Vidi Webinar for Developers

Yesterday The LinkedUp team ran a webinar on the latest LinkedUp Competition – the Vidi Competition.

The Webinar was a way to allow us to engage online with developers who are interested in the competition but needed an introduction, and those who had technical questions to ask. We began with a brief introduction to the LinkedUp Challenge, the Vidi Competition and the new focused tracks (specific problems we’d like the developers to solve). There was then an overview of the technical support on offer and a Q&A session which gave people the opportunity to ask our technical team some specific questions.

After a trial run with Meeting Burner that didn’t go too well we decided to use Adobe Connect as one of the partner institutions have a licence for it.

The software worked brilliantly – the only issue was that for some of us the connection went at around 10 minutes in. Unfortunately I was talking at that point and dropped out of webinar – on the upside I was near to finishing.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 14.01.36

After the initial presentation the technical team (Mathieu D’Aquin, Alessandro Adamou and Stefan Dietze) answered questions from the attendees and we discussed some possible applications.

I think running a webinar like this is a really easy and effective way to initiate developers to a competition. We had 22 webinar attendees, many of whom participated by asking questions, suggesting data sets and talking about their submission ideas. Dealing with these people on a purely one-to-one basis would have been much more time consuming.

The recorded webinar can now be found online and the transcript of the discussion is also available. The slides are also available from Slideshare.

Want to Play FOTE13?

Last week I attended the Future of Technology in Education Conference (FOT13) held at ULCC. I went along with a couple of hats on. Firstly, with my Open Education Working Group hat on I was interested in hearing about any new open education initiatives, both in the UK and abroad. Secondly with my LinkedUp hat on I wanted to find out more about open education data activities, so for example are we going to be getting any data out of MOOCs?

Fireside chat

Fireside chat by LCD Imperial

Despite having 3 female plenary speakers (hurray!) the morning was a little disappointing.

While Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist, BT made some interesting points about our change in working practice (her idea that she needs ‘Coffice’ to work – good coffee, good cake, good connectivity and company – would tickle all you remote workers!) and delivered it impeccably without slides or notes, she didn’t really say anything that ground breaking. In the UK we’re all aware in the consumerisation of Higher Education, but I felt that her suggestion that education needs to be as ‘easy as Amazon’ was a little off the mark. While I agree with her view that “wowing does not create satisfaction but getting the basics right does” I think we are in dangerous territory if we just try to make everything easier, education is really about a lot more than ease of use. That said she had a really good story telling technique and I liked her ideas around social networking related to institutions – do you want people to graffiti the inside of your building or the outside?

Job title aside, Alicia Wise, Director of Universal Access at Elsevier, began her talk by being upfront about her organisation’s ‘backward thinking’ with regard to open access. Elsevier are engaging with the open access model and are apparently launching one open access journal week on average…but they are still a commercial company. While Alicia explained that she wants to see content “swish effortlessly round the web” the Twitter backchannel pointed out Elsevier’s growing R&D spend and exploration around journal rental had ultimately resulted in bigger profits. Alicia was in a tricky position but I was pleased to hear her touch on ideas around opening up research data saying that it currently has “high importance and low availability”.

In a talk entitled Webcasts in education: Mythbusters! Gwen Noteborn, Researcher, Maastricht University didn’t really bust any myths; she just confirmed that webcasts can be a really useful teaching and learning tool. At the Maastricht University EdLab they put students and lecturers on a level grounding and working through tech needs together and have experienced a 15% increase in student passes in sessions that used webcasts. They also found that ‘lazy’ students will look at the webcast and only access the sections they need while more ‘conscientious’ students watch the whole webcast (it could be argued that the ‘lazy’ students are just those who know how to work the system – more strategic.) Maastricht have been using Mediasite as their webcasting tool.

The morning concluded with a fireside chat (with real fire!) on implementing change in education. Discussion topics ranged from how we make technology easier for learners, how we get academics using technology and engaging more, and usability. Once again the focus seemed to be a little too much on how technology can make education easy and less on how it can make education better. [Though I go along with the idea that simple to use tools are a good thing].

Lindsay Jordan in blue

Lindsay Jordan in blue by Santanu Vasant

After lunch Lindsay Jordan, Educational Developer, University of the Arts London woke us all up by launching on to the stage in a full-body blue lycra leotard (“why so blue Lindsay?”) She then gave a really interesting talk looking at the differences between online and F2F learning. She explained that the drop out rates in distance/online learning are often to do with life events, but even more to do with isolation. Through a demo of the cupsong and a piano solo Lindsay explained that what we (sometimes) need is bite size learning and (sometimes) less flexibility. The term eventedness also came up – this is the idea that you are part of a shared endeavor – an event. David White has written a blog post about the term and I hope to revisit the ideas behind it for this blog in the near future – all very relevant to event amplification.

Eventedness by David White

Eventedness by David White

Martin King’s talk was by far my favourite of the day. His 101 slides dealt with opening up formal learning through diversity. He talked about how we will deal with 3 billion minds coming online – “the network event horizon of global connectivity”. Most of these will be from developing countries, many will have disabilities, many will be very young or very old and education will have to change to meet what they need. Access to Internet is currently only available to a third of world population but in the next few years new technology will be able to really help open up education and democratize access to information. Martin concluded by pointing out our western elitism and that “we are no longer the centre of our own universe”.

From Martin King's talk: 3 billion new users online

From Martin King’s talk: 3 billion new users online

Kevin Ashley, director of the DCC (my old place of work!) gave the next presentation on Research data: bothersome burden or treasure chest? Kevin explained that 164 HE institutions in UK received over £4.4 billion in research funding last year. Research funders worldwide are placing increasingly stringent requirements on researchers and research institutions regarding data produced by research. There are a huge number of reasons for opening up research data, and he covered quite a few, for example open data greatly increases research citation rate.

The penultimate talk was from Matthew Yee-King, Goldsmith University on MOOCs: a view from the trenches. In a highly practical talk that considered the approach taken at Goldsmith in creating the Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps Coursera course, Matthew also took time to touch on issues like why institutions create MOOCs (a marketing exercise?) and dropout rates. He put forward some interesting statistics: the creative programming course had 95k enroll, 38k active and 6.6k finish. The majority of those participating were already had Bachelors or Masters degrees, making the argument that MOOCs are continuing education for those already educated not the democratisation of HE. Matthew was also frank about the moderation of forums and how they had deleted inappropriate comments, making the MOOC not quite so open.

The final talk was given by Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies in the London Knowledge Lab and Assistant Director for Open Mode learning at the Institute of Education. Diane discussed pedagogies for large-scale student guidance and began by asking why are we spending millions on MOOCs for those who already have degrees? And why are offering MOOCs for free when students (in the UK) are paying £9k? Diane explained that the approach we are taking will not satisfy the worldwide demand for higher education (currently estimated as ~ 100m per year (UNESCO)). Her suggestion is ‘education economics’, moving from the current norm of a 1:25 staff student ratio to a much higher ratio. To do so we need to consider ways of improving and sharing the pedagogies that achieve high quality student support and attainment on the large scale. Technology may well be the answer but we need to invest and support teaching innovation. Diane ended by saying that for her education is not like any other industry – I’d have to agree.

It did feel a little like we were only just getting to the heart of the matter at the end of the day, and it would have been good to talk a little more about this future. A future where more people are online than ever before and they deserve an education. When open education goes beyond sharing a few courses as a branding exercise. But a great day nonetheless.

And one last thing, the FOTE Web app is great!


Event Amplifying OKCon

OKConLast week I attended my first Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon) in Geneva, Switzerland and I have to say I was pretty blown away by it all! The conference is organised by my newish employers – the Open Knowledge Foundation – and is is the world’s leading open data and open knowledge conference. There were over 900 delegates from all around the world and I’ve never met such a bunch of passionate and driven people! The sessions on open government, sustainability and development were hugely eye opening and work being carried out is both innovative and inspiring. I was involved in the open education strand and you can read more about how our panel session and other activities went on the LinkedUp blog.

I won’t go into too much detail about the conference content, there are a collection of posts on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog and my colleague Zara Rahman has written a great post on the vibe. Another tool that gives a really good feel for the event vibe is eventifier. They currently have 692 photos, 18 videos, 15036 tweets, 17 slide sets, 7 audio files and 2854 contributors listed!

OK Comms team

OK Comms team by Zara

What I want to concentrate on is what a fantastic job our Comms team did of amplifying the event.

The 'Live' page on the OKCon website

The ‘Live’ page on the OKCon website

I think the Comms team won’t mind me revealing that they hadn’t amplified such a big event before, but a massive team effort resulted in a really professional feel to the approach. A separate page was set up at where they collated a live blog, live streaming and live tweeting. You could even order an OKCon t-shirt to feel like a real member of the crew!

The liveblogging was carried out using Superdesk Liveblog by SourceFabrik. It allowed integration of tweets, photos and summary text.


Live blogging using Superdesk Liveblog

All the main stage plenary and panel presentations were livestreamed using Livestream. As soon as the talks had taken place the footage was archived and listed on the OKCon live site (and on the Livestream site), long term they will be archived on the OKCon Vimeo Channel. Feedback from those watching was that the live streaming was of high-quality and with few hiccups, viewing numbers were in the hundreds.


Remote participation felt natural from the start and the conference actually opened with a well-exectuted video message from Nellie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission.

Filming OKCon

Filming OKCon

There were quite a few sessions that called for outside participation. For example, the Open Citizen Science event asked for voting on interesting proposals using Skype, Google Hangout and Etherpad. The Open Hardware in Open Science and Research session used Pirate Pad to allow outside people to contribute.

Other remote participation channels included Twitter, use of the #OKCon hashtag and Facebook. There is also a Flickr pool for photo sharing.

Digital Storytelling

I’m not alone in liking a good story, so the Netskills one-day workshop on Exploring digital storytelling appealed. The workshop looked at why stories are a powerful and effective way of communicating with an audience and how the digital techniques suggested can be used effectively for a wide range of purposes; learning, publicity and marketing, community engagement and more.

Wikipedia describes digital storytelling as “a relatively new term which describes the new practice of ordinary people who use digital tools to tell their ‘story’. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, they are usually less than 8 minutes long and can be interactive.”

So I’ll say no more about the day but will let my digital story do the talking. This is my effort from the hands-on session, it was created using WeVideo (a collaborative online video editor) and took me a couple of hours to produce all-in. It’s pretty rough round the edges and I did think of starting again and re-recording the sound, but then I decided that it was more important to show what could be achieved in a very short amount of time.

Most of the photos in the video were taken in the workshop using my phone, hence not great quality. The others are from Flickr and acknowledgements are given at the end of the footage.

There were some great tools suggested during the workshop, here are a few of my favourites:

  • iMovie – doh! Didn’t even realise I had this on my Mac!
  • Voicethread – great for creating collaborative conversations
  • Pixton – I’ve used it before but a nice comic making tool with a database of graphics
  • Comic Life – A downloadable comic maker
  • Wallwisher – An online notice board
  • Animoto – really quick videos out of still images
  • Splice – video creator for your phone
  • Blue mountains – better search engine for Flickr CC photos
  • Vimeo music store – Free sounds/music – search by genre

The All New Event Amplifier Web Site

KirstyKirsty Pitkin (alter ego – the event amplifier!) has recently launched her fab new Web site.

I’ve worked with Kirsty many times over the years (yearly at IWMW and at other JISC events). In fact Kirsty has been mentioned on this blog many a time:

Kirsty is a professional event amplifier and her new Website show cases her events and offers case study accounts of the tools used at them. The site also offers blog posts looking at different aspects of event amplification. It’s all a real labour of love and looks amazing!

Well done to Kirsty and Rich.

Adventures in Space, Place and Time

A few weeks back I attended a seminar on Researching online and mobile interaction & environments: Understanding space, place and time‘ at the University of Bristol. The seminar was facilitated by Professor Carey Jewitt, Dr Niall Winters, Berit Henriksen from the London Knowledge Lab. The seminar was organised by the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) – a network of research groups, each conducting research and training in social science research methods and is part of the MODE: Multimodal methodologies for digital environments series.

Although the day was geared towards researchers and more theoretical than I am used to there were some really interesting themes from the day that align nicely with the whole remote working/event amplification area. Here are my notes…

Space, Place and Time

Space – It is not just physical and fixed, it can be modified, is an abstraction, but there are physical aspects to it. Types of space include local, global, utobian, heterotopia, aural and visual. One idea is that space doesn’t exist until something happens in it.

Place – Space is made into place by a set of activities that happen in it. Places are processes: not fixed or frozen in time. There are lots of new practices relating to online interaction, for example: cocooning – individuals socializing less and retreating into their home, camping – finding a space to sit (e.g. in a library) and setting up your online workd, foot-printing – the route you take online. Some argue that in the technology world it is no longer possible to be ‘late’ because as soon as you start texting you can still participate. Specification of spaces have changed

– Time and space always shape each other and are constitutive of social interaction. Time takes many forms. For example – clock time – people made; natural divisions of time e.g. seasons, light and dark; lazarus time – use of previously dead time.

These concepts are relevant when talking about online and mobile interaction because the classic notions of time, space and place need to be adapted for the online and mobile world. One example of this is this advert on Oxford Street which is shown only to women.

I think this ties in nicely with Brian Kelly’s discussions around Escaping the Constraints of Space and Time with regard to amplified events.

Spaceflows and Multimodality

There was also some discussion around the idea of spaceflows: what mediums are information and identity flowing through, and what is transmitted, text, video, image? One could argue that Twitter is a communter technology, users often use it on the move, while Flickr is a tourist technology because it involves standing still and documenting.

Another concepts introduced during the day was that of multimodality, where users are provided with multiple modes of interfacing with a system.

The course was really interesting and made me realise that not only is technology changing at a rapid pace but are so many other concepts we take for granted, like space, place, time and use. This often leaves us confused about how we are supposed to act in new situations. One example from the day that sums this up beautifully is the Museum of Unintended Use. No one quite knows where the technology ride will take us…

Video Conferencing in Universities

Yesterday I dipped in to the JISC Conferencing in Universities and Colleges workshop held at the University of Warwick. The event explored the role of video conferencing in reducing travel and was presented by the JISC-funded SusteIT project in collaboration with the EAUC Travel Coordinator’s Group, the Welsh Video Network and University of Warwick.

Unfortunately due to other commitments I didn’t have time to watch all the talks (a full programme is available from the JISC Web site) but did catch some of Jonathan Owen’s session on Conferencing at the University of Warwick. Warwick have a dedicated full time Videoconferencing support and development officer and now facilitate 40-60 calls per month (with a target of 150 a month). Warwick have also taken the decision to have five dedicated telepresence suites to encourage staff to make more use of the facilities. Telepresence technologies allow a person to feel as if they were present. At Warwick some of their approaches include use of a life-size image, integrated lighting and directional audio and compatibility with other systems.

Conferencing at the University of Warwick, Jonathan Owen, Audio Visual Service Owner, University of Warwick

Other presentations during the day include Peter James, Professor of Environmental Management, and Lisa Hopkinson, SusteIT Project Manager, University of Bradford on Conferencing in the Sector – Research Findings; Paul Bonnett, Videoconferencing Technical Co-ordinator, JANET on JANET Conferencing Services Today and Tomorrow; Geoff Constable, Welsh Video Network Support Officer, University of Aberystwyth, on Videoconferencing in Wales. There was also a talk from Heppie Curtis, Research Assistant on Conferencing at the University of Bristol who I worked with on the Greening Events II Project.

The event was video streamed in two different ways: by TConsult, a communications consultancy firm and the Janet Video Streaming service. I guess with video conferencing being the theme of the day it was important to make sure it worked!! There was also a discussion space on CoverIt live which offered opportunities for people to vote on different questions, nice touch. Unfortunately the question I voted on (How many people have used the following services: Adobe Connect, Collaborate, would only let me choose one answer!

Resources from the day will be available from the Event page.

Will Allen's set up for the day

Disaster Planning for Conferences

Skype link and presentation stage

Disaster! Your key note speaker can’t make it due to a family crisis!!!

This is what happened on day 2 of this year’s International Digital Curation Conference, 5 – 7 December 2011, Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol, UK. Unfortunately Professor Philip E Bourne from the Department of Pharmacology, University of California San Diego wasn’t able to fly over for the conference.

So what did we do?

Plan A was to have Philip connect through a Skype connection and provide the audio part of his presentation. His slides would be presented on the big screen at the conference and the chair (Professor Matthew G.Davidson, Associate Dean (Research) from the Faculty of Science, University of Bath) would move the slides for Philip. Luckily this worked perfectly and the audience (and remote audience) were treated to a seamless presentation.

Behind the scenes there were a couple of things going on that are worth noting. We connected up with Philip through Skype in reasonable time for the talk and made sure that he was kept up to date with what was going on using messaging e.g. “get ready to go, the sound is perfect etc.) We didn’t allow Philip to hear the audio till the end of his talk – primarily to avoid distracting him with our conversations but also because the last minute nature of the set up didn’t allow time for testing. At the end of Philips talk we managed to connect to the mixer desk and use the microphones in the room so he could hear questions. We didn’t use video for the talk. It was 1am in California where Philip was Skyping from so he was probably ready for bed! Not only this but there were concerns about using video over the wireless connection, which was all that we had. Big thanks to the AV team at the Marriott hotel for helping us with this.

We did have a Plan B. Philip’s slides were available on Slideshare and he had also pre-recorded his talk and shared in on SciVee (it would have been played in video and document mode). SciVee is a provider of internet video and rich media solutions for the scientific, technical, and medical market.

SciVee in video and document mode

Plan C was phoning Philip’s mobile up!!

So what’s your back up plan for when your speaker can’t make it?

Rich Pitkin on the streaming desk

The Quandary of Quality

Last Thursday I ran a seminar on The Benefits of Amplified Events as part of the Green Impact seminar series at the University of Bath. A full abstract with links to the resources (including a set of short videos created by Brian Kelly) is available. My slides are available from Slideshare and embedded below.

There is also and Adobe Connect recording of the seminar.

After the seminar one of the attendees admitted that he found it all very interesting but was slightly concerned about the quality of the resources (streamed video, video snippets, audio etc.) created. He explained that even a slight crackle in audio put him off entirely and that he felt he’d always rather be at an event then watching it streamed.

We then had a really interesting discussion about the quandary of quality and I wanted to post a few thoughts here.

  • The level of quality required is relative – There will be times when a high level of quality is necessary (for example if you are creating DVDs of talks), but there will also be times when a lower level is required (for example when putting on the Web). High quality video is resource intensive – it requires a good deal of effort to move about, store and edit. You will need to think about the context – what level of quality will your audience expect and are you willing to pay? Commercial outfits will produce excellent quality outputs but they cost – think about your business model.
  • Seamless technology is very important – If the audio isn’t working or the video is blurry people will not be able to watch. Make sure the technology works in advance, test it and test it again. Even if you are doing it yourself you can make every effort to crack this nut. However there are still times when technical difficulties can’t be avoided – it happens in all areas of work – we all just have to learn from it and move on.
  • Online/hybrid events are not the same as face-to-face events – They are different. Often they are an alternative because people cannot travel or attend. Some might argue that they are “better than nothing” but potentially they can be just as good, but different. Audiences need to be aware of this and event organisers need to manage expectations.
  • It just won’t work for some people – However it will work for many others. The face of events is changing and ‘trial and error’ is necessary to make things better. As and individual, and as an organisation, you can decide if you wish to embrace change, or not.

As an aside….I know that my husband and I have different levels of tolerance when it comes to quality of audio and video.

I still love the crackle of an LP and the feedback from an amp. High definition television is wasted on me and I’m just as happy watching fuzzy videos as I am staring up at the big screen in a multiplex cinema. Many things are ‘good enough’ for me.

My husband is a music purist with classical music training and an ear for electronic music. Bad sound quality makes him wince. He understands the physics of sound and the mechanics of video.

I often think that I’m the lucky one as I’m enjoying the AV a lot more of the time than he is! 😉

Business Models for Video Streaming

Many large-scale conferences now offer some form of streaming of talks or videos of the talks soon after the event. How they actually do this varies hugely.

I touched on possible business models in the post I wrote on Openness and Event Amplification last month. I wanted to take a more detailed look at this area and see if I could define a set of possible business models and also raise some of the challenges within each approach.

Do it Yourself

This is likely to be the cheapest option available to event organisers. On a fairly fundamental level the event team will need to assign roles and someone will then need to use a phone or camera to film talks. These can then be served up through a free streaming service (like LiveStream, Bambuser,, Ustream etc.), a paid for streaming service or through a webinar service (like Adobe Connect, Collaborate etc.) The videos can also be shared using services like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Yahoo Video etc. It is worth noting that some video sites have limitations on the length, file size and formats they will accept. Event organisers will also be wise to add good metadata to the videos as this will help their categorisation and enable others to find them. Some of the videos may need editing in some way and there are countless free and licenced services out there. It is more than likely that many of the decisions regarding tools and services may be dictated by what your institution already has a licence for.

There is a comprehensive list of video hosting services on Wikipedia

At the Institutional Web Management Workshop that I have chaired for several years we have tended to rely on the skills of the host institution in streaming talks, which is a slight variation on the DIY model. Last year we found that the host institution couldn’t provide this service so we did the work ourselves.

The biggest cost here is the resources needed to train staff and the time needed to actually carry out the actual work (for example video editing can be hugely time-consuming). This approach works best if you have staff members who are interested in learning the skills needed and if you are likely to be organising events on a regular basis.

Cost: $

Event Amplifier

I’ve mentioned Kirsty Pitkin many a time, she’s definitely my event amplifier of choice! Kirsty and the rest of her team have a set of skills (live blogging, tweeting, filming, video editing etc.) that are essential when amplifying events and they also own all the necessary equipment. Not only that but Kirsty has an excellent grasp of the academic sector. These days Kirsty is extremely busy and I’ve no doubt that there will be others joining her in this space in the not too distant future – if there aren’t already. I can see the role of event amplifiers developing into a sort of ‘wedding planner for event amplification’ where they lead you through all aspects of the amplification from pre-event, during event and through to post-event. Their role is likely to extend beyond that of just video streaming. They will help you with many of the choices available but are also likely to be fairly flexible and happy to use the tools and services your institution already has a licence for.

Cost: $$

Outsource to a Commercial Company

Taking this one step further event organisers can employ commercial video streaming companies who carry out all aspects of event amplification. Obviously cost is dependant on what you exactly you would like done and at what spec you require it. Services like SwitchNewMedia are experts at this in the HE sector. The likelihood is that services like this will have a set of tools that they use and there will be less flexibility in processes and approaches. There are an increasing number of commercial media streaming companies out there and it probably makes sense to go with one that has been recommended by others. This approach is likely to be the most costly and the one in which you have the least control over tools and services used. It is probably the most appropriate approach for large scale conferences where quality is key and there is no room for technical error.

Cost: $$$

Use a Commercial ‘Kit’

At the APA Conference I attended last week all the sessions were videoed and archived through the River Valley TV service. The service send someone along who records the sessions using a fairly low spec camera (not HD). The videos are then edited (in Kerala, India) and delivered up on the River Valley TV site asap. The cost is fairly minimal. I chatted to the River Valley TV guy at the conference and he explained that in the future they intend to offer a ‘take away kit’ for users. Users are delivered the cameras, film the event, return the cameras and then the videos are edited and distributed online. I can see this model really taking off.

Cost: $$

Other Questions to Consider:

  • Who is paying for this?
  • Will you charge for access to the recorded talks?
  • Will you charge for remote attendance of the live event?
  • Will the streaming costs be paid by upping the price for face-to-face attendees?
  • Will you allow advertising? Will the resources be freely available or not?
  • Do you have the right processes and policies in place to allow you to video talks?
  • Have you asked the presenters?
  • Have you asked the audience?
  • Have you decided on a licence?
  • What impact will streaming have on your attendance?
  • How much does quality matter?

The recent Streaming Media Europe Conference 2011 has some talks that might be of interest.

So are there any more potential models that I could list here? Or are there more questions that need consideration?