On Writing “Learning Content” in the Cloud

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an experiment looking at the “mass authoring” of a book on Processing (2.0 1.0, and a Huge Difference in Style).

Darrel Ince, who’s running the experiment, offered to post a public challenge for me to produce 40, 000 words as an adjunct to the book using my own approach… I declined, partly because I’m not sure what I really had in mind would work to produce 40,000 words of “book adjunct”, partly because I don’t know what my approach would be (and I don’t have the time to invest in finding out at the moment, more’s the pity:-(….

Anyway, here’s some of my further thinking on the whole “mass authoring experiment”…

Firstly, three major things came to my mind as ‘issues’ with the process originally suggested for the ‘mass authoring experiment’ – two related to the technology choice, the third to the production model.

To use an application such as Google docs, or a even a wiki, to write a book in a sense respects the structure of the book. Separate documents represent separate chapters, or sections, and multiple authors can have access the document. If “version control” is required – that is, if separate discrete drafts are required – then separate documents can be spawned for each draft. Alternatively, if a the process is one of continual refinement, each chapter can evolve in a single document, potentially authored, edited, critically read and commented on by several people.

There are quite a few books out there that have been written by one or two people round a blog, but there the intent was to create posts that acted as tasters or trial balloons for content and get feedback from the community relating to it. John Battelle’s book on search (Dear Blog: Today I Worked on My Book), and the Groundswell book (7 ways the Web makes writing a book better & faster) are prime examples of this. “The Googlization of Everything” is another, and is in progress at the moment (Hi. Welcome to my book.).

The Google Hacks book I contributed a single hack to (;-) used separate Google docs docs for each hack, as described in Writing a Book in Google Docs. (In part, the use of Google docs as the authoring environment was a ‘medium is the message’ hack!) There the motivation was to author a ‘trad’ book in a new environment – and it seemed to work okay.

In each case, it’s worth remembering that the motivation of the authors was to write a book book, as with the mass authoring experiment, so in that sense it will provide another data point to consider in the “new ways of authoring books” landscape.

The second technology choice issue was the medium chosen for doing the code development. In a book book, intended for print, you necessarily have to refer the reader to a computer in order for them to run the code – offline or online doesn’t really come into it. But if you are writing for online delivery, then there is the option of embedding interactive code development activities withing the test, using something like Obsessing, for example. Potentially, Obsessing, and even the processing.js library, might be pretty unstable, which would provide for an unsatisfactory learning experience for a novice working through the materials (“is my code broken or is the environment broken?”), but with use and a community around it, either the original developer might be motivated to support the libraries, or someone else might be minded to provide maintenance and ongoing development and support an engaged and contributory audience. After all, having a community finding bugs and testing fixes for you is one of the reasons people put time into their open code.

The other major issue I had was with respect to the structuring and organising of the “book”. If you want to play to network strengths in recruiting authors, critical readers, editors and testers, I’m not sure that providing a comprehensively broken down book structure is necessarily the best model? At its worst, this is just farming out word creation to “word monkeys” who need to write up each structural element until they hit the necessary word count (that maybe a little harsh, but you maybe get the gist of what I’m trying to say?). The creativity that comes from identifying what needs to go into a particular section, and how it relates to other sections, is, in the worst case, denied to the author.

In contrast, if you provide a book stub wiki page as a negotiation environment and then let “the community” create further stub pages identifying possible book topics, then the ‘outline’ of the book – or the topics that people feel are important – would have had more play – and more sense of ownership would belong with the community.

A more ‘natural’ way of using the community, to my mind, would be to explore the issue of a ‘distributed uncourse’ in a little more detail, and see how a structure could emerge from a community of bloggers cross referencing each other through posts, comments and trackbacks – Jim Groom’s UMW edu-publishing platform or D’Arcy Norman’s UCalgary Blogs platform are examples of what a hacked-off-the-shelf solution might look like to support this “within” an institution?

The important thing is that the communities arise from discovering a shared purpose. Rather than being given a set of explicit tasks to do, the community identifies what needs doing and then does it. Scott Leslie recently considered another dimension to this problem, in considering how “getting a community off the shelf” is a non-starter: Planning to Share versus Just Sharing.

It strikes me that the “mass authoring” experiment is trying to source and allocate resource to perform a set of pre-defined tasks, rather than allowing a community to grow organically through personal engagement and identify meaningful tasks that need to be completed within that community – that is, allowing the tasks to be identified on an ‘as required’ basis, or as itches that occur that come to need scratching?

The output of an emergent community effort would potentially be non-linear and would maybe require new ways of being read, or new ways of having the structure exposed to the reader? I tried to explore some of these issues as they came to mind when I was writing the Digital Worlds uncourse blog:


(though it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense without me talking to it!)

As part of the challenge, I was advised that I would need about 16 authors. I’m really intrigued about how this number was arrived at. On the basis of porducity (circa 2,500 words per person, assuming a 40, 000 words deliverable?). When I as doing the uncourse posts, my gut feeling was that an engaging 500-800 word blog post might get say a handful of 50-200 word comments back, and possibly even a link back from another blog post. But what does that mean in terms of word count and deliverables?

Another issue that I had with taking the ‘recruit from cold’ approach were I to take up the challenge is that there is potentially already a community around Resig’s processing library, the obsessing interactive editor for it, and Processing itself.

For example, there are plenty of resources already out in the wild to support Processing (eg at the Processing.org website) that might just need some scaffolding or navigation wrapped around them on order to make a “processing course” (copyright and license restrictions allowing, of course…)? So why not use them? (cf. Am I missing the point on open educational resources? and Content Is Infrastructure.) Of course, if the aim was to manufacture a “trad book” according to a prespecified design, this approach may not be appropriate, compared to seeing the structure of the “unbook” arise as engagement in an emergent and ongoing conversation – the next chapter is the next post I read or write on the topic.

From my own experience of Digital Worlds, I wrote a post or two a day for maybe 12 weeks, and then the flow was broken. That required maybe 2-4 hours a day commitment, learning about the topics, tinkering with ideas, seeing what other conversations were going on. It was time consuming, and the community I was engaging with (in terms of people commenting and emailing me) was quite small. Playing a full role in a larger community is more time consuming still, and is maybe one downside to managing an effective community process?

The idea behind the experiment – of looking for new ways to author content – is a good one, but for me the bigger question is to find new ways of reading and navigating content that already exists, or that might emerge through conversation. If we assume the content is out there, how can we aggregate it into sensible forms, or scaffold it so that it is structured in an appropriate way for students studying a particular “course”, If the content is produced through conversation, then does it make sense to talk about creating a content artefact that can be picked up an reused? Or is the learning achieved through the conversation, and should instructor interventions in the form of resource discovery and conducting behaviour, maybe, replace the “old” idea of course authoring?

In terms of delivering content that is authored in a distributed fashion on a platform such as the UMW WPMU platform, I am still hopeful that a “daily feed” widget that producing 1 or more items per day form a “static blog” according to a daily schedule, starting at the day the reader subscribes to the blog, will be one way of providing pacing to linearised feed powered content. (I need to post the WP widget we had built to do this, along with a few more thoughts about a linear feed powered publishing system built to service it).

For example, if you define a static feed – maybe one that replays a blog conversation – then maybe this serves as an artefact that can be reused by other people down the line, and maybe you can post in your own blog posts in “relative time”. I have lots of half formed ideas about a platform that could support this, e.gg on WPMU, but it requires a reengineering (I think), or at least a reimagining, of the whole trackback and commenting engine (you essentially have to implement a notion of sequence rather than time…).

(To see some related example of “daily feeds’, see this ‘daily feeds’ bookmark list.)

So to sum up what has turned out to be far too long a post? Maybe we need to take some cues from this:

and learn to give up some of the control we strive for, and allow our “students” to participate a little more creatively?

See also: Learning Outcomes – again . It strikes me that predefining the contents of the book is like an overkill example of predefining learning outcomes written to suit the needs of a “course author”, rather than the students…?

Dual View Media Channels

When I was putting together a talk (Users and Demons) for some visitors to the OU Library from the Cambridge University Library Arcadia project (who also put together the Cambridge Library Science Portal) a month or two ago, I included a slide depicting what might be a “typical” user of Library research related services.

//flickr.com/photos/zachklein/320561109/
“Where I work” by Zach Klein

Note the presence of the dual computer screens on the desk – wandering round the various corridors of the OU, it’s surprising how many people are now working with dual screen computers.

But the dual screen view is not just for the office desktop. I now find that I watch television with a laptop on my knee (and looking at my friends’ Tweets, I know some of them are in the habit of watching television with iPod or iPhone to hand (I can tell from the clients that the tweets are posted with)) – dual screen viewing again, though this time with one big screen relaying “pure” video content, and the other information, or a conversational back channel.

I also read Sunday papers with a laptop nearby – for fact checking, story chasing, and related info… Not a dual screen view, but a dual media view: one display surface for “fixed” textual information (the newspaper), one screen, with network connection.

Every time I go to a seminar or conference presentation, and many of the times I go into a meeting, I take a laptop. Dual channel, stereo info… One channel: other people, face-to-face; one channel: a screen and keyboard connection to the net.

And even if 2D Sema codes are not the way to go for Printing Out Online Course Materials With Embedded Movie Links, I’m convinced that dual media channels are going to have a huge impact on the way we deliver educational materials, particularly to distance education students.

In fact, I’d probably go further and suggest that it’s likely that one of the channels will be a predominantly one way, fixed content, information delivery channel (a book, TV programme or lecture, for example), and the other channel will be a two way channel to the net, providing access to supplementary information, user discovered resources, and people – discussion, conversation, and active reflection.

We used to engage with content through marking marks on paper – it was called taking notes. We’re going to engage with it in a far more active way, embellishing it and enriching it (not just noting it or annotating it) with supplementary material pulled viewed via a screen.

PS if you haven’t checked out the Cambridge University Library Portal, you should do…

The shape of things to come, maybe? It’ll be interesting to see what their web analytics say about the performance of the site? ;-)

PS see also: Daddy, Where’s Your Phone?

Playing With Google Search Data Trends

Early last week, Google announced a Google Flu trends service, that leverages the huge number of searches on Google to provide a near real-time indicator of ‘flu outbreaks in the US. Official reports from medical centres and doctors can lag actual outbreaks by up to a couple of weeks, but by correlating search trend data with real medical data, the Google folks were able to show that their data led the the official reports.

John Naughton picked up on this service in his Networker Observer column this week, and responded to an email follow-up comment I sent him idly wondering what search terms might be indicators of recession in this post on Google as a predictor. “Jobseeker’s allowance” appears to be on the rise, unfortunately (as does “redundancy”).

For some time, I’ve been convinced that spotting clusters of related search terms, or meaningful correlations between clusters of search terms, is going to be big the next step towards, err, something(?!), and Google Flu trends is one of the first public appearances of this outside the search, search marketing and ad sales area.

Which is why, on the playful side, I tried to pitch something like Trendspotting to the Games With a Purpose (GWAP) folks (so far unreplied to!), the idea being that players would have to try to identify search terms who’s trends were correlated in some “folk reasonable” way. Search terms like “flowers” and “valentine”, for example, which appear to be correlated according to the Google Trends service:

Just out of interest, can you guess what causes the second peak? Here’s one way of finding out – take a look at those search terms on the Google Insights for Search service (like Google Trends on steroids!):

Then narrow down the date over which we’re looking at the trend:

By inspection, it looks like the peak hits around May, so narrow the trend display to that period:

If you now scroll down the Google Insights for Search page, you can see what terms were “breaking out” (i.e. being searched for in volumes way out of the the norm) over that period:

So it looks like a Mother’s Day holiday? If you want to check, the Mother’s Day breakout (and ranking in the top searches list) is even more evident if you narrow down the date range even further.

Just by the by, what else can we find out? That the “Mother’s Day” holiday at the start of May is not internationally recognised, maybe?

There are several other places that are starting to collect trend data – not just search trend data – from arbitrary sources, such as Microsoft Research’s DataDepot (which I briefly described in Chasing Data – Are You Datablogging Yet?) and Trendrr.

The Microsoft service allegedly allows you to tweet data in, and the Trendrr service has a RESTful API for getting data in.

Although I’ve not seen it working yet (?!), the DataDepot looks like it tries to find correlations between data sets:

Next stop convolution of data, maybe?

So whither the future? In an explanatory blog post on the flu trends service – How we help track flu trends – the Googlers let slip that “[t]his is just the first launch in what we hope will be several public service applications of Google Trends in the future.”

It’ll be interesting to see what exactly those are going to be?

PS I’m so glad I did electronics as an undergrad degree. Discrete maths and graph theory drove web 2.0 social networking theory algorithms, and signal processing – not RDF – will drive web 3.0…

Google MyMaps Now With RSS (= Easy Geoblogging)

A tweet from Jim Groom earlier this week alerted me to a post he had just written entitled Google My Maps with RSS.

Now some time earlier this year, I’d hacked together a Yahoo Pipe that would generate an RSS feed from the KML feed output of a map, and so provide an ad hoc geoblogging environment from Google MyMaps (MyMaps GeoBlogger – Blogging From Google Maps).

But the availability of the RSS feed direct from the MyMap just makes this a whole lot easier…

And yes, the RSS output is geocoded (that is, the feed is GeoRSS):

PS Google also just changes the Terms of Service on Google Maps. As with all rights issues, I’m not totally sure I understand what the actual consequences are… For a discussion, see Ed Parsons’ Who reads the Terms of Service anyway...

PPS for easy maps data mashups, check out GeoCommons.com. The CogDog gives an eduview here: Geocommons Makes it Easy for Anyone to Mashup Data & Maps. You might also find this technique for geocoding data from a Google spreadsheet useful…

Innovation in Online Higher Education

In an article in the Guardian a couple of days ago – UK universities should take online lead, it was reported that “UK universities should push to become world leaders in online higher education”, with universities secretary, John Denham, “likely to call” for the development of a “global Open University in the UK”. (Can you imagine how well that call went down here?;-)

Anyway, the article gave me a heads-up about the imminent publication of a set of reports to feed into a Debate on the Future of Higher Education being run out of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The reports cover

The “World leader in elearning” report, (properly titled “On-line Innovation in Higher Education“), by Professor Sir Ron Cooke is the only one I’ve had a chance to skim through so far, so here are some of the highlights from it for me…

HE and the research funding bodies should continue to support and promote a
world class ICT infrastructure and do more to encourage the innovative
exploitation of this infrastructure through … a new approach to virtual education based on a corpus of open learning content

Agreed – but just making more content available under an open license won’t necessarily mean that anyone will use this stuff… free content works when there’s an ecosystem around it capable of consuming that content, which means confusion about rights, personal attitudes towards reuse of third party material, and a way of delivering and consuming that material all need to be worked on.

The OERs “[need] to be supported by national centres of excellence to provide quality control, essential updating, skills training, and research and development in educational technology, e-pedagogy and educational psychology”.

“National Centres of Excellence”? Hmmm… I’d rather that networked communities had a chance of taking this role on. Another centre of excellence is another place to not read the reports from… Distributed (or Disaggregated) Centres of Excellence I could maybe live with… The distributed/disaggregated model is where the quality – and resilience – comes in. The noise the distributed centre would have to cope with because it is distributed, and because its “nodes” are subject to different local constraints, means that the good will out. Another centralised enclave (black hole, money sink, dev/null) is just another silo…

“[R]evitalised investment into e-infrastructures” – JISC wants more money…

[D]evelopment of institutional information strategies: HEIs should be encouraged and supported to develop integrated information strategies against their individual missions, which should include a more visionary and innovative use of ICT in management and administration

I think there’s a lot of valuable data locked up in HEIs, and not just research data; data about achievement, intent and sucessful learning pathways, for example. Google has just announced a service where it can track flu trends, which is “just the first launch in what we hope will be several public service applications of Google Trends in the future”. Google extracts value from search data and delivers services built on mining that data. So in a related vein, I’ve been thinking for a bit now about how HEIs should be helping alumni extract ongoing value from their relationship with their university, rather than just giving them 3 years of content, then tapping them every so often with a request to “donate us a fiver, guv?” or “remember us? We made you who you are… So don’t forget us in your will”. (I once had a chat with some university fundraisers who try to pull in bequests… vultures, all of ’em ;-)

“It is however essential that central expenditure on ICT infrastructure (both at the national level through JISC and within institutions in the form of ICT services and libraries) are maintained.” – JISC needs more cash. etc etc. I won’t mention any more of these – needless to say, similar statements appear every page or two… ;-)

“The education and research sectors are not short of strategies but a visionary thrust across the UK is lacking” – that’s because people like to do their own thing, in their own place, in their own way. And retain “ownership” of their ideas. And they aren’t lazy enough…;-) I’d like to see people trying to mash-up and lash-up the projects that are already out there…

the library as an institutional strategic player is often overlooked because the changes and new capabilities in library services over the past 15 years are not sufficiently recognised

Academic Teaching Library 2.0 = Teaching University 2.0 – discuss… The librarians need to get over their hang-ups about information (the networked, free text search environment is different – get over it, move on, and make the most of it…;-) and the academics need to get their heads round the fact that the content that was hard to access even 20 years ago is now googleable; academics are no longer the only gateways to esoteric academic content – get over it, move on, and make the most of it…;-)

Growth in UK HE can come from professional development, adult learning etc. but might be critically dependent on providing attractive educational offerings to this international market.

A different model would be to encourage some HEIs to make virtual education offerings aimed at the largely untapped market of national and overseas students who cannot find (or do not feel comfortable finding) places in traditional universities. This approach can exploit open educational resources but it would be naïve to expect all HEIs to contribute open education resources if only a few
exploit the potential offered. All HEIs should be enabled to provide virtual education but a few exemplar universities should be encouraged (the OU is an obvious candidate).

Because growth in business is good, right? (err….) and HE is a business, right? (err….) And is that a recommendation that the OU become a global online education provider?

A step change is required. To exploit ICT it follows that UK HEIs must be flexible, innovative and imaginative.

Flexible… innovative… imaginative…

ICT has greatly increased and simplified access by students to learning materials on the Internet. Where, as is nearly universal in HE, this is coupled with a Virtual Learning Environment to manage the learning process and to provide access to quality materials there has been significant advances in distance and flexible learning.

But there is reason to believe this ready access to content is not matched by training in the traditional skills of finding and using information and in “learning how to learn” in a technology, information and network-rich world. This is reducing the level of scholarship (e.g. the increase in plagiarism, and lack of critical judgement in assessing the quality of online material). The Google and Facebook generation are at ease with the Internet and the world wide web, but they do not use it well: they search shallowly and are easily content with their “finds”. It is also the case that many staff are not well skilled in using the Internet, are pushed beyond their comfort zones and do not fully exploit the potential of Virtual Learning Environments; and they are often not able to impart new skills to students.

The use of Web 2.0 technologies is greatly improving the student learning experience and many HEIs are enhancing their teaching practices as a result. A large majority of young people use online tools and environments to support social interaction and their own learning represents an important context for thinking about new models of delivery.

It’s all very well talking about networked learners, but how does the traditional teacher and mode of delivery and assessment fit into that world? I’m starting to think the educator role might well be fulfilled by the educator as “go to person” for a topic, but what we’re trying to achieve with assessment still confuses the hell out of me…

Open learning content has already proved popular…

A greater focus is needed on understanding how such content can be effectively used. Necessary academic skills and the associated online tutoring and support skills need to be fostered in exploiting open learning content to add value to the higher education experience. It is taken for granted in the research process that one builds on the work of others; the same culture can usefully be encouraged in creating learning materials.

Maybe if the materials were co-created, they would be more use? We’re already starting to see people reusing slides from presentations that people they know and converse with (either actively, by chatting, or passively, by ‘just’ following) have posted to Slideshare. It’d be interesting to know just how the rate of content reuse on Slideshare compares with the rate of reuse in the many learning object repositories? Or how image reuse from flickr compares with reuse from learning object repositories? Or how video reuse from Youtube compares with reuse from learning object repositories? Or how resource reuse from tweeting a link or sharing a bookmark compares with reuse from learning object repositories?

…”further research”… yawn… (and b******s;-) More playing with, certainly ;-) Question: do you need a “research question” if you or your students have an itch you can scratch…? We need a more playful attitude, not more research… What was that catchphrase again? “Flexible… innovative… imaginative…”

A comprehensive national resource of freely available open learning content should be established to provide an “infrastructure” for broadly based virtual education provision across the community. This needs to be curated and organised, based on common standards, to ensure coherence, comprehensive coverage and high quality.

Yay – another repository… lots of standards… maybe a bit of SOAP? Sigh…

There is also growing pressure for student data transfer between institutions across the whole educational system, requiring compliance with data specifications and the need for interoperable business systems.

HEIs should consider how to exploit strategically the world class ICT infrastructure they enjoy, particularly by taking an holistic approach to information management and considering how to use ICT more effectively in the management of their institution and in outreach and employer engagement activities.

There’s huge amount of work that needs doing there, and there may even be some interesting business opportunities. But I’m not allowed to talk about that…

ICT is also an important component in an institution’s outreach and business and community engagement activities. This is not appreciated by many HEIs. Small and medium enterprise (SME) managers need good ICT resources to help them deliver their learning needs. Online resources and e-learning are massively beneficial to work based learning. Too little is being done to exploit ICT in HE in this area although progress is being made.

I’ve started trying to argue – based on some of the traffic coming into my email inbox – that OUseful.info actually serves a useful purpose in IT skills development in the “IT consultancy” sector. OUseful.info is often a bit of a hard read at times, but I’m not necessarily trying to show SMEs how to solve their problems – this blog is my notebook, right? – though at times I do try to reach the people who go into SMEs, and hopefully give them a few ideas that they can make (re)use of in particular business contexts.

Okay – that was a bit longer and a bit more rambling than I’d anticipated… if you ewant to read the report, it’s at On-line Innovation in Higher Education. There’s also a discussion blog available at The future of Higher Education: On-Line Higher Education Learning.

Just by the by, here are a couple more reports I haven’t linked to before on related matters:

It’s just a shame there’s no time to read any of this stuff ;-) Far easier to participate in the debate in a conversational way, either by commenting on, or tracking back to, The future of Higher Education: On-Line Higher Education Learning.

PS here’s another report, just in… Macarthur Study: “Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project”

iPhone 7 Day OU Programme CatchUp, via BBC iPlayer

Somewhen last week, I posted about a Recent OU Programmes on the BBC, via iPlayer hack that uses an Open2 twitter feed to identify recently broadcast OU programmes on the BBC, to create a feed of links to watchable versions of those programmes via BBC iPlayer.

So yesterday I had a little play and put an iPhone/iPod Touch web front end onto the pipe.

Here’s the front page (captured using an old version of iPhoney) – I’ve given myself the option of adding more than just the seven day catchup service…

The 7 day Catchup Link takes you through to a listing of the programmes that should, according to the BBC search results (but sometimes don’t always?) link to a watchable version of the programme on iPlayer.

Clicking on the programme link takes you to the programme description – and a link to the programme on mobile iPlayer itself:

Clicking through the programme link take you to the appropriate iPlayer page – where you can (hopefully) watch the programme… :-)

As is the way of these things, I gave myself half an hour to do the app, expecting it to take maybe 90 mins or so. The interface uses the iUI library, which I used previously to build iTwitterous/serendiptwitterous, (various bits of which broke ages ago when Twitter switched off the friends RSS feeds, and which I haven’t tried to work around:-( so all I expected to do was hack around that…

…which was okay, but then the final link out to the iPlayer site didn’t work… Hmmm… now the URLs to the iPlayer mobile programme pages look like http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/index.html#episode/b00fj0y4′, and the way that the iUI pages work is to display various parts of a single HTML page using anchor/name tags of the form http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/i/ioutv.php#_proglist. So my guess was that the interface library was doing something different to normal whenever it saw a # (which I later refined to the assumption that it was intercepting the onclick event whenever that sort of link was clicked on).

My first thought at a fix was to just add another bit of pipework that would create a TinyURL to the mobile link (and so hide the # from iUI). I found an is.gd pipe and cloned it, but it didn’t work… it looked like is.gd had actually followed the link, got an error page back (“we don’t support that mobile device”) and shortened the iPlayer error page URL. V early hours of the morning now, so I wasn’t tempted to build a TinyURL shortener peipe and went to bed…

Next morning, and in the OU pipes wasn’t working for me very well over the guest network… so I thought I’d set up an Apache RewriteRule that would take a BBC programme ID and generate the mobile iPlayer URL. Nope – the # got encoded and the link didn’t work (I used something like RewriteRule ^ipm/.* http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/index.html#episode/$1, but couldn’t get # rewritten as #??? Any ideas???)

Next thought – a PHP header redirect – didn’t work… a PHP page that returns some Javascript to reset the page location? Nope… (I later realised I was using the wrong mobile iPlayer URL pattern – I’d transposed mobile and iplayer, but I don’t think that was the only problem ;-)

A short walk to a meeting on ********************* (super secret censored project – I even used an arbitrary number of *’s there; and can’t even tell you who was at the meeting) gave me the crib – use javascript to reset the location in the link (<a href=”javascript:window.location.href=’http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/index.html#episode/b00fj0y4″&gt;).

Still no…. hmmm, maybe I need to add that to the onclick too? Success!:-)

So there we have it, multiple failure and blind hackery, little or no understanding of what’s not working or why, but always the option to try to find another way of doing it; not pretty, not clever, but not beholden to a particular way of doing it. Come across a problem, and route around it… just do it the internet way;-)

OU Programme 7 day catchup, iPlayer’n’iPhone app. Seen anything interesting lately?;-)

PS see also OpenLearn ebooks, for free, (and readable on iPhone) courtesy of OpenLearn RSS and Feedbooks…

[18/11/08 – the site that the app runs on is down at the moment, as network security update is carried out; sorry about that – maybe I should use a cloud server?]

More Remarks on the Tesco Data Play

A little while ago, I posted some notes I’d made whilst reading “Scoring Points”, which looked at the way Tesco developed it’s ClubCard business and started using consumer data to improve a whole range of operational and marketing functions within the tesco operation (The Tesco Data Business (Notes on “Scoring Points”)). For anyone who’s interested, here are a few more things I managed to dig up Tesco’s data play, and their relationship with Dunnhumby, who operate the service.

[UPDATE – most of the images were removed from this post because I got a take down notice from Dunnhumby’s lawyers in the US…]

Firstly, here’s a couple of snippets from a presentation by Giles Pavey, Head of Analysis at dunnhumby, presented earlier this year. The first thing to grab me was this slide summarisign how to turn data into insight, and then $$$s (the desired result of changing customer behaviour from less, to more profitable!):

In the previous post, I mentioned how Tesco segment shoppers according to their “lifestyle profile”. This is generated by looking at the data generated by a shopper, in terms of what they buy, when they buy it, what stories you can tell about them as a result.

So how well does Tesco know you, for example?

(I assume Tesco knows Miss Jones drives to Tesco on a Saturday because she uses her Clubcard when topping up on fuel at the Tesco petrol station…).

Clustering shopped for items in an appropriate way lets Tesco identify the “Lifestyle DNA” of each shopper:

(If you self-categorise according to those meaningful sounding lifestyle categories, I wonder how well it would match the profile Tesco has allocated to you?!)

It’s quite interesting to see what other players in the area think is important, too. One way of doing this is to have a look around at who else is speaking at the trade events Giles Pavey turns up at. For example, earlier this year was a day of impressive looking talks at The Business Applications of Marketing Analytics.

Not sure what “Marketing Analytics” are? Maybe you need to become a Master of Marketing Analysis to find out?! Here’s what appears to be involved:

The course website also features an interview with three members of dunnhumby: Orlando Machado (Head of Insight Analysis), Martin Hayward (Director of Strategy) and Giles Pavey (head of Customer Insight) [view it here].

You can see/hear a couple more takes on dunnhumby here:
Martin Hayward, Director of Consumer Strategy and Futures at dunnhumby on the growth of dunnhumby;
Life as an “intern” at dunnhumby.

And here’s another event that dunnhumby presented at: The Future of Geodemographics – 21st Century datasets and dynamic segmentation: New methods of classifying areas and individuals. Although the dunnhumby presentation isn’t available for download, several others are. I may try to pull out some gems from them in a later post, but in the meantime, here are some titles to try to tease you into clicking through and maybe pulling out the nuggets, and adding them as comments to this post, yourself:
Understanding People on the Move in London (I/m guessing this means “Oyster card tracking”?!);
Geodemographics and Privacy (something we should all be taking an interest in?);
Real Time Geodemographics – New Services and Business Opportunities from Analysing People in Time and Space: real-time? Maybe this ties in with things like behavioural analytics and localised mobile phone tracking in shopping centres?

So what are “geodemographics: (or “geodems”, as they’re known in the trade;-)? No idea – but I’m guessing it’s the demographics of a particular locales?

Here’s one of the reasons why Tesco are interested, anyway:

An finally (for now at least…) it seems that Tesco and dunnhumby may be looking for additional ways of using Clubcard data, in particular for targeted advertising:

Tesco is working with Dunnhumby, the marketing group behind Tesco Clubcard, to integrate highly targeted third-party advertising across Tesco.com when the company’s new-look site launches next year.
Jean-Pierre Van Lin, head of markets at Dunnhumby, explained to NMA that, once a Clubcard holder had logged in to the website, data from their previous spending could be used to select advertising of specific relevance to that user.
[Ref: Tesco.com to use Clubcard data to target third-party advertising (thanks, Ben:-)]

Now I’m guessing that this will represent a change in the way the data has been used to date – so I wonder, have Tesco ClubCard Terms and Conditions changed recently?

Looking at the global reach of dunnhumby, I wonder whether they’re building capacity for a global targeted ad service, via the back door?

Does it matter, anyway, if profiling data from our offline shopping habits are reconciled with our online presence?

In “Diving for Data”, (Supermarket News, 00395803, 9/26/2005, Vol. 53, Issue 39), Lucia Moses reports that the Tesco Clucbcard in the UK “boasts 10 million households and captures 85% of weekly store sales”, along with 30% of UK food sales. The story in the US could soon be similar, where dunnhumby works with Kroger to analyse “6.5 million top shopper households”, (identified as the “slice of the total 42 million households that visit Kroger stores that drive more than 50% of sales”). With “Kroger claim[ing] that 40% of U.S. households hold one of its cards”, does dunnhumby’s “goal … to understand the customer better than anyone” rival Google in its potential for evil?!