Autodiscoverable Feeds and UK HEIs (Again…)

It’s that time of year again when Brian’s banging on about IWMW, the Instituional[ised?] Web Managers’ Workshop, and hence that time of year again when he reminds me* about my UK HE Feed Autodiscovery app that trawls through various UK HEI home pages (the ones on, rather than the one you get by searching for a uni name in Google;-)

* that is, tells me the script is broken and, by implication, gently suggests that I should fix it…;-)

As ever, most universities don’t seem to be supporting autodiscoverable feeds (neither are many councils…), so here are a few thoughts about what feeds you might link to, and why…

news feeds: the canonical example. News feeds can be used to pipe news around various university websites, and also syndicate content to any local press or hyperlocal news sites. If every UK HEI published a news feed that was autodiscoverable as such, it would be trivial to set up a UK universities aggregated newswire.

research announcements: I was told that one reason for putting out press releases was simply to build up an institutional memory/archive of notable events. Many universities run research newsletters that remark on awarded grants. How about a “funded research” feed from each university detailing grant awards and other research funding. Again, at a national level, this could be aggregated to provide a research funding newswire, as well as contribtuing data to local archives of research funding success.

jobs: if every UK HEI published a jobs/vacancies RSS feed, it would trivial to build an aggregator and let people roll their own versions of

events: universities contribute a lot to local culture through public talks and exhibitions. Make it easy for the local press and hyperlocal news sites to syndicate this info, and add events to their own aggregated “what’s on” calendars. (And as well as RSS, give ’em an iCal feed for your events.)

recent submissions to local repository: provide a feed listing recent submissions to the local research output/paper repository (and/or maybe a feed of the most popular downloads); if local feeds are you thing, the library quite possibly makes things like recent acquisition feeds available…

YouTube uploads: you might was well add an autodiscoverable feed to your university’s recent uploads on YouTube. If nothing else, it contributes an informal ownership link to the web for folk who care about things like that.

your university Twitter feed: if you’ve got one. I noticed Glasgow Caledonian linked to their Twitter feed through an autodiscoverable link on their university homepage.

tenders: there’s a whole load of work going on in gov at the moment regarding transparency as it relates to procurement and tendering. So why not get open with your procurement and tendering data, and increase the chances of SMEs finding out what you’re tendering around. If the applications have to go through a particular process, no problem: link to the appropriate landing page in each feed item.

energy data: releasing this data may well become a requirement in the not so far off future, so why not get ahead of the game, e.g. as Lincoln are starting to do (Lincoln U energy data)? If everyone was publishing energy data feeds, I’m sure DevCSI hackday folk would quickly roll together something like the aggregating service built by college student @issyl0 out of a Rewired State hack that pulls together UK gov department energy data: GovSpark

XCRI-CAP course marketing data feeds: JISC is giving away shed loads of cash to support this, so pull your finger out and get the thing published.

location data: got a KML feed yet? If not, why not? e.g. Innovations in Campus Mapping

PS the backend of my RSS feed autodiscovery app (founded: 2008) is a Yahoo pipe. Just because, I thought I’d take half an hour out to try and build something related on Scraperwiki. The code is here: UK University Autodiscoverable RSS feeds. Please feel free to improve or, fork it, etc. University homepage URLs are identified by scraping a page on the Universities UK website, but I probably should use a feed from the JISC Monitoring Unit (e.g. getting UK University location/contact data).

PPS this could be handy for some folk – the code that runs the talks@cam events site: (Thanks Laura:-) – does it do feeds nicely now?! Related: Keeping Up With Events, a quickly hacked app from my Arcadia project that (used to) aggregate Cambridge events feeds.)

Innovations in Campus Mapping

A post on the ever interesting Google Maps Mania blog alerted me to a new interactive campus map produced by the Marketing folk at Loughborough University built on top of Google maps (I wonder if this is partly driven by Loughborough’s seemingly close ties with the Google education folk? If so, I wonder if they’re doing anything interesting relating to search in education too?)

Loughborough campus map

The layers are reminiscent of the layers in the Southampton campus map (e.g. Open Data Powered Location Based Services in UK Higher Education).

A simpler approach is taken by Liverpool University, who have bookmarked a few markers onto a map:

Liverpool campus map

Bristol University’s map appears to fall somewhere between the two in terms of complexity:

Bristol U campu map

Have any other UK HEIs rolled out interactive maps built on top of a third party API such as Google’s or maybe OpenStreetmap?

I know that Lincoln and Southampton are also currently battling it out in the “who can do the best 3D models of university buildings in Google Earth” (e.g. Lincoln’s KML file – h/t @alexbilbie;-). Any other UK HEIs with 2.5/3D building model layers? [h/t re: 2.5D to @gothwin] (Why’s this useful? Because if you can identify buildings placed as 3D models in Google Earth, you also have the lat/long data for those building profiles;-) Of course, just having building markers on a Google Map would also give you that geo-location data.

Lincoln U 3d layers/kml in google earth

I wonder whether any universities have Google Streetmap (or equivalent) style navigation? Where campuses are town centre based, and built on public roads, I guess they may be? I also wonder how many universities have started marking up locations as Google Places, or places on other location based services (I notice the Lincoln KML layer links through to a venue/place definition on Foursquare). This sort of detail would then support services based around checkins. For a homebrew example of what this might look like, see the OU’s check-in app: wayOU – mobile location tracking app using linked data.

A crude alternative, for promo purposes at least, is the campus tour, of course. Here’s one from several years ago looking at the OU’s Walton Hall campus:

Any others out there? Or any other map/location based initiatives being carried out by UK HEIs, whether similar to the above mentioned ones, or maybe even something completely different?!;-)

UPDATE: I’m guessing interactive maps are tending towards the norm by now, but as an when I come across them, I;ll try to add links here:
Uni of York interactive campus map (Google map; bootstrapped from an SU app? Makes me think of Student as Producer and the LNCD initiative…;-)