Web Squared

In the runup to the Web 2.0 Summit later this month, Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle have been outlining their vision of what comes after Web 2.0.  Their answer: Web Squared.  They’ve set this out in a white paper (also available as a 1.3Mb PDF), a webcast,  and a Slideshare presentation:

They say:

Ever since we first introduced the term “Web 2.0,” people have been asking, “What’s next?” Assuming that Web 2.0 was meant to be a kind of software version number (rather than a statement about the second coming of the Web after the dotcom bust), we’re constantly asked about “Web 3.0.” Is it the semantic web? The sentient web? Is it the social web? The mobile web? Is it some form of virtual reality?

It is all of those, and more.

They set out a vision in some detail – it’s well worth a read if you’re interested in what the leading lights of Web 2.0 think happens next.  In a nutshell (as you’d expect from O’Reilly) it’s  ‘Web 2.0 meets the world’. The boundary between the web and the real, physical world is in some ways clear, but in other ways very blurred, and the transition across it is one I am fascinated by.

As with Web 2.0, of course, lots of the things they proclaim as part of Web Squared can be seen going on right now.  As William Gibson said, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

There’s smarter algorithms to infer collective intelligence from the ‘information shadow’ of real-world objects, cast in space and time by more sensors and more input routes; and smarter ways of visualising and exploring the outputs, and delivering them to people in more contexts and situations.  And all of this happening in ever-closer-to real time.

The ‘information shadow’ and ‘new sensory inputs’ is exactly the potential that Speckled Computing is mining and looking in to (and I’m very interested in pursuing for learning).  And the increased sensors/input routes, building collective intelligence from many individuals collaborating with low effort is the sort of thing that iSpot is doing – using geolocations and photos from a wide range of individuals to build a bigger picture.

(As a bit of an aside, one ‘key takeaway’ is that ‘A key competency of the Web 2.0 era is discovering implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and/or foster an ecosystem around it.’ – I’m certainly convinced that’s a more scalable system than one where humans do the hard work of marking data up semantically by hand.)

The potential for the web to learn more and better about the world is huge – and as the web learns more, we too learn more.  As they say, we are meeting the Internet, and it is us. And we’re getting smarter.

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Journal publishing industry are a load of truckers

David Wiley (coiner of the oft-useful water/polo analogy for online/education) has produced another parable – this time taking a potshot at the journal publishing industry:

Once upon a time there was an inventor. She was brilliant. […] They all set to work. It was alternately glorious and tedious, fulfilling and demoralizing. […] at length the day arrived when they had a product ready to ship!

Relieved, the inventor began contacting shipping companies. But she could not believe what she heard. The truckers would deliver her goods, but only subject to the most unbelievable conditions:

  • the inventor had to agree to ship her product via the one trucking company exclusively,
  • this exclusive shipping deal had to be a perpetual deal, never subject to review or cancelation, and
  • the truckers would be the ones who would sell her product to the public and the truckers would keep all the profits.

Every shipping company she contacted gave the same response. Dejected, but unwilling to see the fruits of all her labor go to waste, she eventually relented and signed a contract with one of the companies.

It is, of course, a story about academics and the journal publishing industry.

This is not a new complaint.  My now-retired colleague (and prolific and widely-read author) Derek Rowntree campaigned at length against the madness that meant he had to apply for permission to use his own writings in his own teaching, which was sometimes denied.

But as I argued in my Scholarly Publishing 2.0 talk, the online world is having two effects.  Firstly, the publishing industry are making the situation worse, e.g. by coming up with new ways to restrict what users of  “content” can do with it (DRM), and charging double-digit inflation year on year on electronic journals when Moore’s Law is driving all other technology products (and content) in the opposite direction.  And secondly, it opens up alternatives – it is possible to do things differently, and to organise a campaign about this.  The whole Open Access movement is a great example of this.

If I gave investment advice – which I don’t, and it would almost certainly not be worth what you are paying for it – I wouldn’t be suggesting Reed Elsevier stock as a great bet for your retirement savings.

Update: Blimey.   Apparently Merck paid Elsevier to publish a fake peer-reviewed medical journal. “Truckers” is perhaps not a rude enough word.

Researcher 2.0 part 2.0

Further liveblog notes from the Researcher 2.0 event (see also notes on part 1).

(Interesting meta issue about blog vs Cloudworks. I don’t want my notes behind a login/search wall, I want them on Google! But Gráinne is doing an excellent job liveblogging there too. And maybe my notes aren’t so useful on a blog. Comments welcome! UPDATE: I’d got this wrong, it’s due to a bug, Cloudworks is *supposed to be* readable by everyone, indexed, the lot – you only need a login to post. *but at the moment new Cloud/scapes come up login-only.)

(Another meta issue is the multiple channel management.  It seems I can do two, possibly three, but not four and definitely not all five – f2f, Elluminate, blog notes, Twitter, Cloudworks – and still stay sufficiently on top of things to follow it. Especially as Elluminate has the whiteboard, the audio stream, the chat, and the participant list all in one.)

Martyn Cooper – Research bids 2.0

Research bidding support – some same for experience and novice bidders (process support, consortium negotiations, budgets, reviews of drafts, internal sign-off); novice bidders get extra (advice, confidence).

OU process based around the RED form.

Process – idea, workplan, consortium, bid, negotiate roles, set budget (often iteratively), final draft, sign off, submission.

Relationship is formed during the bid process; you will work with these people for years after (if you succeeed.)

Communication types – peer to peer, document/spreadsheet exchange, negotiation, redrafting and commenting, electronic sign-off and submission.

Most researchers could get more successful bids and be able to run more projects if they had more and higher-quality administrative support. Web 2.0 technologies could have a role in providing that support. However to date we under-use them.

At what stage do you make bids open to the world? Is the web 2.0 attitude affecting this? Martyn very happy to do that – he always has ideas in his back pocket. Has seen ideas taken up by others, whether by coincidence or copying is hard to say. Commercial partners keener to protect foreground knowledge and IPR, so perhaps harder.  But would be happy to do whole process on a public wiki.

Shailey Minocha (Shailey Garfield in 2L) – Second life research

3D virtual world – http://gallery.me.com/shailey.minocha#100016

Much more human environment than a 2D one; a real sense of being there. No story to them, there’s not a game, you can design it yourself.

Students found it difficult to critique/peer review each other’s work. Attributed to a lack of socialisation, lack of knowing each other well enough. So decided to get them to use 2L to provide opportunities for that.

Not much about how you should design learning environments in 2L.

2L to support research: meetings, virtual collaborations, seminars, conferences and shared resources

2L as a platform for conducting research: conducting interviews, observations, evaluate prototypes of concepts and designs, bringing in real data and developing simulations.

PhD supervision meetings and research interviews – runs regular meetings in 2L.  Real sense of visual presence and a sense of place. Large pool of participants. Also can keep transcript & audio – no need to do transcription.

Sense of realism in 2L which is hard to match in other environments – BUT steep learning curve (vs Skype, Elluminate, Flash Meeting), and demanding system requirements.

Question: are there extra issues in finding particpants in 2L? Yes. Issues about the avatars; don’t know who is behind them. Let the person fill out a form through normal email process first.

Kim Issroff – Business models for OERs and Researching Web 2.0

Definitions

Business model – framework for creating value … or, it’s how you can generate revenue.

OSS business models: Chang, Mills & Newhouse, about how to make money. Stephen Downes models for sustainable Open Educational Resources – distinction between free at point of delivery and cost to create/distribute. Models: Endowment, membership, donations, conversion, contributor-pay, sponsorship, institutional, Government, partnerships/exchanges.Clarke 2007 – “not naive gift economies”.

Intuitively, go for resources are free but charge for assessment.

Grant applications increasingly ask for business models/sustainability/how you carry on afterwards.

Implications – for design, how to engage. Differences between OSS and OERs as models. What happens when we get to OER saturation point? (I suspect it doesn’t exist – too much out there already, but also still worth putting new stuff out.) Can we quantify the social value rather than the economic value?

Take a trainful of people, see what each person is doing in terms of access to technology, to get a handle on everyone, rather than a minority we over-research.

Two thoughts: how much difference does the business model make? Is a financial business model appropriate for an educational organisation?

(I see a strong link to Kevin Kelly’s Better Than Free essay: eight things that are ‘better than free’.)

Can free things (end up) more expensive in the end?

Robert Schuwer from OUNL: their experience of subscription models, paying for extra support, books and so on. Inspired by mobile phone world, hope that once they have the payment every month set up, they forget to unsubscribe and keep up year on year – €25 a month.

Chris Pegler – OER beyond the OU

What OER offers: global opportunities, goodwill among researchers, IPR vanquished, unlimited reuse potential. Has highlighted Creative Commons – demolish IPR obstacles. Most funded repository projects flounder – or even fail – at some stage on IPR. But Creative Commons to the rescue!

Li Yuan whitepaper CETIS on OER is key. List of 18 current OER projects ‘out there’, from MIT Open CourseWare, GLOBE (includes MERLOT and ARIADNE etc), JorumOpen, etc. These are not quite what you’d envisage – some are e.g. mainly research-focused.

Interesting HEFCE/HEA/JISC call on OERs  £5.7m pilot, possibly £10m yoy in the future. Chris has £20k individual bid – making a 30pt course using web 2.0 tools around OERs. Also NTFS bid on RLOs and how we embed them in the academic practice courses at three institutions.

Questions around metadata – especially automatic metadata.

Patrick

Was more presentation-centric than perhaps ideal; but much captured on video, Twitter and Cloudworks. So next: small groups on producing a quick pitch for a bid about Research 2.0.

Questions from Scholarship in the digital age

Someone – Use Viewlet builder – do internal training with it.

Tony Nixon, MCT – Retain boundaries in University? Case for?

VC – Much more interdisciplinarity in calls for research funding, so breaking down boundaries is happening and matches the real world. Systems thinking is key; we have the best systems thinking group in the country.

Eileen Scanlon, IET – Conflict between move to Research Excellence Framework, citations framework – versus more open view.

VC – Not sure there is a conflict. Traditional measures take a long time to change. Want OU to be at the forefront of how we do measure those things.  Have philosophy (??!) blogger getting a lot of attention and reputation. Some academics deciding not to publish in print but just go to the web: academics are pushing at it.  More traditional measures are going to see enormous changes.

Brigid Heywood, Pro-VC Research – The REF is going to use very traditional measures – publish, citation. Academics should disseminate freely – but capture peer review and impact on the disciplines as well.  That’s the ground where we can lead.  In 2010 it’ll be classic measures, but we have a part to play in the new space.  All media to be used, but show peer review and academic impact too.

Web question – Martin Weller – via Twitter – Recognise in promotions criteria?  VC – yes of course.

Josie Taylor – move to Web 2.0 as scholars isn’t just learning to use the tools, it’s a culture shift.  Many of our colleagues need to recognise the demands on them – to rethink research and course development.  Very demanding!  VC agrees.

Anne deRoeck – Sustainability questions.  Web 2.0 turns everyone in to a publisher, but not in to a reader. Lots of stuff written but not read.  And environmental impact of technology.  Technologies are very new; has to be managed to make it sustainable.  How?

VC – Technology can help – e.g. collaborate online rather than drive or fly.  

Council member – how to get employer engagement, commercial ventures etc – how can OU lead on that area?

VC – People underestimate how much employer engagement we already do. But not shrinking from expanding it. A real grip on all this will make us more reputable and desirable to employers. Our stuff will show in the workplace.  Engage over what skills they want employees/graduates to have – and ability to work with the technology, and teamwork – are big there.  Management of teams learned via games.

Steve Swinthenby – Inclusion. Scholarship of inclusion?

VC – No favours by telling students you’re too poor or socially deprived to be engaged with technology.  Was pleased with Gordon Brown about giving broadband assistance to families – will help us greatly.  Access to Learning fund will include computers, we help in the costs of broadband for students.  And they think it’s fun and they enjoy it.  We have a problem with young men falling out of education – and they love the technology.

Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – Consumer power – e.g. reading bits from a newspaper.  A dangerous trend, narrows horizons – consumers are not guided through by an editor.  The same could happen in learning: students could set the agenda.  Consumer power has gone too far in some instances.  Academics will be running after the students, instead of helping students wider [their horizons].

VC – You won’t find that – academics aren’t engaging with the technology.  Still academics’ role to do assessment, curriculum design, students want the accreditation that comes out of that, and that’s a very powerful position so it’s not going out of the window.  Need to engage people more in learning. Participatory thing is good.

Conclusion – Pro-Chancellor (Lord Haskins) – VC has been a world leader in this, people listen to her wherever she goes.

Scholarship in the digital age

Liveblog from the OU Vice-Chancellor’s speech to Council, 26 Sep 2008

Largish audience heading in – interesting to be watching from outside rather than the inside.

Introduction from the Pro-Chancellor, Chair of Council.

Title chosen carefully – could’ve been “Why the web matters to scholars everywhere”. But the web and enormous computer power does make a serious difference to what defines scholarship – at every level.  For academics and students, and professionals.  Scholarship in each of Boyer’s classification.  Each are weighted differently.  Dr Johnson – scholars are bound for toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.  Not sure about the jail but the rest apply. Can you be a scholar and ignore all this?

Stephen Downes – shift is from web being a medium to a platform: remix, repurpose, stuff gets better the more people use it. Web 3.0 – the semantic web – harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.  Community of scholars takes on a whole new meaning, dimension, in this context.

Our students are the net generation: they expect to be engaged, with opportunities for input.  More visual, prefer to learn by doing than telling or reading: discover, not be told.  John Thompson, “Is education 1.0 ready for Web 2.0 students?”

Argue that it’s not possible to ignore this.  The Internet and social changes wrought require us to rethink what we expect of academics.  And reconceptualise policies to respond to that.

Scholarship of teaching and learning

Universities taking this more seriously than in the past. Staff refocused on student learning; students becoming more demanding – e.g. ratemyprofessors.com.  Curriculum demand too.

We have always known that the process is more important in education than content, but it’s especially so now.

John Seely-Brown and Richard Adler “Minds on Fire” – learning 2.0 is active and passion-based.

The real world is more like this too: the real world doesn’t divide in to disciplines.  Requirement of all students to be able to evaluate research outputs.

There are negatives and positives.  Negatives – erosion of time for reflection.  But we can’t scrimp on pedagogical research: need solid research on what works and what doesn’t.

What can we see happening in HE?

Six technologies – Horizon report – likely to have an impact (very Web 2.0): 

  • Grassroots video – anyone can be a broadcaster with video.
  • Collaboration webs – no longer expensive to network
  • Mobile broadband – dramatic price drop, capability up (pervasive net)
  • Data mashups – large amounts of data with APIs, integrate and transform information
  • Collective intelligence – knowledge emerges when many people interact with much data
  • Social operating systems – next gen social networking systems, around people, not content

Four main responses.

Faculty are often unaware of technologies or unable to integrate them.  (We have a mountain to climb!)

Consequences for staff time.  

Shuster and Finkelstein: The American Faculty. Real changes in roles of faculty staff: including unbundling content preparation from presentation/supporting of learning. Accelerates trend towards teaching-only functions, whatever you think about that.

Faculty role in design of learning experience. Role reduced a bit by the amount of content out there. But libraries have been full of stuff for ages, and nobody argued that there was no role for a navigator through the sea of resources.  And we need training for navigator.

One member of a team can be more expert, but an academic not engaged will not fully understand the implications for learning, and the design will be worse as a consequence.

Impact on research?

Profound. Every stage in lifecycle can be improved and/or complicated by technology.  Can collaborate across the world.  Data as research capital.  Mass digitisation of books leads to all sorts of possibilities. Christine Borgman work cited.

We’ve never had quite to many research questions live at the same time: even the most jaded must be energised.

Consequences for institutions

John Tompson, Clayton Christiansen Disrupting Class – It’s a disruptive technology: asynchronous, 24/7.

But not so disruptive to the OU: we have a short/medium term advantage here, which we must build on. We can remake our leadership on the world stage through our deployment of digital scholarship.

Migrate innovation across the university more effectively – we will stand or fall on our use of innovation.

Need new business models.  Research strategy, IET, Student Support all under review.

Five things we need to look at:

1. Incentives and reward. Financial markets – only counting articles in certain articles may disadvantage web-published academics.

2. Need systematic response; staff development is a strategic priority.

3. Assessment of what students need to know and how they learn.  Move this research to the centre.

4. Look at what constitutes quality. We’ve always pushed the boundaries.

5. Research management. Not just playing RAE game: smart university maximises the potential of research in this new environment.

Conclusion:

Argument: Scholarship has to be tied to these technologies. They reflect our (OU) distinctive mission and can enhance it. Staff understand that we need to engage with it, but are a little worried about the impact. And recognise this is a key part of the quality of what we do.  Everyone here strongly identifies with the mission: if technology helps us do this, it’s warmly embraced.  We aim to be the best.  Why not the best? 

The Upside of Down

We can be the leader here, now.

Twittering in to the sand?

I’ve been twittering away for nearly a month now, and really enjoying it for the sense of tight community it gives.  Even when I was off work with the flu for a week and only managed sad whiny tweets.

One odd side effect is that it’s dragged me back to Facebook.  I’d more-or-less abandoned Facebook, until I wired my Twitter feed in to Facebook updates.  All of a sudden people who are on Facebook – that I’ve not been in touch with for ages – start responding to me there.

My colleague and noted Twitter enthusiast Martin is worried about Twitter’s ongoing technical issues, which are annoying, and sensibly points out:

there’s nothing really in the design of Twitter over Jaiku, Friendfeed, Pownce, etc that makes me use it – it’s just that it’s where my network is, and I can’t migrate without them. But if they started to go, the infamous tipping point might be reached very quickly.

Andrew Chen observed that Metcalfe’s Law – that the value of a network grows with the square of the number of nodes – can work against you.  He posits a reverse law – Eflactem’s Law,

As you lose users, the value of your network is decreases exponentially (doh!)

Chen has Facebook in his sights.  And I think he’s right, especially given Facebook’s determination to keep the walled garden thing going – in a networked world, that’s only ever going to work as a short or medium term strategy, and ‘short or medium term’ in Internet years can be not very long at all.  But I think Twitter is far more vulnerable.

The big danger – and big win – for Twitter is that their userbase is small (compared to, say, Facebook or MySpace) but highly skewed towards techie opinion-formers.  Those are precisely the sort of people who will find migrating to a new service very little hassle.

On the other hand, I think Twitter is likely to be robust over small, short outages compared to a lot of online services.  The great thing (for my money) about Twitter versus one great big IM clusterparty or IRC (does anybody use IRC these days?) is that you feel quite safe ignoring it
for a while if you want to do something else.  So if you feel like Tweeting, but can’t, it’s no big deal to get on with Actual Work instead.

It’s all a bit fluid, and who knows what will happen?  As Martin concludes, “that’s the fun of it – we get to see the new paradigms being created”.