About Nicola Osborne

I am Digital Education Manager and Service Manager at EDINA, a role I share with my colleague Lorna Campbell. I was previously Social Media Officer for EDINA working across all projects and services. I am interested in the opportunities within teaching and learning for film, video, sound and all forms of multimedia, as well as social media, crowdsourcing and related new technologies.

European Conference on Social Media (#ecsm17) – Day Two Liveblog

Today I am at the Mykolo Romerio Universitetas in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the European Conference on Social Media 2017. As usual this is a liveblog so additions, corrections etc. all welcome… 

Keynote presentation: Daiva Lialytė, Integrity PR, Lithuania: Practical point of view: push or pull strategy works on social media 

I attended your presentations yesterday, and you are going so far into detail in social media. I am a practitioner and we can’t go into that same sort of depth because things are changing so fast. I have to confess that a colleague, a few years ago, suggested using social media and I thought “Oh, it’s all just cats” and I wasn’t sure. But it was a big success, we have six people working in this area now. And I’m now addicted to social media. In fact, how many times do you check your phone per day? (various guesses)…

Well, we are checking our smartphones 100-150 times per day. And some people would rather give up sex than smartphones! And we have this constant flood of updates and information – notifications that pop up all over the place… And there are a lot of people, organisations, brands, NGOs, etc. all want our attention on social media.

So, today, I want to introduce three main ideas here as a practitioner and marketer…

#1 Right Mindset

Brands want to control everything, absolutely everything… The colour, the font, the images, etc. But now social media says that you have to share your brand in other spaces, to lose some control. And I want to draw on Paul Holmes, a PR expert (see www.holmesreport.com) and he says when he fell in love with social media, there were four key aspects:

  • Brands (in)dependency
  • Possibilities of (non)control
  • Dialogue vs monologue
  • Dynamic 24×7

And I am going to give some examples here. So Gap, the US fashion brand, they looked at updating their brand. They spent a great deal of money to do this – not just the logo but all the paperwork, branded items, etc. They launched it, it went to the media… And it was a disaster. The Gap thought for a few days. They said “Thank you brand lover, we appreciate that you love our brand and we are going to stick with the old one”. And this raises the question of to whom a brand belongs… Shareholders or customers? Perhaps now we must think about customers as owning the brand.

Yesterday I saw a presentation from Syracuse on University traditions – and some of the restrictions of maintaining brand – but in social media that isn’t always possible. So, another example… Lagerhaus (like a smaller scale Ikea). They were launching a new online store, and wanted to build community (see videos) so targeted interior six design blogs and created “pop up online stores” – bloggers could select products from the store’s selection, and promote them as they like. That gained media attention, gained Facebook likes for the store’s Facebook page. And there was then an online store launch, with invitees approached by bloggers, and their pop up stores continue. So this is a great example of giving control to others, and building authentic interest in your brand.

In terms of dialogue vs monologue I’d quote from Michael Dell here, on the importance of engaging in honest, direct conversations with customers and stakeholders. This is all great… But the reality is that many who talk about this, many are never ever doing this… Indeed some just shut down spaces when they can’t engage properly. However, Dell has set up a social media listening and command centre. 22k+posts are monitored daily, engaging 1000+ customers per week. This was tightly integrated with @dellcares Twitter/Facebook team. And they have managed to convert “ranters” to “ravers” in 30% of cases. And a decrease of negative commentary since engagement in this space. Posts need quick responses as a few minutes, or hours, are great, longer and it becomes less and less useful…

Similarly we’ve seen scandinavian countries and banks engaging, even when they have been afraid of negative comments. And this is part of the thing about being part of social media – the ability to engage in dialogue, to be part of and react to the conversations.

Social media is really dynamic, 24×7. You have to move fast to take advantage. So, Lidl… They heard about a scandal in Lithuania about the army paying a fortune for spoons – some were €40 each. So Lidl ran a promotion for being able to get everything, including spoons there cheaper. It was funny, clever, creative and worked well.

Similarly Starbucks vowing to hire 10,000 refugees in the US (and now in EU) following Trump’s travel ban, that was also being dynamic, responding quickly.

#2 Bold Actions

When we first started doing social media… we faced challenges… Because the future is uncertain… So I want to talk about several social media apps here…

Google+ launched claiming to be bigger than Facebook, to do it all better. Meanwhile WhatsApp… Did great… But disappearing as a brand, at least in Lithuania. SnapChat has posts disappearing quickly… Young people love it. The owner has said that it won’t be sold to Facebook. Meanwhile Facebook is trying desperately to copy functionality. We have clients using SnapChat, fun but challenging to do well… Instagram has been a big success story… And it is starting to be bigger than Facebook in some demographics.

A little history here… If you look at a world map of social networks from December 2009, we see quite a lot of countries having their own social networks which are much more popular. By 2013, it’s much more Facebook, but there are still some national social media networks in Lithuania or Latvia. And then by 2017 we see in Africa uptake of Twitter and Instagram. Still a lot of Facebook. My point here is that things move really quickly. For instance young people love SnapChat, so we professionally need to be there too. You can learn new spaces quickly… But it doesn’t matter as you don’t have to retain that for long, everything changes fast. For instance in the US I have read that Facebook is banning posts by celebrities where they promote items… That is good, that means they are not sharing other content…


I want to go in depth on Facebook and Twitter. Of course the most eminent social media platform is Facebook. They are too big to be ignored. 2 billion monthly active Facebook users (June 2017). 1.28 billion people log onto Facebook daily. 83 million fake profiles. Age 25 to 34 at 29.7% of users are biggest age group. For many people they check Facebook first in the morning when they wake up. And 42% of marketers report that Facebook is very important to their business. And we now have brands approaching us to set up Facebook presence no matter what their area of work.

What Facebook does well is most precise targeting – the more precise the more you pay, but that’s ok. So that’s based on geolocation, demographic characteristic, social status, interests, even real time location. That works well but remember that there are 83 million fake profiles too.

So that’s push, what about pull? Well there are the posts, clicks, etc. And there is Canvas – which works for mobile users, story driven ads (mini landing), creative story, generate better results and click through rates. (we are watching a Nespresso mobile canvas demo). Another key tool is Livestream – free of charge, notifications for your followers, and it’s live discussion. But you need to be well prepared and tell a compelling story to make proper use of this. But you can do it from anywhere in the world. For instance one time I saw livestream of farewell of Barack Obama – that only had 15k viewers though so it’s free but you have to work to get engagement.

No matter which tool, “content is the king!” (Bill Gates, 1996). Clients want us to create good stories here but it is hard to do… So what makes the difference? The Content Marketing Institute (US), 2015 suggest:

  1. Content
  2. Photos
  3. Newsletters
  4. Video
  5. Article
  6. Blogs
  7. Events
  8. Infographics
  9. Mobile applications
  10. Conferences and Livestreams

So, I will give some examples here… I’ll show you the recent winner of Cannes Lions 2017 for social media and digital category. This is “Project Graham” – a public driver safety campaign about how humans are not designed to survive a crash… Here is how we’d look if we were – this was promoted heavily in social media.

Help for push from Facebook – well the algorithms prioritise content that does well. And auctions to reach your audience mean that it is cheaper to run good content that really works for your audience.

And LinkedIn meanwhile is having a renaissance. It was quite dull, but they changed their interface significantly a few months back, and now we see influencers (in Lithunia) now using LinkedIn, sharing content there. For instance lawyers have adopted the space. Some were predicting LinkedIn would die, but I am not so sure… It is the biggest professional social network – 467 million users in 200 countries. And it is the biggest network of professionals – a third have LinkedIn profile. Users spend 17 minutes per dat, 40% use it every day, 28% of all internet users use LinkedIn. And it is really functioning as a public CV, recruitment, and for ambassadorship – you can share richer information here.

I wanted to give a recent example – it is not a sexy looking case study – but it worked very well. This was work with Ruptela, a high tech company that provides fleet management based on GPS tracking and real-time vehicle monitoring and control. They needed to hire rapidly 15 new sales representatives via social media. That’s a challenge as young people, especially in the IT sector – are leaving Lithuania or working in Lithuania-based expertise centres for UK, Danish, etc. brands.

So we ran a campaign, on a tiny budget (incomparable with headhunters for instance), around “get a job in 2 days” and successfully recruited 20 sales representatives. LinkedIn marketing is expensive, but very targeted and much cheaper than you’d otherwise pay.

#3 Right Skills

In terms of the skills for these spaces:

  • copywriter (for good storytelling)
  • visualist (graphics, photo, video)
  • community manager (to maintain appropriate contact) – the skills for that cannot be underestimated.
  • And… Something that I missed… 

You have to be like a one man band – good at everything. But then we have young people coming in with lots of those skills, and can develop them further…

So, I wanted to end on a nice story/campaign… An add for Budweiser for not drinking and driving


Q1) Authenticity is the big thing right now… But do you think all that “authentic” advertising content may get old and less effective over time?

A1) People want to hear from their friends, from people like them, in their own words. Big brands want that authenticity… But they also want total control which doesn’t fit with that. The reality is probably that something between those two levels is what we need but that change will only happen as it becomes clear to big brands that their controlled content isn’t working anymore.

Q2) With that social media map… What age group was that? I didn’t see SnapChat there.

A2) I’m not sure, it was a map of dominant social media spaces…

Q3) I wanted to talk about the hierarchy of content… Written posts, visual content etc… What seemed to do best was sponsored video content that was subtitled.

A3) Facebook itself, they prioritise video content – it is cheaper to use this in your marketing. If you do video yes, you have to have subtitles so that you can see rather than listen to the videos… And with videos, especially “authentic video” that will be heavily prioritised by Facebook. So we are doing a lot of video work.

Introduction to ECSM 2018 Niall Corcoran, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland

I wanted to start by thanking our hosts this year, Vilnius has been excellent this year. Next year we’ll a bit earlier in the year – late June – and we’ll be at the Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland. We have campuses around the region with 7000 students and 650 staff, teaching from levels 6 to 10. The nearest airport is Shannon, or easy distance from Cork or Dublin airports.

In terms of social media we do research on Social MEdia Interactive Learning Environment, Limerick Interactive Storytelling Network, Social Media for teaching and research, Social Media for cancer recovery.

In terms of Limerick itself, 80-90% of the Europe’s contact lenses are manufactured there! There is a lot of manufacturing in Limerick, with many companies having their European headquarters there. So, I’ve got a short video made by one of our students to give you a sense of the town.

Social Media Competition Update

The top three placed entries are: Developing Social Paleantology – Lisa Ludgran; EDINA Digital Footprint Consulting and Training Service – Nicola Osborne (yay!); Traditions Mobile App – Adam Peruta.

Stream A: Mini track on Ethical use of social media data – Chair: Dragana Calic

The Benefits and Complications of Facebook Memorials – White Michelle, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, USA

Online Privacy: Present Need or Relic From the Past? – Aguirre-Jaramillo Lina Maria, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia

Constructing Malleable Truth: Memes from the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign – Wiggins Bradley, Webster University, Vienna, Austria, Austria

Stream B: Mini track on Enterprise Social Media – Chair: Paul Alpar

The Role of Social Media in Crowdfunding – Makina Daniel, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Using Enterprise Social Networks to Support Staff Knowledge Sharing in Higher Education – Corcoran Niall, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland and Aidan Duane, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland


European Conference of Social Media 2017 (#ecsm17) – Liveblog

Today I am at the Mykolo Romerio Universitetas in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the European Conference on Social Media 2017. 

Welcome and Opening by the Conference and Programme Chairs: Aelita Skaržauskienė and Nomeda Gudelienė

Nomeda Gudelienė: I am head of research here and I want to welcome you to Lithuania. We are very honoured to have you here. Social media is very important for building connections and networking, but conferences are also really important still. And we are delighted to have you here in our beautiful Vilnius – I hope you will have time to explore our lovely city.

We were founded 25 years ago when our country gained independence from the Soviet Union. We focus on social studies – there was a gap for new public officials, for lawyers, etc. and our university was founded,

Keynote presentation: Dr. Edgaras Leichteris, Lithuanian Robotics Association – Society in the cloud – what is the future of digitalization?

I wanted to give something of an overview of how trends in ICT are moving – I’m sure you’ve all heard that none of us will have jobs in 20 years because robots will have them all (cue laughter).

I wanted to start with this complex timeline of emerging science and technology that gives an overview of Digital, Green, Bio, Nano, Neuro. Digitalisation is the most important of these trends, it underpins this all. How many of us think digitalisation will save paper? Maybe not for universities or government but young people are shifting to digital. But there are major energy implications of that, we are using a lot of power and heat to digitise our society. This takes us through some of those other areas…. Can you imagine social networking when we have direct neural interfaces?

This brings me to the Hype curve – where see a great deal of excitement, the trough of disillusionment and through to where the real work is. Gartner creates a hype cycle graph every year to illustrate technological trends. At the moment we can pick out areas like Augmented reality, virtual reality, digital currency. When you look at business impact… Well I thought that the areas that seem to be showing real change include Internet of Things – in modern factories you see very few people now, they are just there for packaging as we have sensors and devices everywhere. We have privacy-enhancing technologies, blockchain, brain computer interfaces, and virtual assistance. So we have technologies which are being genuinely disruptive.

Trends wise we also see political focus here. Why is digital a key focus in the European Union? Well we have captured only a small percentage of the potential. And when we look across the Digital Economy and Society index we see this is about skills, about high quality public services – a real priority in Lithuania at the moment – not just about digitalisation for it’s own sake. Now a few days ago the US press laughed at Jean Claude Junker admitting he still doesn’t have a smartphone, but at the same time, he and others leading the EU see that the future is digital.

Some months back I was asked at a training session “Close your eyes. You are now in 2050. What do you see?”. When I thought about that my view was rather dystopic, rather “Big Brother is watching you”, rather hierarchical. And then we were asked to throw out those ideas and focus instead on what can be done. In the Cimulact EU project we have been looking at citizens visions to look toward a future EU research and innovation agenda. In general I note that people from older European countries there was more optimism about green technologies, technology enabling societies… Whilst people from Eastern European countries have tended to be more concerned with the technologies themselves, and with issues of safety and privacy. And we’ve been bringing these ideas together. For me the vision is technology in the service of people, enabling citizens, and creating systems for green and smart city development, and about personal freedom and responsibility. What unites all of these scenarios?  The information was gathered offline. People wanted security, privacy, communication… They didn’t want the technologies per se.

Challenges here? I think that privacy and security is key for social media, and the focus on the right tool, for the right audience, at the right time. If we listen to Time Berners Lee we note that the web is developing in a way divergent from the original vision. Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University notes that privacy is possible in a laboratory condition, but in the reality of the real world, it is hard to actually achieve that. That’s why such people as Aral Balkan, self-styled Cyborg Rights Activist – he has founded a cross-Europe party just focusing on privacy issues. He says that the business model of mainstream technology under “surveillance capitalisms” is “people arming and it it is toxic to human rights and democracy”. And he is trying to bring those issues into more prominence.

Another challenge is engagement. The use and time on social media is increasing every year. But what does that mean. Mark Schaefer, Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, describes this as “content shock” – we don’t have the capacity to deal with and consume the amount of content we are now encountering. Jay Bayer just wrote the book “Hug your haters” making the differentiation between “offstage haters” vs. “onstage haters”. Offstage haters tend to be older, offline, and only go public if you do not respond. Onstage haters post to every social media network not thinking about the consequences. So his book is about how to respond to, and deal with, many forms of hate on the internet. And one of the recently consulted companies have 150 people working to respond to that sort of “onstage” hate.

And then we have the issue of trolling. In Lithuania we have a government trying to limit alcohol consumption – you can just imagine how many people were being supported by alcohol companies to comment and post and respond to that.

We so also need to think about engagement in something valuable. Here I wanted to highlight three initiatives, two are quite mature, the third is quite new. The first is “My Government” or E citizens. This is about engaging citizens and asking them what they think – they post a question, and provide a (simple) space for discussion. The one that I engaged with only had four respondents but it was really done well. Lithuania 2.0 was looking at ways to generate creative solutions at government level. That project ended up with a lot of nice features… Every time we took it out, they wanted new features… People engaged but then dropped off… What was being contributed didn’t seem directly enough fed into government, and there was a need to feedback to commentators what had happened as a result of their posts. So, we have reviewed this work and are designing a new way to do this which will be more focused around single topics or questions over a contained period of time, with direct routes to feed that into government.

And I wanted to talk about the right tools for the right audiences. I have a personal story here to do with the idea of whether you really need to be in every network. Colleagues asked why I was not on Twitter… There was lots of discussion, but only 2 people were using Twitter in the audience… So these people were trying to use a tool they didn’t understand to reach people who were not using those tools.

Thinking about different types of tools… You might know that last week in Vilnius we had huge rainfall and a flood… Here we have people sharing open data that allows us to track and understand that sort of local emergency.

And there is the issue of how to give users personalised tools, and give opportunity for different opinions – going beyond your filter bubble – and earn profit. My favourite tool was called Personal Journal – it had just the right combination – until that was brought by Flipboard. Algorithmic tailoring can do this well, but there is that need to make it work, to expose to wider views. There is a social responsibility aspect here.

So, the future seems to look like decentralisation – including safe silos that can connect to each other; and the right tools for the right audience. On decentralisation Blockchain, or technologies like it, are looking important. And we are starting to see possible use of that in Universities for credentialing. We can also talk about uses for decentralisation like this.

We will also see new forms of engagement going mass market. Observation of “digital natives” who really don’t want to work in a factory… See those people going to get a coffee, needing money… So putting on their visor/glasses and managing a team in a factory somewhere – maybe Australia – only until that money is earned. We also see better artificial intelligence working on the side of the end users.

The future is ours – we define now, what will happen!


Q1) I was wondering what you mean by Blockchain, I haven’t heard it before.

A1) It’s quite complicated to explain… I suggest you Google it – some lovely explanations out there. We have a distributed

Q2) You spoke about the green issues around digitalisation, and I know Block Chain comes with serious environmental challenges – how do we manage that environmental and technological convenience challenge?

A2) Me and my wife have a really different view of green… She thinks we go back to the yurt and the plants. I think differently… I think yes, we consume more… But we have to find spots where we consume lots of energy and use technology to make it more sustainable. Last week  was at the LEGO factory in Denmark and they are working on how to make that sustainable… But that is challenging as their clients want trusted, robust, long-lasting materials. There are aready some technologies but we have to see how that will happen.

Q3) How do you see the role of artificial intelligence in privacy? Do you see it as a smart agent and intermediary between consumers and marketers?

A3) I am afraid of a future like Elon Musk where artificial intelligence takes over. But what AI can do is that it can help us interpret data for our decisions. And it can interpret patterns, filter information, help us make the best use of information. At the same time there is always a tension between advertisers and those who want to block advertisers. In Lithuanian media we see pop ups requesting that we switch off ad blocking tools… At the same time we will see more ad blocks… So Google, Amazon, Facebook… They will use AI to target us better in different ways. I remember hearing from someone that you will always have advertising – but you’ll like it as it will be tailored to your preferences.

Q4) Coming from a background of political sciences and public administration… You were talking about decentralisation… Wouldn’t it be useful to differentiate between developed and developing world, or countries in transition… In some of those contexts decentralisation can mean a lack of responsibility and accountability…

A4) We see real gaps already between cities and rural communities – increasingly cities are their own power and culture, with a lot of decisions taken like mini states. You talked a possible scenario that is quite 1984 like, of centralisation for order. But personally I still believe in decentralisation. There is a need for responsibility and accountability, but you have more potential for human rights and

Aelita Skaržauskienė: Thank you to Edgaras! I actually just spend a whole weekend reading about Block Chain as here in Lithuania we are becoming a hub for Fin Tech – financial innovation start ups.

So, I just wanted to introduce today here. Social media is very important for my department. More than 33 researchers here look at social technologies. Social media is rising in popularity, but more growth lies ahead. More than 85% of internet users are engaging with social media BUT over 5 billion people in the world still lack regular access to the internet, so that number will increase. There have already been so many new collaborations made possible for and by social media.

Thank you so much for your attention in this exciting and challenging research topic!

Stream B: Mini track on Social Media in Education (Chair: Nicola Osborne and Stefania Manca)

The use of on-line media at a Distance Education University – Martins Nico, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Towards a Multilevel Framework for Analysing Academic Social Network Sites: A Network Socio-Technical Perspective – Manca Stefania, National Research Council of Italy and Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli, University of Florence, Italy

On Linking Social Media, Learning Styles, and Augmented Reality in Education – Kurilovas Eugenijus, Julija Kurilova and Viktorija Dvareckiene, Vilnius University Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Lithuania


Stream B: Mini track on Social Media in Education (Chair: Nicola Osborne and Stefania Manca)

Digital Badges on Education: Past, Present and Future – Araujo Inês, Carlos Santos, Luís Pedro, and João Batista, Aveiro University, Portugal

Exploring Risk, Privacy and the Impact of Social Media Usage with Undergraduates – Connelly Louise and Nicola Osborne, University of Edinburgh, UK

Building Virtual Team’s Collaboration Environment Using Social Media – Hvorecký Jozef and Monika Dávideková, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia

Social Media as a Tool for Microlearning in the Context of Higher Education – Grevtseva Yana, Julie Willems and Chie Adachi, Deakin University, Australia


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ReCon 2017 – Liveblog

Today I’m at ReCon 2017, giving a presentation later (flying the flag for the unconference sessions!) today but also looking forward to a day full of interesting presentations on publishing for early careers researchers.

I’ll be liveblogging (except for my session) and, as usual, comments, additions, corrections, etc. are welcomed. 

Jo Young, Director of the Scientific Editing Company, is introducing the day and thanking the various ReCon sponsors. She notes: ReCon started about five years ago (with a slightly different name). We’ve had really successful events – and you can explore them all online. We have had a really stellar list of speakers over the years! And on that note…

Graham Steel: We wanted to cover publishing at all stages, from preparing for publication, submission, journals, open journals, metrics, alt metrics, etc. So our first speakers are really from the mid point in that process.

SESSION ONE: Publishing’s future: Disruption and Evolution within the Industry

100% Open Access by 2020 or disrupting the present scholarly comms landscape: you can’t have both? A mid-way update – Pablo De Castro, Open Access Advocacy Librarian, University of Strathclyde

It is an honour to be at this well attended event today. Thank you for the invitation. It’s a long title but I will be talking about how are things are progressing towards this goal of full open access by 2020, and to what extent institutions, funders, etc. are being able to introduce disruption into the industry…

So, a quick introduction to me. I am currently at the University of Strathclyde library, having joined in January. It’s quite an old university (founded 1796) and a medium size university. Previous to that I was working at the Hague working on the EC FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot (Open Aire) providing funding to cover OA publishing fees for publications arising from completed FP7 projects. Maybe not the most popular topic in the UK right now but… The main point of explaining my context is that this EU work was more of a funders perspective, and now I’m able to compare that to more of an institutional perspective. As a result o of this pilot there was a report commissioned b a British consultant: “Towards a competitive and sustainable open access publishing market in Europe”.

One key element in this open access EU pilot was the OA policy guidelines which acted as key drivers, and made eligibility criteria very clear. Notable here: publications to hybrid journals would not be funded, only fully open access; and a cap of no more than €2000 for research articles, €6000 for monographs. That was an attempt to shape the costs and ensure accessibility of research publications.

So, now I’m back at the institutional open access coalface. Lots had changed in two years. And it’s great to be back in this spaces. It is allowing me to explore ways to better align institutional and funder positions on open access.

So, why open access? Well in part this is about more exposure for your work, higher citation rates, compliant with grant rules. But also it’s about use and reuse including researchers in developing countries, practitioners who can apply your work, policy makers, and the public and tax payers can access your work. In terms of the wider open access picture in Europe, there was a meeting in Brussels last May where European leaders call for immediate open access to all scientific papers by 2020. It’s not easy to achieve that but it does provide a major driver… However, across these countries we have EU member states with different levels of open access. The UK, Netherlands, Sweden and others prefer “gold” access, whilst Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, etc. prefer “green” access, partly because the cost of gold open access is prohibitive.

Funders policies are a really significant driver towards open access. Funders including Arthritis Research UK, Bloodwise, Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Now, British Heard Foundation, Parkinsons UK, Wellcome Trust, Research Councils UK, HEFCE, European Commission, etc. Most support green and gold, and will pay APCs (Article Processing Charges) but it’s fair to say that early career researchers are not always at the front of the queue for getting those paid. HEFCE in particular have a green open access policy, requiring research outputs from any part of the university to be made open access, you will not be eligible for the REF (Research Excellence Framework) and, as a result, compliance levels are high – probably top of Europe at the moment. The European Commission supports green and gold open access, but typically green as this is more affordable.

So, there is a need for quick progress at the same time as ongoing pressure on library budgets – we pay both for subscriptions and for APCs. Offsetting agreements are one way to do this, discounting subscriptions by APC charges, could be a good solutions. There are pros and cons here. In principal it will allow quicker progress towards OA goals, but it will disproportionately benefit legacy publishers. It brings publishers into APC reporting – right now sometimes invisible to the library as paid by researchers, so this is a shift and a challenge. It’s supposed to be a temporary stage towards full open access. And it’s a very expensive intermediate stage: not every country can or will afford it.

So how can disruption happen? Well one way to deal with this would be the policies – suggesting not to fund hybrid journals (as done in OpenAire). And disruption is happening (legal or otherwise) as we can see in Sci-Hub usage which are from all around the world, not just developing countries. Legal routes are possible in licensing negotiations. In Germany there is a Projekt Deal being negotiated. And this follows similar negotiations by open access.nl. At the moment Elsevier is the only publisher not willing to include open access journals.

In terms of tools… The EU has just announced plans to launch it’s own platform for funded research to be published. And Wellcome Trust already has a space like this.

So, some conclusions… Open access is unstoppable now, but still needs to generate sustainable and competitive implementation mechanisms. But it is getting more complex and difficult to disseminate to research – that’s a serious risk. Open Access will happen via a combination of strategies and routes – internal fights just aren’t useful (e.g. green vs gold). The temporary stage towards full open access needs to benefit library budgets sooner rather than later. And the power here really lies with researchers, which OA advocates aren’t always able to get informed. It is important that you know which are open and which are hybrid journals, and why that matters. And we need to think if informing authors on where it would make economic sense to publish beyond the remit of institutional libraries?

To finish, some recommended reading:

  • “Early Career Researchers: the Harbingers of Change” – Final report from Ciber, August 2016
  • “My Top 9 Reasons to Publish Open Access” – a great set of slides.


Q1) It was interesting to hear about offsetting. Are those agreements one-off? continuous? renewed?

A1) At the moment they are one-off and intended to be a temporary measure. But they will probably mostly get renewed… National governments and consortia want to understand how useful they are, how they work.

Q2) Can you explain green open access and gold open access and the difference?

A2) In Gold Open Access, the author pays to make your paper open on the journal website. If that’s a hybrid – so subscription – journal you essentially pay twice, once to subscribe, once to make open. Green Open Access means that your article goes into your repository (after any embargo), into the world wide repository landscape (see: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/an-introduction-to-open-access).

Q3) As much as I agree that choices of where to publish are for researchers, but there are other factors. The REF pressures you to publish in particular ways. Where can you find more on the relationships between different types of open access and impact? I think that can help?

A3) Quite a number of studies. For instance is APC related to Impact factor – several studies there. In terms of REF, funders like Wellcome are desperate to move away from the impact factor. It is hard but evolving.

Inputs, Outputs and emergent properties: The new Scientometrics – Phill Jones, Director of Publishing Innovation, Digital Science

Scientometrics is essentially the study of science metrics and evaluation of these. As Graham mentioned in his introduction, there is a whole complicated lifecycle and process of publishing. And what I will talk about spans that whole process.

But, to start, a bit about me and Digital Science. We were founded in 2011 and we are wholly owned by Holtzbrink Publishing Group, they owned Nature group. Being privately funded we are able to invest in innovation by researchers, for researchers, trying to create change from the ground up. Things like labguru – a lab notebook (like rspace); Altmetric; Figshare; readcube; Peerwith; transcriptic – IoT company, etc.

So, I’m going to introduce a concept: The Evaluation Gap. This is the difference between the metrics and indicators currently or traditionally available, and the information that those evaluating your research might actually want to know? Funders might. Tenure panels – hiring and promotion panels. Universities – your institution, your office of research management. Government, funders, policy organisations, all want to achieve something with your research…

So, how do we close the evaluation gap? Introducing altmetrics. It adds to academic impact with other types of societal impact – policy documents, grey literature, mentions in blogs, peer review mentions, social media, etc. What else can you look at? Well you can look at grants being awarded… When you see a grant awarded for a new idea, then publishes… someone else picks up and publishers… That can take a long time so grants can tell us before publications. You can also look at patents – a measure of commercialisation and potential economic impact further down the link.

So you see an idea germinate in one place, work with collaborators at the institution, spreading out to researchers at other institutions, and gradually out into the big wide world… As that idea travels outward it gathers more metadata, more impact, more associated materials, ideas, etc.

And at Digital Science we have innovators working across that landscape, along that scholarly lifecycle… But there is no point having that much data if you can’t understand and analyse it. You have to classify that data first to do that… Historically we did that was done by subject area, but increasingly research is interdisciplinary, it crosses different fields. So single tags/subjects are not useful, you need a proper taxonomy to apply here. And there are various ways to do that. You need keywords and semantic modeling and you can choose to:

  1. Use an existing one if available, e.g. MeSH (Medical Subject Headings).
  2. Consult with subject matter experts (the traditional way to do this, could be editors, researchers, faculty, librarians who you’d just ask “what are the keywords that describe computational social science”).
  3. Text mining abstracts or full text article (using the content to create a list from your corpus with bag of words/frequency of words approaches, for instance, to help you cluster and find the ideas with a taxonomy emerging

Now, we are starting to take that text mining approach. But to use that data needs to be cleaned and curated to be of use. So we hand curated a list of institutions to go into GRID: Global Research Identifier Database, to understand organisations and their relationships. Once you have that all mapped you can look at Isni, CrossRef databases etc. And when you have that organisational information you can include georeferences to visualise where organisations are…

An example that we built for HEFCE was the Digital Science BrainScan. The UK has a dual funding model where there is both direct funding and block funding, with the latter awarded by HEFCE and it is distributed according to the most impactful research as understood by the REF. So, our BrainScan, we mapped research areas, connectors, etc. to visualise subject areas, their impact, and clusters of strong collaboration, to see where there are good opportunities for funding…

Similarly we visualised text mined impact statements across the whole corpus. Each impact is captured as a coloured dot. Clusters show similarity… Where things are far apart, there is less similarity. And that can highlight where there is a lot of work on, for instance, management of rivers and waterways… And these weren’t obvious as across disciplines…


Q1) Who do you think benefits the most from this kind of information?

A1) In the consultancy we have clients across the spectrum. In the past we have mainly worked for funders and policy makers to track effectiveness. Increasingly we are talking to institutions wanting to understand strengths, to predict trends… And by publishers wanting to understand if journals should be split, consolidated, are there opportunities we are missing… Each can benefit enormously. And it makes the whole system more efficient.

Against capital – Stuart Lawson, Birkbeck University of London

So, my talk will be a bit different. The arguements I will be making are not in opposition to any of the other speakers here, but is about critically addressing our current ways we are working, and how publishing works. I have chosen to speak on this topic today as I think it is important to make visible the political positions that underly our assumptions and the systems we have in place today. There are calls to become more efficient but I disagree… Ownership and governance matter at least as much as the outcome.

I am an advocate for open access and I am currently undertaking a PhD looking at open access and how our discourse around this has been coopted by neoliberal capitalism. And I believe these issues aren’t technical but social and reflect inequalities in our society, and any company claiming to benefit society but operating as commercial companies should raise questions for us.

Neoliberalism is a political project to reshape all social relations to conform to the logic of capital (this is the only slide, apparently a written and referenced copy will be posted on Stuart’s blog). This system turns us all into capital, entrepreneurs of our selves – quantification, metricification whether through tuition fees that put a price on education, turn students into consumers selecting based on rational indicators of future income; or through pitting universities against each other rather than collaboratively. It isn’t just overtly commercial, but about applying ideas of the market in all elements of our work – high impact factor journals, metrics, etc. in the service of proving our worth. If we do need metrics, they should be open and nuanced, but if we only do metrics for people’s own careers and perform for careers and promotion, then these play into neoliberal ideas of control. I fully understand the pressure to live and do research without engaging and playing the game. It is easier to choose not to do this if you are in a position of privelege, and that reflects and maintains inequalities in our organisations.

Since power relations are often about labour and worth, this is inevitably part of work, and the value of labour. When we hear about disruption in the context of Uber, it is about disrupting rights of works, labour unions, it ignores the needs of the people who do the work, it is a neo-liberal idea. I would recommend seeing Audrey Watters’ recent presentation for University of Edinburgh on the “Uberisation of Education”.

The power of capital in scholarly publishing, and neoliberal values in our scholarly processes… When disruptors align with the political forces that need to be dismantled, I don’t see that as useful or properly disruptive. Open Access is a good thing in terms of open access. But there are two main strands of policy… Research Councils have spent over £80m to researchers to pay APCs. Publishing open access do not require payment of fees, there are OA journals who are funded other ways. But if you want the high end visible journals they are often hybrid journals and 80% of that RCUK has been on hybrid journals. So work is being made open access, but right now this money flows from public funds to a small group of publishers – who take a 30-40% profit – and that system was set up to continue benefitting publishers. You can share or publish to repositories… Those are free to deposit and use. The concern of OA policy is the connection to the REF, it constrains where you can publish and what they mean, and they must always be measured in this restricted structure. It can be seen as compliance rather than a progressive movement toward social justice. But open access is having a really positive impact on the accessibility of research.

If you are angry at Elsevier, then you should also be angry at Oxford University and Cambridge University, and others for their relationships to the power elite. Harvard made a loud statement about journal pricing… It sounded good, and they have a progressive open access policy… But it is also bullshit – they have huge amounts of money… There are huge inequalities here in academia and in relationship to publishing.

And I would recommend strongly reading some history on the inequalities, and the racism and capitalism that was inherent to the founding of higher education so that we can critically reflect on what type of system we really want to discover and share scholarly work. Things have evolved over time – somewhat inevitably – but we need to be more deliberative so that universities are more accountable in their work.

To end on a more positive note, technology is enabling all sorts of new and inexpensive ways to publish and share. But we don’t need to depend on venture capital. Collective and cooperative running of organisations in these spaces – such as the cooperative centres for research… There are small scale examples show the principles, and that this can work. Writing, reviewing and editing is already being done by the academic community, lets build governance and process models to continue that, to make it work, to ensure work is rewarded but that the driver isn’t commercial.


Comment) That was awesome. A lot of us here will be to learn how to play the game. But the game sucks. I am a professor, I get to do a lot of fun things now, because I played the game… We need a way to have people able to do their work that way without that game. But we need something more specific than socialism… Libraries used to publish academic data… Lots of these metrics are there and useful… And I work with them… But I am conscious that we will be fucked by them. We need a way to react to that.

Redesigning Science for the Internet Generation – Gemma Milne, Co-Founder, Science Disrupt

Science Disrupt run regular podcasts, events, a Slack channel for scientists, start ups, VCs, etc. Check out our website. We talk about five focus areas of science. Today I wanted to talk about redesigning science for the internet age. My day job is in journalism and I think a lot about start ups, and to think about how we can influence academia, how success is manifests itself in the internet age.

So, what am I talking about? Things like Pavegen – power generating paving stones. They are all over the news! The press love them! BUT the science does not work, the physics does not work…

I don’t know if you heard about Theranos which promised all sorts of medical testing from one drop of blood, millions of investments, and it all fell apart. But she too had tons of coverage…

I really like science start ups, I like talking about science in a different way… But how can I convince the press, the wider audience what is good stuff, and what is just hype, not real… One of the problems we face is that if you are not engaged in research you either can’t access the science, and can’t read it even if they can access the science… This problem is really big and it influences where money goes and what sort of stuff gets done!

So, how can we change this? There are amazing tools to help (Authorea, overleaf, protocol.io, figshare, publons, labworm) and this is great and exciting. But I feel it is very short term… Trying to change something that doesn’t work anyway… Doing collaborative lab notes a bit better, publishing a bit faster… OK… But is it good for sharing science? Thinking about journalists and corporates, they don’t care about academic publishing, it’s not where they go for scientific information. How do we rethink that… What if we were to rethink how we share science?

AirBnB and Amazon are on my slide here to make the point of the difference between incremental change vs. real change. AirBnB addressed issues with hotels, issues of hotels being samey… They didn’t build a hotel, instead they thought about what people want when they traveled, what mattered for them… Similarly Amazon didn’t try to incrementally improve supermarkets.. They did something different. They dug to the bottom of why something exists and rethought it…

Imagine science was “invented” today (ignore all the realities of why that’s impossible). But imagine we think of this thing, we have to design it… How do we start? How will I ask questions, find others who ask questions…

So, a bit of a thought experiment here… Maybe I’d post a question on reddit, set up my own sub-reddit. I’d ask questions, ask why they are interested… Create a big thread. And if I have a lot of people, maybe I’ll have a Slack with various channels about all the facets around a question, invite people in… Use the group to project manage this project… OK, I have a team… Maybe I create a Meet Up Group for that same question… Get people to join… Maybe 200 people are now gathered and interested… You gather all these folk into one place. Now we want to analyse ideas. Maybe I share my question and initial code on GitHub, find collaborators… And share the code, make it open… Maybe it can be reused… It has been collaborative at every stage of the journey… Then maybe I want to build a microscope or something… I’d find the right people, I’d ask them to join my Autodesk 360 to collaboratively build engineering drawings for fabrication… So maybe we’ve answered our initial question… So maybe I blog that, and then I tweet that…

The point I’m trying to make is, there are so many tools out there for collaboration, for sharing… Why aren’t more researchers using these tools that are already there? Rather than designing new tools… These are all ways to engage and share what you do, rather than just publishing those articles in those journals…

So, maybe publishing isn’t the way at all? I get the “game” but I am frustrated about how we properly engage, and really get your work out there. Getting industry to understand what is going on. There are lots of people inventing in new ways.. YOu can use stuff in papers that isn’t being picked up… But see what else you can do!

So, what now? I know people are starved for time… But if you want to really make that impact, that you think is more interested… I undesrtand there is a concern around scooping… But there are ways to do that… And if you want to know about all these tools, do come talk to me!


Q1) I think you are spot on with vision. We want faster more collaborative production. But what is missing from those tools is that they are not designed for researchers, they are not designed for publishing. Those systems are ephemeral… They don’t have DOIs and they aren’t persistent. For me it’s a bench to web pipeline…

A1) Then why not create a persistent archived URI – a webpage where all of a project’s content is shared. 50% of all academic papers are only read by the person that published them… These stumbling blocks in the way of sharing… It is crazy… We shouldn’t just stop and not share.

Q2) Thank you, that has given me a lot of food for thought. The issue of work not being read, I’ve been told that by funders so very relevant to me. So, how do we influence the professors… As a PhD student I haven’t heard about many of those online things…

A2) My co-founder of Science Disrupt is a computational biologist and PhD student… My response would be about not asking, just doing… Find networks, find people doing what you want. Benefit from collaboration. Sign an NDA if needed. Find the opportunity, then come back…

Q3) I had a comment and a question. Code repositories like GitHub are persistent and you can find a great list of code repositories and meta-articles around those on the Journal of Open Research Software. My question was about AirBnB and Amazon… Those have made huge changes but I think the narrative they use now is different from where they started – and they started more as incremental change… And they stumbled on bigger things, which looks a lot like research… So… How do you make that case for the potential long term impact of your work in a really engaging way?

A3) It is the golden question. Need to find case studies, to find interesting examples… a way to showcase similar examples… and how that led to things… Forget big pictures, jump the hurdles… Show that bigger picture that’s there but reduce the friction of those hurdles. Sure those companies were somewhat incremental but I think there is genuinely a really different mindset there that matters.

And we now move to lunch. Coming up…


This will be me, so don’t expect an update for the moment…

SESSION TWO: The Early Career Researcher Perspective: Publishing & Research Communication

Getting recognition for all your research outputs – Michael Markie

Make an impact, know your impact, show your impact – Anna Ritchie

How to share science with hard to reach groups and why you should bother – Becky Douglas

What helps or hinders science communication by early career researchers? – Lewis MacKenzie



SESSION THREE: Raising your research profile: online engagement & metrics

Green, Gold, and Getting out there: How your choice of publisher services can affect your research profile and engagement – Laura Henderson

What are all these dots and what can linking them tell me? – Rachel Lammey

The wonderful world of altmetrics: why researchers’ voices matter – Jean Liu

How to help more people find and understand your work – Charlie Rapple




eLearning@ed 2017

Today I am at the eLearning@ed Conference 2017, our annual day-long event for the eLearning community across the University of Edinburgh – including learning technologies, academic staff and some post graduate students. As I’m convener of the community I’m also chairing some sessions today so the notes won’t be at quite my normal pace!

As usual comments, additions and corrections are very welcome. 

For the first two sections I’m afraid I was chairing so there were no notes… But huge thanks to Anne Marie for her excellent quick run through exciting stuff to come… 

Welcome – Nicola Osborne, elearning@ed Convenor

Forthcoming Attractions – Anne Marie Scott, Head of Digital Learning Applications and Media

And with that it was over to our wonderful opening keynote… 

Opening Keynote: Prof. Nicola Whitton, Professor of Professional Learning, Manchester Metropolitan University: Inevitable Failure Assessment? Rethinking higher education through play (Chair: Dr Jill MacKay)

Although I am in education now, my background is as a computer scientist… So I grew up with failure. Do you remember the ZX Spectrum? Loading games there was extremely hit and miss. But the games there – all text based – were brilliant, they worked, they took you on adventures. I played all the games but I don’t think I ever finished one… I’d get a certain way through and then we’d have that idea of catastrophic failure…

And then I met a handsome man… It was unrequited… But he was a bit pixellated… Here was Guybush Threepwood of the Monkey Island series. And that game changed everything – you couldn’t catastrophically fail, it was almost impossible. But in this game you can take risks, you can try things, you can be innovative… And that’s important for me… That space for failure…

The way that we and our students think about failure in Higher Education, and deal with failure in Higher Education. If we think that going through life and never failing, we will be set for disappointment. We don’t laud the failures. J.K. Rowling, biggest author, rejected 12 times. The Beatles, biggest band of the 20th Century, were rejected by record labels many many time. The lightbulb failed hundreds of times! Thomas Edison said he didn’t fail 100 times, he succeeded in lots of stages…

So, to laud failure… Here are some of mine:

  1. Primary 5 junior mastermind – I’m still angry! I chose horses as my specialist subject so, a tip, don’t do that!
  2. My driving test – that was a real resiliance moment… I’ll do it again… I’ll have more lessons with my creepy driving instructor, but I’ll do it again.
  3. First year university exams – failed one exam, by one mark… It was borderline and they said “but we thought you need to fail” – I had already been told off for not attending lectures. So I gave up my summer job, spent the summer re-sitting. I learned that there is only so far you can push things… You have to take things seriously…
  4. Keeping control of a moped – in Thailand, with no training… Driving into walls… And learning when to give up… (we then went by walking and bus)
  5. Funding proposals and article submissions, regularly, too numerous to count – failure is inevitable… As academics we tend not to tell you about all the times we fail… We are going to fail… So we have to be fine to fail and learn from it. I was involved in a Jisc project in 2009… I’ve published most on it… It really didn’t work… And when it didn’t work they funded us to write about that. And I was very lucky, one of the Innovation Programme Managers who had funded us said “hey, if some of our innovation funding isn’t failing, then we aren’t being innovative”. But that’s not what we talk about.

For us, for our students… We have to understand that failure is inevitable. Things are currently set up as failure being a bad outcome, rather than an integral part of the learning process… And learning from failure is really important. I have read something – though I’ve not been able to find it again – that those who pass their driving test on the second attempt are better drives. Failure is about learning. I have small children… They spent their first few years failing to talk then failing to walk… That’s not failure though, it’s how we learn…

Just a little bit of theory. I want to talk a bit about the concept of the magic circle… The Magic Circle came from game theory, from the 1950s. Picked up by ? Zimmerman in early 2000s… The idea is that when you play with someone, you enter this other space, this safe space, where normal rules don’t apply… Like when you see animals playfighting… There is mutual agreement that this doesn’t count, that there are rules and safety… In Chess you don’t just randomly grab the king. Pub banter can be that safe space with different rules applying…

This happens in games, this happens in physical play… How can we create magic circles in learning… So what is that:

  • Freedom to fail – if you won right away, there’s no point in playing it. That freedom to fail and not be constrained by the failure… How we look at failure in games is really different from how we look at failure in Higher Education.
  • Lusory attitude – this is about a willingness to engage in play, to forget about the rules of the real world, to abide by the rules of this new situation. To park real life… To experiment, that is powerful. And that idea came from Leonard Suits whose book, The Grasshopper, is a great Playful Learning read.
  • Intrinsic motivation – this is the key area of magic circle for higher education. The idea that learning can be and should be intrinsically motivating is really really important.

So, how many of you have been in an academic reading group? OK, how many have lasted more than a year? Yeah, they rarely last long… People don’t get round to reading the book… We’ve set up a book group with special rules: you either HAVE To read the book, or your HAVE TO PRETEND that you read the book. We’ve had great turn out, no idea if they all read the books… But we have great discussion… Reframing that book group just a small bit makes a huge difference.

That sort of tiny change can be very powerful for integrating playfulness. We don’t think twice about doing this with children… Part of the issue with play, especially with adults, is what matters about play… About that space to fail. But also the idea of play as a socialised bonding space, for experimentation, for exploration, for possibilities, for doing something else, for being someone else. And the link with motivation is quite well established… I think we need to understand that different kind of play has different potential, but it’s about play and people, and safe play…

This is my theory heavy slide… This is from a paper I’ve just completed with colleagues in Denmark. We wanted to think “what is playful learning”… We talk about Higher Education and playful learning in that context… So what actually is it?

Well there is signature pedagogy for playful learning in higher education, under which we have surface (game) structures; deep (play) structures; implicit (playful) structures. Signature pedagogy could be architecture or engineering…

This came out of work on what students respond to…

So Surface (game) structures includes: ease of entry and explicit progression; appropriate and flexible levels of challenge; engaging game mechanics; physical or digital artefacts. Those are often based around games and digital games… But you can be playful without games…

Deep (play) structures is about: active and physical engagement; collaboration with diversity; imagining possibilities; novelty and surprises.

Implicit (playful) structures: lusory attitude; democratice values and openness; acceptance of risk-taking and failure; intrinsic motivation. That is so important for us in higher education…

So, rant alert…

Higher Education is broken. And that is because schools are broken. I live in Manchester (I know things aren’t as bad in Scotland) and we have assessment all over the place… My daughter is 7 sitting exams. Two weeks of them. They are talking about exams for reception kids – 4 year olds! We have a performative culture of “you will be assessed, you will be assessed”. And then we are surprised when that’s how our students respond… And have the TEF appearing… The golds, silvers, and bronze… Based on fairly random metrics… And then we are surprised when people work to the metrics. I think that assessment is a great way to suck out all the creativity!

So, some questions my kids have recently asked:

  • Are there good viruses? I asked an expert… apparently there are for treating people.. (But they often mutate.)
  • Do mermaids lay eggs? Well they are part fish…
  • Do Snow Leopards eat tomatoes? Where did this question come from? Who knows? Apparently they do eat monkeys… What?!

But contrast that to what my students ask:

  • Will I need to know this for the exam?
  • Are we going to be assessed on that?

That’s what happens when we work to the metrics…

We are running a course where there were two assessments. One was formative… And students got angry that it wasn’t worth credit… So I started to think about what was important about assessment? So I plotted the feedback from low to high, and consequence from low to high… So low consequence, low feedback…

We have the idea of the Trivial Fail – we all do those and it doesn’t matter (e.g. forgetting to signal at a roundabout), and lots of opportunity to fail like that.

We also have the Critical Fail – High Consequence and Low Feedback – kids exams and quite a lot of university assessment fits there.

We also have Serious Fail – High Consequence and High Feedback – I’d put PhD Vivas there… consequences matter… But there is feedback and can be opportunity to manage that.

What we need to focus on in Higher Education is the Micro Fail – low consequence with high feedback. We need students to have that experience, and to value that failure, to value failure without consequence…

So… How on earth do we actually do this? How about we “Level Up” assessment… With bosses at the end of levels… And you keep going until you reach as far as you need to go, and have feedback filled in…

Or the Monkey Island assessment. There is a goal but it doesn’t matter how you get there… You integrate learning and assessment completely, and ask people to be creative…

Easter Egg assessment… Not to do with chocolate but “Easter Eggs” – suprises… You don’t know how you’ll be assessed… Or when you’ll be assessed… But you will be! And it might be fun! So you have to go to lectures… Real life works like that… You can’t know which days will count ahead of time.

Inevitable Failure assessment… You WILL fail first time, maybe second time, third time… But eventually pass… Or even maybe you can’t ever succeed and that’s part of the point.

The point is that failure is inevitable and you need to be able to cope with that and learn from that. On which note… Here is my favourite journal, the Journal of Universal Rejection… This is quite a cathartic experience, they reject everything!

So I wanted to talk about a project that we are doing with some support from the HEA… Eduscapes… Have you played Escape Rooms? They are so addictive! There are lots of people creating educational Escape Rooms… This project is a bit different… So there are three parts… You start by understanding what the Escape Room is, how they work; then some training; and then design a game. But they have to trial them again and again and again. We’ve done this with students, and with high school students three times now. There is inevitable failure built in here… And the project can run over days or weeks or months… But you start with something and try and fail and learn…

This is collaborative, it is creative – there is so much scope to play with, sometimes props, sometimes budget, sometimes what they can find… In the schools case they were maths and Comp Sci students so there was a link to the curriculum. It is not assessed… But other people will see it – that’s quite a powerful motivator… We have done this with reflection/portfolio assessment… That resource is now available, there’s a link, and it’s a really simple way to engage in something that doesn’t really matter…

And while I’m here I have to plug our conference, Playful Learning, now in its second year. We were all about thinking differently about conferences… But always presenting at traditional conferences. So our conference is different… Most of it is hands on, all different stuff, a space to do something different – we had a storytelling in a tent as one of these… Lots of space but nothing really went wrong. But we need something to fail. Applications are closed this year… But there will be a call next year… So play more, be creative, fail!

So, to finish… I’m playful, play has massive potential… But we also have to think about diversity of play, the resilience to play… A lot of the research on playful learning, and assessment doesn’t recognise the importance of gender, race, context, etc… And the importance of the language we use in play… It has nuance, and comes with distinctions… We have to encourage people to play ad get involved. And we really have to re-think assessment – for ourselves, of universities, of students, of school pupils… Until we rethink this, it will be hard to have any real impact for playful learning…

Jill: Thank you so much, that was absolutely brilliant. And that Star Trek reference is “Kobayashi Maru”!


Q1) In terms of playful learning and assessment, I was wondering how self-assessment can work?

A1) That brings me back to previous work I have done around reflection… And I think that’s about bringing that reflection into playful assessment… But it’s a hard question… More space and time for reflection, possibly more space for support… But otherwise not that different from other assessment.

Q2) I run a research methods course for an MSc… We tried to invoke playfulness with a fake data set with dragons and princesses… Any other examples of that?

A2) I think that that idea of it being playful, rather than games, is really important. Can use playful images, or data that makes rude shapes when you graph is!

Q3) Nic knows that I don’t play games… I was interested in that difference between gaming and play and playfulness… There is something about games that don’t entice me at all… But that Lusory attitude did feel familiar and appealing… That suspension of disbelief and creativity… And that connection with gendered discussion of play and games.

A3) We are working on a taxonomy of play. That’s quite complex… Some things are clearly play… A game, messing with LEGO… Some things are not play, but can be playful… Crochet… Jigsaw puzzles… They don’t have to be creative… But you can apply that attitude to almost anything. So there is play and there is a playful attitude… That latter part is the key thing, the being prepared to fail…

Q4) Not all games are fun… Easy to think playfulness and games… A lot of games are work… Competitive gaming… Or things like World of Warcraft – your wizard chores. And intensity there… Failure can be quite problematic if working with 25 people in a raid – everyone is tired and angry… That’s not a space where failure is ok… So in terms of what we can learn from games it is important to remember that games aren’t always fun or playful…

A4) Indeed, and not all play is fun… I hate performative play – improv, people touching me… It’s about understanding… It’s really nuanced. It used to be that “students love games because they are fun” and now “students love play because it’s fun” and that’s still missing the point…

Q5) I don’t think you are advocating this but… Thinking about spoonful of sugar making assessment go down… Tricking students into assessment??

A5) No. It’s taking away the consequences in how we think about assessment. I don’t have a problem with exams, but the weight on that, the consequences of failure. It is inevitable in HE that we grade students at different levels… So we have to think about how important assessment is in the real world… We don’t have equivelents of University assessments in the real world… Lets say I do a bid, lots of work, not funded… In real world I try again. If you fail your finals, you don’t get to try again… So it’s about not making it “one go and it’s over”… That’s hard but a big change and important.

Q6) I started in behavioural science in animals… Play there is “you’ll know it when you see it” – we have clear ideas of what other behaviours look like, but play is hard to describe but you know it when you see it… How does that work in your taxonomy…

A6) I have a colleague who is a physical science teacher trainer… And he’s gotten to “you’ll know it when you see it”… Sometimes that is how you perceive that difference… But that’s hard when you apply for grants! It’s a bit of an artificial exercise…

Q7) Can you tell us more about play and cultural diversity, and how we need to think about that in HE?

A7) At the moment we are at the point that people understand and value play in different way. I have a colleague looking at diversity in play… A lot of research previously is on men, and privileged white men… So partly it’s about explaining why you are doing, what you are doing, in the way you are doing it… You have to think beyond that, to appropriateness, to have play in your toolkit…

Q8) You talk about physical spaces and playfulness… How much impact does that have?

A8) It’s not my specialist area but yes, the physical space matters… And you have to think about how to make your space more playful..

Introductions to Break Out Sessions: Playful Learning & Experimentation (Nicola Osborne)

  • Playful Learning – Michael Boyd (10 min)

We are here today with the UCreate Studio… I am the manager of the space, we have student assistants. We also have high school students supporting us too. This pilot runs to the end of July and provides a central Maker Space… To create things, to make things, to generate ideas… This is mixture of the maker movement, we are a space for playful learning through making. There are about 1400 maker spaces world wide, many in Universities in the UK too… Why do they pop up in Universities? They are great creative spaces to learn.

You can get hands on with technology… It is about peer based learning… And project learning… It’s a safe space to fail – it’s non assessed stuff…

Why is it good for learning? Well for instance the World Economic Forum predict that 35% of core professional skills will change from 2015 to 2020. Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, judgement and decision making, cognitive flexibility… These are things that can’t be automated… And can be supported by making and creating…

So, what do we do? We use new technologies, we use technologies that are emerging but not yet widely adopted. And we are educational… That first few months is the hard bit… We don’t lecture much, we are there to help and guide and scaffold. Students can feel confident that they have support if they need it.

And, we are open source! Anyone in the University can use the space, be supported in the space, for free as long as they openly share and license whatever they make. Part of that bigger open ethos.

So, what gets made? Includes academic stuff… Someone made a holder for his spectrometer and 3D printed it. He’s now looking to augment this with his chemistry to improve that design; we have Josie in archeology scanning artefacts and then using that to engage people – using VR; Dimitra in medicine, following a poster project for a cancer monitoring chip, she started prototyping; Hayden in Geosciences is using 3D scanning to see the density of plant matter to understand climate change.

But it’s not just that. Also other stuff… Henry studies architecture, but has a grandfather who needs meds and his family worries if he takes his medicine.. So he’s designed a system that connects a display of that. Then Greg on ECA is looking at projecting memories on people… To see how that helps…

So, I wanted to flag some ideas we can discuss… One of he first projects when I arrived, Fiona Hale and Chris Speed (ECA) ran “Maker Go” had product design students, across the years, to come up with a mobile maker space project… Results were fantastic – a bike to use to scan a space… A way to follow and make paths with paint, to a coffee machine powered by failed crits etc. Brilliant stuff. And afterwards there was a self-organised (first they can remember) exhibtion, Velodrama…

Next up was Edinburgh IoT challenge… Students and academics came together to address challenges set by Council, Uni, etc. Designers, Engineers, Scientists… Led to a really special project, 2 UG students approached us to set yp the new Embedded adn Robotics Society – they run sessions every two weeks. And going strength to strength.

Last but not least… Digital manufacturing IP session trialled last term with Dr Stema Kieria, to explore 3D scanning and printing and the impact on IPs… Huge areas… Echos of taping songs off the radio. Took something real, showed it hands on, learned about technologies, scanned copyright materials, and explored this. They taught me stuff! And that led to a Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon in March. This was law and informatics working together, huge ideas… We hope to see them back in the studio soon!

  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops – Sian Bayne (5 mins)

I am Assistant Vice Principal for Digital Education and I was very keen to look at designing the future of digital education at Edinburgh. I am really excited to be here today… We want you to answer some questions on what teaching will look like in this university in 20 or 30 years time:

  • will students come to campus?
  • will we come to campus?
  • will we have AI tutors?
  • How will teaching change?
  • Will learning analytics trigger new things?
  • How will we work with partner organisations?
  • Will peers accredit each other?
  • Will MOOCs stull exist?
  • Will performance enhancement be routine?
  • Will lectures still exist?
  • Will exams exist?
  • Will essays be marked by software?
  • Will essays exist?
  • Will discipline still exist?
  • Will the VLE still exist?
  • Will we teach in VR?
  • Will the campus be smart? And what does eg IoT to monitor spaces mean socially?
  • Will we be smarter through technology?
  • What values should shape how we change? How we use these technologies?

Come be interviewed for our voxpops! We will be videoing… If you feel brave, come see us!

And now to a break… and our breakout sessions, which were… 

Morning Break Out Sessions

  • Playful Learning Mini Maker Space (Michael Boyd)
  • 23 Things (Stephanie (Charlie) Farley)
  • DIY Film School (Gear and Gadgets) (Stephen Donnelly)
  • World of Warcraft (download/set up information here) (Hamish MacLeod & Clara O’Shea)
  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops (Sian Bayne)

Presentations: Fun and Games and Learning (Chair: Ruby Rennie, Lecturer, Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership (Moray House School of Education))

  • Teaching with Dungeons & Dragons – Tom Boylston

I am based in Anthropology and we’ve been running a course on the anthropology of games. And I just wanted to talk about that experience of creating playful teaching and learning. So, Dungeons and Dragons was designed in the 1970s… You wake up, your chained up in a dungeon, you are surrounded by aggressive warriors… And as a player you choose what to do – fight them, talk to them, etc… And you can roll a dice to decide an action, to make the next play. It is always a little bit improvisational, and that’s where the fun comes in!

There are some stigmas around D&D as the last bastion of the nerdy white bloke… But… The situation we had was a 2 hour lecture slot, and I wanted to split that in two. To engage with a reading on the creative opportunities of imagination. I wanted them to make a character, alsmot like creative writing classes, to play that character and see what that felt like, how that changed that… Because part of the fun of role playing is getting to be someone else. Now these games do raise identity issues – gender, race, sexuality… That can be great but it’s not what you want in a big group with people you don’t yet have trust with… But there is something special about being in a space with others, where you don’t know what could happen… It is not a simple thing to take a traditional teaching setting and make it playful… One of the first things we look at when we think about play is people needing to consent to play… And if you impose that on a room, that’s hard…

So early in the course we looked at Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis, and we used Pictionary cards… We looked at the social cues from the space, the placement of seats, microphones, etc. And then the social cues of play… Some of the foundational work of animal play asks us how you know dogs are playfighting… It’s the half-bite, playful rather than painful… So how do I invite a room full of people to play? I commanded people to play Pictionary, to come up and play… Eventually someone came up… Eventually the room accepted that and the atmosphere changed. It really helped that we had been reading about framing. And I asked what had changed and there were able to think and talk about that…

But D&D… People were sceptical. We started with students making me a character. They made me Englebert, a 5 year old lizard creature… To display the playful situation, a bit silly, to model and frame the situation… Sent them comedy D&D podcasts to listen to and asked them to come back a week later… I promised that we wouldn’t do it every week but… I shared some creative writing approaches to writing a back story, to understand what would matter about this character… Only having done this preparatory work, thought about framing… Only then did I try out my adventure on them… It’s about a masquerade in Camaroon, and children try on others’ masks… I didn’t want to appropriate that. But just to take some cues and ideas and tone from that. And when we got to the role playing, the students were up for it… And we did this either as individual students, or they could pair up…

And then we had a debrief – crucial for a playful experience like this. People said there was more negotiation than they expected as they set up the scene and created. They were surprised how people took care of their characters…

The concluding thing was… At the end of the course I had probably shared more that I cared about. Students interrupted me more – with really great ideas! And students really engaged.


Q1) Would you say that D&D would be a better medium than an online role playing game… Exemporisation rather than structured compunction?

A1) We did talk about that… We created a WoW character… There really is a lot of space, unexpected situations you can create in D&D… Lots of improvisation… More happened in that than in the WoW stuff that we did… It was surprisingly great.

Q2) Is that partly about sharing and revealing you, rather than the playfulness per se?

A2) Maybe a bit… But I would have found that hard in another context. The discussion of games really brought that stuff out… It was great and unexpected… Play is the creation of unexpected things…

Q3) There’s a trust thing there… We can’t expect students to trust us and the process, unless we show our trust ourselves…

A3) There was a fair bit of background effort… Thinking about signalling a playful space, and how that changes the space… The playful situations did that without me intending to or trying to!

Digital Game Based Learning in China – Sihan Zhou

I have been finding this event really inspiring… There is so much to think around playfulness. I am from China, and the concept of playful learning is quite new in China so I’m pleased to talk to you about the platform we are creating – Tornado English…

On this platform we have four components – a bilingual animation, a game, and a bilingual chat bot… If the user clicks on the game, they can download it… So far we have created two games: Word Pop – vocabulary learning and Run Rabbit – syntactic learning, both based around Mayer’s model (2011).

The games mechanics are usually understood but comparing user skills and level of challenge – too easy and users will get bored, but if it’s too challenging then users will be frustrated and demotivated. So for apps in China, many of the educational products tend to be more challenging than fun – more educational apps than educational games. So in our games use timing and scoring to make things more playful and interactions like popping bubbles, clicking on moles popping out of holes in the ground. In Word Smash students have to match images to vocab as quickly as possible… In Run Rabbit… The student has to speak a phrase in order get the rabbit to run to the right word in the game and placing it…

When we designed the game, we considered how we could ensure that the game is educationally effective, and to integrate it with the English curriculum in school. We tie to the 2011 English Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education in China. Students have to complete a sequence of levels to reach the next level of learning – autonomous learning in a systematic way.

So, we piloted this app in China, working with 6 primary schools in Harbin, China. Data has been collected from interviews with teachers, classroom observation, and questionnaires with parents.

This work is a KTP – a Knowledge Transfer Partnership – project and the KTP research is looking at Chinese primary school teachers’ attitudes towards game-based learning. And there is also an MSc TESOL Dissertation looking at teachers attitudes towards game based learning… For instance they may or may not be able to actually use these tools in the classroom because of the way teaching is planned and run. The results of this work will be presented soon – do get in touch.

Our future game development will focus more on a communicative model, task-based learning, and learner autonomy. So the character lands on a new planet, have to find their way, repair their rocket, and return to earth… To complete those task the learner has to develop the appropriate language to do well… But this is all exploratory so do talk to me and to inspire me.


Q1) I had some fantastic Chinese students in my playful anthropology course and they were explaining quite mixed attitudes to these approaches in China. Clearly there is that challenge to get authorities to accept it… But what’s the compromise between learning and fun.

A1) The game has features designed for fun… I met with education bureu and teachers, to talk about how this is eduationally effective… Then when I get into classrooms to talk to the students, I focus more on gaming features, why you play it, how you progress and unlock new levels. Emphasis has to be quite different depending on the audience. One has to understand the context.

Q2) How have the kids responded?

A2) They have been really inspired and want to try it out. The kids are 8 or 9 years old… They were keen but also knew that their parents weren’t going to be as happy about playing games in the week when they are supposed to do “homework”. We get data on how this used… We see good use on week days, but huge use on weekends, and longer play time too!

Q3) In terms of changing attitudes to game based learning in China… If you are wanting to test it in Taiwan the attitude was different, we were expected to build playful approaches in…

A3) There is “teaching reform” taking place… And more games and playfulness in the classrooms. But digital games was the problem in terms of triggering a mentality and caution. The new generation uses more elearning… But there is a need to demonstrate that usefulness and take it out to others.

VR in Education – Cinzia Pusceddu-Gangarosa

I am manager of learning technology in the School of Biological Sciences, and also a student on the wonderful MS in Digital Education. I’m going to talk about Virtual Reality in Education.

I wanted to start by defining VR. The definition I like best is from Mirriam Webster. It includes key ideas… the idea of “simulated world” and the ways one engaging with it. VR technologies include headsets like Oculus Rift (high end) through to Google Cardboard (low end) that let you engage… But there is more interesting stuff there too… There are VR “Cave” spaces – where you enter and are surrounded by screens. There are gloves, there are other kinds of experience.

Part of virtual reality is about an intense idea of presence, of being there, of being immersed in the world, fully engaged – so much so that the interface disappears, you forget you are using technologies.

In education VR is not anything new. The first applications were in the 1990s…. But in 200s desktop VR becomes more common – spaces such as Second Life – more acceptable and less costly to engage with.

I want to show you a few examples here… One of the first experiments was from the Institute for Simulation and Training, PA, where students could play “noseball” to play with a virtual ball in a set of wearables. You can see they still use headsets, similar to now but not particularly sophisticated… I also wanted to touch on some other university experiments with VR… The first one is Google Expeditions. This is not a product that has been looked at in universities – it has been trialled in schools a lot… It’s a way to travel in time and space through Google Cardboard… Through the use of apps and tools… And Google supports teachers to use this.

A more interesting experiment is an experiment at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, looking at cognitive effects on students behaviour, and perspective-taking in these spaces, looking at empathy – how VR promotes and encourages empathy. Students impersonating a tree, are more cautious wasting paper. Or impersonating a person has more connection and thoughtfulness about their behaviour to that person… Even an experiment on being a cow and whether that might make them more likely to make them a vegetarian.

Another interesting experiment is at Boston University who are engaging with Ulysses – based on a book but not in a literal way. At Penn State they have been experimenting with VR and tactile experiences.

So, to conclude, what are the strengths of VR in education? Well it is about experience what its not possible – cost, distance, time, size, safety. Also non-symbolic learning (maths, chemistry, etc); learning by doing; and engaging experiences. But there are weaknesses too: it is hard to find a VR designer; it requires technical support; and sometimes VR may not be the right technology – maybe we want to replicate the wrong thing, maybe not innovative enough…


Q1) Art Gallery/use in your area?

A1) I would like to do a VR project. It’s hard to understand until you try it out… Most of what I’ve presented is based on what I’ve read and researched, but I would love to explore the topic in a real project.

Q2) With all these technologies, I was wondering if a story is an important accompaniment to the technology and the experience?

A2) I think we do need a story. I don’t think any technology adds value unless we have a vision, and an understanding of full potential of the technology – and what it does differently, and what it really adds to the situation and the story…

Coming up…

Afternoon Keynote: Dr Hamish MacLeod, Senior Lecturer in Digital Education, Institute for Education, Community and Society, Moray House School of Education: Learning with and through Ambiguity (Chair: Cinzia Pusceddu-Gangarosa)

Afternoon Break Out Sessions

  • Playful Learning Mini Maker Space – Michael Boyd)
  • 23 Things – Stephanie (Charlie) Farley
  • DIY Film School (Gear and Gadgets) – Stephen Donnelly
  • Gamifying Wikpedia – Ewan McAndrew
  • Near Future Teaching Vox Pops – Sian Bayne


Short 10 minute presentations with 5 minutes for Q&A

  • Learning to Code: A Playful Approach – Areti Manataki
  • Enriched engagement with recorded lectures – John Lee
  • DIY Filmschool and Media Hopper (MoJo) – Stephen Donnelly

Chair: Ross Ward, Learning Technology Advisor (ISG Learning, Teaching & Web Services)

Closing Remarks – Prof. Sian Bayne, Moray House School of Education


Guardian Teacher Network Seminar: Technology in schools: money saver or money waster? – Belated Liveblog

Last Thursday I attended the Guardian Teacher Network Seminar: Technology in schools: money saver or money waster? at Kings Place, London.The panel was chaired by Kate Hodge (KH), head of content strategy at Jaywing Content and former editor of the Guardian Teacher Network, and featured:

  • John Galloway (JG), advisory teacher for ICT/special educational needs and inclusion, Tower Hamlets Council.
  • Donald Clark (DC), founder, PlanB Learning and investor in EdTech companies with experience of teaching maths and physics in FE in the UK and US.
  • Michael Mann (MM), senior programme manager, education team, Nesta Innovation Lab.
  • Naureen Khalid (NK), school governor and co-founder of @UkGovChat.

These are my live notes from the event – although these are a wee bit belated they are more or less unedited so comments, corrections, additions etc. are welcomed. 

The panel began with introductions, mainly giving an overview of their background. The two who said a wee bit more were:

John Galloway, specialist on technologies for students with special needs and inclusion, I work half time at Tower Hamlets with students but also a lot of training. It’s the skills of adults that is often the challenge. The rest of my time I consult, I’m a freelance writer, I am a judge of the BETT awards.

Michael Mann (MM), NESTA, our interest is that we don’t think EdTech has reached its potential yet… Our feeling is that we haven’t seen that impact yet. And since our report five years ago we’ve invested in companies and charities who focus on impact. Also do research with UCL, and work with teachers to trial things in real classrooms.

All comments below are credited to the speakers with their initials (see above), and audience comments and questions are marked as such… 

KH: What’s the next big thing in tech?

DC: It’s AI… It’s the new UI no matter what you use really… I only invest in AI now… Education is curiously immune from this at the moment but it won’t be… It is perfect for providing feedback and improving the eLearning experience – that crappy gamification or read then quiz experience… We are in a funny transitionary phase..

MM: There has been an interesting trend recently where specialist kit is becoming mainstreams… touch screens for instance, or speech to text… So, I think that is closing the gap between our minds and our machines… The gap is closing… The latest thing in special education needs have been eye games – your eyes are the controller… That is moving into mainstream gaming so that will become bigger… So I see a bigger convergence there… And the other thing I see happening is VR. That will allow children to go places they can’t go – for all kids but that has particular benefits and relevance for, say a child in a wheelchair. For autistic children you put them in environments so they can understand size, lights, noise, and deal with the anxiety… before they visit…

KH: What are the challenges of implementing that in the classroom

JG: The tech – and costs, the space… But also the creativity… A lot of what’s created are not particularly engaging or educational. I’d like to see teachers able to make things themselves… And then we need to think about pedagogy… But that’s the big issue…

DC: I can give you an example in the context of teaching Newton’s Laws with kids… We downloaded a bunch of VR apps… And NASA apps there was great for understanding and really feeling Newton’s three audience… Couldn’t do that with a blackboard… And that’s all free…

KH: How accessible is that… ?

DC: Almost every kid has a smartphone… Google Cardboard is maybe £5… It’s very cheap… It won’t replace a teacher, at least not yet. I wouldn’t teach basic mathematics with VR, but I wouldn’t teach Newton’s three laws any other way…

MM: We are piloting a thing called RocketFund and one of the first people to use VR used it in history… After that ran we have about 10 projects because they’d seen what was possible…

DC: “Fieldtrips” can be free… I’ve also seen a brilliant project with a 360 degree camera in a classroom used in a teaching space – a £250 camera – and brilliant for showing issues with behaviour, managing the classroom etc.

NK: Now if something is free, I would have no objection at all!

KH: How do you measure impact?

NK: Well if someone has a really old PC and it runs slow… that’s a quick and clear impact. But it’s about how they will use it, what studies are there and are they reliable… Could you do this any other way? What’s different?

MM: A lot of these technologies do not have evidence on them… But you will have toolkits, ideas that are well grounded on peer instruction, or tutoring… If you can take pedagogical approaches and link it to a tool you are using, that’s great. There’s work on online tutoring, and there is a company which provides tutoring from India… And I want to know how they ensure that they follow established criteria…

DC: I think we’ve had a lot of device fetishism… We’ve seen huge amounts of tablets imposed… and abandoned… You have to regard tech as a medium – not a gadget or a school. I think we’ve had disastrous experiences with iPads in secondary schools… They work in primary schools but actually writing on iPads doesn’t work well… It’s a disaster… And it’s a consumer devices not enabling higher order writing, coding, creation skills… I recommend that you look at Audrey Mullen’s work – she was a school kid when she started a company called Kite Reviews… She said we don’t want tablets or mobiles, that laptops were better…

Comment: What about iPads in schools… I did a David Hockney project with Year 10 students, that riffed off his use of iPads and the students really engaged with it… I’ve also used it in a portrait project as well… And one of the things I’m interested it is how you use it in more than writing and literacy…

JG: I just want to come back to measuring impact… It depends what you want to use it for… Donald gave us an example of using an iPad for the wrong thing, and from the audience that example of using iPads in the right ways… No-one in industry would code on an iPad… We have to use technology appropriate to the context and the wider world.

KH: How would you know that?

JG: As a teacher you have to gain expertise and transfer that to your teaching…

KH: You might be an expert in history but not in ITT…

JG: As a teacher you have to understand the technology you are being given to use… You have to understand the pedagogy… And you have to prove to teachers that the technology will improve their practice… I’m not sure any teacher has ever taught the perfect lesson, you always can think of ways to improve that… And that’s how you consider your work… One of the best innovations in teaching have been TeachMeets – informal exchanges of practice, experiences, etc. The reason technology in classrooms is not as successful as it should be are complex…

NK: I know of someone who purchased an app, brought into it, send people off to training… But it was the wrong app or what you are trying to do… So do the research first before you purchase anything…

DC: I think that the key word here is procurement… And teachers shouldn’t be doing that with hardware… You have to start with teaching needs, but actually general school software too – website, comms with parents, VLEs etc… It’s back end stuff… Take the art example… I know lots of artists… none using iPads… They use more sophisticated computers that enable the same stuff and more… It’s not David Hockney, that’s the tail wagging the dog… It’s general needs… Most kids have devices… I’d spend money on topping up for inclusion… And you have to do that cost benefit analysis first…

MM: Cost benefit analysis and expert approaches isn’t realistic in many schools… Often it’s more realistic to do small scale trialling… If it works, guide their peers, if not, then quite there… Practical experimentation, test and learn is the way forward I would say…

JG: I think that the challenge is often the enthusiast… You need to give things to the cynic!

DC: There is a role for sensible professional advice. In Higher Ed we have Jisc, we are quite sensible… But we don’t have that advice available for schools… It all goes a bit odd… It’s all anecdotal rather than evidence based… Otherwise we are just pottering about… And we end up with the lowest common denominator in terms of skills and understanding…

JG: I’m getting a bit nostalgic for BECTA, and NESTA FutureLab… doing interesting stuff. A lot of research now is funded by companies engaged in the research…

MM: I agree… but there is no evidence for white boards, tablets, whatever as they don’t work on their own… Has to be evidence informed…

DC: Cost effectiveness is always about tech as an intervention in education… The evidence for schools is that writing accuracy goes down 31% and is a huge problem on tablets… Unless…

NK: There’s good evidence that typing notes in class doesn’t work

DC: Absolutely… Although there is plenty of evidence that lectures don’t work ad we still do that… They have power devolved and in my view they are not really teachers… That happens every day…

Comment from audience: That doesn’t happen every day…

MM: We have to be careful about how we use the word evidence… Lectures may not be correlated with success but that may be to do with the quality of teaching staff, of lecturers…

KH: One of you talked about giving technology to the cynic… How do you overcome this…

JG: I think that the doubter, the cynic… will ask all the questions, find all the faults… But also see what works if it works…

KH: Often use of tech comes down to the enthusiasts and evangelists… But teachers lack space to be creative… How can we adopt technology if we lack that time and opportunity…

JG: We have so much more technology now, it has permeated our lives more… Our thinking, our discussion, potentially our classrooms… But I haven’t seen smartphones in schools much yet… We haven’t talked about bring your own device… There is an element of risk.. potential for videoing, for sharing bad practice, for bullying and harassment… But there is a lot of nervousness there…

DC: I think we have to move away from just thinking about technology in the classroom. I’m dead against it. Bring tech into a room in a one-to-many context… I’d rather use learner technology… Good teachers are teachers in the classroom… Kids really use tech at home, with homework… When you struggled when I was a kid you got stuck… but now you can use devices… to find the answer but also the method… And we have adaptive learning that can tailor to every kid. I think learner technology and away from the classroom is where it needs to be… Rather than the smart board debacle… Where one minister brought that in, Promethean made millions…

JG: I don’t recognise the classroom you are describing… I see teachers using technology, with big changes over the last twenty years… It is the appropriate use of technology in the appropriate places in learning… And thinking about the right technology for the job… If we took technology out of the classroom we’d just have lectures wouldn’t we?!

DC: The issue of collaboration is interesting… There is work from Stanford that many group works/collaborative technological driven things in the classroom… That most kids aren’t doing anything, but it looks collaborative… versus a good teacher doing the Socratic thing…

MM: I don’t think the in/outside the classroom thing is as important as the issue of what works, how things adapt, immediate feedback to with FitTech…. But it all comes back to pedagogy….

NK: It all comes back to what the problem is that you are trying to solve…

KH: What about the right way to do this… There’s the start-up like run fast, fail fast approach… Then the procurement approach…

NK: We want evidence based procurement… I don’t want to fund trials… Schools are poor…

KH: Start ups don’t throw it and see if it works… They use data to change their approach…And that’s what I’m talking about… Trialling then using evidence to inform decisions…

DC: The last thing I want to do is to waste time or money with start ups going into schools… I think taking risks in schools like that is very risky… I’m also not sure governors should be procuring… The senior team should… But often there is no digital strategy… It needs to be tactical not strategic…

JG: Suppose we get the kids to assess the start up product… There is a great project called Apps For Good… It gets kids to engage in the idea, the design process, the entrepreneurial aspect… There is a role for start ups for teaching kids about how this happens… I think education is a risky business anyway… We think something good will happen, kids have to trust the teacher… I think risk can be quite a healthy thing, and managing risk… Introducing something new can be edgy and can be quite invigorating…

NK: As a governor I don’t want my school going into the red financially… We need to operate within our means…

KH: It wasn’t about start ups in the classrooms… Even a small spend…. Can be risky…

MM: Isn’t there a risk of a big roll out of something that doesn’t work for your school? Some risks will feel riskier than others… School culture and character all mater…

JG: We do have examples of technologies that didn’t work but now do… VLEs didn’t take off… Schools don’t use them… It was an expensive risk… But many use Google Classroom which is essentially the same thing… It’s free but needs maintenance…

DC: Actually with new start ups… you want evidence, you want research to prove the usefulness. 50% of start ups fail, and you don’t want to adopt stuff that will fail…

JG: But someone has to try things first, to try new things, to bring something new into the classroom.

KH: How do we take Ed Tech forward… ?

DC: At risk of repeating myself… Professional procurement, technology strategy, strategic leadership in this…

Comment from crowd: Where do you get the evidence if you don’t test it in the classroom…

DC: I am involved in a big adaptive learning company… We are doing research with Cambridge University…

Comment from crowd: so for the schools taking part, that is a risk!

DC: No, it’s all carefully set up, with control groups… Not just by recommendation by colleagues…

JG: Setting up trials in schools in incredibly difficult, especially with control groups… Even if you do that you have to look at who was teaching, who was unwell then, etc. It’s very very hard to compare… And if it is showing improvement then morally should you withhold that technology from some pupils… One of the trials I can think of was around use of iPads… Give them own budget for apps.. But give them free choice… And then have them talk about that… It’s a trial but it’s very low cost, it’s very effective, it’s judging fit of tech to the space…

NK: I’ve known schools go for the iPad whether or not it works… Why go for the most expensive tablets… to try them!

DC: In the US there was a 1.3bn deal with Apple in California… And iPads are not there now… They now use Chrome Books…

JG: But that was imposed from the top.. And that’s an important issue…

Comment: I want to take issue with something Donald was talking about… I am all in favour of evidence based research and everything… But it is hard to find time to find the research, and a lot of effort to actually read through it… 3 pages of methodology before the conclusion… By the time it’s published it’s out of date anyway… I write about evidence on my website and often no firm conclusions come out of this… Ultimately anecdotal evidence matters… Asking questions of what was this trying to solve, what worked, what didn’t… Question: does Donald agree with me.

DC: No!

Comment: We all know the digital age is coming, kids have to work with computers, how can schools prepare children for that work and keep traditional teaching too..?

MM: For me there are two aspects: digital skills like codeclubs, programming… The other side is that when we are in this world with automation, what sort of jobs will survive… We have a report at Nesta called Creativity vs Robots… Skills that are most robust are creative, collaborative, dexterous… Preparing kids for the future still requires factual knowledge but also collaborative and problem solving skills… It’s not that it doesn’t exist, we just really need to focus on that…

JG: Maybe controversially I will say that we don’t… We should teach flexibility and to learn. A few years back I wrote for TimeEd… I visited Harrow- relatively unlimited funding… They don’t teach computing… They don’t get there until Year 9… Prep schools don’t teach it… Not “academic” enough fpr A-level or GCSE. They do some ICT skills… I guess they will get jobs, good ones…But they don’t prepare them for that… They prepare them to be leaders and the elite… I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that you have to prepare kids to be the makers… We teach reading and writing, but not digital literacy… Or how to read a film or a computer game, why failure is important… We don’t teach that… We might teach them how to create the game… So in part “don’t” and in part “expand the curriculum”

Comment: For Mr Galloway… Why did you go to Harrow not Eton… They invest in innovation and you get to be amused at top hats and tails?

JG: Tube ride!

DC: It would be madness to ignore technology in schools… But coding is this year’s thing… ! Kids need skills when they leave school…

NK: I have great problems with the idea of 21st Century skills… We can’t train kids for jobs they don’t exist… Jobs from hundreds of years ago….

MM: There is a social justice aspect here… Mark Zuckerberg went to one of the top schools… If we don’t expose all children to technology opportunities they can miss out…

JG: In Harrow they don’t impose technology on teachers… but they get it if they ask for it. They also give kids Facebook account sand teach them how to use it…

Comment: When we think about technology in schools, when do we think about teachers perspective… can we motivate and engage students with 21st century skills and possibilities…

NK: With all the money in the world, yes. We are in the position where schools can barely afford the teachers… We have to live within their means…

DC: Are teachers the right people to teach these skills… Is that what teachers are best suited to that… Not sure subject orientated teachers are well placed for that.

JG: Teachers do teach collaboration. Social media is about relationships… It’s just a form of that… CPD for teachers is outside of school time and that means keen teachers engage there…

MM: Having some teachers into smartphones. Some who are not… Some teachers are into outdoor education and camping… Others are not… You would’t want to exclude kids from the experience of camping… That’s how you can think about the ideas of digital literacy here… Finding the enthusiasm and route in…

Comments: A lot of what we, in this room, know of technology is through past exposure and experience of technology. Children are sponges.. They can often teach the teachers, with scaffolding from the teachers, about this era of technology… The kids are often better and quicker at using the technology… We have to think about where this might lead them…

Comment: On procurement and evidence… Michael talked about small trials… Do we think specific and unique contexts with schools not justify that type of small scale trialling…

MM: I think context is key in trials… Even outside of tech… Approaches like peer learning have great evidence… But the actual implementation can make a big difference… But you have to weigh up whether your context is as unique as you think…

DC: That can also be an excuse… Having been involved in procurement in tech… You don’t throw tech about… You think about what the context is, do serious homework before spending the money… You need the strategy and change management to roll things out and sustaining the effort… That’s almost invariably absent in the school context… Quite haphazard… “everyone’s unique… Let’s just play with this stuff”

Comment, I’m the director of a startup empowering primary aged girls and augmented reality to encourage routes into STEM subjects.: In terms of costs and being a governor… Start ups are obsessed with evidence. One of the best things you can do is work with start ups, they really want that evidence… If you are worried about costs you can trial things… But it is a risk when you are teaching… You were also talking about jobs that don’t exist at the moment… That means new jobs in new fields… One thing that strikes me this evening is that no one has talked about science, technology, arts and maths…. And teachers don’t come in from that route into schools… We’ve been talking to Jim Knight. In primary schools you don’t get labs but you can use AR to do experiments… to look in this area… My point it you’ve been talking about technology, is it worth it… Would have been great to hear someone from positive experiences, or an Ed Tech company… This feels like a lot of slamming down of technology…

JG: Can I talk about positive experiences… Technology is life changing and amazing… removing technology from classrooms is a horrendous… Your example in not having enough good qualified science teachers is an important one…

DC: I am not sure about AR and VR… I’d be careful with some of these things… Hololens isn’t there yet… Leading edge tech is a bit of a honeytrap… I raise VR as its on every phone… and free…

Commenter: AR is on phones… !

KH: Thank you for a really lively discussion!

And with that the rather spirited discussions came to an end! Some interesting things to consider but I felt like there was so much that wasn’t discussed properly because of the direction the conversation took – issues like access to wifi; measures to use but make technology safe – and what they mean for information literacy; technology beyond devices… So, I’d love to hear your comments below on Ed Tech in Schools.


IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day Three Liveblog

It’s the final day of the IIPC/RESAW conference in London. See my day one and day two post for more information on this. I’m back in the main track today and, as usual, these are live notes so comments, additions, corrections, etc. all welcome.

Collection development panel (Chair: Nicola Bingham)

James R. Jacobs, Pamela M. Graham & Kris Kasianovitz: What’s in your web archive? Subject specialist strategies for collection development

We’ve been archiving the web for many years but the need for web archiving really hit home for me in 2013 when NASA took down every one of their technical reports – for review on various grounds. And the web archiving community was very concerned. Michael Nelson said in a post “NASA information is too important to be left on nasa.gov computers”. And I wrote about when we rely on pointing not archiving.

So, as we planned for this panel we looked back on previous IIPC events and we didn’t see a lot about collection curation. We posed three topics all around these areas. So for each theme we’ll watch a brief screen cast by Kris to introduce them…

  1. Collection development and roles

Kris (via video): I wanted to talk about my role as a subject specialist and how collection development fits into that. AS a subject specialist that is a core part of the role, and I use various tools to develop the collection. I see web archiving as absolutely being part of this. Our collection is books, journals, audio visual content, quantitative and qualitative data sets… Web archives are just another piece of the pie. And when we develop our collection we are looking at what is needed now but in anticipation of what we be needed 10 or 20 years in the future, building a solid historical record that will persist in collections. And we think about how our archives fit into the bigger context of other archives around the country and around the world.

For the two web archives I work on – CA.gov and the Bay Area Governments archives – I am the primary person engaged in planning, collecting, describing and making available that content. And when you look at the web capture life cycle you need to ensure the subject specialist is included and their role understood and valued.

The CA.gov archive involves a group from several organisations including the government library. We have been archiving since 2007 in the California Digital Library initially. We moved into Archive-It in 2013.

The Bay Area Governments archives includes materials on 9 counties, but primarily and comprehensively focused on two key counties here. We bring in regional governments and special districts where policy making for these areas occur.

Archiving these collections has been incredibly useful for understanding government, their processes, how to work with government agencies and the dissemination of this work. But as the sole responsible person that is not ideal. We have had really good technical support from Internet Archive around scoping rules, problems with crawls, thinking about writing regular expressions, how to understand and manage what we see from crawls. We’ve also benefitted from working with our colleague Nicholas Taylor here at Stanford who wrote a great QA report which has helped us.

We are heavily reliant on crawlers, on tools and technologies created by you and others, to gather information for our archive. And since most subject selectors have pretty big portfolios of work – outreach, instruction, as well as collection development – we have to have good ties to developers, and to the wider community with whom we can share ideas and questions is really vital.

Pamela: I’m going to talk about two Columbia archives, the Human Rights Web Archive (HRWA) and Historic Preservation and Urban Planning. I’d like to echo Kris’ comments about the importance of subject specialists. The Historic Preservation and Urban Planning archive is led by our architecture subject specialist and we’d reached a point where we had to collect web materials to continue that archive – and she’s done a great job of bringing that together. Human Rights seems to have long been networked – using the idea of the “internet” long before the web and hypertext. We work closely with Alex Thurman, and have an additional specially supported web curator, but there are many more ways to collaborate and work together.

James: I will also reflect on my experience. And the FDLP – Federal Library Program – involves libraries receiving absolutely every government publications in order to ensure a comprehensive archive. There is a wider programme allowing selective collection. At Stanford we are 85% selective – we only weed out content (after five years) very lightly and usually flyers etc. As a librarian I curate content. As an FDLP library we have to think of our collection as part of the wider set of archives, and I like that.

As archivists we also have to understand provenance… How do we do that with the web archive. And at this point I have to shout out to Jefferson Bailey and colleagues for the “End of Term” collection – archiving all gov sites at the end of government terms. This year has been the most expansive, and the most collaborative – including FTP and social media. And, due to the Trump administration’s hostility to science and technology we’ve had huge support – proposals of seed sites, data capture events etc.

2. Collection Development approaches to web archives, perspectives from subject specialists

As subject specialists we all have to engage in collection development – there are no vendors in this space…

Kris: Looking again at the two government archives I work on there is are Depository Program Statuses to act as a starting point… But these haven’t been updated for the web. However, this is really a continuation of the print collection programme. And web archiving actually lets us collect more – we are no longer reliant on agencies putting content into the Depository Program.

So, for CA.gov we really treat this as a domain collection. And no-one really doing this except some UCs, myself, and state library and archives – not the other depository libraries. However, we don’t collect think tanks, or the not-for-profit players that influence policy – this is for clarity although this content provides important context.

We also had to think about granularity… For instance for the CA transport there is a top level domain and sub domains for each regional transport group, and so we treat all of these as seeds.

Scoping rules matter a great deal, partly as our resources are not unlimited. We have been fortunate that with the CA.gov archive that we have about 3TB space for this year, and have been able to utilise it all… We may not need all of that going forwards, but it has been useful to have that much space.

Pamela: Much of what Kris has said reflects our experience at Columbia. Our web archiving strengths mirror many of our other collection strengths and indeed I think web archiving is this important bridge from print to fully digital. I spent some time talking with our librarian (Chris) recently, and she will add sites as they come up in discussion, she monitors the news for sites that could be seeds for our collection… She is very integrated in her approach to this work.

For the human rights work one of the challenges is the time that we have to contribute. And this is a truly interdisciplinary area with unclear boundaries, and those are both challenging aspects. We do look at subject guides and other practice to improve and develop our collections. And each fall we sponsor about two dozen human rights scholars to visit and engage, and that feeds into what we collect… The other thing that I hope to do in the future is to do more assessment to look at more authoritative lists in order to compare with other places… Colleagues look at a site called ideallist which lists opportunities and funding in these types of spaces. We also try to capture sites that look more vulnerable – small activist groups – although it is nt clear if they actually are that risky.

Cost wise the expensive part of collecting is both human effort to catalogue, and the permission process in the collecting process. And yesterday’s discussion of possible need for ethics groups as part of the permissions prpcess.

In the web archiving space we have to be clearer on scope and boundaries as there is such a big, almost limitless, set of materials to pick from. But otherwise plenty of parallels.

James: For me the material we collect is in the public domain so permissions are not part of my challenge here. But there are other aspects of my work, including LOCKSS. In the case of Fugitive US Agencies Collection we take entire sites (e.g. CBO, GAO, EPA) plus sites at risk (eg Census, Current Industrial Reports). These “fugitive” agencies include publications should be in the depository programme but are not. And those lots documents that fail to make it out, they are what this collection is about. When a library notes a lost document I will share that on the Lost Docs Project blog, and then also am able to collect and seed the cloud and web archive – using the WordPress Amber plugin – for links. For instance the CBO looked at the health bill, aka Trump Care, was missing… In fact many CBO publications were missing so I have added it as a see for our Archive-it

3. Discovery and use of web archives

Discovery and use of web archives is becoming increasingly important as we look for needles in ever larger haystacks. So, firstly, over to Kris:

Kris: One way we get archives out there is in our catalogue, and into WorldCat. That’s one plae to help other libraries know what we are collecting, and how to find and understand it… So would be interested to do some work with users around what they want to find and how… I suspect it will be about a specific request – e.g. city council in one place over a ten year period… But they won’t be looking for a web archive per se… We have to think about that, and what kind of intermediaries are needed to make that work… Can we also provide better seed lists and documentation for this? In Social Sciences we have the Code Book and I think we need to share the equivalent information for web archives, to expose documentation on how the archive was built… And linking to seeds nad other parts of collections .

One other thing we have to think about is process and document ingest mechanism. We are trying to do this for CA.gov to better describe what we do… BUt maybe there is a standard way to produce that sort of documentation – like the Codebook…

Pamela: Very quickly… At Columbia we catalogue individual sites. We also have a customised portal for the Human Rights. That has facets for “search as research” so you can search and develop and learn by working through facets – that’s often more useful than item searches… And, in terms of collecting for the web we do have to think of what we collect as data for analysis as part of a larger data sets…

James: In the interests of time we have to wrap up, but there was one comment I wanted to make.which is that there are tools we use but also gaps that we see for subject specialists [see slide]… And Andrew’s comments about the catalogue struck home with me…


Q1) Can you expand on that issue of the catalogue?

A1) Yes, I think we have to see web archives both as bulk data AND collections as collections. We have to be able to pull out the documents and reports – the traditional materials – and combine them with other material in the catalogue… So it is exciting to think about that, about the workflow… And about web archives working into the normal library work flows…

Q2) Pamela, you commented about permissions framework as possibly vital for IRB considerations for web research… Is that from conversations with your IRB or speculative.

A2) That came from Matt Webber’s comment yesterday on IRB becoming more concerned about web archive-based research. We have been looking for faster processes… But I am always very aware of the ethical concern… People do wonder about ethics and permissions when they see the archive… Interesting to see how we can navigate these challenges going forward…

Q3) Do you use LCSH and are there any issues?

A3) Yes, we do use LCSH for some items and the collections… Luckily someone from our metadata team worked with me. He used Dublin Core, with LCSH within that. He hasn’t indicated issues. Government documents in the US (and at state level) typically use LCSH so no, no issues that I’m aware of.



IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day Two (Technical Strand) Liveblog

I am again at the IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 and, for today I am

Tools for web archives analysis & record extraction (chair Nicholas Taylor)

Digging documents out of the archived web – Andrew Jackson

This is the technical counterpoint to the presentation I gave yesterday… So I talked yesterday about the physical workflow of catalogue items… We found that the Digital ePrints team had started processing eprints the same way…

  • staff looked in an outlook calendar for reminders
  • looked for new updates since last check
  • download each to local folder and open
  • check catalogue to avoid re-submitting
  • upload to internal submission portal
  • add essential metadata
  • submit for ingest
  • clean up local files
  • update stats sheet
  • Then inget usually automated (but can require intervention)
  • Updates catalogue once complete
  • New catalogue records processed or enhanced as neccassary.

It was very manual, and very inefficient… So we have created a harvester:

  • Setup: specify “watched targets” then…
  • Harvest (harvester crawl targets as usual) –> Ingested… but also…
  • Document extraction:
    • spot documents in the crawl
    • find landing page
    • extract machine-readable metadata
    • submit to W3ACT (curation tool) for review
  • Acquisition:
    • check document harvester for new publications
    • edit essemtial metaddta
    • submit to catalogue
  • Cataloguing
    • cataloguing records processed as neccassry

This is better but there are challenges. Firstly, what is a “publication?”. With the eprints team there was a one-to-one print and digital relationship. But now, no more one-to-one. For example, gov.uk publications… An original report will has an ISBN… But that landing page is a representation of the publication, that’s where the assets are… When stuff is catalogued, what can frustrate technical folk… You take date and text from the page – honouring what is there rather than normalising it… We can dishonour intent by capturing the pages… It is challenging…

MARC is initially alarming… For a developer used to current data formats, it’s quite weird to get used to. But really it is just encoding… There is how we say we use MARC, how we do use MARC, and where we want to be now…

One of the intentions of the metadata extraction work was to proide an initial guess of the catalogue data – hoping to save cataloguers and curators time. But you probably won’t be surprised that the names of authors’ names etc. in the document metadata is rarely correct. We use the worse extractor, and layer up so we have the best shot. What works best is extracting the HTML. Gov.uk is a big and consistent publishing space so it’s worth us working on extracting that.

What works even better is the gov.uk API data – it’s in JSON, it’s easy to parse, it’s worth coding as it is a bigger publisher for us.

But now we have to resolve references… Multiple use cases for “records about this record”:

  • publisher metadata
  • third party data sources (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • Our own annotations and catalogues
  • Revisit records

We can’t ignore the revisit records… Have to do a great big join at some point… To get best possible quality data for every single thing….

And this is where the layers of transformation come in… Lots of opportunities to try again and build up… But… When I retry document extraction I can accidentally run up another chain each time… If we do our Solaar searches correctly it should be easy so will be correcting this…

We do need to do more future experimentation.. Multiple workflows brings synchronisation problems. We need to ensure documents are accessible when discocerale. Need to be able to re-run automated extraction.

We want to iteractively ipmprove automated metadat extraction:

  • improve HTML data extraction rules, e.g. Zotero translators (and I think LOCKSS are working on this).
  • Bring together different sources
  • Smarter extractors – Stanford NER, GROBID (built for sophisticated extraction from ejournals)

And we still have that tension between what a publication is… A tension between established practice and publisher output Need to trial different approaches with catalogues and users… Close that whole loop.


Q1) Is the PDF you extract going into another repository… You probably have a different preservation goal for those PDFs and the archive…

A1) Currently the same copy for archive and access. Format migration probably will be an issue in the future.

Q2) This is quite similar to issues we’ve faced in LOCKSS… I’ve written a paper with Herbert von de Sompel and Michael Nelson about this thing of describing a document…

A2) That’s great. I’ve been working with the Government Digital Service and they are keen to do this consistently….

Q2) Geoffrey Bilder also working on this…

A2) And that’s the ideal… To improve the standards more broadly…

Q3) Are these all PDF files?

A3) At the moment, yes. We deliberately kept scope tight… We don’t get a lot of ePub or open formats… We’ll need to… Now publishers are moving to HTML – which is good for the archive – but that’s more complex in other ways…

Q4) What does the user see at the end of this… Is it a PDF?

A4) This work ends up in our search service, and that metadata helps them find what they are looking for…

Q4) Do they know its from the website, or don’t they care?

A4) Officially, the way the library thinks about monographs and serials, would be that the user doesn’t care… But I’d like to speak to more users… The library does a lot of downstream processing here too..

Q4) For me as an archivist all that data on where the document is from, what issues in accessing it they were, etc. would extremely useful…

Q5) You spoke yesterday about engaging with machine learning… Can you say more?

A5) This is where I’d like to do more user work. The library is keen on subject headings – thats a big high level challenge so that’s quite amenable to machine learning. We have a massive golden data set… There’s at least a masters theory in there, right! And if we built something, then ran it over the 3 million ish items with little metadata could be incredibly useful. In my 0pinion this is what big organisations will need to do more and more of… making best use of human time to tailor and tune machine learning to do much of the work…

Comment) That thing of everything ending up as a PDF is on the way out by the way… You should look at Distil.pub – a new journal from Google and Y combinator – and that’s the future of these sorts of formats, it’s JavaScript and GitHub. Can you collect it? Yes, you can. You can visit the page, switch off the network, and it still works… And it’s there and will update…

A6) As things are more dynamic the re-collecting issue gets more and more important. That’s hard for the organisation to adjust to.

Nick Ruest & Ian Milligan: Learning to WALK (Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge): building a national web archiving collaborative platform

Ian: Before I start, thank you to my wider colleagues and funders as this is a collaborative project.

So, we have a fantastic web archival collections in Canada… They collect political parties, activist groups, major events, etc. But, whilst these are amazing collections, they aren’t acessed or used much. I think this is mainly down to two issues: people don’t know they are there; and the access mechanisms don’t fit well with their practices. Maybe when the Archive-it API is live that will fix it all… Right now though it’s hard to find the right thing, and the Canadian archive is quite siloed. There are about 25 organisations collecting, most use the Archive-It service. But, if you are a researcher… to use web archives you really have to interested and engaged, you need to be an expert.

So, building this portal is about making this easier to use… We want web archives to be used on page 150 in some random book. And that’s what the WALK project is trying to do. Our goal is to break down the silos, take down walls between collections, between institutions. We are starting out slow… We signed Memoranda of Understanding with Toronto, Alberta, Victoria, Winnipeg, Dalhousie, SImon Fraser University – that represents about half of the archive in Canada.

We work on workflow… We run workshops… We separated the collections so that post docs can look at this

We are using Warcbase (warcbase.org) and command line tools, we transferred data from internet archive, generate checksums; we generate scholarly derivatives – plain text, hypertext graph, etc. In the front end you enter basic information, describe the collection, and make sure that the user can engage directly themselves… And those visualisations are really useful… Looking at visualisation of the Canadan political parties and political interest group web crawls which track changes, although that may include crawler issues.

Then, with all that generated, we create landing pages, including tagging, data information, visualizations, etc.

Nick: So, on a technical level… I’ve spent the last ten years in open source digital repository communities… This community is small and tightknit, and I like how we build and share and develop on each others work. Last year we presented webarchives.ca. We’ve indexed 10 TB of warcs since then, representing 200+ M Solr docs. We have grown from one collection and we have needed additional facets: institution; collection name; collection ID, etc.

Then we have also dealt with scaling issues… 30-40Gb to 1Tb sized index. You probably think that’s kinda cute… But we do have more scaling to do… So we are learning from others in the community about how to manage this… We have Solr running on an Open Stack… But right now it isn’t at production scale, but getting there. We are looking at SolrCloud and potentially using a Shard2 per collection.

Last year we had a solr index using the Shine front end… It’s great but… it doesn’t have an active open source community… We love the UK Web Archive but… Meanwhile there is BlackLight which is in wide use in libraries. There is a bigger community, better APIs, bug fixees, etc… So we have set up a prototype called WARCLight. It does almost all that Shine does, except the tree structure and the advanced searching..

Ian spoke about dericative datasets… For each collection, via Blacklight or ScholarsPortal we want domain/URL Counts; Full text; graphs. Rather than them having to do the work, they can just engage with particular datasets or collections.

So, that goal Ian talked about: one central hub for archived data and derivatives…


Q1) Do you plan to make graphs interactive, by using Kebana rather than Gephi?

A1 – Ian) We tried some stuff out… One colleague tried R in the browser… That was great but didn’t look great in the browser. But it would be great if the casual user could look at drag and drop R type visualisations. We haven’t quite found the best option for interactive network diagrams in the browser…

A1 – Nick) Generally the data is so big it will bring down the browser. I’ve started looking at Kabana for stuff so in due course we may bring that in…

Q2) Interesting as we are doing similar things at the BnF. We did use Shine, looked at Blacklight, but built our own thing…. But we are looking at what we can do… We are interested in that web archive discovery collections approaches, useful in other contexts too…

A2 – Nick) I kinda did this the ugly way… There is a more elegant way to do it but haven’t done that yet..

Q2) We tried to give people WARC and WARC files… Our actual users didn’t want that, they want full text…

A2 – Ian) My students are quite biased… Right now if you search it will flake out… But by fall it should be available, I suspect that full text will be of most interest… Sociologists etc. think that network diagram view will be interesting but it’s hard to know what will happen when you give them that. People are quickly put off by raw data without visualisation though so we think it will be useful…

Q3) Do you think in few years time

A3) Right now that doesn’t scale… We want this more cloud-based – that’s our next 3 years and next wave of funded work… We do have capacity to write new scripts right now as needed, but when we scale that will be harder,,,,

Q4) What are some of the organisational, admin and social challenges of building this?

A4 – Nick) Going out and connecting with the archives is a big part of this… Having time to do this can be challenging…. “is an institution going to devote a person to this?”

A4 – Ian) This is about making this more accessible… People are more used to Backlight than Shine. People respond poorly to WARC. But they can deal with PDFs with CSV, those are familiar formats…

A4 – Nick) And when I get back I’m going to be doing some work and sharing to enable an actual community to work on this..



Digital Conversations @BL: Web Archives: truth, lies and politics in the 21st century (part of IIPC/RESAW 2017)

Following on from Day One of IIPC/RESAW I’m at the British Library for a connected Web Archiving Week 2017 event: Digital Conversations @BL, Web Archives: truth, lies and politics in the 21st century. This is a panel session chaired by Elaine Glaser (EG) with Jane Winters (JW), Valerie Schafer (VS), Jefferson Bailey (JB) and Andrew Jackson (AJ). 

As usual, this is a liveblog so corrections, additions, etc. are welcomed. 

EG: Really excited to be chairing this session. I’ll let everyone speak for a few minutes, then ask some questions, then open it out…

JB: I thought I’d talk a bit about our archiving strategy at Internet Archive. We don’t archive the whole of the internet, but we aim to collect a lot of it. The approach is multi-pronged: to take entire web domains in shallow but broad strategy; to work with other libraries and archives to focus on particular subjects or areas or collections; and then to work with researchers who are mining or scraping the web, but not neccassarily having preservation strategies. So, when we talk about political archiving or web archiving, it’s about getting as much as possible, with different volumes and frequencies. I think we know we can’t collect everything but important things frequently, less important things less frequently. And we work with national governments, with national libraries…

The other thing I wanted to raise in

T.R. Shellenberg who was an important archivist at the National Archive in the US. He had an idea about archival strategies: that there is a primary documentation strategy, and a secondary straetgy. The primary for a government and agencies to do for their own use, the secondary for futur euse in unknown ways… And including documentary and evidencey material (the latter being how and why things are done). Those evidencery elements becomes much more meaningful on the web, that has eerged and become more meaningful in the context of our current political environment.

AJ: My role is to build a Web Archive for the United Kingdom. So I want to ask a question that comes out of this… “Can a web archive lie?”. Even putting to one side that it isn’t possible to archive the whole web.. There is confusion because we can’t get every version of everything we capture… Then there are biases from our work. We choose all UK sites, but some are captured more than others… And our team isn’t as diverse as it could be. And what we collect is also constrained by technology capability. And we are limited by time issues… We don’t normally know when material is created… The crawler often finds things only when they become popular… So the academic paper is picked up after a BBC News item – they are out of order. We would like to use more structured data, such as Twitter which has clear publication date…

But can the archive lie? Well material is much easier than print to make an untraceable change. As digital is increasingly predominant we need to be aware that our archive could he hacked… So we have to protect for that, evidence that we haven’t been hacked… And we have to build systems that are secure and can maintain that trust. Libraries will have to take care of each other.

JW: The Oxford Dictionary word of the year in 2016 was “post truth” whilst the Australian dictionary went for “Fake News”. Fake News for them is either disinformation on websites for political purposes, or commercial benefit. Mirrium Webster went for “surreal” – their most searched for work. It feels like we live in very strange times… There aren’t calls for resignation where there once were… Hasn’t it always been thus though… ? For all the good citizens who point out the errors of a fake image circulated on Twitter, for many the truth never catches the lie. Fakes, lies and forgeries have helped change human history…

But modern fake news is different to that which existed before. Firstly there is the speed of fake news… Mainstream media only counteracts or addresses this. Some newspapers and websites do public corrections, but that isn’t the norm. Once publishing took time and means. Social media has made it much easier to self-publish. One can create, but also one can check accuracy and integrity – reverse image searching to see when a photo has been photoshopped or shows events of two things before…

And we have politicians making claims that they believe can be deleted and disappear from our memory… We have web archives – on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Referendum NHS pledge claim is archived and lasts long beyond the bus – which was brought by Greenpeace and repainted. The archives have also been capturing political parties websites throughout our endless election cycle… The DUP website crashed after announcement of the election results because of demands… But the archive copy was available throughout. Also a rumour that a hacker was creating an irish language version of the DUP website… But that wasn’t a new story, it was from 2011… And again the archive shows that, and archive of news websites do that.

Social Networks Responses to Terrorist Attacks in France – Valerie Schafer. 

Before 9/11 we had some digital archives of terrorist materials on the web. But this event challenged archivists and researchers. Charlie Hebdo, Paris Bataclan and Nice attacks are archived… People can search at the BNF to explore these archives, to provide users a way to see what has been said. And at the INA you can also explore the archive, including Titter archives. You can search, see keywords, explore timelines crossing key hashtags… And you can search for images… including the emoji’s used in discussion of Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan.

We also have Archive-It collections for Charlie Hebdo. This raises some questions of what should and should not be collected… We did not normally collected news papers and audio visual sites, but decided to in this case as we faced a special event. But we still face challenges – it is easiest to collect data from Twitter than from Facebook. But it is free to collect Twitter data in real time, but the archived/older data is charged for so you have to capture it in the moment. And there are limits on API collection… INA captured more than 12 Million tweets for Charlie Hebdo, for instance, it is very complete but not exhaustive.

We continue to collect for #jesuischarlie and #bataclan… They continually used and added to, in similar or related attacks, etc. There is a time for exploring and reflecting on this data, and space for critics too….

But we also see that content gets deleted… It is hard to find fake news on social media, unless you are looking for it… Looking for #fakenews just won’t cut it… So, we had a study on fake news… And we recommend that authorities are cautious about material they share. But also there is a need for cross checking – the kinds of projects with Facebook and Twitter. Web archives are full of fake news, but also full of others’ attempts to correct and check fake news as well…

EG: I wanted to go back in time to the idea of the term “fake news”… In order to understand from what “Fake News” actually is, we have to understand how it differs from previous lies and mistruths… I’m from outside the web world… We are often looking at tactics to fight fire with fire, to use an unfortunate metaphor…  How new is it? And who is to blame and why?

JW: Talking about it as a web problem, or a social media issue isn’t right. It’s about humans making decisions to critique or not that content. But it is about algorithmic sharing and visibility of that information.

JB: I agree. What is new is the way media is produced, disseminated and consumed – those have technological underpinnings. And they have been disruptive of publication and interpretation in a web world.

EG: Shouldn’t we be talking about a culture not just technology… It’s not just the “vessel”… Isn’t the dissemination have more of a role than perhaps we are suggesting…

AJ: When you build a social network or any digital space you build in different affordances… So that Facebook and Twitter is different. And you can create automated accounts, with Twitter especially offering an affordance for robots etc which allows you to give the impression of a movement. There are ways to change those affordances, but there will also always be fake news and issues…

EG: There are degrees of agency in fake news.. from bots to deliberate posts…

JW: I think there is also the aspect of performing your popularity – creating content for likes and shares, regardless of whether what you share is true or not.

VS: I know terrorism is different… But any tweet sharing fake news you get 4 retweets denying… You have more tweets denying than sharing fake news…

AJ: One wonders about the filter bubble impact here… Facebook encourges inward looking discussion… Social media has helped like minded people find each other, and perhaps they can be clipped off more easily from the wider discussion…

VS: I think also what is interested is the game between social media and traditional media…You have questions and relationship there…

EG: All the internet can do is reflect the crooked timber of reality… We know that people have confirmation bias, we are quite tolerant of untruths, to be less tolerant of information that contradicts our perceptions, even if untrue.You have people and the net being equally tolerant of lies and mistruths… But isn’t there another factor here… The people demonised as gatekeepers… By putting in place structures of authority – which were journalism and academics… Their resources are reduced now… So what role do you see for those traditional gatekeepers…

VS: These gatekeepers are no more the traditional gatekeepers that they were…. They work in 24 hour news cycles and have to work to that. In France they are trying to rethink that role, there were a lot of questions about this… Whether that’s about how you react to changing events, and what happens during election…. People thinking about that…

JB: There is an authority and responsibiity for media still, but has the web changed that? Looking back its suprising now how few organisations controlled most of the media… But is that that different now?

EG: I still think you are being too easy on the internet… We’ve had investigate journalism by Carrell Cadwalladar and others on Cambridge Analytica and others who deliberately manipulate reality… You talked about witness testimony in relation to terrorism… Isn’t there an immediacy and authenticity challenge there… Donald Trump’s tweets… They are transparant but not accountable… Haven’t we created a problem that we are now trying to fix?

AJ: Yes. But there are two things going on… It seems to be that people care less about lying… People see Trump lying, and they don’t care, and media organisations don’t care as long as advertising money comes in… A parallel for that in social media – the flow of content and ads takes priority over truth. There is an economic driver common to both mediums that is warping that…

JW: There is an aspect of unpopularity aspect too… a (nameless) newspaper here that shares content to generate “I can’t believe this!” and then sharing and generating advertising income… But on a positive note, there is scope and appetite for strong investigative journalism… and that is facilitated by the web and digital methods…

VS: Citizens do use different media and cross media… Colleagues are working on how TV is used… And different channels, to compare… Mainstream and social media are strongly crossed together…

EG: I did want to talk about temporal element… Twitter exists in the moment, making it easy to make people accountable… Do you see Twitter doing what newspapers did?

AJ: Yes… A substrate…

JB: It’s amazing how much of the web is archived… With “Save Page Now” we see all kinds of things archived – including pages that exposed the whole Russian downing a Ukrainian plane… Citizen action, spotting the need to capture data whilst it is still there and that happens all the time…

EG: I am still sceptical about citizen journalism… It’s a small group of narrow demographics people, it’s time consuming… Perhaps there is still a need for journalist roles… We did talk about filter bubbles… We hear about newspapers and media as biased… But isn’t the issue that communities of misinformation are not penetrated by the other side, but by the truth…

JW: I think bias in newspapers is quite interesting and different to unacknowledged bias… Most papers are explicit in their perspective… So you know what you will get…

AJ: I think so, but bias can be quite subtle… Different perspectives on a common issue allows comparison… But other stories only appear in one type of paper… That selection case is harder to compare…

EG: This really is a key point… There is a difference between facts and truth, and explicitly framed interpretation or commentary… Those things are different… That’s where I wonder about web archives… When I look at Wikipedia… It’s almost better to go to a source with an explicit bias where I can see a take on something, unlike Wikipedia which tries to focus on fact. Talking about politicians lying misses the point… It should be about a specific rhetorical position… That definition of truth comes up when we think of the role of the archive… How do you deal with that slightly differing definition of what truth is…

JB: I talked about different complimentary collecting strategy… The Archivist as a thing has some political power in deciding what goes in the historical record… The volume of the web does undercut that power in a way that I think is good – archives have historically been about the rich and the powerful… So making archives non-exclusive somewhat addresses that… But there will be fake news in the archive…

JW: But that’s great! Archives aren’t about collecting truth. Things will be in there that are not true, partially true, or factual… It’s for researchers to sort that out lately…

VS: Your comment on Wikipedia… They do try to be factual, neutral… But not truth… And to have a good balance of power… For us as researchers we can be surprised by the neutral point of view… Fortunately the web archive does capture a mixture of opinions…

EG: Yeah, so that captures what people believed at a point of time – true or not… So I would like to talk about the archive itself… Do you see your role as being successors to journalists… Or as being able to harvest the world’s record in a different way…

JB: I am an archivist with that training and background, as are a lot of people working on web archives and interesting spaces. Certainly historic preservation drives a lot of collecting aspects… But also engineering and technological aspects. So it’s poeple interested in archiving, preservation, but also technology… And software engineers interested in web archiving.

AJ: I’m a physicist but I’m now running web archives. And for us it’s an extension of the legal deposit role… Anything made public on the web should go into the legal deposit… That’s the theory, in practice there are questions of scope, and where we expend quality assurance energy. That’s the source of possible collection bias. And I want tools to support archivists… And also to prompt for challenging bias – if we can recognise that taking place.

JW: There are also questions of what you foreground in Special Collections. There are decisions being made about collections that will be archived and catalogued more deeply…

VS: In BNF my colleagues are work in an area with a tradition, with legal deposit responsibility… There are politics of heritage and what it should be. I think that is the case for many places where that activity sits with other archivists and librarians.

EG: You do have this huge responsibility to curate the record of human history… How do you match the top down requirements with the bottom up nature of the web as we now talk about i.t.

JW: One way is to have others come in to your department to curate particular collections…

JB: We do have special collections – people can choose their own, public suggestions, feeds from researchers, all sorts of projects to get the tools in place for building web archives for their own communities… I think for the sake of longevity and use going forward, the curated collections will probably have more value… Even if they seem more narrow now.

VS: Also interesting that archives did not select bottom-up curation. In Switzerland they went top down – there are a variety of approaches across Europe.

JW: We heard about the 1916 Easter Rising archive earlier, which was through public nominations… Which is really interesting…

AJ: And social media can help us – by seeing links and hashtags. We looked at this 4-5 years ago everyone linked to the BBC, but now we have more fake news sites etc…

VS: We do have this question of what should be archived… We see capture of the vernacular web – kitten or unicorn gifs etc… !

EG: I have a dystopian scenario in my head… Could you see a time years from now when newspapers are dead, public broadcasters are more or less dead… And we have flotsom and jetsom… We have all this data out there… And kinds of data who use all this social media data… Can you reassure me?

AJ: No…

JW: I think academics are always ready to pick holes in things, I hope that that continues…

JB: I think more interesting is the idea that there may not be a web… Apps, walled gardens… Facebook is pretty hard to web archive – they make it intentionally more challenging than it should be. There are lots of communication tools that disappeared… So I worry more about loss of a web that allows the positive affordances of participation and engagement…

EG: There is the issue of privatising and sequestering the web… I am becoming increasingly aware of the importance of organisations – like the BL and Internet Archive… Those roles did used to be taken on by publicly appointed organisations and bodies… How are they impacted by commercial privatisation… And how those roles are changing… How do you envisage that public sphere of collecting…

JW: For me more money for organisations like the British Library is important. Trust is crucial, and I trust that they will continue to do that in a trustworthy way. Commercial entities cannot be trusted to protect our cultural heritage…

AJ: A lot of people know what we do with physical material, but are surprised by our digital work. We have to advocate for ourselves. We are also constrained by the legal framework we operate within, and we have to challenge that over time…

JB: It’s super exciting to see libraries and archives recognised for their responsibility and trust… But that also puts them at higher risk by those who they hold accountable, and being recognised as bastions of accountability makes them more vulnerable.

VS: Recently we had 20th birthday of the Internet Archive, and 10 years of the French internet archiving… This is all so fast moving… People are more and more aware of web archiving… We will see new developments, ways to make things open… How to find and search and explore the archive more easily…

EG: The question then is how we access this data… The new masters of the universe will be those emerging gatekeepers who can explore the data… What is the role between them and the public’s ability to access data…

VS: It is not easy to explain everything around web archives but people will demand access…

JW: There are different levels of access… Most people will be able to access what they want. But there is also a great deal of expertise in organisations – it isn’t just commercial data work. And working with the Alan Turing Institute and cutting edge research helps here…

EG: One of the founders of the internet, Vint Cerf, says that “if you want to keep your treasured family pictures, print them out”. Are we overly optimistic about the permanence of the record.

AJ: We believe we have the skills and capabilities to maintain most if not all of it over time… There is an aspect of benign neglect… But if you are active about your digital archive you could have a copy in every continent… Digital allows you to protect content from different types of risk… I’m confident that the library can do this as part of it’s mission.


Q1) Coming back to fake news and journalists… There is a changing role between the web as a communications media, and web archiving… Web archives are about documenting this stuff for journalists for research as a source, they don’t build the discussion… They are not the journalism itself.

Q2) I wanted to come back to the idea of the Filter Bubble, in the sense that it mediates the experience of the web now… It is important to capture that in some way, but how do we archive that… And changes from one year to the next?

Q3) It’s kind of ironic to have nostalgia about journalism and traditional media as gatekeepers, in a country where Rupert Murdoch is traditionally that gatekeeper. Global funding for web archiving is tens of millions; the budget for the web is tens of billions… The challenges are getting harder – right now you can use robots.txt but we have DRM coming and that will make it illegal to archive the web – and the budgets have to increase to match that to keep archives doing their job.

AJ: To respond to Q3… Under the legislation it will not be illegal for us to archive that data… But it will make it more expensive and difficult to do, especially at scale. So your point stands, even with that. In terms of the Filter Bubble, they are out of our scope, but we know they are important… It would be good to partner with an organisation where the modern experience of media is explicitly part of it’s role.

JW: I think that idea of the data not being the only thing that matters is important. Ethnography is important for understanding that context around all that other stuff…  To help you with supplementary research. On the expense side, it is increasingly important to demonstrate the value of that archiving… Need to think in terms of financial return to digital and creative economies, which is why researchers have to engage with this.

VS: Regarding the first two questions… Archives reflect reality, so there will be lies there… Of course web archives must be crossed and compared with other archives… And contextualisation matters, the digital environment in which the web was living… Contextualisation of web environment is important… And with terrorist archive we tried to document the process of how we selected content, and archive that too for future researchers to have in mind and understand what is there and why…

JB: I was interested in the first question, this idea of what happens and preserving the conversation… That timeline was sometimes decades before but is now weeks or days or less… In terms of experience websites are now personalised and our ability to capture that is impossible on a broad question. So we need to capture that experience, and the emergent personlisation… The web wasn’t public before, as ARPAnet, then it became public, but it seems to be ebbing a bit…

JW: With a longer term view… I wonder if the open stuff which is easier to archive may survive beyond the gated stuff that traditionally was more likely to survive.

Q4) Today we are 24 years into advertising on the web. We take ad-driven models as a given, and we see fake news as a consequence of that… So, my question is, Minitel was a large system that ran on a different model… Are there different ways to change the revenue model to change fake or true news and how it is shared…

Q5) Teresa May has been outspoken on fake news and wants a crackdown… The way I interpret that is censorship and banning of sites she does not like… Jefferson said that he’s been archiving sites that she won’t like… What will you do if she asks you to delete parts of your archive…

JB: In the US?!

Q6) Do you think we have sufficient web literacy amongst policy makers, researchers and citizens?



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IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day One Liveblog

From today until Friday I will be at the International Internet Preservation Coalition (IIPC) Web Archiving Conference 2017, which is being held jointly with the second RESAW: Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials Conference. I’ll be attending the main strand at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, today and Friday, and at the technical strand (at the British Library) on Thursday.

I’m here wearing my “Reference Rot in Theses: A HiberActive Pilot” – aka “HiberActive” – hat. HiberActive is looking at how we can better enable PhD candidates to archive web materials they are using in their research, and citing in their thesis. I’m managing the project and working with developers, library and information services stakeholders, and a fab team of five postgraduate interns who are, whilst I’m here, out and about around the University of Edinburgh talking to PhD students to find out how they collect, manage and cite their web references, and what issues they may be having with “reference rot” – content that changes, decays, disappears, etc. We will have a webpage for the project and some further information to share soon but if you are interested in finding out more, leave me a comment below or email me: nicola.osborne@ed.ac.uk.

These notes are being taken live so, as usual for my liveblogs, I welcome corrections, additions, comment etc. (and, as usual, you’ll see the structure of the day appearing below with notes added at each session). 

Opening remarks: Jane Winters and Nicholas Taylor

Opening plenary: Leah Lievrouw – Web history and the landscape of communication/media research Chair: Nicholas Taylor


CILIPS Conference 2017: Strategies for Success (#CILIPS17) – Liveblog (day two)

Today I am at the CILIPS Conference 2017: Strategies for Success. I’ll be talking about our Digital Footprint work and Digital Footprint MOOC (#DFMOOC). Meanwhile back in Edinburgh my colleagues Louise Connelly (PI for our Digital Footprint research) and Sian Bayne (PI for our Yik Yak research) are at the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme Forum 2017 talking about our “A Live Pulse”: YikYak for understanding teaching, learning and assessment at Edinburgh research project. So, lots of exciting digital footprint stuff afoot!

I’ll be liveblogging the sessions I’m sitting in today here, as usual corrections, additions, etc. always welcome. You’ll see the programme below becoming 

We have opened with the efficient and productive CILIPS AGM. Now, a welcome from the CILIPS President, Liz McGettigan, reflecting on the last year for libraries in Scotland. She is also presenting the student awards to Adam Dombovari (in absentia) and Laura Anne MacNeil. She is also announcing the inauguration of a new CILIPS award Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year Award – nomination information coming soon on the website – the first award will be given out at the Autumn Gathering.

Keynote One – The Road to Copyright Literacy: a journey towards library empowerment Dr. Jane Secker, Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London and Chris Morrison, Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer, University of Kent


11.25-11.45am Refreshments and exhibition

11.45-12.30pm Parallel Sessions 1

City Suite Scotland welcomes refugees – the role of the library in resettlement and inclusion Dr. Konstantina Martzoukou, Post Graduate Programme Leader, Robert Gordon University – iSchool

Art Gallery Suite Overcoming disability and barriers: Using assistive Technologies in libraries A joint presentation from Craig Mill – CALL Scotland and Edinburgh Libraries award winning Visually Impaired People Project – Jim McKenzie – Lifelong Learning Library Development Leader – Disability Support, Paul McCloskey – Lifelong Learning Strategic Development Officer (Libraries) and Lindsay MacLeod – Project Volunteer

Melbourne Suite Perfect partnerships: Spotlight on Macmillan in Libraries Craig Menzies, Macmillan Programme Manager

12.30-1.35pm Networking lunch and exhibition

1.35-2.20pm Parallel Sessions 2

City Suite Overcoming barriers in reaching Readers Jacqueline Geekie and Jennifer Horan, Aberdeenshire Libraries and Fiona Renfrew, South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Libraries

Art Gallery Suite Spotlight on research – Papers on: Linked Data: opening Scotland’s library content to the world (Dr. Diane Pennington, University of Strathclyde) Towards an information literacy strategy for Scotland (Dr. John Crawford)

Melbourne Suite Informal recognition routes: Learn more about Open Badges – Robert Stewart, Learning and Development Adviser, Digital Learning Team, Scottish Social Services Council 10 minute break to transfer between rooms

2.30-3.15pm Parallel Sessions 3

City Suite Families matter: Innovation in public libraries Every Child a Library Member evaluation (Peter Reid, Professor of Librarianship and Head of Information Management at Robert Gordon University) and DigiDabble, North Ayrshire’s award winning family project (Alison McAllister, Systems and Support Officer, North Ayrshire Libraries)

Art Gallery Suite Fake news and alternative facts – The challenge for information professionals Jenny Foreman, Morag Higginson and Paul Gray, The Information Literacy Community of Practice

Melbourne Suite If I googled you – what would I find? Managing your digital footprint Nicola Osborne, Digital Education Manager, EDINA 3.15-3.35pm Refreshments and exhibition

3.35-4.15pm Keynote 2 (City Suite) – Securing the future: where next for our community in 2018 and beyond? Nick Poole, Chief Executive, CILIP

4.15-4.30pm President’s closing remarks