How project SWORD restored my faith in educational technology

At the JISC CETIS Metadata and Digital Repositories and Educational Content SIG meeting at the University of Strathclyde yesterday we heard about a number of interesting projects, but it was project SWORD and Julie Allinson’s very clear presentation that restored my faith in educational technology and the ability of educational technologists to work with and build upon existing dare I even say ‘main stream’ technology rather than to reinvent it or make it overly complex.

“SWORD (Simple Web-service Offering Repository Deposit) will take forward the Deposit protocol developed by a small working group as part of the JISC Digital Repositories Programme by implementing it as a lightweight web-service in four major repository software platforms: EPrints, DSpace, Fedora and IntraLibrary.”

The project looked at a range of existing publishing protocols and evaluated these against the project’s aims. And do you know what they concluded? They concluded the Atom Publishing Format and Protocol was the best fit for the project’s requirements. True, there will be some proposed extensions to the protocol but each repository that adopts the APP as part of the project will accept native APP requests to deposit materials.

This is great news and a smart move I think. There are millions of APP devices in people’s pockets able to capture and create content since Nokia adopted APP in most of its newer phones as part of its Lifeblog application (link to PDF Nokia spec). These devices and many others besides as well as desktop and web-based applications currently deposit their content into informal repositories. Soon they will be able to deposit into formal or institutional repositories and who knows, the web 2.0 revolution in content production may arrive on campus.

Escape from Glasgow and close shave in London

glasgowairportaflame.jpgI was presenting at a very interesting JISC CETIS meeting at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow yesterday. More about that later. But the news today is that a Jeep Cherokee was apparently deliberately set on fire and crashed into the main entrance of the airport, the very door that I had walked through less than 24 hours earlier. I knew I was taking a chance talking about repositories at a CETIS Metadata and Digital Repositories meeting, but I had felt that my talk had gone down better than that 😉

More worryingly I was also giving a presentation in London on Thursday, the day they found two cars packed with explosives elsewhere in the city. I hope it’s not my presentation skills that are triggering this wave of attacks. Thankfully though nobody has been hurt in either incident.

Repositories everywhere

Some people may think from comments I’ve made that I am against repositories, or don’t see their value. Not so, and quite the opposite in fact. I see repositories everywhere, or at least places that store content in a format that’s available for others to discover and use. Only most people, me included, probably wouldn’t call them as such. I think the reason is because a ‘repository’ suggests something or a service you have to visit or go to to find content. However for many people that are using content produced by others, the content comes to them. By previously identifying what I’m interested in and by setting up the right kinds of subscription service more of the same can come to me without any effort on my part via RSS content syndication. RSS is shifting the point of engagement with repositories away from the remote site and more on to the desktop. It’s a bit like having the paper boy delivery your Sunday paper rather than you having to go and collect it (it’s Sunday morning now so excuse the weak analogy).

One of the desktop apps that I uses most days is a very good RSS aggregator, NetNewsWire. By using NNW stuff comes to me. Not just the latest lolcats and posts from my buddies’ weblogs, but all kinds of stuff. A snap shot this morning includes the latest publications from a couple of dozen academic journals (thanks to the excellent Zetoc), a half dozen ‘proper’ academic repository saved searches (including JORUM), a dozen saved searched from a bibliographic database (thanks to PubMed), PodCasts containing interactive multimedia e-learning content (not just video/audio) the latest discussion amongst the students from my course module’s discussion forum, and loads more useful information before even getting to weblog entries (which are mini repositories, or at least content management systems in their own right). In short much of what I’m interested in comes to me rather than me having to go and fetch it.

So I see repositories everywhere, but I seldom think of them as such. I just know what content I’m interested and when I find it, increasingly I can register my interest in getting more of the same by subscribing to an RSS feed. The smart academic repositories are already wise to this and offer content syndication via RSS. Are these web 2.0 repositories? Really, who cares, but the others will ignore this shift in what it is to be a repository at their peril.

In the future we the people will be web 2.0 ready

A year ago this month I wrote the edublog simile generator. I’ve not sought its wisdom for some time but as I’ve been struggling with some edublogging nonsense recently I thought I’d look it up to get some inspiration. It’s still amusingly relevant as the first simile I got was “In the future we the people will be web 2.0 ready”.