I'd like use this blog post to do a bit of crowdsourcing around perspectives on institutional Web 2.0 guidelines and policies. This is a theme I'll pick up on for my open mic slot at the 2010 JISC CETIS Conference. It would be great to get some feedback before the event that I can fold into my talk, so please feel free to comment via my blog or add your thoughts to this Google Docs shared document. I'll take the results to our E-Learning Advisory Group meeting later in the month for discussion, so this is a good opportunity to influence policy.

First off, here's a quick recap on Web 2.0, courtesy of Michael Wesch:

Pretty upbeat stuff, isn't it? Some key Web 2.0 themes for me are: Encouraging people to share experiences (both positive and negative) of services, in addition to sharing ideas and content; choosing copyright/open source licenses strategically; use of techniques such as hash tags and RSS to build something which is more than the sum of its parts; your Plan B for if a service folds or ceases to be useful; traps for the unwary, e.g. sharing more than you intended - and the intersection of teaching and learning, research and admin. [As publicly funded University outputs, are OERs inherently different from research publications? Perhaps both have a place in the Institutional Repository?]

I'll expand on these points below, then hand over to you for some audience participation... :-)

This blog post describes some work that Garry Booth and I have been doing at Loughborough to prototype a Mobile Web site as part of our student portal project. It expands on the themes I raised in my talk at the recent Developing for the Mobile Web workshop hosted by UKOLN and the ILRT. My slides can be viewed below via slideshare.net...

In this post I will present some stats around our students' choice of browsers and operating system which I have been gathering for the last month, as we begin a new academic year. These figures were arrived at in a similar way to my recent analysis of this blog's readership, using Google Analytics. Google Analytics stats were collected on visits to the login page for our student Google Apps domain.

Of particular note is that Internet Explorer is now at a rather meagre 42% take-up, with Chrome and Firefox vying for equal second place in the browser league table at 23% each.  In reality we may have any number of people who use more than one browser, but I'll quickly gloss over that and move on... :-)

The stats also sound a note of caution around any assumptions that Windows Vista can now be safely ignored - 40% of the machines using our service were running Vista. The digerati may have written it off and moved on, but people out in the real world are actually still running this stuff.

I’ve blogged in the past about our project to create a student portal at Loughborough this Autumn. This post is intended to provide a quick update and also to explore some of the architectural issues that have arisen.

In a previous post I introduced the concept that a portal did not necessarily equate to “a portal system”, i.e. a dedicated piece of software. This is a theme that I want to pick up on here. If we had been putting a portal in a few years ago, then we would almost certainly have surveyed the market and looked at packages like uPortal, Sakai and Liferay. Why not simply put one of these systems in now?

Here's why...

Martin Hamilton at IWMW10 from UKOLN on Vimeo.

Here's a slightly cheesy video interview with me from the recent Institutional Web Managers Workshop at Sheffield, filmed by live blogger Kirsty Pitkin from TConsult.  In it there is the implication that events like this are worth their weight in gold, and the statement that I have had the equivalent of tens of thousands of pounds of free consultancy from IWMW10 alone.

All fine talk, but let's spend a moment deconstructing this...  The highlight of IWMW10 for me was that I became aware of an open source product that will save my institution around £50K over a three year timeframe. In my view this alone amply justifies the £350 conference registration fee. I also consider the event to be a masterclass in "event amplification", which I look at further below.

I recently carried out a survey of IT directors to gauge the level of interest in the sector in a "user group" to discuss Google Apps for Education or perhaps cloud computing more generally. There were 28 responses, which is quite a good sample size for something like this. As this seems to be something that people are generally keen on, I will aim to organize an initial meeting for Autumn 2010.

Check back for further updates as this work progresses, but first a quick precis of the survey results...

Let's imagine that you can't see to find out what's in that tin you just took out of the cupboard. This isn't a hypothetical scenario if you're visually impaired. Rice pudding, baked beans, or dog food? Doesn't bear thinking about, does it? Later on in this post I'll offer a simple solution for Android devices, but first here's a bit of background...

In a recent talk at TEDGlobal 2010 in Oxford, Clay Shirky (above) discusses a very interesting topic - intrinsic motivation.  The critical section starts at around 6 minutes into the video, so watch this if you don't have time for the whole thing.  The talk is about the larger (and also quite fascinating) concept of "cognitive surplus", which Shirky illustrates with some examples of the power of Internet mediated grassroots activism in a post-TV era. And yes, he does have a book out :-)

So, what's this all about?  Let me frame it like this... Why is it that companies like Apple and Google consistently produce exceptional ideas, products and services? How can other organizations best learn from these firms?
I recently blogged about Loughborough's Google Apps for Alumni service, which has just gone live for this summer's leavers after an initial pilot with alumni from previous years.

I'm delighted to be able to report back that in the first week of full operation, over 1,000 people have used the alumni service!

This is great news, and I'd like to thank all those involved in the project for their hard work and perseverance - in particular Taz Siddeeque, Henry Chambers and Chris Peel from the Loughborough Students Union Executive and Richard Barber from our Development and Alumni Relations Office. From IT Services, Graeme Fowler, Nikki Doyle, Kathryn Latham, Chris Beggs and Lee Preston have provided invaluable assistance and support. Most of all, though, Tim and Dan from Google, for their work on the Google Apps multidomain support, and simpleSAMLphp developers Andreas Solberg and Olav Morken from UNINETT - we couldn't have done it without you!
My talk from JIF2010, in pictures
This is just to amplify a few of the points I made in my talk today in the "Thunderbolts and Lightning" session at the JISC Joint Innovation Forum conference at Royal Holloway.  The graphic at the head of this posting was kindly produced by the good folk at Meeting Magic as a summary of the session.

The concept of the sessions was to look at the emerging threats and challenges facing institutions.  I chose to think more in terms of new opportunities and how we might take advantage of them.

Let's begin by following on from my recent posting about the iPad.  The conceit here is that the iPad has taken off because it meets most people's needs, most of the time. Whether or not you agree with this, it turned out that lots of people did want a big iPhone :-)

It may be worth reflecting on whether this owes more to an improved user experience through multitouch, or a reduction in the number of frustrating failure modes associated with a more complex device.

So, will Steve Jobs be on stage this time next year announcing a 27" iMac running iOS?

OK, so that's a provocative title for this post, and let's face it - much of the hyperbole surrounding the iPad is cringeworthy.  But spend a bit of time looking at what people are doing with the technology, and an interesting picture emerges.

First off, here's Penguin Books CEO John Makinson demonstrating the work that his team has been doing to reimagine their back catalogue for the iPad, and create new "books" that fully exploit its capabilities: (note that these are Apps, not "conventional e-books" in EPUB format)

Next up, Flipboard, an App that creates an interactive newspaper for you based on public newsfeeds and a mash up of your friends' Facebook and Twitter posts: (no paywalls here ;-)

At Loughborough we're currently gearing up to roll out the Terminal Four Site Manager CMS. We're looking at quite a nice hosting environment, with multiple front end web server VMs at separate locations with Linux Virtual Server for load balancing and failover.

This setup is great for handling problems like localised hardware failures and operating system bugs, but what happens in the event of a catastrophic failure such as the fire that destroyed the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton University?  (Ballardian picture above from Dr John Bullas)

I'll blog about our wider institutional emergency planning separately.  For this post let's consider what we could do to maintain a Web presence if circumstances conspire to cut off our Internet connection, or there's a major IT systems failure.  We live in straitened times, so I'll frame this in monetary terms!

One of my current projects is to pull together a student portal for Loughborough.  For a variety of reasons we missed the boat and failed to develop such a system back in the Noughties, but I think this is something we can turn to our advantage by learning from other people's experiences.

My view is that our portal (see left for portal concept poster from Ben Spencer in our Web design team) will be mostly about giving people a handy preview of information that's relevant to them, and linking through to systems and services that we already run - rather than imposing a whole new IT system on everyone.  One convenient side-effect of this not being a direct replacement for an existing system is that we will be able to introduce it as and when it's ready, thereby avoiding the traditional mad rush to get everything ready for the start of the academic year.

The initial system will be very tightly scoped, and is mostly about us identifying a sensible underlying architecture that we can continue to build on.  On launch day we are aiming for something along like this:

I was just discussing with colleagues the respective merits of mobile apps, mobile optimised websites (sometimes disguised as apps) and frameworks for building them.  It's interesting to take a look around and see what people have done in this space.

A number of institutions have partnered with oMbiel to offer services based on their campusM product.  Chris Sexton from Sheffield has a good description of what's offered by campusM.  campusM runs as a dedicated iPhone app or a Java midlet for other devices.  I expect an Android app to appear soon too.

In parallel, several institutions have developed their own open source mobile projects, notably Mobile Campus Assistant (from the ILRT at Bristol), Mobile Oxford (from the Erewhon project at OUCS), and MIT's Mobile Web.  A sample screen from Mobile Campus Assistant is shown to the left.

These systems are much more than mobile optimised versions of the institution's website.  They provide key information targeted at the needs of the peripatetic IT user - including staff, students and visitors.  Examples of services offered include: