Igeneric Thoughts Archives: December 2004

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A refreshing dose of consultation

December 21, 2004

It's always welcome when those who preserve resources for the Nation bother to consult the Nation before embarking upon the (expensive) digitisation of said resources...

In this case, they're consulting and offering a trip to London.

If you go there less than me, that's presumably a bonus.

Information from the JISC web site.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 23:23 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Interview with new Director of Creative Commons' “Science Commons”

December 21, 2004

John Wilbanks, the new Director of the Creative Commons' Science Commons, is interviewed in Open Access now.

The abstract states

“Science Commons is a new project exploring legal and technical mechanisms to remove the barriers that inhibit the sharing of scientific information. John Wilbanks has just been appointed as the Executive Director of Science Commons. He talked to Open Access Now about his new job and his aspirations for Science Commons.”

Science Commons aims to provide easier access to a wide range of scholarly literature, much of which is hidden behind unnecessarily complex licensing arrangements.

There are some interesting synergies with activity in the UK, specifically the JISC-funded FAIR Programme and the recent report from a House of Commons Select Committee.

Information from the Creative Commons weblog.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 23:19 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

52% of UK households now online

December 21, 2004

Today's figures from National Statistics suggest that 12,900,000 UK households have Internet access in the home.

Also in the release, 61% of adults in Great Britain had been online at least once in the previous three months, with just over half of them ordering something online.

In October 2004, 34% of adults had never used the Internet, with 43% of those stating that there was nothing on it for them.

It's going to be interesting comparing these figures to those from the detailed research we've commissioned from MORI, due for publication early in the New Year.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 19:51 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

A bold vision for the BBC online presence

December 20, 2004

There's an interesting interview with Ashley Highfield, the BBC's “ebullient” Director of New Media, in today's Guardian.

Thanks to Louise over at City of Bits for bringing it to my attention.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:03 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Making web sites accessible

December 17, 2004

In the UK, as elsewhere, it is a legal requirement that we take reasonable steps to make services accessible to those with a range of disabilities. Between them, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) require that our web offerings meet at least a basic level of accessibility.

Given that, and JISC's ongoing support of the excellent TechDis service, it is disturbing to note recent figures from Headscape which suggest that only 43% of UK colleges and universities achieve the most basic level of web accessibility as defined by the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Thanks to Mike Heyworth at the CBA for drawing this to my attention.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:33 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

e-Government could save large sums of money

December 17, 2004

According to Capgemini, just six of the ODPM-backed local e-gov e-Government initiatives for English local authorities could directly save them £163,000,000 (€236,000,000) every year. If the projects are fully adopted by every English local authority, the savings potentially rise to between £306,000,000 and £476,000,000 each year.

The DM Europe article on this also says

“On top of this, the local authorities, [the report] suggests, could possibly accrue a 'modest' overall level of unquantifiable 'strategic and intangible' benefits, such as more contented staff and improved convenience for customers.” (my emphasis)

Isn't that the real benefit, regardless of whether or not a finance and accountancy consultancy firm can put real cost savings to it in their spreadsheet?

Don't we want better Government, rather than (just) cheaper Government? Better and cheaper is good. But if I can only have one, give me better, please.

Report drawn to my attention in a DM Europe RSS feed, and then located via an earlier piece in The Register.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:08 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Understanding UK priorities for digitisation

December 17, 2004

According to Peter Suber at Open Access News, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC - a Igeneric member) and CURL are funding a joint study to

“help create a national strategy for the ongoing digitising of research materials, by identifying gaps and ensuring that those involved can keep abreast of emerging technologies.”

Employees of UK academic or research libraries are invited to fill in an online questionnaire to inform the work, and the results will doubtless be of benefit beyond the UK university sector.

There is a press release on the JISC web site. They do have an RSS feed, which would have told me this, but my news reader doesn't like it...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:07 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

NHS Direct available via digital televisions

December 16, 2004

Joining other public services such as Direct Gov, NHS Direct is available on the televisions of Sky Digital subscribers in the UK from today, supplementing the existing delivery channels.

NHS Direct is a free, confidential, health advice service. It is available across the UK 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and includes a telephone service and a strong online presence. In Scotland, the service is known as NHS 24.

Alternative digital television systems such as cable or Freeview will be added during 2018.

Story from BBC News, with additional information from NHS Direct.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:04 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Building strategies across organisations: an example from New Zealand

December 16, 2004

Way back in 2002, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand as a guest of Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, the National Library of New Zealand. They had invited me to speak at a National Digital Forum, organised in order to explore the feasibility of cultural organisations across the country working together to deliver their content more effectively.

Although only there for a ridiculously short time (about 30 hours, all told), I really liked what I saw of New Zealand, and it was impressive to see the level of commitment behind what the organisations were attempting, with New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, speaking before me.

Since then, there have been two further fora, and a significant body of work undertaken in understanding and overcoming the barriers between individual organisations.

I also note that the members of the National Digital Forum have released their first public-facing collaborative project, Matapihi.

“This free collaborative service is a window onto the heritage collections of New Zealand's archives, galleries, libraries and museums. Matapihi provides a single point of access for around 50,000 selected images, sounds and objects, and this number will increase as new partner organisations join in the future.”

The ideas behind Matapihi learn from and build upon earlier similar projects, namely Picture Australia and Images Canada, and show some of what is possible when curatorial organisations are able to work together.

Not to pick upon or criticise these three excellent projects in particular, but perusing their copyright and reproduction statements flags a major (and all-to-common) barrier to use and reuse, and it would be interesting to see the extent to which something like a Creative Commons-type licence might usefully be applied in each case. It seems a shame when so much effort is put into getting content out to potential users, to then erect real or perceived barriers through the application of complex, opaque, or site/service-specific usage requirements.

Images Canada, for example, states that

“All images can be reproduced, in print and/or digital format, for the non-commercial purposes listed below. The images must not be altered or manipulated in any way and proper ”Credit“ credit must accompany the images.

Non-commercial purposes:
private study

At first glance, Picture Australia seems to be saying something similar.

“All images from the web site may be reproduced for research or study purposes.”

but then it gets confusing with

“However, images must not be reproduced for commercial purposes, communicated in any way to the public (such as through the reproduction of this material on the Internet) or gathered into a compilation for re-use without the express permission of the copyright owner.” (my emphasis)

Which presumably means I couldn't show you one of their excellent images here, or include one in a non-commercial presentation? How can I show you how good it is, if I can't show you a picture? Anyone who's seen one of my recent presentations will know they're full of pictures... and the source always gets a positive mention. Oh well, guess I won't be using Picture Australia in that way, then, which is a shame. Presumably, too, a school child can use one of the images in their class project, but isn't then allowed to put that project on the school web site?

Returning to Matapihi, it says

“To use an item for any purpose other than research or study or to order a copy, users need to contact the contributing organisation.

Examples of other use include:

putting items on a website or intranet
publishing in a book, journal or other publication
using an item in a display, exhibition, live performance or broadcast
any other public context.

Reproduction fees may apply, and prices will vary from organisation to organisation.”

Of course we need to protect the rights of artists and content owners, but can't we be a little more joined up about it, a little more helpful, and stop inviting people to come and get our content, before scaring them off with rules, threats, and the spectre of potential charges?

If we want to unlock the wealth of our institutions, and give some of it back to all those people who have actually paid quite a lot for it already, we need to get much better at this. Otherwise our users will just go to Google's Image Search, or to the increasingly comprehensive sites of interested enthusiasts, many of whom provide much better images of our content than we do (and some of whom must surely be doing so by worrying an awful lot less about rights management, buying postcards of objects from our shops, digitising them, and sticking them online!). Such abuses, if they go on, are clearly wrong, but we don't help our cause with some of the hoops we make users jump through in order to use 'our' content. Of course they're going to go somewhere else that offers them better images, easier.

So, let's have more good content released through services such as Matapihi, Picture Australia, Images Canada, or SCRAN. But let's work with the institutions and with the policy-setting agencies above them in the chain in order to address the mess that is online rights management. Let's actually allow people to use the content; it's theirs as much as it's ours.

The BBC is taking some bold steps in this area with their Creative Archive. The pilot should be out next year, with a Creative Commons-inspired licence that explicitly permits download, use, editing, and sharing of BBC television and radio content. Others can do this, too.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:50 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Defending against the comment spammers

December 14, 2004

I agree with The Independent's Charles Arthur. In an article in the paper, and repeatedly on his blog, Charles complains about the flood of pointless drivel bombarding web log comment systems the world over.

I used to think e-mail spam was bad (until I got Mail on the Mac, and then the problem largely went away), but it's nothing compared to this shower. It's not the odd message. It's hundreds. When they come, I tend to get between 500 and 1,000 in an hour or two. Then all will be quiet for a few weeks, and then another batch rains down.

Why do they bother? I don't read their pointless postings. I don't let my readers read their pointless postings. I delete them. Quickly. By the hundred. Yet still they come, and every time one tries to get onto this blog (they never get through), I get an e-mail to tell me. That's an awful lot of e-mail, and there's always the possibility that my mass-deleting exercise will catch a genuine poster by mistake.

So, I've decided to take drastic action and lock down the comment area on this site.

From today, unfortunately, anyone who wants to post a comment will be required to sign in first. The procedure uses TypeKey, and is reasonably painless. But it's still a barrier between this site and those whom I really do want to be able to post to it. When you're asked to sign in, the 'info' link points to a new page, explaining why this has been done. No personal details are passed back to me or to the site, unless you explicitly opt to permit it.

For all of you, sorry. For all the comment spammers out there; go somewhere else, and leave us alone!

I'd welcome thoughts on this step, either in the comment area for this post (after you sign in, of course!), or by e-mail...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 20:19 | Make or Read Comments(1) | TrackBack (0)

Google working with academic libraries to digitise books

December 14, 2004

In a move related to Google Scholar (providing access to scholarly material online, often via a commercial publisher or content aggregator) and Google Print (allowing users to search printed texts, usually with a view to then selling them a copy of the physical book), C-Net News discusses Google's expected announcement of a partnership with a number of leading academic libraries to digitise - and make available - a significant body of older printed works.

According to the article, Google is today expected to announce partnerships with five major libraries, including Oxford University's. The different libraries are allowing Google access to varying quantities of material. Oxford is believed to be providing access to all of their books published on or before 1900.

SearchEngine Watch also covers the story, and reminds us that other people are digitising books, including Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. It's potentially fundamentally different, though, to have content from those books coming back in results from your search engine.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:37 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Valley of the First Iron Masters - national resources, made local

December 13, 2004

Earlier this evening, I spoke (briefly) at the launch of a new Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, the Valley of the First Iron Masters. Julian Richards, of BBC television's Meet the Ancestors fame, formally launched the project in Hull, home of the multi-disciplinary team behind the site.

According to the site,

“The valley of the River Foulness in East Yorkshire, UK, has become known as 'The Valley of the First Iron Masters'. It is an area rich in archaeology with finds dating from the Palaeolithic period onwards. In the Iron Age the valley was home to one of Britain's oldest and largest prehistoric iron industries. In Roman times it was an area of settlements, villas and pottery industries.”

The site provides an accessible means for the public to interact with the archives of an archaeological landscape survey spanning more than twenty years, and is a good example of one way in which technical data and scholarly analysis can be delivered in an engaging and approachable manner.

Features include an interactive map, 'Guides' from the past, images of artefacts, and the sort of 3D reconstructions and fly-by's that historical programming on television has led us to expect, all of which combines to create a far more approachable view of this area than the dry archive from which the site has been constructed.

The event took place in the HIVE, a very interesting visualization facility at the University of Hull.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 19:14 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

First element of the People's Network Service available for testing

December 13, 2004

Igeneric member the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) today announced the availability of the first part of their People's Network Service, building upon the sound foundations of the People's Network itself.

The Online Enquiry Service allows enquirers to enter a question and have it answered by reference librarians from one of (currently) 29 library authorities across England.

It is hoped that, by the end of 2018, all 149 English library authorities will be working together to share the load, delivering a consistently high quality service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Over the next few months, the Enquiry Service will be joined by a Discovery Service and a Reading Service. The former will offer personalised access to a range of online resources, and the latter will support reading development for adults and others through provision of reading groups, etc.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:49 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

96% of Government services to be available online by 2018

December 13, 2004

The Cabinet Office today issued a press release, reporting that 96% of UK Government services will be available online by the end of 2018, with 75% of them already there.

Way back in 2000, e-Government: a strategic framework for public services in the Information Age set the 2018 target, stating that 100% of government services should be available online by that date.

In the intervening period, much work has been done, and there has been a welcome shift from simply e-enabling towards more meaningful measures of success such as that the services be used, useful, or capable of creating efficiencies.

Item picked up on a Wired-GOV release.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:25 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

NHS uses Google to improve searches

December 13, 2004

The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) has quietly added Google to their web site, allowing users to search over 60,000 documents from sites across the nhs.uk domain.

This functionality is offered by Google's new Search Appliance, and gives those used to Google-style searching a familiar interface whilst ensuring that only authoritative results are returned.

As well as returning all documents relevant to the search term, the NHS Search initially offers a set of “Suggested Links”; resources most likely to usefully assist the searcher. The BBC does something similar on their search engine, and it seems a much more helpful use of search engine intelligence than those annoying ads that appear on the main search engines.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:52 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle speaks on C-SPAN on Monday night

December 12, 2004

Brewster Kahle, director of the Internet Archive, will be speaking at the Library of Congress on Monday night. His talk, “Universal Access to Knowledge”, will be web-cast via C-SPAN and archived for subsequent viewing by those of us on this side of the Atlantic who don't fancy sitting in front of our computers for an hour from 23:30!

I've seen Brewster speak before, and can highly recommend this.

This talk is the latest in a series I've mentioned before...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:29 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

Google tries to anticipate your search

December 12, 2004

CNET News draws my attention to the quiet launch of Google Suggest, a developing service which attempts to complete your search term as it is typed, in a similar fashion to the auto-complete feature found in Word and similar products.

I particularly like the way that Google shows you the number of hits likely to be returned for each term, in a manner very similar to that employed in Adiuri's faceted classification technology (an integral part of our developing Place demonstrator).

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:03 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

BBC provides information on how people use their site

December 12, 2004

The ever-interesting Martin Belam draws my attention to two new features on the BBC homepage.

The first is Popular and New, which shows the sorts of uses that are currently being made of content on the BBC site. The aggregation of topics presented (Latest News Headlines, Top Searches, Most listened to shows, etc) is a little odd, but still provides insights into use of the UK's largest website.

The other is a set of (currently) ten “guides”; pages which pull content on a theme from across the BBC web presence. Martin points to Christmas as one example, where the BBC has a large body of content, but no dedicated area on the site. I'd also pick out The Romans as an interesting example.

It's not clear whether this gathering process is automated, or undertaken by a human editor. If the latter it's interesting. If the former, fascinating!

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:43 | Make or Read Comments(1) | TrackBack (0)

“Cyberinfrastructure” committee reports in the USA

December 12, 2004

The final report of the National Science Foundation's Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure has just been released in the United States.

The report explores the implications of fundamentally changing the way in which 'big' science is undertaken through leveraging the capabilities of a coherent and robust Network, and the compute and data resources that it joins together.

Quoting from the Executive Summary (PDF download),

“The Panel's overarching finding is that a new age has dawned in scientific and engineering research, pushed by continuing progress in computing, information, and communication technology, and pulled by the expanding complexity, scope, and scale of today's challenges. The capacity of this technology has crossed thresholds that now make possible a comprehensive ”cyberinfrastructure“ on which to build new types of scientific and engineering knowledge environments and organizations and to pursue research in new ways and with increased efficacy.”

Information from an NSF e-mail alert.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:29 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

DigiCULT report on a future for digital heritage activity

December 9, 2004

Back in October, I mentioned an exercise to paint a picture of what cultural heritage professionals think their online offering will be in a decade from now.

The DigiCULT team have just published the result which, quoting from their summary:

“...summarises the results of an expedition into the possible future of digital heritage in the next 10-15 years. It is based on contributions of researchers, heritage experts and professionals to a DigiCULT online forum as well as the project's ongoing research. The report is intended as a navigation tool for boards and directors of heritage organisations and research centres, IT project managers, and curators of digital collections, virtual exhibitions and environments. It cautions that the next waves of innovative ICT systems and applications may significantly shape and re-shape the digital landscape in which heritage organisations reside. For many organisations this could result in becoming 'blind spots' in an emerging ambient intelligence environment. As the places and roles of digital heritage in this environment need to be discussed and prepared, the report also gives recommendations which may be useful for ensuring the creation of a thriving and inclusive future digital heritage space.”

The report is available in HTML and as a PDF.

Announcement from the DigiCULT RSS feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:19 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

BT claims 40% of UK population will lack net access at home in 2025

December 8, 2004

According to a piece on the BBC News site today, a new report from BT paints a gloomy picture with regard to increasing take-up of internet access in the home much beyond current levels.

The report, a copy of which I haven't managed to locate online, apparently suggests that only about 10% of the population will make the switch from “have nots” to “have nets” over the next 20 years. This leaves a massive 23,000,000 people in the UK without access to the growing range of online services - at least from home. The BBC article doesn't say whether or not the report considers all of the other places (public libraries, their place of learning or work, internet cafes, etc) where these apparent refuseniks might engage.

The work we're funding MORI to do for us, which will be published early in 2018, also identifies a cohort for whom the internet holds no perceived benefits. The final analysis isn't completed, but the initial results would appear to suggest a smaller proportion of the population in this category, even today.

13 December Update: Jack Schofield over at Online has located the report. BT have (finally!) put it on their site. As Jack says, better late than never. I still don't believe it, though.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:06 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Museum web site for children nominated for a BAFTA

December 7, 2004

The 24 Hour Museum's site for children, Show Me, has been nominated for a BAFTA.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards are highly prestigious, with their awards to films often described as the UK's Oscars...

News from the 24 Hour Museum's news feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:29 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Online Community a Policy Tool?

December 3, 2004

I should have mentioned this one earlier, especially as I was there!

IPPR's Manifesto for a Digital Britain project held a seminar last week to explore the extent to which Online Communities might assist, empower, challenge or change government interaction with the Citizen.

Chris Batt, Chief Executive of Igeneric member MLA (and Chair of the Igeneric Committee), spoke, and Will Davies of IPPR provided a thought-provoking paper (PDF).

The news has been picked up by the BBC, amongst others...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 16:17 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

A new portal searches the archaeology of Europe

December 3, 2004

This feels like a very ADS-heavy day of posting, but then they have been very busy, they do some good stuff, and they take the time to tell me about it!

The ADS is a partner in a European project called ARENA (Archaeological Records of Europe - Networked Access), along with agencies from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Romania and Poland.

They've just released the ARENA Portal, which cross-searches holdings from all six partners and displays some innovative touches worthy of mention.

The interface appears fully multi-lingual, and has made some interesting attempts to cater not just for the different languages, but also for different notions of time to reflect the fact that 'Roman', for example, spans very different dates in each of the six countries (indeed, the concept is only relevant in three).

As well as time-based searches, the Portal supports subject and place-based querying, with a unified high-level subject list applied to records from all of the partners, and a reasonably intuitive map-based search interface. I especially like the ability to overlay the map with information on the density of data available in the area you've selected, although it would be nice to be able to pan around neighbouring areas of the map, rather than having to move back up to a less detailed view first.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:42 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Adding value to Google Scholar with Open URL

December 3, 2004

Andy Powell at UKOLN has delivered another gem, building upon a piece of work by Peter Binkley at the University of Alberta in Canada.

As discussed last month, Google Scholar is a new offering from Google which searches scholarly material. Results from one of these searches often point to access-controlled copies of journal articles, and may fail to cope adequately with the 'appropriate copy' problem. Published articles from scholarly journals often exist online in more than one place, and access to one of those copies is often available to members of universities and similar institutions through an institutional subscription with a content aggregator like Ingenta. If Google Scholar returns the 'wrong' copy, the user may be presented with an authentication challenge they cannot meet, or a charge that they need not have paid.

Peter's solution is a simple extension to the increasingly popular Firefox web browser, which adds a link to an OpenURL resolver to results returned by Google Scholar. This allows users at institutions with an active resolver to be directed to the 'appropriate copy'; the one for which their institution has already negotiated access on their behalf.

Andy's modification is to create a version of this for the UK's OpenURL router service, which should work for most UK-based users. If your institution doesn't have its own resolver, the router will direct you to LitLink at MIMAS or getCopy at EDINA.

To get the tool, launch Firefox and direct it to http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/distributed-systems/openurl/googlescholar/googlescholaropenurl.xpi, then follow the instructions.

Andy's announcement came via the jisc-development mailing list. See also a post at TechnoBiblio and one at the Distant Librarian for more on Peter's original tool.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 14:30 | Make or Read Comments(1) | TrackBack (1)

An always-on network changes things

December 3, 2004

BBC News yesterday covered Demos' publication of a report into the ways in which an always-on Broadband connection changes how people act and interact online.

The report, Broadband Britain: The End Of Asymmetry?, was commissioned by AOL and looks at the way in which a permanently available fast connection leads users to draw upon Internet resources in new ways. They would appear to interact more (see also an earlier entry about Pew research in the USA), and to spend more time online; twice as long as dial-up users, on average.

It will be interesting to compare these with the results of our work with MORI, due for publication next month.

Demos' report itself does not appear to be available online at present.

Thanks to Philip Pothen at JISC for pointing this out to me.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 14:03 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

Delivering content to the user...

December 3, 2004

...rather than making them come to you!

One of the changes for which the Igeneric and its partners continue to advocate is around diminishing the need for those interested in 'your' content to have to find you, visit your site, and then locate the items of interest to them.

This is clearly a complex area, and one beset by concepts of brand, maintenance of control and a perception that it runs counter to current metrics from funders, obsessed as so many of them are with measuring hits on websites as a demonstration of success.

Despite these obstacles, though, it would appear to be a vital part of any strategy to broaden access to resources, or to assist a member of the public in building a coherent picture of their topic of interest, based upon the holdings of various organisations.

A Common Information Environment member, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), is currently funding one project in this area. Contextual Resource Evaluation Environment (CREE) is a collaboration between the University of Hull, the Archaeology Data Service, EDINA, the University of Oxford, and Newark & Sherwood College. One of the areas it is addressing is around the production and dissemination of 'portlets'; small Web Services suitable for deploying in portals to deliver aspects of a service (such as the ADS Catalogue) to the user of the portal, in the portal. One of these portlets might conceivably respect a user's personalisation details from the host portal, feed results from one portlet to another, etc.

As a by-product of this richer work on CREE, the ADS has also produced a simple HTML code fragment, suitable for inserting onto any web site. The code permits a user to select the type of search they wish to perform, enter a query, and launch a search upon the ADS Catalogue itself. The user is directed to a page of the ADS' standard terms and conditions and, upon accepting them, receives the result of their query.

This is extremely simple, but also potentially powerful in allowing access to the catalogue from a huge number of new locations. The University of Glasgow's Archaeology Department, for example, includes this function on their own pages, and there's no reason for others not to do likewise.

Providing the capability to access all of a resource from other places has value. The real potential of an application such as this, however, is in tailoring access in order to more directly cater to the needs of the site upon which this interface is offered.

Most simply, the interface can be modified in order to provide access to a subset of the ADS Catalogue's holdings. This catalogue contains a large number of collections contributed by organisations across the UK, and beyond. Some of these organisations deposit their content with the ADS for archival purposes, whilst others provide material expressly so that it can be seen and used. For these organisations, especially, the ability to provide access to their own material from their own website has many advantages. Here, for example, the interface carries different branding, and the scope of the search has been redefined to only search records from the Defence of Britain project, held by the ADS.

Here, the same interface can be seen as it appears on their website. It might equally appear on the site of the organisation responsible for funding the project, or on the site of other relevant organisations such as the Imperial War Museum.

A similar model offers great potential in delivering content to organisations less directly linked with the topic matter. VisitScotland, for example, probably has little interest in offering access to the ADS catalogue. They might, though, see the value of allowing prospective visitors to Scotland to search for information on historic sites and monuments to be seen in the Scottish landscape. The English Regional Agencies, funded by another Igeneric member (MLA), also probably have little interest in providing access to the totality of the ADS catalogue. An easily installed search function on their home page, allowing visitors to their site to search for content from across all of the local authorities within each of their boundaries, though, becomes quite compelling. Both of these become easy to achieve using technology such as this. It simply requires a change in order to restrict the subset of the catalogue that is searched by geography (all of Scotland in the first example, or all of the local government units within a single MLA Regional Agency in the second) rather than by collection.

The same could be done by period (a search of Roman material held in the ADS catalogue, appearing on the web site of a BBC programme about the Romans for schoolchildren) and, presumably, along any other lines in which a set of criteria can be pre-defined which meaningfully restrict searches to some coherent subset of the whole.

The ADS is one of only a few organisations who have taken the step to actually provide this functionality (see this earlier post for another). I understand that doing so was relatively straightforward for them, and look forward to seeing other organisations step forward to similarly unlock 'their' content from the heavy chains of their own web site! The ADS tools are available for download and re-use here.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:35 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

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