Global Sunrise

This post is as much a thought out loud as much as anything, but who knows – maybe it’ll go somewhere…;-)

Last week, we did our first “special” with the BBC World Service Digital Planet programme (Exploring the GeoWeb with Digital Planet). Over the next week or two, we’ll be chatting over how it went and identifying – now we now a little more clearly about how we can support the programme on – what sorts of support we might be able to offer to wrap around future programmes.

So I started riffing around around the idea of travel bugs, geo-coded photos, the intereactive photo exhibits that grew up around Obama’s Presidential inauguration and such like, and wondered about a global participatory event… a global distributed photo shoot…

So here’s what I was wondering – at the next equinox (‘cos we know when that is) or the summer solstice (cos we all know when that is, too) we try to get people from all over the world to photograph the moment of sunrise (or sunset) and upload their geocoded, time stamped photos, taken on that day, just thjat day, and that day only, to flickr (or wherever). And then we make a movie of it: “Global Sunrise”.

So whaddya think?:-)

(Or has it been done already…?)

Comment on “Digital Britain” at

In an scathing review of Stephen Carter’s “Digital Britain” interim report – Reporting behind closed doors – technology columnist Bill Thompson noted how difficult it is for the digerati to comment back on the report:

The widespread coverage has certainly provided a rich source of suggestions, comments, ideas and critical reviews to feed into the next stage of the process.

Unfortunately for those who lack access to mainstream media outlets like newspapers and broadcasters or their associated websites, there is no easy way to respond directly to its author. The report website has no information at all on how to make a contribution, and you’ll have to read through 72 pages of the report before you find a suggestion that “organisations or individuals interested in joining the discussion should register their interest at”

Apparently the Digital Britain team will follow up these expressions of interest, which is nice of them, and we must just hope that Carter and his expert panel will be carefully reviewing every blog post and online comment to ensure they don’t miss anything important.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, as the some of the consultation initiatives coming out of DIUS show (Public Policy Engagement with Commentariat).

So a couple of days ago I posted the following tweet:

And I got this reply…

…which was quickly followed by this one…

And now, two evenings (incl. a rather late night, last night), a lunchbreak and morning coffee later, Joss has up and running (I got in the way not getting Daily Feeds working;-), a commentpress site for commenting on public documents.

And the first report to be hosted there? Digital Britain – The Interim Report, of course:-)

So if you want to comment on the report, as @billt surely does, head over to now and follow the link for the Digital Britain, Interim Report; or go there directly: Digital Britain, Interim Report on

We can’t guarantee that anyone who actually produced the report will read the comments, of course, but there is a comment feed for them to subscribe to if they want to;-)

Public Policy Engagement with Commentariat

One of the weak resolutions that I made to myself at the start of the year was that I would try to take a little bit more interest in UK national policy development decisions that: a) affect all of us; and b) that I might be “qualified” in some sense to comment on.

So it’s quite handy that UK gov appears to be exploring ways of engaging with online communities.

Last year, I commented on the debate on the future of higher education, which used a public blog as one of the avenues for engagement…

…and a couple of days ago, Twittering MP @tom_watson announced the Power of Information Task Force report. Beta

The what???

A “commentariat” enhanced WordPress version of the Power of Information Task Force report report that uses a version of the Commentpress extension to allow readers to comment on the report at the level of “meaningful chunks’ (that is chunks that are larger than paragraphs and small than whole posts).

We are publishing this report in beta before we hand it in formally to the Government. We wanted to give the the community that has contributed to the Taskforce’s work the chance to make suggestions while the report is in draft. The report will be here for comment for two weeks. We shall make small improvements as we go along. Then we shall consider the views raised, adapt the report if we think it helps makes the case to the Government and hand it in to the Cabinet Office. So please go ahead and comment.

You can read more about Commentariat theme (which has been released as an open theme by it’s DIUS developers :-) on @lesteph‘s blog: Introducing Commentariat & the POI Taskforce Report.

One thing I’d quite like to see is a daily/serialised feed for the report so that I could read it over several days in a series of manageable chunks. After all, us natives of the blogosphere all have acquired attention deficit disorder, don’t we, and can’t cope with reading more than 500 words on any topic all in one go…;-) (Seriously, though, drip feeding the report gets a different dynamic going with the reader that might be worth exploring?)

NB Even with these DIUS Interactive initiatives, it seems that MPs don’t think that the DIUS folks are fully entering into the spirit of online engagement as much as they might (“DIUS ‘has not yet found its feet’“):

[T]he MPs, in their review of the department’s annual report, said that “we had high hopes of DIUS demonstrating innovatory methods of operation”.
“We were disappointed in the examples of innovation in its own operations DIUS cited: use of new social media, ‘hot-desking’ and remote working, which for many are far from new,” they said.

And the recent Ofcom review and the Carter “Digital Britain” interim report are fine examples of the “use of new social media”?! Did you see the number of mentions each one gave to those media my colleague John Naughton would call “pull media” compared to the traditional “push media” model of traditional broadcast? (Martin Belam provides the summary stats in Digital Britain Interim report – first impressions if you didn’t…)

(Just by the by, the DIUS geeks had already run a Commentpress-powered consultation (now closed) with the Innovation Nation: Interactive report. They also have a DIUS Netvibes dashboard running, and a Google CSE running over the DIUS empire… Uploads to the DIUS Youtube channel appear to have stalled recently, though… These attempts at engagement stand in stark contrast to the way the Lords Communications Committee has encouraged the community to comment on its recent report on Government Communications?! or maybe the HMGov doesn’t see value in soliciting discussion and commentary around reports? FFS, Be less boring.)

So where do we come in (we being you, and me, and any other readers of blogs like this…)? Well it’s down to us to start engaging back, isn’t it… After all, it takes two (or more) to have a conversation… As the DIUS folks explore ways of engaging with the feeds’n’comments world we live in, at least at a technology level (using feeds and blog machinery), we have to work with them to bring them into the conversations we are having and engage with them as they are trying to engage with us. There’s bound to bit a bit of fumbling at first, but, we know we’re just making it up all the time anyway, right?!;-)

PS it seems like the DIUS folks are also trying to open things up at the document level? ConsultationXML: getting reusable data out of horrid PDFs. But I’m too tired to chase this through just now to find out exactly what they’re up to… G’night, all…

PPS how could I forget this? Directgov innovate:

Directgov have created the developer network to inform the greater developer community about available resources, to provide a platform to connect with one another, and to showcase new ideas with the aim of supporting and encouraging innovation.

Over time we will provide content feeds and API’s allowing people to develop new and interesting ideas and applications for use by the greater community.

Until it gets up to speed, one of the best places to find government APIs is probably still the Show Us A Better Way site…

PPPS See also: New Opportunities: Resources for media and bloggers – a good attempt at making blog friendly resources available for the New Opportunities White Paper.

Exploring the GeoWeb with Digital Planet

Followers of the OU’s new release feed (or my Twitter feed;-) probably know that The Open University and Digital Planet have joined forces to produce a series of specials (one every two months or so) over the coming year.

The first special, on the geo-web, those bits of the web that provide an intersection between digital and physical space, aired last Tuesday; (there’s a brief pre-emptive write up on Platform: Taking the travel bug to Nepal with Digital Planet).

If you haven’t listed to it yet, it’s available for one day more from the BBC World Service Digital Planet webpage – so if you hurry, you’ll still be able to download (or stream) a copy…

(Digital Planet actually goes out weekly, so you can also find a podcast feed for the series there…)

The topics covered in the programme included a feature on location awareness and Streetview integration from Google’s mobile mapping division, which taught me something new – Streetview’s crazy use of compass and accelerometer data!

The programme also contained some good discussion on privacy issues and a package on geocaching, featuring the OU’s very own Gill Clough, who you can see chatting to Digital World presenter Gareth Mitchell (with producer Pam Rutherford in the background!) here: The OU and Digital Planet: Gareth and Gill Go Geocaching (*video exclusive*).

Now if only they’d got Bill Thompson traipsing around in the mud, rather than sitting comfortably in the studio, too…;-)

As the OU’s academic contact on the episode, I got to bounce ideas around with the producer and presenter in the couple of weeks before the programme aired, as well as casting an eye over a draft of the script during the weekend before the Monday afternoon recording.

I’ve also been working sideways, as it were, with the producers of the Open2 website that supports the programme: Digital Planet on

One of the things we wanted to start exploring with the website was how we might start to engage with Digital Planet’s global audience.

And our first offering is: the interactive Open2 Digital Planet listeners’ map, which allows listeners to add a marker to the map showing where in the world they listen to the programme from…

Along with placing a marker, listeners can also tell us how they listen to the programme, and link to a photo of themselves if they wish:

As we’re running a lazy, userflagging moderation system, links are added to user marker bubbles to report content, if necessary…

You might also have noticed a Twitter feed – this is currently aggregating tweets tagged with #digitalplanet, and we’ll hopefully find some novel ways of using it – and appropriately licensed photos tagged digitalplanet on flickr – to support future programmes…

And finally – one package that aired that I haven’t mentioned yet was all about some travel bugs that are making their way to Nepal (Geocaching schools project: travel bugs to Nepal)… With a bit of luck, I intend to get a post up about that on the Science and Technology blog over the next week or so… and maybe even travel bug tracking map on the Digital Planet site (if we can get a feed from, that is…)?! :-)

Non-Linear Uncourses – Time for Linked Ed?

Make of this what you will… the class is in session, so here’s your weekend reading:

Some ramblings about how blog posts (at least, the ones that get “reused” in an online, better-link-to-that sense) sit in some sort of link context or link neighbourhood, where the links are directed, either going from the post (links out to other resources) and links back in to the post (from tweets, trackbacks, bookmarks etc): Trackbacks, Tweetbacks and the Conversation Graph, Part I.

Some amplification by Patrick Murray-John, who’s not scared by databases and tending-to-big data in the way I am: Linkage Graphs in UMW Blogs. The demo shows the results of link-mining/trackback graphing between some of the UMW blogs. The ability of UMW blogs to republish content through syndication in different parts of the URI-space that UMW blogs covers leads to some interesting observations. Like this one:

[I]n chasing through what links to conversations, it throws in the idea that the same conversation could split into different directions from exactly the same content, but presented in different contexts. This would also show up in tracking retweets.

(UMW blogs, if you don’t know it, is, well, what can I say: tending to awesome? Pushing at the frontiers of blogs in higher-ed? Here are some of the ways users are encouraged to use UMW blogs – though of course they can make up their own ways too: Ten ways to use UMW Blogs. For some techie background, check out Syndicatin’ Welfare: UMW Blogs’ Syndication Framework on the Cheap.)

My own dabblings with the trackback graph in the Digital Worlds uncourse blog suggests that that multiple possible forward paths through blogged uncourse content are constructed by the process of linking back to earlier content from later produced content (got that?) as well as links back to the future from earlier posted content, e.g. by people linking to “future” posts from the comments on older posts (think about it…)

So what? So I have no idea… but building context and support through links to other content is one way of reusing that content (or at least, pulling it into a new context and making it (re)usable in that new context).

So when George Siemens notes:

I haven’t come across research to date that discusses how open educational resources are being used. Yes, we get information like “MIT’s OCW gets X number of million hits per month”.

and then goes on to ask: “I’m interested in whether or not universities are using open resources produced by other universities.” I guess my answer is – if I simply link to a relevant OER from an appropriate context, then I’ve provided the opportunity for that resource to be reused?

So links make for easy reuse, at least in a blogged uncourse sense… which means URIs (URLs, whatever…;-) are important… which brings the idea of Linked Data into play… Why? Here’s one example: Telling (non-linear) stories (which also appears here: Building coherence at

As to why you should go and read that post now? It’s illustrated by this:

BBC non-linear story telling

Now go do your homework and prepare to make some changes when you get back in to work next week…

The notion of linear courses has just left the building…

… again…