Crowdsourcing Experiment - Institutional Web 2.0 Guidelines

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... :-)

Web 2.0 != Facebook
    The question of what exactly constitutes Web 2.0 is quite interesting - probably best summarised as "I can't tell you what it is exactly, but I know it when I see it". If this sounds specious, consider, clearly a Web 2.0 type of thing. Now flip to our E-Learning blog, hosted on a local installation of Wordpress. Still Web 2.0? Admittedly Wordpress is somewhat unusual in that the code is available for you to do your own thing. It seems to be a common view that Web 2.0 == Social Networking, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, but I think there is more to it than this.

    Perhaps Web 2.0 services are characterised by a lack of contracts and Service Level Agreements? But now flip to our student Google Apps domain, which we spent several months thrashing out a contract for. [Interestingly, Full Google Accounts creates a two-tier service where "first class" Apps services like Google Docs are treated differently from "consumer" services like Blogger and Picasa that are now available to beta testers as part of the Google Apps suite.] And if chromoting makes it off the starting blocks and enjoys some success, then the concept of local and remote computing and "apps" per se will be significantly shaken up. We have contracts for TurnItIn and Elluminate. Does that mean they can't be "Web 2.0"?

    I could cheat here and ask you to define Web 2.0 for me, but instead I will throw a few things in...  I think Web 2.0 is exemplified by interoperability and interlinking, for example Facebook Connect, Open ID and OAuth, RSS and ATOM, and (gulp!) SPARQL. Furthermore, this typically takes place in an environment that is the antithesis of the typical corporate or institutional IT setup - no central account management, allocation of rights and permissions, etc. Here's a nice example (courtesy of Sheila McNeil) showing how Dipity pulls in tweets around a hash tag to create a timeline. [I'll talk about the potentially dark side of free services in a moment]

    Opportunity or Threat?

    Many institutional policy documents were written several years ago before sites like Facebook and Twitter became completely accepted as part of our everyday lives - just think, there are now as many Facebook users as there are EU citizens! It's not surprising that some people felt threatened by a development that they perhaps struggled to understand, and historically there has often been resistance to new technology.

    I can recall personally the "threat" of email (quite real to those who were not computer literate or chose not to engage), the "threat" of the Internet (to those with a vested interest in Coloured Book protocols and the OSI transition :-), and the "threat" of disruptive technologies such as WAIS and Gopher (now that anyone can be a "publisher"). Fast forward through the Web years and the emergence of Web 2.0 (not to mention the "threat of the iPad") bring us right back to the fundamental question of whether an organization can be seen to be inherently progressive or regressive.

    Thanks for Sharing

    We've already been reminded by Mike Wesch just how positive a development it can be to share information more or less freely and to have computer systems that facilitate this sort of openness - capitalizing on people's intrinsic motivation to share and exchange information.

    However, there is a dark side to this, namely the abuse by unscrupulous service providers of personal data - e.g. the recent analysis of app behaviour from the Android Market, Twitter Selling Followers, and Facebook's recent difficulties. This is all nicely summed up for me by this video from Adbusters - "The Product is You". Adbusters may be thinking about TV, but the sentiment applies equally well (if not better) to "free" Internet services:

    When sharing material via the Internet, it's become increasingly popular to use Creative Commons licensing. But which license is appropriate for your material? Would an institutional default recommendation help here? (And who at your institution needs to approve the CC licensing of your material?)  Here's a nice primer from Sue Gallaway on the options for licensing with Creative Commons:
    There are also some cautionary tales to be told around digital preservation (see talk by Brian Kelly below), intellectual property and data liberation - notably the recent spat between Google and Facebook over the latter's refusal to allow users to export their data (try it, and see how far you get!). Ning users were recently asked to start paying for their networks in a last ditch effort to keep the company afloat, which is perhaps better than waking up to discover that the service has simply gone away. Clearly there could be risks associated with (let's say) Web 2.0 for summative assessment and e-Portfolios.

    Onwards to The Sunlit Uplands

    But that's enough doom and gloom. Now, let's consider the potential of this technology. Here's a nice example - using course/module codes as hash tags. At Loughborough our module codes look like '10PHD230' - that's Quantum Computing for final year Physics students in the 2010/2011 academic year, by the way. Quite information dense for eight characters!

    Right now a search for 10PHD230 won't find you anything much, but consider what you find by searching for the likes of #cetis10. I don't know whether our module codes are particularly opaque...  However, it's easy to see that if only for our own purposes they could easily become a sort of universal ID for course related material out on the wider Web (this is Web 2.0, remember). But it's early days yet... [And soon there will be a third hit, once this blog post is indexed ;-]

    Focusing just on Twitter for a moment, here is a nice presentation from David Peter talking about pedagogical uses of the service... (I find the Twitter wall backchannel aspect particularly interesting)Twitter and Teaching and Learning
    View more presentations from David Peter.

    This presentation from Stephen Downes works through the broader "e-Learning 2.0" theme. Note the particular focus on user generated content:

    And here's another presentation from Brian Kelly, this time looking at use of Web 2.0 services to support research - the sections about "fundamentalists" are particularly interesting.

    Advice to Institutions

    I've gathered together a few institutions' policies on Web 2.0/social networking, which you may find interesting as background reading:

    And here are some handy pointers to advice on Web 2.0 policy and preservation from JISC and UKOLN:

    Now for the Audience Participation bit :-)

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