All entries for October 2005

October 31, 2005

Mad Mel & Sadam: Seperated at Birth?

Writing about web page

Is it just me, or is Mel Gibson looking more like the former leader of Iraq these days?

October 26, 2005

Reading Lists: The Do it yourself way!

Just been over to sit in on a very interesting 2nd year Psychology seminar, where the students were asked for one week to go away and build their own reading lists in a particular area (attitude change). This is all part of our on-going work with Psychology, looking at student reactions to alternatives to the "old-fashioned directed reading list" style.

Was very interesting hearing the resources they'd used, criteria for selecting the best items, not to mention the ways in which they'd put their group lists together. Bit of a shame not much mention was made of HOW they found the items beyond the mention of the occasional database, website or (good heavens) the Library catalogue. Not much on any problems encountered and which resources were the best (my impression was that it was a range – which is good, but it wasn't explicit in the talks).

Still, a bit thanks to Martin Skinner for inviting us along and the results will certainly be fed into the next bit of surveying research we'll be conducting later on this term – we just have to see what inducements we'll be allowed to be used by "them downstairs".

October 20, 2005

The Learning Grid

A big thank-you to Rachel, Dean & Team who've just finished giving the first of this year's informal lunch talks. A very entertaining (and informative) over view of the Grid and its first year of operation – not to mention their hopes for the year to come.

It was particularly nice to have some of their student advisors there to give us the experience (as it were) from the horse's mouth. As they both work for the Library and are current students – they have a rather unique perspective on the highs and lows of Grid activities.

A shame we only had 11 people there to hear them – but then it is a busy time of year. I do hope some of those who missed out will be able to make one of the forthcoming series.

We'll have another LunchTalk! towards the end of this term, title and speaker to be announced in the near future.

Portals, portlets and what the users want

Writing about web page

The CREE project at Hull has released its final report. I find it interesting as it relates to the work I once did at Loughborough, and to the work I did on the portal at Coventry University. The concepts of a VLE, a portal and a portlet seem to be very similar. I wonder at the results of their user survey on page 18, which attempts to show whether users want to search library catalogues, search engines and various other resources through a VLE a portal or a Web page. I am surprised that their users know the difference between them all!

I can appreciate that a Web page, a VLE and a portal all attempt to do something slightly different for the user, but I think that the difference from a user's point of view is hardly perceptible. I also think that many people do not use VLEs or portals to the full depth of their capacity, and use them more like a Web page, which further blurs the distinction for the user.

No doubt you are wondering what a "portlet" is, and how it comes in to all this. Well the portlet is a package that offers the option to search the library catalogue (or similar service) through a portal or VLE rather than through its own interface or Web page. I guess that an example would be the Resource Discovery Network search box that I built into a tutorial page here:

At least that's my understanding. But then you never can be sure if you've got to grips with the differences between all these concepts – I sometimes wonder if people don't make them up as they go along!

October 19, 2005

Digital repositories

Writing about web page

After the popularity of my post on the e-thesis software last week, I thought I'd highlight a project at the University of Hull this time.

The RepoMMan project aims to develop software to enable researchers to deposit material in a digital repository. In a similar way to the thesis software that I mentioned earlier, this software is intended to be used throughout the process of creation of the research writing, and helps to generate metadata.

At the moment the project is surveying researchers to help them to design their tool. Another one to watch, in my opinion as I still think there is a role for repositories, although the practicalities of building them are being ironed out at present.

Since the e-thesis posting we currently are investigating a project to assess how much research writing has been posted onto the University of Warwick website already, independently of any repository, along the lines of John Dale's suggestion.

How I learned to stop worrying and love reading lists

Well maybe not. Here we are in what was planned to be the final week of the reading list analysis/date gathering phase of the project. But wouldn't you know it – at the last I've finally managed to get hold of some lists that I've been trying to obtain for ages. And they're great big fat 500 item lists that take a good couple or more hours to go through.

Darn. But since we have them now and we really could do with including them in the analysis for completeness they're going to have to be done – which means we'll be continuing this phase through to next week. Hopefully some lists I've been promised by the dept of Health & Social science will arrive in that time too and we can include them. But come a week on Friday that really will be it. Even if the dept of Statistics finally comes through with their long promised module lists. (Won't hold my breath on that one).

And if anyone's still counting (other than me) we're up to analysing list#1084 (or 41.161% of all modules)

October 14, 2005

Happy Birthday to Jenny

Yes it's Jen's birthday today – so take the opportunity of this special day to walk up to her and whilst shaking her firmly by the hand saying "You are the birthday girl and I claim my free drink".

Well it's worth a try. As it is you might (not) have the possibility to redeem the offer as we're heading the Varsity just off campus after work tonight for a celebratory pub visit. All welcome from 4.30/5ish onwards.

October 11, 2005

Electronic thesis submission.

Writing about web page

VTLS Inc. have announced the release of VALET, a "Web submission solution for managing electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs), which uses customizable, form-based templates to allow ETDs to be submitted into an underlying FEDORA™ repository." VALET is available free as open source software.

I have been watching the momentum of institutional repositories, and it seems to me that one of the biggest obstacles is getting copyright permission from publishers in order to store a copy of any work. However, Universities already own the copyright for theses written by their own members, so perhaps institutional repositories will begin as thesis repositories.

In my opinion, the second biggest obstacle to creating an instiutional repository of any sort is the creation of metadata. Metadata is what enables people to use the repository to find works on whatever they are interested in. Metadata is what makes the storage of those works worthwhile, but who should create it? VALET automatically creates standardized metadata when a thesis is submitted to a repository. It is pre-configured to create Dublin Core or ETDs metadata, but can also be configured to use other metadata schemas such as MARCXML.

So it seems to me that VALET is a step in the right direction.

October 07, 2005

Reading list analysis: The final few miles

The end is in sight! I've decided that as we approach our goal of 40% of lists analysed there are some depts whom I'm never going see enough lists from (despite repeated contacts with them). However, we should have a representative sample from them all – and certainly more than enough data to give us the sort of in depth analysis we want.

So two weeks today at the very latest we'll be shutting down the data gathering side of things and I'll be turning my attention to writing the analysis report(s). Should mean around the start of November we'll be able to have answers to questions such as:

  • -which departments make the most/least reading references
  • -which departments cost the most/least in book purchases
  • -which are the most/least prescriptive about their reading
  • -which are the most/least consistent depts in terms of how they break their reading up
  • -and what are the "model" reading lists by dept & faculty

Of course these are going to be based on the samples I obtained, and no doubt there are always going to be reading lists widely outside of any model, but it will make for interesting reading. Or at least I hope!

And for those of you who love stats:
Faculty lists seen to date

  • 44.31% Arts
  • 45.80 Medical
  • 51.31 Science
  • 29.95 Soc.Science

(or 974 lists analysed in total – an estimated 154 remaining to target!)

October 06, 2005

Fanboy or overdog?

Writing about web page

I'm rather shocked to have scored 9/10 on this test of your knowledge of the modern vernacular – but as a real fanboy I shouldn't be that surprised. And rather ashamed that I only scored 8/10 on the Physics test yesterday.

Is it just me or is the BBC just turning into a quiz hosting site these days?

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