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One! One Week Timeline! AH! AH! AH! AHHH!

Why excitement about counting all the way up to one?  Well, because it’s actually counting down.  I used to have a TWO! TWO Week timeline.  But the quantity of data got to be just a little too much, so I had to trade amount of data displayed for performance.

There are two reasons for that.  Overall, it’s just the sheer number of bloggers we have now.  The number of posts in a two week period was getting pretty huge.  There’s also a lot more syndicated content that Jim Groom is bringing into the UMWBlogs system, which of course increases the amount of data exponentially.

It’s a little bit of an interesting question.  Now, within the UMWBlogs database, there is a lot of info that might or might not have a direct connection to work going on at UMW (at least no connection beyond the fact that Jim brought it in as a demo of aggregation).  It might raise a signal-to-noise ratio question, and maybe force thinking about what we want to count as signal, and what to count as noise (and then how to use some of the tools I’m working on here to sort it out).

For example, I’ve been keeping a running tally of how many blogs, blog posts, tags, images, and links are in UMWBlogs (it’s in the sidebar to the right).  That is slowly creeping away from being useful data for understanding blogging at UMW, since — at least until I find ways to sort it out — that data includes a lot of the content from outside UMW.

This is the classic working relationship between me  and Jim, which might also count as our mutual job security.  He’s great at finding new ways to pushing more content out and around, which messes up my efforts to organize it, which leads to new ways to slice and dice the data, which should lead to new ways to prompt content creation!

Like Openness in Higher Ed? Read current Panlibus

A while ago, I had a little play-time with data released from the University of Huddersfield Library by Dave Pattern, which led to a Talking With Talis podcast with Dave (see this post about it on this blog, and/or this one on my more technical blog.).

They also asked both Dave and me to write short articles for their Panlibus magazine, and as it turns out the entire issue (PDF) is devoted to several aspects of openness in higher education and libraries more generally. Anyone with an interest in openness in education will find lots of interest.

Here’s a few highlights from the issue, just to whet your appetite.

The National Library of Scotland in the Digital World

Martyn Wade talks about the plans for the National Library of Scotland future as a ‘small and smart’ national library, starting from “the view that digital is what we do; digital is what we are.” He also raises many intriguing questions about the future role of libraries and digitization.

The New City Library

Tony Durcan talks about the newly remade Newcastle city library, which includes a four-storey atrium, complete self-service, and even a 24 hour vending machine, “providing a range of books and DVDs”

Building a library service for the future

Liz McGettigan talks about the network of public libraries in Edinburgh self-reimagining to embrace Web 2.0 features and easier access to services, including using RFID technology to enable city-wide self-service terminals.

Plings–places to go, things to do

Steven Flower talks about making a listing of positive activities for youth as easily browsable as the TV listings — his analogy to TV listings is really impressive!

Libraries, openness, and the global community

Nicole C. Engard talks about openness, open source, and open catalogs with LibLime’s service.

Juice up your OPAC

Richard Wallis talks about Talis’s Juice framework for creating innovative interfaces onto your OPACs. I’ll be spending lots of time exploring this!

Opening up Higher Education, starting with the library

Dave Pattern and yours truly talk about releasing library and other university data under open licenses to facilitate innovative reuse of university info.

Next-generation resource list management at the University of Plymouth

Talis and the University of Plymouth make resource lists open and accessible.

A Code4lib week for Talis

Richard Wallis is back to talk about his experiences at this year’s code{4}lib conference.

All that and more in the issue. All of it looks wonderfully to the future of openness in libraries and higher education. Many ideas and insights into what the future will hold!

I’d also like to thank Panlibus’ editor, Harpreet Kaur Sanghera, for inviting me to contribute to the issue and for all her wonderful help in putting the article together. I really appreciate all your work and feedback!

What might a linking-game look like?

An interesting conversation in the comments to Cole Camplese‘s post about the importance of having access to data in a university system. Brett Bixler brought up the idea of bringing some game aspects to using the data, and Cole pushed toward the ‘how many clicks’ game:

students are given a random starting topic and a random ending topic and they have to see how many clicks through articles it takes to get from A to B … an example might be, “get from the topic iPod to Kennedy Space Center.” I wonder if we could design something like that uses tag aggregation as a pass through

I’d love to see something like that, might even scrape up the time to work on something like that, but need help figuring out what, exactly, that might look like. Tags might be a great way to start something like this off. Links might be a way, too. How does the game work, though? I don’t really know where to begin with this.

One additional thought. Theoretically, with both tags and links we could come at it from two different directions. One is to have something that focuses on the existing tags/categories and links to make the game go. The other is for players to create their own links and tags/categories on posts they encounter. Since the data in SemanticUMW is in a completely separate database from the UMWBlogs database, this could fairly easily be done, and might even provide an additional set of interesting and useful data.

Anyone with ideas/models for sharpening up this fuzzy idea?

Posts By Day Of Week

After I posted this morning about the number of posts by hour on UMWBlogs, Jim reposted it, and from there D’Arcy Norman at UCalgary did similar digging in his WPMU tables. Since he’s working directly from the database, he could even dig out stats for comments, something that I’m unable to do.

One thing that really struck me was how similar the posts-by-hour data was between and UMWBlogs.

Again, posts by hour at UMWBlogs:

And at UCalgary:

That got me wondering if the data that D’Arcy grabbed about posts by day would be similar. Close, but a little different:



Looks like at UMW we can’t get ourselves back into the blogging mode after the weekend until Tuesday, while the Canadians come out swinging on Monday!

Hopefully, as more and more campus-wide blogging platforms come up, we’ll be able to compare this kind of data across a lot of institutions. I don’t know what might pop out of it, but it should be interesting. (BTW: Cole Camplese wrote just today about the question of why to run a service in-house instead of outsourcing to an external service. What we have here is just another example of his argument–because when its in-house we can get at the really interesting underlying data.)

If nothing else, I think this can start to give some real insights into how students are living their lives, at least in a very broad sense. Along those lines, here’s the parallel data that I fantasize about having:

  • Library patronage
  • Library book checkouts
  • Wikipedia readership
  • Beer consumption
  • TV watched
  • Homework time
  • Pleasure reading

Anything more that you all would like to do the comparisons on? Not that there’s any chance that I can actually dig all this up. I’m just sayin’ the comparisons would be interesting.

“Tis now the very blogging time of night…”: When We’re Posting to UMWBlogs

Tis now the very blogging time of night
When posts do churn and the bava breathes out
Edupunk to this world . . .

(Apologies to Shakespeare)

Over the weekend there was an odd glitch with the scrapers. They’re still down until we figure out exactly what’s going on, so unfortunately I might miss some of the blog data from over the weekend.

But it brought up the interesting question of, if I need to test something, when is it lease likely that people will be posting to UMWBlogs. Of course the intuitive guess is “late at night”. But I’ve got data, so let’s use it.

Here’s a table and simple bar chart of how many posts were written when. NB — many posts get aggregated and republished, which means that they show up in this data twice. Alas, I don’t have a good mechanism for tidying up the data there.

Looking at 16877 posts, for you folks who like that kind of stuff.

12am – 1am 631
1am – 2am 383
2am – 3am 164
3am – 4am 77
4am – 5am 62
5am – 6am 59
6am – 7am 118
7am – 8am 268
8am – 9am 548
9am – 10am 812
10am – 11am 1066
11am – 12pm 1020
12pm – 1pm 1026
1pm – 2pm 980
2pm – 3pm 1267
3pm – 4pm 1257
4pm – 5pm 1112
5pm – 6pm 766
6pm – 7pm 677
7pm – 8pm 856
8pm – 9pm 1014
9pm – 10pm 934
10pm – 11pm 910
11pm – 12am 870
Blogging Times chart

Blogging Times chart

I was actually a bit surprised by how late into night people are blogging — I expected it to taper off a little earlier. I’m also curious about the dip right at 5 and 6 pm. Is that just dinner time? If so, it might be interesting that our blogging practices are so closely tied to that social norm.

And it looks like if I’m going to be testing things, I’ll need lots of coffee.

Whose Link Is It, Anyway?

Continuing my fascination with links, I’ve got a new Exhibit in the spirit of the Link Friends Exhibit. That one is an overall list of common links between posts. So it gives you a list of URLs and the posts that link to them, ordered by the number of posts that link to it.

This one gets blog-specific. For any given blog URI, it digs up all the things it links to, if some other post anywhere in UMWBlogs also links to it. Like so:

You can start here, and just type or copy-paste in the URI of a blog in UMWBlogs, and it’ll dig up the common links. Or, start with the exhibit for this blog. (For blogs with many links, it takes a little while to process the data., for example, pretty much stalls) There are facets for tags on all the resources, though it’s unlikely right now that the common link will have been tagged. In the happiest circumstance, the common link will be to another post within UMWBlogs, in which case it just might have been tagged or categorized.

The pop-up for the common link also gives you an option to go to a page of all the posts and blogs that link to it.

The idea is that if you find a blog that you like, chances are that it will link to other things that you like. And if indeed it links to other things that you like, other, unfamiliar, blogs will also link to it. And so you can traverse through (1) blog you like (possibly your own!) -> (2) what it links to -> (3) new blogs that you might like, based on common linking.

SemanticUMW Celebrates 15000 Posts With Style!

Today, the scrapers scraped in their 15000th post from UMWBlogs. Way to go to everyone at UMW using it!

To celebrate, I’m also ready to finally add some better design and style to the exhibits. Thanks to the hard work and many tears that I caused her, our student aide Serena Epstein has added a prettiness to the exhibits that I would never have been able to accomplish. Thank you Serena!



Keep Up With New Video in UMWBlogs

The last few posts were heavy on reflection, so I wanted to come back to building something.

Our New Media Specialist, Andy Rush, asked Jim this morning something about new videos in UMWBlogs.  That got me thinking that it’d be neat to have a feed of new posts that include videos.

So here ya go.  Simple RSS feed of the 10 most recent posts in UMWBlogs that contain a movie.  I suspect I’ll miss some videos here and there, depending on how well my scrapers are doing, but hopefully this’ll be good enough to keep you entertained!

If you want the whole list, here‘s a plain page listing all the posts with video.


Student Publishing and the Web Context

Last night I was bopping from site to site, and decided to check in on the Two Week Timeline to see what’s up. I saw four interesting-looking titles, and went to give them a peek. On one level, I was delighted, of course, at the expression and reflection at work in them. But then I realized. HEY! WHERE’S THE LINKS?!

That’s not just a matter of wanting to look at what they are referring to (though I do). It’s a matter of the absense of relationship-expressing between their thoughts and what prompts them. In the four posts I looked at, there were exactly zero (0) links. Take a look at some excerpts.

From Black Power to the First Black President

Professor Countryman’s speech began with a mention of Obama’s Spring 2008 speech denouncing black nationalism. Still, Countryman argues that Obama and his success cannot be separated from black politics and process.

Which speech? What was the quotation? What was the speech? What was the mention? I don’t know anything about ‘black nationalism’, could ya help me out?

Middle Earth as a Second World

Both Carroll’s and Barrie’s “Secondary Worlds” are more child-like and removed from the real world than Tolkien’s Middle Earth; a giant man is easier to come across than a talking Cheshire cat or a fairy. Tolkien creates a “Secondary World” that brings to life the dangers of growing up with the awareness there’s no turning back.

Whose? Where’s the texts? I’d like to follow up! Throw a man a bone! Or at least a link!

If I Hear the Word Contradiction One More Time, I’ll Scream

If I hear the word contradiction one more time, I am going to scream. Seriously.

I am going to be upfront with you all: I absolutely hated this reading. It felt disorganized, rushed, and repetitive. There were very few moments of actual clarity, where Lowe actually tells us something worth making note of.

Umm…what reading? Who’s Lowe? Does he or she sell home improvement products?

Screencast: How to Make a Graph

I made my screencast on how to make a graph in excel because it is something that I have always struggled with when using excel. I know I always have to review the steps and usually still end up forgetting one and getting frustrated. I ran into some problems getting my screencast to upload. Everytime I tried to upload it would ask me to login and then just take me right back to the login page. I am in the processing of emailing our professor to try and figure out whats going on. As soon as I can fix the problem I will post the URL.

In reflection over the whole process I actually enjoyed the process of making the screencast. I never even knew that something like this existed where I could make my own tutorial videos. I think they are great things to have as extras for you class. I was nervous about the doing a screencast but everything went very smoothly until I had uploading problems. I agree that you need to practice. I practiced creating my chart a few times before I actually recorded myself to help everything go more smoothly once I recorded. I really like this site and making the screencast. I plan on finding a way to encorporate it into one of my lessons.

OK, I know you can’t get it posted up right now. But presumably you are discovering new tools to use to make the screencast? How about a link to the tools?

Sorry for being so grumpy and persnickety. But I really am intrigued. These are good thoughts. I want to understand them better. Especially so I can respond to them better. But without a way to get at the context, I’m stymied.

First, there are just technological failures. There isn’t a quick and easy way to generate the links to the people, texts, or concepts implicit here. We’re working on that. But it’s worth the time to copy in some links.

I worry about something a bit more fundamental, though. These examples seem to reflect a writing process of just writing for classmates (or, worse, just the teacher). In each case, the references are taken as known. In a document printed out and handed to the instructor, that might be appropriate. In the web context, though, I’d really like to see more of the links. Yeah, it adds a little to the writing time to look up some links (but even now, it doesn’t take that long to at least throw in a wikipedia reference. I’d even be happy with the error-prone plugin that tries to make a good guess about links.) That would at least show an awareness that these blog posts, by virtue of being on the web, do not exist in isolation or in the limited context of just a group of students gathered for one course in one semester.

My greatest fear is that this might reflect the idea that faculty are treating student blogging as just a transfer of traditional ‘response paper’ type assignments from print to the web. If we printed these posts, there would be nothing to suggest an incongruity between web and print.

We — yeah, okay, ME — as an instructional technology guy and blogger, need to do more to bring faculty and students into seeing their content as being born-web, as opposed to born-print, being more aware of the implications, and acting on them in the writing process. If we don’t do that, student web publishing will end up being little more than a quicker, cheaper, and easier Blackboard. Those are good things. But they’re also not the point.


I saw this morning that the screencast mentioned in the fourth example above is up. There’s something instructive about that post, too:

Ok. I got it to work. Wooohooo! I made mine on how to make a line graph using Excel. Enjoy.

Compare this with the post that was the reflection. Here, we see enthusiasm, excitement, and a desire to have others view and enjoy it. In comparison, the first post about it seems awfully lifeless and wooden. How do we bring the enthusiasm and desire to share that comes from a sense of accomplishment into more posts?