic isn’t coming from the OU, but is coming form other HEIs???

Well, I happen to know that Bath, Brighton and Durham are used for OU residentlal schools, so I suspect that residential school students, after a reminder about the OU online Library services, are having a play, and maybe even participating in some information literacy activities that the OU Library trainers (as well as some of the courses) run at residential school…

Data – don’t ya just love it…? ;-) It sets so many traps for you to fall into!

OU Library Jobs Round-Up (August 2008)

As I feel a flurry of Library related posts coming on, it’s perhaps appropriate to drop the following post in as something I can repeatedly link to over the next week or two (I live in hope that the OUseful.info blog will actually work one day as an OU job ad channel!) – a handful of OU Library jobs:

  • Access to Video Assets Project Manager, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: This is a superb opportunity to join a proactive world class Library service and provide leadership and excellent project management skills for an innovative digitisation project based at The Open University, Milton Keynes. The Access to Video Assets (AVA) project has been funded by The Open University to deliver a searchable collection of broadcast archives material for use in learning, teaching and research.
    You will report to the Learning Resources Development Manager based in The Open University Library and will be responsible for leading a small team consisting of the AVA Project Technical Manager and a Project Administrator to deliver the project’s objectives.
  • Access to Video Assets Technical Project Manager, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: This is a superb opportunity to join a proactive world class Library service and provide excellent technical project management skills for an innovative digitisation project based at The Open University, Milton Keynes. The Access to Video Assets (AVA) project has been funded by The Open University to deliver a searchable collection of broadcast archives material for use in learning, teaching and research.
    You will report directly to the Access to Video Assets Project Manager based in The Open University Library and be responsible for delivering a technical business case, a pilot repository for broadcast archive material and provide key input into a service implementation plan for this significant digitisation project.
  • Digital Libraries Programme Manager: Do you have the vision, creativity and project management skills to lead a programme of digital library developments for 2013?
    We are looking for a dynamic and highly motivated individual with an up to date knowledge of digital library technologies and their potential, rather than hands-on technical expertise, to manage the development of a range of new and exciting services for our students and staff. You will have excellent team working and communication skills and enjoy working with change and challenge.
  • E- Content Advisor, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: The Library’s use of electronic collections is expanding to meet the needs of students and staff for their learning, teaching and research. You will play a key role in developing operational support for the Library’s expanding range of subscriptions and electronic resources as well as co-ordinating the activities associated with purchasing and providing access to electronic content. You will provide support to the strategic development of electronic resources in line with the Library’s aims and objectives.
    A graduate in Librarianship/Information Studies or with equivalent relevant work experience, you will have good working knowledge of issues concerning the acquisition and delivery of electronic and print resources. You will also be able to demonstrate an understanding of technical issues concerning the delivery of electronic content to distance users. A flexible attitude, excellent communication skills, confidence and initiative with the ability to originate solutions are essential.

(I wonder if the video archiving project is DIVA, mark 2?!)

As ever, none of the above posts have anything to do with me…

Special Interest Custom Search Engines

A recent post by Downes (PubMed Now Indexes Videos of Experiments and Protocols in Life Sciences) reminded me of a Google custom search engine I started to put together almost a year or ago to provide a meta-search over science experiment protocols.

At the time, I managed to track three likely sites down, although despite my best intentions when I created the initial CSE, I haven’t managed even cursory maintenance of the site.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s a link to my Science Experimental Protocols Video Search (a search for DNA will show you what sorts of results are typical). If you know of any other sites that publish scientific experimental protocols, please fee free to post a link in the comments to the post.

Another custom search engine I started looking at at the start of this year, inspired by a conversation with a solicitor friend over New Year, was a search of UK (English and Scottish) legislation. The intention here was to come up with a CSE that could provide a value adding vertical search site to a legal website. If i remember correctly (?!;-) the CSE only took an hour or so pull together, so even though we never pursued embedding it on live website, it wasn’t really that much time to take out…

If you want to check it out, you can find it here: LegalDemo.

One CSE I do maintain is “How Do I?”, a metasearch engine over instructional video websites. There are almost as many aggregating websites of this ilk as there are sites publishing original instructional content, but again, it didn’t take long to pull together, and it’s easy enough to maintain. You can find the search engine here: “How Do I?” instructional video metasearch engine, and a brief description of its origins here: “How Do I…” – Instructional Video Search.

Another 10 minute CSE I created, this time following a comment over a pint about the “official” OpenLearn search engine, was an OpenLearn Demo CSE (as described here: OpenLearn Custom Search).

And finally (and ignoring other the other half-baked CSEs I occasionally dabble with), there’s the CSE I’ve been doodling with most recently: the OUseful search engine (I need to get that sorted on a better URL..). This CSE searches over the various blogs I’ve written in the past, and write on at the moment. If you want to search over posts from the original incarnation of OUseful.info, this is one place to do it…

Just looking back over the above CSEs, I wonder again about who’s job it is (if anyone’s), to pull together and maintain vertical search engines in an academic environment, or show students how they can crate their own custom search engines? (And one level down from that, who’s role is it to lead the teaching of the “search query formulation” information skill?)

In the OU at least, the Library info skills unit have been instrumental in engaging with course teams to develop information literacy skills, as well as leading the roll out of Beyond Google… but I have to admit, I do wonder just how well equipped they are to helping users create linked data queries, SPARQL queries, or SQL database queries containing a handful of joins? (I also wonder where we’re teaching people how to create pivot tables, and the benefits of them…?!)

Thinking about advanced queries, and the sighs that go up when we talk about how difficult it is to persuade searchers to use more than two or three keyword search terms, I’ve also been wondering what the next step in query complexity is likely to be after the advanced search query. And it strikes me that the linked data query is possibly that next step?

Having introduced the Parallax Freebase interface to several people over the last week, it struck me that actually getting the most out of that sort of interface (even were Freebase populated enough for more than a tiny minority of linked queries to actually work together) is not likely to be the easiest of jobs, particularly when you bear in mind that it’s only a minority of people who know how to even conceptualise advanced search queries, let alone know how to construct them at a syntactic level, or even via a web form.

The flip side to helping users create queries is of course helping make information amenable to discovery by search, as Lorcan Dempsey picks up on in SEO is part of our business. Here again we have maybe another emerging role for …. I don’t know…? The library? And if not the library, then whom?

(See also: The Library Flip, where I idly wondered whether the academic library of the future-now should act “so as to raise the profile of information it would traditionally have served, within the search engine listings and at locations where the users actually are. In an academic setting, this might even take the form of helping to enhance the reputation of the IP produced by the institution and make it discoverable by third parties using public web search engines, which in turn would make it easy for our students to discover OU Library sponsored resources using those very same tools.”)

PS Just a quick reminder that there are several OU Library job vacancies open at the moment. You can check them out here: OU Library Jobs Round-Up (August 2008).