One of the greatest barriers when deploying a full-scale repository platform such as EPrints is the amount of configuration required to take the software from its “out of the box” state to something suitable for teaching and learning. Installing the EdShare suite of extensions takes you a great deal of the way by providing simplified workflows, in-browser previews of documents, collections, user profile pages and more. However, tweaking these base settings to perfectly match your requirements still requires a certain familiarity with the inner working of EPrints itself.
With RedFeather we want to try and provide a system that will satisfy the requirements of 90% of users with almost zero configuration – the idea of a repository you can fully deploy in a single afternoon is very appealing to us. Of course, we don’t want something that is not flexible enough to be useful to that final 10% of expert users who want to go the extra mile.
At this point in the project I’ve already done a great deal of work prototyping various different ways of providing customisation, ranging from highly granular configurations where each individual component can be seamlessly interchanged, to completely fixed configurations which are coded to only do exactly what we want. Both approaches have their advantages but the main motivation behind RedFeather is that the system should be simple and forsake all the complexity so inherent in existing repository platforms. This has led me to the following philosophy for the design:
1 ASSUME ONLY MINIMAL VARIATIONS
Cater primarily for the 90% of people who will deploy RedFeather with the default workflow, metadata and look-and-feel but make it easy for them to change very minor parts of the site such as the header, footer and stylesheet.
2 PRIORITISE SIMPLICITY OVER FLEXIBILITY
Do everything in a way so simple that changing it is trivial for anyone with even basic knowledge of html and PHP. Don’t try to anticipate how more advanced users will want to customise the code – just make it easy for them to understand the existing system and leave the rewriting to them.
Currently there are significant barriers to individuals or smaller groups publishing OER materials. They can upload their work to a website, but rich media is effectively dark to search engines without adequate metadata, in addition they may forget important licensing information, and materials published this way are invisible to national indexers like Jorum or Xpert. RedFeather (Resource Exhibition and Discovery) is a proposed lightweight repository server-side script that fosters best practice for OER, it can be dropped into any website with PHP, and which enables appropriate metadata to be assigned to resources, creates views in multiple formats (including HTML with in-browser previews, RSS and JSON), and provides instant tools to submit to Xpert and Jorum, or migrate to full repository platforms via SWORD. RedFeather will require no significant technical expertise and no database, but will provide a simple and effective repository solution for smaller projects, individuals, or those seeking to demonstrate OER in order to justify a more significant investment in an organisational repository. RedFeather will be demonstrated and evaluated in collaboration with the University’s Archeological Computing and Digital Economy Research Groups.
Anticipated Outputs and Outcomes
- As well as making the creation of OER materials more straightforward RedFeather will foster OER best practice and fits into a number of the key areas identified by JISC:
- It’s main impact will be to improve resource description, at present OER creators seeking a simple solution merely add their resources to a website, and for rich media types this effectively makes them part of the dark web. Using RedFeather will encourage minimal but significant metadata – such as titles, keywords and licensing information – that will make resources more visible to search engines. In addition the multiple views that will be offered by RedFeather (such as RSS, RDF, and JSON) will make resources far more visible to crawlers and other automated systems.
- In addition RedFeather will be specifically designed to promote and enable aggregation and discovery, by using SWORD to link with key OER indexers such as Xpert and Jorum. RedFeather will provide a lightweight gateway through which users can experiment with OER, and yet still participate with national efforts.
- Finally RedFeather will provide out-of-the-box tools to support social recommendation, encouraging users to use social tools such as Facebook, Twitter or Disqus to highlight and share resources. In addition we plan to develop a recommendation plugin based on the Xpert index, which will instantly link RedFeather resources with similar content from the broader OER context.
We anticipate that the Impact of the RedFeather project will be:
- Access to the benefits of OER sharing are widened to users with small, simple cases without the need for an institutional repository
- Previously hidden resources will become available through access to simple OER good practice, increasing the breadth and number of OER resources.
The intention is that a base install of RedFeather will be a single .php file which can be dropped into almost any web space to provide quick and straight forward access to digital resources.
Have a look at our blog post: who is RedFeather for? which describes the stakeholders in Redfeather and scenarios of use.
Redfeather features will be extended in collaboration with our co-designers to include tools/plugins for social media, recommenders, WordPress
To ensure productive use of RedFeather we will adopt these standards:
OER Licensing: information based on appropriate Creative Commons licenses
Export standards: RSS, RDF, JSON
Metadata: Dublin Core
- RedFeather Core Plugin Framework
- RedFeather HTML View Plugin
- RedFeather RSS Export Plugin
- RedFeather RDF Export Plugin
- RedFeather JSON Export Plugin
- Social and Recommendation Plugins
The software will be made available through the project website (for at least three years )as an Open Source download and licensed for use under Creative Commons GNU general Public License (software).
RedFeather will take an iterative development approach and work closely with stakeholders in both the ACRG and DE USRG. In larger projects we have undertaken the full participatory design process, and we will borrow the more agile elements for RedFeather, for example including stakeholders in project planning, and adopting an agile approach with user meetings acting as a place where stakeholders can participate in the design process. User’s qualitative comments and personal usage stories will also be a core part of the evaluation of the tool, which will be included in the final project report. This user engagement will enable us to tailor the software according to real requirements and needs, and will ultimately result in not only the software becoming available, but also new OER sites that can contribute to the national OER picture, and act as exemplars of what can be achieved with RedFeather
The RedFeather Project team is:
|Dave Millard||Principal Investigatorfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Yvonne Howard||Project Manageremail@example.com|
|Risk Description||Probability P 1(Low) – 5 (High)||Severity S 1(Low) – 5 (High)||Risk Score (PxS)||Detail of action to be taken
(mitigation / reduction / transfer / acceptance)
|Delay in employing staff||1||5||5||Given the small timescale a prompt start is critical, however a developer is already in place and there is a very low likelihood of any delays.|
|Technical delays||2||3||6||There is a danger that any tool development will take longer than anticipated, or may fail to fulfil requirements. We consider this to be a low risk because of the skill sets present in the development team, however in the event of any delays it will be possible to reduce the scale of the social plugins planned for WP3 in order to ensure successful delivery of the core RedFeather platform.|
As a five-month project RedFeather will follow a simple organisation of three work packages (WP1-3) focused on achieving six explicit deliverables (D1-6), and one workpackage focused on dissemination which continue throughout the project. The work package structure is shown below:
The first work package will set up our co-design team of developers and members of our stakeholder group. The work package will build the RedFeather core, which allows a user to provide metadata for files and creates HTML pages for each file. All components will be plugins so this core will take the form of a simple plugin framework, and a HTML plugin. This will provide the technology framework for RedFeather. The RedFeather core will be available as an on line perpetual beta for testing/ feedback with our co-design team.
Deliverable 1: RedFeather Core Plugin Framework (M2)
Deliverable 2: RedFeather HTML View Plugin (M2)
WP2: Export Plugins
Once the framework is complete, we will work with our co-design team to create plugins to support our use cases, including export plugins for outputting metadata as RSS, RDF, and JSON. Existing metadata schemes/ontologies (such as Dublin Core) will be used wherever possible. The plugins will be available through the perpetual beta deployment set up in WP1
Deliverable 3: RedFeather RSS Export Plugin (M3)
Deliverable 4: RedFeather RDF Export Plugin (M3)
Deliverable 5: RedFeather JSON Export Plugin (M3)
WP3: Deployment and Social Plugins
Finally RedFeather will be evaluated with our early adopters in the ACRG and DE USRG, and final plugins will be developed for social recommendation (e.g. sharing on Facebook/Twitter, commentary and recommendation via Xpert).
Deliverable 6: Social and Recommendation Plugins (M5)
WP4: Communication and Dissemination
Throughout the project will disseminate RedFeather developments and project progress through the project blog. As well as generating interest with our early adopters, we plan to launch Redfeather to the wider OER and repository community at Repofringe 2011. We hope to be able to take RedFeather to OR11 next year.
The OneShare team is embarking on a new project. The JISC have very kindly funded the RedFeather project. RedFeather is a Resource Exhibition and Discovery tool which is Feather light. It allows users to trivially upload and share small collections of OER. As well as the HTML interface metadata can be exposed in various formats including RSS, RDF and OAI-PMH. The tool is easily adaptable to into various Web2.0 services. Our plan is that the default user experience will visualize Resources using Google Docs Viewer and will allow commenting from Facebook.
While this is not the most attractive graphical design it does illustrate the key elements of the RedFeather browsing experience. The metadata is light weight but still visually engaging and experience with ties to social networks.
RedFeather’s target audience are users who have a small collection (5-50 Resources maybe), very limited technical experience and no repository solution in which to exhibit those resources. RedFeather is not a Repository although it does have some similarities with a repository platform. In a future post I will talk more about the target audience and some key use cases for RedFeather.