This time last year I was nervously setting up a new desk in an unknown office, surrounded by people who I didn’t know, to start a new job with little idea exactly what I’d be doing – and so started the Web Innovation Project! At that point colleagues and I were still fine tuning exactly what the project would try and achieve over the next 21 months, but we did have a broad overview firmly in mind. Together the team were going to …
- Research existing use of Web technologies
- Research and recommend new Web technologies
- Communicate with Schools and students to explore creative uses for the component technologies
- Implement the component technologies centrally and make them available across the University
Nothing like being ambitious to get you motivated I guess. So how have we done so far, with one year now finished and 9 months left till the end of the project? Here’s a quick run down.
Research existing use of Web technologies
Our first task was to see what was already going on in the University with regards to Web 2.0 type technologies, which meant getting out and about and actually talking to people who were using new technologies is innovative ways. We decided personal interviews would be the best way to do this, so created an interview template with questions about both web 1.0 and web 2.0, gathered a list of possible interviewees from across the University, and set to work contacting them all to arrange hour interviews so that we could get a rich picture of the sort of web innovations that were already happening.
It raised some interesting questions, and generated some surprising results! You can read our conclusions and recommendations in our “Discovery Sessions report”, which you’ll find in another blog post here:
(Originally posted on: geekandpoke.typepad.com/geekandpoke/2008/02/how-to-use-we…)
Research and recommend new Web technologies
Meanwhile we were also busy looking at other new technologies, and spending time exploring what they mean and how they might fit in with other work at the University. Right from the start we committed ourselves to using web 2.0 style tools for our day to day work, for example, and we’ve been creating and collaborating on all our documents using Google Apps just so we know what it can and cannot do.
Among the specific topics we’ve been thinking about, and writing about here in this blog, have been Augmented Reality, QR Codes, the Internet of Things, Semantic Web/Linked Data, Geoweb, Touch and Mobile technologies. Slowly but surely these are all building into a tapestry which we hope in the longer term will enable some pretty advanced web tech within the forum and other places.
Imagine being able to move around the virtual campus on a touch screen focusing down on a specific building which the system has identified you need to be at, pointing your smartphone at the screen and having the data beamed directly into it, and then using the built in mobile navigation app to direct you to the the correct location.
The virtual campus that forms part of this tapestry is growing day by day, and you can read more about the 3d building elsewhere in the blog – or for that matter just go an visit directly now, by clicking on the picture below. Google Maps now supports the Google Earth view of the world directly in a web browser, so there’s no need to download and install a separate application anymore.
We’re continuing to research what’s happening in the web world, and writing about it here on this blog. If you want to keep tabs on what sort of things we’re looking at just follow our Twitter stream
Communicate with Schools and students to explore creative uses for the component technologies
There’s little point in us spending time researching and studying new web tech if we’re the only ones who know about it, so we’re trying hard to communicate everything we do through various channels. There’s this blog of course, and it’s associated twitter stream, but more than that we’ve been trying to look at how different techs can blend together automatically to increase the reach of our messages without increasing the overhead in doing so. When we create a blog post, for example, that automatically creates a new Tweet about that post. That then automatically changes our Facebook status to match, meanwhile a copy of the blog content appears on our Facebook page wall. Here on my desktop computer my RSS reader blinks as it notices the new addition, and my mobile phone spots the twitter update and also notifies me accordingly.
This type of automatic re-purposing of content and replication means we can reach different audiences in different spaces without having to go to each one of them manually. It’s a hallmark of what working in web 2.0 means, harnessing the power of the technology to reduce time overheads and allow you to get on with more complex tasks instead.
Of course not everyone is online, and in fact some of the people we most want to connect to are those who don’t use the sort of online spaces that we use. Hence we need to meet them face-to-face, which is why we set up the Web Innovation Project “World of Web Technologies”. Originally called the “showcase”, this was a one off event where team members and expert volunteers invited staff and students to come and learn about new technologies in the flesh. You can read more about the planning for the showcase and how the day itself went elsewhere on this blog. During the day we also asked for attendees to complete a survey about web technologies, and that also provided some interesting results and ideas for future work.
Implement the component technologies centrally and make them available across the University
Our final goal is to actually implement technologies, so we’re not just here to think nice things and read stuff! One of the very first things we did was to set-up the University Wiki service, Confluence, which is now being centrally managed by the Integration and Web Services team. We’ve also been helping the team with some new tools for the blogging service, and have recently agreed to assist the infrastructure and web teams with the running of the Google Search Appliance, the tool that manages all searches for the University websites.
Elsewhere the virtual campus is being built in Google Earth, as mentioned earlier. This is just the start of a wider project to ensure that geocoded information for buildings spreads into the wider web, and is therefore available for more complex web services such as geolocation and navigation. We’ve also been experimenting with ways in which we can add semantic web mark-up into standard webpages, ensuring that our data is more completely indexed by Google and other search engines.
Plans for the Next 9 Months
So that’s what we’ve been up to – but what about the rest of the project? Well, we’ve identified quite a few things that we think still need looking into and developing, so have created a project plan which we’re going to work to for the remaining months. It’s quite detailed, so it’s probably not appropriate to include the whole thing in this blog, but apart from continuing with those things I’ve already discussed here such as the geoweb, touch and mobile, it also covers tools such as second life, podcasting, online surveying, social networking, the semantic web and online document services – so plenty still left to do!
Still ambitious after all these months, but we’ve managed to get (pretty much) everything done that we planned to so far. Here’s hoping we can complete all that we’ve planned for the future just as well.