This is Tony Hirst's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Tony Hirst's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Tony Hirst
Recent Activity
Saw this - - and thought of you... On teachers' pay reform: "why is it happening here (unlike very many other countries, including most of the highest performing systems), and why is it happening now? ... My immediate response is to argue that this has nothing to do with improving teaching and learning and everything to do with an ideological attack by the political Right on state education. "
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2012 on How to dismantle a sector, stage 2. at The Ed Techie
Cough... university press... cough...
Interesting that you make the distinction about being happy to be marketed at through personalisation, but not happy to receive search results that are biassed to the world you already inhabit. I know how to rediscover stuff my friends and colleagues have written, so whilst it may sometimes be convenient for that to turn up in my search results, I don't want it to dominate them. When I'm searching Google, I put "ouseful" in the query when I want results from my blog to be added in, but when I want a wider search, I just use the topical search terms. (Similarly, I also use search limits to bound results to or sites, for example, when I want to focus on a content produced in the context of a particular class of publisher.) What I generally want is relevant variety, with a dash of novelty. It's all very well Google serving me results that it knows: a) it has served me before, and that b) I have clicked on if I'm in a re-discovery mode; but if I'm looking for new results, the old ones have suddenly become irrelevant.... It's maybe also worth noting that as I research my way through a topic, I tend to evolve the level of sophistication/precision of the search terms I use, so sometimes what I actually want is prompts from the search engine that actually help me develop my vocabulary in a topic area (loosely related: Jon Udell on search strategies ) When it comes to paying for content, it's maybe also remembering that the marketing thing may still be playing out even when (especially when) we are paying. Magazines and newspapers are heavily dependent on advertising revenue, and the fact that people pay for the magazine prequalifies them as someone with a particular interest or particular demographic, which can make that magazine/ad channel more valuable to specialist advertisers. The more I'm willing to pay for a magazine, the greater my interest in that subject, so the more valuable I am to someone who advertises products that cater to that audience. The fact that I can get access to a high density of specialist advertisers in a particular magazine (advertisers who have paid for those ads) may actually be part of the reason I buy that magazine. Relevant ads are indistinguishable from content etc etc. Where it becomes pernicious is when marketing follows you around the web (remarketing, eg ) and ads are served that may be (thought to be) relevant to you but that are irrelevant to the content on the page you are currently visiting, like junk mail. It's also worth remembering that all sorts of companies that own channels that can be used to target difference audience groups sell reach to advertisers, from ISPs to mobile phone companies (eg ) It even seems as if some clever folk have found a way into doing IP address based hyperlocal targeting to postcode level?!?! Hmm, thinks... maybe I need to review to get a feel for commercial models around public datasets...
I've started playing around with F1 timing and telemetry data on There's a page of links pointing to scraped timing data files too.
I haven't checked by doing a proof of concept, but I think you can probably pull the Google Finance data directly into a Google spreadsheet using the =googlefinance() formula?
Hmmm... one of the things I've been arguing might be a role for the library is in doing exactly this - reputation enhancement of an institution's academics and outputs...
As far as embedding goes, have you looked at ? I've started to wonder whether we might be able to make use of that sort of approach in GetTheData, allowing folk to embed data queries in a question (or answer), provide a way for the query to be executed and a preview of the data displayed in the page, and then maybe also include an embedded chart visualising the returned data. "Live" or "operational" data queries, in other words... tony
Information about copyright policies can be found using SHERPA/RoMEO [ ]. JourmalTocs also lets you search for journals that are open access [ ]
Toggle Commented Feb 17, 2011 on at The Ed Techie
Thanks for the mention.... GetTheData launched at the start of this year - as a domain specific Q&A site - so we're trying to grow the user base. We hope that "get" will be interpreted in several ways, from "where to find", to "how to obtain" and even to "how to access/make of the data in a technical way". We look forward to your questions, and/or answers :-)
Fwiw, the people you follow on twitter are quite highly interconnected (, but a map over the fans of your fans on delicious shows how that service never really got to grips with pushing the social? (
1 reply
The Tom Steinberg ref is a good one - I'd forgotten that post... One of the things I've been pondering is the extent to which: - published data is data that councils have been collecting anyway; - if so, what have they been collecting it for and how do they use it? - as far as workflow goes, could the open version of the data be a step in the workflow? I'm reminded of several occasions years ago when I was advocating for the use of RSS/Atom, and had some success in persuading folk to publish various feeds, of a sort.... But it was quite a common occurrence when I looked at the feeds days or weeks later that they were actually rotten and didn't work properly... Same with OERs - folk seem to think publishing is the be all and end all... But how about for same data sets/feeds/OERs, the publishers actually demonstrated the data/feed/OER *working with someone else's data/feed/OER, or showing how the data/feed/OER is actually used within the organisation/institution? If the publishers don't see any utility in the stuff they publish (notwithstanding the aphorism that the best ideas/use cases will be thought up by someone else) why should anyone else? tony PS are your feeds working? I subscribe to the Atom feed, but Google Reader doesn't seem to pass the posts through?
Toggle Commented Dec 14, 2010 on Open Data Argument Minus Use at Fragments of Amber
Most of the events I go to now I present at but generally without having submitted anything in advance, at least, rarely anything more than a title. I guess this means I'm speaking more at semi-commercial or community events, such as ILI, or UKSG, or workshop events, liked Mashed Libraries, of DEV8D events. I generally get my expenses covered for these, and a hotel if required; the event fee is assumed to be covered in exchange for presenting. Of course, it means I have no refereed publications to my name, and no need to go for 200 quid conference grants from whoever in order to cover travel/accommodation costs (grants that also generate academic brownie points.) It also means I have to give up a day in preparation in 1-3 days of attendance time, which are not costs that I typically get covered. The payoff for me is largely twofold: a) being given a chance to ramble at an audience; b) the opportunity to chat to folk. Note that I often don't go in to conference sessions any more, in favour of chatting with people in the concourse (why stop an intersting conversation if a not so interesting session is about to start). I also tend to use the law of two feet myself, dipping out of sessions I do go into if I'm not learning anything form them, or can't contribute to them via questions or amplification.
Toggle Commented Nov 8, 2010 on Am I done with conferencing? at The Ed Techie
Here are my immediate comments on the Senate paper, which i passed on to a couple of members of Senate who had requested comments... I'll be posting them again on a commentable version of the Senate doc (I hope) as soon as it becomes public. Tony Hirst - Response to scholarship paper In "Sorkin vs. Zuckerberg", a review of "The Social Network"in The New Republic (Oct 1st 2010 [ ] ), Lawrence Lessig observed: "But the most frustrating bit of The Social Network is not its obliviousness to the silliness of modern American law. It is its failure to even mention the real magic behind the Facebook story. In interviews given after making the film, Sorkin boasts about his ignorance of the Internet. That ignorance shows. This is like a film about the atomic bomb which never even introduces the idea that an explosion produced through atomic fission is importantly different from an explosion produced by dynamite. Instead, we’re just shown a big explosion ($25 billion in market capitalization—that’s a lot of dynamite!) and expected to grok (the word us geek-wannabes use to show you we know of what we speak) the world of difference this innovation in bombs entails. "What is important in Zuckerberg’s story is not that he’s a boy genius. He plainly is, but many are. It’s not that he’s a socially clumsy (relative to the Harvard elite) boy genius. Every one of them is. And it’s not that he invented an amazing product through hard work and insight that millions love. The history of American entrepreneurism is just that history, told with different technologies at different times and places. "Instead, what’s important here is that Zuckerberg’s genius could be embraced by half-a-billion people within six years of its first being launched, without (and here is the critical bit) asking permission of anyone. The real story is not the invention. It is the platform that makes the invention sing. Zuckerberg didn’t invent that platform. He was a hacker (a term of praise) who built for it. And as much as Zuckerberg deserves endless respect from every decent soul for his success, the real hero in this story doesn’t even get a credit. It’s something Sorkin doesn’t even notice" In a similar vein, whilst the Scholarship paper to Senate is to be welcomed, it arguably misses the point about the new forms of emerging scholarship. From my perspective, "the new scholarship" is predicated on ideas relating to openness: discoverability through web search on the one hand, and information flow via publish-subscribe networks (aka asymmetric follow networks), particularly on the web, on the other. Looking at the document, it is not clear what the defining charateristics of "scholarship" are, although the authors appear to have an unstated assumed definition in mind (exactly what that is, I'm not sure...) The Senate paper requests the acceptance of a statement (paragraph 5) about the distinctiveness of scholarship at the OU. This paragraph suggests that the OU's distinctiveness is bound up with scholarship relating to open and distance education, which it surely is, though to my mind the practice of this scholarship might also be a characteristic feature if pursued at least in part according to the "new scholarship" traits suggested above. In [ [ ] ] I quoted a short unit on Connexions (What Is Digital Scholarship? [ [ ] ]) by the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities & Social Sciences which suggests: "In recent practice, “digital scholarship” has meant several related things: "- Building a digital collection of information for further study and analysis "- Creating appropriate tools for collection-building "- Creating appropriate tools for the analysis and study of collections "- Using digital collections and analytical tools to generate new intellectual products "- Creating authoring tools for these new intellectual products, either in traditional forms or in digital form" The piece goes on: "It may seem odd to some that creating collections and the tools to use them should be counted as scholarship, but humanities and social science research has always required collections of appropriate information, and throughout history, scholars have often been the ones to assemble those collections, as part of their scholarship. Moreover, scholars have been building tools since the first index, the first concordance, the first scholarly edition. So, while it is reasonable to regard (d) as the core meaning and ultimate objective of “digital scholarship,” it is also important to recognize that in the early digital era, leadership may well consist of collection-building or tool-building. In addition, tool-building is dependent on the existence of collections, and both collections and tools get better and more general as there is more use of digital information. If we hope to see new intellectual products, we should give high priority to building tools and collections. Finally, it is worth noting that although (a), (b), (c), and (e) require a great deal of cooperation, it is still imaginable that (d) can be the work of a single individual." It is my contention that the *approach* we take to scholarship (scholarship in the sense of creating through doing a new practice of scholarship) may be as important a contribution to the evolution of scholarship as the "unique" focus - distance and open education. Indeed, the process may well lead in to new forms of supporting and delivering open and distance education, as well as contributing to practice in the arena of open science (and other forms of open research). In identifying several "proposed scholarship types" (paras 6-10), the paper identifies particular "scholarship domains", none of which include the practice of new forms of scholarship (which I would argue is scholarship, as the American Council of Learned Societies commission did). Just as Lessig commented that the producers of The Social Network missed the point by using an old model to try to describe a new model, not least in the area of "metrics", I think the authors of the paper are making a similar mistake in their treatment of what defines scholarship in a networked and digitally mediated age. For example, there seems to be a focus on metrics around formal entries into the "recorded body of human knowledge", without recognition of how web-based access to information has significantly changed what it means to make something citeable, quotable, referenceable, (re)desicoverable and recoverable/physically accessible. There is also an assumption that formal academic publications lead to sensible "impact" related metrics, although it is not clear what it meeans to make an "impact" in real terms. In my mind, impact is related to the extent to which someone has influenced the behaviour of someone else, particularly in the area I focus on - the development of digital tools for understanding and exploiting web based digital communication systems. For pretty much everything I post on the web, I can tell you how many times it was viewed, often with an indication of the number of unique individuals who have seen the resource, identify other reseources that link to the resource, and make it available for free and in an open way via a unique URI that dereferences to a unique location on the internet. The reources can also be associated with commentary and other weak signals or "votes" that the resource has "impacted" someone in some way. A significant contribution the OU could make would be to the evolution of metrics relating to reputation and quality of scholarly activity, models that may be extensible to rating scientific research as well as the construction, validation and verification of (informal) educational awards and qualifications. When discussing "Further Issues for Comment", I would like to have seen some reference to the openness in the practice of shcolarly activity. The potential benefits for this are themselves uncertain, though they may appear from the most unlikely directions and in the most unexpected ways. (For example, see this review of a brief, informal and ad hoc mini-project that moved things on in open science, albeit only slightly!, over the course of a weekend: A little bit of federated Open Notebook Science, C Neylon [ ] On the question of the evaluation of scholarship (para 12), the reference to externality (first bullet point) suggests that "all forms of scholrship should have an existence externally and be capable of recognition in a wider domain". To me, that is an argument for openness (where by open-ness I mean the publication of content in an open and discoverable way, ideally unencumbered by access or license obstacles; it should also mean the freedom to "remix"). It is unclear from the paper what the OU values as evidence of "externality", and I would like to see this clarified. (I would also argue that publication in the University of Poppleton Journal of Iffy Reports does not really count.... Even the impact of publication in a "major" journal is moot if no-one who reads that journal is in a position to be influenced by the publication...) THe second bullet point of para 12 on outcomes suggests that they should be "subject to judgements of excellence by peers". Again, I would argue this is in accord with the principle of open publication even of informal works and work in progress. It is not clear how the OU would ascertain the extent to which these judgements might be made on the one hand, and recognised on the other. That the outcomes of scholarship should be "capable of use and elaboration by others" is a significant reason why I blog in an open and incomplete fashion, although to my knowledge this is not recognised by the OU; (if it is, I would like to know how) And sa far as scholarship outcomes having an "impact", I would like to know what definition of impact is being used. As mentioned above, for me impact is closely tied to the ability to influence. In my own work, this might be measured in terms of "conversions" from people who read my blog or follow me on Twitter to their inviting me to talk at an event they are running. As to whether the contributions need to be academic, I would like to know what is meant by academic, and whether this precludes wider impact, such as the dissemination and adoption oor uptake of ideas in the wider academic, academic related area as well as business, local government, news media/jourmnalists, informal learning communities, and so on, not only with the OU and UK HE, but also internationally. I would also like to know how it is intended to measure the "significant difference" that scholarship might make to the academic contribution of the OU particulalry in the new world of ubiquitous online digital communications and access to knowledge. On the role of funcding (para 16), the emphasis is on drawing in large project grants. For my own part, I attend a lot of events (by invitation) and there seems to be an opportunity for finer granularity metrics. The ladder appears to go: - fee waiver - travel expenses - accommodation - speaker fee Whilst many conference invitations I receive are probably at best described as "academic related", and not subject to my submission of peer reviewed papers, they are the result of people choosing to invite me (often to events others have paid to attend) to hear what I have to say, rather than read out something I have already said. The Appendix to the paper expands on several examples of the five scholarship types. Again, I bring to mind Lessig's review of "The Social Network", for it somes to me that the examples are very much influenced by the way things have already been done in a publishing environment that was more contrained that the online publishing and communication(s) environment available to us today. For me, publications should be discoverable (often in a timely way), referenceable and dereferenceable/available/recoverable (e.g. in the sense of persistently linkable to), and able to influence others (which includes notions of them building on the (partial) works). Recapping a point made above, the examples seem to be more about viewing impact in terms of things that have already been said in a particular place with the ability to influence others through what you might have to say to them in some sort of ongoing, invited or pre-emptively started conversation with them. A lot of the examples given reiterate the primacy of formally published, "completed" works. By contrast, there is only a single mention to "ongoing"/persistent publications or communication channels such as well-respected blogs. The time taken to develop and persist a blog with good reputation should not be underestimated, nor should the potential audience size in at least two respects: 1) through publish-subscribe models, blogs and other syndicated publication channels have an always available route to an audience. In the OU, myself and Martin Weller both have blog subscriber numbers of the order of 2000 subscriptions for example. Everything I publish on will be seen by approx 200 people within 24 hours (the "reach" of the blog, cf. its subscriber numbers), and maybe actually read by 5-10% of them - it's hard to know for sure;-) In addition, content on a high ranking website can pull in pre-qualified visitors i.e. visitors likely to be interested in the topic at hand, for example because they were searching for it via a search engine, or clicked through to it from a link on a page that had already grabbed their attention. It also seems to me that there is little emphasis on notions of ongoing engagement with communities and domains of interest, or the effort required to gain influence in those domains (eg through search engine rankings, or high connectivity (or significant hub and/or authority values in a HITS sense) in online networks. That is, the paper empahsises traditional models of reputation which, even if they are still relevant in academia today, are unlikely to be meaningful (eg in sense of being able or likely to influence others) in the wider community. (The OU used to be very supportive of community engagement; what I would like to do is see us really innovating and driving the extent to which we can influence and contribute to ever more communities, both formal and ad hoc, even ephemeral communities) through our online reputation and presence.
Toggle Commented Oct 15, 2010 on Tenure, publishing and Tony at The Ed Techie
A couple of possibles that relate to scenarios may be confused about why they can't do particular things: - if i click through a libezproxy link in my vle (authenticated to university system) to full text journal article subscribed to by the library on a third party commercial site, i see the article. If i just go to that site, I can't necessarily "just log in" with my university credentials and see the content a) that's licensed to the university, and b) i am allowed to see based on local HE access policy. - several HEIs are starting to use google apps for edu, and similar. So can i just go to google and log into gmail with my OU credentials? - general case - anything where eg the library has a subscription to something and i need to use credentials other than my everyday OU ones to access them
A version of the PM's presentation annotated by the Twitter backchannel captured at the time can be found here:
1 reply
Some time ago, I started to collect instructional video sites together in a Google custom search engine - you can find it at: Google custom search engines are highly underrated and yet very powerful ways of building metasearch engines over a limited set of domains, as I think HowDoI shows.
1 reply
"I was looking for an image of a bee a while ago for a school project for my daughter" Sigh... ain't that the truth... You gonna do her examined coursework too when that starts to arrive too? ;-) One of the educational products that's missing out there is the family qualification... it's often the case that outreach initiatives that appear to tackle one thing are often interventions relating to something else (Dads and lads reading schemes being about improving adult literacy, rather than kids' literacy, for example), but I think we're somehow missing a trick by not piggybacking adult learning on top of kids' learning. One thing I've noticed is just how much effort some parents put into school projects, and how much learning they do ;-) Similarly with revision books - I wonder how many of those are bought as crib sheets for parents, as much as their kids?
Toggle Commented Jan 18, 2010 on My final offer is this: nothing at The Ed Techie
"I'll go along with Twitter and Facebook saying they have open APIs" Thy are open in the sense that: a) folk can use them to access platform services; b) folk can reimplement them (as Wordpress did with the Twitter API recently). But they are not open standards because: I) their definition is controlled by a private commercial entity, which means that: Ia) the API may be changed as the owners see fit, without the 'open' community having a say. IIb) License conditions on use of the API may be changed. I'm not sure if it's possible to claim copyright over the definition of an API? Wordpress' lawyers presumably didn't seem to think that would present a problem though?
It is possible to crate your own squared search grid using data sources either of your choosing - or arbitrary Google results - in a Google spreadsheet. eg "Using Google Spreadsheets and Viz API Queries to Roll Your Own Data Rich Version of Google Squared on Steroids (Almost…)"
There have ben makeover tools on fashion sites for some time, but they don't seem to have broken out? eg I started confusing followers of bookmarks feed collecting links to makeover sites some time ago: