To TNC or not TNC?

I have to dash back tomorrow morning and so miss the remainder of the conference. Was just pondering – really great streaming of all sessions, well done, but why did I spend 550 euros, plus plane, hotel, meals, car park etc to come when I could have had all of it for free and stayed at home?Sure there’s the sun (very welcome), the chance to see a few people, the socialising – but in these days of ‘value’ do delegates really get value from this conference when all of the content can be had on line.Maybe the organisers might consider just how wise it is to be so generous with the live streaming. Sure stream the plenaries but everything? Just beacuse you can doesn’t mean its always a good idea it seems to me…

TNC2009 Plenary Session 2 – Bill St Arnaud

Bill St Arnaud – How Universities and NREN’s can be global leaders in helping reduce global warming A very interesting presentation on global warming and the fact that to deal with it will need substantial change not just switching off a few lights here and there. Claims that ICT use within universities is a major contributor to global warming with 200-500 tons CO2 pa, of which 100-300 tons is from cyber infrastructure per university. Future broadband will consume 5% of energy produced so the issue is no longer about using more efficient devices – this only encourages to use them more – the issue is the energy mix and the production of CO2. Using energy from renewable and non-CO2 production allows the greater use of energy efficient devices. Naturally part of the answer from St Arnaud is the greater use of cloud services and virtualisation and he also was encouraging the use of institutions own energy production to disconnect from the grid and hence the prices that go with it. He gave examples of where this is already happening eg Ecotricity in UK who will build a windmill at a data centre at no cost as long as you contract to buy the energy from it at fixed low price. St Arnaud then baffled me with the details to validate his point. Mmm is  this the sort of stuff we really ought to be discussing and promoting in JISC… A couple of interesting blogs sites were mentioned as well:http://Green-broadband.blogspot.com PS Bill rightly challenged my ‘bafflement’ – what i really meant was that I found it had to absorb all that he was saying in his presentation  and not that he was confusing – i am just not bright enough to keep up, or certainly not at first pass!

TNC 2009 Opening Plenary – part 2

Jorge Cortell – Kanteron Systems, Malaga University – Augmenting Reality in the Operating RoomHere were some interesting examples of the uses in health care of high capacity networks, augmented reality, a step beyond virtual reality and what is really a hyper-reality modelling showing things that cannot be normally seen or examined – and we got to waear some 1930’s 3D glassses (although the angle for me was too acute to get a good look). Overall I didn’t feel that he made enough connections between the technology and the benefits of it – he is clearly absorbed by his subject – but there was really only a cursory mention of the international collaboration that allows people like him to do this interesting stuff. Maybe he needed to be better briefed, maybe he needed to describe better the benefits of the existing networks and systems as well as their shortcomings that preclude even wackier uses…His presentation can be found here.Archived video here 

TNC 2009 Opening Plenary – part 1

Konstantinos Glinos, EU Commission –  ICT infrastructures for e-ScienceThe presentation was pushing the benefits and importance of national and pan national networks, perhaps not a hard sell for this audience. There was a sense that this was shoe-horned in slot being politically necessary given the GN3 launch later this year. Still. After describing his views on the importance of scientific research Mr Glinos went on to outline the Commissions ambition for Geant: to be the leading global research network, encourage the joining of forces between members states, and so forth. The full presentation is available here.Archived video here 

TF-PR Meeting 7 June 2009 Malaga

The TF-PR meetings are generally getting better and better as the group stabilises and starts sharing experiences and knowledge. But the meeting that usually accompanies the TNC conference frequently feels ‘flat’ I guess because more is expected of the main conference and we don’t really put enough energy into our own side meeting.This one felt much the same but with two notable exceptions. Firstly the interesting summative presentation from Karel Veitsch on the Earnest report and secondly on a rather hastily done but effective review of the terms of reference of the groupTaking the second first we all agreed that we should not ascribe unfeasible ‘deliverables’ to the group – we will produce this that and the other things, which I have always felt rather bogged us down especially as we signally failed to ‘produce’ very much. Karel was helpfully in accord with all this and I was more comfortable that we have reconfirmed that we are really about sharing good practice and experience rather than anything elseOK the Earnest report is scarcely news but its still of interests and Karels presentation showed his continuing enthusiasm for it. His disappointment on asking if there any questions and getting none was palpable and the look on his face betrayed what he thought of us – oh dear 

Ups and Downs of the Twitterverse

I have pondered before on the real utility of Twitter, often in not a very positive way. I have to admit that experiences with #JISC09 has caused me, yet again, to reconsider my views. I have gone from being massively irritated to being reassured and gratified and I imagine that the real position will end up somewhere in between.

I attentively sat monitoring the tweets via Tweetdeck during the pre-conference sessions and was unable to stop myself from jumping in. Queue massive irritation. There are those twitterers who seem to approach all things from a negative head space. Nothing was right for some, actually a  very few, of our absent and distant (Bath seems to hold a few of the more obvious ones) followers – ‘the questions are all set up’, the ‘topics dull’, ‘why don’t they ask this obvious question’, with their comments delivered in the smug, self satisfied tones available only to those who couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag let alone do better than the efforts of those they feel so able to criticise. 

But happily for my (and my colleagues) sanity and blood pressure things improved – queue reassurance – more people joined the flow, the diversity balancing out the more trying Twits, and a more rational stream of comments followed. This was the point where I started to see what the benefits of Twitter can be – instant feedback (not always positive, but then not always gratuitously negative), suggestions that can be acted upon straight away and so improve the delegate experience, evidence that the reach of the event extends well beyond the usual confines of the conference, and a mounting body of evidence about the sense of success or failure of the event.

Yes it is fun to get a flood of comments about your event, its gratifying in an obscure way to be top tweet event or whatever its called,  its certainly great to stretch the event, but it all takes a huge amount of time, effort and resource; not that I begrudge it, but it adds significant stress to what is already a trying and exhausting process.Overall it was an event that has made me re-evaluate the utility of Twitter, it really does have value and a real contribution – but why do some people (even if they are few in number)  have to be such negative, destructive and determinedly smug? Perhaps they also drive cars with long bonnets to denote their miniscule genitalia…

Reflections on #JISC09

This was our first year away from Birmingham since a conference before my time that took place at the Cafe Royale (now defunct and sold off) in London. When we announced we were going to Edinburgh there were the predictable moans about travel cost, distance, no-one turning up etc. As it transpires all these fears were groundless – we had 780 people on site, a refreshing influx of delgates who haven’t attended a JISC conference before and an avalanche of positive comments about the EICC. I won’t rehearse all the arguments again but the venue could not have been more helpful, more professional or more accommodating. The venue worked brilliantly for our event – massively flexible rooms, great wi-fi, good food and an all round good venue. Lets hope the QEII in London proves half as good – between you me and the gatepost I think #JISC10 will be a challenging event; London venues/hotels etc all seem to think that they have a god-given right to business and so pay almost zero attention to customer service it seems to me. Still better not pre-judge the next venue before its happened

Our two keynotes this year did us proud I think. Lizbeth Goodman did divide the audience a bit but a significant number of delegates found her inspirational (which I did myself as it happens) and anyhow isn’t a keynote supposed to challenge? Ewan McIntosh certainly did with a refreshingly robust and direct approach, questionning HE’s approach to many thingsOne of the problems fro me is that it is impossible to get into many sessions and so my view of the day is somewhat skewed. But gratifyngly this year there were many reports of good sessions with a more participative nature. It still seems that some presenters might do with mentoring from an experienced teacher and so get their presentatiions a little more ‘crisp’ …

I think that the area of ‘participation’ was our big success this year – not just in-session but also in the area of access for those who could not be there. The streaming of the keynotes for instance got a resounding thumbs up and the same company will be doing the work for next weeks Bodleian Library event, so I a feeling more comfortable with that now. All sessions were audio recorded which was all up on the web within 24 hours,  a herculian feat (perhaps better described as  Hectorlian feat… sorry), as were pdf’s of all the presentations. Video will follow shortly.  

I suppose the most visible/notable change was that of the Twitter streams – last year there was a little flurry from the Twitterverse of the new cogniocenti but this year it went mad – more than 1300 tweets from the days of the conference, putting #JISC09 in a global number 1 position for tweeted events for those 24 hours. Now you can question what this means but what it actually represents is a massive increase in the number of people commenting and participating in the conference ( a few grumbles on this topic for another post)   

Lizbeth Goodman – Opening Keynote JISC 09

I guess inviting  a keynote speaker like Lizbeth Goodman was always likely to generate strong pro and anti reactions from a JISC audience – and so it has proved to be at #JISC09. Lizbeths presentation was, for me, a fascinating catalogue of how technology has been used to transform the lives of many of the most disadvantaged and challenging learners.What I found to be refreshing was seeing in a tangible and demonstrable way just how technology can and does make a difference, and how this in turn contributes fundamentally to the notion of inclusion and  learning for all. Sometimes it seems to me that some (much?) of JISC’s work seems too divorced from the impact that it does or doesn’t have for the leaner.

At the heart of the presentation was the view that once you can identify a real problem then a solution can be found – I wonder how much of JISC work can really said to be driven by this principle and how much of current programmes are solutions looking for a problem, or things that are clever but not always useful?I heard some comments that Lizbeths presentation  had nothing to say to JISC and its work – I felt that actually it had something profound to say, questionning how and why we do our ‘thing’, questionning our ability to identify real problems that need solving.Much is being said about the value or impact of JISC work – if we cannot be very clear about the problem we are solving, how can we expect the value of our work to be recognised?   

JISC Blog 


Geant 3rd Generation

geant2-logo.gif   Geant/TF-PR Meeting, Dublin, 25-27 February 2009.The afternoon of 25 and morning of 26 were devoted to presentations and discussions by Dante around the forthconing third generation of GeantClearly this time around there is going to be more attention to working with and through partners, perhaps in recognition to perceived failings in earlier generations. John Chevers is to take on the role of Partner Relations, which is essentially a communications role dealing with the issues arising from such a multiplicity and diversity of NREN partners. John sees two key message priorities – the features and benefits of Geant as added value for NREN’s, and the idea of Geant as a portfolio of service. He also identified some challenges for his role: 

  • building partner the relations function relating to interaction with NRENs, delivery of services, issue resolution, support and info
  • Challenges about internal communications, communications through NRENs, and helping NRENs with the Geant service communication

The discussion that followed highlighted the friction between promoting Geant itself as opposed to promoting national networks and the uses made of them and the international links. Clearly Geant needs to prove its value and impact to the EC but individual NRENs are more concerned about reinforcing their own service at a national level, and promotion at a pan European level is seen as unhelpful. Laura Durnford from Terena will be taking on a new liaison role with an overview of the Geant services portfolio. The tasks here are still unclear but the committment again echoes the sense of needing to provide greater involvemnt and connection with the national partners. It is possible the ther TF-PR group might be seen as a useful sounding board and contributor to the wider Geant communications work. What seemed clear was that communications about the new Geant need to carefully consider how they can support the individual NREN’s position and not simply ”trample’ them under foot with the more grandiose pan European. Seems to me that Geant will have its work cut out to both satisfy the expectation of NREN’s and at the same time generate the value for money and impact evidence that the Commission will require

Terena PR Task Force

dublin_castle.jpgTF-PR 25-27 February 2009, DublinHosted by HEA Net in Dublin, this set of meetings followed on directly from the Geant gathering. Much of the first afternoon was taken up in a workshop centred around the issues on internal communications at an NREN level –  first describing how internal communications is currently carried out and then how it should be done in an ideal situtation.The interesting things arising from the workshop cented around how very limited the dedicated resource for communications is in many NREN’s. This means that in reality there is extremely limited opporutnities for NREN’s to do much more than the real basics – web, conference, brochures etc. The UK is really very fortunate – both JISC and JANET are well resourced and so have the opportunity to do things that others only dream of. Overall most agreed that, shockingly, that communications needs to be more central in the organisation, needs to have direct access to other areas of the NREN, needs resourcing and for communications to be taken seriously in this technical environment. The Friday sessions started with Hector giving a presentation and disucssion about JISC’s use of podcasts. This seemed to generate some real interest despite any yet to do any such work – Terena in Laura have the skills but very little time to do them. A short practical session thanks to Laura gave everyone the chance to play with some audio files and Audacity to start some basic editing tasks. Seems likely that we might run more practical sessions in future meetings with the aim of actually getting some podcasts done either for individual NREN’s or perhaps some that can be used across several or all.