August 2010

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!