Tag Archives: library

UBC Wiki Content – To Go


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Merrick Brown

The UBC Wiki just keeps scaling new heights. For some time, every content page of the UBC Wiki has featured a link on the bottom-left sidebar for the “embed code” for that page’s content – the same functionality that works so well for YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud, et al… That means that instead of copying, and then reformatting wiki-text output into a new environment, a quick copy-paste of a few lines into any HTML environment will do the trick. The advantages of this method:

  • it is much faster and easier to do
  • the content will automatically adjust to the look and feel of the new context
  • instead of “copying” a static block of text, images, videos and links, you are effectively “subscribing” to dynamic syndicated content. When the base wiki material is updated, those changes will be rendered automatically in all downstream contexts (if you are a downstream user and don’t want these updates, you can syndicate/embed a specific version of the page’s history)

In addition to the embed code, CTLT’s crack Web Development team has also developed a wonderful WordPress plugin that allows for a little more control how the output renders, and also works on any MediaWiki page (including Wikipedia).

The latest hotness is the addition of “embed stats”, which can track the reuse of any individual page, or see the reuse system-wide.

Since I am used to reactions that run from blank stares to outright hostility when touting the advantages of syndicating content, I am pleasantly surprised to see so much reuse. Our megapower-users in the Department of Mathematics and the UBC Library are making especially good use of this functionality. For instance, this tutorial on creating persistent URL’s on electronic library holdings is posted on our university’s Copyright information site, the Library’s Help centre, and has also been added to someone’s Blackboard course.

Looking at the UBC Wiki’s embed stats I am struck by how commonly wiki content is reused in a private learning management system. But then again it makes sense, especially for those who want elements of both open and private approaches to online learning. This particular arrangement allows for open content sharing, dead-easy collaboration, content updating and remixing… yet can be applied in an LMS with all the control freak comforting enriched features that environment may provide.

We’ve already seen the UBC Wiki emerge as an indispensable content and knowledge management space for internal documentation, course materials, campus life and all things UBC. Combined with the remarkable Wiki Books functionality (example of a math book here), we now have a platform that is powerfully featured, but unlike some hyped alternatives (ahem) is also intrinsically collaborative, highly interoperable and open source.

See also Scott Leslie’s fantastic overview of MediaWiki as an open textbook engine (and much more), part of his already epic series on open publishing tools for educators.

You can download the source code for the EmbedTracker plugin from the team’s Github page.

They repeat it and I hear it and I love it.

Image by Wikimedia Commons user -pc123

There are many that I know and they know it. They are all of them repeating and I hear it. I love it and I tell it. I love it and now I will write it. This is now a history of my love of it. I hear it and I love it and I write it. They repeat it. They live it and I see it and I hear it. They live it and I hear it and I see it and I love it and now and always I will write it. There many kinds of men and women and I know it. They repeat it and I hear it and I love it. This is now a history of the way they do it. This is now a history of the way I love it. – Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans, 1934

This passage introduces Marcus Boon’s 2010 book, In Praise of Copying, a copy of which I have acquired once again through the graces of my university’s library.

I’m reminded of a night back in Montreal when I was in grad school, reading passages from Stein’s The Making of Americans out loud for some hours with my roommate. As anyone familiar with the text might guess, something like an altered state of consciousness was achieved. I recommend the technique to psychonauts everywhere.

Here’s to you Gabrielle, it’s been too long.

Higher Education and Private Good

Off-campus today, so if I want “24 hour access” to this article, it will only cost me… Actually, I can’t find out how much it will cost me until I give Wiley my credit card information. Can you imagine any other online retailer trying that?

I have no original observations to offer, but I’m disturbed on a few levels.

The ironies of publishing a paywalled article entitled “Higher Education and Public Good” are obvious enough. (Thanks to Dean for providing the title of this post.) It’s one of those cases where it seems someone, somewhere is clearly missing the point entirely.

It’s a shame, because I read this article a few months ago, and I recall thinking it made some good points. I had recommended it to colleagues, and one of them asked me about it today. That’s how I came to attempt access from outside the safe, comfy confines of my public university. I wish I could reread the piece to get a sense of why I liked it, but thems the breaks. I did happen to snip this excerpt when I saved it to Delicious. I hope the gods of fair dealing will not smite me if I reproduce these words written by Simon Marginson here now:

The global public space lies mostly outside direct governance, in collaborative networks, non-government organisations and cyber-space, where higher education is helping to build the future global society.

…Many universities are good at the one-way broadcast of self-interest, in the manner familiar to capitalist societies. Though most universities neglect two-way flows and flat dialogue, they have the technologies and discursive resources to conduct plural, de-centred conversations. If so the university needs to more explicitly value its own contributions to public debate and policy formation; and in its incentive systems to favour not just the creators of saleable intellectual property but socially communicative faculty.

Indeed. [Thumb-Up; LIKE; ReTweet; +1]

Towards Open Sustainability Education
Towards Open Sustainability Education shared CC by giulia.forsythe

I used up too much of my limited presentation time at Open Ed 2011 ranting about the proprietary barriers around the work higher education performs, which I find especially troubling when it concerns public engagement and the need for urgent public action. It was not one of my more coherent episodes, I’m grateful that Giulia Forsythe took the time to write up and illustrate more lucid versions.

What disturbs me most is how rarely I reflect on how powerful the privileges conferred on me are, thanks to the ten million dollars or so that my employer pays in annual licensing fees. When I read “Higher Education and Public Good” on-campus a few months back, I did not appreciate how fortunate I was to have unhindered access to scholarly work. But privilege is often invisible to those who possess it.

If I take my role as a “public servant” seriously, might I be obligated to take direct action to free up these resources to the wider world? Knowing that sort of action will be dealt with harshly.

Related and better reading: Jon Beasley-Murray has posted the text of his rich, passionate and erudite keynote at last month’s Access 2011 conference. And Martin Weller is his usual sensible self in his recent post, Yeah, but who pays? Both of these pieces deserve posts of their own, and I’d like to delude myself into thinking I will write them someday.