MW 2007 Conference - April 2007

The proposals listed below for papers on Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standard and Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers and a professional forum were accepted at the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference held at the Westin St. Francis (Union Square), San Francisco, USA on 12-14th April 2007.

Note that in addition to these presentations, Brian Kelly was also a member of the Programme Committee and chaired one of the sessions at the conference.

Paper 1: Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards

Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards
Brian Kelly. Marieke Guy and Alastair Dunning

The importance of open standards in the development of widely accessible and interoperable services in the cultural heritage sector is widely accepted. Open standards can provide application- and device- independence, can help to provide access to resources from a wide variety of devices, can enable resources to be repurposed and reused and can help to address the long-term preservation of digital resources.

In light of these benefits, it would appear self-evident that use of open standards should be mandatory in the development of networked services. However experience has shown that the selection and use of open standards is not necessarily always easy. There is not necessarily consensus over the definition of open standards (Java, Flash and PDF are considered by some to be open standards, although they are, in fact, owned by Sun, Macromedia and Adobe, respectively, who have the rights to change the licence conditions governing their use). Similarly there are questions regarding the governance of apparent open standards, with the governance of RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 providing an interesting example of a lightweight but powerful format for syndication of Web context which has a complex history and recent confusions over the governance and roadmap for future developments of the formats.

It also needs to be recognized that open standards do not always succeed in gaining acceptance in the market place: they may be too regarded as too complex to be deployed and the user community may be content to use existing closed solutions and reluctant to make the investment needed to make changes to existing working practices.

Such issues should not, however, mean an abandonment of a commitment to seek to exploit the benefits of open standards. Rather there is a need to be honest about possible limitations and to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility within the approaches taken in development work to accommodate limitations and deficiencies. This paper will outline a contextual model for the selection and use of open standards which has been developed to support JISC's development programmes within the UK higher and further education community.

This approach is based on:

The paper will provide a more detailed background to this work and review the current status of the implement of this approach. The paper will conclude by describing how this community-based approach to open standards can benefit from a wider acceptance of the contextual model and a collaborative approach to both using existing resources and support materials and in the maintenance and development of new resources.

Date And Time
Thursday 12th April 2007 from 16.00-17.30.
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Paper 2: Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers

Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers
Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly

The current interest in "Web 2.0" technologies and approaches has been of huge interest to anyone who spends time working with online content. From Flickr to to Google Maps, the question "what is Web 2.0" has become more "how can we engage with users in this way?".

Museums are among those who stand to benefit from this "new" way of working, where users and site owners come together to form a virtuous circle of content creation. After hearing about such technologies and approaches, Museums are now trying to find approaches to levering content in these "new" ways and many (particularly technical) staff are bringing these ideas back into their organisations.

In reality, however, there are often significant barriers which need to be overcome in moving from the "world out there" to the "world in here". In many cases, such barriers may, perhaps surprisingly, reflect not concerns or realities over licensing costs and resource implications, but organisational cultural barriers based, perhaps on conservatism, but also on issues such as reliance on third party services, and related concerns over data protection, IPR and other legal concerns. These barriers may result in tensions between innovators, IT service departments, content providers and curators.

This paper will highlight some of the areas of tension which organisations may face and outlines approaches which can be taken to overcome such barriers. The paper will argue that successful take-up of innovation such as Web 2.0 applications will require:

Date And Time
Thursday 12th April 2007 from 11.00-12.30.
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Professional Forum: Accessibility 2.0: A Holistic And User-Centred Approach To Accessibility

Accessibility 2.0: A Holistic And User-Centred Approach To Web Accessibility
The session will be held on Friday 12th April 2007 from 09.30-10.30.
Professional Forum

The importance of accessibility of museum Web sites is well-understood. The W3C WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) guidelines provide a well-recognized and widely accepted approach which can help to ensure that Web resources can be accessed by people with disabilities.

However experiences in use of WAI guidelines since they were released in 1999 is leading organisations to question their effectiveness. It has been argued that the low level of conformance with WAI guidelines is due not to a lack of willingness to provide accessible Web sites but to a realisation that the guidelines have their limitations and the WAI model has its flaws.

Such limitations are becoming even more apparent in a Web 2.0 environment which is providing a range of applications and uses of Web technologies which were not envisaged when the WAI guidelines were first released.

A new set of guidelines are being developed (WCAG 2.0) which seek to address some of the limitations of the existing guidelines. However, as has been pointed out by Joe Clarke in his "To Hell With WCAG 2.0" article, these guidelines themselves fail to address many of the concerns which have been raised, and have failed to acknowledge that other approaches to accessibility may provide legitimate ways of addressing the challenges of providing accessible solutions. Such limitations, however, do not mean that the guidelines need to be abandoned. Rather there is a need to make use of those guidelines which have been proven to be effective. In addition there is a need to recognize that different contexts may require different solutions.

The concerns which have been expressed over the approach taken by WAI do not, however, necessarily mean that the guidelines need to be abandoned. Rather, we would argue there is a need to make use of those guidelines which have been proven to be effective. In addition there is a need to recognize that different contexts may require different solutions. Such contexts may include:

Organisation's Environment
The approaches taken in addressing the accessibility of a multimedia resource in a small museum with limited technical expertise may be different to that taken in a national museum with a large IT development team, due to the different levels of resources and technical expertise, for example.
The National Context
There will be a variety of legal systems which will affect the expectations which may be set - and the threats associated with non-compliance. there will also be a variety of cultural-specific perceptions and definitions of terms such as 'accessibility' and 'disability'.
Context of Use
The approaches taken to address the accessibility of informational resources may be different to that taken in the provision of educational, cultural or entertainment services.

In this professional forum the facilitators will review the limitations of the WAI approach to accessibility and describe a model for accessibility which emphasizes the importance of addressing user needs holistically rather than simply applying a checklist. An example of a how this approach can be used in a specific context will be given.

The key aspect of the professional forum will be the engagement with the audience. Members of the audience will be invited to:

  1. Contribute their experiences in providing accessible Web sites and difficulties which may have been experienced.
  2. Provide feedback on the holistic model.
  3. Generate the basis of a roadmap to take forward an approach to accessibility which is suited for the requirements of the museum's community.
  4. Form a working group that takes these issues forward in their respective organisations and countries.
Date And Time
Friday 12th April 2007 from 09.30-10.30.
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Biographical Details

Image of Brian Kelly Brian Kelly is UK Web Focus, a post funded by the JISC and the MLA which advises the UK's higher and further education communities and museums, libraries and archives sector on standards, emerging technologies and best practices for use of the Web. Brian works at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information management, which is based at the University of Bath.

Brian is an experienced Web developer, having helped set up his first Web site in January 1993 whilst working in the Computing Service at the University of Leeds. In 1995 Brian was the senior trainer for the Netskills training organisation. He moved to his current job in 1996.

Brian's current interests include making use of standards and supporting accessibility from a user-focussed position, and exploring the potential of Web 2.0. His recent publications include "Contextual Web Accessibility - Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility Guidelines", "A Contextual Framework For Standards", "Personalization and Accessibility: Integration of Library and Web Approaches" and "Holistic Approaches to E-Learning Accessibility".

Stephen Brown is Professor of Learning Technologies and Director of Knowledge Media Design at De Montfort University, UK. His career includes course design, research and tutoring for the Open University, Head of Distance Learning for BT Training, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Engineering Design, Director of the International Institute for Electronic Library Research at De Montfort University, Senior Technology Adviser to the JISC funded Technologies Centre and President of the UK Association for Learning Technology. At the Open University he worked on the design of the UK's first educational interactive video disc. At BT he pioneered and established the use of CD based training. At De Montfort University he directed a number of successful JISC and EU funded digital library research projects cultural heritage websites, led the development of the Electronic Campus and successfully led a major bid for JISC funds to develop one of the first Managed Learning Environments in the UK. Project partners include IBM, BT, Hulton Getty, RTE, the Home Office, Department of Trade and Industry, Department for Education and Employment, the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Hunt Museum, JISC, HEFCE and the European Commission. He is currently researching and developing virtual research environments, tools and services for arts and humanities researchers. Research interests include portals, data federation, data mining, online learning, human factors, knowledge elicitation and media design.

Mike Ellis is Website Manager at The Science Museum, London. He looks after several websites for the Museum, which between them attract well over a million visits a month. As well as managing the operational running of the sites, he spends a lot of time building e-strategy and policy frameworks. He is particularly keen on developing innovative multi-channel content which puts users at the centre of the equation and which cross real-virtual boundaries.