Personal Engagement with Repositories through Social Networking Applications

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 »

MSc Dissertation: questionnaire

Posted by Nick on June 30, 2008

As part of her MSc Information Studies course, Leeds Met student Beth Hall is undertaking a dissertation investigating disciplinary differences in opinion of and use of open access repositories by research-active academic staff and postgraduate students.

Beth’s work will also provide useful information for the development of the Leeds Met repository and we would be very grateful if you could spend a few minutes  completing her questionnaire (Leeds Met staff/postgrads only)

Posted in Questionnaire | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Presentation to the EMERGE community – after the fact

Posted by Nick on June 30, 2008

First of all, sincere apologies that I was unable to present along with John last Monday. I am reliably informed that, technical problems notwithstanding, a lively discussion ensued and I intend to listen to the recording as soon as I can find it! I shall post again after that but in the meantime here is a short summary from John:

“Just finished presenting the Persona project stuff at this on-line conference in the absence of Nick who unfortunately was unable to be there. I’ve only just joined this project and my knowledge of many of the open access issues surrounding repositories is developing. I think the basis of the project struck a chord with most of the participants so we were talking to the converted as it were. My thanks to those who stuck with us in spite of my bumbling.

There was some slight confusion at the end of the presentation when Janet Finlay stepped in to answer a question and her mike stopped working – I could hear her perfectly well because I was in the same physical room as her however there must have been a thunderous silence in the Elluminate room. We fixed this by getting Janet to use my machine and mike and hence Janet and John swapped identities as took over her machine. How many people learned to read with the Janet and John books – wouldn’t it have been a surprise if Janet and John and switched identities in the books!

What we would like to do is to encourage everyone to tell us their stories regarding how they interact with research and/or learning object repositories, and also how they interact with those social networking facilities that they have adopted. In particular can you identify specific things that promote the use of research repositories for you, is there a work flow for you that encourage you to use a repository?”

Posted in Get involved, PERSoNA, Web habits | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What are YOUR Web habits?

Posted by Nick on June 20, 2008

As part of the session on Monday (16:00-16:45) I would like to ask participants to feed back their own stories of their personal Web habits/work flow.

Some unstructured questions:

  • What is your home page and why?
  • Which particular social networking tools do you use?
  • What sort of information are you most interested in?
  • How do you manage your path through that information?
  • Do you differentiate between user generated content and “authorative” material on the web?
  • Do you use a Web 2.0 “repository” – SlideShare; Flickr; YouTube?
  • Do you use a more “formal” repository – institutional; subject based?
  • What factors encourage you to use a “repository” (or not)?

These are just off the top of my head so my final question is “What other questions could I ask?”


Posted in Get involved, PERSoNA, Web habits | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Presentation to the EMERGE community – before the fact

Posted by Nick on June 17, 2008

I have a slot to present, via Elluminate, to the EMERGE community at 16:00 on Monday 23rd June and thought I would blog (a) before and (b) after the fact to help me (a) plan the session and (b) reflect on the insights that are sure to emerge (pun intended).

John and I had a very useful discussion this morning that was 2 parts session-planning to 8 parts brain-storming around the still embryonic PERSoNA project.

We agreed that the first part of the session will need to set the scene and give an overview of the context of our 3 seperate but related projects; the Leeds Met Repository; Streamline and PERSoNA.

To reiterate the respective soundbites:

The Leeds Met Repository: “the project will deliver a repository which will serve a prioritised set of needs”…”increase the profile of the research outputs and/or pioneering assessment learning and teaching work carried out at Leeds Met”

Streamline: “We are looking at the work flow associated with the use of learning object repositories and are developing a suite of tools and practices that will reduce the administrative impact of this on teaching and research staff.”

PERSoNA: “will link two other JISC funded projects, Streamline and An Institutional Repository for Leeds Metropolitan University, and provide scope to enhance the outcomes of both”…”will be embedding social networking tools which allow chat, tagging and bookmarking (amongst other things) within the repository, and encouraging users to comment on their use of our repository and make recommendations amongst each other leading to the onward discovery of further resources.”

One of the most interesting aspects, then, of the Leeds Met Repository project is that, on start-up, it will focus equally on two distinct types of content that have historically been stored in seperate environments – research publications/outputs and Learning Objects/e-learning resources. It is this dual requirement that has led us to opt for intraLibrary over a specialised Open Access research archive like EPrints and people may be interested what factors have brought us to this software (as I blogged at the time on Repository News the relevant issues were informed by Streamline and, in a nut-shell, came down to a consensus that intraLibrary would more readily be repurposed as an Open Access archive than EPrints as an LO repository – for now, still a moot point).

As well as the considerable challenges associated with delivering a dual repository like this (I’ll come to PERSoNA in a moment!) I believe we have the opportunity with these three projects to develop a tool that becomes an integral part of the university’s online environment; living and breathing and used – not just in the sense of a dusty old store-room but interactively.

A recurrent theme from the sector has been the problem of embedding these things (repositories) into the workflow and it’s very important that the Leeds Met repository does not become (like so many) a cul-de-sac but, rather, a ring-road offering access in and around the disparate, digital furniture of the university . All of which brings us, eventually, to Web 2.0 and PERSoNA which has the potential to provide the signposts, traffic lights and roundabouts (excuse the laboured traffic metaphor!) that will guide visitors to potential resources whether these be learning objects, research outputs or colleagues within and without the university.

The difficulty, of course, is developing a tool or suite of tools within the repository that people will actually use and find useful; and then there is the problem of inertia – I discussed in a recent post how my own “workflow” is centered around iGoogle; this isn’t because iGoogle is such a fantastic tool and I couldn’t possibly find something that would serve my needs better – I probably could – but I started using it, found it useful and now, in a sense, because of habit – inertia – I’m stuck with it unless I make a concerted effort or collide with other tools often enough and usefully enough to naturally incorporate them into my online habits. I think this principle may be worth exploring further and I would like to elicit “stories” about how people naturally use the Web (1.0 and 2.0) in the course of their working day with the goal of establishing, perhaps, patterns of behaviour that can then be used to inform a Web 2.0 repository environment; this is one of the ideas I would like to take to the EMERGE community.

Posted in EMERGE, Web habits | 4 Comments »

Modular repository?

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2008

Here is an interesting post from suggesting the idea of a modular repository that integrates a variety of specialised tools.

Posted in Links | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Web 2.0 and repositories…

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2008

This is a recent, interesting and highly relevant presentation I found on Slideshare – which, incidentally, is itself being celebrated as incorporating much of the functionality that we should be aspiring to:

Posted in Presentation slides | Leave a Comment »

Some links…

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2008

Results of the ‘Online Tool Use Survey’ undertaken by the JISC funded SPIRE project

“It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one
will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other
89 will just view it. It’s a meme that emerges strongly in statistics from YouTube, which in just 18
months has gone from zero to 60% of all online video viewing.” Guardian Online July 20, 2006.

Web 2.0 for Content for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (JISC project)

Posts filed under “Web 2.0” at Project Bazaar

Posts filed under “Social Software” at project Bazaar

Posted in Links | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Web habits

Posted by Nick on June 13, 2008

After using the questionnaire at the TEL Day and the limited information that it generated regarding respondent’s awareness and use of SNAs I’ve been pondering the best way to move forward with PERSoNA and got to thinking about my own “workflow” and how I personally use the Web (1.0 and 2.0).

Both at home and at work I use Firefox with two tabs set to my iGoogle page and The university homepage gives me a window on my immediate environment, keeps me informed of what is happening elsewhere in the university and gives me access to various resources useful for work – though very much Web 1.0, it engenders a (largely passive) sense of community.

I find iGoogle a useful hub from which to move out into the wider web; I try to keep it relatively uncluttered with just two or three tabs and it’s primarily an interface for me to access my web-mail, store a few pertinent bookmarks and access various feeds from around the Web. (It’s also quite a useful search engine!)

As for my own use of “social networking”, it’s actually fairly limited and I tend to be something of a butterfly – I’ve registered with innumerable sites and applications, added buttons and plugins galore to Firefox and was briefly addicted to Tetris on Facebook – but very few of these become anything more than a fad. I’ve still got a button on my browser but I rarely use it. I do “use” Facebook slightly more but not professionally, particularly – though I am interested in developing a Facebook app that can search the Leeds Met Repository.

As I spend more time at my blogs (this and Repository News) they have, in addition to iGoogle, started to become the other “rooms” that I like to sit in and a useful place for me to put stuff that I might wish to revisit in the future and that might be useful for the projects. The point is that for me, and it’s obviously a personal thing, I feel more comfortable having a small number of “bases” on the Web (iGoogle, my blogs, Facebook a bit) and I’ve got very much into an habitual pattern of use – specifically with iGoogle – that I’m unlikely to break though it will certainly evolve; for example, I’m sure that Leeds Met Repository will become another familiar “room” for me but then I have a very clear motivation to visit it, practice a bit of Feng Shui and, I hope, encourage others to visit. Often.

We are all, I think, creatures of habit and I guess I’m very interested in other people’s Web habits – specifically academic staff – as a possible developmental route for PERSoNA. So I need to think how best to formally gather such information.

Post script: I’m just going to drop a resource in here that I found in another user’s account:

Posted in Questionnaire, Web habits | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

What are social networking services?

Posted by Nick on June 11, 2008

As part of Denizen’s Young People and Social Networking Services report Josie Fraser provides a useful and succinct (as it can be) summary of definitions of Social networking Services which “splits services up into six main categories: Profile-based services (eg Bebo, Facebook, MySpace); Content-focused services (eg Flickr, YouTube); White-label networks (although I could have written a book about these); Multi-User Virtual Environments (although some of these aren’t necessarily social networks – particularly those designed for younger children); Mobile services; and Microblogging/Presence update services (Social Search engines & Lifestream aps also get a mention as adjunct services).”

Josie’s full social-networking-overview may well be a useful resource for PERSoNA

Posted in PERSoNA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »