Andy Powell (previously of UKOLN, but now at Eduserv Foundation) is reflecting on 10 years of the institutional web.
His first point is that as he tried to research the ‘history’ of this community, he became aware that we were in danger of losing our community history, as much of it is in digital media, which is not necessarily being preserved.
Andy has a background in computing services at University of Bath, before becoming the first ‘webmaster’. In 1996 he moved to UKOLN and was involved in digital library projects, and cultural heritage stuff. He also advised JISC and the wider community about standards.
There have been a lot of changes in 10 years. But some things have not changed – “Change is inevitable except from the University of Bath’s vending machines” (John Kirremuir). But, we are still working towards how we use web in our teaching and learning.
Andy is running through a brief history of the web, and the community around it. He was unable to find the date for when ‘Alta Vista’ started (remember that? in the days before Google). Can’t find a date, but Ariadne issues 2 has an article comparing alta vista and lycos. (Found this timeline later)
Over 10 years, we have seen the development of a new profession of ‘webmaster’. Although this job title has gone out of vogue now (bit un-PC). Indeed, there doesn’t really seem to be a single job title for people involved in this area.
An example of information disappearing. Andy has mentioned ‘coloured books’ – found this difficult to track down as a reference. Finally found a definition.
Andy is now indicating some general trends:
from flat html files and static content, to xml, managed content with dynamic interface.
higher quality (X)HTML – largely driven by desire to make content more accessible
better integration with institutional branding
general recognition that end-user need varies widely. In particular it is better to move the content to the end-user, rather than to pull end-user into content via the Web user-interface – e.g. use of RSS for lists.
From static pages -> portals -> web 2.0
Andy is suggesting we have ‘moved through’ the portal phase. However, I don’t believe this to be true – but perhaps what we mean by portal has changed. Our portal at RHUL is a central place where students can interact with the college, and I do see this as a launch point for students.
Using external services – some risk here. The library community were are very early adopters of this kind of service approach (e.g. z39.50 as very early example – although turned out to be too difficult to implement and possibly ahead of it’s time). Now we are looking at light weight protocols to support rapid development (e.g. A9 Opensearch)
Andy is highlighting the influence that the Follett report had – it led to eLib, and informed the direction of JISC development. Andy notes that it is now difficult to find a copy of Follett – and the copy on the UKOLN site is actually corrupted and missing words! (I found a copy at University of Edinburgh on their Communications and Marketing pages for some reason)
Some things missing from the current view of the insitutional webmasters. e.g. OAI not mentioned at this conference – we need to engage with this. Why is their little (or no) discussion about e-learning in a group of University Institutional web managers? Isn’t learning what universities are about?
Anyway, JISC development agenda is possibly really a ‘digital library’ agenda. Much of it comes out of Follett directly. Webmanagers need to engage with this agenda.
Andy is saying that the focus of institutional webmanagers is more pragmatic. I think this makes sense – at this level webmanagers deal with the very day to day concerns – perhaps not having a chance to look above the parapet.
Soome interesting discussion at the end here about how the ‘institutional webmaster’ to help institution engage more widely in terms of the web. We need to get the ‘real world’ experience they have and years of experience in the web (e.g. usability?) to other areas – e.g. online research, insitutional repositories, e-learning etc.