Friday, 20 July 2012

Quick round up

A quick round up of the last couple of days.

Most of Wednesday I was in a meeting of the design team for the New engineering Building, which will have a lot of student led, IC type space in it. Designed by the same team who did the IC, its getting to the exciting stage now. We've got some great ideas for the external appearance, and the internal layouts are being firmed up. More details soon, but here's a picture of what it might look like.

Yesterday I was in Oxford for a meeting of the organising Committee of the UCISA Management Conference. Agenda coming along nicely now, and some changes and innovations in format being introduced.

This morning I was in a three hour workshop on procurement - and it was interesting and informative! We were looking at where we wanted to be strategically in terms of procurement - lots of issues raised and debated.

Now I'm disappearing for a couple of weeks somewhere hot. See you when I get back. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Graduation part 2 lol

A couple of days ago I blogged about some things we were doing to make our students and their parents and friends experience of graduation a bit more interactive. I'm pleased to say that the gigapixel photos are up and a huge success. Very high definition, you can zoom in to individual faces, tag them in Facebook, and take a screenshot of you or your friends and post it to your Facebook wall. Thanks to Ed Miller of Re-Axive for doing them for us, as well as graduating himself.

The live video stream is also working well - we get many students each year who we either can't give enough tickets to for all of their family to attend, or their family and friends can't attend for some reason - too far to travel or illness for example. The live stream this year is high quality ( but will be better next year, we're already working on it!), and designed to cope with a high number of users. There's a steady stream of a few hundred people looking at it, and our stats show they're from all over the world. So far, so good. Yesterday afternoon we noticed that the viewing numbers had shot up to over a thousand, and about two minutes of detective work traced this to the brother of one of one of our graduands tweeting to his many followers:

"Guys my sisters university is live streaming the graduation! When I get the link I want you guys to flood it like crazy!!!! IT'LL BE EPIC"
"Everyone! Bombard this link"

Clever eh? What was particularly clever was that it took us about another two minutes to work out who he was and pinpoint the exact seat he was sitting in. :-) So, we were able to have a quiet word with him after the ceremony. Just to point out that if he had brought the stream down, which he had been exhorting his followers to do, he would have stopped parents, brothers, sisters, friends, from all over the world seeing their loved ones graduate. Of course, he behaved in the arrogant, cocky way we expected, and we even got a lol tweet afterwards:-). But, no harm done, our stream coped easily with about 1,700 viewers, and it's a lesson to all of us that part of our planning and risk analysis always has to include the idiot factor!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 16 July 2012

Gigapixel, taggable graduation images are here

This week is Graduation Week - I always enjoy it, and try to get to as many ceremonies as I can. Makes me realise why we are all here!

This year we've introduced two new things which hopefully will be popular with the students and their families. We're the first UK University to take high definition images of the hall just before the start of the ceremony.  These "gigapixel" images, which are normally reserved for high profile events such as the Royal Wedding, are being taken by one of our own students, Edward Miller, who will be graduating at one of the ceremonies he will be photographing. Ed won the Sheffield University Business Planning Competition earlier this year, and is setting up his own business Re-Axive. Building on our use of  social media, the pictures will be taggable through Facebook. You'll be able to see them here from Tuesday 17 July. We're also going to use Ed's skills to take some interactive 360degree photos of the campus.

The other thing we're doing this year is streaming all of the ceremonies live. We've experimented in the past with web cams, but this is the proper stuff.  You can watch them here, at  0930, 1200 and 1530 all this week. Each one last about an hour. I particularly like the bit where the students stand up and applaud their parents and friends. Not a dry eye in the house!  If you're watching on Thursday lunchtime, you should get to see Martin Fry get his honorary degree.

And we've got another press release out - that's three this year :-)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Well Connected

Was pointed at this last night by a colleague - a website and a mobile one for our students who have mental health and wellbeing difficulties. It's called Well Connected, and is in beta at the moment. I thought it was a nice example of using the web and social media to help our students.  Developed by colleagues in Student Services with a lot of input from students,  especailly the outgoing and incoming welfare officers. We also had a hand in it, on the project board and the design. There's a good video showing the ideas behind it:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Service Strategy Board

Service Strategy Board yesterday. Another good meeting - always lots to discuss. As usual we went through  reports from all of our projects as well as getting reports from all of our service managers.

Particular things we looked at included:
  • A review of our recent filestore upgrade. This had a timeline of everything that had happened, and focused on lessons learned, and made a number of recommendations for future such events. The timing of this one hadn't been easy, it had to come before our VLE upgrade, and it did have the potential to disrupt some exams processing, which is one of the reasons the work was carried out through the night. We discussed whether we should have a dedicated upgrade/downtime window during the summer, but discounted it as it was felt that users would expect all work to be done within that period, which would carry its own risks, and it would be difficult to time. We agreed that we would probably  always have to build at least one downtime window into our planning for the summer, and we would have to ensure that our customers understood the reason for this, but that we would arrange the time in order to cause as little disruption as possible. 
  • A proposal to build more formal gateway reviews into all of our projects. This will be at major milestones, and will give SSB the opportunity to consider strategic priorities  at key points, and contribute to the consideration of project options.
  • A proposal to look at providing a mobile print service to allow students and staff to print from all of their mobile devices. The first stage of this will be to assess demand.
  • A proposal to implement a mobile app for our VLE.
  • A revised service catalogue - our first major review has taken place.
And I thought I'd share this with you - you'll know I was at the JANET Brokerage last week, and I admired their new mugs. So they sent me one. This is how it arrived. Well, that's the Brokerage for you.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Janet Brokerage advisory Group

Today I've been in Harwell at the Advisory Board for the Janet Brokerage. Lots of interesting discussions, can't report on all of them for commercial reasons, but will try and give a flavour of things covered.

The Brokerage are talking to major cloud service providers, and we had a report on negotiations with Microsoft about their 365 service. Work is being done on standardising contracts, terms and conditions, and different licensing offerings to the sector. Other cloud providers will also be approached, including Google.

We also confirmed what the eight suppliers on the framework agreement offer. In summary:
Collocation at tier 2 and above
IaaS, including VM ware, public, private, community and hybrid clouds
Combined procurement
Complementary services eg consultancy, planning and managed services.

Use cases include off site data centres, Disaster Recovery, hybrid virtual infrastructure, cloud burst and research infrastructure

There's an event coming up soon where we will be able to ask the suppliers what they can do for us, and for them to find out what it is we need. It's a speed dating event, and details are here.

The brokerage are also working with other bodies including UCISA on costing of IT Services, with the hope of producing some sort of calculator or modelling tool. Knowing the total cost of services is an important part of any cloud or outsourcing decision making process.

During the day I learnt about Moonshot, a project looking at authentication and federated access to applications in the HE community led by JANET. looks interesting, and of particular use by researchers.

Finally, we had a demonstration of meaning based computing from Autonomy. Using their Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL), very intelligent and contextual searches can be carried out across multiple data sources, looking for patterns. Think searching emails from Barclays Bank looking for evidence of rate fixing.... The can also search media, including in socialedia looking for trends, looking for what people are saying about you, your brand, your product, and giving it a positive or negative rating. Unfortunately I had to leave to catch my train before the end, but was very impressed with what I saw, and could see an application for the intelligent and contextual searching in the research collaboration space.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 2 July 2012

Think before you post

Today one of our local legal firms ran a workshop for senior Professional Service managers on Social Media.  I was a little nervous at first, as I didn't want it to be full of the legal pitfalls and put people off, but I needn't have worried. It was an excellent session, very interactive with a lot of discussion around issues that everyone needs to be aware of. I began with a quick overview of how we use social media in the University, and particularly in CiCS, mainly Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We then had a round table discussion about how other departments, including the student Union, our accommodation service and the Library use it. What soon came out was that this is not something you can do as an afterthought. It requires dedicated resource at a reasonably senior level, and constant monitoring. It's also interactive, and questions need to be responded to, conversations need to be completed.

Then we had a look at some of the pitfalls and how things can go badly wrong. From misguided marketing by Habitat to posting from an official account, instead of your personal one. Some of the risks you have to be aware of include damage to the University's reputation, liability for defamatory material, infringement of IP, data protection breaches, and making contractual agreements. All of these risks can be mitigated if you control who has access to your official account, having some guidelines, and agreement about content and messages, and being positive, helpful and friendly.

Of course, we all make mistakes, and how you recover from them is very important in a medium as fast and pervasive as twitter. Do you take down the offending material, or respond, or apologise, or make a joke of it? This is a really good example of how to do it.

In terms of personal use, one of the hardest things to deal with in the workplace is bullying and harassment issues.  We had a discussion bout whether we need guidelines on the use of social media for all of our staff - at the moment we don't. Our view has always been that our existing policies - on use of IT,  on bullying and harassment, on bringing the University into disrepute, should be robust enough to deal with any form of media. Similar discussions took place when email was first implemented. Our values, including respect for our colleagues, should also be applied to all forms of communication.

Finally, we had a quick look at how third party social media sites can be handled if defamatory or misleading information is posted on them.  I particularly like this example of a response.

And we ended on a very good piece of advice - "Think before you post".  Something that Michael Ruse would have been advised to do.