Cultural Heritage

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Archive for the 'Addressing Barriers' Category

Local authorities and digital continuity

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21st June 2010

Working with local authority IT departments is often cited as a problem by libraries, archives and museums wanting to use Web 2.0 tools and services, so here is a timely report.

The press release states:

Archives Sector Development at The National Archives has recently published a report on the digital continuity risks of large local authorities in England, accessible from:

Digital Continuity requires strategic alignment, senior understanding and commitment and effective working relationships between Senior Information Risk Owners, ICT Managers, information assurance and governance officers and those responsible for business processes as well as records and information management.  This report is not part of the central government-funded Digital Continuity project but was commissioned to provide an evidential basis for future dissemination of that project’s findings to the wider public sector.

The main findings are:

  • Varying degrees of senior engagement exist in the authorities concerned;
  • A few authorities have information management strategies capable of delivering continuity but only one of the 35 respondents appeared to be addressing it at the strategic, board level;
  • Many information management programmes are partial and disconnected, indicating significant continuity risk; and
  • Many authorities appear to be struggling with coordinating the main internal players in information management.

The underlying survey, analysis and report writing were conducted by our contractors, Richard Jeffrey-Cook of In-form Consult and Philip Lord of the Digital Archiving Consultancy.

In addition to our contractors, we’d like to thank Socitm, the Records Management Society and the Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government (now part of the Archives and Records Association [UK & Ireland]) for their cooperation and facilitation in running the survey.  We hope that the report will be useful not just to us but also in providing levers for local authority information managers to influence their senior management.

Please address any comments or queries to:

Malcolm Todd
Digital Archives Advice Manager

Archives Sector Development
020 8392 5330 ext. 2192

Posted in Addressing Barriers, archives, Libraries, Museums, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Council Gritter Twitters Leading The Way?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16th February 2010

A recently published SOCITM Report “shows how Councils are starting to use global social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as hyperlocal, community websites operating in their areas, to communicate with their residents and businesses when local emergencies arise“.

The 16 page report is free for SOCITM members (and costs £25 for non-subscribers). An accompanying summary of the report entitled “Twitter gritters: council use of digital channels in local emergencies” described how a recent structured survey of 125 councils across the UK “looked at how councils were publishing information about service disruptions during the period of snow and ice.  It looked at their use of Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the public and analysed the data from the Website take-up service to see how traffic to their websites was affected“. It seems that “in January 2010, traffic to council websites rose sharply, with further analysis suggesting that 75% of the increase in January’s traffic related to the impact of the severe weather“.

This report on how councils exploited Social Web services during the recent bad weather contrasts with another recent SOCITM survey on council’s attitudes to providing access to Social Web services. As described in an article published by the Socitm report fires a social media warning shot to the public sector. The article described how “around 90% of respondents revealed some level of restrictions were in place to prevent employees to access social media in the workplace, with 67% confirming a total ban on its use“.

Such inconsistencies might not be unexpected. It does seem to me, however, that library and museum staff who are frustrated at not being able to engage with their user communities through use of Social Web technologies may be able to use the Gritter Twitter story to persuade local authorities to liberalise their access policies.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web | 1 Comment »

The 90% Who Can and the 90% Who Can’t

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11th February 2010

A recent post on the UK Web Focus blog described the recently-published report on an Investigation into Challenges, Application and Benefits of Social Media in UK HEIs. The report, which was based on a survey open to the UK Higher Education community, described how:

There are few restrictions on access to social Web services in the community, with unrestricted access to Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr reported by 90% of the institutions.

This figure contrasts sharply with the “90% of councils restrict social media” according to a recently published SOCITM survey of use of the Web across local authorities and reported in an article in Computer Weekly. The article goes on to describe how:

Around 90% of councils restrict access in some way, and Socitm is urging IT bosses to encourage their organisations to open up to its opportunities instead of being cautious.

About 67% completely ban the use of networks such as Facebook and Twitter, in contrast to most private sector organisations which do not block access.

Within the Higher Education community there have been a number of high profile reports which have identified the value of Web 2.0 and the Social Web to support the main aims of higher educational institutions. These reports include:

The JISC SIS Landscape Study on “A survey of the use of Web 2.0 tools and services in the UK HE sector” (33 page PDF document), published in January 2010 and summarised in a recent UK Web Focus blog post.

The “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” report (52 page PDF document) which was published by Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience (CLEX) in May 2009 and summarised in a UK Web Focus blog post.”

The “Edgeless University: Why Higher Education Must Embrace Technology” report, which was commissioned by Demos which was published on 23 June 2009 and summarised in a UK Web Focus blog post.

The frustrations felt by practitioners in museums, libraries and archives is a recurring feature of UKOLN’s Introduction to Web 2.0 and the Social Web workshops which we have been delivering across the country over the peat couple of years. Such concerns are becoming more worrying as the general election approaches.  A recent tweet from MLA on how “Libraries could shut in wave of spending cuts, under Government plans” alerted me to an article published in the Daily Telegraph on how “Libraries could shut in wave of spending cuts, under Government plans“. The byline  read “Public libraries across the country could be closed to save money, under plans being considered by ministers” – and yes, it seems that Conservative shadow ministers are up in arms over plans by the Labour Government to shut down public libraries! It a strange world we are currently living in.

What role can the Social Web play in this environment?  It seems to me that practitioners in the outwards-facing departments, such as museums, libraries and archives, should be encouraged to make use of the Social Web  to support their key activities.  And use of such services can help to address the economic difficulties by avoiding unnecessary duplication of IT services in-house – a point made by SOCITM in a press release which described how:

… social media might be able to help address looming budget cuts by providing a cheap way to talk to citizens and provide services. Social media can also give employers new ways of empowering and supporting employers.

Isn’t it time that local authorities were penalised if they failed to exploit the opportunities which the Social Web is providing? And remember the concerns which have been expressed (including technical concerns such as security, reliability, interoperability and human issues such as “it’s a waste of time!”) are equally relevant to the higher education sector – where such concerns are being addressed.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web | Comments Off

Guest Post: “What’s my email address anyway Miss?” Communicating with the Facebook generation

Posted by guestblogger on 27th January 2010

About This Guest Post

In this guest blog post Nicola McNee, Librarian at Kingswood School, near Bath explores the challenges in familiarising school children with the potential of the Social Web.

“What’s my email address anyway Miss?”:
Communicating with the Facebook generation

Nicola and her students

Nicola McNee and her students

Email is the “snail” mail of the current generation of teenagers. Shocking, but true. It comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who have spent the last 15 or so years enduring the tedious routines of logging in, reading, replying, deleting and attaching. But why would you do all that when you can tell all your friends what’s happening in your life through one status update on Facebook and make arrangements for meeting them through Instant Messaging here and now in real time. And, oh, if you want to submit that vital bit of homework-well there’s the handing in point on the schools Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for just that purpose isn’t there?

“Undeliverable. Recipients mailbox is full”

The challenge then, for all educators whether in museum, library or school is how we communicate with these teenagers when our mailings get returned with “Undeliverable. Recipients mailbox is full” from their institutional email addresses. More importantly how do we integrate teen’s social media activities online into how we teach and learn in school? Both encompass learning in a social environment so it should be easy shouldn’t it?

Trying to find a way forward in the Independent School where I work, as a librarian, is daunting but also extremely exciting. Kingswood Senior School has 650 students aged 11-18 and about a third of them live on site in a beautiful location on the outskirts of Bath. The school was founded by John Wesley and has a Christian ethos with an emphasis on educating the whole person in a community environment. This includes a wide ranging programme of extra-curricular activities as well as excellent teaching of the traditional curriculum.

As the first professional librarian employed by the school I have had the privilege over the last 4 years of setting up a new library which has quickly been embraced by the students and staff alike. It’s not an exaggeration to say the facilities are busy all day everyday with formal research (during structured lesson time) and informal learning at lunchtimes and after school.

More recently I have been developing a programme for students to improve their research and study skills. Students at the age of 11 and 12 learn how to structure a research query and use the library and its resources to answer it, through a series of projects relating to the Personal, Social and Health curriculum. This is augmented by research tasks undertaken in other departments to encourage students to develop their independent learning skills further.

Teaching using social media for learning

So far so good. But I have become increasingly aware of the many interactive tools on the social web that could be used to develop students’ study skills. It is my belief that we are not doing our job properly in school if we aren’t helping and positively encouraging our students to find them. To this end I have, since September, been teaching a 6 week module to Year 11’s about to sit their GCSE examinations about using social media for learning. This contains the opportunity to sign up for a personalised web page – using iGoogle, share brainstorming with and discover electronic note taking with Evernote (illustrated below).


The RSS reader on iGoogle is used to explain the concept that the information they want can be brought to their desktop and continually updated. Examples are taken from current work like mindmapping an essay plan for the English text “An Inspector Calls” or storing notes about Pacifism for GCSE Religious Studies “Issues”.

Students have, on the whole, seen the point of the course immediately. I have called it “Organizing Your Online Life” and tried to show them how they can join up their way of socializing online and studying at school. A survey of the first two groups (through Surveymonkey naturally) has revealed that 41% found the course life changing and a further 27% enjoyable. Two thirds of the students said they would definitely be continuing to use at least one of the tools on a regular basis.

Undeliverable. The school’s curriculum is full?

But it hasn’t been easy and there are difficulties I continue to face in teaching a course like this. Sometimes it has genuinely felt like “Undeliverable. The School’s curriculum is full!” There are problems with the perception by some staff that social media activity is wasting time. Choices of which tools to introduce are limited by safeguards deemed necessary for the network to protect students from bullying or worse. And school policy (in keeping with DCSF guidelines) discourages staff from “befriending” students in an online social environment.

Is it “appropriate to the student’s education”?

After proudly explaining how one sports mad teenager had set up a page full of RSS feeds from the likes of the Arsenal web site (whilst demonstrating iGoogle to a group of teaching colleagues) I was challenged as to whether this was “educational”. The schools acceptable use policy states that “all internet activity should be appropriate to the student’s education” and that word appropriate is obviously open to interpretation. Just what is appropriate? Just what is educational? As far as I am concerned learning to manipulate RSS feeds is definitely an appropriate life skill for a 15 year old to learn. Maybe I’m wrong? My reply was also to ask why this activity was any different from coming to the library and reading the sports supplement in the Times newspaper? Or sitting on a beanbag and reading a fantasy novel at lunchtime? The positive outcome to all this discussion has resulted in a helpful review of the wording of our acceptable use policy.

The current policy means that all social networking sites like Facebook, Youtube or Twitter are automatically filtered on the schools network even for Sixth form students although the boarding students, whose parents agree, are allowed access to some social networking at weekends. The reasoning behind this is that students are in our care and have to be protected and anyway if they could visit these sites they would waste too much time using them. However, the attitude towards this blanket ban during the school day is changing. Recently the school undertook a series of assemblies showing students the potential problems they could face if they didn’t protect themselves online. Everyone was then given access to Facebook at lunchtime to allow them to adjust their privacy settings. But I personally do not think this is enough. Surely it’s our duty to teach them to be “savvy” online in a more intensive structured way and even more to acknowledge how networking can be utilized to improve their learning. This is especially important when GSCE students have told me that one of the most helpful strategies for revising for exams is by “testing” each other i.e. working together socially! Just think… they can do that when they are home alone in the evenings (across the Internet) if we show them how.

“This application has terminated in an unusual way”

There are problems too with using social media on the Internet as part of a schools network. Our School IT department has been very helpful in unblocking access to sites like so that I can deliver my course of taster sessions. But the nature of our network environment means that students can’t always do the things they can on a personal computer at home. It’s great they can access their own personal network space from any computer in school but this means they cannot set their customized iGoogle page as their homepage. As well as this applications will not recognize their logins from previous visits so students have to remember all their log-in formats and passwords to the social media they use. Not any easy feat for some (myself included).

Voicethread created by a Year 7 class

Voicethread created by a Year 7 class (click for full size image)

Like many institutions we use the Internet Explorer browser and had been using IE6 for a number of years. Many new applications like Wallwisher, Glogster and Voicethread (which is illustrated ) require IE 7 and we had to upgrade across the network before they could be used with the junior classes I teach. But then IE 7 has its own problems with add-on toolbars used in applications like the very useful Diigo social bookmarking tool. I would love to share this with students because they could share bookmarks with one another and highlight text online. Unfortunately my own use of Diigo often results in the message “This application has terminated in an unusual way” and a shut down of the Internet browser so it has proved impossible to demonstrate it in lessons.

“With regard to social networking outside of school”

In our staff Internet access policy we are “strongly advised” not to befriend students outside of school “lest allegations, founded or unfounded-are made”. I haven’t really had a problem with this because the social networking sites I show have a recognizable educational use and I never encourage students to befriend me on them. I discuss the issue with the students and explain the school policy. I have recently found myself followed on Twitter by some of my GCSE students but I have sent them each a message thanking them for following me and in a humorous way reminding them that I won’t be following back. I expect they’ll get bored with my tweets quite quickly! However if I was a subject teacher it would be very useful for me to collaborate on, say Google docs, with presentations with my students. Does this cross the boundaries? Can BECTA’s differentiation between “social networks” and “online communities” be sustained? I note that Microsoft Office 2010 has a number of ways of linking with open source networking sites so this will become an issue that needs to be clarified further.

Developing social learning in the future

The biggest problem I see for the future is ensuring that staff have information about social media sites and the confidence to integrate the use of them into their teaching and learning. Fortunately this has been recognized by the school’s Senior Management Team and the current Head of Academic ICT has the vision to want to transform her role into one of Coordinator of E-learning. She wants ICT to be taught not as a disparate subject but across the curriculum with a strong emphasis on learning collaboratively. This is really good news for me as we have already worked together on cross-curricular approaches to improving independent study skills. But, from my experience, unless we ensure a parallel programme of support and confidence-building for staff the gap between how students learn at home and in school will grow ever wider.

BECTA’s “Next Generation Learning” initiative states that:

Online communities offer children varied opportunities for developing knowledge and interests as well as important social and communication skills

Let’s hope that schools and teaching staff can exploit student interest in social networking to raise standards in learning!

About The Author

Nicola McNee has been Librarian at Kingswood School for the past 4 years. She has a wide range of previous experience working in academic and public libraries, mostly in Northern Ireland.

Nicola McNee can be contacted at or Her Twitter id is @nicolamcnee and her Learning Log is available at <>.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Guest-blog, Social Web | 5 Comments »

Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14th December 2009

Tomorrow I’m giving a talk on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” at the Cultural Heritage Online 2009 Conference .

The slides for this talk are available on Slideshare and are also embedded below.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Events, Social Web | 1 Comment »

Responding To Social Web Challenges

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6th August 2009

I mentioned previously that I took part in a 2-day workshop held in Cardiff on “Search Engine Optimisation”, running a session on “Using The Social Web To Maximise Access To Your Resources“. Towards the end of the session I asked the participants to identify some of the difficulties and challenges in exploiting the Social Web for this purpose. These (slightly tweaked) questions are listed below and, as promised, I have included some responses.

Group 1

  • How do you find relevant resources?
  • What are the quick wins?
  • How does one develop an organisational strategy?
  • How does one rein in the enthusiasts?
  • How do you get motivation higher up the food chain?

Finding Web 2.0 resources is probably easy, there are so many of them. Finding relevant resources may be more challenging. You will need to ensure that the resources are relevant to your particular requirement, that you have the appropriate skills and expertise to use them and that your investment in time and effort in learning about and using the resources will provide an appropriate return on investment. A suggestion I would make is to use the Social Web to make connections with your peers and top learn from them about the resources they find useful. This blog can also have a role to play. We have already published a number of guest blog posts which describe the experiences of a number of cultural heritage organisations in using Social Web services. We hope you can learn from these experiences. And why not offer to why a guest blog post yourself, about your experiences in using the Social Web.

What are the quick wins? I would suggest introducing your marketing department to various tools which can be used to observe what is being said about your organisation on the Social Web. Using Addictomatic to see what is being said about the SS Great Britain, for example, I can see that visitors are already using Twitter to talk about their visit, including one person who informs us that this is the “First time we’ve been since our parents got married on it“. An opportunity for some positive publicity about the marriage, perhaps – but also a need to reflect on the ethics of doing this. And if negative comments are being made about visits, wouldn’t you want to know about it so that, if appropriate, the concerns can be addressed. And once the marketing department understands how visitors and the media are using the Social Web they may then want to publish in this space.

The need for an organisational strategy is beginning to be raised more frequently. There’s a danger, I feel, in developing policies covering use of the Social Web too soon – there’s a need to observe the diversities of ways in which the Social Web is being used before implementing policies which may stifle innovative uses.  So perhaps the strategic approach needs to embrace a period of observing and experimentation.

The question of how one reins in the enthusiasts can perhaps be challenged. Why would you want to rein in the enthusiasm of colleagues who are keen to exploit the potential of the Social Web? Surely you should consider yourself fortunate to have such colleagues? But of course such enthusiasm will need to be managed. One approach to maintaining the enthusiasm whilst ensuring this is sustainable may be to ask the enthusiastic user of the Social Web to document how the institution should respond if funding is reduced or the enthusiast leaves the institution.

How do you get motivation higher up the food chain is another important question – after all, the  enthusiasm and a bottom-up approach can only go so far. I have suggested to those who work in higher education that the enthusiasts should ensure that senior managers are alerted to the Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World and The Edgeless University reports. These two high profile reports were commissioned by key funding bodies and related agencies and outline the strategic responses required of senior management. “Beat your senior managers over the head with these reports” is how I suggested these reports could be used to get motivation from those higher up the food chain.  It would be useful to see if similar reports have been published for the cultural heritage sector and for other groups in the public sector.

Group 2

  • Who owns the content and how does one go about monitoring  it?
  • How do you learn how to use social media?
  • How do you automate workflow processes to keep, for example,  course materials up-to-date on third party Web sites?

The ownership of content held on Social Web services can be complicated. I have tried to avoid the complications of contracts for my UK Web Focus blog by explicitly clarifying ownership issues in the blog’s policy. The question of monitoring content is partially covered in my response to a previous question (use services such as Addictomatic). I’d also suggest that the enthusiasts who make initial use of the Social Web in a profession context define their own policies which ensure that  their use reflects the interests of their host institution along the lines I have taken for my UK Web Focus blog.

I am pleased that the question of automating workflow processes has been raised. There are certain Social Web services, such as Facebook, which I feel should be used to automatically pull in content held elsewhere. If you wish to use Facebook for an organisational presence I would recommend that details of events, photographs, videos, etc, are embedded using RSS applications or other appropriate applications (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, etc. tools)

Group 3

  • How appropriate is it to move in to student’s social media (it might make them move out)?
  • What about the investment in existing systems (e.g. VLEs, CMSs, etc.)?

The term creepy treehouse is sometimes used as an argument that organisations shouldn’t use Social Web services. However rather than completely avoiding use of these  services I feel there is a need to use them in appropriate fashion. It would be a mistake, I feel, to require users to ‘befriend’ an organisation in order to access their resources. However providing access to such resources in a Social Web context which users may choose to access is providing a diversity of means for users to engage with the resources.

The question of one’s investment in existing systems is, when you think about it, nothing new. We’ve been through many times before this: for example when we moved from mainframe computers to workstations and from standalone PCs to networked PCs. In the IT world this regular change has always happened and we need to ensure that as organisations we are agile enough to respond.

Group 4

  • Is there a problem just trying to be cool and trendy, or can the services be used to fulfill relevant purposes?
  • Can we assume that all users will be willing and able to make use of the Social Web? What about issues such as social inclusion?
  • Should you seek permission in the first place… or just do it?

Public sector organisations shouldn’t be cool and trendy – they should be dull and worthy :-)   More seriously, innovation is often intimidating and may be dismissed by being labelled as ‘cool and trendy’.  This happened in the mid 1990s when Web sites were regarded as trendy, but eventually became established (and even dull and boring!). Social Web services may be cool and trendy – but they can still be used to fulfill one’s organisational requirements.

All users will not be willing or able to make use of the Social Web, and it would be wrong to assume there is a homogeneous user community out there, who are all using Facebook and are comfortable using various Social Web services. But not all of are users are willing or able to make use of IT. Does that mean we should abandon investment in IT? Clearly not. rather issues such as social inclusion will form part of the challenges which we need to face and address. But remember that developing engaging services which make use of the Social Web may help to engage with users communities which are otherwise difficult to reach.

The suggestion that enthusiasts and motivated individuals should take an approach of ‘just do it‘ was popular a few years ago (indeed Mike Ellis and myself presented a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barrier” at the  Museums and the Web 2007 conference which explored these ideas. This approach, which was not possible when significant development required large budgets and the support of IT staff, is now achievable. But there is a need to consider one’s organisational cultural and the risks that any innovation may not be sustainable.  But remember that there are approaches that individuals may be able to take (using an RSS reader, using a social bookmarking services such as, etc.) which can be beneficial for the individual and help improve the individual’s efficiency without the need for formal adoption within the institution.

Group 5

  • How do you monitor what’s ‘out there’ and make sure it is answered in reasonable time?
  • How do you convince decision makers for staff to do this work and get resources?

The first question is concerned with monitoring what is being said about your organisation on the Social Web and how one should respond, especially to criticisms. There are a wide range of tools which can be used to alert you to new content – I make use of Google alerts to send me email messages which appear to mention papers I have written. I also have RSS feeds which will alert me to blog posts and RSS feeds which mention the areas of work I am involved in. In addition the administrator’s interface for my blog will inform me of new including links which cite my posts. I then have to make a judgment on hos I should respond to this information.

How do you convince decision makers of the importance of the Social Web? Well the economic recessions, which is still to hit the public sector in its full force, will help decision makers to focus on new ways of doing things. And use of services in the Cloud may have a role to play in helping public sector organisations to continue to engage with their user communities, without having to ask for significant amounts on new investment.

Group 6

  • What tone should be used for embracing Social Web?
  • How do you control and monitor use of the Social Web?
  • How do you identify authentic Web sites, compared to those that appear similar?

A variety of ‘voices’ can be used when making use of the Social Web. The voice behind the blog or the Twitter account could be that of an individual. Alternatively the voice could be the institution.  Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.  My suggestion would be to observe the approaches taken by related organisations and adopt one that you feel would work best for your organisation and for the people in your organisation who will be involved in use of the Social Web.

The issue of monitoring use of the Social Web has been mentioned previously. The question of ‘control’ of the Social Web is a difficult and perhaps dangerous one to raise. You can’t control what is said about your organisation on the Social Web (unless you wish to te legal proceedings). My view is to regard the Social Web as a public place: you can’t stop people talking about you in such places, But you can talk about the things that you have being doing in this space.

The issue of authenticity in the Social Web is another interesting one.  For me, this is a question of information literacy. Yes not everything in Wikipedia, for example, will be true, and users need to appre5ciate this.  But Wikipedia is a very well-used resource. So let’s ensure, at least, that entries in Wikipedia relevant to our areas of interest and expertise benefit from our experiences and knowledge.

I hope these responses to the issues raised at the workshop in Cardiff are helpful for the participants. I should add, however, that these aren’t intended to provide ready-made answers: rather they aim to provide suggestions for approaches which may help. Let’s not imagine that there are a set of simple rules which will solve all of the uissues related to effective use of the Social Web. Life ain’t like that, I’m afraid!

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web | Comments Off

Challenges in Using the Social Web to Maximise Access to your Resources

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4th August 2009

Last month I gave a series of presentations on “Using the Social Web to Maximise Access to your Resources“. These were delivered in a series of workshops organised by the Strategic Content Alliance and held in Belfast, Edinburgh, London and Cardiff. In addition a slightly tweaked version of the session was held at the IWMW 2009, following the unavailability of one of the planned sessions.

The structure of the sessions was (a) an illustration how the Social Web can complement Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques to maximise access to resources, services and ideas; (b) examples of approach to use of metrics to understand the success (or not) or the approaches taken and (c) discussions of the challenges to be faced in making use of the Social Web for these purposes.

The slides used at the IWMW 2009 session are included below (and are also available on Slideshare).

In the final workshop held at Cardiff on 31 July 2009 I invited participants to raise any specific concerns they had regarding use of the Social Web. These issues were recorded and are included below. I did (foolishly!) agree to provide ‘solutions’ to any issues which participants raised. I’ll try to do this in a forthcoming post. In the meantime can anyone help by providing solutions to these issues?

Table 1

  • How do you find relevant resources?
  • What are the quick wins?
  • How does one develop an organisational strategy?
  • How does one rein in the enthusiasts?
  • How do you get motivation higher up the food chain?

Table 2

  • Who owns the content and how does one go about monitoring  it?
  • How do you learn how to use social media?
  • How do you automate workflow processes to keep, for example,  course materials up-to-date on third party Web sites?

Table 3

  • How appropriate is it to move in to student’s social media (it might make them move out)?
  • What about the investment in existing systems (e.g. VLEs, CMSs, etc.)?

Table 4

  • Is their a problem just trying to be cool and trendy, or can we fulfill particular purposes?
  • Can you assume that all students are able to communicate i.e. social inclusion?
  • Should you seek permission in the first place… or just do it?

Table 5

  • How do you monitor what’s up there and make sure it is answered in reasonable time
  • How do you convince decision makers for staff to do this work and get resources?

Table 6

  • What tone should be used for embracing Social Web?
  • How do you control and monitor use of the Social Web?
  • How do you identify authentic Web sites, compared to those that appear similar?

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8th June 2009

In today’s rapidly developing technical environment there is a need to gain experience of the diversity of new networked services which can be used to enhance institutional objectives. There is also a need to document and share emerging best practices – whilst avoiding the temptation to develop constraining policies too soon – a danger which public sector organisations may be prone too.

As an example I have recently started to record videos of my talks at conferences and publish the videos soon after the event. I am pleased to have received positive feedback on this, including this comment:

Many thanks for providing the video and the Slideshare of your #CILIP-CYMRU09 event. I missed your presentation because I was “on a mission” for the following speaker at the conference, so I greatly appreciate this opportunity to catch up! …

You’ve done a lot to dispel this misunderstanding and fear here, in a very balanced and helpful overview. Joeyanne’s page provides a useful example of how Web 2.0 isn’t just about Facebook and Twitter, but is the working integration of a number of tools, all enabling dialogue and sharing. The examples you provide of the NLW using social web tools also add credibility and weight to these services.

Such feedback will help in the formulation of best practices and, at a later date, policies on being videoed at events.

Another area of growing interest to many cultural heritage organisations is institutional use of Twitter. Although Twitter may have been initially regarded as a trivial application by some in the sector, it is now becoming regarded as a tool which can be used to support institutional objectives. But rather than just leaping on the Twitter bandwagon there is a need to give some thought as to how Twitter might be used. For example, an organisation may wish to allow (or, possibly encourage) use of Twitter by individuals, to support sharing and informal working across a community with shared interests. This is a use case which Mike Ellis highlighted in his blog post on “The person is the point“. And if this is your aim, then your priority may be to allow access to Twitter through your organisational fireall.

But although this was the initial way in which Twitter was used by many involved in networked development activities, there are also a variety of ways in which Twitter can be used by an organisation, rather than by just individuals within the organisation.

Such uses could include:

  • Official important announcements
  • A summary of the institution’s RSS news feed
  • A channel for providing alerts of urgent news items.
  • A way of engaging with the institution
  • A way of engaging with discussions regarding events organised by the institution.

Each of the different uses are likely to have different workflows and different guidelines for best practice. Should an institutional Twitter account follow the user’s who have chosen to follow the account? Should an institutional Twitter account respond to queries or engage in discussions? Should an institutional Twitter account have a personality or should it provide a neutral tone? Should the content be provided by a team or an individual?

Lots of questions – and patterns of usage are beginning to emerge.  In particular via the Fresh and New(er) blog I came across a post on “Twitter information for your users – good practice from Mosman Municipal“, which linked to a discussion on “Australia: Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines“. The Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines make it clear who is providing the Twitter feed, the ppurpose of the service, policies on following other Twitter users and responding to comments, a privacy statement and a legal disclaimer.  I hope we’ll seem more sharing of such emerging best practice guidelines – but more importantly the discussions as to what constitutes best practice: a discussion which is taking place on the “Australia: Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines” blog post. Is Laurel Papworth, who wrote the blog post, right to be concerned when she asked”“WTF? A council trying to control the discussion on a 3rd party site?“. Or would you agree with her when she went on to add “it’s not their fault, it’s the mess we’ve got ourselves into with lawyers and courts and such. They’ve really bent over backward to be helpful and contactable to their constituents. Bless“?

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web | 1 Comment »

Explaining the Risks and Opportunities Framework

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21st May 2009

In my recent blog post on my Talk at the MCG Spring Meeting 2009 I gave a brief summary of the talk on “Engaging With The Social Web: A Risks and Opportunities Framework” which I gave at the MCG Spring Meeting 2009 and included a video recording of the talk.

As promised in that post, I am today explaining in more detail what I mean by a risks and opportunities Framework.

The advocacy work, such as that described Mike Ellis and myself in a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers” at the MW2007 conference, has now been widely accepted. The opportunities which can be provided by the Social Web are now widely acknowledged, as we heard in a number of presentations form staff from the Bath Cultural Heritage Service Department.

As I explained in a paper on “Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Service” presented at this year’s MW2009 conference We know need to address a range of concerns including those which have been raised at various workshops organised by UKOLN and delivered through MLA Regional Agencies and Renaissance Hubs. Such concerns include a lack of understanding (of what the Social Web is about); concerns over legal issues, technical challenges (such as interoperability, reliability issues), business challenges (such as sustainability) and related resourcing issues.

It may be useful to consider the Gartner Hype curve in the context of exploitation of Social Web services.  The early adopters have, in many cases, been successful in promoting new technologies, such as, initially the borad concept of Web 2.0 and, more recently, specific examples such as Twitter.  But we now need to attempt to reshape the Gartner curve, by managing expectations and deploying a variety of approaches in order to avoid the ‘trough of despair’ and achieve sustainability and effective services.

We firstly need to ensure that we have a realistic view of the various emerging Social Web services. Simply suggesting that a setting up, for example a Ning social networking environment will provide a sustainable community isn’t the case, and there are enough examples of empty social networking environments which can be used to demonstrate this. However we also need to remember that it’s not just a question of the numbers of active users which defines success: there will be examples of social networks with small numbers of users (such as, perhaps, a committee) who feel that the environment satisfies their needs by providing a cost-effective solution. We must remember that there is a context to any success criteria.

We do need to consider the various legal issues. But we need to remember that as the law may not reflect technical possibilities, it may sometimes it may be possible to exploit technologies in ways in which ‘reasonable measures’ clauses in legislation may permit. The Disability Discrimination Act and its application to the IT environment, for example, provides an interesting case study. Does the video recording of my talk at the MCG Spring Meeting fall foul of disability legislation, as there is no trasncipt available? Or could I argue that the video recording enhances access for people who could not attend the meeting (and we have evidence that that is the case)? And doesn’t this blog post provide an equivalent (indeed richer) experience than is provided on the video? Indeed could it not be argued that a failure to provide videos of the other speakers contravenes disability legislation? After all, it is now very easy to record talks (as I demonstrated) and make them available online.

We also need to address the issues of sustainability and interoperability. Two years ago, I frew parallels between Web 2.0 services such as Google and Yahoo! and the banks. ‘Banks might become bankrupt‘ I argued ‘But they  normally don’t, so let’s not worry too much‘.  These days I say ‘Banks do become bankrupt, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use banks and keep out money under our mattress. Rather we take a risk management approach and ensure we don’t have more than the £30,000 limit (I think) which is guareanteed by the government‘. We need to develop similar risk assessment and risk management approachs to our use of Social Web services.

In this post I will not expand on the approaches to addressing the interoperability anbd sustsinability issues in any details, or related issues regarding gaining a better understanding of the Social Web and addressing the organisational and cultural barriers we are likely to encounter, especially in public sector organisations – I’ll simply mention the various UKOLN workshops we’ve delivered over the past few years and the briefing documents which seek to address such issues.

A variety of deployment strategies have been discussed at various workshops (e.g. identifying the low-hanging fruit; supporting the enthusiasts, etc.) For now, however I wish to address three key aspects of the framework I have been working on: a risks and opportunities assessment and management approach; exploitation of Critical Friends and friendly critics and a culture of openness.

As described in the JISC infoNet Risk Management infoKitIn education, as in any other environment, you can’t decide not to take risks: that simply isn’t an option in today’s world. All of us take risks and it’s a question of which risks we take“. Our organisations will need to take risks, and we need to acknowledge the difficulties of changing a culture which, in many public sector organisations, is risk averse. We also need to apply a risk assessment approach to in-house development work as well as exploitation of third-party services. We should remember the experience of the UK eUniversity when £62 million pounds of public money was invested in the development of a national e-University. In 2004, however, we learnt that HEFCE had pulled the plug on the E-University. We need to ensure that we avoid repeating such mistakes in other areas, especially as people are predicting significant changes in the management of, and associated levels of funding, after the next election.

An approach I have been exploring recently is use of Critical Friends. I first came across this in a JISC context in order to ensure that reality checks are in place in areas of innovation. It seems that Critical Friends: (a) have a mission to make projects succeed; (b) balance informal approach with critical eye; (c) maintain confidentiality, frankness, sensitivity & independence and (d) may have a funded role. In the absence of Critical Friends innovative developments may benefit from ‘friendly critics’ who have no formal responsibilities but are still willing to discuss and engage and will appreciate sensitivities, constraints, etc. Ensuring that such mechanisms are in place will help to identify possible unexpected risks and dangers and minimise attacks at a later date from unfriendly critics & hostile opponents.

The risks and opportunities framework was first developed as A Framework For Making Use of Facebook. An updated version was described in a post on the UK Web Focus blog and the accompanying diagram is shown here.

In brief it is proposed that decisions on use of Social Web services should be informed by documentation on:

  • The intended purpose of the service
  • The perceived benefits for various stakeholders
  • The missed opportunities for the various stakeholders of not using the service
  • The costs of using the service for the various stakeholders.

It should be acknowledged that such documentation is likely to reflect an organisational and organisational and personal biases and other subjective factors.

In order to maximise the benefits of this approach, external input should be encouraged, whether through the formal use of Critical Friends or by inviting friendly critics to give feedback on proposed plans.

In public sectors organisations in particular we would expect this approach to be taken in a culture of openness and sharing.  The sharing of experiences (both good and, as Mia Ridge has recently described, bad) happens already on various mailing lists and at events and conferences. But we should be doing more of this and at an earlier stage in development work.

We  may, indeed, find ourselves in the situation in which FOI requests will be made in order to provide public access to information on networked services, as has been seen with the FOI request for information on the total number of objects in the Natural History Museum’s collection. In this example the National History Museum was able to report “a total holding of 75.6 million items for the entire Museum“.

We know from the recent stories about MPs expense claims that there can be real dangers in attempting to hide information from the public. And once legislation or pressure from the media and the public forces public bodies to provide such data we now find that the whistle-blowers aren’t just newspapers (often with an axe to grind) but the development community who now can use various technologies to visualise how public sector funding is being used (or misused, as can be seen from Tony Hirst’s various mashups of MPs expense claims).

The benefits of being open about development work shoiuld be self-evident. And It is worth mentioning Nick Moyes’ recent post on this blog on “When Peregrines Come To Town” in which he described some unexpected problems in deploying a very popular service:

So great were our webstats submitted under the now-superceded system of “Best Value Performance Indicators” reported by local authorities, that the Audit Commission even questioned their veracity. After much high level debate they declared our figures unsuitable for reflecting website usages by museums. Had it been a stuffed peregrine, fine. But this was a live bird – so how could it be seen as valid for a museum to report on that, they argued. A fair point, perhaps. After all, “Best Value” was designed to allow for fair comparison to be drawn between similar types of service across different local authorities, so maybe exclusion was sensible. But when it was suggested locally that this decision might put the viability of the whole project into question, then alarm bells did begin to ring. I feared this could be a case of the statistics-gathering tail wagging the audience-focussed dog. But common sense prevailed and we’ve since been fully supported in our work, especially so after being able to demonstrate that we draw many thousands more visitors into our main websites each summer

And rather than regarding such FOI requests as a threat, the museum sector in particular should regard this as an ideal opportunity to build on a well-established tradition of openness and use figures (such as the Natural History Museum’s “total holding of 75.6 million items for the entire Museum” as an opportunity to promote one’s own contributions to the digital environment. And if more museums were making their data available in an open and reusable way the entire sector would be well-pusitioned to exploit the opportunies provided by the ubiquity of Web 2.0 and the Social Web.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Social Web, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Video of “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Web 2.0″

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6th April 2009

I previously announced my talk on “A Risks And Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” which I presented at the “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists” conference which was held in Manchester on 19-20th March 2009.

My previous post included an embedded screencast of a rehearsal of the talk, with an audio track being played together with the slides.

For the talk itself I removed a number of the slides. And a video recording of the talk was taken which is available in .avi and .flv formats. In addition the video is also available on the Vimeo video service. This video recording is also embedded in this blog post for Web browsers which can render .flv files:

The video of the talk, the accompanying PowerPoint file and the slidecast of the rehearsal of the talk are all available under a Creative Commons licence which permits reused by others for non-commercial purposes. These resources may be particularly useful for the participants at the conference, who may find them useful for jogging their memory about talks given at the conference, whether in the short term (for writing a trip report) or over a longer period.  But how useful are such resources for others, I wonder? And should I try to synchronise the video with the slides in order to provide a richer experience?

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Events, Social Web | 1 Comment »

A Risks And Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16th March 2009

I’m pleased that a proposal for a talk entitled “A Risks And Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” has been accepted by the organisers of the “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists” conference which will be held in Manchester on 19-20th March 2009.

I’m in the process of finalising my slides for my talk.  In order to estimate how long the talk would take I decided last night to record the talk. As the talk took over the 30 minutes which I have for the slot I will have to remove some of the slides. But it did occur to me that the recording of the rehearsal may be of interest to others, including those who can’t attend the conference.  So I have synched the audio with the slides and made the talk available on Slideshare. This is also embedded in this blog post (for browsers with appropriate plugin support).

I am conscious of the umms and errs in the audio. I also find it difficult to communicate my enthusiasm when I recording the talk in my office without the adrenaline buzz which a live talk gives. However as someone who seeks to embrace the Web 2.0 culture of ‘always beta’ and ‘trusting the audience’ I have decided to share this resource.  And I’d welcome feedback on both the content and also the approach I’ve taken.

Posted in Addressing Barriers, Events, Social Web | 1 Comment »