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I spent a couple of days this last week in Reading at the Institutional Web Managers Workshop run by UKOLN. Videos from the event and a lot more can be found on the event blog at  It was an interesting couple of days and it was fascinating to compare HE institutional web management with my previous experiences of local government institutional web management.  The chill wind of budget cutbacks are being felt in the HE sector although perhaps not yet as severely as had been feared.  The need to justify (and explain) the difference the web team makes in hard cash terms is certainly something that local government has had to address for some time.   So it was good to see one of the first presenters (Ranjit Sidhu) tackle how to present data about website value in a way that plays directly to that need.  Rather than showing visits, visitors or page views by showing usage in cost terms by segmenting use by location of visitor, concentrating on conversion rates and turning them into cash values.  A much more powerful approach.

Although a lot of the sessions were mostly aimed directly at institutional web managers there were quite a few sessions that were of value to me.  The parallel sessions I went to, one on Legal aspects from JISC Legal and one on Linked and Open Data at Southampton were particularly useful and interesting.  Probably unsurprisingly the legal issue on most people’s minds was the new EU ‘cookies’ legislation.  For a piece of legislation that we need to be complying by next spring there’s still some way to go to sort out exactly what is needed and get it in place.

The Linked Data session from Chris Gutteridge from Southampton was also really useful. It was great to look at the range of data that they are making available and the approach they are taking to do the work.  Using Google Docs as a simple way of getting end users to update their data is a good approach and I particularly liked that they were keen to show the value of the data by getting quotes from data providers about the benefits.  The catering data that they’ve done a lot of work with shows the value really well, and the map display approach is a really good way of providing access to the data.  You can see Southhampton’s data at

Did you ever get that feeling…
When you stand up to give a presentation at a workshop and then realise that there are several people in the room that had heard you give a presentation on the same subject yesterday.  And then realise that actually, two of them had also heard you talking about exactly the same subject on Monday.  Well, that was Wednesday last week, talking about our RISE Activity Data project, for the third day in a row.

They were all slightly different presentations reducing in time from 30 minutes down to 5 minutes and starting with 60 slides on Monday, reducing to 20 on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday.  I’d always wondered whether ‘death by Powerpoint’ referred to the audience or the presenter.  So the number of slides was going in the right direction.  But nonetheless it was a good chance to talk to people about some stuff we’re doing with Activity Data, and as always with these type of events it was good to hear about other work that is happening, meet different people, and learn new things.

One of the interesting things of any project is the unexpected directions that they take you in.  The whole e-journal industry/technology thing is something that hadn’t really figured in my IT work in public libraries.  We’d just about started to think about OpenURL routers as we started to build e-resource collections, but it has definitely been a learning curve to get up to speed with these systems, and I’m still learning, so work in this area is helping build my knowledge.  So apologies for any statements of the blindingly obvious for anyone who has been working in this area for a long time!

It’s my metadata (or you can look but not touch…)
One thing that intrigues me is the protective attitude to bibliographic metadata.  Surely its role is to advertise your product? So why would you limit what people can do with it?   It is something that is exercising us in the RISE project but seeing JISC’s call this week for metadata to be open made me wonder about what would encourage publishers who supply metadata about their content to be more open with it.

I’ve already wondered about why publishers don’t provide their metadata to Discovery solutions  but that is clearly just one aspect of the issue.  I gather from comments that more are providing their metadata to discovery solutions. But having provided metadata into discovery solutions then doesn’t that make the case that metadata is about advertising your material?  It’s like advertising in the yellow pages isn’t it?  You advertise your content so that users can find it, so wouldn’t you want that metadata to be spread far and wide?

I can understand that when publishers and aggregators created Abstracting and Indexing services then there was value in that metadata as you needed those tools to find the content and could make money out of those services, but in the world of discovery services then hasn’t the game changed fundamentally?  If publishers made their metadata available more freely for other people to create their own innovative services, such as recommenders, then that publishers content is more likely to be recommended, and more likely to be used, and therefore be cited more frequently and have increased value?

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July 2011

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