JISC, Monitter and DIUS (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills)

Earlier this week the Jisc 2009 Conference went ahead. A one day summary of where things are going in Jisc-land.

Like last year, I got a good feel of the day via twitter. I used a web app called monitter.com for real time updates from anyone on twitter who used the tag #jisc09. monitter.com allows you to track a number (3 columns by default) of words/searches, this works well as these can be usernames, tags or just a phase. I used ‘jisc09’, ‘brighton OR sussex’ and ‘library’.

The keynote talks was also streamed live on the web, the quality was excellent. Check out the main Jisc blog for the event.

Linking to all the different sites, searches and resources on the web after the event wouldn’t do it justice. The usefulness was in the way these were all being published during the day itself, using things like twitter (and bespoke sites) as a discovery mechanism for all these different things being added around the web. I didn’t know who most of the people were, but I was finding their contributions. That’s good.

An email came out the next day about the conference and announcing a guest blog post by David Lammy, the Minister for Higher Education, on the Jisc Blog.

He finished by asking for the conversation to continue, specifically on  http://www.yoosk.com/dius which is described as ‘a place to open up lines of communication between Ministers and the HE Community’. Yoosk.com is set up to allow users to ask ‘famous people questions’. Its homepage suggests that it is designed for any kind of ‘famous person’ though seems to be dominated by UK politicians. Looks interesting but can’t help wonder if there are other sites which could facilitate a ‘discussion’ just as well or better.

The dius section of the site seems quite new. In fact my (rather quickly composed) question was the second to be added to the site. I think the idea of practitioners (yuck, did I just use that word?) raising issues directly with Ministers is an interesting one, and hope it takes off, and at very least, he/they answer the questions!

DIUS do seem to be making an effort to use web2.0 tools. I recently came across this sandbox idea of collecting sites from delicious based on tags, in this example, the library2.0 tag. Interesting stuff, but not specific to HE, it will work for any tag and really just creates a nice view of the latest items bookmarked with the tag in question. The code for it is here.

In any case, it is good to see a government department trying out such tools and also releasing the code under the GPL (even 10 Downing street’s flickr stream is under crown copyright, and don’t get me started on OS maps and Royal Mail postcodes). I’m reminded of the Direct.gov team who, when they found out there was a ‘hack the government‘ day to mashup and improve government web services, decided to join in.

DIUS homepage with web2.0 tools

DIUS homepage with web2.0 tools

On the DIUS hompage, just below the fold, they have a smart looking selection of tools, nice to see this stuff here, and so prominent, though the Netvibes link to me just a holding page when I tried it.

Finally, they have set up a blog on the jiscinvolve (WordPress MU) site. At the time of writing it has a few blogs posts which are one line questions, and has a couple of (good) responses. But I can’t help feeling that these sites need something more if they are to work. At the moment they are just there floating in space. How can they integrate these more into the places that HE staff and students inhabit. Perhaps by adding personal touches to the sites would encourage people to take part, for example the blog – a set of questions – is a little dry, it needs an introduction, host, and photos.

To sum up, some good stuff going on here, but need to see if it takes off, it must be difficult for a government department to interact with HE and students, the two are very different but they are trying.  I hope it proves useful, if you’re involved in HE why not take a look and leave a comment?


March 25, 2009

In interesting, libraries, library technologies & open data, politics and current affairs, universities, web and blogs

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Steph Gray says:

Thanks for your post, Chris. I lead the team at DIUS trying out these various tools, and you’re right to say that it’s early days.

One of our biggest challenges is to make sure the feedback we collect through them can be used effectively within the organisation to improve policymaking and delivery. Increasingly, we’re trying to blend online with offline approaches (the Yoosk example is a process which started as a series of meetings with students, which we’re now taking online).

If you have any suggestions or feedback, do let us know.

Robet Haymon-Collins says:

Chris – I head the Comms team at JISC and so I was pleased to read you post about the #JISC09 conference this year. We tried very hard to improve access for people who couldn’t make the event and the various blogs, Twitter feeds audio recording and streaming seem to have been widely welcomed. We have had may positive comments about the streaming quality which is very gratifying – thank you.

Thanks also for the heads up on Monitter which I will check out.

Steph has already replied to you so I won’t add much but to say that in our own small way we are keen to support the work of Steph in tying to big some of these approaches adopted in departments like DIUS – it will take time so bear with it!

Chris Keene says:

Well, I was wondering if those who help run the things mentioned above would bump in to this post, with the various alerting systems out there (I have a Google Blog Search RSS feed for any mention of University of Sussex Library).

What I wasn’t expecting was a reply hours later on the same day (at 10:30 at night) and a second before 9am the next morning. Impressed.

I very much welcome trying new tools, some will no doubt fail (i.e. not get used) where others will prove successful. But that’s how it should be and there’s nothing worse than the ‘risk adverse’ mentality (unfortunately our national papers and trade press like to pick up on the failures which doesn’t help). Web2.0 have a fairly low cost of entry which helps try out experiments like this.

Using web2.0 tools to reach out to students is something Universities are a lot now. I run a twitter account for our department (as well as accounts on facebook, youtube, etc) and what surprised me was how many other libraries and universities are now following us.

Do I have any suggestions?

I’m thinking about how DIUS can really engage with the HE community. The two are quite separate. Students deal with University lectures, who deal with University Management, who deal with HEFCE, who are funded via DIUS. There’s quite a separation there.

How to go about this of course depends on who you are aiming at, students, academics, others (IT, admin, Library). Learning or Research, or both?

I think we tend to listen more to those we know. For example I’m on various jiscmail email lists, and I tend to listen to advice/opinion from those I know more than those I’ve never heard off (not intentionally I should add). I’ve seen announcements about large projects sent to lists which produce no response or interest because they come out of the blue. Likewise, I’m more likely to think about opinions in blog posts from those I frequently read and value their opinion, than those I simple come across on the web.

With that in mind, getting well known people to talk about or advocate using your discussion tools might help take up. For example in the Web/Library world, Brian Kelly at UKOLN is read by a lot of people: http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/

Again, it depends who in the HE community you want to focus on.

There are events as the recent Mashed-Libraries http://mashedlibrary.ning.com/
and the very successful JISC dev8d ( http://dev8d.jiscinvolve.org/ ), maybe something those involved in web2.0 stuff could attend? (I wasn’t at dev8d so apologies if you were). I guess what I’m trying to say is that mingling and – more importantly – drinking beer with us is probably a good way of helping engagement :)

How to engage with students is a different question, and one I think many struggle with (including those who work with them!).

Like Robert says, all this can take time, but looks like it’s the right direction (for what my opinion is worth), so good luck and I’ll look forward to seeing how it pans out.

Chris Keene says:


Of course, no clever alerting services needed.

This post appears in the track backs on the original post


killk says:

nice post thnaks

Univ Guide says:

DIUS is a nice information site with regularly updated news and lots of useful educational information.