Igeneric Thoughts Archives: Standards

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DfES e-Learning Strategy Published


March 15, 2018

Wired-GOV reports that the Department for Education & Skills (DfES) has published its keenly anticipated e-Learning Strategy for education providers across England.

Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children's services is available to download [as a PDF] from DfES and, despite the name, applies to colleges, universities and lifelong learning as well as to 'children'.

More once I've read it...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:47 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

RSS in the Library, courtesy of Talis and Northumbria


February 16, 2018

In Project Bluebird, UK-based library systems vendor Talis is exploring the ways in which libraries and their patrons communicate.

RSS is clearly one potential communication channel, and Talis is working with the University of Northumbria on a pilot. They've produced a white paper, Personalised RSS for Library - User Interaction [PDF download], which includes further details on the pilot.

News from the Talis RSS News feed. Also covered on their Blog, Panlibus.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:20 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

OCLC seeking help in their Terminologies project


February 10, 2018

Over on one of the blogs from OCLC, there's a post in which Susan Westberg invites terminology-using museums, archives and libraries to get involved in an interesting terminology project upon which they are embarking.

Quoting from the message,

“The intention of the pilot is to provide a means to access and search thesauri you currently use (be it in paper or web formats) in one place in an online environment. During the pilot, you would search, copy and paste terms from a variety of thesauri into the bibliographic records you are creating or updating,using the Connexion browser and the Research pane available with MS Office 2003. This allows you to expedite adding valid access points to bibliographic records rather than keying them in. Pasting the text into the MARC text area does include the correct tags and subfields.
The list of potential thesauri is:
gsafd – Guidelines on subject access to individual works of fiction, drama, etc. (ALA)
gmgpc lctgm – Thesaurus of graphic materials, TGM I & II (LC)
radfg – Radio form / genre terms guide (LC)
mim – Moving image materials: genre terms (LC)
ngl – Newspaper Genre List (University of Washington)
aat, tgn, ULAN – Getty vocabularies (subsets only): AAT (Art & Architecture Thesaurus), TGN (Thesaurus of Geographic Names), and ULAN (Union List of Artists’ Names)
mesh – Medical Subject Headings (NLM)”

Interested institutions should read the full post, then get in touch with Susan.

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

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 (3)

OCLC's take on shared or common services


November 11, 2004

Lorcan Dempsey blogs the pre-print release of a new paper, Metadata switch: thinking about some metadata management and knowledge organization in the changing research and learning landscape (PDF download).

The paper discusses work under the various strands of OCLC's Metadata Switch activity, which seeks to build and test a series of modular Web Services designed to allow third parties to add value to metadata they are creating, using, or repurposing.

Examples of this enrichment include, for example, submitting a Dublin Core record to a Web Service, and having it return a MARC formatted version of the same record for inclusion in a library catalogue, or submitting the name of an individual and having a set of possible people returned from a name authority file.

As a holder of vast quantities of data (in WorldCat) and supporting tools (the Dewey classification or Name Authority files, for example), OCLC is well placed to build and offer tools such as these in a way that individual libraries could not.

In many ways, these services are similar to some of the ideas being discussed within JISC for Shared Services; machine and human-accessible pieces of core infrastructure accessible to applications built by third parties, and intended to add value to what they do by offering common solutions (authentication and authorisation, for example) in a small number of locations.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:42 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Declaring rights over metadata via the Open Archives Protocol


November 4, 2004

Stephen Downes over at OLDaily draws my attention to a new draft document from the Open Archives Initiative.

The draft specification illustrates how one might embed links within OAI Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) metadata in order to refer to an external encoding of rights declarations such as those offered by Creative Commons.

As the document says,

“The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) provides a mechanism for data providers to expose metadata for harvesting over the Web. This metadata is disseminated in OAI-PMH records. Metadata harvested from one or more data providers using the OAI-PMH can be used by service providers for the creation of services (e.g. search, browse) based on the harvested data.

Data providers might want to associate rights expressions with the metadata to indicate how it may be used, shared, and modified after it has been harvested. This specification defines how rights information pertaining to the metadata should be included in responses to OAI-PMH requests”

The specification is neutral as to the actual system of rights expressions used, but demonstrates the concepts using Creative Commons.

Item from the OLDaily RSS feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 08:21 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (4)

Lorcan Dempsey is blogging...


October 31, 2004

Lorcan Dempsey, VP for Research at OCLC (and previously Director of UKOLN, amongst other things) now has a blog.

Thanks for letting me know, Lorcan (and for the plug) - although I now see that the news is also being carried on the OCLC Research newsfeed...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:06 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (3)

Open Source ok for Government...


October 29, 2004

A number of sites have been covering two recent additions to the Open Source debate from the UK Government.

Firstly, the e-Government Unit has released version 2.0 of its Government policy on the use of Open Source Software within the UK government. This document describes policies which affect the whole of the UK public sector... and impinge upon all of those who have dealings with Government.

Secondly, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has released a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of open source software.

“The report shows that Open Source software is rapidly maturing, offers significant potential benefits to government and should be actively considered alongside proprietary alternatives. It concludes that decisions should be based on a holistic assessment of future needs, taking into account total cost of ownership, with proper consideration of both proprietary and open source solutions.”

I'll give credit for drawing both to my attention to the RSS feeds of the JISC-funded OSSWatch, which is doing some very valuable work in this area.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:57 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Thinking about Trust


October 19, 2004

A common complaint when consulting with potential and actual users of online services relates to Trust or, sometimes, Quality. It is almost impossible, they argue, to effectively gauge whether any given Web site is authoritative, reliable, or backed by any organisation of repute. Even where the maintaining organisation is apparent, it is difficult for users less knowledgeable about a topic to know how trustworthy they might be.

There are exceptions, of course, with a significant majority of UK users aware of the British Library or English Heritage, say, and prepared to treat content found via their sites with a degree of trust.

MLA's David Dawson and I are scoping a piece of work for the Igeneric, with a view to promoting a “kite mark”-like scheme for sites meeting a number of commonly agreed criteria.

In scoping this work, we've already identified an existing Quality Mark for (legal services information) sites, from the UK's Legal Services Commission. There's also guidance (MS Word file) from the JISC-funded Quality Assurance Focus run by AHDS and UKOLN, and a proposed specification (PDF file) from the EU-funded MINERVA project.

Is anyone aware of anything else that might be relevant?

Ideally we're after a scheme that is low maintenance, in which interested sites mostly self-validate (along similar lines to a Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) rating of a site's accessibility). There will need to be some checks in place, presumably, to prevent serious abuse and devaluation of the Mark. There will also need to be work done to promote the Mark to potential implementers, and to those information seekers at whom its message is aimed.

We'll be presenting our preliminary findings to a meeting of the Forum for Network Coordination in London in November.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:01 | Make or Read Comments(1) | TrackBack (0)

MLA seeks proposals to build components of the People's Network Service


October 6, 2004

The Museums Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) yesterday released two Invitations to Tender for parts of the emerging People's Network Service in England.

The first ITT concerns an online reading group service for adult readers in England (PDF file), and the second is for a comprehensive “Discovery Service”, capable of locating information and resources relevant to the searcher yet located in a variety of repositories (PDF file). This Discovery Service enshrines many of the goals being addressed by the Common Information Environment activity, of which MLA are active members.

MLA are using a two-stage procurement process for the Discovery Service, and are currently asking potential suppliers to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire and return it by 2 November 2004.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 18:29 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

UK version of Creative Commons launched


October 4, 2004

Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig spoke today at the launch of a UK version of the increasingly popular Creative Commons licence. This licence, importantly, takes a very different view to protecting rights owners in that the emphasis is upon outlining what actions a user is allowed to take rather than starting from the perspective of restricting use.

The licence is being used by the BBC for their Creative Archive, will shortly be applied to the Igeneric site and blogs, and is attracting increasing levels of interest around the world.

Several types of licence exist, depending upon whether the licenser wishes to allow commercial use, the creation of derivative works, etc, and each of these has a simple name, a short summary page online (the Commons Deed), and links to the more comprehensive human or machine-readable legalese. This web site and associated blogs, for example, will probably be licenced under an Attribution licence, with a summary page like this and (US law in this example) legalese like this.

Lessig is, amongst other things, Chair of the Creative Commons activity, and spoke about the importance of sharing and retelling throughout our culture. He recognised the way in which technology had made this easier, but pointed to the need to reinforce the right for all of us to participate in this “Digital Remix”, and not to be constrained through unreasonably increased protectionism on the part of a few rights holders in the Digital Age. He presented a number of powerful, compelling, and funny examples to support his point, recognising the importance of defending the rights of creators, whilst not overreacting by criminalising so much of what all of us do every day.

Lessig showed a short film to explain the Creative Commons, which outlined the fact that the Creative Commons licence exists to let rights owners pre-emptively and explicitly permit certain uses of their work, without any potential re-user having to contact the rights owner or their intermediary in order to request permission. The rights owner still holds Copyright, and has all the protections they previously had. The re-user is able to continue with their task, safe in the knowledge that they are permitted to do so, and without wasting time and money to enquire.

Who loses (other than the rights clearance agencies and their lawyers)?

Under the label of the Science Commons, the Creative Commons project is now active in the open access publishing arena, exploring the use of Creative Commons licences on scholarly publications and other academic works. Lessig quoted the example of the Public Library of Science, which is applying Creative Commons licences to their articles.

Damian Tambini from the University of Oxford then discussed the work that they have been doing on translating the existing Creative Commons licences for use in the UK.

The new UK (English law, presumably) version of the licence joins the original US version plus others from Brazil, Finland, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands, with a number more in preparation. The finished UK licence will be available on the Creative Commons site from 1 November 2004.

Item written in the auditorium as Lessig spoke, and posted over GPRS.

Creative Commons License
This post is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:28 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Piece on Creative Commons and BBC Creative Archive in Media Guardian


September 21, 2004

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing draws my attention to a piece in the Media Guardian [free registration required] in which Becky Hogge takes a look at the BBC's exciting Creative Archive project and talks to Stanford's Lawrence Lessig about the Creative Commons licence that is part of what makes it so paradigm-changing.

Thousands of hours of BBC footage, rights cleared so that you can view it it, share it, and reuse it yourself in a range of non-commercial ways. The first tranche of content should be available to view in the Autumn.

Article posted - eventually! - from a train whizzing up the East Coast mainline, courtesy of GNER's disappointingly flaky on-train Wi-fi network. Nice idea, but I'm not paying for it again until it works.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 18:32 | Make or Read Comments(1) | TrackBack (1)

Opening up information


August 26, 2004

One of the issues often raised in the context of the Common Information Environment is that of allowing access to information and resources through multiple channels, and in ways suited to the user and their needs rather than to the providing organisation(s).

I was in Edinburgh earlier this week, and spent some time with SCRAN. Amongst a range of interesting activities with which they are engaged, they offer some examples of exactly what I mean.

Their content, largely the result of some £10,000,000 of public funding through the Millennium Commission, is available on their own web site. There, users can search for items and group them in different and interesting ways as ‘albums’. These albums can be disclosed to others so, for example, a class teacher could prepare albums of relevant material for their class.

The SCRAN database also exists as a Z39.50 target. This means that it’s available for searching alongside resources from related organisations, as demonstrated by HEIRNET’s HEIRPORT system.

Content from the SCRAN database is also offered up via services branded and delivered by a range of other agencies involved in heritage, tourism, and related areas.

Finally (for this post, anyway), the ability to search SCRAN’s database can be dropped into almost any web site, anywhere, thanks to a small snippet of code.



send detailsclear details

With their new web site coming, and a range of activities that seem wholly in line with the Igeneric vision, I look forward to seeing much more from this excellent resource, which really seems to have grasped the idea that the end user should not need to know that SCRAN - or their website - exists in order to make use of quality SCRAN-managed content.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 17:04 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Personalising the online experience that we offer


July 23, 2004

I forgot to mention this work, which was published a week or so ago.

Nicky Ferguson, Seb Schmoller and Neil Smith were commissioned by the JISC to look at the place for personalisation within the services offered by the JISC. Their completed report is now online and makes for interesting reading; and not just for the JISC, but for everyone interested in personalising the information they present to users.

In the context of Demos’ work around personalised engagement with public service, current Government interest in “choice”, and Igeneric ambitions towards user-focussed integration of existing services, various types of Personalisation are going to be important. It will be interesting to see whether public sector experiences can counter the rather negative image that personalisation now has in the private sector (with the notable exception of Amazon, of course).

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:11 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Understanding Search...


July 4, 2004

I've just found this fascinating piece, A Day in the Life of BBCi Search, written by Martin Belam at the BBC, who should know.

There are a number of interesting pieces of evidence in the article. The one I found hardest to believe was that only one in twelve searches have incorrect spelling. Really? Does this say something about the users of BBC online services, or about my lack of faith in users' ability to spell?

The follow-up piece, How Search can help you understand your audience is also good, taking a look at how services might be improved.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:54 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

An easy way to get RSS feeds onto your website


June 25, 2004

Feedroll offers a free service that allows you to easily insert any RSS or ATOM feed straight into a bog-standard website, simply by cutting and pasting a little bit of Javascript.

The site even allows you a high degree of control over the look and feel of the feed. Very nice.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:55 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

BBC and Creative Commons...


May 27, 2004

A couple of places have been covering the news that the BBC's exciting new Creative Archive will use a Creative Commons licence to cover who (most people) can do what (quite a lot, really) with the material (audio-visual snippets from the BBC's vast archive).

This is a great step because, as the article says, the licence explains how the content can be used rather than coming from the usual direction of saying what you're not allowed to do.

I wonder what scope there might be for slotting some of the stuff into the Igeneric's upcoming demonstrator...?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:42 | Make or Read Comments(0)

Resource Discovery Network uses SRW


April 15, 2004

Z39.50 (or ISO 23950) has been around for a while. It's pretty complex (I tried to explain it here a few years ago), and has never really moved beyond its core market in library management systems.


SRW is an effort that takes many of the underlying search concepts from Z39.50, and then implements them in a way that a web developer might understand; XML, Web Services, etc.

The JISC-funded Resource Discovery Network (RDN), amongst other things they do, now offers an SRW interface to their database of descriptions of some 80,000 'quality' internet resources.

The Web Services Description Language (WSDL) declaration of the service is at http://www.rdn.ac.uk/webservices/wsdl/rdn-srw.wsdl.

SRW is very interesting, merging the power and flexibility of Z39.50 searches with the skills and approaches of the Internet generation. I look forward to seeing many more implementations like this one from the RDN, and well done Monica!

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 20:36 | Make or Read Comments(0)


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