Knowing me, Knowing UKOLN

Tomorrow is the last official day that I’ll work for UKOLN at the University of Bath. It will also be the last day that UKOLN exists in its current form – as a large research group/service core funded by Jisc. On Thursday it starts on its new journey as a UKOLN Informatics, a small research group primarily working as part of the Digital Curation Centre (DCC).

I really wish it well. I’ve worked at UKOLN for 13 years. It’s the longest I’ve worked anywhere. To be honest it’s the longest ‘thing’ I’ve ever done. I’ve never had a job for that long, I’ve never even lived in a place that long. It’s a big old chunk of my life.

The last few weeks have been pretty strange but a refreshingly lighthearted touch has been provided by the UKOLN Twitter feed which seems to have been picked up by a team of UKOLN-related tweeters (I genuinely don’t know who has been tweeting but have my suspicions!). Tweets included UKOLN memorabilia and links to classic 70’s discs (UKOLN was established in 1977). It was great to see all the old photos and fantastic UKOLN-created resources that have been tweeted.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 10.35.08

So I don’t want to end on a negative note, or to go on too much in specific detail about my time at UKOLN (see Brian Kelly’s series of posts for a good over view of the last 15 years of UKOLN – there is also an outdated history page on the website). Instead I thought it might be fun to come up with a top-ten best bits of working at UKOLN (in no particular order)!

  • Data. It’s where it’s at! My work for the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) and with web people allowed me to see that data, and making sense of data, is where the future lies. Understanding how to curate, manage and open up data are skills that I am hugely grateful to have been taught. I now work for an organisation (OKF) where data is a social and economic enabler, it’s both exciting and humbling.
  • Developers. I used to find them a bit scary (and I’m married to one!) but events like DevCSI and Dev8D alongside my work on Good Apis have made me realise what a talented bunch they are. I enjoyed Paul Walk’s recent talk on working with developers – bringing communities together is what it’s all about.
  • Libraries. Content is probably the reason why I got in to this game, I’ve always loved books! I think libraries continue to have an important role to play, even though the definitions continue to change. UKOLN’s work with metadata, cataloguing, digital preservation, web publication (e.g. Ariadne) and cultural heritage information has been always been relevant and future-looking.
  • Semantic web and linked data. I’m no technical geek but I can see that UKOLN was on to something when it first started off down the semantic web/RDF route. Linking stuff together offers huge opportunities, it is just that people haven’t quite figured that out yet (or figured out how to do it – some work to be done there). It’s also a big part of my new project LinkedUp.
  • IWMW. (The Institutional Web management workshop) I’ve never been to an event like it, and I’ve been to quite a lot of conferences and workshops. The community vibe is incredible, the talks and workshops are always spot on, the event amplification is great and the drinking sessions are epic. Say no more!
  • Coffee and Cake. Making time to communicate across teams, in different environments is important as an organisation. UKOLN hasn’t always got it right, and it often hasn’t been easy to feel part of a team but certain people (the admin team namely) have always tried to nurture that feeling of unity. The way I feel now about the death of my organization shows that they didn’t do too bad a job.
  • Remote working. There aren’t many people who get to work somewhere where they trust you enough to let you work in your own house! Being involved in the remote worker community has been a fairly instrumental part of my work for the last 5 years.
  • Green and open. Working with likeminded people has always been a real bonus. Many of my colleagues feel in a similar way about politics, digital copyright and environmental issues. I’ve been able to explore green issues in projects like Greening events and through some of my remote working activities. I’ve also done lots of work around open licensing, creative commons and opening up resources and data.
  • Social networking. Brian Kelly got me in to this social networking lark many years ago (he practically forced me to tweet and set up a blog!) and I’ve never looked back. UKOLN has always had the front seats when it came to trying out new solutions. Social networking also kick-started my e-learning and training activities – both work areas I’ve really enjoyed.
  • People. I’ve been lucky enough to have fantastic colleagues while working at UKOLN. Working with people who are enthusiastic, intelligent and genuinely care about the work they are doing has been a real privilege. I’ve made many real friends (both at UKOLN and externally with people we’ve worked with on projects and events). Times have been hard since the redundancy notice but I think once the dust settles we’ll be able to move on and I’m sure I’ll see many of them in the future. There are some great photos of these people on the UKOLN Flickr site.

I was going to pick up on the innovation word as one of my top-ten, but it didn’t seem right given that the innovation angle may be the reason why UKOLN was dropped by Jisc. I still feel it was a short-sighted decision that Jisc will go on to regret. UKOLN has always tried to break new ground and for that reason alone it’s been a great place to work.

So to end with a quote from Knowing me Knowing you – my recommendation for the 70s song we should end with.

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“Memories, good days, bad days
They’ll be with me always…”

Bye bye UKOLN.

UKOLN staff at the American Museum  2009

UKOLN staff at the American Museum 2009


3 thoughts on “Knowing me, Knowing UKOLN

  1. Great post, Marieke. And your writings on remote working have been both useful, and an inspiration. I wish you all the best in future, post-UKOLN endeavors. It’s sad that our UKOLN careers didn’t overlap, and we (still) haven’t met. One day, babe 🙂

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