Monday, August 24, 2009

Australian Research Online

The Arrow Discovery Service has been renamed Australian Research Online. It provides an index to Australian university, non-government and government research repositories. This includes items from the Australian National University and The Australian Computer Society, as well as more than 30,000 Digital Theses.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digital Library and Digital Education in China

Professor Zhendong Niu Greeting from the School of Computer Science at the ANU in Canberra, where Professor Zhendong Niu is visiting from Beijing Institute of Technology. One of his areas of interest is Digital Library and Digital Education. SOme projects of interest are the China National Knowledge Infrastructure, National Cultural Information Resource Sharing Project, China Academic Library Information System, National Foundation Education Grid (for k12 education resources for schools). The Professor also has an interest in legal portals.

What I found of most interest was work on integrating digital libraries with education. That may sound an obvious combination, but not much has been done in this area. The builders of document repositories work very separately from those of learning management systems. One aspect which doesn't arise as an issue is language; the software tools can work in Chinese and English, using the same ontology. An example is the Olympic Games (which BIT was involved in software for), the same concepts apply, even where different words are used in English and Chinese (I suggested using pictograms for the Beijing Olympics).

It was interesting to see the similarities with the issues of technology for education for China with the "Supermarket of E-learning" by China TV and India's use of satellite TV.
With the development of digital library, social networks, and user-generated content, need for trust and reputation models become prime. In this paper, we propose a user reputation model. As an encouraging and sanctioning mechanism, it has been applied to the DLDE (Digital Library and Digital Education) Learning 2.0 Community that is developed by our lab based on digital repositories management etc. The model combines user's individual activity analysis approach and collaborative activity analysis approach. Individual activity analysis approach is used to analyze the activities in which users participate individually and give its evaluation method. Collaborative activity analysis approach is used to analyze users' collaborative activities; three different categories of users' collaborative activities and corresponding evaluation methods were proposed in this paper. Experiments show that the proposed reputation model can accomplish the mission of encouraging good behaviors and differentiating the ability of students. Therefore it can fit well in our Community. ...
From: A User Reputation Model for Digital Library and Digital Education DLDE Learning 2.0 Community, Jin, F., Niu, Z., Zhang, Q., Lang, H., and Qin, K. 2008. , In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Asian Digital Libraries: Universal and Ubiquitous Access To information (Bali, Indonesia, December 02 - 05, 2008). G. Buchanan, M. Masoodian, and S. J. Cunningham, Eds. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 5362. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 61-70. DOI=

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Office of the Information Commissioner

Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner has announced draft laws to establish an Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) The Minister invited submissions via the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website by 15 May 2009. But unfortunately the invitation did not include a copy of the documents to be commented on, nor any information on how to obtain a copy, making comment difficult.

In October 2007 I set the design of a computer system to speed FOI requests as a workshop exercise for students of Electronic Document Management at the Australian National University. The problem is that the volume of material could overwhelm manual FOI processes in the relatively small OIC. A system using XML and web technology could be used to speed the process.

The standards established in the National Archives free open source "XML Electronic Normalising of Archives" (XENA) and "Digital Preservation Recorder" (DPR) software tools could be used to process electronic records extracted from agency systems, such those based on Tower Software's Trim.

The OIC staff could use an online system to coordinate requests with agencies. OIC staff could then automatically check the conformance of agency staff with the new laws.

The CSIRO developed FunnelBack search system has already been interfaced to Trim to allow the searching of records in an agency.
This and similar tools should make it possible for agencies to deal with FOI requests. If those requests use a common electronic format across government, it will considerably speed the process, reduce costs and simplify compliance monitoring.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)

The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) provide a useful service where they chart how many new entries there are in open access repositories. The information is presumably automatically extracted from the repository. As an example, for the ACS Digital Library:

ACS Digital Library (410 records)

Thumbnail of
Records Deposited per Day
Running Other softwares (various), based in Australia and is registered as e-Journal/Publication
Registered on 2006-12-05
Cumulative deposits: 410 total [table] [graph]
Daily deposits in last year: 1 days of 1-9, 1 days of 10-99, 0 days of 100+ [table] [graph (PNG format)] [interactive graph (requires SVG format support)]
OAI Interface: Identify List Metadata Formats List Sets [harvest status]
100% freely accessible fulltext (* estimate)
The ACS Digital Library provides international quality magazines, journal articles and conference papers, covering innovative research and practice in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). This service is provided free to the ICT profession by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as part of its commitment to ensure the beneficial use of technology for the community. It includes: Australasian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS), Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT), and Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT).

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Recordkeeping for government web information

Archives New Zealand have issued a Request for Proposal for "Development of Web Information Continuity Guide". There is a four page description of the work, available for download from the NZ Government website.
Information produced and maintained on the web as part of public sector business is covered by the Public Records Act 2005. This includes information on public websites, intranets, shared workspaces, wikis, blogs and other types of sites, as well as information in the administrative systems used to run these sites.

Archives New Zealand is receiving increasing requests for advice on recordkeeping for web information. Current guidance contained in the Continuum Recordkeeping Resource Kit was largely developed in 2003 and needs to be updated and expanded to provide more useful support to public sector agencies on strategies and tactics for current web information management that will support the aims of the Public Records Act.

Archives New Zealand is looking for a contractor to undertake the project over the period to 31 June 2009:

Interested individuals or consultancies are invited to submit an expression of interest along with a proposal outlining how you would approach the work and details of relevant experience by Friday the 21st November 2008. ...

From: Development of Web Information Continuity Guide, Archives New Zealand, 21/11/08

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Twelve Canoes

Twelve Canoes is a multimedia web site following on from Rolf de Heer's film 10 Canoes . It features short multimedia works with the Yolngu people of the Arafura swamp. Wile the audio and visual content is breathtaking, the site is let down by poor web design. The designers shopuld implement accessibility features for the site and correct the errors in the HTML code to allow the site to be more widely used for education.

The site assumes a high spped Internet connection and even in Canberra on my wiless Internet link I had diffciulties. The web site has some text for display (excerpts below) to those who are unable to see the video. However, this is not normally apparent to the viewer, who will have to wait for video to download, unless they are using a text only or specially adapted web browser. It would be better if the site offered a text menu which allowed skipping the video rich content, for those on a slow link.

Some years ago I was invovled in projects to provide indiginous ciolutural content online,. Those suffered from taking too academic and textural approach to web based content. Twelcve canoes goes to other extreme and suffers from too little thought as to text and indexing inforamtion.

Unfortunately the web site has invalid HTML markup and some accessibility problems. When I attempted an accessibility test of the site, all I got was the message "Parked Page for".

We are the first people of our lands.

These are some of our stories from where we have lived so long.

We welcome you to know about us, about our culture, this way.

12 Canoes

This website is built for us, for everyone.

There are 12 stories here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now.

  • Creation
  • Our Ancestors
  • The Macassans
  • First White Men
  • ThomsonTime
  • The Swamp
  • Plants and Animals
  • Seasons
  • Kinship
  • Ceremony
  • Language
  • Nowadays


There are many artworks (by many artists), photos and music here about where we live, about how we came to be, about our history and about how we live now. ...

Gallery > People & Places

There are over 60 photos here about where and how we live.


About > Meanings

Yolngu: The literal translation of Yolngu is simply, "the people", but it is used nowadays as a term to describe the group of Australian Indigenous people (Aboriginals) living in or originating from central and eastern Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Balanda: A word meaning "white person(s)", derived from the word "Hollander"...the Dutch were the first white people to come into contact with the Yolngu.

Macassan: The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia began visiting the north coast of Australia centuries ago. Their trade made the Yolngu a very powerful grouping economically. Such trading was stopped by the government in the 1906-07 season, and the economy of the region was destroyed by the imposition of Balanda law. ...

About > The People

We are the Yolngu people of Ramingining, in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people. More of our people live on outstations different distances from town. Also about 50 Balanda live here.

The nearest other town is Maningrida, more than two hours drive away except in the rainy season, when we can only fly there.

In Ramingining we have a store, a clinic, a school, a new police station, an arts centre, a resource centre, houses and not much else.

But we have history and culture here, that our ancestors have been growing for more than forty thousand years.

They passed that culture on from generation to generation. Now it's our turn to pass it on, not just to the next generation, but to people everywhere, all over the world.

That's because our way of life is changing fast now, and what you're going to see is for every generation to remember and keep our culture alive.

About > Where In The World

Ramingining is in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ramingining is a town of about 800 of our people.

About > Study Guide

This section coming soon. ...


We are proud of our community. We are proud of our history and our present.

We are proud of our children, and our artists, and our songmen, we are proud of our whole place.

Because we are proud of all these things, we are sharing them with you. We are glad that you are interested enough to be here.

We hope that if you like them, the paintings or the stories or any of it, that you will share them with other people who are interested in learning about us...

From: Twelve Canoes: Introduction, Indigemedia Incorporated, Christensen Fund, South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia, 2008

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Government electronic document policy

Do you have an e-document policy? Later in the year I will be facilitating a workshop on government electronic document policy with people from Australian and New Zealand state and federal governments. We will aim to come up with some guidelines for Government CIOs. But first I need to get an idea of what is out there now. Any pointers to policies, relevant standards or other documents would be most welcome. I will then collate the results and make it available.

My thinking is that most e-document and e-archiving policies are misdirected. Records managers and archivists need to stop being passive receivers of whatever junk they are given. Instead they need to start with the new "killer applications" such as social networking for business, mash ups and the like and build the policies in there. But I would suggest a more cautious approach than that of the UK Government's "Power of Information TaskForce".

Please include a web address where the policy is available, if possible. After all who would be silly enough to distribute their e-document policy on paper? ;-)

By the way the intention is to use a similar computer assisted format and some of the content from the Electronic Document Management course I ran last year. This used a computer equipped lab and a Moodle based system for content and exercises.

Here is a quick list of items I found with a web search:
  1. International: Recommended Practice - Analysis, Selection, and Implementation Guidelines Associated with Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS), Association for Information and Image Management International, April 12, 2006.
  2. Australian Federal: "Improving Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies", Office of Government Information Technology, Commonwealth of Australia 1995
  3. NT: Position Statement on Electronic Recordkeeping in the NT Government, Northern Territory Archives Service, September 2004
  4. Queensland: Digitisation Disposal Policy, Queensland State Archives, April 2006
  5. NSW: State Records NSW has an extensive set of documents and references one-documents:

By the way the new ISO/IEC 38500:2008 Corporate governance of information technology, based on AS8015-2005, includes a requirement for records management for IT systems. There is also a requirement for record keeping in the Australian Standard on Good Governance Principles (AS 8000-2003), as State Records NSW points out.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

OAK Law Academic Authorship Survey

The OAK Law Project Team at Queensland University of Technology are conducting a survey on publishing agreements which ends 5pm 2nd November.

The OakLaw project (Open Access to Knowledge or OAKL), people are doing good work and have already produced an Australian version of the Creative Commons license. (Prof. Brian Fitzgerald from QUT talked about it at the National Scholarly Communications Forum 2007). It was suggested that the Queensland Government was looking to use CC for government data. This then could be applied to Commonwealth data, including Geosopatial data.
... The project is undertaking a survey of academic and scholarly authors within Australia to obtain an understanding of authors’ knowledge of publishing agreements and their experience in dealing with publishers in order to provide an accurate perspective on current academic publishing practices. The results received from the survey will be used in developing model publishing agreements, toolkits and training materials for academic authors and publishers.

If you are an academic or scholarly author within Australia, please click on this link to complete the survey:

We know that your time is valuable, yet we encourage you to complete the survey as we are confident that the results will allow us to develop practical tools which can be used by you to better manage your copyright.

Alternatively, if you would like more information about the OAK Law project please visit our webpage:; this page also contains a link to the Author Survey.

We thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Paul Armbruster
On behalf of Professor Brian Fitzgerald

Research Assistant
The OAK Law Project
Legal Framework for e-Research Project
Queensland University of Technology
Level 1, 126 Margaret Street
Brisbane, Queensland, 4001
Australia ...

CRICOS NO.: 00213J

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Office of the Information Commissioner Online?

I wrote 14 October 2007, that a group of academics and politicians had suggested Australian government documents in electronic format should be released by default. That was an idea which was not likely to be approved, but I set it as a workshop exercise for students on my Electronic Document Management course. The Australian Labor Party then announced its policy for the reform of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, creating a new Office of the Information Commissioner. So I set that as an examination question. Most of the students on the course are public servants and if the ALP is elected they will likely have to implement whatever they proposed.

The problem is that the volume of electronic records will overwhelm the current manual FOI process. The proposal from academics was to go to the other extreme, by making all electronic government records available automatically. That proposal has its own problems, which the class pointed out in their answers to the exercise.

One of the class suggested setting up a new government agency to handle the release of records. Coincidentally, during the course the ALP released its policy proposing just such an agency: The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). So for the examination on Saturday, I asked the class how to implement the IT system for the OIC, using XML and web technology.

The obvious way to do this is to use the same tools and techniques as now used for transferring electronic records from agencies to the National Archives, but speed it up. The National Archives free open source "XML Electronic Normalising of Archives" (XENA) and "Digital Preservation Recorder" (DPR) software tools are now used to process electronic records extracted from agency systems, such those based on Tower Software's Trim.

The OIC staff could use an online federated system to search the records of all agencies. OIC staff would then place an automated request for relevant records with each agency for retrieval. It would only need a few seconds for the system to extract the records, but perhaps a day would be allowed for the agency to review the records and release them to the OIC. XENA and DPR would catalog and format the records.

The OIC staff would need to be security cleared and their systems would need to be secure. However, this is something that oversight commissions already have to deal with day-to-day in government. When at the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office I had to look after IT systems for dealing with with sensitive materials from agencies, including security agencies.

ps: Today I bumped into one of the staff from FunnelBack, who mentioned they had already implemented an interface to allow searching Trim.
Their approach would need some tweaking for a government wide service, due to security issues, but would be a start.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Government electronic documents released by default

A group of academics and politicians have made the interesting suggestion that government documents in electronic format should be released by default. The idea is that releasing electronic documents is cheap compared to the cost of having someone go through and check them:

There are other reforms that we believe should be considered as part of a wider review of the Act’s operation. Modern information technology (ICT) enables the large scale disclosure of government documents to be achieved at very low cost. ICT allows all documents created by government organisations to be automatically uploaded and published on websites at the time of their creation. There is no reason why this should not be done for all documents except those protected by privacy legislation and the specific, narrow legislative xemptions.

By default, electronic documents would be released to the public, leading to large cost savings in the administration of FOI legislation. Contests would be limited to those few cases in which non-disclosure was based on claims that a document’s disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. ...

From: Be Honest, Minister! RESTORING HONEST GOVERNMENT IN AUSTRALIA, Accountability Working Party, Australasian Study of Parliament Group, 2007

One catch with this proposal is that the cataloging of the information would have to be correct to prevent any privacy or security breeches. Previously public servants could write relatively freely in an internal file, on the assumption most of it would never be made public and what was would be carefully checked before release. If electronic records are freely available, they can be pured over by millions of eyes (and automated search programs) looking for embarrassing, or financially useful, information.

See also books on:

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

ICT Standards for Civil Society, Commerce and Government

In the next few weeks I am giving eight talks in NSW, Tasmania and the ACT and a three day industry course. In the next week I will try to bring together some common themes for these, as I did in 1996 with "Three months on the InfoBahn looking for the on-line future".

The talks:
  1. Reducing Australian ICT Carbon Emissions, 9 September 3:30pm at Influence 2007, Hunter Valley Crowne Plaza, NSW.
  2. Why Max? Demystifying Broadband options for Tasmania: For the ACS Tasmanian Branch, at Burnie, Tasmania 1:00PM , Devonport 4:00PM on 10 September 2007, Hobart, 12:30PM 12 September 2007 and Lanceston, 4:00PM 13 September 2007.
  3. Locating Tasmania in the Global Information Economy, address to the Annual General Meeting of the ACS Tasmanian Branch, Hobart, 12 September 2007, 5:30PM.
  4. Government services via the web in regional Australia, for the 4th Annual Web Content Management for Government, marcus evans, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra 17 Sep 2007, 11am
  5. Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce, for COMP3410, ANU, 19 Sep 2007
  6. Standards for eCommerce, for COMP3410, ANU, 20 Sep 2007
  7. The Digital Library, for COMP3410, ANU, 10am to 11am 26 Sep 2007
  8. Electronic Publishing, for COMP3410, ANU, 27 Sep 2007
  9. Electronic Document Management, for ANU Centre for Science and Engineering of Materials.

ICT Standards for Civil Society, Commerce and Government

What are we trying to accomplish with the Internet, web and broadband? In a series of talks and training courses over the next few months I will discuss how to reduce carbon emissions, sell goods, publish and preserve information using ICT. The Internet now provides a common wired and wireless platform for communications and the web a platform for publishing and, increasingly, for data applications.

Increasingly computer systems are using a common set of Internet and web based standards for publishing, commerce, government business and personal communications. What these have in common is that it is to allow people to work together more efficiently and creatively. The application might require a commercial business plan, a government policy, a communial agreement, or just an nod from friends having lunch, but they will all use similar technology with similar ways of working and aims.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sustainability of Research Data in Australia, Canberra, 15 March 2007

Markus BuchhornRecommended:
ALIA URLs (ACT) is delighted to announce that our first speaker of 2007 will be Dr Markus Buchhorn, Director of Information and Communication Technology Environments in the Division of Information at the Australian National University. Markus will talk on "The Preservation and Sustainability of Research Data in Australia", based on his recent talk to Information Online in Sydney in January.

In 2006, Markus worked with Paul McNamara of the ANU Library on the Australian eResearch Sustainability Project (AERES). The AERES report was mentioned favourably in the December 2006 Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) Working Group report - From Data to Wisdom: Pathways to successful data management for Australian science.

When: Thursday March 15 4:30 - 5:30pm

Where: Baume Theatre, Australian National University ...

Margaret Henty

National Services Program Coordinator
Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories
W. K. Hancock Building (#43)
The Australian National University
Canberra, ACT, 0200, AUSTRALIA
See also:

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Friday, February 09, 2007

ACS Digital Library now in Arrow Discovery Service

The ACS Digital Library papers are now included in the ARROW discovery service. Arrow provides an index to scholarly materials from Australian universities, professional, scientific and cultural organisations.

This includes papers such as Dr. Roger Clarke's "Key Aspects of the History of the Information Systems Discipline in Australia".

Arrow reads an OAI standard XML metadata file created by the ACS Digital Library. Thanks to the National Library of Australia for arranging this.

Currently only one issue of the Australasian Journal of Information Systems is available. We are working on getting about 1,500 papers from Australasian Journal of Information Systems and Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology into the system.

ps: How to do this was set a an assignment question for ANU IT for E-Commerce (COMP3410/COMP6341) Question 1, August 2006. But the students had to work it out from first principles, whereas I just used a open source package <>. ;-)

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Research and writing tools

There are tools for searching and arranging information in a diagrammatic way. But these are not used much by non-specialists. What is becoming more common is the use of text labeling (tags) as an aid to finding and arranging information. Perhaps diagrams and tags can be combined in more creative ways for use by authors.

Typically you can display information as a network diagram, with items of information (documents, web pages, scholarly papers) represented by nodes in the diagram (usually circles or squares) and the relationships between them by connecting lines. Sometimes the lines are labeled with text captions and have arrows indicating the direction of the arrows (in which case it is technically known as a directed graph).

Some forms of diagrams have more restrictions, for example the diagram showing the hierarchy of sections and chapters in a book or the site map showing web pages on a web site. Part of the process of composing written work may be seen as taking a spaghetti diagram of seemingly randomly connected information and turning it into a neat hierarchy suitable for publication.

In teaching web site design I suggest to the students that they can think of trimming the directed graph of interconnected web pages into a site map. This is not to say that all the other links which don't fit in the neat tree structure are deleted, just that they are considered less important by the designer. These extra links will become hypertext links within the text of the document, whereas the main links are usually in menus on separate web pages or sections. In a printed document the main links are represented by the table of contents and by the physical ordering of the content; other links by cross references, indices and the like.

Web search tools work in part by making automated decisions as to how to arrange blocks of information. They partly use the hypertext links inserted by the author, but also use the text itself to make connections the author could not see.

While there are document creation tools for web designers and writers which allow direct manipulation of diagrams, my impression is that most authors have difficulty conceptualizing information this way. They see information as strings of words and are more comfortable cutting and pasting text, than moving icons and links. But this might be a bias introduced by "word processors" being the tool they are first introduced to.

KartOO is a search engine which displays the results as a diagram. Collections of documents at each web site are shown as icons (with size representing importance). Web sites are linked by lines labeled with words indicating what they have in common. In the background are shaded regions showing general concepts. When you place the pointer over a document, the links to other related documents are highlighted. This can be useful for seeing relationships between information, people and organizations. But I don't find it much use for day to day web searching.

As an example, searching with Kartoo for "Tom Worthington" shows the largest collection of documents at my web site and a smaller collection at my professional body these are related by the words: technology, Industry and committee. Placing the pointer over the largest document, which is my biography, shows links from it.

Flickr and provide a Folksonomy, with items of information manually tagged by any contributor. A diagram typically displays the relative impotence of tags by the size of the text. This might provide some insights into to content, but I have not found it that useful.

A folksonomy is an Internet-based information retrieval methodology consisting of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and Web links. A folksonomy is most notably contrasted from a taxonomy in that the authors of the labeling system are often the main users (and sometimes originators) of the content to which the labels are applied. The labels are commonly known as tags and the labeling process is called tagging.

The process of folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easier to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to its primary users. Two widely cited examples of websites using folksonomic tagging are Flickr and, although it has been suggested that Flickr is not a good example of folksonomy.[1]

From: Folksonomy, Wikipedia, 2006
The website (pronounced as "delicious") is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. The site came online in late 2003 and was founded by Joshua Schachter, co-maintainer of Memepool. It is now part of Yahoo!.

A non-hierarchical keyword categorization system is used on where users can tag each of their bookmarks with a number of freely chosen keywords (cf. folksonomy). A combined view of everyone's bookmarks with a given tag is available; for instance, the URL "" displays all of the most recent links tagged "wiki". Its collective nature makes it possible to view bookmarks added by similar-minded users.

From, Wikipedia, 2006

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Library of Alexandrina Virtually Rises from the Ashes

Bibliotheca AlexandrinaThe Library of Alexandria was destroyed by fire around 48 BC and opened again for business in 2002 AD. Some ways libraries and publications work have not changed in 2000 years, despite the use of computers, but the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has gone hi-tech:
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina intends to become an active member among the leading digital institutions in the world. Towards that goal, the BA has embarked on a whole array of ambitious projects, in partnership with world class institutions. These range from hosting a mirror site for a significant part of the Internet Archive, participating in the Million Book Project, organizing the digital archive of the Gamal Abdel Nasser collection, presenting the first ever complete digital version of the Description de l'Egypte, to participating in advanced research such as the Arabic component of the UN-sponsored Universal Digital Language computerized multi-language translation program and offering the most advanced 3D virtual imaging techniques in an virtual immersive environment for Science and Technology (S&T) applications. Thus, despite being barely four years in existence, the BA has already a substantial record of achievements.
From Born Digital The New Bibliotheca Alexandria, Ismail Serageldin, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 01-10-2006,

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 5 - On-line Courseware

In Part 4 I discussed if e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The program of courses entitled "System Approach to Management of Government Information" are now being offered, so I tought I should look at tidying up my content to get ready.

One option I would like to try is using a course management system (CMS). Not because the students will be studying on-line remotely, they will be on the campus at live sessions, but because it might be a useful way to make sure the material is well structured.

The Moodle product looks like a good option; it is Australian developed, free Open Source, and people keep mentioning it to me. The ACS use it for their new Computer Professional Educational Program and appears to be going well (thankfully as I am in charge of Professional Development at the ACS as of 1 January 2007).

The Moodle people claim it is based on "sound pedagogical principles", specifically "social constructionist pedagogy". Which they say involves: Constructivism, Constructionism, Social Constructivism, Connected and Separate.

Constructivism says you have to integrate what you are learning into what you already know. Constructionism says you learn better if you have to do something with the knowledge. For example I am writing this as I read about Moodle and so I am learning by having to write about it. Social Constructivism is about a group assembling ideas. As an example when people respond to what I have written and suggest changes. Connected and Separate is about understand the person's other point of view versus being "right": people will point out spelling errors in what I wrote (Separate) and others will suggest better ways to word it (Connected).

I am not sure how widely accepted these concepts are (it is all new to me), but it seems these are really two ideas: Learning through doing and working together.

Most computer based learning systems seem to be designed to support an isolated individual learning "facts". This would be Separate non-Constructivism in Moodles' language.

With that out of the way, lets look at Moodle, the software. It is released under a GNU General Public License, so it can be freely used and modified (free as in beer and speech). It is written in PHP and requires an SQL database to hold the content.

There are roles defined for admin, course creators, teachers , non-editing teachers (ie: adjuncts and tutors) and students. Moodle uses much the same software and philosophy as Open Journal Systems for e-publishing. There the roles are administrators, editors, reviewers and readers.

CMS systems are mostly about administering a course, not creating learning content. The CMS is used to keep track of the students, learning materials and activities (such as assignments). They are not about creating the actual materials the students read. This is much the same as e-publishing systems don't help you write a document, just publish it.

The current release of Moodle was 1.7, but Version 1.8 is just out (January 2007). This is supposed to have improved web accessibility features. They are specifically aiming for compliance with Italian Legislation on Accessibility. I am not exactly sure what that legislation covers, but it is likely to be much the same as Australian requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act and involve use of the W3C WAG, as used worldwide.

The Moodle developers are also aiming to implement XHTML Strict (after some debate). Use of XHTML Strict will help with accessibility and make for very clean and efficient web pages. It should also make it possible to use them on hand held devices, such as my proposed learning PC for developing nations and for different languages.

There is a Wiki with extensive documentation about using Moodle. Each Moodle course created has a course homepage, which is the place the students first come to. The home page has a typical Wiki style with blocks of mostly text laid out in columns.

The course can be formed of sections, usually in an order which the students work their way through (each week for example). Moodle has its own web based editor, including a "Clean Word HTML button" to remove extranious code from HTML which has been generated by Microsoft Word.

A course consists of essentially of resources and activities. A resource will typically be a web page with some content on it, a link to some content web based content somewhere else. At this point you realize the CMS doesn't write the course for you: the actual content you are teaching has to be somewhere. It might be on web pages, in PDF documents, or Powerpoint slides.

The content might be in an IMS content package. This is a standard format for learning content which is also supported by other CMS systems such as Web CT. An IMS Content Package is a Zipped directory of XML files, much like the OpenXML and Open Office word processing formats.

Exactly how you create a package, (with Moodle?) or how standardized they are between different CMS systems I am not yet clear on. But it appears to work as the government funded Australian Flexible Learning Framework has dozens of IMS content packaged learning objects in its Flexible Learning Toolboxes. These can be previewed online.

There are a bewildering array of standards underlying these systems, most of which the user never has to know about. As an example IMS uses a different metadata format to describe its learning objects to the IEEE Standard for Learning Object Metadata IEEE Std 1484.12.1-2002 (which I get a mention in, as I was on the balloting group). So IMS provide a set of Guidelines for Using the IMS LRM to IEEE LOM 1.0 Transform
to turn IMS metedata into IEEE metadata using XSLT transformations.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Open Archives Initiative XML Interface

The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) allows a digital repository to export metadata and data using XML. As an example the ACS Digital Library has as its OAI address: <>. I registered this with the RoAR Eprints archive. By just supplying the OAI address for the digital library, the the archive system was able to extract information needed to register it.

If you just type the OAI address into a web browser you get an error message in return. An application such as the Open Archives Initiative - Repository Explorer is needed to send queries in the correct format and interpret the XML sent back. A simple example is the query for the repository to identity itself <>. The reply is:
Repository NameACS Digital Library
Base URL
Protocol Version2.0
Earliest Datestamp2006-12-05T00:40:05Z
Deleted Record Handlingno
Other Information
scheme: oai
delimiter: :
The request <> returns what formats the data is available in:



List sets <> lists the publciations in the repository:

Australasian Journal of Information Systems

set description: dc: description:

set description: dc: description:
AJIS Featured Theme

set description: dc: description:
Articles ...

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Australian University Research Repositories

On the 18 December 2006 the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced a $25.5 million for universities to be able to provide digital research results. This Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories programme is part of the Research Quality Framework:
The Research Quality Framework (RQF) will require that the research assessed in the first cycle be stored in a digital storage system (repository) wherever possible. The Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER) programme will assist universities to meet this requirement during the first RQF cycle.

The Australian Government is providing $25.5 million through the ASHER programme over three years to assist with the establishment of digital repositories in Australian universities. This will allow institutions to place their research outputs, including journal articles and less traditional outputs such as digitised artworks or x-ray crystallography images in an accessible digital store for the RQF assessment.
The universities only have to show each paper stored in the system to a handful of assessors. But hopefully they will take the opportunity to build a publicly accessible repository so that any academic, business person or member of the general public can see what good work they have been doing. It would be a shame to spend tens of millions of dollars to build an electronic publishing system for a handful of people to use.

The RQF system is being tested in 2007 and for implementation in 2008.

The ACS Digital Library system will be available to universities and is designed to simplify the process for the RQF. Universities can scan the library for their authors and load the details into their institutional repository.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Ten Canoes: From Samoa to Arafura Swamp

Ten Canoes Study Guides
The Australian movie "Ten Canoes" is set in the Arafura Swamp of the Australian Northern Territory. The film is inspired by a photograph of 10 canoeists of the the Yolngu people in the swamp, taken by the anthropologist Donald Thompson in the 30s.
The film has won three AFI awards and is Australia's entry for best foreign film at the 2007 Academy Awards.

What has this to do with Samoa? In 2005 I made a nine day visit to Apia, Samoa, at the request of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). It was to conduct a five day workshop for staff from museums around the South Pacific region on the use of computer and telecommunications technologies.

My report pointed out that many of the museums of the region were too small to support their own IT systems. It made sense for them to use a common system which could also share data. On my return to Australia I had ANU students do projects on how to accomplish this. I reported this work at the Pacific Museums in Sustainable Heritage Development, Asia Pacific Week in January 2006.

I was then contacted by a project attempting to combine data from two Australian museums. One of the students who worked on the pacific island project with me went to work on the Australian project. Another student build a demonstration system using test data from the museums. Their presentation, report and open source software are available.

It turned out that one of the museum collections for the project is the Donald Thomson Collection at University of Melbourne, with the photographs which inspired "Ten Canoes".

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Document Security Issues for Government

Security seems an issue after the Australian National Audit Office released report on "Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records" on 12 October 2006. IXC, NICTA and Canon are holding a free forum on 6 December 2006 in Canberra, on:
  • Emerging document security threats
  • Information leakage and its impact on corporate reputation
  • Policy-driven document rights management
  • Paper security – the forgotten frontier
  • Document security innovations
  • Ashley Cross – General Manager, Security Branch, Department of Communications, Information
  • Technology and the Arts (DCITA)
  • Dr Renato Iannella, Program Leader, Smart Applications for Emergencies, NICTA
  • Tim Conway, Strategic Business Group, Canon Australia
  • Kylie McKinley, Head, Community Engagement and Communications Unit, ACT Government
Details and registration at IXC.

Also see my "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving": Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Some books:

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Productivity Commission Suggests Open Access to Research Results

The Productivity Commission released the draft research report "Public Support for Science and Innovation", 2 November 2006. The report suggests that those receiving government research funding be required to make their results freely available:
"There is scope for the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to play a more active role than they currently do in promoting access to the results of research they fund. They could require as a condition of funding that research papers, data and other information produced as a result of their funding are made publicly available such as in an 'open access' repository."

From "Overview", Public Support for Science and Innovation, Productivity Commission, 2 November 2006
Unfortunately (and ironically), many will not be able to navigate their way through the complex way the report has been published on-line. The Commission has obviously tried to make the information available, but has tried too hard providing too many documents to have to choose from. There are:

* State and Territory based assessment of Australian research, a technical paper issued with the report.
* Media Release
* Key Points
* Science and Innovation Study
* Report Overview
* Preliminaries
* Chapters
* Appendices

The Preliminaries, Chapters and Appendices are provided in both PDF and Zipped RTF.
The table of contents of the report is then provided.

This is a bewildering set of choices. My first reaction was to click on the table of contents, but there is no web (HTML) version of the report linked to it. You have to decide what in the table of contents you want then work out which of the eight files you need to download to read it.

The Productivity Commission is not alone in this problem. It is an area where Australian researchers receiving funding for open access and repository work could make a useful contribution to the nation. Otherwise we might end up with government and university repositories full of information which in theory is freely accessible but which no one can find their way around.

So far the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) work has not shown any solutions to the problem. The APSR itself is producing large hard to read reports which will clog up the electronic repositories. Unusable repositories will not be sustainable.

Neither the Productivity Commission, nor APSR work, appears to have addressed the business models for Open Access. The emphasis seems to be on providing repositories which are electronic recycling bins for other people's publications. The assumption is that someone in the USA or Europe will publish Australian research reports and we
should be grateful if they let us have a copy for our repository.

The result is that the companies in the USA and Europe will make money from publishing Australian research and will receive the kudos from its publication. It is assumed that no one wants to publish in an Australian based publication, as it would be low status. However, as the ACS has shown with JRPIT and CRPIT, there is a role for Australian publishing in leading our region, promoting our research and providing Australian jobs.

Of course I could be biased as I am the Chair of Scholarly publishing for the ACS. ;-)

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did the Australian National Audit Office Recommend E-Records Training?

I had an anonymous comment from someone in a government agency on my post "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?":
You say in the first paragraph, 'The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping.' And, it seems that you have been asked to create new courses based on this recommendation. Since none of the recommendations in the Report refer to training specifically, would you be able to post a comment explaining what where the ANAO made this recommendation. The [agency name deleted] has a policy of trying to comply with all recommendations, hence our interest.
The Audit report didn't actually say Archives should provide "training", it said "further practical guidance":
22. To assist entities in meeting their recordkeeping responsibilities, the ANAO considers that Archives should, in consultation with relevant entities, set minimum recordkeeping standards and requirements and develop further practical guidance. Archives should also coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the legislation, policies, standards, and guidance that impact on entities recordkeeping responsibilities. ...

3.7 The ANAO also considers that Archives should coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the range of legislation, policies, standards, advice and guidance that impacts on the recordkeeping responsibilities of individual entities. This task would require ongoing liaison with those entities that periodically issue, in the context of their particular responsibilities, such material. The coordination of existing material may also offer opportunities to identify any duplication or overlap that warrant its rationalisation. ...

3.49 To assist entities to improve their recordkeeping guidance, the ANAO considered that Archives should supplement its existing range of guidance, with more practical guidance. Such guidance could usefully address issues relating to the handling and management of email, documents in shared folders and information in electronic systems, as well as the use of scanning in an electronic recordkeeping environment. The guidance may also assist entities to:
  • determine for a particular business activity the information that should be created and received, and then determine the information that needs to be maintained as a record of the business activity in entities’ recordkeeping systems; and
  • how the record of a business activity is best managed in the context of entities’ recordkeeping responsibilities.
But from having chaired an interdepartmental committee which previously wrote such guidance, I think few are going to read it, unless you rub their faces in it, by sitting them down and telling them about it. Thus the need for training courses.

The report did say government agencies (called entities in the report) should provide training:
5.42 To assist with the implementation of a recordkeeping framework it is important for an entity to provide appropriate training to record users. This should include a combination of formal training and awareness raising activities that alerts and reminds staff of their recordkeeping responsibilities.Recordkeeping training should address the management of both paper and electronic records, IT security awareness, and assessing and assigning appropriate security classifications to sensitive information.
But it would seem difficult and wasteful for each agency to prepare and provide its own training program on what is essentially a standardized government wide function.

The courses need not be face to face, for example senior executives might like a few slides on their Blackberry they could read during the dull bits in meetings.

As an incentive to have them complete the course, the Public Service Commission could suggest each agency publish the number of staff who had completed the course. The Audit Office could then use that information to decide which agencies to audit and in what detail, on the assumption that those agencies with untrained staff were at higher risk. This would also make it easier to prosecute senior executives when there was unlawful destruction or falsification of records in their agency.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

E-publishing in Australian Universities

Digital Culture Talk: Electronic publishing
Some recent developments in Australian universities

The speaker is Vic Elliott, Director, Scholarly Information Services and University Librarian at The Australian National University. Vic Elliott has also worked as University Librarian at the University of Tasmania and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Time: 12.30 to 13.30
Date: Monday, 27 November 2006
Venue: Library Theatre
Entry: Free
The speaker will be introduced by Paul Hetherington, Director Publications & Events, National Library of Australia

This talk is open to the public. ...

Bobby Graham
Web Content Manager
Web Publishing Branch
National Library of Australia
Parkes ACT 2600
Some books:

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