Personal Engagement with Repositories through Social Networking Applications

Archive for July, 2008

Research Study: How is Web 2.0 viewed by academics?

Posted by Nick on July 16, 2008

Drop this here for later:

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Moving forward…

Posted by Nick on July 10, 2008

On the back of the Emerge presentation, and as an earlier adjunct to the Streamline meeting, a group of us sat down on Tuesday to review PERSoNA and think about precisely what tools the project needs to deliver.

A question:

Should we be looking at a web tool that facilitates appropriate social networking and resource sharing that sits outside the repository rather than embed tools within intraLibrary itself?

John began by sketching a very rough outline of the repository projects; I have taken this diagram and tried to flesh it out to more fully represent my own conception of what we are aiming at with our interlinked projects:

This approach to PERSoNA would allow intraLibrary to be configured simply as a repository that we can annexe to our web tool – whatever that may be.

Note: Might a potential problem with this approach be integration with the Web 2.0 technologies and personalisation tools already present in intraLibrary 3.0 (RSS, rating system, user comments, add to favourites)?

Anyway, if this should be the approach that we follow, the crucial questions are perhaps:

  • What sort of tool or tools would be useful enough so that people would naturally engage with them?
  • How could the use of such a tool or tools promote use of the repository?

One idea is to somehow embed the repository and its peripheral infrastructure (i.e. the PERSoNA tool) into the scholarly workflow such that deposit/discovery/sharing of resources is fully integrated into the process of writing and publishing a research paper or producing/repurposing a learning object.

Note: Other projects are exploring similar themes: The EMBED project at Cranfield University aims “to increase understanding of how repositories can be used to support research and learning, integrating them fully into academic processes.”

Dawn suggested a WIKI as a possible solution: it allows collaboration – often essential in research – and could in theory be used to write a research paper which could then automatically be deposited to the repository at the appropriate point in the workflow. Janet, however, was quick to point out that a while a WIKI may be useful to collaborate on research, it is not, in fact, an appropriate technology for writing a research paper citing lack of adequate version control as a major drawback.

Creative suggestions notwithstanding, I’m acutely aware that we really need more user input – what do academics actually want? I still think there is mileage in assessing individual web habits and other factors that contribute to workflow inertia – by interview perhaps?

Janet referred to a post-graduate project that might provide us with a useful opportunity; as I understand, a group of postgraduates hope to produce their own research journal and utilise a sort of informal peer review process to assess quality. Perhaps we can collaborate with the project; a potential user-group to help us develop a useful and usable virtual, social environment that facilitates easy deposit of appropriate material into the repository which is then made available as an e-journal.

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Presentation to the EMERGE community – after the fact (2)

Posted by Nick on July 1, 2008

I’ve just been listening to the recording from the presentation given last week, in my absence, by John Gray. I’m really sorry I missed it as there was some really interesting perspectives arising in the discussion and I must congratulate John on his presentation and making sense of my slides!

I shall try to summarise some of the discussion here but just to recap, John gave an overview of our three related projects and how they link together via a single repository platform (intraLibrary) that we will be using as both an Open Access research archive AND a repository of learning objects (AND, in time, we hope, other digital materials). Traditionally these two main types of material have been stored in seperate systems and, thus far, the uptake of both types of repository has been limited. We hope that the PERSoNA project, through investigating the use of social networking/Web 2.0 technology within and around the repository, will help to promote its use amongst our academic community. I also wanted to look at an example of a successful Web 2.0 “repository” – Slideshare – to see what we could learn and maybe apply to our institutional repository.

For the purposes of this summary I will insert (anonymous) verbatim comments from the text chat – if anyone has any concerns about their IPR please let me know – I’m just working on a take down policy for the repository!

A pertinent place to start might be with a question raised by Isobel who suggested that while the need for a repository was institutionally defined, there was not a great sense that potential users felt any clear need themselves, hence our emphasis on fitting in with folks’ existing workflow.

Janet agreed with this (as do I) with the proviso that, in her view, people really need to see and understand the benefits of such systems before they will commit – chicken and egg paradox. This is certainly the case with repositories dedicated to Open Access and much of my advocacy work to academics will be extolling the benefits of OA. This is THE crucial point, of course, that it is all very well developing new technologies but persuading people of the benefits and then to engage is much more difficult; we will only succeed in engaging users if we map onto what people actually need as individuals.

“we need to address how people work not how we want them to work!”

The statement “Build them and they will come” that I used in the slides has become almost a cliche in the development of Open Access Repositories (of research) and very much typified the first wave of development at the beginning of the noughties with the attitude that OA and self-archiving into an IR is such a good idea and so easy with so many benefits that if we make the technology available, people will use it and while this optimism, in fact, has been found wanting people have “come” to a whole array of Web 2.0 “repositories” with the likes of Slideshare, Flickr and attracting millions of users – including academics. My reluctance to refer to these tools as pure repositories (without the quotation marks) is telling – the point was aptly illustrated when Janet asked whether or not those present actually used a repository. Very few it seemed, and some uncertainty.

“depends whether delicious counts?”

“what about social repositories?”

“Depends what counts as defined as a repository”

When the definition was explicitely expanded to iclude et al, however, many more participants had a smile on their little yellow face and the conclusion seems to be that people are using the “informal” repositories but not the “formal” institutional repositories.

Dawn asked why.

“Formal repositories are tied to publishers’ business models”

“the community” (i.e. There is a community around “informal” repositories but not around “formal” IRs)

“Ease of use”

low threshold – technically”

“easy, organised and available – to manage digital stuff…”

“simple user interface”

no formal channels to follow”


NB. Sharing resources did not seem to be a major factor which is interesting – though it was conceded by a few when prompted!

There was a very interesting verbal contribution from Jim Hensman right at the very end of the session that I can’t really do justice here – if Jim should pass by these parts perhaps he could comment – but his thrust was the complexity of the multiple themes we (as a repository community) are examining and how they are not, perhaps, easily compatible – individual workflow/personalisation; social dimensions/sharing/collective tagging; institutional requirements. This observation was reassuring on a personal level and puts my desperate attempts at constructing complicated fllowcharts into some perspective!

As Jim observed, the Leeds Met repository, Streamline and PERSoNA projects, collectively, give us a rare opportunity to explore some of these cross-cutting themes in a more integrated way than is generally the case.

Posted in EMERGE, Presentation slides, Web habits | Tagged: | 1 Comment »